Happy Wednesday! I’m thrilled to share that I’ve actually finished reading a couple of books this week and that I might be moving past my reading funk? I hope so because the previous few weeks have felt a bit sparse. But I’ve been reaching for books to fill the quiet moments again and almost everything has sparked my interest – both are very good signs! Today’s post features two recent finishes for me and two chapter book readalouds with the kiddos.
Finished This Week:
Tar Baby was our Toni Morrison selection for April over on Fiction Matters. It took me a bit to get into it; I don’t know if it’s because of the reading slump I’ve been in or because the opening chapters were more tedious than usual. But once I got settled with the story and the characters, I was totally hooked. It’s set on a Caribbean island in the mansion of a white man from Philadelphia living with his wife, two black servants, and the servants’ niece. I don’t want to say too much more about the characters than that because there’s a shocker early on that upends everything!
As usual, Morrison guides the reader through sticky issues of race, gender, and class. She took an interesting route with this one by setting it in the Caribbean, which was the most brutal place to be a slave, and juxtaposing the life of black people on the island with those of the white people. There were some powerful scenes that made my jaw drop and this might be her most straightforward condemnation of white privilege so far. Tar Baby was published in 1981 and it’s amazing to think how long it’s taken white Americans to catch up with so many incredible black thinkers.
I’m planning to read Love in June. Will you join me?
The audio of Under the Whispering Door has kept me company recently. I wanted to read this because I enjoyed The House in the Cerulean Sea so much a couple of years ago and I needed something light and easy. Under the Whispering Door fit that bill and helped move me out of my reading funk. It is full of interesting characters and the most cozy setting: a teahouse that helps people cross over after they die.
An excellent pairing for this book would be the Monk & Robot series. Both use tea as a way to understand and comfort others and both prod the reader to think about their own lives and how to live it well.
Picture book pairing: Julia’s House for Lost Creatures, Julia’s House Moves On, and Julia’s House Goes Home. (I’ve only been lucky enough to read the first book in this series, but the other two look fantastic!)
Bronwyn and I finished Happy Birthday, Samantha. In this one, Samantha gets a taste of the city life by visiting Cornelia, Gard, and Cornelia’s nieces in New York City. They have quite an adventure with their dog in the park and learn the importance of following the rules!
Young readers are also introduced to the suffragist movement. Grandmary is ardently against the new fangled notion of allowing women to vote but after hearing Cornelia’s impassioned speech in the park, her viewpoint begins to shift. These books are such a gentle way of learning about big moments in American history; I just love them!
Bryce’s latest pre-bed readaloud was Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy Part 2: The Revenge of the Ridiculous Robo-Boogers. Goodreads tells me that we’ve read this 5 times but I haven’t been tracking our readalouds that long so I suspect it’s more. The good news is that I’ve finally gotten Bryce to agree to something else for our bedtime readaloud. The bad news is that it’s not as well written as Captain Underpants!! More about that when we finish it.
Slow & Steady:
I’ve started another Russian classic as a slow & steady read: Doctor Zhivago. I am very happy to share that this is MUCH shorter than War & Peace and much more approachable. I’m aiming to read 20 pages a day but have fallen out of the practice in the last week or so. I will start again today! I’m already almost 100 pages in and am enjoying it.
I’ve read a bit about its publishing history. This was originally published in 1957 around the world but the Soviet Union refused to publish until the late 80s. After it was released in the 50s, Boris Pasternak was blacklisted by the Soviet Union. Did you read The Secrets We Kept? It gives us an excellent glimpse into how the CIA got involved with its publication. Goodreads tells me that I read it in 2019 and gave it 3 stars. Perhaps I should try again after I finish Doctor Zhivago? I also want to try to squeeze in The Romanov Sisters before I start Anna Karenina later this year.
Other bookish thoughts:
📚 I tried really hard to finish The Transit of Venus last night, but couldn’t stay up any longer. Everyone says that the ending is mind blowing and I am flummoxed by what could possibly happen? So maybe I’ll manage to finish it tonight. I’m also about a quarter of the way through Fire Rush on audio and am unsure about it. My blogging friends have given it mixed reviews so I’m going into it cautiously.
🖋 My reading journal has been sadly neglected and I am working to get everything in order. The first order of business is to get some notes on Tar Baby jotted down because it must be returned to the library today. I’m hoping for a little time to do that after I push publish this morning.
The next few days are forecasted to be chilly and cloudy (today’s high is in the low 50s!), so I’m hoping that translates to some extra reading time. After I finish The Transit of Venus, I’m going to start Tales of Burning Love, which will wrap up the Love Medicine series for me. There’s so much to look forward to!
I hope to be back on Friday to share more about my week. Until then – take good care.
I find that Spring is such a busy time. So easy to push reading to one side. I think you have actually done a great job of cracking on with your reading. On a related note… have you heard about the podcast the History of Literature? I have recently started listening and I like it a lot.
That podcast is all new to me – thank you for recommending it! And you’re right – spring is so busy, especially when you want to soak it all in!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Wow! Great reading week, Katie! I am savoring these more “spring like” days versus the 80’s we have had recently. They are good days for re-ordering a closet and drying all the winter woolens (The Day of the Big Soak has arrived! lol)
I hope your closet organization is going well! And I like these days a bit better too, especially since we’re likely to get plenty of really warm days in the coming months!
I’m happy to hear your good review of Under the Whispering Door. I’ll save that for when I need a feel-good read. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on Fire Rush when you’re done!
Under the Whispering Door isn’t great literature but it’s a heartwarming book when you need something different. I hope you enjoy it!
Yay for bookish chatter! Tar Baby sounds so good (TBH all of her books do, but this one got me with the Caribbean setting) and what an interesting pairing with Fire Rush. My copy of Pod arrived today; I’m looking forward to finishing up the Short List soon!
I hadn’t even made the connections between Tar Baby and Fire Rush – thank you! And yes, all of TM’s books have been amazing this year. My favorite so far is probably Song of Solomon. I’ve been trying really hard to get through Pod and am taking it about a half chapter at a time. It’s definitely not for me so far. I hope that changes!
Good to hear that your reading slump seems to be over. I still need to pull out the Toni Morrison book that is in the bookcase in our bedroom…I have yet to read it…but I keep being notified of books that have come in at the library for me.
Thanks, Vera! It feels good to be reading again, that’s for sure. The Toni Morrison isn’t going anywhere, luckily! It’s so fun to get calls from the library about books waiting for us. Perhaps you might just borrow a Toni Morrison from the library instead of reading your own copy? I do that sometimes because it scratches a certain itch that’s hard to describe!
Tar Baby was so good! I’m glad you also enjoyed it. I really need to read more Morrison. I’m glad your slump is clearing up!
Thanks, Laila! I’m so glad that I didn’t give up on Tar Baby because I almost returned it to the library without finishing it. But I knew I needed to try again 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person