Epidemics: Malaria Books

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My first exposure to malaria was the silly scene in Born Free. Fast forward many years to Peace Corps and waking up with my cat licking the sweat off my face (Malawi is not a tropical country–I was sweating from fever). I had malaria only one time. I did all the things you are supposed to do, took the pills to prevent it, used my bug zapper and net. Still got it. Lived to tell. Sadly, especially for little children, malaria can go cerebral. That is scary to see. So today I’m giving you books about malaria.

 

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Mosquitos are the sole delivery system of malaria. This book is on my TBR. The Mosquito by Timothy C. Winegard [nonfiction]

 

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The Fever by Sonia Shah. I have not read this nonfiction history of the disease. It sounds very good.

 

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I read this fun little Peace Corps and International Development memoir back in 2009. It’s a good story. First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria by Eve Brown-Waite.

 

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Typical late-Colonial era Bwana, somehow sans kneesocks and tie, in Kenya trying to fool Kenyans that DDT wasn’t harmful. Fertilizer salesman sometimes drank their liquid products to demonstrate how “safe” it was, too.

 

 

Institution Books II: Institutions Freely Entered

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In my post of Institutional Books I, I listed books discussing institutions to which people are sent and cannot leave. This time I’m listing institutions people enter and exit freely.

The Invitation-Only Retirement Home

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A specialized retirement home catering to aging writers sounds like a great place to retire to me! My review is here.

The Exclusive Health Spa

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All kinds of women–men, too, by now I imagine, enjoy a spa vacation. This book kept my attention from start to finish back when it came out–the different character’s stories were so varied. Five Fortunes: A Novel by Beth Gutcheon.

 

The Anchor Baby Mother’s Home

 

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Too many people associate “Anchor Babies,” i.e. children born in the USA to have American citizenship and provide an “anchor” to bring in rest of the family, with illegals coming across the southern U.S. border. In fact, Chinese women are doing this often today–and they may even do it in luxurious style at a hotel. Or, like the women in this book, they may stay at a modern-day home for expectant mothers.  My review is here.

 

The Employee-Owned Business

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Kind of a spoiler, but you’ll read the book wondering if I was crazy. A woman-masterminded brewery? You bet! An NPR book of the year in 2019, Lager Queen of Minnesota will have you cheering the ladies on! My review is here.

 

The Church Women’s Conference

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Church Women often attend the same yearly conference. They are often involved in a Bible Study Group, Small Group, or other church-centered groups, too. Just as there are all kinds of churches in America–most cater to one race, a fairly consistent political slant, and often either blue or white-collar workers. The fictional Chicago Women’s Conference creates groups that cross all normal church divides. The Yada Yada Prayer Group is one of those groups. I enjoyed this series but wasn’t as happy with the Souled Out Sisters series that followed it.

The Local Government

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A British Council [local government] experiences a “casual vacancy” when a member dies suddenly. While Potter fans loathed this book, I thought it was great! A well-told story of normal, everyday life. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.

The Elementary School Classroom

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I haven’t read this yet (it’s Book I by the way) but it sounds wonderful. Maria Semple’s Are You There Bernadette is mentioned for comparison and I howled at the stuff she said in the pick-up line at school! While Moms everywhere are trapped working at home in isolation with their children, this book should give you a laugh over all the drama-llama crap you really aren’t missing about school. Class Mom: A Novel by Laurie Gelman.

 

Do you have other titles that should be on this list? Leave me a comment or a link to your own post!

Review: The Room: A Novel by Jonas Karlsson

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First, thank you to blogger Finding Time To Write who brought this little gem of a book to my attention!

The Story

Bjorn is a new employee in a Sweedish government agency or department. He displays tremendous leadership, produces outstanding work, and then goes to rejuvenate in a special room. Or does he?

My Thoughts

I loved the review of this book linked at the top, but finding the phrase “this Kafkaesque masterpiece” in the Amazon blurb decided it–I had to read it. I listened to the audio and, the two readers sounding much alike, the story tone not that different, I occasionally forgot it was a new book and thought I was listening to a new tale of hapless Andrew Less from the Pulitzer-prize winning, Less by Andrew Sean Greer that I reviewed here.

I loved this fun little book. I think I’ve been Bjorn, worked with Bjorn, been scorned by Bjorn (sorry–I couldn’t resist that), and have been to that room or been kept out of that room. Like reading a Dilbert cartoon or watching The Office, if you’ve worked in a bureaucratic position you know this story. It’s the perfect quick read for office workers stuck working at home while we all self-isolate. I will definitely enjoy more of this author’s work in the years to come. This was his debut, but he has since written two more such books.

The Room: A Novel by Jonas Karlsson

Top Ten Tuesday: Genre Freebie

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My Own Multiple Genre Freebie Series

 

Epidemic books

Since Coronavirus struck, I’ve been doing a casual series on Fridays of “epidemic” books! You can read those posts–usually one or two books a week, by clicking the links below. Enjoy!

 

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Book One for Self-Isolating Inspiration

Book Two--Epidemic novel

Books Four and Five-– An Epidemic Novel & a Great Nonfiction Read

Theme/Genre Posts

On Thursdays, I have recently begun doing a “theme” post as well. Many book bloggers do this sort of post.

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Club Books

Institutional Life Books

Farming Books

 

Past Theme Posts

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Natural Disaster Books

Road Trip Books I and Road Trip Reads II

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Check out the rules at That Artsy Reader Girl and join in next week!

Review: My Coney Island Baby: A Novel by Billy O’Callaghan

 

My Interest

Cathy, the blogger behind both the blog 746 Books and Reading Ireland Month, gave such a beautiful review of this book here that I HAD to read (or listen) to this book. A love affair not between adorable 20-somethings? Sign me up, right? Let’s discuss….

 

The Story

Reminiscent of the wonderful 1970’s rom-com with Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn, Same Time Next Year, though told in a more serious tone, the story here concerns Michael and Caitlin who meet every month at the same seedy Coney Island Motel. Both are married to others and committed to their marriages. This affair, they know, is adultery, but it has also come to be necessary to both.

My Thoughts

I was drawn to the quotes in Cathy’s review–the spoke to something deep inside me I suppose. I did start to wonder though, first when I saw the average review was 3 stars–that was an alarm bell, but not a harbinger of doom. Then came Barbara’s (Michael’s wife) never-ending dialogue on James Matthew. Then came sex. I’m not at all anti-sex in books and if ever there was a story in which sex belongs it would be a novel about a couple who meets once a month for…sex. But…. But, I got so sick of hearing “the tip of her pink tongue.” I started having hilarious Freudian thoughts of a cat’s tongue [I KNOW! I  know!]. Then I just got tired of hearing about sex. Sex in a seedy motel room between two middle-aged people, one of whom has not aged in a pretty fashion should stay between those two middle-aged people in that seedy motel room.

I so wanted to find that beauty that the quotes had spoken to me–I so wanted to love this book. But I didn’t. No two people experience a book the same way, so Cathy’s review is not at all wrong. The book just hit me differently.  I came away, not hating it (well, ok, I nearly hated Barbara) but not enjoying it anywhere near enough to finish it.

So, for Reading Ireland Month 2020 I’m stuck with 50/50–Loved 2, two of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time; and two I just wasn’t thrilled with.

For a better appreciation of this book, please read Cathy’s review at 746 Books.

My Verdict

2 Stars

Did Not Finish

#readingirelandmonth20  #begorrathon20

Self-Isolating Saturday: A Book I Own but Haven’t Read! Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid

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While we are all hibernating I thought I’d start a new Saturday feature on books I own but haven’t read. I’ll alternate–some weeks it’ll be a book lost on my Kindle. Feel free to do this on your blog too. I don’t know how to set up a linky so just do it your way!

Today’s book is Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid. I bought my personally inscribed copy a few years ago at Books On the Banks in Cincinnati. Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

The debut novel from Adi Alsaid, acclaimed author of Never Always Sometimes, North of Happy, and We Didn’t Ask for This

Five strangers. 4,286 miles. One epic adventure.

Hudson, Bree, Elliot, and Sonia have only one thing in common: a girl named Leila. On a mission to see the Northern lights, Leila drives from Louisiana to Alaska, crashing into each of their lives in her absurdly red car.

From prom night disasters to first loves and family weddings, Leila’s cross-country adventure helps each of these four find something that was missing. But no journey is complete without a destination—and for Leila, the end of her trip might just bring her right back to the beginning. Back to the truth she knew all along: that perhaps, the only way to find what you’re looking for is to get a little lost along the way.

“Reminiscent of John Green’s Paper Towns, Alsaid’s debut is a gem among contemporary YA novels.”
School Library Journal

If you’ve read it, let me know if it’s fun–or leave the link to your review in my comments!
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Epidemics: Alzheimer’s–a new book, a contemporary classic nonfiction book and more

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Is Alzheimer’s an epidemic? Or are more people simply living long enough to develop it? Either way, there is so much to fear in it that I’m including it in my in-impromptu Friday book series on epidemics. For my family it is our collective terror–it took away my grandmother. Her mother had “normal” dementia. Any time one of us repeats something we fear it–that’s how my grandmother started down the trail to forgetting us. So, today’s list is short but poignant. I haven’t made myself read much because I fear it so strongly.

A Contemporary Nonfiction Classic

 

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I read this book when it came out because of a) my Dad’s “cousin the nun” was a huge influence in my life and b) most important–my Grandmother died with Alzheimer’s. The book is very readable–it is not a dark tome of science. You can get that part here: Healthy Aging and Dementia: Findings of the Nun Study. I admired the ladies (nuns) for donating their brains to research, too.

The New Book

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This popped up in my new books search. I haven’t looked into the author, but with Maria Shriver doing the foreword I’m guessing this is supposed to “empower” us in some way. I do plan to look it over. I picked it up yesterday at the library (yes, they are still open–you must sanitize your hands before doing ANYTHING though).  The XX Brain by Lisa Mosconi

 

The Novel I’ve Read

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Alzheimer’s was a subplot in this book–it was the current day story in a novel of historical fiction. Elderly Elise knows she has the disease and names it “Agnes.” She uses various coping mechanisms to stay independent as long as possible.  The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner.

 

The Novel I Want To Read

But am Too Scared To Pick Up

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How could you live being 50 years old and learning you had Alzheimer’s? I’m 58–that someone YOUNGER could have it….[cold chills]. After reading and loving Lisa Genova’s Every Note Played [which has a disastrously bad new cover] I may be strong enough to read Still Alice–her debut novel about that 50-year-old Alice, a Harvard professor, and her diagnosis and life thereafter.  Still Alice by Lisa Genova.

 

Have you read a book with an Alzheimer’s storyline? Leave me a comment or a link to your post.

Club Books

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Dickens Pickwick Papers (the only book of his other than A Christmas Carol that I’ve finished) might just be the first fictional club–and is certainly one of the best known.

As we all self-isolate, or forced-isolate, we can take up a book and read about a socializing! Club socializing at that. No, not Club Med, not the PTA  and not night clubs or stuffy Edwardian London men’s clubs–social clubs. Euchre Club or Church Small Groups or The Elks Lodge or the UAW Bowling League–clubs for good, clean fun, friendship, and emotional support. My parents went to Newcomers Club for a while when we moved–they met other parents with kids the age of theirs, played bridge, and had fun. My Uncle and Aunt did too–in fact their Newcomer’s Gourmet Club went on to become an institution in the town for about 30 years! Clubs were for intellectual stimulation or shared interests. Clubs used to be a big deal before we lost our ability to see beyond our phone screen.

Today I belong to a few online book clubs on Goodreads.com. Like many who belong to in-person book clubs, I rarely read the book! I use them for reading ideas, but if you care already experiencing cabin fever consider them! They are under “Community” in the online version of Goodreads and under Groups in the app.

The Club Books

The Bridge Club

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A bridge club is not an institution you say? Have you ever been in one? They can stick together for decades. I imagine if you polled the ladies who went to college in the 1950s, especially but not exclusively those who claimed “bridge” as their major and an “Mrs. Degree” their goal, some would still be meeting with the surviving members of their first bridge club from the dorm at college or the first marriage home neighborhood. I understand it can be the same with Mahjong Clubs too. Here’s my Bridge Club post that includes the review of the book.

Broderers and Bell Ringers Clubs

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If you hear “Needlework or Embroidery Guild,” you can picture what they do. But Broderers?  Broderers are embroiderers. In this book they take on making the beautiful embroideries in Winchester Cathedral. This part of the story is based on real-life events. Bell Ringing is a very English thing–Bell Ringers Societies and Clubs had outings and formal dances back in the era of this story. This book explains how bell ringing works in a cathedral with multiple bells. A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier.

The Walking Club

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Claire Cook’s The Wildwater Walking Club is a favorite chick lit or women’s fiction title if you prefer. The sequel did not live up to the first, but who cares! Read the first as a one-off and enjoy it. Everyone enjoys fitness more with a partner or a class. These gals are worth knowing.

 

The Survivors Club With Mahjong

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For generations, immigrants have formed clubs to support each other emotionally and even financially with burial funds, scholarship funds, and emergency loan funds raised by membership dues. Churches are often the meeting place as was the case in the Joy Luck Club. The women in this group survived the terror in China before coming to America. Over Mahjong, they socialize and support each other, swap memories, and invest money.  The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.

The Ladies Club

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Clubs of all kinds were far more popular in the days of no television or internet or smartphones. People went out more to socialize. The Greatest Generation and their parents were great “joiners.”  Ladies clubs or community sororities, bowling leagues, country clubs, Masonic, and other Lodges–they all flourished back then. The Persian Pickle Club provided an escape for fun and gossip to farm and town wives in Dust Bowl-era Oklahoma.

The Book Club

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I like this series because it was written by a guy who actually understand what librarians do! The Cherry Cola Book Club is led by a fun, feisty, young librarian. She and the club have a lot of fun with their meetings. I must get back to this series this year! Other books with book clubs include Reading Lolita In Tehran, which I read when it came out, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I adored and reviewed on my old blog,

The Name Club

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The Lois Club was a delightful subplot of this somewhat odd little book–I thought, in fact, that it would have been a better story! All women named Lois, most now much older, reached out to the younger Lois, supporting her business goals.  Sourdough: A Novel by Robin Sloan.

The Knitting Club

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The Writers Club

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This writing group, who call themselves The Wednesday Sisters, is the dream writing group for all women writers! The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

My All-Time Favorite “Club Book”

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Back in the day before women went to college in great numbers, many ladies had literary clubs or symposiums where they presented papers or debated or lectured on a topic. Jane Addams’ famous Hull House even provided such clubs for immigrants back then.  This book is one of my favorites–it goes from the Civil War to the 1930s and follows the same women’s club, principally two women’s lives are the focus, but subplots bring in all the club members at one time or another. This is a HUGE book by today’s standards–800 or so pages–like Gone With the Wind in size and scope. It’s author was over 80 when it was re-published by a commercial publisher (a University or Historical Society had published it in a limited run). It is wonderful and well worth the wrist braces you’ll need to heft it! If you have a Kindle, I recommend getting it in that format. And the Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer.

 

Do you have other books to add to this list? Leave me a comment or a link to your own post.

 

Review: The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson

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My Interest

The subtitle says it all: “A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz.” After the Royal Family and the Roosevelt family, the Churchills are my other consuming passion.

The Story

Erik Larson’s style is to round up all the great resources, read them, and tell the story–masterfully. This time he’s chosen Winston Churchill at the start of the war on through to Pearl Harbor and the end of American neutrality.

My Thoughts–The Good

Larson is a must-read author for me, so there isn’t much I didn’t love. Even though I’ve read Jock Coville’s diary at least 3 times cover-to-cover, ditto the diary of Lord Moran [Churchill’s doctor] have read nearly everything on Clemintine Churchill and by Mary Churchill Soames not to mention most of it on Winston, I still picked up little bits here and there because Larson had access to the originals and not the published versions or published extracts of Colville’s and Mary’s diaries. This was very interesting.

My Thoughts–The Bad

“Bad” is way too harsh. There is nothing “bad” here. “Less excellent”? Yes, that. I felt Larson saw Pamela Digby Churchill (later Harriman–a “friend of Bill” and Clinton’s Ambassador to France who died in office) through rose-colored glasses.  Married to the Churchill’s disaster of a son when she was only about 19 (and had just one date with him!), Pamela gave birth to “Little Winston” and so forever enmeshed herself in the Churchill family. Randolph, a drunk, a bully, and a very bad gambler, who so utterly spoiled by Winston and loathed by his own mother that he amounted to almost nothing in life.

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Pam went on to have affairs with U.S. Envoy (later Ambassador to the USSR) Averill Harriman who inherited the millions made off the Union Pacific Railroad. It is said Churchill used this affair to get more information out of Harriman. Probably true. Neither Winston nor Clementine approved of the affair, but neither intervened, either, both knowing their son was a serial adulterer. Later Pam had an affair with Edward R. Murrow as well. She was a notoriously neglectful mother–even by the standards of that long-ago day of nannies and butlers, but at this stage of her life, she did her son regularly, though, like many children in the war, he did not live with her but was safely stashed with his nanny at the country house where Winston spent full moon weekends.

After the years of the story, Pam went on to have affairs with Gianni Agnelli, Ellie de Rothschild, and others–so many so that when she married Broadway producer Leland Hayward one wag said: “No one marries Pam Churchill.” After she destroyed Hayward’s family, going through much of his fortune in doing so, his daughter wrote a book vilifying her–all of it deserved. After Leland’s death she reconnected with Averil Harriman and married him–also doing a number on his fortune while getting involved in American politics.

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Pam cultivated the idea, without ever saying it, that she was Churchill’s daughter–she colored her hair to match his reddish tint, developed the same lisp, and used the Churchill name shamelessly for the rest of her life.

As I said, most of this occurred AFTER the war, but I still think Larsen gave her too nice of a glance.

Complaint With the Audiobook only

The reader did the worst Churchill impersonation! He also could not decide if FDR pronounced his last name “Rooooooooselevet” or “Rose-avelt” and alternated between the two throughout the book. A simple list to any of Roosevelt’s many swearings-in on old newsreels would have been good prep for the performance!

I also occasionally felt I had slipped in the wrong cd. Larson’s story this time seemed to have more repeats and more abrupt changes. I do not see this happening at all with the print or Kindle book though.

 

My Verdict

4 stars

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR

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This week we are listing those books we want to read in the Spring. I’m only putting up books I haven’t mentioned before. Most of those I’ve been mentioning as TBR are finally out or about to be out so I’m not re-using those.

New Releases

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Due out in May, this is the author’s second royal novel. The first, Royal Nanny,told of the Nanny who rescued the future Edward VIII and the future George VI from their abusive first nanny and went on to take full charge of their epileptic youngest brother, Prince John. This book, The Queen’s Secret, deals with the late Queen Mother when she was Queen Consort to George VI. This line in the blurb worries me though: “Elizabeth holds many powerful cards, she’s also hiding damaging secrets about her past and her provenance that could prove to be her undoing.” Will to focus on her wanting the Heir but settling for marriage to the Spare? Or the tittle-tattle about supposedly being the child of her father and the cook! I hope not that ridiculousness! While Royal Nanny was “ok,” I threw back her book, American Duchess on Consuelo Vanderbilt and the Duke of Marlborough.

The Queen’s Secret by Karen Harper

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I just got this one as a Kindle First Reads Pick. It’s $4.99 otherwise for Kindle and sounds good: 1951, 18-year-old girl, a summer at a resort, a handsome college boy…a “limitless future“.

The Last Bathing Beauty by Amy Sue Nathan arrives April 1st.

 

 

 

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I’m SURE I’d read that her last novel was her LAST. NOVEL But her’s Anne Tyler back and she’s been a must-read since she began. I don’t even need the blurb.

The Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler arrives April 7th.

 

 

 

 

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One Day broke my heart again and again! If this one has a fraction of the emotional wallop of One Day I’ll be thrilled. I also liked his book Us (my review is here).

Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls arrives May 5th.

 

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I rarely bother with “popular medicine” or celebrity-endorsed health books, but I’ll at least skim this one. My grandmother was stricken with Alzheimer’s and my family and I dread the diagnosis.

The XX Brain by Lisa Mosconi came out on March 10th.

 

 

 

Older Books

 

Last September I hope to finish not too long after Reading Ireland Month finishes–I doubt I can get it done in time to meet the deadline. I’ve had Elizabeth Bowen on my TBR for forever it seems.

The Sympathizer I’m hoping I like. It’s been on my TBR since it was published and goes well with the Year of the Asian reading challenge I’m participating in this year. It’s also another Nobel Prize Winner--I love making check marks on book lists!

Invisible Women is for a not-really-book-club with two fellow librarians at work. One was left speechless but happy when she read it–it’s $2.99 for Kindle right now.

The Authenticity Project reminds me of bullet journaling–analog life.

Portrait of a Marriage by Vita Sackville-West This is the sacrificial lamb of the list! I’ve started it soooooo many times! Dearest Vita and Darling Harold might see me finish another chapter at last.

 

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