Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

I don’t typically read Science Fiction. I can probably count all that I’ve ever read of the genre on one hand. Maybe both hands, because there was that LOST challenge I completed between 2011 and 2014, but in 53 years of living, that’s not much. I don’t know much of the lingo but I can tell you that
I really, REALLY enjoyed this book.

The best description I can give it is found in the blurb on the front cover of the paperback edition;
“A mind-blowing sci-fi/Suspense/Love Story Mash-up.” And that, my friends, is what it is.

What’s that super power some characters have where they can self-multiply?
Wait, let me text my son and ask him…
Self Replication? Yes, that’s kind of what’s happening here, but not really. We’re kind of Time Traveling but not quite. We are definitely on multiple, parallel time lines and things build in intensity and desperation all the way to the end.

Clearly, I can’t explain it, I just want you to read it. I WANT YOU TO READ THIS BOOK.
It’s like a gift to the lay reader. No need to love science or have a degree in Physics to follow, but it’s still so intelligently and emotionally written.

I read this as part of Roof Beam Reader’s 2022 TBR Challenge. So far I’ve read 9 out of the 12 books that I committed to read for this year. These are not new books, but some that I have had on my bookshelves for over a year. I regret not reading this one long ago. If I had, then I probably would have already read the two books Mr. Couch wrote that follow. Now I have those to look forward to. And I’ll have a little more Sci-fi in my pocket!

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

I cannot believe this book did not win a Pulitzer prize. I CAN NOT.
I know I’m no critic and I’m no expert literary judge, but this book has everything in it that an award winning book should have: Climate, landscape, family saga, a long, sprawling, three generational epic, war, religion, tragedy. The list goes on.
I looked up to see what other awards the book DID win and all I found were Emmy and Golden Globe awards for the 1983 TV mini series.

This book was so much more than I thought it would be. I knew it was beloved by many, but all I knew about the story was that a Priest was in love with a woman and at some point they consummated their relationship. I assumed this was an on-going affair and he kept this all a secret because he would have lost his ministry. I probably gathered these thoughts from seeing glimpses of previews for the TV series as a young teen. (I never watched it but my mom did. hehe ) Anyway, the whole story is so much richer and deeper and less scandalous than what I had imagined it to be for all these years.

I would describe this whole book as beautiful. Not everything that happens, and not every character, but the story as a whole, is just BEAUTIFUL. It is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year.

When I read The Prince of Tides several years ago, I had the same thoughts about it deserving an award. I looked up what book actually won the Pulitzer that year, and it was Lonesome Dove. You better believe that went right on my TBR. (To Be Read pile) When I didn’t find any literary awards for The Thorn Birds, again, I looked up to see what actually DID win the Pulitzer in 1977. Turns out there was no prize for fiction that year. Sometimes there isn’t one. But they did have a category for “Winners in Special Citations and Awards.” Guess what it was?
And yes, I’ve had that one on Audible for a few years now. I’ll be getting to that one as well.
I have a lot of good reading in my future.

**I read The Thorn Birds as part of Roof Beam Reader’s 2022 TBR Pile Challenge.
Next up to read: Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

I’ve read several books by Ann Patchett. I really like her writing style and I enjoy reading books that are heavier or more thoughtful in nature. That’s the way I have found all of her stories so far. Commonwealth, though, was not my favorite. (That would be Bel Canto.)

Commonwealth tells the story of two marriages that end, and two families that blend, because of an affair that began at one child’s Christening party.

Patchett takes us through the years of the six children whose lives were up-ended as a result of the “blending”. Most of them survive neglect and grow up to be independent, functioning adults. But not all of them. It’s painful watching them make poor choices as they grow, but it’s a little bit lovely too, to see how they love and support one another in the future.

Some reviewers call this book depressing. They’re shocked at the level of non-supervision these children lived with during their summers together. But I really feel like Patchett has a good sense of what was acceptable/typical supervision of the time period. And I guess that is sort of depressing, but it also seemed very authentic.

This was book number 6 out of 12 for my TBR Challenge for 2022.

Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen

What a delightful story about two grieving people; thirty something Harry and ten year old Oriana.
There is an element of magical realism, and that really isn’t my thing, but it wasn’t overdone. It actually made me want to believe in what was happening.

Harry feels the unbearable weight of guilt from the death of his wife. He blames himself, so when he is rewarded four million dollars in a wrongful death suit, it only adds to his despair and sense of responsibility.

Oriana, through the help of an old librarian and an old hand written book, believes she knows just the thing to lift Harry out of his sorrow. Harry, in turn, believes he knows just how to help Oriana, who has also experienced life-changing loss.

Things get a little intense at times because someone close to Harry knows about the four million dollars and is on the chase to get what he feels is owed him.

This book has it all. Romance, heart-break, humor, fantasy, bookish delight and trees. Trees, galore!!

I read this book as part of the TBR challenge I’m working on in 2022. This is book number 5 out of 12.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Honestly, when I type “by Amor Towles” I just want to add a big ol’ heart by his name. I will forever love him for writing A Gentleman in Moscow.

This one? It was ok.
I never felt particularly attached to our main character, and that’s fine. I don’t need to love who I’m reading about, but I do want to understand them.
Her motives were strange to me. Her story was vague. I had no connection to or interest in the setting.

The best way I know to describe my experience with this book is to explain how I felt as a young teenager watching the old Sydney Poitier movie, To Sir, With Love. There is a scene where one of the female students walks into the class and Sir confiscates a paper bag from her. He pulls out what is in the bag and reprimands her harshly about having self respect, or something like that. Given the context, I could tell that what was in the bag was deemed inappropriate, maybe a birth control device or drugs? I had no idea what the thing was. The viewer watching in 1967 would have known.

That’s the feeling I was getting from Rules of Civility. Like, what are you people motivated by and what is actually happening in your lives? If I was a socialite in New York in the 1930s, then I would have followed along nicely. And no doubt Mr. Towles, (swoon) knew the time he was writing about and did an excellent job painting the picture. But I had a hard time really grasping the emotion of what this girl was going through. There was this whole conflict where she became angry at a particular character and basically froze him out for being less than authentic, you know, deceptive, fake. But I’ll be honest with you, I felt like she was the same way.

Everything ends well with her and she achieves the life style she was shooting for.
I didn’t really dislike her, I just could not relate to her.
That’s not Mr. Towles fault.
Obviously, that man has no faults.

The Hardy Boys – #2 The House on the Cliff

Well, I just read my first Hardy Boys mystery. (I’m 53 years old). I have a handful of the blue, hard cover editions that I got from my grandmother’s collection. She picked them up at yard sales and thrift shops years ago and gave some of them to me. I would have read the first story if I had it but my little collection begins with #2.

I remember being very familiar with the Hardy Boys when I was growing up. All the boys were reading them and the girls were reading Nancy Drew and I was never super interested in reading either one. I did enjoy watching Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy PLAY the Hardy boys on TV though. They were so cute.

I have found as an adult that it’s difficult to enjoy some books that were intended for a much younger audience. This is not always the case. I will always love Charlotte’s Web, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and some of the Narnia books to name a few. And there are some picture books that I absolutely ADORE and want to share with everyone. But most of the time it is hard for me to spend time reading a chapter book intended for a juvenile audience. What should take me no time to complete takes me much longer because of my lack of interest. The House on the Cliff was sort of like that for me.

Frank and Joe Hardy are brave and curious young men who enjoy helping their detective father solve cases. In The House on the Cliff, they are investigating drug smugglers. The boys encounter trouble when their father goes missing and the they venture out on their own to find him. There is a mysterious house on a cliff by the ocean, secret passageways, trap doors, hidden ponds and scoundrels waiting out on the water. They enlist the help of their high school buddies, (thank goodness summer break has just begun), and the Coast Guard gets involved too. All’s well that ends well, thanks to Pretzel Pete.

Would I read another Hardy Boys mystery? Yes. It’s nice to have something like it to cleanse my palate when I have just come off of Reading Don Quixote for two months. I loved DQ by the way, it was just a big reading project to complete. I like to strategically include books like this into my reading challenges because I am a slow reader and it’s good to boost my reading numbers when they are lagging. In this case, I am reading it for Roof Beam Reader’s TBR Challenge and it fits very nicely. I doubt that they will ever be page-turners for me, though. Not just because they are juvenile, but also because I don’t really love mysteries.

Up next for the challenge: The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Blind Dates, Bridesmaids & Other Disasters by Aspen Hadley

The first book I chose to read for the TBR Challenge was delightful. It was definitely predictable, as I imagine most rom/com books are, but it had a fun plot line and it made me appreciate that I am not having to navigate my way around the dating world.

Rachel Steven’s is a twenty-seven year old elementary school teacher, who is considering remaining single all the days of her life and acquiring cats along the way. When her roommate and best friend Hannah becomes engaged, she wants to share all the love and happiness by challenging Rachel to go on six blind dates before her wedding. Reluctantly, Rachel agrees believing she has nothing to lose.

The men and the dates this woman experiences are just outrageous. And when James, her ex-fiance that she broke up with seven years ago, comes on the scene, she infuriates the reader! We know good and well that if she would just COMMUNICATE HER FEELINGS her life would happily fall back into place and she could avoid a whole lot of heartache. But we can’t have all that so fast when we read.

It really was a sweet and funny story. And for someone who appreciates this kind of thing, there was absolutely no profanity in the whole book. It’s shocking really, but it was so refreshing.

It’ll probably be March before I can get back to the challenge since I am reading Don Quixote for one of my book clubs. And that’s a big one. I’m thinking the next one will be Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, but we’ll see when we get there!

2022 To Be Read pile challenge

This year I’m joining Adam, from Roof Beam Reader, as he challenges and encourages us to read books that have been on our shelves for over a year and have not been read.
Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you have a few lying around the house that were given to you or that you bought because you wanted to read them, but you never did. I have about 30 or 40 of those.
I am pledging, or resolving, or committing to read 12 of those books this year. One for every month. That’s my goal. And as I finish each book, I will post a short update here on the blog.
It’s time I wake my little space in the internet up anyway.

Here is my list:

1. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
2. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
3. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
4. The Hardy Boys, The House on the Cliff by Franklin W. Dixon
5. Blessings by Anna Quindlen
6. This is My Life by Meg Wolitzer
7. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
8. Blind Dates, Bridesmaids and Other Disasters by Aspen Hadley
9. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
10. The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe (audio)
11. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (audio)
12. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie (audio)

Alternates: (In case one or two of these don’t work out for me)

* Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen
* Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

What are you reading? 2020

My family took a vacation the week of Labor Day, and I determined it was high time I got back to surveying the readers on the beach. That’s right, I approach total strangers, who are minding their own business, with their noses in books, and interrupt them to ask them what they’re reading. (Sometimes I start off with my name and assure them I’m not selling anything).

I’ve done this survey a few times before. Although it used to embarrass my kids, my reader friends all loved it, because here’s what I know: readers like to talk about what they’re reading. We do! And I’ve found that it’s quite enjoyable to talk about books with people I’ve never met before. We’re all just people anyway, trying to relax, trying to get a tan, trying to read a book without being bothered. You know how it is…

Enough chit chat. Here’s what the people were reading at North Myrtle Beach, Labor Day week, 2020.

My first victim, er, I mean, my first participant, was this lovely lady from Ohio. She was reading on her Kindle, (or maybe Nook, not sure). These devices are perfect for beach reading because the screen shows up just like a physical book but there is no annoying page-blowing. She’s reading Shem Creek by Dorothea Benton Frank, a very popular author around these parts. This happy fellow below, I’m assuming is her son. (I don’t get personal in these interviews.) He grinned like this the whole time I was jabbering. And who wouldn’t want this set up he had? It’s like he brought his sofa out on the beach.

Some folks don’t want their picture included but still don’t mind talking and letting me take a photo of their book.

Elin Hilderbrand is always a popular pick.

I met the Mister while walking one way, and met the Missus on my way back. So cute, reading Harry Potter.

This reader said it wasn’t that good.

This is Laura from Tennessee. It was great talking to her. She says I need to hashtag all these authors.
Laura’s friend said, “I’m just reading an Inquirer”.
We talked about eating plants and she recommended I read “How Not To Die”
Her friend was reading for pleasure.
Super fun couple. We talked Lee Child, Grisham, LOST and they had me scope out another couple to see what they were reading.
This is how you do it. Put that chair right in the water.
The cutest little lady and so sweet.
Reading up on the Kennedys.
One of several authors I didn’t know. And how cute is her suit?
This was her second time reading this one.

And what was I reading this week? I finished Shades of Blue by Karen Kingsbury, late at night on my kindle, with some tears. On the beach I read what I’d been waiting to read since Mother’s Day, Camino Winds by John Grisham. Knowing that Hurricane Season was coming and adding to that a trip to the beach, I had the perfect atmosphere for this book!

So much fun with this one.

Other books spotted on the beach were titles by Karin Slaughter, more by Mary Kay Andrews and Dorthea Benton Frank.

I found a used book store in town and picked up next summer’s big book.

That’s all for this year, friends. You can take a look at my previous surveys by typing Beach Reading Survey in my search bar. Have a great fall and Happy Reading!!