Weekly Reads – February 5, 2023

Happy happy Sunday to you all! I am coming to you from the middle of a 4-day weekend. It’s not a holiday or anything, but the kids are on their semester break, so last Friday and tomorrow are teacher work days. Now, a lot of people use this weekend for a getaway. Oh no, not us! There has been a lot of TV watching and video game playing (and not enough reading, at least for me!)

Lillie and I did get out for a bit yesterday so she could start to canvas our neighborhood with Girl Scout cookie door hangers. We first did this during the pandemic when the Scouts were not technically supposed to do face-to-face sales. However, several neighbors told us that they really appreciated us doing this because they could just go and order from Lillie’s website when they had time and didn’t have to make a decision on the spot (and then tell an adorable Girl Scout that they didn’t want to buy cookies). So, we’ve done this every year since. I gave Lillie an option not to do it this year, but she said she wanted to. Then, when the time came to go out, she complained that it was too much work and she was too tired. Too bad! I did compromise and we decided to divide the neighborhood in thirds and do it over 3 days. So, yeah, we’re heading out again today.

When I mentioned above that there was a lot of TV watching and video gaming, that doesn’t really apply to me. Well, at least not the video gaming–I am not a gamer. I have watched a bit of TV, though. On Thursday night, we all watched Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. This was a rare case when we did not go see a Marvel movie in the theater–for me, it was because I had already embarrassed myself sobbing through the end of Endgame and I didn’t want a repeat of that at the beginning of this movie (this turned out to be a good call). But, what did I think of this film? I have “feelings.” I think the biggest feeling I have is a sense of loss because Chadwick Boseman is no longer with us. Honestly, it’s hard to find a movie “fun” with that hanging over it. I also am not really happy with the direction the franchise is taking, as in who is taking over the mantle of the Black Panther. I don’t know if it is the character or the actor, but it just doesn’t work for me. On the flip side, though, there are scenes in this movie that are incredibly beautiful and some of the performances were amazing, especially Angela Bassett. Oh, and there are whales. I am always here for whales!

The kids and I also binged all of Cunk on Earth on Netflix last night. This show was made for me–a mockumentary of the kinds of documentaries I like to watch, with lots of British humor. Admittedly, some of the jokes were not appropriate for the kids (although they assure me that they have heard it all at public school), but I think most of those jokes went over their heads.

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.

Last week, I finished reading:

The Case of the Missing Marquess (Enola Holmes #1) by Nancy Springer
Date finished: January 30, 2023
Rating: A ⭐⭐⭐⭐

One of my projects for this year is to read one book a month, recommended by my daughter. A few years ago, she received the complete (at the time) collection of Enola Holmes books, and she promptly plowed through them and is now working on the newer books. Thus, it wasn’t much of a surprise when the first book in this series was the first book she had recommended to me.

I had previously seen the Netflix movie, so I thought I knew the arc of this story, but this book is actually quite different. This, of course, was a pleasant surprise. The plot is slightly different, but it just had a different feel. The Enola of the books is truer to her age (14). I can’t remember if the Netflix Enola was meant to be the same age, but she seemed much older. In fact, the adaptation is quite YA whereas the book is firmly middle-grade. Frankly, I appreciated that. Not only is it more to my daughter’s taste, but it was refreshing to read a book about a girl “acting her age” without pushing more adult themes on her.

I also appreciated that Springer’s style doesn’t pander to children. A lot of the books that would be considered middle grade when I was a kid did more than a little pandering. Here, however, Springer seems to recognize that her readers are intelligent and don’t need to have every little thing explained and can handle some words with more than 3 syllables.

I’m glad that my daughter loves this series and I would recommend it to any young reader looking for an adventurous mystery series. And, who knows, I may just spend some more time with Enola Holmes!

Lemon by Kwon Yeo-sun (translated by Janet Hong)
Date finished: February 1, 2023
Rating: B ⭐⭐⭐

Disclaimer: Sometimes it is hard for me to review translated literature, and this is one of those times.

I think my biggest issue, and I do mean that it is MY issue, is I just don’t know enough about the culture to fully “get” the book. Of course, it is just this reason that I choose to read translated literature!

In this particular book, I spent a good portion of it trying to get my footing. For most of this book, I thought I should be reading a murder mystery, but ultimately that is not what this is. Instead, it is a book about guilt and grief. After the death of an uncommonly beautiful young woman, three women connected to the victim deal with the fallout.

While I ultimately saw the beauty in this book, I spent most of the book confused. The narrative does jump around in time, which can muddy the narrative of any book if not done well. Honestly, I can’t say that it was done badly here, but it was an added layer of complication for me. My biggest issue is that I had trouble keeping the characters straight. When a book has multiple viewpoints, it is imperative that each narrator has their own voice, and that was not present here. I recognize that this may be due more to the translation than the writing, but it still negatively impacted my reading experience.

I finished this book last night and I’m still thinking about it. I’ve changed my grade for this book three times while writing this. On the one hand, I can’t say the experience of reading Lemon was enjoyable. On the other, it is sticking with me, and that is something that I treasure in books.

Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Want
Date finished: February 3, 2023
Rating: A ⭐⭐⭐⭐

In discussing another memoir, I used a metaphor to describe how I think the genre should work. When you read a memoir, you are standing next to the author and looking out at the world through the same window. What matters is the size of the window. Some memoirists look through a small, clouded window. Qian Julie Wang is looking out of tall, clear windows with an expansive view.

This is not an easy story. If I could distill the feeling of this book down to one word it would be Dickensian. Julie (the name she adopts in her adolescence) and her family experience poverty that Americans don’t want to admit exists in our nation. They also live under immense stress as they try to survive with the fear of being discovered and deported.

What I love the most about this book is how honest it is. Julie is not an angel, and she doesn’t try to be. At the same time, we understand her. We understand that she has a burden no child should bear. She doesn’t back away from showing the catastrophic effects of stress on her parents’ marriage and she is able to convey her relationships with her parents with an amazing knack for illustrating with adult words what a child is experiencing. There were a few times were I was momentarily flummoxed at how she could be angry or terrified of her father and, a few pages later, loving him with her whole heart. This is not something an adult would do–but it is completely reasonable that a young child would.

I have only one complaint with this book, and I hesitate to even call it a complaint. There is a natural “chapter-ending” to her life, which is where the narrative essentially ends. She concludes with an additional chapter that quickly skims what happened in her life from that point until the present–but I wanted to know more! That last chapter made me feel a little robbed–not only because it felt rushed, but also because it alludes to so much change in her life. However, I will completely forgive this shortcoming if Wang comes out with another memoir covering this period in her life.

While this isn’t a book to pick up when you want something comforting, it is one that I would urge you to read at some point in your life. And I wait with bated breath for more from Qian Julie Wang.

The Beadworkers by Beth Piatote
Date finished: February 4, 2023
Rating: ALL TIME FAVORITE! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Rating: One of my all-time faves!

I do not give short story collections 5 stars. I feel that there are too many variables that have to be hit for a collection to reach that high…until now.

Folks, why doesn’t everyone know about Beth Piatote? She is an amazing writer. Through these stories, Piatote explores the lives of (mostly) modern Native people as they navigate their heritage, the modern world, and relationships. The prose is just beautiful and Piatote takes some real risks here. The final selection in this collection, Antíkoni, is a play retelling the Greek Antigone and explores repatriation and the debts that Native people owe to themselves. I was wary when I started it, but now I am dying to see a production of it.

There is another reason why this book worked so incredibly well for me–it is about where I live. All but one of the stories are set in the Pacific Northwest, many happen in my home state of Oregon, and one takes place (in part) in my own hometown. While I make a point of reading Indigenous literature, this is the first work I’ve read that tells the stories of people from my own world.

This book may be hard–but not impossible–to find. But it is worth every ounce of effort to track it down. I am so glad that I picked my copy up on a whim at a local bookstore–this one will stay with me forever.

I’m currently reading:

As I was able to finish a number of books this week, I have some new books to share with you all this week. Also, as this is Black History Month, I’ve decided to make sure that at least one book that I’m reading at all times this month is by a Black author…and this week I have 2 books (which adds up to 3 authors!)

10 thoughts on “Weekly Reads – February 5, 2023

  1. Now I am curious about The Beadworkers.

    I love the idea of cookie door hangers. I am one who doesn’t like face-to-face encounters anymore. The Pandemic changed a lot, but it wasn’t all bad.

    Enjoy your week!


  2. Great reviews of all your reading! I just started a book by a local author set in a fictional version of the small city I live in, and I hope I enjoy it as much as you did The Beadworkers!
    Good luck with the sales! I was Cookie Mom for my daughter’s troop one year. What a lot of work! That was a long time ago; I wouldn’t have the energy now!


  3. That’s a great idea for the Girl Scouts. And I have similar feelings about Wakanda. I just didn’t love it, it felt almost like part of it was just to introduce Riri (I mean, she’s fine, but it’s a Black PAnther movie?) and Namor left me a little cold too- although I’m a big Namor fan from the comics so that’s part of my problem. He’s almost unrecognizable. Oh well…

    The Springer book looks great.


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About Melinda