Dispatches from the Distancing – Days 396-402

All I can say that is that if you don’t live in the Pacific Northwest this weekend, you are missing out! The weather has been in the 80s, the fruit trees are in bloom, and our backyard has become a Utopia! Pat is grilling dinner last night and, hopefully, we can eat outside.

Other than the beautiful weather, the most exciting thing to happen this week is that the kids and I went in for our eye exams. Chris still has perfect vision (the only person in the family who can claim that!) and Lillie’s eyes got markedly worse…again. She’s going to be making the jump to contact lenses as our eye doctor thinks that might slow things now. As for me…the good news is that my eyes haven’t changed much. The bad news is that I’ll have to go back to wearing glasses, at least part of the time. While I can see well enough without them, one eye is worse than the other so, without glasses, the good eye is having to do all the work and that isn’t a good thing. I opted to just replace the lenses in my old frames, so I have a week before I can start wearing them more often, but I am not looking forward to the glasses and mask combination.

Coming up this week, I get my 2nd shot on Thursday! I’m hoping my reaction won’t be as bad as some of my friends have had to suffer, but I’m also not planning anything for next weekend just in case. If no post goes up on Sunday, you’ll know why. Pat is eligible to get his first shot as of tomorrow. I may jump on early tomorrow to see if I can get him something at one of the pharmacies this week as it will be a relief when we are both fully vaccinated.

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:

Out of the Deep I Cry (Reverend Clare Fergusson/Russ Val Alstyne #3) by Julia Spencer-Fleming
(4.25 Stars; Goodreads review)

As this is the 3rd book in a series, I was sure I knew what I was getting into before I started the first page. And, in some ways, I was right. We stay with Clare and Russ and learning more about them and yet another facet is added to the town of Millers Kill.

But this book is also very different from the two that came before it. Unlike its predecessors, it has a dual timeline. Unlike so many dual timeline novels, this one adds to the story and doesn’t feel forced. The two stories are tied, but not in an overly obvious or “gotcha” way.

This book also seems more literary than the previous two novels. This is not a knock on the other books, but they were more straightforward genre mysteries. Here, the mystery isn’t what you think it is, which is a satisfying surprise.

As with so many series, this should be read in order. However, the first 2 books are enjoyable and this one is where things really take off.

Into The Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
(4 stars; Goodreads Review)

This was one of those books that everybody was reading all of a sudden. I am not the sort of person to fall for peer pressure, but I am the sort of person to fall for “mermaid horror,” so of course I had to join in the fun.

First of all, I wouldn’t consider this horror. It’s suspenseful and graphic, but I don’t know if it has that certain something that makes it horror. I was never actually scared reading this book–I mean, even if thought that Discovery mockumentary I saw a while ago was real and mermaids were actually a thing, I still have no plans to go swimming in the Mariana Trench.

Instead I would say this book is more in line with a monster movie. I’m not sure what literary genre that would fall into–it is definitely suspenseful, but not in the way we think of “suspense” novels to be. I think the best way to describe it is the way a friend of mine once described the Jurassic Park movies: there are creatures, there are fights, don’t think too hard about it…just sit back and enjoy the fun.

Grant does bring up some issues to chew on–exploitation of nature, colonialism, the meaning of “intelligence”–and they all add to the story. The characters here aren’t super deep, but there is enough there to make the reader care about–or hate–the characters.

One word of warning. It’s gross. I mean, there are some graphic details that sort of fit the kind of book this is, but if you can’t handle blood and guts, this may not be the book for you.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
(4 stars, no Goodreads review)

I should have read this in school and I don’t know why I didn’t. Honestly, I don’t think it was ever assigned to me (although The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was assigned. I was never able to get past the dialogue and ended up BS’ing my way to a perfect score on the test). Now, having read it as an adult, I wonder what my experience would have been if I had read it when I was younger.

As an adult, here is what I took from this book: Aunt Polly is a freaking saint. Tom is a typical kid in many way, just “more so.” And this woman ended up having to take him in and is doing her very best. Now, had I read this when I was in school, I doubt Aunt Polly would even be on my radar.

So, is this a good book? Sure! Why not! I will say that it fell into a sort of common trap of books about kids at the time–there isn’t much of a plot. It just sort of meanders from one thing to another. But Tom, Huck, and…of course..Aunt Polly are pretty great nevertheless.

A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
(4 stars, Goodreads review)

I will admit that I do like food memoirs, mostly because I like food. I mean, who doesn’t? There are also times when I like to cook, so food memoirs with recipes are a bonus. Here is a food memoir with recipes where it ended up not being the food that interested me, but rather the family. (Well, mostly not the food. I will admit that I know want to start baking bread….)

Cheryl lu-Lien Tan grew up in Singapore, surrounded by family–although it seems like, as a young person, she took the presence of that family for granted. As an adult living in New York, she wants to reconnect with this family and realizes that the way to do so is to have them teach her how to cook. For the next year, she flies back and forth between New York and Singapore, learning from her Aunties, her surviving grandmother, and her mother (usually through her mother’s maid).

To be fair, I think my disinterest with the food is only due to the fact that Asian food is not my favorite. I’m sure that those who love Asian food will be swept away by the culinary delights here. I did, however, enjoy learning about Cheryl’s life and family. All I knew about life in modern Singapore was from the Crazy Rich Asians books, so it was eye opening to see how different (and sometimes alike) life among the middle class is.

Tan is a great writer–her prose is very honest and peppered with humor in very natural ways. I felt like she was talking to me, not crafting a record of her family. Apparently, Singaporeans are NOT wildly cliched beings with endless wealth and flamboyant spending habits. Instead, they are people who have struggled and who have built their lives by their own hard work and tie the modern with the traditional.

Food aside, this is just a delightful memoir and one I would recommend. And, if Asian food is your thing, this may be the perfect book for you.

This week, I’m starting:

Poirot Investigate by Agatha Christie

This is the 3rd Hercule Poirot book and a collection of short stories. My plan is to read one a day for the next couple of weeks. My husband has been on my case to watch more Poirot with him, so I need to get some of the shorter titles under my belt so that we can find those episodes and watch them. I have started the first one, “The Adventure of ‘The Western Star'” and Hastings is still an idiot. Consistency is good.

The Cruelest Month (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #3) by Louise Penny

It’s always like Christmas morning when my hold for the next Louise Penny shows up in my Libby app! I’ve been waiting for this one for quite some time and will be starting it tonight. I have started a new method for getting the books–putting a number on hold at once and then suspending them until I’m ready to read them. I still climb on the holds list so, when I cancel the suspension, I can get it in just a week or so.

I also need to buckle down and read more of these as my friend just finished the 10th book and really, really, really wants to talk to someone about it!

What Comes After by Joanne Tompkins

This one has been on my TBR before it became sort of the IT BOOK on book podcasts. I was drawn to it because it takes place in the same general area where my husband grew up and it is always a delight to read books set in places I’m already familiar with. I’ve also heard nearly universal good things about this one, so my expectations are high. Hopefully they pan out! It was also an April pick for Book of the Month, so I snatched it up there. I’ll be starting this one tomorrow.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

This is my next Serial title and I actually read this before…in Junior High. I just wasn’t very interested in it back then (I would have much rather been reading a Sweet Valley High book!), so I decided to give this one a second chance. It is also fairly short, so I should be able to work through it in a couple of weeks or so, provided I stay on top of my Serial issues!

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson (Audiobook, narrated by Robin Miles)

This seems to be a must-read right now and I think that, for me, audio is the way to go. I’m quite enjoying it so far. It’s clearly written and well-narrated. I’ve actually been able to stay on top of all my podcasts lately, so I’ve been able to devote a bit more time to audiobooks. The trick with this one is to always listen to it with my AirPods so that my husband doesn’t start sharing all his thoughts on the subject while I’m trying to listen!

What I’m Still Reading:

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

7 thoughts on “Dispatches from the Distancing – Days 396-402

  1. You have a mix of interesting books. the Poirot one is calling to me, I want to try those. I liked Into the Drowning Deep as well- didn’t love it, but I did like it.

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  2. Good luck with the shot. I got Moderna. First one gave me a sore arm. Got the second on a Friday. Sore arm within hours. Sat. morning ok except sore arm. Went to hairdresser around noon and they took my temp which was about a degree higher than it usually is with that gun. Came home, was sleepy, slept but didn’t feel good Sat evening. Sunday I was fine, even my arm.

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  3. Good news about your second shot coming soon! I am happy to be more than two months past mine.

    As for glasses, my vision improved after cataracts were noted, strangely, and I only need them for reading. But wearing them is a habit, and who wants to look for them when reaching for a book? However, they fog up with the mask…so there’s that.

    Tom Sawyer was the first book I checked out of the public library when I was eight! So I remember it fondly. I wonder what I would think now?

    Enjoy your week and those books.

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  4. Great assortment of books! I’ve read the first by Penny but wasn’t enthused enough to carry on. On the other hand, I really enjoy the Spencer-Fleming series and can’t wait for the next. It’s time for an eye exam and new glasses for me but I haven’t scheduled anything yet. I’m blaming the pandemic. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

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  5. Melinda you sure have a lot of books read or on the go. I know so many love the Louise Penny books. I also know a mystery reader who loves Agatha Christie. I am not a big mystery reader really, but when others enjoy books its so tempting!!

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  6. I am glad to see a mention of the Julia Spencer-Fleming series in your post. I really enjoyed that series, although I must go back and read the latest book!

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About Melinda