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What are you reading? January 2022 Edition

Annie Deighnaugh
9 months ago

What are you reading?

As always, it helps to bold the titles, rate the books 1-5 stars, and let us know if you think it would be good for a book group.


Link to December 2021 thread

Comments (121)

  • raee_gw zone 5b-6a Ohio
    8 months ago
    last modified: 8 months ago

    Posting an update on the Philippa Gregory books (I realize they aren't recent, but still:)

    I did go to the library and checked out 3 books written from the points of view of other women who were featured in The Other Boleyn Girl: The King's Curse, The Constant Princess, and Three Sisters, Three Queens. I liked The King's Curse; The Constant Princess was okay but not as engaging, and I am currently not quite halfway through Three Sisters and not sure I will finish it (this one is from the POV of Henry VIII's sister Margaret, Queen of Scotland, who mostly whines in jealousy of Queen Katherine and her sister Queen Mary of France.)

    'Go tell the Bees that I am Gone'. I was happy to be reunited with my favorite characters and always enjoy digging into a BIG book. But nothing much happened in all those pages. Lots of little snippets, but no real plot. Disappointing.

    That's how I felt. I did enjoy reading it, and found the last quarter of the book more interesting, but all of those little subplots and snippets never became a cohesive story arc. I feel like the author didn't have a firm outline in mind for this book.

  • dedtired
    8 months ago

    Finished The Lincoln Highway and I was sorry to have it end, even after nearly 600 pages. I hope Towles writes a sequel so i can find out how all the characters made out in their respective adventures. I would rate this book 5++++++.

    I adored Emmett and even more so, Billy. The story brought to mind the movie Stand By Me, a bunch of young characters off on an adventure that takes them places they never dreamed of, meeting all sorts of people, mostly good and interesting, and a few evil ones. The story just carries you along.

    I liked it so much and there was so much to absorb, that i am reading it again. Here’s a link to the NPR review which is much more eloquent than anything i write.

    The Lincoln Highway

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  • Kathsgrdn
    8 months ago

    About halfway through, I am Pilgrim. I'm now pretty positive I've read the book before. I'm glad I totally forgot how it ends, though. So far I'd give it a 5.

  • salonva
    8 months ago

    Well, I used to really enjoy Philippa Gregory books and haven't read any in quite a few years. Maybe will start that up again, rae.

    I wasn't inclined to read the Lincoln Highway but ded you really sold me on it. I will definitely be reserving it ( I know it's super popular and current but hey no rush).

    I am curious to hear what you think of Shadow of the Wind- tatris. Truth be told, at book club it really did seem people either really liked it or really didn't. Some of the criticism was that it was too far fetched and I could see it but I just decided to read it with a leap of faith.

    Someone on another forum mentioned The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce, saying they liked it as much as Queenie Hennessy . Needless to say, my library had it available on kindle so I am reading it now and really enjoying it.



  • OutsidePlaying
    8 months ago

    Dedtired, what a nice summary review of The Lincoln Highway. Thank you for posting the link. It almost makes me want to read it again too. It was such a wonderful read.

  • Annie Deighnaugh
    Original Author
    8 months ago

    We have The Lincoln Highway on our book club list for later this year. I'll look forward to it.

  • faftris
    8 months ago

    Salonva--so far I am loving The Shadow of the Wind. Can't fiction be far-fetched? Last I looked, there were no hobbits living in my neighborhood. Not that this book is fantasy. It is beautifully and lyrically written, and I am hooked on the author's vision.

  • runninginplace
    8 months ago

    Like Annie, The Lincoln Highway is one of our book club picks. Ded, I'm hoping to enjoy it as much as you did. I often dread reading a second book by an author who produced a previous work that enchanted me--it can be hard to meet or exceed a magical reading experience.Actually this already happened with this author; after the exquisite Gentleman in Moscow, I was unimpressed by Rules of Civility. So...fingers crossed for the highway!


    In another club our next read is Cloud Cuckoo Land. I've decided my resistance to reading this one is not only that it won't measure up to All the Stars We Cannot See but to the vaguely (to me) irritating title. I know it's from a poem but the words just sound silly!


    I did just finish a very interesting book, a debut novel that starts out as a semi-romcom, Olga Dies Dreamingby Xochitl Gonzalez. Title character (who doesn't die-title is from yet another poem) is vivid and vibrant, the plot is engaging and interwoven with a subplot about inequality and the struggle for dignity by an oppressed group.


    My only criticism is that it can be somewhat didactic and the plot gets derailed occasionally for long digressions. In tone and theme it reminds me a bit of Such a Fun Age which was another book that tackled some very contemporary social issues within the framework of a frothy genre.


    Bonus link to another discussion: the author's first name stopped me in my tracks. Had NO idea how to pronounce Xochitl...does anyone else know? LynnNM this seems like one you may be familiar with. I finally looked it up online of course.

  • Bunny
    8 months ago

    Running, I had the same experiences with Lincoln Highway and Rules of Civility after reading A Gentleman in Moscow, which is one of my favorite books of all time. The writing is there, but the storyline didn't come close. I have a couple of dear friends who didn't like Gentleman and I respectfully leave them to their opinion and change the subject.

  • Funkyart
    8 months ago
    last modified: 8 months ago

    Not sure how I know the pronunciation of Xochitl but it's been with me for a long time. I do know some spanish but am not nearly fluent. I have purchased Xochitl brand chips and have also been to a restaurant with the same name. I am guessing I looked it up at some point.

    I generally turn to google if i don't know how to pronounce a word.. (i pronounce the L at the end)

    How do you pronounce the name Xochitl?

    In Spanish, the pronunciation of Xochitl is often transcribed as soh-chee or soh-cheel. The reason for this difference is that newer generations tend to drop the final "L" sound, while the older generations pronounce Xochitl with the final "L".

  • runninginplace
    8 months ago

    Funky, I found a youtube clip and heard it pronounced as soh-cheel.


    It's very rare for me when I can't get a grip anywhere on a word to figure out SOME kind of way to say it, but that one truly stumped me!


    I did realize it was extremely unlikely that Xochitl would be pronounced ex-oh-chy-til which was the only sequence my brain could make from those letters.The clip I found included some helpful tips on how letters are pronounced in words of Nahuatl origin.


    So I learned something new and expanded my language exposure.

  • Annie Deighnaugh
    Original Author
    8 months ago

    Just finished The Turret Room by Charlotte Armstrong, the 3rd of the 3 books in the collection I had. Another 4 stars, fun read...I could picture what Hitchcock would've done with filming the story...lots of the near misses and intense scenes. Only thing is, she placed the story in California, and I kept picturing the whole thing in a mansion in England...no matter. Not for book group but lots of fun to read.

  • crazybrunette64
    8 months ago

    Just finished Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan. Good characters, good story line and I did not have the ending figured out ahead of time.

  • salonva
    8 months ago

    I finished The Music Shop (by Rachel Joyce ). I really enjoyed it and thought it was almost at the level of The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, which I adored..( I recently read Miss Benson's Beetle by her as well which was cute but not on that level.).

    Somehow when I had looked up other books by Rachel Joyce I never saw or noticed this one but it was really sweet and just a very nice read. I rate it 4.5 stars. I think it would be good for book club, but it's certainly just enough to read on one's own.


  • chisue
    8 months ago

    Whew! I finally finished Crossroads, Jonathan Franzen. It helped that I started skipping/speed reading -- a sure 'tell', as I'll always slow down to savor something I'm loving. This book feels to me like the print version of a TV soap opera.


    Is this 'just me'? Is Franzen 'on a mission' -- on a mission fer or agin' Religion?


    Going for a change of pace next with The Last Thing He Told Me, Laura Dave.

  • kkay_md
    8 months ago

    The Age of Innocence (Edith Wharton)--haven't yet cracked it open; To the Lighthouse (Virginia Woolfe for a 92nd St Y online course)--would not recommend for a book group; Midnight Riot (British title Rivers of London) by Aaronovitch; Magpie Murders by Horowitz. The latter is particularly entertaining. It's a book within a book and the publishing house editor is involved (I work in publishing).

  • faftris
    8 months ago

    Edith Wharton is one of my favorite writers of all time. You will love Age of Innocence, which won her the Pulitzer (first woman to do so), and please read House of Mirth. I like that one even better. Her short stories are wonderful too. I suffered through Ethan Frome in junior high, but I have a better appreciation for it as an oldie. Enjoy!

  • Bunny
    8 months ago

    Faftris, thanks. Both Age of Innocence and House of Mirth are available for free ebook download at Project Gutenberg. I like their iBooks (EPUB) format the best.

  • WalnutCreek Zone 7b/8a
    8 months ago

    I want to thank this group for the recommendation of Stupid Things I Won't Do When I Get Old: A Highly Judgmental, Unapologetically Honest Accounting of All the Things Our Elders Are Doing Wrong by Steven Petrow. I am nearly through reading it and am enjoying it so much with all of its truths that I just ordered by own copy so that I can go to it any time I want to re-read a particular subject. I highly recommend it.

  • salonva
    8 months ago

    I read House of Mirth and really liked it. Age of Innocence was just ok as I remember.

    I read To the Lighthouse and found it very trying. I don't remember it all that well, except that I had to plod my way through it. Can we say super duper and then some over the top descriptions?

    Actually, all of those 3 are great examples of what a different time it was.

  • chisue
    8 months ago

    Another good 'oldie': Trollope's How We Live Now. I think there was a film version not so long ago.

  • Bestyears
    8 months ago

    Really enjoyed How We Live Now. If anyone is interested, there is a bookstore in Waco, which I follow on IG, and hope to visit in person soon, which is hosting a webinar on Winter 2022 Books to Read this Thursday evening. You can register here: Fabled Webinar. The book buyer there is a real favorite of mine.

  • salonva
    8 months ago

    I looked that up and is it not The Way We Live Now?

    I "got " it from Gutenberg so will have it in reserve.

  • roxanna
    8 months ago

    Winter hibernation here for me, as is my usual annual state of being (I love watching snow when it is actually falling but not interacting with it directly), so I have lots of TBR books on hand. Right now, I am halfway through 1493 (by Charles C. Mann) and it is fascinating. I wanted to read his 1491 first as my son owns a copy, but DS wanted it back before I could start it -- he is now out of my will.... It doesn't seem to be a problem reading the later volume before the earlier one. And the very fine print over 500+ pages (with even tinier footnotes!!) is wreaking havoc with my slowly deteriorating eyesight. BUT SHE PERSEVERES!!

  • faftris
    8 months ago

    Virginia Woolf is a difficult read. She was an experimental writer, and she was mentally ill besides. She lived a very avant-garde life for her time. She drowned herself by putting rocks in the pockets of her coat and walking into the river., to give you an idea. The NYPL Treasures exhibit has her walking stick and a heartbreaking letter from her husband to a friend, detailing how they had found the stick in the water, but that her body hadn't been located yet. Try Mrs. Dalloway and then treat yourself to The Hours by Michael Cunningham. I couldn't get through A Room of One's Own, but it's on my Try Again list. That list seems to grow and grow!

  • runninginplace
    8 months ago

    Our book club read A Room of One's Own last season and it was a DNF for me. At the time I was in the middle of a very difficult year but even now I'm not inclined to try to wade through it. Salonva makes a great point-I agree this book is a reflection of a different time, although quite a few of our club felt it resonated for them in their own lives.


    As for Jonathan Franzen, we read Freedom as a club and it left me quite determined NEVER to pick up another Franzen book! Every single character was singularly unlikeable.


    That in itself isn't a deal breaker but how an author manages unlikeable characters is the acid test of his/her skill; if a writer can draw me into that person's heart, mind or motivations even though I despise him or her...winning. A lesser author simply creates characters that are off-putting without giving me, as the reader, a scrap of motivation to spend a novel's length of time with them.


    So Freedom is a perfect example of how an author utterly blew the assignment. I'd compare it to the characters in Leave the World Behind. I despised every single one of them and the author never made me care at all what they were experiencing.


    As a comparison, in Confederacy of Dunces for example John Kennedy O'Toole created one of the most gloriously ingratiating obnoxious characters I've ever met. Ignatius J. Reilly enchants me every time I re-read this book, and I've done so repeatedly. He is indisputably unlikeable, but he is also fascinating, funny and memorable.


    As a reader, I don't need-or want-to like every character but I do need to be given a way to feel their humanity.



  • faftris
    8 months ago

    I loved Confederacy of Dunces, but DD thought it was incredibly stupid. Generational, I guess!

  • kkay_md
    8 months ago

    faftris, I've read most of Edith Wharton's books, so Age of Innocence is a re-read for me. Ditto with Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse. I just couldn't enjoy Cunningham's The Hours. I find Virginia Woolf heavy sledding, but once I fall in with the rhythm of her writing, it feels easier. I'm looking forward to reading and discussing To the Lighthouse with a class. (Wasn't Leonard Woolf's note to Vita Sackville-West? I saw that at the exhibit in the NYPL--heartbreaking.)

  • salonva
    8 months ago

    I loved Confederacy of Dunces though I did find it a bit of work to stick with it, in all honesty.

    I think that To the Lighthouse would be a good book to discuss with a book club. I read it on my own.I never read these way back when so they are all new old to me and I enjoy them.

  • Bunny
    8 months ago

    I've read so many books in my dotage that I missed back in the day, e.g., Diary of Anne Frank, East of Eden.

  • chisue
    8 months ago
    last modified: 8 months ago

    Yes, I first looked for Trolop's novel as The Way We Live Now, because that's how I remembered the title. That got me a bunch of contemprorary novels with that title, and then I came across what I wanted as How We Live Now. Strange. I'll try again.

    I love such 'takes' on society. A favorite series was The Paradise, which I think was Victor Hugo's novel of the same name. We watched this close to the same time we were watching Mr. Selfidge -- about another *imporium* to please the ladies.

  • chisue
    8 months ago

    runninginplace -- Thanks for the commiseration on Franzen. I just can't understand his intent in Crossroads.

  • faftris
    8 months ago

    Maybe the series was based on Zola's The Ladies' Paradise? Wonderful book, and if you've ever been to some of the historic department stores in Paris, it's even better.


    Kkay--My daughter and I are crazy people. When we went to Paris pre-pandemic, we found out where Edith Wharton lived and made a special trip to stand in her doorway and have a moment. DD visited her country house, The Mount. Am I right that her wedding invitation was part of the exhibit at the library too, or am I mis-remembering? I know I've seen it somewhere.

  • olychick
    8 months ago

    I loved Franzen’s first books, but Freedom? i tried to read it but left it. I was sad because I was so looking forward to his new book and even bought it in hardcover. I left it on the shelf for a few years and tried again. I made myself finish it but thought it was awful. I swore I’d never read him again so am glad to know I’m not missing anything.

  • jewelisfabulous
    8 months ago

    I set aside Genetics World temporarily to read the new Dean Koontz book QuickSilver. If you've been missing his now ended Odd Thomas series, this book might just be what you need. I got the book in the mail yesterday and will be finishing it tonight.

  • Annie Deighnaugh
    Original Author
    8 months ago

    I'm reading Warmth of Other Suns for book group which will take awhile, so I started another one too...West With the Night which is a memoir by Beryl Markham who was an aviator and adventurer. She was the first woman to solo fly across the Atlantic from East to West. So far it's interesting and very well written.

  • dedtired
    8 months ago
    last modified: 8 months ago

    Book club had a good discussion of The Lincoln Highway last night and it was loved by all. Fun discussing each character and how they became the person they were.

    Next up is The Magician by Colm Toibin. Another 500 pager. I have a feeling this one will not go as quickly as TLH.

    Minor spat during book club over procedure. One woman is becoming particularly officious and i for one am getting tired of it although the spat did not involve me. Also we met via Zoom but three members got together at one house and it gave an odd imbalance to the whole thing. Anyway, thats a topic for another thread.

    In the meantime I am rereading Brooklyn, also by Toibin, but much shorter. I loved the book and the movie and am enjoying it over again.

  • norar_il
    8 months ago

    I really liked West with the Night. It's interesting to compare her story with with the lady (I can't think of her name) who wrote Out of Africa. There are some of the same people, but described differently -- sometimes a lot differently!

  • faftris
    8 months ago

    I found The Magician to be very draggy, probably because I am not a Thomas Mann fan.

  • runninginplace
    8 months ago

    I started reading Cloud Cuckoo Land last night and ruh-roh, not liking it at all so far. I have to give it a chance since I'm only 45-50 pages in (of 600+!). I am usually here for experimental or challenging authorial tricks, but so far the multiple storylines are not working for me. It feels disjointed and annoying to be bouncing among so many that seemingly have nothing in common at all.


    Worse, it's not only a book club pick but a very dear friend who's also in the same group GAVE me the book as a Christmas gift. So I feel like I can't stop reading it!


    Pray for me, fellow readers. Or even better if anyone read it and loved it please give me some encouragement that it starts to hang together eventually LOL.

  • Bunny
    8 months ago
    last modified: 8 months ago

    running, prayers ascending.

    A good friend is at about the 150-page point and says she's not really sure where the action is taking place or the timeframe. I bailed on the book within 10 pages or so.

  • stacey_mb
    8 months ago

    I found with reading Cloud Cuckoo Land that it helped to "go with the flow" and take events as they happen in this non-linear read.

    Two books that I recently finished - The Promise by Damon Galgut, winner of the 2021 Booker Prize. I loved this book that is set in South Africa and involves a family of three grown children and their parents. As the book opens, the mother is dying and she causes consternation by not only asking that her Jewish roots be recognized at the end of her life, but also asking her husband to promise to give a small house to their long-time Black maid. Family and race issues abound. Challenges with this book are that there are no quotation marks around dialogue and sometimes topics slide into one another so that it's necessary to read carefully to detect a change in speaker, subject, etc. Excellent for a book club discussion; 5 out of 5 stars.

    Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols (non-fiction). This book is somewhat old fashioned but charming nonetheless. Mr. Nichols purchased a large house and property in England in 1947 since he was interested in gardening. When he located Merry Hall, the house and garden had been neglected for several years so it needed tlc. The author discusses what he found there and the changes he made to suit his tastes. It has some humor, partly because of his awe and timidity when dealing with the long-time gardener. They don't always see eye-to-eye in determining what is suitable or appropriate for the property. 3.5 to 4 stars out of 5, higher for anyone interested in gardening.

  • Olychick
    8 months ago

    I'm about 1/2 through Cloud Cuckoo Land and it can feel a little disjointed, but I really, really like it. Sometimes, if a character hasn't appeared for a while I have to get my bearings about who they are, but it's coming more quickly. I am not a student of history at all so the time frames are not easily put in context for me (the ancient times). But some of it is so fascinating...like the description of an ancient foundry where they are making a huge cannon and transporting it by man and beast power. Just the idea that someone invented and figured out how to make a cannon was really interesting to read about. There are other things he writes about that I find compelling (and very unsettling) about life in those times; I should have paid attention in history class, I guess.
    I tried to read Weight of Ink and I think some of that book takes place in similar times, I just couldn't get into it at all. Cloud Cuckoo Land has made me want to stick with it, because I care about the characters.

  • faftris
    8 months ago
    last modified: 8 months ago

    I loved Cloud Cuckoo Land and DD hated it. She was expecting a second All the Light We Cannot See, and she was disappointed. I liked the themes of the preservation of knowledge and literature, both in manuscript and digital forms, and the longtime attempts to destroy literature--very timely, in fact, to today's headlines of banning books. I kept this book beyond the due date, and I went through it again, enjoying it more, once I fixed the characters in my head.

    Just think about how all of us on this site rely on our libraries. Think about all the books that didn't make it. Fires at the Library at Alexandria, the Cotton Library. Greek historians write about going to see plays that we can never see. The Beowulf manuscript has burn marks. I think that Doerr has written an ode to librarians everywhere.


  • maddielee
    8 months ago

    I just ordered a few copies of Maus.

  • Kathsgrdn
    8 months ago

    Finished I am Pilgrim yesterday morning, staying up all night to finish it. Excellent book, 5 stars. Getting back to a book I found on my nightstand a couple weeks ago: The Saints of Lost Things, by C.H. Lawler. It's okay, 2.5 stars so far. Almost halfway through. I was bored reading it early this morning, so I skimmed through parts of it.


    Library books are due tomorrow, but I don't feel like going out in the snow so will wait till Monday to take them back and find something else while I'm there.

  • chisue
    8 months ago

    I know I'm distracted by DH's muscle spasm problem, but...I didn't think everything quite 'hung together' in The Last Thing He Told Me, Laura Dave. It was clever. It had heart. Nice to see an untidy ending. I just thought it ventured more than was supported and had some leaps of plot that were not substantiated earlier in the novel. Either something was 'lost on the cutting room floor' or (very likely) I Missed Them! Could be my comprehension suffered from too many interruptions. 3 stars.


    On the shelf: The Husbands, Chandler Baker; The Music Shop, Rachel Joyce; One Night, New York, Lara Thompson. DH is neutral in his recommendation of the last one.

  • mtnrdredux_gw
    8 months ago
    last modified: 8 months ago

    faftris - j'adore Zola!

    Running,

    I "had" to read Confederacy of Dunces because I wanted to read all the Pulitzer winners, but I hated it. Held my nose the whole time through. :)


    While we were on vacation, we went to a charming bookstore/cafe in Cartagena. Being the home of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I had to buy something by him. I'm not really a magical realism fan, but I have respect for the Nobel. I bought these two:


    Living to Tell the Tale and Memories of My Melancholy Whores


  • runninginplace
    8 months ago
    last modified: 8 months ago

    Mtn, I'd put Confederacy in the category of love it or hate it; folks seem to have passionate opinions either way. When we read it for book club there were more haters than lovers LOL.

    Meanwhile I'm about a third of the way through Cloud Cuckoo Land and it's still not doing it for me. Doerr is a wonderful writer and he is sticking all his landings in this book which doesn't change my opinion this is still a book with way too many separate plots jammed in.

    I'm also not being beguiled or even really believing the theme as a cohesive conscious achievement. And even more unfortunatetly I'm REALLY not buying the imaginary ancient Greek work threaded through all those plots that supposedly connects them.

    I hate fighting my way through a book I don't want to read! I'll give it a little more chance but I am feeling more and more confident this is going to be a DNF for me.

  • salonva
    8 months ago

    I was clearly in the group that loved Confederacy.

    Also, I loved Love in the Time of Cholera, but couldn't get past maybe 60 pages of One Hundred Years of Solitude (for which he wont the Nobel Prize). I may try that again. I just couldn't get it.

    I am now reading Midnight Library which is so far a really good read. Since I also recently read Shadow Of the Wind, it's interesting because they are both about "magical" libraries. Maybe not magical but not libraries like I grew up with.


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