What I’ve Been Reading Lately & Another Virtual Book Event (June 2020)

Now that I’ve been at home for four months and summertime is here with more relaxed schedules, I think I’ve finally fallen into a more regular reading rhythm. My favorite time of day is when I can sit outside and read in the very late afternoon/early evening. The light is lovely and the sun warms my body perfectly without it being too hot. My hourlong neighborhood walks also provide lots of audiobook listening time.

Once again, a virtual book event inspired the reading of a book. My reading of Afterlife by Julia Alvarez started with a book discussion hosted by my alma mater, Middlebury College. Both Alvarez and the host, John Elder, were faculty members at the college while I was there. I also knew college friends were watching, so it felt like a reunion of sorts. The book takes place in an unnamed rural town in Vermont where the protagonist has just retired from teaching at the college. I couldn’t help but visualize my college town while reading.

Here are my latest reads and listens. What have you been reading lately?

The Color of Our Sky by Amita Trasi
(Audiobook narrated by Zehra Jane Nacqvi and Sneha Mathan)

I really enjoy books that introduce me to new times and places. In this book, I was taken to contemporary India through the story of two girls who grew up as sisters but then were torn apart by a kidnapping. The one left behind, Tara, soon moves to Los Angeles with her father, but after her father’s death returns to India to try to find her missing sister, Mukta. The timeline jumps back and forth starting in 1986 in Bombay when the two girls are brought together and become great friends and 2004 when Tara returns to look for Mukta. Besides getting a glimpse of life both in a small village as well as a big city, I learned about the Devadasi system of dedicating young girls to a temple, which really means forcing them into prostitution. It was a heartbreaking yet at times heartwarming story.

Reading Challenges:

A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight

This was a fun, page-turning read! It’s a murder mystery/legal thriller that takes place in Brooklyn, NY, in an elite private school community. A mother is found dead at the bottom of the stairs and the husband is charged with her murder. He calls Lizzie, a law school friend, to represent him. Despite reservations, she takes the case. The structure is unique. Not only are there alternating timelines and perspectives – post-murder through the 1st person narrative of Lizzie and pre-murder through the 3rd person narrative of the murder victim – but also included within are grand jury testimonies and confidential memorandums. So many secrets and twists. Highly recommend it!

Reading Challenges:

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

This was without a doubt a 5-star read for me. I loved the setting, new-to-me Kentucky in the 1930s. I loved that it was a story of strong and independent women on the fringe of society coming together and supporting each other and making their own family of sorts. I loved that it was about an historical event that I knew nothing about, a female-run packhorse library delivering books to remote families in the mountains. I don’t think I have a single thing to critique about this book. Highly recommend it!

Reading Challenges:

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez
(Audiobook narrated by Alma Cuervo)

The story takes place in an unnamed rural town in Vermont where the protagonist, Antonia Vega, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, has just retired from teaching English at the college. The same evening that Antonia is going to celebrate her retirement with her husband, he dies en route to meet her. This is the story of Antonia learning to live without him while his presence is still very much with her. Unexpected events challenge her grieving process. A young, pregnant, undocumented immigrant arrives in the community, and a sister goes missing and sisterhood drama ensues. The book has an interesting ensemble of characters, in particular a grumpy farmer next door along with his two undocumented workers, the endearing sisterhood, and the sheriff. The book is about so many things – loss, family, immigration, mental health, and new beginnings – but none of it in an overbearing way. It’s a lovely little book with beautiful writing and thoughtful take-aways.

Reading Challenges:

What have you been reading lately?

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8 thoughts on “What I’ve Been Reading Lately & Another Virtual Book Event (June 2020)

  1. I really enjoyed Giver of Stars too!! I loved learning more about the Pack Horse Librarians! A similar novel that focuses on these librarians as well is The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. I actually preferred this one because there was a bit of a rare medical element in there too, which I found fascinating!

    Linking my recent reads, if interested!

  2. I keep meaning to read A Good Marriage! It sounds right up my alley. It feels like more of a Fall read- maybe I’ll get to it then.

    • The story takes place in July while the kids are away at camp. No better time like the present, but fall will work too. Hope you enjoy it!

  3. “The Giver of Stars” is also on my list! So I was happy to see you really liked it. I must say, I haven’t done as much reading as I thought I would do. Mainly because unfortunately I’ve become a news junkie (I blame that on being married to a Swede) and we have SOOO much time on our hands. Anyway, I am currently reading “How to Be An Antiracist” and find it so far, very, very interesting. I am also reading “The Secret of the Chateau” for a couple of reasons that have nothing to do with whether or not the book is good! One is the author is from Bournemouth…and I spent a lovey 4 days there a couple of years ago AND, when I was in 3rd grade we moved to France (Dad was in the Army) and lived in a chateau for a few months. “Metropolis” was an interesting book…I didn’t know anything about the film or Weimar Berlin so did a lot of googling. “One Day in December” and “The First Time I Said Goodbye” were 2 easy-to-read books and a perfect read in between all of the more serious movies/documentaries/TV series I’ve been watching. (Not to mention when it comes to “One Day in December”, in 1975 I was going to a work conference. The flight was not a direct flight. A man got on board (I was single) and walking down the aisle our eyes met and WOW! So I knew exactly what she meant. Turns out we were on the same shuttle…but different hotels. However, when we got to my hotel, an employee boarded the shuttle and called out our names. He remembered and called me that evening. We had a distance romance for a few months!)

    • Love your “WOW moment” plus ensuing distance romance story. What a fun connection to One Day in December! 🙂 I always enjoy hearing what you’re reading. Thanks for sharing!

  4. What a nice set of reviews! I plan to share this post with my cousin (she’s a retired small college teacher) who lives in Vermont.

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