Weekly Reads – May 22, 2022

It’s been a while! Well, I missed two weeks–the first was Mother’s Day which I consciously took off from writing posts. Then, last weekend, I was just wiped out. I got the great idea that I would do this post on Saturday this week, but then we were so busy on Saturday that it didn’t happen. In fact, I didn’t even think I’d do an update post today, but I feel a bit invigorated after a pleasant nature walk with Pat, followed by a filling fast food meal (we don’t do it often, but sometimes we just have to have some KFC).

Life here is kind of hectic as the school year wraps up. Lillie had her play a few weeks ago and she was fabulous, so now she’s home from school earlier as she no longer has rehearsals. Chris has been keeping up with his coding at Code Ninjas, which he is really enjoying! I have to say, I’m a fan of their program as it shows kids (or at least Chris) how knowledge builds on itself.

So, as I mentioned above, Pat and I went on a new nature walk today (the kids refused to come). A new nature park, Chehalem Ridge, not too far from from us opened a few months ago and we finally had a nice enough day to go check it out. It was absolutely lovely! We only did a portion of the trails, but I can guarantee we’ll be back (with the kids, whether they like it or not) and can explore more. Here are a few pics:

Okay, onto the books. This is a catch up from my last update (May 1), so it will be a little longer than normal.

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

Since my last update, I finished reading:

Dog Flowers by Danielle Geller
Date Finished: May 2, 2022
Star Rating: 4 Stars

Have you ever read a book where you want to reach through the pages and just hug the narrator? That was this book for me.

Folks, Danielle has it tough. I mean, everyone has it tough in this book but I think people overlook the struggle the functioning person in a dysfunctional family has to deal with. While Danielle has her own struggles, she is also the person responsible for trying to keep everyone else on their feet.

I went into this book thinking this would be settled in Native American culture–and that is there, but not until the second half of the book. However, I felt starting this book with Danielle’s early life in Florida and Pennsylvania set things up well to show the contrast between her Navajo family and how Danielle is trapped between two cultures.

The writing is lovely–Geller is a creative writing professor and it shows. This isn’t written with flower language, but instead with evocative, straight-forward language. While it does sometimes feel like you are going through Geller’s therapy, I think that is necessary for a book like this.

DOG FLOWERS is an excellent book for someone looking for a memoir of self-resilience. I was deeply affected by this one and can’t see what Danielle Geller puts out next.

The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie
Date finished: May 3, 2022
Star rating: 3.5 stars

This book had me early–a plucky young heroine setting out on a great adventure. Anne Beddingfeld is a joy to read and one of the more fetching Christie heroines. She has a go-getter attitude, even if she doesn’t always make the best decisions. Initially, the mystery is well-laid out and intriguing enough to hook me early on.

But, here is the thing–there is a thin line between fun and silly. While this book stays on the “fun” side for about 2/3 of the time, there comes a point where it crosses over to silly. The mystery starts to become a bit too convoluted, there is a subterfuge that is used a bit too much, and the book crosses over the line into the silly territory.

I think, in the hand of a skilled screenwriter who can clean some things up, a good adaptation of this could be made. In the meantime, a reader will enjoy most of this book–until the eye rolls start.

The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis
Date finished: May 5, 2022
Star rating: 3.5 stars

Have you ever read a book that would have been a total hit if it were written by a different author, or if it were the first book you read by an author? I realized that was the case for me with this book.

It’s not that this is a bad book–there was quite a lot to recommend it. I loved the Gilded Age setting (and fortune shined on Davis here as the Gilded Age is having a bit of a renaissance right now) and, as always, Davis does an amazing job creating a world around a New York City building. I also found the character of Lillian, a woman very strongly inspired by Audrey Munson, fascinating. And, honestly, the overall story was a good one, even if the bow on the end was just a little too tight and pretty.

But, here’s the thing: Davis has a very strict formula for her books. She does a dual timeline narration, with one voice from the late 19th or early 20th century and the other from the mid to latter 20th century, of a story about two women and an iconic piece of New York City architecture. There is nothing wrong with this, but after 6 books I expect something new within that framework she uses. While I actually enjoyed this book more than her previous book (The Lions of New York), I did start to feel a little same old-same old to me.

Another issue is that in all of Davis’s earlier books, the two timelines are balanced. I usually prefer one timeline over another, but they both lift equal weight in the storytelling. With this one, the more modern timeline doesn’t really do much at all and could have been completely deleted from this book and it wouldn’t have negatively impacted the story.

I guess my advice here would be to read it if you are new to Fiona Davis’s books. If you’ve read her other books, just manage your expectations because you aren’t going to find much new here.

The Marlow Murder Club (The Marlow Murder Club #1) by Robert Thorogood
Date finished: May 11, 2022
Star rating: 4 stars

I have said that I am not a cozy mystery person and, generally, that is true. However, I have to say that I do love the kind of cozy that appears on Acorn or Britbox and this book is definitely of that ilk.

I love Judith, Suzie, and Becks and felt that all three were more well-developed than I’ve seen in the cozies that I’ve read. I also felt the mystery was well-crafted–I sort of guessed part of it, but there was still a surprise there for me.

There is a bit of a madcap charm to this book that is more sophisticated than I expected. And, of course, there is a beautiful English village (where I would really like to live!) The ingredients are all there, and they come together more smoothly than I have seen in other such books.

Yes, I’m anxiously awaiting the second book…and I would love to see this one adapted!

The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani, narrated by Shohreh Aghdashloo
Date finished: May 12, 2022
Star rating: 4 stars

This was an impulse buy from a Libro sale and I went into it completely blind, which is probably a good thing because I’m not sure I would have picked it up if I had read a synopsis of it beforehand. That being said, this was a lovely reading/listening experience.

This is a lovely, and sometimes infuriating, story of a young woman in 17th Century Iran who experiences “bad luck” and ends up in a life that she never expects. The infuriating part is that the lack of women’s rights is evident here as the narrator is betrayed and used. She does make some rather rash decisions, that don’t improve matters, but she does learn from her mistakes. I loved the writing and the narrative is peppered with a series of mostly traditional Iranian folktales (the first and last “folktales” were written by the author, but the others are all traditional).

As this was an audiobook listen, the narrative here is key. Shohreh Aghdashloo does an amazing job with this, bringing each character to life in a unique way. Even though Aghdashloo has what I would call a “whiskey and cigarettes” voice, it still works as she tells the story of this young woman. I will say, though, that if you are looking for a book that keeps you going on a workout or something like that, this may not be it. Aghdashloo’s voice is almost hypnotic, but also soothing. It will not, however, propel you to run faster.

All in all, this was a wonderful surprise of a book and I’ll be looking into the author’s other work.

The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams
Date finished: May 12, 2022
Star rating: 4.5 stars

Well, dang. This book made me cry in public! I was actually crying and smiling simultaneously, but I was wearing a mask so I’m sure everyone thought my pet had just died.

This is a book to warm a reader’s heart. It’s not heavy, but it so clearly speaks to readers and the love of reading and, of course, libraries! I loved Mukesh from the beginning and, while I think it was intentional to take time to warm up to Aleisha, I ended up wanting to hug her. I had read most of the books on the reading list that circulates among the characters and I love the way that the stories from those novels are woven into the stories of the characters in this novel.

I knew very little about this book going into it, so I don’t want to talk in specifics about it now. I will just say this: if you love books and reading, you will love this book.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
Date finished: May 17, 2022
Star rating: 5 STARS!!!!

Folks, I loved this book. This book spoke to me in ways that few books have and it is one that will stay with me for years.

I’m not a chemist or even scientifically inclined, and I am decades removed from the events of this book. Despite all that, I related deeply to Elizabeth Zott. She is, in many ways, a simple character. She knows what she wants and she is unfailingly honest. The problem is that she (and we all) live in a world that doesn’t always respect what others know is their calling and can be horribly dishonest. Zott faces these challenges and setbacks with courage that is admirable and phenomenal.

While Zott is rightly the focus of this book, the supporting characters are also crafted with care–from her advanced young child, her nightmare bosses and colleagues in the scientific world, her neighbor and unlikely friend, and–most of all–Six-Thirty. While this book is an account of the struggles of a woman in a world working against her, it is also a book of found family and you will fall in love with that family.

Do yourself a favor and get this book. It may have been set more than 5 decades ago, but it is a book for our modern times.

The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani
Date finished: May 18, 2022
Star rating: 3.5 stars

In trying to talk about this book with someone, the imperfect metaphor I came up with was a big old bag of potato chips. You love potato chips, potato chips are good, but you are oddly unsatisfied once you finish off the bag for two reasons.

First, for such a big bag of chips (er, book) there was a lot of air in there. This is a 400+ page, but a good chunk of those pages is devoted to things that are interesting, but really have very little at all to do with the story. Honestly, I would have loved to see any of these extraneous branches developed as an independent story, but here it was frustrated because it not only pulled me out of the main story but then would end abruptly.

Second, let’s go back to potato chips. Chips are yummy, but they aren’t very filling. While I enjoyed reading this and felt that Trigiani did a wonderful job creating the world, I realized that all the extra stuff in the book was an attempt to hide that the plot for this rather large book was actually rather thin.

As I said, I enjoyed this–I just didn’t find it ultimately satisfying. I’ll still read Adriana Trigiani. This just wasn’t one of my favorites.

Since my last update, I started reading:

  • The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie
  • Book Lovers by Emily Henry, narrated by Julia Whelan
  • One Was a Soldier (The Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne #7) by Julia Spencer-Fleming
  • I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet by Shauna Niequist

7 thoughts on “Weekly Reads – May 22, 2022

  1. That looks like a beautiful area. I hope you enjoy exploring it. And I’ve heard good things about Trigani. Even with an occasional disappointment she sounds like a wonderful storyteller.


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About Melinda