Reading Roundup 4/25/20

It’s a gray day here today, but mostly we’ve been really lucky in Tennessee this Spring, with seasonable temperatures and sunny or partly sunny days. I’ve spent more time in my backyard this spring than I’ve ever done. I’ve loved watching nature, the birds and bunnies be born and get bigger before our eyes. I am so grateful for the good weather and the lack of mosquitoes! I know soon enough they will come out to torment me and I will be forced inside more often. 😢

img_5624So the Classics Club picked the number 6 last week; therefore my choice is Adam Bede by George Eliot. I got the ebook and the audiobook both from the library. I started it and left it behind temporarily in favor of Daphne Du Maurier’s Mary Anne, which is my pick for Ali’s Daphne Du Maurier reading week celebration, May 11 through 17. (I have until the end of May to get Adam Bede read. It’s much bigger than I had thought and quite intimidating.) Mary Anne is a historical fiction novel set in the late 1700s, based on Du Maurier’s great-great- grandmother, and so far it’s very good. I’m about 1/3 of the way through.

Recently Finished:

img_5623Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

I loved this! I inhaled it. For the last 1/3 of the book I sat at my kitchen table and ignored anyone who tried to talk to me. I feel like this is a very American novel, perfectly encapsulating our obsession with image, our addiction to social media, our inability to talk about or deal with class and race. We get alternate perspectives of a young black woman, Emira, and a thirtysomething white woman, Alix, in 2016 Philadelphia. Emira is the babysitter to Alix’s two children, something she is really good at and enjoys. But she constantly compares herself to her friends and wonders if she is not “grown-up” enough. Her impending 26th birthday has something to do with that – she’ll be kicked off her parents’s health insurance. Meanwhile, Alix is feeling lost as well, having had two children in quick succession while trying to start a business that has garnered her a large Instagram following and a book deal. (I confess to never really understanding exactly what her business was about… something with writing letters?) Alix is not very sympathetic, despite the reader knowing some hard times she went through in high school. She never really got OVER things that happened in high school and she just seemed desperately insecure and lonely to me throughout the novel, so I supposed I pitied her rather than sympathized. Also I was angry at her poor treatment of one of her children, and the way she refused to accept responsibility for certain things in her past. Emira was imminently more likeable and having been broke and lost in my twenties I could certainly identify with her in that way. I also loved how much she cared about the children in her care. Anyway, crazy things happen, there are a couple of big twists, and I’m not going to spoil it further. If you’re looking for a smart, fun, slightly maddening exploration of class and race and motherhood, look no further. It’s a page-turner. This would make a GREAT book group pick.

The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

Talk about an atmospheric mystery! Set in Louisiana, between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, this contemporary mystery is a slow burn but very good. Caren Gray manages an antebellum plantation that hosts events, like weddings, and tours from school groups. A single mother, she lives on the grounds with her school-aged daughter, Morgan. Caren grew up around the plantation since her mother worked for the family that owned it. Now the body of a young migrant woman who worked in the sugarcane fields next door has turned up in a shallow grave on the edge of the grounds, and Caren is drawn into the mystery of why she was killed and who killed her. There are lots of red herrings, spooky scenes on the grounds, a snooping but handsome local reporter, shady business deals, and Caren’s complicated relationship with her ex-partner that all come together to make this a satisfying mystery. It deftly touches on issues of immigration, the criminal justice system, and the aftermath of slavery. I also enjoyed Locke’s previous mystery, Black Water Rising. I plan to check out her newer books as well.

Personal Stuff:

I’ve walked every day this past week, woohoo! I’m still enjoying all the blooms in the neighborhood very much. Today’s picture is from my own front yard, some pink dianthus that I planted years ago. My garden is coming along nicely, although I was very mad at some squirrel who dug up the dirt in my cucumber patch area and displaced a seedling that had sprouted up apparently from an old seed of last year’s garden. I think it was a cucumber seedling but I’m not sure. Anyway, that darn squirrel dug it up just for fun, I guess. 😕 Peas, arugula, and kohlrabi are sprouting. I’ve never had kohlrabi but I thought I’d try it since it came free with my seed order! I planted a bunch of flower seeds too, like zinnias, sunflowers, bee balm, and echinacea. I can already see the zinnia seeds sprouting.

I’ll have some extra time to garden this summer because I was among 169 library employees temporarily furloughed this week. That’s virtually the entire library system. So we won’t be opening up the system anytime soon! I have made my peace with it, mostly, because what else can I do? They say that they hope to call people back to work soon, that the furlough is slated for eight weeks starting May 9, but they can call us back at any time before the eight weeks is up. It’s a county budget thing, since tax revenue for March and April will be so down. Employees in other departments were furloughed but the library took the biggest hit. Initially it made me very sad because it made me feel like libraries were not important. And by extension, like I was not important. But now I am thinking that libraries are always among the first things to be cut in budgetary hard times, as unfair and shortsighted as that is. I’m certainly not alone in America or indeed the world. Many people are losing or have already lost employment. It’s just the first time it’s happened to me, and it marred my sense of self. I take great pride in the work I do and I love the work that I do. I love my community. I think about my patrons all the time. I hope they don’t forget about us. In my darker moments I think, well, now everyone will have to turn to ebooks and they won’t come into the libraries anymore once we can open up again. But I know that’s not true. I’ll be fine. The libraries will open again. I keep telling myself, This Too Shall Pass. Anyway, now I get to do the interesting psychological and philosophical questioning of personal worth outside of work – who am I without my job and what am I worth when I’m not working? It’s almost exciting to face these big questions. Being an optimistic person, I try to find silver linings anywhere I can. There are quite a few here.

If you are also facing a job loss, temporary or permanent, my heart goes out to you. We are all dealing with stressful things now, and I hope that we are all being extra compassionate with ourselves and not beating ourselves up too much for not being “productive,” or eating too many snacks, or watching too much TV or whatever. I am taking a note from my blogger friend Fiction Fan and treating myself to extra medicinal chocolate these days! Perhaps reading books is the way you are treating yourself kindly. I hope your stacks, be they virtual or paper, are providing you with comfort and joy.

30 thoughts on “Reading Roundup 4/25/20

  1. Laila-I’m so sorry you’ve been furloughed BUT I have 100% certainty that things will open up again, and people will come flocking back to the library. If anything, this has taught everyone that libraries are essential for our community, and i think we’ll see user numbers up, if anything. It sounds like you’re keeping a positive attitude, which is key, but like FF, I also believe in extra medicinal chocolate at a time like this 🙂

    I’m thinking of recommending Such a Fun Age for my next online book club read, we shall see! everyone seems to love it so I’m glad you did too.

    PS-gorgeous flowers!!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree, Such a Fun Age leaves you with loads to discuss. The problem with listening to it and then writing a review is that I can’t really discuss it with anyone and avoid spoilers in the comments, so I’ve here, thinking about it by myself. I saw another blogger write that she felt Emira wasn’t very developed, and I wrote this in response:

        I got on with Emira not knowing what to do with her life and basically being a blank slate of a person, but this is likely due to the fact that I know so many men and women around her age who are floating in jobs with no advancement, lack health coverage, live in crappy apartments like they’re still in college, and are practically incapable of doing something about any of it unless someone else forces them. I think there is this culture in the U.S. that makes people in their mid-twenties feel grateful for any job, even if that job doesn’t allow them to have a good life. Fear, paralysis, . . . it makes sense to me.

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      2. Emits felt developed to me, maybe because I identified with so much of her experiences as an aimless young person. I definitely think our culture enables/encourages people in their twenties to delay “adulthood,” even aside from our capitalistic failings.
        I understand about listening vs. reading and then trying to write a review. I find it’s way harder to write about a book I’ve listened to.

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  2. I miss the public library, and hate it that others who need it more than I do can’t go there right now. I do hope yours opens up sooner rather than later.
    I reviewed Such a Fun Age on Feb. 17 and ended up wondering about Emira’s wisdom in not recording everything in public… Emira, who admits she used to say things that were “so offensive and awful” that “now I can’t believe I ever talked like that” but who doesn’t write down everything she thinks and post it on the internet.

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    1. Thanks, Jeanne. I feel the all the people who have no internet access, who need to use library computers, who don’t know how to access ebooks or are afraid to try. Many of my patrons fall into those categories.
      I thought it was quirky of Emira not to use social media. She certainly seems to be an outlier among 26 year-olds.

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  3. Oh honey, I am so sorry to hear that you’ve been furloughed. I’ll be keeping you in my thoughts. Definitely the library is the biggest thing that I miss from the before times. Going there on Sundays and browsing through the new books shelves has always been one of my special pleasures.

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  4. So sorry that you’ve been furloughed. It’s a tough time for everyone and some institutions are having to make tough choices when it comes to budgets. I too would like libraries to be considered more important. I think they are essential to communities because of the resources they provide.
    Well, I hope your gardening will help to bring you some peace in all this. I also need to get on your level – walking every day. I stay inside too much.

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  5. I’m glad you are enjoying the lovely weather! I am sad to hear about your furlough but I appreciate your talking about it. But finding joy in the outdoors, our family and well being are important.

    I have Adam Bede on my TBR but I don’t think it’s on my cc list. I would have buddy read it with you if it was and I hadn’t scheduled several buddy reads already. Such a fun age was a quick read

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  6. I’m so sorry,Laila. Yes, this too shall come to pass. I’m in the same position. I work at a Private University, cost cutting measure number one is for all administration staff to take unpaid leave. We were termed as ‘non-essentials’. I love what you said about finding our worth outside work. Such powerful words. It shall be well. Libraries and universities will open again ❤️

    Also, darn squirrell 😀 Fun Age and Cutting Season sound like books I’d enjoy too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry you’re also experiencing job loss right now. I know eventually things will get better but it’s a tough time now for a lot of people. We will get through it! I’m glad what I wrote could give you a lift. We are all “essential” no matter what some administrator says.

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  7. So sorry for the furlough, it’s tough! No need to justify your chocolatey needs in these circumstances, I guess we’re all there, more or less. Mary Anne seems great! I really miss our local library and the kind librarians we visited every week, so don’t worry, you are not forgotten! In the meantime, working on self-care and your own identity independent from your workplace (as a book lover instead of as an employee of x Library) is never wasting time. Hang in there!

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  8. So sorry to hear you’ve been furloughed, but hopefully it won’t last too long! I know what you mean about finding out who you are without your job – I remember being made redundant in my thirties and suddenly having no work to go to for the first time in my life, and going through the same thing. But I discovered that I actually am a real person even without work, and so will you! And I’m glad to hear you’re taking medicinal chocolate to help you through… 😂

    I loved The Cutting Season when I read it years ago and you’ve reminded me that Black Water Rising is lingering somewhere in my TBR pile…

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  9. Laila, I hate to hear about the furlough. I love the perspective you’ve found. And don’t worry a second about your patrons forgetting about you – I’ve thought about my librarians every day (which sounds creepy now that I’ve typed that). I know it sounds weird, but my library was such a big part of my life pre-COVID and I wonder how my librarians are fairing right now.

    Enjoy finding yourself during this period without work! I can’t wait to see what you discover.

    Thanks for the pictures of the flowers! Those are just gorgeous. Enjoy watching your garden grow – I can’t believe it’s finally spring!!

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  10. Attica Locke is a great writer to read right now – so smart, so thoughtful, and totally page-turning too. Do you have her other one too? it sounds like your weather is much warmer than ours? We are just in the middle of daffodil season now and only a few days ago they were lying on the ground after an unexpected frost. it’s amazing how resilient they are – and so are we, humans, too. I think you’re wise to look around the back and underneath of your current situation work-wise, there’s always something to explore in almost every circumstance and as hard as some of us have it, if we’re book-chatting on the ‘net we still have a lot of good fortune alongside those challenges! Because our libraries were among the first things to close, I think they will be among the last to reopen (they operate on so many social levels in a city this size, like warming and cooling centres in cold/hot seasons, for instance). So even though I currently have 16 items caught en route amid the closure plans, which will careen into the branch whenever things do reopen, I’m currently making the most of my plans to read my own books (because I finally finished my “last” library read last week — wow, who knew that was even possible — can you believe it?)

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    1. Oh wow, your last library read! I’ve been trying to draw mine out so that I don’t get to the “last” one anytime soon. This is the perfect time to read those books that have been sitting around waiting to be read.

      I don’t have any other Attica Locke books right now, but I may have to purchase one before the library opens!

      Our weather probably is warmer than yours but it’s been such a nice spring. It’s really felt like Spring and not just straight into summer. I really appreciate it.

      Although I am temporarily furloughed I am actually grateful. I don’t think I could handle being around patrons all day anytime soon.

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  11. I’m just catching up on blog reading for the week. I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been furloughed, but not at all surprised that you’re approaching it philosophically and with your usual optimism. I hope it’s a good time of soul-searching (as well as gardening, reading, etc.). Hugs!

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    1. Ah, thank you, Rebecca. After a day of crying and lying around I bounced back pretty quickly. These things happen and there’s not much I can do about it, so how do I go on, that was my next question. I am going to enjoy the positives of this time and focus on the present as much as possible. It could be much worse.

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  12. I recognize you wrote this post 3 weeks ago, but I wanted to say that I hear you. I appreciate the positivity you’re demonstrating considering your furloughed (and that darn squirrel!). This is a super weird time, isn’t it? I hope that you’re finding all sorts of amazing things to do in your now open time and that the library welcomes you with open arms when it opens back up. Our library started to do curbside pickup today — they had over 100,000 requests come in once they announced they would start this program. Almost every furloughed worker in the Madison Library System is back working now to help with this onslaught. Perhaps that will be you someday soon?

    I like kohlrabi, though my husband thinks they are bland. My favorite things to do are slice them into sticks, season lightly with salt, and munch — or to make fritters out of them. They are very versatile veggies. Also, very hardy. Don’t worry, they’ll grow no matter what. XD

    Good luck with your garden!

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    1. Oh good! Thanks for the kohlrabi guidance!

      I honestly have no clue what will happen with our library system. It’s such a weird feeling. I am hopeful that by the end of the eight weeks (which would be the beginning of July) that the virus is better contained and that we can open up again in some capacity. I would be fine doing curbside pickup. We’ll just have to see. If nothing else, this pandemic has taught me that there really is so much out of our control and it’s best to try and just appreciate the present moment!

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      1. I love that perspective! I need to be better about that. Lately pandemic-brain has been worried about the future and all the things I’m not doing right now. Wah wah. It’s important to take time to focus on what’s going on right now and appreciate what we’ve got. I know when things finally open up again, in safe way I feel comfortable with, I’ll cherish being with my friends outdoors again.

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