14 October 2019

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: What I Read Last Week

What to read in October 2019Last week was interesting to say the least. It started out with a mini-work crunch brought on because I decided to accompany my husband to Maine. He is here for work, and because I work for myself and from home, I was able to temporarily relocate my office. But first I had to work ahead, then we had to get the house ready for the house sitter, and then we had the long drive up to New England.

Despite the hassles, I’m glad I made the trip.

I didn’t have much time to read or listen last week, but I did manage to finish two short books, ditch another one, and start a couple more.

Review of Machine by Susan SteinbergMachine by Susan Steinberg (Graywolf, Aug. 20). A short novel that can be interpreted in a number of ways. In this book, all of the characters and locations remain nameless, but the story takes place over the course of a summer at the shore (which says New Jersey to me) and is told through the eyes of a privileged teenage girl. This the summer the teenager’s perspective shifts, particularly after one of the local girls drowns during a night of partying. Besides obsessing over the circumstances of the death (was her brother involved? was it an accident? did she herself play a part?), she is awakened to her parents’ flaws, her brother’s downhill spiral, and her own place in the world. She begins to sense both the power and limitations of being female, and begins to make deeper connections between wealth, choices, actions, and consequences. That’s a lot to fit into 144 pages, but Steinberg pulls it off. There’s a poetic rhythm to the text, especially as the protagonist’s thoughts spill out and the girl is filled with a jumble of emotions. Machine isn’t for everyone, but it could make my top ten list for this year. Sophie Amoss does an amazing job performing the unabridged audiobook (Blackstone; 3 hr, 34 min); see AudioFile magazine for my audiobook review. (audiobook provided for freelance assignment)

Review of Can You Hear the Trees Talking? by Peter Wohlleben Can You Hear the Trees Talking? by Peter Wohlleben (Greystone Kids, Oct. 1). Both Mr. BFR and I loved Wohleben’s The Secret Live of Trees, and I was curious how the German forester would transform that essay collection into a book for middle grade readers. What I found was a delightful way to introduce children to the wonders of the trees and to the world of the forest. Wohlleben begins each chapter with a question, such as Do trees get thirsty? How do trees have children? Can trees talk to each other? and What makes trees sick? The answers are fun and easy to read and are illustrated with great photos, including pictures of children and animals in the great outdoors. Readers will find quizzes, experiments to try, and observational quests. We learn about the animals, fungi, and bugs that interact with trees, and we discover the benefits of trees in the wild and in the city. The book ends with a look at a forest through the seasons. Any child who is curious about nature would love Can You Hear the Trees Talking?, and it would make a great book for family activities as well as for use in a traditional or homeschool curriculum. For more about Wohleben, see Greystone Book’s interview. (digital copy provided by the publisher)

review of Call Upon the Water by Stella TillyardCall Upon the Water by Stella Tillyard (Atria, Sept. 17). The story of a seventeenth-century Dutch engineer and surveyor who helped with “draining and developing an expanse of marshy wetlands known as the Great Level” in England. After a complicated relationship with a woman he met in the marshes, Jan flees to the New World, where his services are again needed in New Amsterdam. I really wanted to love this book, but despite great period details and the promise of intrigue, betrayal, and maybe romance, I just didn’t connect to Jan or his situation. I tried this book in print, digital, and audio formats, but in the end, I decided to put it aside at just about halfway through. Note that other reviewers have raved about Call Upon the Water, and perhaps I should have read or listened to it during a calmer week. If you like historical fiction that offers a mix of science and drama, you should give it a try. (all three formats provided by the publisher)


rhapsodyinbooks 10/14/19, 6:13 AM  

What an interesting set of books! It's too bad you didn't connect with Call Upon the Water but it sounds like the other two made up for it!

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 10/14/19, 6:42 AM  

I'm glad you got to join your husband for a short time, despite the difficulties in preparing for the trip.

I loved The Secret Life of Trees, and I look forward to reading this young readers' edition. I'm always on the lookout for books about nature that I can share with kids.

Machine sounds like a fascinating read. If it may be in your top ten for the year, I think I should look for it.

Have a great week.

Laurel-Rain Snow 10/14/19, 8:23 AM  

Machine sounds interesting.

Enjoy your time in Maine...it sounds great.

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bermudaonion 10/14/19, 8:26 AM  

Enjoy your time in Maine - Vance loves it there. I don't think Machine is for me - I have a feeling it's over my head.

Susie | Novel Visits 10/14/19, 8:47 AM  

A trip to Maine this time of year sounds lovely. I hope you're enjoying it there. I just read Olive, Again which is set in Maine and to be honest that book did nothing to sell Maine. So depressing!

JoAnn 10/14/19, 10:22 AM  

Maine is always a good idea! I'm glad you decided to make the trip. Interesting mix of books... The Secret Life of Trees is still on my list.

Tina 10/14/19, 12:04 PM  

That's unfortunate about Call Upon the Water as it sounds like a cool book. Sometimes you just don't connect with characters.

The tree book is on my list, sounds great.
I am taking a break from Instagram but I hope to you your photos of Maine elsewhere. Never have been and it's on the retirement travel list.

Kathy Martin 10/14/19, 1:00 PM  

Nice assortment of books. I'm sorry that Call Upon the Water didn't work for you. Visiting Maine is on my wishlist but I haven't gotten even close to it yet. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Vicki 10/14/19, 5:00 PM  

All three books sound good to me, especially the first two.

Greg 10/15/19, 12:10 AM  

Ooh Machine does sound like it packs a lot in 144 pages. Adding that one, sounds super interesting.

Maine sounds fabulous. I need to get up there one of these years.

Laurie C 10/15/19, 9:18 AM  

I'm going to add Machine to my TBL list and try it. Sounds intriguing!

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