Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Nevermore: atlases, Atlas Obscura, Maupin, Cohen, Larson, Gordon, Gregory, Montimore


Nevermore opened with a review of two atlases in a DK juvenile series.  Where on Earth is the more usual format, showing geographic regions and countries in a bright, well-illustrated format which is one of DK’s hallmarks. Our reviewer found it informative but noted that it didn’t include Palestine.  The companion volume is When on Earth and offers a chronology of events.  She liked both because of the diagrams, timelines, maps, and photos.  She thought it would be good for middle school age children.


Another reader had started two books by a favorite author, Armistead Maupin.  He is best known for his “Tales of the City” series of books set in San Francisco, which is familiar territory for our reader.  She finds his books to be entertaining, well-written, and with vivid characters.  She said it was so nice to want to read again after the stresses of 2020.


Disloyal by Michael Cohen was a DNF (Did Not Finish) for our next reviewer who said she gave up about half way through the book.  She found it all very discouraging.


On the other hand, she was loving Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile.  She was not a Churchill fan before reading this account of England during the Blitz, but said she was surprised at how many decisions that Churchill made himself about the way war was waged.  She was impressed that so much information came from private diaries, and wished aloud that more people would keep diaries today.  The wealth of detail was satisfying, including information about what Churchill wore (he favored pink silk underwear and sometimes worked while wearing a silk dressing gown) which she found charming.  She went on to say that she had never read an Erik Larson book in which she didn’t learn a lot, and she certainly was learning from this one.

Another DNF book was Shaman by Noah Gordon.  It was well written, but the print was so small that it was a chore to read.  Other members suggested that she try to read it on a tablet where she could adjust the font size; these were mostly people who had read the book and loved it.  Our reader pointed out that it was also a pretty hefty tome, and she felt as if she needed a forklift to pick it up.   Her fellow club members assured her that weight lifting was good for one’s health.


Philippa Gregory usually writes historical fiction about British monarchs or nobles, but in Tidelands she changes up the formula.  The novel is set during the English Civil War, but the main character is a midwife stuck in an abusive marriage at a time when women had little recourse but to endure.  It’s the first in a series, but our reader found it only so-so.  

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore appeared on a list of twenty best books, so our club member picked it up.  The book begins in 1982 when Oona is about to turn 19.  She feels woozy and then the next thing she knows she is a 51 year old woman.  She soon finds out that every year she can move into a different part of her life, either forward or backward in time.  The reader said she found it rather confusing so it would not be making her “best books” list but she did like the message of how important it is to live in the now and to appreciate the moments instead of always looking ahead or behind.

Finally, there were multiple recommendations for signing up to receive the newsletter from Atlas Obscura.  These newsletters are free and cover a variety of topics, from Appalachian ginseng to wine in Tasmania.  Our readers are finding these fascinating.  Each newsletter features several different topics with links to the full story so you can read whatever interests you.  One member said she really enjoyed these articles from Atlas Obscura, commenting “My life is better because I know this.”

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