RidgewayGirl Reads in 2020, Part Two

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RidgewayGirl Reads in 2020, Part Two

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 30, 2020, 9:48am

Starting the second quarter of the year with a new thread, full of uncertainty in this new world of social distancing. I am feeling quite smug about my own prescience in amassing a sizable collection of books to read during this time.

Kelly Reemtsen is an LA-based artist who is best known for her paintings of women wearing vintage dresses and toting tools and garden implements. It's a feminist take that can appear empowering or ominous, depending on the viewer.



Currently Reading

Recently Read

Acquired in 2020

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 29, 2020, 4:49pm

Second Quarter Reading


1. Legendary Children: The First Decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life by Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez
2. Cutting Edge: New Stories of Mystery and Crime by Women Writers edited by Joyce Carol Oates
3. Precious You by Helen Monks Takhar
4. Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal
5. Weather by Jenny Offill
6. The Whispering Wall by Patricia Carlon
7. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
8. Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown
9. In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami, translated by Ralph McCarthy
10. You Again by Debra Jo Immergut
11. All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang
12. Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
13. The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares, translated from the Spanish by Ruth L. C. Sims
14. Long Bright River by Liz Moore
15. My Mother's House by Francesca Momplaisir


1. Sovietistan: Travels in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan by Erika Fatland, translated by Kari Dickson
2. Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
3. A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet
4. Apartment by Teddy Wayne
5. You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat
6. Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime by Val McDermid
7. Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry
8. The Narcissism of Small Differences by Michael Zadoorian
9. Herkunft by Saša Stanišic
10. True Love by Sarah Gerard
11. A Lovely Way to Burn by Louise Welsh
12. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid


1. The City We Became by N. K. Jemison
2. This Wicked World by Richard Lange
3. Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg
4. The Margot Affair by Sanaë Lemoine
5. In West Mills by De'Shawn Charles Winslow
6. The Lives of Edie Pritchard by Larry Watson
7. Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn
8. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
9. Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 29, 2020, 4:51pm

Pedantic Lists

Books by Year of Publication

The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares

The Whispering Wall by Patricia Carlon

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami

The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

This Wicked World by Richard Lange

All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang

Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama

Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda

Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime by Val McDermid
A Lovely Way to Burn by Louise Welsh
Optic Nerve by Maria Gainza
Sovietistan by Erika Fatland

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

A Girl Returned by Donatella Di Pietrantonio
The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

Certain American States by Catherine Lacey
Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown
Saudade by Suneeta Peres da Costa

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Cutting Edge: New Stories of Mystery and Crime by Women Writers edited by Joyce Carol Oates
Dominicana by Angie Cruz
Dry County by Jake Hinkson
Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Her Daughter's Mother by Daniela Petrova
Herkunft by Saša Stanišic
In West Mills by De'Shawn Charles Winslow
Looker by Laura Sims
Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen by Dexter Palmer
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Diáz
Oval by Elvia Wilk
Overthrow by Caleb Crain
Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal
We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin
Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

Apartment by Teddy Wayne
Apeirogon by Colum McCann
The Body Double by Emily Beyda
Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet
The City We Became by N. K. Jemison
The Lives of Edie Pritchard by Larry Watson
Long Bright River by Liz Moore
The Margot Affair by Sanaë Lemoine
My Mother's House by Francesca Momplaisir
The Narcissism of Small Differences by Michael Zadoorian
Precious You by Helen Monks Takhar
Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin
Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn
Stateway's Garden by Jasmon Drain
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
True Love: A Novel by Sarah Gerard
Weather by Jenny Offill
You Again by Debra Jo Immergut
You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 29, 2020, 4:52pm

Authors by Country of Citizenship/Origin

Adolfo Bioy Casares (The Invention of Morel)
Maria Gainza (Optic Nerve)

Patricia Carlon (The Whispering Wall)
Suneeta Peres da Costa (Saudade)
Sally Thorne (The Hating Game)

Bosnia and Herzegovina
Saša Stanišic (Herkunft) (country of birth)

Bernardine Evaristo (Girl, Woman, Other)
Val McDermid (Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime)
Helen Monks Takhar (Precious You)
Louise Welsh (A Lovely Way to Burn)

Daniela Petrova (Her Daughter's Mother) (country of birth)

Isabel Allende (The House of the Spirits)

Sanaë Lemoine (The Margot Affair)

Saša Stanišic (Herkunft) (country of residence)

Kevin Barry (Night Boat to Tangier)
Colum McCann (Apeirogon)

A Girl Returned by Donatella Di Pietrantonio

In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami
Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama

Erika Fatland (Sovietistan)

Soniah Kamal (Unmarriageable)

Zaina Arafat (You Exist Too Much)
Emily Beyda (The Body Double)
Raphael Bob-Waksberg (Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory)
Taylor Brown (Gods of Howl Mountain)
Steph Cha (Your House Will Pay)
Lan Samantha Chang (All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost)
Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Water Dancer)
Caleb Crain (Overthrow)
Angie Cruz (Dominicana)
Jaquira Diáz (Ordinary Girls)
Jasmon Drain (Stateway's Garden)
Sarah Gerard (True Love: A Novel)
Myla Goldberg (Feast Your Eyes)
Jake Hinkson (Dry County)
Debra Jo Immergut (You Again)
N. K. Jemison (The City We Became)
Mary Beth Keane (Ask Again, Yes)
Catherine Lacey (Certain American States)
Richard Lange (This Wicked World)
Lydia Millet (A Children's Bible)
Francesca Momplaisir (My Mother's House)
Liz Moore (Long Bright River)
Joyce Carol Oates (Cutting Edge: New Stories of Mystery and Crime by Women Writers)
Jenny Offill (Weather)
Dexter Palmer (Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen)
Daniela Petrova (Her Daughter's Mother) (country of residence)
Ivy Pochoda (Visitation Street)
Douglas Preston (The Lost City of the Monkey God)
Kiley Reid (Such a Fun Age)
Maurice Carlos Ruffin (We Cast a Shadow)
Alexis Schaitkin (Saint X)
Laura Sims (Looker)
Elisabeth Thomas (Catherine House)
Luis Alberto Urrea (The Hummingbird's Daughter)
Kawai Strong Washburn (Sharks in the Time of Saviors)
Larry Watson (The Lives of Edie Pritchard)
Teddy Wayne (Apartment)
Colson Whitehead (The Nickel Boys)
Elvia Wilk (Oval)
Kevin Wilson (Nothing to See Here)
De'Shawn Charles Winslow (In West Mills)
Michael Zadoorian (The Narcissism of Small Differences)

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 1, 2020, 10:53am

My new thread is now open for business. Come on in.

huhtikuu 1, 2020, 3:56pm

Happy new thread, Kay. I love the art! I am so glad I found your thread. I've gotten so many great recommendations here.

huhtikuu 2, 2020, 10:27am

>7 BLBera: Thanks, Beth! I really like Kelly Reemtsen's work.

huhtikuu 2, 2020, 2:47pm

>8 RidgewayGirl: Love the dress! Chainsaws give me the creeps though.

huhtikuu 2, 2020, 6:54pm

>6 RidgewayGirl: That's a great painting.

huhtikuu 3, 2020, 4:54pm

>9 LadyoftheLodge: I agree. Chainsaws are creepy. But it does make for a great image.

>10 lisapeet: Lisa, I recommend googling Reemtsen's work. It's all fascinating.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 4, 2020, 2:33pm

Legendary Children: The First Decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life is a fun and entertaining book that uses the popular reality tv show, RuPaul's Drag Race, to give an introduction to LGBTQ history. The show is not the focus of this book, but the scaffolding for a fast-paced primer to how queer entertainers have been able to make their mark in a society where what they did and even who they were was grounds for arrest and social opprobrium. This is a hopeful book, with powerful examples of what happens when people come together to support each other and to demand that civil rights apply to every American, with a basic who's who, from Marsha P. Johnson all the way to Pete Buttigeig.

If you're looking for more than a survey-level understanding of gay culture, or just want to enjoy a book about a popular tv program, this isn't going to be for you. The authors, Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez, run a popular celebrity-focused website and there's more than a hint of that style being used here, with the book set up in short sections. But despite it's format and writing style, there's a fair amount of substance and the authors emphasize trans culture and the importance roles that transgender people have played in LGBTQ history. It's a lot of fun to read, and I spent a lot of time amplifying what is in this book by looking up specific performances on YouTube or learning more about the ground-breaking entertainers and activists mentioned.

huhtikuu 5, 2020, 7:15am

I do love your lists; a way of looking differently at the same things. :-)

huhtikuu 6, 2020, 4:45am

>6 RidgewayGirl: Hi, Kay! Your threads are normally fun and welcoming, but I think I'll use the back entrance rather than encounter the greeter with the chain saw. 😎

Very nice review of Legendary Children, which sounds like an entertaining and informative book.

huhtikuu 7, 2020, 12:10pm

The dresses in these paintings are really great, aren’t they?! 😄

huhtikuu 7, 2020, 1:15pm

>13 avaland: I do love a list. This is why I joined LT, after all. Not everyone things having their books painstakingly cataloged is a fun thing.

>14 kidzdoc: But Darryl, you know she baked a cake in honor of your visit. You should go back and grab a slice.

>15 NanaCC: Colleen, they are fabulous, but remember that in order to wear any of them, a great deal of preparation in the way of shaving and support garments must be undertaken.

huhtikuu 7, 2020, 4:52pm

>15 NanaCC: I've been admiring the pipe wrench and the sledgehammer and am waiting for the sawzall to appear. >:D

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 7, 2020, 7:42pm

Cutting Edge: New Stories of Mystery and Crime by Women Writers is a collection edited by Joyce Carol Oates and it shows. The collection is distinctly noir-tinged and the pieces focus largely on domestic situations or ones with a striking power imbalance. Oates has also assembled an impressive roster of authors here, from Edwidge Dandicat to Aimee Bender; there's no lack of talent on display.

There's an enormous variety to the pieces here. Most stories fit well into the crime genre, from Valerie Martin's Il Griffon, a classic noir about a young married woman living in an old apartment building in Rome; to Lisa Lim's bleak and unsettling illustrated domestic drama, The Hunger. There are also some pieces that sit outside traditional genre parameters, but fit beautifully with the themes of the collection, from Bernice McFadden's sharp-edged satire, OBF, Inc., to six poems by Margaret Atwood, to a creepily atmospheric story about a museum, An Early Specimen by Elizabeth McCracken.

This is a solid and well-conceived collection. Not a single author sent in a mediocre offering. But considering who was editing this collection, is that any surprise?

huhtikuu 7, 2020, 5:51pm

>16 RidgewayGirl: I am old enough that my mother thought I should wear a girdle to hold up my stockings when I dressed up. I never want to do that again!

huhtikuu 7, 2020, 6:47pm

>16 RidgewayGirl: *gasp* Don't say "slice"!

huhtikuu 7, 2020, 7:45pm

>19 sallypursell: I don't even ever want to go back to the day when women were expected to wear pantyhose. Ugh.

>20 kidzdoc: So just a sliver then, Darryl?

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 8, 2020, 11:01am

I've been feeling a little unsettled and so have been reading lighter fare than usual, which is to say that I'm reading more crime novels than usual, but maybe because of this, I've become a little less choosy. Strap in, guys, this next one was not good.

Precious You by Helen Monks Takhar tell the story of the relationship between two women. Katherine, in her early forties, is the editor of an business magazine called Leadership, which is sold and the new owner's niece, twenty-four-year-old Lily, is hired, ostensibly as an intern, but because of her family connections, she has more importance than that. Katherine and Lily begin with an antagonistic relationship that is marked by both attraction and enmity. As their conflict intensifies, it's clear Lily has an ulterior motive behind her actions and that Katherine is not equipped to deal with any conflict whatsoever.

The ages of the two protagonists is constantly mentioned and the story is often framed as a conflict between generations. Apparently, Gen X professional women are sexual predators of a kind to make Don Draper uncomfortable and frankly incompetent and mentally unstable as well. And Millenials are conniving and manipulative. Along with bludgeoning the reader, over and over again, with this idea of a conflict between generations and Katherine's accompanying obsession with how very old and past it she is (she's in her early forties!), there's the persistent idea that women are obsessed with age and how sexually attractive they are as the only thing that gives them value. Had this been set in the modeling world, or among a group of paid escorts, that world view would be obsolete, but at least understandable. In the publishing world, this strains belief.

The other problem is the greater one. Neither character is likable, nor do they have any characteristics that make them interesting to read about. Lily is a cipher, manipulative and beautiful. The reason she has for her actions is explained at the very end of the novel, but there's not enough substance there to ever understand her motivations or reasoning. And Katherine is a stew of conflicting character traits. Clever and driven enough to become the magazine's youngest ever editor and to run the magazine single-handedly for two decades, she is nevertheless malleable and vulnerable to the point where even being asked routine questions sends her into a tailspin. She's either too drunk or too hung-over to function, even when it's clear she's fighting to keep her job and she continues to give Lily important tasks even when it's evident that Lily is sabotaging her, Katherine knows she's sabotaging her, and a particular task can ruin her career. It made no sense at all.

On the plus side, the author writes well. I just wish that she had come up with characters worthy of her writing ability and that she had trusted the reader enough to not have to make every plot point obvious. The plot did hold promise, it's just unfortunate that the author couldn't be subtle about her intentions.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 8, 2020, 11:28am

>22 RidgewayGirl: Thank you for running interference for us, Kay. Sometimes I want to see bad novels in the same way I can't help but look at car accidents--but this one I can eschew--you have made it very clear how awful it is. Too, I know some really nice millennials.

huhtikuu 8, 2020, 11:08am

>23 sallypursell: I'm a huge fan of this kind of novel, but so often they're just so poorly written or poorly plotted. In this case, the writing was fine, but the plot and characters were so badly done that I finished it mainly so I could legitimately complain about it. The inter-generational warfare theme was so off-putting, not in the least since neither character had any traits that are commonly attributed to their respective generations (a lazy and inaccurate habit in any case. We are varied and complex no matter our age.)

huhtikuu 8, 2020, 3:17pm

>22 RidgewayGirl: Great comments. I think I'll pass on this one.

huhtikuu 8, 2020, 4:01pm

Set in modern day Pakistan, Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal is a retelling of Pride & Prejudice. It follows the book it's based on very closely, which makes for a less interesting book, but I enjoyed it as a light diversion from the news of the day. Kamal's writing is clear and doesn't interrupt the flow of the story.

huhtikuu 8, 2020, 4:02pm

>25 BLBera: It was really bad, Beth. And not in a while-it-didn't-work-for-me kind of way. Just objectively not good.

huhtikuu 9, 2020, 6:44am

>18 RidgewayGirl: That sounds like a really nice collection, Kay. I have anthology of American Gothic Tales that she edited. I meant to read it alongside another, American Gothic: An Anthology from Salem Witchcraft to H. P. Lovecraft by Charles Crow (there are a few stories which make it into both) to continue my study of the genre, but alas, too many books... My expectations will be high now for the choices she made for that volume. As you probably know, I read a lot of JCO but less of the stuff she edits.

huhtikuu 9, 2020, 11:49am

>28 avaland: Thanks for getting me interested in JCO, Lois!

huhtikuu 12, 2020, 11:26am

Weather by Jenny Offill is a very short novel told in a series of short, seemingly disjointed segments that end up giving the novel more mood and atmosphere than plot. Offill writes gorgeously and those sentences, which feel so immediate, are finely crafted. In Weather, Lizzie is a librarian living in New York. Her brother is a recovering addict who is in a relationship and expecting a baby. Her mentor has a podcast and wants to hire Lizzie to answer her mail, which deals largely with concerns about a collapsing world. Lizzie ponders global warming and how best to react to the changes in climate.

But a synopsis of what happens very much fails to explain what is so compelling about this book. As Lizzie negotiates her way through her daily life, she thinks about the people she knows and about what to do if everything falls apart, taking advice from doomsday preppers and scientists. It was an odd feeling reading about the end of the world while staying inside because of the pandemic. The segments about surviving were both applicable and distant from the current situation, although global warming is still occurring and the risk grows greater even as we're distracted by more immediate perils. And despite the focus on the state of the earth, this isn't a heavy-handed or hopeless novel at all.

huhtikuu 12, 2020, 9:50pm

>30 RidgewayGirl: That's curious, Kay. You have me intrigued.

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 7:36am

>30 RidgewayGirl: I was charmed by Department of Speculation and this one sounds just as good!

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 8:54am

>30 RidgewayGirl: I heard her speak at a library conference a few months back and she was really interesting on the book and her writing process. I picked up a copy, which sadly got lost in the mail between Philadelphia and New York sometime in January (hey, maybe with all the post office reshuffling this month, someone will discover that box hiding under a pile somewhere... but I don't have high hopes). At any rate, I have an e-galley, so all is not lost, and it's up toward the top of the figurative pile.

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 1:12pm

>31 sallypursell: It's such a short little book, Sally. You can spend a quiet afternoon with it and just savor the language.

>32 ELiz_M: I didn't love this one quite as much as Department of Speculation. I just loved that conflicted vision of motherhood -- it spoke to me in ways that Weather didn't, but that is entirely on me and not on the novel.

>33 lisapeet: Offill is definitely an author who I'd love to hear talk about her writing. That is too bad about the missing copy - books hold where we got them from in their histories, too. I take a trip to the Decatur Book Festival every year and it's always a fantastic experience. I'm worried that this year's festival will be canceled or scaled back, which is far less important that keeping people healthy, but would still be disappointing.

huhtikuu 13, 2020, 4:19pm

The Whispering Wall is a crime classic from the sixties by Australian author Patricia Carlon. Sarah Oatland lies confined to her bed. Cared for by a nurse, she's paralyzed but aware of her surroundings, although no one else knows that she can see and hear them. Her husband is dead and her single living relative is a niece of her husband's; a woman eager to take possession of Sarah's house and belongings. In order to pay for her care, this niece divides Sarah's ground floor into two apartments. One rented out to a single mother and her daughter, the other to a married couple. Sarah discovers that she can overhear what is said in the couple's sitting room when her bed is pushed against the wall. And she discovers their murderous plans. But how can she reveal their plot when she can't speak?

It turns out that I'd already read this one some years ago, but that didn't stop me from enjoying a well-told, superbly plotted noir. The characters are beautifully rendered and yet also perfectly part of the time they lived, it was impossible to not read this as taking place in black and white with the clipped delivery of of an old movie. I'll be reading more by Patricia Carlon soon.

huhtikuu 14, 2020, 7:54am

>34 RidgewayGirl: Offill is definitely an author who I'd love to hear talk about her writing. Funny you should mention this - today I listened to not one, but two podcasts interviewing her, which were right next to each other in my podcast feed - first talking about Dept of Speculation with the BBC Book Club podcast, then talking about Weather on the Libreria podcast.

I too loved Dept of Speculation although the interview made me realise that I only really remember the second half of the book (when the marriage is breaking up).

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 14, 2020, 8:38am

Given your post in >35 RidgewayGirl: I assume that you weren't affected by yesterday's tornadoes. The city of Atlanta was spared, although one did touch down just north of the airport, in East Point and College Park.

huhtikuu 14, 2020, 9:11am

Great comments on Weather, Kay. I hadn't read Dept. of Speculation, but it sounds like I would like it as well. Offill's writing is amazing. She manages to portray so much in such a small space.

huhtikuu 14, 2020, 12:18pm

>36 wandering_star: I'm going to check out those podcasts. Thanks for bringing them to my attention!

>37 kidzdoc: Darryl, I was awoken by the storm winds in the middle of the night, but beyond a few branches and one unhappy dog, we were unscathed. (Dog is fine, but she spent that night sheltering in the guest bathroom - the one inner room with no windows. She takes tornados seriously.)

>38 BLBera: Beth, Offill is such a talented author. And now it's another six years until her next book if the pattern holds.

huhtikuu 15, 2020, 2:07pm

One of the most valuable things that books can do right now is to provide an escape into some other world for a few hours and The Hating Game by Sally Thorne was the perfect escapist read for me. I spend the day carrying the book around with me, utterly immersed in the story.

So Lucy works as the assistant to the CEO for a small publishing company that merged with another publishing company, the merger so badly done that the new company has two CEOs, and Lucy shares a space with the assistant to the other CEO, a tall, stern man named Joshua. When the decision is made to combine their jobs into a COO position, the competition between the two grows fiercer. You all can see where this is going.

Predictable doesn't mean boring and in this case, the charm lies with the engaging main character and how the relationship slowly develops despite the seemingly mutual animosity. There's a lot of entertaining banter and a warm heart to this slight novel. I would have liked a greater sense of place, but the author clearly intended this to take place anywhere in the world.

huhtikuu 15, 2020, 9:25pm

>40 RidgewayGirl: This does sound fun, Kay. I just finished one by Georgette Heyer, which also worked well.

huhtikuu 16, 2020, 3:20am

>35 RidgewayGirl: Noting the Carlon book. I generally don't read many thrillers, but I do quite enjoy a bit of noir from time to time. Sounds great.

huhtikuu 16, 2020, 10:25am

>41 BLBera: I tend to dismiss reading just for pleasure, but this past month has made me seriously rethink that. Reading for enjoyment might just be the most important use of literature.

>42 AlisonY: Allison, it's very old school, in the very best way. I'm going to read more by Carlon, which is what I said after the first time I read The Whispering Wall in 2011, but at least this time I have a few more of her novels on my shelf.

huhtikuu 17, 2020, 11:17am

Rory comes home from Korea to the mountains of North Carolina missing half of a leg, which means he's not going to find work in the textile mills or in the logging camps. But making a living outside of what is legal is a family tradition and connections get him a job running bootleg moonshine to the red light district of the nearest town. It's a job that requires driving skill and the willingness to take risky chances and Rory is doing fine with his job. His grandmother, who raised him, is involved with the boss of the moonshiners and his best friend runs a small garage and keeps Rory's car fast and powerful. But the local sheriff is under pressure to make arrests when the FBI sends a new agent in. And Rory sees a young woman attending the Pentecostal church that occupies an old gas station building on the edge of the red light district and can't get her out of his mind.

Set in the 1950s, Gods of Howl Mountain is full of atmosphere and excitement. Taylor Brown has an eye for detail and a love for the history and geography of the South and it shows. The plot is predictable, as are the characters (the wise mountain woman, the evil sheriff, etc...) but Brown is enjoying the story so much it would be rude to not just go with it and do the same.

huhtikuu 20, 2020, 4:53pm

Well, that escalated quickly.

Kenji is a young man who makes his living giving tours of Tokyo's red light districts to foreigners. Over the New Year weekend, a time when the Japanese are focused on quiet family celebrations and many clubs are closed, Kenji is hired by Frank, an American businessman. He needs the money, but Kenji finds Frank off-putting and the things Frank says put him on edge. He tries telling his girlfriend about Frank, but what does he have beyond vague suspicions and a distrust of someone who isn't Japanese?

In the Miso Soup by Ryū Murakami begins so subtly. Kenji works illegally in an area that exists outside the mainstream, so is it any wonder that the kind of man who would hire a personal guide to the legal and less-than-legal parts of Japan's sex industry seems unsavory? And Kenji's suspicions are so vague that it seemed this novel was going to explore Japanese xenophobia, especially given that many of the sex workers are not Japanese. And then Kenji meets Frank for their second night of sex tourism and, well, every single thing I had thought for the first third of the novel was turned on its head and things begin to happen.

This is noir with a hard edge and plenty of undercurrent.

huhtikuu 21, 2020, 7:44am

Nice review of In the Miso Soup, Kay. I own a copy of it, but I'm not sure when I'll read it.

huhtikuu 21, 2020, 8:37pm

>46 kidzdoc: In the Miso Soup had been sitting on my tbr shelf for *ahem* a few years. Lilisin recently read it and her review reminded me that I had a copy.

huhtikuu 22, 2020, 3:17am

>45 RidgewayGirl:

Well, that escalated quickly.

That was my reaction as well!

What did you think about Kenji letting Frank go? Obviously for a book it makes for a more interesting ending but how did you feel about it?

>46 kidzdoc:

It took me only a few hours to read the entire book so it's a good book to keep on hand for a reading slump or when you need a fast-paced book to keep you motivated.

huhtikuu 22, 2020, 11:32am

>48 lilisin: Frank had such a weird hold on Kenji. He stayed in that freezing derelict building with him. He'd attributed to Frank all sorts of supernatural powers, so I think that him letting Frank go was in keeping with what he thought about Frank. It would be interesting to find out what happens over the next few weeks -- will Kenji's memory start to go cloudy? Will anything happen to Jun?

I'm fascinated by the idea that Frank could operate undetected in a society that notices foreigners and where he stands out, regardless of how forgettable he'd be in the US or Europe. I spent the first part of the book thinking that Kenji was being xenophobic on attributing the crimes to Frank based on his feelings about Frank, so when things started to happen at that club, it took me a few paragraphs to figure out what was going on.

huhtikuu 22, 2020, 11:55am

>45 RidgewayGirl:, >48 lilisin:, and >49 RidgewayGirl: Y'all I think I'm going to have to reread In the Miso Soup I'm pretty sure I forgot a huge part of the story, So Frank was behind it? I thought he was just a metaphor and it was left ambigious as to who actually comitted the crimes.

huhtikuu 22, 2020, 12:09pm

>50 stretch: That's an interesting interpretation. I'm tempted to reread the novel to see if that is a possible alternative.

I ordered a box of Blackwing pencils yesterday. They were too beautiful to pass up.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 22, 2020, 12:35pm

>Oh, the 840, that is a beatuiful edition, it and the 411 are the only two blackwings I have ever been tempted to buy. I love the coastline imprint on the green. One of these days I'll need to get around to writing a review of the blackwings. Then I'll have to explain my irrational hatred to the flat ferrule and eraser, I have no valid reason for it at all. And the ability to hackwing them with new combinations is actually pretty cool.

I wouldn't put much stock in my theory about Frank, I read it back in 2012 and could very easily be misinterpreting my own review/summary. Just a distinct impression in my memory of it being vague.

huhtikuu 22, 2020, 3:54pm

All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang is a quiet throwback of a novel. Although it was published in 2010 and the story begins in 1986, it has the feel of something taking place a half century earlier. Although the main characters are very different, this reminded me of Stoner, with its tight focus on one man's adulthood spent in academia.

Roman attends a prestigious MFA writing program in the midwest, where he attends a seminar led by a prominent poet, Miranda Sturgis. He doesn't participate in class and only turns in work before the final meeting. He's critical of Sturgis and her air of detachment as well as her often cutting remarks about his fellow students' work. Nonetheless, he shows up at her house late one night demanding more and to his surprise, she invites him in.

Later, his joy in winning a writing prize that leads to his getting a tenure-track teaching job is marred by discovering that she was on the selection committee. He marries, has a child, settles down to teach, but also to write, to produce something that will out-shine his one published collection in a way so decisive as to lay to rest his own insecurities, as well as taking him back into the limelight.

He dug a trench into the process and stayed inside of it, waist-deep, sweating out the individual monologues, piecing them together. From inside the trench, there was no way to think of anything else: not marriage, not fatherhood. There was only the strength of voice, of words.

All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost is a look at the life of a man whose insecurities and arrogance shaped his life. It looks at his marriage to a fellow MFA graduate, his long friendship with another member of that program and at his own blindness in seeing how his own behavior affects those around him. It's beautifully written, with a melancholic edge.

huhtikuu 23, 2020, 1:20am

>49 RidgewayGirl:, >50 stretch:

I thought the ending worked really well with the tendency of Japanese to not get involved with things as it could be meiwaku, an inconvenience, toward others. I also quite believe that Kenji was under such shock that there was no way he could make a rational informed decision about anything whatsoever.

I think if were to have to have a what happens over the next few weeks type of book it would simply be of a Kenji dealing with post traumatic shock and panic, with the chance of strengthening his pro-Japanese values or shattering them entirely. I don't believe anything out of the ordinary would happen to Jun.

I'm actually not so surprised that even as a foreigner Frank was able to remain undiscovered. I think at the time there was a bit of a if we don't look at them they don't exist kind of attitude toward foreigners, which combined with the general what you do in Kabukicho is your private business mindset.

I personally don't think Frank was a metaphor for anything. I think that keeping his character real makes him and the situation more terrifying. And it leads to debate on whether stereotyping is justified when it turns out it does apply.

huhtikuu 23, 2020, 9:46am

>54 lilisin: No doubt a large part of how effective the events of the second night are is down to how we as readers expect negative stereo-types held by a character to be contradicted, not proven to hold true!

huhtikuu 23, 2020, 11:15am

Kate and Peter grew up next door to each other, always having known each other. By the time they're finishing middle school, that friendship of proximity has become a real bond. Despite both having fathers who were police officers and both having a parent who emigrated from Ireland, their upbringings were very different. Kate had a large, rowdy, loving family, of which she is the youngest of three daughters. Pete is the only child of an alcoholic and he spends his childhood simultaneously caring for and protecting himself from his mentally ill mother. Events one night send Kate's father to the hospital and break apart Peter's family for good. But despite the distance between them and the disapproval of their families, Kate and Peter decide to marry and start a family together.

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane is about families and how it's impossible to shed oneself of their influence. It's about how mental illness and alcoholism can be inherited, how hope and love are not always enough and especially about forgiveness and about how facing the past, or not doing so, affects the future. This book reminded me of novels by both Ann Patchett and Anne Tyler. This is a straightforward story, but Keane allows for nuance and is experienced enough an author to allow insights and complexities to be revealed in a single, seemingly unimportant sentence, and she trusts the reader enough to not repeat herself. There are no easy happy ends here, but there are grace notes and moments where hope is allowed to flourish.

huhtikuu 24, 2020, 3:29pm

>30 RidgewayGirl: I just bought this one today. Your review is intriguing. And I have Ask Again Yes on my shelves, it sounds real good too!

huhtikuu 25, 2020, 11:13am

>56 RidgewayGirl: I loved this one, Kay. I would like to read Fever. This was the first book of hers that I read.

>53 RidgewayGirl: This sounds lovely.

huhtikuu 25, 2020, 12:16pm

>30 RidgewayGirl: Weather is so beautifully written. And the format is ideal for these unsettled times. I think you'll enjoy the Keane when you get to it.

>58 BLBera: It was well executed. I didn't realize how well until I was nearing the end and everything began to resonate. I'm interested in reading her first novel, The Walking People, whose description shares some similarities with Ask Again, Yes.

huhtikuu 26, 2020, 10:34am

Nice review of All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost, Kay. Your review reminded me that I own a copy of this novel, so I'll move it a little higher on my TBR list.

huhtikuu 27, 2020, 11:06am

Darryl, if you're in the mood for a quiet, subtle novel about writers, this will do the trick.

huhtikuu 27, 2020, 3:27pm

The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares was originally written in 1940 and if I hadn't gone and read a few articles about it partway through, I might not have finished. The story is nuts, although also brilliant and boring. Casares was a good friend of Jorge Luis Borges and this novel is fantastical and a little surreal.

The narrator is a fugitive, a man on the run, who hears about a deserted island in the South Pacific from an Italian rug seller in Calcutta. He steals a rowboat and sets out, finding the island. The island is small and marshy, but there are a few buildings and a swimming pool, all deserted and falling into disrepair. One day, the man wakes up and finds the buildings occupied by a group of vacationers, who play music loudly and wear oddly old-fashioned clothing. The man hides in the marsh, convinced they are there to capture him. He notices a woman, who goes every evening to an outcrop of rocks to watch the sunset. He becomes quickly fascinated in her and becomes determined to speak to her despite the danger.

A few times, he's sure he's been spotted, but the behavior of the guests never changes. He leaves clues for the woman, but she never indicates that she's noticed. He tries to speak to her, but she ignores him.

There's an explanation for what's going on. And it's an interesting one that I'm glad I found out about because the story was, despite its brevity, becoming repetitious and annoying. Of course, the repetition was a necessary part of the tale, and the explanation is one that opens up so many questions and implications. The Invention of Morel is the inspiration for the French modernist film classic, Last Year at Marienbad, just to give you an idea of what goes on. The film is set in an utterly different setting, the people are not the characters in the book and the explanation that ties the book together and makes it all worthwhile is missing, but other than that, it's eerily faithful.

huhtikuu 30, 2020, 1:18pm

Michaela and her sister survived a rough childhood being raised by an undemonstrative grandmother after being abandoned by their addict parents. But while her sister falls into the same trap their mother did, Michaela grabbed structure wherever she could find it, in school, in an after school program run by the Philadelphia Police and then by joining the police force. Eleven years after joining, Mickey is still a patrol officer in the Kensington neighborhood, a drug and poverty-ridden area. She stays because she can keep an eye on her estranged sister this way.

When Mickey and her rookie partner are called out to a dead body found in an area used by addicts, she discovers that the dead woman was murdered, and driven by worry about her sister, who she hasn't seen in awhile, she starts to look into the murders. She's coming up against resistance from her own supervisor, that can't be entirely attributed to her lack of friends on the force, breaking the rules and putting herself and her son into danger.

Long Bright River by Liz Moore is both a crime thriller and a picture of a specific place and what it does to the people who live there. Kensington is a community on the ropes, but it wasn't always the place people came to disappear. Between the complex characters, detailed setting and Moore's solid writing, this was a lot more than just a fun thriller. The plot holds together well, but I enjoyed the way Moore wrote. There's one scene where a group of kids from the low-income school go on a field trip to see a ballet that I loved -- Moore dug into the reasons for what happened and wrote with such sympathy -- she never goes for the easy laugh or the one-dimensional character. So while this is a solid crime novel, it also is broader than that, without harming the pacing. I enjoyed this one and look forward to reading more by the author.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 30, 2020, 1:23pm

>63 RidgewayGirl: Have you read her Heft? I haven't, but have friends who really loved it. I've got both that and this one, plus The Unseen World, mostly on the strength of their raves.

>64 lisapeet: Also interested in this one. I didn't know Last Year at Marienbad was based on it, which makes me even more inclined to pick it up.

huhtikuu 30, 2020, 1:46pm

>64 lisapeet: Both of Liz Moore's previous novels are available through my library system. Someday they will open up again!

And I know that Last Year at Marienbad is a classic, but it's so incomprehensible, I'm surprised it has so many fans. I did love the scenery and costumes, which kept me watching, but is that enough of a reason?

huhtikuu 30, 2020, 2:37pm

>65 RidgewayGirl: Yes. I just really liked it visually above all. Sometimes that's enough, right?

huhtikuu 30, 2020, 2:39pm

>66 lisapeet: More than enough!

huhtikuu 30, 2020, 4:08pm

My Mother's House is the story of a house's death. La Kay is a middle class house surrounded by other middle class houses that were built for returning GIs on an area near JFK Airport. South Ozone Park became a neighborhood of immigrants, the latest ones being from the Caribbean. Lucien and his wife buy the house and raise their three daughters there, while operating as an informal gathering place for new Haitian arrivals to find help getting settled, a card game and a taste of home. But Lucien's friendly demeanor hides an inner rot. He's done terrible things. Things the house finds unendurable and which lead it to decide to burn itself down in order to stop him. But Lucien, now an elderly man in poor health, a widower estranged from his children, has one more secret he's kept hidden from the house. And it's far worse than all of the other things he's done.

My Mother's House by Francesca Momplaisir is an impossible book to pigeon-hole. It's horror, sure. It's also a novel about immigrants struggling to make lives for themselves and those that prey on them. There's a grim realism here, but also a supernatural element that interact uneasily with each other. There are tonal shifts between the chapters, the ones centering Lucian have a black humor with a touch of slapstick that contrasts with the grim realism of another character's sections, which in turn are jarringly different than the magic realism of the sentient house.

Momplaisir is a talented writer, one who can evoke strong emotions or create a vivid image in very few words. This skill made this novel much harder to read than had her writing been just serviceable. The author is never overly graphic, nor does she linger on the act of harming being done. But she does dig into the emotions and harm being experienced by the victims and it makes for hard reading. It also made it difficult to appreciate Lucien's chapters or to enter in to what the house is experiencing. It's as though three very different novels about the same events were mashed together. Each element on its own is very good, but they lose something as a group.

toukokuu 1, 2020, 9:42am

I'm waiting for a library copy of Long Bright River, Kay. I've heard several good things about it here on LT. One of my reading cousins loved Heft, which I have also been meaning to get too.

My Mother's House sounds a little grueling. Not sure if I'm up for it now.

toukokuu 1, 2020, 12:15pm

>69 BLBera: I look forward to hearing what you think about Long Bright River, but I think that I would be cautious about reading My Mother's House, given how starkly Momplaisir depicts the emotional toll of abuse. There's also some animal torture which I'm sorry to have in my brain now. I think the right reader will be impressed, but it was rough reading.

toukokuu 1, 2020, 2:07pm

>68 RidgewayGirl: interesting about how Momplaisir is maybe too vivid and the structural problems that seems ti create.

>30 RidgewayGirl: you really make Jenny Offill’s books appeal.

I enjoyed catching up. I was only like 100 posts behind. Hopefully I’ll do better going on ahead. Now I feel I just had an immersion of a broad sampling of new books (with a couple older ones mixed in).

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 1, 2020, 9:37pm

>71 dchaikin: It's nice to see you here! Getting a sense of what's new and interesting is a lot harder these days. It has got to be hard to be an author watching their book enter the world during these times.

My local bookstore has decided not to open up entirely, but to allow people to book half hour slots in which to browse the bookstore alone. I'm meeting a friend I haven't seen in far to long there tomorrow, for some socially distant browsing and then we plan to go in our separate cars to get drive-thru coffee and sit in our respective cars cop-style and spend some time together. I'm really looking forward to this!

toukokuu 1, 2020, 8:29pm

>72 RidgewayGirl: This is a lovely plan!

Last weekend I went for a walk with a friend who lives a couple of streets away. I felt like a Jane Austen character inviting him for a walk! But it was so nice to have that social interaction.

toukokuu 2, 2020, 1:54pm

>73 wandering_star: It was fantastic. Just to browse through the books was a pleasure, but also to just spend time with a friend and chat with the bookstore clerks. I picked up a jigsaw puzzle for my father and five books for me, but the real pleasure was just being around people, even if we were wearing masks and standing apart. And the people who had the next slot of time were friends of mine. It was bizarre to see downtown so sparsely populated (mainly people walking their dogs) and all the empty parking spaces.

toukokuu 2, 2020, 2:10pm

>40 RidgewayGirl:

The Hating Game looks like the perfect book for my state of mind right now. Thanks for the recommendation.

toukokuu 2, 2020, 2:37pm

>74 RidgewayGirl: That does sound lovely, Kay. I'm so glad I get to see my daughter and granddaughter face to face occasionally; otherwise, I would really start to feel like a hermit. It will be interesting to see what kinds of novels come out of this experience.

I will probably pass on My Mother's House just now. Thanks for the warning.

toukokuu 2, 2020, 2:41pm

I'm way behind in my thread reading, but enjoyed catching up here. Some great recent reads - noting mamy of them.

toukokuu 2, 2020, 4:40pm

>72 RidgewayGirl: >74 RidgewayGirl: cool about the bookstore plan. ( Maybe private browsing should have a future - just you and full attention of some store expert. : ) )

toukokuu 2, 2020, 4:55pm

>75 Nickelini: Joyce, I hope you find it as satisfying as I did. I was entirely diverted from thinking about other things while reading it.

>76 BLBera: Beth, President Bush put out a short video where he points out that part of what makes this hard is that our usual reactions to adversity (hugs, physical contact, being there) are here the things we can't do but points out that we are still all connected and will get through this together. I'm not a fan, but it made me tear up and wish (again) that anyone else were in charge right now.

>77 AlisonY: Alison, it's so easy to fall behind in the threads, but luckily the books stay fresh!

>78 dchaikin: The one thing about independent bookstores is that there is often a seasoned bookseller on hand and they are always willing to give lots of recommendations!

toukokuu 2, 2020, 5:02pm

>79 RidgewayGirl: that’s sounds ideal. If there was one around here, I would have to get to know them. I’ve always felt uncomfortable talking to the sellers at the best independent at in Houston (Brazos Bookstore), but I had a great experience in Ann Patchett’s Nashville bookstore (Parnassus) and, especially once in a Tel Aviv bookstore where and old book seller in a pretty generic store walked me through the English books making suggestions of Israeli authors. He would shake his head when I picked up some books, and say something like, not his best, try this instead.

toukokuu 6, 2020, 2:20pm

Erika Fatland travels through the five central Asian countries that were once part of the Soviet Union and tells us what she sees and tells us the stories of the people she meets. She also gives a basic history of the area, both as a part of the Soviet Union and some of the long and eventful history further back. It's a lot for one book, so Sovietistan: Travels in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan is a bit random. I ended up with a wish for more, which may have been the author's intention.

The area is so deeply full of history. Long before Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, there were great civilizations and centers of learning and trade, from Samarkand and the Silk Road to the fertile Fergana Valley, where four of the countries intersect with squiggly lines and the ethnicities of the people living there are similarly entwined, and forward to the groups forcibly removed or resettled to the region under Stalin. Given the sheer volume and richness of the area's history, this book is a scant overview, but Fatland does a good job of alternating the information dumps with the conversations she has and with what life is currently like in these former Soviet republics. And it's the conversations that are the most interesting, whether with a human rights activist in Kazakhstan or the one elderly man willing to speak to her in a German Mennonite village in Kyrgyzstan. My personal favorite was the story of the artist Igor Savitsky and the museum he created in Nukus, Uzbekistan.

I was always eager to get back to this book, and I'm grateful to the author for writing such an engaging introduction to five countries I knew nothing about.

toukokuu 6, 2020, 2:34pm

>80 dchaikin: I'd be interested in finding out what makes you uncomfortable about Brazos Bookstore. It's certainly the case that some bookstores feel less welcoming to someone just walking in for the first time and others go out of their way to be hospitable. I never liked Greenville's other independent bookstore, but that was more because they lean heavily into the beach read and Southern Living end of the literary spectrum and so I was never going to be excited by their stock, nor excited to talk books with any of the people working there.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 6, 2020, 7:14pm

>80 dchaikin:, >82 RidgewayGirl: I think we have the making of a challenge: name your favorite/friendliest independent bookshop.

ETA: My top choice would be City Lights in San Francisco, followed by the London Review Bookshop, and the flagship branch of Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street, also in London.

toukokuu 7, 2020, 1:24pm

Catherine House is the name of an exclusive college. Students who are accepted receive full scholarships and have everything provided for them. Graduates go on to prestigious careers. Ines ends up there at the urging of a high school teacher, but her heart's not in it. Something happened her senior year that changed her. She's far more into the partying and the sleeping around than learning, but over time, decaying, beautiful, confounding Catherine House exerts its influence.

Elisabeth Thomas has created a solid gothic setting and while there's no magic, the setting takes it's cues from everything from Harry Potter to The Magicians. But while the set up is fantastic, Thomas spends much of the book just spinning her wheels with far too little plot to stretch over too long a time. There's no question that the ending was well-done, but there was too little character development for it to be believable, and requires the reader to accept a slow pace for much of the middle of the novel.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 9, 2020, 1:38pm

When a group of people who went to college together rent a house for the summer, all the kids are relegated to bunk in the attic. As they watch their parents behave very badly, they decide to band together and to refuse all parental involvement for the summer. Evie is fifteen and she keeps an eye on her little brother, her parents being all too willing to ignore the children in favor of drinking and being with their old friends. When disaster in the form of a hurricane strikes, the children discover that they are better off relying on each other and set off for safety.

A Children's Bible is another fantastic and unusual novel by Lydia Millet. It's so well conceived and executed that after finishing, I had to sit back and just think about it for awhile. There's not a word or scene that isn't necessary to the story she's telling and despite the themes being clear, nothing is over-emphasized. If you're already a fan of this under-rated author, you'll love A Children's Bible, if you've never read anything by her, this is a fine place to start.

toukokuu 9, 2020, 2:45pm

>85 RidgewayGirl: I'm looking forward to this one.

toukokuu 9, 2020, 3:43pm

I am so looking forward to A Children's Bible, Kay. I think Millet is one of the most creative writers around. I have a couple of hers on my shelf that I haven't read yet, so I guess I could pick those up while I'm waiting for my copy of her new one.

toukokuu 9, 2020, 5:52pm

>86 lisapeet: Gah, it's so good, Lisa. I wanted to talk about so many things in the book. I'll be bothering you once you've read it.

>87 BLBera: Beth, she really is. I have to read more by her. I loved Sweet Lamb of Heaven.

toukokuu 11, 2020, 4:45pm

"There is no good reason, at this stage of your life, to play it safe and hold back," she'd said. "This is the time to experiment and make mistakes and open yourself up to brutally honest feedback. That's the only way to grow as an artist. Fail again, fail better."

The narrator of Apartment by Teddy Wayne is lucky enough to not only have a father paying his tuition and living costs, while he's attending the Colombia MFA program, but he's living in his great-aunt's apartment, a rent-controlled two bedroom, a much nicer living situation than that of most of the other graduate students. He's always been a little awkward around other people, slow to get to know people, resigned to having a few acquaintances as his only connections.

He's been working on a novel, but isn't prepared for the harsh reaction he receives from his peers. Only Billy, a Midwestern transplant a little overwhelmed by the city, has anything positive to say. Soon after meeting him, and on a whim, the narrator offers the empty second bedroom in his apartment to Billy.

Apartment is a novel about the difficulty of making a connection, about how difficult male friendship can be and, especially, a novel about how one man can't manage to get past his own self-consciousness, despite his best efforts. It turns out that I like novels about people messing up their own lives, even when the protagonist is a white guy. While this does veer towards WMFuN* territory, it never quite manages to become one, despite the narrator's best efforts. There's a melancholy air to this story that I found utterly attractive. And when things careen past the merely uncomfortable, Wayne made the various things happening make sense and inevitable, given what had happened before. This is a really well done and beautifully written novel and I'm so glad to have found it.

* White Male Fuck-up Novel, truly a well established genre.

toukokuu 11, 2020, 4:56pm

>85 RidgewayGirl: I'm on a library waiting list for A Children's Bible, and now that I've read what you thought of it, I want to read it even more!

toukokuu 14, 2020, 1:09pm

>90 rachbxl: I'm looking forward to finding out what you think about it.

toukokuu 14, 2020, 1:09pm

There is a lot going on in You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat. The unnamed narrator is Palestinian-American and she spends her summers with family in Amman, Jordan and in Nablus, on the West Bank. Her parents are immigrants, her mother is unpredictable and possibly mentally ill. She's bisexual and struggles with various self-destructive behaviors. She's not good at relationships, but needs to be in one. As I said, it's a lot for a single novel and it seems to be part of a slow change in publishing where characters can be more than one thing outside of the routine, and are no longer expected to be representative of anything but their own complex selves. Like actual people, in other words.

The novels opens with an unsettling experience in Bethlehem, when the narrator is twelve. While walking around the old city, she is yelled at by a group of men for wearing shorts. The thing that throws her into turmoil isn't the men's reactions to her, but her mother's reactions. As the novel progresses, fear of her mother's reactions to her take up an out-sized part of the narrator's life, even when she's an adult, living and working in a different city. As the narrator watches herself sabotage her relationship with her girlfriend, she's forced to come to terms with the harmfulness of her behaviors, and how most of the harm done is to herself.

The narrator is not someone I'd enjoy knowing in real life, but I loved spending time with her in the pages of a book. I like characters who can't help but blow up their own lives and she was engaging, intelligent and always had something going on. The glimpses of life Palestinian life were fascinating.

toukokuu 14, 2020, 1:35pm

>82 RidgewayGirl: well, keep in mind it takes a lot to get me to relax around someone I don’t know. So any seller would need to disarm me, and that’s not so easy...hmm. It is easier when I’m traveling. (Not sure why) So, the answer is, I have no idea and surely it has a lot to do with me. There are always some social constraints to expressing your feelings about things you love or commenting on other people’s choices. I just haven’t broken that barrier there.

>83 kidzdoc: the bookstore I went to in Tel Aviv was a large chain store (for Israel) - with a Hebrew name that I would need to look up...ok, wasn’t that hard. It’s Steimatzky (Hebrew: סטימצקי‎) But, it’s not an independent shop and I don’t think that experience would be replicated except if you met the exact old guy I met. So, my contribution might not be so useful.

>85 RidgewayGirl: The Children’s Bible was reviewed in the NY times this past Sunday and left me really interested. Really happy to have read your review

>89 RidgewayGirl:, >92 RidgewayGirl: sounds like there might be some thematic overlap in these two. Noting both titles.

toukokuu 14, 2020, 4:55pm

>93 dchaikin: There is very much some overlap between Apartment and You Exist Too Much, although they are utterly different books. I really enjoy novels in which the main character is the agent of their own woes. There's just something so human about that tendency to act against our own self-interest, not out of altruism, but out of laziness, or fear or some other instinct. The main character in You Exist Too Much is so different from me, in both actions and experience, making her story just fascinating to me.

toukokuu 22, 2020, 4:30pm

Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime by Val McDermid was exactly the right book for my easily distracted brain. With each chapter covering a different aspect of forensics, from fingerprints to profiling to forensic anthropology, McDermid never dives too deeply into any one subject, but each chapter is well-organized and she includes relevant historical criminal cases to illustrate how each subject can make a difference in discovering what happened, who the victim and perpetrator are and ensure that the accused is convicted.
This is a fun introduction to the various fields that comprise forensics.

toukokuu 24, 2020, 5:36pm

As they wait for the Night Boat to Tangier to arrive from Morocco, two middle-aged Irish criminals sit in the ferry terminal in Algeciras and reminisce. They're there to find Maurice's daughter, who left three years earlier to go travel with a loose group of hippies and vagabonds. As they look through the crowd for her, asking people if they've seen her, it becomes clear that Maurice and Charlie are not benign, that their superficial Irish charm hides a more menacing core.

Kevin Barry has created two fascinating characters in Maurice and Charlie. They've got a patter going as they reminisce, but they're also avoiding something in their story together, and while those revelations came too late in the novel for me, the heart of the story was undeniably enthralling. What really shines in this novel is Barry's gorgeous writing. He skillfully weaves language into something both beautiful and brutish. This is one to read for the language and to see the craft of it all.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 25, 2020, 2:51pm

I also enjoyed Night Boat to Tangier and its two main characters, although I'm glad that I met them in the book and not in person.

toukokuu 25, 2020, 4:44pm

>97 kidzdoc: Absolutely! They reminded me of the characters in the movie Reservoir Dogs. Entertaining and interesting to observe at a remove, but would be terrifying to have to interact with in any way.

toukokuu 26, 2020, 7:23pm

>96 RidgewayGirl: I took the ferry from Algeciras to Tangier once! The night before I went to a pizza joint in Algeciras with my husband and his brother and brother's wife. Due to our appearance, the waiter addressed my husband in English, me in Spanish, my husband's brother in German, and his wife in Arabic. We answered him in the languages in which we were addressed and ordered a pizza. He then went to give his order to the cook in (I think) Danish. A little later a woman came out from the back to say that she was the owner and had heard we were an interesting group, so she had come to meet us. We explained that we were all Americans, and that it was a fluke that we happened to know enough of those languages to order in them. She was nevertheless, apparently impressed, and said that we didn't seem like Americans. (I think we are very typical actually.) I must say that they had the appearances really pegged. My sister-in-law is half Creole and half Arab, and is really, really dark. My brother-in-law has a squarish head and really does look Teutonic. My husband looks British, and I was dark-haired and dark-eyed, but pale-skinned, and I didn't look anything in particular, and we were in Spain, so that was the best guess. When the pizza came, they broke an egg in the center, which we didn't expect, but it was fine.

toukokuu 27, 2020, 10:06am

>99 sallypursell: I had pizza with egg on top in France and it was delicious. Both my husband and his brother soak up languages like giant sponges and can get by in a local language after just a few days, which is both useful and tremendously irritating to this American who had to work hard just to get somewhat proficient in French and German.

toukokuu 27, 2020, 6:27pm

The Narcissism of Small Differences is about a couple, Ana and Joe, who have been together for fifteen years, outlasting most of the other couples they knew, despite never marrying or having children. They'd been happy with what they had -- Joe is a freelancer, writing for various alternative magazines, reviewing movies and music, and Ana works as an art director for an advertising company. But the cracks in the relationship have begun to show. Ana is tired of supporting them and of perceiving Joe's superiority in not have sold out like she did. Joe is finding fewer and fewer freelance gigs and tired of feeling like he's not doing his share. When Ana receives a promotion, things become less tenable.

The Narcissism of Small Differences is full of great observations. Joe and Ana are so well-crafted and believable that I was rooting for both of them even when I was yelling at one of them or the other in my head. It's a novel about Detroit, where Joe meets up with a blogger who explores and photographs Detroit's decaying splendor and they both are fiercely loyal to a city that means different things to different people. Michael Zadoorian is a fantastic writer, observant and with an easy style that made reading just one more page very easy.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 28, 2020, 11:34pm

>99 sallypursell:, >100 RidgewayGirl: In 2017 I had an absolutely delightful mushroom and truffle pizza (pizza trufa y huevo poché) at Ôven Mozzarella Bar in Madrid on Calle Atocha, a short distance from Atocha Station, which had a fried poached egg in the middle of it.

toukokuu 28, 2020, 2:07pm

>102 kidzdoc: ... yum...

>101 RidgewayGirl: great review. Interesting

>96 RidgewayGirl: hmm. I struggled with the audio so much with Night Boat to Tangier that it ruined the book for me. Glad you enjoyed.

toukokuu 28, 2020, 4:10pm

>102 kidzdoc: You had me until the truffles.

>103 dchaikin: Daniel, this may be one of those instances where one medium is better than the other.

toukokuu 28, 2020, 5:31pm

When Saša Stanišic is given a form to fill out, there's a box labelled "HERKUNFT" (ORIGINS), with much too little space for Stanišic to respond. This book is the longer response to that bureaucratic question. There's his childhood in the city of Višegrad, in a country that doesn't exist anymore. There's his later childhood and teenage years as the child of refugees, living near Heidelberg, Germany. Then there are his parents and his grandparents, especially his grandmother, who remained in Višegrad throughout the war and who is sinking into dementia. There's also the mountain village of Oskoruša, and the graveyard holding his ancestors. Stanišic explores his origins and along the way takes the reader along as he hangs out behind the ARAL station with the other teenagers who started out somewhere else, reads Choose Your Own Adventure books, visits Oskoruša with his tiny grandmother and reflects on what it is to belong to a country that no longer exists.

Stanišic's writing is so perfect; full of humor and emotion, stark realism and boundless optimism. This is a very, very good book. It's not yet out in English, but as it won the German Book Prize and one of his previous novels has already been translated, it's only a matter of time. Make sure you grab a copy as soon as you can.

toukokuu 28, 2020, 6:40pm

>105 RidgewayGirl: Oh I will definitely watch for that one. I really loved his Before the Feast.

toukokuu 28, 2020, 7:06pm

>106 lisapeet: I'll definitely be reading his other books. Herkunft was the book of the moment last year in Germany, with all the bookstores having giant displays and a ton of good reviews so I thought it would be a good one to start reading in German again. And it was perfect.

toukokuu 28, 2020, 8:32pm

>100 RidgewayGirl: That is irritating! I have to work at it, although I seem to have some talent there. I think I am aided by the terrific memory I had when I was younger--sadly, not anymore. I'm not really comfortable even in Spanish, in which I have made intermittant efforts for more than 45 years. And I only remember selected phrases in Russian and Bosnian, in French and Italian, in Chinese and Japanese, in Latin and German even less, and no more than single words in Swahili.

toukokuu 28, 2020, 8:42pm

>103 dchaikin: I wonder if they make Pizza in Italy that way. I know it is not really Italian food, but some regions have food preparations which are like Pizza in basic conception. So we have anecdotal stories in pizza-with-the-egg in France, central Spain, and Mediterranean Spain. Where else, I can't help but wonder?

toukokuu 28, 2020, 10:56pm

>109 sallypursell: - I've spent quite a bit of time in Italy, and haven't seen that (mostly Tuscany, and a bit of the north and Rome). Seems like something my Italian relatives wouldn't think was okay. I know I've seen it before, but I can't remember where. Maybe it was only in a magazine ;-)

toukokuu 29, 2020, 1:31am

>110 Nickelini: Thanks so much for the answer. Anyone else know any pizza-like items in Italy, and did they have an egg broken in the middle?

toukokuu 29, 2020, 2:42am

>105 RidgewayGirl: That was part of what turned out to be my lockdown pile from the library: I really enjoyed it too. I’ll also be looking out for his other books.

>109 sallypursell: I’m sure I’ve pizza with egg somewhere, can’t think where. Might even have been southern Spain. But there is also the classic eggs-and-spinach combination of fiorentina on just about every menu, surely?

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 29, 2020, 8:57am

>108 sallypursell: I suspect you'd join my husband and my brother-in-law in competing to see who could have a conversation in the local language first.

>110 Nickelini: I've never encountered it in Italy and I think I would have noticed. The one I had years ago was delicious.

>112 thorold: I noticed that you'd read it and liked it. My German book friends were ecstatic when it won the German Book Prize, in part because it seemed to be a rebuke to the Nobel committee for giving a prize to Peter Handke, in part because they thought it was a big step for Germany to award their most prestigious book prize to an immigrant who learned German only as a teenager. His debut novel was long-listed for the German Book Prize.

toukokuu 29, 2020, 9:08am

The first time I ever had an egg on a pizza was in Siena. I can't remember what else was on it though!

toukokuu 29, 2020, 9:19am

>105 RidgewayGirl: Out of curiosity — did you try to follow the instructions in the last part? I was too lazy to take all those decisions, and just read it all in sequence as printed...

toukokuu 29, 2020, 9:27am

>105 RidgewayGirl: ok, marked down. Waiting for translation

toukokuu 29, 2020, 10:41am

>103 dchaikin:, >104 RidgewayGirl: No problem. Dan and I will split the pizza trufa y huevo poché.

>105 RidgewayGirl: Great review of HERKUNFT; I'll definitely keep my eye out for the English translation of it. I noticed that the Kindle version of Saša Stanišić's début novel How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone is on sale for $1.99, so I purchased a copy.

toukokuu 29, 2020, 11:24am

>109 sallypursell: I had pizza in Rome at a small restaurant. It was really good, no egg though.

toukokuu 29, 2020, 1:10pm

>115 thorold: As the Choose Your Own Adventure were enormously popular when I was a child, I had a lot of fun trying out different options. The only thing I couldn't do was lie to her and tell her I was Pero.

>116 dchaikin: Daniel, it's just a fantastic, fantastic memoir.

>117 kidzdoc: Thanks! I just nabbed a copy for my kindle. Good thing you posted - a copy of that was sitting in my bookshop.org checkout basket.

>118 LadyoftheLodge: Funny how both pizza and gelato just taste better in Italy.

toukokuu 29, 2020, 1:11pm

In Sarah Gerard's novel, True Love: A Novel, Nina is drifting through life, and choosing the worst men along the way. She becomes involved with Seth, an artist, who doesn't really do much, but also can't be bothered with her. Even if he asks her to come over, he may not answer the door when she arrives. Yet, this only heightens her ardor and when she moves to New York from Florida to attend an MFA program, Seth comes along because he wants to live in New York and she's willing to pack up his stuff, rent the moving van and make housing arrangements for them in New York. But in New York, Seth is incapable of holding a job, unwilling to do menial work, leaving Nina scrambling to support both of them. When Seth turns jealous and needy, Nina switches over to Aaron, with as much drama and conflict that she can wring out of the situation.

Nina is a lot to deal with. The friends she manages to keep are all messes themselves, as is her mother. There's a whole genre of novel of women destroying their own lives over terrible men, similar to the WMFuN,* but differing in that in these novels, selfless men don't leap out to help the women, nor is eventual forgiveness a given. But usually, and usually in most novels, there's character development, the protagonist is changed over the course of the novel, or seems like they would like to, at least. That doesn't happen here. Nina's path is a circular one, endlessly repeating the same behaviors, endlessly justifying them with the language she picked up in therapy. And since Nina's behavior is the same at the end of the book as it was at the beginning, the beginning and end are merely arbitrary. She'll switch men at some point, take advantage of different acquaintances and co-workers next time, find a new thing to be utterly irresponsible about.

Gerard can write well. And she can create scenes that are so vivid I would cringe. But the lack of an arc to this story left me feeling unmoored. What's the point of reading about a terrible person continuing to be terrible in the same way to different people? I do love an unlikeable narrator, but Nina's self pity and manipulations never led anywhere. Still, Gerard clearly has a great deal of promise as a novelist and I look forward to seeing how her writing develops.

* White Male Fuck-up Novel

toukokuu 29, 2020, 8:36pm

I have some McDermid on my shelves. Maybe it's time to pull one off. I'm trying to decide what to read after finishing Wolf Hall... I suspect anything I choose will suffer in comparison.

toukokuu 29, 2020, 9:18pm

I will arm wrestle anyone for that truffle pizza with the egg. I love eggs on everything.

>120 RidgewayGirl: Kay, did you read Sarah Gerard's collection Sunshine State? I read about half and then lost track of it, no fault of the writing. I think I started it on a trip to Miami and probably had something else I needed or wanted to read waiting for me when I got home. I don't remember much but I did think it was good. How good, I couldn't tell you... I should go back and reread/finish.

toukokuu 29, 2020, 10:48pm

>122 lisapeet: Have you tried topping a plate of pasta with a fried egg (yolk still runny) then stirring it into the whole thing? I read this somewhere as a very simple way to serve pasta, tried it during lockdown, and it's great.

toukokuu 30, 2020, 9:38am

>123 wandering_star: Not Italian pasta, but asian noodles with a bunch of vegetables (or not, just garlic and ginger), yes! Good stuff, and I love how the egg cooks as you stir it.

This was dinner two nights ago. Eggs and any greens is a go-to for me.

toukokuu 30, 2020, 11:32am

>121 BLBera: Beth, I do, too and have yet to read any of her crime novels.

>122 lisapeet: I wonder if I'd like her short stories more, since a lack of character development matters a lot less in a short story.

>123 wandering_star: My son showed me a quick egg meal that involves stirring a raw egg into a very hot bowl of rice. It's actually very good with a little soy sauce and whatever herbs or scallions you have sprinkled on top.

>124 lisapeet: Ha! My son's rice and egg is a variation on this. We've got some asian noodles and fresh veggies. Maybe I'll have to make this tonight.

toukokuu 30, 2020, 1:34pm

>125 RidgewayGirl: When we could still go out to eat (pre-lockdown) we sometimes had Asian food at a local buffet restaurant where you chose your veggies and noodles and the chefs stir fried them fresh with an egg stirred in. It must have been a pretty good spot to dine, as there were always tons of Asian students there. I sure do miss it, not sure how the buffet restaurants will look when they re-open.

toukokuu 30, 2020, 6:39pm

What great stuff about stirring an egg into hot food! I loved it all. The egg cooks on the pizza, too.

>114 wandering_star: >118 LadyoftheLodge: And so they do have pizza in Italy. And with egg, too.

>108 sallypursell: Oh, I must have overstated the case! I don't really speak any of these, although I might manage a sentence or two. I really studied them to learn how the languages were built/put together. It was more Linguistics that interested me than Languages. Although, withal, I do remember some. And I forgot Polynesian. You can see that I tried to sample all kinds of languages. No big Semitic ones, though. It is a signal lack--no Arabic! And my Greek hardly exists at all. I use that for etymology, although I transliterated quite a bit for Project Gutenberg.

toukokuu 30, 2020, 6:58pm

>127 sallypursell: And so they do have pizza in Italy. And with egg, too.

I didn't realize you thought there wasn't pizza in Italy (??)

toukokuu 31, 2020, 1:10am

There's spaghetti Carbonara, too - which is: fry garlic (or other aromatics, or a bit of bacon/pancetta, or something) in a bit of oil; cook spaghetti; use tongs to move the dripping-wet spaghetti to the frying pan (off the heat) and toss it; pour onto the spaghetti a beaten egg mixed with grated Parmesan and toss some more; add some more Parmesan, and peas or other quick-cooking veg if you like, and adjust the consistency with a bit of the pasta water. Done perfectly, you get a silky-smooth creamy cheese sauce on the pasta. Done poorly - too soon, or too late, too hot or not hot enough...you get a rather lumpy but delicious cheese sauce. I haven't done it perfectly yet, though I've come close; it's something I cook every now and then when I want pasta _now_. The longest part is cooking the spaghetti - you can fry stuff and beat the egg while it's cooking. About 15 minutes from getting out the frying pan to sitting down to eat, for me - but I don't usually put much stuff into the pasta. Last time, though, I put in shrimp - salad shrimp, pre-cooked and frozen (thawed under running water), no shells. Delicious, though the sauce was even lumpier than usual.

toukokuu 31, 2020, 2:23am

>128 Nickelini: I thought there was, but I had heard it was an American invention, not really part of the cuisine, in the same way American Chinese food was largely not from Chinese cuisine. I was very pleased to learn something.

toukokuu 31, 2020, 2:26am

>129 jjmcgaffey: My husband makes Carbonara every other week n Sunday nights, with grilled chicken, usually. He adds onions and small strps of red peppers. It's usually good.

toukokuu 31, 2020, 6:42am

>130 sallypursell: I've heard different stories from different people, the most common theory seems to be that pizza was originally only known in Naples, until Neapolitan emigrants took it to America and Northern Europe, and then (it's usually said to have been in the fifties or sixties) Americans and Germans used to eating pizza back home went on holiday to other parts of Italy and were puzzled not to be able to get pizza there. And demand created supply, and now you can get it everywhere.

I did notice that Anna Seghers talks about eating pizza in Marseilles during WWII (in Transit) without bothering to explain what it is, so it must have been a thing well before the Italian tourist boom of the fifties.

toukokuu 31, 2020, 11:04am

>129 jjmcgaffey: That's one to try! Our speedy pasta consists of several garlic cloves, diced, cooked in olive oil and then a few pounds of roughly chopped tomatoes and a handful of torn basil leaves. Dump the cooked pasta directly in the sauce and toss. The whole thing takes the time it does for the pasta water to boil and the pasta to cook.

>130 sallypursell: Naples makes a big deal of being the place where pizza was invented. We ate at a restaurant in Pompeii that claimed to be the place that invented it (pretty sure there are dozens of restaurants making this claim) and the pizza there was amazing. Naples pizza has a slightly thicker crust than in the rest of Italy. Also in Naples the custom if you order a glass of wine is to also be presented with a selection of snacks and it is the most civilized thing I have ever experienced.

>132 thorold: Could it have been from a restaurant run by Italian (or Campanian) émigrés?

toukokuu 31, 2020, 12:42pm

>133 RidgewayGirl: Probably, I'm sure there were always a lot of Italians in Marseille. The interesting thing wasn't so much that she found pizza there as that she took it for granted that the reader would understand pizza as cheap filling food for refugees short of money and ration coupons. But I suppose it's relevant that the book was written in Mexico and originally came out in English translation for a mostly US readership (and she'd been through New York on the way to Mexico and might well have eaten pizza there...); when she wrote it she wouldn't have had much hope of it ever being published in German, and she certainly wouldn't have been thinking about the pizza supply in the future socialist Germany!

toukokuu 31, 2020, 1:34pm

>130 sallypursell: I thought there was, but I had heard it was an American invention, not really part of the cuisine

Oh, interesting. Well certainly deep dish pizza is not an Italian thing, but yeah, pizza has been everywhere in Italy for a long time. No trips to my husband's hometown is complete without a visit to Pizza Felice, where his parents used to go on dates back in the 1950s (this is in Tuscany). I've always heard that it was "invented" in Naples 200-300 years ago, but focaccia is documented back to at least the Roman era in Liguria. So it's old, and has been around Italy in some form for .... ever.

Pizza is a godsend when we travel in Italy, because sometimes we're hungry when the restaurants are closed, but you can always find a pizzeria and have a snack to get you through to dinner. They're especially handy when travelling with kids.

>134 thorold: Also in Naples the custom if you order a glass of wine is to also be presented with a selection of snacks and it is the most civilized thing I have ever experienced. We found that last year in northern Italy too. There's a name for it . . . aperitivo? merenda? I can't remember. Anyway, I too am a fan of this civilized custom.

kesäkuu 1, 2020, 10:15am

And as this discussion was happening, what turned up as the latest episode of my favourite non-book podcast? https://gastropod.com/pizza-pizza/

(and a transcript here if you prefer to read rather than listen: https://gastropod.com/transcript-pizza-pizza/)

kesäkuu 1, 2020, 11:56am

>134 thorold: That's an entirely different and interesting conversation - who are books written for and how does that affect how they are understood by various readers?

>135 Nickelini: Seconding the importance of pizza as the available at odd hours food -- we were in Innsbruck with friends and around three my son became very hungry. A nearby stand sold him an enormous slice, which kept him happy, even through a later dinner with many unfamiliar foods. A friend's son with a very restricted list of things he would eat did wonderfully through Germany and Austria since he looked at schnitzel as unusually large chicken nuggets. For my own, when traveling through Europe, I'd try to find a food that was unique to the area, but that they liked and we'd try it in various restaurants. My son became a fan of goulash, my daughter of Rahmschwammerl and they both loved diabolo menthe, a French concoction that can best be described as carbonated Scope.

>136 wandering_star: I've added it to my podcast queue!

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 1, 2020, 2:08pm

>136 wandering_star:
I've never listened to a food podcast. I'll check it out, thanks!

>137 RidgewayGirl: they both loved diabolo menthe, a French concoction that can best be described as carbonated Scope. - Sounds frightening

kesäkuu 1, 2020, 5:16pm

>137 RidgewayGirl: who are books written for — yes, that's a question that keeps popping up! All those points where you start asking yourself whether something is a coded message to people "in the know" or perfectly innocent (I've been reading about Whitman lately...)

available at odd hours food — Also a great fallback on those occasions, less common than they used to be, when you find yourself in a place where no other menus seem to have anything veggie-friendly on them.

We did find when we were in the Veneto a couple of years ago that restaurants away from big towns that advertise pizza often only fire up their ovens at busy times, like Friday and Saturday nights.

kesäkuu 2, 2020, 3:57am

>137 RidgewayGirl:, >138 Nickelini:

Menthe syrup is delicious but I do find that it is the one syrup flavor that most people can't get used to unless they were raised with it. Grenadine is a much easier sell.

kesäkuu 2, 2020, 11:57am

In The Missing American by Kwei Quartey, a lonely widower is befriended on Facebook by a younger Ghanaian woman. They become close and he sends her money for her sister. His best friend, a dying journalist encourages him and he decides to visit her in Ghana. When he arrived, she is nowhere to be found. His friend convinces him to investigate sakawa boys, those who create false identities in order to scam money from unwitting westerners. The man disappears.

Emma joined the police force hoping to investigate murders, but the opportunity to join the homicide department came with sexual assault attempt from her boss and so she ends up working as a private investigator for a company in Accra and one of the first cases she is assigned is that of an American trying to find his father, who disappeared a few weeks earlier.

This is a solid mystery novel. The plot is solid and the novel is well-paced. The author is both Ghanaian and American and so this book is an introduction to life in Ghana, presented with an eye to what Americans don't know. Some of the characters and situations were what one expects in a thriller-type book but the uniqueness and richness of the setting minimized these elements and as this is the author's first book, there's a good chance this series will become better as it goes.

kesäkuu 2, 2020, 12:08pm

>138 Nickelini: It was, in my opinion, vile. But it gave the kids the feeling of having a fancy drink and freshened their breath right up.

>139 thorold: Traveling as a vegetarian is easier now than it was, but too often it's treated as "ok, then just a little meat in it," which is really not helpful. Cities are better than villages, but who wants to be stuck in cities? Have you read Everything is Illuminated?

>140 lilisin: I've heard that about American things like cream soda and pumpkin pie - they don't work unless you're raised with them. My daughter loved getting a "sirop" in Switzerland, which is made with water and raspberry syrup.

kesäkuu 2, 2020, 12:15pm

>129 jjmcgaffey: Carbonara is one of our favorite quick weekend lunches. If we're feeling especially decadent, we'll add a poached egg on top.

kesäkuu 2, 2020, 12:25pm

>142 RidgewayGirl: Have you read Everything is Illuminated - no, thanks to my usual (and often flawed) instinct to steer clear of books with huge numbers of copies on LT...

What's changed in the last 25 years or so is that — most of the time — they know what a vegetarian is, and in a small place you're talking to someone who also knows what they do in the kitchen and what they could change for you. If you tell them lardons are not OK they don't make a fuss about leaving them out.

kesäkuu 2, 2020, 1:30pm

I took a lot of book bullets there, Kay! Catching up - so many new titles I've added to my wish list.

kesäkuu 2, 2020, 1:38pm

>99 sallypursell: Sally - I completely have you in my head as having fair hair. I can't reconcile that imagined picture with now knowing that you're dark!

I'm sure we're all the same, and have completely wrong mental pictures of what other CRers look like.

kesäkuu 2, 2020, 3:42pm

>146 AlisonY: I've met at least nine currently active CRers, including Kay, so I know what they look like! 😎

kesäkuu 2, 2020, 6:59pm

>147 kidzdoc: I think I've only seen pics of yourself, Dan and Caroline, Daryl. I'm still waiting for someone to throw the Club Read world party..... 😉

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 2, 2020, 8:22pm

>148 AlisonY: Well now that most of us know how to use* Zoom.....

ETA: and by "use" I mean can get connected to a meeting if given a link. Remembering to unmute and to not all talk at once, apparently, has a very steep learning curve.

kesäkuu 2, 2020, 9:31pm

>148 AlisonY: Yes! There should be a Club Read post-pandemic post-trump world party in the near future, preferably in a lovely and peaceful European city or town.

I've attended several group LT meet ups in the US and Europe, but there was never more than one other currently active Club Read member present each time.

>149 ELiz_M: I've been avoiding non-work related video meetups like the plague, as we've been having WebEx meetings about the pandemic and other topics two or more times every week since mid March.

kesäkuu 3, 2020, 6:37pm

The Missing American sounds good, Kay. I'll check for it, now that I can get books from my library.

kesäkuu 9, 2020, 10:44am

>143 janemarieprice: There are not many meals that can't be made better with a poached egg on top.

>144 thorold: Things have definitely gotten more vegetarian-friendly.

>145 AlisonY: Your thread has given me many book recommendations. I'm glad you found a few over here. And I've learned that my impressions of what people here look like and what they actually look like is usually completely different, unless they've been gracious enough to post pictures of themselves.

I'm all in for the international Club Read meet-up and bookstore ramble.

>151 BLBera: Beth, I really liked learning about Ghanaian culture and Quartey did a good job of layering the details daily life in so that it was part of the story, not an explainer for idiot Americans.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 9, 2020, 11:03am

When Stevie's boyfriend doesn't show up, she figures he stood her up. It had been a casual relationship anyway and she assumed he'd lost interest. She still goes by his apartment to pick up the things she'd left there, and discovers his body. A pandemic is sweeping across Britain, but Stevie is certain his death was murder. And so, in a city convulsing into uncertainty, she sets out to figure out what happened.

I've had A Lovely Way to Burn on my shelf for a few years, but the pandemic setting had me pulling it down. It really grabbed me -- Louise Welsh's virus is a far deadlier and easily spread than what we're dealing with, but she nailed some of the human behavior and the uncertainty that does as much to destabilize things as the disease itself. And having the novel be about solving a murder rather than about the pandemic itself made this a good distraction. Welsh puts together a good story and I've already picked up the second in this trilogy.

kesäkuu 9, 2020, 11:32am

Hi Kay: The Missing American is in my library, and I've put a reserve on it. We do have curbside pick up, so I'm hoping it won't be too long.

The Welsh book sounds good; I didn't know it was part of a trilogy. I will have to look for that one as well.

You are becoming responsible for most of my library holds, Kay!

kesäkuu 10, 2020, 1:01pm

>154 BLBera: Beth, I picked up my first library book in two months today and it was lovely, although I wish I had a last name that sounded like it's spelled so the librarian didn't have to go back and forth to find it.

kesäkuu 11, 2020, 2:15pm

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid is one of those books that capture a moment. It begins with a babysitter bringing her charge to a grocery store and having to have the father of the child come get them after a woman decided that she was not the child's mother and the authorities needed to be involved. It ends peacefully, but both the babysitter, Emira, and the child's mother, Alix, are unsettled in different ways. There is a video of the incident, but Emira doesn't want it made public. Emira loves her job, but the pay is low and the benefits non-existent and her friends are urging her to move forward with her life. And she meets a new guy who is really, really into her. Alix, who makes her living as an influencer and as a public speaker is having her own moment. She and her husband moved from New York to Philadelphia for his career and she's lonely without her friends and hopes to find in Emira some of the connections she's missing. Her attempts to forge a friendship with Emira are tone-deaf and heavy-handed. Then she discovers who Emira's new boyfriend is, and things go rapidly very wrong.

This is a novel forged out of our current moment and all credit to Reid for being willing to march into the middle of some charged issues. Reid takes the reader directly into the middle of uncomfortable scenes and lingers there, allowing things to be as awkward as possible. This is a soap opera of a book, full of unlikely coincidences, technicolor emotions and explosive secrets. Reid's approach certainly makes for a page-turner, but some of the impact of what she is saying is lost in the sheer drama of it all. For all that this approach didn't resonate with me, I'm rooting for this one to be widely read. A novel that manages to directly address racism and it's various iterations while also being fast paced and fun to read is a needed thing right now.

kesäkuu 12, 2020, 5:05pm

>156 RidgewayGirl:
That sounds good. Based on the title and cover, it’s not one I would have picked up on my own

kesäkuu 13, 2020, 9:09pm

The City We Became is the first in a fantasy trilogy by N. K. Jemisin. Five people discover that they are the embodiment of a borough of New York City and must find each other to fight a Lovecraftian horror (plenty of tentacles and racism) menacing the city. This being the first book, the story is that of the boroughs's origin stories and how they meet, with a few menacing events to move things along. Some characters are more fleshed out than others, with the Bronx taking center stage for much of the novel. Luckily, she's a fascinating character. This novel is paced like a superhero movie with plenty of action scenes.

So this isn't my genre, but there were a few things I liked about The City We Became, primarily how it addressed racism and how one of the characters, who seemed to have been pulled from a Joyce Carol Oates novel, in a way that wasn't particularly comfortable to read about. I don't know if I'll read the next book in this series, but I will certainly be interested enough to read reviews about it.

kesäkuu 13, 2020, 10:12pm

>158 RidgewayGirl: That sounds like quite the genre mashup. It still sounds like a great concept and is something I want to try from N. K. Jemisin even if it means starting yet another series this year.

kesäkuu 13, 2020, 10:16pm

>158 RidgewayGirl: I'm reading that right now, and... eh. By all rights I should love it—the NYC-personified theme, the post-punk tone—but I'm finding the total lack of character development and the manic pacing kind of off-putting. I'm going to give it a couple more chapters and see what I think.

kesäkuu 14, 2020, 9:42am

>156 RidgewayGirl: I'm waiting to get this one from the library, Kay. Great comments. Reserves are moving slowly, so it might be a while. I'm just grateful that we do have curbside pick up now.

>158 RidgewayGirl: I've yet to read Jemisin, as SF isn't really my genre. I would like to read something by her, but it sounds like maybe this isn't the one.

kesäkuu 14, 2020, 12:52pm

>161 BLBera: Beth, I was so happy to pick up a book from the library. They have curbside pickup for holds now. It's odd that although there are plenty of books living in my house that I'd like to read right now, I'm still thrilled at having access to physical library books again.

And I'd agree that this is maybe not the place to start with Jemisin. People recommend her other trilogies, but since SFF isn't my genre at all, I'm thinking of trying her book of short stories instead, How Long 'til Black Future Month?.

kesäkuu 15, 2020, 2:35pm

Boone is keeping his nose clean. He's got a not-great job as a bartender, but he has a job. He has an apartment where he's also the handyman and he's intent on not going back to prison. Then a friend asks him to come along with him as he looks into the death of an undocumented immigrant for the man's uncle. The search leads him into some bad places, gets him saddled with a dog and puts his tentative relationship with an ex-cop in jeopardy.

This Wicked World by Richard Lange is just about everything I want in a crime novel. The setting is gritty, the characters are all well-developed and feel like people, the plot is well paced and holds together right through the final moments. Boone is an easy man to like, even as he tries hard not to make connections or care about the people around him. I'm eager to read more by this author.

kesäkuu 17, 2020, 8:16pm

Lillian Preston was a photographer who achieved more notoriety than fame in her life. She was a street photographer, taking pictures of people in unguarded moments. Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg is set up as the text from the exhibition book for a retrospective of her work at MoMA. So there's a forward by the singer from a punk band from the seventies that took inspiration and a name from the photograph that caused Lillian's notoriety and the catalog text is largely by her daughter, who was the subject of some of her photographs, as well as people who knew her, letters and extracts from her journal. The result is a vivid character study of an extraordinary woman, one whose photographs are described but never shown, yet I feel as though I would recognize one of her photographs instantly.

This was a five star read for me, there was not a single page of this novel that I didn't love. The subject matter, that of a woman who chose to live without compromise as a photographer, who chose to raise her child alone in the fifties and sixties when neither of those paths was acceptable for woman, and that of living for one's art, is catnip to me, but the writing was also brilliant. Goldberg spent ten years writing this book and instead of being overwritten, it feels fresh and spontaneous. The format is so well executed that it enhanced the intimacy of the story Goldberg was telling.

kesäkuu 17, 2020, 9:02pm

>164 RidgewayGirl: oh you got me with that one! If my library doesn’t have it available soon I’ll buy it. Sounds right up my alley!

kesäkuu 18, 2020, 7:32am

>164 RidgewayGirl: Oh good, I have that on the pile. I really liked Bee Season and still think about it every so often, even though I gave my copy away long ago. So I'm stoked for this one.

kesäkuu 18, 2020, 10:26am

I remember Bee Season. This sounds a long way from there. Terrific review. Noting

kesäkuu 18, 2020, 1:22pm

I haven't read Bee Season, but it's certainly Goldberg's best known novel. I've read Wickett's Remedy, which was ok, but Feast Your Eyes is perfect.

kesäkuu 19, 2020, 1:17pm

Thankyou for a great thread! Love the artist, and am no googling to find some photos by Lillian Presto. Country wise, I think you need some Canadian books in your reading! ;) Will make a good recommendation when it crosses my mind :)

kesäkuu 20, 2020, 4:32pm

>169 Bcteagirl: I have noticed the lack of Canadians! This is the longest stretch I've gone without reading something by a Canadian, I think. I do have one on my bedside table by Cherie Dimaline called Empire of Wild.

kesäkuu 21, 2020, 7:36am

>158 RidgewayGirl: I liked your review a lot more than the book itself. Will you read the next installment?

>164 RidgewayGirl: This sounds so very good.

kesäkuu 21, 2020, 9:40am

>171 Simone2: Barbara, Feast Your Eyes is excellent, just a very, very good novel. And I don't know if I'll read the sequel to The City We Became. Probably not, unless people I trust say that it's significantly better than the first.

In other news, we're at the beach (the very quiet Edisto Island) and my daughter just gave me a copy of Ducks, Newburyport so that I wouldn't run out of reading material. I guess that I'm tackling this one now.

kesäkuu 21, 2020, 8:26pm

When Margot is seventeen and preparing for her final exams, her family circumstances make it into the press. Margot lives with her mother, and while her father visits when he can, he has his own family who don't know about his other life. He's also the French Minister of Culture. Margot's mother is an actor and has raised Margot to be self-sufficient, but that lack of nurturing leaves her vulnerable. The Margot Affair by Sanaë Lemoine follows Margot as she struggles to come to terms with and to understand her parents and herself, just as journalists are eager to hear from her.

There are shades of Mitterrand's secret daughter, but this was clearly just a jumping off point for Lemoine's novel, which is less about the press attention than it is about Margot struggling with her feelings about her odd family and, perhaps because this is a French novel, the things I expected to find in it were absent. Margot's story is far more interesting and nuanced than I'd expected.

kesäkuu 21, 2020, 8:42pm

>173 RidgewayGirl:

I was waiting for someone to read and review this - I reached out for it probably 5 times and each time I stopped, wondering if this is a legitimate novel or a pretending to be fiction rehashing of the Mitterrand's secret daughter story.

kesäkuu 21, 2020, 8:54pm

>174 AnnieMod: Annie, it's really interesting and not at all what I expected, which was some fictional version of Mazarine and Mitterrand. Instead, she makes the media only somewhat interested, and the focus of the story is more Margot tackling her feelings about her family circumstances and some things she does in reaction to that. I really liked it.

kesäkuu 21, 2020, 9:01pm

>175 RidgewayGirl:

:) Figured as much from your review :) My library has it but as usual, now there is a waiting list so i will stick it in my wishlist and wait it out. I've become somewhat jaded with those "straight from the headlines" novels (aka how to write a novel with no imagination) - sounds like here it is the publisher that pushes the connection more than that author does.

kesäkuu 22, 2020, 10:15am

>173 RidgewayGirl: Intrigued by this one. I’ve just put a library hold on it, though it looks like I’ll have a while to wait...

kesäkuu 22, 2020, 12:10pm

>176 AnnieMod: Sometimes marketing departments don't represent the book accurately. But it's certainly easier and more eye-catching to make that comparison than to explain the nuance and complexity in a ten word description.

>177 rachbxl: I'm interested to find out what you and Annie make of it. I found it very French in its sensibilities and not at all how an American author would have tackled the same material.

kesäkuu 22, 2020, 2:45pm

Otis Lee can't help but care about the people around him in his community in North Carolina, and his care extends to his neighbor Azalea "Knot" Centre. Knot is the schoolteacher and she's a good one, but she's also prone to indulging in books, booze and men, but especially the booze. Otis helps her out each time her behavior lands her in trouble, accepting her as she is. In West Mills by De'Shawn Charles Winslow begins in 1941 and continues through most of the lifespans of Otis, Knot and the various denizens of West Mills, through the changing social conditions, as life in West Mills changes and remains constant, as people leave and return.

This is a novel about secrets, and how they are kept or not kept by an entire community or within families. It's about who has the right or the responsibility to reveal what has been hidden. It's also a deeply nuanced look at a few people in a community over time, how proximity can create deep ties and how the past impacts the present. Otis Lee is a wonderful character whose sense of responsibility is both a strength and a liability. Winslow writes well and with love about his fictitious community and I enjoyed every page I got to spend with Knot, Otis, Pen, Breezy and the rest.

kesäkuu 22, 2020, 3:02pm

>178 RidgewayGirl: Sometimes? When they are not misrepresenting it, they put a major twist that happens 80% into the book on the cover... And when they do not do that, they assign it into a genre that has as much to do with the book as I have with Chinese (which is nothing at all). The more mainstream a publisher is and the bigger publishing house it is, the more likely is that to happen - or so it feels some days :) I kinda understand why they are doing it (sales are more important than readers...) but still... it keeps annoying me.

kesäkuu 22, 2020, 3:15pm

>180 AnnieMod: I was speaking generally, having run into a few books lately where the marketing misrepresented the book so that they could go for the easy tagline. You are right about how badly they have served The Margot Affair. Sure sales are good, but what happens when all the people irked it wasn't what they expected leave bad reviews on amazon and goodreads? Not to mention the readers who now won't pick it up.

But we could probably spend an entire thread discussing the flaws in how books are marketed, from how publishing houses spend tons to make a single book hit the bestseller lists while ignoring better books on their lists, to the tendency to choose a single secondary element of a book and make it sound as though the entire book is about that thing (Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid made the entire descriptive blurb about a single event early in the book that ended up not being the focus of the real story, for example).

kesäkuu 22, 2020, 4:28pm

Empire of the Wild sounds right up my alley! Will keep this one well in mind, thank you!

kesäkuu 22, 2020, 4:41pm

>181 RidgewayGirl: Yeah, I was complaining about more than one book -- not just that one :) But you are right - trying to figure out what marketing had been thinking will take a whole thread (with the predictable answer of "whatever they thought they can sell" :))

>179 RidgewayGirl: And this one sounds nice... your thread is a very dangerous place.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 23, 2020, 10:57am

>182 Bcteagirl: It's in my stack of books to read soon so I'll let you know what I think about it.

>183 AnnieMod: Annie, In West Mills is good. It's very assured for a first novel.

kesäkuu 23, 2020, 10:57am

The Lives of Edie Pritchard has an old-fashioned feel, in the best possible way. It's a thoughtful character study of a woman in Montana, beginning during her first marriage in the 1960s. Larry Watson knows what he's doing and knows how to write a sentence and the entire novel was a delight to read. Edie marries the quieter twin brother and deals with both her husband's insecurity and her brother-in-law's constant attempts to win her over. As the years pass, Edie develops from a woman who had a contentious relationship with her own daughter to one who is willing to go to bat for her granddaughter, and from a woman who runs away from a bad situation to one who is willing to stand up and speak her mind clearly.

Edie is a wonderful character who does her best to be a good wife and who is also willing to leave when the situation becomes intolerable, something she'll have to do more than once in her life. Edie feels constrained by life in a Montana town and yet she returns to it. She's pursued by men, but refuses to allow that to determine her life's path. This novel is an excellent character study of a woman who grows more secure in herself and less willing to compromise to meet the needs of men, as well as an evocative picture of rural Montana in the second half of the last century.

kesäkuu 23, 2020, 5:41pm

>185 RidgewayGirl: Huh, I hadn't seen this one come up at all. Definitely wishlisted, thanks!

kesäkuu 24, 2020, 5:47pm

>186 lisapeet: Book world is weird right now. How difficult it must be to see your new book published and not be able to do the kind of publicity that might bring attention to it. Hoping that Larry Watson is well enough known to make people pick it up without the marketing.

kesäkuu 24, 2020, 5:49pm

Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn is one of those books that is mentioned in the "books to look for" kind of list that I note and then never get around to picking up because reading hours are limited, my book budget sadly under-funded and there are so many books being published. But this one is a part of The Morning News Tournament of Books Summer Reading, and if there's one thing I like even more than reading, it's getting to have opinions about books, so a copy was purchased (and if you haven't switched over to bookshop.org, now is a great time to do so).

When Nainoa is a child, he falls from a tourist boat. He is returned to the vessel by a group of sharks, unharmed. His parents are amazed and from that moment he is viewed differently, as someone special, a situation that amplifies when he discovers in himself the power to heal. His siblings resent being left in his shadow, and less than understanding when he explains the pressure he feels. But all three excel in different ways, each ending up on the mainland at university, Nainoa graduating early from Stanford, and working as a paramedic as he waits to begin medical school, Dean on a basketball scholarship in Spokane and Kaui, the youngest, studying engineering in San Diego. What might read as an American success story in lesser hands becomes something more thoughtful as each member of the family struggles in a world where they are alone and without a support system.

What a wonderful surprise this debut novel was! Yes, there's a bit of folklorish magic in there, but at heart this is the story of a family. One that struggles to get by in a place where jobs are scarce and low-paying, where the kids are fully aware of their circumstances. One in which one child is favored, putting enormous pressure on him and harming the bond between the siblings as the other two fight to be appreciated. And along with a pitch-perfect look at family dynamics, there's a gorgeous, complicated description of life in Hawai'i and how Hawaiians feel when they move to the mainland. The writing is very, very good and Sharks in the Time of Saviors does not feel like a debut novel at all.

kesäkuu 24, 2020, 9:12pm

>187 RidgewayGirl: Definitely! A classmate of my sister's from her creative writing program had her first book published (short stories) at the beginning of the year. It's been very disappointing for her for several reasons - you miss out on the travel and fun of the book tour, especially with short story collections a ton of your sales are from readings, etc.

>188 RidgewayGirl: This sounds great. I usually like multiple narrative stories and the touch of magic is also something that appeals.

kesäkuu 26, 2020, 4:52pm

I've heard only good things about Sharks in the Time of Saviors -- can't wait to get it from the library. Feast Your Eyes sounds good as well. I recently picked up Wickett's Remedy on my e-reader, remembering someone here had recommended it.

So many great comments, Kay!

kesäkuu 27, 2020, 11:13am

>188 RidgewayGirl: very good review. I learned a lot too about Hawaiian culture and loved it. Also the plot was great.

kesäkuu 27, 2020, 4:39pm

>188 RidgewayGirl: Really looking forward to this one. At the last physical conference I went to (siiiigh) I picked up an absolutely fabulous pile of galleys, and that was one of them. And no, I haven't read any of them yet. That would be a good pile to dive into, in fact.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 30, 2020, 10:31am

Growing up in Tallahassee, Florida in the 1960s, Elwood is hard-working and intelligent. He is being raised by his grandmother, who wants him to stay away from trouble, trouble that has very little to do with how a black boy behaves, but comes simply because he is. Elwood, being a good student, is given the opportunity to attend college classes while he's still in high school, but on his first day he is arrested. The car that picked him up when he was hitch-hiking the seven miles to the college was stolen and that he didn't know that, or the man who stole the car is irrelevant to the authorities. Elwood is sent to the Nickel Home for Boys, a detention center that is supposed to be a modern approach to wayward boys, giving them an education and preparing them for an honest life. This is, of course, not the case.

Based on the history of the Dozier School for Boys, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead is a book I avoided reading. Yes, this book is grim, but it's also full of resilience and hope from the opening chapters. Elwood is befriended by Turner, a street-smart survivor, early in his incarceration and that makes all the difference. This is a timely book and I'm glad to have read it.

elokuu 16, 2020, 5:20am

>133 RidgewayGirl: I want to try the pizza in Naples! I have never been to Italy.
Tämä viestiketju jatkuu täällä: RidgewayGirl Reads in 2020, Part Three.