It’s a few days before the end of January and I am posting December’s Reads & Listens as a way of trying to move closer to a routine. December was a difficult month with my father being in the hospital for many weeks. The family on edge, not sure which way things would turn out. My father died on January 2, 2023. So has January been a struggle.
In December I was looking for books to read that would distract me. That plan didn’t work as well as I had hoped. The book of poetry was a year long project book for me. I was determined to introduce more poetry into my life and when I first saw the book, A Nature Poem for Every Night of the Year , I thought that was a dose of poetry I could probably stand. Most of the time I didn’t read one a day – it was more like five or six poems at a time –poems for a week seemed to be more my speed.
I started the month with a great read – so good I devoured it over a weekend. I love when I fall into books like that since I consider myself a slow reader still.
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I read Lessons In Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus because it had been nominated in two categories for the 2022 Goodreads Awards for debut novel and historical fiction. I’ve been led down false paths before based on similar criteria, but upon finishing Lessons In Chemistry, I voted for it in both categories. I devoured this easy-to-read, entertaining story about a single woman, Elizabeth Zott, trying to make a living in a man’s world during the late 1950s and early ’60s. The more things change, the more they stay the same, which is why this book may resonate with many. Despite the intense themes that are integral to the storyline, Garmus balances this with wit and humor; particularly, her descriptions of life with a newborn are hysterical and spot on! I was captivated by this story and was sad at the end because I really enjoyed my time with Elizabeth, Mad, Harriet, and the rest of their “family,” and now it is over. 4.5 Stars
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Small Things Like These takes place in 1985 in Ireland, where the Magdalene laundries are still operating. The Magdalene Laundries, aka the asylums, are a dark stain on the Roman Catholic Church in Irish history; they ran from the 18th century to the late 20th century to help “fallen” girls and women.
It’s a potentially powerful short story about a man who finds himself having to make a choice about whether to do something to help a young girl or look the other way as so many others had done before. Unfortunately, the story fell short for me. For a story that is less than two hours long, it took me a week to finish it. I wasn’t grabbed by what potentially is a very interesting story. But I was not captivated like so many others who have reviewed it. I don’t blame the narration; I felt Aidan Kelly did a superb job bringing to life these sad characters. So it had to be something else. In the end, I was even more disappointed as the ending left me wondering too many things.
This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Is there a part of your life you’d like to go back to relive? Go back in time to do or say something different than the first time. Emma Straus’s novel, This Time Tomorrow, explores this idea. It’s a touching portrait of a father-daughter bond and what lengths people will go – even travel back in time – to set things “right.” This was my first time reading one of Emma Straus’s novels, so I had no expectations of what to expect.
For some, the theme of time travel may not be to their liking, but that is not the case with me, so that’s not where this story was weak for me. I had to go back to the text to look up the main character, Alice’s name – she wasn’t a very memorable character to me. I didn’t like her very much. Whereas her best friend Sam, her father Leonard, and a few others were powerful supporting characters, I found them more interesting and the entire reason I could finish the book.
Selected Shorts: Even More Laughs by Symphony Space
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I love the Selected Series – I find I learn about authors that I have never heard of before and end up enjoying.
3.5 – “The Lie” by TC Boyle read by Stephen Colbert
4.5 – “The Swim Team” by Miranda July and read by Parker Posey
4.0 – “The Schartz-Metterklume Method” by Saki, was read by Marian Seldes
3..0 -“Country Cooking from Central France: Roast Boned Rolled Stuffed Shoulder of Lamb (Farce Double)” by Harry Matthews
and read by Isaiah Sheffer
4.5 – “YMA Dream” by Thomas Mathews and read by Christine Baranski (who does an incredible job with this story)
4.0 -“Covered” by Julia Slavin and read by Alec Baldwin
4.0 -“The Conversation of Jews” by Philip Roth read by Jerry Zachs
A Nature Poem for Every Night of the Year by Jane McMorland Hunter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I was never a fan of poetry growing up, so when I discovered this book of poetry presenting a nature poem for every night, I thought that this would be a good way to introduce a little poetry into my life. I am very glad I did too. I enjoyed reading this book, as it was not intimidating to me. It introduced me to many poets and poems of various styles – some of which I enjoyed more than others. 3.5 stars
p.s. I think that I will reread this book again next year –– maybe.
Overall I finished my year by surpassing my goal of 57 books, by finishing 75 books! I will write a separate year in review, which I will post soon.