Wednesday, April 5, 2023

January-March 2023

  I've finished 23 books so far this year. I've started listening to more audiobooks this year, and not only have I enjoyed them tremendously on my daily walks, but they are adding to my monthly totals, for sure. Here are comments on several of January's books.



The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan. 4 stars. This thriller not only kept me on the edge of my seat, but the last quarter was also satisfying —something I find to be rare in thrillers.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. 5 stars. This is an incredible novel about the fatal shooting of Kahlil, a Black teenager by a white police officer, told from the POV of Starr, the teenaged girl —the Witness—who was with Kahlil. Highly recommended novel about racism, injustice, balancing worlds, friendship, and finding your voice. Actress Bahni Turpin read this audio version, and she is phenomenal.

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura. 3.5 stars. The narrator is an observer of intimacies and a passive participant in her own moments of intimacy. She watches small dramas play out without jumping in. As an interpreter at The Hague, she has to carefully translate details of horrific war crimes while remaining stoic. I liked this novel—the prose is lovely and concise—but it left me feeling somewhat cold, all the while hoping that the unnamed narrator finds the warmth she seeks.

The Housemaid by Freida McFadden. 3 stars. Psychological thriller that’s perfect for in between heavy reads. A rich psychotic family, a hot Italian groundskeeper, and an ex con. What more could you want?

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (audio). 4 stars. Phew. So sad, so beautiful. Hard to listen to because it’s so sad.

The It Girl by Ruth Ware. 4 stars. Good mystery!

Bittersweet by Susan Cain. 3 stars. An interesting study of the importance of embracing loss and sorrow rather than putting on a brave face all the time. As someone who is completely comfortable with and aware of the bittersweetness of life (I mean, I write poetry!), I did not find this revelatory, but it was affirming, which is always a plus.

With — finally finished. Unremarkable.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. So good! A story of Klara, an artificial friend, and her girl, Josie. This one stayed with me for a long time, and I still think about it now and then.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry. Very cute. I love Emily Henry.

Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow. Audio book. Outstanding. Some difficult parts but so excellent. Three generations of women growing up in Memphis. Four stars.



February and March were excellent reading months. I may never recover from Demon Copperhead. I can't imagine that anything else could possible take over its Number One spot in 2023!

A few comments...
1. Demon Copperhead YES YES YES. Five hundreds stars. Totally lives up to all the hype and more. I recommend watching the limited series Dopesick (8 mesmerizing episodes) on Hulu and then reading Kingsolver's novel. Wow.

2. Ugly Love is my first Colleen Hoover book, and may be my last. I needed to know what the buzz is about Colleen Hoover. This was a very fast read. Most of the characters were pretty flat, the plot was fairly predictable, and it all tied up happily. I think Emily Henry and Taylor Jenkins Reid are infinitely better writers with much more original and interesting stories. 

3. The School for Good Mothers is an excellent book to pair with Celeste Ng’s Our Missing Hearts. In this one, a newly single mom has a single bad afternoon that leads to her being arrested and sentenced to a year at mother-training school. So good. And scary.

4. The Candy House: I really liked this Egan's novel; however, this is the kind of book that should be read in a few long sessions rather than over the course of a week or two, 15 minutes at a time, like I did. It’s also probably better read in hard copy rather than on an e-reader There are so many characters in this nonlinear book, and they are all connected in various ways. I would forget from night to night who a particular character is that was mentioned 80 pages beforehand, and I’m too lazy to flip back through my Kindle to find out who this person is. Really intriguing book but would have been greatly enhanced and appreciated if I’d read it in a few sittings.

5. Five Little Indians: A painful book. The topic is so important and the story needs to be told, but the prose was choppy and stilted. This seemed like a first draft and needed the help of a good editor. Again, this is an important story and worth reading on a humanitarian level, but I wanted the storytelling itself to be so much better.

6. Other Birds: A sweet, happy book that I obviously needed after all the heavy reading. Lovely.

7. Audiobooks: Clearly I was on a Lisa Jewell kick, and I don't regret the many miles walking with her mysteries. She's mesmerizing. Also listened to the classic Virginia Woolf To the Lighthouse, which is of course, well, amazing and unforgettable. It's better to read in print so you can underline everything, but however you consume it, consume it.

And there we have January-March in books.

What are you reading that I should add to my never-ending TBR list?

Also please explain the Colleen Hoover craze. No judgment if she's your thing; I'm just trying to figure out why there is so much hype about her books!



Monday, July 4, 2022

Books Read in June

 



June was a spectacular reading month. All of these books were good, but Invisible Child, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois, and Wholehearted Faith were books I absolutely lived in. They were troubling, enlightening, left me trembling sometimes, and always made me think and offered new perspectives. The other three were just good reads.

Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival, and Hope in an American City by Andrea Elliot. Journalist and author Elliot followed Dasani and her family for 8 years, from the time Dasani was 11 years old until she became the first person in her entire family to graduate from high school. Dasani is the oldest of 8 children in a close-knit but poverty-stricken family. From her earliest years, her parents told the kids to always stay together; unfortunately, the broken system doesn’t work that way. Throughout the eight years, they go from shelter to shelter and into and out of foster care, while parents Chanel and Supreme, who battle drug addiction and despair, fight to maintain/regain custody. Dasani is accepted into a boarding school for low-income kids, and she then faces being torn between two worlds. This is such a heartbreaking story. Much like Evicted, it’s a story of inequality, poverty, and racism in America. Highly recommended.
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. This is an astonishing novel in its breadth and depth. It's a story across multiple generations of a family that includes enslaved people, free Blacks, white enslavers, all part of Ailey Pearl Garfield's ancestral line. Woven throughout are snippets from W.E.B du Bois's reflections on Black American live in the South, including several from "The Lives of Black Folk." This is not an easy read. It unflinchingly explores class, race, sexual assault, addiction, ancestry, and education in a very big way, and I was mesmerized at every moment. I can hardly believe this is Jeffers' debut novel. Highly recommended.
Wholehearted Faith by Rachel Held Evans and Jeff Chu. I love Rachel Held Evans and every single word she ever wrote. We've been reading through and discussing this is a book club for several months, and at the end, we all wept, knowing that these were her last words before she died tragically in 2019. I finished this book feeling hopeful, seen, and reassured. Here's a great review at the Washington Post.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I'm late coming to this one; it seems to have been on everyone's list last year. I love this kind of story—a bit “It’s a Wonderful Life” and a bit “The Road Not Taken.” The question is one we all ask ourselves at some point: what if I’d made a different decision, even a small one? How would my life had changed? Great for book club discussion.
Mary Jane by Jessica Blau. I love a good coming-of-age story, and I could really relate to the 14-year-old girl in this one. It’s 1975, and Mary Jane’s summer job is as a nanny to a little girl whose parents are much different than her own conservative, country-club ones. Joining them for the summer are a famous rock star, who is being treated for addiction, and his wife, a movie star. Needless to say, it’s an eye-opening summer for Mary Jane. I loved Mary Jane’s discovery that she is a whole person separate from her parents, that there is magic and freedom in finding out how other people see her.
The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth. A fun, fast read. Hepworth is great for when you need something in-between hefty books.

I love months like this when every book is fantastic! Those first three, though... phew! Those will definitely be on my Top 10 list for 2022.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Books Read in May



 

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney. 


This was a fun psychological thriller. Lots of secrets and some fun plot twists with plenty of eye-rolling moments. Not a masterpiece but a good in-between read.

 


The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore. 


Subtitled "One Woman, Her Incredible Fight for Freedom, and the Men Who Tried to Make Her Disappear," this is the nonfiction story of a mother of six in the mid-1800s whose husband, a Presbyterian minister, decided she had way too many opinions. And so, because he could, he committed her to the asylum. After all, she had the audacity to challenge his religious and political beliefs; thus, she was clearly insane. The author uses the letters and journals of Elizabeth Packard in telling her incredible story of fighting not only for her freedom, but for justice for women incarcerated by their husbands across the U.S. This was an amazing story, both frustrating and inspiring, and the short afterword reminds us that “difficult” women continue to be silenced.  Highly recommended!

 

 

 

The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams. 


This will definitely be a contender for my favorite book of the year. A series of people in a community find a list: “In case you need this” with a series of book titles. The titles draw them to the library, where they all interact at some point, and as they read, they find healing and connection. I laughed, I cried, I wanted to curate my own reading list and stuff it in mailboxes, slide it into library books, and pin in on bulletin boards. 

 

What would be on my reading list? What would be on yours? Great fodder for a book club discussion!







Friday, May 6, 2022

Books Read in March and April

 March Reads



Beach Read by Emily Henry: I think this might be classified as a romance novel and I don’t even care! I loved it. It was so sappy and sweet and sad and happy, and it was exactly what I needed. ON top of that, I have to say the writing was excellent. The characters will wonderfully rich, and the dialogue was amazing. I’m not sure why I don’t read this genre ALL THE TIME because it just made me happy and hopeful.


The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth: Loved this family drama about a neighborhood where everything looks perfect but most certainly is not. Each family has its secrets and suspicions, and things intensify when Isabelle, a single woman, moves into this neighborhood of families. 


This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger: This is a familiar story in the mode of The Odyssey and Huck Finn: a boy and his friends, all outcasts, journey down the river in a canoe. It’s the Great Depression, and they are all orphans on the run from an abusive orphanage for Native American children. (I did find it problematic that the hero of the story has to be one of only two white children in the orphanage, but anyway.) The first half of the novel was engaging and well told; however, the second half leaned more and more toward too many coincidences, narrow escapes, and, well, too much going on. I think the author was trying to fit everything in and wrap everything up perfectly, and it just got out of hand. So, it was a pretty good read but nowhere near the caliber of Krueger’s Ordinary Grace, which was one of my favorites.


The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave. Hannah doesn’t even know Owen is missing yet when she gets a note scribbled on notebook paper that says simply “Protect her.” The obvious “her” is Bailey, Owen’s 16-year-old daughter. When a US Marshal and then the FBI show up looking for Owen, Hannah and Bailey realize they have to find out for themselves why Owen has disappeared. The novel swings back and forth from “before” times to the present, as Hannah and Bailey uncover Owen’s real past and figure out how they can best survive the future. This mystery was fast paced with plot twists revealed at just the right moments. I definitely recommend it.


Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jayne Allen. Tabitha, a TV journalist in her early 30s,  discovers that her biological clock is about to run out. If she wants babies, she’d better figure out how to have them fast. She’s suddenly overwhelmed with her future. She’s a Black woman who is up for a major promotion, in a white male-centered business; she’s trying to navigate fertility options as a single woman; she has strong, supportive friends who are also dealing with major life issues; she’s in a confusing relationship with Marc; and she’s trying to figure out who she is and where she comes from.  A lot happened in this book, but also sometimes, there was just a lot of repetition. The dialogue was fantastic, but sometimes there was just too much of it. Like, it didn’t move the plot forward; it was just regular dialogue like “Do you like cream in your coffee?” I liked the characters OK.  I’d read the next one in this series just to see how things turn out, but I’m not dying to read it.


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I was totally not expecting to enjoy this, especially when I read something that compared it to both Willy Wonka and The Matrix. Willy Wonka I adore; The Matrix I do not. But this was a book club book, and I always read our book club books!  I was shocked how much I loved this from the very first page. I mean, I was somehow immediately sucked in, and I wanted to read it every spare moment I had. The story takes place in 2044, mostly in OASIS, a virtual utopia. There’s a contest that’s been going on for 5 years. The creator of OASIS made a quest out of his inheritance. The gamer who finds the treasure wins his billions of dollars. I know basically nothing about gaming, and I think people who are true gamers hate this book. But I loved the author’s explanations, the quest itself, the revealing of the characters toward the end, and the 80s pop culture references. It was a fun twist on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and I would probably like The Matrix if I could have understood it as well as I did this.



APRIL READS





Beautiful World, Where Are You?  by Sally Rooney. Why do people love this so much? I found it extraordinarily tedious. All the characters were annoying. Simon was the only one I liked, but even he was annoying. Except for one, they were all exceedingly self-focused, whiney, pretentious, and bratty. The one who wasn’t completely self-centered and whiney (Simon) was almost likable, but he he suffered from too much inaction. I wanted to tell all of them to stop thinking about themselves so much and go out and actually DO something. Very unpleasant people. (And speaking of pretentious, I found Rooney’s stylistic choice to not use quotation marks in her dialogue terribly pretentious.) I couldn’t wait to finish this novel, but I was invested enough that I did finish it. II think mostly I kept thinking that surely it must get better! As one reviewer said, “when i was diagnosed with covid i thought that being isolated to my bedroom for two weeks was the most boring thing in the world - Sally Rooney has now proven me wrong.” I think that sums it up.


Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena. A fast-paced but predictable thriller.


When Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash.  Really liked this story about a small town coastal sheriff, a mysterious plane crash, a dead man, and the sheriff's daughter. Wiley Cash is one of my favorite contemporary Southern authors; his writing is lyrical and lovely to read. Highly recommended; it's sad but also hopeful.


The People You Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry: Very cute. It’s just a happy book with snappy dialogue and lots of funny, sweet moments. Definitely another vacation read by the author of Beach Read!


The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth. Another engaging mystery by Hepworth. I really like her writing and her explorations. Interesting and well developed characters.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Books Read in February



A Town called Solace by Mary Lawson: Absolutely wonderful novel! I devoured this in a day. I want to live in this town of Solace, where everyone watches out for each other, where healing takes place.  A lovely, uplifting book but with so much realism. Pain of loss, joy of redemption — this one is beautifully told. Highlight recommended.  


The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth. I adored this story of twin sisters, told from each of their perspectives in alternating chapters. Their childhood, told in bits and pieces through Rose’s journal, was traumatic, and a single event haunts them both.  Rose seems to feel the weight of responsibility for Fern, who has a sensory processing disorder and lives a perfectly satisfying life as a librarian. Meanwhile, Rose’s life is falling apart —she desperately wants a baby but has fertility issues, and also she and her husband are separated. Fern gets a great idea: she’ll get pregnant and give the baby to Rose. And the story takes off from there. Highly recommended.


The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell. Oh man, was this psychological thriller ever good! I just wanted to sit on the couch and read it all day. Libby inherits a mansion on her 25th birthday, bequeathed to her by her deceased biological parents. Thousands of miles away, Lucy’s phone reminds her that it’s “the baby’s birthday.” Chapter by chapter, Libby uncovers the story behind the mansion and the people who lived there.


Dragonfly by Leila Meacham: I overloaded on WWII fiction a few years ago (some of it badly written) and haven’t read much since, but this was a book club pick and so I had to. No regrets! This was a totally engaging, well-written story of five civilian Americans, all in their early 20s, who were recruited as spies and sent to German-occupied Paris. I loved each of their stories, and their characters were beautifully crafted. I had a hard time putting this one down.



In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead. Another thriller, and a mesmerizing one at that, but in the end of gave it 3 out of 5 stars because too much happened. This is the story of a group of college friends who return for their 10-year reunion. Jessica vows to wow them all — and this part really bugged me. She was well liked in her group yet she was determined that she’d show them all how successful she’s become. That just didn’t fit with the rest of it. Anyway, one of their group was murdered during their senior year, and the murderer was never found. So, of course, the reunion serves as a device for hearing all their stories and revealing the murderer. There were just so many holes in this, but also too much going on. Some good scenes, some bad scenes. Meh.


The Perfect Marriage by Jeneva Rose: Gah. This thriller started well but it just got ridiculous. The dialogue was terrible, the plot predictable, and the characters wooden and annoying. Skip it. 

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Books Read in August

 


Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

The story: The Gleesons and the Stanhopes are neighbors in the suburbs; both fathers are NYC cops. But the Gleesons have a full and boisterous house, while the Stanhope's home is quiet and full of tension. Something is wrong with Anne Stanhope. Everyone sees it, but her son Peter bears the bulk of his mother's strange behavior. Brian Stanhope, Peter's father, just ignores it. Peter and Kate Gleeson, the girl next door, are best friends from babyhood. As they grow into teenagers, Anne Stanhope focuses her hatred on Kate and ultimately Kate's family. An event forces the Stanhopes to move, and Kate and Peter mourn the loss of their friendship and blossoming love for years... until they meet again.

My reaction: This book was completely different than I expected, and my expectations were based entirely on the cover and the title. I thought it was going to be a fluffy beach read. SO NOT. Both the title and the cover do not match the content at all. This was an emotionally heavy book, brilliantly and beautiful written. It's full of compassion, tragedy, loss, celebration, redemption, and joy. The characters feel like people I know, so richly drawn, with love and tenderness, flaws and all. This felt like a sweeping family epic, extremely satisfying and bittersweet. Highly recommended.




Untamed by Glennon Doyle

The story: This is Doyle's memoir of how she chose happiness over obligation -- how she made the choices (divorcing her husband) that would ultimately allow her to have true love with Abby Wambach.  It's also a series of lectures on various topics, from parenting to marriage to technology to racism and religion. There's a lot here.

My reaction: I loved a lot of what Glennon had to say. While she doesn't have earth-shattering insights, she does express some things quite well. For example, "Brave is not asking the crowd was is brave. Brave is deciding for oneself." And "Now when I sense danger, I believe the cold and leave. When I sense joy, I believe the warm and stay." Not new, but nicely said. However, so much of this book seemed pretentious, sometimes self-righteous, and often way too idealistic. She seems to have everything figured out, especially parenting. I just kinda want to give her a pat on the back and say, "Just wait, honey." Yes, I know that is condescending, but parenting is hard, and she makes it sound like she knows exactly what makes each of her kids tick. As the late and much beloved Nanci Griffith sang, "No one ever really knows the heart of anyone else." I think what I disliked most about this book is the long monologues when she appears to be remembering directing conversations from years past, when she gave advice to people. As a fellow creative nonfiction writer, I understand that we have to construct some dialogue; however, this went on and on for pages as if she actually really said all this. It felt inauthentic at times. I skipped over a lot, but I did enjoy this for the most part. Doyle is strong and brave, and I think she is enjoying a degree of selfishness now that she will relinquish in years to come. 


St. Christopher on Pluto by Nancy McKinley

The story: MK and Colleen are two women who went to Catholic school together as kids and then reconnect in their 40s. Colleen is brash and bossy, while MK just does whatever Colleen wants. The book is a collection of related stories, some with characters distantly related to MK or Colleen, some in the past and some in the present. Each story can stand on its own, but the place is the same: a dying industrial town in Pennsylvania.

My reaction: There was a lot about this collection I loved. I loved the melancholy and memory intertwined with hope. I loved the way the author immersed us in the sad, dying town — one that surely we all recognize, whether we've driven through it or watched this happen to our own small hometowns. A few of the stories just absolutely stunned me in their beauty and compassion. What I did not love about the book is that the stories were strangely and confusingly connected. I wanted them to lead into each other more gracefully or perhaps be told chronologically. Ii couldn't see the purpose to them being so out of order. I found some of the characters hard to remember from story to story, yet it seemed essential that I remember their background information. If I had been reading an actual hard copy book, I would have paged back to find a character's first reference; however, I find that too arduous to do on a Kindle. Device problems, sure, but that's my reality. I also did not really get a grasp on MK, the narrator of many of the stories. I wanted to know her story more. What happened in the years between age 12 and midlife? There seemed to be another few stories that needed to be told: her daughter, her marriage. I just wanted more. But I did enjoy this modern-day Winesburg, Ohio. Definitely worth a read.



In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

The story: Everything is happening exactly as Dannie has planned. She's with the perfect man, she gets the promotion she's worked for her whole life, and the perfect man proposes in exactly the right way. And the she has a dream that seems way too real; the details are perfectly clear. It's five years in the future, and the man she's with is not her fiancé. She puts the dream out of her mind and continues on with her perfect life. She's too busy to plan a wedding, though. And then one day, five years later, she meets the man who was in her dream; he's her best friend's new boyfriend. And nothing turns out like she thought it would.

My reaction: I loved this book. I thought it was going to be a lighthearted, fluffy read, but it was not. I usually balk at this kind of premise-- the "I saw my future in a dream" sequence  -- but this worked for me. I'm not saying it was a technique that had to be used to tell the story, and if I think about it too much, it seems contrived and hokey. Maybe I should say: the story worked in spite of Dannie's vision/dream. Anyway, this is a sweet and sad book, and I loved it. 


Books Read in June

 Passing by Nella Larsen

The story: While on vacation in Chicago, Irene runs into Clare, a friend from childhood. It takes a while for Irene, a light-skinned Black woman, to realize this is Clare, because Clare is passing as a white woman. Irene is extremely uncomfortable with Clare's secret -- especially when she meets Clare's racist husband. He thinks Irene is white, too. Clare's been happy the past couple of decades, but reconnecting with Irene stirs up a yearning in her to be part of the Black community. When Clare starts coming to Harlem and inserting herself in Irene's life, things get very rocky all around.

My reaction: I listened to this book on Spotify, and it was absolutely amazing. It was first published in 1929 and is just as relevant today as it was nearly 100 years ago. The characters are rich and complex, Larsen's prose is lovely, and the subject itself is fascinating to me. I was curious to see if a movie had ever been made based on the novel, and behold! This was actually a 2021 Sundance Film, and Netflix recently purchased it! This is a short novel and well worth the read. Highly recommended.


We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

The story: Thirteen-year-old Duchess is a self-proclaimed outlaw and the fierce protector of her little brother, Robin. She cleans up after her mother, Star, and makes sure Star doesn't overdose or choke on her own vomit. Star's life has not been easy. Her little sister died in a terrible accident when she was a child, and Star's high school boyfriend, Vincent, has been in prison for her murder since he was a teenager. Star is barely holding things together; Walk, the sheriff and Vincent's best friend, tries to keep both her and the kids alive. 

My reaction: I loved the book. It's devastating and hopeful. The characters are so well drawn that I could read this as if I were watching a movie, and I would love to see a sequel to this with a grown-up Duchess. Highly recommended.


The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

The story: High up in the Swiss Alps, a luxury hotel opens its doors to its first guests. The hotel was once a sanatorium, and it's filled with relics of the past — intentionally decorated with medical paraphernalia, treatment devices, and more. Elin and her boyfriend are among the hotel's first guests; her brother, Isaac, and his fianceé, both part of the staff, are throwing an engagement party. Elin is a detective, recently put on leave after an accident which left her with PTSD. Oh, and Elin and Isaac lost their brother when they were small children, and Elin thinks Isaac killed him. Oh, and there is a huge snowstorm, and bodies start showing up. And no one can get out because snow. And more bodies and more snow...

My reaction: What just happened? What? This book had tremendous potential. I was so ready to get swept up in a hotel worthy of The Shining. But nope. This book was its own blizzard, swirling and blurry and buried in confusion. Too much happened, the characters were flat, the plot was riddled with holes, and the ending was utterly deflating. 


The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalilia Harris 

The story: Nella is an editorial assistant in her mid-20s in a prestigious publishing company, and she is the only Black employee at her particular level. She is initially thrilled when another Black assistant is hired. Hazel is friendly and so likable... until she is too likable. She immediately charms all the higher-ups, and Nella feels threatened and undervalued. All the changes she'd been trying to make, all the workplace diversity she's encouraged -- Hazel comes in and seems to instantly sway the editors, all while seeming to bow to them. Who IS Hazel? 

My reaction: This book is marketed as The Devil Wears Prada mixed with Get Out. OK. I can see that somewhat. I really appreciated look at what it might be like to be the only Black woman in a totally white office. The descriptions of micro-aggressions and code-switching were fantastic. I liked Nella a lot, but I also got super irritated with her. I wanted her to stand up to Hazel. I wanted her to stand up for herself more, to call Hazel out, to tell people what was going on. I wanted Kendra to save her. I didn't always understand everything that was going on with OBGs and the resistance. The could have been my own fault as a distracted reader, or it could have been the author's failure to provide clarity. I didn't love this book but I am glad I read it.