Another week and another week closer to the end of the year!
I didn’t post anything last week because I was so close to finish a couple of books but hadn’t actually finished anything by the time I would have had to post something. So, I decided to just wait a week.
But, in doing so, I didn’t give you all a Thanksgiving update. It was yummy. I ate a lot. I took no pictures. Consider yourselves updated!
As for us, we’re just trying to finish out the school year. Lillie’s play starts this week (I think…I’d better double check that!), so we’ll be seeing that soon. In the meantime, I still have to decorate for Christmas. The kids have lost all interest in doing that, which is fine. I’ll just have Pat bring in the tree (yes, we have an artificial tree) and I’ll do it all while the kids are in school. I do really need the kids to finish their laundry so that we CAN bring in the tree, so that is my current struggle.
I’m also going to try to wrap as many gifts as I can while the kids are in school. I have a bad habit of leaving everything for the last minute. Well, what usually happens is I ask Pat to do the wrapping, he says he will, then he doesn’t, then I have to madly wrap it all. So, I’m going to do something new this year and not do…that. I am close to finishing the shopping for our immediate family, but I do have a few more gifts to buy for our extended family. I’d like to be done with all that this week, but we’ll see how it all goes!
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.
Since my last update, I’ve finished reading:
Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng
Date finished: November 27, 2022
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/All-Time Favorite!
This book shook me.
I went into it with some preconceptions. I read Ng’s previous book and expected something that would feel like it was from the same author. However, Ng pulled an Ishiguru, and this feels as if a completely different author wrote it. However, I think that if Ng had stayed with her tried and true voice, this book would not have worked.
Sometimes the success of this book hangs on which buttons it pushes in a reader. This one pushed all the right (or maybe wrong?) buttons. I knew it dealt with Anti-Asian racism and was prepared for that. I was not prepared for the near-future dystopian world that Ng created. If you think about all the issues floating around now–book banning, attacks on education, racism, fascism, etc.–and bring them together, that’s what you will find here. The familiarity of Ng’s world is terrifying.
At the heart of the story is a boy called Bird, whose mother is gone and whose father lives in a state of high alert for reasons Bird does not understand. Ng hit a home run when creating these characters. I could feel the pain each character experiences, and my heart hurt for them while I became increasingly angered by their world.
It may be because I am a mother that this book touched me. Or it may be that I am especially angered by the attacks on education. Or it could be some other bit of Ng magic here. In any case, this is a book that shook me to my core and one that I will not forget.
Ruth’s First Christmas Tree (Ruth Galloway #4.5) by Elly Griffits
Date read: November 27, 2022
What a delightful little story!
Admittedly, this is not a book for just anyone to pick up. It is labeled as book 4.5 in the Ruth Galloway series, and you should have previously read books 1-4. But, if you have gotten that far, you will enjoy this little holiday ditty.
We meet Ruth right after the end of book 4. For the sake and enjoyment of her 1-year-old daughter (and her maybe, what?, boyfriend?, Max), Ruth has decided to do the holiday thing. Her plan: Get a tree, wrap gifts, and enjoy. And, of course, this does not go as planned.
In this slim story, we see most of the characters we love–Nelson, Shona, and especially Cathbad–as they come to foil and/or save Ruth’s Christmas. What there isn’t in this story is a mystery. Well, maybe there is a splinter of one if you look for it. However, that is now what this book is for. This is a Christmas gift from Elly Griffiths to her Ruth Galloway fans and I found it a wonderful way to kick off my holiday reading.
Agatha Christie: An Elusive Woman by Lucy Worsley
Date finished: November 28, 2022
I tend to be picky about biographies–normally, I prefer memoirs. However, I love Agatha Christie and Lucy Worsley, so this sounded right up my alley.
I had heard a pre-publication interview with Lucy Worsley, and she said this would be a historical biography, not a literary one. That was a smart move on her part. There are numerous biographies of Agatha Christie already in the universe, but this is the first to look at her from a non-literary viewpoint. Worsley does discuss Christie’s novels, but they don’t weigh her down. She is far more interested in what Christie’s world was like.
Worsley’s style is very inviting, and it is clear why she is so successful as a television presenter of historical documentaries. I also appreciate that she didn’t shy away from putting her own feelings in the narrative when appropriate. For example, when describing Archibald Christie, Agatha Christie’s first husband, she writes: “It was only when I examined his photograph in the Christie Archives that an essential fact about Archibald Christie struck me that I hadn’t gained from anything else I’d read. He was incredibly hot.”(page 44).
Christie’s intriguing personality comes through Worsley’s writing. We all know the writer, but here we get to know the woman who struggled with her mental health, enjoyed a very passionate second marriage with a younger man, and lived in a time of great change. These sorts of things are the focus of Worsley’s studies, much more so than the genesis of Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple.
Only one part didn’t quite work for me, but it may be due to my own perception. 1926 was a difficult and momentous year for Agatha Christie. However, I had always seen it as an interesting footnote to her life and career–a speedbump, albeit a personally painful one. Worsley does an excellent job of describing the events of that year, including the 9-day disappearance. However, this year looms larger in the rest of the biography than I really felt was necessary. Perhaps it is that because I’m a reader almost a century later, and I don’t see the impact of 1926 as quite as big in the grand scheme of things, but I felt that Worsley brought this episode up too many times throughout the rest of the book.
Beyond that, this book was a fascinating account of an author who takes up a great deal of real estate on my bookshelves. I’m grateful to Lucy Worsley for taking a fresh view of her life and legacy.
A World of Curiosities (Armand Gamache #18) by Louise Penny
Date finished: November 30, 2022
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/All-Time Favorite!
Since I moved my blogging to this site, I have done exactly two book-review only posts. The first was for the Louise Penny and Hillary Rodham Clinton collaboration, State of Terror. The second was this one (and, again, Louise Penny). You can read the entire review here.
However, if you want the Too Long/Didn’t Read version (it’s not that long…), here it is. Not only is this the best of the Louise Penny books, it is the best plotted mystery or thriller novel I’ve ever read. However, it is also the darkest of her books, and her books always have at least an element of darkness. I will give a trigger warning for child sexual abuse. It is not on-page, but it is written in a way that you know what happened. It is at the beginning of the book, so I wouldn’t consider it a spoiler.
I read this in almost one day (I left the last 40 minutes worth of reading for the next day because, well, I needed sleep). While I wish I would have been able to savor this longer, there is no way I could have stopped reading this once I started it. It is that good.
Sitting Pretty: The View From My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body by Rebekah Taussig
Date finished: December 1, 2022
One of the great things about reading is learning about different lives. I know that is a cliche, but, in this case, it is profound.
Rebekah Taussig describes her life as someone who uses a wheelchair with such clarity and wit that I was immediately drawn in…and immediately realized how little I knew about the experience of living with a disability. Yes, some of what Taussig talks about are things I might not consider–but other challenges were quite a shock to me.
Taussig talks frankly about ableism, and I can’t deny that I have unknowingly acted in ways that would fall under the ableism umbrella at times in my life–not intentionally, but because we just aren’t expected in our society to walk in someone else’s shoes. But Taussig’s purpose with this book is to open the eyes of those who are not differently abled to the world she inhabits.
Taussig herself is a delight. She’s the sort of person you would like to share a Happy Hour with. Her dry humor is present here, as is her compassion and self-reflection. She does not come across as if she were lecturing us but rather modeling how we can relate to one another in our lives.
This audiobook is a delight. It is sometimes a profound and sometimes uncomfortable delight, but a delight nonetheless.
Girl Gone Missing (Cash Blackbear #2) by Marcie R. Rendon
Date Finished: December 4, 2022
About halfway through this book, I realized this series would be about watching an author grow.
In the first novel, Murder on the Red River, I loved Rendon’s character of Cash Blackbear and the descriptions of Cash’s life and challenges, but I felt the mystery element fell very short. In this book, we still get more of Cash’s complex life; this time, much time is spent on the after-effects of trauma, and the mystery element is better. It’s not great, but it’s better.
Unlike in the first book, I was more invested in the mystery. Instead of a murder to be solved, Cash is asked to help find out what happened to a missing girl in one of her classes. Cash does some detective work, but more time is spent on her prophetic dreams. Ultimately, though, Cash doesn’t exactly “solve” the case.
We also are introduced to Cash’s brother, Mo. I wish we had gotten to know him better, but I wasn’t completely sure what his importance was in this story. However, Mo’s presence seemed to minimize Sheriff Wheaton’s role. I wish we had more of Wheaton, as his relationship with Cash was a highlight of the first book.
While this book was an improvement from the first book, it still wasn’t quite what I wanted. However, there is still much here to be admired, and the improvement in the series makes me hopeful for the next book.
What I’m currently reading:
I’m putting my reading wrap up video below, but you will notice that Girl Gone Missing is included. I finished that one between the time I filmed that video (I film everything on Saturdays) and when I wrote this. So, I’m going to start Murder for Christmas by Frances Duncan. I had never heard about this until yesterday when I saw it on Leandra at the TBR Zero’s YouTube channel. It happened to be on sale on Kobo, so I picked it up. It looks like a quick read, so hopefully I will have a review next week.
We’ve gotten into a groove of doing 3 videos a week, on Sundays (the weekly wrap up), Tuesdays, and Thursdays (currently doing “Lit Chat with Chris.” I don’t know what I’ll do once we work through all the Lit Chat cards!). I’m not going to list all the videos I posted over the past two weeks, but you can see them at my channel (and please subscribe!)
Here’s this week’s weekly wrap up video, which also includes my thoughts on the first two episodes of Three Pines and 3 mystery novel adaptations that I think are exceptionally well done.