Read With Us

Read With Us: Young Mungo

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I have the great pleasure today . . . of trying to convince you to pick up a copy of Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart . . . so you can Read With Us this spring.

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As I was Googling around, looking for book reviews and analyses of the book to share with you, I stumbled onto this little one-and-a-half minute YouTube promotional piece from Douglas Stuart himself (for Lighthouse Bookshop). And - trust me here - he can explain the basic premise of the book (in his very charming accent) much better than I ever could.

So, here. I'll just start by letting Douglas Stuart do the talking . . .  

I do hope you'll Read With Us!

  • For a longer summary description of the book, this one from Hamilton Cain on the Oprah Daily site is particularly good.
  • For a quick review of the book, here's a good one from NPR. (The New York Times and Washington Post also have excellent reviews of the book, if you have access to a subscription).
  • Lastly, here's an Ari Shapiro NPR interview with author Douglas Stuart. It's a short interview (only 8 minutes), and if you give it a listen, I think you'll be even more tempted to pick up a copy and Read With Us (because Stuart compares his character development with textile design -- and any fiber-lovers will swoon a little bit).

The book is currently available on Amazon in hardback ($23.99), Kindle ($9.45) or Audible versions (1 credit). I imagine your local bookstore (should you be fortunate enough to have one) would offer the book at similar prices. The book will also be available at most libraries, although the hold list might be daunting. 

Our Read With Us book discussion day will be coming up on Tuesday, June 7. Bonny, Carole, and I will each post discussion questions on our blogs that day, and then - later in the evening (7:00 pm Eastern time zone) - we'll be hosting a live book discussion/meet-up on Zoom.

C'mon along! 
Read With Us!

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One More Thing . . . 

I found this Glaswegian dictionary while reading Shuggie Bain. Although I didn't find the Glaswegian dialect used in the book to be a barrier (I could pick up meaning through context with no problem), I did find the dictionary helpful - and fun - to refer to in deciphering some of the more obscure terms.

 


Let's Do It Again!

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It was almost exactly one year ago . . . that Bonny and Carole and I announced (what seemed to be) our incredibly risky spring 2021 Read With Us title . . . Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart. It was a tough, challenging, "chewy" kind of book. But many of you chose to . . . read with us . . . despite the tough subject matter -- and we ended up having an incredible book discussion. In fact, I'd say that Shuggie Bain established Read With Us as a collection of readers unafraid of challenging books, willing to take reading risks, AND relishing an opportunity to talk about them . . . together.

So it is probably no surprise that we've chosen Douglas Stuart's new novel, Young Mungo, as our Spring 2022 Read With Us pick.

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It will, once again, be a tough, challenging, "chewy" kind of read. As the headline of the NPR review of the book says . . .

"Brace yourself for 'Young Mungo,' a nuanced heartbreaker of a novel."

Like I said in my announcement post about Shuggie Bain last April, "It may not offer an everything-works-out-in-the-end kind of read, but it will make you feel all the feels." And we're hoping you'll want to read Young Mungo with us.

The biggest challenge this time around may not be the subject matter. It may be the timing  . . . because the book is just being released TODAY. So it's only available in hardback or on audio, and there are likely to be long hold lines at your local library. We realize this may put a damper on your willingness/ability to read with us, but we also know that many of you will be eager to read it anyway, so we didn't want to wait. (And we hope you'll forgive us.)

We'll be talking more about the book and providing some background information later in April and May. Then . . . mark your calendars now for our blog book discussions AND a Zoom discussion on Tuesday, June 7 (7:00 pm Eastern time).

I do want to point out that Young Mungo is NOT a sequel to Shuggie Bain (although there are similar themes and the same Glasgow setting), so if you didn't read Shuggie, you don't need to worry about missing out by picking up Young Mungo first. (I also want to point this out . . . Not. About. Nuns.)

I hope you'll c'mon along . . . and do it again. 
Read with us!
And then . . . let's talk about it.

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Previous Read With Us book selections:

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Fever by Mary Beth Keane

I'm Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller

Matrix by Lauren Groff

Agatha of Little Neon by Claire Luchette

 


It's a Wrap!

Thanks so much for coming along on our latest Read With Us adventure. I just love talking about books with other readers. And it makes my heart so happy when you pick up a book to . . . read with us . . . and then take the time to discuss it with us, too.

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A week ago, we hosted the book discussion for our latest selection, Agatha of Little Neon by Claire Luchette, on our blogs and then with a lively Zoom meet-up in the evening. The discussions were interesting and engaging, and I think it's safe to say . . . our readers generally liked the book, to some degree. As expected, there were also readers who didn't like it quite as much.

And that's what's so great about a book group!

Each of us brings our own personal history, tastes, and experiences to the discussion -- not to mention our preferences for character development, storyline, pacing, setting, and language. It's always interesting to hear what other readers have to say about the book we've all just read. 

Which brings me to the wrap-up. At this point, I'm intended to share some of our discussion highlights . . .

[INSERT HIGHLIGHTS HERE].

And I would love to.
If only I could find the notes I jotted during our Zoom.
(I'm really rather embarrassed that I've lost them. But there you are. I have lost them.)

So. . . 

How about a photo of our Zoom group instead?

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There were 16 of us for most of the discussion last week (two of us needed to leave early for other commitments and missed the photo op). Just like an in-real-life book group, we sip a little wine, knit some, have a bit of chit-chat, talk about the book . . . and laugh a lot!

And . . . we roll with it. . .
When we read the books so long ago we can't quite remember it anymore.
And when we don't agree with each other.
And when we can't stay for the whole discussion.
And . . . even when we lose the discussion notes!

(Book groups are the best.)

Stay tuned. We'll be announcing the spring Read With Us selection early next month

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(And if you took part in the Zoom and you'd like to share some of our discussion highlights in the comments, please feel free to do so. Since I seem unable to do so myself.)

 


Read With Us: Let's Talk About . . . Agatha of Little Neon

Welcome to Read With Us book discussion day!

Bonny and Carole and I are each posting a different question (or questions) on our blogs today about our latest RWU book . . . Agatha of Little Neon by Claire Luchette. Join the discussion (which you're welcome do even if you didn't read the book).  I'll be answering your posts within the comment section for this discussion -- and you can comment on other people's comments, as well. Y'know . . . like in a real book group. (Please know . . . that because of the limitations of Typepad, I can't "layer" or "stack" the comments in my comment feed. Sorry. Bear with me.)

Let's begin. . . 

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First . . . I'd really like to know what you thought of the book. How did it make you feel? Did you like it? Were you surprised that it marks author Claire Luchette's debut? How would you describe Agatha of Little Neon to a friend looking for a book recommendation?

Next . . . Agatha of Little Neon is a book about relationships: Between the sisters, between the sisters and Mother Roberta, between the Neons, and even between the girls at school. But at the same time, much of the book is focused solely on Agatha and her "interior world." How did this help you understand Agatha as the book progressed?

Last . . . Claire Luchette paints some really wonderful scenes for us in her writing; she makes it easy for us to see, for example, Agatha learning to roller skate. Which scenes did you find particularly memorable?

I can't wait to hear what you think!

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Don't forget: We'll be discussing the book on Zoom tonight - 7:00 pm Eastern Time. There's still time for you to join us! Just let me know of your interest either with a comment or by sending me an email (see sidebar, above) -- and I'll send a Zoom invitation. 

PS - If you are planning to join us on the Zoom, but haven't received an invitation from me (I sent them yesterday), please let me know so I can get the Zoom link to you today.

 


Me and My Library

Every reader I know has a different way of planning out what-they'll-read-next. Some readers are very methodical. They make goals and plans for their reading, and they stick to them. Some readers are very willy-nilly, and they read whatever appeals to them at the moment. There's a full . . . spectrum of reading preferences and styles . . . when it comes to deciding what to read. No "way" of reading is better than any other "way" of reading.

It's a preference.
It's all about what works for you.

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Me? I'm definitely a willy-nilly reader. I keep a list of books I'd like to read (Goodreads makes that easy), but I hardly ever refer back to it. I'm more . . . a browser kind of reader. I wander stacks at the library. I wander aisles at the bookstore. I pick up whatever appeals to me at the moment. I do check out certain prize lists. I'm a fan of the Women's Prize (which came out today, by the way), the Booker Prize, and the National Book Award . . . but I don't get too hung up about them. I read book reviews from various people I trust. I'm a fan of certain authors. I've been known to choose a book for its cover, or a clever title.

Mostly, though, I am heavily influenced by whatever books I've picked up at my local library. I make good use of my library's "hold" system, and I "shop" for my next read from whatever I have at the time. It works for me.

And right now . . . I'm nervous about that.
Twitchy, even, you might say.

WHY?

Well. Take a look at that bottom shelf in the photo above.
That's what I call my "transient shelf," and it's where I park any books I have checked out from the library.
And from right now . . . until May 16 . . . that's IT for me. The sum total of books I can check out from my library.

You see, about 18 months ago, our library broke ground on a major expansion project. While the project was going on, the library "moved" to a temporary location. Although I was skeptical at first (somehow I pictured makeshift shelves in a dark and crowded basement), the temporary library was a very comfortable and inviting place. Now, though, the project is finished and it's time for the library to move back and settle in to the "new" old location.

And they've closed until mid-May!!!
Mid-May!!!

That is a long, long time for me to be without access to the library.

For the last couple of weeks, I've been keeping my fingers crossed for some of my holds to come in (most of them didn't), and "shopping" for any books I might want to read during the library break. I wandered the stacks every time I popped in, picking books from the shelves kind of in my willy-nilly fashion . . . and there they are. Sitting there on my "transient shelf." 

Will I want to read those particular books?
Will they appeal when I'm looking for something to read?
Will they . . . suffice?
I don't know.
But that's what I picked up for myself as the library was getting ready to pack up and shut down.

I really do feel a little twitchy about the whole thing. I won't be able to get any of my holds until the library opens again in May. (But I realized today that I can continue to add books to my hold list, so that's a plus.) I won't be able to wander the stacks or check out the "hot picks." It's a weird feeling. . . 

I have plenty to read, for sure.
But this is not my preferred way to do it!

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How about you? Are you a "planner" or a "browser" when it comes to picking your next book? And . . . would it make you twitchy if your local library were to shut down for 2 1/2 months????

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Speaking of reading . . . Here's a quick reminder!

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Next Tuesday - March 15 - is the Read With Us discussion day for Agatha of Little Neon. Our Zoom discussion will begin at 7:00 pm (Eastern Time). Please let me know if you're planning to join us for the Zoom -- either in the comments or by sending me an email (my email link is at the very top of the sidebar).

I hope you'll join us!

(As always, we'll also include discussion questions on our blogs that day, in case you can't make it for the Zoom.)


Read With Us: Agatha of Little Neon

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A couple of weeks ago, Bonny and Carole and I announced our next Read With Us selection . . . Agatha of Little Neon by Claire Luchette. At the time, we made a few jokes about "being on a nun kick" (since our last selection was Matrix by Lauren Groff). I can assure you, we are NOT on a "nun kick," actually. This selection just seemed . . . to be a natural follow up.

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Really, it's my fault. I had picked up Agatha of Little Neon just at the new year, having heard about it . . . somewhere (I really can't remember where), and I was reading it at the same time we were beginning to plan for our Matrix book discussion. My mind was full of nuns . . . the 12th century nuns populating Lauren Groff's Matrix AND the young, modern-day sisters of Little Neon. So much was different. And so much was . . . not. I thought it might be interesting - and kind of fun in that nerdy-bookish kind of way - to follow up Matrix . . . with Agatha.

The writing styles are completely different. The worlds these nuns inhabit are entirely different. The situations the nuns find themselves in are totally different. And yet . . . there are some things that just never seem to change over the centuries. So. There you have it. Another book about nuns!

I do hope you'll Read With Us!

  • For a quick summary of the book, here's a good one from Powell's Books. They chose Agatha of Little Neon as their weekly "spotlight pick" back in August.
  • For a more in-depth comparison between Matrix and Agatha of Little Neon, check out this review (which is from America: The Jesuit Review, a publication I wasn't previously aware of - and would never have expected to appear in my blog - yet here we are). (It's refreshing to see that we aren't the only ones making a link between the two books!)
  • Lastly, here's a charming NPR interview with author Claire Luchette. It's a short interview (8 minutes), and if you give it a listen, I think you'll be even more tempted to pick up a copy and Read With Us. (By the way, Agatha is Claire Luchette's debut novel.)

The book is currently available on Amazon in hardback ($19.87), paperback ($17.00), Kindle ($13.99) or Audible versions (1 credit). I imagine your local bookstore (should you be fortunate enough to have one) would offer the book at similar prices. The book is currently not available at my library; maybe you'll have better luck at yours. (I listened to the audiobook version this go 'round and really enjoyed listening.)

Our Read With Us book discussion day will be coming up on Tuesday, March 15. Bonny, Carole, and I will each post a discussion question (or two or three) on our blogs that day, and then - later in the evening (7:00 pm Eastern time zone) - we'll be hosting a live book discussion/meet-up on Zoom. Although there will probably be some compare-and-contrast going on for those who read both Matrix and Agatha, it will not be the sole focus of the discussion! Please feel free to just read Agatha.

C'mon along! 
Read With Us!

 

 


Read With Us: Up Next!

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It's always an exciting day when we release the next Read With Us title . . . and today's the day!

(Although if you joined us for last week's Zoom discussion of Matrix, you've already heard the news. We've decided to make it a "perk" for those who join the Zoom to announce the next book at the close of our call.)

So. Without further ado . . . 
our next selection is  . . .
Agatha of Little Neon by Claire Luchette.

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Right about now, you may be asking yourself . . . Are they on a nun kick, or what?

And I guess you might say that, yes.
Yes we are.

I stumbled onto Agatha of Little Neon somewhere right after the holidays. It was the first book I finished in 2022 . . . and it's a gem! Debut author Claire Luchette writes a delightful yet poignant story about modern-day sisters. The language is deceptively simple, the characters reveal themselves slowly (they sort of . . . unfold on the pages), and the whole thing is fresh, engaging, and insightful. It grabbed my heart. And . . . it also offers a really interesting counterpoint to Matrix.

We'll be talking more about the book and providing additional background information throughout February. Then . . . mark your calendars for our blog book discussions/Zoom discussion on Tuesday, March 15 (7:00 pm Eastern time; Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel). It is a quicker turnover than usual for a Read With Us selection, but the book is relatively short at 273 pages, and - trust me - it's a quick read! 

We hope you'll be as excited as we are to meet Agatha and her sisters. And - whether you read Matrix with us or not - we hope you'll join us for the discussion in March. (Although we will be doing some compare-and-contrast kinds of things in our discussion, this book absolutely stands on its own and Matrix is not "required reading.")

C'mon along as we continue our nun kick! 
Read With Us!

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Previous Read With Us book selections:

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Fever by Mary Beth Keane

I'm Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller

Matrix by Lauren Groff

 

 


Read With Us: Let's Talk About It

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Welcome to Read With Us book discussion day!

Bonny and Carole and I are each posting a different question (or questions) on our blogs today about our latest RWU book . . . Matrix by Lauren Groff. Join the discussion (which you're welcome do even if you didn't read the book).  I'll be answering your posts within the comment section for this discussion -- and you can comment on other people's comments, as well. Y'know . . . like in a real book group. (Please know . . . that because of the limitations of Typepad, I can't "layer" or "stack" the comments in my comment feed. Sorry. Bear with me.)

Let's begin. . . 

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First . . . I'd really like to know what you thought of the book. How did it make you feel? Did you like it? Do you think it deserved to be one of the National Book Award finalists last year?

Next . . . At the beginning of the novel, Marie is angry and up for a fight. But toward the end of her life she says, "open your hands and let your life go. It has never been yours to do with what you will." How does Marie evolve as a person throughout the book?

Last . . . How would you describe Matrix to a friend looking for a book recommendation?

I can't wait to hear what you think

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Don't forget: We'll be discussing the book on Zoom tonight - 7:00 pm Eastern Time. There's still time for you to join us! Just let me know of your interest either with a comment or by sending me an email (see sidebar, above) -- and I'll send a Zoom invitation. 

PS - If you are planning to join us on the Zoom, but haven't received an invitation from me (I sent them yesterday), please let me know so I can re-send the invitation to you today.

 


Just a Reminder

Yeah. I know it's December. And it's typically a very busy month. But I'm here with a reminder for you . . . 

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You've still got (roughly) a month to Read With Us!

Our book this quarter is Matrix by Lauren Groff.

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Last week, I watched an excellent lecture by Lauren Groff at Notre Dame University (posted below) (I tried to post below; it wouldn't work. Instead, click here for the YouTube link). It's a bit long, but really quite fascinating. She talks about her inspiration for the book, her impediments to even writing a book of historical fiction, and the threads she follows in the book (feminine power, feminine mystics, utopia, labyrinths, climate change). I love hearing about how authors "do it" -- how they put things together -- and this is one of the best author lectures I've heard - very honest; very from the heart. Yeah. It's long (about an hour and a half), but you can cut the first 5 minutes off (because it's just . . . an empty podium while people enter the auditorium). Queue up the video, grab your knitting, and watch/listen! (And maybe especially if you didn't really like the book.)

And then mark your calendars for our Zoom discussion on Tuesday, January 11, 2022 at 7:00 pm (EST). (We'll also be posting questions for disucussion on our blogs that same day.) Go ahead and make your Zoom reservations anytime, either in the comments or by sending me an email (my email link is at the very top of the sidebar).

Happy reading!


Something to Talk About

Read With Us Fall

I've been a member of a few "in real life" book groups over the years. One group I absolutely loved, one I was significantly less enamored with, and a few  just never really . . . jelled. C'est la vie! What rang true for all these groups, though, was that our book discussions tended to be more meaningful, thoughtful, and engaging when we had diverging thoughts and feelings about whatever book we happened to be reading.

I mean . . . when everyone in the group really loved a book (or really hated a book) it didn't take long for our discussions to turn into a happy-happy fan club meeting (or a series of rants about who we hated most) before we quickly switched gears to wine-and-gossip. It was nice to get together, sure, but there wasn't much depth when it came to talking books when we all felt the same way about those books. There just wasn't much THERE there to talk about . . . y'know?

So in my experience, book group discussions tend to be better when readers don't all feel the same way about a given book. Or when the book is kinda challenging. Maybe even a bit weird. It's more interesting to talk about books when we're still trying to figure out what we actually think about that book! For me, that's the best thing about book groups . . . talking out loud about a book with some friends (and probably a glass of wine).

Which brings me to our most recent Read With Us selection . . . 

Matrix

Matrix by Lauren Groff.

I have a feeling that this will be One Of Those Books . . . where our group will come together with divergent feelings, different opinions, complicated thoughts, and MUCH to say. Some people are gonna love it, some people are not gonna love it. It's definitely a bit weird. And kinda challenging, maybe. 

Whatever you feel, it's definitely going to be discussable.

So . . .  I hope you'll pick up a copy and Read With Us!

The book is currently available on Amazon in hardback ($17.59), Kindle ($14.99) or Audible versions (1 credit). I imagine your local bookstore (should you be fortunate enough to have one) would offer the book at similar prices. The book is currently available at my library with a short wait. (I listened to the audiobook version this go 'round and enjoyed listening.)

Our Read With Us book discussion day is Tuesday, January 11. Bonny, Carole, and I will each post a discussion question (or two) on our blogs that day, and then - later in the evening (7:00 pm Eastern time zone) - we'll be hosting a live book discussion/meet-up on Zoom. 

C'mon along! 
Read With Us!

And then . . . let's talk about it.