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Good day, readers! I hope all is going well in your world. Welcome to The Lit Lounge! I’m so glad you stopped by for some bookish banter and recommendations. Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let me say a big, heartfelt thank you for joining us on this literary adventure. Now, let’s talk short stories. They are like little nuggets of literary goodness that pack a punch in just a few pages. Recently, I’ve been devouring a book called The Art of the Short Story, which has been blowing my mind with its collection of captivating tales. In that journey, I stumbled upon Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use,” a story that struck a chord deep within me. So naturally, my curiosity was piqued, and I couldn’t resist getting my hands on In Love & Trouble: Stories of Black Women, where “Everyday Use” resides.
Alice Walker’s In Love & Trouble: Stories of Black Women is an absolute powerhouse of a collection. Thirteen short stories that will knock your socks off and leave you hungry for more. Published in ’84, each story is a masterpiece, bursting at the seams with vivid imagery, potent symbolism, and thought-provoking themes. But it’s not just about the technical brilliance here. These stories go deep. They dig into the core of the black female experience, unraveling the intricate threads of racism, sexism, and classism that have shaped and affected these women’s lives. Now, my favorites – there were a few since there are some gems in this collection that I can’t get enough of. We’ve got “Everyday Issue,” a story that explores the complexities of heritage and identity, hitting home with a resonance that goes beyond the boundaries of race or background. Then there’s “The Revenge of Hannah Kemhuff,” a tale that will have you cheering and fist-pumping for justice and liberation. And let’s not forget “Strong Horse Tea,” where we witness a young mother battling the odds with a tenacity that will leave you in awe. Oh, and “Roselily” delves into the sacrifice and the delicate dance between love and self-discovery. And finally, brace yourselves for “To Hell with Dying,” a heart-wrenching story that speaks to the universal power of love in the face of mortality. Although these stories shine a light on the experiences of black women, their impact stretches far beyond that. In all their raw beauty and authentic emotion, these narratives speak to the hearts and minds of women from all walks of life. They delve into the universal human experience of facing adversity, seeking self-acceptance, and striving for liberation. So, whether you’re a black woman or not, these stories will touch you, challenge you, and open your eyes to the injustices that permeate our society. With her unmatched storytelling prowess, Alice Walker has created a collection that demands to be read, cherished and shared. She weaves together words that expose the triumphs and struggles of black women with compassion and depth that is simply breathtaking. Grab a copy, settle in, and prepare to be moved. Let these stories wash over you, inspire you, and ignite conversations that pave the way for a more just and empathetic world.
This collection is an absolute powerhouse of storytelling. Walker’s words pack an emotional punch, taking you on a wild ride of feelings. One of the many quotes from In Love & Trouble that has been etched into my brain: “You know what the most common way people give up their power is? By thinking they don’t have any.” Powerful, right? This gem hits you right in the gut and screams, “Wake up folks!” It’s a wake-up call to shake off those self-imposed limitations and realize that we hold the reins to our own lives. We’ve got the power to break free from the chains of oppression, challenge the status quo, and carve out our damn destiny. Let this quote be a daily reminder that we are not powerless, that we are capable of creating change, and that we can rewrite the narratives that seek to confine us.
If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend you grab a copy of Love & Trouble: Stories of Black Women and check it out. If you have read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts or share your favorite quote from the book. Thanks a million for hanging out with me here at The Lit Lounge. Keep those pages turning, and stay tuned for more short story and book recommendations and reviews coming your way.
We welcomed spring to the mountain in true New England style this month – four seasons in one day. March was filled with a mix of snow – lots of snow, wind – 58 mph wind at one point, and sunshine. There were days where it was 10ºF and other days it was 48ºF. I was reading when I wasn’t outside snowshoeing with Mark and the dogs or bringing in firewood. I still haven’t been able to bring myself to draw – a creative dry spell that started months ago now. Reading and writing have been a saving grace for me as I am still just a few months out from my dad’s death, and the grieving process takes time.
I finished five books in March: two hardcover – The Plot and The Hidden Life of Trees – Illustrated Edition. I listened to two audiobooks – A Grief Observed and The City We Became and finished Alice Walker’s collection of short stories in her book In Love & Trouble on my kindle. I am really enjoying reading short stories; I think great writers say as much in a short story as mediocre authors can in an entire book.
Alice Walker’s Love & Trouble: Stories is a powerful and moving collection of thirteen of her short stories, which I highly recommend. Published in 1984, each story is rich in imagery, symbolism, and themes. “Everyday Issue,” “The Revenge of Hannah Kemhuff,” “Strong Horse Tea,” “Roselily,” and “To Hell with Dying” were just some of the other stories demonstrating the talents of Walker’s ability to say so much in short story form. Each story is filled with emotion and insightful narratives revealing how racism, sexism, and classism have affected black women.
Mysteries are some of my favorite books, and The Plot was a highly praised book when it first came out, which enticed me to put it on my TBR list initially. A few friends read and liked it, so I was excited to finally turn my attention to what I hoped would be a juicy mystery.
The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz is a story about a book and writers and a mysterious story. I loved the story within a story and applaud the structure, including chapters of the main character’s best-selling novel, Crib. However, I was not a fan of the main character. The start of the book was slow for me, like how a roller coaster slowly makes its way up the first ramp. But once it reached the top, the ride has one twist I didn’t see, but I saw the final one too soon.
Sometimes I think some books get so over-hyped that they let some readers down because they fall short of what they sell. I struggled a bit during the month with grief and wanted to read something I could relate to. Many years ago, I read the entire Narnia series and was a fan of Lewi’s writing, so I was intrigued when I tripped over A Grief Observed.
Recently I have been very acquainted with death and thought I would find something – I am not sure what – in CS Lewis’s A Grief Observed. Lewis has many of the same questions we all have when faced with death and listening to someone else work out these thoughts about love and death; compiled in his notebooks – the title A Grief Observed – not Grief Observed indicates that Lewis recognized that grief is a very individual and personal experience. No two people experience grief in the same way.
I listened to A Grief Observed, narrated by Ralph Cosham, whose monotone and subdued voice seemed fitting given the topic. Good thing the book is only 1 hour and 50 minutes, however. There is only so much that one can listen to. If you are a fan of CS Lewis and interested in reading his entire catalog, perhaps this book is for you if you are grieving and hoping to find answers or some insight to help you get through your grief – maybe. Not that Lewis has the answers, but for some, it helps to know that we all struggle when we lose a loved one; even a famous author doesn’t hold the answers. 2.5 stars rounded up to 3 for Goodreads
Most mornings, I sit at the kitchen table sipping my second cup of coffee while figuring out Wordle, Quordle and Octordle, to which I share my results on my family’s Wordle text thread. Afterward, before sitting down on the mat to meditate – I usually crack open the book I have strategically left there for me to read. I love learning about nature and walking in the woods throughout the year. So I was really excited when at Christmas, I received The Hidden Life of Trees – The Illustrated Edition.
What a beautiful book! The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben is an illustrated companion to his non-illustrated book of the same name. Wohlleben beautifully and simplistically presents his case for the unseen ways trees work within our environment in this abridged version. This book is for anyone interested in our environment, forests, and trees to enjoy. The photos are transcendingly magical, immediately transporting you to the woods no matter where you are sitting. You will want to go outside and be with the trees after reading.
When the month started I had already started listening to my next selection which I chose since it had been on my TBR list for over a year and was a Goodreads Choice Award and Nominee for Best Fantasy (2020).
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin is an urban fantasy about major cities becoming sentient through human avatars. It’s a wild leap into a confusing, chaotic, multidimensional, supernatural world focused on New York City. A lot is going on in this book – just like the city – there are multiple characters with the narrative jumping around numerous POVs. There are various themes – too many to list. I wanted to like this book more since I was born and raised in Manhattan and love books about or that take place in the city, but I had a tough time getting into this story. I liked the idea that a human avatar would embody the borough it’s from. I chuckled at how Jemisin includes how each borough feels about the other boroughs – particularly how they all felt about Staten Island. But the setup was slow and many times, I wasn’t sure what was happening; plus, I didn’t find any of the characters likable, which always makes loving the story more difficult. I like the premise, but it fell short for me. I listened to the audiobook, which lasted 16 hours and 12 minutes. The narrator, Robin Miles, does an excellent job with the many voices. 3 Stars.
So far, at the end of March, I have finished reading 20 books and completed 34% of my goal of 59 books. Currently, I have six books that I am reading in rotation. One is the Bible which I have been trying to read and finish for about two years. I am reading along with “The Bible in a Year” podcast with Father Mike Schmitz on Audible. I’m only on day 90, but we have just started reading Judges and the Book of Ruth, so it’s exciting for me to be this far in.
I am also chipping away at The Art of The Short Story and The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I have so many reading goals that I have set for myself. The little challenges get me excited about reading. I hope these reviews help anyone in selecting their next book to read and perhaps get them psyched for their next read or listen.
“Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself.”
George Bernard Shaw (Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist)
For such a short month, I packed in quite a few reads and listens. I started the month finally finishing the January Literati Club selection, We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider. There are a scattering of his signature cartoons throughout the book which is a collection of essays.
I struggled reading this book at first, perhaps it was just the first couple of stories that I didn’t find interesting or relatable or just juvenile in a way. However, as I kept on read, that changed when I read the line,”What dooms our best efforts to cultivate empathy and compassion is always, of course, other people.” Okay, maybe I can relate to Tim Kreider more than I thought. Then I read “you’d think that given our shared loathing for the Wall/K Street oligarchy that’s running this country like a Ponzi scheme we’d be able to put aside our brand loyalties…” I saw someone put into words so spot on describing how our government runs our country.
I enjoyed reading this book , overall, some essays more than others but it’s a good read which is sad, honest, sometimes brutally so, but truly funny. 228 pages.
I stated the month off with a selection from my historical fiction section f my TBR List and dove into What The Wind Knows by Amy Harmon.
I think fans of historical fiction with a time travel twist will enjoy this as much as I did. It’s a skilled author who can write a tale that transports not only the main character but the reader into believing they have been transported back in time and Amy Harmon does just that.
I was fascinated by the Irish history which I admit to knowing little about the country’s struggle for independence, but knew of some of the names. I found myself looking up some of the Easter Rising and some of the key players mentioned in between listening to the book and can see reading more. Although I was never one for poetry the way that W.B. Yeats’ poetry is woven into the text lowered the bar in my understanding his words which set alone, I would be more effective translating a language I have never seen before. But it adds and was so fitting to include.
This is a romantic novel and I am not one to be drawn to romance, but this book is neither too saturated in sex, although there is some, nor is it to sappy in it’s love story but just the right balance to make you see the love. I also found many times to be laughing or smiling to myself in listening to the story, particularly in the parts where Anne compares our modern day luxuries that she no longer has in 1916.
The narrators Saskia Maarleveld, Will Damron do a fantastic job. All is in all, I highly recommend this book and now I want to read more of Amy Harmon’s books. The Audible Audiobook is 12 hours, 24 minutes long.
Having been intrigued by the mythology within What They Wind Knows I decided to check out Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology next.
I am a fan of Neil Gaiman’s writing and I am an a mythology enthusiasts, so I really enjoyed listening to Norse Mythology. Gaiman’s writing is so clever and humorous and he is such a great storyteller infusing new life into these old myths. The only thing that makes this better is that Neil Gaiman is the narrator which makes the illusion of him telling you a story all the more real! The Audible Audiobook is 6 hours, 29 minutes.
With everything going on in the world today and the younger generation having no attention span whatsoever. I decided that this month I was ready to tackle the Ready Player One Series. I had a bedroom to paint and wanted something that would keep me focused while I painted. I had seen the movie Ready Player One a long time ago but since the second book came out in 2021, I decided I wanted to read the first book and then read the new book.
I loved this book! But I grew up in the 80s, so listening to this book was like reminiscing about my teen years. Ernest Cline creates a fantastic world of the future 2044 and reality is a nasty place to live so many escape to the Oasis, a virtual reality world where you can be any avatar you choose and experience things in augmented reality.
I decided to listen to this book, originally published in 2011 since Cline just came out with the sequel in 2021 so I wanted to listen to the two books back to back. I enjoyed the movie a long time ago produced by Spielberg so I wanted to check out the book.
I’m not a gamer, nor am I a programmer but thought that Cline captured the essence of someone who can become so absorbed in the gaming and computer programming world. It’s a dystopian view of the future having seen what social networking has done to some people coupled with recent announcements about the Metaverse being developed by tech giants Facebook, excuse me, META, Microsoft, Nvidia, and others, Cline’s OASIS doesn’t seem so far off from reality these days.
The protagonist is an atheist and that may bother some people, however, it did not bother me. I read some reviews where people were really put off by this. I also read so reviews that some people purchased this book for their children to listen to, probably because they simply were naive enough to think its a book about a bunch of nerds and gamers. This is not a book for 9 year olds but it is a great book for high school aged kids and above.
Ultimately I believe this book is about the importance of human interaction – face to face interaction and how important that is to have in our world. I liked Will Wheaton as the narrator, he seemed a perfect choice to me. I give this book a 4.5 rating. The Audible Audiobook is 15 hours, 40 minutes.
My next selection was based off of a recommendation by my sister, Daphne. She raved about The Power of Neuroplasticity by Shad Helmstetter. She said it had helped her “have the power to change [her] program (how [she] think[s]) from negative/ catastrophizing to positivity and productivity. So I had to check it out for myself. I actually listened to this book at the same time – not actually at the same time but during the same time period that I was listening to Ready Player Two.
This is a must listen to for everyone! Shad Helmstetter breaks down some pretty scientific stuff in an easy and understandable way – uncomplicating the complex. He gives the listener/reader the keys which they always held to unlock the endless possibilities to change their lives.
Helmstetter reinforces the evidence that how and what we think and tell ourselves matters greatly. I highly recommend to those who feel like they are stuck in a rut or have no ability to change their daily lives for the better. The Audible audiobook is 6 hours and 18 minutes long and narrated by Douglas Martin
I was disappointed in this book overall. I was a huge fan of Ready Player One but all the originality that was in that book – was missing from this book. There are some themes in the book which are worthy of exploring like man’s obsession with immortality and man playing God but they seemed to get lost. I was also particularly disappointed to see that much of the story had been ripped from a popular Japanese novel series called Sword Art Online. So much so that the author admits to this within the novel. I also found there is a lot of virtue signaling in this book.
Fans of Prince may have fun going down that rabbit hole. I have to wonder whether Prince’s Estate has already authorized usage of his music and likeness since it would be impossible to make the movie version of this book without it. Although I am a fan of Tolkien – I haven’t read The Silmarillion and thought a lot of the references so obscure they were difficult to follow.
Wil Wheaton was the narrator and I didn’t really feel like he added much to the performance, he’s a a little monotone but I since the main character Wade is the narrator of the story, I imagine Wade to be a little monotone too. The Audible Audiobook is 13 hours, 46 minutes.
Once I I had emerged from the cyberspace rabbit hole of the OASIS and the world Ernest Cline foresees, I did an about face. I wanted something short and I also wanted to continue to work on my ever growing TBR list. I started this book actually initially in 2016 on my Kindle.
I found this book to be interesting more as a writer who would potentially be writing stories which strong female characters, but many women look it as a helpful guide in their own personal lives. Perhaps I am one of the wild woman since a lot of what I thought she said was simple common sense.
I found listening to most of this reminiscent of listening to a professor lecture in college – just going on and on because they like the sound of their own voice. The only part I really enjoyed was listening to the old fairy tales and myths – then it was a treat to listen to the soothing and skilled story-telling voice of author, Clarissa Estés.
I was surprised by all the very high ratings and reviews for this book. I think it really depend on the type of person you are which will dictate how much you like the book or consider it ground-breaking and life changing. I found it to be neither. The Audible Audiobook is 2 hours, 18 minutes.
After listening to that lecture-like book, I wanted something that I could depend on. My last couple of books were rather disappointing. I always find that turning to the short story collections can be a good way to turn things around and once again I was not disappointed.
This is a fantastic collection of short stories by some of America’s greatest writers. The Audible Audiobook is 3 hours, 45 minutes.
Amy Tan’s “Rules of the Game”, performed by Freda Foh Shen. 4.5 stars – I loved this story about a young Chinese girl who becomes a chess prodigy. The relationship which Amy Tan depicts between the strict mother and her young daughter is priceless!
Donald Barthelme’s “Game”, performed by David Strathairn. 4.5 – Wow! A humorous look at what would happen when two people are left in the nuclear bunker for too long.
Eudora Welty’s “Why I Live at the P.O.”, performed by Stockard Channing. 4 – Funny story about family and getting away from them
Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat” performed by René Auberjonois. 4.5 – Classic Poe masterpiece.
Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” performed by Christine Baranski. 4 -Creepy and disturbing – really well written – 4.5
John Sayles’ “At the Anarchists’ Convention”, performed by Jerry Stiller. – Humorous 4
Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use”, performed by Carmen de Lavallade. 4 -A glimpse of how siblings look at family treasures differently
John Cheever’s “Christmas Is a Sad Season for the Poor”, performed by Malachy McCourt. 4 -Funny story about the kindness people have towards each other at Christmas.
February Wrap Up
Besides these eight books which I seemed to have plowed through this month. I also listened to the Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu – A New English Version read by its translator Stephen Mitchell. I have been meditating every day now for almost a year. In that time, I have also been listening to different lectures and talks about Buddhism, Taoism and Christianity. I have been listening to The Bible in A Year podcast since I never read the Bible fully and thought it would be interesting to do. I started on that journey in 2021 actually, so for me it will most likely be The Bible in Two Years, possibly Three. Listening to the Tao Te Ching for me was simply an exercise in learning the teachings of Lao Tzu. At the time I was listening I was also drawing zentangle patterns. In short, drawing zentangles a form of artistic meditation so it was the perfect companion to listen to as I drew. I purposely chose not to rate or review the Tao Te Ching, nor the Taming The Tiger Within by Thich Nhat Hanh which I also listened to shortly learning of his death. Except that I will say that it was enough to spark a curiosity to further read more of his writing in the future.
February may have been the shortest month of the year but I managed to make it a productive one bringing my total books read this year so far up to 19. My ultimate goal on Goodreads is 58, so I am 33% of the way to my ultimate goal. I am backlogged with actual physical hard copies of my Literati book club books right now. Currently still reading Smile: The Story of A Face by Sarah Ruhl and then there is the next book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman. That one could come in handy as far as being able to make time for actual reading.
The problem is I get tired at night when I usually read which makes finishing impossible. I have been writing, actually editing the book I have been working on writing and hoping to get it to the stage of actually submitting to a publisher. I also was painting my bedroom last month which is why I was able to go down the rabbit hole of the Ready Player One Series (One and Two) and stay down there while I painted away the old paint which was on the walls since before I moved here 6 years ago! Yes, I have been living in the previous owners paint and carpets until last month. I always had plans to change things but other things were more important and it wasn’t that horrible until after the last two years which everyone – my kids, that is – back in my house for more months than we have lived together in 8 years. I needed a clean slate. It took 6 months from the time I ordered them – not a special order or anything – to the time they were installed. Currently I am painting another room in the house which had terra cotta colored walls. I put the first coat of primer down yesterday while listening to my current audiobook, Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things. I’m only a few hours into this epic 21 hour and 43 minute book, so perhaps I’ll be able to complete the room and the book around the same time.