Books read: April and March 2020

Whew, I lost a month in there somewhere, but never fear, I’ve been reading. I ended April right in the middle of a massive book, so decided to hold off on the post. But as is usually the case, May got away from me and so I’m combining the two months. I didn’t read as many things as usual and I blame Hilary Mantel for that.

The Missing of Clairdelune

The second book in The Mirror Visitor series is an absolute fantastic build on the first one. Ophelia is introduced at court, she’s known in the The Pole, and she’s trying to figure out how to behave, what’s really going on, and most importantly, who she can trust. I really like Ophelia, she’s a great character who is smart, funny, and often times surprising. I can’t wait for the third book, but it’s not due to be published in the US until some time this fall.

Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy

I’ve been reading Anne Lamott for years and once this pandemic set in I decided I needed a dose of her and checked this out from the digital library. I was surprised by how much I didn’t love this book, I usually love everything she writes, but something about it didn’t hit me in the right spot. It could very well be the climate of the world and the state of things, but there weren’t as many bits as I read that made me stop and reread and think.

The Mirror & The Light

Whew, this is a long book and well, you know how it’s going to end as you go into it, don’t you? Overall I enjoyed this trilogy and am glad I finished it. Cromwell is an interesting figure in history and the reign of Henry VIII was such an up and down affair. But in the end I realized that I was reading the story of an egomaniac who was manipulating and attempting to control an emotional train wreck of a world leader right at a time when that is the reality I’m living in. It was a bit of a hard read and took me a while to get through. BUT Mantel is a great writer and her descriptions are worth the read.

Ms. Marvel Vol 10: Time and Again

I really enjoyed the story arc in the this volume and didn’t realize until I finished it that it was G. Willow Wilson’s last as the writer. As Kamala is growing up and learning, she’s realizing what’s important, what matters, and who matters. As is usual with any volume of this comic, there were lines that hit me, hard, and issues that made me laugh as well. Wilson’s done a great job and I’m sad to see her go, but interested to see where the series goes from here.

Agency

I was excited to read the sequel to The Peripheral and once my digital hold came up I dug in. I love the concepts of stubs and timelines and the way in which one change in history can change everything. And I enjoyed this book right up until the last 50 or so pages. The ending fell very flat for me. Verity Jane, a whiz with apps, is testing a new program, a new AI. It turns out that the AI, Eunice, is very much in control of things that no one fully understands. And in Verity we learn more and more about Eunice and meet a whole host of characters that Eunice brings together. But at times, especially when referencing the wider events in Jane’s stub, the book felt like it was a different book. This book was delayed quite a bit as he reworked parts of it and I keep wondering what it was meant to be before that work was done, before he took into account the events of 2016.

Hold Still

I read this memoir on the recommendation of Austin Kleon, and I’m so glad that I did. I wasn’t familiar with Sally Mann’s work and am now in love with it. This book is a great introduction her body of work. It’s rare to find an artist that can look back at over 40 years worth of work and talk about it so clearly. And the way in which she weaves in her life story, the history of her family, and the history of the south where she lives is captivating. I highly recommend it, she’s a great writer as well as a great photographer.

Dinner: Changing the Game

I’ve long loved many of Melissa Clark’s recipes on the New York Times cooking site, so when I saw Anne Helen Petersen raving about this cookbook I was intrigued. I got it from the library to see if I would like it and welp, it’s on the way from Powells as I type this. What sold me on the book was the wide variety of vegetarian recipes, as well as some super intriguing chicken recipes. Her writing style is great and it’s been easy to make things and sub in what I have on hand as well. Can’t wait to make more dinners from this book.

The Art of Noticing

Austin Kleon’s also talked about this book quite a bit and even though I can’t go too many places right now, I wanted to get a feel for the book and what he’s getting at. I’m glad I did. I haven’t done all the exercises, but I really enjoyed the introduction and reading through ways in which I can incorporate noticing more into my day-to-day-life.

Let’s stop trying to be so productive all the time and make an effort to be more curious. Do you want to look back on a life of items crossed off lists drawn up in response to the demands of others? Or do you want to hang on to, and repeat, and remember, the thrill of discovering things on your own? (p xv)

The Secret Commonwealth

The second book in the Book of Dust series by Philip Pullman was a bit of a disappointment for me. It’s definitely a transitional story that ends with everything up in the air (reminded me of The Empire Strikes Back in that way), but I also feel like Pullman is getting so caught up in proving his philosophical points that he’s sacrificing the story. The story starts after The Amber Spyglass and Lyra is now a young lady in college herself. She and her dæmon aren’t getting along, when he suddenly leaves her, along with other events in the Magisterium, she begins an epic journey. I do like how more of the back story is filled in, how Lyra learns more of what her story is, but I can’t quite see how Pullman will draw all the threads to a close in the third book. Of course I’ll have to read it, since I’ve come this far.