Friday, September 22, 2023

Friday afternoon updates, odds & ends

Further to last week's article in The Cut/New York Magazine, about what happens to friendships when all your friends start having kids ("Adorable Little Detonators") -- which I wrote about here:  
  • Anne Helen Petersen mentioned it in her Substack newsletter (Culture Study) this week, in a piece titled "How to Kid-Proof Your Friendship." 
    • I saw AHP's post shortly after it landed in my inbox on Wednesday morning, and immediately dashed off a comment. In a nutshell, I said I thought The Cut article was great, but mostly left out an important perspective -- i.e., those of us who wanted/hoped/expected/assumed we would have children all our lives, but had to eventually face the hard truth that it was not going to happen for us, for a variety of reasons. I said it can not only be annoying when your friends abandon you after becoming parents, but that it can also be downright painful to see them living (and in some cases taking for granted) the life we wanted so much for ourselves. 
    • Mine was one of the first half-dozen or so comments to be posted. I'm thinking that must have given me a leg up, so to speak (the early bird catches the worm! etc. etc....) -- because a few hours later, I was shocked to see that mine was the top-liked comment!  (including a "like" from AHP herself, who is childfree by choice). 
      • When I last checked, earlier today, it was still the top-rated comment, with 138 likes so far (!!)(and I'm still getting more!).      
    • I also had a few responses, including these:   
      • "Thank you! I have held it together for my friends who are parents so many times and then broken down sobbing on the floor afterward. It's really hard to experience how little space is held for friends who do not or cannot have children."  
      • "Thanks for articulating this. It feels like there's no space held for this. My pet peeve / emotional trigger is when I share my single/child-free plans which often include travel etc, and parents say "I wish I had your life." It feels so insensitive because truly, often, I wish I had their life! It's like they can't even see from your perspective at all and offer some empathy."  
      • "Yes!!!!! I was surprised that The Cut article didn’t expand in the deep grief that all of this entails! In addition to what you name (as Adam Phillips calls it “the grief of the life not lived,”), and also the grief of your precious friendships changing in ways that you wouldn’t have chosen! The loss of intimacy of not being relied upon in the same way, friends not having the capacity for care and comfort, grief over not being able to connect/relate in the same way (abandonment/attachment activation for many) etc and all of this happening within the container of the pervasive ocean that is cishetetopatriarchy that says “your value is yoked to that thing you don’t have and may want” (eg “landing a man, having kids.) In short “they won, you lost.” "
      • "I grieved this for a long time. It’s affirming and comforting to read your comment and know someone understands it from this side. Thank you."
      • A few other people have also mentioned or alluded to being CNBC in their own comments. 
    • As Stephanie Joy Phillips has said about World Childless Week, slowly, we're getting louder and getting the message out...! 
  • Jill Filipovic also addressed The Cut article in her Substack newsletter, taking a slightly different angle with a broader cultural assessment: "Children upend our friendships. Do they have to?:  Lessons from life outside of America."  So far as I can tell, it's not paywalled.
    • Key paragraph, for me:  
And those friends, by the way, are also stretched thin. The competition and precariousness of American life breeds exhaustion and resentment: The childless workers who are frustrated when yet again they are told to stay late and cancel their plans so that a parent can go to the school play; the couple out on a much-needed date they can barely afford who can’t focus on their conversation because of a shrieking toddler; the single woman trying to buy an affordable home who keeps losing out because sellers want their house to go to a young family, and because young families often have two incomes. The parents aren’t at fault in any of these situations. But the people without children also aren’t selfish jerks. Our policies and cultural norms pit us against each other.
*** *** *** 

Scam/fraud update: As I explained here and here, I was the victim of a scam back in late July -- a credit card transaction involving Amazon. I realized and reported the fraud to my bank/credit card provider within minutes after the transaction went through.

Initially, I was told I would get a refund within 7 days -- and I did -- but that wasn't the whole story.  When I called again as instructed, I was told the refund was only temporary/conditional, that the transaction had been sent to the disputes department, and would take 30 (!)  business days to resolve with the merchant.  

More than 30 business days has now elapsed, and I hadn't heard a peep from either Amazon or my bank/credit card provider, so I made a followup call this week. (Each time I've called, the sound quality of the call has been less and less clear, and the representatives harder and harder to understand...!)  

Basically, my understanding of the situation is:  the investigation is still under way. And now I'm being told that it likely won't be resolved until 90 days/3 months has passed (!!!) -- which apparently is the U.S. standard (Amazon, of course, being a U.S.-based company).  I checked my calendar and, depending on whether that means 90 calendar days or (more likely) 90 business days (I'm assuming from July 31st, when I reported the fraud), I'm looking at anytime from late October until mid-December before this is going to be resolved (and, hopefully, my Amazon account reinstated -- including access to my Kindle phone app and all the books there that I have bought and paid for, but cannot access!). Unless this gets resolved in a hurry, I guess I won't be doing any Black Friday and/or Christmas shopping on Amazon this year -- inconvenient and annoying for me, but a loss of my business for them!   

Note that this is the THIRD timeline for resolution that I've been given in three different calls to the credit card centre. First I was given reason to believe the situation would be resolved within a week -- then 30 business days -- and now 90.  Not impressed. Once I finally get this resolved (one way or another), I'm sending a letter to the bank to express my displeasure.  

*** *** *** 

Other odds & ends:  
  • "Anything You Lose" -- a documentary about infertility and involuntary childlessness that Pamela at Silent Sorority has been involved with -- is having its premiere in Los Angeles on Oct. 7th! Details here on Pamela's blog.  
  • This has nothing to do with adoption, loss, infertility or childlessness -- but it put a huge smile on my face, and I hope it will do the same for you. :)  Garrett Bucks at The White Pages (Substack) -- and an entire town -- pays tribute to his neighbourhood mail carrier, who is retiring from his job. Sample passage:  
...there is a real “thirsty desert travelers sprinting to the oasis” vibe in how deeply an entire neighborhood craves Mike’s waves and smiles. We are starved for connection. We are too used to relationships as means to an end, commerce as a substitute for community, and the constant exhaustion that comes from running a rugged individualist race against each other. And by “we,” I don’t mean just me and my neighbors. I mean all of us. It shouldn’t be notable that a mail carrier is kind, because our days should be full of both giving and receiving compassion and delight. But that isn’t the world we live in yet. So yes, let’s celebrate the Mikes of the world. Let’s erect a million signs and host a thousand block parties.

Have a great weekend!  :)  

Thursday, September 21, 2023

"The Last Devil to Die" by Richard Osman

It's no secret that I am a huge fan of Richard Osman's Thursday Murder Club mystery series -- about a group of four aging amateur detectives, all in their late 70s/early 80s, residents of Cooper's Chase, an upscale retirement village in the UK. I eagerly scooped up #4 in the series, "The Last Devil to Die," when it came out earlier this week, and started tearing through it. 

(I woke up this morning at 4 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep -- I'm wondering if reading a few chapters before bed was a wise idea??  Naturally, after tossing & turning for an hour, I decided to get up and fire up my e-reader for a few chapters more, lol. I finished the book this afternoon.) 

Each of these books could probably stand alone, but they really should be read in order, as one generally picks up where the last one left off, with several continuing storylines and  peripheral characters. This one is no exception.  

It's just after Christmas, and there's a new murder to solve. Unfortunately, the victim is Kuldesh, an antiques dealer and friend of Elizabeth's husband Stephen, whom we met in book #3. Also at stake: the whereabouts of 100,000 pounds sterling worth of heroin, which was temporarily housed at Kuldesh's shop and has now gone missing.   

This edition features the same wonderful characters, wit, humour and convoluted plot twists we've come to know and love from the Thursday Murder Club.  Warning:  It's also the most emotional entry in the series to date. Have Kleenex handy!     

An(other) enthusiastic 5 stars.  :)  

Osman says (in the acknowledgements at the end) that he's taking a break from Cooper's Chase  :(  while he pursues other writing projects. I will happily read anything he writes -- he's more than proven his talents with this series -- but I hope we won't have TOO long to wait for the next installment...!    

Links to my reviews of the previous books in the series, in order of publication:  

This was Book #35 read to date in 2023 (and Book #3 finished in September), bringing me to 78% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 3 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

Monday, September 18, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: More odds & ends

#MicroblogMondays is back!  :) 

This post may not be "micro," but I have lots of links for you!  
  • From The Atlantic: "Why Are Women Freezing Their Eggs? Look to the Men." (Gift link.) (I've added this book to my wish list!) 
  • Not ALI/CNBC related, but something I found interesting (also from The Atlantic): "The Very Common, Very Harmful Thing Well-Meaning Parents Do." YIKES. (One more entry in the "if this is parenting today, maybe it's just as well I didn't have kids" file -- not to mention the "I am SO GLAD I grew up before the internet!!" category.) (Also gift linked.)
  • This (gift-linked) article from the Washington Post is infuriating, on so many levels: "First, the loss of a baby, then the loss of legal rights." 
  • The always-wonderful Bibi Lynch rants about "‘As a mother’: the worst three words in the English language." Subheading:  "Having a child doesn’t give you some special insight or make you morally superior to the kid-free among us, writes Bibi Lynch. So why do so many people think it does?" (Content warning: Beware the accompanying photos! -- why do publications always do this??) 
    • (There may be a paywall, but you may be able to read a few free articles a month by creating an account and signing in.) 
  • Bibi chatted with Sangita Myska on BBC Radio about World Childless Week on Sunday during the last hour of Sangita's show. Their conversation is available for the next 6 days (i.e., until Saturday). (Edited: I got the date wrong;  correct date & link substituted.) 
  • While reading Bibi's article in the Independent, I saw a link to another story that made my jaw drop:  apparently this past week on "The View," Whoopi Goldberg, mid-sentence, while discussing a completely different topic, suddenly asked co-host Alyssa Farah Griffin (age 34, married in 2021) if she was pregnant!  Live, on national television!!  While Griffin's MOTHER-IN-LAW was in the audience, no less!!  Really, Whoopi??  :p    ("I see a glow," she said, trying to justify her outburst -- oh brother...) (She did apologize.)
    • Goldberg was roundly criticized on X (formerly Twitter)(deservedly so) -- but some people also came to her defense there. UGH.   
    • If that link is too hard to access, almost the exact same article is also on People. 
  • Worth a few chuckles (and cringes):  "That Weird Sad Childless Woman" (Alison Zeidman) on Substack posted examples she's found of "The Weird, Sad Childless Women of Stock Photos." 
  • Jessica Wildfire at OK Doomer can be kind of dark at times -- but I thought this was a great piece about grief (and our grief-phobic society):  "You Could Use a Mourning Routine."
*** *** *** 

The Cut (from New York Magazine) had a lengthy, frank article (written by an ambivalent childless/free woman) about what Jody Day refers to as the "#FriendshipApocalypse" of childlessness -- what happens when all your friends start having kids. The title:  "Adorable Little Detonators" (subhead: "Our friendship survived bad dates, illness, marriage, fights. Why can’t it survive your baby?").  There may be a paywall (and I'm not a subscriber, so no gift links);  if that's the case, try this link instead. 
  • Sample quote:  "Babies, those little assholes, really do show up in our lives like a popular girl transferring into school in the middle of the semester. Their sudden presence, though welcomed, coveted, hard won, and considered a blessing to their parents, throws the social order into disarray." 
  • And this:  "It becomes us vs. them. On one side: People With Kids (PWIKS: frazzled, distracted, boring, rigid, covered in spit-up; can’t talk about movies, only about how they wish they had time to see them). And on the other: People Without Kids (PWOKS: self-absorbed, entitled, attention whores, grumpy about life’s inconveniences even though their life is easy). When those slights go unaddressed, it becomes all too easy to pull away."
  • Jessica Grose, the New York Times's columnist on American families and culture, mentioned the Cut article in a recent subscriber newsletter:  "There’s Still Overwhelming Cultural Pressure to Get Married and Have Kids."  (You noticed??) (Gift link.)
    • Sample passage: "...I think when people get into their 30s and 40s and aren’t married and don’t have kids, they’re often judged... Many Americans find a range of family structures acceptable, but the family structure that Americans overwhelmingly see as completely acceptable is “a husband and wife raising children together.” For all the concern (and, sometimes, concern trolling) about marriage and fertility rates dropping, it’s still challenging to veer from well-worn cultural scripts to write your own new ones."  
    • And:  "A substantial majority of Americans — 75 percent — have been married by 40, and once they’re in their 40s, over 75 percent of men and over 80 percent of women have had a biological child. There’s this idea floating around that if only the broader culture pushed marriage and family harder, we wouldn’t have so many single parents, and I always wonder: When, exactly, did the broader culture stop pushing marriage and babies?" 
  • And in her Guardian column, Republic of Parenthood, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett also weighs in on The Cut article (in a blurb near the end of a piece about Sophie Turner, Joe Jonas and mom-shaming): 
"What’s not [working]:  Postpartum friendships, apparently. I enjoyed this article in New York magazine about the impact a baby can have on friendship groups, although I didn’t identify. What’s changed, I think, is that more and more women are choosing to be child-free and feeling entitled to child-free time, whereas historically they would be roped into communal childrearing. It’s a reasonable expectation, but we all need to be kind to one another, and new parents are especially vulnerable. Having a baby can be like a bomb going off in your life, and at times like that you need your friends more than ever, even if they’re sick of hearing about it."

    • In the online childless communities I frequent, several people (including me!)  bristled at Cosslett's comments. Among the points made: 
      • "Entitlement to child-free time" and "Roped into communal childrearing" is a telling way to put it. (How dare we feel "entitled" to personal time, right??)("A reasonable expectation"?? -- I should think so...!)  As someone said, "feeling entitled to another person's labour and support is the real problem."  And as another said, "Surely there has to be some give and take?"  (Kindness works both ways.) 
      • Not having the baby(s) you wanted and expected that you would have all your life to this point can also be "like a bomb going off in your life."  And yes, "at times like that you need your friends more than ever, even if they're sick of hearing about it." And too often, our friends are not there for us then... 
      • What do you think? 
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Sunday, September 17, 2023

"The Giver" by Lois Lowry

"The Giver" by Lois Lowry was not on my radar as a potential read. It was published 30 years ago, in 1993, when I was 32 years old -- and, as a book aimed at children/young adults (and often taught in schools), I obviously have not been exposed to it through my kids.  

But then I learned that Lori Lavender Luz and her colleagues at Adoption Unfiltered will be co-hosting a discussion of the book, using the lens of adoption, on Thursday, Sept. 28th -- and my interest was piqued.  I'd been dithering over what my next read should be, happily downloaded a copy to my e-reader and started reading. 

12-year-old Jonah lives a placid, even-keeled existence with his parents and younger sister. There are strict rules and rituals that govern even the smallest details of their lives.  Every night, they share and examine their feelings in great detail.  Jonas is nervous about the upcoming Ceremony, at which he and all the other 12-year-olds will find out what roles they've been assigned for the rest of their lives.  He's also having strange dreams, prompting his mother to give him pills that stop them. We slowly come to realize that beneath the surface, this seemingly idyllic community is not quite what it seems...  

This is not a long read (it took me just a few hours, spread over the weekend). The language used is simple -- but the ideas & themes presented are complex, sometimes unsettling/disturbing, and (to some) controversial. There's a lot here that will sound familiar to those of us in the adoption/loss/infertility and even childless communities. Not surprisingly, it's a book that's often challenged/banned.  

I can't say I LIKED "The Giver" -- but it did make me think, and I'll be thinking about it for a while yet. It's the first book in a series of four. I'm not sure I'll be following up with the others, but I'm not sorry I read this one. And I'll look forward to the discussion with Lori & her co-hosts on Sept. 28th. If you're interested, you can find more details here

3.5 stars on StoryGraph, rounded down to 3 stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #34 read to date in 2023 (and Book #2 finished in September), bringing me to 76% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Small pleasures & annoying things

Small pleasures: 
  • A return to cooler (but not cold -- yet!) temperatures, after somw stifling heat & humidity earlier in the month. (We even got some sunshine! -- finally!!)  
  • Returning to the mall for the first time in quite a while, and shopping for cute clothes for Little Great-Niece, Little Great-Nephew, Little Princess #3 -- and only feeling the small twinges of grief over the cute things I never got to buy for my own little girl. 
  • A bit of "me alone at home" time to myself on Wednesday afternoon, while dh took BIL to a medical appointment. 
  • Spending time this past week and this weekend communing with my peeps during World Childless Week.  :)  So much great content to read, view and think about!  
  • Third annual cottage weekend, coming up soon! (here's a link to my post from last year, including photos) to be followed by a long-awaited visit to see my parents over (Canadian) Thanksgiving!  
Annoying things: 
  • Having to wear slippers around the house again (cooler weather = chilly floors). Which means socks, long yoga pants & jeans and long sleeves can't be too far behind. (Sigh.) 
  • Not being able to make it around the full circuit of the mall, because of both my wonky knee and fatigue (we're out of practice! -- granted, it's a pretty big mall! -- a full circuit around it is 1.3 km = nearly a full mile!).  
  • How wet my mask can get inside while walking around the mall on a humid day.  :p  (I did remove it while we had lunch in the food court -- it was a Tuesday, as opposed to a weekend, and we went at 11:30, when there were a lot fewer people than there would have been a half-hour or hour later...!) 
  • One too many cartons of milk lately that have both smelled and tasted off, even though the expiry date was almost a week away. We've wound up sending it down the drain -- what a waste!  We're now buying filtered milk, which is slightly more expensive, but stays good longer, unopened (and for at least a week once opened). (If we're going away for a week or so, we'll buy a carton to have in the refrigerator for when we get home -- no more late-night runs to the supermarket so that we'll have milk for our cereal and coffee/tea in the morning!)  

Monday, September 11, 2023

Odds & ends

  • It's World Childless Week!  And there's tons of great content posted already for today's topic, "Our Stories."  Head over, dive in, check out the upcoming webinars scheduled for the rest of the week, and show your support!  
  • It's LGN's first day of school!  (junior kindergarten)  Dh & I were constantly refreshing our Instagram feeds this morning, looking for photos (lol) -- and Older Nephew and his wife did not disappoint, posting some shortly after dropoff. :)  
    • Dh texted Older Nephew as soon as we knew school was out to ask him how it went. The teacher said he had a good day, and LGN reported he had a lot of fun!  Yay!  :)  
  • On the other side of the coin:  An oldie but goodie from the archives of Life, Almost, about surviving back-to-school week when infertility and loss are part of your story. Sample passage: 
    In the first week in September, the online chorus from mums of ‘please don’t get any bigger!’ and ‘where has my baby gone?’ seems to get louder. It’s unfair of me, perhaps, but I find these declamations hard to hear and even harder to sympathise with. They hurt, frankly, when your doorway is empty.

  • While sitting in the waiting room of a bloodwork lab last week, I noticed a poster on the wall that said "Learn more about your baby's health..." Except that, at first glance, I took it to read "your baby's death."  Only a loss mom, right?? 
  • Do you live in the Bay Area of California and suffer from endometriosis?  Right now, diagnosis takes close to a decade and requires surgery -- but a company called Endometrics is currently recruiting volunteers to beta test a new, faster, non-invasive diagnostic test. They are also planning a clinical pilot with several clinics in the Bay Area. More details at the link above, as well as here
  • Lori Lavender Luz is co-hosting a discussion of "The Giver" by Lois Lowry, though the lens of adoption, on Thursday, Sept. 28th. Details here
  • This piece on surrogacy in Canada by Alison Motluk is long but a worthwhile and eye-opening/sobering read.   
  • I recently learned about a (relatively) new Christian organization/ministry based in Ottawa, offering support for infertile and childless couples. Here's their website (which I will add to the list of resources on this blog), and here's an article from this time last year about it. 
  • This New York Times article has nothing to do with pregnancy loss -- it's about a group of people whose family members died in a plane crash, 50 years ago, and the long-term effects of their loss -- but I found it incredibly moving. (Gift link.) 
  • I started laughing when I read this First Person essay in the Globe & Mail: "I became a Torontonian accidentally. It's not so bad after all." (Gift link.) Let's just say I can relate! (and you might have to be Canadian to truly appreciate this one!). I'd share it on Facebook -- if I could share it (no thank you, Meta...  :p ) -- partly as an explanation to all the people back "home" (out west) who raise their eyebrows and ask me skeptically, "So, how do you like it in TORONTO?" (knowing they'll never believe me anyway if I tell them I like it just fine), and also to explain to non-Canadians why TROC (the rest of Canada) disdains this city (and why I find myself defending it, despite its flaws).  Both viewpoints are represented in the comments. 
  • As a subscriber to the New York Times's morning newsletter, I've been getting invitations to play the weekly Flashback quiz, where you're asked to place a series of historical events in the correct order. I haven't kept track of my scores from week to week, but so far, I've been doing pretty well! 
  • I recently learned that Connie Schultz (an Ohio journalist I've followed on Facebook for a while now -- who also happens to be the wife of Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown) has a new Substack newsletter. I immediately subscribed (for free, although I love her writing so much that I'm considering shelling out for a paid subscription) and happily spent a couple of hours perusing the archives. One of her early posts -- "Single Mothering, Still" -- struck a chord.  Obviously, I've never been a single mother, but if you read this excerpt (or follow the link to read the whole thing), I think you'll understand:  
Recently, a reader chastised me for continuing to refer to my single mother days. “Your kids are grown, and you need to grow up, too. It’s all behind you now.”   

I responded with a question, but I already knew the answer. That reader has never been a single parent.

There is no erasing who I was for a decade of my life, just as my daughter can never stop being the girl who was raised by a single mother...  

My daughter and I had a different life from the one I had imagined before she was born. It was a good life, she has assured me, no matter how many times I stumbled.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

"Tom Lake" by Ann Patchett

As a huge fan of "The Dutch House" (reviewed here) -- best book I read in 2020 -- I eagerly scooped up Ann Patchett's latest novel, "Tom Lake," shortly after it came out last month. (I also read and enjoyed "These Precious Days,"  reviewed here.)  

I think this is the first novel I've read that references our recent/ongoing pandemic. It's set in the summer of 2020: Lara, her husband Joe and their three young adult daughters, home from college, are stuck on their fruit farm in northern Michigan. The workers who usually help to pick the cherries are unable to come, and so Emily, Maisie and Nell have been recruited to help their parents bring in the harvest. To help pass the time as they pick, they beg their mother to tell them the story of how she came to Tom Lake, Michigan, in 1988 to star in a summer stock production of "Our Town" by Thornton Wilder -- and her romance with her co-star Peter Duke, now a famous Hollywood actor. 

(I've never seen "Our Town," that I remember anyway, but I've seen bits & pieces of it on TV, I think -- I'm familiar with the basic premise -- and I think some knowledge of the play would probably help here, albeit it's probably not entirely necessary.) (There are also references & allusions to -- surprise!-- "The Cherry Orchard" by Anton Chekov, as well as Sam Shepherd's "Fool For Love."  I haven't seen either of those, either.) 

Lara's story unfolds at a leisurely pace. She doesn't share everything with her daughters -- but luckily for us, we get to hear/read about the parts they don't.  :)  In between cherry-picking and storytelling sessions, we're also privy to her reflections on love and loss, marriage, motherhood and family, friendship and growing up, the choices we make along the way, the roads not taken, and the way one thing leads to another and another, without our realizing it at the time. The stories we tell ourselves -- the stories we tell about others -- and the stories others tell about us. A little more than halfway through, there's a "reveal" that had me going "aha!" and then paging back through the book to refresh my memory about a certain character. And then another, and another. 

It took me almost two (admittedly busy) weeks to get through the first nine chapters (131 pages), and all of today -- a wonderfully lazy Sunday, perfect for absorbing myself in a good book -- to finish it off (21 chapters total, 309 pages). Like Patchett's other work that I've read, it's beautifully and thoughtfully written. 

It was a slow start, but I wound up loving "Tom Lake" -- but if you're childless not by choice, be forewarned:  Lara's descriptions of happy motherhood and families might not be your cup of tea, depending on where you are in your grief journey.  (Interestingly, Patchett herself is childfree by choice, as are a couple of the characters in the book.) From that perspective, "The Dutch House" would probably be a better choice.  

I closed the book with tears in my eyes. 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5. 

If you're into audiobooks, I know that Meryl Streep narrates this one! 

This was Book #33 read to date in 2023 (and Book #1 finished in September), bringing me to 73% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 3 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."