Tuesday, February 27, 2018

This Week's Bookbag: In the Deep of Winter Edition, Feb 16-27, 2018

It's the middle of February, and you know what that means: it's cold all the way to your bones. Even though I live in the great state of Colorado, which boasts a pretty temperate climate and records far more sunshine each winter than any other city in which I've ever lived, I've still had to force myself out from under many layers of cozy blankets and pry myself away from the nest of pillows that keeps me warm every night. 

I've also had a parade of illnesses and have been taking so much cold medicine that I haven't even been reading. (WhAt?? I know, it shocks me a little, too.)  This is why there's been a posting delay. In better news, I intended to post on Friday afternoon as usual - but I then I started reading a new book and I knew I had to finish it first and share it with all of you, so I delayed, thinking I would definitely finish it by Saturday. And then I DID finish it Saturday night, but stayed up so late finishing it that I slept in FAAAAAAAR too long on Sunday, and then spent the rest of the day trying to make up for my slothfulness instead of writing this blog post. 

So here we are. I have books to share, the Olympics are over so I can stop pretending that I like them as much as I love the Summer Olympics, I polished off all of the episodes of "Eureka," and my cold appears to be on the run. It's a fresh start, smack in the middle of winter. A little off-schedule, but ten minutes late is my brand, as anyone who knows me can tell you, so it's all good. 

Now listen up, because I have a couple of great books for you! Worth the wait, I promise. 

In the Bookbag Last Week:
My book bag was a jumble of magazines, crossword puzzles, lists of movies I need to watch before the Oscars....and several great books. I don't even know how this first one made it's way in there, because it's neither hot off the presses nor a recommendation from a friend. It's by Valeria Luiselli, though, whose writing I really enjoy, and it's on a hot topic: immigration, so I suppose I read about it somewhere and ended up buying the paperback (weird, I know).  In any case, good job, me! This is an excellent introduction to American immigration policy towards minors from Central America. I opened it expecting to be schooled...and I closed it completely schooled and not a little horrified at what is being done in our name under the fig leaf of "national security." I highly recommend this bitty book (only about 100 pages) to anyone new to the immigration debate, especially as it exists in relation to our neighbors to the South. If you're skeptical of or opposed to immigration - well, you should read this. It's for everyone. Here's my review: 

Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Valeria Luiselli’s brief book about the undocumented children of Latin America who have been streaming towards the United States since 2014 is an excellent primer on the ways in which the children of Honduras, Colombia, and El Salvador have been forced into the most desperate of situations that Luiselli persuasively describes as part of a transnational war in which the intersecting marketplaces for drugs, guns, and gangs have created a trail of murder and persecution that stretches from the Southern most borders of Honduras all the way to the northeast corner of the USA.

Luiselli writes tersely about the horrors these hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied minors suffer prior to their arrival in the US - as well as the terrible circumstances they face when they (almost universally) turn themselves willingly over to the US Border Patrol and ICE. Thanks to at least a decade of punishing and biased legislation and policy under presidents of both parties, the kids who risk their lives to arrive here - after fleeing gang violence, sexual and physical assaults, homelessness, broken families, lack of schooling, and so much more in their home communities - hoping to reunite with parents or other relatives face terrifying odds in successfully claiming special immigration or asylum status.

Although I have long been a general critic of America’s approach to its relations with its southern neighbors, I knew next to nothing about recent immigration law. What Luiselli shares here following her own work as a translator for the minors at the center of the story was a revelation to me. The fact that she writes the bulk of her narrative in 2015, before the aggressions of the Trump era, leaves me completely shocked and additionally terrified for these kids who are caught in the deep net of policies, relationships, and compromises that are local, regional, and transnational and can be traced back to attitudes and actions taken decade before any of them were born.

These children are refugees of war and turmoil. They deserve our protection, not our dismissal. Read this book and learn what is happening in our name, within our borders and far beyond them.


I've noticed that right now, for whatever reason, I need to follow up any serious reads with something (sometimes several somethings) light and fast. Palate cleansers? Maybe, but it's not as though I'm in a total beach read/ chick lit sort of place: I still want to be enchanted and beguiled. I just don't want to add to my worry quotient. Anyway. The latest light read was Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu.  I can't wait for my middle school daughter to finish the book she's reading now so that she can check this one out!

MoxieMoxie by Jennifer Mathieu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jennifer Mathieu's Moxie is the book I wish I had when I was in high school - but of course, that would be anachronistic, so makes no sense, but just roll with me here. Viv, the book's protagonist, lives in rural Texas, where sexism is still seen as the natural order and football rules the day. Quietly seething over the injustices, Viv becomes emboldened with a little assistance from her Gen-X mom, a former Riot Grrrl turned single parent healthcare worker, and her "My Misspent Youth" memory box.

The actions of Viv and her schoolmates feel believable; Mathieu has constructed the world of East Rockport, Texas with such assiduous and loving care that there's no reason to doubt the actions or the ideas of the people living there at all. I love Viv and her mom and even the grandparents. I know that's simplistic but they're utterly real and make it so easy to understand how injustices and terrible traditions continue to perpetuate themselves despite people's personal beliefs or views. Their very existence helps readers understand inertia can be just as damaging as any other social
force, and that's a difficult concept to share.

Written for a YA audience but bound to be loved by today's Gen X parents, too, Mathieu's Moxie is a must read for any kid ready to fight back, even if their voice is shaking. Fun and interesting read.


...And then we come to the book that may have gone and done it already: nabbed the top spot for the whole year. Educated by Tara Westover. It's a memoir, and utterly unlike anything else I've ever read. I'm still turning it over and over in my mind, and I'm sure I will be for weeks and months to come. Don't come to this one expecting ponies and butterflies. It's intense and it's horrifying and it's full of hope, too. Prepare yourself, and then clear your calendar:

Educated: A MemoirEducated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Whoa. Scoot down to your local bookstore and get your hands on a copy of Tara Westover's memoir tout de suite, because this is a barnburner of a memoir and sure to dominate the best books lists of 2018. And for good damn reason!
In measured and unflinching fashion, Westover shares the story of growing up as the youngest member of a family led by an antigovernment Mormon survivalist father. In the mountains of rural Idaho, she never attends school and also is not homeschooled; everything she learns, from reading to math and science, she does on her own, with very few resources aside from the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Instead, she learns how to live off the grid and without government assistance or modern medicine of any kind. With little fanfare, she describes her childhood as one of packing "go" bags, helping her mother create essential oils and act as midwife for others in their tiny community, and sifting through the detritus of her father's metal scrapyard. We watch alongside her as her father builds an impressive arsensal and buries thousands of gallons of gasoline in their field in preparation for Y2K. We hear the story, over and over, of how Randy Weaver and his family were murdered by the government for not sending their children to school and how easily it could have been them. We see Tara grow old enough to begin helping at the junkyard and at various construction sites in earnest, lugging scraps, clambering across roofs without harness or hard hat (it would slow them down, so her father forbade it), knocking together sheet metal, and so on. The work this child is required to perform takes your breath away - but that's barely the beginning.

As Tara takes us deeper into her experiences, she reveals the dangers of living under the leadership of a paranoid and energetic man. He takes risks with his life and with the lives of his family that I cannot understand, and the results at times are truly catastrophic. Rather than recognizing the need for limits of any kind, however, her father doubles down on his behavior and continues to act with complete disregard for the physical and mental safety of himself and his family members. The calamities and callousness continues. And soon there are new kinds of challenges Tara must face...

Eventually, assisted by one of her brothers, Tara decides to try and go to college. This is no big spoiler, since it's on the back cover and included in every blurb I've seen. But the sheer difficulties she faces in getting to college are heartbreaking, and once she arrives, the world is a completely exotic place to her (it reminded me so much of A Stone of Hope in this section). She not only earns a BA, but an MPhil and a PhD as well - from Cambridge, no less. This portion of the story is not as well developed as the earlier experiences, but that only makes sense, since Westover only finished her studies a few years ago. I'm sure I'm not alone in hoping that we hear a literary update from her in the years to come. I wonder how much more difficult the road will be for her, as she finds she must confront so much trauma and betrayal in order to heal. It won't be easy. But if there's ever a person willing to tackle the most daunting of tasks, it is Professor Westover.

The real wonder of this work isn't that she has survived and even managed to thrive despite the catastrophes and hardships she experienced. It's that the book is written with such extraordinary nuance and skill. As it opens, you realize that her life is unusual, but she has a way of telling her story that beguiles you into thinking that it's not as horrible as you might think should you merely read a list of what she lived with - and without. And as she matures, so too (very slowly) does her awareness of the strangeness of her life. As her own blinders are removed, so too are the readers - and she does it in such a subtle, unsentimental fashion that it floored me time and again. Moreover, she manages to draw portraits of the portraits of the people responsible for her experiences with amazing grace and power. She neither makes apologies for them nor does she brand them as the abusive and sociopathic people they undoubtedly are, even as she tries to grapple with the harm they have inflicted on her identity, her outlook, her very life. And she manages to do all this within the mental framework of someone who didn't experience any kind of organized learning until she wound up at BYU. Who had never written a journal or an essay; who had never taken notes. Someone who didn't grow up reading great authors - or any authors at all, really. It's just a remarkable achievement, and one I deeply admire.

Westover's story is unforgettable. Her writing, unparalleled. Her book? Read by far too few thus far (but then again, it just dropped a week or so ago). Pick it up and you won't be able to put it down, I promise.

View all my reviews

Five Things This Week:

1. The Oscars are coming!! I love watching the Oscars, but I haven't been very good about watching many of the big contenders in the last few years. I've been on a quest to prepare myself for this one, though, and so I will be filling in my ballot with confidence come Sunday.  Are you a movie buff? Are you rooting for anyone? My lips are sealed until next week...

2. Boxwalla: I decided to try this subscription box out on a whim, in hopes of finding some new authors and publishers. I just received my first box and although I haven't read any of the books completely yet, a peek inside the covers revealed some really promising work! Give it a whirl! 

3. Amelia Bloomer Awards:
I just stumbled across this list because I read one of its recommendations this year (Moxie!). The organization pulls together a list of annotated new works for the 18 and under set that have "significant feminist content." 

4. Beatrix Potter:
Related image
Maybe it's because I'm really jonesing for spring, or maybe its because my kids are now officially too old to read Beatrix Potter and I feel a little nostalgic. I loved those little books so much - I checked at least a couple out at the library every week for years and years. Nothing like that perfect child sized book and its shiny white cover, the gentle illustrations and the utterly British stories, full of eccentric and sometimes truly naughty characters! My favorites are Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and Squirrel Nutkin. Who are yours? 

5. And just under the wire, a few favorite reads in honor of Black History Month that you might not have heard of but are sure to enjoy: Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead, Mules and Men by Zora Neale Hurston, Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow by Leon Litwack, Everyday Africa: 30 Photographers Re-Picturing a Continent by Merrill et al., eds, and Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor.  Share your favorite! 

In the Bookbag Now: 
Oh, heck. I don't know. Here's what I have read significant portions of in the last four days: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers, I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O'Farrell, and Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller. What actually winds up making it to the finish line is a carefully kept secret...or just whatever my mood demands.

If you're enjoying my blog, please share it with your favorite book-reading friends and neighbors. You can sign up for email notices when a new entry has been posted by clicking the "Subscribe" button at the top of the page, set your calendar to remind you to check in with me on Friday afternoons or Saturday mornings (I try to have this out the door by 4pm on Fridays so we can all start our weekends reading!), or you stop by and like Friends of Bookbaggin' It on Facebook, if you're a social media sort. There you'll find my weekly blog updates as well as some fun links and the occasional musing. Hope to see you soon and thanks for reading! 

Friday, February 9, 2018

This Week's Bookbag: The Library Strikes Back Edition, Feb. 3-9, 2018

What a week it has been over here in the lap of literary luxury! If you'll remember, last we met, lethargy, illness, and inertia had led me down a dark path that ended in a reading slump of sorts. I started to regain momentum at the tail end of the week, though, and even had a blueprint for the book week to come. Well, surprise, surprise! My grand plans were obliterated (in a good way) due to dashing into the library at just the right moment. 

In the Bookbag Last Week: 

Because I spend approximately 5 kajillion dollars on books in any given month (it's the new releases obsession! someone please hook me up with ARCs...I promise to read and review them all!) and cannot justify that kind of spending what with things being as they are, I pledged at the end of the year to always try and obtain copies of the books on my want list at the library.  Sometimes, this works well, especially when I find that sweet spot in which the library acknowledges that it will have the book but the book has not yet been released and so I get first dibs. Other times, not so much: I'm user #109 on 22 copies and by the time the book finally arrives, I've forgotten why I wanted to read it (or I've snuck off and purchased it instead). And then, every once in a blue moon, I'll walk into my local library to scoop whatever is waiting for me on the hold shelf up...and lo and behold! there will be one of the super sought after books just sitting there on the new releases shelf, ripe for the plucking. My eyes light up, I clutch my hands together like Pepe le Pew when he runs into his fluffy tailed lady love, and then - no sudden movements - I slink over to the shelf and grab that book! And then, if I'm really really lucky, I look around and it's as though I've been transported into that Tootsie Roll commercial of my childhood except whatever it is I think I see, becomes a book irresistible to me.

You can see where I'm going with this (I hope). 

I walked into the library this weekend and all of the magic happened! And so I walked out with all of THESE ==>

AND THEN, I attended my friend P's annual book swap last Saturday and came home with MORE BOOKS:

I've been happily drowning in books ever since. Since I couldn't decide which ones to read first, though, I'm sort of reading them all and only have one proper review to share with you: Pretend We Are Lovely by Noley Reid. Tin House published it, and I really like their profile and approach, so even though I hasn't heard of this title, I gladly dove in anyway. It's definitely worth a read:

Pretend We Are LovelyPretend We Are Lovely by Noley Reid
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Noley Reid’s debut is a strange, enchanting book. The larger tale of the Sobel family just sort hovers and breathes, a weird counterpoint to the characters who populate it, each one so distinctly alive and in motion.
I don’t think Reid had a plot in mind when she wrote much of this book - but that’s okay, I think, because the vivacity of the narrators takes up most of your attention, and their own individual small stories build a bridge upon which the story makes successful crossing. In any case, the writing sparkles and the emotions live themselves right off the page, offering the reader access to worlds in which grief and hate have simmered so long that it’s seeped into the very atmosphere. Love is hard to find here unmolested - there’s a lot of searching, though, and the ways in which the daughters, especially, try to gain access to that which they most crave can break your heart a little. Reid manages to draw the myriad broken pieces of this family back together in the end (although whether that will last remains a mystery to me), which changes the tenor of the story altogether. It’s a complicated, interesting tale, and one I’m glad that I encountered. As a writer and a reader, I found much to eat.


Next week, expect a slew of reviews, because I'm about 80% on five or six books. (Are you already full of delicious anticipation?) In the meantime, I have other treats for you to nosh. 

Five Things This Week:
This section replaces the random bits and pieces portion of my earlier posts. It's an homage to Granta's Five Things Right Now feature, which I stumbled onto early in the week and then fell happily into for at least several hours.  I hope you take the time to check it out for yourself!

1. Ursula K. Le Guin's No Time to Spare

When Le Guin died a few weeks ago, I felt guilty about not having ever read the work of such a towering and confident imagination. Even more than that, though, I felt curious about her as a person and a writer, especially after reading a couple of interviews in the wake of her death. And so it came to pass that I purchased her last work, No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters. As far as I can parcel out, this is a collection of essays from her blog and other online contributions, and that suits me perfectly. I'm on a bit of a kick to see the guts of what make writers tick. You can certainly sit down and read this book all at once, I suppose, but why would you? That would ruin the magic of dipping in again and again, reaching for a little wry consideration about the most pedestrian or portentous topics. Buy a copy at your local bookstore and reward yourself with an essay or two every night. Want a sneak preview of the goods? I fished around and found an excerpt here

2. I may as well admit it: I'm no sophisticate when it comes to music. I don't even like it much - the days spent searching for just the perfect song are long behind me. I can't read or write or concentrate much at all anymore when there's noise of any kind - an ingrained habit grown worse with age and chemo brain - and so when am I going to just sit around and listen to stuff? Even when there are those blank spaces, I'd rather find an audiobook. But music finds me anyway. This guy, Jesse Manley, though - he deserves to be discovered by people who appreciate good music. I heard him and his band when I went to see a Wonderbound production in December, and despite myself, I sort of fell in love. It's not too plinky, not too twangy, easy on the hipster but evocative and a little strange. Jesse Manley and his band will be playing History Colorado's Tiny Library Series in February, and if you're planning to be in the Mile-High City, come and see them - for only $13, can you really afford not to? - and then tell me what you think.

3. Rachel B. Glaser's impossibly perfect four page history of the world, "Pee on Water." All the literary cool kids are rolling their eyes, maybe, because Glaser's mini-masterpiece has been around for at least 7 years, but I have zero time and energy for pretentious hipsters and do not care that I am late to the Glaser party. At least I'm at the party now! Anyhoo, someone sent me this as I was struggling through the problem of how to write a single narrative that encompasses...oh, everything, and even said it reminded them a little of an essay snippet I'd written. I am, of course, no Rachel Glaser, but the kindness of my acquaintance made me happy. In any case, you're missing out on life if you skip this mini take on a colossal story. (Note: Just skip the intro in the link. It's sorta bunk.)

4. All the episodes of "Eureka."  If you think I know nothing about music, oh boy! I'm a babe in the woods when it comes to tv. I rely heavily on everyone else to curate considerations for me, and even then, I'm loathe to take a trip into some new show I've never seen. I don't know why. It's such a commitment, I suppose. All those hours when I could be reading, or sleeping, or lecturing my children...television is at the back of the pack for me. But this show is the good stuff. A good-natured guy winds up as sheriff in the most amazing of towns: Eureka, a secret settlement where the US government has stashed all the brilliant people and put them to work dreaming up all sorts of things that usually require a PhD in physics. I love the clash of pragmatism and genius on display there, the constant reminder that genius isn't about the brainpower that you have - it's what you do with what you've got that matters. Anyway, it's funny and thoughtful and weird, and I really hope you watch it. 

5. This glory-be clip from behind the scenes of "The Greatest Showman," in which Hugh Jackman promises not to sing but then just can't help himself. If you're wondering whether your significant other, best friend, work colleague, or similar was a theater kid, just turn this on and sit back. If they jump up and join in with tears sprouting from their eyes, you have you have your answer. The joy this engenders...I'm addicted!


In My Bookbag This Week: 
The book bag is full almost to bursting right now, due to all the book bingeing; I really hope I don't split the seams. I don't know exactly what I'll have digested enough to tell you about next time, but here is the definitive list of all the books I'm actually in the midst of reading right now:

1. The Tender Bar: A Memoir by JR Moehringer
2. When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams
3. The Nothing by Hanif Kureishi 
4. The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers
5. The Grave's A Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley
6. The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
7. I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O'Ferrell
8. The Mayor of Mogadishu by Andrew Harding

That should just about do it for me today.  Any bets on how many of these I manage to finish? Any suggestions on which ones you're most looking forward to reading the review? Anyone out there reading any of these? Let me know!!

If you're enjoying my blog, please share it with your favorite book-reading friends and neighbors. You can sign up for email notices when a new entry has been posted by clicking the "Subscribe" button at the top of the page, set your calendar to remind you to check in with me on Friday afternoons or Saturday mornings (I try to have this out the door by 4pm on Fridays so we can all start our weekends reading!), or you stop by and like Friends of Bookbaggin' It on Facebook, if you're a social media sort. There you'll find my weekly blog updates as well as some fun links and the occasional musing. Hope to see you soon and thanks for reading! 

Friday, February 2, 2018

This Week's Bookbag: Small Slump Edition, Jan. 27- Feb. 2, 2018

Oh, book friends. I have been woefully underread (my computer auto-corrected this to "underfed" which is about the same thing - nice work, MacBook) this week, I'm sorry to say. I've been languishing in my bed, unwell and in such discomfort that I couldn't even enjoy anything that required more than a few hours of concentration. Barfing will do that for you, I suppose. The good news is that I did mentally reorganize my books, I actually physically began rehoming some books that I no longer want or need, and I did manage to read two short books!

In My Bookbag Last Week:
Well, there were a number of books in my book bag last week, but they mostly just clattered around, because the barfing.  I did manage, though, to seize hold of and read Megan Hunter's The End We Start From. I'll be honest: it was more beautiful than I thought it would be. This is Hunter's fiction debut, but she's already an established poet. This novella is a gorgeous little hybrid of poetry and story. There's absolutely no meat to the story; instead it is 100% glistening and juicy bone. Here's my full review:

The End We Start From

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A prose poem of disaster - and what relentlessly returns in the aftermath

Megan Hunter’s debut as a fiction writer illustrates that she is, indeed, actually a poet. This slip of a novella - is a flashlight that roams, searching, alighting on the portentous and pedestrian alike, and cobbles together beauty from what’s found. This is the cataclysm - and after - and it cleaves so closely to the bone, it almost makes you ache.

In a world of too much, Hunter’s spare and evocative story of a flood that nearly washed London away feels just right. An achievement and a treasure. Not just for fans of dystopia, either! Eminently useful for anyone who has been through the crucible and managed to emerge again - not unscathed, but not without hope, either.

One final thing about the Hunter book: it's not very long. I think I read it in an hour and a half the first time.  At first, I was glad I had just checked it out from the library, but now that I've had time to think it over, I'm pretty sure I'll buy my own copy, because I already want to return to it...and I want to be able to lend it out to friends!

I also dug into a couple of books because I know other people I love are reading them.  (One of them is A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, which my brother is reading right now; I haven't quite finished it yet but will give you the down-low next week!)  My daughter, M, who is in sixth grade, just read John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I'd heard this was a great book and a moving introduction to the Holocaust and WW2, so I read it...

I was not pleased with this book. As a matter of fact, it's one of the worst books I've ever read. I found it to be an irresponsible, misguided introduction to the Holocaust. I don't like to badmouth books - I really don't, because we're all very different humans and what appeals to me may not appeal to someone else; I rarely spend much time discussing books I dislike on my blog.  But I object to this book as a teaching tool, and so, after careful consideration, I've decided to share my review with you:

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Without a doubt, this is one of the worst books I have ever read, and when I stop to consider that it’s written for young readers, I just want to scream. My daughter read this book and so I picked it up and read it afterwards. I knew it was about WW2 and the Holocaust, and the plot basically unspools itself within a couple of chapters and then you’re just left having to plod through the pages, growing increasingly irate. The book includes “wordplay” of the most utterly idiotic kind: “the Fury” is Father’s boss and the family is relocated to “Out-With.” FFS. Really? Either engage with the fiction that the story takes place inexplicably in English, or acknowledge that the perspective is that of an acutely ignorant German child. There’s nothing clever going on here (or elsewhere in the story, for that matter!). And then, at the very end, the coarsest wink and nod I’ve ever read, “Of course all this happened a long time ago and nothing like that could ever happen again. Not in this day and age.” I am fairly sputtering with the Fury. Boyne shovels spade and spade full of utterly relentless, stereotypical fakery and drivel at the tenderest of readers - a middle grade reader, just waking up to the world and a wide-eyed, defenseless kitten staring up for the first time at the bloody maw of history - expecting her to be taken in completely by his fable, and then he caps it off with the heartiest of middle fingers to the current state of international affairs? This is reckless and irresponsible writing and I may well put this waste of paper on a pike outside my front door as a warning to other awful books.

It is long after lights-out here and my middle schooler is sound asleep, but I may just have to shake her awake and have a spirited discussion about the dangers of assuming all books have something worth savoring. Question authority, dear children of the world, especially when it plants itself before you as a tool of instruction and enlightenment.

...and that's a wrap on book reviews for the week. 

This Week's News and Other Fun Adventures:
In the midst of my digestive woes this week, I did have two moments of total elation. The first one just made me swoon a little. If you've been reading my blog for a little while, you may have noticed that I reviewed Souad Mekhennet's stellar recent release, I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad, last week. I tweeted it out, and tweeted her, too, asking if she would retweet the post if she found it worthwhile. Well, she did! And she featured it on her FB page, too! As a reader and a writer, I found it very satisfying that she read my review, and that she liked it, too! As an academic forced into early retirement due to health issues, I also found it really wonderful that I had connected with someone. It's so important, to feel connected to the rest of the world. It came at exactly the right moment, too, because I had a more isolating than usual week. If you're reading this, Souad Mekhennet, thanks for making my week and I'd love to see what's in your book bag sometime! 

The other elation was a new book kind of elation: the latest book in the Flavia de Luce series arrived on my Kindle app!! Alan Bradley started writing a series about the intrepid, indelible, intelligent Flavia several years ago, and I've been hooked since book one. Flavia is a schoolgirl living in post-WW2 England, and she keeps stumbling onto dead bodies, much to her delight and to the police commissioner's chagrin. Flavia's work solving all of these murder mysteries is joyful, even when there's danger involved. Bradley has created a collection of truly wonderful characters to populate Flavia's world, from her mother, who went missing when she was a baby, to her mean (but not always) older sisters and the other investigators she gets to know. Really a delightful series. You should go read it. Right now! 

You're still here? What are you waiting for, help? Oh, okay!! The first book in the series is 

and the newest one is

You really should read these books in order, because although the murders are somewhat random, there are bigger stories being told across each discrete novel. Happy reading! 


The Book Week Ahead
I have a plan for this week, as long as I don't get dragged back into my fainting couch. I'm going to finish the Beah, then wrap myself up in the Bradley, finally dig into Katherine Arden's The Girl in the Tower, and then finish strong with The Immortalists before I read anymore book reviews about it. Don't tell me !! 

Of course, this is always subject to change, especially when there are library books on the brink of extinction. But this is my PLAN...

What's your reading game plan this week? Tell me about a book I need to read! 

If you're enjoying my blog, please share it with your favorite book-reading friends and neighbors. You can sign up here for email notices when a new entry has been posted (it's over on the right side, above my book lists - see it?), set your calendar to remind you to check in with me on Friday afternoons or Saturday mornings (I try to have this out the door by 4pm on Fridays so we can all start our weekends reading!), or you can stop by Friends of Bookbaggin' It on Facebook, if you're a social media sort, where you'll find my weekly blog updates as well as some fun links and the occasional musing. Hope to see you soon and thanks for reading!