What are we Reading in February 2020?

vee_new

In a corner of my local bank there is a table of second-hand books, take a couple, leave a few more and make a small donation to a good cause. I find I use this as my lending library as there are no emails demanding the return of a book or a hefty fine will be imposed . . . so my latest 'find' has been a new hard-back copy of Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy.

I think it probably was her last book and she manages to bring in most of her characters from the books she has written about families, friends, groups of people in Dublin. This makes for some of the many 'story-lines' and the vast number of characters to become confusing but I soldier-on as I enjoy the light read and the voices and syntax which so remind me of my many Irish friends and acquaintances, not to mention the mostly Irish nuns from my school days. MB had moved on from the old Ireland of donkey carts taking the churns to the creamery and the priest holding total sway over the village. Her Dublin is modern and although the 'boom' times are over it is a large thriving city.

And being a Binchy story you know everything will come right in the end.

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annpanagain

Vee, my daughter and I love Binchy's books. The last one we read was "Chestnut Street" a short story collection published after her death.

We have most of her books and DVDs of some of the movies. I don't hear the characters with Irish accents when I read them though! Like the Irish and Scottish penpals in one book, I hear them in my own!

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woodnymph2_gw

These last few weeks have brought for me an "embarrassment of riches" in terms of wonderful books and reading. I read three winners straight in a row (rather rare). First of all, I enjoyed "The Stranger in the Woods: the extraordinary story of the last true hermit" by Michael Finkel. I found this fascinating, as the author delves into some of the psychological components of extreme introversion. It's a true story, by the way, and the subject is still alive, out of jail, and living in America.

Secondly, a masterpiece is "Late Migrations: a natural history of love and loss" by Margaret Renkl. It is a small work of art as it includes exquisite paintings by the author's brother, Billy Renkl. I liked the free-flowing way it covered poetry, philosophy, issues of aging and death, not to mention the commentary on the natural world.

Lastly, "The Vanishing Velasquez" (a 19th century obsession with a lost masterpiece) by Laura Cumming. The book is a true story, well-researched, and reads almost like a detective narrative. (Well, actually, it is). I was an art history major, so it was just my cup of tea. I had read and enjoyed Cumming's other book, "Nine Days Gone".

Thanks to those of you here who first recommended all three of these. It will be a "hard act to follow."

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sheri_z6

I just finished Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber. It's the story of a woman who returns to her mother's hometown to take over her late grandmother's restaurant. There are magical elements in the story and the whole thing reminded me very much of Sarah Addison Allen's books. As I'm a fan of SAA, this was a good fit and an enjoyable read.

I also finished the newest Ilona Andrews book, Sweep With Me. This story re-visits their Innkeeper world, and for me it's like visiting old friends. This started life as a story told in installments on their website, but as I love this series so much I bought the paperback as soon as it came out.

I'm also continuing to read the Victoria Thompson Gaslight Mysteries. My library has been great for these and I fly through them. I'm currently waiting for numbers 10, 11, and 12 to come in. Thanks again, Carolyn!

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carolyn_ky

Sheri, I'm so glad you like the Thompson books.

I stayed up late last night finishing Saints of New York and gave it five stars on Goodreads despite the bad language. It really was overkill, but the story was great.

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yoyobon_gw

People Of the Book - Geraldine Brooks

next up is The Rose Garden - Susanna Kearsley

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reader_in_transit

Reading A Paris Year, my day-to-day adventures in the most romantic city in the world by Janice MacLeod. It is illustrated with photos, line drawings and watercolor sketches. So far, very good.

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carolyn_ky

I'm reading the new Peter Robinson book, Many Rivers to Cross. Somehow, I'm not enjoying this one as much as I usually do his books. I'm about a third of the was through.

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Rosefolly

I'm still working on my dinosaur book (reading) and the Hamilton biography (listening). Lately I've been thinking of reading a few classic Westerns. I read Shane and Riders of the Purple Sage many, many years ago, and have been wondering what I would think about them now. The third, which I have never read, is The Virginian. I had different books planned next, but may take this detour. And distractible as I am, Sheri's latest reads caught my attention. No idea just what I will do, but I'll enjoy it whatever it is. I have long since given up on plowing through books I don't actually enjoy.

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netla

I've been reading travelogues lately - the last one was Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuściński. It's an unsentimental portrayal of Africa and his decades of working there as a journalist, written or translated (probably both) in a lovely prose style that's reminiscent of fine literature.

I seem to be veering into science fiction now. I have no more travelogues lined up, but have just finished "Flowers for Algernon" (the short story) and Slaughterhouse-Five and have started reading A Canticle for Leibowitz.

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msmeow

I'm about halfway through The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian. I'm finding it a bit slow. It opens with a rather stuffed-shirt guy hosting his younger brother's bachelor party at his home in the NYC suburbs. Things get out of hand when the two young "dancers" attack and kill their two handlers, then escape. The story alternates between one of the Russian girls telling the story of how she came to be a sex slave, and the upheaval of the party host's family due to the murders in their home.

Donna

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lemonhead101

I'm in the middle of a powerful read of the classic novel, "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison (1947). It's Black History Month here in the U.S., so I'm focusing on POC authors/topics (of African descent) for this month. This book is not an easy read, but it's amazing.

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carolyn_ky

Finished the Peter Robinson book and have begun The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes. I'm just loving it. The setting is the Kentucky mountains after President Roosevelt began the works programs to help end the Depression and before WWII, and it involves starting a library in a small town with donated used books from across the nation and taking them to mountain people via horseback. What's not to love for a Kentucky girl born during the Depression who loves books. I didn't visit the mountains, though, until I was grown.

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kathy_t

Carolyn - Sounds really interesting. I think The Giver of Stars needs to go on my TBR list.

I just finished an old paperback with brittle, yellow-edged pages that I picked up from a friend's "take it if you want it" shelf in a guest bedroom. Well, the copyright is 1985, not so terribly old; perhaps just printed on cheap paper. I see now that it's a young adult book, which I didn't realize when I picked it up to lull myself to sleep in an unfamiliar environment. The opening pages really drew me in though, and my interest remained active throughout. It's about the college-aged daughter of a famous artist. Over the years she has allowed him to intimidate her in a way that has inhibited her own artistic inclinations. The book is In Summer Light by Zibby Oneal. It's a quiet, mellow kind of book. I really enjoyed it.

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annpanagain

Nothing wrong with YA books! I enjoy the DVD versions of Horrible Histories books. The musical skits are so clever.

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vee_new

Carolyn, I enjoy a light read by Jojo Moyes so I just reserved The Giver of Stars from my local library. I was surprised to see the county has 13 copies available . . . and then amazed to see I am 108 down the list!

On the Kentucky theme, many years ago I read a book about a midwife, who in the early twentieth century, got the job of helping the 'mountain women' of that state during birth. Of course many of them didn't want 'help' or realise that they really did need any assistance and often it was their 'men-folk' who were dead against any interference from what they saw as interfering do-gooders. One man stood over the midwife holding a gun to her head during the whole of his wife's labour just to make sure nothing went wrong!

Call the Midwife is pale by comparison.

I don't know if anyone can remember the title of that book please as it deserves a re-read?

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msmeow

I finished The Guest Room yesterday. I thought the first half was kind of slow, then found myself caught up in the story and hurrying to finish it, though I did NOT like the ending.

Now I've started The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis.

Donna

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carolyn_ky

I gave five stars on Goodreads to The Giver of Stars. I could hardly put it down--read most of the day, finished it, and continued to love it. It's a very satisfactory book. I see that The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek has a very similar theme, so I'll give it a rest and read it later.

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Rosefolly

I read a complaint somewhere that Jojo Moyes had "copied" The Bookwoman, which apparently came first.I have absolutely no evidence that it is true, and have read neither one, so I cannot even venture a guess. Sometimes by pure coincidence two books appear on the same theme, however unusual the topic. Still, if I do decide to read the Moyes book I think I will want to read the other one as well in the spirit of fairness.

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masgar14

Finished “The Goldfitch” by Donna Tartt, 962 pages. At first I was a little intimidate by the
lenght of the novel, then , when you enter on the rhythm of her writing you go
smoothly all along the entire novel. Even if happenings are slow and detailed,
mrs Tartt manages to keep you always on the edge, what will Theo think after…
what will happen.. I found the novel extraordinary.

But since I have read a lot of fiction lately, now I need to read one essay, I have chosen “Medieval Europe” by Chris Wickham. It starts from the fall of the Roman Empire trough the discovery of the New World

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yoyobon_gw

I am currently reading The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley.

I could not finish reading People Of The Book by Geraldine Brooks......the brutality of the Inquisition in great description, ugh.

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donnamira

Yoyobon, the inquisition sections of Brooks' book are among those that I try to forget I've read. Another is a scene from McCarthy's The Road, which I also periodically try to expunge from memory. Unfortunately, I still remember both. I've read many other unpleasant scenes over the years, but those 2 depress me the most.

I am currently reading The Ice at the End of the World, about Greenland and the history of its exploration. When I picked up the book to browse from the library's 'new book' shelf, I immediately saw references to Operation IceBridge, a NASA airborne mission that I followed while I was working, so of course I had to borrow it. I had managed the airborne program for a while, worked on the first ICESat ice-surveying satellite mission, and was part of the meeting when our division director approved IceBridge, so I have a sentimental attachment to it, even though I had nothing to do with it. NASA Operation IceBridge

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merryworld

Currently reading Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo. Each chapter has three subchapters, each about a different woman's life. It's interesting, I assume something will tie them all together at the end, but maybe not. There was one section which I did not find believable, but other than that it's an easy read that has kept my attention.

I'm also in the middle of Greek to Me by Mary Norris about her adventures studying classical and modern Greek and traveling in Greece.


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carolyn_ky

I'm reading A Quiet Belief in Angels by R. J. Ellory. I enjoyed Saints of New York so much that I looked for this one because that book cover said it is his best. We will see; so far, while it is good, I like Saints better. The flap also said Ellory is English, but this is the fourth of his books I've read and they are all set in the U.S., three of them in the South and all early in the 20th century. This one is set in rural Georgia just before WWII begins.

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kathy_t

I'm currently reading Virgil Wander by Leif Enger. I'm not very far along, but I am loving it. I find his imaginative use of language a cut above the average writer. I've added a couple of quotes from the early part of the book to the older but always relevant topic "Richness of the written word..." started by Yoyobon.

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yoyobon_gw

" older but always relevant".......did someone read my resume !?

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kathy_t

Wishing Houzz offered an LOL button.

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yoyobon_gw


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astrokath

I have just finished Fatherland by Robert Harris, set in 1964 when Germany has won the war and rules most of eastern Europe. It is a thriller, and very well done.

I finished my first Anne Cleeves book, The Long Call, the first in a new series, and enjoyed that too. Carolyn, have you read her books?

I enjoyed Where the Crawdads Sing except for the ending, which I felt was very rushed. It could have been quite a satisfying book if the exposition was a bit longer.

I am currently reading The Land Beyond the Sea, the new book by Sharon Penman. This is unrelated to her Plantagenet books and is set in Outremer in the 1170s when Baldwin the Leper becomes King of Jerusalem and has to deal with Saladin.

My audiobook with DH is The Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz, and is a book within a book, and quite interesting. It's the story of an editor who is reading a new manuscript from an author who has a very successful series of crime books very reminiscent of Agatha Christie, so you get what is happening in real time, and the mystery book too.

And finally, my own audiobook is Exit Unicorns by Cindy Brandner. The title most certainly doesn't give any hint of the content, as it is set in Northern Ireland just as the Troubles are beginning. It is very wordy, but I don't mind listening - I think if I were reading it I might be skipping bits.

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carolyn_ky

Kath, I have read all of Ann Cleeves' Shetland books and The Long Call and am in the process of reading the Vera series. Our local PBS (Public Broadcasting Station) has not shown the Vera TV series, so these stories are new to me. I like them but not as well as Jimmy Perez, although I thought the ending of the last one of his was a cop out.

I agree with you about Crawdads. I would have liked to hear more about her happier days. I read several reports where the readers did not like the book at all, several criticizing the author by saying such a young girl couldn't have managed and wanting a more factual story, and one even saying she didn't know who committed the crime. I was very tempted to tell her to go back and reread the end. I personally don't read fiction for "factual" as long as it isn't something entirely off the wall. (Maybe you can tell I was annoyed with the people who disagreed with me that it was a good book.)

I wrote above about how much I loved The Giver of Stars and said the same thing on another reading thread. Someone there responded that she quit on Giver but really enjoyed The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek that has the same setting, and then a local reading friend said just the opposite. Readers are funny, aren't we?

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friedag

Carolyn, readers are downright peculiar with our differing tastes. :-)

I recently read The Witch Elm by Tana French (The Wych Elm UK title) which is billed as a thriller. It's 528 pages long. It took me 150 pages before I knew I would finish the story, although it was nothing like what I was expecting or hoping it would be..

What motivated me to read it in the first place was it is supposedly a take on the unsolved mystery during WWII in England when the skeleton of a woman was found in a hollow wych elm tree. A few years later, before the war ended, graffiti began appearing with this message: Who put Luebella down the Wych Elm?

The graffiti writers are still at it -- some seventy-plus years on -- except their renditions have evolved to read: Who put Bella in the witch elm?

Well, French apparently took the skeleton in the tree as the seed of the idea for her own story, and that's about it. Her tale is a novel and doesn't have to stick to the facts of the events that inspired it.. She gave the story a modern Irish angle. I wound up liking her made-up story well enough, although I am still curious about the 'real' story.

Which brings me to the disagreement I have had with a reader friend: she and I both read Anita Shreve's The Weight of Water that was adapted into a film which I haven't seen but my friend has.

I read somewhere that Shreve either preferred the legends and myths of the Smuttynose Murders as they are called, or she wanted to write a more provocative story than the facts point to in the historical direction. Shreve purposefully upended the facts and wrote a fanciful tale that gets things nearly backwards.

I liked Shreve's novel, but I decided to read a historian's take: Mystery on the Isles of Shoals by J. Dennis Robinson, which is subtitled "Closing the Case on the Smuttynose Ax Murders of 1873". I also read some online articles.

I told my friend that I would pass on watching the "Weight of Water" film, because I was more interested in the historical aspects. I didn't mean to annoy her or hurt her feelings, but I obviously did. She said that as far as she was concerned Shreve wrote "the definitive version." Well, I'm not going to argue a matter of preference in taste. I am too contradictory myself. I usually like nonfiction better than fiction, but not always.

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carolyn_ky

Frieda, I read the Tara French Wych Elm book but am not familiar with the Smuttynose case. It's hard to understand your friend's choice of the fictional book being the "definitive version." I like fiction, too, but I wouldn't call it definitive!

I've just finished a marathon afternoon-evening read of A Quiet Belief of Angels by R. J. Ellory. I can't say that I enjoyed the book, but I couldn't put it down. He is quite a writer. As I wrote upthread, I loved his Saints of New York in spite of the bad language overkill.

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sheri_z6

I just finished The Last Day by Luanne Rice. It was a murder mystery set on the Connecticut shoreline. I have read a couple of her books in the past simply because her fictional town is based on the beach community where I spent my childhood summers. This one was good, but I didn't love it. The murder was quite grisly, the back story of the victim and her sister was horrifying (without giving anything away their mother had been murdered under similar circumstances), and the romantic sub-plot was almost nil. Overall, meh.

I also finished The Twelfth Enchantment by David Liss. It was a fun Regency / alternate-reality-magic mash-up that featured Lord Byron, the Luddite movement, a quite unpleasant clergyman, and a very sensible heroine named Lucy. I enjoyed it.

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msmeow

I finished The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis, and I enjoyed it very much. I've read three of her books and enjoyed them all.

Now I'm reading One Good Deed by David Baldacci. The main character is named Archer, and it's set in middle America a few years after WWII.

Donna

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yoyobon_gw

Donna, I am planning to read The Chelsea Girls at some point. I really enjoy all her books.

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carolyn_ky

I started The Decent Inn of Death by Rennie Airth yesterday, woke up in the wee hours this morning and couldn't go back to sleep, and got up and finished it. Airth is another author that I wish would write more books. This is just his sixth book since 2000, and I really like him. Time passes in the books as in real life. His hero was just home from WWI with PTSD in the first book, River of Darkness, in subsequent books had left Scotland Yard and taken up farming, and now has a grown daughter but has not lost his knack for solving crimes.

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carolyn_ky

I'm reading a Baldacci book, too, A Minute to Midnight, that my daughter loaned me. I think she buys all his books. This one is the second Atlee Pine one. Atlee is a female FBI agent.

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annpanagain

I must get Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! I watched the movie last night out of interest. Great fun! The alternatives were sloppy ones for Valentine's Day...

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woodnymph2_gw

Carolyn, I like Rennie Airth, also. I've not found any of his to read for quite some time.

I'm awaiting a Louise Penny from my library, as well as a NF about Patty Hearst.

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reader_in_transit

Finished reading A Paris Year, my day-to-day adventures in the most romantic city in the world by Janice MacLeod. This is the perfect book to read before going to sleep: entertaining, poignant, full of delightful little moments. Each page is illustrated with photos, line drawings or watercolors. The author has an eye for easy-to-miss details with a story behind them.

One of these details is that "In France, no bookseller, including Amazon, can discount a book more than 5 percent. With such small savings, people prefer shopping in bookstores". She does not say if this applies only to new books or all books.

And the next time you go to Paris and browse on those bookstalls by the Seine, know that in order to sell there, the seller "must hold a librarian's degree or related degree."

Highly recommended for Paris lovers or those who dream of visiting.

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carolyn_ky

I bought a paperback copy of a book at Shakespeare & Company in Paris just so I could have their stamp in it.

Mary, Amazon has the new Airth book if you want to order it. It is evidently only out in paperback and was released in January 2020.

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yoyobon_gw

Found this and thought how true it is.

"In consonance with what every wholehearted reader knows — that we bring ourselves to the books we read and what we take out of them depends on what we bring — William Godwin adds:

The impression we derive from a book, depends much less upon its real contents, than upon the temper of mind and preparation with which we read it "

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msmeow

Very true, Bon! I think it applies to most things in life, not just books.

I’m still working on the Baldacci book...finding it a bit dull.

Donna

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woodnymph2_gw

Carolyn, I visited the Shakespeare and Company bookstore the year I lived in Paris., n the early '60's. It was run by George Whitman and very picturesque -- wall to ceiling books, room after room. I was surprised to learn that it is still going strong. I believe it is run by George's daughter now. It left an indelible memory.

I recall with pleasure the "bouquinists" along the river Seine. If you bought a book, you had to cut the pages in order to read it!

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carolyn_ky

Yes, Mary, S. & Co. is quite a bookstore. I climbed around those rooms for a while. The funny thing is that I can't remember what book I bought--but I have it somewhere, alphabetically by author.

I have just started Of Books and Bagpipes by Paige Shelton. It is the second book about a girl from Kansas who moved to Edinburgh to be independent and works in the bookstore of a rich owner and collector. It starts off with the murder of a young man she was meeting in Doune Castle to pick up a rare book for the shop. It's not great literature, but I'm a sucker for both bookstores and Scotland.

Vee, how do you pronounce Doune?

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merryworld

Now reading Mythos by Steven Fry. It's his very entertaining take on Greek Mythology.

Just started Ted Chiang's new book of short stories called Exhalation. He wrote the original story that was the basis for the movie Arrival. I enjoyed the first story called "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate".

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vee_new

Carolyn, I think Doune is pronounced Doon . .. but could be wrong!

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merryworld

Carolyn, you might find this website helpful: A Guide to Scottish Placenames

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