Nickelini's Reading in 2020

KeskusteluClub Read 2020

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Nickelini's Reading in 2020

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 31, 2020, 8:20pm

2020 Reading

I'm super sad to have to cancel my trip in May, so here's a picture of Lugano, Switzerland, one of my favourite spots from last year.

Looking forward to 2020, I see that I will have other activities that will take priority over reading, so I think I'll be doing well if I read 25 books for the year. I expect that, as in previous years, my reading interests will focus on Switzerland and Italy. Also, I discovered last year that there are some terrific memoirs out there, so I will try to fit in a few more memoirs too.


46. Last Vanities, Fleur Jaeggy
45. Starve Acre, Andrew Michael Hurley
44. Winter, Ali Smith
43. Miss Iceland, Audur Ava Olafsdottir
42. Taaqtumi: an Arctic anthology, various
41. Turn of the Key, Ruth Ware
40. Enya: a Treatise on Unguilty Pleasures, Chilly Gonzales
39. Tinder, Sally Gardner
38. French Women Don't Get Fat, Mireille Guiliano


37. The Book of Imaginary Beings, Borges
36. The Ghost in the House, Sara O'Leary
35. The Pumpkin Eater, Penelope Mortimer
34. Confessions of a Former Fox News Christian, Seth Andrews
33. Darcy's Utopia, Fay Weldon
32. Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid
31. The Devil's Picnic, Taras Grescoe


30. Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham
29. Your House is On Fire, Your Children All Gone, Stefan Kiesbye
28. Ghost Wall, Sarah Moss


27. The Country Where No One Dies, Ornela Vorpsi
26. The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson
25. The Complete Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
24. August Folly, Angela Thirkel


23. The Summer Villa, Melissa Hill
22. The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East 1978 - 1984, Riad Sattouf
21. Don't Stop Believin', Olivia Newton John
20. My Sister, the Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite
19. The Breaking of a Wave, Fabio Genovese


18. I Remember Nothing, Nora Ephron
17. Soap and Water & Common Sense, Dr Bonnie Henry
16. The Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio


15. The Temptation of Gracie, Santa Montefiore
14. Audrey Hepburn, an Elegant Spirit; Sean Hepburn Ferrer
13. To the Back of Beyond, Peter Stamm


12. Hollow Heart, Viola Di Grada
DNF: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
11. Italy Out of Hand, Barbara Hodgson
10. Becoming, Michelle Obama
9. Forgiveness, Mark Sakamoto


8. The Finishing School, Muriel Spark
7. The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam, Chris Ewan


6. A Change of Climate, Hilary Mantel


5. The Steppes Are the Colour of Sepia, Connie Braun
4. A Tranquil Star, Primo Levi
3. Cold Shoulder, Markus Werner


2. Once Upon a River, Diane Setterfield
1. Souvenirs of Canada, Douglas Coupland

1st 2020 picture:

Lucerne, Switzerland, in winter

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 31, 2020, 8:29pm

2020 Reading Stats (updated monthly)

Travelling with Books (where my books took me)

Canada 2004 / Upper Thames River, late Victorian era / Switzerland 1989 / Italy 1949 - 1986 / USSR, Slovenia, Austria, 1910 - 1950 / South Africa 1955 & Norfolk, England 1980 / Amsterdam, 2007 / Ouchy, Switzerland 2004 / Western Canada WWII & 1980s-1990s / United States 1960s - 2016 / Italy Roman era - 2000 / Catania, Sicily 2011 / Switzerland 2014 / Europe 1930s- 1990s / Tuscany 1960s & 2010 / Italy 1348 / Hollywood & NYC 1945 - 2010 / Forte dei Marmi, Tuscany 2016 / Lagos, Nigeria 2017 / ONJ's world 1950-2017 / France, Libya & Syria 1970s & 80s / Amalfi Coast 2010 & 2016 / Barsetshire 1936 / Iran 70s & 90s and Austria 80s / Sweden 2005 / Albania 1980s / Northumberland 1990s / Post WWII NW Germany / Alternative England 1951 /Philadelphia 2016 / England 1990 / England 1961 / Vancouver 2019 / France 2000 / Saxony, Germany 1642 / Scotland 2017 / Arctic Canada 2019 / Iceland 1963 / England 2016 & 2017 / Yorkshire 1970s / German-speaking Switzerland, late 20th century

Nationality of Author (in order read)

Canada- 9
UK - 14
Switzerland - 4
Italy - 4
USA - 4
Nigeria - 1
Australia - 1
France - 2
Ireland - 1
Iran - 1
Sweden - 1
Albania - 1
Germany - 1
Argentina - 1
Iceland - 1

Original Language

English - 33
German - 2
Italian - 6
French - 2
Swedish - 1
Spanish - 1
Icelandic - 1

Year Published

1994 x 2
2004 x 3
2005 x 3
2007 x 3
2009 x 2
2015 x 3
2018 x 7
2019 x 4
2020 x 4

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 8, 2020, 1:19am

2019 Yearly Wrap Up

Books I Remember Most Fondly:

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, Heather O'Neill
Sweet Days of Discipline, Fluer Jaeggy
Portofino, Frank Schaeffer
Educated, Tara Westover
Born a Crime, Trevor Noah

Most disliked book I finished: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carre

I read 40 books in 2019, which is half what I used to read, but better than the last few years.
Number of different authors: 40
New to me authors (authors I've never read before): 28
Rereads: 1 - Heidi

24 were written by female writers (60%), 15 by male (37.5%), and 1 by mixed group
13 non-fiction and 27 fiction (32.5% vs. 67.5%)


28 English - 70%
3 German - 7%
3 Italian - 7%
2 French - 5%
2 Swedish - 3%
1 Ancient Greek - 2%
1 Hebrew - 2%

Nationality or author's origins

Ireland - 3 - 7%
United Kingdom - 13 - 33%
Canada - 5 - 13%
Sweden - 1 - 2%
Switzerland - 6 - 15%
United States - 4 - 10%
South Africa - 1 - 2%
France - 1 - 2%
Italy - 2 - 5%
Ancient Greece - 1 - 2%
Pakistan - 1 - 2%
Israel - 1 -2%
Finland - 1 - 2%

Year published

431 BC
1974 x 2
1992 x 2
2000 x 2
2006 x 2
2011 x 2
2016 x 5
2018 x 6
2019 x 3

Travelling through books (where my reading takes me)

Fairyland & Ireland, 2018 / London, 2000 / Switzerland, 2016 / Denmark, 1770s / Idaho, 1990s- 2016 / Psychedelic trips & science labs / English country houses, 1940 / Montreal, 1995 / Appenzall, Switzerland, 1950s / London, 1973 / Switzerland, 1700s - 2000s / Ontario & Western USA, 1990s & 2000s / South Africa, 1980s - 2000s / Paris, 2011 / Greenwich, CT, 2018 / Switzerland, 2016 / Tahas, 1990s / Somewhere in Italy, 2005 / Graubunden, Switzerland, 1880 / Lusanne, Switzerland, 1990s & 2016 / Tuscany & London, 2006 / Edinburgh, 2008 / Ancient Corinth / Switzerland, 2018 / Pakistan, 2000 - 2013 / Tuscany, 1950s / Portofino, Italy, 1960s / Portugal, 2014 & 1941 / Veneto, Italy, 1992 / England, 2016 / Italian Alps, 1997 & 2012 / Glasgow, 2016 / Emmenthal Valley, Switzerland, 1200- 1840 / Planet Earth, 70,000 yrs ago to the future / Lucca, Italy 2000 BC to WWII / Moominvalley /Switzerland, the foggy past / Florence, 1400 - 1743

tammikuu 6, 2020, 3:19pm

Beautiful picture. Following.

tammikuu 6, 2020, 5:55pm

Happy New Year! Visiting to drop off my star. Looking forward to more reviews in 2020.

tammikuu 6, 2020, 10:05pm

You're starred!

tammikuu 7, 2020, 12:44am

Thanks! Lovely to have followers, even though I don't post very often.

tammikuu 7, 2020, 5:39pm

Hey, just wanted to say Happy New Year and that I will be popping in from time to time. We don't cross over as much as we used to back when we were both reading a lot more books, but that doesn't mean that your thread would be any less interesting!

tammikuu 8, 2020, 1:21am

Eeks, I just realized I had only posted half of my 2019 reading stats, so I've added the missing stats (nationality of author, year published, where I travelled in books) back in post 3.

>8 avaland: Hi, Lois! Yes, I miss the old days when we had so much book activity. But life moves on . . .

tammikuu 19, 2020, 2:15pm

1. Souvenir Of Canada 2, Douglas Coupland, 2004

cover comments: Yep, that's a Doublas Coupland early-2000s cover

Comments: This is the sequel to the author's successful 2002 Souvenir of Canada. Same idea -- a series of essays on things that are uniquely Canadian and document our history and developing national identify, with unique photos to illustrate his vignettes. Some topics this time include Eaton's, Moose, Plywood, & Scary Bank Calendars.

Rating I see I rated the first one 4 stars back in 2013, and this wasn't quite as good, so 3.5 stars then.

Recommended for: Coupland is always a good read, but you'd also have to be interested in the topic.

Why I Read This Now: it's been kicking around my house for years, and I'm bogged down in the overly-long novel I'm reading. A quick break.

tammikuu 31, 2020, 11:30pm

2. Once Upon a River, Diane Setterfield, 2018

cover comments: Full marks for this -- absolutely lovely and evocative. Definitely draws me in.

Comment: here's the blurb on the back cover: "It was the longest night of the year when the strangest of things happened . . . On a dark midwinter's night in an ancient inn on the Thames, the regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door burst open and in steps an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a child. Hours later, the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. . . . "

Well, that just sounds like something I'd love. And I enjoyed (but didn't love) the author's earlier novel The Thirteenth Tale. When I read the 5 star reader reviews on this, I think "Yes! this is the book for me." I loved the setting of the upper Thames, where I spent part of my of my 2009 holiday in England.

Unfortunately, it really wasn't. maybe wrong book, wrong time? It was overly long. From page one. I started it early December and just couldn't do it--even though it seemed like a good Christmas holiday book, and I had book club meeting on it in mid-January. I picked it up again at New Years and found it a slog. Some parts were absolutely lovely. But it just wasn't working for me.

Recommended for: not sure -- the 5 star reviews really make it sound like my sort of book. It's only 416 pages long, but it felt like 1,416 to me.

Why I Read This Now: it was a book club book that I was enthused about. The meeting was in the middle of January and I had only managed to get a quarter of the way through by then. Happened to be a week of bad winter weather, and the meeting was 35 km away, so I bailed. The meeting went ahead because a group of members lived close. I stuck with the book, but was determined that I'd not be reading it into February! So here I finish, Jan 31. I considered quitting it 4 pages from the end.

Rating: 3 stars. It was fine. Didn't work for me. I had to force myself to care.

helmikuu 1, 2020, 10:26am

Oh, I’m one who really liked this, much more than The Thirteenth Tale, and I do remember thinking you would like it when I read it. I loved the juxtaposition of fairy tale and reality. Sorry to hear it wasn’t a good match for you!

helmikuu 1, 2020, 1:26pm

>12 japaul22:
Aw, thanks for thinking about me! I believe if I'd read this at another time I would have liked it more.

helmikuu 12, 2020, 10:21pm

3. Cold Shoulder, Markus Werner, 1989; translated from German by Michael Hofmann, 2016

cover comments: this isn't actually my cover, although are similar and clearly done by the same publisher. I like mine better. Both seem very Swiss, except for the use of a serif font

Why I Read This Now: Since my daughter moved to Switzerland, I've been trying to learn as much about the country as I can. Ideally, I want to read contemporary female authors but there aren't many or any translated into English, so this is what I get.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Comments: Through most of this, I thought it was pretty good -- some parts were amusing, and some a bit boring, but overall it was a 38 yr old white guy jabbering on about his mediocre life. I asked myself why some published in 2016 decided they needed to translate this 1989 novel. Was it just that the author was considered one of Switzerland's literary stars? Did the English reading world need another novel about a middle aged white guy navel gazing? But there on page 22, that said middle aged white guy started talking about navel gazing: "he lay there gazing at his navel, . . . He couldn't quite manage to think of himself as an embryo, but he thought he could understand why 'navel-gazing' was a term of disapproval . . . " Hmmm, to devote a whole paragraph to 'navel gazing' in such a short book made me think the author was doing something else here. Also, I'm interested to learn that this is an expression that is known in German. Google Translate shows "Nabelblick." I wonder if it's in other languages too? A quick check of Google Translate gives me the French word "Nombrilisme" so I think "yes")

Anyway, this short book (117 pages, but they are dense pages because conversations are all blended into a paragraph, unlike what we do in English language books) tells about a few days in a hot Zurich summer when Moritz Wenk, "a moderately unsuccessful artist", goes about his day interacting with his dental hygienist girlfriend Judith, an unhappy friend couple, a dinner party, and a few other people. All fine, and then --wham!-- the last 25 pages had a big, dark, sad twist that I didn't see coming at all. Maybe I was lulled by the ho-hum Swiss few days and there was foreshadowing that I missed. I guess I'll have to reread this one day. Yeah, so the end sort of blew me away.

Recommended for: Sure, some readers will say, "but it's still a middle aged white guy and his problems." Fair enough, if you're beyond drowned in those books, I hear you. Yet, for me, the amusing bits and the ending made me like this more than I expected to.

helmikuu 13, 2020, 4:39am

>14 Nickelini: I have no idea why (I'm sure a psychologist would have a field day explaining it), but if they're done right I can really enjoy a middle aged guy and his problems type of book. Noting this one, although I'm guessing it's unlikely to pop up in the secondhand bookshop I frequent.

helmikuu 17, 2020, 1:50pm

4. A Tranquil Star, Primo Levi, 2007 -- translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein, Asessandra Bastagli, & Jenny McPhee

cover comments: fine, whatever

Comments: A collection of short stories that were published in various magazines during the author's lifetime. The first five, the "Early Stories," were published between 1949 and 1971, and the "Later Stories" were from 1973 to 1986, for whatever that's worth. Of the early stories, I only liked the first one, "The Death of Marinese," which was a straight forward war story, written in 1949. By far not my favourite genre, but still a good story. Levi is a writer who is famous for his books about the Holocaust, so I was surprised that the remaining stories were seemingly unrelated to WWII. Many of them reminded me of the type of story you'd see on the TV show The Twilight Zone. My favourites of the collection were "The Magic Paint," "Gladiators," "The Fugitive," "The Sorcerers," "Bureau of Vital Statistics," and perhaps my very favourite, "Buffet Dinner." This last one is probably also the oddest. It took me a while to figure out what was going on, but then it became clear that this was the story of a kangaroo going to a dinner party. It's really quite complicated, and I felt for the poor guy.

Rating Short story collections are difficult. The reader is constantly figuring out and building new worlds, and then stopping and starting again. There are almost always some duds, or some I don't understand, or some I just don't like. A Tranquil Star was no different. However, there were enough stories that I deeply enjoyed to give this book a high rating. I also really liked the length of the stories -- all about 5 pages, which to me is a good length for a short story (as opposed to those long 67 page short stories). 4.5 stars

Why I Read This Now: I'm working my way through any Italian authors I have in my TBR pile.

Recommended for: fans of The Twilight Zone

helmikuu 17, 2020, 3:40pm

>16 Nickelini: Ha! I read these a few years ago, and here's what I wrote at the time: "Not at all what I expected. Most of these are very short, mostly satirical and very fantasy/sci-fi type stories. You could imagine them as Twilight Zone episodes. Only 2 were what I would call "dark." I liked "The Fugitive" about a poem that becomes alive.

I wonder if I read that "Twilight Zone" comparison somewhere else???? anyway, great minds think alike :)

helmikuu 17, 2020, 5:00pm

>17 kac522: LOL -- that's great. Comparing things to the Twilight Zone is something I've done since reading Stephen King short stories in the early 80s. People would say "oh, I don't like horror" and I'd reply "these aren't horror -- more like an episode of the Twilight Zone." I was pretty sure other people must use this description too, and you just proved it. Great minds indeed!

I also liked "The Fugitive" -- it was hard to pick a favourite.

maaliskuu 1, 2020, 3:43pm

5. The Steppes Are the Colour of Sepia: a Mennonite Memoir, Connie Braun, 2008

cover comments: quite nice

Comments: Author Braun worked from her father's memories, family photos, and historical documents to weave together this "memoir " of her grandfather and her father's struggles in 20th century Europe. They were part of the Russian Mennonite community--that is, German speaking people who had immigrated from Prussia the century before and established farms in what is today Ukraine. And so not Russian at all. By the late 1800s, the writing was on the proverbial wall that things were not going to go well for them under the new Soviet order, and they began the exodus out of the region, mainly to North and South America. This mass migration continued through the 1920s. Braun's grandfather, a pastor, believed that things would settle down, and so he stayed to minister to the people in the Ukraine. He also travelled to Siberia to help the people who had been sent there, all under cover as practising religion was illegal. The 1930s were a horrible time of famine and purges under Stalin, but somehow this family survived. During this period, Braun's father was born.

The second half of the book tells of the family's suffering in WWII. When the German's invaded, life improved for them, as the invading army assumed these fellow German speakers were allies, but life was also dangerous as their Russian and Ukrainian neighbours assumed they were traitors. When Germany retreated, they took the Mennonites west with them to basically be slave labour. Braun's family ended up in what is today Slovenia. At the end of the war, the Yugoslavian army wanted to annihilate them, but the Soviets began repatriating everyone back to Russia. Lots more suffering. Eventually they ended up in eastern Austria, where they kept their heads down and prayed they wouldn't be sent back to where they heard things were even worse. Then finally, a stroke of luck -- the USSR and Britain swapped territories, and they were suddenly in the West. Now the surviving members of the family could immigrate to Canada.

I've read quite a bit, and of course heard family stories, about the horrors that Mennonites experienced during the Russian Revolution. I was much less familiar with what happened to the people who didn't get out until after WWII though, so I appreciated learning about that, even though most of it was terrible. Although this book is fact-filled and historical, Braun is a poetic writer at times. She says she was influenced by the novels Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels and The Russlander by Sandra Birdsell, and it shows.

Recommended for: readers interested in daily life for people in Stalin's USSR and surviving WWII, readers interested in Mennonite history.

Rating: 4 stars

Why I Read This Now: I'm trying to read more memoirs, and this one was physically at the top of my pile

maaliskuu 2, 2020, 3:51am

>19 Nickelini: I don't know anything about the Russian Mennonites, so intrigued by this memoir. Great review.

maaliskuu 2, 2020, 4:26pm

>16 Nickelini: I note your comments on short story collections. I'm not sure I agree about the difficulty and reasons, but the idea interests me. I do agree that it is a rare collection in which the stories are evenly good or great. If you don't mind, I might jot down your thoughts and see if I can make a question out of it for the "questions for the avid reader" thread.

maaliskuu 2, 2020, 10:14pm

>20 AlisonY:
Thanks! Happy to add knowledge to the world. On my Category Challenge, someone asked a question about my comment that some people knew about the Russian Revolution in the 1800s and I added this:

--I don't think you're mistaken, and it's a good question.

My dad's parents migrated while they were both children, and it would have been the very late 1800s. My grandmother immigrated to Oregon in the US first before ending up in Saskatchewan. But my mom was 6 months old when she came to Canada in 1927. Her family went through terrible suffering. Their farm was taken from them, and my mom's grandfather and aunt were murdered by Russian revolutionaries while the rest of the family hid. They had neighbours who were murdered. I used to ask my parents why dad's family knew to move even though it was years before the Russian Revolution, and they said that the writing was on the wall. Things that were very important to these Mennonites was the freedom to practice their religion and to be pacifists. I think the Russians were starting to renege on the promises Catherine the Great had made when she invited them to farm in Ukraine.


>21 avaland:

Well, I've thought about short stories a lot, and that's what I've figured out for me. Especially when I'm reading something "literary" where the author isn't working to formula and isn't spelling things out.

Go ahead and ask about it in the Questions for the Avid Reader thread -- I don't follow that one anymore since running into some imbeciles there a few years ago, but maybe I'll wander back. It used to be fun.

maaliskuu 3, 2020, 4:51am

>22 Nickelini: Wow - that's a fascinating (and terribly tragic) family history. I haven't read enough around the Russian revolution (at least not since school). I feel like I need to add that to my reading subject target soon.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 3, 2020, 5:16am

>22 Nickelini: Thanks, I'll put it in my notes to put together for a future week. Oh, do revisit it sometime and if you feel like participating, answer whichever ones interest you (and to the depth you feel comfortable). We are on Part II now.

>22 Nickelini: That is both an amazing and tragic immigration story! Thanks for sharing it. You may be just the person to put all that down on paper....

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 7, 2020, 3:55am

>24 avaland:

that is both an amazing and tragic immigration story! Thanks for sharing it. You may be just the person to put all that down on paper....

I know, I've always felt that I need to write my mom's family stories . . . I'm never satisfied by any Mennonite novel I read, and her family has so many other stories too (my aunt who was involved with something shady with Hungarian immigrants in the '60s, and then disappeared and the family thought had been murdered in the 80s, and then she was found just fine thank you very much, but then murdered in the 90s--gruesome story; and then there's the cute girl in the family photo who grew up to die from a coat hanger abortion in the 50s, leaving my 4 cousins without a mom . . . my mom the 2nd of 13, so lots of material here)

maaliskuu 9, 2020, 7:05am

>25 Nickelini: Might I suggest that you write it down or make an audio of what you know, in the rough, without delay, just so it is not lost. And then rework and fine tune it when you can. There are too many stories lost.

maaliskuu 9, 2020, 9:52pm

>26 avaland:

Yes, that's a great idea

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 29, 2020, 2:57pm

6. A Change of Climate, Hilary Mantel, 1994

cover comments: ho hum. Doesn't speak to the novel

Comments: It's 1980 and Ralph and Anna live with their four children in a rambling old house in the Norfolk countryside, taking in Good Souls and Sad Cases through the charity that Ralph administers. In the early years of their marriage, Ralph and Anna lived in South Africa and Botswana as so-called missionaries (more humanitarian than religious), and some very bad things happened that we don't speak about anymore. The story shifts between their life in England and their experiences in Africa. The novel is full of secrets, betrayal and forgiveness.

Rating: 3 stars. There is some really lovely writing in A Change of Climate. I wasn't a fan of the structure. I'm in a stage of life where reading is super low in my priorities, and this may have brought on my overall "meh" feelings about this novel.

Recommended for: Hilary Mantel fans will no doubt love this. Reader reviews are generally positive.

Why I Read This Now: I didn't know what to read and I had 6 Hilary Mantel books on my shelf, so I thought I should probably read one.

Previous books I've read by this author: An Experiment in Love & Beyond Black

huhtikuu 4, 2020, 8:11pm

>21 avaland: How unfortunate for us all, Lois. Do come back, please.

(obviously catching up0

huhtikuu 4, 2020, 8:48pm

I should follow your advice to Joyce, too. I can't tell you how many people have urged me to write a memoir. I don't think anyone would believe it, though. I gave a memoir-type speech in a speech competition at the state level in 8th grade, and I was disqualified, because they said it was supposed to be non-fiction. It was, though, and I was terribly insulted to be accused of lying in a public forum. I still remember the scalded feeling.

huhtikuu 4, 2020, 10:33pm

>30 sallypursell:

LOL - yes, I've been there too. One example is I took a course on writing for children, and in my writing exercise I used a phrase that my grade 6 Vice-Principal (Mr Conrad) used to say: "When they were handing out brains, you thought they said trains, and you missed yours." My instructor said no one would believe a teacher (let alone a vice principal) would ever say that. I certainly didn't make it up!

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 10, 2020, 2:48pm

7. The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam, Chris Ewan, 2007

cover comments: I always like a picture of Amsterdam, so good I guess

Comments: Charlie Howard is a British suspense novelist, currently living in Amsterdam. On the side he's also a talented burglar. Which of course immediately led me to the question: Is the author of this novel, Chris Ewan, also a burglar? No idea. Anyway, Charlie gets himself involved in a complicated scheme to recover diamonds that had been stolen back in the 90s. This genre isn't unknown to me, but it's certainly not one I've read much of the last 20 years or so, and because of that, I'm not sure how to critique this book. Seems like more improbable situations and coincidences than I'm used to reading. Am I just supposed to roll with it? Or is it a fllaw? Again, no idea.

Why I Read This Now: my reading pace has slowed by a massive degree and the title of this told me it would be a light and entertaining read. I guess it worked, as it only took me 10 days to finish.

Rating: 3 stars. It was a solid okay but not really my thing. I did love the Amsterdam setting though -- fond memories from my trip there in 1992 (can't believe I've been back to Europe 6 times but never back to the Netherlands -- if we're ever allowed to travel again I must change that!)

Recommended for : readers who like crime capers

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 10, 2020, 2:45pm

Just catching up....

I was interested in your comments on short story collections, because they have never appealed to me. I think for some of the reasons you mentioned, such as constantly having to start world-building every so many pages, just as I become interested in the characters. Although, I did just read a collection of science fiction short stories that I really enjoyed. That was an oddity for me, though.

Your review of the Russian Mennonite memoir was intriguing.

I like your review format.

huhtikuu 10, 2020, 2:55pm

>33 auntmarge64:

Thanks for stopping by!

huhtikuu 19, 2020, 5:02pm

8. The Finishing School, Muriel Spark, 2004

cover comments: seriously ho hum

Comments: Nina Parker and Rowland Mahler run a finishing school in Ouchy, Switzerland. The married couple is still in their 20s, and I think that's pretty presumptuous that they think they have any finishing techniques to share. At any rate, the school is rather experimental and they sort of wing their way through it. One of their students, Chris, is writing a novel about Mary Queen of Scots, and he's getting attention from publishers and movie producers. Rowland is also trying to write a novel, but becomes obsessed with Chris; Chris in turn becomes obsessed with Rowland. Nina does her own thing. Everything is resolved neatly at the end.

Rating: a solid 3.75 stars. Readers who liked this say it's hilarious. Readers who dislike this find it thin and undeveloped.

Recommended for: people who like books set in boarding schools, Muriel Spark competists. It's only 123 pages, and is a breezy read.

Why I Read This Now: I love books set in Switzerland.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 1, 2020, 10:57pm

9. Forgiveness, Mark Sakamoto, 2014

cover comments: I find this very attractive -- both the Japanese writing and the colours. The author is credited for the cover photo, but no where could I find a description of what it represented. The motif is repeated at the beginning of each chapter, so it means something. Is it "forgiveness" in Japanese? Or something else? I wish I knew.

Why I Read This Now: book club and I've been wanting to read the memoirs on my TBR stack anyway

Comments: : I bought this right after it won Canada Reads 2018 "One Book to Open Your Eyes." Mark Sakamoto's paternal grandmother was a Japanese Canadian who had her life ripped out from under her in WWII when the Canadian government forced her and her family to abandon everything to become basically slaves on a farm in Alberta. Sakamoto's maternal grandfather, at the same time, was a soldier who was shipped to China to fight in the war, but was quickly captured and spent four years in various Japanese POW camps. Horrible, horrible things happened to both of them. This part of the book was pretty bleak, but interesting. After the war , they both restart lives for themselves. Fast forward to 1968 and the children of the soldier and the internment victim meet, fall in love, marry, and have Mark and his younger brother. Their lives aren't happy either.

This was a quick, interesting read, but the book was extremely flawed. Many have noted the proofreading errors, but the editing problems were bigger than that. It is quite choppy, and too often I wondered why the author was including information that he did. Themes were flat and unexplored. I'm surprised that it was even nominated for Canada Reads, let alone a winner. That said, it was indeed interesting for the most part a compelling read.

Rating: The editing definitely pulls this down -- 3 stars seems low, so maybe 3.5 stars?

Recommended for: people who like unusual memoirs, or readers who don't know anything about Japanese POW camps or Canadian internment of the Japanese during WWII

toukokuu 2, 2020, 9:04am

>31 Nickelini: My high school algebra teacher was fond of telling us that he was a member of Mensa and that we were all honorary members of Densa. We all adored him.

Do you find that you're slowly regaining your reading mojo? I found that I was reading less, switched to lighter books, began reading more, but am still working toward making my reading more substantial (and satisfying). But I've found a need for all the sillier books on my tbr!

toukokuu 2, 2020, 2:04pm

>37 RidgewayGirl:

I am not regaining my reading mojo at all -- I've only read 9 books this year, and we're in May. There used to be months where I'd read 9 books. I try to fix it by reading lighter books, but it doesn't seem to work all that well.

I lost my reading mojo overnight when I abruptly changed careers and had a major lifestyle change in January 2017. Since then, my life has settled down, although still with way fewer hours available for reading. And with those remaining hours, I've taken up two large projects that occupy my time and brain power. So there is very little left for reading. I hope that changes one day, but I don't see it happening any time soon. I do what I can.

Here's to the sillier books!

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 13, 2020, 9:57pm

10. Becoming, Michelle Obama, 2018

cover comments: a predictable middle-of-the-road cover for a memoir of a famous person. The colours are lovely though

Comments: When Becoming was tearing up the best seller lists in 2018, and everyone was raving about it, I was happy for her success but I had no interest at all in reading this memoir. But then my daughter gave it to me for Christmas, and it popped into my TBR pile after all. I've also rekindled my interest in memoirs, and then when my book club suggested this, I was happy to read it. Anyway, ...

Obama's memoir is divided into three sections: "Becoming Me," "Becoming Us," and "Becoming More." I was fascinated by her childhood story and how she went from the South Side of Chicago to get two ivy league degrees and a lawyer job at a fancy firm with an office on the 47th floor in a building in the centre of Chicago. This is where she met Barak, when he was a law student and she was appointed as his summer mentor. I didn't know this story and so I found it very interesting. The whole bit about Barak getting into politics was less interesting, although I was surprised to hear that she only said "okay" to him running for president because she was sure he wouldn't get close to winning. In the final third of the book, I was amazed at some of the details of their life in the Whitehouse.

I admire Michelle Obama for her dignity and integrity, her love of fun, and her dedication to her daughters and to girls' education.

Rating: Overall, this was a good read. Not life changing or anything, but a good read.

Why I Read This Now: bookclub

Recommended for: a wide audience. It's a positive and hopeful book, so if you need one of those right now, consider this one.

toukokuu 15, 2020, 2:12pm

Joyce, I just posted Question 21 about short stories, noting your inspirational post. Thanks.

toukokuu 16, 2020, 12:55am

11. Italy Out of Hand: a Capricious Tour, Barbara Hodgson, 2005

cover comments: perfect

Comments: Barbara Hodgson is an artist and author who produces illustrated books -- sometimes fiction, sometimes non-fiction. In Italy Out of Hand, she guides the reader through Italian cities, starting in Genoa and zigzagging across and south to end in Catania in Sicily. Everywhere she stops, she highlights some of the more obscure sites and figures from Italian history, with a focus on cemeteries, museums you've probably never heard of, and famous foreigners who visited and lived in the country. Scattered throughout are small Italian language vocab lists that pertain to the city -- some of the words are regional slang, I had fun trying these out on my Italian-speaking husband.

Why I Read This Now: I've owned Italy Out of Hand since it was published 15 years ago and I was happy just to browse through it and look at the unusual illustrations. Hodgson's books are always beautiful and a pleasure just to hold. I recently dusted my shelf of my most beautiful books, and started actually reading it this time.

Rating: 4 stars

Recommended for: fans of illustrated books (Nick Bantock is another similar writer-artist, and in fact the two are friends), people who like odd Italian history. This is a book to dip in and out of rather than to read straight through.

toukokuu 16, 2020, 2:51pm

DNF: the Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherynne Valente

cover comments: looks good!

Comments: A sassy girl named September gets whisked out of her boring home in Omaha and mysteriously taken to Fairyland. I was hoping for charm and delight, but was just disappointed. It was over-written and I constantly had trouble envisioning the scenes. It was just a series of convoluted silly conversations between September and various odd characters. I should have known I was in trouble when I kept seeing comparisons to The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland. I Pearl-ruled this one.

Why I Read This Now: This has been in my TBR stacks for years, and I finally pulled it out because I thought it looked fun, and I can use FUN right now. The title held a lot of promise.

Recommended for: readers looking for a 21st century Alice in Wonderland

Rating: DNF says it all, but I'm far from the target audience, so I will refrain from assigning or not assigning stars

toukokuu 19, 2020, 3:42pm

>42 Nickelini: If you can stand it, I'd like to know more. I started this last year once, and didn't like it as much as I had hoped, so I DNF. But I thought maybe I just needed a different mood, and I put it aside. I don't remember why it didn't shine for me, and I remember that someone in CR liked it, and that's why I acquired it. I am a particular fan of Alice, which you referenced, but I don't see how anything could even resemble it without being off-putting. Maybe that was my problem.

toukokuu 20, 2020, 12:04am

>43 sallypursell: If you can stand it, I'd like to know more

I don't know what I can say that I haven't already said -- it was over written and I couldn't make an image in my head of what was going on. If I had the book I could pull out an example or two but I don't have it anymore. I've heard great things about the book and fully expected to think it was wonderful. I Pearl-ruled it at pg 44, so didn't spend a lot of time with it.

toukokuu 20, 2020, 7:33pm

>44 Nickelini: Oh, well, c'est la guerre.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 31, 2020, 1:53pm

12. Hollow Heart, Viola Di Grado (translated from Italian by Antony Sugaar), 2015

cover comments: I love this so much. Great art, and the colour is fabulous -- a dark, inky indigo that in some lights looks like dark violet. Europa Editions usually have the fuglyiest covers ever, so this one is a pleasant surprise.

Comments: Most of Dorotea Giglio's narration takes place after her suicide in July 2011, with some flashbacks to her life in Sicily before. On both sides, she's depressed, lonely, and a little bit emo. Now a ghost, she meanders through her apartment and city streets, and goes to her old job regularly, where her boss can still see her. She also likes to go into her coffin and report on the details of her decomposing body.

Rating: I like the uniqueness of this story and the Italian setting; but overall it perplexed me and I struggled with the world building. Dorotea has no body, but she talks about eating and drinking, and she's able to move things around, but at the same time can float through walls. She says she can't read anymore, but certain parts only make sense with written language. Her life after death wasn't all that different from when she was alive, and we don't know why she committed suicide. It all seemed a bit pointless. So 3 stars for a decently written novel plus 1 star for being creative and unusual.

Recommended for: There are many glowing reviews written in English over at Goodreads. There are also many negative reviews written in Italian. The Italians seem to call BS on this one and say it's boring and repetitive (a tratti noioso a tratti ripetitivo! Italian sounds so much nicer than English), and has no plot.

Why I Read This Now: chipping away at my Italian TBR pile.

kesäkuu 1, 2020, 2:17am

Vampire Film Study

Since this isn't about books, this post is mainly for me to keep a record of the films I've watched this month. But I'll throw this out here and if anyone has anything to say I welcome a conversation.

My 20 yr old daughter had planned to come home from university this summer and work, hang with her friends, and have fun. COVID had other ideas, and work fell through, so she decided she might as well take some online university courses and knock off some elective credits. She took a one month condensed course on vampires (Germanic Studies program -- this is not her area of study; my older daughter went to the same uni and took a Germanic Studies course on fairy tales). She's reading Dracula, and had to watch the following movies. Since I'm staying home too, I've watched them all with her:

1. Nosferatu (1922) -- this silent film was surprisingly good, and really the blueprint for vampire movies to come after it. She really liked it and wrote her essay on it.
2. Dracula (1931) -- Bela Lugosi! (Nosferatu was better)
3. Nosferatu Phantom der Nacht (197?) -- liked this one too -- really good creepy scene with people dining in an outdoor square with many, many rats
4. Interview with the Vampire (1994) -- I had seen this back in the 90s, and read the book Interview with the Vampire not that long ago, so it was interesting to rewatch. Kirsten Dunst is the best thing about this movie
5. Perfume (2006) -- I was happy to see this because I read and enjoyed the book Perfume a few years ago
6. Let the Right One In (2008) -- I'd never heard of this Swedish "horror romance". Her classmates didn't like this one -- I think some people just struggle with subtitles. My daughter, husband, and I all really liked it a lot. IMDb says it won about a jillion awards. Should I read the Let the Right One In?
7. Lost Boys (1987) -- I saw this in '87 and loved it, and have seen it several times since. It still holds up, and it's a fun movie. Compared to Let the Right One In though, you can see how the Swedish film raked in awards, and Lost Boys raked in $$
8. Bram Stoker's Dracula -- such a great cast (Gary Oldman! Winona Ryder wasn't terrible-- good, even) -- like the book Dracula, the movie had a few awesome moments, but overall . . . . hmmmm, meh

That's a lot of vampire in a month, but it's been fun watching these and discussing them with her. Sounds like the online lectures were interesting.

kesäkuu 1, 2020, 5:59pm

>47 Nickelini: Oh, I really liked 'Let the Right One In.' There's also an English language version of it--can't recall the title, but it wasn't nearly as good.

If you can find a copy of the version of Dracula starring Frank Langella, it was pretty darn good.

kesäkuu 8, 2020, 6:48pm

>48 Cariola: The Fearless Vampire Killers 1967, Roman Polanski, Sharon Tate - a very silly movie

Loved the Bram Stoker's Dracula

What a fun course. Your daughter might also like a short biography of Stoker: Bram Stoker and the Man Who was Dracula

A couple of novels on Vlad the Impaler as proto Dracula: The Historian and the lighter Vlad: The Last Confession.

I have a small collection of Dracula related books, maybe a dozen or so, but for some reason most aren't on LT.

Who knew watching Lost Boys that Kiefer Sutherland would turn into Jack Bauer? I'll have to try Let the Right One In.

>48 Cariola: The English language versions are never as good!

kesäkuu 8, 2020, 9:15pm

>48 Cariola: & >49 SassyLassy:
Thanks for the suggestions. I'll pass them on. I think at the moment she's a little vamipired-out, and busy studying the Arab Spring. But when she's ready . . .

kesäkuu 13, 2020, 7:24pm

13. To the Back of Beyond, Peter Stamm, translated from German by Michael Hofmann (2016)

Cover comments: Yeah, this is really good. I like it. The English title I don't quite like as much -- a direct translation of Weit uber das Land is "Far Across the Country." I guess the one they chose is a play on words, as the protagonist doesn't just go across the country, but also acts in a way that is beyond what is acceptable. However, the term "back of beyond" is just true-blue-dinky-die Australian and in my view, "back of beyond" only works in an Aussie context

Comments: From the book's blurb: "Happily married with two children and a comfortable home in a Swiss town, Thomas and Astrid enjoy a glass of wine in their garden on a night like any other. Called back to the house by their son's cries, Astrid goes inside, expecting her husband to join her in a bit. But Thomas gets up and, after a brief moment of hesitation, opens the gate and walks out." The 140 novel has no chapter breaks, but switches back between Thomas going walking through Switzerland, and Astird at home with the kids.

There was something about the writing that drew me in and kept me fascinated. Stamm's style is somewhat sparse and unemotional, but at the same time terrifically evocative. I loved all the little details of their day-to-day movements. The book was the perfect length for this style, although the end was perhaps a bit rushed and could have been another ten pages or so. And until the end, I had no idea how this was going to finish off. I also loved all the Swiss details, large and small. It wasn't until half-way thought the novel that the author started putting in place identifiers, but once he did I started following on a map of Switzerland where the characters were going, and I was delighted when I recognized a place I knew (geography geek coming out again) .

The author also did some tricky things with time. The one that stands out the most is that most of the novel was clearly set around the time it was written, and at one point Thomas reads a newspaper story that happened in September 2014. But then near the end of the book, things move quite quickly, and the children age at least a dozen years from the beginning of the book, and maybe even more. So it goes on past the publication date, which is somewhat unusual.

I think overall the translation was well done, but two things stood out for me. One was that the translator chose to Americanize the novel. Switzerland is a metric country, and I think most Americans reading this would be able to grasp the basic ideas of Celsius and kilometres. And the other quibble was occasionally he'd use an English word in a way I've never seen before. I know that when I use Google Translate with German, the results are sometimes quite rough, especially compared to translations of Italian or French. Maybe German is a trickier language to translate and sometimes the results are a bit odd.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Recommended for: If you like contemporary European novels, and this one sounds interesting, try it. There are lots of poor reviews over at GoodReads, and these generally complain that 1. the reader never learns the characters motivations, 2. the characters aren't particularly likeable and it's difficult to empathize with them, and 3. "OMG, how can he just abandon his family?" My favourite of these reviews says, "Despicable bastard goes on a hike." Okay, they're not wrong. I just don't care.

I do find it interesting how some readers absolutely freak out about abandonment novels. I have 8 books tagged "disappearing mother" in my collection, and of those that are about a woman who left her family, all have scathing reviews about what the character did (as opposed to how the book is written). In the case of To the Back of Beyond, many complained that his behaviour was never explained, but I've read books where it is explained and then people just say "that's no excuse" or "she should have found a different solution." We all have our trigger issues, but if parent abandonment upsets you, rather than tearing into the author for writing about it, how about read something else instead. Maybe that's just not the book for you.

Why I Read This Now: When I started this, I had reservations to be in Switzerland that were then COVID-cancelled. So I had to be there vicariously through literature.

kesäkuu 14, 2020, 6:08am

>51 Nickelini: Sounds interesting — I read Agnes a few years ago and wasn’t really convinced (my comment was “too American”, I don’t really know any more what I meant by that) — maybe Stamm is due for a second chance. I’ve read novels by Martin Suter and Max Frisch in the last few weeks, probably also motivated by vicarious travel needs!

kesäkuu 14, 2020, 1:17pm

>52 thorold: I've never come across Agnes -- if it's "too American" I'll give it a pass, thanks. Years ago I read his Unformed Landscape. I don't remember much about it other than it had a really cool setting at the top of Scandinavia.

kesäkuu 15, 2020, 1:49am

14. Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit: a Son remembers, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, 2003

cover comments: Hello! Audrey Hepburn. Nothing but lovely.

Rating: 4.5 stars (as just a picture book, 5 stars)

Why I Read This Now: A few years ago, my husband installed some built-in bookcases around our fireplace and under our stained glass windows (I live in a 1913 Craftsman house, so I think he was replacing what was probably once there) and that's where I keep all my prettiest and most special books. I go months without actually going into these bookcases because my TBR isn't there, but for some reason I saw this and pulled it out. Sadly, I hadn't thought of Audrey Hepburn in too long.

Disclaimer: To stop myself from fangirling too much, I'll say this up front: I think Audrey Hepburn might be the most perfect person from the 20th century: Yes, she was born into privilege in 1929, but her parents were inadequate, and then at the eve of WWII, it was decided that she'd be safer in Holland than England. Her key growth years were spent in the middle of a war zone. She worked for the resistance, almost starved to death, and the malnutrition in those important years caused lifelong health problems. Then somehow she ended up staring in films, and won all the awards -- the Oscar, BAFTA, Emmy, Grammy, Tony, etc. and so on. She was the muse of Givinchy, and is still a style icon. Then she walked away from it all to raise her sons, and later went to work for UNICEF (who had helped her at the end of WWII). She speaks elegantly in English, and is also fluent in Dutch, French, Italian, and Spanish (I also suspect that she speaks pretty good German-- between occupied Holland and living in Switzerland for most of her life). She is the epitome of grace, kindness, compassion, intelligence, and beauty. (She's pretty much the direct opposite of Donald Trump)

For my honeymoon in 1994, we went on a Princess cruise. The robo-voice in the elevator sounded very Audrey Hepburn. I loved it. Usually, I'm a stair-taker, but on this trip I'd go with the lift just to hear it (her) say "Lido Deck". Believe me, those words sound so much nicer in Audrey's voice than . . . well, who do YOU want to hear say "lido deck" ?

Years ago I bought an Audrey Hepburn rose (it's the pink of her shirt on the cover, above). I'm a gardener, but not a rose person, so tend to ignore them. Somehow, I haven't killed it yet.

Comments: I bought this when it was published in 2003 because it was written and created by Audrey's oldest son, Sean. This coffee table book went into my LT library with a 5-star rating, even though I hadn't read it because it was chock-full of photographs and detailed captions. Many fabulous photos, some that we've all seen before, and many family photos. On top of that are copies of important letters (such as her appointment as the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador), art from her childhood, and also when she had a bedridden pregnancy, and her birth certificate, childhood passports, and her United Nations passport from 1988. This is why I rated it 5 stars.

Now that I've read the text portions, I came away moved, but maybe not for the reasons the author intended. Near the end, he reprints a long speech as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador to the UN in Geneva in 1989. In this role, and as herself, she's hopeful and optimistic. It's sad to read something written about children in 1989 from a 2020 perspective. Downright depressing, actually. But that's not the author or book's fault. The following section about her dying of cancer, was personal and also very sad (especially since she was only in her early 60s). The earlier parts of the book, before the author was born, were scattered and unsatisfying. He was better at the personal.

Another complaint I direct at the book designer over choice of typeface, which was difficult to read. They used a fine sans-serif, and when used in italica, was almost unreadable except in the brightest light. This, and the size of the book, made it physically difficult to read.

Recommended for: Her fans, anyone needing a break from Donald Trump culture.

kesäkuu 15, 2020, 2:14am

It’s nice to revisit a subject that I once loved but hadn’t thought much about for many years and find that I still feel the same way about.

kesäkuu 19, 2020, 3:37pm

>51 Nickelini:

A wonderful review (is this how I get all these books I do not remember buying?) but I really like your comment after that as well.

I agree completely. And not just abandonment - all kinds of "people do bad things to someone else/something else" - killed dogs, rape, assault, you name it. Some of the reasons I rarely venture to other groups in LT for reviews and book chat is exactly that -- for a lot of readers, literature is expected to be binary and if someone does something bad, it should not be written about - and our small group here seems to not be prone to these too often. And the other "requirement" - there should always be likeable characters (or at least one) - I needed a likeable character when I was 15, I think I can read a novel now where there are none and still appreciate it.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 19, 2020, 4:08pm

>51 Nickelini: >55 Nickelini: these are terrific posts. I going to check out that tag in your library. I commented on Lois’s thread about the “recommended for” comments in the Stamm post.

I’m not sure i’ve ever seen a movie with Audrey Hepburn...

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 20, 2020, 1:23am

>56 AnnieMod: I needed a likeable character when I was 15, I think I can read a novel now where there are none and still appreciate it.

Exactly. Almost like we're adults or something.

>57 dchaikin: I’m not sure i’ve ever seen a movie with Audrey Hepburn... Well! They certainly are a product of their time. I think the movie that is most often used to signify Audrey Hepburn is Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) which is, I think, a rather odd movie. Certainly Micky Rooney doing Yellow-face and bad Chinese accent was a low point. But her love interest, George Peppard was only one year older than her in real life. It has some delightful moments, but I watched the first 45 min a few days ago while riding the bike-trainer, and it's ....unique.

My favourites:

Sabrina (1954) - I don't know why I love this one so much, it's just so gorgeous. I never liked that she falls in love with a character named "Linus" who was played by Humphrey Bogart, who was born in 1899! (the same year as my grandfather; Audrey was born in 1929). That's a 30 year difference. I once dated a guy 15 years older than me and people freaked out. Besides that detail, I still really like this one

Roman Holiday (1953) - Audrey won Best Actress at the Academy Awards for this. It took a few viewings to warm up to this one, but now I really like it. I think it's the exploring Rome parts, plus a decent love story (if you've seen Notting Hill they stole parts of this.) Love interest is Gregory Peck, 1916, so only 13 years older

Funny Face (1957) - This one is a romp through the fashion and art world of Paris, with Fred Astaire (1899 again!). But he loves her sunny, funny face, so I guess that make their relationship okay (also, isn't he her boss? I have to watch this again). Audrey grew up dreaming of being a dancer, so she was thrilled to dance with Astaire. That's nice.

Charade (1963) - This one with Cary Grant (1904) who realized their age difference (25 yrs) was uncomfortable and maybe creepy and to get him to agree to play the role, they had to change the script. Lots of fabulous Paris in the 60s.

Two of her other most famous films are War & Peace (1956) and My Fair Lady, which I'm not all that interested in ever seeing.


We're still COVID at home, so I pulled out my Audrey Hepburn movies and my 20 yr old was game to watch too. She says she's seen Roman Holiday so we watched Sabrina. My husband joined us. The first 1/3 is gorgeous, but I didn't remember how much "love story" there was with both the Humphrey Bogart character (he was in his mid-50s when this was filmed, Hepburn was in her mid-20s. And it's not like Bogart was EVER an attractive man in the style of a Clark Gable etc.) Also, the other in the love triangle was played by William Holden (almost 20 yrs younger than Bogart, and only 11 yrs older than Hepburn), and he was physically more attractive, but such a jerk. Sabrina really deserved better than either of them, despite their incredible wealth. My 20 yr old couldn't handle the storyline at 2/3rds of the way through and left. She said later that the "aesthetic was gorgeous" but it wasn't enough for her to watch Audrey crushing over these two OLD men (she had trouble seeing the difference between Holden and Bogart)

It's hard to watch old movies sometimes. A few weeks ago I watched the first half of Gone With the Wind with my husband, who'd never seen it, and even though I knew that it's "problematic," every few minutes we were saying "OMG!", "Seriously?" "You're kidding me!"

kesäkuu 19, 2020, 10:39pm

Thanks for that post - a list! I love lists. I’ll look out for these.

kesäkuu 20, 2020, 1:09am

>59 dchaikin:
After writing that, I went and rewatched Sabrina and I had to add a ETA note. Please see above >58 Nickelini:

kesäkuu 20, 2020, 7:36am

🙂 An interesting document of our social evolution, or is it just social fashions.

kesäkuu 20, 2020, 2:31pm

>61 dchaikin:

Good question. I find it puzzling that my mother-in-law and I are fine with couples being 10 or 15 years apart, but my daughters and their friends (early 20s) think that's disgusting and creepy--sort of the reaction I have to cousins marrying each other (which was just fine in Jane Austen and Charles Dickens)

kesäkuu 20, 2020, 2:47pm

I'm reading through Nabokov. He's consistently confusing this age variance thing... (but no cousins, so far). I'm more in tune with your daughter's sense in the real world, but more open in movies/books/stage/etc.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 20, 2020, 5:16pm

>62 Nickelini: Life stages change more dramatically in fewer years in adolescence and young adulthood. Middle school is a different world than high school and high school from college and college from starting a career.

Once you've become a "real grown-up" (established career, stable relationship, maybe a family, home-ownership, etc) that stage is perceived to last a fairly long time, maybe early-30s to retirement. So it's easier to have a larger age-difference and common life goals/style.

Have you ever heard the formula for age appropriate relationships? Half your age + 7 years is the youngest age one should date. So a 24-year-old shouldn't date anyone younger than 19. Once you hit 44, you "can" date someone 29 (a fifteen year difference).

kesäkuu 20, 2020, 7:55pm

>64 ELiz_M: Life stages change more dramatically in fewer years in adolescence and young adulthood. Middle school is a different world than high school and high school from college and college from starting a career.

Once you've become a "real grown-up" (established career, stable relationship, maybe a family, home-ownership, etc) that stage is perceived to last a fairly long time, maybe early-30s to retirement. So it's easier to have a larger age-difference and common life goals/style.

My daughters and their friends have a problem with age differences (even 4 or 5 years). My mother-in-law and I don't now, and didn't when we were their age either. So I see it more of a change in attitude than a life-stage. Also, I don't necessary believe what I used to, although I don't freak out at age differences they way my daughters do.

Have you ever heard the formula for age appropriate relationships? Half your age + 7 years is the youngest age one should date. So a 24-year-old shouldn't date anyone younger than 19.

I have heard of that, although I don't know who came up with it or what it's based on.

kesäkuu 20, 2020, 8:38pm

>65 Nickelini: >58 Nickelini:

I don’t understand the modern problem with age difference either. As long as both are of legal age and emotionally adults, who cares. I spent a big part of my twenties in a relationship with someone who was 17 years older than me - I had zero interest in the antics of most boys my age (and yes, those around me were in their 20s but they were behaving as teenagers. It may have been a side effect of the childhood and teen years we got almost robbed of in the aftermath of 1989 but who knows.

I hear a lot of people gasping and rolling eyes while watching old movies and reading old novels and so on but I must admit I do not get that either. If I am watching a film from the 30s-50s (or reading a novel or listening to an old time radio recording), I know what I will get there so I don’t react as if I expect it to be different. I won’t and I don’t tolerate this in newer works (except when they depict the era and even then I expect it to be there, just subtler) but unless I am ready to accept that the times were different, I just stay away from those works. They are an artifact of their time and trying to whitewash the fact that they were the norm makes it easier for a new generation to forget that they happened. Art imitates life and art preserves life - I would much rather have the art than the resurrection of the same in life. And if we abandon the art and it’s lessons, the latter is inevitable.

Which does not mean that I expect a young person to appreciate all that (ok, now I sound old). But once I know the context, films such as Gone with the Wind do not bother me, not when I am in the mood for them. I know why they are problematic, I know why they offend but that is part of the Story. And they were acceptable when they were made - and we should make sure they never are again. Which won’t happen if we shove them in the attic and pretend they never were or that humanity had moved on from them. As much as I wish we were, we are nowhere close to it.

Sorry for the rant - I will show myself out. :)

kesäkuu 21, 2020, 3:22pm

I wonder if the unease about age-differences is because it feels like a throwback to the old model of middle-class marriage where the man was expected to be well-established in a career and financially secure "before thinking of settling down" (or, in terms of the African novels I've been reading lately, to have acquired the right number of cattle to give his father-in-law), whilst the woman was meant to be young and pure and raring to produce dozens of babies?

When you see them, perhaps because that's the way books and films have conditioned us to look, you get the idea in your mind that the younger partner is selling themself and the older partner must be taking advantage of economic power to be with someone young and attractive, even though that never actually seems to be true in any real-life couples you meet.

kesäkuu 21, 2020, 5:20pm

>58 Nickelini: I tend to hand wave large age differences if the media is older, like Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster, but I like that younger readers are unwilling to do so. It is telling that huge age differences only ever went one way, unless they were presented as bizarre or for laughs (Harold and Maude for example).

As for Gone with the Wind, I went to a play put on by a playhouse in a small town in SC in January about the writing of the screenplay for GWTW and my expectations were low. I was astonished when the racism was directly addressed, in a play that was largely zany hijinks. One of the writers wanted Prissy to make a great speech about racial inequities and went into it in great detail.

kesäkuu 22, 2020, 4:20pm

>66 AnnieMod: Well said AnnieMod

>1 Nickelini: Nice picture at the start of your thread. We are not going back to the Italian Lakes (Lake Garda) this year, despite our favourite hotel sending us a video of all the things they are doing to make it safe. Ii's put on hold till next year hopefully.

kesäkuu 22, 2020, 4:53pm

>68 RidgewayGirl: Do you happen to remember the play name and/or the playwright name of that one? If one of the script publishers have it, I will be very interested in reading it.

kesäkuu 22, 2020, 8:45pm

>70 AnnieMod: It's called Moonlight and Magnolias.

kesäkuu 22, 2020, 9:02pm

>71 RidgewayGirl: Moonlight and Magnolias -- yep, it had been published. Into my next order it goes. Thanks! :)

kesäkuu 22, 2020, 10:29pm

>66 AnnieMod: Nothing to apologize for -- I loved you r so-called rant.

>67 thorold: - I hadn't thought of that but it makes sense

>69 baswood: Oh, I'm sorry to hear you won't be doing your annual Lago di Garda trip. I'm itching to get back to Europe and will travel as soon as we're allowed. My daughter (lives in Switzerland) was in Venice 10 days ago. The weather was perfect and they pretty much had the place to themselves. Their hotel was on a canal close to La Fenice, and they paid 100 euros a night (over a weekend). She sent a snapchat of her twirling in St Mark's Sq, at midnight on a Friday night, and I could see about 8 other people in the whole place. I'd love to be exploring Europe without the hordes of tourists.

kesäkuu 23, 2020, 10:07am

>73 Nickelini: That is, of course, the danger -- that we all descend into Europe eager to explore in uncrowded conditions only to join all the other thousands and thousands of tourists with the same idea.

kesäkuu 23, 2020, 3:46pm

>74 RidgewayGirl: Could be! But I don't see that waiting will be better

kesäkuu 23, 2020, 6:36pm

>73 Nickelini: I suspect she wasn't twirling in St. Mark's Square during high tide...? When we there in '05 we were walking though on a raised walkway. Lots of photos with pigeons, too. ha ha. And November was a great time to take on Italy, although Pompeii was still pretty hot.

kesäkuu 23, 2020, 7:26pm

>66 AnnieMod: Agreement here. What books, films, painting and so on from today will people be rolling their eyes at in fifty years?

>74 RidgewayGirl: Trying to imagine Florence without tourists - somehow it isn't coming through.

Living in a tourist area, where the population triples in summer, I must say it is wonderful to be able to just enjoy beaches, restaurants, and everything else, without the hordes. Even some who are engaged in the tourist industry are finding it more restful and discovering that the overall booking aren't going down, as the "livyers" are able to holiday here.

>69 baswood: Sorry you'll miss a favourite spot. Maybe in the fall?

kesäkuu 23, 2020, 8:52pm

>61 dchaikin:, >64 ELiz_M:, >66 AnnieMod:, >67 thorold:, >68 RidgewayGirl:, >69 baswood:

Continuing on with our conversation about perceptions of acceptable & unacceptable age differences . . . my 23 yr old daughter retweeted something today about Jerry Seinfeld dating a 17 yr old when he was 38 and people were freaking out and asking why he hadn't been "cancelled" yet. I remember that-- I think they dated for like 4 yrs or something, and we were all "what is he thinking?" but then he got married to someone more his own age and had kids. Whatever.

>76 avaland: I'm pretty sure the Acqua Alta only happens in winter (we call them King Tides here in Vancouver, but our flooding isn't as dramatic). What a cool time to visit Venice. I've seen some amazing pictures. Anyway, no, they had postcard perfect weather.

kesäkuu 28, 2020, 3:12pm

15. The Temptation of Gracie, Santa Montefiore, 2018

cover comments: The general design of this cover is the kind I generally walk right past at the book store because it signifies a kind of book I never read. The picture itself, which is simply labelled "photograph of villa," also doesn't look Tuscan, where this novel is set. Despite all that, I love this cover. It reminds me of my trip last year to Lake Como in Lombardia.

Rating: 4.5 stars. Perfect and much-needed escapism

Comments: If you want a one-line review, I'll say: Art! Food! Tuscany! Forbidden love! Castles! and my top favourite: Secrets!

Gracie is a 68 year old widow who lives a comfortable life in her Devon village. One day flipping through a magazine, she discovers a cookery school in a castle in Tuscany, a castle that she knew intimately in her earlier life. When she enrols in a week-long class, she alarms her neighbours, who alarm her workaholic daughter in London. Gracie's daughter and granddaughter accompany her to Italy where unbeknownst to anyone else, she had worked as an art restorer in her teens and early twenties. The novel switches from this 2010 story line back to 1950s-60s Tuscany. I could have dismissed this as "British person leaves their grey life in England and is magically transformed by the colour of Italy" but it has so much more. Multi-generational mother-daughter relationships, young love, healing, and second chances are all explored.

The Temptation of Gracie is full of lush writing, likeable characters, fabulous locations, and even some little humour. Several of the 5 star reviews at GoodReads comment "this is not the kind of book I usually like, but I loved this one" and I have to add a "me too" to that.

Why I Read This Now: I'm always saying I need to read more light, fun books. But then there's something else that I think I need to read first. 2020 decided to be a horrible year (and we're only half-way through), and I set out to find all the light, fun books in my TBR pile, and I sadly learned that in the stack of over 900 physical books, I didn't have much to choose from. So I went poking around online and found The Temptation of Gracie. My May trip to Italy, where I had planned to taking a cooking class, was cancelled, so this novel jumped out at me. I also adore books set in large country houses.

I thought I'd never heard of the author before, but when I entered this in my LT catalogue, I saw that I'd picked up one of her other novels from a sale table a few years ago. Hope it's as good as this one.

Recommended for: readers looking to disappear into a compelling summer read, armchair travellers looking for a trip to an Italian villa

kesäkuu 28, 2020, 4:35pm

>79 Nickelini: Noted, not the least because I also have too few light novels in my tbr, and the few that were there were read this spring.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 25, 2020, 2:59pm

16. The Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio, 1352. Translated by Mark Musa & Peter Bondanella, 1982

cover comments: the painting is lovely and suitable, but the arrangement of the whole is less than artful

Why I Read This Now: I bought this book in 1984 when I was studying Italian history, but then my studies took me elsewhere and I never got around to it. It's been on my to-read list for the last two years as I've been travelling (and trying to travel) to Italy. I started this the weekend in March when Italy slammed shut for the COVID-19 lockdown. What better time to read a book set during a plague in Italy than during a pandemic in Italy? (Now I'm finished and COVID-19 can be finished too, please and thank you.)

Comments: It's 1348 and the Black Death is raging through Florence. A group of wealthy 20-somethings (seven ladies and three gentlemen) decided to self-isolate in a country villa. To ward off the boredom of eating and drinking, they set up a game of each telling ten stories over 10 days ("Decameron" is ten-days in Ancient Greek). The tales cover characters from all aspects of Medieval life, and many of the stories are rather humorous and often bawdy.

My favourite story, by far, was "Sixth Day, Fourth Story," in which "Chichibio, Currado Gianfigliazzi's cook, turns Currado's anger into laughter with a quick word uttered in time to save himself from the unpleasant fate with which Currado had threatened him". I loved it so much I read it out loud to my husband and daughter.

My mass-market paperback edition was just under 700 pages of tiny smudgy print crammed onto pages with the narrowest of margins. Physically, it was an unpleasant read. That's part of the reason I read the publishers suggested list for university professors who want to teach an abridged version. This still resulted in me reading 54 stories, introductions, summaries, etc, and still reading close to 400 pages of the text. No one needs to read every single word.

Recommended for: if you liked The Canterbury Tales, you'll love The Decameron. Chaucer visited Italy in the 1370s where he may have met Boccaccio, but whether he did or not, his writing was distinctly influenced by the Italian.

The Shmoop Tough-o-Meter says "If you stick with a good translation, the toughest thing about this work is the length."

Rating: 4 stars

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 12, 2020, 8:11pm

17. Soap and Water & Common Sense: the Definitive Guide to Viruses, Bacteria, Parasites, and Disease, Dr. Bonnie Henry, 2009 w/2020 updated intro

cover comments: perfect for a popular science book that highlights handwashing to prevent disease

Comments : Dr. Bonnie Henry is a local rock star at the moment. She's the Provincial Health Officer for British Columbia, and the local face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like Dr Fauci, she appears on TV regularly to give scientific and medical updates on the pandemic; unlike Dr Fauci, the government stands back and follows her guidance. Hence, in a province of just over five million people, as of mid-July 2020 we've had just over 3,000 COVID-19 cases and 187 deaths. There are currently 16 people hospitalized with the virus. Every day, she appears on the news with her updates and advice, and her signature phrase, "Be kind, be calm, and be safe." She is cool, reasonable and truthful, and everyone loves her. In 2020, an epidemiologist is one of the most popular people in Canada. Who would have expected that?

This book itself is a lay persons guide to diseases caused by viruses, bacteria, and parasites. There's a bit about the history of the disease, the current state (well, as of 2009), and best practices to prevent catching it. Dr Henry worked with WHO in Pakistan, was on the front lines of the Ebola epidemic in Uganda, and then the SARs epidemic in Toronto. She specializes in public heath and epidemiology, and is also a professor at UBC. While I think this book is great, I realized when I read it that I've already educated myself on a lot of these diseases. I didn't realize this was one of "my topics", but over the years I've read several books on the Black Death, and books on Ebola, vaccinations, small pox, venereal diseases, flu epidemics, ecoli, malaria, and so on. What I was looking for were a few more stories about her experiences in the trenches as disease-fighter. Oh well, after all her praise, she'll likely write a memoir.

Dr. Henry's fame moments:

- The Vancouver fashion shoe designer Fluevog noted that she liked to wear their snazzy shoes, so they designed a Dr Bonnie Henry shoe. When it went on sale, their website crashed
- In May, Bloomberg published an article about her: "Behind North America’s Lowest Death Rate: A Doctor Who Fought Ebola"
- The New York Times praised her as "one of the most effective public health officials in the world" in their article "The Top Doctor Who Aced the Coronavirus Test"
- she was featured on CNN recently
- last week she launched a ship with the swinging champagne bottle move

Recommended for : people looking for an easy to understand overview of infectious diseases

Why I Read This Now: Other than being in the midst of a pandemic, I was doing some local book shop online ordering and they were promoting this book. I figured I'd rather buy a $19 book than a $300 pair of shoes I didn't particularly like, while still supporting someone who is doing the right thing

Rating: 4 stars due to already knowing a lot of this info

heinäkuu 13, 2020, 8:22am

>81 Nickelini: The Decameron - 100 stories told over 10 days. My Penguin Classics paperback has them all and the print is readable. Of course some stories appeal more than others, but you can now pretend that you are sheltering from Covid-19 and read ten a day.

heinäkuu 13, 2020, 9:54am

>82 Nickelini: Another huge Bonnie Henry fan here. Just listening to her voice makes you believe everything will be alright.
I saw the campaign photo featuring her 7 year old self "The World needs more nerds" for Science World and thought what a great idea for the target audience.
The shoes are clunky, but she wears them well.
I don't think the book has made it to this side of the country, but I'll look for it. Like you, I think this is one of "my topics".

>81 Nickelini: Good reading and >83 baswood: Why not? We are still fairly limited here in where we can go.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 13, 2020, 11:24am

>83 baswood:
My edition had the complete text too, along with all sorts of extra material. Instead of reading it all, I followed their suggested abridgements. 400+ was plenty — no reason to read another 200-300 pages. Nothing to be gained from that.

heinäkuu 13, 2020, 11:32am

>84 SassyLassy:
That picture was adorable! Yes, clever campaign.

Her book is available to order from Indigo. If you want to support an independent seller, I got mine from Munro Books (

heinäkuu 13, 2020, 2:06pm

This past week the New York Times Magazine was themed on Boccaccio, with writers contributing stories of some sort of parallel. I have a copy, but haven’t read it yet. Boccaccio is on the foreseeable map for me. I might read him next year. (I will do the whole thing, for better or worse). I don’t know what translation i’ll use, but I do like Mark Musa’s translations and commentary. I used his translation for Dante’s La Vita Nuova, and it included had a terrific essay afterwards.


I’m not jealous of Bonnie Henry so much as I am jealous about how the Canadian public treats her and respects her.

heinäkuu 13, 2020, 9:40pm

>87 dchaikin:
Oooh, I'll have to see if I can track that down. Thanks for mentioning it.

I'm too old to read the whole thing. It's repetitive. I need all the hours I have left. I'd definitely read something else translated by Mark Musa -- it was very readable. Dante is on my to-tackle list.

heinäkuu 13, 2020, 11:36pm

If you have access to a Sunday times (July 12)...

I appreciate avoiding the repetitive thing, but it works when my reading hits that ritualistic phase...when not changing things has a value.

heinäkuu 14, 2020, 2:36pm

>86 Nickelini: Munro Books - another great BC institution

heinäkuu 15, 2020, 12:34am

>90 SassyLassy:

Munro Books - another great BC institution Ah yes, and I'm so lucky to have been there last week. It was a sunny Monday morning, and I was allowed to stay for 20 minutes. It was heaven to be back in a bookstore, and then one of the world's nicest.

heinäkuu 15, 2020, 10:18pm

18. I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections, Nora Ephron, 2010

Cover comments: Nice colours

Comments: I adore Nora Ephron. After she died in 2012, I turned my trip to New York City into an Ephron-themed event. I even found an Upper West Side apartment to stay in, and we pretended to be New Yorkers for a week.
When I’m feeling funny, I think my humour is similar to hers. I like to think that if we’d known each other we’d have been great friends. Now that I’ve read I Remember Nothing, I see that I have almost nothing in common with Ephron. She’s a New York secular Jew who grew up in Hollywood where her parents were both screen writers and they often had glamorous people in her living room. Somehow, I can still relate to all her quibbles and share some laughs.
This very loosely structured memoir covers key points in her life. Near the end, she wrote “The O Word,” (O as in old), which I found to be bittersweet, as it was about growing old and dying. Overall though it was a fun read.

Recommended for: a reader who wants to spend a couple of hours reading a clever, breezy book.

Why I Read This Now: I want to read more memoirs, and this one had been on my shelf for years

Rating: 4.5 stars

Muokkaaja: elokuu 21, 2020, 2:25am

Over the last few years I've slowed down my book buying, mostly because I just don't read as much anymore. In 2020 I had only bought a few books to help plan my Europe vacation, and then COVID wiped that trip out, and I hadn't shopped other than groceries for months, so in May I started buying some books online and in July the dam burst! First, in early July, we had a quick trip to my favourite city in North America - Victoria, BC, and visited 2 of my favourite bookstores (Munro Books & Russell Books). It was so lovely to be back in a book shop. Then I had a few Indigo & Amazon orders, and finally, I went back to Victoria's bookstores for my birthday holiday. Yada, yada, here are my 24 latest book purchases (22 in July + 2 today, which is August, but arrived in July while we were in Victoria and my neighbour picked up for me)

1. Catwings, Ursula Le Guin -- a super charming children's book that I've read many times and always makes me smile (takes minutes to read)

2. Why the Dutch are Different, Ben Coates -- I read a lot of books like this about Italy, Switzerland, and England. My heritage is Dutch (although I have no relatives I know to connect with, alas), but when I saw this on the bargain table at Munro's I thought it was a must-read

3. Short Stories in Italian for Intermediate Learners - okay, I'm not intermediate YET, but I will be, and I wanted to support Munro's Italian section. All 3 books of it.

4. Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks , Ken Jennings (Jeopardy star) - I'm a geography geek

5. The Prank of the Good Little Virgin of Via Ormea, Amara Lakhous - another Europa Edition by an author I've enjoyed before

6. Gillespie and I, Jane Harris - I was looking for a specific book by a different Harris, and saw this and remembered rave reviews here at LT

7. The Summer Villa, Melissa Hill -- I love a villa in a novel, and this one kept coming up on my FB page so I thought it was a sign that I needed it. Looks very light, which I do need more of in my life

8. Eva Sleeps, Katherine Gregor - Europa Edition that caught my eye

9. The Garden of Monsters, Lorenza Pieri -- I was looking at the Europa Editions Italian catalogue, and this novel by a Toscano author came up, and some of the main characters have my husband's surname, so hell ya I had to buy this! Maybe this is a true story of distant relatives

10. Europa, Tim Parks -- I've read books where he's been the translator, and I've read his non-fiction. This was one of his novels, and years ago it was a Booker nominee

11. Madame Verona Comes Down The Hill, Dimitri Verhulst - a recommendation from Avaland that caught my eye

12. Léon and Louise, Alex Capus - another Avaland book bullet. I didn't realize until it arrived that the author is Swiss. Hello! Contemporary Swiss fiction is all I need

13. Miss Iceland, Audur Ava Olafsdottir - saw this on the shelf at Munro's and it looked irresistible. When I said I was coming back the next day, the cashier suggested I look it over and could return it if it wasn't my thing. I read the first 3 pages and thought it was great

14. My Sister the Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite - I was on the fence with this one, but then my podcast book guys made it sound really interesting, and said it was a 1.5 hour read, so what's to lose?

15. The Emissary, Yoko Tawada - contemporary Japanese, the back blurb was irresistible

16. Darcy's Utopia, Fay Weldon - I always look at the Fay Weldon shelf at Russell Books. And I'm always interested in anything Darcy -- this does not appear to be anything-Jane Austen, but it still looked entertaining

17. Euphoria, Lily King - on my list since it was published. I spent 2 months in Papua New Guinea years ago, so I try to read any novel set there

18. The Memory Police, Yoko Ogawa - This caught my eye on my 2nd visit to Munro's. I'd never heard of it, and I was already buying The Emissary, so I thought I'd leave it. But in the 1.5 days
between visits, I found 2 LT friends talking about this book, so on visit 3 to Munro's I bought it

19. Call Me By Your Name, Andre Aciman -- I've seen the movie 3 (or 4?) times, and when I found this on Munro's bargain table I couldn't say no

20. A King Alone, Jean Giono - a NYBR book, and set in the Alps, so that's all I need

21. Ghost Wall, Sarah Hall -- on my wishlist since it was published

22. A Girl Returned, Donatella Di Pietrantonion -- a Europa Edition of a recent Italian best seller

23. Alfa Romeo 1300, Favio Bartolomei -- I've done well with Italian Europa Editions lately and this one is supposed to be very funny

24. A Novel Bookstore, Laurence Cosse - another Europa Edition found at Russell Books. This one is French. I need to read more French literature and it sounded good

Okay, no time to proof read this because my family is calling me to play games with them

elokuu 2, 2020, 8:49am

>93 Nickelini: Great pile of books! A few of them things I own that I've been meaning to get to (Maphead in particular, and wow I've had A Novel Bookstore on the shelf for more than a decade, I think.

I was thinking of making a list of everything I've bought during COVID, though as someone who really didn't need more books I'll probably be taken aback. That's actually an interesting subject, though: what you've bought since lockdown, and why.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 2, 2020, 11:10am

>93 Nickelini: Looks like a fun list! Quite a few there I've been meaning to read too.

I should definitely read that Coates book (2) some time, though it will probably annoy me. It can't be as bad as The Undutchables, but I've heard mixed verdicts about it, mostly negative... (BTW: genealogy is a quite popular activity here — you might well be able to track down some relatives if you try)

I didn't know about the Alfa book (23) — one of my book-club friends owns a classic Alfa sports car, I think he'll be insisting that we put that one on our list after Ali Smith's Summer.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 2, 2020, 3:32pm

19. The Breaking of a Wave, Fabio Genovesi, 2015, translated from Italian by Will Schutt

cover comments: it's okay by regular cover standards, but rather nice by Europa Edition standards

Rating: 4.5 stars -- It was going to be a 5 star read, but then around the 3/4 mark I got a bit bored. This novel is almost 500 pages long and should have been 350-400. Interesting to me was that online reviews by Italians are rated much lower than reviews written in English.

Comments: The Breaking of a Wave is set in the off-season Tuscan beach town of Forte dei Marmi, and tells the story of a loosely connected group of loners, eccentrics, and misfits. The centre of the story is 13 year old Luna, a clever and likeable girl who also has albinism. She struggles with the death of her older, and much-loved, brother and her mom's depression. She also befriends an odd boy named Zot. Their lives are tied in with 3 friends who are all single men in their early 40s, who each still lives with his mother (an Italian phenomena known as "mammoni" or "bamboccioni", which translates to "big babies." But I digress). I have to admit defeat and say that I cannot adequately describe what this novel is about.

I loved it because I found it refreshing and unusual. I loved the writing, even though many Italians thought the writing was appalling. I loved the story of contemporary Italian lives (as opposed to the US/UK fantasy versions), and I loved the setting of Forte dei Marmi, in the province of Lucca. This is the area of Italy that I know better than any other, and I learned a lot of little things about the place and it's culture. I can't count the number of times I had to stop and read passages out loud to my husband (who spent his childhood summers here).

Recommended for: readers who like current Italian fiction, or who like unusual books with quirky characters. I should mention though that there are some gritty parts, and several scenes of nasty bullying. So it's not all light hearted fun, if that's the impression I gave.

If I ever find other Genovesi books translated into English, I will buy them in a heartbeat. If not, I guess I'll have to improve my Italian language reading skills.

elokuu 2, 2020, 6:32pm

>93 Nickelini: >94 lisapeet: Interesting idea about what came into the house since Covid - maybe even look at it against what got read.

Envying you your Victoria trip.

For those outside Canada who may not know, Munro's was originally founded in 1963 by the writer Alice Munro and her then husband, Jim Munro. Its current location is a beautiful setting, the kind of place bookstores and libraries should inhabit.

elokuu 3, 2020, 3:27am

Great book haul, and you got me with your last few reviews.

I've gone the opposite way and seem to be in a book slump at the moment - I can't get into reading as much as normal. I think I'm just out of my usual routine, and lacking quiet time with everyone in the house to get into new novels.

elokuu 3, 2020, 12:24pm

>93 Nickelini: FYI, Sarah Moss (Ghost Wall) has a new book coming out in January, I think. It showed up when I did my last Book Depository order.

elokuu 3, 2020, 12:49pm

That is an excellent stack of books you've acquired. I loved A Girl Returned and Gillespie and I and I'm very interested in Euphoria. Looking forward to your thoughts on that one.

I'll keep an eye out for a copy of The Breaking of a Wave.

elokuu 3, 2020, 1:35pm

Fun haul and great review of The Breaking of a Wave (and funny cover comment). So, My Sister, the Serial Killer took me 3.5 hours. Still short, but goodness read slow.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 5, 2020, 8:11pm

>93 Nickelini:. WOW! What an incredible haul!

Muokkaaja: elokuu 5, 2020, 11:44pm

20. My Sister, the Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite, 2018

cover comments: I've seen many online comments that people loved this cover. I'm not sure I do, but I think my problem is more with the book's title than the actual cover. I see on the meta page that an earlier version of this had been published in Nigeria with the title "Thicker Than Water," which I think is a MUCH stronger title. Why did they change it? Anyway, I guess in the end I like the woman's face, but maybe not the bright green blocky text against the dark background. Overall I like it more than I dislike it. I see that the hardcover takes the image to the back page and she's holding a bottle of spray cleaner. That's clever. My trade paperback doesn't show that.

Why I Read This Now: I remember when there was a lot of chatter about this here at LT, probably around it's Booker nomination. I was fairly interested in reading it, but then I forgot about it. Recently I listened to my favourite book podcast while watering my garden ("Overdue Podcast" with Craig & Andrew) and they got me interested. Lucky me, two days later I went to Munro Books in Victoria and picked up a copy. Also, they said it took them 1.9 hours to read, so that sounded good (love a quick book). (It took me more like 4 hours.)

Comments: Korede gets yet another phone call from her sister saying that OOPS! she knifed her boyfriend to death. Help me clean it up. Cleaner-extraordinaire and enabler older sister drops everything to assist her sister, Ayoola. It's an uncomfortable but tenable way of life until Ayoola drops by the hospital where Korede is a nurse, and catches the eye of perfect Dr. Tade Otumu, the same doctor that Korede has been crushing on. Like every other man, the doctor is immediately smitten with Ayoola. Now where do Korede's loyalties lie? This is not a "crime novel" or a thriller, but a kinda crazy look at family and abuse.

I loved the quick pace, the amusing writing (unlike other readers, I can't quite call this "funny"), I love the Nigerian setting, and mostly I liked how this was a unique story, unlike anything else I've read.

Recommended for: overall, reader reviews of this are high. It's a quick read, so not much risk. I hear the audiobook is superb.

Rating: 4.5 stars

elokuu 6, 2020, 12:05am

Just stopping by. >93 Nickelini: It took me forever to read through your bunch of reviews, because I had to go look at each entry's book page,and put 3/4 of them on my wishlist.

elokuu 7, 2020, 11:38am

>103 Nickelini: Enjoyed your review. I keep looking at this book and thinking will I / won't I as it's not my normal cup of team, but I'm starting to become convinced to give it a go.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 12, 2020, 12:32am

21. Don't Stop Believin', Olivia Newton-John, 2018

cover comments: Excellent cover, because it immediately reminded me of the album cover below. The title comes from her 1976 song and album, and is not a rip off of the significantly more iconic Journey song of the same name which came out in 1981.

Comments: In the summer of 2012, my friend asked me if I wanted to go see Olivia Newton-John at the PNE (our big regional fair here in Vancouver). “Sure . . . okay!” I had been a huge ONJ fan when I was 11 and I hadn’t thought about it, but seeing her live had always been on my bucket list. So a week later, on a summer evening, I stood in a crush of people with my friend, her sari-wearing mom who didn’t speak a word of English, and her sister Brinder with her engineer wife with their adopted baby, belting out songs and dancing. So much fun. When I was young and Olivia’s biggest fan (I loved horses! She loves horses!) , my 4 older brothers and their wives mocked me for liking her. Now I was an adult and I didn’t care.

Actually, looking back, I really only liked her early, country stuff (and no, I don’t listen to any other country music) – “Let Me Be There” and “If You Love Me, Let Me Know,” and “If Not For You.” (I also liked her version of “Banks of the Ohio” but even at 11 I was a bit disturbed by singing “I held a knife against his breast . . . he cried “my love, don’t murder me! I’m not prepared for eternity.” My grade 6 self sang that loud and I have never yet knifed anyone.) Anyway, by the time Grease came around, I’d moved on.

That long personal introduction is my explanation to the expected “WHY WOULD YOU EVER READ THAT?!”, which I know you’re all thinking.

Now on to the book. OMG. Right from the “Prologue” I was stunned by the bad writing and atrocious editing. It never got better. Do you know why you rarely see an exclamation point in the books you’re reading? Because Oliva Newton-John took them all and used them here! As for the structure, it’s kinda chronological, and kinda thematic, but everything jumps around in an awkward way, so much that it sometimes didn’t make sense. Soooo many internal-contradictions. Soooo many missing details, or things that have no connection. Soooo many details that add nothing. She really doesn’t like to add dates or markers to help the reader along. Usually the date will come at the end of a page-long story. Both in the text and in the captions of the pictures include lists of people who she thinks are amazing, and nice to recognize them, but it breaks up the flow of the story. Except when she wrote about meeting the pope—a page long and she didn’t say WHICH pope.

My husband noted how many times I was sighing while I read this. My hand was twitching to grab a red pen and mark it up and send it back to the publisher and her manager with a note: “what is this schifo!”

And the name dropping. Shallow, meaningless. At the same time, she won’t say a bad word about anyone. Everything is positive! The best people! The best event! Best! Best! Best! Can you say “Pollyanna”? This is a woman who has gone through a divorce, 3 rounds of cancer (she’s on her 4th now), had a boyfriend “disappear” mysteriously, and her only child went through public episodes of addiction, eating disorders, and extreme plastic surgery. Okay, she’s a very private person. That’s fine. But the sunny paint on Every. Single. Word. Yikes. So her saccharine image might actually be the whole package. She likes to think she’s both Sandy #1 and Sandy #2 from Grease but really, she’s only the first Sandy.

A reader on GoodReads said something like “reading this was like a day spent doing nothing but eating marshmallows – airy and sweet.” Captures the whole experience, I’d say.

I was a bit alarmed at the end of the book. Even as a child, I saw that she was a bit shallow and cringe-worthy (I remember when I lived in Australia in the early 80s and whenever I mentioned her to Australians, they all had a negative reaction.). Maybe several rounds of cancer will do this to one, but she’s into woo-woo, and has married a guy who is an “expert” on Amazonian healing herbs (no mention of whether he has any credentials or education). She loves him madly, but everything I read screamed “con man!” At least she still mixes her new age treatments with science-based, double-blind placebo treatments and healthy habits. (Hey, Olivia! Do you know what they call alternative medicine that has been proven to work? It’s called “Medicine”)

I would love to quote examples, but I think I’ve rambled on far too long. I write these comments for me, and if anyone else reads them, well, thanks for sticking with me. At the end of the day, she’s flaky, but I’ll always have a soft spot for her. She does have a good heart.

Why I Read This Now: I'm trying to read more memoirs and this one seemed light and breezy. It also reminded me of why I stopped reading celebrity memoirs all those years ago

Rating: For writing and editing, it's a 1 star read. But I was interested, and always happy to pick it up, so I guess I'll give it 3 stars.

Recommended for: True-blue ONJ fans will love this and not notice any of the major flaws. This book gets very high reader reviews because her big fans have blinders on to anything but their adoration of her. The rest of us are on our own with this one. I'm not sorry I read it.

elokuu 12, 2020, 6:01pm

>106 Nickelini: I'm sorry you took one for the team on this book, but equally overjoyed that you did as I had such a good time reading your review.

Thank you! That was hilarious! Hey, Joyce! Are my exclamation marks touching a raw nerve yet?!!!!!!!

Sorry - couldn't resist.
(I promise I'll stop now).

elokuu 12, 2020, 7:15pm

>106 Nickelini: Sorry about your reading experience, but I very much enjoyed reading about your reading experience!

elokuu 13, 2020, 4:04pm


elokuu 17, 2020, 6:27pm

>109 baswood: Chortle, chortle!

Muokkaaja: elokuu 21, 2020, 2:16am

22. The Arab of the Future: a Childhood in the Middle East 1978 - 1984, Riad Sattouf, translated from French by Sam Taylor, 2015

cover comments: not a fan of this aesthetic, but it fits the book perfectly

Why I Read This Now: My daughter checked out a stack of graphic novels from the library this summer. She wanted me to read this one.

Comments: Riad Sattouf was a columnist at Charlie Hebdo and is a political cartoonist, so of course when he decided to write his memoir, he created a graphic memoir (like a graphic novel, but a memoir). This first volume (of four) covers his early childhood years before starting school. He was born in France to a French mother and a Syrian father who met as students at the Sorbonne. When we first meet Riad's father, he's a sympathetic character -- a foreigner being shunned by the French students. One of his goals was to help create a new Arab world with the "Arab of the future", based on education and secularism. He's a man full of contradictions, but as the book went on, he became more and more traditional. Riad's father was his hero, and started out as a great, admirable figure who turns into a smaller man as Riad gets older.

When Riad was two, his father got a good paying job teaching at a university in Libya, where life was rather horrible. Then they popped back to a rural village in Brittany, France. After a short stint there, they moved to his father's home village in Syria, which was even worse than Libya. The father views everything through rose-coloured glasses, his mother doesn't say much, and little Riad reports what he's observing in a matter-of-fact manner wise beyond his years. The illustrations tell a different version of the story, and are often where we find the humour.

This was an interesting, sometimes funny read, and I learned details of life in Libya and Syria.

This is rather far out of my usual reading sphere, so I'm struggling how to describe it.

Rating: 4 stars. I enjoyed this a lot. The only reason I'm not giving it a higher rating is that the characters (other than Riad) where all terrible people, and the places he went were all awful. I would have preferred some nuance.

Recommended for everyone. This is entirely unlike anything I normally pick up, so if I liked it, you might too. It's a quick read.

elokuu 21, 2020, 8:02am

>111 Nickelini: Ooh, thanks for reminding me about this one, which caught my eye a while ago and was then forgotten.

elokuu 22, 2020, 3:57pm

23. The Summer Villa, Melissa Hill, 2020

cover comments: Whoa, this is the type of cover that I never even glance at usually. But 2020 is a different year--a year that stole my Italian holiday. I know when I see bougainvillea that I'm far away because it doesn't grow here in Vancouver. Bougainvillea! This cover says "perfect vacation" so while there is nothing unique or arty about it, it did manage to grab me and say "read this book!"

Why I Read This Now: A couple of months ago I read and enjoyed The Temptation of Gracie, which is the kind of book I don't normally read. But I needed something light and fun for a change. At that time, a HarperCollins ad for this book kept popping up on my social media. This one looked even less like my kind of book . . . but it promised to be a light, fun read, and it's set in Italy, and there's a villa. Tick, tick, tick, sold! Two of these in a few months means that I can't say this isn't my type of book any more.

Comments: This is the story of three young women: Kim, a trust-fund baby from New York City; Colette, a young woman from England who has recently nursed her mother through cancer; and Annie, a hair stylist from Dublin who has finally run into some good luck. They all meet at a shabby villa on Italy's Amalfi Coast, become friends, have some vacation romances, and reset their lives. Six years later, they meet back at the villa. The novel jumps back and forth through time and between the three women.

Light, fun to read, lots of gorgeous, summery Italian scenery, and an unexpected but satisfying end. And now I really want to go back to the stunning Amalfi Coast.

Rating: Sure, I could criticize this book, and I certainly have lots of suggestions for the editor. But I knew what I was picking up, so I'm not going to be that person. It was fun. I didn't get a real vacation this year, so I have to escape through books. 4 stars.

Recommended for: readers looking for some beachy escapism

syyskuu 5, 2020, 2:46pm

24. August Folly, Angela Thirkell, 1936

cover comments: Mick Wiggins created new covers for the latest Virago Modern Classics covers of their Thirkell series. They all charm, and are evocative of a simpler time. I can't remember this scene happening in the book, and certainly the extensive cast of characters in August Folly were all pasty white English people, but I still like this.

Comments: August Folly is a romp through the summer vacation in the Barsetshire countryside with a small group of families in the mid-1930s. First we meet the Tebben family: Richard, home for the summer after an unsuccessful year at Oxford, and his parents, who annoy him to no end, and who are supposed to the "poor" family, even though they have servants. The neighbourhood gentry are the Palmers, who mean well but Mrs Palmer has forced everyone in the village to act in her summer play, Hippolytus (not sure who's supposed to be left watch this). Finally, we meet the "impossibly glamorous" Dean family - the perfect parents with the "exquisite" mother, who Richard crushes on, even though several of her offspring are around his age, and their gaggle of children. There are a few other friends and villagers. Lots of fun and misunderstandings are had by all, and everything is wrapped up nicely with a little romance thrown in too.

Rating: 3.5 stars. Overall this was a fun read. There were many lovely phrases and amusing conversations, and it captured the air of a carefree English summer. On the downside, being written in 1936, there is also too much misogyny, a little classism, and a couple of incidents of casual racism. The other downside is this 283 page book was packed with too large a cast. And I really didn't care at all for the theatrical production.

Recommended for: lovers of charming English novels from a by-gone era. Not recommended for readers who apply today's ethics to long-dead writers.

Why I Read This Now: I started this the last week of August because I was in the mood for another summery read and this one says AUGUST right in the title.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 9, 2020, 12:39pm

25. The Complete Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi, originally written in French

cover comments: I don't read many graphic novels because I'm not a fan of the art, so this just isn't interesting or compelling to me

Date: Original French editons, P1 2000, P2 2001; P3 2002, P4 2003; in English,The Story of a Childhood 2003, translator Mattias Ripa, and The Story of a Return 2004, translator Blake Ferris

Why I Read This Now: My daughter took out a stack of graphic novels from the library with a loonng due date. This classic was in the pile and I’ve always meant to read it. However, I hadn’t set out to read the Complete Persepolis. Just a taste was fine for me. However, I was not able to determine when I got to the end of Part 1. I could, however, figure out the end of the English language edition (after much online searching, found it here at LT), which is Part 2. But that’s when it got good. So I read the whole thing.

Comments: the classic graphic book, which has even been made into a movie. Always on my TBR list. It begins with the author’s childhood in Iran, before the revolution. Lots of details about late 20th century Iran – history, lots of themes of traditional vs modern, gov’t vs. The people, and so on. I found it a bit of a tough go from the start. The art was stark black & white, and not very subtle. And the very small text outlined historical happenings, along with some detached family details (“then this happened, then that happened, then a family friend showed up and told us of his torture, and then later he was beaten to death”). I’ve read about the Iranian revolution. Back in the late 80s my friend dated one of the US Iranian hostages so I guess because I knew him I researched it a bit more than the average person. Anyway, I found the lack of narrative and the crude art to be a bit of a bore.

Because it wasn’t working for me at all, I tried to find out the end of the first book, which I couldn’t. But I did figure out the end of the 2nd. And that’s exactly where the story got interesting. The last half of the book (The Story of a Return) was so much more engaging. I find the weakness of this is when she veers off her life and goes into political facts.

Pro The second half, which goes into detail of her life in Austria as a teenager without parents, or any real adult guidance; and then back in Iran as someone who doesn’t fit into either world

Con: The absence of divisions between the 4 original books (noted above) was a fail for me. Otherwise, the first half was much weaker. That part was more like taking medicine than anything else. Also, I don’t like the art. It’s black and white with no subtleties. See my comments on The Arab of the Future, which I think was a better book.

Rating: After the first half, I was thinking 2.5 to 3 stars max, but then the last half was 4 stars, so I guess that’s a 3.5 stars in the end.

Recommended for: readers looking for a crash course in 20th century Iranian history, readers wanting to hit the classics of graphic novels, people interested in the traditionalist-modern world dichotomy

syyskuu 13, 2020, 9:20pm

Just parking this link here because I'll use it in future book reviews. It's about a publisher stiffing its authors.

syyskuu 19, 2020, 6:23am

>116 Nickelini: Interesting. I've read some Hesperus Press books, mostly classics of novella length. Probably no problem stiffing the dead authors. :-)

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 27, 2020, 10:54pm

26. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson (2009), translated from Swedish in 2012 by Rod Bradbury

cover comments: pretty neutral. The composition was fine, but I don't like the orange

Comments: Allan Karlsson, on his 100th birthday, wants to avoid the birthday party at his old age home and so climbs out his window and many things happen. We also learn about his past, and how he got himself involved in many important events of the 20th century. The story goes back and forth between his past and his current escape adventures. Easy to sum this one up as a Swedish Forest Gump. One of the things that stood out for me was that there were almost no female characters (it would have been easy to make one of the cops female, for example. Or one of the criminals). There is one woman in most of the book, but she gets renamed as "Beauty," and then near the end there's another that the men are too lazy to learn her name so call her "Amanda." Even if I try, I can't help but just be bored by such androcentric books. Also I can't find any reason to try.

Rating: 3 stars. I was okay. Just not for me. I get why people love this, but I struggled to pick it up and to keep reading. Not a bad book, but not everyone's thing.

Why I Read This: My SIL put this in my hands in 2016 and I want to return it, but I don't want to say "nah, not interested." I guess that's peer pressure?

Recommended for: many readers loved this. At least is was Swedish. That was probably my favourite thing about it.

Note: I hear there's a movie. I would watch it.

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 1, 2020, 10:32am

27. The Country Where No One Ever Dies, Ornela Vorpsi

cover comments: very much a Dalkey Archive cover, done in Albanian colours. Not wonderful, but pretty good

Rating: 4 stars

Comments: This novella is a series of vignettes about a girl (or possibly girls) growing up in 1980s communist Albania. Some of the bits were incredibly evocative, like when two children played Romeo and Juliet sword fights with what turned out to be the uncle's bones. On the downside, I could have read this in a sitting or or two, but the abuse of the narrator by her elders was too uncomfortable. How many times was she called a "whore" before she was old enough to know what sex was?

Why I Read This Now: I was looking for a short book before heading into October spooky reads (a sorbet course, perhaps?). I own this book because I got interested in Albania a few years ago when I made friends with an Albanian who has told me a lot about the country and shown me pictures of its beautiful beaches and gorgeous mountains. Definitely on my list of future travels. If international travel happens again.

This novel won several literary prizes in Italy.

Recommended for: fans of Dalkey Archives, readers who want to know more about life in Albania or life under real communism, or lives of young women under traditional and repressive regimes.

ETA: Notes about the translation - Originally published in Italian in 2005 as "Paese dove non si muore mal", and translated by Robert Elsie and Janice Mathie-Heck. But I read elsewhere that it was actually written in French in 2004. And the blurb about the translators says that Robert Elsie is an expert on Albania, and doesn't say anything about either of them working in Italian. Strange. At any rate, the English translation was done in 2009.

lokakuu 3, 2020, 10:49am

>118 Nickelini: "Easy to sum this one up as a Swedish Forest Gump." My notes from when I read this said almost exactly the same thing. I enjoyed it but not enough to read anything else by this author.

lokakuu 4, 2020, 11:38pm

28. Ghost Wall, Sarah Moss, 2018

cover comments: I was puzzled by this cover when I compared it to the title and what I knew of the story, but once I started reading, I got it. And I like it. Don't love it, but I like it.

Rating: This came so close to being a 5 star read for me, but in the end, I'll give it 4.5 to 4.75

Comments: Silvie, a working class teen from northern England, goes along with her parents to an archaeological re-enactment of life in iron age Britain. Her bus driver father has a passion for pre-Roman life. They join an experimental archaeological professor and his three students for two weeks of trying to live as early Britons. Her father imagines himself a pure descendant. They wear rustic tunics, forage for their food, and attempt to imagine what prehistoric people thought. Silvie is controlled by mental and physical abuse by her tyrannical father, as is her mom, and they follow the iron age life strictly. Silvie is fascinated by the students, who sneak off to to town to grab snacks and visit the pub, and realizes she has choices. Things go bad, and then very bad. Many readers have noted Lord of the Flies.

There were many reasons Ghost Wall was just my thing. I found the writing to be beautifully concise-- so much said with so few words! And also often beautiful to read. Also, 15 years ago or so, I was very much into reenactment reality shows where a group of people tried to live authentic historical lives. My favourite, and the one I best remember, was a group of people trying to recreate iron age Britain. I think they were in Wales, and their goal was to actually make iron. Anyway, I too am fascinated by ancient Britain and I regret I didn't get to study it when I was at university. What keeps this from being a 5 star read for me was that the oppressive father was drawn as all-bad, all-the-time. Although I found his abuse completely realistic, in reality, a man who is abusive to his family is better at hiding it from those outside his abuse circle. There needed to be scenes where he was viewed as having some sort of community or intellectual value, and where others thought well of him.

Overall, this was a terrific read.

Recommended for: if it sounds interesting to you, try it. It's short. When I really like a book, I sometimes learn more when I read negative reader reviews. In this case most of them just make me raise my eyebrow in puzzlement. I guess different strokes? Some readers complain about the absence of quotation marks around dialogue, and that's something that has irritated me in other books, but I didn't even notice it here. This may be because I've been reading a lot of translated European fiction, where it is the norm.

Why I Read This Now: I've wanted to read it since I heard about it, but initially it wasn't that easy to find. And now it is, and it's my book club read for October

lokakuu 5, 2020, 8:15am

>121 Nickelini: Sounds intriguing. On to the wish list.

lokakuu 6, 2020, 7:39pm

>121 Nickelini: I had the very same criticism of Ghost Wall—the father drawn in too-broad strokes—especially because it was otherwise such a subtle little book.

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 14, 2020, 11:55pm

29. Your House Is On Fire, Your Children All Gone, Stefan Kiebye, 2012

Kiebye is a German author, but he's lived a lot of his adult life in the USA. This novel, set in NW Germany, is clearly German, even if he wrote it in English

cover comments: I have two minds on this one. It drew me in, but it also drew in people who would never like a book like this one. First, I stumbled on this book at the sale shelf of a book store. I did like the horror picture of the child (a character who isn't in the novel), and based on disappointed reviews, this drew in horror fans who were outraged that this wasn't a horror novel. But, secondly, I paid money for it because of the orange bottom and Penguin logo, which told me it was chilling literary fiction. Which it was.

Also, and this is cool, if you move the novel in the light, there is shadow text that says "If you tell on me, you're dead." Impressive

Rating 5 stars? I have to think about this for a day or so. I've read all the terrible comments here on LT, and also a slew of reader comments on GoodReads, and based on the reviews, I think most of the brilliance of this novel are missed due to failed expectations. Perhaps it was marketed to the wrong crowd? I found this dark, dark novel to be more profound than almost all of the reviews. A misunderstood novel?

I'll be back ....

lokakuu 14, 2020, 1:17pm

>124 Nickelini: The cover is so powerfully deceiving, it even impelled you to re-title the book in a more horror-like fashion: "...Your Children on Fire" :D

lokakuu 14, 2020, 1:11pm

>124 Nickelini: Interesting comments in your 'rating' paragraph. I wonder how many books fail (or at least not helped) because of lousy marketing or terrible cover. I just think that some, maybe most books are not for everyone.

lokakuu 14, 2020, 11:56pm

>125 ELiz_M: Oops! I didn't notice because the touchstone worked -- usually they're so picky that if I don't get it perfectly correct, they just don't work.

lokakuu 15, 2020, 12:57am

>126 avaland:
I wonder how many books fail (or at least not helped) because of lousy marketing or terrible cover. I just think that some, maybe most books are not for everyone.

Most books are not for everyone. Let's get that out of the way. (Thinking about how boring a book would have to be to appeal to "everyone" -- oh, let's not even start)

Lousy marketing or a terrible cover: That, indeed I think is a tragic problem (in book terms) . It's so sad (my post >116 Nickelini: is about that with one of my beloved authors, Roma Tearne)

Based on the zillions of reviews I read about this book though, it appears that the cover of Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone appealed to horror readers, and they weren't prepared for something this nuanced. It's funny, because I remember being drawn to the cover, and then the Penguin label. I was expecting something John Wyndam-ish I guess. Also, I bought it because the author was German, which I thought added a twist. If he'd been American, I wouldn't have bought it (ha ha, joke is on me, he lives in the US and wrote the book in English)

lokakuu 15, 2020, 5:50am

'You can't judge a book by looking at the cover' Bo Diddley said that

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 22, 2020, 4:10am

... Continued from above . . .

Your House Is On Fire, Your Children All Gone, Stefan Kiebye, 2012

Kiebye is a German author, but he's lived a lot of his adult life in the USA. This novel, set in NW Germany, is clearly German, even if he wrote it in English

cover comments: I have two minds on this one. It drew me in, but it also drew in people who would never like a book like this one. First, I stumbled on this book at the sale shelf of a book store. I did like the horror picture of the child (a character who isn't in the novel), and based on disappointed reviews, this drew in horror fans who were outraged that this wasn't a horror novel. But, secondly, I paid money for it because of the orange bottom and Penguin logo, which told me it was chilling literary fiction. Which it was.

Also, and this is cool, if you move the novel in the light, there is shadow text that says "If you tell on me, you're dead." Impressive

Rating: Yep, sticking with 5 stars

It’s a good novel when I finish it and immediately go back and reread the Prologue. Watching all the blocks fall into place like a successful round of Tetris is so satisfying. I want to reread this, and see what I missed. I had started it last year but quit after the first few pages threw so many characters at me (in a novel only 198 p long). Second time around, I “enjoyed” it from the beginning, if you can say that about such a nasty book. This time I made a character list while I read the Prologue and that covered almost everyone who appears in the book. Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone opens 40 years after the events of the novel with Christian, Alex, Martin and Linde meeting at the burial of their friend Anke. The rest of the novel is told in linked vignettes by Anke, Linde, Martin and Christian. Their stories all share their coming of age in an environment thick with chilling casual violence. This book tells some pretty messed up stories.

“Time is of no importance” is the opening sentence, and establishes the mood. By the technology, it appears the novel is set after WWII, yet perhaps due to their poverty, it feels older. In the end, I found this anachronistic aspect added to timeless feel that gave this a bit of Grimms Fairytale atmosphere.

Set in the fictional isolated Hammersmoor, in NW Germany, the village is a backwater at the end of an abandoned rail line a ways past Bremen and Hamburg. The locals dig peat, and other than one family, everyone is poor or almost-poor. Several times they mention things in town that commemorate the 30 Years War. I had to look this up: it happened all over Europe from 1618-1648. The local battle was triumphant, and it seems nothing important had taken place since.

While reading, my question was always “what is driving all of this darkness? " Other than the black tongue story early in the book, none of the nefarious acts are actually supernatural, despite the Gothic feel. I didn’t actually expect an explanation at all, so I was delighted by the succinct reward at the end.

I think to appreciate this novel, the reader has to have an understanding of how trauma can affect not just the person it happened to, but their child too. My grandparents experienced murder and gang rape in the Russian Revolution, and I know this in turn traumatized my mom. I’ve read about studies that show horrific trauma can change DNA, and it reflects in descendents. Having that knowledge in my pocket was crucial to getting this.

Recommended for: readers looking for a dark, dark literary novel. Not recommended for people looking for a a horror novel.

Why I Read This Now: I like to read creepy books in October

lokakuu 27, 2020, 12:10am

30. The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham, 1951

cover comments: I ordered 6 of these Penguin Wyndham editions from England a few years ago, so that means on some level I really liked them. I'm guessing this is the main character Bill Masen, and we never get a description of him. Yet, I think if he was written with neon lime green hair, Wyndham would have mentioned that.

Comments Classic 1950s British sci-fi or post-apocalyptic fiction. I feel like I don't need to give the story outline, but until I picked this up a few weeks ago, I actually thought this was the base for the movie "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers." I was wrong, it's not. So here's the basic story . . . in an alternative 1951 world, there exist Triffids -- odd plants that were engineered by the Soviets, and that have a deadly sting and they can amble around (kinda like zombies). But generally they are "docked".

That's the background. In the opening of the novel, the protagonist, Bill, is in the hospital about to be released from surgery to his eyes. On his last night in the hospital, the earth passes through comet debris and there is an unprecedented celestial light show that he can't witness due to the bandages. The next morning almost everyone on the planet is blind, except those few who missed it. He emerges to a new world. And the triffid plants are emboldened to become more aggressive and start to take over the planet.

I did have my doubts early on when Bill got out of the hospital and wandered around London, and the novel felt way too much like two other books - War of the Worlds, which I did not like, and Blindness, which I loathed deeply. But it quickly changed course and I got along with it better.

Rating: 4 stars. An interesting and engaging read throughout. The ending got very exciting, but not n an action-thriller way. I wish I'd read Wyndham when I was 18-21 -- this would have been right up my alley and a 5 star read for me then.

Some readers complain about the gender stereotypes, but I know going in that I'm reading a book written in the mid-20th-century by a man, so I factor that in. And I have to give him a nod for having the other protagonist, Josella Playton, be the author of a best-seller titled Sex Is My Adventure. She was the best character in this novel.

Recommended for: Readers who like "scary" stories that aren't horror

Why I Read This Now: I specifically bought all those Wyndham novels a while ago, so it was time. This one came first because it's the last of his books on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list (and my first 1001 this year!). Not spooky, but it kinda fell under the general Spooktober umbrella.

lokakuu 27, 2020, 2:14am

>131 Nickelini: I was planning to mention that The Day of the Triffids sounded similar to Blindness, but I was surprised that, unlike me, you "loathed" it. What didn't you like about it?

lokakuu 27, 2020, 7:48pm

>132 kidzdoc:

I have a zero-tolerance policy on gratuitous fantasy rape scenes

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 28, 2020, 1:08pm

>133 Nickelini: Understood. That scene was very difficult to read.

lokakuu 28, 2020, 2:35pm

You've sold me on the Kiebye.

lokakuu 28, 2020, 3:30pm

>133 Nickelini: Thanks for the heads-up about Blindness. Off the TBR it goes and into the donation box.

lokakuu 30, 2020, 12:20pm

>131 Nickelini: I read it earlier this year at the start of the first lockdown and got a bit carried away with it. It is a good read even after nearly 70 years.

lokakuu 30, 2020, 10:59pm

Great comments on Ghost Wall. Moss did an excellent job with the forbidding atmosphere, I think. A good spooky read.

lokakuu 31, 2020, 4:17pm

The Little Ghost Who Was a Quilt, Riel Nason, illustrated by Byron Eggenchwiler

cover comments: fabulous

Comments: I don't usually review picture books, but iThe Little Ghost Who Was a Quilt calls for one.

This beautifully and cleverly illustrated Halloween book tells the story of a ghost who was a quilt in a world of white sheet ghosts. Apparently he had an ancestor who was a checkered tablecloth. It's a lovely Halloween story, but goes beyond that to tell a story of feeling like an outcast, but then using your uniqueness to do something special (along the lines of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer). There are many lovely details in the illustrations -- perhaps my favourite is the nod to Canadian trick or treaters with the children wearing ghost sheets -- one with ski mittens, one with a jacket over the sheet, and one with a toque on top of his head.

The author, Riel Nason, who I know from the adult novel The Town That Drowned, is also a quilter. What a great result of her combination of talents.

Recommended for: anyone looking for a charming and kind Halloween story, and quilters everywhere

Rating: 5 stars

lokakuu 31, 2020, 5:26pm

>139 Nickelini: What a beautiful cover. I don’t buy many children’s books but I’ll keep that one in mind.

lokakuu 31, 2020, 8:53pm

cute little quilt ghost. Just had a long catch up. Interesting that I found Persepolis very much opposite to you. Well, I mean I did really like part 2, but not near as much as her life in Iran and all details. Glad you enjoyed Ghost Wall.

marraskuu 1, 2020, 1:47am

>130 Nickelini: Great thoughts. I can’t resist checking it out now for myself!

marraskuu 1, 2020, 11:03am

>139 Nickelini: I had only heard the title of this book before now, and it alone was enough to intrigue me, but your review brings sense to it. I love the whole idea.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 2, 2020, 10:57pm

31. The Devil’s Picnic: Around the World in Pursuit of Forbidden Fruit, Taras Grescoe, 2005

Cover comments: I like it. Strong colours. The snake is symbolic of the serpent tempting Adam & Eve.

Comments: This title is misleading, and so is the subtitle. What this book is really about is prohibition; specifically prohibition of things we ingest. Grescoe travels the world and explores various substances that are illegal, and how in most cases how the laws prohibiting them are often misguided, and while we’re all told the laws protect people, in fact, the impetus is actually to protect corporate interests.

1. Aperitif – Hjemmebrent – Norwegian moonshine and alcohol prohibition
2. Crackers—the author sneaks poppy seed crackers into Singapore, where poppy seeds and chewing gum are illegal
3. Cheese – raw cheeses in France
4. Main course- Criadillas – a hunt through Spain for bull’s testicles. Along the way he eats a whole lot of offal.
5. Smoke – Cuban cigars smuggled from Montreal to New York and San Francisco, and an examination of smoking laws
6. Digestif—absinthe in France and Switzerland
7. Dessert – chocolat mousseux – chocolate in France
8. Herbal tea – mate de coca – a trip to Bolivia to chew coca leaves
9. Nightcap – pentobarbital sodium – suicide tourism in Switzerland (medically assisted death)

This was a fascinating piece that was a bit travelogue, a bit foodie writing, and a lot of other information about drugs and alcohol and laws and a hundred other subjects. I spent as much time off on google searches as I spent actually reading it.

Why I Read This Now: I’ve recently developed a taste for reading about food, which I thought was the main topic of this book.

Recommended for: readers interested in these topics

Rating: 4 stars. I had to knock off half a star for verbosity. Although this was only 357 pages long, each page was stuffed full – not much white space here. I found each section longer than it had to be. But otherwise, I found it to be terrific.

marraskuu 3, 2020, 6:23am

>139 Nickelini: I dropping that book on my list. Sounds charming.

>144 Nickelini: Intriguing topic, and I enjoyed your review very much. However, life is short and sadly one cannot read every book, so I'll have to skip this one ;-)

marraskuu 3, 2020, 9:12am

>144 Nickelini: the night cap seems a little, well, dark. The list itself is fun. Some chapters appeal more than others.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 3, 2020, 8:06pm

>145 avaland: - life is short and sadly one cannot read every book, so I'll have to skip this one. A very grown up and reasonable attitude.

>146 dchaikin: - Some chapters appeal more than others. Agreed. But he threw in some surprises. The chapter about coca leaf didn't interest me at the start. But most of it was set in Bolivia had some fascinating bits that sent me on lengthy google searches and resulted in me pinning tourism suggestions for Bolivia on my Pinterest "Places I Want to Go" board. Bolivia is one of those South American countries that I don't think of often and didn't know I wanted to visit.

marraskuu 3, 2020, 8:09pm

>147 Nickelini: You'll have to watch Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid first. Actually, that line is most of what I know of Bolivia... (although I have a friend from there)

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 3, 2020, 8:14pm

>148 dchaikin:

For most of my life, the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid scene was the ONLY thing I knew about Bolivia. Turns out, there's more. I mostly think I'd survive if I went there

ETA: "Kid, the next time I say, 'Let's go someplace like Bolivia,' let's go someplace like Bolivia." - I actually forgot that line, but I remembered the ending.

marraskuu 3, 2020, 8:14pm

>149 Nickelini: well, I hope wholly, not mostly. (might depend where you drive...I also saw that video...the two cars passing on a cliff-edge road one-car wide) Or you could become reborn by the scenery and come back more than when you left. : )

marraskuu 4, 2020, 2:04pm

>147 Nickelini: re my comment in >145 avaland:. That does sound very grown up and reasonable, doesn't it? Too bad I don't always follow my own wisdom. LOL.

marraskuu 7, 2020, 2:59pm

32. Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid, 2019

cover comments: suddenly this year I've noticed covers like this everywhere. I guess that's what book designers do. Strong colour contrast is very 2020. I'm fairly neutral on it at this point.

Comments: I didn't really know what to think when I finished this. Overall, it was a good read. Going into it, I thought of this one as "that book where the black babysitter gets accused of kidnapping the white child she's minding by some racist by-stander," so I was confused when that happened right in the beginning of the book, and the video of it was kept private. Now what's going to happen for the next 300 pages? It was pretty interesting, fairly quick paced, and much lighter than I expected. Almost like a chick-flick or a romcom. But there were serious tones too - to steal some phrases from other readers' comments: "preformative allyship," "white saviour complex," "the racism of nice people," and "the influence and destructive power of well-meaning white people."

A few things didn't make much sense. For one, why was Emira's white boss, Alix, so obsessed with her? And Alix and Kelley's joint story line was too much of a coincidence to be believable. And also, "Briar"? Is that one of those made up names that rich white people think are cool? I'm surprised the other daughter wasn't named Thorn.

Rating: I'll generously give this 4 stars, but I have to say I was shocked when I found out this morning that this was nominated for the Booker Prize. No wonder I don't follow that award anymore. Really glad I got a library copy and didn't have to shell out $35 for the hard cover.

Why I Read This Now: book club

marraskuu 8, 2020, 11:16pm

33. Darcy's Utopia, Fay Weldon, 1990

cover comments: a hot mess, just like the novel

Comments: Eleanor Darcy is a media darling. Together with her husband economist Julian Darcy, they created a new blueprint for society. Her husband is now in prison, and Eleanor is explaining her Utopian vision to journalists Valerie and Hugo. They immediately fall under a spell, leave their families, and hole up in the local Holiday Inn while they write their pieces. The parts about Valerie the journalist were more interesting than any time Eleanor spoke. She was in insufferable bore who carried on about her ridiculous philosophical ideas.

Rating: One star. There were some vignettes that were mildly interesting, overall this was an awful read. No idea why I finished it, but I admit that after I was 2/3 of the way through, I went into speed reading mode.

Recommended for: If you were a pretentious bore in 1990, you might like this visit down memory lane.

Why I Read This Now: I found this at a second hand book store in summer. I always check out the Fay Weldon shelf, and the title drew me in as I hoped it was a Jane Austen pastiche. Which it definitely wasn't. It sounded interesting enough, and I kept it at work to read on my breaks.

This ugly little mass market paperback is now in my recycling bin.

marraskuu 11, 2020, 6:20am

>153 Nickelini: ha! Good review! Tell us how you really feel! I know I've read some Fay Weldon, but it's hazy. I think they were The Life and Loves of a She-Devil and Wicked Women, a short story collection. I remember very little about both and I have no records, it being very pre-LT.

marraskuu 11, 2020, 7:15am

I read The Life and Loves of a She-Devil way back in my oblivious early 20s and even then thought it was heavy on the sexism and looksism. If it made that impression on my then, it must have been pretty bad.

marraskuu 11, 2020, 10:24am

Hi, Nickelini, checking in after a hiatus. I love your thread, and you read the most interesting stuff.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 11, 2020, 2:18pm

>156 sallypursell: - Hello, again! I sincerely try to read interesting books. I don't always succeed.

>154 avaland: & >155 lisapeet: - I enjoyed Weldon's Bulgari Connection, and although this one was dated and a drag, I haven't completely given up on her. I believe I have a copy of The Life and Loves of a She-Devil in my house. It's her best-known work, but she had something else nominated for the Booker Award, and she was also a judge for the prize in the past. I just looked her up and she was a writer for "Upstairs, Downstairs." I don't see her becoming a favourite, but she might have something to say.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 11, 2020, 3:58pm

>153 Nickelini: Thanks for taking one for the team! I haven't read Fay Weldon for many years. The Life and Loves of a She-Devil is the only one I can remember although I know I tried others, obviously forgettable.

ETA: Fabulous photo at the top! I was thinking of you when I added The Finishing School by Canadian author Joanna Goodman to my collection. It's set in Switzerland.

marraskuu 11, 2020, 4:06pm

>158 VivienneR:
Ah, yes, I know that title. I had it along with me in Switzerland in 2019, although I didn't get to it until Italy. When I finished it I left it on the take-one-leave-one bookshelf at our VRBO in Bellagio. That's the kind of thing you can do when you travel :-(
(Yes, I'm feeling stuck)

marraskuu 11, 2020, 4:20pm

>157 Nickelini: I do feel some authors can become dated; and while I read with the context in which a book was written in mind, it doesn't work well for some authors. She may be one of those authors and, well, with all the rich choices we have for reading these days, why bother....

marraskuu 11, 2020, 6:28pm

>160 avaland:
And there you go being all reasonable again . . .

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 11, 2020, 10:39pm

>157 Nickelini: Weldon also wrote the script for the 1980 BBC "Pride and Prejudice":

1980 Pride and Prejudice

which I thought was fairly faithful to the book.

Haven't read any of her books, but plan to read her biography of Rebecca West.

marraskuu 12, 2020, 1:54am

>162 kac522:

Well! Every bit of that is interesting. I did not know she wrote the 1980 P&P, and I did not know she wrote the biography of Rebecca West. {Return of the Soldier is one of my top favourite books.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 12, 2020, 11:12am

>163 Nickelini: Right, one of my top books, too--I plan to re-read Return of the Soldier after I read the biography. The other book I have of Weldon's (from the library) is Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen, which I think is geared to YA readers and is about reading and writing. Both Weldon books are short, so if I'm disappointed I won't be investing a ton of effort.

marraskuu 15, 2020, 2:47pm

34. Confessions of a Former Fox News Christian, Seth Andrews, 2020

cover comments: my initial reaction to this was "meh, not really my aesthetic," but on closer inspection, it's rather clever: the robot has the bright investigator's light shining on him, and he's breaking the robot-face with a slight smirk of a human.

Why I Read This Now: I'm a regular listener to the author's podcast (he has a great voice, btw) and I bought it to support him, even though I couldn't find a copy in Canada and had to order it from the Book Depository in the UK (US readers can order it from Amazon). I just started reading it when it arrived.

Comments: Seth Andrews grew up in a fundamentalist family in Oklahoma. He attended private Christian school and had an early career as a broadcaster on Christian radio in Tulsa. He was an avid listener to Rush Limbaugh. But then he broke out of that bubble.

In the fairly short, snappy chapters, Andrews gives the background of these topics, and why the white Christian far-right think the way they do:

1. The Fox Phenomenon: Roger Ailes, the GOP Playbook, and the Rise of Fox News

2. The Rush to Anger: Conservative Talk Radio and the Angry White Male

3. The Reagan Revolution: Christian Nationalism, Communism, and the Cold War

4. A Pledge of Allegiance: Loyalty Oaths and the Freedom of Speech

5. We're Number One: National Pride and American Exceptionalism

6. This Means War: Manufactured Persecution in Defense of Christian Privilege

7. Out of My Cold, Dead Hands: America's Love Affair with Guns

8. Traitors in our Midst: Patriotism and Protest When America Goes to War

9. An Eye for an Eye: American Justice and the Death Penalty

10. The Bible Tells Me So: The Reality behind Christianity's "Good Book"

11. Abortion: Science, the Soul, and the Question of Personhood

12. The Gay Agenda: Biblical Bigotry and the Myth of the Traditional Family

13. The Looney Left: Liberals Aren't Immune to Bad Ideas

I got all of my religious training in Canada and Australia, so I've always found a lot of Americans ideas of Christianity to be bizarre to say the least. I guess that's why I'm interested, although I've now read enough about them and I don't think I'll ever really understand.

Recommended for: this is one of those books that the people who should read it won't touch it. So yes, the Fox News Christian. Otherwise, it's a good collection of information for people who don't remember or don't know where the Fox News phenom came from, and how it steered white Christians in the US. For the reader who thinks this is just a pile-on against this group, it's not. Andrews was one of them, and understands their POV. And the final chapter talks to the extremists on the "other" side (it's not truly binary, and I'm using shorthand here).

Rating: A lot of this was repeated info for me, so 4 strong stars. For someone who's learning this for the first time, it could be a 5 star read. It's a concise collection of the top issues.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 15, 2020, 4:19pm

35. The Pumpkin Eater, Penelope Mortimer, 1962

cover comments: I *love* this cover. The image, Susan Bower's Downhill in a Pram is great, and the smoky lavender and inky blue is perfect. The cover and pages of this NYRB edition had a delicious, smooth feel.

Comments: This autobiographical novel is the story of a mid-century British woman's mental breakdown. Mrs Armitage is on her fourth marriage. She has a lot of children -- they're just one big noisy mass, and the reader never learns their names or exactly how many she has. In the past, when she didn't know what to do to make her life better, she just had another child. She didn't have to mother very much though, because her latest husband was successful and they have servants. Which gave her even less to do. He's also selfish and a serial-cheater. None of this particularly sounds like a book I'd like, but the writing is sharp and the story moves along quickly for the most part.

Why I Read This Now: I guess the pumpkin in the title made it sound like an autumn book? It's been high on my TBR for a while. (Note: no pumpkins were hurt in this novel)

Rating: 4 solid stars

Recommended for: readers who like 20th century British novels. This one is perhaps more lively than the average in that genre.

marraskuu 16, 2020, 7:26pm

>165 Nickelini: Sounds like a necessary book, although being raised in that world, I think I've got enough insight to last me, thank you. I do agree that the American version is it's own especially toxic thing - I grew up in Canada and moved to the US when I was sixteen and the church was very different all of a sudden. The political affiliations and the requirement of not asking questions took some getting used to.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 21, 2020, 8:49am

Nice review of Confessions of a Former Fox News Christian, Joyce. I don't understand these people one bit, so I'll have to read this book, to try to understand their "logic" and numerous fake grievances. Why the most privileged groups (White men and women) in American society are the angriest and most aggrieved is beyond my comprehension.

marraskuu 21, 2020, 3:41pm

>167 RidgewayGirl: & >168 kidzdoc:
I really have to get better at utterly ignoring those people

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 21, 2020, 4:03pm

36. The Ghost in the House, Sara O'Leary, 2020 (touchstones aren't working)

cover comments: well....... the white shirt and script print are great, but at first I was taken aback by the bright colours. I know this is The Look for books published in 2019 & 2020, but it didn't seem to have any place in the mood or theme of this book. By the end though, I can go along with it because the main character often talks about her love of bright and rich colours. Not a complete disaster then.

Rating: 4.5 stars. I had never heard of this novel before I picked it up while browsing in the divine Armchair Books in Whistler Village. It's a small bookshop, but excellently curated, so trusting their buyer, I took a chance on this unknown. Definitely a win!

Comments: Much to her surprise, Fay finds herself in her house, where her husband is now living with a new wife and teenage daughter, and her house has been redecorated. Turns out she had died five years earlier. The teenager can see her, and they can have conversations, and then her husband begins to see her too, and they communicate. This isn't a scary ghost tale at all, and it's really a story of grief, memories, and moving on. But none of that does the book justice. It's quite bright, and funny in parts, and definitely compelling.

On a personal note, most of this book is set in a 100-year-old Craftsman house in Vancouver, and I live in a 100-year-old Craftsman house in a (different part of) Vancouver. I read this over two Saturdays, sitting in my sunny window seat. So that was nice.

Why I Read This Now: Seemed like the perfect book for my mood, and I didn't want it to get swallowed into my expanding TBR pile.

Recommended for: people who think this sounds good. Although there are only two reviews (both good) her at LT, there are many rave reviews over at GoodReads.

If you decide to read it, I suggest starting it when you have a nice block of time, as it would be easy to read this in one sitting (I divided it into two)

marraskuu 21, 2020, 4:42pm

>170 Nickelini: Thanks for the lovely review. I've added it to my wishlist.

marraskuu 22, 2020, 2:09am

>171 RidgewayGirl:

I hope you end up reading it. The Ghost in the House is a book that deserves a wider audience.

marraskuu 22, 2020, 2:17am

I just realized I've read two books this year written from the point of view of a ghost- this one, The Ghost in the House and Hollow Heart by Viola di Grado

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 25, 2020, 1:28am

37. The Book of Imaginary Beings, Jorge Luis Borges, 1967 - translated from Spanish by Norman Thomas di Giovanni

cover comments: I love this Vintage Classics edition. However, when I ordered it from the Book Depository, based on what I clicked on, I expected this other even more gorgeous cover:

Rating: 2 stars

Comments: This is a book past its Best Before date. It's a bestiary that covers fantastical creatures from mythology and literature, including the well-known and the obscure. I also introduces a bunch from single and recent pieces of fiction (like Kafka & CS Lewis). Good representation of Europe and Asia, not so good (to non-existent) coverage of indigenous people of the Americas, Australia and assorted islands.

Great concept, but without fabulous full colour illustrations, this can be better covered with a google search. Wikipedia has a perfect synopsis for this book, so I'd recommend reading that instead. This was a book I'd pick up and read an entry or two and it took me ages and ages to get through because the writing was overwhelmingly dry and uninteresting. It did have some moments, but I had to read a lot of boring words to get to it. Illustrations would have helped because the text wasn't evocative enough to spark my imagination.

Recommended for: creative people looking for inspiration and who live in 1967.

Why I Read This Now: Well "now" doesn't actually apply, as I'm sure I started reading this in 2019. Possibly 2018. But I did read the whole stale 197 pages and finished it today.

joulukuu 4, 2020, 2:32am

38. French Women Don't Get Fat: the Secret of Eating For Pleasure, Mireille Guiliano (2007 edition)

cover comments: this title says "do you like chicklit? If so, try this book." I actually think it's quite cute. Could use an Eiffel Tower somewhere

Comments : This is a very unfashionable book to read in 2020. The author is incredibly privileged -- when this was published she'd had a 20 yr career in PR for Veuve Clicquot champagne. She divides her time between New York, Paris, and Provence. She grew up in a charming village in eastern France with an apple orchard on her property. (BTW I checked the price last time I went to the wine shop for the standard version - CAN$75 a bottle).

Still, it was a fairly interesting read. Did I learn a lot? No, because I've heard all this before. But I liked it because she likes to talk about food, and so do I. There were lots of recipes. They weren't terribly difficult or weird. Despite all my guffaws, I mostly enjoyed reading this book. She's clearly aiming this at a US audience.

The author makes a twist of The French Paradox (why do the French not have a heart disease problem despite all that lovely rich food?): Why are French women usually slim, despite all that yummy food? At the end of the book, on page 254, she gives a 44 point summary of the rest of the book. Some are just silly, but generally, according to this author, French people eat what they want, but only the best quality, and in small amounts. They eat a wide variety of foods and flavours instead of large servings of one or two dishes. They walk a lot more every day than people in the US do. They drink wine everday, but only with food (except Veuve Clicquot, which seems to be okay a sip at a time, anytime). And a bunch of other stuff, but that's those are the main points. Well, okay then. Apparently the answer isn't Gitanes.

Why I Read This Now: Not sure. Interested in reading about food, and I have wondered about the French paradox, I guess.

Recommended for: who knows? People who want to read about food from privileged French women?

Rating: Boh? (oops, that's Italian . . what's the word for that French "I don't know" shrug?) It was a pleasant read so 4 stars.

joulukuu 4, 2020, 3:32am

>175 Nickelini:

That shrug is "bof".

This book is what I usually tell my friends when they ask why I'm skinny. Well, I eat high quality foods with natural fat but eat smaller portions. And I stay active. That's basically it. I mean yes, genetics help a lot but I do have a very good attitude towards food.

joulukuu 4, 2020, 7:07am

>175 Nickelini: don’t they also smoke at a much higher rate in France? I’ll take a few extra pounds. 😉

Seriously though, I do think this is a healthy way to approach food. I’ve always been a healthy weight (since I’m military I really don’t have a choice and have to get on a scale at work 3 times a year) and I do think that moderation is key. Although after hitting 40, moderation means a lot less food than it used to . . .

joulukuu 5, 2020, 1:49pm

>176 lilisin:

That shrug is "bof".

Ah! That makes sense. And only 1 letter different from the Italian.

>177 japaul22:

Although after hitting 40, moderation means a lot less food than it used to . . .

Sad but true. Sorry to hear about your weigh-ins.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 6, 2020, 6:17pm

39. Tinder, Sally Gardner, 2013

cover comments: oh wow, well this cover is why I bought this book. I had never heard of it when I saw this at a book store shortly after it was published, and I was immediately sold.

Comments: This is an illustrated novel, which is one of my favourite things. The awesome drawings boost this to the next level, and are essential to making this the book it is.

Tinder is a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's "the Tinderbox," which is one of his more obscure stories. Unusual for a fairy tale, this book is set in a definite and real time and place, that beng Saxony, Germany in November 1642. Otto Hundsebiss (whose surname is German for dog bite) is a young soldier who has just survived the second battle of Brietenfeld in the Thirty Years War. He has just left the army when he meets a myterieous half-man, half beast and then the magic begins and continues up to the twisty ending. There are werewolves. As is common with fairytales, exploration of character and character developement is scant. The beauty of the writing is in the rich and evocative atmosphere.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Recommended for readers who enjoyed A Monster Calls and books by Emily Carroll. There are YA tags on this book, but it's definitely more Adult than Young.

Why I Read This Now: It seemed like the perfect book for the period after Halloween and before Christmas.

joulukuu 6, 2020, 6:26pm

>179 Nickelini: This in every way looks great and will be added to my watchlist.

joulukuu 6, 2020, 7:06pm


joulukuu 11, 2020, 12:10am

40. Enya: a Treatise on Unguilty Pleasures, Chilly Gonzales, 2020, originally published as "Chilly Gonzales uber Enya" in German

cover comments: Well, on one hand, this looks like the publisher had no budget for cover design buy there's an executive assistant on the 2nd floor who can fix anybody's PowerPoint presentation, so maybe she can put something together. On the other hand, the Canadian publisher, Invisible Publishing, is a not-for-profit publisher looking to publish diverse voices. So I'm not going to fault them on the lack of cover design. Besides, it's a "treatise," so, really, could look like a White Paper.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Comments: I remember exactly where I was driving on a sunny afternoon about 10 years ago when the CBC Radio2 afternoon program played "Dot" by Chilly Gonzales and that song shot to the top of my "I need to find that song NOW" list. (You can listen to it on YouTube: and a more manic and arrogant, but fabulous live version here: Since then, Chilly Gonzales Solo Piano and Solo Piano II have been the soundtrack for my a lot of my life. Don't know what to listen to? Those are my go-to albums.

As for Enya, I haven't listened to her much during that same decade, but 20 years ago she was my drug that got me through a tremendously stressful and depressed period of my life. Even though I don't listen to her much anymore, I'll always love her.

So when I heard last month that Chilly Gonzales wrote a book about Enya, I could not get home fast enough to order it. What an unusual combination of artists! Yet - both have played the soundtrack to my life (when the film is made, their music will be in it for sure. And I would like to be played by Tilda Swinton. If she's not available, maybe Emma Thompson, although both are older than me. Hmmm. Have to think about this)

Enya: a Treatise on Unguilty Pleasures is about 60 pages. I read it in one sitting. It's entertaining and thoughtful. The German publisher that asked Chilly Gonzales to write a book was looking for his memoir, and some of this is that. There's a theme of being true to yourself and not liking things because you're told you should. Not a lot about Enya herself (she's an intensly private person who rarely gives interviews and doesn't tour), but there are some details about how her musical sound (and other artists' sounds) are made. All of it was interesting.

Recommended for: if you've read this far because you want to know all about Enya, this is not your book. Otherwise, if you think it sounds interesting, spend an hour or two with it. The bits that talked about the technical aspects of the music reminded me of How Music Works by Talking Heads David Byrne.

Why I Read This Now: I couldn't wait to get to it, but needed to find a couple of hours when I'd be free of internal and external interuptions

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 13, 2020, 2:41am

41. The Turn of the Key, Ruth Ware, 2019

Cover comments: there are all the code elements for a thriller-mystery-crime novel here, so you know what you're in for. In general, this genre doesn't do much with their covers, and this is just fine in playing within the rules. Readers know what they're in for here. Somehow I ended up with the "new" mass market paperback edition, which is the first time I've read one of these narrower but taller books. The text was crammed right into the inside margins, and the spine was stiff, so it was a bit of a chest & arms workout to keep the book open ;-)

Comments This was a fun read. I had taken this book to work to read on my breaks, but when I was 3/4 finished on Friday, I brought it home to finish over the weekend because I didn't want to wait until Monday.

Rowan, a childcare worker in London, comes across an ad for a too good to be true nanny job in the Highlands of Scotland. The large Victorian mansion has been upgraded to a smart home by the architect couple who own it. Upon arrival, Rowan learns that there have been a long series of nannies who have left abruptly. The children are clearly troubled. The smart home seems to have a mind of its own. And there are too many unsettling and unexplainable events. And the coolest thing: it also has a poison garden.

The title Turn of the Key immediately reminded me of the Henry James classic, Turn of the Screw. Like that book, a nanny arrives at her new job at a beautiful but isolated house. After the initial interview, the parents are absent and difficult to reach. Like the classic, the children are either innocent, or very much not. And like the classic, the nanny doesn't know if she's losing her mind or if there is something actually sinister happening.

This was a well-paced thriller, and all the mysteries were explained at the end. Several good twists to keep things interesting. The weakness, for me, is that at the beginning we know the nanny is in prison for the murder of one of the children, and she swears she's innocent. She tells her story in a long letter in an attempt to solicit a better lawyer that the appointed one. This structure of the long letter, I think, should have been done differently. No one writes a letter to a lawyer that sounds like a novel. In the end, I understood where it came from, but it didn't quite work. Beyond that, it was a ripping yarn (I've never used that term before, but it sounds kinda Scottishy)

Rating 4.5 stars

Why I Read This Now: I enjoyed the author's In a Dark, Dark Wood a few years ago, and I thought this mass market paperback would make a good book to read at work. It was indeed.

joulukuu 14, 2020, 12:08pm

>182 Nickelini: I'm so glad you found the perfect book for you. I very much enjoyed Dot, so I'll have to check out more of Gonzales's music.

joulukuu 16, 2020, 12:13am

>184 RidgewayGirl:

I do love the Solo Piano albums. I hear there are more than 2, but I haven't listened to them yet. I have his recent Christmas album, which is mostly played in a minor key, so sounds like Christmas music for a horror movie. Perfect for 2020.

joulukuu 16, 2020, 12:17am

>183 Nickelini:

I forgot my usual recommended for that I usually include. I guess I thought it was obvious, but I guess I'll add . . . if you like thrillers, stories about nannies, stories set in country houses (I'm a big YES to the last 2, and a maybe on the first)

joulukuu 16, 2020, 6:02am

>152 Nickelini: My thoughts exactly on Such a Fun Age. I didn't know about the Booker nomination though - really???

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 16, 2020, 2:02pm

>152 Nickelini: It’s nice to read this review (of Such a Fun Age). I’m listening now _because_ it’s on the Booker longlist and unfortunately that brings expectations. For an hour and a half I was horrified that it was so simplified and shallow, and then I realized it’s not a “literary” novel at all and never intended itself to be that. Now i see it as a literary version of a sitcom - stereotypical characters playing roles and inserted into a mildly amusing situations (roughly each chapter is a. episode). It’s been working for me that way. 🙂 (noting >187 rachbxl: )

Anyway, catching up since then. Lots of enticing stuff here. Fox news, mother’s returning from the dead. For some reason the Penelope Mortimer really appeals. (Also i wonder if >179 Nickelini: could have that title today? Even 2013 seems iffy. Maybe it was looking for an extra market?)

joulukuu 16, 2020, 11:07pm

>187 rachbxl:
Yes, the Booker. Weird, huh!

>188 dchaikin:
Right? Tinder isn't a title that has aged well, even when you know it's based on "The Tinderbox"

joulukuu 18, 2020, 2:49am

>188 dchaikin: I hadn't thought of Such a Fun Age like that, Dan, but actually I think you have a point.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 20, 2020, 4:39pm

42. Taaqtumi: An Anthology of Arctic Horror Stories - various authors, 2019

cover comments: this cover is gorgeous, as is the book itself. If you can't see it in the thumbnail, there is a black raven on this cover, with the title in stylized dark red print. There is more of this art between each of the short stories.

Rating: Until I read the last few stories, I was ready to give this 5 stars for concept and production, but only 3 stars for the actual stories. But then a couple of the last ones I read were very good, and one was excellent, so in the end I'll give this 4 stars.

Comments: Taaqtumi is published by Inhabit Media Inc., who (from their website) is "the first Inuit-owned, independent publishing company in the Canadian Arctic. We aim to promote and preserve the stories, knowledge, and talent of the Arctic, while also supporting research in Inuit mythology and the traditional Inuit knowledge of Nunavummiut (residents of Nunavut, Canada’s northernmost territory). Our authors, storytellers, and artists bring traditional knowledge to life in a way that is accessible to readers both familiar and unfamiliar with Inuit culture and traditions."

I like that on their website About page, they show their office on a map:
Who knew there was such a company on Baffin Island, and one that could produce such a beautiful product? One of the nicest things I've learned this month.

Anyway, on to the stories: As with any anthology, this is a bit of a mixed bag. There were a few that I quite liked, "The Haunted Blizzard" by Aviaq Johnston, "The Door" by Ann R Loverock, and "Sila" by KC Carthew, but the endings didn't work for me. But then near the end I really liked "Utiqtuq," which was about a pandemic and zombie apocalyse -- not a genre I usually enjoy, but this one was good. And the one that blew me away: "The Wildest Game" by Jay Bulckaert. I actually had a look of horror on my face as I read this first-person story of a cannibal. It was just masterfully executed. The kind of story that Stephan King might read and think "Wow, I wish I'd written that."

Taaqtumi includes a glossary of Inuit words for those who are interested.

Recommended for: readers who like stories set in the Arctic, or who want to read Inuit literature. Squimish readers will probably need to pass this one up -- most of the stories include brutal descriptions of wild animals attacking humans and humans attacking wild animals. They are described as horror stories, so don't expect cosy mysteries and cute puppies.

joulukuu 20, 2020, 3:22pm

>191 Nickelini: That looks fantastic!

joulukuu 20, 2020, 4:12pm

>191 Nickelini: Very cool! I didn't register that second image as a map until I'd read the text around it. The Canadian coastline is far too decorative to be true.

joulukuu 20, 2020, 6:13pm

>191 Nickelini: Will have to think about this one..sounds interesting...and I do love the cold places.

joulukuu 21, 2020, 5:14pm

>191 Nickelini: Hmm... I do like stories set in cold places, and I'm not squeamish about much, but I'm not sure I want to go with humans attacking wild animals (though I'm totally fine with wild animals attacking humans—hey, nature is red in tooth and claw). One of my favorite horror novels remains Dan Simmons's The Terror, set in the Arctic Circle, with a strong Inuit mythology component that kicks in at the end.

joulukuu 21, 2020, 10:18pm

43. Miss Iceland, Audur Ava Olafsdottir, 2018; translation from Icelandic by Brian FitzGibbon, 2020

cover comments: Well . . . both the title of this book and the cover are misleading. They both suggest this is chick lit, and it's not. However, the cover jumped out at me from the shelf at the bookshop and something about it intrigued me. I think in retrospect that I've been looking for books in translation by contemporary women writers that are lighter or more fun than the usual important literary novels that I usually come across that have been translated. Maybe some Icelandic chick lit would be fun. But I'll have to continue to look, because this isn't it.

Comments: It's 1963, and Hekla, who was named after a volcano, moves from the countryside to Reykjavik. In a country full of male poets, her only desire is to become a novelist. To survive she gets a job as a waitress, where sexual harrassement from the customers is part of every day. Hekla has two friends from home who also live in the city. Jon John is gay and wants to design costumes for the theatre, but can only find dangerous work on fishing boats where he is harrassed by his coworkers. There is also Lydur, who is 22, pregnant with her second child, and living in a basement apartment with her barely literate husband. She also wants to write, but struggles to fit it in after caring for her family. Hekla gets a boyfriend--a poet who struggles to write but can never think of anything to say, and at first she hides her more successful wriitng from him. These three characters are made miserable by the mid-20th century hetero-normative and conservative expectations of Icelandic society. Finally, Jon John and Hekla escape to mainland Europe, but life is a struggle there too.

Rating: Miss Iceland took me a little while to get into, mostly because I didn't know what to expect. It's told in short vignettes. By 3/4 of the way I was absolutely loving the writing and the story. The ending was a bit too abrupt and went in an unexpected direction. 4.5 stars

Recommended for: people who want to read Icelandic fiction that isn't about crime and murders

Why I Read This Now: I've been wanting to get to it since I bought it in summer

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 23, 2020, 12:47am

>193 thorold:
I didn't register that second image as a map until I'd read the text around it. The Canadian coastline is far too decorative to be true.

Well, probably too decorative to actually measure accurately. When I look at this image on my PC, it looks like a section of a map, but when I look at it on my mobile it's quite distorted and I can understand why you didn't see the map right away.

>195 lisapeet:
I'm not squeamish about much, but I'm not sure I want to go with humans attacking wild animals (though I'm totally fine with wild animals attacking humans—hey, nature is red in tooth and claw).

Fair enough. I noticed in some reader comments that some people didn't want to read about it, so I pointed it out. I've spent a fair amount of time in the Canadian North and hinterlands (although still nowhere near the Arctic) and hunting is just a factual way of life. I'd never be a hunter myself, but I understand people who do it as a part of their life (NOT trophy hunting or hunting for sport). Many of the scenes in Taaqtumi with wild animals being killed where in self-defence. Indigenous people, generally speaking, have a more circle-of-life attitude to killing, and this was reflected, I think. The gratuatous killer of animals met his reward and more.

Maybe I shouldn't have said "humans attacking animals" exactly.

joulukuu 25, 2020, 8:51am

Merry Christmas, Joyce, to you and your family!

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 26, 2020, 10:29am

>197 Nickelini: Ah, that makes sense. If it's more of a cycle-of-life-and-predators I can deal with it. There's just a certain kind of animal cruelty that gets used as a literary device that I can't abide—why I'm never reading On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, because I've been forewarned.

joulukuu 26, 2020, 2:49pm

Raising Unicorns: Your Step-by-Step Buide to Starting and Running a Successful--and Magical!-- Unicorn Farm, Jessica Marquis

DNF: books like this are fabulous when they use good humour and are clever. I didn't get very far before I concluded that this has neither and was just bad. Didn't even make it to the Pearl-rule page before dropping it on the floor.

joulukuu 26, 2020, 2:50pm

>198 alphaorder:
Thanks, Nancy! I hope you and your family enjoyed Christmas too.

joulukuu 26, 2020, 4:46pm

Merry Christmas, Joyce. Great comments on Miss Iceland; I picked it up earlier in the year and now am really motivated to read it soon.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 31, 2020, 3:50pm

44. Winter, Ali Smith, 2017

Cover comments: I love the covers for this series and think this one is especially lovely

Comments: I read the first in this series, Autumn, in autumn 2019 and I remember enjoying it but don’t remember a lot about it. I suspect I will be the same with Winter. This one is about two sisters and their son/nephew getting together over Christmas. Their relationships are fraught, but the son, Art, has brought along a stranger, Lux, who he is paying to act as his girlfriend. This is all set against the backdrop of England after the Brexit vote, the refugee crisis, and other recent world events.

Overall this was an interesting and enjoyable read. I was initially very confused about the floating head that Sophia was seeing, and I thought there was too much about that and it distracted rather than added to the novel.

Why I Read This Now: needed a book to read over Christmas, and this novel was set at Christmas so if not now, when?

Rating: Solid 4 stars. I will go on to read the remaining two books in this series

Recommended for: People who like literary novels about unusual families and their dynamics, readers who like books set in recent times

joulukuu 30, 2020, 2:08pm

Nice review of Winter, Joyce. I should read it during the first quarter of next year, and finish the series this summer.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 31, 2020, 3:56pm

45. Starve Acre, Andrew Michael Hurley, 2019

cover comments: I love this cover, and in fact, it sold me on hunting down this book. I suppose I saw it on some corner of Instagram, and after reading the description Starve Acre, I ordered a copy from England since I couldn't get it through any of my Canadian sources, even What a loss to Canadian readers. Anyway, both the hare and woodblock prints are key elements in this story.

The hardback release had this cover, which is also gorgeous, and also relevant to the book:

Rating: oh, sooooo close to a 5 star read. 4.75 stars. A lot for me to like here, but when I compare it to my 5 star read from earlier this year, and somewhat similar book Your House Is On Fire, Your Children Are Gone, it didn't quite make the full 5-star grade. But very close.

Why I Read This Now: Mostly set in freezng cold December and February, this was the perfect book to curl up with on the last days of the year.

Comments: Richard and Juliette are in grief over the sudden death of their five year old son Ewan. They live in an old house outside of a small village in Yorkshire, where Juliette had envisoined a buocolic family lifestyle, but things had gone terribly wrong. The writing is evocative and deeply atmospheric, and the strangeness creeps as the story progresses.

Honestly, I can't do the book justice without thinking about it for a few days. Alas, it's December 31 and I want to wrap up this thread and move on to next year. I encourage you to flip over to the book's main page and read the excellent 5 & 4 star reviews over there where people are much more articulate than I can be now.

I want to say though that I noticed some "horror" tags on Starve Acre, and for the first half of the book I dismissed them. But the second half definitely went into the horror realm. I don't think of myself as someone who reads horror. Every Halloween I watch a couple of those very stupid movies like Amityville Horror VII or Nightmare on Elm Street XIV. Mostly they make me laugh, and that's what I think of when I see the word "horror." And when I look at the books with this tag on LT, I see many really great books. So I guess I like horror after all. Who knew? Further, this book is also tagged "folk horror," which I'd never heard of but is an intriguing sub-genre.

Recommended for: Readers who liked Ghost Wall and Your House Is On Fire, Your Children Are Gone. We recently watched the Swedish film "Midsommer" and there were similarities with that too. It makes me sad that this book isn't better known as I think a lot of people would like it (and I think it would make a great horror movie).

joulukuu 31, 2020, 4:04pm

46. Last Vanities, Fleur Jaeggy, 1994; translated from Italian by Tim Parks 1998

cover comments: understated but rather apt - a seemingly nice pearl broach with an image of a perfectly-nice eye that has some sort of diseased pustules growing near it. Symbolizes the book well.

Comments: This short collection of seven short stories is the second book I've read by this author. As in the novel Sweet Days of Discipline, Jaeggy writes about simple nice Swiss lives, but with a dark, dark twist. I love her writing and am sad she didn't write more.

Except for one story set on Lac Leman in French-speaking Switzerland, these stories are all set in German-speaking areas. I find this interesting because Fleur Jaeggy writes in Italian.

Rating: 4 stars

Why I Read This Now: I was in the mood for some Swiss literature

Recommended for: people who like dark, atmospheric, and somewhat ambiguous short stories.

joulukuu 31, 2020, 5:08pm

>205 Nickelini: That really is an amazing cover, and the story looks interesting, too. I'm leery of horror, though, because I don't love being frightened, especially now that I live alone. Is it a very scary book, or more disquieting?

joulukuu 31, 2020, 7:53pm

>207 Julie_in_the_Library:

Good question. I describe the book as "disturbing," but I also don't scare easily. In Starve Acre though, the source of the fright is undeniably supernatural. You know yourself best, but unless you live in a big old house beside a haunted field in Yorkshire, you're probably okay. I can't think of anything that was actually scary to read, but more "creepy" or "what the heck is going on here?" and "where is this going?". Hope that helps. I'd like to see more people reading this book, but I don't want to cause anyone trauma!

tammikuu 1, 12:20pm

>205 Nickelini: Hurley's The Loney was a good creepy book that relied heavily on atmospherics for its ookiness—the damp, damp English countryside. I'd be interested to read more by him, though maybe not urgently.

tammikuu 1, 12:39pm

>208 Nickelini: Thanks! I think I'd probably be fine with it, seeing as I live in a suburban condo in America. : ) And it does look very interesting. I might give it a go.

tammikuu 1, 1:02pm

>209 lisapeet:
I remember seeing The Loney at my local book shop when it first came out and the cover intrigued me. But the few reviews at that time on LT were "meh" so I forgot about it. I'd like to read it now.

>210 Julie_in_the_Library:
I hope you can find a copy, in that case :-)

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 1, 5:01pm

2020 Year In Review

What an unusual and unexpected year. Last year this time I had three major projects that took priority over my reading. By mid-March two were COVID-cancelled, and I completed the third in summer. My reading definitely picked up after that, although I'm not sure there is a direct connection. Certianly the last few months have been the best reading months I've had in years.

Books I Remember Most Fondly:

5 star read: Your House Is On Fire, Your Children All Gone, Stefan Kiesbye

Other great reads:

Ghost Wall, Sarah Moss
Starve Acre, Andrew Michael Hurley

The Temptation of Gracie, Santa Montefiore
Breaking of a Wave, Fabio Genovesi
My Sister the Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite
The Summer Villa, Melissa Hill
Ghost in the House, Sara O'Leary
Miss Iceland, Audur Ava Olafsdottir
Turn of the Key, Ruth Ware
Tinder, Sally Gardner
Enya: a Treatise On Unguilty Pleasures, Chilly Gonzales

Most disliked book I finished: Darcy's Utopia, Fay Weldon

I read 46 books in 2020, which is slightly more than I read last year.
Number of different authors: 46
New to me authors (authors I've never read before): 32
Rereads: 0

As usual, I read more books by woman than men:
Female authors: 27 - (59%)
Male authors: 18 - (39%)
Mixed: 1 (2%)

Fiction: 31 (68%)
Non-fiction: 7 (15%)
Memoir: 8 (17%)

Nationality of Author (in order read):

Canada- 9 (20%)
UK - 14 (30%)
Switzerland - 4 (8%)
Italy - 4 (8%)
USA - 4 (8%)
Nigeria - 1 (2%)
Australia - 1 (2%)
France - 2 (4%)
Ireland - 1 (2%)
Iran - 1 (2%)
Sweden - 1 (2%)
Albania - 1 (2%)
Germany - 1 (2%)
Argentina - 1 (2%)
Iceland - 1 (2%)

Original Language

English - 33 (72%)
German - 2 (4%)
Italian - 6 (14%)
French - 2 (4%)
Swedish - 1 (2%)
Spanish - 1 (2%)
Icelandic - 1 (2%)

Travelling with Books (where my books took me):

Canada 2004 / Upper Thames River, late Victorian era / Switzerland 1989 / Italy 1949 - 1986 / USSR, Slovenia, Austria, 1910 - 1950 / South Africa 1955 & Norfolk, England 1980 / Amsterdam, 2007 / Ouchy, Switzerland 2004 / Western Canada WWII & 1980s-1990s / United States 1960s - 2016 / Italy Roman era - 2000 / Catania, Sicily 2011 / Switzerland 2014 / Europe 1930s- 1990s / Tuscany 1960s & 2010 / Italy 1348 / Hollywood & NYC 1945 - 2010 / Forte dei Marmi, Tuscany 2016 / Lagos, Nigeria 2017 / ONJ's world 1950-2017 / France, Libya & Syria 1970s & 80s / Amalfi Coast 2010 & 2016 / Barsetshire 1936 / Iran 70s & 90s and Austria 80s / Sweden 2005 / Albania 1980s / Northumberland 1990s / Post WWII NW Germany / Alternative England 1951 /Philadelphia 2016 / England 1990 / England 1961 / Vancouver 2019 / France 2000 / Saxony, Germany 1642 / Scotland 2017 / Arctic Canada 2019 / Iceland 1963 / England 2016 & 2017 / Yorkshire 1970s / German-speaking Switzerland, late 20th century

Year Published:

1994 x 2
2004 x 3
2005 x 3
2007 x 3
2009 x 2
2015 x 3
2018 x 7
2019 x 4
2020 x 4

tammikuu 1, 3:04pm

Oh, end of the year stats. I'm impressed by how globally balanced your reading was. Mine's so USA-oriented.

tammikuu 1, 5:00pm

>213 RidgewayGirl:
Well I've certainly read lots of US authors in the past, so it's time for some new voices. I do gravitate toward British literature. I think it's the English Major in me. I'm trying to find more contemporary books in translation.

tammikuu 1, 6:23pm

>214 Nickelini: I love stats! Guess I will have to do my own year end ones.

If you're looking for contemporary books in translation, the publishing company And Other Stories has lots of good ones, and has introduced me to new authors every year (I have a subscription).

Happy (Reading) New Year

tammikuu 1, 6:32pm

>212 Nickelini: Love your recap! Happy New Year to you and your family.