RidgewayGirl Reads in 2020, Part Four

KeskusteluClub Read 2020

Liity LibraryThingin jäseneksi, niin voit kirjoittaa viestin.

RidgewayGirl Reads in 2020, Part Four

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 31, 2020, 6:25pm

The year that has lasted a good decade is finally winding down. May we all weather the final six years with grace and hope.

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

lokakuu 4, 2020, 10:37pm

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: joulukuu 29, 2020, 12:17pm

Apartment by Teddy Wayne
Apeirogon by Colum McCann
The Art of Falling by Danielle McLaughlin
The Body Double by Emily Beyda
A Burning by Megha Majumdar
The Butterfly Lampshade by Aimee Bender
Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet
The City We Became by N. K. Jemison
The Cold Millions by Jess Walter
Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh
Earthlings by Sayaka Murata
Everyone Knows How Much I Love You by Kyle McCarthy
Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
F*ckface and Other Stories by Leah Hampton
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell
A House is a Body: Stories by Shruti Swamy
Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall
Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu
Lake Life by David James Poissant
The Less Dead by Denise Mina
The Lives of Edie Pritchard by Larry Watson
Long Bright River by Liz Moore
Luster by Raven Leilani
The Margot Affair by Sanaë Lemoine
Mayflies by Andrew O'Hagan
My Mother's House by Francesca Momplaisir
My Vanishing Country by Bakari Sellers
The Narcissism of Small Differences by Michael Zadoorian
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
The Party Upstairs by Lee Conell
Precious You by Helen Monks Takhar
Real Life by Brandon Taylor
Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin
The Searcher by Tana French
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw
Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn
Sisters by Daisy Johnson
Stateway's Garden by Jasmon Drain
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
These Women by Ivy Pochoda
Trauma: A Memoir of Medical Trauma and True Crime Obsession by Marcia Trahan
True Love: A Novel by Sarah Gerard
True Story by Kate Reed Petty
Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell
Want by Lynn Steger Strong
Weather by Jenny Offill
When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole
Writers and Lovers by Lily King
You Again by Debra Jo Immergut
You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat
Zero Zone by Scott O'Connor

The (Other) You by Joyce Carol Oates

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 29, 2020, 12:18pm

Zaina Arafat (You Exist Too Much)
Aimee Bender (The Butterfly Lampshade)
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)
Alyssa Cole by (When No One is Watching)
Lee Conell (The Party Upstairs)
Caleb Crain (Overthrow)
Angie Cruz (Dominicana)
Jaquira Diáz (Ordinary Girls)
Jasmon Drain (Stateway's Garden)
Lucy Ellmann (Ducks, Newburyport)
Louise Erdrich (The Night Watchman)
Cristina García (Here in Berlin) (country of residence)
Sarah Gerard (True Love: A Novel)
Myla Goldberg (Feast Your Eyes)
Leah Hampton (F*ckface and Other Stories)
Jake Hinkson (Dry County)
Debra Jo Immergut (You Again)
N. K. Jemison (The City We Became)
Daisy Johnson (Sisters)
Stephen Graham Jones (The Only Good Indians)
Rachel Kadish (The Weight of Ink)
Mary Beth Keane (Ask Again, Yes)
Lily King (Writers and Lovers)
Catherine Lacey (Certain American States)
Richard Lange (This Wicked World)
Raven Leilani (Luster)
Megha Majumdar (A Burning) (country of residence)
Kyle McCarthy (Everyone Knows How Much I Love You)
Lydia Millet (A Children's Bible)
Francesca Momplaisir (My Mother's House)
Liz Moore (Long Bright River)
Ottessa Moshfegh (Death in Her Hands)
Joyce Carol Oates (Cutting Edge: New Stories of Mystery and Crime by Women Writers, The (Other) You)
Scott O'Connor (Zero Zone)
Jenny Offill (Weather)
Olaf Olafsson (Restoration) (country of residence)
Dexter Palmer (Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen)
Daniela Petrova (Her Daughter's Mother) (country of residence)
Kate Reed Petty (True Story)
Deesha Philyaw (The Secret Lives of Church Ladies)
Ivy Pochoda (These Women, Visitation Street)
David James Poissant (Lake Life)
Kim Powers (Capote in Kansas)
Douglas Preston (The Lost City of the Monkey God)
Kiley Reid (Such a Fun Age)
Maurice Carlos Ruffin (We Cast a Shadow)
Riley Sager (Final Girls)
Alexis Schaitkin (Saint X)
Laura Sims (Looker)
Scott Spencer (River Under the Road)
Lynn Steger Strong (Want)
Pitchaya Sudbanthad (Bangkok Wakes to Rain) (country of residence)
Shruti Swamy (A House is a Body: Stories)
Brandon Taylor (Real Life)
Elisabeth Thomas (Catherine House)
Marcia Trahan (Mercy: A Memoir of Medical Trauma and True Crime Obsession)
Luis Alberto Urrea (The Hummingbird's Daughter)
Jess Walter (The Cold Millions)
Kent Wascom (The Blood of Heaven)
Kawai Strong Washburn (Sharks in the Time of Saviors)
Larry Watson (The Lives of Edie Pritchard)
Teddy Wayne (Apartment, Loner)
Colson Whitehead (The Nickel Boys)
Elvia Wilk (Oval)
Kevin Wilson (Nothing to See Here)
De'Shawn Charles Winslow (In West Mills)
Charles Yu (Interior Chinatown)
Michael Zadoorian (The Narcissism of Small Differences)
Thad Ziolkowski (Wichita)

lokakuu 4, 2020, 11:04pm

My final thread of the year is open for visitors. Do come on in.

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 5, 2020, 3:27pm

Happy new thread! I love these visuals.

I'm not usually into horror, but The only good Indians sounds intriguing, and they're just now processing it in at my library.

I thoroughly enjoyed The weight of ink a couple of years ago as well.

lokakuu 5, 2020, 3:42pm

*sneaks in via back door to avoid women bearing weapons of mass destruction*

Hi, Kay!

lokakuu 8, 2020, 3:00pm

Ardene, I'm also not usually a horror reader. I'm glad I made an exception for The Only Good Indians.

Hi, Darryl, the ladies mean you no harm at all (probably)!

lokakuu 8, 2020, 3:00pm

Ruby grew up between worlds. Her father is the super for a Manhattan apartment building, one that started out full of rent-controlled apartments lived in by middle class tenants, but over time the building has become the residence of the wealthy and privileged. She and her parents have always lived in the basement apartment, but her best friend lives in the penthouse. Growing up with Caroline has meant art lessons and now an expensive degree she may never pay off. Her dream is to work on the dioramas in the Natural History Museum and her best friend has gotten her an interview. Caroline is also throwing a party that night in her father's penthouse.

Taking place over a single day, The Party Upstairs follows Ruby and her father as they go through a day that will change everything. Lee Conell examines the often uncomfortable interchanges that take place between people when there's a significant financial disparity and in the spaces between employee/boss and friend. There's lots to be uncomfortable and sometimes angry about and Conell is willing to take the characters into awkward situations where no one emerges without fault.

lokakuu 8, 2020, 10:23pm

Hi Kay, Happy new thread. I love your lists! From your last thread, I was disappointed by The Weight of Ink; it didn't work as well for me as it did for you.

I did love The Glass Hotel though.

lokakuu 9, 2020, 5:18pm

>17 BLBera: Beth, I though the ending of The Weight of Ink was both rushed and too tidy, but the meat of the story was good. I expected to enjoy The Glass Hotel, but I also expected the pandemic from Station Eleven to show up, so it surprised me by not doing that.

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 12, 2020, 12:01pm

I always love the dresses on these ladies! I am not liking that snow shovel picture though!! Noooo! Not yet! (I rarely wear that kind of attire when shoveling snow.)

lokakuu 12, 2020, 1:14pm

>19 LadyoftheLodge: I imagine that she's handing the snow shovel to someone more appropriately attired? That, or using it as a murder weapon. Your choice!

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 14, 2020, 8:24pm

>20 RidgewayGirl: I like the idea of handing it off! We do not get much snow here, and it looks pretty, but I do not like to shovel that precipitation.

lokakuu 13, 2020, 5:42pm

>21 LadyoftheLodge: I'm with you there!

lokakuu 13, 2020, 5:43pm

The Starlings are retiring and moving to Florida, but first there's a last week a the lake house they've just sold. Joined by their adult children and their partners, they have high hopes of a perfect week to cap off the years' of vacations spent there. Their first afternoon out in their boat, a catastrophe strikes, setting the mood for the rest of their time together. Each couple is at a stress point in their relationship, and simmering tensions are not calmed by proximity to one another.

Lake Life by David James Poissant is not a vacation novel. You're not going to fall in love with any of the characters, or want to join them on future gatherings. Instead, this is a compassionate look as some very flawed characters who often behave badly and fail to communicate with the people they love the most. It's exhausting at times, just being with them. The writing is beautiful and never gets in the way of the story. I liked Lake Life, but I do like flawed, difficult characters, of which this book has an abundance.

lokakuu 19, 2020, 1:17pm

Truman Capote is being haunted by the Clutter family. Aging and isolated in Florida after losing his New York society friends once they saw that he would use their own histories in his stories, he's spiraling downward in a haze of pills and booze. He does have two friends, his housekeeper, Myrtle and the ac repairman. He begins to send his childhood friend, Harper Lee, tiny coffins in decorated boxes. Nelle is also living isolated and not writing, but for different reasons. Now estranged, they were once so close that they worked together in Kansas to research Capote's masterpiece.

Capote in Kansas by Kim Powers is an atmospheric look at the lives of both Harper Lee and Truman Capote. Moving back and forth between their shared childhood, to their time in New York and Kansas, to their self-imposed exiles where they no longer write, Powers digs into their motivations and fears and into the reason they stopped being friends.

This was a lot of fun. I enjoy the exercise of imagining the lives of authors and Powers handled these two Great American Novelists with empathy and humor.

lokakuu 21, 2020, 11:37am

Zero Zone by Scott O'Connor is set in 1970s Los Angeles, and follows the story of Jess, a artist who creates installations, rooms that visitors can enter. There was a death at one of her installations, a room in the desert along a hiking trail that cuts through an old atomic testing site. She's slowly easing back into art, with a new project, but her past needs to be addressed if she's to move on.

This was a fascinating book, full of the feel of the time and place, touching on identity, art, belonging and the appeal of annihilation. O'Connor moves the story back and forth through time in a way that enhances the story he's telling, as it moves from art galleries in Los Angeles to the dusty edges of Twentynine Palms to a smoky casino floor. I enjoyed the way O'Connor wrote his settings, integrated into the story he was telling and making the story richer with it, without bogging down in detail. I'm happy to have discovered this author and will certainly be hunting down his other books. I'd say more, but this is a book that deserves to be discovered without knowing much about it.

lokakuu 21, 2020, 11:49am

Question of the Day: If I read two books by JCO a year, will I have read her entire oeuvre before I die?

lokakuu 22, 2020, 9:25am

>27 rachbxl: only if you're going to live for a VERY long time!

lokakuu 22, 2020, 10:20am

Rachel, she's still writing a couple of books every year!

lokakuu 22, 2020, 11:28am

Diane is 48, living in a nice house in a Montreal suburb, her children have all been successfully launched into adulthood, when her husband tells her that he's been having a long-term affair and is now moving in with his girlfriend. Autopsy of a Boring Wife by Marie-Reneé Lavoie is about Diane's life as she deals with her husband's betrayal, her own anger and as she works out how to shape this new life. The book is marketed as a French Canadian Bridget Jones, which does this lovely, honest book a disservice and is wildly inaccurate as well. This isn't an escapist romp, but a serious look at how one woman copes (and doesn't cope) in a situation that is fairly common, but not written about often enough.

Diane is a lovely narrator and companion through this book. She's wry and self-deprecating, without being full of self-pity. She claims to be boring, but while her life is ordinary enough, she's witty, loving, resilient and so game to tackle the challenges of life that I'd like to know her in real life. She's also got a great support system, her kids rally round and she's got a great best friend.

I really enjoyed this novel and how Lavoie managed to write a light and serious and funny novel about the aftermath of a marriage.

lokakuu 22, 2020, 1:44pm

lokakuu 23, 2020, 11:03am

Capote in Kansas sounds interesting, Kay.

I have to admit, I am not a JCO fan. I hope we can still be friends. I do plan to keep trying; there is a lot to choose from.

lokakuu 23, 2020, 12:41pm

Beth, I disliked JCO until Lois (avaland) convinced me to give her another chance, through her sheer enjoyment of the author. JCO has gotten under my skin. She's written some not great stuff, but when she references her own experiences, especially as a child, or when she writes uncomfortable horror, she's fantastic. Like olives, though, she is an acquired taste.

But we all like different books and authors and that's great - how boring would it be if we all liked the same things? Chain bookstores would love it - they could stock stacks of Stephen King and Jodi Picoult and call it a day.

lokakuu 23, 2020, 12:41pm

I’m just going to politely stand by this open metaphorical door and mention that i just a long catch up with all your reading. Admiring your new thread (from this doorway). I’m very entertained to see a 2021 publication show up on your list. Hope Ducks was a good experience.

I don’t know if you can read as fast a JCO writes. Still might be interesting to try. Autopsy sounds terrific. A lot of books here and in your previous thread do.

(tiptoeing away)

lokakuu 23, 2020, 12:43pm

>32 RidgewayGirl: (chain bookstores already do that... )

lokakuu 23, 2020, 12:58pm

I do have a couple of her books that sound interesting on my shelves that I would like to try, Kay. She is so prolific and so many people love her that I feel I must be missing something. So, one of these days...

You're right, though. It is wonderful that people all approach reading from different places. That's one reason I enjoy teaching English so much.

lokakuu 23, 2020, 9:01pm

>33 dchaikin: Ducks is sitting with me right now, Daniel. I'm so impressed by what she was doing, even if it didn't always work, it often did and in ways that will stay with me. Still digesting for now.

>35 BLBera: I stick with the three book rule for "important" authors (in quotes because I'm not entirely sure how I define that) - so I gave Phillip Roth his three and have happily crossed him off my list, while JCO needed those to warm me up. But there are a lot of books out there. Strategically, omitting JCO from your reading reduces the stack of books to read by a noticeable amount.

lokakuu 24, 2020, 10:13am

>24 RidgewayGirl: That is the second time I've seen good things about about Capote in Kansas. Never read Capote, not really in his style of True Crime, but as a character himself he is fascinating.

Between you and Lois's praise and just my general love of horror I really need to find JCO story that clicks. It's not like I don't a few to choose from.

lokakuu 26, 2020, 12:09pm

>37 stretch: Now you have me thinking about JCO's horror stories, and which ones are the creepiest.

lokakuu 26, 2020, 12:14pm

In Mercy: A Memoir of Medical Trauma and True Crime Obsession, Marcia Trahan looks at both the health scares and subsequent surgeries that defined her adult life, and her childhood as a shy, uncertain adolescent being raised in an insecure household, and how both those elements factored into her own growing fascination with true crime shows.

This memoir was what I had thought Alice Bolin's Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession would be - an attempt to examine why women are so drawn to stories of the violent deaths of other women. Trahan keeps the lens focused tightly on herself and it's in her willingness to look honestly at herself, she answers broader questions, or at least gets closer to an answer.

Trahan is a very different person than I am, although we share that same weird fascination for crime, and I was at first annoyed by what I saw as a needless paranoia on her part, but this changed into an appreciation that she would so honestly share the reasons behind her cautiousness. There's a lot packed into this slim memoir. It's published by a very small press, Barrelhouse Books, and I'm glad small presses exist to give us unusual and off-beat stories that might not be published by the big guys.

lokakuu 26, 2020, 2:45pm

I like the idea of the three-book rule, Kay. I may borrow it. Right now, I have a one-book rule, unless it is a first novel. Then I might stretch to two. You are more generous than I am. :)

lokakuu 26, 2020, 3:16pm

Hi, Kay! I totally missed this new thread, but have caught up now. Thanks for more of the tool-using lady art! I really like those. And, as ever, very interesting reading choices—my taste overlaps a lot with yours, and a few of these are brand new to me.

lokakuu 26, 2020, 3:35pm

>40 BLBera: Beth, I only apply the three book rule to authors who are important in some way, either because their books are now considered classics or because they are prominent in some literary way that makes me think I should make an effort to understand what they are doing. All other authors are happily relegated to the not-for-me pile after one book I think is bad. I've dismissed countless others with the thought that if they suddenly start writing something worthwhile, enough people will talk about it for me to reassess.

>41 lisapeet: Hi, Lisa! Since I've pulled a few of my recent reads from books you've mentioned, it doesn't surprise me that you're seeing an overlap!

lokakuu 26, 2020, 8:05pm

>26 RidgewayGirl: Are you including the novellas, short story volumes, poetry and plays? Reading all the novellas is doable -- there were 9 when I did it. Or one could read her Gothic quintet.... Have you seen her her most recent offering:

At nearly a thousand pages long, Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. is one of her more ambitious novels. An immersive, discursive chronicle of a family’s reconfiguration following the death of its patriarch, it borrows its title from Walt Whitman’s poem A Clear Midnight, about the soul’s release back into the universe, and an otherworldly chord resonates through portions of its narrative. (from the Guardian review

Probably not what you are looking for, but I see it as so tempting, but I keep thinking of what I might miss when I'm reading this...

lokakuu 26, 2020, 8:16pm

>43 avaland: Oh my gosh, it's HOW long? That's the thing about e-galleys... easy to pick up without any sense of what kind of length you're in for. Well, maybe I will... I've been meaning to revisit JCO myself, though maybe not to start with a doorstopper like that.

lokakuu 26, 2020, 8:21pm

>44 lisapeet: Yeah, it's staring at me from a nearby shelf. Maybe, winter is a good time to go "immersive." Yeah, I still read paper.

lokakuu 27, 2020, 1:35pm

Catching up - I lost your thread when you moved to this new one. Adding a few titles to my list...

lokakuu 27, 2020, 1:38pm

>43 avaland: >44 lisapeet: Well I just finished Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. It is very long (would not have been harmed by some clipping), but very quick-reading, as I find many of her books to be. It did not go where I expected. I should be reviewing it shortly.

lokakuu 27, 2020, 1:49pm

If I omit her plays and poetry and stick to fiction, I'm still looking at a sizable pile. But JCO is one of the few authors who excel at short stories and at long novels. Her abortion novel, A Book of American Martyrs, was some 750 pages and read quickly. Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. looks interesting -- I just finished a new collection of short stories and it looks like she's looking at the same themes in this book.

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 28, 2020, 6:14am

>47 arubabookwoman: Oh, I mustn't read any reviews before I read it....but your comments intrigue....

>48 RidgewayGirl: That was the book I was halfway through when the 2016 election happened. I never picked it up again.

lokakuu 27, 2020, 4:03pm

>49 avaland: That's fair. I'm filling this hanging-from-tenterhooks week with crime novels I don't need have an entire brain for. I picked up a more substantial book and realized that while I'd read the first chapter, I couldn't tell you what it said.

lokakuu 27, 2020, 4:52pm

In this collection of short stories, Joyce Carol Oates looks at aging, grief and the idea of the other lives we might have lived had we chosen differently or had different things happen to us. The (Other) You begins with the author imagining her life had she never left her hometown, remaining to get married, run a bookstore and maintain and deepen her ties to that community. It's a different life, but not necessarily a worse one. That story sets the tone of the book, where widows grieve in complicated ways, men chase possibilities lost in the past and aging is confronted in a dozen different ways.

The same place shows up in a few of the stories; the patio dining area of a California restaurant at lunchtime, and Oates uses this setting to play with ideas about time and self. In one, a woman sits at a table thinking about a tragic event that occurred there, until she realizes that the event may not yet have happened. In another, a man is annoyed that the person joining him for lunch is late, then notices a man sitting at a nearby table who resembles him and as they talk they discover they share a name and are waiting for the same man.

This is only a collection that an author familiar with grief and contemplating the end of her life could write, and these stories are as sharp, imaginative and well-crafted as any she's written.

lokakuu 27, 2020, 10:16pm

>51 RidgewayGirl:
That sounds super interesting.

lokakuu 28, 2020, 6:23am

>51 RidgewayGirl: I certainly don't read all of her short story collections, but this one does intrigue.

lokakuu 28, 2020, 2:41pm

>52 Nickelini: Given how often JCO returns to her childhood in her work, it's interesting to see her focusing on the other end of her life here.

>53 avaland: Has anyone read all of her short stories? She seems to publish two collections a year.

lokakuu 28, 2020, 3:21pm

>51 RidgewayGirl: This story collection sounds good. I have liked the stories by JCO that I've read more than her novels. I'll add to my list.

lokakuu 28, 2020, 4:05pm

>55 BLBera: She is a great short story writer. She will end a story where it needs to end, and not a minute earlier or later. There's one very short story in this collection about an old deaf man and his wife that is perfect.

marraskuu 5, 2020, 1:06pm

A shy Ohio woman lives her life. She cares for her four children, her chickens and her husband. She bakes pies and cinnamon rolls for local businesses. And she thinks about things, her family, her past, random thoughts about Ohio history or bridges or how to gracefully turn away the man who delivers her chicken feed. Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann follows her suburban woman’s thoughts as they scatter and swing back around, but only when she’s busy with the mindless tasks of housekeeping, pie baking and childcare. So events are not lived through, but thought about after, in a disjointed, non-linear way. This narrative is broken up — it’s not just one long sentence — with an account the life of a lioness, functioning as a sort of palate cleanser along the way.

This was a novel that grew on me as I read. It’s an intense experiment in stream-of-consciousness that was not entirely successful for me. I’ve read other deeply interior novels that more effectively put me into a character’s head, but there was something to this one, something that, when my mood was right and I wasn’t tired or distracted, made me savor every single word. It’s also a novel that grew on me over time so that by the end I was sorry to see it finished.

The style that this novel is written in seems simple, but given that I read more than a few reviews in which the author chose to ape Ellman’s style, I can say that what Ellmann pulled off was impressive. Badly done stream-of-consciousness is impossible to read without a great deal of eye-rolling.

marraskuu 5, 2020, 1:58pm

My book group chose Warlight by Michael Ondaatje to read and as I’d read it just last year for the Tournament of Books, I was going to skip a reread. But read it again, I did and I’m glad I did. I enjoyed it far more the second time. In keeping with the title, Ondaatje writies cloudily and obliquely, so that events are not understood until much later, if at all, so a reread allowed me to just enjoy what Ondaatje was doing instead of trying to figure out where the novel was going. That said, Warlight did remind me that I’m not a fan of novels told from the POV of the least interesting character.

marraskuu 5, 2020, 2:43pm

The premise of this one is that of a thousand cozy mysteries — an elderly woman moves into a small town with her trusty canine companion and stumbles across a mysterious note in the woods near her house and sets out to find out what happened to the woman mentioned in the note. But this is written by Ottessa Moshfegh and there’s nothing cozy about Death in Her Hands. Vesta Gul has none of the characteristics expected from an elderly sleuth. She’s neither curious nor kind, and her investigations rapidly become something out of her control.

Vesta Gul is a fantastically drawn character and Moshfegh reveals her true nature with a luxurious slowness. But in the end, I was left feeling a little flat about this one. It’s fine, but loses steam and its ground as it proceeds. There are some beautifully clever sentences and ideas here, but they feel rushed and less developed than in her other novels or even in her short stories.

marraskuu 6, 2020, 12:42pm

>57 RidgewayGirl: Congratulations on finishing Ducks. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said it grew on you the more you read it. I agree you definitely had to be in the mood for it otherwise it could feel like a slog at times, but it was very worthwhile in the end.

marraskuu 6, 2020, 12:56pm

>60 AlisonY: And it was a page-turner at the end! I didn't expect that twist at all.

marraskuu 7, 2020, 1:38pm

I skimmed your comments on Ducs, Kay. I hope to read it during break. I was interested to see that you found Warlight a rewarding reread. I quite liked it.

marraskuu 10, 2020, 10:54am

Imperfect Women tells the story of three women who became close friends at university and who remained close, even when they often went stretches without seeing each other. Eleanor is single, living happily in her small flat, just upstairs from an elderly neighbor she adores, running the small non-profit she founded. She does carry a torch for her best friend's husband, but she's fine with how things have turned out, most of the time. Mary fell for her married professor, but now that they're married and she's home with their three kids, he's dismissive and certainly sleeping with other women, until he comes down with a mysterious illness, so that now Mary carries the burden of caring for her children and her husband. And Nancy is the one who gets murdered.

This is the second novel of domestic suspense from Araminta Hall, who wrote the excellent Our Kind of Cruelty. Imperfect Women lacks the originality of that debut novel, but it's solid and well-written, if predictable, and manages to celebrate women's friendships rather that pitting them against each other.

marraskuu 11, 2020, 11:16am

Deesha Philyaw's debut, a collection of short stories called The Secret Lives of Church Ladies is a delight. Focusing on the lives of Black women, often queer, often financially precarious, this collection illuminates lives that are seldom written about. While there are commonalities, the lives Philyaw is writing about are varied and the stories never felt repetitive.

In my favorite of the bunch, Snowfall, a woman has moved north with her partner, forging a new life together after her family rejected her. She misses her extended family and the South, never more so than when she and her partner shovel out the driveway early in the morning. In How to Make Love to a Physicist, an art teacher is wary of the interest of the science teacher she meets at a conference. And Peach Cobbler, about a girl growing up with a single mother who bakes for and carries on with the married minister every week, has a companion story later on.

The writing isn't the focus, and neither are the plots; what makes this collection noteworthy lays in how Philyaw establishes a sense of place and in the remarkable characters in her stories. This is a great beginning for a young writer and I'm eager to read what she writes next.

marraskuu 11, 2020, 11:37am

>64 RidgewayGirl: I have this one from the library, Kay, and am happy to know that it's a good collection.

marraskuu 11, 2020, 12:52pm

>65 BLBera: I pretty much agree with LisaPeet's thoughts about it, I think that the characters and setting make it noteworthy, rather than the writing. The writing is good, but not extraordinary.

marraskuu 11, 2020, 1:07pm

>66 RidgewayGirl: Yeah, you nailed it. this is one of the collections I didn't quite finish, so I'll definitely be doing that to see how it holds together as a set. And I'm really interested to see what she comes out with next.

marraskuu 12, 2020, 2:18pm

Nessa is preparing the studio of a famous local artist and its artworks to be moved to an art museum, with the help and opposition of the artist's widow and mother. She’s also dealing with the aftermath of her husband’s infidelity with the mother of one of her teenage daughter’s friends, as well as the visit of the son of her best friend, who committed suicide years earlier. It’s a lot.

In The Art of Falling by Irish author Danielle McLaughlin, Nessa scrambles to keep all the complicated parts of her life functioning, and managing to do none of it well. She’s exhausted, confused, angry and unable to think on her feet. Worse, she can’t really see how any of this is going to become less stressful in the future.

McLaughlin writes well, beautifully at times, and the circumstances of this novel are interesting, especially the story of the dead artist and the women who survive him. But Nessa never comes fully into focus. She is always left reacting to things, never acting decisively. I did love how easy it was for others to distract or derail her in conversation, which is a very human trait, but she was never quite convincing as being someone in a position of authority, whether that was as the person in charge of an important work project or as a mother. While I have a few quibbles with how tidily everything was resolved, the writing in this novel was just lovely and I’ll happily read more by her.

marraskuu 12, 2020, 3:50pm

>68 RidgewayGirl: Thanks for the review—this one's on my pile. I'm simultaneously drawn to stories like this and wary of misery porn, so that sounds pretty promising.

marraskuu 12, 2020, 4:10pm

>69 lisapeet: It's not misery porn, which I would have not been able to read at this juncture in our nation's history. And McLaughlin writes well, although it sometimes felt like she'd put a few short stories together into one and called it a novel.

marraskuu 13, 2020, 10:10am

>68 RidgewayGirl: Nice comments, Kay. I'll look for this one. I haven't read anything by this author.

marraskuu 16, 2020, 10:37am

>71 BLBera: Beth, she's published a book of short stories, but this is her first novel. I'm interested in taking a look at her short stories.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 16, 2020, 10:40am

Abandoned with great prejudice. This novel about Winston Churchill's wife was a wikipedia entry dipped in a vat of sentimentality. I gave up on page 43. It's just very bad and having put it on the donation pile, my reading life has improved. Even the cover is terrible.

I'll skip the (zoom) book club meeting on Monday.

marraskuu 18, 2020, 4:56pm

Detective-Adjutant Gripstra, cynical and unhappily married, and Sergeant de Gier, a stylish ladies' man, are detectives working together in the Amsterdam police. When they are sent to investigate a report of a dead body, they encounter an apparent suicide that might also be murder of an idealistic spiritual leader who might also be a grifter.

Outsider in Amsterdam is the first in Janwillem van de Wetering's series of police procedurals and is an excellent introduction to this oddly charming series. Van de Wetering translated his novels into English himself and the books are written in a distinctive and witty style. The setting of Amsterdam in the seventies is another reason to give this series a try.

marraskuu 21, 2020, 9:49am

Nice review of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, Kay. That's another one for the wish list. I'll have to ask my Black female work partners if any of them have read it or heard about it.

marraskuu 21, 2020, 11:55am

>75 kidzdoc: Thanks, Darryl. It's fun to see a book of short stories getting attention and I think that Philyaw is an author to watch - this collection shows great promise.

marraskuu 21, 2020, 4:14pm

>73 RidgewayGirl: Thanks for taking one for the team, Kay. I'll avoid that one.

I love the van de Watering series. I think I read most of them when they were first published, but I've been wanting to revisit them. That series and the Martin Beck series were my two favorites from the 1970s.

marraskuu 21, 2020, 4:21pm

>77 BLBera: They're just fantastic. The seventies seem so exotic now, don't they?

marraskuu 21, 2020, 4:32pm

A Chicago police officer, newly divorced and recently retired, decides he wants a quiet life and so he buys a run-down cottage in rural Ireland. Cal's doing pretty well, slowly renovating his house and getting to know the neighbors - mostly older farmers - when a young member of the infamous Reddy family shows up. Trey has heard that Cal's a police officer and needs his help finding someone. As Cal looks into the disappearance and gets to know his young neighbor, his plans for a quiet retirement start to fall apart.

The Searcher is another stand-alone mystery by Tana French. It's well-plotted and the characters are achingly real, as they always are in her novels. Because the main character is American, this has a bit of an Ireland for Foreigners feel to it, but not so much as to be overly intrusive. This is an enjoyable book for a rainy evening or two. The crime itself is secondary to the story of a stranger to a community making connections and learning about himself, but Cal's an interesting enough character to spend time with.

marraskuu 27, 2020, 4:46pm

When Francie is eight, her mother has a psychotic break and is hospitalized. Now twenty-four, Francie decides to revisit her memories of the week surrounding that event. So The Butterfly Lampshade by Aimee Bender toggles back and forth between Francie's past and her present, as she comes to terms with the results of having a mother who is too mentally ill to care for her and her own fears of becoming mentally ill herself.

Bender is wonderful at writing from the perspective of a child and with a child's understanding. Francie is a necessarily cautious, watchful child, but she never seems precocious, or too old for her age. This was a thoughtful look at how a parent's mental illness impacted the life of her daughter and how that daughter came to terms with her memories and of her fears of following in her mother's footsteps.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 29, 2020, 1:28pm

This was our script, and it soon spiraled into familiar territory, which ended in his sleeping on the couch and my staring at the ceiling alone in our bedroom. My first instinct was usually to fix, to make him happy, to take it back, and also to berate myself quietly for being a broken person who could not be a productive part of a unit. But this time I didn't do any of those things.

in Life Events by Karolina Waclawiak, Evelyn is newly unemployed and her marriage is dying. She spends her free time on-line, reading articles and message boards about grief. She also trains to be a grief counselor, helping people and their loved ones through assisted suicide. She's not sure why she feels compelled to pre-grieve when she's never had a family member die. As she drives around greater Los Angeles, learning to help people die and remembering events from her marriage and her childhood, she feels like she's just drifting, but really she's moving forward.

This is a thoughtful, quiet novel that seems to be spinning its wheels for much of the novel, until all the pieces fall into place. Evelyn seems like she's going to start careening from disaster to disaster, when what's happening is that she's figuring out how to live. Life Events snuck up on me, taking its time before pulling me entirely into Evelyn's world.

marraskuu 29, 2020, 2:45pm

>81 RidgewayGirl: not sure I could handle this one just now

Catching up. Glad you caught on with and enjoyed Ducks. Several more of interest to me here. Great review of the JCO collection. I’m ok not reading JCO until I visit certain threads here.

marraskuu 30, 2020, 7:58am

>81 RidgewayGirl: That one's on my virtual pile as well. And it actually sounds like something I would like—I'm interested in that idea of pre-grieving: how does one shore oneself up against the inevitable? Given the fact that you really can't.

marraskuu 30, 2020, 3:26pm

>82 dchaikin: It's not mournful, Dan, if that helps. I liked how I thought it was moving in one direction - that of the genre I think of as "Disaster Women," but then in went deeper and better. (I like a good disaster woman, though.)

>83 lisapeet: It gave me a lot to think about. I do think we do pre-grieve to a certain extent, when someone we love has Alzheimers or is in hospice care, for example. In the novel, there was some interesting stuff about helping someone face death - one instruction was for the pictures around the person to be of people who had already died rather than those they were leaving behind, to make it easier to let go.

marraskuu 30, 2020, 4:45pm

>83 lisapeet: >84 RidgewayGirl: The pre-grieving question is interesting. I definitely did it when my mother first entered hospice, but by the time she died I was fine. I also think we do some of that processing with people who have long-term illnesses.

joulukuu 1, 2020, 11:01am

>85 markon: Yes, by the time my mother died, I had done most of my grieving as she had been slipping away for a few years through dementia. She'd left us a little at a time.

joulukuu 2, 2020, 2:59pm

>86 RidgewayGirl: Agree about pre-grieving. My mother left the same way...over 8 years I think it was. Alzheimer's. The long goodbye. Whereas, my father died suddenly when I was 29.

joulukuu 2, 2020, 5:46pm

>87 avaland: I had a family member die suddenly a few years ago and it has been a much longer process of grieving than it was for my mother.

joulukuu 2, 2020, 5:46pm

The reason that I owned this next book is that I've been collecting certain imprints when I find them, among them Europa Editions. While some of the novels they publish lean hard into whimsy, they do publish a lot of translations and bring back into print some old treasures. I don't remember buying this one, but it does look nice in among the other Europa Editions on their shelf.

Lewis graduates from Colombia University and goes home to Wichita, Kansas. He's been dumped by his long-time girlfriend and he doesn't want to continue on and join his father and grandfather in becoming English professors, so he goes to stay with his mother, hoping to save a little money for travel as he decides what to do with his life. He may have an Ivy League degree, but a degree in English is not a valuable resource in finding a job.

Arriving in Wichita, Lewis finds not the sanctuary he'd been seeking, but utter chaos. His mother is starting a new business, taking tourists out to chase storms. She's also got two men in her life, one living in the house, the other camping in a tent in the backyard and creating designer drugs in the basement. There are the usual assortment of oddballs and misfits coming and going and, most chaotic of all, his brother Seth is at home.

Wichita by Thad Ziolkowski may be set in a place not often represented in literature, but at heart this is that kind of novel written by men with MFAs living in Brooklyn. That's not a criticism of that, but this isn't quite as specifically midwestern as I had expected and that colored my reaction to the novel. There are several drug-fueled misadventures and descriptions of the dynamics of a well-heeled academic family, as well as descriptions of life in suburban Kansas. Which is to say, the fault lies in the expectations of this reader and not in the novel, which was doing its own thing successfully enough.

joulukuu 2, 2020, 6:05pm

>89 RidgewayGirl: I’m interested in the setting. I’ve driven through Wichita a few times - it left negative appeal. But that’s a little unfair from the highway (oh yeah, 20 years ago).

joulukuu 2, 2020, 6:07pm

>90 dchaikin: I'm very interested in regional writing, especially my corner of the world, but also elsewhere. This felt as though it could have been set in any suburban location, which is maybe more indicative of the nature of suburbia than Ziolkowski's writing.

joulukuu 3, 2020, 5:04pm

You got me on the pre-grieving book too. Sounds interesting.

joulukuu 4, 2020, 9:09pm

Well, The Cold Millions was fantastic. There's nothing fancy here, Jess Walter has written a straight-forward historical novel about labor unrest in Spokane, Washington in the early twentieth century, and it's so well-constructed and wears its research so effortlessly, that it's pretty much a perfect novel. I mean, the subject matter sounds both worthy and boring, but it is not. Walter uses a pair of brothers who, after riding the rails and picking up work here and there, end up in Spokane, sleeping on their Italian landlady's porch because it's a little cheaper than renting a room, getting meals at the Salvation Army. Gig, the charismatic older brother, falls for an actress in a variety show and joins the board of the local IWW, a labor union. His sixteen-year-old brother, Rye, just wants regular meals and some stability. As the police come down hard on the strikers, both Gig and Rye's lives are permanently altered.

No plot synopsis can show just how compelling a story Walter has crafted, or how well he has woven in real people and events with his fictional characters. I was sorry to reach the end of this wonderful novel.

joulukuu 10, 2020, 2:21pm

Mayflies by Andrew O'Hagan is two very different novels put together, although the second half could not exist without the first. In the mid-eighties, a time of miners' strikes, Margaret Thatcher and the peak of indie rock, a group of young Scottish men plan a weekend trip to Manchester for a music festival headlined by The Smiths. James, called Noodles by his friends, is the first of his family and neighborhood to be accepted into university. Tully is his best friend, a charismatic, easy-going, always in the center of things guy, whose playful exterior hides anxiety about his future.

This is a joy-filled romp of a perfect weekend and I loved every single paragraph. O'Hagan perfectly captures that moment of young adulthood when the world opens up and music is the most important thing. I'm not that much younger than the boys in this story and their adventures brought back so many memories of small clubs and perfect nights out.

The second half of the book concerns Tully and James, now three decades older. Tully is diagnosed with cancer and he's determined to go out on his own terms and his best friend, James, is the person he most trusts to stand by him. This half has a much more serious tone, despite the unemployed workers and casual racism of the first half. But the fun of the beginning gives an earned emotional depth to this story of a man supporting his best friend.

joulukuu 11, 2020, 10:37am

A series of murders take place in south Los Angeles. A serial killer should take up more space in the media, but the victims were all either sex workers or living risky lives, the forgettable. The murders stop suddenly and Dorian is sure it's because the final victim was her daughter, who never made it home after a babysitting job, a good girl. Now, years later, the murders start up again and the only cop willing to see what's happening is a disgraced detective, sent down from homicide to vice, someone the other cops won't listen to.

These Women by Ivy Pochoda is about those women that are deemed disposable. The party girls, cocktail waitresses in strip clubs, women working their corner of a gritty part of Los Angeles that's cut in two by the I-10, a mix of residential neighborhoods, bars, liquor stores, fast food, art galleries and car lots, and equally mixed in who lives there, from the home owners with their security gates and barred windows to the drug addicts and people barely scraping by. Each section is told from the point of view of a woman living there, each section slowly getting closer to discovering who the killer is and who has been protecting him.

Pochoda has made a specific neighborhood in Los Angeles an integral part of the story, while doing something more than just writing a well-plotted crime novel. She's interested in the women who go unnoticed, especially after they've gone. This is a good one and one that deserved more attention than it got.

joulukuu 11, 2020, 1:31pm

>94 RidgewayGirl: so my daughter played a Smiths song yesterday in the car (her phone, my car). And after noticing and talking a bit, i said, wait , if I play the Smiths you would listen? A lightbulb moment. 🙂

Also all these last three sound fun to get lost in...well, reading fun...or whatever the phrase should be for reading about murders, terminal cancer and strike breaking...

joulukuu 11, 2020, 3:11pm

>96 dchaikin: I made the kids listen to my music in the car for years and now, every so often, I'll hear The Housemartins or the Gin Blossoms or They Might Be Giants playing in their rooms and it makes me very happy.

joulukuu 11, 2020, 4:03pm

>97 RidgewayGirl: I think I’ve spoiled any future appreciation of Bruce Springsteen or Green Day. Cost me my say. If she’s in the front passenger seat, my phone gets immediately disconnected and hers connected. : ) She introduced me to Harry Styles...

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 12, 2020, 8:16am

I wonder what my kid listens to now. When he was 19 or so, and in college, he left his iPod in our car one time after borrowing it and my husband were cracking up looking at his music collection, which literally could have been ours—the Police, AC/DC, Miles Davis, Blondie... I asked him, "Don't you kids have any good music of your own?" and he said, "No."

>94 RidgewayGirl: I hadn't heard of Mayflies, but I like Andrew O'Hagan and that looks right up my alley.

joulukuu 12, 2020, 2:52pm

>99 lisapeet:
LOL - my daughters (early 20s) both say that too. I remember one time in the car "Miss You" by the Rolling Stones came on and I said "Ah! Brings me back to grade 11." And one daughter said "you had way better music when you were my age."

joulukuu 12, 2020, 9:27pm

>99 lisapeet: My kids said the same thing about music :), except mine is a little earlier...

I am waiting for my turn at the library for The Cold Millions. I think I'm # 15 on the list.

joulukuu 13, 2020, 11:53am

>98 dchaikin: It isn't bad, is it, being introduced to new music by our children? Much better now than when mine were small - my son and his best friend went through an extended length of time when Thrift Store was their favorite.

>99 lisapeet: When I was in my late teens, I discovered Bob Dylan and Lou Reed, so maybe it's a phase?

>100 Nickelini: One thing about music now is that it isn't so hung up on policing the boundaries. There's more variety allowed. I distinctly remembering how I'd only find the local alternative station acceptable. What a little snob I was! And only a few years on from having a Wham! poster hanging in my room!

>101 BLBera: Beth, I'm very interested in finding out what you think of The Cold Millions.

joulukuu 14, 2020, 1:50pm

My daughter likes mostly new music, but not what’s one the radio (although she can tolerate it. Imagined Dragons are still ok, for example). She listens mostly to music I don’t recognize. Certainty the electric guitar noise is pretty much out with her and with most new music. It really surprises how some major and great 1980’s and 1990’s band, like say REM, have almost no influence on music coming out now. How does that happen? Anyway, this might be a fun conversation to rediscover when she’s in her twenties.

joulukuu 15, 2020, 5:37am

>97 RidgewayGirl: When the kids and I were going somewhere together, I used to put on a CD that had Bohemian Rhapsody on it and we'd all sing along (this would be mid 90s). It was a mixed CD put together by a friend.

joulukuu 15, 2020, 8:09am

We do Friday night disco in our house, which consists of putting YouTube on the TV for an hour or so and taking it in turns to put on different tracks. I've concluded that my kids (11 and 13) are determined to absolutely never even slightly admit to liking anything that I like. I like to think I have a fairly wide taste in music so it seems beyond me that they can't like one single song!

Isn't it funny how you hear yourself saying those dreadful words you never thought would come out of your mouth: "All the current tunes all sound the same". Certainly the popular music being played on the radio all sounds very samey to me now, geared towards the TikTok dance moves generation. I'm convinced there was a wider variety of music genres in the charts when I was younger, or maybe the elimination of the classic weekly "charts" since online purchasing got going has meant that radio stations now focus solely on certain genres.

(Please don't tell me I'm just getting old).

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 15, 2020, 3:36pm

Charles Yu's reaction to winning the National Book Award was so heart-felt and charming that I started reading Interior Chinatown immediately. More zoom awards ceremonies from people's living rooms, please. The entire event was delightful.

Also delightful was this novel. Set on a Hollywood soundstage, it manages to be funny and tragic, uplifting and a stark look at the many ways that racism plays out in the United States, with an emphasis on the lives of Asian immigrants and their children. It's fast-paced and feels simultaneously weighty and effervescent. It's a short novel that makes every single word count, using a variety of ways to tell a compelling story. I hope this novel is widely read and I'm eager to read Charles Yu's other books.

joulukuu 15, 2020, 6:26pm

I'm glad that you enjoyed Interior Chinatown, Kay. After it won this year's National Book Award for Fiction and I found out what it was about I added it to my holiday wish list.

joulukuu 16, 2020, 1:38pm

>106 RidgewayGirl:
Glad to hear it's good -- it's been on my wish list since it was published

joulukuu 16, 2020, 3:42pm

>105 AlisonY: You're not just getting old! I think the recording industry's use of auto-tune processing really homogenizes the sound—it's kind of the aural version of airbrushing, if you ask me. Then again, I'm old.

>106 RidgewayGirl: I'm surprised I never managed to pick up a galley of that one—for some reason I didn't think it would interest me, but now that it's on all the lists in the world I'm interested. I'll have to wait until I can get it from the library, and I'm sure the holds are miles long right now... though I've kind of committed to reading what's on my physical and virtual shelves for a while. We'll see how long that lasts.

joulukuu 16, 2020, 3:51pm

>107 kidzdoc: It was fantastic and surprising, Darryl. It's also fairly short and written in a way that suited my easily distractible brain right now.

>108 Nickelini: Yes, it was on my list of books to look for, but seeing Yu's reaction to winning made me eager to read it.

>109 lisapeet: I put myself in the library holds line while Yu was still speaking and managed to be next in line for it. The desire to read the books I own sits in direct contradiction to my love of reading the shiny, newly published books.

joulukuu 17, 2020, 7:54am

>102 RidgewayGirl: I'm # 15 on the list for The Cold Millions, Kay. I'll add Interior Chinatown to my list.

joulukuu 19, 2020, 10:45pm

>106 RidgewayGirl: Adding Interior Chinatown to my wishlist too, especially now it’s shortlisted for the ToB as well. Do you have any favorites yet?

joulukuu 20, 2020, 11:43am

>112 Simone2: My absolute favorites didn't make the tournament! No The Cold Millions, Writers & Lovers or Hamnet. I did love A Children's Bible, but a lot of people didn't. I'm still giving it my zombie vote. I'm most looking forward to reading Breasts and Eggs.

joulukuu 20, 2020, 2:00pm

July and September, sisters born less than a year apart, have been taken by their mother to an isolated house on the Yorkshire coast. There was an incident at school back in Oxford, and their mother isn't doing very well, spending long hours in her room with the door closed as July and her older sister figure out how to pass the time.

Sisters by Daisy Johnson is told from the close point-of-view of July, as she avoids thinking about the incident at school. She and her sister have always been so close, moving in tandem and insisting on sharing a birthday. But isolated and without any adult guidance, July is beginning to realize that she doesn't always want to do what September wants.

I love deeply interior novels like this one, where all we see is what a character sees and thinks and experiences. It can be claustrophobic, but also intimate. Here, July is a teenager whose feelings are confused and contradictory and Johnson has given her such a distinctive, uncertain voice. Hiding a crucial event can seem like authorial manipulation, but Johnson is an assured enough writer to pull it off beautifully. I very much enjoyed this one.

joulukuu 23, 2020, 12:02pm

I recently read two very different books that centered on Shakespeare in some way, so I thought I'd review them together, sort of.

In Sweet Sorrow, David Nicholls tells the story of the summer after Charlie finished school, when he becomes involved with an amateur theater group preparing to put on Romeo and Juliet. His entire reason is to get a girl to notice him. As he gets roped into playing Benvolio, he looks back at his disastrous exam results and falls in love with a girl from the posh private school, as he struggles to take care of his father.

Nicholls writes with such lightness and humor about some darker topics. Even as the reader watches Charlie race toward disaster, it's done with such assurance that he will survive (the novel is told from the point of view of a much older Charlie) and even thrive in the end, that it's somehow more effective. This is very well-done chick-lit, where the main character is a young man. It'a a shame that since the genre is so woman-oriented that it's seen more as trashy escapism for the ladies, than as a genre with wide appeal, because novels that are written with a lightness of tone about serious events and issues require more talent and skill than a more heavy-handed approach to the same situations.

Of Nicholls's novels, this one most resembles Starter for Ten, being a coming-of-age novel about leaving home and finding oneself in unfamiliar surroundings. Charlie describes himself someone who never stands out, but he has a self-deprecating charm and a resilience that makes him very good company.

joulukuu 23, 2020, 12:22pm

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell is about a family and mostly about a woman who marries the young Latin tutor and moves from her stepmother's farm to the town to live in the tutor's father's house. She bears him three children. The tutor is finding his vocation in London with a group of traveling players when he is summoned back. The plague, which has be raging through England, has reached his family.

This novel centers on grief, on being a parent who has lost a child and what that loss and grief does to a family, and to each of the members of that family. O'Farrell does such a brilliant job in bringing to life the world that Shakespeare and his family inhabited, as well as writing a tender and stark account of grief. This is a hugely impressive book that is both beautifully written and impressive in how lightly it wears its research.

joulukuu 23, 2020, 2:10pm

>114 RidgewayGirl: “ July is beginning to realize that she doesn't always want to do what September wants.”

If it has lots of lines like this...not sure makes me want to read it or avoid the confusion. I’m intrigued though

>116 RidgewayGirl: I would really like to read this.

joulukuu 23, 2020, 8:08pm

> 116 I also have seen many people who live this, so it's on my list for 2021.

joulukuu 23, 2020, 9:49pm

Hamnet is one of my favorite reads this year, Kay. I'm glad to see another fan. It is so lovely.

joulukuu 24, 2020, 1:20pm

>117 dchaikin: Oh, that confusion in wording is my fault and not the book's. I suspect that this one would work well in audio.

>118 markon: Ardene, it's very good. O'Farrell is so good at writing about human emotion.

>119 BLBera: Beth, it's a remarkable book. I'm a little sorry to have borrowed, rather than bought, my copy.

joulukuu 25, 2020, 11:12am

Behold! The books of Christmas!

Happy Holidays to all, however you choose to celebrate (but preferably with books.)

joulukuu 26, 2020, 5:02pm

Happy Holidays to you, Kay. And may 2021 be fantastic!

joulukuu 26, 2020, 5:06pm

Happy holidays! And books are always good! :)

joulukuu 26, 2020, 6:27pm

Nice haul! And happy holidays to you and yours, Kay!

joulukuu 30, 2020, 2:19pm

Magnus is a comedian who grew up in the Orkney islands and is now in London, where he's just gotten a big break opening for a much more famous comedian. The first night goes well, but on his way home he sees a man attempting to rape a drunk woman and intervenes. When the police show up, they arrest him; an unfortunate mistake, but one Magnus thinks can be quickly resolved, except that a pandemic hits while he's in a jail cell, which is not a great place to be when the people around you are dying. If he survives the virus and manages to get out, his plan is to make his way home, where he hopes his family is alive and waiting for him.

The second in Louise Welsh's trilogy about life during and after a deadly pandemic, Death is a Welcome Guest is really a stand-alone set in the same world as the first novel, A Lovely Way to Burn. Like the first novel, this one also centers on a mystery along with the struggle simply to survive. People are not necessarily who they say they are and sometimes they are a lot worse. And actions taken for the good of everyone sometimes do a great deal of harm. In the final pages, this novel ties to the first one and I'm very much looking forward to reading the final installation of this excellent series.

joulukuu 30, 2020, 4:45pm

>115 RidgewayGirl: I haven't read any David Nicholls' books in ages. I feel like he doesn't really deserve to be lumped into the chic lit bracket - his books seem to have been marketed that way though.

>126 AlisonY: You're all making me so desperate to read Hamnet!

Happy 2021 reading. Look forward to all the new titles you introduce me to.

joulukuu 30, 2020, 8:00pm

>126 AlisonY: There's a tendency to disparage genres that are mainly read by women or viewed as being written for women, that is only slowly changing. It shouldn't be an insult to an author, male or female, to have their work characterized as Chick Lit or romance or women's fiction, but we still have a ways to go. The NYT's Best Books of the Year list this year included a romance novel.

joulukuu 30, 2020, 8:24pm

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole is a thriller about gentrification. A small Brooklyn neighborhood is changing. Almost every day it seems that a long-time resident sells up and a white family moves in, or a local shop is replaced with an upscale boutique. At first, Sydney barely notices, she's wrapped up in her own financial difficulties and still reeling from the collapse of her marriage. But as the offers on her mother's brownstone become more numerous and insistent, she notices that the changes to the neighborhood seem malevolent and centered on a new medical research company headquarters.

As a book about how gentrification harms long-established communities and as a history of how that has played out in Brooklyn, this novel is a success. There's also a rising sense of being powerless in the face of injustice that was very effective. As a thriller, the big reveal felt abrupt, although the violent Tarantino-style final scenes certainly made an impact.

joulukuu 30, 2020, 8:27pm

>128 RidgewayGirl:

I've been somewhat interested in this one, but "violent, Terantino-style" scenes? Hmmmm

joulukuu 30, 2020, 8:30pm

>129 Nickelini: Up until the final section, When No One is Watching had all the hallmarks of a typical thriller, with a romance and quirky tertiary characters, which made the no-holds-barred conclusion that much more shocking.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 31, 2020, 6:28am

Not my usual genre, but this sounds like I could enjoy it.

joulukuu 31, 2020, 9:39am

>128 RidgewayGirl: This is a maybe. Not sure about the end...

tammikuu 1, 3:07pm

>131 AlisonY: The idea of gentrification as a malevolent force was very interesting.

>132 BLBera: The ending was abrupt, but Cole was raising ideas and issues that should be more widely discussed.

tammikuu 1, 3:22pm

End of the Year Stats

I had a very good reading year overall, despite a long wobble in March and April. My reading is still heavily focused on newly published books, but I've come to terms with that and now just enjoy reading the books as everyone is talking about them.

My reading was heavily USA-centric, in part because I live here and the books being discussed are more often American than not, but I would like to read more outside of the US (and Britain too to a lesser extent).

Gender Divide: I read 120 books, 46 by men, so 38%, and 62% by women.

Global Reading:

USA: 74 books (61%)
Britain: 15 books (13%)

Ireland: 5 books
Canada: 4 books
Australia, Japan: 3 books

23 countries represented