Dispatches from the Distancing – Days 389-395

Welcome to spring. At least here in the Pacific Northwest it is starting to feel like Spring. We had some variable weather this week, but we should be close to 80 degrees by the end of next week. It may be time to break out the shorts again! In fact, we are breaking out the barbecue for dinner tonight. Yum!

The kids had their first, and so far only, day back in person school this week. They go into school on Tuesdays and Fridays, although this past Friday was a scheduled in-service day. I think it went fairly well. I knew Lillie would be fine, but I was a bit more worried about Chris. However, he was happy as a clam when he came home! He only has 4 other kids in his co-hort, so I don’t have to worry about the class being over-crowded.

Lillie started the registration process for Middle School next year. She had to choose her electives and it looks like her band career has come to an end. She has opted to take art and drama instead, which I’m fine with. What I do find annoying is that there aren’t that many options for her last .5 credit so she is having to be a teacher’s aide, which I think is a bit of a waste. Oh well!

Onto the books!

As usual, I’m linking up with Kathryn at Book Date and her It’s Monday…What Are You Reading? blog hop.

Last week, I finished reading:

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
(4 stars; Goodreads Review)

In general, I’m really sick of World War II fiction. It is everywhere and there are so many other historical periods to write about! I mean, I’m sure the Crimean War is just crying out for some riveting fiction!

So, with that being said, I have to commend Kate Quinn for actually writing some WWII fiction that stands out for me. I’ve realized the trick is to find some unique aspect and Quinn sets her most recent book among the codebreakers in Bletchley Park. Here we find three very unique women–all sympathetic and none completely likable–who forge an unlikely friendship that leads to a devastating betrayal.

This book is a chunkster, but it is also I one I just couldn’t put down. While Quinn does a great job of character development, there is also a fair amount of action here. She also dangles just enough hints of future drama to keep you going.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it wasn’t perfect. There were things that were just a little too outlandish to believe and the end came together a bit too cleanly given what happened in the previous 90% of the book.

Still, it was fun–it was neither overly heavy nor too light–but the perfect adventure to get you out of the slump of the waning days of winter or early days of spring.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez
(4 stars; No Goodreads review)

This was the latest selection for my “Marginals and Margaritas” book club where we discuss books by marginalized authors (although we have yet to break out the margaritas). I’ve actually had this book sitting on my kindle for quite some time, so I was glad to have a nudge to get it up to the top of my TBR.

I should say that I am kind of off Young Adult literature right now. I’m not sure why–the only reason I can come up with is that my daughter is rapidly approaching the “young adult” age. Anyway, there were some general YA-ish things about this book that I just had to overlook.

Anyway, this was a surprising book. I went into it thinking it would be a story of an immigrant girl fighting against her cultural expectations. Don’t get me wrong, that is all there. But, really, this is a book about mental health. The main character, Julia, is dealing with depression, anxiety, and grief and Sanchez does a remarkable job of depicting that.

I would recommend this if you are looking for a book club book. Our discussion last night was excellent!

Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder
(4.5 stars, Goodreads review)

I really loved this book.

This is also the sort of book that I really don’t feel okay “critiquing” as it is so personal. As far as the objective quality of this book, all I will say is that I appreciated the color illustrations. After reading so many monochrome graphic novels, this one was a visual treat.

All I can really talk about here is my own experience reading it. I’m also a member if the Dead Moms Club and parts of this book really resonated with me. I was particularly touched by Feder’s description of grief a decade after her mother’s passing. It was as if she put my own feelings on the page. There were other parts of the book that were interesting, but not personally relatable. However, this is only because these were the parts where Feder’s experience differed in circumstance from my own.

Feder does not back away from grief here, but she is able to deal with it with humor. While this book is sad and raw, it is also funny at times–and the sort of humor that I think anyone will appreciate.

Obviously, I would recommend this book to fellow members of the Dead Mom (or Dad or Grandparent or whatever) club. However, I would also recommend it to pretty much anyone because it is a useful tool to be able to understand another person’s journey. And, if graphic novels haven’t been your thing, this is very approachable and a good entry point to the genre.

Tokyo Ueno Station by Miri Yu (translated by Morgan Giles)
(3.5 stars, no Goodreads review)

I reserve the right to change my rating on this book.

This is for another book club and I had never heard of it until someone suggested it. I haven’t read much Japanese literature and I think that it is something that I need to get used to (which means I should probably read more of it). The writing here is lovely, the story is thought provoking, but it was difficult for me to settle in with it.

This may be a book that I realize I liked more after some time has past. It could also be that the book club discussion (which has not yet happened) may sway me one way or the other. So, all I can say is that I’m still deciding what I thought of this book.

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin (audiobook, narrated by Bahni Turpin)
(4 stars, no Goodreads review)

I only finished listening to the one shortly before starting this post, so I’m sort of still processing my thoughts on it.

It was interesting? strange? to be reading this book while the news is full of the Chauvin trial. This is basically a story of the mistreatment of African Americans by the police, although the details are quite different. For a nearly 50 year old book, it is amazing how little has changed.

I really loved the sense of family here and how Tish’s family came together to support her fiancé. I also felt that the world that Baldwin creates was realistic and absorbing. What I had a problem with was the narrating. This book is told in the first person with the young woman, Tish, as the narrator. I didn’t always feel that Baldwin had a good grasp on the female voice here. There were also times when Tish, again in first person, was narrating things that she didn’t witness, which I found jarring and took me out of the story.

Last week, I started reading:

Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Krug

I can’t remember where I heard about this graphic memoir, but it caught my attention immediately, As I said above, I’m sick of World War II books. However, I am interested in Germany after the war. This book doesn’t quite fall into that category–the author grew up in the 80s–but it’s amazing how Germany was (is?) still dealing with the war. Let’s just say this, it is pretty much the opposite of how the United States deals with things.

This is a fairly dense graphic memoir, so I’m taking my time with it. But it is also fascinating and I think that, if your book club is open to graphic memoirs, this might be a good choice.

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

I first heard about this book on the Currently Reading podcast and I think it has become a popular read among listeners, just going by my Facebook feed. I will tell you what sold me on it. Two words: mermaid horror.

I’m not to the actual horror part yet, but I’m quite looking forward to it. So far, the book is incredibly readable and is doing a good job of building expectations. We’ll see if it lives up to those expectations. This is the first book in a series (maybe a trilogy), so I’m expected a big cliff hanger and the end. So far, it is reminding me of this ridiculous and yet entertaining mockumentary I once saw about mermaids. I’m here for that!

Out of the Deep I Cry (Rev Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne #3) by Julia Spencer-Fleming

I didn’t mean to get into a “deep” theme here, but it just happened! This is the 3rd book in the Episcopal priest series that I’ve been enjoying. This one is different from its predecessors as it has a bit of a dual timeline going on. It’s actually quite effective and I think it might be making a story that is just sort of mysterious into a very mysterious novel.

I hope to have it done within the next day or so and I can’t yet guess at the resolution. I have a suspicion that the real mystery will be in the details, but we’ll see. The second book in the series was a bit of a disappointment for me, but this one is much stronger (as long as it doesn’t bite it in the end).

I’m still reading:

Monument by Natasha Trethewey
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

8 thoughts on “Dispatches from the Distancing – Days 389-395

  1. I know I am with you on the WW2 books, but authors keep writing it and usually each one is unique. Kate Quinn is such a good author. Even it I don’t pick it up I might get the audio for one of my sisters.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I think Kate Quinn is one of the few authors that could get me to read a WWII novel at this point! The other thing about The Rose Code is that Prince Phillip is in it as a secondary character, which is poignant now.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I do enjoy the Clare Fergusson mysteries but I don’t think “mermaid horror” would entice me to pick up that books. I hope you enjoy it. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am glad the kids’ first day back went well. I hope it continues to go well. They just announced here in our district that the in-person students will be going five days a week starting next week. That won’t affect my daughter who is strictly virtual (since that’s the program we chose at the beginning of the school year). I hope it goes well. School staff can practice for when my daughter does return next school year! 😉

    I am glad to see you liked The Rose Code and I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter as both are on my TBR shelf to read. I’m pretty sure I will enjoy them too. I’ve been wanting to read Into the Drowning Deep as well. I haven’t read anything by Mira Grant–or rather the author’s work under that name. I love what I have read by Seanan McGuire.

    I hope you have a great rest of the week and enjoy your reading!

    Like

  4. I am glad the kids’ first day back went well. I hope it continues to go well. They just announced here in our district that the in-person students will be going five days a week starting next week. That won’t affect my daughter who is strictly virtual (since that’s the program we chose at the beginning of the school year). I hope it goes well. School staff can practice for when my daughter does return next school year! 😉

    I am glad to see you liked The Rose Code and I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter as both are on my TBR shelf to read. I’m pretty sure I will enjoy them too. I’ve been wanting to read Into the Drowning Deep as well. I haven’t read anything by Mira Grant–or rather the author’s work under that name. I love what I have read by Seanan McGuire.

    I hope you have a great rest of the week and enjoy your reading!

    Like

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About Melinda