Category Archives: Reading

My most *** purchase ever

Our topic last week was your most insert adjective here purchase ever. I have not read any of the posts and I really don’t know that there is one stand-out purchase for any adjective I can think of.

Oh wait.

I think I know.

My most un-woke purchase ever

On January 30, 2020 I bought the Kindle addition of American Dirt. I’d read many articles, tweets and blog posts explaining why I should not buy the book, but I bought it anyway.

I did it because it was recommended by Stephen King. I didn’t do it because Oprah chose it for her book club. I did it so I could talk about something that I’d actually read and not just read about.

I started reading it. I thought it was well-written, at least what I read. I stopped for a few reasons: to concentrate on books I needed to read for this reason or that, I didn’t like part of the storyline, I felt guilty for buying it in the first place.

I still plan on finishing it but it needs to wait in line for a few other books I want to finish.

The End (finally)

Seven months shy of twenty years ago* I complained to some friends that my kids were reading books that I thought were too young for them. One friend suggested I buy a book, the first in a series, place it in a prominent location, and tell Clare and Andrew they should not read it because it was too advanced for them. He went on to explain that the book seems to be written at a grade school level, but is full of higher vocabulary (with embedded definitions by the author/narrator).

Photograph of six Brainstormers at a rare non-virtual meeting.
Possibly the night I first heard about A Series of Unfortunate Events (George is on the far right)

Shortly thereafter I bought The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket and placed it on the living room coffee table. When one of the kids asked about the book, I did as George instructed and told them that I bought it for myself and that I thought they were too young to understand it.

Of course I read the book first, and found it delightfully unusual. The kids, one at a time, stealthily picked up the book and read it too. I continued buying the books as they were published until we had a full set (plus an extra The Hostile Hospital for some reason).

I grew tired of the books after a while, they are very formulaic, but intentionally so. I’d read one, then not read another for a while — and eventually stopped after reading The Carnivorous Carnival.

When Netflix announced it was producing a television series based on A Series of Unfortunate Events I was interested, but when I learned that Neil Patrick Harris was playing Count Olaf, I knew I had to watch it, but I wanted to make sure I’d read books before it aired. I didn’t manage to finish them before the series aired, but did manage to finish each book before I watched the Netflix episodes that featured the events in the books. I started reading them again through our library’s ebooks (our hard copies disappeared with one of the kids once they left for college or life after college — although they both deny taking them). I finished The End at 5:00 this morning, having pretty much stayed up all night to do so.

Then after a few hours’ sleep I watched the last episode in the Netflix series.

It’s taken me nearly twenty years to finish a set of 13 books written for children. The mystery has been solved for me (who is Beatrice?), although I am still confused. I am sure the internet will explain it to me though.

*I might be misremembering this since the books would only have been published the month before the gathering in which I thought this conversation took place, so maybe it was more like eighteen years ago…

Three more finished

I’ve recently finished three more books: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty, and Bruno, Chief of Police: A Mystery of the French Countryside by Martin Walker.

A Wizard of Earthsea just wasn’t my cup of tea. I would have probably liked it more as a teenager. There were parts I liked, but I guess I am over fantasy books. Which is sad.

Now, Nine Perfect Strangers, on the other hand, was my cup of tea. That Moriarty woman just doesn’t write books fast enough for me to devour them. This one was not quite as good as some of her others (Big Little Lies, for instance), but fun to read. That’s okay right? If I read for pleasure?

Bruno, Chief of Police: A Mystery of the French Countryside is a book that I would have gladly never have heard about. I didn’t like it when I read part of it for book group, but liked it somewhat more when I picked it up again as an audio book. Then I got tired of it once more and it was almost painful to listen to it after a while — not that the narrator was bad — he was pretty good, but I had no interest in the story — especially after Bruno and the other detective hooked up. I finished up reading the book last night and I will never revisit Bruno’s countryside again. What a waste of time.

Three finished, one more added

Our book group selection was an easy read: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. I cannot say I thought the book was well-written, but it kept me interested through to the end. I’d seen that it was also a Masterpiece Theatre production and planned to read it (in fact I’d bought it in December) anyway. The book dealt with homosexuality, unmarried pregnancies and interracial relationships in 17th century Holland. I think it could have been more effective if only one of those topics had been addressed. As it was I grew weary of the angst caused by the fear of being caught whenever a new then-outlawed activity was revealed. It will be interesting to hear the various comments. I am sure one friend will announce this book should never have been written.

Yesterday morning I finished The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. It was a bookgroup read back when I was still using my Nook instead of a Kindle — a long time ago. I started reading it but could not get into it. I think I skipped book group that month. I imagine reading it will give me more ideas of books to read — just what I need. I enjoyed this book, except for one thing. It seems that everyone in Schwalbe’s family is extraordinary, especially his mother. It made me feel like I’ve done nothing with my life.

Also yesterday, I finished Lemony Snickett’s The Penultimate Peril. I will be pleased when I am done with these books. They are very much the same, witty and clever, but also repetitive. I can now watch a few more episodes of the Netflix series.

The new addition to my list of books I am reading is the newest Liane Moriarty, Nine Perfect Strangers.

My sister-in-law asked me how I kept the books straight. I don’t have a problem with that — and they actually help me sleep because when I get to a point where I cannot get to sleep I go through the books I am reading and remember where the characters were when I last saw them.

Finished two, selected another

I finished The Sympathizer yesterday and Chocolat today. The Sympathizer is exquisitely written, but highly disturbing. It’s going to be difficult to talk about it on Thursday with my book group colleagues. I usually feel inferior to them, intellectually, anyway — so if everyone gushes over the book, I might lose it. I know one friend liked it and seemed surprised that I didn’t. I didn’t need to read the rape scene to live a more fulfilled life though. And of course there are the descriptions of torture. And the squid.

Chocolat, on the other hand was lovely to read. It is quite different from the film — enough so that I was often able to not picture Johnny Depp as Roux. It was, of course, a much lighter read than The Sympathizer and contained no more torture than a devout priest’s self torture. No rape, but definitely physical abuse. And no squid.

I think the next book that takes the place of Chocolat (an unread eBook) will be The End of Your Life Bookclub by Will Schwalbe. It was a bookgroup read back when I was still using my Nook instead of a Kindle — a long time ago. I started reading it but could not get into it. I think I skipped book group that month. I imagine reading it will give me more ideas of books to read.

Four books at once

Since the first of the year I’ve been reading 4 different books — each for a different purpose and sometimes in a different place in the house.

Book Group:

The Sympathizer by  Viet Thanh Nguyen

For book group I am reading Viet Thanh Nguyen’s 2016 Pulitzer Prize winning book The Sympathizer. I’ve known we were reading this for months and started and stopped many times during those months. I finally had to keep going because book group is on the 24th of this month.

I don’t like it much, although there are parts that I find interesting. I think the biggest problem is that I know very little about the Viet Nam war and the book is about the Viet Nam war, its aftermath, the refugees, the Viet Cong, etc.

I’ll keep going, finish it and put it behind me. Often when I read about something I knew little about I’ve been compelled to learn more, but not with this book, although I might watch the Ken Burns’ series about the Viet Nam war.

I am reading this on my Kindle or Kindle app whenever I get a chance.

Owned, unread hard-copy book:

Points of View: An Anthology of Short Stories edited by James Moffett & Kenneth R. McElheny

I picked this out to read sometime late last year because I didn’t have the energy to devote to a novel. I’m enjoying it — skipping the stories I have already read. I was surprised to really enjoy a longish short story by Henry James called “A Bundle of Letters”.

I am only reading this in the living room on the couch and usually onlywhen I wake up in the middle of the night and don’t want to use a device that might mess up my sleep even more.

Owned, unread eBook: Chocolat by Joanne Harris

I bought this years ago when someone in book group chose Peaches for Father Francis, the third book in the Chocolat series. I’d hoped to read Chocolat and The Girl with no Shadow before Peaches for Father Francis so I was up to date on everything with Vianne and Anouk. I ended up finishing none of them.

This is my fun read right now. Enjoying this book immensely. I’ve seen the film several times and love it more each time I see it.

I am reading this in bed before I fall asleep on an old Nook after my other book obligations have been met.

Year-long challenge: The Books of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

I mistakenly asked Clare for an illustrated copy of Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea books, thinking I’d finally read books that I’d meant to read years ago and she obliged. The book weighs a lot and holding it, even for the three pages a day that I decided would get me through all 1008 pages, is a chore.

It took a couple chapters, but I can now say I am getting into the book although as it turns out that the book I’d been meaning to read by Le Guin was The Left Hand of Darkness.

Oh well, three pages a day is nothing — and I am building up my arm muscles in the process.

I am only reading this when I sit on the couch in the living room, usually while I drink my coffee in the morning.