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Book Chat Issue #54
Books for when you're busy or distracted
Hello reading friends and a special warm welcome to new subscribers.
I’ve been struggling to get into any new books this week, partly due to being very busy, and partly because I’ve been watching too much telly.
I sometimes find it hard to start a new book when there’s a lot going on. I wrote about this on my blog a while back.
I also have a strong dislike of certain types of characters, namely misogynist or controlling men, and a couple of books I started recently featured this type of person, which just made me feel irritable and cross. I prefer likeable protagonists. They can be flawed (in fact I prefer that), but I really don’t like reading about people who have no redeeming qualities or who just annoy me. I think that’s why a lot of thrillers miss the mark. I just don’t care enough about the characters to invest my time in finding out what happens to them.
If you are also finding it concentrate because you’re busy, tired or distracted, here are a few recommendations for engaging books.
Three great books
I had a wonderful time trawling through my loan history looking for titles I could wholeheartedly recommend, but the exercise also highlighted the fact that I probably only read one third of the books I borrow from the library. Call me picky (I don’t mind), but I honestly don’t think it’s worth persevering with books that aren’t for you.
Here are three I really enjoyed. I realised when I put them all together that they are all about family secrets…
Not sure what that says about me?
First published in 2009, The earth hums in B flat is a story of dark family secrets unraveled by the shrewd insight of twelve-year-old Gwenni Morgan, a child with an irrepressible spirit living in a Welsh village that is reluctantly entering the modern age.
A dreamer with a knack for collecting and piecing together tidbits of information she overhears, Gwenni is forever asking unanswerable questions. And when the family that she babysits for is rocked by the sudden, unexplainable disappearance of their patriarch, Gwenni is determined to solve the mystery of Ifan Evans's whereabouts.
The earth hums in B flat was Mari Strachan’s debut novel, published when she was 62.
Tell the wolves I’m home, by Carol Rifka Brunt is an emotional coming of age novel about love, grief and renewal.
The book focusses on June, a 14 year-old whose world is turned upside-down when her beloved uncle Finn dies from AIDS. At the funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail containing a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and that this unexpected friend just might be the one she needs the most.
The Mothers, by Brit Bennett is an engaging novel about two teenagers (Nadia and Aubrey), both of whom are struggling with the constraints of living in a socially conservative black Christian community. The girls are bombarded with messages about how they should live their lives and what they should do with their bodies. I much preferred this novel to Bennett’s more recent books, but perhaps that’s because the themes really hit home with my own life experiences.
Have you read any of these novels? What did you think?
What I’ve been baking
You’d be forgiven for thinking that I only eat salads and cake judging by the recipes I share here. That’s not true, but I do love making salads and enjoy making cakes for loved ones or special occasions. Recently I made an olive oil chocolate cake for my son’s birthday. It’s a very easy recipe (don’t tell anyone) involving only a few ingredients. Note that the mixture is very thin, so don’t try baking it in a springform pan or it might leak out the bottom.
Here’s the recipe. If you don’t have any buttermilk on hand, just sour the milk with lemon juice or cider vinegar, it works just fine.
I’ve started reading Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library for our book club meeting in June. Have you got your copy? I’m liking it so far!
That’s all for this issue,
Look after yourselves and happy reading!