What are we reading - December 2019

Annie Deighnaugh
December 1, 2019

Right now I'm reading Trevanian's Crazyladies of Pearl Street...autobio fiction of his boyhood. Well written but very different from his other page turning thriller for sure.

Book group is one I'm looking forward to: Dear Mrs. Bird. Somehow we read so many WWII and dysfunctional family books, it's nice to have something lighter, esp for the holidays.

What's on your reading agenda?

(It's helpful for others if you can bold the book titles, rate them 1-5 with 5 being best and whether or not you think it's good for a book group.)

Comments (65)

  • skibby (zone 4 Vermont)

    IdaClaire - I've read all but the newest Eliz. Berg. You may want to try some of her other books. A similar flavor in all/most of her books. I like her very much too.

  • caflowerluver

    Idaclaire - I will have to check out that book. I did a cross country drive from CA to FL and back again the year I turned 40. It took me 10 weeks and I did it for the reasons you stated. It changed my life. I will be interested to read her observations.

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  • Rusty

    I finished "The Memory Weaver" Saturday, I enjoyed it very much. It's the kind of book I like, historical fiction based on real people and things they actually did.

    Started "The Goldfinch" yesterday. We'll see how it goes, I'm only a few chapters into it, and so far some of it seems promising of a very good read, some of it has me wondering why I'm bothering.


  • Bunny

    Rusty, I read The Goldfinch a few years ago. A friend had highly recommended it, so when I reached a point maybe about one-third of the way through where I wondered if I should go on, she encouraged me to continue. The aspect that was troubling me was the two boys growing up together. I'm glad I stayed with it because it was a wonderful book.

  • Annie Deighnaugh

    Just finished The Crazyladies of Pearl Street. It was good, 4 star, but not for book club. I mean it could be, but lately it seems all we read for book club are either WWII things or dysfunctional families and this falls in the latter category.

    Next up is Dear Mrs. Bird for book club. I certainly hope it's lighter for the holidays.

  • runninginplace

    We read The Goldfinch a few years in our book club. Opinions were mixed; some loved it, some really did not.

    I was a fan and one of the reasons is that the author captured the most exact emotional rendering of the endless reverberations that stretch through one's life from losing a mother early.

    And it is a specific emotional terrain; I"m not referring to losing one's mother when she is 70-80-90 etc. Rather to what it's like losing her when you are still too young to have finished forming. Because I have lived it, I felt the way she evoked that very partcular sense of endless loss and grief is one of the most piercing and true themes I've ever read in my life.

  • kadefol

    The Bone Key by Sarah Monette. Interconnected supernatural short stories. Really, really good, I stayed up til 2 a.m. to read just one more story.

  • salonva

    I finished A Handful of Dust, which I really enjoyed-. I had no idea what to expect and now that I finished it, I am finding it hard to classify. It was for book club so hopefully the discussion will be enlightening.

    I just started Before I Go to Sleep for book club #2, and although at the very beginning, it has taken me in. A woman suffering from amnesia and that's about all I know so far.

  • Funkyart

    I finished A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza last week. I enjoyed it (4 Stars) but especially enjoyed Part 4 (5 Stars).

    I started The River by Peter Heller. I am fast becoming a fan of his writing. I read Celine a year or two ago and now this is the second of his books I've picked up. He writes so beautifully of the outdoors-- he doesn't just paint a picture, he immerses you in the scene. I find myself thinking I can hear the sounds, smell the scents, feel the chill. I also get the sense that he has great insight to human relationships -- with themselves, each other and their surroundings. I am not too far into The River so we will see how that plays out.

  • norar_il

    For a book group Decider by Dick Francis. I've read most of his books, but it's been a long time and I forgot how good they are. I'll give it a solid 4. I've learned so much about horses from his stories -- not this one, it was about a race track, not the racers. It was sort of like a good visit with an old friend.

  • sableincal

    Elmer - Thanks for the additional comments! Now that I think about it, there are indeed tunnels and culverts, etc., in the books, and they are vividly described. One way of coming to grips with childhood fears is to write or talk about them as an adult (hence therapy). That being the case, Connelly has made a fortune from his "traumas"!

    One thing I love to do is visit locales mentioned in book series that I've enjoyed. Writer Kate Wilhelm has a series about a female attorney set in Eugene, Oregon. We have family there, and I've looked up some of the places she describes. J.A. Jance, another fave, has a long detective series that occurs in Seattle, and I've dragged one of my sons around searching out spots she writes about. As for Connelly and Bosch, when we were in Los Angeles last year, we had breakfast at DuPar's, where Harry can often be found. But we haven't gotten much further than that, being as it's L.A. and, well, there are all those freeways, something that Monterey drivers are not accustomed to. A cousin, though, did show us where Bosch would live in the Hollywood Hills, but we have not yet been up there. Strange traveling, right, lol...

  • Rusty

    Runninginplace, I am so sorry you had to experience such loss in your childhood. And I thank you for posting your comments about the book.

    Bunny, I've read a bit more now, and I'm pretty sure I will stay with it. I'm about a quarter of the way through now, it's still hard to tell where the story is going.


  • jkayd_il5

    I'm reading "When we Believed in Mermaids" by Barbara O'Neal. Amazon describes it as a mystery romance but that's not the way I would describe it. I'm an avid reader and to me it's more literary fiction. Good book, I want to read more by Barbara O'Neal.

  • bob_cville

    I came across a book yesterday titled "Teaching the Elephant to Dance" and was hoping is was some sort of memoir from a renowned animal trainer or even a how-to book (... first purchase a CD of waltz music, an XXXXL tutu and then carefully approach the elephant .....) However upon opening it I was disappointed to find out that it "is a practical, hands-on guide to creating effective change in any organization" Boring.

  • Elmer J Fudd

    sable, there are a number of websites you can find by searching that show various locations of incidents in Bosch books. Maybe you've seen them already. Some are more accurate and more comprehensive than others. Looking at a few (as an LA native) I noted many locations not mentioned.

    Scene shifting - in the books, Bosch's house was a mile or two north of the Hollywood Bowl, in the Cahuenga Pass on Woodrow Wilson. For the Amazon TV series, the location was changed to a house maybe 5 or 6 miles away, on the Hollywood side of the hills, above the Sunset Strip. And with a stunning city view, as viewers have seen.

    DuPars - One of the locations was on Ventura Blvd in Studio City, just a few miles from the Woodrow Willson house and I think this was the location he was described as going to frequently. That DuPars closed a few years ago. There's still one in the Farmers Market near CBS TV City, but that would have been a bit out of the way for his normal travels from home to Hollywood or to downtown.

  • czarinalex

    I just finished 'Other People's Houses' by Abbi Waxman. It's about 4 families who live on the same block and how one couples break up affects the rest. I recommended her other book 'The Garden of Small Beginnings' here. I liked both books a lot. They are funny and the characters are people you know and might even be you! If you have children, you can definitely relate to this book.

  • Bestyears

    dedtired, thanks so much for the recommendation for Henry, Himself. I'm just a short way into it, but it's just the kind of book I fall in love with. Nothing huge happening, but such beautiful writing about ordinary days. And what a prolific author! I'm always excited when I discover a new author with lots of work.

  • chisue

    Some books would be so much better if their editors had exercised their red pens. Goldfinch is one. On and on and on. Authors need to trust the reader more. (We Get It! Stop, Already!)

    I really liked Henry, Himself.

    Today I have two new books on hand from our library: Richard Russo's Chances Are... and Ann Cleves' The Long Call. Cleves is starting a new series with a new detective character. Russo got better reviews for this than anything since his big hits, Empire Falls and Nobody's Fool. Maybe this will become a movie, too! (Wasn't Paul Newman in one of those?)

  • salonva

    I just added :

    Henry, Himself

    Other People's Houses

    The Garden of Small Beginnings

    to my want to read list on goodreads.

    Also a good reminder on here about Richard Russo. I have never read any of his, but my daughter and son in law are big fans.

    I finished Before I Go To Sleep and I would say it was a great read, for most of it. As usual for moi, I was less a fan of the ending and how it unfolded. The writing was great and I was enthralled through most of it- a real page turner. (but then, oh well still pretty good but not as good as most of it was).

    I have started Another Brooklyn, recommended on another forum (and also it's under 200 pages so that's attractive at the moment).

  • Alisande

    Sueb, if it's any consolation, I've never even heard of A Gentleman in Moscow. :-)

    Jkayd, I just finished When We Believed in Mermaids. Loved the characters and the setting. I, too, wanted to read more by Barbara O'Neal, and was happy when Amazon offered me The Art of Inheriting Secrets as a freebie with my Prime membership.

    I had a (somewhat minor) issue with the ending of Mermaids. We must talk!

  • foggyj2

    just finished FireFly Lane by Kristen Hannah. It's a chick book, about two best friends. It was a 4 out of 5 stars. I like the way Kristen writes. It's a fairly fast, easy read. Some places that get bogged down, I skip over. There weren't many here though. It would probably be a good book club selection.

  • jkayd_il5

    Alisande, I agree about the ending. I was just thinking today I still wanted more at the end of the book. It was to rushed. But still think it was a good book.

  • sableincal

    Elmer - Thanks for the excellent information! I didn't know about the websites keyed to locations in the series; will have to search them out now.

    We had breakfast at the DuPar's in the Farmers Market, which was where Bosch's wife was killed in the tv series (much more dramatic than the way she met her fate in the book!).

    Some years ago when I was planning our first foray to L.A. I came across (online) a woman who offered a day-long tour in her SUV of various Bosch sites, including lunch at a certain steakhouse. The cost was $300. Pricey yes, but fair, especially if one considers the cost of Disneyland, e.g. At least I think so. By the time of our trip, though, she was no longer advertising.

  • blfenton

    I just finished reading The Library Book by Susan Orlean. It's about the devastating fire in the Los Angeles city library in 1986 where a million books and archived materials were lost. The book is not just about the library and it;s history but the author uses this event to talk about libraries in general, how long they've been around, how many have been deliberately destroyed through the centuries, what's involved in their operation, and how they've evolved into being the center of the community that they have become.

    For those who still use their neighbourhood libraries as I do, it was a really interesting and easily readable book.

    I also just finished Three Souls by Janie Chang. It's set in China in the 1920's and early 1930's during the upheaval of the fight between nationalism and communism. It's told through the eyes of a young girl who tried to defy her father to be other than what was expected of her. The three souls are her yin, yang and hun and it has revenge, betrayal and disappointments.

    It's hard to discuss it without giving away the story. I enjoyed it and had just finished The Claws of the Panda and the two of them somewhat dovetailed. The Claws of the Panda is about the ties of China with Canada and while an interesting read it's a tough slog.

    One of my favourite books that I have read (if not my favourite) was Shibumi by Trevanian

  • blfenton

    @rusty - can you tell me the author of The Memory Weaver. I;m having trouble finding it at our library. Thanks

    ETA - I also read A Place For Us, mentioned upthread and I too, really enjoyed it.

  • runninginplace

    Chisue, I just finished reading Chances Are. I went to hear the author speak recently and he was delightful.

    As for the book, I don't want to spoil it for anyone so all I will say was that I found it quite surprising.

  • Rusty

    @bifenton, Jane Kirkpatrick is the author of "The Memory Weaver". Sorry if I didn't include that info when I first mentioned the book. I usually try to be sure to include author's name, because it is so helpful when trying to locate a copy. Personally, I get a little frustrated at times over the lack of author names, so I should be more careful about it.

    Our library has it as an e-book, (Overdrive) no hard copy. And our library is very small.


  • blfenton

    Thanks Rusty.

    I agree with Chances Are in that I really liked it. There were some parts where I didn't want to put the book down.

  • terezosa / terriks

    Some books would be so much better if their editors had exercised their red pens. Goldfinch is one. On and on and on. Authors need to trust the reader more. (We Get It! Stop, Already!)

    OMG! I wish that I could have those hours back that I read the 2nd part of that book!

  • 4kids4us

    I finally finished The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani. I think it was one of my free Amazon First Reads. Though it gets high ratings on Goodreads, I thought it was just okay. A few things that happened just didn’t seem plausible in Indian culture. I’d probably give it three stars.

    Last week I downloaded the audiobook for Crazy Rich Asians. I had tried to listen to it last year but didnt care for the narration. I decided to give it another try after seeing it get such great reviews from my fellow book lovers, but wow, I should’ve gone with my gut! I’ve kept listening simply b/c I had a lot of driving last week but didn’t have a chance to find another audiobook. I honestly cannot understood the appeal! The most pretentious, vapid, shallow characters and no real story line. Just a constant stream of namedropping, materialistic nonsense in a variety of whiny voices - so many characters that the narrator often messes up when switching “voices.” I made it halfway through onky because I had it on in the background while I found myself daydreaming about other things while driving. In this case, thoug I haven’t seen the movie, I would guess this is one instance where the movie is better than the book.

    Much to my delight, after months of waiting for a library copy, I finally got This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger. I adored Ordinary Grace so after seeing rave reviews here, I am eager to start it this afternoon.

  • chisue

    A shout out to Anglophobia: Chances Are... is set on the Vinyard! I think Russo has his characters down pat for places like that.

    runninginplace -- Did Russo say he'd lived on the Vinyard? (It's probably not all that different from other, similarly exclusive 'summer places'.)

  • daisychain01

    Richard Russo and Ann Patchett are two authors I usually enjoy (well, Russo is a little more hit and miss - but when he hits ...). I haven't had much time for reading, but am looking forward to doing some over the holidays. I picked up Patchett's The Dutch House last night and will ask for the Russo book for Xmas.

  • blfenton

    I have 8 books on hold as a result of this thread. Now, watch them all come in at the same time in the next two weeks. :)

  • 4kids4us

    Blfenton, can you suspend hold? I can see what number I am and approx how long my wait is. I usually suspend my holds as I move up the list then when I get to #2, if I’ve onlay got one or two books I’m reading, I‘ll take myself off the suspension so I get the book in a week or two. usually this works for me but occasionally I forget and then end up with too many books at the same time!

  • Bestyears

    Blfenton, I'm a crazy fast reader, so this may not work as well for you, but when I get a bunch of holds in all together like that, I just take them all. Typically, I won't end up wanting to read all of them (after starting some), but if I do, I just pay the fine and consider it a perfect donation!

  • salonva

    I do all of the above---- I do try to pay attention to my holds, and will try to suspend to deal with timing issues. I also feel that if I have an overdue fine, it's a BARGAiN compared to the price of a book purchase. I am such a fan of libraries.

    (I find the timing really tricky with the kindle loans. I can be #18 and all of a sudden somehow in 3 weeks I get a notice that the kindle is available. )

  • maddielee

    I was late to the game. Just finished A Man Called Ove. I cried at the end.

    Like Beartown it took a few chapters to get into, don’t give up.

  • Olychick

    I, too, keep track of how close to the top of the list I'm getting for reserved books, then suspend them to become available in a reasonably paced sequence. If you suspend, you still move to the top of the list, so you can unsuspend and usually get a popular book that has a lot of copies within a day or two.

    I try not to hold books over that others are waiting for, regardless of the fine being minimal or not. Keeping them over seems really inconsiderate of other users. If I don't get it read, I just return it and request another reservation for it.

  • Elmer J Fudd

    salonva, after downloading a book (or several books for that matter) from Overdrive, turn off the Kindle's wifi signal and don't connect again it until you've read all the books.

    While the "checkouts" will expire at the library in the normal time and be available to other library Overdrive users, your copy on the Kindle will remain fully usable well beyond the "expiration date" and can be read until you connect again to the internet. It's at that time that expired books are erased.

    I do this for my wife before long trips, she'll select a number of books she wants. Sometimes the timing is tight, in demand books need to become available within the same 3 week window before Wifi is turned off so that all can be downloaded without losing the earlier ones. With enough choices, it's usually not a problem.

    It can be several months before she's read all the checked out books but it's a way to get around the limited 3 week checkout period, for books in demand that can't be renewed because there's a waiting list.

    I figured out this work around for her - it saves us (ME) hundreds of dollars per year because she doesn't lose books in mid-read, which would encourage her to buy them instead of using Overdrive. It works on her Kindle - several years old - but i can't say if it would work on all. Try it yourself and see.

  • stacey_mb

    One of my favorite Richard Russo books is Straight Man, a very funny book. Straight Man

    4kids4us - you might enjoy Crazy Rich Asians more in printed form than as an audiobook. Now that I listen to lots of audiobooks, I find that I might have enjoyed a print book but when wanting to experience the audio version, decide that I don't like it at all. That was the case with The Great Gatsby. I loved the print version but couldn't stand it when I listened to it!

  • runninginplace

    Chisue, Russo didn't mention the Cape or Martha's Vineyard. He talked about growing up in upstate New York and then leaving for college in Arizona and mentioned living now in Maine.

    As for Chances Are I hope it's not a spoiler to say the plot takes some interesting turns that are not particularly Russo-esque. Hopefully that's vague enough not to ruin anyone's reading experience LOL. I enjoyed the book because as always he did a wonderful job in evoking universal life stages and emotions expressed through vivid characterizations of individuals. Russo's books always leave me pensive and pondering the quirks of fate that turn our lives in directions we never could have predicted. He actually talked quite a lot about that; he himself is fascinated by how random life is and how little things cause huge repercussions.

    As for book holds, I too get an embarrassment of riches when several holds come in at once. I've been double dipping too; since we still have a rental property in one county and now a house in another I have access to 2 libraries: a very large metropolitan system and a rural one. There are advantages to both-Big Library has more book titles although Rural Library gets a surprisingly wide variety of current books too. Big Library though has longer waits for popular titles. So they may get 100 copies of the latest Bosch or Steven King book but there will be 240 people waiting. Rural Library will only get 5 copies but there are only 3 or 4 folks on a wait list.

    I also hold with the better-to-turn-it-in-late philosophy. And both library systems have abolished fines so if I am a few days or even a week delayed it doesn't cost me anything. If you keep a book too long they suspend your borrowing privileges so there's a limit but it is still a nice arrangement..

  • norar_il

    Re the editor's red pencil: I had an English teacher my freshman year in college that referred to red pencils as "God pencils". He said with a red pencil in hand, one feels like God and can change anything. Highly recommended when reading something one has written -- it may seem perfect to you, but just pick up that God pencil and you can see all sorts of things which can stand being changed and improved.

    I really liked that man.

  • cyn427 (z. 7, N. VA)

    I have just started The Overstory by Richard Powers. I have read the first chapter and I hope the rest are as wonderful. The first chapters are about separate people who have a history of interactions with trees and from the dust cover blurb, they come together to save a last stand of forest. As someone who is about to see the old-growth forest behind our property destroyed for development, I suspect this will hit close to home.

    A very old friend (who is also a lover of trees and their magic in our world) recommended it to me and I will come back when I am further along in the book to let you know more.

  • stacey_mb

    Elmer - thank you so much for the tip for keeping Overdrive audiobooks longer than the loan period. I will definitely take advantage of it during this busy holiday season.

  • Elmer J Fudd

    No promises but it does work on my wife's Kindle that's several years old. It's easy to test with what you have and there's nothing to lose.

    With some libraries I have cards for, the user can choose a standard checkout time of 1, 2 or 3 weeks Try checking out something you don't want to read - a random Sherlock Holmes book as a for instance and set it for a 1 week period. Turn off wifi, see if it's there next week. .

    (California residents are entitled to a library card from any local library that accepts state funding, which is most of them. The catch is that you need to appear in person to get a card. Most will renew by phone.

    Because we drive around the state a lot, I've accumulated a good collection of cards. Each library has a different subset of Overdrive books in its collection. The ones in more populated areas are most useful anyway because they have much more titles in their Overdrive collections and more copies of popular books. The same titles aren't always popular everywhere. So by having multiple cards, I often don't have to do a wait list for books that are popular in one community but not in another. Maybe something similar can be done in other areas. )

  • stacey_mb

    Elmer - Yes, I will test it with my iPod Touch by setting it on airplane mode. You are fortunate to have several library cards and I would love to be able to access a very large system, such as Toronto or Vancouver. I augment OverDrive and RB Digital with, in fact, before I purchase an audiobook from Audible, I first search the public library's offerings in case they also have it, which sometimes happens. I did this with my current audiobook, a biography of Audrey Hepburn and her experiences growing up in the Netherlands during WW II. I would have purchased it, but OverDrive had it even though I had to wait a couple of weeks until it was available.

  • blfenton

    So, 5 of my books came in yesterday. Why do I do this to myself. As mentioned by Bestyears I will probably start a couple and find that they aren't for me or this just isn't the right time for me to read them. I suspect that because they came so quickly that they probably don't have a hold list attached to any of them so I'll probably be able to renew them.

    I thought someone mentioned The Dry by Jane Harper but now I don't see it. Anyway, we just read The Lost Man by the same author for bookclub. For such a simple but compelling story it set off a very animated conversation.

    It's set in the Australian outback and the author makes you feel the isolation, the beauty, the simplicity but the danger of the area. She also makes you understand the people who live there. It is fiction.

  • socks

    Just finished Anita Shreve's book Stars are Fire. Setting is Maine at the time of the fire post WWII. It was fine.

    Now I'm reading Washington Black by Esi Edugyan. I'm 12% into it and think I'll like it. Interesting, unusual story set in Caribbean in 1800's.

    I would never have read either of these books except for sifting through Overdrive's available now selections.

  • 4kids4us

    blfenton, The Dry was the first book I read by Jane Harper. It is also very good. That and The Lost Man were my favorites for the reasons you mention. She also wrote Force of Nature, and while also good, I preferred the other two

    I am now facing a similar dilemma with too many books to read. I have three checked out from library that I picked up on whim off the shelf, in addition to This Tender Land on my Kindle that I've waited months for. Then I got notified yesterday and today that two more Overdrive/Libby books came in. And of course, this is one of the busiest times of year so not as much time for reading for me.

  • chisue

    runninginplace -- Now that I've finished it, I agree that the ending of Chances Are... is very 'not Russo'. Because of my DH's and my own extensive experience around what we call "the A word", I found this completely unbelievable. (Only Jacy's 'repeating to normalize' held a kernal of truth.) The naivete of the 'hashers' was also quite a stretch, but, hey, I saw a different kind of girl than they saw. OK, on to the next book!

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