Happy Memorial Day Weekend to those in the US. I hope you not only enjoy this weekend, but also take a moment to remember those who have died to give us the freedoms we enjoy.
I am slowly easing into the (almost) post-pandemic world. Yesterday, Pat and I went to the Hillsboro Farmer’s Market for the first time since 2019. While we mostly just went to look around, we ended up coming home with 3 bottles of wine, so I’ll call that a win. Masks were recommended and most people were wearing them. I was grateful for that, but I can’t deny that it was pretty sweaty under a mask and sunglasses.
We are having very summer-like weather right now. A while ago, we bought a huge pack of those water balloons that you can fill up in bunches. Pat and I may ambush the kids tomorrow, because that is the kind of parents we are. We are also making full use of our grill this weekend, which is fun. I’ve also brought my reclining camp chair (chaise lounge? something like that) out of the garage, so now I can read outside–which is quite enjoyable.
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.
Before I get into the mess of things, check out my Big Books of Summer post. I’m actually participating in a challenge! Woo-hoo!
Last week, I finished:
The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue (audiobook)
I approached this book with more that a little trepidation. I knew that it was set during the Flu Pandemic in the early 20th century, and I wasn’t sure reading it during the Covid pandemic of the early 21st century was a good idea*. There is a fair amount of pandemic drama, but this actually reminded me more of Call the Midwife, which is one of my favorite TV shows.
I hadn’t read (or listened to) Emma Donoghue before, but she does come highly recommended. I loved the writing in this novel and the characters were surprisingly colorful. This is not a book that shies away from the uglier side of maternal care but instead creates a realistic account of the trauma that women, especially poorer women, suffered in childbirth.
I did feel that this book became a little melodramatic towards the end and I’m trying to convince a doctor friend to read this so I can get a take on how accurate it was. But, hey, it was good drama.
I decided to enjoy the audio version of this, which I highly recommend. Emma Lowe is a dramatic narrator and does an exemplary job of juggling voices, all while inserting screams of pain when necessary.
If you are ready for some pandemic reading, I would recommend this. If you aren’t, give it a while and then read it when COVID-19 is finally resigned to the pages of history.
*In the author’s note, Donoghue says that she wrote this before the COVID pandemic, but submitted her final draft in March 2020, just as this pandemic was beginning.
Jerusalem Maiden by Talia Carner
This was one of those cases where I wish I could give a book 2 ratings. I would give it 2 stars for the story and 5 for everything around the story.
I’ll start with what didn’t work for me. The story of a young ultra-orthodox Jewish woman in early 20th century Jerusalem who feels a calling that doesn’t fit with her culture is a promising one, but I felt that it developed in a very predictable way. It seems like I have read several books in the “girl fights against her culture to express herself” genre that all fall pretty much the same arc. Secondly, without going into spoilers, I will say that this book relied on a trope that I find aggravating. I think if Carner had managed to avoid this particular trope and allowed Esther to discover herself through her own efforts, the book would have been far more impactful.
Now, the good. I could read Carner’s writing all day–even though this story didn’t work for me, I am going to be looking into her other books. She has a smooth, poetic voice that is effortless to read. She also nails the sense of place. She brings the three settings of this book–Jerusalem, Jaffa, and Paris–to vivid life for the reader. This book also features the ultra-orthodox Haredi Jews, which is a culture I didn’t know much about until I finished the last page.
So, not a win of a story, but I did discover a new other to read on with and that’s always a good thing.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
(1 star…which is even worse than 0 stars!)
I first read this in 8th grade and I remember hating it. In my memory, it was because I was struggling the “classics” language. At that point in my life, I was all about the Sweet Valley High books and nothing else measured up in my mind.
But since that time, I’ve deepened my reading and have spent a fair amount of classics reading. I’ve done Shakespeare, the Brontes, Austen, Dickens, Twain, Hawthorne, Hugo, Tolstoy, and I HAVE READ MIDDLEMARCH! Surely this slim volume would be no problem for me now.
Yup, I still hate this book. This time, the language was a breeze, but I don’t like the story, I don’t like the structure of the story, and–while not intimidating–I still don’t like the language. I mean, the basic story is…fine, I guess. But the book just pisses me off. Maybe it sends me back to my angsty 13 year old self. Maybe it is just overrated. Who can say?
I read this with the Serial app, which is such a fabulous tool. However, I’ve decided to take a break from it until the fall. Over the summer, my Big Books reading will take the place of my usual Serial reading.
Last week, I started:
An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten (translator: Marlaine Delargy) (audiobook)
One of my bookish BFF’s received this as a myTBR recommendation (we share our recommendations, although she got the short end of the stick last time as 2 of my 3 myTBR recommendations were books she had already recommended to me). The gist is this: it is about an 88 year old serial killer. How can you not love that?
It seems like this actually a collection of short stories that become a novel. I’ve chosen to listen to this as said bookish BFF raved about the audio version. So far, it is quite delightful!