Bookends: July 2016

July was hot here. Of course, New England heat isn’t as hot as Utah heat or Arizona heat or the heat southern California had earlier in the summer, but we complain about it because we don’t expect it. Cold we revel in. Snow? Bring it on. But we don’t know what to do with heat but run our air conditioners and drive everywhere because it’s too hot to walk.

Not being a native New Englander, I walk in any weather and complain about both the heat and the cold. But more than the weather, I complain about driving. Man, do I hate driving around here. Except it does provide one of the only outlets for my creativity as it inspires myriad assemblies of swearwords never before heard by human ears. You know how in music there are only seven notes (plus sharps and flats) but an essentially infinite number of unique compositions? That’s how my swearing is when I’m behind the wheel. I’m a maestro of malediction. A virtuosa of vulgarity. An expert at expletives. It’s a skill that makes my children’s homeschool education rather more well-rounded than I would like and part of why we walk as many places as possible.

At any rate, here are the f***ing books I read during July:

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Atlas of Unknowns by Tania James

Atlas of Unknowns was the June 2016 selection for the SBC (the accidental book club I started with my sister). Comment below, or check out our Goodreads group to join the discussion.

4330608I am not sure why I finished this book. Maybe it’s just because I love stationery and enjoyed the invitation card subplot. Because I wasn’t really engaged with the characters, most of whom I found flat, and much of what happened I found either overdone (like the documentary film thing and the points about immigration, which were excellent points but were handled in too heavy-handed a fashion to feel very poignant to me).

And the ending was a particular disappointment. Characters acted in ways that I found inconsistent, and the portrayal of seven-year-old Linno didn’t seem realistic to me. Based both on my experience of seven-year-olds and on the way James wrote her parents, I find it highly unlikely that Linno would have been aware of the America debate, much less reflecting on it to the depth that she did.

Two things I found interesting: Read More

The Parasites by Daphne du Maurier

This was the July selection for the SBC. It’s not too late to join the discussion! Visit us at our Goodreads group to discuss this or any of our other selections. August’s book is The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan.


The Parasites was a thoroughly satisfying read for me. In ways it reminds me of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love, a book that I did not like, but somehow I care more about du Maurier’s Parasites than I do any of Mitford’s characters.

Plot points are revealed quietly rather than lit with spotlights, to the point that there was one major relationship that I missed for a good chunk of the novel. I love this way of telling a story. The characters were annoying, selfish little people, but they were also so full of potential that I just couldn’t help hoping that they would change, just as I do with myself and every other human being I care about. Read More

Bookends: June 2016


June began with the close of a very long project I was working on and ended with a road trip to Acadia National Park and Prince Edward Island. The month was marked by a restlessness on my part, which manifested itself as a difficulty sitting still combined with a near total disinterest in doing much of anything. Not a great combination for reading. Luckily, this was also the month when I began listening to audiobooks while walking through the neighborhood or while making dinner or doing dishes, which helped increase my “books read” total for the month.

I’m not completely certain I like listening to audiobooks, at least as compared to reading the books myself. I worry that my opinion of the book is colored more than I’d like by the quality of the narration. But then, even when I read books myself, my opinion is colored by the ambient temperature, my level of fatigue, the snacks I have on hand, and whether I’m being interrupted by young humans or not. Objective rating of literature is probably not a realistic goal for me whether I have it read to me or read it myself.

At any rate, here’s what I read subjectively during June:

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Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

1069627Housekeeping was the May 2016 SBC selection. If you would like to join the conversation about this book or June’s book—Atlas of Unknowns by Tania James—I invite you to join our Goodreads group.

I wonder if I would have regarded Bill Clegg’s Did You Ever Have a Family more highly had I not been reading it concurrently with Housekeeping. After listening to a few chapters of Clegg’s book on audio, I’d read a bit of Housekeeping and think, “This is how you write about loss and faith and memory.” In retrospect, this seems an unfair comparison. I mean, they’re both debut novels, both critically acclaimed, but I just love Robinson’s book so much and her approach to loss and abandonment resonates so well for me that I fear Clegg’s book didn’t have a chance when I read them side-by-side.

My favorite thing about Housekeeping is my favorite thing about all of Robinson’s novels: she writes like I wish I wrote. Read More

Bookends: May 2016

When I got dressed this past Sunday I felt pretty badass. I went to church, and I got lots of compliments, so when I got home I had my daughter take a photo of me to record my badassitude:


I think that we captured the badassitude well, thanks in part to the hydrangea—long considered one of the most badass of flowering shrubs—in the background, but the photo also records what appears to be a very sour and perhaps confrontational mood.

But this is me happy! I swear!

So while it’s possible that my facial expression is just baseline surly, I think this photo and the fact that even when I’m happy I look surly says something about the packed, stressful month May was.

June’s looking to have much more reading time in it, though. I’ve already finished one book, and it’s only June 1, which seems very promising. If I read a boatload of books this month, I’ll have to post another photo of myself and see if I look less pissed off.

Here’s what I read during May:

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Bookends: April 2016

April started out slow, but I managed to get a second wind thanks in part to Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon and the impromptu extension of the readathon I gave myself the following day. I ended up scrapping March’s SBC selection (The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford), but I finished April’s selection (Into the Go-Slow by Bridgett M. Davis) with nearly a week to spare, and I made progress on a couple of other books to boot. Not too shabby!

May’s another busy month with my mom visiting and my annual homeschool reports due and crazy busy stuff happening with some volunteer work I’m doing, but I’m hopeful I’ll sneak in a little bit of reading. I really need to find myself some audiobooks to listen to when I take my walks.

Here’s what I read during April:

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Into the Go-Slow by Bridgett M. Davis

Into the Go-Slow is the April 2016 SBC book selection. If you’d like to join the discussion about this or any other of the SBC books, visit our Goodreads group. May’s book will be Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson.

CIMG2036Angie has just graduated from college, but, still mourning the death of her older sister, Ella, she has no clear plan for what to do next. Her mother is ready to move on, away from a declining Detroit and into a new life, but Angie fears that leaving Detroit means leaving behind memories of Ella. She sets out for Nigeria, hoping to find peace and her own direction by retracing Ella’s steps in the last weeks of her life.

The story of Into the Go-Slow by Bridgett M. Davis is intriguing. As an eldest sister, I find Angie’s difficulty in defining herself separate from her relationship to her elder sisters interesting. I admit, I’ve always been too mired in the responsibility of being the Little Mom to put much effort into imagining what my younger siblings’ experience of me as their Big Sister was. Seeing this experience through Angie’s eyes is an interesting shift of perspective for me. Read More

Bookends: March 2016

Like February, March was a lighter reading month for me. I didn’t even manage to finish this month’s SBC selection (The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford) before April 1. I do have some decent excuses, including volunteer work, a family wedding out of state, and my son and I each getting the flu (although being bedridden for two full days actually helped me finish two books that I might not have finished otherwise; I was surprised to find it easier to read than to watch Downton Abbey while I was sick, perhaps because I was at the Spanish Flu episode), but I hope that April proves more read-y for me.

Here’s what I read during March:

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Bookends: February 2016

A strange thing happened this month: Halfway through February I lost interest in reading.

I still crave books. I still get excited about picking them up from the library and adding them to my wish list (and even buying a stack, which I hardly ever do). I just don’t really feel interested in actually reading. I’ve even listened to two audiobooks with my kids (Ice Whale by Jean Craighead George and The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall—I only just now realized they’re by women with homophonous first names) and only rarely tuned in enough to pay attention to be able to say that I’ve “read” them this month.

It could be because I’m super busy doing volunteer stuff or because I’m focusing a lot of attention on healthful living (exercise, nutrition, sleep) or because I’m spending so much time on home repairs/improvements. Or maybe it’s just the ebb and flow of my reading life. Maybe I’ve just got spring fever.

What am I doing besides reading? That is a very good question. I’m really not sure. I know I’m not watching movies/television shows because I’m not interested in those either. My house is clean, so maybe I’ve been housekeeping.

Whatever’s going on, hopefully I’ll feel more like reading in March. I miss enjoying reading.

Here’s what I read during the non-blah half of February:

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