Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

by Fredrik Backman
Read by Marin Ireland
13 hours, 11 minutes
Published April 2017 by Atria Books

Publisher's Summary: 
People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

My Thoughts: 
I am almost certain that I read the summary of this book before I started listening to it; and, yet, there is a line in that summary thought should have caught my eye and given me a clue as to what might be coming at a certain point in the book. It didn't. Which made this book veer into territory I did not see coming at all which made it a much tougher book to read. And which has me debating as to whether or not I should tell you so that you can be forewarned. I'll think about that as I type on. 

I never cease to be amazed by how great Fredrik Backman is at creating interesting and unique characters to populate his books. Here he is playing with a large cast and yet every one of the characters stands on his or her own and Backman is able to make readers understand, if not sympathize, with each of them. These are people you've met, in situations you know, even if hockey's never been your thing. Backman is Swedish and I understood that the book was set in Sweden, but this is a book that could have been set anywhere, in any town where a sport is the life blood of the community, in any small town that is slowly dying. 

While I've never been much a fan of hockey, I have lived my entire life in a state obsessed with football, a state where people are growing more and more obsessed with volleyball. I can understand how a town's entire focus, entire hope for the future, relies on the success of its sports team. How the boosters can rule the decisions of a team. How the hometown hero, returned home from glory, falls from grace. I know parents like Peter and Kira, young girls who have been through what Maya goes through, young men who are idolized in the way that Kevin is, young people who struggle in the way the Benji does, and relationships which are tested in the ways they are in this book. In other words, even though I don't know hockey, I do know the people in this book and what they go through.

I cannot recommend the audiobook version of this book highly enough. Marin Ireland is amazing; her ability to voice the wide range of characters is astonishing. Even more astonishing is her ability to channel the emotions of the book. I wish I could "read" the next installment of the Beartown series in audio; but it won't be available for months and I don't want to wait that long. I have already requested the third book in audio, though. 

Some things you should know about Fredrik Backman: 
  • He's only 41 years old yet writes like a man who has already lived a lifetime. 
  • He appears to have lived his entire life in Sweden yet writes like a man who has studied the world and understands that certain things are universal.
  • He's a man. Yes, I know that seems obvious. Until you read his books, particularly this one.  
And here's where I decide that I need to give you that trigger warning I talked about earlier. Fifteen-year-old Maya is raped (I pondered softening that to sexually assaulted but why not call it what it is?). It's not uncommon in a book. What is uncommon is the level of understanding and compassion that Backman exhibits. I couldn't help but wonder if he didn't love someone who had experienced rape; it's so rare to read about the aftermath in such a realistic and honest way, even by female writers. Perhaps it will make it easier for those who have never experienced rape in their lives understand it better; perhaps it makes it even harder for those who have suffered it to read this book. For someone who has had to deal with the aftermath of rape, reading this book brought it all back so vividly. But it was also a comfort to know that there are people out there who understand, made all the more amazing to know that a man can put it into words that are so understanding. 

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Life: It Goes On - January 29

Happy Sunday from sunny, but very cold, Omaha! We've got a couple of very cold days ahead of us and then we bounce back up into the 30's, which will feel warm by comparison. Which will probably mean that I'll see teenaged boys out and about in shorts and hoodies by the end of the week because when you live where it could be winter for five months, the 30's classify as warm weather. 

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: I started Claire Lombardo's The Most Fun We Ever Had and am enjoying it so far. But it's long (20+ hours) and I fear that it's going to struggle to maintain my interest and appreciation for that long. 

Watched: January has been a good time to break out of the rut of just finding something on the usual channels to watch and we've been doing much better about switching over to a streaming service to find things to watch. We've watched more of Wednesday and are both really enjoying it; watched more of Grace and Frankie, which still makes me laugh out loud; and I've almost finished the first season of Emily in Paris, which is just a fun, sherbet kind of show to watch. 

Read: I'm bouncing between Jodi Piccoult's Mad Honey and Nina Totenberg's Dinners With Ruth (which I'm determined to finish, although I must admit it's not what I expected and has turned into more work than I expected). 

Made: Hamburger soup which we ate for three nights. Because I'm still incapable of making things in portions for only two people and don't think to freeze portions until I'm so tired of something that I can't bear to think of pulling it out of the freezer some time in the future. 

 Two things this week. Tuesday we joined friends to go see The Fabelmans, which has some very impressive performances. Last night I took The Big Guy out to celebrate his birthday. I didn't buy him a present this year; I told him that I was giving him the experience of an exceptional meal and to order whatever he wanted. Which we did and we had the bill to prove it. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: After working with Miss H last weekend to purge her things, I've kept the ball rolling this past week, mostly in small ways. This week I'm planning to continue that, with the idea that by the time 40 Bags in 40 Days rolls around, I'm essentially down to nothing left to work on except the basement. 

Thinking About: Whether or not this blog has run its course. I'm not reading as much as I once did and I don't want to feel like I have to read just to have something to post. And then I'm not getting reviews written and not having fun writing them, like I once did. I feel like I, not that long ago, pledged to redevote myself to blogging, though, so maybe this is just my mood in the depths of winter. 

Feeling: Tired. Which I'm certain has been made worse by the fact that I'm now checking my sleep on my watch and discovering that what I thought was seven hours of sleep a night is actually closer to six hours of sleep. Which means I probably need to go to bed an hour earlier or into work an hour later. Or drink less caffeine during the day. None of these options appeals to me! 

Looking forward to: Dinner with two of BG's siblings, and their spouses, to celebrate the siblings' birthday, all of which fall within a 30 day window. 

Question of the week: What are your best tips for surviving winter?

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

Funny Girl
by Nick Hornby
10 hours, 19 minutes
Read by Emma Fielding
Published February 2015 by Penguin Publishing Group

Publisher's Summary: 
This is what was on bn.com: 

Set in 1960's London, Funny Girl is a lively account of the adventures of the intrepid young Sophie Straw as she navigates her transformation from provincial ingénue to television starlet amid a constellation of delightful characters. Insightful and humorous, Nick Hornby's latest does what he does best: endears us to a cast of characters who are funny if flawed, and forces us to examine ourselves in the process.

This is what was on Goodreads: 

Make them laugh, and they're yours forever . . . 

Barbara Parker is Miss Blackpool of 1964, but she doesn't want to be a beauty queen. She wants to make people laugh. So she leaves her hometown behind, takes herself to London, and overnight she becomes the lead in a new BBC comedy, Sophie Straw: charming, gorgeous, destined to win the nation's hearts.

My Thoughts: 
I've loved the movies that have been adapted from Hornby's novels but it's been tough to go back to the source material. So I decided to pick up one of Hornby's books that hasn't been made into a movie yet so I could read his work without comparing it to the movie. As it turns out, the book has been made into a movie, which will be released in Great Britain next month. Sometime after that, I suppose, I'll be watching it here, making the reverse comparison. 

Barbara longs to become the next Lucille Ball but when she lands an agent in London, he doesn't take her seriously. He's looking to make her a sexy girl on calendars and such and, when she pushes for acting jobs, he only sends her out to auditions that she's unlikely to land. So when she shows up to audition for a television show, neither he nor she is expecting much. With that thought in her head, Barbara (now Sophie) decides she's got nothing to lose and gives the writers her honest opinion of their pilot. 

They are charmed and, along with the producer, push to create the kind of show that will launch her career (and theirs, of course). She charms the nation and the show's a big hit. But, as shows that become mega hits do, there's only one direction to go from there. During that time, we become in involved in Sophie's life as well as the lives of writers (Tony and Bill), producer Dennis, and co-star Clive. Eventually, we jump forward twenty-five years, when all of those involved have died or died out, left only with the faint glow of that former glory.

I couldn't quite put my finger onto where this book fell short for me. One thing I did know right away was that the title is misleading, for several reasons. It implies, that this is a book about Sophie; but there are great swathes where Sophie entirely disappears. In fact, she may have the least interesting of all the lives we read about in the book. And then there's the question as to whether or not she's actually funny. Hornby tells us she is. But we never really see it. Much of what causes the writers and producer to want her for the part is her northern England way of speaking, her brutal honesty, her naïveté. But that doesn't make her funny and we never really get to see her be funny. 

In fact, there's not a whole lot of funny in the book. There are moments and Hornby certainly takes his satirical stab at the times. But it's not what the title of the book would suggest. Could a different title have made a difference in how I felt about this book? Yes, actually. And then Hornby would have had to cut back on all of the talk about how funny Sophie is and left the focus on the ensemble cast of characters and cut back on the often jarring cuts between focus on one character and then another. Of course, my opinion matters not a whit; I'm not a published author, whose books have been made into movies. My opinion is just that - my opinion as one reader. One who just wants you to know that Funny Girl isn't all that funny. Or entirely about a girl. 

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Life: It Goes On - January 22

Happy Sunday from grey and foggy Omaha! So many grey days this month, making the long, long month of January even longer. It's been a weird week but at least it was capped off by a visit from Miss H, which is always good for my soul. We worked on going through all of the things she had stored upstairs at my house. Result: 2 big garbage bags of clothes, a dozen frames and prints, and a grocery bag of things to go to charity, plus a half a big garbage bag of actually garbage. You all know how happy that made me! Unfortunately, she had to get up super early and head south so we weren't able to get as much done as I was hoping to accomplish AND I've already had to have a nap this morning. 

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: Beartown. I'm wishing I had this in print. There are quite a lot of passages that would be highlighted if I owned a copy. I will say, this one took a turn that I did not see coming and it's making it a tough listen.

 Guys, we finally started watching Wednesday! Knocked out an episode both nights this weekend with Miss H. Also, I finished the first season of Bridgerton. Knowing that Rege-Jean Page will not be in season 2, I was pretty sad to finish season 1. And unsure how I feel about starting season 2. 

Read: I'm making slow progress through Dinners with Ruth. Can't seem to make myself pick up a book this week. I need to get back to just putting books on my to-be-read list (instead of immediately requesting them from the library) so that I can pick them up to read when my mood is right for that book. 

Made: Goulash, chocolate chip cookies, a Thai chicken recipe that Miss H found. 

Enjoyed: Thirty-six or so hours with my girl. Well, most of that time. The Big Guy decided he needed to car shop for her while she was here and it put Miss H in a foul mood for a couple of hours (especially since it didn't even end up with her in a new vehicle!). I'm always happy to have her sorting through the stuff she left behind here so that I can free up some space but that time is also time we get a good chance to talk, laugh, tease each other, and to really talk. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: Even though 40 Bags In 40 Days is still a month away, I'm on a roll with the decluttering and I'm going to keep working on that this week. I'm hoping to finish the guest rooms (slash storage rooms for the things my kids left behind). 

Thinking About: Every Sunday we turn on the tv and watch CBS Sunday Morning and then several cooking shows. And every Sunday I think I need to start cooking more. But it's hard to cook for only two people, as so many of you know. So I'm thinking that it may be time to host a party and try out some new recipes. 

Feeling: I know I just had quite a few days off of work over the holidays but those days were busy with holiday kinds of things. I'm feeling like I need a few days off of work to just putter and do the things around here that will help me feel relaxed. 

Looking forward to: Next weekend is BG's birthday so we'll celebrate that. 

Question of the week: Football's about over and I'm going to have three evenings a week of television time freed up. What shows would you recommend we start watching?

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan

Glitter and Glue
by Kelly Corrigan
240 Pages
Published February 2014 by Random House Publishing Group

Publisher's Summary:
When Kelly Corrigan was in high school, her mother neatly summarized the family dynamic as “Your father’s the glitter but I’m the glue.” This meant nothing to Kelly, who left childhood sure that her mom—with her inviolable commandments and proud stoicism—would be nothing more than background chatter for the rest of Kelly’s life, which she was carefully orienting toward adventure. After college, armed with a backpack, her personal mission statement, and a wad of traveler’s checks, she took off for Australia to see things and do things and Become Interesting.

But it didn’t turn out the way she pictured it. In a matter of months, her savings shot, she had a choice: get a job or go home. That’s how Kelly met John Tanner, a newly widowed father of two looking for a live-in nanny. They chatted for an hour, discussed timing and pay, and a week later, Kelly moved in. And there, in that house in a suburb north of Sydney, 10,000 miles from the house where she was raised, her mother’s voice was suddenly everywhere, nudging and advising, cautioning and directing, escorting her through a terrain as foreign as any she had ever trekked. Every day she spent with the Tanner kids was a day spent reconsidering her relationship with her mother, turning it over in her hands like a shell, straining to hear whatever messages might be trapped in its spiral.

This is a book about the difference between travel and life experience, stepping out and stepping up, fathers and mothers. But mostly it’s about who you admire and why, and how that changes over time.

My Thoughts: 
Glitter and Glue kicked off The Omaha Bookworms 2023 reading, for two reasons. First, it fit our theme of You Learn Something New Every Month. Secondly, it's a book that's been on my Nook for several years and this gave me a push to read something I already owned. I assumed it would be a book that would give us plenty to talk about. I hadn't anticipated how much everyone would enjoy it, including me. Here's why: 
  • Corrigan blends her life in the U.S., her time nannying in Australia and Willa Cather's My Antonia! to explore her relationship with her mother. I really enjoyed how she was able to blend the three together to form a cohesive memoir. Plus, I always give high marks when someone works in a book by a Nebraska author. 
  • The title comes from something Corrigan's mother told Corrigan: "Your father's the glitter but I'm the glue." Which really got me thinking (and then asking my book club) which of my parents was which and who played which role in my marriage. 
  • I became so emotionally attached to the people in this book, both the Tanners and the Corrigans; Corrigan did such a marvelous job of making me feel what the families felt. 
  • So many passages that I've highlighted, that really spoke to me and to which I could relate. Some I'll share here. Some I'll save and do a Book Gems post one day. 
"The living mother-daughter relationship, you learn over and over again, is a constant choice between adaptation and acceptance." 

"...a good mother is required to somehow absorb all this ugliness and find a way to fall back in love with her child the next day."  

I so often said, particularly of my challenging bookends, that it was a good thing that they fell asleep at night. It allowed me to recharge and to go in and watch them sleep, so peaceful and sweet.  

"I crack open my book, thinking about my mother and the many moments of my childhood when she tucked herself away somewhere, enjoying what she called a party for one." 

It made me think of the times when I felt I had lost control of myself and gave myself a time out in my room. I should have been more like Corrigan's mother and done that a little more often; it's essential for a mother to take some time to care for herself. 
  • This passage made me think of the times that my book club has spoken to authors and, when asked a question about their books, had them admit that they hadn't thought of the book in that way but agreed with the idea. 
"I remember a lecture from one of my lit classes about a theory called "Reader Response," which basically says: More often than not, it's the readers - not the writers - who determine what a book means. The idea is that readers don't come blank to books. Consciously and not, we bring all the biases that come with our nationality, gender, race, class, age. Then you layer onto that the status of our health, employment, relationships, not to mention our particular relationship to each book - who gave it to us, where we read it, what books we've already read."
This almost certainly accounts for much of the reason some people love a book while others hate it, why I know that sometimes I have read a book at the wrong time in my life, why I'm able to recommend a book to someone knowing they will enjoy it, even if I wasn't wow'd by it. This one I'm going to recommend to you not just because it's a book I think you might like (because all six of you reading this have your own backgrounds you're bringing to the book), but because it's a book that most women, especially mothers, will be able to relate to and take something from. 

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Life: It Goes On - January 15

Happy Sunday! Finally the sun is shining AND it's going to be warm (at least by Nebraska in January standards). Time to throw the doors and windows open for a bit and get some fresh air in this place! 

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: I finished by first book of 2023, Nick Hornby's Funny Girl. Then I've got Beartown back so I'll finish that. 

Watched: The Big Guy was out a couple of nights this week and I had the tv to myself. What to watch, what to watch? Apparently it was finally my time to jump on the Bridgerton bandwagon. Yes, yes...the bandwagon is long gone and no one is talking about the series any more but that's the way I roll. I've watched five episodes but I'm not sure I'll continue beyond season one. Let's be honest, I'm really only watching to see Rege-Jean Page and I'm told he's gone in season two, so...

Read: I'm bouncing between my book club book for January, Kelly Corrigan's Glitter and Glue, and Isaac Fitzgerald's Dirtbag, Massachusetts. However, I did just get notice that my copy of Nina Totenberg's Dinners With Ruth is due back at that library in a couple of days so I'll be setting aside Dirtbag, Massachusetts until after I read that. 

Made: Chicken and orzo soup and homemade mac and cheese. I know I made more this week but I can't for the life of me remember what. I am back to cooking at least!

Enjoyed: A quiet week with plenty of time to get things done around here, including some organizing/purging. All of which is so good for my mood.

No before pic but it 
had three layers of
paint and you could 
barely read "Matches"

This Week I’m:

Planning: On getting more organizing and purging done, finishing up my first project of the year (and then figuring out where I'm putting it because, heaven forbid I figured that out before I took the time to work on the piece!), and considering my next project. 

Thinking About: Politics. The thing that will definitely kill the buzz I get from throwing things out! 

Feeling: Relaxed. Which is perfect for a Sunday. 

Looking forward to: A friend's birthday party this afternoon and then dinner with friends. 

Question of the week: I have been friends with the couple we are having dinner with since 1979 (BG since 1974). Do you still see friends that you have known since middle school or college? 

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

The One-Hundred Foot Journey
by Richard Morris
272 pages
Published August 2011 by Scribner

Publisher's Summary: 
Born above his grandfather’s modest restaurant in Mumbai, Hassan Haji first experienced life through intoxicating whiffs of spicy fish curry, trips to the local markets, and gourmet outings with his mother. But when tragedy pushes the family out of India, they console themselves by eating their way around the world, eventually settling in Lumière, a small village in the French Alps. 

The boisterous Haji family takes Lumière by storm. They open an inexpensive Indian restaurant opposite an esteemed French relais—that of the famous chef Madame Mallory—and infuse the sleepy town with the spices of India, transforming the lives of its eccentric villagers and infuriating their celebrated neighbor. Only after Madame Mallory wages culinary war with the immigrant family, does she finally agree to mentor young Hassan, leading him to Paris, the launch of his own restaurant, and a slew of new adventures. 

The Hundred-Foot Journey is about how the hundred-foot distance between a new Indian kitchen and a traditional French one can represent the gulf between different cultures and desires. A testament to the inevitability of destiny, this is a fable for the ages—charming, endearing, and compulsively readable.

My Thoughts: 
Whoops! I was going through some book club stuff when I realized that I'd never recorded nor reviewed this book in 2022. For 2022, my theme was a book somehow related to something to do with each month. Food for November, right? Having seen the movie adaptation of this book, I thought this would make a good choice. And it did; people seemed to enjoy it. More than I did, to be honest. Probably because I'd seen the movie first and was expecting something like that in the book.

In the book, though, the protaganist of the book is not Hassan. Oh, sure, he's the guy the plot circles around. But food...the smell, the taste, the process...is the protagonist of this book. It entirely drives everything that happens here from the Haji family restaurant's humble beginning as a tiffin delivery service to Hassan's world-class restaurant in Paris. As the book progresses, food and the restaurant industry begins to take center stage, leaving the Haji family behind and Lumiere far behind. Sure, those people come up again in the book, but this is a book about how Hassan learns to trust his judgement when it comes to food and launches his career into a whole new stratosphere that is the meat of the second half of this book. 

Certainly in the movie food played a big role, but the relationships played a central role as well and Hassan's ambition was tempered by his realization of the importance of family, relationships, and his roots. I liked that. 

Still, just two months after reading this book, I read this week about the closing of what has been described as the world's best restaurant because of the changing ways of the world. It was exactly as described in this book that was written more than a decade ago. Which just goes to show you that, even in a book you don't love, there is always something to take away from the book...a little gem of writing, a memorable character, or something new to learn. And that's always a good thing in a book. 

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Life: It Goes On - January 8

Happy Sunday! I'm going to be brief today; I'm cleaning (and sterilizing) the house before my brother and sister-in-law arrive. It's been a week. The Big Guy hadn't been feeling well for five or six days so I finally convinced him to go to the doctor - adult RSV. He's finally past contagious state and (knock on wood) I managed to avoid catching it. So happy he's feeling better...and much less crabby! 

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: I'm listening to Nick Hornby's Funny Girl, which I'm really enjoying. Also, listened to Six on repeat because...well, you'll see in a bit. 

Watched: Football. I've got to tell you, what happened to Damar Hamlin had me really thinking about my love of the sport. 

Read: I hemmed; I hawed. I couldn't decide what to start the year with. And then I remembered that I have three books from the library that need to be read. So I'm now reading Dirtbag, Massachusetts: A Confessional by Isaac Fitzgerald, a book I found out about after watching Fitzgerald give his book recommendations for Christmas gifts on one of the morning "news" shows. 

Made: It's been a week of simple, basic eating for several reasons. Loaded baked potatoes, potato soup, soft shell tacos, pizza. 

 My birthday present from my dad - tickets to see Six. BG and I had dinner at one of our fave places and then went to the show. The emptiness in front of the theater? Deceiving. The show was sold out and the house was rocking by the time the show was over. It was so much fun!

This Week I’m:  

Planning: I have been the worst book club leader this past year and only just today finally got the reading list for this year put together and posted. And that's not the only place I've fallen behind in my blogging. So this week, I'm going to work on getting caught up on blogging. I used to enjoy it so much; but it's one of the things I lost my joy of doing in 2022. I'm going to get that back!

Thinking About: I was talking to a (young) coworker the other day and it occurred to me that I'm only 15 years from reaching the average life expectancy for a female in the United States. Fifteen years. That's not nearly long enough to do everything I still want to do. So there's my incentive to get back on track with my eating and to get up and move.

Feeling: A little cranky myself. I broke a tooth the other day and will need to have a crown put on. What a way to start off the year! At least that tooth already had a root canal so I don't have to pay for that and this isn't hurting. 

Looking forward to: I'm making supper at my dad's tonight. We'll be having ebelskivers, which I haven't made in far too long. 

Question of the week: Are you a fan of musical theater? If so, what's the last show you saw? 

Friday, January 6, 2023

Word Of The Year For 2023



I hadn't even given much thought to what my word of the year would be for 2023 until Friday, when I was browsing Facebook and saw that Emmanuel Acho had chosen the word "redemption" as his word of 2023.  Acho defined "redemption" as the act of regaining or gaining possession of something. That didn't immediately grab my attention as a word I might consider. It was only after I read the reason he chose that word that it clicked with me as being a word I might choose. Acho said 2022 was the hardest year of his life; and that, in 2023, he will be fighting to redeem his joy, his peace, and his full emotional health. 

That's when the bell went off for me. I lost myself in 2022. I read less, I didn't refinish or paint one piece of furniture, I didn't spend evenings on the patio I'd worked so hard to make lovely. I spent far too much time mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and Instagram. We hardly traveled. There were a lot of reasons for this, not the least of which is an almost eleven month battle with back pain. 

In 2023, I am choosing to redeem my joy, my peace, and my emotional health. 

Thursday, January 5, 2023

2022 Reading Recap


Yeah, yeah, I know most bloggers do their recaps in the final week of the year. But I never quite seem to have the time to do that. Plus, I'm usually scrambling to try to finish at least one book. So January 3 it is! 

In 2022, I finished 64 books, which is down some for me (and certainly no where near the 152 one of my book blogging friends read!). Still, considering that I felt like I was in a reading slump much of the year, that's not bad. 

And how does all of that break down? Here are some stats (although, again, nowhere near as well recorded as many of my blogging friends!): 

  • Female authors - 46, male authors - 18. This is pretty normal for me. 
  • Fiction - 50, nonfiction - 14. This might be a bit lower than my usual but kind of essential for me to back off the heavier stuff this year. 
  • 42 of the books I read this year were checked out from the library, in print, ebooks, and audiobooks. 
  • 15 of the books I read were through Netgalley, which is fewer than I often read but I was less inclined to put myself in a position where I was obligated to read books by a specific date. 
  • 12 books were recommended to me by friends this year. 
  • Only 1 book I read this year was set in Asia and only 4 in Africa. It's rare for me to have numbers that low. 
  • Genres: 9 historical fiction, 19 literary fiction, 8 women's fiction, 12 mystery/thrillers, 3 science fiction, 1 book of poetry, 4 collections of essays, 5 memoirs, 6 books that included fantasy elements, 1 epistolary novel, 4 classics, and 1 collection of short stories.
  • I read 8 books that addressed science in one way or another, 3 humorous books, 9 books that had elements of feminism, 2 books about grief, 6 books about family, 1 book about politics, and 13 books that addressed diversity. 
Usually I end the year by commenting on how I would like to read more of this kind of book or that, with scolding myself for not reading diversely enough or not reading enough classics, for simply not reading enough. I'm not going to do that this year. I read what I read and I'm going to do the same in 2023. I may, in fact, be even less deliberate about what I read and focus on reading what I'm in the mood to read. To redeem the joy of reading (more on that tomorrow!). 

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

The Surgeon's Daughter by Audrey Blake

The Surgeon's Daughter
by Audrey Blake 
Read by Susan Lyons
13 hours, 24 minutes
Published May 2022 by Sourcebooks

Publisher's Summary: 
Women's work is a matter of life and death.

Nora Beady, the only female student at a prestigious medical school in Bologna, is a rarity. In the 19th century women are expected to remain at home and raise children, so her unconventional, indelicate ambitions to become a licensed surgeon offend the men around her.

Everything changes when she allies herself with Magdalena Morenco, the sole female doctor on-staff. Together the two women develop new techniques to improve a groundbreaking surgery: the Cesarean section. It's a highly dangerous procedure and the research is grueling, but even worse is the vitriolic response from men. Most don't trust the findings of women, and many can choose to deny their wives medical care.

Already facing resistance on all sides, Nora is shaken when she meets a patient who will die without the surgery. If the procedure is successful, her work could change the world. But a failure could cost everything: precious lives, Nora's career, and the role women will be allowed to play in medicine.

My Thoughts: 
This is Blake's follow up to The Girl In His Shadow (my review here). When last we left her, Nora Beady was boarding a ship, headed for Italy to study medicine, eager to be in a place where people allowed women to become doctors. 

Unfortunately for Nora, things aren't that easy (of course). It turns out that, while women are allowed to study medicine, the men still show them no respect and make life as difficult as possible for them. Although she finally begins to make friends and allies, Nora is eager to complete her studies early and return home. But the help she receives from a mentor puts her in an even more difficult situation, leaving her more eager than ever to complete her coursework and return home to Horace Croft, the man who raised her, and Daniel, the man she loves. 

But those men are facing their own battles. Horace has always raised hackles for his unorthodox methods and has made an enemy of the head of the hospital where he does paying work. When he decides to expand his own home to create his own hospital, he finds himself deep in financial trouble, trouble he can't get himself out of because of health issues. It's left to Daniel to try to save Horace's dream, the only home Nora remembers, and his own career. 

Like the first book, this one is loaded with high drama and as the troubles mounted, I begin to tire of yet another obstacle placed in the paths of our heroes. Because, let's be honest, we know how this is going to come out in the end, even if we can't imagine how Blake will possibly get us there. Still, I enjoyed the ride, appreciated female characters who fought back against those obstacles, and reading a book that read a little bit like a 19th-century medical thriller. 

Susan Lyons is again the reader and I quite enjoy her reading and her ability to give each of the characters a unique voice. Will there be another book in the series? It's almost certain. After all, Nora and Daniel have not married yet when we end this book and there are no end to the medical situations the group of doctors running the new hospital can battle. If I'm right, it's a given that I'll pick it up. 

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Life: It Goes On - January 1

Happy New Year! How did you all celebrate the end of 2022 and the beginning of a new year? Mini-him came over and we all enjoyed a charcuterie meal (because you're allowed to do that on New Year's Eve, right?). Then the Big Guy and Mini-him and some of his friends for drinks and music. I stayed home and enjoyed the peace and quiet, started taking down Christmas, and watched the college football playoff games. BG arrived home just in time for us to pop some bubbly to celebrate the arrival of 2023 on the east coast and then finished the bottle off just as the clock chimed midnight here. 

Last Week I: 

Listened To: I finished The Surgeon's Daughter by Audrey Blake as my final book of 2022. My first audiobook of 2023 will be Nick Hornby's Funny Girl

 Friday we joined BG's brother and sister-in-law for sandwiches and watched Glass Onion: a Knives Out Mystery. I think I'm safe in speaking for all of us when I saw that it was just as much fun as the original Knives Out movie, although far more action packed. One evening I also watched The Goldfinch, but wished I hadn't bothered. 

Read: Haven't picked up a book all week. Now to decide what book will be my first read of 2023. I have a few that I've started but never finished; but I prefer to kick off a new year with a fresh start. 

Made: We used the Christmas leftovers to create several meals last week - cheesy hash browns and potato soup turned into cheesy potato soup; navy beans and ham turned into ham and bean soup; and ham got added to fresh green beans and onions to turn a veggie dish into a main dish. This week we'll start having to think about our meals again!

Enjoyed: A short work week and another long weekend.

This Week I’m:  

Planning: On working on my 2023 planner. 

Thinking About: My word of the year for 2023. I'll be posting that later this week. 

Feeling: Happy to have Christmas down and put away so I can spend tomorrow reading and journaling. 

Looking forward to: I think we're going to get to see my brother and his wife this weekend, for at least a bit, as they travel to a wedding. 

Question of the week: Do you create resolutions for the new year or pick a word of the year?