Sunday, January 24, 2021

Unearthed and Keeping Corner

 "Unearthed" by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

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     I received this as an advanced reader copy.... in 2018. Eek. My apologies to the authors. I don't read a lot of science fiction so this was a nice change from my usual reading. After the Earth has depleted many of its natural resources, a message is intercepted from an extinct alien race. The planet Gaia may hold secret technology that may help replenish Earth's resources. The news of these new technologies led many people to have the desire to study the new culture, but also the desire to scavenge the planet for profitable materials. 
     Like many books I enjoy, this is told through alternate perspectives- Amelia- a scavenger who is attempting to "buy back" her sister from her employers on Earth, and Jules- a scholar hoping to learn more about the mysterious messages sent by the Undying. There were parts of this book that were a little repetitive and predictable, but it was a new enough concept for me to like the story. I might be interested in reading the 2nd book.
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     I got this book from our former middle school librarian, who is a good friend of mine. It tells the story of Leela, a Brahmin girl who had been engaged at 2 and married at 9. Just before her anu, where she would leave her parents' home and go to live with her husband's family, her husband is bit by a snake and dies.  The story tells of the customs of being a widow and how it affects Leela and her family in a time where society and culture was changing. I really knew nothing about a lot of these customs, or even about some differences between some of the castes in India, so this was engaging and thought provoking to me. There was a lot Hindi (? I think) words in the story, and a glossary at the end of the book that defines those words. This is a great book for people interested in other cultures or about how different generations see the same issue.
 
 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Bluest Eye

Very rarely do I really dislike a book. This is my first disliked book of 2021. "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison. 

The Bluest Eye
        I'm having a difficult time putting into words why I don't like this book. This is my first Toni Morrison book so I was disappointed that I had a hard time with is. I've heard she's such an amazing author and I was really looking forward to experiencing her writing. The subject matter was problematic to me- incest is not something I'm often reading about and I felt like Pecola's (one of the main characters) world was just hopeless. On the other hand, I have read books about serial killers and other topics that didn't make me feel as gross as this book. I read this for my book club made up of women from town. Maybe after decompressing with them I will be able to put my finger on what bothered me so much. 
       In the Afterword, Morrison writes " One problem was centering: The weight of the novel's inquiry on so delicate and vulnerable a character could smash her and lead readers into the comfort of pitying her rather than an interrogation of themselves for the smashing. My solution- break the narrative into parts that had to be reassembled by the reader- seemed to me a good idea, the execution of which does not satisfy me now. Besides, it didn't work; many readers remained touched but not moved." I'm not even 100% sure what THAT means, but the different snapshots of the lives of the characters didn't really tie things together for me. On to the next book...

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Big Lies In a Small Town

     I finished my 2nd book of 2021. I read the book "Big Lies in a Small Town," by Diane Chamberlain for my Book Hive Book Club. If you're a new reader on this blog, the Book Hive Book Club is pretty different. There are 12 people in a group. We all choose a book we want to read and buy that book and a journal. We read the book, journal about it, then send the book and the journal through the mail to the next reader. I've read so many books I never would've even considered picking up and I have met some really interesting people as well. Here's a link to The Book Hive Book Club on Facebook in case you might want to check it out. So, the book....

Big Lies in a Small Town

      This story, told from alternating perspectives tells the life of 2 artists and their involvement with a mural. The first artist, Anna, is the painter of the mural. After applying for the post office mural contest across the US, Anna was initially told that she could not paint the mural she applied for, but she was given the opportunity to paint one for a small town in North Carolina. She temporarily moves to NC to get a feel for the town and quickly discovers the positive and negative aspects of being there. 
     The other artist, Morgan, is a young woman serving time in prison for a DUI charge. She is given the opportunity to be released from prison and put on parole to help restore the mural painted by Anna years before. A local artist had taken an interest in Morgan and, in his will, has given the directive that she should be given the opportunity to restore the mural for his new gallery opening.
       I have never read anything by this author, so this book was a pleasant surprise. I really enjoyed the character development, the plot, the relationships that developed over time and the story being told through multiple perspectives. 
     Also, because I'm a total nerd, I became interested in the post office mural aspect of the story because I had seen the post office mural stamps released by the United States Post Office in 2019.  Apparently, in 1933, a friend of Franklin D. Roosevelt suggested that the government try to help artists in need of work by commissioning artwork for public buildings.  This led to the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP). About 3,700 artists were hired to create work depicting American life and modern trends.   After that project, the Section of Painting and Sculpture was formed, which was later called The Section of Fine Arts.  This group commissioned over 1,000 murals to be painted in post offices across the US between 1934 and 1943. These are what the stamps look like. #GoNerds
Post Office Murals stamps 
    In my next post, I anticipate talking about how I'm currently tanking most of my January goals. Ugh. I've learned a lot about myself and about life in the past year.

Monday, January 4, 2021

2021 Reading Goals

 Happy New Year! New Year, new goals. My reading goals this year will be somewhat reduced from last year. I would like to read more books, but do less challenges. I wasn't going to participate in any reading challenges this year, but then a woman from my book club tagged me in this group and I thought, "Wow, that looks fun." (Except for the steamy read. Not a huge romance fan.) 

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For my Goodreads challenge this year, I would like to read 75 books. I didn't read quite as many in 2020, but I was also emotionally and mentally exhausted at times. I'm hoping to read a lot this year. We all know we'll have some time this year when there is not much else to do.

Book 1:

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"The Secret Keepers" by Trenton Lee Stewart 
     I got this book for my younger son after he loved The Mysterious Benedict Society books, written by the same author.   "The Secret Keepers" is about an eleven year old boy named Reuben, who lives with his mom in the city of New Umbra. While his mom works hard to try to support the two financially, Reuben often spends his days exploring his new neighborhood. This is not something he is really supposed to be doing, but he is curious about places around him and finds it a challenge to hide somewhat within plain sight. He is weary of a group of men called The Directions, who spend the day scanning the city and talking to business owners. He knows they answer to The Counselor, who works for The Smoke. Nothing happens in New Umbra without these men knowing about it.
     One day Reuben stumbles upon a pouch that had been hidden inside a brick wall, on a ledge, about halfway up an abandoned building. Inside the pouch, he discovers an antique watch, property of P. William Light. He brings this watch to a few people to see if they can tell him the value and quickly learns that this is a very valuable watch, and far from ordinary. There is a problem though, there have been  other people who have been searching for this watch for a very long time. 
       Throughout his journey to find out more about the watch, he meets the Meyer family, who have secrets of their own. This story is filled with adventure and was a good read. The characters were enjoyable and the book had a few good lessons about character, family, friendship. greed and honesty. I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads.  If you enjoy illustrations, this book has at least one quote illustrated in each chapter and an illustration for the chapter title. I liked them a lot. The illustrator is Diana Sudyka. 
 
      I'm hoping that writing reviews on one book at a time will allow me to be a little more detailed than last year and will help me keep up with my blogging.