Monday, September 28, 2020
Sunday, September 27, 2020
Planning: On finishing up my latest project (my brother-in-law gave me some old, old kitchen drawers that I'm turning into wall hangings for one of the guest rooms which I'll change out seasonally) and continuing my work on sorting the things I've saved over the years for the scrapbooks that never happened. The goal is to get all of the mementos paperwork into that cabinet and out of the dozen or so boxes that it's currently in. It's a lovely trip down memory lane as I go!
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Published September 2020 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review
Everything changes in a single moment for Dawn Edelstein. She's on a plane when the flight attendant makes an announcement: prepare for a crash landing. She braces herself as thoughts flash through her mind. The shocking thing is, the thoughts are not of her husband, but a man she last saw fifteen years ago: Wyatt Armstrong.
Dawn, miraculously, survives the crash, but so do all the doubts that have suddenly been raised. She has led a good life. Back in Boston, there is her husband, Brian, her beloved daughter, and her work as a death doula, where she helps ease the transition between life and death for patients in hospice.
But somewhere in Egypt is Wyatt Armstrong, who works as an archaeologist unearthing ancient burial sites, a job she once studied for, but was forced to abandon when life suddenly intervened. And now, when it seems that fate is offering her second chances, she is not as sure of the choice she once made.
After the crash landing, the airline ensures the survivors are seen by a doctor, then offers transportation wherever they want to go. The obvious option for Dawn is to continue down the path she is on and go home to her family. The other is to return to the archaeological site she left years before, reconnect with Wyatt and their unresolved history, and maybe even complete her research on The Book of Two Ways--the first known map of the afterlife.
As the story unfolds, Dawn's two possible futures unspool side by side, as do the secrets and doubts long buried beside them. Dawn must confront the questions she's never truly asked: What does a life well-lived look like? When we leave this earth, what do we leave behind? Do we make choices...or do our choices make us? And who would you be, if you hadn't turned out to be the person you are right now?
You might recall that not long ago I finally read my first Jodi Picoult book. Two things had put me off before that: the snobbish idea that good books cannot be written as fast as Picoult writes books and the idea that her books seem to always be about the latest "big" controversy. I still don't know that you could write the great American novel in a year but Picoult proved to me that you can write a book that will engross and entertain readers that quickly. And that if you can write well about whatever the latest big topic is, then it's good to write about those things in a way that will make people think about them. So we come to this book, which I was eager to read when it was offered to me. It is most decidedly not about the latest talking point. In fact, it is about two of the oldest subjects: love and death.
Having not long ago read God, Graves, and Scholars, it was interesting for me to find myself back in Egypt, uncovering the mysteries of ancient burials. According to Wikipedia, "The Book of Two Ways is a precursor to the New Kingdom books of the underworld as well as the Book of the Dead, in which descriptions of the routes through the afterlife are a persistent theme. The two ways depicted are the land and water routes, separated by a lake of fire, that lead to Rostau and the abode of Osiris." Taking that as her starting point, Picoult has tied ancient superstitions with physic's theory of a multiverse. As explained by Brian, in the book, the idea is that every action has multiple outcomes and that each of them exists in a different universe.
Picoult has structured her book so that I was never quite sure where in time I was or if I were reading two possible different outcomes which, instead of finding confusing, I found really intriguing. In her current life, Water/Boston, Dawn is a death doula, wife, and mother; in her past, Land/Egypt, she is a graduate student on the cusp of a major archaeological discovery and passionately in love with a fellow student. In both locations, Picoult spends a lot of time sharing with readers what she has learned about hospice work, quantum physics, and Egyptology. A lot. It was certainly interesting, and Picoult has done an incredible amount of research, but it often distracted from Dawn's story.
Speaking of Dawn's story: you know the old trope where our two leads hate each other in the beginning and then end up falling in love? Yeah, that's Dawn and Wyatt. Unfortunately, that story's grown old for me and I have a hard time buying the idea that the guy that was a jerk in the beginning turns out to be Mr. Wonderful. Which is a problem here - we have to believe that Wyatt was so incredible that Dawn never fell out of love with him and I never entirely bought that.
And yet...despite that fact that I felt like Picoult took a couple of story lines too far and that some of the plotting was predictable...I liked this book, to a large extent, I think, because I liked the structure and the idea of wondering what might have happened if. I appreciated that Picoult doesn't make either of the men in Dawn's life less than the other; both have their flaws but plenty of reasons for Dawn to be love them. Which makes the ending of the book unknown to readers and I really liked the way that Picoult left things open in the end. For fans of Picoult, I think you'll enjoy this one.
Monday, September 21, 2020
Sunday, September 20, 2020
Last Week I:
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Read by Julia Whelan
Published November 2015 by Crown Publishing Group
Source: audiobook checked out from my local library
Publisher's Summary: A canny young woman is struggling to survive by perpetrating various levels of mostly harmless fraud. On a rainy April morning, she is reading auras at Spiritual Palms when Susan Burke walks in. A keen observer of human behavior, our unnamed narrator immediately diagnoses beautiful, rich Susan as an unhappy woman eager to give her lovely life a drama injection. However, when the "psychic" visits the eerie Victorian home that has been the source of Susan’s terror and grief, she realizes she may not have to pretend to believe in ghosts anymore. Miles, Susan’s teenage stepson, doesn’t help matters with his disturbing manner and grisly imagination. The three are soon locked in a chilling battle to discover where the evil truly lurks and what, if anything, can be done to escape it. “The Grownup,” which originally appeared as “What Do You Do?” in George R. R. Martin’s Rogues anthology, proves once again that Gillian Flynn is one of the world’s most original and skilled voices in fiction.
Monday, September 14, 2020
The Mirage Factory: Illusion, Imagination, and The Invention of Los Angeles by Gary Krist
Published May 2018 by Crown Publishing Group
Source: checked out from my local library
Little more than a century ago, the southern coast of California—bone-dry, harbor-less, isolated by deserts and mountain ranges—seemed destined to remain scrappy farmland. Then, as if overnight, one of the world’s iconic cities emerged. At the heart of Los Angeles’ meteoric rise were three flawed visionaries: William Mulholland, an immigrant ditch-digger turned self-taught engineer, designed the massive aqueduct that would make urban life here possible. D.W. Griffith, who transformed the motion picture from a vaudeville-house novelty into a cornerstone of American culture, gave L.A. its signature industry. And Aimee Semple McPherson, a charismatic evangelist who founded a religion, cemented the city’s identity as a center for spiritual exploration.
All were masters of their craft, but also illusionists, of a kind. The images they conjured up—of a blossoming city in the desert, of a factory of celluloid dreamworks, of a community of seekers finding personal salvation under the California sun—were like mirages liable to evaporate on closer inspection. All three would pay a steep price to realize these dreams, in a crescendo of hubris, scandal, and catastrophic failure of design that threatened to topple each of their personal empires. Yet when the dust settled, the mirage that was LA remained.
My Thoughts: The more nonfiction I read, the more I find that I'm a gal of many interests I didn't even know I had. Thank heavens for people who can convince me to take a chance on a subject like the rise of Los Angeles, a place I've never even been.
Krist's book focuses on how three people changed the course of history for Los Angeles. They are all three people I knew of but I had no real idea the impact they had on the growth of Los Angeles from a place that should have remained a remote town to the second-largest city in the U.S. Krist covers the period from 1900 - 1930 and moves the book between these three players. Each of their stories and each of their industries would make for great reading, especially in the hands for a storyteller as good as Krist. That they all came about as part of the growth of Los Angeles makes for a fascinating read.
As Krist moved back and forth between the three industries - movies, water, and religion - I kept thinking that the one I was reading about was the most interesting. Which wasn't altogether surprising when I was reading about the movie industry; I knew a fair amount about it and have always found it interesting. And religion? It certainly can be interesting. But water and engineering? How in the world did Krist manage to make me interested in that? Well, there were intrigues, land battles, ruined friendships, and a major disaster, so there's that. But Krist also makes it about the players and the David and Goliath aspect of it all.
Perhaps part of what made this book so compelling was that, while it was historical, it was also incredibly timely. The battle between urban and rural, the machinations of the media, the impact of technology, race, corruption, and the influence of big money on politics, religion, and the movie industry are every bit as relevant today as they were in the 1920's.
The Mirage Factory is clearly meticulously researched but it hardly even feels like nonfiction and it certainly doesn't feel like Krist is trying to force facts into the narrative, as so many writers do. Krist also wrote City of Scoundrels, a book I've had on my Nook for a long time; somewhere along the way someone had convinced me that a book about the rebirth of another city, Chicago, was worth reading. As much as I enjoyed this book, I'm really looking forward to finding time for that one soon.
Sunday, September 13, 2020
Last Week I:
Thursday, September 10, 2020
You all know how much I love and fiercely hang on to summer. So even though it's September now, I'm not above looking forward to next summer just as summer 2020 has come to a close.
#TheNewcomer #coverreveal #summerneverendswithmka #tandemliterary
SYNOPSIS: Letty can't forget her sister Tara's insistence: “if anything bad ever happens to me, it's Eli. Promise me you'll take Maya and run. Promise me.” With Tara found dead in her glamorous New York City townhome, Letty Carnahan is on the run with her four-year-old niece, Maya, in tow. Tara left behind one clue—a faded magazine story about a sleepy mom-and-pop motel on Florida's Gulf Coast. So, Letty and Maya find themselves at The Murmuring Surf—the suspicious newcomers amidst a quarrelsome group of snowbird regulars. As Letty tries to settle into her new life and heal Maya's trauma, she's preoccupied as her late sister's troubled past and connection to the motel are revealed. And then there’s that attractive detective and his unwelcome advances. Will he betray Letty’s confidence, or is he her next shot at love?
Tuesday, September 8, 2020
Read by Cherise Booth, Michael Early, Kevin R. Free, Korey Jackson, Susan Spain
Published August 2016 by Scribner
Source: audiobook checked out from my local library
In light of recent tragedies and widespread protests across the nation, The Progressive magazine republished one of its most famous pieces: James Baldwin’s 1962 “Letter to My Nephew,” which was later published in his landmark book, The Fire Next Time. Addressing his fifteen-year-old namesake on the one hundredth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Baldwin wrote: “You know and I know, that the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too soon.”
Award-winning author Jesmyn Ward knows that Baldwin’s words ring as true as ever today. In response, she has gathered short essays, memoir, and a few essential poems to engage the question of race in the United States. And she has turned to some of her generation’s most original thinkers and writers to give voice to their concerns.
The Fire This Time is divided into three parts that shine a light on the darkest corners of our history, wrestle with our current predicament, and envision a better future. Of the eighteen pieces, ten were written specifically for this volume.
In the fifty-odd years since Baldwin’s essay was published, entire generations have dared everything and made significant progress. But the idea that we are living in the post-Civil Rights era, that we are a “post-racial” society is an inaccurate and harmful reflection of a truth the country must confront. Baldwin’s “fire next time” is now upon us, and it needs to be talked about.
Contributors include Carol Anderson, Jericho Brown, Garnette Cadogan, Edwidge Danticat, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Mitchell S. Jackson, Honoree Jeffers, Kima Jones, Kiese Laymon, Daniel Jose Older, Emily Raboteau, Claudia Rankine, Clint Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Wendy S. Walters, Isabel Wilkerson, and Kevin Young.
Jesmyn Ward kicks off this book with a startling recollection from a visit she and some high school classmates made to the office of Trent Lott, then one of her state’s senators, in Washington.
“Trent Lott took a whip as long as a car off his office table, where it lay coiled and shiny brown, and said to my one male schoolmate who grinned at Lott enthusiastically: Let’s show ‘em how us good old boys do it. And then he swung that whip through the air and cracked it above our heads, again and again. I remember the experience in my bones.”
Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah perhaps says it best, “If I knew anything about being black in America, it was that nothing was guaranteed.” Again and again, the names Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Abner Louima, and those killed at Charleston’s Emanuel Church are invoked as a reminder of this. But Ward also wants to remind us, “We are writing an epic, wherein black lives carry worth.” How sad that we need to be reminded.
The authors of these pieces want us to understand both points. Claudia Rankine writes about being the mother of black sons; Garnette Cadogan writes about how different walking as a black man was when he moved from Jamaica to New Orleans, where he suddenly was perceived by some as being a danger; Mitchell S. Jackson reflects on the father figures in his life, good and bad; Ghansah writes about being the first person of color working for an employer; and Edwidge Danticat writes about needing to have two conversations with her daughters to explain “why we’re here” and “why it’s not always a promised land for people who look like us.
The reading for this book is excellent; but, in listening to it, I did this book a disservice. If you were, say, sitting on your patio listening to a book while relaxing, sure, it would be great. But if you are listening to this book while you are doing other things (which I was), it will not have the impact it almost certainly would have had if you had picked it up and read it in print. I wish I had done that. I’ve had to go back and re-listen to a number of passages before I could write this review and it has made all the difference. This book deserved my full attention.
Sunday, September 6, 2020
|Those blue legs will give you an idea of |
where this piece started.
Planning: On finishing up this table I've been working on all week (today it will get its final finish), finishing the paperwork project I started a couple of weeks ago, and, hopefully, talking BG into cleaning out the garage. This time I'm really hoping to talk him into getting rid of a lot of stuff that's making it hard to even find things out there.
Wednesday, September 2, 2020
Published August 2015 by Gallery/Scout Press
Source: bought my copy ??? years ago
What should be a cozy and fun-filled weekend deep in the English countryside takes a sinister turn in Ruth Ware’s suspenseful, compulsive, and darkly twisted psychological thriller.
Leonora, known to some as Lee and others as Nora, is a reclusive crime writer, unwilling to leave her “nest” of an apartment unless it is absolutely necessary. When a friend she hasn’t seen or spoken to in years unexpectedly invites Nora (Lee?) to a weekend away in an eerie glass house deep in the English countryside, she reluctantly agrees to make the trip. Forty-eight hours later, she wakes up in a hospital bed injured but alive, with the knowledge that someone is dead. Wondering not “what happened?” but “what have I done?”, Nora (Lee?) tries to piece together the events of the past weekend. Working to uncover secrets, reveal motives, and find answers, Nora (Lee?) must revisit parts of herself that she would much rather leave buried where they belong: in the past.
I feel like this book came out long before 2015. Ware has, after all, written four books since then with a fifth coming out soon. And it feels like I’ve been wanting to read it for ages. But, as I so often tell you, it’s been languishing on the shelves…yadda yadda yadda.
Then a couple of weeks ago, when I was about ready for another book in print, and not quite feeling like picking up either of the big books I’ve checked out from the library, Ti (Book Chatter) said that she was reading this one and ended up really enjoying it. So I decided it was time for this one. I’m a fan of Ware’s, having read and enjoyed her The Turn of The Key, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, and The Woman In Cabin 10 so I figured this one was a safe bet, particularly since so many people had told me it was her best work. Those people were right.
Yes, yes, the unreliable narrator is getting to be standard character but here Ware gives us an unreliable narrator who considers herself every bit as unreliable as she does to us. She’s lost her memory of some key time periods and begins to wonder if the police might not be right about what has happened, of her own sense of what she is capable of is off. Exactly who is she? Is she still Lee? Is she Nora? Ware moves back and forth between Nora in the hospital gradually realizing that she is a suspect in a death but initially not even sure who has died.