Reading Challenge Update – November 1, 2021

With two months left to go, here’s where I stand on the challenge. While I do need to make sure I’m choosing books that fit into categories, I am sitting at a pretty good place. Without further ado, here’s my challenge update for the end of October.

1. A Productivity BookStop Living on Autopilot by Antonio Neves – completed, UnF*ck Yourself by Gary John Bishop – completed
2. Book Becoming Movie in 2021 The Reincarnationist Papers by D. Eric Maikranz – completed
3. Goodreads Winner in 2020 – The Midnight Library – by Matt Haig – completed
4. Biography
5. About a Pressing Social Issue – The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison – completed, It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover – completed
6. A Book About BooksThe Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson – completed
7. Set in the 1920s – The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell – completed
8. An Author Who Uses Initials – The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab – completed
9. Poetry – New Poems by Rilke – completed
10. A 2020 BestsellerAnxious People by Fredrik Backman – completed
11. Recommended by a Colleague
12. With a Number in the Title – Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut – completed. One Two Three by Laurie Frankel – completed
13. Bottom of Your To-Read List
14. Reread a Favorite Book

15. Own Voices Story – March by John Lewis – completed
16. Published in the 1800s
17. Local Author – Drifting by Steven Cross – completed
18. Longer Than 400 Pages – The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow – completed
19. A Book Turned Into a TV Series – Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty – completed
20. A Book That Makes You ThinkAntkind by Charlie Kaufman – completed, Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi – completed
21. A WWII Story – The Willow Wren by Philipp Schott – completed
22. A Highly Anticipated Book – Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir- completed
23. Eye-Catching Cover – House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherlandcompleted, The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin – completed
24. A Summer ReadThe Flatshare by Beth O’Leary – completed, The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal – completed
25. Coming of Age Story – Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – completed, The Facts of Life and Death by Belinda Bauer – completed
26. Bestselling Memoir – In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado– completed

27. Book Club FavoriteSouthern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix – completed
28. A Book About FriendshipThe Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery – completed, How Lucky by Will Leitch – completed,Radiant: The Dancer, the Scientist, and a Friendship Forged in Light by Liz Heinecke – completed
29. An Audiobook – Walking With Ghosts: A Memoir by Gabriel Byrne – completed
30. Set in Australia – Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty – currently reading
31. By a Nobel Prize winner
32. About an Immigrant – Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende – completed
33. Time Travel Novel – Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi– completed
34. An Author You Love – The Women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell – completed
35. Childhood FavoriteTales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume – completed
36. Classic Read in High School
37. Borrowed from the Library –Faye, Faraway by Helen Fisher – completed, Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson – completed, The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake – completed
38. Nonfiction New York Times Bestseller – A Promised Land by Barack Obama – completed
39. From an Indie Publisher – The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar – completed
40. Fantasy – The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox – completed
41. A Sequel – The Secret Keeper of Jaipur by Alka Joshi – completed
42. Recommended by a Librarian
43. Psychological ThrillerIn the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce – completed, The Comfort of Monsters by Willa C. Richards – completed, Verity by Colleen Hoover – completed
44. Oprah Winfrey Book Club Pick The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris- completed
45. A Book About Technology – The Future is Yours by Dan Frey – completed
46. Title with Three Words – Home Before Dark by Riley Sager– completed
47. Debut Novel of Famous Author – The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie – completed
48. Genre You Don’t Usually Read – Code of the Hills: An Ozarks Mystery by Nancy Allen – completed
49. A Book Everyone Is Talking About – American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins – completed.
50. You Own But Haven’t Read
51. Borrowed from a Friend – The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty– completed
52. A 2021 New Release – The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner – completed

Total Books Read: 55. Total categories complete: 42. Books remaining to Read Toward Challenge: 10. In progress: 1

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UnF*ck Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life by Gary John Bishop – A Book Review

I read this super short book in an afternoon on audio while I cleaned my house. Which is, interestingly enough, something I often need someone screaming motivational phrases in my ear in order to accomplish. How very appropriate was this book, in that case. This is a very simple book. Gary John Bishop, a personal development expert from Glasgow, Scotland, takes off the kid gloves and offers readers a very no-nonsense in-your-face approach to fixing your shitty life. In saying that, he’s really telling you to fix your shitty attitude. Frankly, this is a lesson I need on a pretty much daily basis.

Throughout the book, he introduces readers to seven “personal assertions” that every human should implement in their lives. Honestly, many of these were extremely important. Though the book is really not much more than a pep talk, it is very helpful to be reminded of such things as “I am not my thoughts: I am what I do.” That’s so true. How many of us want to accomplish something and know we CAN accomplish something, but we give up in the face of self doubt and wind up accomplishing nothing? Being able to do something and actually doing it are two different things. On the reverse of that, how many people are actually grossly incompetent but have the audacity and the relentless drive to… oh, I don’t know… maybe become President? I can name at least one of those. Though, maybe Bishop needs to write a new book telling those people to go back home and binge watch Criminal Minds and snack on cheetos to save the world a little headache.

Nothing in this book is revolutionary. It’s a helpful tool for motivation, but it’s not going to really provide anything truly useful by way of exercises or techniques. It is very helpful as a reminder to continually attempt to alter your thought process so that you aren’t your worst enemy, but it’s really up to you to take what you glean from this book and really put it into practice in a way that’s meaningful for you. I do recommend listening to the audio if having a frustrated Scotsman bootcamp-style yell in your ear is your jam. Trust me, it’s actually quite pleasant, because everything, even anger, is better with a Scottish accent. At times, I did sort of feel like the kid in detention for the 15th time while the teacher at the end of his wits rails at me about how he knows I can do better but I’m just not trying, and that’s ridiculous because I’m smart and worthwhile and… you get the gist.

Frankly, when it comes to self help books, I think each reader has a style that’s going to speak to them more. With this book, Bishop offers something fairly unique. It’s a tough love approach, and that works better with some people. For someone who just needs a little boost, this may be perfect for them. But I probably wouldn’t recommend it for someone with crippling anxiety and depression who needs real psychological help to pull them out of the abyss of self-loathing and personal stasis. It might be helpful as a supplement, but it would take a lot more than this book in such situations. And the tone might actually be off-putting to some. Overall, I say 3 stars for this.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Published Aug 1, 2017 by HarperAudio. ISBN: 0062819496. Runtime 3 hrs 24 mins. Read by the Author.

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The Women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell – a Book Review

No matter your taste in books, I could probably recommend a Mary Doria Russell book to you that you would love. The Sparrow is my favorite science fiction book, but this badass woman with the fiercest intellect around can write just about anything. Her historical fiction is nearly unmatched in depth of research and attention to detail. Once again, Russell has crafted a gritty and memorable tribute to real-life heroes who walked this Earth. The women and men in this book made it possible for the workers of today to fight for fairness and actually win.

Synopsis

The Women of the Copper Country is a fictionalized account of the story of Anna Klobuchar Clements, otherwise known as Big Annie. In 1913, Annie Clements earned the title of “America’s Joan of Arc” for her role in leading a strike against a large and powerful copper mining company in Michigan, Calumet & Hecla. The novel pits Annie up against the villainous James MacNaughton, her nemesis in both this fictional work and in the historical record. Russell’s novel is a very raw and real portrayal of the plight of the striking worker in the early 1900’s, as well as that of their wives and mothers who fought to keep food on the table. Most importantly, it’s the rarely told tribute to the women of the labor movement, those who risked their own health and safety to ensure their sons and grandsons wouldn’t befall the same fate as their fathers and husbands.

Review

In every case, the strength of one of Russell’s works of historical fiction is her meticulous research. While much of Annie’s life on the page is fictionalized, Russell offers us a visceral and intimate glimpse into the life of the real Annie. She perfectly captures her resolve, integrity, and her difficult moments of self-doubt and turmoil. Many characters are either composites of real individuals or are entirely fictionalized, but their sole purpose is to provide a foundation for us to better understand Annie and her impact on the labor movement, as well as the impact of all women, whose role in progressive social change throughout history is often drastically understated, if not ignored completely.

One of the most interesting aspects of this novel is Annie’s tumultuous relationship with her husband, Joe Clements, an abusive drunk who doesn’t support either Annie’s work as a union leader or even the strike itself. Annie is torn between this urge to remain loyal to her husband as society dictates or to remain loyal to her personal convictions and moral obligations. Would we be where we are today if it weren’t for women brave enough to tell their short-sighted husbands to shove their opinions where the sun doesn’t shine? That’s a resounding no. Thankfully, there are enough fabulous and brave men in this book that one doesn’t have to worry about it seeming “anti-men,” which some people seem to worry about, and usually for silly reasons.

This novel also contains some beautiful cameos of other real heroes of the labor movement, including Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, whose visit to Calumet in support of the strike really did occur in August of 1913. Jones, while featured very shortly in The Women of the Copper Country, is one of the more memorable characters of the book, her fiery and plucky spirit reinvigorating a movement that has fallen on hard times and hangs on the precipice of failure. Like the strikers, readers find themselves wanting more of her but having to trudge on alone, encouraged by the strength that lingers in her wake.

More than anything, this work of historical fiction is fiercely and depressingly relevant in today’s political climate. It is Russell’s most politically charged work to date, and it comes at a very good time. We find ourselves at the close of a pandemic, when many people have grown weary of busting their asses for pennies for employers who neither care about their physical or mental well-being nor whether their wages can even cover a month’s rent. Most have forgotten or scoff at the sacrifices of the ancestors of the labor movement. The word union is still spat out like a curse word by those whose forbearers poured more dirt on the bodies of the miners who worked for mere pennies until unsafe conditions brought about their early deaths, as well as those of their fathers and grandfathers. Same shit, different decade.

These same people feel history shouldn’t actually be taught in our schools, because it will show our children that history is full of ugliness, greed, and prejudice. You can’t stop yourself from repeating a mistake you don’t remember, and a society that covers up its ills will repeat them over and over again with different victims. The cycle will merely continue forever. Censorship and suppression only bring more trauma, so if a school board tells you not to put a book in your child’s hands go out and buy a damn copy because that’s a book they should read. With that in mind, if you Virginia folk want to see what all the fuss is about, Beloved by Toni Morrison is on sale on Amazon, and everyone should read it. Get your copy here. For a comprehensive list of the books some people say you shouldn’t read, see the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom’s website. Every one of them has something to teach you.

I realize I haven’t focused as much on the actual book as I usually do, but this is an extremely important read about a unique and specific moment in America’s storied past. It has the beautiful, effortless prose you’d expect from a Mary Doria Russell novel and characters who will leave their mark on you. Some books are good but you forget them pretty soon after putting them down. You won’t forget this authentic story, and you sure as hell won’t forget Big Annie, the 6’1″ angel with her flag held high and her voice raised above the crowd. If you are looking for a great work of historical fiction that is of the utmost relevance in today’s age, look no further than The Women of the Copper Country.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

  1. “Anna Clemenc” Upper Peninsula Wiki. https://michigansup.fandom.com/wiki/Anna_Clemenc Accessed Oct 29, 2021.
  2. “Labor’s Patron Saint & Her Words of Wisdom.” The Laborist. https://labor.ist/labors-patron-saint-her-words-of-wisdom/ May 19, 2020.

Published August 6, 2019 by Atria Books. ISBN 1982109580. Hardcover. 352 pages.

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WWW Wednesday – October 27, 2021

Welcome to another week of WWW Wednesday, in which I do have more progress to report but I am still wildly behind on reviews. Life has been really hectic lately and, admittedly, the stress of everything has been getting to me which has cut into my productivity. I’ve really tried to take some time to focus on family stuff that has been bubbling up lately. I will try to get around to catching up on reviews soon.

WWW Wednesday is a weekly series hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. In it, bloggers share their reading progress and plans for the coming week. Let’s get started!

The Three Ws are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What have you just finished reading?
  • What will you read next?

What am I currently reading?

Since I have not made much progress at all with hard copy books, I’m still working my way through Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty. It’s very engaging, and I wish I’d had more time to devote to it lately, especially since my library copy is due tomorrow. Eek. On audio, I have just started The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, a book I’ve been looking forward to picking up for a really long time, ever since I read Miller’s Circe, which I positively adored. I’m really enjoying both of these current reads so far.

What have I just finished reading?

Just yesterday I finished the audiobook version of My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones. I finished it just in time to meet him at the Springfield-Greene County Library system’s author signing event for their October horror series. Last week I went to a similar event with Grady Hendrix. Both men were extremely pleasant, gracious, and quite funny despite writing some seriously disturbing stuff. I’m thrilled to have picked up copies of their books and gotten to chat with them a bit while they signed my copies. My review for Jones’ book should be up in the next week, as I’ve tacked it onto the end of my long list of reviews to write.

What will I read next?

I have got to finish Apples Never Fall because I’ve GOT to start on our book club read for this Halloween month, The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. Beyond that, I really don’t really have a planned audiobook. I’ve been taking those sort of one at a time and choosing on a whim when I peruse either Hoopla or Overdrive. Since I am down to two months to fill all the slots in the reading challenge, I probably need to be narrowing down my final choices for categories so I can make sure to hit my mark.

That’s it for me for this week. I hope to have lots of progress to report next week. Until then, happy reading and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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How do you handle the irate commenter?

So I just had a thing happen. It was the first time on one of my book reviews I received a really scathing, insulting and utterly hateful comment. This was a long comment, one the reader really put some thought into. It was full of nothing but insults to my intelligence, claims that I’m juvenile and not well-read simply because I didn’t care for the book, and various other really hateful assertions I need not mention.

Look, as readers, we are not always going to agree. I have read book reviews of books I couldn’t stand in which the reviewers just raved about them. The opposite is also true. I have loved books that other reviewers ripped apart. Typically, if I write a really negative review I do worry a bit about being called out by someone who thinks my vehemence was a tad unfounded. I don’t want to be just plain mean, but I do want to be honest. In this particular case, I never expected the level of vitriol I received, because there were lots of things I DID like about the book, and I was very clear about that.

Whenever, as a reader, I stumble upon a review I don’t agree with, I will tell you what I don’t do. What I don’t do is jump on that person’s page and tell them they are stupid for not sharing my opinion. I don’t create an anonymous online persona that I can use to trash another content creator. When I write my book reviews, I am as honest and thorough as possible. I don’t just say “this is garbage,” give it 1 star and move on. And, trust me, there were plenty of people on goodreads who did exactly that with this particular book. Any time I write a review, I give my reasons, they are my own, and I make sure I share both what I liked and what I didn’t like. That is my only job as a reviewer, and I don’t have to make readers feel better about their particular position on something. What a boring world would this be if we all shared the same opinions about everything?

In part, I’m writing this post to sort of vent my frustrations, sure. It does kind of hurt to be insulted for something that you enjoy so much. My words are important to me. I enjoy sharing them with readers. But do I believe him? Do I believe that I’m stupid, uneducated, or juvenile in my reading tastes? No. The uneducated and juvenile position is being pretentious enough to believe you’re superior to someone else in your intellect simply because you liked a book and they didn’t. In this case, I did respond. I tried to be as professional as possible but I made it clear I would have appreciated a more professional and less personal attack. I could have merely trashed his comment. I could have marked it as spam. I didn’t do either of those things. I will let his comment speak for itself. Some people may agree with him. Some people may agree with me. That’s life.

How do you handle this situation? Has it ever happened to you? Did you respond to it or did you ignore it? Feel free to comment and share your own frustrations. One thing I’ve always loved about this community is that people seem to be very respectful and supportive of each other and I’m very grateful for that. Until next time, happy reading and happy blogging. And down with trolls. 😊

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WWW Wednesday – October 20, 2021

Oh my! I missed more than a week! Yikes! And I still have two of my reviews to write. It’s been a difficult month for me, but I’m slowly getting back into things. WWW Wednesday is a weekly series hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. In it, bloggers share their reading progress and plans for the coming week. Let’s get started!

The Three Ws are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What have you just finished reading?
  • What will you read next?

What am I currently reading?

Currently reading Liane Moriarty’s newest release, Apples Never Fall, which I’m using as my book set in Australia for my reading challenge. I’ve filled a few slots in on my reading challenge this month thankfully. Though I’ve finished more than 52 books this year, I doubled up on some categories so I still have 7 books to read to finish the entire challenge not counting the ones I already have in the works. The audiobook I’m listening to is My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones. Mr. Jones will be at the Springfield-Greene County Library next week, so I want to get this one finished by then. Basically I have a lot of reading to do between now and the end of December and I hope I make it.

What have you just finished reading?

I have just finished reading the audiobook version of Unf*ck Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life by Gary John Bishop. I will likely write a pretty short review of this one today. It wasn’t exaclty earth-shattering, but it was useful for its intended purpose and I think it was quite a big dose of reality that I needed this week. The other book I finished I will post a more detailed review of. It is The Women of the Copper County by Mary Doria Russell. Russell is one of my favorite authors and I’ve read everything she’s put out to date. It took me a while to get to this one simply because I owned a copy, and I always wind up setting those aside to meet library deadlines. I finally pushed myself to finish it, however.

What Will I Read Next?

Next I’m going to pick up the book club selection for October. It’s a nice scary Halloween classic, The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty. I’m not super squeamish like some of the other folks in our book group, so I doubt this keeps me up at night. I hope not, anyway. On audio, I am going to keep going with one I’ve already started. It’s Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. To be honest, though a classic, I don’t find Twain as charming as I used to. Maybe it’s my current mood. Not sure, but I’m still going to finish it for the reading challenge.

Until next time, happy reading!

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The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris – a Book Review

If you are a lover of historical fiction, commit the name Nathan Harris to memory, because you will be hearing from him again. Harris is an alumnus of the Michener Center for Writers out of The University of Texas at Austin. While there, Harris spent most of his time focusing on The Sweetness of Water. Let’s face it, novels of the Civil War are common, but only an expert wordsmith can create something so unique and refreshing in a genre flooded with content as to speak to every reader in a deeply personal way. This is surely one of these books.

Synopsis

In the small community of Old Ox in Georgia, the Union troops have converged on the town to assist with rebuilding after war. Young soldiers either return home broken in body and spirit or remain lost in the wind as victims of war, only existing in the memories of those they left behind. And throngs of new citizens, young and old alike, emerge through the gates of the prisons that have comprised the entirety of their human existence, forced to start anew with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Two brothers, Prentiss and Landry, having been emancipated from their forced labor on the only place they’ve ever known, hide out in the woods on land owned by the Walker family. When, on one of his regular treks through the woods, George Walker stumbles upon the two brothers, they form an unlikely connection that will alter each of their lives forever.

Review

This book is spectacular. At the moment, it is averaging 4.27 stars on goodreads with more than 10,000 reviews, and it’s so easy to see why. First of all, Harris deeply understands the job of a writer. In an interview with the Austin Chronicle from June, Harris tells journalist Robert Faires, “the power of fiction is empathy, and you put yourself in the shoes of these individuals that you are not, and you try to wonder what their lives would be like.” This is what I’ve always loved about historical fiction. I feel like it gives us a deeply intimate view of history you don’t get from history books. Many people can tell you facts about the Civil War. They know dates and important people. Facebook is full of people arguing about what it was actually about, and most of them should shut up because they have no freaking clue, but that’s another topic for another day. The real truth of war is a complexity so profound it can never be understood using facts and figures. It’s in the scars upon the backs of the freedman wearing out the soles of his shoes in search of a future, it’s in the tears of a mother who will never see her son again, and it’s in the wordless bond between people who society says shouldn’t love one another but who choose to do so anyway. It’s in the subtle language of love that heals and the cruel betrayals that destroy. History doesn’t usually remember such things, but literature does.

Harris gives each and every reader a character he or she can identify with, but he also introduces us to characters that are unlike ourselves but who we grow to know so intimately that they feel a part of our human experience. For me, the character to which I identified the most was Isabelle, the matriarch of the Walker family. I positively adored her fiery strength, stubbornness, intellect, and uncompromising integrity. Some of the events of this novel hurt deeply. There’s much tragedy here, but it’s so authentic to the time. Suffering didn’t end with emancipation. Prejudice didn’t end with emancipation. As a matter of fact, many ills suffered by the newly emancipated were a result of emancipation without support. You’re free but don’t expect anyone to help you. To the contrary, most would do anything in their power to make those people pay dearly for obtaining their freedom. Don’t come looking for a job. Don’t ask for a slice of bread. Don’t ask for a kind word. And suffering could also come for anyone offering any of the three. We can never forget that progress rests on the shoulders and the graves of the people who had the courage to go against the status quo. Thanks to authors like Nathan Harris, we don’t have to.

This novel is expertly paced. It never drags or forges ahead too quickly causing the reader to be thrown off course. We remain exactly where we should, fully immersed in a world so real we forget it’s from the imagination of a particularly brilliant young man. Truly, this is a remarkable book and I haven’t even come close to doing it justice. Just go read it.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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A Promised Land by Barack Obama – a Book Review

A Promised Land is the Presidential memoir of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. Obama was a positively historic President for the US, as he was the first black President to serve as commander in chief in a country whose history is seething with racial strife. His election was a momentous occasion for millions of Americans, and it was especially important for young people of color growing up in a country that previously felt like such a position was out of their reach. He was and still is an extremely polarizing figure, either adored or demonized depending upon which side of the political divide one falls. In reality, any human individual who has ever sat in the seat in which he sat contains flaws, and he is no different. No President has ever made perfect decisions, just as no other flesh and blood person has ever made perfect decisions. The difference is that the President makes decisions in front of the entire nation and the entire world and will be forever judged by those decisions. And will also have to deal with a whole lot of malarkey flung their way, which should just be ignored, as he deftly demonstrates in this book.

Truly, I was most amazed at Obama’s determination. No matter the obstacles, he accomplished so much in the face of the worst political obstruction the United States has seen for many years. He just refused to break. He never lost his will to fight, and he never lost his good humor, which I honestly feel is his biggest accomplishment. He faced more undeserved hate than any President to come before him, and he still managed to hold onto his dignity and grace. And to the people who claim Trump received more hate, he deserved every bit of that. You receive back what you put out into the world, and I can tell you that if a man walked up to me on the street and treated me the way #45 famously treats women, he would have received the response from me he deserved. And then he would have needed medical treatment for his tiny balls if they could be located after meeting with my knee. Moving on…

Oh, how I miss this family. As with Michelle’s book, Becoming, I found myself overcome by a bit of sadness when reading A Promised Land. The reason for that should be obvious. I knew how it ended. I knew it ended with the near erosion of his legacy at the hands of someone incompetent, inept and completely devoid of intelligence or reason. As a matter of fact, one of the most fascinating parts of this presidential memoir was seeing through the President’s eyes the United States’ descent into chaos. I was encouraged by his good-natured response to the vitriol he received during his time in office, including his response to the bully Trump who jumped on the birther bandwagon to further his political ambitions, a strategy which sadly worked for him, proving there’s still a sector of the population that responds well to the alpha male neanderthal mentality. Obama was successfully able to shut out all the noise, even cracking jokes at his own expense, and stay focused on the tasks at hand, a credit to his professionalism and single-minded intensity, as well as his belief that the common good will always prevail. Sadly, this last thing many of us are still desperately hoping will one day prove to be true, as there seems to be so little goodness in the world in this the year of our Lord 2021…

BTW, I love this but can not find who image credit goes to, so if it’s you please let me know so I can give you and your brilliance a shoutout!

As far as content, this book is incredibly thorough and concise. It is a very detailed and expertly written account of Obama’s entire first term, which culminates with one of his crowning achievements, the killing of Osama Bin Laden by a team of real life badass superheroes without capes. His account was so detailed and so real that I felt like I was in the room with them all during the taking of that iconic photo. Obama is a natural born story teller. He narrates the audiobook himself, and it was positively divine listening to it. It has the feel of sitting in the coffee shop across the table from him while he tells his story. Though, it would be a 30 hour coffee date, so I wouldn’t drink a whole lot of coffee and make sure to take lots of breaks!

If I’m being completely honest, I’m not much of a nonfiction reader, and I tend to get lost in some of the details. Overall, I still found this book to be very enjoyable and very educational. I loved getting to see his perspective during all these events I remember and some that I didn’t remember. With him at the helm I felt a bit more comfortable coasting along and focusing on my own life, floating along dreamily in the middle of a crystal clear lake surrounded by the chattering of birds and chirps of crickets. Unlike the subsequent administration who I felt like was constantly trying to pry my fingers away while I desperately clung to the slippery railing of a speeding boat, my body dangling over an abyss of dark and murky shark-filled despair. You kind of can’t stop paying attention when you don’t feel comfortable about the direction you’re being led. Oh, how quickly the tide can turn when people get complacent. You never know when your fellow passengers are going to hand the boat keys over the side show monkey who throws poop at people and screeches maniacally just to hear himself screech.

Truly, I think this book was something I needed to read to bring myself back to center. It was a great reminder that there have always been bad times, but there have always also been people reasonable enough to take back the keys and put the monkey back in the cage so he can’t do any more damage. This book is an incredible look into the life of a complicated and honorable man, and it’s also a detailed look into the everyday struggles of a United States President, both personal and professional. It’s a fabulous dose of truth from a man whose image is often blurred by lies and misinformation. It’s nice to really get to know the human man behind this mythic fixture in American politics. 5 stars for this well-written, thorough, and captivating memoir.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Published November 17, 2020 by Random House Audio. ASIN B08HGH9JMF. Run time 29 hrs. 10 mins. Narrated by the author.

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The Facts of Life and Death by Belinda Bauer – a Book Review

Oh my. Get ready for a deluge of book reviews. I haven’t posted much lately and have had an onslaught of sickness travel through my house so my blogging productivity took a nosedive. I will spend this next week trying to catch up on reviews and postings. At the moment I am five reviews behind and still making progress with reads. EEK! Without further ado, here is the first of five. And apologies if these particular reviews are a bit less detailed than usual for the aforementioned reasons.

Synopsis

Ten-year-old Ruby Trick lives in the small seaside village of Limeburn in Devon the United Kingdom. She adores her father, the unfortunate John Trick, an out of work and down on his luck lover of all things cowboy, and practically detests her mother, Alison, a woman we readers can quickly glean is much more complicated than Ruby imagines. A masked assailant begins to terrorize the women of Limeburn and his antics quickly turn deadly. When John takes Ruby along on his “posse” to track down the killer, Ruby finds herself facing potentially deadly consequences for herself and her family.

Review

First of all, I really loved Ruby as a character. I found her charming and flawed in a way that only an author who truly understands the complexity of children could create. As a mother, her initial devotion to her father and hatred of her mother really struck me, but I feel this is accurate. Children don’t often understand the nuance of parental relationships. Ruby only saw her mother as a villain. She didn’t see the subtle ways her mother protected her. And she didn’t see the ways in which her father wasn’t exactly an ideal parent. Welcome to the frustration of parenting. Your kids usually hate you for all the wrong reasons. *sigh*

Bauer did an excellent job with all her characters. I especially liked the detective duo, DCI Kirsty King and DC Calivin Bridge. They added a lot to the overall tone of the book. I found their humorous passages to lighten an otherwise pretty bleak and miserable plot. I think that can be important in books like this where the crimes are often so horrifying they tempt you to stop reading. While I felt, ultimately, the detectives really added nothing substantial to the conclusion of the story, they were still pretty important in the overall scheme of things if only to bring a smile to our faces. I do wish we’d been given a bit more closure to their story, but that’s really not ultimately that important to the narrative. Honestly, the more important aspect of the story is Ruby’s overall growth and development in the face of the obstacles she faces. It’s her coming to terms with the complexities of life and relationships, as well as finding out the important life lesson that people are much more complex than in the black and white version of them in your head.

Here’s one of my only fairly minor (maybe minor???) nitpicks. This was our book club book selection for the month. There were some really subtle but extremely important parts of this book that simply escaped the attention of more than half our members. Bauer tends to nudge readers in a certain direction but never really comes out and says what she means, and sometimes these concepts are dropped completely before they come to full fruition. If a reader isn’t paying EXTREMELY close attention, they can miss an important piece of information. In our case, more of us missed the details than actually picked up on them, and that’s a bit of a problem in my opinion. Now, I don’t mean big important things like who the killer is, etc. As a matter of fact, there’s really not a lot of mystery to this thriller. You know who the killer is pretty dang early. I see this more as a coming of age story than a murder mystery, and I’m pretty ok with that fact. The details I’m referring to deal more with character traits and past events that shape our characters, and they were pretty major things.

Overall, I would say this book is an extremely enjoyable and very quick read with some minor flaws. The characters and the crimes are quite compelling, though the crimes are extremely distressing in nature. Consider this a fair warning to readers who are sensitive to such things. Considering all factors, I give this one an overall 3.5 stars.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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Reading Challenge Update – Oct 1, 2021

Oops! I usually try to post my reading challenge updates at the end of the month and I dropped the ball yesterday. I’m really pleased with the progress I’ve made on the reading challenge, and I currently have two categories in the works so I’m confident I can finish with three months left to go. I’ve already read 51 books this year, so I’ve nearly met my goodreads goal, but I doubled up some categories so I’ll have to well surpass that 52 in order to hit them all. Here’s where I stand right now.

1. A Productivity BookStop Living on Autopilot by Antonio Neves – completed
2. Book Becoming Movie in 2021 The Reincarnationist Papers by D. Eric Maikranz – completed
3. Goodreads Winner in 2020 – The Midnight Library – by Matt Haig – completed
4. Biography
5. About a Pressing Social Issue – The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison – completed, It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover – completed
6. A Book About BooksThe Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson – completed
7. Set in the 1920s – The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell – completed
8. An Author Who Uses Initials – The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab – completed
9. Poetry – New Poems by Rilke – completed
10. A 2020 BestsellerAnxious People by Fredrik Backman – completed
11. Recommended by a Colleague
12. With a Number in the Title – Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut – completed. One Two Three by Laurie Frankel – completed
13. Bottom of Your To-Read List
14. Reread a Favorite Book
15. Own Voices Story – March by John Lewis – completed
16. Published in the 1800s
17. Local Author – Drifting by Steven Cross – completed
18. Longer Than 400 Pages – The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow – completed
19. A Book Turned Into a TV Series – Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty – completed
20. A Book That Makes You ThinkAntkind by Charlie Kaufman – completed, Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi – completed
21. A WWII Story – The Willow Wren by Philipp Schott – completed
22. A Highly Anticipated Book – Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir- completed
23. Eye-Catching Cover – House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherlandcompleted, The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin – completed
24. A Summer ReadThe Flatshare by Beth O’Leary – completed, The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal – completed
25. Coming of Age Story – Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – completed, The Facts of Life and Death by Belinda Bauer – completed, review pending
26. Bestselling Memoir – In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado– completed
27. Book Club FavoriteSouthern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix – completed
28. A Book About FriendshipThe Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery – completed, How Lucky by Will Leitch – completed,Radiant: The Dancer, the Scientist, and a Friendship Forged in Light by Liz Heinecke – completed
29. An Audiobook – Walking With Ghosts: A Memoir by Gabriel Byrne – completed
30. Set in Australia
31. By a Nobel Prize winner
32. About an Immigrant – Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende – completed
33. Time Travel Novel – Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi– completed
34. An Author You Love
35. Childhood FavoriteTales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume – completed
36. Classic Read in High School
37. Borrowed from the Library –Faye, Faraway by Helen Fisher – completed, Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson – completed, The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake – completed
38. Nonfiction New York Times Bestseller – A Promised Land by Barack Obama – in progress
39. From an Indie Publisher – The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar – completed
40. Fantasy – The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox – completed
41. A Sequel – The Secret Keeper of Jaipur by Alka Joshi – completed
42. Recommended by a Librarian
43. Psychological ThrillerIn the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce – completed, The Comfort of Monsters by Willa C. Richards – completed, Verity by Colleen Hoover – completed
44. Oprah Winfrey Book Club PickThe Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris- in progress
45. A Book About Technology – The Future is Yours by Dan Frey – completed
46. Title with Three Words – Home Before Dark by Riley Sager– completed
47. Debut Novel of Famous Author – The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie – completed
48. Genre You Don’t Usually Read – Code of the Hills: An Ozarks Mystery by Nancy Allen – completed
49. A Book Everyone Is Talking About – American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins – completed.
50. You Own But Haven’t Read
51. Borrowed from a Friend – The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty– completed
52. A 2021 New Release – The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner – completed

Categories Completed: 39. Categories in progress: 2. Books completed: 51. Books left to complete: 13, including in progress reads.

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