anniedeighnaugh

What are you reading? - Dec 2020

Annie Deighnaugh
last month
last modified: last month

I just finished Mary T's book about 45 : Too Much and Never Enough, and wow. I'd give it 4 stars. Good for book group only if all like minded...otherwise it could be quite contentious. While some of it I'd already heard in the news, there was a lot in it I'd hadn't known, particularly about her father and his relationship with her grandfather. I'd also wondered about what role his mother played in his life, and she does talk about that too. I didn't realize she's a clinical psychologist so her take on the psychology at work in the family is very interesting. While some may say she's just bitter and looking to make a buck -- I'd be miffed too if I was cut out of my rightful share of $1 billion -- what she has to say is consistent with what so many others who know him well have had to say about him, so I find her credible.


Next up, not sure...I have 2 books for my book groups: Opposite of Fate and Excellent Sheep.


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.

Comments (102)

  • stacey_mb
    last month

    I recently finished reading The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney. The novel started off a bit slowly but soon became more intriguing. It's about four people from one family who expect to inherit money from a fund they call The Nest, when things go awry. I very much enjoyed it and would give it 4 out of 5 stars.

    The book I read prior to that one is The Innocents by Michael Crummey, depicting a young brother and sister who are isolated in a very remote area in Newfoundland after both their parents die. The book was unusual in that it describes their day to day lives when nothing significant happens, yet everything is significant when every action or non-action can have life or death consequences. IMHO it is original and different - 5 out of 5 stars.

  • Annie Deighnaugh
    Original Author
    last month

    I finished Excellent Sheep for my book group. I really didn't like it. It was like one giant Op Ed where he just expected you to believe him and all the statements he expounded on with so little data that he didn't have any notes in the book. It's supposed to be a critique of higher education and the "elite" schools and the disservice they're doing to students and society, but I found him quite unpersuasive in most regards, and he really missed the mark in others.


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  • Joaniepoanie
    last month

    It seems every book I’m most interested in has long waits at the library so I am stuck using Libby for now and whatever is available.

    I recently finished Summer of ‘69 and Redhead by the Side of the Road. Both were OK, held my interest enough but am still looking for that page-turner. I just started Little Fires Everywhere—too soon for an opinion.

  • salonva
    last month

    Well, I finished The Wright Sister and it really caught me as it went on. I don't usually read the acknowledgements and all the other stuff at the end but I did for this book. Apparently the author, Patty Dann, also wrote Mermaids (the book the movie with Cher and Winona Ryder was based upon. I thought it sounded familiar but now I don't think I saw it. -- as they say--whatever).

    It was "an easy read" but probably the first half or so I was not quite believing. She mentions so many current events and while Katharine Wright was very involved in what was going on, it seemed some of it was kind of forced into conversation and that didn't sit well with me.


    However, after the first half, I was fully taken in and would ultimately give it 4 stars out of 5.


    I am definitely going to have a look at some of the biographies of the brothers.


    Not certain what will be next, but I do have the hard copy of Pox An American History by Michael Willrich. My daughter has been raving about this (which was written in 2011.


    Given the weather predictions, going to make sure I have some extras on my kindle from the library. (so that down the road if internet goes down, I will be able to read).


  • ci_lantro
    last month

    FYI, John le Carre passed December 12, 2020. He was 89 YO.

    I'm nearing the end of Richard Rhodes' The Making of the Atomic Bomb. This is a terrific book. Long slog w/ a good deal over my head. Lots of ducking out to do background reading. Even though I don't understand all of the 'physics', I have learned a lot along the way.

    A couple of diversions along the way--Kindness Goes Unpunished, third in Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire series. I didn't like this one as much as I liked the first two books in the series. Longmire goes to Philly in this book so much of the usual cast is left back in Wyoming. I think I was homesick for those characters left behind.

    Also read about half of MMKaye's third & final book in her autobiographical series, Enchanted Evening. Disappointing. The first two books, The Sun in Morning (terrific) and Golden Afternoon (very good), detail her childhood and early adult years in India. Ms Kaye was born in Simla (British India) in 1908. Highly recommend the first two volumes. Verdict is still out on the last volume. Was reading it on vacation & left it behind--I have another copy here at home but the book wasn't compelling enough for me to want to tote it thru airports and read along the way back home. Nor pick it up again in the month plus that I have been back home.


  • sheilajoyce_gw
    last month

    I enjoyed The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes, and The Ship of Brides too. I plan to work through her books in the coming months. The Ship of Brides is based on the historical fact of the ships of war brides that set sail after WWII to bring the brides allied military wed while stationed overseas to their husbands and new homelands.

  • jim_1 (Zone 9A)
    last month

    After several pauses, I just completed the 1989 Pulitzer Prize book, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, by Oscar Hijuelos. Very good. I had to keep putting it down to think a bit on what was happening in the story. It was adapted into a movie with Antonio Banderas and Armand Assante.

    Earlier this week, I finished Candyland, another oldie. Interestingly the author is two people, but really the same person. Evan Hunter also wrote as Ed McBain. He wrote the first part as Hunter and the second part as McBain. Different styles, but it worked.

    Over the weekend, I finished reading The Burglar by Thomas Perry. He is somewhat new to me and I have enjoyed a couple of his books. Good page-turners! I have some on hold at the library and will pick them up this morning.

  • blfenton
    last month

    fun2bhere - I'm watching Alex Rider on Amazon Prime but I don't have any commercials.

  • runninginplace
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Jim, Thomas Perry is an excellent suspense novelist. He wrote a great series featuring Jane Whitefield, a part-Native American guide, AKA someone who helps people in trouble disappear, that was a favorite of mine.

    Worth checking out, I'm going to request Burglar based on your recommendation.

  • Bestyears
    last month

    I've been reading The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet. I thought I had started it and dismissed it, but then couldn't find it in my Kindle account, so decided to give it a go. I'm enjoying it. It's not amazing, but it's good. I'm also listening to Walking on Eggshells, by Jane Isay, which is about navigating relationships with your adult children. My best friend's son has ostracized himself from the entire family and the pain that has caused is neverending and has been a red flag warning to the rest of us. This book tells so many similar stories. It's also good guidance for me because I am naturally an advice giver, and apparently, that's one of the most common ways parents alienate their grown children.

  • chisue
    last month

    I lthoroughly enjoyed Jane Smiley's 'fairytale', Perestroika in Paris. Now DH is liking it, too. We have Connelly's The Law of Innocense on the shelf. DH wasn't crazy about my next read, but we've liked most of S. J. Rozan's mysteries. This is The Art of Violence -- featuring Bill Smith. (We may prefer the ones where Lydia Chin leads the story.)

    Re: The Yellow House. I was gnashing my teeth and muttering, "Who *cares*? You're wasting your lives!" Maybe that was the point? Anyway, *yawn*.

    Re: Emma Donoghue. What a great writer. Does she ever write a story without a lesbian character, though?

  • Bunny
    last month
    last modified: last month

    I finished Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell and give it 5 stars. The writing is astonishing and I love the period about which it's written.

    Mostly though it's how she describes the grief experienced by Hamnet's family after his death. It's exactly what I experienced in the weeks and months after my husband died. It's not fall on the floor sobbing, but searching, looking, longing in a way that defies the intellect. She describes it so perfectly.

    I don't belong to a book group but I imagine it would be a good choice for one. Still, I usually feel so strongly one way or another about books, I would hate to have to listen to someone slam a book I cared a lot about.

  • Bestyears
    last month
    last modified: last month

    I'm glad I read The Vanishing Half. It's written in present tense, which I don't enjoy for some reason. But overall, the story is compelling, and falls within my typical interest area-which is small, domestic stories. I just started another memoir, The Fixed Stars, by Molly Wizenberg. I read and enjoyed her first memoir, A Homemade Life, and noticed it amongst my cookbooks the other day. Wondering what she might be up to these days, I found this book. She writes in that manner that looks deceptively simple and straightforward but is no hard to pull off. Very enjoyable.

  • runninginplace
    last month

    Bunny, I have Hamnet waiting and sounds like that should be my next read.

    Bestyears, thanks for the reminder-I just checked out the Kindle version. Molly Wizenberg also wrote Delancey about her and her former husband opening the eponymous restaurant. I really enjoyed both books and I follow her on IG. She's had an interesting life path.

    I've been consumed with Obama's memoir A Promised Land. As someone else noted it's an incredible book! Obama is a very talented writer; his observations about life, politics and personalities are vivid and ring very true.

    It's also a book that gives one an astonishing inside look at politics including campaigning and of course being president. Presidential memoirs aren't my chosen genre so I don't have anything to compare it to but I can't believe any other former leader has quite opened up the door to the inner life of the presidency in this fashion.

    It's also interesting to hear his view on some of the same topics Michelle wrote about in HER memoir. For example, he doesn't mention their fertility issues at all but he does go into considerably more detail than she did about Michelle's ambivalence and reluctance concerning his political ambitions.

    Only downside is that at 700+ pages of often challenging, dense and detailed prose...as the saying goes, it's a lot! I really haven't been able to focus on anything else for quite awhile. Well worth the effort though

  • Bunny
    last month

    runninginplace, I hope you like Hamnet as much as I did. I hadn't read anything by Maggie O'Farrell before Hamnet, and I was blown away by her insightful, yet unpretentious, writing. I read a lot of books about death and how people deal with loss, and she nails it. Plus William Shakespeare (never named) is in the house.

  • salonva
    last month

    Yes- so happy you love Hamnet. I agree with your take and was so struck with him never being named.

  • Bunny
    last month
    last modified: 28 days ago

    salonva, I found it curious that he was never named. The rest of the names and people were historically accurate (even Anne being called Agnes has some historical validity). Maybe so that he never overshadowed the folks in Stratford? I don't recall the author addressing it in her notes following the book. I've returned it to the library so I can't recheck.

    I've never read Hamlet. Should I?

  • sheilajoyce_gw
    last month

    I have discovered Nevil Shute recently. I just finished Pied Piper, a story an old man in his London club shares with a new member as they sit quietly waiting for the distant bombing of a WWII blitz raid to cease. The old man had recently returned from a long trip to fish in a remote mountain river in France. He had ignored the news and was just trying to have a restorative fishing trip when the Germans invade France, which he takes in his stride because he is sure the French military will turn the Germans back. Well, they certainly won't let them get to Paris, etc. The only other family staying at the inn is an English family from Geneva. The father visits when he can. He is busy working for the League of Nations in Geneva. Finally, these calm British subjects begin to understand the inconvenience facing them, and the old fellow makes arrangements to return to England in a few days. The British father approaches him to ask if he could chaperone their two very young children on the train and ship so that their aunt can meet them at the dock. She will keep them with her in the country for the few months it will take for the French to push the Germans back to their own border. And so it begins.

  • dedtired
    last month

    Reporting back on Writers and Lovers. I really liked it and recommend it. I learned a lot about writing and publishing a book even though it is more about an aspiring young writer struggling to find her place in the world. It’s very good.

  • stacey_mb
    last month

    I just finished reading Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. It is a remarkable book, very original and describes historical events in a very inventive way. I loved the book and plan to read it for a second time, now that I am familiar with its unique structure. It's a Man Booker Prize winner and I would rate it 5 out of 5 stars.

  • salonva
    last month

    @Bunny-- I never read Hamlet either ( or if I read it for school I have zero recollection of it. prety sure I did not read it). I was tempted to research a bit more, but somewhere the quote that what we know about WS could not fill an index card stuck with me and I think most of it would be conjecture.

    Then again, I am curious to read Hamlet.


    I read Lincoln in the Bardo a few years ago after seeing many rave reviews. I did not share that opinion. In fact, I think I noticed that the few Pulitzer and Booker Award winners that I have read, were not my favorites at all.

  • Bunny
    last month

    I tried reading Lincoln in the Bardo and I didn't get far. Clearly I didn't get it. I didn't like having skip forward to read who was speaking.

  • localeater
    last month

    I am reading Ask Again, Yes, by Mary Beth Keane. I am about 2/3's in and I honestly dont know how I feel about the book. Has anyone else read it? I read it with the sense of impending doom and really just want to be done with it at this point. And, it's not that I dont like it. I do, I like the characters, it is well written I think I just dont want the story to go where I fear the story is going to go.

  • runninginplace
    last month

    Stacey, I LOVED Lincoln in the Bardo too! What an amazing feat of writing it was. However, it was a book club selection and reaction was decidedly mixed. I think it works best for those who like reading an author doing experimental styling so to speak. Though not at all similar in theme, it reminded me of The Goon Squad, another club pick which I also loved and which also was not uniformly popular with the other readers.

  • 4kids4us
    last month

    Localeater, I read Ask Again, Yes last year. I recognized the title but can’t remember a thing about it. I use Goodreads to track the books I read and usually write a brief review to remind myself what I liked or didn‘t like about a book. Well, apparently I had nothing to say about that one other than I gave it 3.5 stars, which for my personal rating system means, it was ok/good enough to finish but it’s not one I would go out of my way to recommend. I read the description and remember reading it but can’t exactly remember the plot!


    I’m about halfway through Hamnet and really enjoying it but with the holidays keeping me a little preoccupied, I haven’t been able to spend as much time as I’d like on reading!

  • OutsidePlaying
    last month

    Finished Nothing to See Here, which I think was recommended here a couple of months ago, maybe by Sueb. It was a unique storyline (although unbelievable) and rather engaging book. I give it 4 stars. I wasn't familiar with the author (Kevin Wilson) although he has written around 4 other books, none of which were familiar titles either.

    I haven't decided what to read next. Will likely take a little break until after Christmas.

  • Ded Tired
    last month

    Outside, I really like Nothing to See Here. Tonight we had zoom book club and everyone loved Writers and Lovers. Next up is The Pull Of The Stars by Emma Donahue, who also wrote Room.

  • nutsaboutplants
    last month
    last modified: last month

    After re-reading A Promised Land (amazing, as I wrote earlier), I’m reading Jeffrey Toobin’s Crimes and Misdemeanors. I had placed a hold on this book before his sudden exit from media. It became available a couple of days ago. I found the unfortunate events that led to his said exit a little distracting at first when I started the book. But the reading experience took over soon after. I find it interesting and well-written so far.

  • ci_lantro
    last month

    Started Whiskey When We're Dry (John Larison) last night before falling asleep. Only a few pages into it so awaiting the verdict.

  • Bunny
    28 days ago
    last modified: 28 days ago

    I just finished a wonderful book called Plainsong by Kent Haruf. It's set in a small town in eastern Colorado. There are good people and bad people, but the decency of the good shine through. I can't remember where I heard about this book, maybe one of those Kindle or Goodreads ("since you liked that, you should like this"). I couldn't put it down. 4.5 stars. Not Ordinary Grace, but Ordinary Grace-esque.

  • Elmer J Fudd
    28 days ago
    last modified: 28 days ago

    "I’m reading Jeffrey Toobin’s Crimes and Misdemeanors. I had placed a hold on this book before his sudden exit from media....."

    Sorry for a quick detour, but I think there has not been as ironic, funny and unfortunate a book title for an author as this one for Toobin, since Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" came out (when he was trying to paint himself as a champion of the environment). At about the same time, it was disclosed to the public that Gore's home was the largest or one of the largest residential users of electricity in his state. That was indeed an Inconvenient Truth.

    We return to your regularly scheduled programming.

  • skibby (zone 4 Vermont)
    28 days ago

    Bunny - are you on to Eventide next? Many of the same characters. A lovely book.

  • Bunny
    28 days ago

    Skibby, I have a hold on it at the library, I think I’m #2. The end of Plainsong left me thinking there should be more, since a few things weren’t resolved.

  • sable64
    28 days ago

    Am about to finish The Bucolic Plague: An Unconventional Memoir, by Josh Kilmer-Purcell. Viewers of QVC will know these guys from their soaps and other products made with goat milk (I am a fan). They bought their New York farm as a getaway from the city, with no idea of becoming goat-raising businessmen and voila, fate stepped in and made them famous!

    Also working on The Winds of War, a 1980s novel by Herman Wouk, about a couple of families enduring the lead-up to WW2.

  • Elmer J Fudd
    28 days ago
    last modified: 28 days ago

    I may have mentioned it before and if so, sorry, but Winds of War and its sequel, War and Remembrance, are the only two books I've ever read more than twice.

    A combined total of close to 2000 pages, I've read each 6 times. Most chapters end with a cliff hanger and you need to keep reading another few chapters to see what happens next with each character or subset of characters. And on and on, over and over again. I find the stories very engrossing.

    The author, Herman Wouk, was an interesting and unusual person. He died just a week short of his 105th birthday in 2019. Yes, I'm a fan. He wrote The Caine Mutiny too among others, a successful book and 1950s movie with Humphrey Bogart, based in part on his own WW2 service as a US Navy officer on the USS Zane.

  • sable64
    28 days ago

    Six times? That has to be a record, especially considering the length! This is the second time for me. Wouk is such a compelling writer; there is something about the way he creates characters, and I also enjoy his descriptive powers (I like knowing what people wear, what they eat, what rooms look like, etc.).

    I began this re-read after watching the mini-series (also for the second time), which has the lamentable Ali MacGraw doing her non-acting job as Natalie; it's bad enough that Natalie is an irritating person making headstrong, bad decisions without Ali M. clomping all over her character. Fortunately, the books have so much more to offer!

  • salonva
    28 days ago

    So--- I think I have been confusing William Kent Kruger ( Ordinary Grace and more recently This Tender Land which I loved) with Kent Haruf ( Plainsong which I read quite a while ago and remember liking as well). Thanks to this thread for setting me straight on this.

    I have just started The Forgotten Home Child , historical fiction of street children shipped over from London to Canada in the early 20th century. So far at about 20% and it's got me.


    That's quite the praise for Winds of War. I did read Marjorie Morningstar and loved it, way back in the day.


  • Elmer J Fudd
    28 days ago
    last modified: 28 days ago

    sable, we just watched the W of W miniseries AGAIN too. We're taking a break before starting W and R. My wife saw (but doesn't remember) the miniseries back in the 80s and hasn't read the books and doesn't remember the story details. She enjoyed it quite a bit and much more than she expected. .

    I liked Ali McGraw and my wife did too but I won't pretend to be that good a judge of acting performances. I've recently read (having not remembered) that both the Byron and Natalie roles were recast for the second part (along with a number of others) but because in these two instances, the thought was that both actors in Part I were more than borderline too old for the characters they were playing. You could say that about Robert Mitchum too (a 70 year old in real life playing a 40s-early 50s something Naval officer) but he seemed a great choice too.


    For me, it's plots, stories, suspense and surprise that make me enjoy a book or not. Character development, scene descriptions can bore me. I just abandoned a book, a biography no less, whose writer seemed to think he could enhance the reading experience and pad the page count with detailed scene and character "descriptions" because of what was lacking due to sloppy research (too many obvious omissions and inconsistencies) and a dearth of insights about what was happening at various times in the subject's life. It was funny - I put it down without regret and then read some reviews and others had said the same thing.

  • Kswl 2
    28 days ago

    I’m reading The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel. Much preferred Wolf Hall of this trilogy, then Bring Up the Bodies, and then this one in last place. Too many stories to finish, threads to weave in, hanging threads to clip, etc. it is interminable.

  • Bunny
    28 days ago

    Wolf Hall is my favorite book. The others were good, but not close.

  • Bunny
    28 days ago

    So--- I think I have been confusing William Kent Kruger ( Ordinary Grace and more recently This Tender Land which I loved) with Kent Haruf ( Plainsong which I read quite a while ago and remember liking as well). Thanks to this thread for setting me straight on this.

    salonva, I loved Ordinary Grace so much. It's been a few years since I read it. As I read Plainsong I kept thinking of Ordinary Grace and of good people and basic decency.

  • runninginplace
    28 days ago
    last modified: 28 days ago

    I would have voted for Wolf Hall as my favorite of the Mantel trilogy, but reflecting on the entire series I think The Mirror and the Light might get my vote as best.

    The overarching tone was so remarkable; that sense of someone at the top of his game, yet all the foreshadowings of the downfall to come are utterly missed. And throughout he, Cromwell is musing about his past and about how he came to the heights of power, about what it cost him and about people along the way he helped, or he harmed to get where he is.

    Although it's utterly of its time, which I always admire in historical fiction, the theme is also timeless. I just finished our January book club pick which was a memoir, The Ride of A Lifetime by Disney CEO Robert Iger. The management principles he lays out apply just as neatly to Tudor England as they do to theme parks and streaming providers.

    What an incredible book. I was so disappointed Hilary Mantel didn't hit a triple on the Booker Prize.

  • Funkyart
    28 days ago

    I haven't shared in a bit as I've been reading a lot of "throw aways".. primarily from a few mystery series (Aaron Elkin's Gideon Oliver mystery series for one) they suited the state of my mind and my available time. Ive recently returned to novels such as Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman -it was ok, readable, not too heavy but not all that memorable - 3.5. The Searcher by Tana French I do enjoy Tana French and this was no exception. It is a departure from her Dublin Murder Squad series and I'd say it's one of my favorites. 4.2.


    I am currently reading What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt and am very much liking the writing and the process of building the relationships between the characters-- a strong friendship between two men and ultimately their families. I am not far enough along to hit the trials of the friendships which i know are to come (thanks Amazon and Good Reads), but much as i know the story path will get dark, i expect to continue to like her writing. The setting is in the 1970s art and literary world and i especially enjoyed the discussions on art-- the portrayal of women's bodies and the role of artist and observer. I am barely 1/3 in ... so we'll see how it progresses.


    Has anyone read The Midnight Library by Matt Haig? I am curious to see what others think of it-- I think that's on deck for me.

  • stacey_mb
    28 days ago

    I have read The Midnight Library, voted best novel of 2020 by Goodreads readers. I enjoyed it, but didn't love it as much as obviously many other people have. I would give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

    Right now I'm reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, a Pulitzer Prize winner. I am enjoying it very much and can see the parallels with Dickens that critics have noted, mostly in its resemblance to David Copperfield. Has anyone else read The Goldfinch?

  • undertoad
    27 days ago
    last modified: 27 days ago

    Olychick, I finished Anxious People last night. I shared your feelings about the interviews while I was first reading them, but when I reached the end of the book, I could see why the interviews were the way they were. I loved the book and admired the way the people and events fit together.

  • Olychick
    27 days ago
    last modified: 27 days ago

    Stacey, I read the Goldfinch several years ago....loved it so much for about the first 2/3. then I think she should have wrapped it up, but she didn't. Then it just made me mad that she ruined it for me, lol!

    I finished the Vanishing Half last night. It was a good story, decently written, but something about it made me really uneasy, reading it as a white woman. I know the author is Black, but I felt like so much of the story kind of gave credence to white people's stereotypes about Black people (like the fantasy that they want to be white, whatever the cost). IDK...I felt a bit like a voyeur; like I shouldn't be there.

  • chisue
    27 days ago

    Dditto Olychick on The Goldfinch. I think the movie was a little better; obviously they had to cut a lot -- something the book lacked!

    I've finally finished John Cleese's autobigraphy, So...Anyway. Elmer liked the audio book, and I guess this is a case of, "You had to hear this." Maybe the audio version had some cuts? I did laugh out loud, but no often enough.

    On to V2, the new Harris mystery set in -- where else -- WWII. Just 60 pages in, but it looks promising.

  • localeater
    27 days ago

    I finished Ask Again, Yes and am on to In Another Time, by Jillian Cantor. I give Ask Again Yes 3 stars. It wasn't my favorite book and I wouldn't recommend. It's a modern day tale of star crossed lovers, laced with alcoholism and psychosis.

    So far I am enjoying In Another Time.

  • nutsaboutplants
    27 days ago

    Starting Wolf Hall today. I have a few projects going on, so I expect to take my time with it. But looking forward to it nonetheless.

  • Alisande
    23 days ago

    I just finished The Other Mrs., by Mary Kubica. I haven't been doing my normal amount of reading ever since the pandemic started, but with the awareness that all this isolation has been taking a toll I went looking for a "page-turner"--some escape reading that would hold my interest in a big way. Since I dislike suspense I usually avoid psychological thrillers, but the reviews on this one had me intrigued.

    At first I was disappointed, as the story seemed both slow and bleak, with a bunch of seriously flawed characters, none of whom ever seemed to smile, plus some uninspired dialogue. But by the time I was halfway through I was turning those pages! Or, more accurately, swiping at my Kindle.