Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Another bookgroup book, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, was interesting and enjoyable.

The book opens with Elena Richardson walking through her burning house wondering where her children are, then realizing they are all accounted for goes outside to watch her home in Shaker Heights, Ohio burn down.

The book then goes back a few months when Elena first meets Mia and her daughter, Pearl,  who are renting an apartment from Elna.

The book then goes on to describe the various relationships her family creates with the new tenants.

While I enjoyed this book, it was sometimes hard to read because Ng is so open with the characters’ faults.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

I absolutely loved A Gentleman in Moscow. It was chosen as a future read for my bookgroup and while I was not excited by the title, I loved it almost as soon as I began reading. I forced myself to read slowly to savor the writing and the life of Alexander Rostov.

The book begins in 1922 when youngish Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to live the rest of his life in Moscow’s Metropol hotel because he is an aristocrat. His life was spared because of a revolutionary poem attributed to him, but if he steps foot outside the Metropol he is told he will be shot on sight.

Rostov meets many interesting people including the daughter of a revolutionary (and later her daughter), a famous film actress, and a Soviet official,  all of whom enrich or even save, his life in one way or another.  He lives a surprising full life within the walls of the hotel.

The history of Russia and the Soviet Union is told as background to the book.

I ended up falling in love with Alexander Rostov a little bit. His gentlemanly ways will be with me for years to come.

The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis

While C. S. Lewis is one of my all-time favorite authors, I’ve actually read very little of his work beyond the Chronicles of Narnia. I chose The Great Divorce because it was on the top left shelf of a bookcase in the basement.

When I started reading it my first thought was “The Good Place!” and sure enough at least one other person had that thought.

The book starts out in what we find out later is Hell. A group of denizens in Hell are boarding a bus to what we found out later is an outpost of Heaven. During the bus ride the narrator (Lewis himself, apparently) mostly listens to others talk, complain, or fight.

Once in the other place Lewis meets up with George McDonald who shows him around and when not eavesdropping on other conversations, tries to convince Lewis to follow him to Heaven.

It is a small book, but very heavy and it took me at least a week to read. I am glad I finally read something of Lewis’ that was not hiding religion inside fairy tales.

Declutter 2018: A bag of 29 things

I’ve been collecting things to give to the folks that come by and take things. I’ve not gotten too far in filling the bag but here it is what I have in the bag:

  • A book called My Mother, Your Mother: Embracing “Slow-Medicine,” The compassionate approach to caring for your aging loved ones. A geriatric doctor suggested it back when my dad was ailing. I didn’t get past the first page.
  • Four pieces of plastic on which to string Christmas lights
  • A fabric coaster filled with cloves and decorated with snowmen. It was a gift from a student.
  • An old GPS device
  • An Otter Box case for an old phone
  • Two briefcases
  • Two sets of light-activated candles
  • A case for my tablet that I don’t like
  • A bunch of thank-you cards
  • A cheat-sheet for statistics
  • A cord on which to hang a nametag
  • Some Moleskin padding, regular
  • A pack of replacement fuses for Christmas lights
  • A battery powered controller for something I gave away another time
  • A small photo album
  • A pair of clip-on reading glasses
  • An old walking tracker and its plug
  • 7 Stretchy silicone tops for containers

Declutter 2018 count 80:

  • 29 things in a bag
  • 32 Dan Bern Posters
  • 2 crystal unicorns, broken
  • 9 letters from Sue
  • 1 Loon Magic sweatshirt
  • 1 shedding scarf
  • 1 pair of fingerless gloves
  • 1 wool underlayer shirt
  • 1 birthday poster from Sue
  • 1 baby shower thank you card from Chris and George
  • 1 Christmas postcard from Auntie June and Uncle Harold

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

I was excited to see that Robin Sloan was writing a new novel. I enjoyed Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore and Ajax Penumbra 1969. I put Soudough on hold at the library and when it arrived I opened it right away and was consumed by it immediately. I read it morning and night and the middle of the night and during breaks from work.

Let me just say now, before I forget, Robin Sloan is one of the best writers I have read. His stories (he’s only written two novels, a novella and a prequel to one novel) are charming, but not cloying. He writes humorously at times — but not overtly so. I guess you’d say he has a “dry” sense of humor, which — to me — is the best kind.

Sourdough is about Lois, a young programmer who moves to San Francisco to work for an automation company as a coder of software for robotic arms. One evening she orders take out and her life changes dramatically.

I think my life might be changing dramatically because of this book. While I am not a coder, I do work long hours in front of my computer. On Thursday I made pizza dough for our out-of-town guests. I alternated between working at my computer and making the dough, letting it rest (time for work), kneading the dough, letting it rest (more work). It was such a productive day on both counts that I want to do that again — except with bread instead of pizza dough.

I have some questions for Mr. Sloan though:

In Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore Google is named. However, even though Google is probably used in Sourdough, Sloan calls it “the expedient search engine.” He also calls other obvious Internet entities “the expedient [insert their purpose]” and I wonder why.

Okay maybe that is the only question I have for Mr. Sloan.

 

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

I, along with multitudes, found The Girl on a Train an enjoyable read. We read it for book group and it was a pleasant change from some of the difficult books some members prefer.

I’d seen Into the Water by the same author mentioned on Good Reads and Amazon so I put it on hold at the library. I finished it yesterday morning, after a fortnight of slogging through a town-full of characters telling first-person stories about suicides, inappropriate love affairs, witches, abuse and misunderstandings.

I rated it 3-stars on Good Reads because I liked some parts of the book, but I think Ms. Hawkins could have told this story better without so many unreliable narrators getting in the way.

After You by Jojo Moyes

This is the second in a three-part series that starts with Me Before You. After You was readable, not as good as Me Before You though.

The first book was more believable. The second had some less believable bits and the timeline seemed weird.

For instance Lily’s mother is so angry and unsupported of her 16 year-old daughter that it seems like Lily has been difficult for years when it has only been a few months.

I have Still Me, the last book in the series, on hold at the library and will most likely read it but this might be a case where the series went on too long.