Monday, April 15, 2024

The Postman Always Rings Twice

The Postman Always Rings TwiceThe Postman Always Rings Twice 
by James M. Cain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this 1934 noir classic in a single sitting. It was un-put-down-able and it was also incredibly well written. Cain structured the story very cleverly and each of the main characters was clearly drawn and we came to understand their motivations. I gasped aloud several times at the twists in the plot. I also enjoyed the very dry tone of the writing.
"Stealing a man’s wife, that’s nothing, but stealing his car, that’s larceny.”
― James M. Cain, The Postman Always Rings Twice
This novel was the inspiration for Camus' The Stranger--which I own and now plan to re-read. 

This title is on my Classics Club list

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Readathon Wrap-up

Yesterday I participated in the April 2024 Dewey's 24-hour Readathon. I didn't stay awake for the entire 24-hours, but I did spend an entire day focused on reading my out-of-control pile of library books. Now on to the wrap-up survey!

  1. I read from 5 different books yesterday. One was my current chapter-a-day book (War and Peace) and the others were from my current batch of books checked out from the library. One of them I started and decided to send back to the library unread because it was too much like another novel I have going right now. It may come back in the future. 
  2. I finished 3 books during the readathon. I enjoyed them all, but The Postman Always Rings Twice (which I will post about later) was my favorite. The Divorce Colony and The Little Book of Dog Care were my other finishes. My partner also finished 3 books (and a bunch of magazines). He focused on books he had already started. 
  3. My goals for readathon were to enjoy a leisurely day of reading with my partner and his dog and to make a dent in my library pile which had gotten out of hand. I accomplished those things.
  4. My snacks and meals worked out very well. I planned ahead (which always helps!) and had everything prepped to go into the crock-pot for dinner (taco soup -- which was delicious). A trip to the market Friday after work set us up with plenty of snacks (including carrots cut into chips which were great to eat while reading). In the evening we opened a very nice vintage Zinfandel which was a lovely treat. I think I finally have my food/beverage plan for readathon dialed-in. Planning ahead is key.
  5. I enjoyed this readathon a lot. It was relaxing, companionable, and I got a lot of reading done. I didn't push myself to do the 24-hours. I started at the appointed hour (8:30am in my timezone) and went to bed around 11pm when I was sleepy. I did a couple of the hourly photo challenges on instagram, but didn't stress about trying to do them all.  
  6. I won't be continuing any of the books I started during readathon because I finished them all! My out-of-control library pile is now back down to a normal size. 

Monday, April 1, 2024

March Book Report

Edmond, OK, March 2023
I finished 12 books last month.

A quote from this month's reading:

[Doing one thing at a time] "...attempts to reduce the cognitive toll of feeling like everyone needs you at all times. All things being equal, workflows that minimize this never-ending stream of urgent communication are superior to those that instead amplify it. When you're at home at night, or relaxing over the weekend, or on vacation, you shouldn't feel like each moment away from work is a moment in which you're accumulating deeper communication debt. in the age of the hyperactive hive mind, we've become used to this despondent state as a necessary consequence of our high-tech world, but this is nonsense."--Cal Newport, A World Without Email, p. 113

Here is my progress toward various goals and challenges:

 Here are the books I finished in March 2024: 
  1. What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam (audiobook, 3-stars)
  2. A World Without Email by Cal Newport (5-stars)
  3. Boom Town by Sam Anderson (4-stars)
  4. Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear (5-stars)
  5. Southern Lady Code: Essays by Helen Ellis (4-stars)
  6. The Power of 2: How to Make the Most of Your Partnerships at Work and in Life by Rodd Wagner (3-stars)
  7. The Lantern's Dance by Laurie R. King (4-stars)
  8. A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home by Elsie Larsen (3-stars)
  9. The Quiet American by Graham Greene (4-stars)
  10. The Week: A History of the Unnatural Rhythms that Made Us Who We Are by David M. Henkin (audiobook, 3-stars)
  11. Slow Productivity by Cal Newport (4-stars)
  12. The Tuesday Club Murders by Agatha Christie (5-stars)
I think I need a sabbatical from work because I am way behind on reading my library books. The pile just keeps growing! Reading sabbaticals should totally be a thing.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

The Quiet American

The Quiet American (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)The Quiet American 
by Graham Greene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

GoodReads describes Greene as a writer whose "works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world." That is exactly what this novel, written in the mid-1950s does. The story is set in French Colonial Vietnam, apparently a bit before the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, and is the story of a British reporter and the small circle of people around him, "the Quiet American" is one of those people. There is a dry, distant tone taken by the narrators of the Greene novels I have read so far which works really well in describing the terrible things they are dealing with and the moral ambiguities with which they struggle at a personal level. 

If you are a person who can't deal with stories where bad things happen to dogs, this is not a book for you. I had planned to watch the 2002 movie based on this book, but my partner is one of those people re dogs, so that may not happen.

This title is on my Classics Club list

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Among the Mad

Among the Mad (Maisie Dobbs, #6)Among the Mad 
by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think this was my favorite Maisie Dobbs so far. She is working with Scotland Yard, in a consultant capacity, which opens up possibilities of the plot in a way that the earlier novels lacked. There was a definite thread of sadness in this story, but the kindness and grace of Miss Dobbs keeps the heartbreak at a manageable level.
I am counting this towards the Historical Fiction Challenge as it was written in 2009 and is set at the turn of the year 1932. 

Friday, March 1, 2024

February Book Report

January 2024, NYC
I finished 7 books last month.

A quote from this month's reading:

“A person was like a city. You couldn't let a few less desirable parts put you off the whole. There may be bits you don't like, a few dodgy side streets and suburbs, but the good stuff makes it worthwhile.”
― Matt Haig, The Midnight Library

Here is my progress toward various goals and challenges:

 Here are the books I finished in February 2024: 
  1. Things to Look Forward To by Sophie Blackall (3-stars)
  2. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (4-stars)
  3. I Think You're Wrong, But I'm Listening (4-stars)
  4. An Overdose of Death by Agatha Christie (3-stars)
  5. Be the Unicorn by William Vanderbloemen (3-stars)
  6. Nightwood by Djuna Barnes (3-stars)
  7. Fabulous Feathers and Fillers by Sue Nickles (4-stars)
I didn't have any good February pictures so I picked one from a trip I took last month to visit my sister. 

I ended up abandoning my Classics Club spin title (Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne) and am currently reading 5 different books. I expect to finish all but one of those (War and Peace, which I am reading slowly, but am liking) in March.

Sunday, February 18, 2024


by Djuna Barnes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Barnes wrote this novel in the 1930s and it is mentioned as both an influential novel for many "modern" writers of that vintage (Faulkner, Joyce, Eliot, etc.) and a classic work of lesbian fiction. The book centers around a woman named Robin Vote and the impact she has upon the lives of various people. Most of the book is set in Paris and the point-of-view shifts from character to character, but always circling around Robin. 
In his introduction to the novel T. S. Eliot says:
"What I would leave the reader prepared to find is the great achievement of style, the beauty of phrasing, the brilliance of wit and characterisation, and a quality of horror and doom very nearly related to that of Elizabethan tragedy."
That seems like an accurate description. I enjoyed this book, although I found it hard to follow at first. The structure was very well suited to the tone of the tale being told and the language was striking.
"If I should try to put it into words, I mean how I did see her, it would be incomprehensible, for the simple reason that I find that I never did have a really clear idea of her at any time. I had an image of her, but that is not the same thing. An image is a stop the mind makes between uncertainties." (p. 111)
This book is on my Classics Club list

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Love in the Title

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is a love freebie in honor of Valentine's Day. I am going with "Books I Have Read with Love in the Title."

  1. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
  2. Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story by Christopher Moore
  3. The Republic of Love by Carol Shields
  4. No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym
  5. To Love and Be Wise by Josephine Tey
  6. Love Among the Chickens by P. G. Wodehouse
  7. The Love Prescription by John M. Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman
  8. Love, Lies, and Liquor by M. C. Beaton
  9. Falling in Love by Donna Leon
  10. Notes on a Killing: Love, Lies, and Murder in a Small New Hampshire Town by Kevin Flynn and Rebecca Lavoie

Saturday, February 10, 2024

I Think You're Wrong (But I'm Listening)

I Think You're Wrong (But I'm Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political ConversationsI Think You're Wrong (But I'm Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations 
by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this book to be thought provoking and filled with useful questions to consider about how my actions and beliefs affect the conversations I have about politics. 

One of the things the authors talk about here is the importance of bringing your whole self--beliefs, experiences, values--to your political conversations and allowing others to do the same. We are not talking to "political positions" but to actual complex people. I was struck by the fact that my experience of reading this book was an opportunity to exercise this skill. The authors are both Christian women whose faith is a big part of who they are. This is very much a part of the way they view the world and how they approach conversations. At first I was a bit put off by all the faith-based parts of the book, but as I read I came to see that they brought value and nuance to the points being made. I had been reassured that these were women I wanted to hear from early on (page 18 to be exact) when the phrase "Because you cannot have too much Abigail Adams..." was used.

Another part that really resonated for me was the chapter 'Find Your Why' where Simon Sinek is quoted:
"For values or guiding principles to be truly effective they have to be verbs. It's not 'integrity,' it's 'always do the right thing.' It's not 'innovation,' it's 'look at the problem from a different angle.' Articulating our values as verbs gives us a clear idea--we have a clear idea of how to act in any situation."
The divisiveness that has infected our country is a huge problem that cannot be solved with a single book. I recommend this book, however, as an excellent way to consider how you are personally contributing to the divisions or helping to bridge them.

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