18

Library Checkout: May 2017

Are we halfway through the year now? Is that how this works? Mind blowing when you stop and think about it for it a second…

ANYWAY. All that old lady rambling about the speed of time means that it’s time to look at another month’s library reading! Library Checkout is hosted by Charleen @ It’s a Portable Magic.

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I feel like I spent a lot of time at the library and reading library books but I don’t think my actual numbers are that impressive. I know that I only read 10 books in May and I’m definitely used to more robust numbers. It was another gut punch of a month and I’m still working on getting my reading focus back.

Still, 10 books is 10 books!

So let’s look at the library then shall we?

Read
The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (wow, that’s some kind of book eh??)
Call the Midwife: A True Story of the East End of London in the 1950s by Jennifer Worth (love the show, the book was also wonderful)
Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine (this was such good fun – these women were incredible)

Returned Unread
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfield (I took this book out a second time, read around 200 pages and realized I did not care about it AT ALL. So I stopped and moved on)
The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (I had to – someone was waiting for it and I couldn’t renew – I will get it out again and actually read it!)

Currently Out
The Girl Who Walked Home Alone: Bette Davis, a Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

On Hold
Nothing right now. But I think I’m going to try and get my hands on Anne Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me...

What about you? What did you find at the library? Link up with It’s a Portable Magic!

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7

Library Checkout – April 2017

Another month, another Library Checkout! Visit Charleen @ It’s a Portable Magic for the full story!

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Well as you all know, my reading wasn’t strong in April. And while I found that I had a hard time finding time to read, that my focus was lacking when I did read, a funny thing happened when I was at the library: I got excited about the books I was finding.

For a hardcore booknerd this might not seem that noteworthy. But I was struggling, you guys. Instead of seeing possibilities when I looked at the books I had to read, I saw one other thing I had to do. When I looked at my TBR stacks, I didn’t see stories, I saw chores.

But the trips I took to the library had me leaving with a smile. I got that feeling you get when you know you’ve found exactly the books you were looking for.

I didn’t read a lot this month but I feel like everything will be better in May. So here’s what the month with the library looked like:

Read
Sisi: Empress On Her Own by Alison Pataki (the first book was better)
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne (so fun)
The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante
Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford by Donald Spoto

Returned Unread
The Lights of Paris by Eleanor Brown

Currently Out
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfield (for the second time)
The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (currently reading)
Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
The Girl Who Walked Home Alone: Bette Davis, a Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler
Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine (can you tell that I have a new obsession?)

On Hold
Nothing right now. See list above!

What about you? What did you find at the library? Link up with It’s a Portable Magic!

4

Library Checkout – March 2017

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Another month just about over, which means it’s time to look at how we used the library via Charleen @ It’s a Portable Magic.

I felt like I was in the library all the time this month but the actual reading shows that I didn’t get through whatever I brought home very quickly. I bought a lot of books this month (bad, bad) and was excited about a lot of them. In a way you could say that I was just sticking to my blogging goal of reading the books I already have?

Read
Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory
Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (I’m a proper Canadian now, guys!)

DNF’d
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Queen Margot by Alexandre Dumas (I got 200 pages in and just did not care. However, I recently found the non-fiction version of the story and the showdown between Catherine de Medici and her daughter, Margaret of Valois and I’m super excited about it)

Returned unread
none, yet…

Currently out
The Lights of Paris by Eleanor Brown (anyone read this? I loved The Weird Sisters but have been avoiding this for some reason…)
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter

On hold
Sisi by Alison Pataki (I really really liked the first one, The Accidental Empress)
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante (conversion complete)

There you have it. Kind of a low-key library month. If you used the library this month, visit Charleen to link up!

21

Library Checkout – January 2017

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Even though I’ve committed to reading more of the books I already have in my possession, I am not actually capable of turning my back on my library.

Partly it’s that I need the peace and quiet in my work days (my library is a block from my office) but I also just really like accessing free books.

Because dear Shannon is busy being super brilliant and academic, she’s handed the reins of the Library Checkout over to Charleen @ It’s a Portable Magic (Hi Charleen!). Same idea, new home.

My month at the library looked like this:

Read
Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay (whyyyyyyyyy didn’t I buy this?)
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Unbearable Lightness of Scones by Alexander McCall Smith

Did Not Finish
Court Lady and Country Wife: Two Noble Sisters in the Seventeenth Century England by Lita-Rose Betcherman – I should have been ALL OVER this. But I was so bored reading about all the men doing things.

On Hold
Thought about putting holds on Canada Reads finalists but…every other book nerd in Canada will be doing the same thing. I bought two of them instead.

Returned, Unread
The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier

Currently Out
Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis

If I’m honest, I might be returning the last two unread. I think I’ve lost interest? They are due back early next week, maybe over the weekend. Are either of these must reads?

How was your month at the library? Visit It’s a Portable Magic to link up!

14

Library Checkout – September 2016

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Did September feel like the longest month ever to anyone else? Maybe it’s just that it was an eventful month so it feels long? Like, if I look back to the long weekend, that feels like years ago.

It was a fairly solid reading month. The great thing about September is that things go back to normal. I mostly really like normal. I’m hoping to finish one more book before the month is actually over so that I can say I finished 14 books this month but I’m not totally sure that it will happen.

That said, I’ve been pretty happy with my reading this month. It started a little slowly, I wasn’t loving the books I was reading but they weren’t terrible. The later half of the month saw an uptick in book love.

And now it’s time to join Shannon in looking at library reading this month!

Library Books Read
Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
The After Party by Anton DiSclafani
Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia
Little Sister by David Hewson

Checked Out, To Be Read
Shopaholic to the Rescue by Sophie Kinsella
The Big Four by Agatha Christie
The Accidental Empress by Alison Pataki
Nights of Rain and Stars by Maeve Binchy
Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub

Returned Unread
All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani – I’m still kind of regretting this

On Hold
None, currently BUT I did put Bellweather Rhapsody and The Accidental Empress on hold. AND I’m the very first person to read their copy of The Accidental Empress. Hold progress.

Did you get anything great at the library this month?

7

Glad to send them back

A few weeks ago, I went to the library and got a (small) pile of books that I was so excited about: The Assistants by Camille Perri, Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe and The After Party by Anton DiSclafani. I ended up reading them all and only one, The Assistants, lived up to the hype (in my head).

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I’m not going to talk about The Assistants too much – just know that it was sharp and clever, full of wry observations and reminded me of The Devil Wears Prada crossed with The Knockoff. I read it in a day and it was a delight in every way.

Let’s start with Dear Fang, With Love. Amanda @ Gun in Act One really liked it. I was optimistic – this was from the same author as The Girls From Corona del Mar! Vera’s parents had her when they were little more than children themselves. Her Russian mother, Katya, sacrificed everything to raise her but never felt like those sacrifices weren’t worth it. Vera is her whole world. Vera’s father, Lucas, basically checked out as soon as Vera was born. He has since become a part of her life, but in an every-other-weekend-let’s-be-friends kind of way. When Vera has a breakdown and is diagnosed as bipolar, Lucas decides that a trip to Vilnius, where his family is from, is the perfect way for Vera to reset.

This book is crammed with characters, each a little more absurd than the last. There are also a number of storylines squeezed into less than 300 pages: the history of Lucas and Katya; Lucas’ grandmother and her escape from a death camp; Vera’s relationship with her boyfriend, Fang; Lucas trying to start a new relationship on the trip; Lucas’ long lost family in Vilnius; Vera’s emails and the way she views herself.

I wanted this book to be better than it was. The subject matter, a young woman struggling with a serious mental health diagnosis, is important. But it felt like it was being buried under all these other stories, making the important one less effective. It was only the last third, quarter really, of the book that it packed any kind of punch. It was a little too late for me.

Now, The After Party. The cover made me think I was getting something along the lines of The Swans of Fifth Avenue in Houston. That is, wealthy women behaving badly. It tried to be more than that and for me, it fell flat.

When Cece is a girl, she and her best friend Joan have the same name. Their teacher decides that two Joans is too many and so Joan Cecilia becomes Cece. This sets the pattern for much of the rest of Cece’s life – everything she does is in aid of her best friend Joan. When Cece’s mother dies when Cece is just 14, she goes to live with Joan and her family. Right after they graduate, Joan disappears for the first time. Instead of moving on with her life, Cece just exists until Joan returns.

Later, when Cece is married to a wonderful man and has a little boy, she spends all of her time worrying about Joan, to the detriment of her marriage and family. Joan is keeping Cece at a distance and all Cece wants is for Joan to love her.

Set against the backdrop of a certain kind of 1960s way of life (wealthy Texans with money to burn) this book could have been something. But the main character doesn’t offer us anything except a kind of pathetic yearning to be loved by someone who has moved on. So deep does this yearning go that she can’t even see what she does have.

In the end, DiSclafani tries to resuscitate the book by finally telling us all of Joan’s story but for me, it was way too late.

These were books that I was tempted to buy many times but I’m glad I borrowed them from the library instead.

7

Heartbreaker: The Summer Before the War

Helen Simonson’s Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand was one of the early books my book club chose to read. I was completely taken in by the story of a gruff old man learning how to let go of his prejudices in a town that had always enforced them, of learning to open his heart to a most unexpected love.

That book was published way back in 2010. I wasn’t waiting for a new book from Simonson, but when it showed up on my radar, I was interested.

Then I started reading reviews of it on Goodreads and people didn’t seem to love it. I backed off.

I came across a copy at the library a few weeks ago and thought “why not?”

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The Summer Before the War is set in a village in England, in the summer of 1914. Beatrice Nash has taken the post of Latin teacher at the school, the first woman to ever hold the post. When she arrives she meets Agatha Kent, who has been instrumental in Miss Nash’s success in getting the job. Mrs Kent warns her that she has a lot riding on her doing well in the job. Mrs Kent has two nephews, Daniel and Hugh. Daniel fancies himself a poet, intent on running away to Paris and setting up a literary magazine with his titled best friend; Hugh is training to be a surgeon, the more serious of the cousins, he becomes a good friend to Beatrice.

The book becomes about the havoc that the war wreaks on a certain way of life in England at the time. Belgian refugees come to the village, straining resources and forcing people to confront the realities of a war they’d prefer not to think about too much. This book is less about whatever might happen between Beatrice and Hugh and more about how a whole village does or does not pull together in a time of crisis.

I’ll be honest, it took me a while to get into this one. Simonson lays a lot of groundwork of the time, the characters, their backgrounds, the rules that govern society – all on a backdrop of this idyllic, golden English summer. I found it hard to figure out how much time had passed – war seemed to very suddenly affect the village in a myriad of ways and it felt like more time should have passed. But you know, I wasn’t around in 1914, so maybe that’s exactly how it played out. Simonson probably knows better than me.

The strength of this book lies in the foundation. Before you know it, you are deeply invested in the lives of the characters that you’ve totally fallen in love with. Snout, a 15-year-old with a questionable heritage, a passion for Latin, who decides war will be the making of him; Celeste, the beautiful Belgian refugee who needs the support of the village when the full extent of her experiences become known; Eleanor, whose German husband is in Germany and who people suspect of possibly being a spy. And of course, Beatrice, Agatha, Daniel and Hugh.

And lest you think it’s completely character driven, know that Simonson also did an amazing job, like she did with Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, of examining the prejudices of the day. Women’s suffrage, the plight of the Fallen Woman, antipathy towards the area’s Romani population, and class snobbery are all embroidered in the fabric of the story.

By the time I finished reading this one, tears were streaming down my face. Totally unexpected.

I meant to buy this one many times over and now that I’ve returned the library’s copy, I regret that I didn’t give in to that temptation. This is a book I would have liked to loan to others.