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.
In Love & Trouble: Stories by Alice Walker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
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.
A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
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.
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
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)
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