We are another week into summer! I noticed that the stores are putting out the school supplies, reminding us that fall is coming.
Pat took this week off work, but we didn’t do much. Chris had his writing group and swimming lessons and Lillie had her math class, which tied us to home. On Friday, when we did have a free day, everyone just wanted to hang out at home…which we did!
Things are 2 steps forward, one step back in terms of post-pandemic re-entry. In my last post, I talked about tossing the mask when going to stores. Since then, I’ve brought back the mask. I know or know of several fully-vaccinated people who have contracted the Delta variant of COVID. Fortunately, and thanks to the vaccine, they have either been asymptomatic or had very mild symptoms. But the thing is that Chris isn’t old enough to be vaccinated so, if Pat, Lillie, or I contracted it, we would be okay but it could be bad for Chris. Because of this (and the fact that my father may be vaccinated, but is also nearly 83 years old and has COPD), we’ve decided to postpone our trip to Arizona until Chris can be vaccinated. I’m hoping that one of the vaccines will be approved for the under-12 set soon. It would be really nice if he could be vaccinated before school starts up again, but it doesn’t look like that will be happening. Oh well…
That’s pretty much what is going on in our lives. Our summer will start getting a bit busier in a couple of weeks, which will be…fun? We’ll see.
And now, 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.
In the last 2 weeks, I finished reading:
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
As with so many books these days, I picked this up because one of my friends nagged me into it. Honestly, the premise–a group of residents in a retirement community as amateur sleuths–sounded far too cozy for me. I prefer my mysteries with a bit more bite.
I am happy to say that I was wrong. This still isn’t a dark mystery, but it is a fun one. Moreover, it escaped my pet peeve of people solving mysteries who have no business solving mysteries. Yes, it is a group of residents in a retirement community, but how and why they form a “Murder Club” makes complete sense.
The mystery here is straightforward but still surprising. I didn’t guess the solution and, while I think Osman cheated just a bit (I didn’t feel all the necessary information was given to the reader), I was still entertained. There are plenty of twists and red herrings and you will definitely keep turning the pages.
The real jewels of this book are the characters. Each one of the four members, and their two reluctant police accomplices, are fascinating and entertaining. Better yet, I know that there is more to learn with each character. Even the secondary characters were entertaining.
Osman’s writing style is light but amusing. This reminded me very much of a comedic British detective show, which is kind of my catnip anyway. Osman pokes lighthearted fun at those of more advanced age, while sensitively also addressing their challenges. Most of all, this is a book that makes me want to live life to the fullest for as long as I can.
Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
This book has been described as Louise Erdrich’s take on The Handmaid’s Tale and, honestly, that’s not wrong. Both books are dystopian tales of a world where the damaged environment allows a brutal theocracy to take power and women who are able to bear children are sought to be “breeders.”
That being said, I’m going to say something many people won’t like. I prefer this book to The Handmaid’s Tale. I’m not saying it is a better book–I actually think that Atwood’s book is a more technically literary book–but this was a better read for me.
Erdrich’s world is much more (I really don’t want to say “realistic”) relatable. Cedar and the people in her life seem much more like real people than anyone in Atwood’s book. Erdrich also writes in a much more conversationalist style. This isn’t a light book and Erdrich’s prose is, as usual, beautiful, but it is less mythic than Atwood’s, which is probably what makes the experience of reading this book better for me.
This is a tough story and I was very stressed while reading it. In fact, I don’t think I could have read it before now, thanks to the period of time our real world is just now leaving behind. At the same time, this was a propulsive read and kept me up past my bedtime many, many times.
If you are ready for Dystopia, this is a good one to take on. In fact, I would probably recommend this one before The Handmaid’s Tale for readers who haven’t read a lot of dystopian fiction.
A Trick of the Light (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #7) by Louise Penny
My infatuation with my book boyfriend, Armand Gamache, continues. This is probably the most reliably good mystery series that I have going and each one is just a joy.
This particular novel asks if people can really change. I’m not sure that it completely answers that question, but it does get the reader at least thinking about it. The victim here is someone who is just toxic and has left a trail of shattered souls in her wake. Needless to say, there are plenty of suspects. But had she turned her life around?
I will admit that this was a case where I liked the story around the mystery more than the mystery itself. I figured this one out pretty quickly, and I think that gave me more “room” to enjoy what was going on with the citizens of Three Pines. Penny does a great job of portraying people who are going through internal and emotional struggles.
I truly enjoyed this one and now I’m just waiting for the hold on the next one to come in!
Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson (audiobook narrator: Renee Watson)
Some books are magic!
I checked out this audiobook from the library when I picked it up off a list of YA Award winners to fulfill a requirement for a reading challenge. I knew absolutely nothing about it before starting it.
I was first surprised that it took place in my neck of the woods (as I said, I knew nothing about it!) and Watson so perfectly depicts Portland that I feel like I took a virtual trip to the East Side and Downtown. If you haven’t been to Portland but can’t physically get there now, check out this book.
Jade is such a realistic character–she has so much to offer and she struggles with her flaws. She’s only a teenager and her maturity level matches that. Jade deals with three big things in this book–her relationship with her new mentor, her relationship with her new white friend, and the racism in her community. These three issues do dance around each other and sometimes intertwine in heartbreaking ways.
One thing this book does not have is romance and that’s a good thing. I have nothing against young love, but I’m just not currently in a place where I want to read about teenage romance (probably because my daughter is soon to be a teenager). My daughter also doesn’t like to read books with a lot of romance, so I will be recommending this one to her.
Watson narrates this book herself, which took a little getting used to. She reads well and emotes when needed, but the tone of her voice is a bit rougher than you would find with a professional narrator, but once I got used to it, it really fit Jade’s voice.
I’m so glad that I stumbled upon this book. I think it will rank among the best of the year for me.
Blood Hollow (Cork O’Connor #4) by William Kent Krueger
Just behind the Armand Gamache series in my esteem is the Cork O’Connor series. While I find comfort in Gamache’s world, O’Connor’s is pure adrenaline. These books are pretty much action from page 1 until the end. While the character development isn’t as strong as one would find in Krueger’s standalone books, it works here for the type of books these are.
This particular book was full of the twists and turns that I’ve come to expect in this series. I never guessed the culprit and was surprised when it was revealed, which is always a win for me. I will say that some of the twists in this book are a tad unbelievable, but I was pretty invested when they came up so I can handwave them away.
Monument: Poems New and Selected by Natasha Trethewey
Don’t let the fact that it took over 6 months for me to get through this make you think I didn’t like it. I tend to take my time with poetry–I also tend to read it on the toilet (not that you needed to know that). And I did take my time with this one, and it was worth it.
These poems tend to deal with race and Trethewey’s grief over the death of her mother. If I had been thinking straight, I would have made a point to read her memoir, Memorial Drive, before reading this as I think it would have shed some additional light on the poems. But, even without that, this was worth reading.
The poems are beautiful but I especially appreciated that Trethewey plays with different poetic structures. I felt like I was growing along with her as I read.
In the last 2 weeks, I DNF’d:
No Angel by Penny Vincenzi
This was my first entre into the Big Books of Summer Challenge and, honestly, I tried my best. I made it over 300 pages before I decided to throw in the towel.
Here’s the thing: if this were an episodic TV show, I would be all over this. It would have everything I would want in an entertaining, slightly soapy, streaming show. But, as a book, it just didn’t work for me. My problem is that there wasn’t any real plot! I actually enjoy “slice of life” books, but not for 600+ pages.
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara
I learned a great phrase on the Currently Reading podcast that I’m going to use here: I DNF’d this one without prejudice. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this book. In fact, everything has led me to believe that this is a very good book. I just didn’t think it was a good book for right now.
Two things led me to that conclusion. The first was just time: I had this out on a library loan that I knew I couldn’t renew. To finish it on time I would have had to really push myself to get through it. Secondly, because I already felt under pressure to get through this book, I felt like I was missing a lot of the finer details. Because of that, I’m putting this one aside until I have more time to really sink into it.
This week, I started reading:
To Darkness and to Death (Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne #4) by Julia Spencer-Fleming
My one complaint concerning this series is that my library only has the first book in digital form. So, I have had to get print copies–which isn’t horrible, but whatever. I’m just doing more reading on my Kindle right now.
Anyway, this is an interesting book in that….it isn’t a mystery. We always know who did it. The story is almost madcap with people making incredibly boneheaded decisions. This isn’t a *funny* book, but there is more humor here than there is the earlier books in the series. I’m enjoying it, even though I don’t get to figure out “who did it.”
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (audiobook narrator: Ray Porter)
I was planning to read this on my kindle, but my bookish BFF convinced me that it was best on audio. The problem–IT IS ONLY ON FREAKIN’ AUDIBLE! I’m a Libro girl and I’m kind of offended by the whole “Audible Exclusive” thing. But, I decided to sign up for Audible, download this, and then cancel. The question will ultimately be if it is worth the $15.99 for my 5 minute membership.
So far, it sounds like it will be! I’m really enjoying this and I am convinced that audio is the way to go (curse you, Audible!). I’m already thinking I may share this one with my husband. He may love it, but that’s not guaranteed–he’s the person who said he didn’t like The Martian because “there wasn’t enough science in it.”
Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan
This is my second (well, third–I’m counting Jubilee as a big book) attempt at a big book for the summer. I was supposed to read this a couple of years ago with one of my book clubs, but I realized I wouldn’t be able to make the meeting and put the book on the shelf. Now, thanks to the fact that it was the 2nd biggest book on my TBR bookcase, it’s time.
It’s World War II historical fiction–which is overdone. But, whatever. I’m giving this one a try because it supposedly covers a facet of the war that hasn’t been covered. I just started it today and the writing isn’t too difficult, so it might be a quicker read than it size would lead you to believe. We’ll see!
So, there you go. It was a long post this week, but that is what happens when I try to cover 2 weeks in one post!