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What are you reading? May 2021 Edition

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.

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Just finished The Rock Orchard by Paula Wall. It's a short but funny and fun book and I recommend it...4+ stars. I can see where someone would have a good time making a movie of it.


I've also started Atomic Habits about how making small doable changes can compound into big results over time.

Comments (38)

  • norar_il
    9 days ago

    Wow. I have never heard of anyone but me who had read The Rock Orchard! I loved it. I saw her speak at the Southern Festival of Books and she gave us copies of the book. I wish she had written many more, but if she did, I've been unable to find them. The Wilde Women is the only other I could find.

  • Bestyears
    9 days ago

    I just finished Florence Adler Swims Foreverand just LOVED it. The story is based on the author's family history and is set around her great, great aunt, Florence Adler, who was a swimmer at Wellesley, and wanted to swim the English Channel. It's set in 1934 in Atlantic City, NJ, as Hitler was beginning to exert his power, and since the family is Jewish, (the patriarch emigrated from Europe as a 20-year-old), this plays a significant role in the story as well. The family has taken in a young woman border, as a favor to her family in Germany. There is a big secret at the heart of the story which keeps things tense. It was a book I couldn't put down. Really, really enjoyed it.

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  • salonva
    9 days ago

    Thank you- The Rock Orchard has been added to my list.

    I am starting Ask Again Yes for book club. I just started it and while it seems to be an easy read, it's not grabbed me yet. Hoping it does soon.

    Still reeling from my re-read of The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy; now that was a book!


  • runninginplace
    9 days ago
    last modified: 8 days ago

    Well I"m intrigued! And my library has The Rock Orchard, so it just got requested.

    I"m in a dry spell, trying hard to read A Column of Fire but Ken's letting me down this time. It's one of his Kingsbridge series but as MANY reviews have pointed out, this one doesn't really create that magical sense that you've somehow been allowed to sit in a medieval English village and watch life unfold over decades. There are a lot of characters scattered over a lot of countries and so far it's not gelling for me.

    I've got waiting the latest, and evidently the LAST Miss Julia book which makes me so sad. Have so enjoyed the series; some were not as successful and over the past few books sadly politics have crept in which for me hasn't been a plus. Still, she and the entire cast of characters are warm and funny and endearing and I'll sure miss visiting them every year for the latest adventure. According to the author, personal reasons led to the decision and she felt the series was in a good place, but she added a 'never say never' to future books.


  • nutsaboutplants
    9 days ago
    last modified: 9 days ago

    Finished Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue last night. Read it almost in one stretch, within a day of starting. It’s about an immigrant family from Cameroon, working for the uber rich investment banker at Lehman Brothers, right at the time of its collapse and the ensuing seismic change.

    It’s a lovely book, the first one by a very young author. The writing has a simple, straightforward elegance, the narration equally uncomplicated.

    The characters, their experiences and sentiments are so sweet and earnest at the beginning that it’s easy to mistake the book as overly simplistic, lacking in depth and nuance. But, as the Cameroonian chauffeur‘s family and that of his banker boss get a glimpse into each other’s lives, the book picks up an emotional richness and an attitude of thought-provoking challenge. The overly simple beginning, in retrospect, parallels the initial immigrant experience of awe and love toward “the greatest nation in the entire world” and the gradual development of a more realistic assessment. But the book never veers toward bitterness, sarcasm or irony.

    Overall, I loved it. 3.5 stars or 4. (I grade low, with 5 reserved for that rare transformative experience of a book.) I have the author’s second book on hold and look forward to starting It.

  • chisue
    9 days ago
    last modified: 8 days ago

    I finished Ann Cleeves The Darkest Evening, a Vera Stanhope mystery. 3 Stars. I think (hope) she's now finished with the Stanhope character.

    I'm enjoying something with a local-to-Illinois angle about a trusted city comptroler in a small town who embezzles millions over many years. The Chicago author, Emily Grey Tedrowe, lifted the idea from a notorious real-life embezzler in the state, who is now doing time after bilking her town for $54 million to support her addiction to horse breeding. In the book, the thief is a single woman supporting an art collecting/buying/selling addiction populated with *mahvelous* nasty people, at home and abroad. Tredlowe also has a tie to my town's Ragdale foundation -- a sanctuary supporting authors and artists.

    Four stars for the believable character of a brilliant, lonely, motherless small town gal who grew up needing to fashion a livelihood for herself and her loving but hapless father.

    Oh, you want the name of the book! It's The Talented Miss Farwell. There's a little 'lull' early on, but then it picks up as the suspense -- and the debt -- mount. The title is a nod to the cons depicted in The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. (Loved the movie!)

  • Bestyears
    8 days ago

    nutsaboutplants -I find I often like the same books you do, so I downloaded Behold the Dreamers last night, and am really enjoying it. I was also able to download the author's second book, How Beautiful We Were, from our library, Thank you!

  • Olychick
    8 days ago

    I finished Vinegar Girl by Ann Tyler this morning. I think I heard about it here and it's been on my library list for a while. It's part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death (a few years ago). The Hogarth series pairs modern authors to rewrite Shakespeare's works into a more contemporary adaptation.
    Vinegar Girl is a rewrite of The Taming of the Shrew. The last time I saw Taming of the Shrew, I was so disturbed by it that I swore I'd never watch it again, so I was interested in this modern adaptation. It wasn't anything earth shattering, but was an enjoyable read.

  • socks
    8 days ago
    last modified: 8 days ago

    The Huntress by Kate Quinn (also wrote The Alice Network). I'm 3/4 of the way through and would give it 4.5 stars. It's over 500 pages, and I usually don't choose books that long because I am a slow reader, but this one keeps me turning the pages.

    @nutsaboutplants Like you I've often thought about how to grade books (like it's so important, right?? lol). If I read some lightweight piece of fluff but liked it, should I give it a 5? Then what for Grapes of Wrath? A 5 as well?

  • nutsaboutplants
    8 days ago

    Bestyears, I’ve found your recommendations very similar to mine too. Funny how these things are so peculiarly individual and yet we find someone we don’t know in real life with the same quirks!

  • Kathsgrdn
    7 days ago

    Still reading two books from last month. One is at work but last few times I was there I was afraid it would make me drowsy so I didn't read. It is Roadwork, by Stephen King. It's okay, I'd give it a 3.5.

    Other book is one recommended here by someone I don't remember: Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk. Another 3.5. I'm almost done with it. It's taken me a long time to read because I only read it just before bed and usually I want to read more but can't.

  • jmck_nc
    7 days ago

    Running, I really hated every minute of Column of Fire but struggled through it because I LOVED Pillars of the Earth so much. It was such a disappointment.


    Just finished Monogamy by Sue Miller. I enjoyed it but it was not a deep book, though the topic could have been. Tried to read Nomadland but could not get into it. Maybe another time.


    I am in a "heavy" period of life right now so I'm looking for light, entertaining books or page turners that take my mind off other stuff.

  • Kathsgrdn
    7 days ago

    Jmck_nc, I really want to see the Nomadland movie. I didn't know it was a book. It's playing in the city shortly but I don't feel like driving there.

  • nutsaboutplants
    7 days ago

    Salonva, thanks for the The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy recommendation. Started it this afternoon. Enjoying it thus far.

  • nutsaboutplants
    7 days ago
    last modified: 7 days ago

    Jmck, I too didn’t care for Monogamy much. Nothing against the author or the particular book, just that personal dramas with little wider perspective or significance just tire me.

  • skibby (zone 4 Vermont)
    7 days ago

    Kath - Nomadland is on Hulu and maybe some of the others.

  • OutsidePlaying
    7 days ago

    I was in a reading hiatus for a while and then decided to pick up Craig Johnson’s Longmire series. I think I mentioned back in March that I was slow getting started on the first one, but Annie encouraged me to stick with it and she was right on. i have really enjoyed the humor, the weaving of Native American lore into the stories, and the vivid descriptions of Wyoming which we have visited several times. I have finished the first 6 and ready to start a new one, but I may take a small break and read something else. Undecided as it’s hard to figure out what I want to read.

  • sephia_wa
    7 days ago
    last modified: 7 days ago

    I've just started American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins for my book club. Oh my goodness, such a page turner. It was one of Oprah's book club picks for 2020 and a #1 New York Times bestseller. It's really good.

  • Annie Deighnaugh
    Original Author
    6 days ago

    For book club, read The Beauty in Breaking: A Memoir. It was an easy and interesting read...read it in one day. She's a doctor and tries to interweave stories of her patients with learnings in her own life. However, I found it lacked something...maybe that she's so young, she still has lots of wisdom to gain...and her bottom lines were very "zen", and if you're at all familiar with that kind of thinking, it was almost trite. I'd give it 3.5 stars. I think if she wrote it 20 years from now, it'd have a lot more meat.

  • salonva
    3 days ago
    last modified: 3 days ago

    I finished Ask Again Yes yesterday, for one of my book clubs. It is described as a family drama. It takes place in NYC area. Having grown up there, I enjoyed lots of the references and descriptions but can imagine that for most these would just be glossed over .

    I don't usually comment on the writing, but I thought it was kind of weak and although an "easy" read and good enough story, I was happy to finish it. :) I think it will be a good discussion for book club and I rated it 3 stars. (It gets much better ratings on amazon and goodreads).

    My next book for book club is The Island of Sea Women (Lisa See). I have seen it highly recommended and hopefully I will feel the same.

  • jojoco
    3 days ago
    last modified: 3 days ago

    I just finished “The Nest” by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. It was really good. It’s about four adult siblings who grew up in Nyc and are not-so-patiently waiting for their trust fund (“the nest”), to be released. But they are all hot messes to a degree. Great characters and the sense that this book really isn’t about money.

    I just started “Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR” by Lisa Napoli. I don’t usually reach for nonfiction, but I’m a huge fan of NPR so I wanted to read it. I’m very much enjoying it so far.


  • Bestyears
    3 days ago

    I just finished Margreet's Harbor, by Eleanor Morse, and loved it. But if you are one of those people who find yourself saying, "But nothing happens...." this won't be the book for you. I find that rich, interesting characters alone keep me intrigued, and this book does a great job in that area. But of course, there is a plot, set against the backdrop of the sixties and America's involvement with the Vietnam war. Margreet is the aging mother/mother-in-law of the two main characters, who come to live with her in Maine, (along with their young children), after she begins to show signs of forgetfulness and nearly burns down her house. The book covers a decade or so, and covers all the usual things that happen in raising a family, settling into a new area, etc. I found Margreet to be one of the very best, realistic, unsentimental but loving portraits of an older person in any novel I've read.

  • roxanna7
    3 days ago

    I'm halfway through The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray, and am loving it to the point that I have stopped several times to look things up online about the real people and events of the book. Fascinating. Three time periods, very well researched, bringing the character-based story to life. At over 500 pages, I doubt it would be a good club choice. I wasn't in the mood for a historical type book, but am so glad I persevered! Highly recommend.

  • Bunny
    3 days ago

    @salonva Thank you so much for recommending The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy. It was a joy and I couldn't put it down. I didn't see the twist at the end coming and it made me love the book even more.

    I read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry three years ago and I didn't love it. I put off reading Queenie because I thought it would just be more along the same lines, but it really wasn't at all. I'm still thinking of her sea garden and the life she lived after relocating the last time.

  • kkay_md
    3 days ago

    I'm reading/listening to too many things right now. Hamilton (the biography) by Ron Chernow (audio book); Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen; Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver; and on the runway are What Comes After Joanne Tompkins, and Who Is Maude Dixon by Alexandra Andrews. I just finished Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu (kind of experimental fiction/satire, I'd say)—thought-provoking.

  • chisue
    2 days ago
    last modified: 2 days ago

    jojoco -- DH and I both enjoyed The Nest, I more than he. Loved seeing these cases of arrested development 'grow up'...well, in come cases, make a conscious decision to be adolescent forever.

    Bestyears -- I'm putting Margreet's Harbor on my list. Sounds like it's a harbor in more than one sense.

    I've just returned from post-Civil War Newport, RI, transported along with detective Charles Lenox, traveling under the all-encompasing diplomatic orders of the Queen's Great Seal. He (and I) investigate the death of a beautiful 19-year-old, belle of that season's ball, murdered and thrown onto the beach from Cliff Walk. (Mrs. Astor has a ball, too, of course. My dears, the *opulence*!) Charles Finch takes us along in An Extravant Death. I think readers will like the musings of late-wedded and new father, Detective Lenox.

    I'm starting The Paris Library, Janet Skeslien Charles. Notes say we'll visit Paris 1939 and Montana 1963. DH already read this and recommends it. The jacket has an endorsement from the Parisian author of Sarah's Key, Tatiana de Rosnay.

  • Ded tired
    2 days ago
    last modified: 2 days ago

    Salonva, my book club is also reading Ask Again, Yes this month. Haven’t started it yet. Last month we read Interior Chinatown and we didn’t like it so much although it generated a good discussion on thenAsian American experience.

    Right now I am reading The Raft of Stars by Andrew Graff. Lots of interesting characters and insights into their lives and struggles. It is the story of two boys who run away thinking they have committed a crime. Reminds me of Stand By Me. It’s good.

  • roxanna7
    2 days ago

    ^^^I loved The Raft of Stars!

  • Kathsgrdn
    2 days ago

    Started The Dressmaker's Dowry by Meredith Jaeger this afternoon while waiting for my car get an oil change. So far it's okay.

  • hhireno
    2 days ago

    i just learned about bookshop dot org. I don’t have any connection to them, and I can’t vouch for them but I am very intrigued by the idea.

    From their site:

    Bookshop is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores.

    We believe that bookstores are essential to a healthy culture. They’re where authors can connect with readers, where we discover new writers, where children get hooked on the thrill of reading that can last a lifetime. They’re also anchors for our downtowns and communities.

    As more and more people buy their books online, we wanted to create an easy, convenient way for you to get your books and support bookstores at the same time.

    If you want to find a specific local bookstore to support, find them on our map and they’ll receive the full profit off your order. Otherwise, your order will contribute to an earnings pool that will be evenly distributed among independent bookstores (even those that don’t use Bookshop).

    I don’t buy many books, I’m a library user, but I just placed an order for books for my Mum. I thought other readers may find the site interesting.

  • Alisande
    2 days ago

    I disliked As Again, Yes. I even disliked the title. :-) One of the first rules of writing is to show, not tell, but all this author did was tell. One long, interminable telling. Very little actually happened. I'm a native New Yorker, but that angle carried my interest only so far. I gave up about 80% of the way through. I'm surprised I read that much. Ded Tired, I'll be interested to learn what your book club thought of it.

    I'm still reading Robin, a biography of Robin Williams by Dave Itzkoff. It's well done, but my progress has been slow because I've been distracted by other things. Last night I finished my bedtime book, one of the "In Death" series of books by J.D. Robb. I find most of them entertaining.

    I'm looking forward to reading Hid From Our Eyes, the latest (#9) in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery series by Julia Spencer-Fleming, which I just ordered. I like the others in the series a lot, and when I finished #8 I wondered how the author was going to write her way out of it.

    I don't know what constitutes a good book club book because I've never joined a book club. They sound like fun though.

  • Ded tired
    2 days ago

    Alisande, uh oh. My book club seems to pick a lot of duds. It’s a very casual group so a lot of it is about socializing.

  • Alisande
    yesterday

    Ded Tired, I suppose it could go either way. It has a lot of good reviews on Amazon, and Salonva said it would be a good discussion for book club. I would enjoy a book club that's largely about socializing!

  • salonva
    yesterday

    Well, my book club for Ask Again, Yes meets at the end of May so I will definitely let you know what the reaction is. For me, I am a bit curious how this book seems to be getting so much notice. I do think there is a lot to discuss and I did finish it so there's that. :) Just for sure this was not close to one of the best. , As someone who rarely mentions writing, I felt that writing was not the strong point.

  • ci_lantro
    15 hours ago

    Italy from Napoleon to Mussolini by Rene` Albrect -Carrie`.

  • Kswl 2
    12 hours ago

    I’m reading Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, by Chip and Dan Heath. It’s fascinating!

  • 4kids4us
    6 hours ago

    It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I haven’t been reading as much as usual.


    Infinite Country by Patricia Engel. A short novel about the plight of an undocumented family from Colombia living in the U.S. At one point, the husband ends up back in Colombia, and later one of their children returns to Colombia. It provides an interesting perspective about the many issues facing families with mixed status. 4 stars.


    Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi. This novel follows the life of a young Afghan girl born into privilege whose family ends up being assassinated during the Saur Revolution in the 1970s. Though parts are beautifully written, some of it seems too farfetched. It was a long book and could have used better editing in terms of its storyline. Some unnecessary content that did not add to the plot. 3 stars.


    I’m currently reading You Don't Belong Here: How Three Women Rewrote the Story of War written by journalist Elizabeth Becker. True story about three groundbreaking female journalists (one is a photojournalists) who document the Vietnam War at a time when women had never had access to combat situations before. I’m only about 15% into the book, but it is very interesting so far.

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