I have continued what started at the beginning of the year – being way ahead of my reading goal! My reading goal for 2020 was 30 books. I have currently read 26 books (including the books I’ve read since the end of June). The quarantine has definitely helped that, but also I read a bunch of romance books at the beginning of the year. I’m working on my literary snobbyness, but I also do like classics. Anyway. I’ve been reading a lot! That’s the point of this intro. Let’s talk about what I’ve been reading.
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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – “‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ is a largely autobiographical story [of James Joyce] in which Stephen Dedalus grow into self-awareness and away from old ideas of family, national identity, and religion” (x). At the beginning of quarantine, I listed to Colin Farrel read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. It was beautiful! I adored it. It’s definitely confusing, but if you’re interested in James Joyce, I really suggest starting with this book.
Priestdaddy – “Father Greg Lockwood is unlike any Catholic priest you have ever met—a man who lounges in boxer shorts, loves action movies, and whose constant jamming on the guitar reverberates “like a whole band dying in a plane crash in 1972.” His daughter is an irreverent poet who long ago left the Church’s country. When an unexpected crisis leads her and her husband to move back into her parents’ rectory, their two worlds collide. In Priestdaddy, Lockwood interweaves emblematic moments from her childhood and adolescence—from an ill-fated family hunting trip and an abortion clinic sit-in where her father was arrested to her involvement in a cultlike Catholic youth group—with scenes that chronicle the eight-month adventure she and her husband had in her parents’ household after a decade of living on their own” (x).
This is an incredible memoir that I absolutely loved. Patricia Lockwood is the daughter of a priest. (Was a Protestant pastor, was married and had kids, converted to Catholicism, became a Catholic priest.) She doesn’t believe, but she and her husband have to move in with her parents. This is a story of her childhood and also the year that they lived with them. She is a beautiful writer, she’s absolutely hilarious, and additionally, as a Catholic that dislikes a lot of how the Church works, I adored this book.
A Study in Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock #1) – “With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London. When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her. But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind” (x).
I got really into the Lady Sherlock series, which you’re about to see in this post. The series is exactly what it sounds like—what if everyone thought Sherlock Holmes was a great detective, and he was, except he wasn’t a he? Charlotte Holmes has an exceptional mind, but in the late 19th century, that’s a draw-back for a woman. After she intentionally gets herself disowned (and then runs away), she tries to make it on her own. Eventually, she becomes a lady’s companion to Mrs. Watson, the widow of Dr. John Watson, and they team up to solve crimes. It’s a bit of a slow start as it’s setting up the circumstances that lead Charlotte to become Sherlock, but it’s still enjoyable and the structure includes sprinkling in the police trying to solve a series of mysterious deaths.
Untamed – “For many years, Glennon Doyle denied her own discontent. Then, while speaking at a conference, she looked at a woman across the room and fell instantly in love. Three words flooded her mind: There She Is. At first, Glennon assumed these words came to her from on high. But she soon realized they had come to her from within. This was her own voice—the one she had buried beneath decades of numbing addictions, cultural conditioning, and institutional allegiances. This was the voice of the girl she had been before the world told her who to be. Glennon decided to quit abandoning herself and to instead abandon the world’s expectations of her. She quit being good so she could be free. She quit pleasing and started living” (x). This was so good and interesting! I hadn’t read anything else by Glennon, but I did know about her. As previously mentioned, I’m Catholic and dislike a lot of what the Church does. Glennon is Christian (non-denominational) and in addition to talking about her process of becoming who she was meant to be, in this book she talks about God and her relationship with Her. (Glennon calls God She/Her, and mentions that she does so because she doubts God cares about or has a gender, so using Him or Her doesn’t really matter, and calling Her a Her pisses people off. I so appreciate that.)
A Conspiracy in Belgravia (Lady Sherlock #2) – “Being shunned by Society gives Charlotte Holmes the time and freedom to put her extraordinary powers of deduction to good use. As “Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective,” aided by the capable Mrs. Watson, she’s had great success helping with all manner of inquiries, but she’s not prepared for the new client who arrives at her Upper Baker Street office. Lady Ingram, wife of Charlotte’s dear friend and benefactor, wants Sherlock Holmes to find her first love, who failed to show up at their annual rendezvous. Matters of loyalty and discretion aside, the case becomes even more personal for Charlotte as the missing man is none other than Myron Finch, her illegitimate half brother. In the meanwhile, Charlotte wrestles with a surprising proposal of marriage, a mysterious stranger woos her sister Livia, and an unidentified body surfaces where least expected. Charlotte’s investigative prowess is challenged as never before: Can she find her brother in time—or will he, too, end up as a nameless corpse somewhere in the belly of London?” (x). This book jumps right into the mystery! That’s the benefit of being the second in the series: we only need a bit of background and it’s jam-packed with mystery. I really loved this one! Definitely more than the first in the series.
Bring Up the Bodies – “Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice. At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle” (x).
There’s a reason why Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies both won the Man Booker Prize. Bring Up the Bodies is the second in the trilogy (the third came out this year!), and I personally found it much easier to read. Wolf Hall is beautiful and interesting, but I had a hard time getting through it, which is not usual for me. But I tore through Bring Up the Bodies. If you like beautiful language and history, you have to read this trilogy.
The Hollow of Fear (Lady Sherlock #3) – “Under the cover of “Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective,” Charlotte Holmes puts her extraordinary powers of deduction to good use. Aided by the capable Mrs. Watson, Charlotte draws those in need to her and makes it her business to know what other people don’t. Moriarty’s shadow looms large. First, Charlotte’s half brother disappears. Then, Lady Ingram, the estranged wife of Charlotte’s close friend Lord Ingram, turns up dead on his estate. And all signs point to Lord Ingram as the murderer. With Scotland Yard closing in, Charlotte goes under disguise to seek out the truth. But uncovering the truth could mean getting too close to Lord Ingram–and a number of malevolent forces …” (x). Another great Lady Sherlock book! The twists and turns. I really didn’t see the ending coming.
The Deck of Omens – “Though the Beast is seemingly subdued for now, a new threat lurks in Four Paths: a corruption seeping from the Gray into the forest. And with the other Founders preoccupied by their tangled alliances and fraying relationships, only May Hawthorne seems to realize the danger. But saving the town she loves means seeking aid from the person her family despises most — her father, Ezra Bishop. May’s father isn’t the only newcomer in town–Isaac Sullivan’s older brother has also returned, seeking forgiveness for the role he played in Isaac’s troubled past. But Isaac isn’t ready to let go of his family’s history, especially when that history might hold the key that he and Violet Saunders need to destroy the Gray and the monster within it. Harper Carlisle isn’t ready to forgive, either. Two devastating betrayals have left her isolated from her family and uncertain who to trust. As the corruption becomes impossible to ignore, Harper must learn to control her newfound powers in order to protect Four Paths. But the only people who can help her do that are the ones who have hurt her the most. With the veil between the Gray and the town growing ever thinner, the Founder descendants must put their grievances with one another aside to stop the corruption and kill the Beast once and for all. But the monster they truly need to slay may never been the Beast…” (x).
This is the sequel to The Devouring Gray! You definitely need to read that one first, but they’re both so so so good. They are a Young Adult duology but if you’re a full adult, don’t let that stop you from reading them.
American Royals – “When America won the Revolutionary War, its people offered General George Washington a crown. Two and a half centuries later, the House of Washington still sits on the throne. Like most royal families, the Washingtons have an heir and a spare. A future monarch and a backup battery. Each child knows exactly what is expected of them. But these aren’t just any royals. They’re American. As Princess Beatrice gets closer to becoming America’s first queen regnant, the duty she has embraced her entire life suddenly feels stifling. Nobody cares about the spare except when she’s breaking the rules, so Princess Samantha doesn’t care much about anything, either . . . except the one boy who is distinctly off-limits to her. And then there’s Samantha’s twin, Prince Jefferson. If he’d been born a generation earlier, he would have stood first in line for the throne, but the new laws of succession make him third. Most of America adores their devastatingly handsome prince . . . but two very different girls are vying to capture his heart” (x).
I got this for my birthday and I read it in a day. No joke. As a history lover and someone interested in royals from a history perspective, I found this really interesting and engaging. I’m really looking forward to the sequel, which comes out this September.
The Art of Theft (Lady Sherlock #4) – “As “Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective,” Charlotte Holmes has solved murders and found missing individuals. But she has never stolen a priceless artwork—or rather, made away with the secrets hidden behind a much-coveted canvas. But Mrs. Watson is desperate to help her old friend recover those secrets and Charlotte finds herself involved in a fever-paced scheme to infiltrate a glamorous Yuletide ball where the painting is one handshake away from being sold and the secrets a bare breath from exposure. Her dear friend Lord Ingram, her sister Livia, Livia’s admirer Stephen Marbleton—everyone pitches in to help and everyone has a grand time. But nothing about this adventure is what it seems and disaster is biding time on the grounds of a glittering French chateau, waiting only for Charlotte to make a single mistake…” (x).
This is the most recent Lady Sherlock book – yes, I did read all of them in 2 months! This is really fun because it takes the “traditional” Lady Sherlock characters and puts them in a heist scenario. I can’t say more than that without spoiling, but it’s really good.
Their Eyes Were Watching God – “One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature” (x). Oh my gosh this book was so beautiful but that ending! It broke my heart. Talk about a book hangover!
What have you read recently?
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