Sunday, April 30, 2023

April, 2023 Reading

April feels as if it vanished in a flash. Great month -- vacation to San Antonio, Texas where I saw my wonderful friends Teresa and Cindy for the first time in...what? 24 years? (Before I forget, Teresa is an audiobook fan. I'm hoping she'll give me ideas for books to listen to.) Visited The Alamo, which has given me ideas for May reading. Ate an embarrassingly huge amount of delicious Tex-Mex, except that I don't feel embarrassed at all. Did I mention San Antonio's Riverwalk? I dream of a small, book-filled apartment right there, overlooking the river. Another fun excursion was to Ripley's Odditorium. Fun and overwhelming. Plus, Fiesta de Los Reyes was going on, so the city seemed especially lit up, in all senses of the phrase.

My two bookstore visits in San Antonio were to: Pandora's Bookstore, which is tiny and charming with a small stock that seems thoughtfully selected. My favorite of the two was The Twig Book Shop, a larger space with more variety. The area The Twig is in used to be a brewery, and the whole area feels fresh and idyllic. Anyway, back to The Twig: Hooray for Indie bookstores! I found several Annie Ernaux books, which I've been looking for. I bought Happening, a memoir. I also bought The Last Confessions of Sylvia P. by Lee Kravetz, which I'd sort of been dancing around for a few months. I also bought some book earrings to wear to book group. What I regret not buying was a little Dorothy Parker doll which was nestled in with other literary figures in doll form. Mark Twain was cute, but Dot caught my fancy. When I finally checked out and left, I really really really did not want to go. Is there a word for the pain of parting from a bookstore?

But wait! During a looooooooong layover at Dallas Love Field, I stumbled onto a gem of an airport bookstore called Ink. Quirky inventory Entertaining browsing. I had to restrain myself. Finally, I saw The Last Detail by Darryl Ponicsan. It was 50% off. I HAD to take it home. I'll happily do another layover at Love Field. 

And at last, here's what I read in April:

1. The Rainbow Comes and Goes - Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper. Memoir. Audiobook. Now I feel like bingeing and reading all about the Vanderbilts. Enjoyed hearing the authors read their book. Gloria's Mid-Atlantic accent -- does anyone talk like that anymore?

2. Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen - Sarah Bird. Novel. Historical fiction about Cathy Williams, who successfully posed as a male soldier named William Cathay right after the American Civil War. I discovered that for me, historical fiction has got to be feisty and fearless. Sarah Bird was firmly anchored in history, and once she did that, she really leaned into the fiction part. And that's how it needs to be. The novels that stick too close to the history feel stuffy and airless. Practically the very moment I finished Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen, I found the audiobook version at another library. Oof. Read by Bahni Turner, one of my favorite audiobook narrators. Double oof. This book is definitely worth a reread, so I'll go that route next time.

3. Who Is LeBron James? - Crystal Hubbard. Biography. It may seem odd, but I knew almost nothing about LeBron James, except that he was a pro basketball player who had played for Cleveland. I enjoyed this biography.

4. What Is the Story of Nancy Drew? - Dana M. Rau. Literary History? Although I only read two or three Nancy Drew mysteries, I was still a great admirer of the greatest girl detective. Glad to read her origin story. It was interesting to see how she's changed and evolved over the years. Bonus points to this book for talking about my favorite Nancy Drew book The Hidden Staircase.

5. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen. Novel. Bolstered by the annotated edition and the audiobook version in tandem, I finally finished this novel. Does Austen get the credit she deserves for her truly memorable supporting characters, some vile, some hilarious?

6. At the Edge of the Orchard - Tracy Chevalier. Historical Fiction. Audiobook. In the early 1800s, the Goodenough family settles in the swamps in Ohio, because their wagon gets stuck there. The patriarch, James, is mad about apples, so he sets about creating an orchard by buying seeds and saplings from Johnny Appleseed, and by grafting. His wife, Sadie, has no patience for orchards and prefers the apples to be used for applejack, which is her way of escaping the difficulties of pioneer life. In what I consider a good reading month, this was my favorite book. Highly recommended.

7. The Last Confessions of Sylvia P. - Lee Kravetz. Historical Fiction. I gobbled this down immediately. Sylvia Plath doesn't really speak or confess in this story. Instead, her life and legend is examined from three varying points of view: First, Esmee, a master curator at an auction house, is brought three spiral notebooks which seem to contain a handwritten draft of The Bell Jar. Secondly, the reader is sent back in time to the late 1950s where we meet Boston Rhodes -- she's a blast, what you'd call the breakout character on TV -- a poet who was part of Robert Lowell's poetry seminar that Plath attended. Boston Rhodes, who seems based largely on Anne Sexton, perceives herself as Plath's rival.  Finally, we go back again in time to 1953 and Dr. Ruth Barnhouse, who treated Plath during her first breakdown. For devotees of Sylvia Plath, this novel is a little irritating, but also vastly amusing -- so many Easter eggs to be found! Kravetz did his research, and did it well. In addition to being historical fiction, it's also a mystery, and I'm not a mystery fan, but I liked this very much. I'm thinking: Reread.

For some reason, I have recently developed a longing to get a book tattoo. Don't know what to make of this, and it has extended to looking at potential designs.

I hope to do a post in a few days to share what I'm currently reading -- it's a fascinating stack.


Care said...

Always a delight to read your posts.

raidergirl3 said...

I agree about The Edge of the Orchard. Chevalier is one of my favourite authors - never disappoints! I was excited about this one because my sister and I had a Johnny Appleseed record that we sang along to back in the day.