Read With Us

Clear Your Calendar . . .

and prepare to be . . . UNSETTLED!

RWU Summer Logo

Yes, friends. Our most recent Read With Us book selection - Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller - is very compelling and highly readable.

Unsettled Ground

I was up north last week, and it rained . . . a lot. I spent one day inside reading this book. Actually, let's clarify that . . . I spent one day inside glued to this book. Is it among my favorite reads of all time? No. Is it the best book I've read this year? No. But . . . it's very good! And it's totally . . . un-put-down-able. Author Claire Fuller is a master storyteller. She paints a beautiful landscape for us, populates it with believable characters, and tells her story in a way that just hooks us right in and keeps us reading (and reading and reading). I found this book to be frustrating and bleak, but also a bit hopeful by the end. It's one of those stories that may change your perspective a bit; that might open your eyes to different ways of living (or surviving). It will probably . . . unsettle . . . you a little. And it will surely make you want to talk about it with other readers. (It's perfect for a book group.)

I hope you'll grab a copy and read along with us this summer.
(Although you may want to make sure your schedule is clear for a day or so before you begin.) (Just sayin.)

The book is currently available on Amazon in hardback ($19.33), Kindle ($12.99) or Audible versions. I imagine your local bookstore (should you be fortunate enough to have one) would offer the book at similar prices. I got a copy from my library with a short wait.

Our Read With Us book discussion day is Tuesday, September 14. 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!
Unsettle yourself.

Read With Us!

==

PS - A couple of weeks ago, Bonny discovered - and shared - a Spotify playlist put together by the author to accompany the book. I'm sharing the link again here . . . because it really is a nice companion to the book, and you may want to give it a listen.

PSS - Slight spoiler alert. (Only slight.) When I read books that feature animals and beloved pets, I worry a lot about . . . bad things happening to the animals. I just want to assure others that feel the same way . . . well, don't worry about the dog.

 


Read With Us . . . This Summer

RWU Summer Logo

Every year for many, many years I've followed the Women's Prize for Fiction (through several sponsorship and name changes) with great interest. Born of frustration over the lack of recognition for women writers among the top fiction prizes, the Women's Prize was established in the early 1990s, and has since become one of the most prestigious literary prizes out there. It is awarded annually to a female author of any nationality for the best original full-length novel written in English and published in the UK in the preceding year.

I mark my calendar every year with with announcement dates for the Women's Prize - the Longlist, the Shortlist, the Winner. . . and then I get to reading as many of the books as I can get my hands on. By the time they've narrowed it down to the Shortlist, I'm never disappointed! (Last year's winner was Hamnet, a favorite of mine -- and I know a fave for many of you, too.)

Bonny, Carole, and I are really excited to announce that our summer Read With Us book selection . . . is lifted directly from the 2021 Women's Prize Shortlist!

Unsettled Ground

We'll be reading Unsettled Ground by British author Claire Fuller. NPR has this to say in its review:

'Unsettled Ground' is a terribly beautiful book, and although its premise may seem quiet, it is full of dramatic twists and turns right up until its moving, beautiful end.
            --- Ilana Masad, NPR

Although I haven't had a chance to read it yet, I've been waiting to pick it up since the Women's Prize Longlist announcement back in March! Unsettled Ground was only released in the US about a month ago, but I've seen on Goodreads that a couple of you have already had a chance to read it (lucky you!). My library hasn't got its copy yet, apparently, but I am #1 on the hold list, so I'm sure it won't be long. The book is available in hardback and Kindle on Amazon, and I'm sure you can pick up a copy at your local bookstore as well.

We'll be talking more about the book and providing some background information later in July and August. Then . . . mark your calendars now for our blog book discussions AND a Zoom discussion on Tuesday, September 14 (7:00 pm Eastern time; Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel).

I see (on Goodreads) that many of you have this book on your "to read" lists, so I'm hoping you'll be eager to join in and . . . Read With Us!

==

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

 


Read With Us: Let's Talk About It

Read With Us

Welcome to Read With Us book discussion week!

Bonny and Carole and I are each posting a different question (or questions) on our blogs today about our latest RWU book . . . Shuggie Bain. 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. . . 

52741293._SY475_

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 win the 2020 Booker Prize?

Next . . . The author uses Scottish dialect throughout the novel. What does this add to the narrative, and how did you find reading it if you weren't familiar with some of the words?

Last . . . Shuggie has two older siblings who eventually escape their dysfunctional mother. How do you feel about them leaving Shuggie behind? Was it their responsibility to protect him? Or were they right to try to save themselves?

I can't wait to hear what you think!

==

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 have signed up for the Zoom, but you haven't received an invitation from me by noon today, please let me know so I can re-send the invitation to you.

 


Sliding Into June With a Reminder

I hope you all enjoyed a pleasant extended weekend.

I'm welcoming June with a quick reminder: Our next Read With Us book discussion is coming right up!

Read With Us

First, the book . . . 

52741293._SY475_

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart. If you haven't had a chance to read it yet, you still have time. Although it's a longer book, it's quite compelling and doesn't take as long to read as you think it might. (You'll want to get started soon, though.) You can probably pick it up at your local library or bookstore (it's out in paperback now), and it's available on Kindle for $8.67 right now if you like to read on an e-reader. (And I'm sure it would fit quite nicely into one of your Summer Book Bingo squares!)

Then, the discussion.

We'll be talking about the book on Tuesday, June 8 -- both on our blogs and with a Zoom meet-up. 

  • Bonny, Carole, and I will each post a different discussion question on our blogs next Tuesday -- June 8. Feel free to post your thoughts about the book by commenting throughout the discussion week.
  • Later that same evening, we'll be hosting a Zoom meet-up at 7:00 pm to discuss the book "live" and in person. If you want to join us (and we hope you will; we've really enjoyed the previous two Read With Us Zooms), all you need to do is . . . let us know! Just RSVP by leaving a comment on any of our blogs beginning today -- or you can send us an email. I'll be sending out the Zoom information prior to the meet-up -- AND I'll be sending out some background information about the book and the author to deepen our understanding of the book prior to the discussion.

If you've read the book - or if you're still planning to - we hope you'll join us for the discussion on June 8.

And . . . welcome June!

 


Throwing Caution To The Wind

Read With Us

Generally speaking, I'm cautious when it comes to recommending books to other people. I actually don't do it very often, and only if I really, really understand someone else's reading tastes and can match my recommendation to what they may enjoy.

I mean, I'm notorious among people who know me . . . for liking books others don't find appealing. You see, I'm a big fan of the gritty, messy, "hard" books. The ones with ambigous endings. Or books that feature characters without names. Or books with weird punctuation. I tend to appreciate authors that stab you in the heart, and then twist the knife around a bit. Sometimes more than a bit. That kind of thing. (Although I absolutely draw the line at books where animals die or come to harm.)  

So I've learned to be careful about making recommendations.
Because not everyone likes that kind of book.
I often say . . . I loved it. Your mileage may vary.
And people generally get what I'm saying.

Our most recent Read With Us pick . . . 

52741293._SY475_

ummm . . . well. It might fit into that category of books I'm cautious about recommending. It's gritty, and definitely messy. Some people might say it's "hard," (but I'd just say it's life.) The ending is kinda-sorta ambiguous (spoiler alert: everything is not tied into a pretty bow, neat as you please, by the final page). All the characters do have names, and the author uses standard punctuation -- but there is a lot of dialect (which can be somewhat challenging until you get the hang of it). And, yeah. The author definitely stabs you in the heart and twists it around - real good - a few times.

I loved it.
Your mileage may vary.
But I'm going to throw caution to the wind . . . and recommend it to you anyway.
I really do hope you'll pick up a copy and give it a try!

Because Shuggie Bain . . . is definitely a book worth reading. The writing is brilliant, the story compelling. It's completely "readable" . . . despite the dark subject matter. And that . . . is a testament to the mastery of author Douglas Stuart. He writes so tenderly about hurt and damaged people who are just trying to make their way in a world that isn’t helping them at all. You'll care about his characters so much and so deeply, despite their ugliness and all their flaws. It's Powerful Stuff, I tell you.

While not a memoir, author Douglas Stuart did draw upon his own experience as a queer boy growing up in Glasgow with a single mother who struggled with addiction in writing the novel (his first, by the way). NPR's Scott Simon did an excellent interview with Douglas Stuart in November 2020, just days before Shuggie Bain won the Man Booker prize. It's worth a listen -- and at only 6 minutes long, it's quick and easy, too. (Plus, Douglas Stuart's accent is absolutely charming.)

Speaking of accents . . . Much of the book is written in Glaswegian dialect (also known as Glasgow patter) (and I'm not making that up). It doesn't make it impossible to read or understand the book -- I had no trouble getting the meaning through context, but this little Glaswegian Dictionary would have been a helpful reference. I started out reading the hardback version of the book, but before long, I found I really wanted to hear the voices and the dialect, so I grabbed the audiobook version and alternated between reading with my eyes and my ears. I highly recommend this approach, as it added depth to my reading experience.

Although our turnaround time from announcement to discussion is a bit shorter than usual for this book, you've still got plenty of time to read along. We'll be posting our blog book discussion questions on Tuesday, June 8 -- and then we'll be hosting another Zoom book discussion later that same evening at 7:00 pm Eastern time. (I know that makes it early if you're in the Mountain or Pacific time zones, but Bonny, Carole, and I all live in Eastern time -- and we turn into pumpkins if it gets to be too late.) I hope you can make plans to join us for the Zoom. We've had a couple of great discussions now. It's a lot of fun to get together and talk books with blog friends. 

I do hope you'll join us!

I highly recommend this one. . . 
I really do.

 


Better Together . . . C'mon Along

Read With Us

"For most people, what is so painful about reading is that you read something and you don't have anybody to share it with. In part what the book club opens up is that people can read a book and then have someone else to talk about it with. Then they see that a book can lead to the pleasure of conversation, that the solitary act of reading can actually be a part of the path to communion and community."
        --bell hooks

Some books . . . just cry out . . . to be discussed.
You can't just read them alone, and then keep them to yourself. 
You need to talk about it!

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

Keep that in mind as we reveal our next Read With Us title . . . 

52741293._SY475_

NPR has this to say about Shuggie Bain (2020's Booker Prize winner):

"Shuggie Bain is a novel that cracks open the human heart, brings you inside, tears you up, and brings you up, with its episodes of unvarnished love, loss, survival and sorrow."
        -- NPR Interview with Douglas Stuart, Author, November 14, 2020

So, yeah.
It's kinda dark.
It's kinda long.
It's sad.
And very real.

But it's . . . So. Dang. Good.

And it will be even better when we share it together! Shuggie Bain is one of those books that cries out . . . to be talked about. Preferrably with friends. (And maybe with a glass of wine. Your call.) I hope you'll take a chance on this book with us. It may not offer an everything-works-out-in-the-end kind of read, but it will make you feel all the feels.

The book is currently available on Kindle for $8.67, and it's recently been released in paperback as well ($14.30 for Prime members). My local independent bookstore has it on the shelf for full price, and it's also available through Audible if you'd prefer to listen. I was able to pick it up right away at my library. It is a little bit longer than any of our previous Read With Us selections, so you may want to get your hands on the book sooner than later. (I will say that it's quite compelling, and once you get started, it reads pretty quickly.)

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 8 (probably 6:30pm Eastern time; Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel).

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

==

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

 


It's a Wrap

Thanks so much for coming along on our Read With Us adventure! 

Read With Us

A week ago, we hosted the book discussion for our latest selection, Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam, on our blogs and then with a lively Zoom meet-up. The discussions were interesting and engaging, and I think it's safe to say . . . people had strong feelings about this book! (Which is truly the hallmark of a great book group selection in my estimation. Discussable books always make the best book group picks.)

Leave the World Behind

After reading the blog book discussion comments, and then being part of the Zoom discussion, I think it's safe to say that readers were in agreement with three things:

  1. The book was, indeed, creepy. The scenario as laid out in the book was just a little bit too believable. Or, maybe if not exactly believable . . . certainly imagine-able. While the details didn't always add up (we're looking at you, vacation house rental website . . . ), we could all picture just what it might be like to lose internet, cable, and cell connections . . . and how that would translate to the ways we get our news, communicate with our families, and navigate our days.
  2. The characters weren't particularly consistent . . . or even likeable. Most of us had a hard time relating to the parent-child dynamics going on in the book, especially given the bizarre and unexplained "weirdness" that was happening in the world. (Just sending your kids out to "play"? We thought not. . . )
  3. The writing was very good, which kept us all turning the pages of this compelling story. Even if the story didn't actually wrap up with a nice, tidy explanation (and a bow on top, thankyouverymuch).

And there, really, was the main complaint with this book for many Read With Us readers. It was frustrating . . . to be fed so many partial details and possible clues without ever finding out what happened. Really, author???? And that, apparently, was by design! I read and listened to several interviews with the author in preparation for our discussions, and he claims that even he didn't know what happened! In one interview he states that the book presents about 13 different questions, and it only answers 7 of them. (And we weren't sure that he even answered 7, actually.)

Some of us didn't mind the ambiguity, and just enjoyed the ride. But at least an equal number of us DID mind that ambiguity, and felt the book suffered for those loose ends. And we all decided that if you couldn't suspend your disbelief while reading (about certain facts like the "AirBnB hosting situation," for example), the book would probably not be as enjoyable for you. At least one of us actually changed her feelings about the book following our discussion -- declaring that while she had kinda liked the book coming into the Zoom, she had downgraded her assessment to "not so much" by the end of the call.

Yeah. It was that kind of book.

All in all, it was an interesting book which led to a very good discussion. (I told you it was going to be . . . chewy!) I thank you all for joining in to . . . Read With Us.

(And stay tuned. We'll be announcing our next book group selection soon.)

 


Read With Us: Let's Talk About It

Read With Us

Welcome to Read With Us book discussion week!

Bonny and Carole and I are each posting a different question (or questions) on our blogs today about our latest RWU book . . . Leave the World Behind. 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. . . 

Leave the World Behind

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 deserves all the media attention and award nominations it has received since its publication last October?

Next . . . Leave the World Behind is a work of fiction, written before the COVID-19 outbreak and the societal uprisings that have shaped 2020. If you had read the novel before 2020, do you think you would have had a different response to it? If so, in what way?

Last . . . In Leave the World Behind, the families grapple with the sudden loss of communications technology --- cell phone, internet and satellite services all fail. What is your relationship to technology? Do you embrace it? Do you wish our society handled its role in our lives differently?

When I read this book, I was completely creeped out. The whole not-being-able-to-communicate (or find out what was even going on) thing just gave me the chills. When I think about how online-connected all of us are now and how much I've bought into digital-everything, it was nightmare-inducing to even think about this for me. And I'm pretty sure that reading this during the pandemic just heightened all the "creep" for me. This was certainly a book that brought out a lot of "feels."

I can't wait to hear what you think!

==

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. 

 


Quick Reminder

Just a little Friday reminder here.

Our next Read With Us book discussion is coming right up!

Read With Us

First, the book . . . 

Leave the World Behind

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam. If you haven't had a chance to read it, you still have plenty of time. It's a quick read and quite a page-turner! (The tricky part is getting hold of a copy, if you're relying on your library. It's a popular book right now, and wait times can be long.)

Then, the discussion.

We'll be talking about the book on Tuesday, March 2 -- both on our blogs and with a Zoom meet-up. 

  • Bonny, Carole, and I will each post a different discussion question on our blogs on Tuesday, March 2. Feel free to post your thoughts about the book by commenting throughout the discussion week.
  • Later that same evening, we'll be hosting a Zoom meet-up at 7:00 pm to discuss the book "live" and in person. (Yeah, I know there are limitations with the timing, especially if you're on the west coast. But Bonny, Carole, and I are all in the Eastern Time Zone . . . and we turn into pumpkins if it gets to be too late.) If you want to join us (and we hope you will; we all had a lot of fun with our last Read With Us Zoom), all you need to do is . . . let us know! Just RSVP by leaving a comment on any of our blogs beginning today -- or you can send us an email. I'll be sending out the Zoom information prior to the meet-up -- AND I'll be sending out some background information about the book and the author that will deepen our understanding of the book prior to the discussion.

If you've read the book - or are still planning to - we hope you'll join us for the discussion on March 2.

==

I wish you all enjoy a restful weekend, with plenty of time for reading.

 


Take A Bite

Read With Us

Some books are just . . . chewier . . . than others.

A little grittier.
Harder to swallow.
Stuff gets stuck in your teeth.

They're the kind of books you may not like, exactly. But you keep thinking about them. And you really want to talk about them with anyone else who's read them.

In short, they're perfect for a book group read! Because there's usually quite a bit to talk about with one of those chewy books. Ideas to work out. Blanks to fill in. Endings to ponder. That kind of thing.

Well. Have I got a book for you!

Leave the World Behind

Leave the World Behind, by Rumaan Alam, is our current Read With Us book selection. And it is definitely a chewy one!

A true "genre-bender" (NPR calls it a "slippery and duplicitous marvel of a novel"), it defies categorization. Thriller with dystopian overtones? Satirical comedy of manners? Coming of age/hero's journey tale? Check. Check. Check. The novel lulls us into thinking we're headed in one direction, when it suddenly veers in another. And pretty soon, we can feel the walls closing in. Or maybe it's the ground falling away under our feet.

However you categorize it, it's definitely unsettling.

Anyway. It's a book worth reading - and it's especially fitting, given The State Of The World.

You've got plenty of time to read the book. (I read it almost in one sitting - it's very compelling and not very long at 256 pages.) We'll be posting our blog book discussion questions on Tuesday, March 3 -- and we'll be hosting another Zoom book discussion later that same evening at 7:00 pm Eastern time. (I know that makes it early if you're in the Mountain or Pacific time zones, but Bonny, Carole, and I all live in Eastern time -- and we turn into pumpkins if it gets to be too late.) I hope you can make plans to join us for the Zoom. We had a great discussion last time - and it's fun to get together with blog friends, too. 

Because the book is still new and popular (given it's timely "buzz" AND as a finalist for the National Book Award), you might encounter a longer wait if you're on hold at the library. If you're interested in getting a copy for yourself, the book has recently come out in paperback, and it's currently available on Kindle for $12.99.

I do hope you'll join us.

Take a bite.
And chew!

==

PS - If you're wondering about the lower ratings for the book when you look at Amazon or Goodreads, I'm just going to say . . . a lot of people don't like the ending. At all. (Chewy, I tell you. And good for discussing with other readers.) If you'd like to check out some other reviews before reading, you can click into the NPR link in the post above. Here are a few others for you:

From The Guardian

From The Washington Post

From the LA Times