When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald

Here is another book I’m not sure how it ended up on my reading list.  I think When We Were Vikings was an Amazon recommendation; one of so, so many books I have on my Kindle thanks to a $1.99 impulse buy.

Anywho, it did have an interesting description which led to my buying it:

Cover of When We Weee VikingsSometimes life isn’t as simple as heroes and villains.

For Zelda, a twenty-one-year-old Viking enthusiast who lives with her older brother, Gert, life is best lived with some basic rules:

  1. A smile means “thank you for doing something small that I liked.”
  2. Fist bumps and dabs = respect.
  3. Strange people are not appreciated in her home.
  4. Tomatoes must go in the middle of the sandwich and not get the bread wet.
  5. Sometimes the most important things don’t fit on lists.

But when Zelda finds out that Gert has resorted to some questionable—and dangerous—methods to make enough money to keep them afloat, Zelda decides to launch her own quest. Her mission: to be legendary. It isn’t long before Zelda finds herself in a battle that tests the reach of her heroism, her love for her brother, and the depth of her Viking strength.

When We Were Vikings is an uplifting debut about an unlikely heroine whose journey will leave you wanting to embark on a quest of your own, because after all…

We are all legends of our own making.

Looking for some light but engaging bedtime reading, I metaphorically pulled this from the Kindle pile.

I have mixed feelings about this book as well. First of all, the publishers description above might not give you a complete picture of the story line here.  Zelda has cognitive disabilities from fetal alcohol syndrome.  The story is told from her perspective and with that challenge in mind.

The positive side of the book is clear: Zelda is a great character and has a great voice.  She really drives the story and gives it depth and meaning.

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The Request by David Bell

Life is funny sometimes.  This is what I wrote almost exactly a year ago:

I will admit to being a fickle reader these days. My life has been rather crazy at the last four months or so, more anon on that perhaps, and so my mood seems to change regularly. Sometimes I am reading serious nonfiction, sometimes literary fiction but at other times what I really need is something to entertain and distract me from the chaos seemingly surrounding me. The search for intelligent books that still manage to do this, is always going on.

To say the last four months has been crazy is something of an understatement. What with my basement flooding the first day I started working from home due to a global pandemic which meant my kids engaging in digital learning at home with nearly half the house unusable and my daughter sleeping in the living room.  Somehow 2020 topped 2019.

Which brings us to David Bell for some reason.  The quote above comes from my review of Layover.  Coincidentally, I also read a David Bell book in June this year, this time The Request:

Cover of The Request by David BellRyan Francis has it all–great job, wonderful wife, beautiful child–and he loves posting photos of his perfect life on social media. Until the night his friend Blake asks him to break into a woman’s home to retrieve incriminating items that implicate Blake in an affair. Ryan refuses to help, but when Blake threatens to reveal Ryan’s darkest secret–which could jeopardize everything in Ryan’s life–Ryan has no choice but to honor Blake’s request.

When he arrives at the woman’s home, Ryan is shocked to find her dead–and just as shocked to realize he knows her. Then his phone chimes, revealing a Facebook friend request from the woman. With police sirens rapidly approaching, Ryan flees, wondering why his friend was setting him up for murder.

Determined to keep his life intact and to clear his name, Ryan must find the real murderer–but solving the crime may lead him closer to home than he ever could have imagined.

This is basically a fast paced summer/beach read which is perfect for when you are seeking entertainment and distraction rather than art/deep thought. As is often the case with these sort of novels, you have to kind of suspend belief a bit as the characters are not always fully developed, believable or likable.  But it has a fast pace and a good sense of suspense which is also what you are looking for when you just want an escapists type read.

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Tiny Infinities by J.H. Diehl

I don’t even remember why I wanted to read Tiny Infinities.  Given my book addiction, I stumble across books from a wide variety of sources and rarely remember weeks later why I put something on a list.  But I requested it from Libby and when it became available I borrowed it and started reading it almost immediately. I am glad I did.

Cover of Tiny Infinities by J.H. DiehlWhen Alice’s dad moves out, leaving her with her troubled mother, she does the only thing that feels right: she retreats to her family’s old Renaissance tent in the backyard, determined to live there until her dad comes home. In an attempt to keep at least one part of her summer from changing, Alice focuses on her quest to swim freestyle fast enough to get on her swim team’s record board. But summers contain multitudes, and soon Alice meets an odd new friend, Harriet, whose obsession with the school’s science fair is equal only to her conviction that Alice’s best stroke is backstroke, not freestyle. Most unexpected of all is an unusual babysitting charge, Piper, who is mute–until Alice hears her speak. A funny and honest middle-grade novel, this sharply observed depiction of family, friendship, and Alice’s determination to prove herself–as a babysitter, as a friend, as a daughter, as a person–rings loud and true.

It turned out to be exactly the palate cleanser type read I needed (I’m juggling some more serious works and just finished a thriller type and wanted something different).

It had great characters and an interesting plot; despite really being about the lead character Alice. It has a sort of after school special storyline that I often seek to avoid, divorce and its impact on kids, but the writing is so well done and the lead character held my attention. Perhaps, as a child of divorce I could relate. But Diehl really captures the feelings of family, friendship, summer and the awkwardness as you move from childhood to adulthood and seemingly get caught halfway between.

I like how the relationships are multi-faceted.  Although, I guess you could say her relationship with her mother is heavily on the negative side, but there is still real love even amongst the complex feelings.  Her relationship with Harriet is complex as well.  As I said, Alice’s working out of her choices and their consequences, her relationships and their impact on her life and her choices, feels real and deep.

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Matt Taibbi: On “White Fragility”

At a time of catastrophe and national despair, when conservative nationalism is on the rise and violent confrontation on the streets is becoming commonplace, it’s extremely suspicious that the books politicians, the press, university administrators, and corporate consultants alike are asking us to read are urging us to put race even more at the center of our identities, and fetishize the unbridgeable nature of our differences. — Matt Taibbi, on White Fragility and its popularity

Celebrity Culture, Elected Officials & Leadership

Jim Geraghty’s Morning Jolt looks at the other side of the issue raised by Leonard Reed: leadership. He offers some wise words on interpreting what you see on TV or on social media:

Not every crime leads back to the suspect you already disliked. Sometimes the trail leads back to the people you thought better of, who you thought were on the right path, the people who you thought weren’t capable of this.

But this section on what it means to serve in elected office is important too:

The combination of the coronavirus pandemic and widespread urban violence should be reinforcing to all Americans the hard lesson that elected office is not about being a celebrity. It is not about looking good on television, or an opportunity to manipulate and control the lives of human beings like moving pawns on a chess board. It is not about soaring rhetoric and pretty words.

Leadership in elected office is often about telling people difficult truths that they don’t want to hear, making hard decisions that will fully satisfy no one, and accepting the responsibility for making those decisions. If you are not willing to accept that, don’t run for the job.

For more insight on celebrity platform versus character building institutions and leadership, I highly recommend A Time To Build by Yuval Levin which I hope to review here soon. Recent events have only highlighted how important these issues are to a vision for moving forward.