02 October 2017

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: Good Books, Not So Good Books

3 Books for OctoberFall? Summer? Fall? Summer? ARGHHHH. Please just make up your mind and I'll be able to cope. One day I'm making soup and baking bread, and the next day I'm sitting in the sun in a T-shirt reading a book. I want fall, and I want normal falling temperatures.

Rant over. Sorry. Nothing too much new this week. I've been cooking and baking out of new cookbooks and am looking forward to sharing my opinions in future Weekend Cooking posts.

Meanwhile, I work, I walk, I read. Life is good (despite the weird weather).

What I Read Last Week

Review: We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi CoatesWe Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates (One World, Oct. 3): I thought I knew things. I thought I was well read. I thought my friends had bared their souls. I thought I had an inkling, being both a woman and a born into a discriminated-against religion. In truth, I knew little about the what it means to be black in America. The eight essays included in Coates's new book have been published before but are made new again through his foreword and epilogue, through his introductions to each piece, and via our collective hindsight since Barack Obama left the White House. I've come to the quite reasonable conclusion that pretty much everything in the United States is about race, particularly about issues surrounding black Americans, although other people of color, women, and non-Christians can relate to much of what Coates writes about. Still, the full range of problems, from women's issues to the Civil War, the penal system, the lack of universal healthcare, the housing and loan industry, and the current attitude of turning your back on your less-fortunate neighbors all have some roots in racism, regardless of what history books and trusty-worthy news outlets tell you. Read these essays for the first time or again. Think about what Coates has to say. Read these essays another time. Talk, talk, talk to people. Buy a copy of We Were Eight Years in Power for everyone you know. I'm an evangelist. I'm not saying Coates's opinions are the only ones or that he is some sort of god who knows it all; what I am saying is that he offers insight you may not be getting anywhere else. Audiobook: The unabridged audiobook (Random House Audio; 13 hr, 38 min) is read by Beresford Bennett. My full audiobook review will be available through AudioFile magazine, but let me simply say here that this is a book to read. I was disappointed in Bennett's performance and can't recommend this title in audio.

Review: The Burning Girl by Claire MessudThe Burning Girl by Claire Messud (Norton, Aug. 29): Two girls, Cassie and Julia, are inseparable from nursery school to the start of seventh grade. Is it the new middle school, raging hormones, diverging interests, or something deeper that drives the girls apart? This is the story of a childhood friendship and what happens when that relationship is undermined by maturity and outside circumstances. I enjoyed the book, which is told in retrospective by a teenage Julia, but I didn't love it. I found it difficult to invest the girls' lives and thought the more mysterious parts of the novel weren't all that mysterious, thanks to too much foreshadowing. I don't think every plot line in a book must be tied up neatly by the final page, but a major issue that may or may not have influenced Cassie's life decisions remained unresolved, leaving readers dangling. Note that The Burning Girl received at least one starred review and was an Indie Next pick, so you may have a better experience than I had. Audiobook: The unabridged audiobook (Recorded Books; 6 hr, 38 min) was read by Morgan Hallett, who did a fine job. Her performance was unobtrusive, although not spectacular (for more see AudioFile magazine). If you want to give the novel a try in audio, don't hesitate.

Review: The Long Count by JM GulvinThe Long Count by JM Gulvin (Faber & Faber; Sept. 26): I like books set in the west and have an interest in the Texas Rangers, so this first in a new series featuring John Q, a 20th-century ranger caught my attention. The novel--part mystery, part thriller--is set in the late 1960s, during the height of the Vietnam War protests. I like the time period because John, a Korean War veteran and godson to the ranger who brought down Bonnie and Clyde, can't rely on modern-day technology. His car radio can be full of static, he has to look for pay phones, there's no GPS, and research is done via phone calls. Fortunately, our hero has been well trained, not only as a ranger but also as a tracker. He's also observant and can read crime scene clues like few others. John's territory is in northeastern Texas, along the Red River, and you get a good sense of the environment: open spaces, tiny towns, and law-enforcement departments with few resources. Gulvin provides good period details, and the dialogue is believable, making it easy to envision the characters. The Long Count isn't a perfect novel, though, and I have some questions about whether the ending holds up 100 percent. Still, I liked John Q and the people in his support circle and am looking forward to more entries in the series. If you like intense, twisty mystery/thrillers and/or novels set in the west, you'll enjoy The Long Count. (Review copy provided by the publicist)

To Give Up or Not to Give Up?

I'm currently listening to Warcross by Marie Lu and read by Nancy Wu (Listening Library). The story is not fully clicking for me, so I'm not sure I'm going to stick with it. Wu's performance is just fine, and I have no complaints on that account. I think the problem is I'm not a big gamer and, well, a big game is at the heart of this novel. On the other hand, I just got to the first turning point in the story, so I feel I have to listen to at least one more scene.

I started reading Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart (Delacourte), which I featured last week. I like the premise and set up, but I'm not getting swept up into the main character's life and deceits. I've read the first two chapters and am not feeling a strong urge to go on. I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to say good-bye.


If you like stand-up comedy, then you shouldn't miss Jerry Seinfeld's "Jerry before Seinfeld," which is available through Netflix. In this Netflix original, Seinfeld revisits his roots and talks about his childhood, reveals his first two successful jokes, and performs both familiar and new bits. Get ready to laugh out loud.

And, in case you missed the ads: the new season of Poldark started last night!!!! YAY.


Tina 10/2/17, 6:30 AM  

I've never seen Poldatk, I like the looks of the period costumes and the locale from the ads.

rhapsodyinbooks 10/2/17, 6:40 AM  

I read Ta-Nehisi Coates regularly in The Atlantic. He is such a good writer!

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 10/2/17, 7:16 AM  

I'm with you on Burning Girl...I DNF'd at 30%.

Susie | Novel Visits 10/2/17, 8:52 AM  

I also listened to Burning Girl, and my feelings were much the same as yours. The whole story felt incomplete. I usually really like coming-of-age stories, but this one fell flat.

bermudaonion 10/2/17, 9:56 AM  

I need to pick up We Were Eight Years in Power for both Carl and me. It sounds thought provoking and discussion worthy.

Laurel-Rain Snow 10/2/17, 10:44 AM  

I read The Burning Girl...since I don't do audio. But I did not warm up to the characters in it. I especially found Cassie annoying.

I have Genuine Fraud, and it's too bad you're not loving it.

Thanks for sharing your week and for visiting my blog. Enjoy the new week!

Kathy Martin 10/2/17, 10:54 AM  

I am not a big gamer either but I enjoyed Ready Player One and might give Warcross a try. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Daryl 10/2/17, 11:56 AM  

i feel your seasonal annoyance .. and thanks for letting us know whats worth our time and whats not

Mystica 10/2/17, 12:46 PM  

Your books and the movie Poldark are new to me. Enjoy them all.

Vicki 10/2/17, 3:13 PM  

I'm listening Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King but it just isn't grabbing me. Don't think I'll finish it :( Trying to figure out what to listen to next.

I've never heard of Poldark before, it looks good.

pussreboots 10/2/17, 4:43 PM  

Two of your books are on my wishlist. Come see what I'm reading

Yvonne 10/2/17, 6:42 PM  

I know what you mean about the weather - it's the same thing here...Fall/ Summer...it keeps going back and forth.

I just heard about the Jerry Seinfeld show. I'll have to check it out.

Have a great week!

Sue Jackson 10/2/17, 7:25 PM  

I know! It was in the 90's last week and we got home Saturday night to 50's. Today was perfect - sunny and 70's - ahhh! Lovely day in the convertible :)

Coates' book sounds amazing. I still haven't read his first one - I better get moving.

I've been hearing a lot about The Burning Girl - sounds intriguing!

I'm listening to a middle-grade novel on audio now - Horizon by Scott Westerfeld - excellent so far.

Enjoy your books this week - and the lovely weather!


Book By Book

Nise' 10/2/17, 8:43 PM  

We've been experiencing the same weather pattern. I picked up The Burning Girl and it did not hook me. I've got Genuine Fraud on the stacks and hope it turns around!

Iliana 10/2/17, 9:46 PM  

I am interested in Burning Girl just because I have read another Messud book which I really liked. And, definitely I want to read Ta-Nehisi Coates book. I keep hearing such great things about his writing and need to catch up.

Greg 10/2/17, 9:50 PM  

Yeah the weather's been a yo-yo here too. I need to read We Were Eight Years, I'm really curious to see these perspectives.

I liked Warcross but it took me a while to get there. And I've been wondering about genuine fraud...

Elizabeth 10/2/17, 10:45 PM  

ENJOY your week.

Great post and books.

Silver's Reviews
My It's Monday, What Are You Reading

Di @ Book Reviews by Di 10/5/17, 10:49 AM  

We're in Summer... Although we're MEANT to be in SPRING. These seasons are a complete mess at the moment! But I'm glad life has been good!

Oh dear! I'm sorry you aren't enjoying Warcross! I've heard such good things and it's high on my TBR. I hope it improved.

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