I am amazed how quickly summer came and went and yet still parts crawled by. As I am still dealing with things which started earlier this summer, I can’t help but think that all the reading and listening I have been doing has helped time to march along. Certainly my book club selections have opened whole new worlds to me for which I am grateful to escape into as do my audiobook selections. September was a month filled with some wonderful selections, all very different from the next!
The influences of H.G. Wells, Agatha Christie, and the writers of Groundhog Day, Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin, can be seen throughout Stuart Turton’s debut novel, The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. The English countryside setting is straight out of a Hercule Poirot mystery. Blackheath is the remote country estate of the wealthy Hardcastle family, who are throwing a party for their daughter, Evelyn, on the anniversary of their son’s murder. Family can be so twisted. The guests that have all been summoned were also present all those years ago, the night of the murder, except one. One guest, the narrator/protagonist, decided to come to Blackheath because he wanted to be there. This complex novel is further complicated by deliberately confusing the protagonist from the beginning.
Are people whom they appear to be? A question for the ages, and it’s presented rather cleverly. There is a large cast of characters to keep straight as we figure out the mystery. This gets tricky since we learn about many of them as the protagonist jumps from body to body, day by day. Each time he jumps, he has no recollection of who he is and what he learned about the murder when he was in the other bodies. So, there is a lot to keep straight.
Can people change given a chance to relive their mistakes? Would they repeat them, ever learn from them? Like the classic 1983 comedy Groundhog Day, Turton has turned this question into a darker story at Blackheath. An essential element of the story which some might find triggering is suicide. Overall, I liked the book; but being so confused for so long throughout made following along challenging. The audiobook is 17 hours and 4 minutes long and narrated by James Cameron Stewart.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when my August Literati book from Cheryl Stray’s Wild Reads arrived last month. Seeing Ghosts: A Memoir by Kat Chow sounded like a potentially scary memoir. In ways, Chow was haunted by images of her mother’s “taxidermic self,” picturing what her mother would be doing in situations after her death from cancer. They shared a fascination with death – a subject that many find uncomfortable to discuss, but Chow discussed freely with her mother. Like many memoirs, she talks about family, loss, love, and grief, but the book goes far beyond exploring the process of her loss and grief. The mother-daughter initial focus of the story is just part of the larger story.
I was pleasantly surprised to find this book to be an intimate and poignant narrative about three generations of Chow’s Chinese American family and how we are not just affected by death but how we can grow from it. Chow delves into her family’s history through her father’s plight to reunite the remains of his parents. Her extensive research of political and historical events shows how they directly altered the lives of her ancestors and millions of Chinese. She touches upon her struggle with trying to learn Cantonese, the language of her ancestors and mother, and how essential pieces are lost in assimilating with the American culture. She shares the rituals she learned from her mother as a child, not realizing their importance until later in life(like many of us). She uses humor effectively in demonstrating the absurdities life will throw at you in the worst of times. Her story is raw in places, making you feel as if you are reading her diary, as Chow processes her grief as she writes.
A great read and relatable in many ways, which surprised me a bit. I am a second-generation Greek American struggling to learn Greek via an app. I know and have seen how as time ticks by, cultural traditions are lost or fade and how the yearning to be able to speak the language of your grandparents makes you feel closer to them. Even if you never met them. Chow’s memoir Seeing Ghosts pays homage to her ancestors and her culture. At the very core, this book is about family and the relationships within a family, a story that almost everyone can relate to on some level.
I started listening to the Random House Audio version of Carrie Soto is Back on the last day of the 2022 US Open. Serena William, age 40, had played and lost her final match before retiring, and 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz from Spain had just won the men’s singles title. I had forgotten how thrilling it is to witness athletes play at such a high and admirable level of physical skill and mental acuity.
Taylor Jenkins Reid captures the excitement of the rhythm of the game, the highs, the lows, the give and take. She shows how the best players can defeat themselves on the court if they get too much into their own heads. But Carrie Soto is Back goes well beyond being a story about tennis or the mindset of an aging athlete coming out of retirement. It’s a story about commitment, love, grief, and personal growth.
As I stated earlier, I listened to the audiobook, which had a cast of narrators – twelve exactly. Several narrators are the tennis commentators discussing the matches, which helps move the narration along. I couldn’t help but think about the 2004 film Wimbledon with Kirstin Dunst and Paul Bettany – which I loved – and the first part of the book Carrie Soto reminded me of. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a tennis fan for sure, but you don’t have to know or understand tennis to enjoy a great story about a family.
If you enjoy historical fiction, read The Dictionary of Lost Words. If you enjoy words and are interested in their history, read The Dictionary of Lost Words. If you enjoy reading stories with good character development, read The Dictionary of Lost Words. If you enjoy reading stories about family, read The Dictionary of Lost Words. And if you enjoy reading stories about love, I highly recommend reading The Dictionary of Lost Words. Pip William wrote a masterpiece. Her thorough research about the times surrounding the period in which the words were compiled and published in the first edition of the Oxford-English Dictionary allowed Williams to create a vivid and accurate historical backdrop for the reader to follow Esme grow up in an ever-changing world. I enjoyed every moment of this book and was delighted with how Williams focused on certain provocative words to make a point about how words can be ‘lost’ depending on who oversees the editing. Narrator Pippa Bennett-Warner does an excellent job of bringing the characters to life.
I am currently 51 books into my goal of 58 books for this reads Goodreads Reading Challenge. Now that I have completed 88% of my goal with still ninety-one days left of 2022, I am excited to have the luxury of some time in case I opt to pick one of the longer books on my TBR list. There are some of the classics which I would like to listen to such as Les Miserables by Victor Hugo or The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. But at 57 hours and 48 minutes and 52 hours, 41 minutes respectively these selections make Dicken’s David Copperfield or Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina at 36 hours, 30 minutes and 35 hours, 35 minutes look more doable. The longest book I have listened to so far is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara at 32 hours, 51 minutes; so I know I could get through something so long, as long as it’s a good story.
Happy reading and listening everyone!
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
By the start of November, I had already to reached my Goodreads Book Challenge goal of 57 this year and I was starting to feel a little burned out. My hardcopy books were becoming harder for me to get in reading, We had friends come visit for an overnight– we haven’t had people come visit in I-don’t-remember-how-long, then there was Thanksgiving and my birthday. So I was tired at night, more so than usual and I wasn’t able to read as much or for as long. This was one of my initial problems when it came to reading actual physical books.
I decided to listen to a short story by Alice Hoffman. I have enjoyed other books by her so I decided to give this one a listen. The title intrigued me and I have been thinking about my mother who died in February this year.
This story is a great example of how big messages can come in small packages. Everything My Mother Taught Me is a powerful quick listen – under an hour, packing a punch. A story about a young girl who learns the toughest lessons early on.
Mark, my other half and I have been meditating daily for the past 254 consecutive days. This year, we have set an intentional routine for ourselves which includes: morning coffee while listening to short lectures by meditation teachers on an app called Insight Timer which I highly recommend. I started using this app about 5 years ago when a very traumatic event occurred in my life. Since then I have mediated on and off a total 485 days, the last 254 consecutively for an overall total of 13.7k minutes. The lectures have covered topics such as learning about the the basics of Buddhism and Zen Buddhism, learning about the sacred power of Shakti, the power of Tao and simply given more tools to mindfully managing stress and anxiety.
After our lecture, coffee and moving meal we will gather our Zafu Zabuton Set, light some candles and settle down with the dogs around us for a mediation session which will last on average 30 minutes, 20 minutes of which will be in silent mediation. This has helped both of us tremendously in calming our minds and nerves during these very unsettling times.
A number of times different philosophers were quoted or discussed a little and this is what brought me around to listening to Sophie’s World. I have the paperback version of this book but the text is small and I decided to listen to it instead, fearing that I would be battling the act of actually reading the text rather than absorbing what was being said. The book had been recommended to me almost ten years ago and now after having finished it, I wish I had read it sooner.
This was a great book – which I know I will come back to again – it’s the type of book I just feel I will read/listen to more than one time. Jostein Gaarder does a magnificent job sending us down the rabbit-hole where through the adventures of Sophie and her philosophy teacher, Alberto where we are given a nice light brief history of philosophy without going so deep that you drown in all that you could with each of the philosophers and philosophies that you cold possibly get lost in.
This book sets it up so that if there is something that you would like to explore further, you can made note and further delve into that in other books. Sophie’s World is written for middle school aged children, so that it would spark their curiosity and possibly open the door to further explorations into our existence.
The book is a lengthy 16 hours and 53 minutes but the narrator, Simon Vance does a fantastic job. Highly recommend!
With the Christmas season upon us, I know I am slowing down a bit as we head into the end of this year. I have been hard at work on my illustrations which you can see on my art Instagram @segalascreatives. I am also in the editing stages of a book that I have been working on which once it has been tighten up I will hopefully preview with you, as I am working on getting it published. The book is about my dogs – I don’t have a title yet, I just keep referring to it as the dog book.
Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror, despite the fact that the oil is still in the deep fryer in the garage and the turkey soup is frozen on the screened in porch. Christmas decorations are already up, gifts are almost all purchased and yesterday I remembered to order a few Christmas desserts and cookies so the meal will be complete. The rest of the month I will continue to work on my illustrations, book and end the year by reading and listening to some good books.
August was a month where I decided to tackle one of the longest books on my TBR List. I came across the 2021 PopSugar Reading Challenge – a great general reading list of ideas like ” a book with a family tree” , ” a book set mostly or entirely outdoors’. “the longest book on your TBR list”…
A Little Life — Hanya Yangihara
It took a bit more for me to tackle the longest book on my TBR list since it was a commitment of 32 hours and 51 minutes. The book, A Little Life by Hanya Yangihara was on my TBR List solely because my nieces had recommended it and raved about how much they like it. They were right, it was an excellent book.
Hanya Yangihara draws the reader into the world of four college friends, young men with different dreams for their future and their lifelong bonds. There are a number of themes: race, sexual abuse, suicide, trust, family, relationships. This by far was the longest book I have ever listened to and it only dragged for a little while which almost seemed purposeful – in that doesn’t everybody’s life drag at moments?
The narrator, Oliver Wyman does an excellent job with such a powerful piece of literature. A Little Life is one of the most intense books I have ever read or listened to. It is by far one that touched my heart and had me in tears on more than one occasion. I highly recommend reading or listening to this book. 4.5 Stars.
Fox 8– George Saunders
After reading such an intense and long book, I opted to then tackle another PopSugar Reading Challenge suggestion and read “the shortest book” on my TBR List. This happened to be Fox 8 by George Saunders. Fox 8 was 37 minutes of pure joy. I love when I laugh out loud while listening to a book and it was a much needed reprieve being so amused to laughter after having been on the intense journey of A Little Life. Saunders narrates this charming story and is as clever as a fox in presenting a humorous story with a powerful message. I highly recommend this short but impactful story.
Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury
I absolutely fell in love with this book. I choose this book based off some comments from my Literati Book Club from members who referred to Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury as a story that they read over and over again during the summer. I am a fan of Ray Bradbury and after reading Dandelion Wine I am more convinced than ever at what a master storyteller Bradbury is. He wrapped me up in his words and took back to the summer of 1928, a time before I was born but a time I could imagine , thanks to his illustrative style. If you only know Ray Bradbury from Fahrenheit 451 or The Martian Chronicles, you should read this wonderful story about summer, being young, being old and everything in between. I’ll read this one again some summer. 5 Stars. 8 hours 42 minutes
In The Woods – Tana French
I closed out August with listening to In The Woods by Tana French. This is my first time reading or listening to a Tana French book, but it won’t be the last. The story is a mystery wrapped up in a mystery. I enjoyed listening to this book , the narrator Steven Crossley has a beautiful and soothing voice which my dogs enjoyed as well. They would always settle right down when it was time to listen which we did for the 20 hour and 24 minute long book. There are some themes in the book which some readers may fine triggering since it deals with domestic violence and rape; but certainly not in an overtly graphic manner.
In The Woods takes place in a small Irish town and is the story of Adam and his two best friends in the summer of 1984, and about the people who live there in 1984 nd twenty years later. In The Woods is about the murder investigation of Katie Devlin, a young girl who had her life ahead of her. In The Woods is about Detectives Cassie Maddox and Rob Ryan. Tana French does an excellent job of making you care about the characters which is what pulled me in so much to this book and kept me there for the first of the Dublin Murder Series. I look forward to reading the next book in series.