Bookish Chatter | February Keeps Moving!

February seems to be going by especially fast this year! I cannot believe that March 1st is just one week away. These last few days have felt cold and raw, so I’ve enjoyed my time curled up with a stack of good books. I have a few finished ones to share with you this morning, so let’s chat about them.

Finished This Week:

The Mapping of Love and Death is the seventh book in the Maisie Dobbs series and it might be my favorite. Maisie is approached by the family of Michael Clifton, an American land surveyor. He joined the cause when England entered WWI to fight for his father’s birth country. After his death, they learned he’d been writing letters with a nurse and hired Maisie to help find her. As soon as she saw the autopsy report, Maisie knew that Michael’s death wasn’t due to enemy fire. She set to work finding Michael’s killer as well as the woman he loved.

This novel brought big changes to Maisie’s personal life — not only does she have a new and surprising love interest, but her financial circumstances change after an extremely close friend passes away. I find Maisie endlessly fascinating and am looking forward to reading more of this series this year.

The Night Watchman! I loved every single second of this stand-alone novel by Louise Erdrich. I think I’ve asked on this blog why Louise Erdrich hasn’t won the Pulitzer yet? And I stand corrected: this novel DID win the Pulitzer!! And this piece of American literature is completely deserving of that coveted prize.

I adored both of the main characters in this novel, Thomas Wazhashk and Patrice Parenteau. Thomas is based on Erdrich’s grandfather who worked as a night watchman at the local jewelry bearing plant and a tribal councilman who fought congress on a bill that aimed to terminate all treaties and deals with Native Americans. Patrice is a young woman who recently graduated from high school and works at the jewelry bearing plant, but heads to Minneapolis to search for her missing sister. Their stories intertwine in the most amazing ways. I was cheering on everyone on the Turtle Mountain Reservation who worked together to get tribe members all the way from North Dakota to DC to testify against this hateful bill in Congress.

I love how easily Erdrich can move through her characters, including making animals and nature come alive in her novels. The more I read by her, the more I’m in awe of her talent. Next month’s Erdrich novel is The Bingo Palace and I can’t wait.

Bronwyn and I finished reading Addy Saves the Day this week. Addy’s church in Philadelphia puts on a fair to raise money to help the Freedman’s Fund and all the people struggling to recover after the Civil War. Addy suggested to the children of the church that they make spool puppets and put on puppet shows to raise money. All of the children love her idea — except Harriet, Addy’s arch nemesis. But Harriet and Addy learn to work together when Addy witnesses a moment of sorrow by Harriet and she realizes that, despite her snooty ways, even Harriet has been deeply hurt by slavery and the Civil War.

Addy was reunited with an important person at the end of the book and I struggled not to cry. I love seeing her family slowly become whole again and yet — how many families were ripped apart by slavery and were never made whole? Countless. So many Americans can’t even get a full picture of their heritage because of how America treated their ancestors. I am REALLY enjoying the Addy books, clearly. We started the last book in the series last night and I’m not looking forward to saying goodbye to her!

Bryce and I finished the seventh Captain Underpants last night. This one is The Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy Part 2: The Revenge of the Ridiculous Robo-Boogers. In this one, Melvin Sneedly has stolen Captain Underpants’s super powers and George and Harold have to go back in time to retrieve Melvin’s invention in order to re-combine Melvin and Captain Underpants, switch the Captain’s super powers back to him, and then separate their bodies again. It is all so confusing! I’m pretty sure that we’ll be starting the eighth epic novel tonight.

Slow & Steady

I am pleased to report that I’ve stayed consistent with War and Peace over the last week! I am now on page 450 and getting closer to the halfway point. So much has happened in this novel since I wrote last week. But as of right now, Napoleon and Alexander seem to be trying to make peace? I’m skeptical because there’s still almost 800 pages for me to get through and that seems like a lot of peace and not enough war to warrant this title? The war bits are my least favorite parts though, so I kind of hope we’re moving into peacetime and watching the lives of these characters unfold a little more.

I’ve enjoyed emailing back and forth with Sarah about my progress! She’s much further along than me and I don’t have to worry about spoiling anything for her. It’s been fun to have a buddy to read this with and compare translations.

I’m still making my way through What Are We Doing Here with Mary and am now on my seventh page of notes in my reading journal. Friends — there is so much to think about within these essays. I have to chuckle about some of Robinson’s assumptions though. At one point she posits that everyone knows about Jonathan Edwards, a New England puritan philosopher, because he’s taught in high school classrooms. I listed out my qualifications to Matthew: I have a masters degree, I read a tad more than the average person, and I’ve lived in New England for over 15 years. I have never heard of Jonathan Edwards. I’d love to know if you learned about his philosophy in school? And I’m just an anomaly? Either way, Robinson seems to live a life dedicated to understanding Puritans and how they truly lived, which is surprising for a novelist. She’s not a professional historian but these essays make it seem like she spends her life poring over documents archived in important libraries. She is brilliant.

And thanks to her, I am learning so much about American and Puritan history. I love that it ties in with what we’ve been studying in our homeschooling history too. We just got through the Interregnum in England while it was ruled by the Parliament and Oliver Cromwell, who features heavily in Robinson’s research and work. (And I’m terribly mixed up with the Cromwells because I’m also reading Wolf Hall, which is about Thomas Cromwell during the Tudor reign. It’s a fun problem to have!) I love it when my worlds collide like this.

It’s possible that I’ll finish this collection of essays this week, but I’ll keep you updated no matter what.

I finally started Sula last night. Wow, wow, wow — I am loving it! I knew nothing about this story going in but several people from Fiction Matters were raving about loving it, so I was excited to start. I stayed up way too late last night because I couldn’t put it down and managed to read about 70 pages before my eyes became too heavy to continue. I can’t wait to see where Morrison leads me. (bookish serendipity moment: both Sula and The Night Watchman have characters named Valentine. I love these kinds of coincidences!)

I’m also still inching through Wolf Hall and plan to give it my full attention once I finish Sula. I started this novel several times around 2015 but couldn’t get passed the first couple of pages. I think it was because I had two children under two at the time and couldn’t get through much of anything? But I am absolutely loving it and am itching to really dig into it later this week.

We’re expecting a big snowstorm predicted tonight. We’re forecasted to get 7″ tonight and 3″ tomorrow morning and I can’t wait to get the kids bundled up and swimming through the snow. We’ve had so few storms this year and our snow cover is getting really sad looking. I know I keep saying that I’m excited for spring, but I don’t mind it when the snow sticks around for a long time.

I’m looking forward to writing another post on Friday – maybe I’ll finally get that stitching update pulled together? Or maybe I’ll just pop in and wish you a happy weekend. Until then – take good care!


27 thoughts on “Bookish Chatter | February Keeps Moving!

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  1. Loved this. You’ve gotten me reading so many authors that I now adore, Katie! I haven’t read Louise Erdrich for many years — and now it’s time! (Thanks for providing the links that you do, too — although sometimes it makes it WAY too easy!) LOL


    1. I’m so happy to hear that Jordy. Louise Erdrich is an American treasure and I think you’ll love whatever you pick up by her! And thank YOU for using the links — it all adds up 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Some very interesting reading. Have fun in the snow. We haven’t had a bit here this year. We usually have one or two good ones. I guess it could still happen but it’s supposed to be 80 degrees here today.


    1. Wow — what a warm spring! This winter has been strange for everyone. The snowstorm underperformed here but we got 3″ and are expecting more snow next week. We’ll see what happens!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The war bits are my least favorite part of W&P, too, and I’ll admit I’m kind of skimming through them. I’m a little past halfway, and I can tell you there’s plenty more war to come! But there’s a lot more drama with the characters, and that’s really what I’m most interested in.

    I enjoyed my reread of The Night Watchman so much more than my first time; I think I needed more background in Erdrich’s writing to really appreciate it.

    While you are expecting a big dump of snow, we’re supposed to break 70 here tomorrow — and then go back to the 30s on Friday. This is the strangest end of winter I’ve ever experienced!


  4. I have heard of Jonathan Edwards but don’t know much about him. Never read about him in school, either. The problem for a writer when she becomes steeped in a subject is that she can become myopic. Wonder how that affects Robinson’s fiction writing. Anyway… will be putting Maisie Dobbs on my list.


  5. I loved Sula and was left speechless at the end! I also loved re-reading The Nightwatchman and look forward to the zoom discussion on Saturday. I wish you luck with your slow read of W & P. I read it along with my father maybe 30 years ago or so (before “buddy reads” were a thing) and we would talk about it once a week. I’m glad I read it but I have no desire to re-read it.


    1. LAILA!! Yes! I hope you get to her soon. I think The Night Watchman or The Sentence would be great places to start. Which book is on your Classics Club list?


      1. I hope you love it! I had a hard time with it at first because I didn’t realize it was short stories. The family tree helps! But Love Medicine will give you a good foundation of the characters that reoccur throughout the whole series, so I’m glad you’ll be reading it!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I have really enjoyed revisiting The American Girl books with my daughter! And what a spring for you! I hope this doesn’t mean the summer will be completely unbearable??!


  6. Well I have heard of Jonathan Edwards but certainly didn’t study his philosophy in high school or college. And I had a very traditional study of English as an undergrad. I listened to Sula awhile back and loved it. I really want to revisit Toni Morrison. So many books, so little time . . . is so true. I also loved The Night Watchman.


  7. Love your bookish chatter. So glad you love Wolf Hall, it’s the best and most accessible one in the triology. Thomas Cromwell’s nephew is the Grandfather of Oliver Cromwell. I only found that fact a week ago!


  8. I love reading about your experience with Robinson’s essays here (and the reaction in the comments tells me that we are in good company with our education) – I am so curious to explore the Puritans and Oliver Cromwell further. Intend to ask our pastors (Presbyterians trace their roots back to Calvin, so wonder how that gets taught), too. and finally, I loved that Maisie Dobbs, too – I read the first few in the series when they came out and then waited until 2019 or 2020(?) to catch up and I remember that book so clearly – it was the one that made me fall in love with the series again. You have a good string of books to look forward to!


    1. There’s so much to think about from those Robinson essays and I think she has a fascinating perspective and such a curious mind!

      This was such a great Maisie Dobbs! I’m not sure when I’ll get to the series again? Hopefully soon!


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