Dispatches from the Distancing – Days 205-211

Folks, we are almost there. I know that we won’t flip a switch and things will be wonderful once Trump is out of office on Wednesday, but at least we will be on a better road. If we’re connected on Facebook, you know I’ve been counting down to that moment (and having some fun doing so!)

This week has been an uneventful one, although we’ve been on a bit of a roller coaster with the weather. I know people who live in any other part of the country will think it is the itty bitty kiddie roller coaster, but for the Pacific Northwest, there have been some swings. Earlier this week, we had quite the wind and rain storm. Nothing was disturbed in our yard, but I know people who lost trees. And then things warmed up and dried out a bit. I was even able to get out for a walk! This might be our last gasp before winter actually hits us as the mercury is supposed to dip (into the low 40s. Again, this is the Pacific Northwest….)

The going back to school situation is still in flux. The district’s hope is that grades 3-6 (so, my kids) will be back at Spring Break. However, that depends on so many things that I would be shocked if it actually happened. I just hope that they get back in classroom for at least a little bit before the school year ends. I will commend the school district for being careful and communicative during this time.

In other news, I’m embarrassed to admit that we still haven’t completely de-Christmased. I mean, I’ve done my part of it, but the tree is currently in 3 chunks in our living room and every thing needs to be stored back in the garage. Let’s just hope that happens tonights!

Now, onto the books! As usual, I am linking up with Kathryn at Book Date for her It’s Monday…What Are You Reading? blog hop.

What I finished last week:

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner
(Goodreads Review; 3.5 stars)

I’ll admit that I’m always down for a good “escape from polygamy” memoir. I can’t say that I read them all, but I’ve read all that have come across my path.

This one, however, stands out for a couple of reasons. First, the author is local to me and I’m all about supporting Oregon authors. Secondly, the polygamy here is different than most. There is nary a prairie dress in sight and it seems like these were people who broke away from the FLDS (or maybe the LDS church and are a separate off shoot? I’m not sure on that point).

Ruth Wariner’s childhood was just nightmarish for so many reasons. Wariner said that she wrote this book so that her younger sisters would know their mother’s life. However, I didn’t find Wariner’s mother, Kathy, to be any kind of a hero. While Wariner does explain Kathy’s motives, Kathy still comes across as misguided at best and brainwashed at worst.

There are parts of this book that are just hard to read. I won’t go into specifics, but the incident that incited Wariner’s departure from LeBaron is just horrendous. The trigger warnings here are the ones that you would expect in such a book.

This book sucked me in, but I did have issues with the reading experience. At first, I felt that Wariner needed more editing. But, upon finishing the book, I think what was needed was not so much a streamlining of the story, but some help in smoothing out the writing style and perhaps reorganizing the structure of the book. I recognize that this is Wariner’s first, and so far only, book and I do think that she has the tools to be a good writer, but I do think she’s just not quite there yet.

So, if you want a slightly different dive into polygamy, here you go. I would just caution that the writing in this memoir sometimes leaves more than a little to be desired.

The Eighth Detective by Alex Pavesi
(Goodreads Review; 4.5 stars)

Every once in a while you read a book and think that book was written just for you. That was my experience with this book.

The first clue that I would love this book is that the conceit of the book reminded me of my favorite novel, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, with someone asking an author about their work. The structure Pavesi chose works especially well here with a series of self-contained short mysteries, followed by a discussion between an editor and the writer where they discuss the story and some of the thought processes behind it.

This is very much a book for people who love mysteries. There is a deep dive into the mechanics of the genre, as well as a well-crafted mystery of its own that weaves throughout all of the stories. I will say that this is not a book to sort of read for a brain break–you will want to pay attention to all the clues. But, even doing so, you’ll end up in a place you didn’t expect.

The Removed by Brandon Hobson
(No Goodreads review; 3.5 stars…but I might change that)

I haven’t been able to write an actual review of this book because my feelings on it keep changing. When I first finished it, but thoughts were that this was an expertly written book, but kind of slow. But since then, this book just will not leave me. It’s a very unique book–I can’t think of any book I’ve read that is like it. It’s a family story that deals with trauma, both recent and historical.

The story is told through 4 set of eyes: the mother, the daughter, the son, and a sort of spirit. I’m not sure if it would be accurate to say that this book had elements of magical realism, because what is here is almost of a different language. Hobson is a member of the Cherokee nation and this book centers around a Cherokee family and the Cherokee life breathes here. To someone from the outside (like me), this book seems incredibly strange at points. However, it is also painfully beautiful and, frankly, haunting.

I’m still processing my feelings about this book and, if you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Mine will probably be completely different tomorrow, and then again the day after that, and so on.

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan (audiobook)
(No goodreads review, 2.5 stars)

This book is Crazy Rich Asians meets A Room With a View and set in modern Capri and New York. I know that sounds glib, but that is really, truly what this book is.

I think it is probably a good thing that I listened to this on audio, because I doubt I could have finished it if I had read it. I really had 2 problems with this book. The first is that I love A Room With a View, but I don’t feel like it is a story that needs to be retold. While I commend Kwan for trying, I don’t think it worked. The loveliness and innocence of Forster’s book are replaced with snark and sit-com humor. All of the characters were incredibly over the top and unbelievable.

I guess that shouldn’t be surprising, because that was sort of the trademark of the Crazy Rich Asians books. I found it amusing there, although I was done with the schtick when I finished the 3rd book. This just a book about different rich people, some of whom are Asian but all of whom are insufferable. In fact, characters from the Crazy Rich Asians do pop up here. I had hoped that Kwan would have made more of a departure, rather than traveling the same road…again.

Books I started this week:

In The Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming

This a new (to me, not new in general) mystery series I’m trying out, called “The Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries.” Which, may I say, is an entirely too long name for a series. Anyway, it’s a police chief and an ex-military Episcopal priest set up. I was a little wary of it because I generally don’t go for mysteries where someone who has no business solving a crime is solving the crime and I was pretty sure an Episcopal priest would fall into that category. However, I’m also Episcopalian, so that intrigued me. So far, I’m quite enjoying this one. It makes sense for the priest to be involved in this particular case and, honestly, Spencer-Fleming nailed the vestry meeting scene. I’m hoping that this one doesn’t let me down in the end because I’d love to adopt this series.

Just One Damned Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St. Mary #1) by Jodi Taylor

This one was highly recommended by two of my closest friends and, since I needed something a bit fun after The Removed, it comes at the perfect time. It’s Science Fiction, which I don’t normally read, but it is also time travel, which I do like, so I have high hopes here. I’m only about a chapter in, so I have no thoughts yet, but I hope to read it this week and report back next week.

The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox (audiobook)

I started this one literally 5 minutes ago…so not much to say here. This title was recommended to my by myTBR.co and it is about witches. Sounds good to me!

Still reading:

Monument by Natasha Trethewey
Middlemarch by George Eliot

12 thoughts on “Dispatches from the Distancing – Days 205-211

  1. I’m quite looking forward to the Inauguration. You’re right, everything won’t just magically get better, but at least expertise and full staffing can return to the gov’t. And we won’t have all the Twitter nonsense.

    The weather has been chilly and snowy here. Hope yours isn’t too bad this week.

    Good luck with the school situation. Here in Michigan we’re fully back, some kids (my daughter until recently) were online but it’s changing to where they want everyone back pretty much. I know some bloggers from CA have commented to me that they’re virtual, so maybe they’re being more careful out in the West. I know it’s different all over. Hope your situation goes well either way!

    Your books look good, love the look of Bleak Midwinter!

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  2. Your countdown always makes me feel better–the end is near! As you said, it doesn’t mean everything will be perfect, but it means change is in the air. I haven’t heard anything about if the kids in our district will be going back this school year. I know my daughter won’t, but I kind of hope those that opted for the hybrid option will be able to for their sake. I know our governor would like students to go back in February. It’s not looking good for that in our county at least.

    If it makes you feel better, our tree and the decoration bins are sitting in our living room waiting for my husband to put into the garage. Hopefully tomorrow.

    I love it when I feel like a book was written just for me. I look forward to reading The Eighth Detective. It sounds really good. I hope you enjoy your week! Just a few short days to go . . .

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  3. I, too, will give a sign of relief once Trump exits the White House…but a part of me is still worried about what horrific stunts he will pull on his way out!

    I love the look of The Eighth Detective.

    Stay calm and safe…and enjoy your week. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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  4. I’m looking forward to Wednesday, too. Right, things won’t be perfect after that day but it’s a start. I just hope everyone stays calm and peaceful this week.

    Your books look really good especially The Eighth Detective.

    I hope you have a great week!

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  5. I recently discovered that series by Julia Spencer-Fleming. It had sat on TBR mountain for quite a while because I thought it was historical fiction and couldn’t recall why I had bought it in the first place. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

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  6. I read In the Bleak Midwinter for a library mystery book club I was facilitating and liked it. If I were a mystery reader, I definitely would have gone on with it, but I don’t read mysteries too often. However, I was listening to The Eighth Detective on audio, and enjoying it, but it expired on me before I could finish and now I have to wait for my turn on the library holds list again!

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  7. I loved The Thirteenth Tale as well so I’ll look out for The Eighth Detective.

    We spent the summer in Oregon with my husband’s job and while your weather might not swing as wildly as it does in other places, we know it can be devastating. We were there for the Labor Day wind storm. It seemed mild to us, just east of Portland. We experienced windier days regularly when we were in Austin. But then the fires started because of the dryness and because Oregon’s utilities aren’t built to withstand that kind of wind (I assume). That was a scary experience I don’t care to repeat! It’s all in perspective!

    Enjoy your week! We’ve almost made it to the inauguration!

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  8. I’m so grateful that my children are grown but I watch them struggling with how to school their own kids. Such a hard time to get though. I’m intrigued by The Witch of Willow Hall. I’ll have to check it out. Have a great weekend and happy reading!

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  9. As you know from visiting my blog on Monday, we are also still taking down Christmas decorations. Maybe tomorrow.

    Memoirs and mysteries are fun, so I would enjoy The Sound of Gravel and The Eighth Mystery. Hope you like all the books you’re reading now.

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About Melinda