Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Sunday Post #262


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The Sunday Post is a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, tell you what I’m reading, and share news. It’s hosted by The Caffeinated Book ReviewerReaderbuzz, and Book Date.



The Sunday Post #262





On The Blog Last Week






On The Blog This Week


  • On Wednesday I talk about upcoming book releases for the rest of February.





In My Reading Life


I read a lot last week, so get your scrolling fingers ready.

I finished Ada Blackjack: A True Story Of Survival In The Arctic by Jennifer Niven. It’s about an Inuit woman in the 1920s who joined a team of Arctic explorers because they needed a seamstress/maid/cook for their expedition. Things went badly wrong in the Arctic. When a rescue ship finally reached the stranded explorers (two years after they left civilization), Ada was the only explorer still alive. I have massive respect for Ada. She didn’t know how to hunt or build shelters, but she figured it out real quick. Calling this book Ada Blackjack is slightly inaccurate because it’s about the entire expedition. For long stretches of the book, Ada fades into the background while the author focuses on the other explorers, their families, and the men who organized the expedition but didn’t go on it. I was kind of disappointed by the shifts in focus, but I understand why they happened. Ada rarely talked about her experiences in the Arctic. Other people never shut up about their theories of what went wrong. The author is just working with the information that’s available.

I loved the first half of the book. It’s a harrowing survival story. Even though I knew the outcome, I couldn’t put it down. The second half drags a little. It’s about all the backstabbing and finger-pointing that happened after the expedition failed. The pettiness is not as compelling as the survival story. Despite my complaints, I highly recommend this book if you’re interested in historical expeditions. I wish more people knew about Ada. I’d never heard of her.

Ada Blackjack was the highlight of my reading week. It went downhill after that.

I finished Talking To Strangers: What We Should Know About The People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s mostly about lying and why we’re so terrible at knowing when someone is lying to us. The author talks about how we “Default to truth” because we need to trust each other to keep society functioning. Some people (such as police officers) learn to “Default to distrust,” which is why cops sometimes shoot people who don’t have weapons. The case studies the author discusses are fascinating, and I liked learning about them, but the book feels too surface-level. I think it needed to be longer and have a stronger conclusion. I wish the author had talked more about how people could apply the lessons in the book to their own boring lives. I’ll most likely never interrogate a Cuban spy or have sex with a drunken stranger at a party. I just don’t do those things. I’m profoundly boring! I suspect most people are profoundly boring. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was supposed to take away from this book except “You can’t always judge strangers by their body language.” That seems like common sense. The information in the book is attention-grabbing, but my reaction to finishing it was, “Um . . . okay?”

Then I read American Fire: Love, Arson, And Life In A Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse. This is a true crime book set in rural Virginia. It’s about a five-month arson spree that created chaos and stretched the resources of a small county to their breaking point. A boyfriend/girlfriend duo set 67 buildings on fire before they were caught. For me, this book was exceedingly average. I don’t know if that’s my fault or the book’s! Between TV shows, podcasts, and books, I consume an unhealthy amount of true crime content. If I wasn’t obsessed with crime junk, I probably would have appreciated the book a lot more. It was interesting to see the different methods the police department and the citizens used to catch the arsonists. The backstory of the arsonists and the struggling rural county is compelling. Since I consume so much true crime, I don’t think this book will stick with me. It’s just another crime story. I think it would have been more memorable if the arsonists had talked about their crimes. The boyfriend talked to the cops a little, but the girlfriend insisted she wasn’t involved. Since the arsonists wouldn’t talk, we don’t learn much about the psychology behind their actions. If you’re new to true crime, this book would be a good place to start. It’s a fast-paced read, and nobody died in the fires, so you don’t have to read about violence. If you read a lot of true crime, this book might get lost in your brain’s crime ocean. There’s nothing unique about it.

The low point of my reading week was Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood. I’m so disappointed, people! Margaret Atwood wrote some of my all-time-favorite books, but I don’t understand her newer stuff. I haven’t enjoyed any of her recent books. We just don’t have a similar sense of humor. Hag-Seed is about Felix, a play director who is forced out of his job by his coworkers. He gets a new job teaching Shakespeare to prisoners. Then he comes up with a stupidly complicated plan to get revenge on his former coworkers and manipulates the prisoners into carrying out the plan. Felix is a great character. He’s arrogant, and over-dramatic, and complicated, and insane. I enjoyed reading about him and the prisoners, but I couldn’t get into the plot or the writing style. The book is part lecture on Shakespeare, part idiotic slapstick comedy. I don’t get it.

Luckily, my current reads are better! I’m reading a short story collection called How To Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer. These stories are bleak and oddly fascinating. Have you ever read a plot twist that horrified you so much that you set the book down and backed away slowly? Yeah, that feeling sums up these stories!

I’m also reading A Great And Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. It’s young adult historical fantasy about girls at a proper English boarding school. The characters are kind of insufferable, but I’m intrigued because the relationships are starting to get more complicated. It's no longer just a mean girls story.



In The Rest Of My Life


Five things that made me happy last week:


  1. Happy Valentine’s Day!
  2. I’m looking forward to tomorrow when the leftover Valentine’s treats go on sale at the grocery store . . .
  3. Pizza! You can’t pass up Five Dollar Friday at the pizza place.
  4. It’s Baby Brooklyn’s birthday in a few days. She’s turning two. I need to acquire a cake. I can’t believe we’ve kept a small child alive for nearly two years. Nicely done, us. I still feel so incompetent!
  5. Speaking of Baby Brooklyn, she’s starting to say full sentences. She’s hilarious. Yesterday, she was jumping on my rolling desk chair. I looked over at her, and before I could tell her to stop jumping, she said, “Brooklyn, sit down.” Then she sat down. The child read my mind and said exactly what I was going to say! This raises an important question: If she knows she’s not supposed to jump on the wheelie chair, WHY WAS SHE JUMPING ON THE WHEELIE CHAIR?





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Take care of yourselves and be kind to each other. See you around the blogosphere!


  1. TWO! The age is both fun and terrifying. Let the games begin! I hope you find a most amazing cake to celebrate. I will be jealous. I read the Gemma Doyle book years ago. One thing I appreciate is the way Bray finds interesting bits of history to blend in. My daughter always praises The Diviners series for this, but it was there in the Gemma Doyle books too

  2. Bwahahahah you made me laugh with Brooklyn's comment! And two is a hard age! The one where she will test everyone! Good luck.

  3. Ah... such a fascinating age! It's when they start fully interacting with the world and learning to flex their personalities. She enjoys the sensation of playing with the wheelie chair, so wants to do it. But looked across at you and saw your body language and expression and was reminded that it isn't allowed. Which is why she said what she said when she said it... Sometimes adults mistake this constant push/pull about the draw of the excitement of doing something dangerous vs remembering when she can't with being naughty. And it really isn't... it's getting overwhelmed by the fun and sensation. Some children find it easier to remember than others - distraction and offering something more fun is always the way to go, if you can.

    And please disregard the above if you already knew it - I'm really not trying to teach you to suck eggs:). Have a lovely party and I hope the cake turns out well.

  4. I felt the same about Talking to Strangers, I’m definitely interested in Ada Blackjack though.
    Ahh two! in a week my first baby will leave the nest and I’m really not ready for it!

    Wishing you a great reading week

  5. HA! "sit down, Brooklyn.' I love it. That's so crazy that she's two soon! Happy early birthday to her! And happy valentine's day. I hope you get tons of half-price candy tomorrow.


  6. I miss pizza. My usual pizza spot is closed (can't even order take-away).

    Happy readings!
    Tânia @MyLovelySecret

  7. Ada Blackjack sounds like a fascinating woman and book. There is something about a good survival story that I enjoy.

  8. I'll take a 2-yo over a 4-yo any day.

    Ada sounds good. Pretty sure I already have it on my TBR.

    Hag-Seed sounds very confusing and the title alone is a turnoff for me. LOL

    How to Breathe Underwater also sounds good!

    Our stores have both Valentine's and Easter chocolate on the shelves. I skipped the Valentine's and went straight to the Russell Stovers chocolate-coconut nests and coconut creme filled eggs.

  9. Goodness, Brooklyn is two. And who knows why children do what they do?

    I'm drawing a line through Talking to Strangers, I think. I am not interested in something that feels surface-y. I read American Fire long ago, and liked, but didn't love, it.

    I accidentally ordered three boxes of Valentine candy for our two grandchildren. And my husband doesn't eat sweets. Whatever shall I do?

  10. LOL, kids loving doing things they're not supposed to! Happy early birthday to Brooklyn!

  11. A time of celebration with Happy Valentine's Day and Happy birthday to Brooklyn! Kids are amazing. My daughter's first sentences were all the same.. I want juice, I want banana, I want.. but they were complete sentences. I was so excited. Her first year she didn't say more than maybe 4 words. Somehow I thought they talked sooner.

    Anne - Books of My Heart This is my Sunday Post

  12. "I’ll most likely never interrogate a Cuban spy or have sex with a drunken stranger at a party." - Love this!!

    And good job on keeping that little kiddo alive, even if she does knowingly jump on dangerous chairs. LOL!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  13. The story about Ada Blackjack sounds fascinating, although I'm sure I'm be much more interested in the first half rather than the second half. And hooray for half-priced Valentine candy! :)

  14. I was all in on American Fire until you said it was average. I'm pretty picky about my true crime (I don't consume that much of it), so I think I will pass on it!

    My daughter's 12th birthday was yesterday and the realization I kept someone alive for 12 years (and other one alive for 10.5 years) is astonishing!

  15. Yes that story o of Ada is amazing and so great she survived. Pity second half of book dragged, but then that's humans for you, ready to blame!

  16. I loved The Great and Terrible Beauty. You did read a lot this year. My Sunday Salon Post

  17. I think two to four year olds are the neatest kids. Everything is new and they're exploring everything.

  18. Happy birthday to Brooklyn! In my opinion, the two-year-old stage is when things start to get truly interesting as they begin to express their personality more and test the boundaries. You start to get more glimpses of the future person they will become. I'm afraid that feeling of incompetence probably never goes away, though. My daughter is 5 now and I'm still making things up as I go along and second guessing myself all the time.

    The story about Ada Blackjack sounds fascinating. Sorry the Margaret Atwood book was a disappointment. I usually love her work too.

  19. Ha-ha, Brooklyn, like all two-year-olds, is drawn to the forbidden. But I like that she tells you about it.

    I agree about Margaret Atwood's recent books. I hated the MaddAddam trilogy. I did enjoy Handmaid's Tale, though, but that one was earlier.

    I am curious about American Fire.

    Enjoy the week and the chocolate! Here are my WEEKLY UPDATES

  20. Wow I can't believe Brooklyn is turning two! I remember reading on here when she was just a newborn! Happy birthday to her!

    Ada Blackjack does sound good - I have not heard of her either, and like you, would probably enjoy the survival story aspect more!

    And I have walked away from books that just were too bleak to read.

  21. Two year olds are fun! I really am having a hard time believing that she is already turning two. You did read a lot this week! I can't wait to see what you think of the Libba Bray book. I hope you have a nice Valentine's Day! Have a great week!

  22. Interesting assortment of books! Happy birthday, Brooklyn! I read the Libba Bray book years ago and remember enjoying it. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

  23. Brooklyn sounds adorable! That's such a fun (and sometimes terrifying) age. At 2, our child had no fear of heights—absolutely none—and wanted to climb EVERYTHING. And we took them to Arches National Monument and Mesa Verde. Yikes.

    Sorry your reading week turned out a bit disappointing, although the book on Ada Blackjack sounds fascinating.

  24. True crime is tough for me to read, so I mostly avoid it. The closest I've come recently was Stay Sexy and Don't Get Murdered, a dual memoir by two true-crime podcasters. I listened to Beauty Queens (so funny!) and A Great and Terrible Beauty on audio, but I haven't kept up with Libba Bray's more recent books. I didn't realize we started hearing our mothers' voices in our heads starting at that early of an age!

  25. You have such wonderfully diverse reading genres here! I’m sorry they didn’t all work out — you have me curious and half afraid of the Atwood title too!

  26. Bless I bet those two years have went past so quickly! I haven't read any of those books, I think you have put me in the mood for pizza xxx


  27. Happy Birthday to Brooklyn! Everyday, in my opinion, is a great day for pizza!

  28. Pizza...I haven't had a big takeaway pizza since last February before lockdown hit and boy do I miss it!!!

  29. Ada Blackjack sounds like a fascinating book, unfortunately my local libraries do not have it. For me Talking To Strangers was a DNF, the whole idea that parent's can't be blamed if they don't believe their children who are abused it was too much for me.
    Happy birthday to Brooklyn.

  30. I absolute adore that Sheldon pic !! I'm interested by Ada Blackjack and yes, I'll probably read Hag-seed. I heard there was a series a novels that were Shakespeare retellings including this one, I also want to read Vinegar girl (The taming of the shrew) because I must be some kind of masochist, lol. I'll borrow them at the library ^^ Happy birthday to Brooklyn !

  31. "why was she jumping on the wheelie chari?" Because she could... Because she could. Kids love testing boundaries and seeing what they can get away with, lol. It starts surprisingly early. :)

    Enjoy the birthday and the cake.