Happy Wednesday, friends! So far this week we’ve been enjoying sunny skies and lots of birds. I’ve added three birds to my life list (Magnolia Warbler, Killdeer, and the Belted Kingfisher), which is delightful. We are expecting rain this afternoon that will last through the evening, but that’s okay. We’ve had plenty of time outside to make up for a rainy day!
My reading life has finally been revived. I have a chapter book readaloud, three novels, and one book of nonfiction to share with you today.
Finished In the Last Week:
“It is what we are being, not what we are to be.”
It’s hard to succinctly describe The Transit of Venus. On the surface, it’s the story of two Australian sisters who are orphaned at an early age and make their way through life’s ups and downs. It’s a quiet book that seems to focus on strange details. I picked it up because everyone raves about the ending, which I found difficult to piece together and was thankful for reading friends who were able to do that work. If you’re in the mood for a thoughtful puzzle, this is a good book for you!
Yellowface popped up on my TBR this month and I couldn’t resist reading it right away; I pushed everything aside and started it immediately! I wrote a little about it on Monday and managed to finish it last night. I almost want to go back and do some colorcoded highlighting in my copy because Kuang covered so much in just over 300 pages. She explored who has a right to tell certain stories, how the publishing industry dilutes the stories of people of color, cancel culture, and how marketing teams decide which books are going to be best sellers. And she did this through one of the most unlikable characters I’ve ever met: June Hayward. She’s such a selfish and self-centered opportunists, full of micro aggressions and straight up racist ideas and thoughts. But of course, would never consider herself racist.
Kuang’s writing is sharp and modern. This book feels like it was just written yesterday because of how relevant it is. On Monday I wrote that this book speaks to our time and it’s so true. This would make an excellent book club read because there’s so much to pick apart and discuss!
Fire Rush is on the shortlist for this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. I listened to it on audio and highly recommend that format given that this is written in a specific (and beautiful!) dialect. Hearing it spoken might be easier for many readers than reading it with our eyes. This is mostly set in a Jamaican community in London in the late 70s/early 80s with Margaret Thatcher at the helm of the country. I appreciated the introduction to the dub club scene, which is not something that has been on my radar before.
This book came to life for me in the last third. Yamaye returns to her ancestral homeland of Jamaica and is connected to the people and her island. I thought a lot about what I’ve been learning in Craft in the Real World and the writing crafts common for people of African ancestry. By having a better idea of what Crooks was trying to do, I have a much stronger appreciation for this work. By learning more about the brutal conditions that slaves in the Caribbean faced in our little homeschooling history time, I have an even stronger appreciation for a character who returns home and feels her ancestors in her soul.
We learn so much by reading and finding beauty in the stories around us. I am thankful!
I have been reading Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less slowly with a friend since February. I struggled with this book throughout and found it to be geared towards people working in the corporate world with an uncommon amount of control over their work day. The second half of the book was better and was more easily generalized to other situations, which I appreciated. My biggest takeaways from this book is the reminder that less is more and my answers to the question, what do you want to go big on?.
What have I changed in my life since reading this book? I’ve chosen to dedicate more time and energy to my health, reading, and writing goals. I’m working on releasing my guilt about the stitching projects I have started and waiting to be finished! But I know I can’t do everything I want so I’m experimenting with having a smaller focus. So far, I’m pleased with the results. We’ll see how the year plays out!
Bronwyn and I finished Samantha Saves the Day at the end of last week! In this one, Samantha and her family spend the summer at their camp and the girls discover Samantha’s mother’s sketchbook. It is full of memories on the island that Samantha is too young to remember and it sets her on a journey to rediscover the time she spent with her parents before their deaths. But Samantha, Agnes, and Agatha get stuck on an island during a big storm. With a cool head and a kind heart, Samantha manages to get everyone home safely.
And with this book, Bronwyn and I have finished all of the Samantha books! Just a recap: we have read all of the Kya, Felicity, Josefina, Kirsten, Addy, and Samantha books. Whew! Next up: Kit, who I think lived during the depression? And I think there’s a movie about her? Perhaps we’ll be able to watch it once we finish her series.
Did you see that Chelsey and Sara at Novel Pairings are planning to read Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey this summer? I am so tempted to join along! Are any of you planning to read with them?
I wish I could write more this morning but Colton is now awake (at 5:14am)!! I hope to be back on Friday with a little more of an update. Take good care!
I just finished Trespasses by Louise Kennedy, inspired by your shortlist. Loved it and was sorry to see it end. Now on to Yellowface, I expect. In the meantime, I continue to be intrigued by and to step toward fuller ownership of the idea that less is more. (But I think that doesn’t actually apply to Kindle books, right?) 😉
I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed Trespasses. I thought Cushla was such a likable character! I hope you love Yellowface!! I am still thinking about it, which is a good sign. And I agree — you can never own enough Kindle books!
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What an assortment of books to make the reader really think. This bookish post illustrates how books can push readers in unexpected directions.
Thanks, Laurie. It’s fun to see where books take us!
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To infinity and beyond! 😉
I deeply loved the treasure that The Transit of Venus was… what brilliant writing to gather all those clues together to create such a stunning ending! But my latest love is all things Sarah Winman. Oh. My. Gosh! She is brilliant!
I hope the remainder of your week is full of good things!
YES to Transit of Venus! I need to reread it to truly appreciate it, but still. What a quiet but marvelous work! I love seeing your enthusiasm for Sarah Winman 🙂 I guess I need to read more than just Still Life!
I also had some help figuring out the ending of Transit of Venus and will likely need to reread it at some point. I think it’s probably easier to know what’s going on if you read it in a more focused way; I was reading it before bed, so only managed a few pages a night, and I found I forgot some key details. I’m on a long hold list for Yellowface from the library, but I expect it will move quickly once the library gets more than the one copy it currently has!
I hope your commitment to focus on a smaller number of things pays off!
That ending was such a doozy! I also read it with lots of gaps, so I had a hard time putting things together. I had to think very carefully while Paul was confessing to Caro at the end; it was all so muddled in my brain!
I hope your hold on Yellowface comes in soon! I think you’re going to enjoy it. I don’t read a ton of contemporary fiction, but this worked really well for me!
You’ve sold Yellowface to me. I’m going to see if the library has it. Thanks for the review.
woohoo! I’m not sure if it’s published in the UK yet so it might be hard to find right now. But I imagine it will be available for you soon!
Actually, the UK publication date is TODAY!!
Thanks for keeping me in supply of good books to read. I am really thinking about “less is more.” Have a good day!
Thanks, Linda! “Less is more” has been on my mind a lot too. It’s a hard concept for me to wrap my brain around!
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Love reading your thoughts on Transit of Venus and Fire Rush, two of my favorites this month! I made a little connection between Fire Rush and Birnam Wood this morning (literary thrillers?!) – you know how I love finding connections. Yellowface is on my June/July TBR (I only need to finish in time for FM’s buzzy book discussion and I think it will be quick) and YES! I’m all in for The Odyssey with Novel Pairings. I’ve had my eye on that translation since it came out and I cannot imagine a better crew to read with. Hope you’re gonna join too!
I am so tempted to join along!! I am making a push with Doctor Zhivago because I don’t want to read TWO chunky classics at the same time. (Although, DZ isn’t as chunky as I expected so this wouldn’t really be much of a push). The temptation to sign back up as an NP patron is real!
I was thrilled to see on Discord that you enjoyed Pod so much. I am still having a hard time getting through it but think I’ll be turning all of my attention towards it once I finish Tales of Burning Love. You and Margene make it sound so good!
I’m glad you’re feeling good about your reading again!
I’m glad you are feeling more like yourself. And three new birds is very exciting. I’ve always wanted to see a kingfisher. Your reading discussion is always interesting to me. I’m on the fence, as whether or not to read The Transit of Venus. Perhaps its a book that requires the reader to be in the right frame of mind for a puzzle.