And just like that, we are already on our second week of 2022. How are you enjoying the ride so far? I hope that the first week of the year has been a great one, an enjoyable one. I also hope that you are all doing well and are all healthy despite the risks that surround us. The pandemic is still very much alive. I fervently hope that it will end soon. I am also praying that 2022 will be a year of hope, healing, and recovery for everyone. I hope that it will be a great year.

As it is a Wednesday, it is time for another WWW Wednesday update. WWW Wednesday is a bookish meme originally hosted by SAM@TAKING ON A WORLD OF WORDS. The mechanics for WWW Wednesday is quite simple, you just have to answer three questions:

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. What have you finished reading?
  3. What will you read next?

What are you currently reading?

I didn’t even know that Benjamin Alire Sáenz was releasing a sequel to his beloved and award-winning work, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, a book that I adored. Had there been no Top 5 Tuesday topic for 2021 Second Half Anticipated Releases then I would have not known about the release of Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World. Honestly, when I bought a copy of the first book I didn’t have an iota on what the story was about. It was the book cover that reeled me in but I am grateful I acquired a copy of the book for I loved it and when I learned about a sequel, I was really excited for I felt the first book wasn’t enough. I just started reading the sequel today but I have covered quite a lot for the story has a quick pace. What is standing out for me right now is the fact that Aristotle, the main narrator, has acquired some level of maturity. There seems to be a shift in the underlying elements that propel the story. While the first book was about the process of falling in love, the second book grapples with its consequences. Please note that the story was set in late 1980s El Paso, Texas, a period when people are still a little conservative. It is interesting to see how Alire Sáenz spins the story of Ari and Dante.

What have you finished reading?

In the past week, I made strides and regained the reading momentum I have lost. I have completed reading three books. I have been on a roll since the year started.

The first book I finished was Kristin Hannah’s The Four Winds. This was my second novel by Hannah, albeit it has been a long time since I read my first; it is at least a decade. What kept me off from reading more of her works was that I found On Mystic Lake a little bland. I never expected to encounter her again in early 2021. Her latest novel, The Four Winds, was earning positive reviews. This piqued my interest and made me reconsider delving into her prose again. In the end, I decided to give her a chance and I am glad I did. At the heart of The Four Winds is Elsa Martinelli, nee Wolcott. She was born an unremarkable girl in the early 1900s Texan Panhandle. Her parents, in the guise of protecting her from society at large, virtually locked her up in their abode. But Elsa has more fire in her than her facade. She wanted to explore the world beyond her room and find out what it feels to be in love beyond what books have provided her. The Four Winds is the story of a young woman who found her voice amidst the strife and the hubbub that surrounded her. Yes, it is a little predictable but it was engaging nevertheless.

Following my reunion with Kristin Hannah was an encounter with an unfamiliar name. It was through the 2021 Booker Prize that I have encountered Rachel Cusk. Her latest novel, Second Place, was longlisted for the prestigious award. Curious, I added the book to my reading list and, thankfully, I was able to acquire a copy of the book before 2021 ended. Second Place is the 11th book from the 13 books longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize that I have read. The story was told by a woman named M. She was a writer and was living on a marsh with her second husband, Tony. Through the help of a friend, she invited L, a painter, to join her in their coastal guesthouse. 15 years earlier, L’s works captured the interest of M. The titular Second Place pertains to a guest cabin that L and Tony built on their property and it was supposed to be where L will be lodging during his stay. What M didn’t expect was the events that ensued. The novel was predicated on Mabel Dodge Luhan’s 1932 memoir Lorenzo in Taos. The memoir was about (controversial) writer D.H. Lawrence’s stay in Taos, New Mexico.

From an unfamiliar name to a familiar name. Like in the case of Benjamin Alire Sáenz, I didn’t learn of Colson Whitehead’s (and Anthony Doerr as well!) newest release until I did the aforementioned Top Five Tuesday update. I didn’t hesitate in adding the book to my reading list; Whitehead earned my respect with his last two works, both of which have won the Pulitzer Prize. Thankfully, I was able to avail myself of a copy of the book before the year ended. I was supposed to read Harlem Shuffle in late 2021. However, I kept pushing it but finally, I got to read it after delaying it. The nucleus of the narrative is Ray Carney. He grew up in a family of criminals but he tried to veer away from his ominous background and live a “clean life” as a furniture salesman in the late 1950s New York City. However, life has other plans. Unexpectedly, he found himself swirled into the world he tried to avoid. I enjoyed the writing in Harlem Shuffle compared to The Nickel Boys; it was more even and consistent. In contrast, I found the story thinner, not shallow but thinner. I did, however, appreciate how it was juxtaposed to historical events that are seminal to the Black American experience.

I will be pursuing my Beat the 2021 Backlist challenge with three more titles, two of which I have been anticipating since I learned about their publication and one that is unfamiliar to me. It has been almost five years since I read Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, All the Light We Cannot See. In the years thence, I have not encountered another Doerr novel until that Top Five Tuesday update. I learned about Cloud Cuckoo Land and although I wasn’t keen on it at the start, I was slowly convinced by the positive feedback I have been reading. Moreover, the books’ premise sounds like a 360-degree flip from All The Light We Cannot See. What makes me apprehensive about the book is its thickness. HAHA. Anyway, I can’t wait to dip my fingers into Doerr’s latest work.

Another 2021 release I was looking forward to was Imbolo Mbue’s How Beautiful We Were. I believe the book was supposed to be published in 2020 but was postponed for some reason. It finally got published in 2021 and I can’t wait to read it. Mbue earned a fan in me after I read Behold the Dreamers. However, How Beautiful We Were sounds different from her debut novel. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to the book. Robert Jones, Jr.’s The Prophets was supposed to be part of my 2021 Top 10 Books I Look Forward To List However, there were just some outstanding books with interesting premises that I had to eventually cut it off from the list. When I came across a copy of the book, I didn’t hesitate to buy it.

That’s it for this week’s WWW Wednesday. I hope you are all doing great. Happy reading and always stay safe! Happy Wednesday again!