A Crafter's Life, Audiobooks and Podcasts

Virtual Book Clubs

I am not usually one for book clubs, at least not currently. I like to read what I want to read. I am however in two virtual “book clubs” with two friends right now on two different books: 1) a fiction physical book; and a 2) non fiction audiobook.

City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty 

I am reading this first book in the Daevabad Trilogy with my friend Michele. 

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Here is the Kirkus Review on the book if you are curious:

A rich Middle Eastern fantasy, the first of a trilogy: Chakraborty’s intriguing debut.

On the streets of 18th-century Cairo, young Nahri—she has a real talent for medicine but lacks the wherewithal to acquire proper training—makes a living swindling Ottoman nobles by pretending to wield supernatural powers she doesn’t believe in. Then, during a supposed exorcism, she somehow summons a mysterious djinn warrior named Dara, whose magic is both real and incomprehensibly powerful. Dara insists that Nahri is no longer safe—evil djinn threaten her life, so he must convey her to Daevabad, a legendary eastern city protected by impervious magical brass walls. During the hair-raising journey by flying carpet, Nahri meets spirits and monsters and develops feelings for Dara, a deeply conflicted being with a long, tangled past. At Daevabad she’s astonished to learn that she’s the daughter of a legendary healer of the Nahid family. All the more surprising, then, that King Ghassan, whose ancestor overthrew the ruling Nahid Council and stole Suleiman’s seal, which nullifies magic, welcomes her.

With Ghassan’s younger son, Prince Ali, Nahri becomes immersed in the city’s deeply divisive (and not infrequently confusing) religious, political, and racial tensions. Meanwhile, Dara’s emerging history and personality grow more and more bewildering and ambiguous. Against this syncretic yet non-derivative and totally credible backdrop, Chakraborty has constructed a compelling yarn of personal ambition, power politics, racial and religious tensions, strange magics, and terrifying creatures, culminating in a cataclysmic showdown that few readers will anticipate. The expected first-novel flaws—a few character inconsistencies, plot swirls that peter out, the odd patch where the author assumes facts not in evidence—matter little. Best of all, the narrative feels rounded and complete yet poised to deliver still more.

Highly impressive and exceptionally promising.

This book is one of the first books (purchased new from an Independent Bookstore mentioned in the post – A Friday Frolicking Adventure) added to my new home library discussed in the post Curating a Home Library.

I am enjoying the book so far and look forward to discussing with my friend Michele. 

Untamed by Glennon Doyle 

Not only is this a non-fiction book in the “self-improvement genre” but I am listening to it as an audiobook with my friend Jenny from Central, Oregon where I used to live before I moved to the Denver Metro area in April 2019.

In my February 2020 post Musings on Self-Improvement, I swore off self-help/self-improvement audiobooks after sudden series burnout on listening to them. I’ve also been trying to stick to podcasts or music for the listening during my walks/hikes and save reading fiction or non-fiction in physical book form. During the pandemic I’ve rediscovered the pleasures of curling up with a book like in this photo below (and Mike the Miniature Schnauzer prefers it also_:

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But I heard a lot about this book and it really appealed to me as an exception to my “no more self-improvement audiobook rule”.

It also appealed to my friend Jenny who is dealing with some major life changes ahead; and who likes to go on long walks in Central Oregon and listen to audiobooks.

When we both finish the book, we are going to do a “Virtual Book Group” meeting and discuss via Facetime over a pot of tea (we have to each make our own because virtual tea gets complicated – ha!).

Oh and here is the Kirkus Review on the book (which I’ve actually finished and thought was spectacular and inspiring!):

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Here are a couple quotes from this book that seemed to be the right thing I needed to hear at the right time.

When a woman finally learns that pleasing the world is impossible, she becomes free to learn how to please herself.

Being human is not hard because you’re doing it wrong, it’s hard because you’re doing it right.

The only thing that was ever wrong with me was my belief that there was something wrong with me.

Be careful with the stories you tell about yourself.

Every life is an unprecedented experiment. This life is mine alone…So I have stopped asking people for directions to places they’ve never been. There is no map. We are all pioneers.

Privilege is being born on third base. Ignorant privilege is thinking you’re there because you hit a triple. Malicious privilege is complaining that those starving outside the ballpark aren’t waiting patiently enough.

I have learned that if I want to rise, I have to sink first.  


Postscript

Speaking of my friend Michele (the one I am reading City of Brass with) she sent me an image of her with the hat I made her last year and the matching scarf I made her recently that I shared in the post Scarf for a Friend.

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I think she looks lovely and coordinated (the hat and scarf match her winter jacket).

Oh and at the beginning of this post I mentioned I am not one for book clubs, at least not presently. I’ve tried several book clubs over the years and most of them was not a fit for me after a while. I did however belong to a spectacular book club, started by my friend Michele and I, when I lived in Seattle, Washington.

One of the cool things about this book club was it was a mix of male and female and had a wide age range. It was also quite diverse in culture and life experiences. It made for an excellent mix for a book club. It was called The Good Book Club and went on for many years. Several of our members were single and even met their future partners in book club. 


Feature Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash