Trying to catch up...

 After two challenging years I find myself suddenly able to get back to doing regular things, so I'm re-starting abandoned projects, organizing neglected shelves, closets, and file cabinets, and finally making an attempt to catch up on my blog. 

These are books I read in 2019 and 2020 that didn't get posted due to lack of time and/or energy. Of course the problem with trying to do it now is that I don't remember a great deal about some of them. It helps if I can find a book summary online, but even then it may only remind me if I liked it or didn't and I'm not at all sure I can depend on that either. I've sometimes remembered not liking a book only to see on Goodreads where I've given it four stars. Given all that, here's what I think I remember about these books...

This Time Together by Carol Burnett
Because I grew up in the 1960s, Carol Burnett's tv show was woven into the fabric of my life. She was everywhere, and her voice was unforgettable. I didn't fully appreciate her till I was older and looking back, but this book reminded me how amazing she was and how much fun she was to watch. Some of the stories she tells here happened before my time, but they involved lots of other names I knew well so it was all entertaining to me. It brought back a lot of good memories.

The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Hawthorne's words are a joy to read, but I find his stories something less. In this one the narrator joins a commune of people who believe that, with like-minded others, they can create a better life than what society to this point has offered them. He has high romantic ideals but little practical understanding of the work involved in living off the land, so it doesn't work well for him. Although the story had potential, it didn't seem to go anywhere. I love his descriptions and all his beautiful words, but I can't say I liked the book as a whole.

Finding Gobi by Dion Leonard 
A story about a little dog who one day decided to join a marathoner on his run across the Gobi Desert in China. At first the runner, Dion, was annoyed, but he got used to the little trooper who wouldn't leave him no matter how difficult things got. The first part of the book covers the race and some of the author's life story, and the rest is about the problems - and there were many - that Dion faced trying to get the dog back home to Scotland. 

If the book was fiction I'd say it's a bit far-fetched, but since it actually happened it's hard to make that argument. Still, it felt slightly unrealistic to me. It wasn't bad. 

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
All I remember is four siblings squabbling over an inheritance, each believing, for (mostly) good reasons, that they need it more than the others. It sticks in my mind as one I liked but didn't love, and when I checked my Goodreads rating I saw I gave it only 3 stars, so I think I'm remembering right. And let this be a lesson to me to make notes as soon as I finish a book, not a year later.  

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
A short book, covering just three hours of a young couple's wedding night, this one is painful to read. Love is not the problem, sex is. They are both virgins, nervous about their first night together and carrying a lot of baggage they've never talked about. It's the silence that kills you as you read this. They come so close to making it work, but every opportunity to be honest with each other is lost because they cannot find the courage to speak about something so intimate. At one point I put the book down and howled JUST SAY IT OUT LOUD FOR PETE'S SAKE! But, no, they could not. 

Ian McEwan is a genius at getting into his characters' heads and showing the reader what he finds there (or puts there, I should say). This book is further proof of his skill as a writer, but oh, it is frustrating and sad.   

Star Over Bethlehem by Agatha Christie Mallowan
Quite a departure from the mysteries we all know and love, this is a collection of short stories and poems with a religious bent. From what I've read, the author had a deep faith, which is reflected to a degree in her mysteries, but here it's front and center. I enjoyed the stories, and was especially pleased to find among them The Water Bus, one of my favourite short stories from any author. The poems weren't quite as appealing to me. I do love poetry, but couldn't find anything here that caught my attention.  

The Man Who Invented Christmas by Les Standiford
I remember expecting a holiday themed book, a lighthearted look at Dickens, at old English Christmases and the inspirations that led to A Christmas Carol. It did give me some of that, but it's more of a short biography, with lots of particulars about his home life growing up, his own family life, and the waning career that had him struggling financially. It was his urgent need to pay the bills that led to the hasty writing of this now-beloved Christmas story, so be forewarned that if you read it, any romantic notions you were harbouring may be shot down. I enjoyed the book, and the movie, too, which was Chistmassy-er. I know, it's not a word. I don't care. 


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