All posts filed under: Kathryn H.

High Drama, Low Believability

Our theme for August is “Beach Read,” and while The Stolen Marriage may not be a typical beach read, it certainly ticks the “Beach Read” boxes of being quick, and with quite a high mix of drama. Chamberlain certainly didn’t hold back in terms of the dramatic themes in The Stolen Marriage. Discussing the book with the other “Katherines,” I kept finding myself sliding into a Stefon-like description (“This book has everything – the polio epidemic, death, World War II, abandonment, abortion, adultery…” and I’ll stop there even though I could easily tick off 10-15 more things, but there would be major spoilers). In many ways, it felt like every chapter was also the introduction of another new element (SPOILER ALERT: “…mediums, secret relationships, arson…”). And while that kind of drama can certainly be entertaining and engrossing, it can also be incredibly overwhelming and unbelievable. For all of these terrible things to happen to one person in the span of a year!? Well, the book might as well have been about 2020. It was also …

An Opportunity to #Listen

I started and finished Barracoon in just under four days. I honestly don’t know how to write this review. Full disclosure, book reviews aren’t my forte in general (which you may have figured out if you’ve read any of my others). However, reviewing Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon feels strange. She was brilliant, and scholars and biographers have studied her and her work. I don’t have anything to add there. The book is Kissola’s recollection of his life in Africa, being enslaved, and then being free from enslavement. There is no room to judge the quality of the narrative, because it’s simply his life – we can’t ask that it be anything it’s not.  Therefore, I feel as though I can only speak to my experience reading it. Reading Barracoon at this particular moment feels appropriate. Reminding, or for some people learning, about the experience of enslaved people is an important piece in acknowledging our history and seeking to better our present. My heart broke for Kissola and the pain and suffering he had to endure, …

I Should Write More Letters…

Full disclosure: I finished Ali Wong’s Dear Girls about three weeks ago. I have also had a few glasses of wine tonight. Finally, the world is crazy and I can barely string two coherent thoughts together, let along write a poignant and thoughtful book review (my husband and I regularly have conversations that go like this: Me: “Did you, um, wait, when, um, did they, um, what’s the, um… do you know what I mean?” Him: “Yeah, but, if we, well.” and so on) . But here goes! I loved Dear Girls. It was a perfect and much-needed break from the reality we are living right now. At times it was touching, at times it was thoughtful, but mostly, it was just true and relatable, and hilarious. Even when the stories were so far from my own personal experience that I couldn’t even fathom their reality, it was relatable. And that’s a feat. At times I thought there is definitely a specific audience for this book. Like, maybe you need to be a mother, or a wife, or Asian, …

A Call for Justice and Mercy

An interesting little background note before I jump into my review: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson has popped up on the Bookly Club radar almost yearly, only to be outvoted by another book. Until this year, when we decided to read it in conjunction with the release of the film of the same name starring Michael B. Jordan as Mr. Stevenson himself. I haven’t seen the film yet, but if it is even half as good as the book, I recommend you watch it. For those who haven’t read the book, Just Mercy is Bryan Stevenson’s first hand account of starting the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit law office in Alabama, the early days of his work, and many examples of the cases he has handled since EJI’s founding in 1989. If you’re interested in EJI, Bryan Stevenson, or a more detailed synopsis of Just Mercy, you can find all of that here. I read Just Mercy over the course of about a week back in January, before coronavirus or quarantines, or working from home and parenting two small children who are …

Seven Brief, Though Thorough and Therefore Sort of Difficult to Follow, Lessons on Physics

If you read Katie C.’s review, you already know that I gave her a heads up that I found this hard to read. And it was. Despite being brief, the lessons were still lessons on physics, and physics was never really my subject. HOWEVER. I still very much appreciated Rovelli’s “brief” book of essays. I highlighted more passages in this book than I expected to and than I have in most other books. And I highlighted for a lot of reasons. In some places I highlighted words, like “phantasmagorical,” because I simply can’t think of a better word, or phrases, like “Genius hesitates,” because they were awesome. Sometimes I highlighted because the prose is simply beautiful. For example: A reality that seems to be made of the same stuff that our dreams are made of, but that is nevertheless more real than our clouded, quotidian dreaming. I highlighted because I felt gobsmacked by what I read, because I certainly had no idea that “If a person who has lived at sea level meets up with …

Discovering the Truth About Evelyn Hugo

I did very little “research” of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo before I read it. Basically just the jacket description (side note: I keep wanting to call her Eleanor Hugo and I’m not sure why…), and therefore I wasn’t totally sure what to expect from this one.  So, I thought I’d walk you through my thoughts as I read the book (spoilers abound!): “Oh, this’ll be a good beach read… maybe a little like Devil Wears Prada” (i.e., girl trying to make it in journalism gets job of a lifetime, but has to make sacrifices, etc.) “Well, Evelyn is no Miranda Priestly.” (i.e., I found Evelyn to have more redeeming qualities than Miranda out the gate) “What does Evelyn want with Monique? What am I missing?” (and it was at this point that I started to do something I don’t usually do – I scoured every word I read for clues as to what the twist/kicker would be in this book) “OH! Well. This is a beach read with a message. Love is love. Love it!” “OK. …

Unburying the Osage

It is wild to me that I had never heard even a peep about the Osage murders until I picked Killers of the Flower Moon. And I guess, in some ways, that’s the point of the book. An entire group of people targeted and being systematically murdered for money and it’s been completely washed out of our history for everyone but those personally touched by it. The story told in this book is almost so wild that it’s unbelievable, and the craziest part is that what has been told is probably not even the half of it! I feel gross using the word “fascinating” to describe it, but… It’s truly fascinating that 1) all of this actually happened, 2) basically everyone got away with it, and 3) there are probably hundreds more victims that we will never even know about. Aside from the story itself, I also really enjoyed how Grann laid it out, unfolding it bit by bit, seemingly allowing us to discover the webs and cover-ups the same way he did. I won’t lie …

A Heavy Kind of Funny

When I read and review a book that I love, one of the most common compliments I give is “I read this in one sitting” or something similar. Born a Crime was quite the opposite. It’s a book that I love that took me forrrevvvverrrrr (in my world) to read. My husband actually commented about how few pages I was able to read in one sitting each night. So why did it take me so long? I think that, for a humorous book, it was heavy and it felt too dense to read quickly. I wanted to take it one chapter at a time and really sit with what I’d read. Obviously, apartheid and racism are not new to me, but South African history is certainly not my area of expertise and a lot of the details were new. I just needed time. {Spoiler alert: this paragraph has them!} Noah’s story is simply incredible. That one person lived all of those stories is almost mind-boggling. And even more so when you think about the fact that there …

A Promise

Talk about timely. This is maybe the most relevant piece of fiction I have read. And it raised so many questions and thoughts and ideas for me. But the two words that kept coming to the surface were: Required Reading. I like to consider myself an ally. I’m not black, I can’t really begin to understand what it’s like to be black in this country at this time. But I can try and I can be supportive and I can listen and I can walk alongside and I can protest and call for change and do my best to make change happen. All of that and… this book still made me say, “whoa.” It brought up so much that I hadn’t thought of, so many little things that happen every day that I don’t have to think about because of the color of my skin. “It seems like they always talk about what he may have said, what he may have done, what he may not have done. I didn’t know a dead person could …

Everything and Nothing

Though I bought Commonwealth in mid-May, I didn’t start reading it until a few days ago. Mostly because I wasn’t sure I would like it. I had read a few reviews and talked to a few people who said variations of, “it took me a long time to get into it,” or “I couldn’t relate and didn’t connect with any of the characters.” I was dreading reading a book that I wouldn’t enjoy. Fast forward to November 26 when I decided to start it, with every intention of not finishing and writing a review that said exactly that. But lo and behold – I was hooked from the outset. I read the first quarter in one night, the next third the following night, and finished the rest over the next two days. Don’t get me wrong, it was not without its faults. The narrative device somehow made it feel like nothing was happening when in fact so much had happened that it was hard to believe. As I described it when discussing with the other Bookly Clubbers …