RidgewayGirl's Year of Whim and Inclination -- First Quarter

KeskusteluClub Read 2023

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RidgewayGirl's Year of Whim and Inclination -- First Quarter

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 30, 2:26 pm

2022 was a year of great change, moving from SC to IL at the beginning of the year, then going back and moving my father at the end of the year. Here's to a year of quiet routine. In 2023, my reading plans are to follow no plan at all, to read without aims or intentions.

In keeping with my theme of not trying, here's a painting by Alexej von Jawlensky that I love.

Portrait of the Dancer Alexander Sakharoff

Currently Reading

Recently Read

Recently Acquired

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 30, 2:31 pm

Books by Year of Publication

Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz

Life for Sale by Yukio Mishima

Cherry by Mary Karr

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li

1,000 Coils of Fear by Olivia Wenzel

How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

Babel, Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution by R.F. Kuang
The Book of Goose by Yiyun Li
Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet
Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou
Flight by Lynn Steger Strong
An Island by Karen Jennings
Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra
Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson
My Volcano by John Elizabeth Stintzi
The No-Show by Beth O'Leary
The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
Trespasses by Louise Kennedy
A Very Nice Girl by Imogen Crimp
The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb
2 A.M. in Little America by Ken Kalfus

Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton
Call and Response by Gothataone Moeng
Don't Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones

Books by Publisher

Biblioasis Press (Windsor, ON, Canada) (Small Press)
Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Catapult Books (USA) (Small Press)
1,000 Coils of Fear by Olivia Wenzel

Graywolf Press (Independent Publisher)
Sinking Bell: Stories by Bojan Louis

HarperCollins (Big 5 Publisher)
--- Harper Perennial (imprint of HC)
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li
--- Harper Voyager (imprint of HC)
Babel, Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution by R.F. Kuang
--- Mariner Books (imprint of HC)
Flight by Lynn Steger Strong

Macmillan Publishers (Big 5 Publisher)
--- Farrar, Straus and Giroux (imprint of Macmillan)
Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton
The Book of Goose by Yiyun Li
--- Henry Holt & Co. (division of Macmillan)
A Very Nice Girl by Imogen Crimp

Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN) (Non-Profit Small Press)
2 A.M. in Little America by Ken Kalfus

Penguin Random House (Big 5 Publisher)
Cherry by Mary Karr
How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue
--- Berkely Books (imprint of PRH)
The No-Show by Beth O'Leary
--- Hogarth Press (imprint of PRH)
An Island by Karen Jennings
Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra
--- Knopf Doubleday (division of PRH)
--- Anchor Books (imprint of Knopf Doubleday)
Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz
The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb
--- Knopf (imprint of Knopf Doubleday)
The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
--- Penguin Press (division of PRH)
Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
--- Riverhead Books (imprint of PRH)
Trespasses by Louise Kennedy
--- Viking (imprint of PRH)
Call and Response by Gothataone Moeng
--- Vintage International (imprint of PRH)
Life for Sale by Yukio Mishima

Simon & Schuster (Big 5 Publisher)
--- Avid Reader Press (Imprint of S&S)
Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson
--- Gallery Books (division of S&S)
--- Saga Books (imprint of GB)
Don't Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones

Two Dollar Radio (Small Press)
My Volcano by John Elizabeth Stintzi

W. W. Norton & Company (Independent Publisher)
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka

joulukuu 30, 2022, 9:17 am

Ok, everyone. My flag is planted. Come say hello, or not, I'm not the boss of you.

joulukuu 30, 2022, 9:20 am

Happy New Year, Boss Lady!

joulukuu 30, 2022, 10:09 am

Well, of course, hello. Happy new thread.

joulukuu 30, 2022, 10:47 am

Welcome to Club Read 2023, Kay. I hope this year is quieter with more space and time for reading. It should be a rule that every rough/busy year is followed by an easy one!

joulukuu 30, 2022, 6:49 pm

Always good to see you, Kay.

joulukuu 30, 2022, 6:50 pm

Thanks, all. Let's get going!

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 30, 2022, 9:44 pm

>1 RidgewayGirl:

He looks like he knows all the best gossip. Hello!

joulukuu 30, 2022, 10:55 pm

You can totally be the boss of me if you want—we have very similar taste in books. And art—I love that painting, and wasn't familiar with it or the artist.

joulukuu 30, 2022, 11:33 pm

Looking forward to following along. You’re already reading a couple of books I’m curious about!

joulukuu 31, 2022, 9:50 am

Another aimless reader here, looking forward to seeing where you amble :-).

joulukuu 31, 2022, 2:36 pm

Your thread is always a treasure trove of book suggestions. I look forward to following you here in 2023 as well. Happy New Year!

joulukuu 31, 2022, 4:38 pm

>11 LolaWalser: There is so much life and energy in this static portrait.

>12 lisapeet: Lisa, while he treated the marvelous artist Mariane von Werefkin abominably, Alexej von Jawlensky could knock out a decent painting.

>13 ursula: I'll certainly be following your reading, too.

>14 rhian_of_oz: Hooray for a lack of focus! Who knows what we'll read next?

>15 Trifolia: Happy New Year, Monica! Earlier for you than for me, I think.

joulukuu 31, 2022, 6:55 pm

Looking forward to following along again this year, Kay. Happy New Year.

joulukuu 31, 2022, 8:39 pm

Ill be following you as well Kay, we have lots of similar reads. Hoping for a great new year!

tammikuu 1, 7:57 am

Hi Kay, I already can’t wait for the reviews of your current reads! I only read and absolutely loved The Rabbit Hutch. Happy new year!

tammikuu 1, 12:33 pm

>17 AlisonY: Happy New Year, Alison. Here's to great reading years for both of us.

>18 cindydavid4: Cindy, it was fun talking books with you last year. I'm looking forward to more of the same.

>19 Simone2: I'm really enjoying The Rabbit Hutch, and wondering how all the pieces come together.

tammikuu 1, 12:37 pm

Happy New Year, Kay! I love the portrait at the top. I look forward to your comments on The Rabbit Hutch; it was the last book I read in 2022, and I'm not quite sure about it...

I recently read Flight as well and enjoyed it.

tammikuu 1, 1:29 pm

>21 BLBera: Ha! The Tournament of Books has us all reading the same books at this time of year and I love that.

tammikuu 1, 2:27 pm

Is the ToB list for 2023 out? I must check. I usually forget about it until you post about it.

tammikuu 1, 3:35 pm

Thanks Kay.

tammikuu 2, 4:17 am

Happy New Year, Kay. Life got in the way last year and I disappeared from LT for most of it, but I’m looking forward to following your reading again this year.

tammikuu 2, 6:50 am

Happy New Year! Love the painting and the red dress.

tammikuu 2, 10:28 am

Happy new year fianlly got the star tostick in your thread.Look forward to adding books from your lists this next year.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 2, 6:12 pm

I am looking forward to following your TOB reading, as you're one of the people I rely on to winnow the list down to the half-dozen or so that I should add to my library wish list.

tammikuu 2, 6:07 pm

>26 rachbxl: Life does do that. I hope the reasons were all good ones.

>27 FlorenceArt: I love that painting. When I lived in Munich, I'd go visit it in the Lenbachhaus whenever I was nearby.

>28 stretch: I'll be following your reading, too, Kevin. The overlap between what we read is interesting.

>29 ELiz_M: I do enjoy how that list stretches my reading.

tammikuu 3, 6:31 pm

Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet tells the story of psychotherapist and enfant terrible Collins Braithewaite and the story of a young woman who seeks therapy from him under false pretenses, using the form of excerpts from a biography and the diaries of the young woman.

This is primarily the story of a seriously disturbed woman, whose issues are exacerbated by Braithewaite, a self-involved and arrogant man whose behavior, even in sixties London, was abominable. I like this style of writing -- a collection of fictional documents -- quite a bit and Burnet is skilled at this format, keeping the reader trapped between the unreliable journals and segments of a dry biography. There's a lot left out, but the result is hard to put down.

tammikuu 3, 6:37 pm

I've decided to add to my statistics by making note of who publishes the books I read. I like small presses, have a few that I follow and try to buy from, but know that most of my books probably come from the "Big Five." Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to track that. I've stuck that up in >4 RidgewayGirl: if anyone wants to take a look.

tammikuu 3, 6:40 pm

>32 RidgewayGirl: Interesting stat to track - I've never thought of doing that. Maybe I'll join you in tracking that this year!

tammikuu 3, 7:01 pm

>32 RidgewayGirl: I've tracked that in my physical reading journal for the past 2 year (this is year 3). I started for the same reason as you. In 2022, I read 28 books from the big 5 and their imprints (I sometimes have to really dig to confirm it's an imprint of one of them), and 15 from small or independent presses

tammikuu 3, 7:05 pm

>32 RidgewayGirl: That's why I put Publishers as one of my categories over in the Categories Challenge :)

>31 RidgewayGirl: I haven't got around to writing my review on this one yet but I liked it quite a lot last year - his style just works and if you add the unreliable narrator done in a masterful way and without sounding forced, it just clicked for me.

tammikuu 3, 8:11 pm

>31 RidgewayGirl:, >35 AnnieMod: I have been intrigued by this book for a while (as a booker nominee) and this might have just tipped me over.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 3, 10:26 pm

>31 RidgewayGirl: oh, cool, I'm reading this now. (I tried to start about 2 weeks ago as a break for Robert Musil, but it wasn't actually a break because it requires a lot of attention. So i started again Dec 31. I got into it the second time starting.)

I like that you're tracking publishers.

tammikuu 3, 10:21 pm

>33 japaul22: I'd love to see how our books compare.

>34 Nickelini: Joyce, that seems like a good balance.

>35 AnnieMod: Yes, I think it all worked. And I liked the ending. Very much in keeping with the rest of the book.

>36 ELiz_M: That's why I chose it. And because I liked His Bloody Project.

>37 dchaikin: That's a fun coincidence. I look forward to finding out what you thought of it.

tammikuu 4, 1:04 am

>31 RidgewayGirl: Ah I didn't realize you were reading this one too! (I had seen it on Dan's thread and mentioned I'm interested in reading it even though His Bloody Project didn't entirely work for me.) I'm more intrigued now.

tammikuu 4, 5:40 am

>32 RidgewayGirl: - I've decided to add these to my spreadsheet and see what happens. I've often thought of publication date, but I can see how publisher would be interesting and informative.

tammikuu 4, 6:38 am

>31 RidgewayGirl: Multiple CRers can't be wrong so onto the wishlist it goes.

tammikuu 4, 8:44 am

>31 RidgewayGirl: I liked His Bloody Project too, so I purchased Case Study. Not sure when I'll get to it, though your review intrigues me--fictional documents and 60's London, where I lived from 1967-69.

tammikuu 5, 11:36 am

>39 ursula: Despite being very different, there is a similarity in tone to His Bloody Project, a sort of built in distance.

>40 dudes22: Betty, I didn't know you kept a spreadsheet of your reading.

>41 rhian_of_oz: Multiple CRers can certainly be wrong all at once, but I did really enjoy Case Study and I'm still thinking about it.

>42 arubabookwoman: Oh, how wonderful to have lived in London back then. Or at any time, really.

tammikuu 5, 8:15 pm

>43 RidgewayGirl: It was definitely the center of the universe for a teenage girl like me!
Have you read Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell? Totally different book, but with a 1960's London setting beautifully evoked.

tammikuu 5, 8:39 pm

>44 arubabookwoman: I did read Utopia Avenue! This is a much drearier London.

tammikuu 6, 12:41 pm

As many of you already know, in March last year, I moved to an old house in the middle of Illinois. It was built in 1900 and was Adlai Stevenson II's childhood home. It's an adventure owning an old house and my husband's holiday project was to get the pocket doors functional again. Stuck in the recess of the first door was this card, which seems to be a love note.

tammikuu 6, 1:36 pm

>43 RidgewayGirl: - oh yes! I like to keep my reading organized. And it's a little easier to look at past years quickly.

>46 RidgewayGirl: - I must have some new update on my computer because I'm having trouble seeing your pictures this year. Rats!

tammikuu 6, 1:59 pm

tammikuu 6, 2:03 pm

>46 RidgewayGirl: hope he got the letter… and that he could read it. But that’s an awesome find.

tammikuu 6, 2:23 pm

>46 RidgewayGirl: How interesting! Thank you for sharing. It's like book ephemera. Maybe door ephemera?

tammikuu 6, 2:33 pm

>49 dchaikin: The note says, as far as I can decipher:

... as I go to N.Y. tomorrow for 4 days to get a better hold on myself away from the (---) presence of my darling boy -- I'm crazy to see you & indeed I did (-------) your long letter. I (----) so much to impart (that) you so well understand.

I should (---) to .... give him all .... & love nothing is too much is it - I'm so proud of Madeline she is so lovely & so talented.

write me dear

devotedly, Elsie

1427 - Burns Air
I'll return Sunday!

tammikuu 6, 3:08 pm

>51 RidgewayGirl: that’s good. A lot better than I could pick up on. Fun too.

tammikuu 6, 5:22 pm

>52 dchaikin: It's so much fun discovering things about this house. My husband and I are in furious disagreement about whether the bookshelves in the library were original or built a few years later. I'll have to go dig out the original blueprints to see who wins the argument.

tammikuu 6, 5:22 pm

In Flight by Lynn Steger Strong, three adult siblings and their families meet up for the holidays after the death of their mother. They are all ambivalent about the time together, in the absence of the woman who held the family together. There are tensions between siblings, between spouses and between the various in-laws, all of which simmer under the surface of the routine festivities, where the burden of childcare is not equally shared and the question of what to do with their mother's house is a divisive issue.

This novel feels like something that could have been written by Anne Tyler or Elizabeth Strout, with its focus on family dynamics and how they play out when not all members of an extended family like each other that much. It's a well-written story and the family dynamics feel very real. At the same time, some of the characters were given less space than they needed to be fully realized and while the resolution was executed well, I didn't entirely buy the sudden changes of heart at the end.

tammikuu 6, 6:48 pm

I’m a little late to the party, Kay, but I’ve finally made it. I’ll be following along. Trying to be better at keeping up than I ended up last year. I love the note in the door. What a treasure.

tammikuu 6, 6:52 pm

What a fun find in your new old house! Over the years we did work on our 1913 Craftsman house and often had to go into the walls. The most fun items we found were an old steamy pulp paperback novel (that I'm going to read one day for a laugh) and also a tin of snuff tobacco. Somebody was hiding something! Not as nice as a love note. I bought an old Charles Dickens novel once though and it had a ticket to a dance for New Years 1931. That was nicer.

tammikuu 6, 7:18 pm

>55 NanaCC: It's hardest to keep up in January, when all the threads are so active.

>56 Nickelini: Joyce, it makes the past lives lived in this house so real. Was the note deliberately slipped into the door to hide it, or was it lost there? The hardest thing is not knowing all the details. Fiction is so much more satisfying.

tammikuu 6, 10:37 pm

>46 RidgewayGirl: Very cool! The ERB (or would it be EBR?) in the corner might be a clue. E=Elsie? I did see that Adlai II's wife was Ellen Borden.

We did some research on my husband's McLean County ancestors at the Bloomington Public Library--they have a pretty good local history room. I would imagine they might have info on the Stevenson family and the house.

tammikuu 7, 2:04 am

>46 RidgewayGirl: I just posted a couple of comments on Twitter of my reading of it, I got all excited and just dashed off a couple of things over there.

Very cool! A friend of mine redid an old Victorian in San Jose and also found a few letters in the walls.

tammikuu 7, 6:06 am

>46 RidgewayGirl: This is seriously awesome.

tammikuu 7, 12:08 pm

It is so cool to find old things in a house. Nice comments on Flight, Kay. I also liked it, thought overall the family dynamics were well done.

tammikuu 7, 4:15 pm

>58 kac522: The McLean Historical Society has its own museum now and a large library. I've met the historian who restored our house and I'll have to bring him the card.

>59 ursula: I loved the sleuth-work over on twitter.

>60 rhian_of_oz: It's so much fun.

>61 BLBera: Beth, the family dynamics rang so true. It's very different from my relationship with my in-laws, but it felt the same in many ways.

tammikuu 10, 5:59 pm

Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson is a story within another, and while the framing story is banal, it works well with the central story, while also allowing for ambiguity regarding the truthfulness of the storyteller.

Waiting to board a flight, Jeff Cook runs into an old college acquaintance and, when the flight is delayed, invites them to join him in the first class lounge for a beer. There, Jeff proceeds to tell a story about the life he saved and what happened as a result. It's a wild ride, anchored by the occasional pause to refresh the drinks and check on the flight.

The fun of this novel, past the up and down's of Jeff's story, is the question of what Jeff is omitting, embellishing or making up altogether. Or maybe he's telling it straight. It's up the the reader to figure it out. It worked for me, in part because the book is exactly the right length to read in an evening and paced so well that it's hard not to do so.

tammikuu 10, 9:37 pm

>63 RidgewayGirl: seems like a nice follow up to Case Study. One to read closely. I was going to congratulate you on finishing three books already, but them i saw six on your list up the thread…

tammikuu 11, 2:24 am

>63 RidgewayGirl: This sounds really interesting. I added it to my Libby "to read" tag, for ... one day.

tammikuu 11, 10:37 am

>64 dchaikin: Dan, I was almost finished a few of those when the new year started, and a few were very short. But it does make me look like I have been on a reading binge.

>65 ursula: My library wishlist is very, very long. But as it doesn't add to the size of the physical tbr, it's fine.

tammikuu 11, 5:26 pm

That summer I fell into reading as into a deep well where no voice could reach me. There was a poem about a goat-footed balloon man I recited everyday like a spell, and another about somebody stealing somebody else's plums and saying he was sorry but not really meaning it. I read the Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs and fancied myself running away to Africa to find just such an ape man to swing me from vine to vine.

Mary Karr is best known for her memoir of a childhood spent in a rough and tumble Texas town, The Liars' Club. Cherry is her follow up to that memoir, taking the reader through her teenage years. At the start of the story, Mary is a bookish girl in a place that did not value intelligence, and especially not in women. She eventually makes friends and then discovers both boys and drugs. It was the seventies and she quickly fell in with a group of surfer boys and their hangers-on, which suited her contrarian nature and need to push back against the often pointless authoritarianism of her high school. Her parents are not able to provide a good example or even rules, although they do occasionally come through when needed.

So you ride home strangely placated. You lack the wits to acknowledge the jail cell of the previous night. If you'd glanced back even once, given that arrest one hard look, a lot of onrushing trouble might have been staved off.

tammikuu 11, 7:48 pm

>66 RidgewayGirl: it looks impressive. 🙂

>67 RidgewayGirl: The Liars Club is terrific. Nice to get your take on its sequel.

tammikuu 11, 9:03 pm

>63 RidgewayGirl: This is my second BB from you and we're not even halfway through January!

tammikuu 12, 11:51 am

>67 RidgewayGirl: I loved the goat-footed balloon man poem as a teen and can relate to "a bookish girl in a place that did not value intelligence, and especially not in women." Perhaps I should look for her memoirs.

tammikuu 12, 12:03 pm

>68 dchaikin: Dan, there is no doubt that Mary Karr writes with insight and humor about her life and I enjoyed reading this, but it did return to the same place as The Liars' Club and just approach from a different angle. I have been thinking about that -- how many autobiographies could we write, just focusing on a different aspect or different people each time?

>69 rhian_of_oz: I'd highly recommend reading The Liars's Club first. There's more there. Having said that, I'm definitely going to read her third (!) memoir, Lit.

>70 labfs39: Lisa, she's very good. And probably most of us here can relate to that feeling. I also really liked how well she brought to life a working class industrial town on the east Texas coast.

tammikuu 13, 6:38 pm

Speculative fiction and alternate histories are very much not my thing. I'm also bad at listening to audiobooks. But Babel, Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution by R.F. Kuang turned out to be the one audiobook novel that worked for me. I think I liked it far more than I would have had I read it as a traditional book, because it's told in a straightforward way, plot-driven and with characters that are YA in their simplicity (although this is not a YA novel).

The book centers on a Dickensian protagonist; Robin Swift is a child when he is found laying next to his mother's dead body in a plague-ridden Canton. Rescued by an Oxford professor, he is taken to London to be rigorously trained in languages so he can study language and translation at the famous Babel tower in Oxford. Translators are necessary to the production and maintenance of "silver," a magical substance that fuels the British Empire, allowing it to colonize and rule countries around the globe. Robin is needed because of his Chinese language skills, and his fellow students are largely (but not entirely) chosen because their native languages are unspoken by the English. As he learns more and meets more people, he comes to see that he is being used in the British war for domination and he discovers a secret society that is fighting back.

For the most part, this is an adventure story, of the kind common in the genre. What separates it from the usual is the detail and ingenuity of the world-building, how well it's written and especially for the ways it discusses translation and colonialism. Sure, the characters were largely exactly who they seemed to be -- the bad guys very bad, the good guys pure of heart and the twists and turns not exactly out of the ordinary, but the way this novel talked about translation and colonialism and how they are tied together, has resonance in this non-imaginary world and were anything but simplistic; they were fascinating.

tammikuu 13, 8:08 pm

>72 RidgewayGirl: I had just assumed this was a nonfiction title. Interesting. Dilara had an opposite response from you.

tammikuu 13, 10:51 pm

>73 dchaikin: Oh, interesting.

tammikuu 15, 5:13 am

>67 RidgewayGirl: Love that excerpt, I’ll look up The Liar’s Club!

tammikuu 15, 11:40 am

I remember really liking her narrative voice so much in both The Liars' Club and Cherry, but it's been a long time since I read them.

tammikuu 15, 1:09 pm

>72 RidgewayGirl: Loved her poppy war and have been eager to read this, thanks for that

tammikuu 15, 1:34 pm

>72 RidgewayGirl: this does sound interesting. I will check out the audiobook.

tammikuu 16, 7:13 pm

>75 FlorenceArt: Florence, it's such a vivid portrayal of life in a Texan oil town.

>76 lisapeet: Lisa, did you read her third book, Lit?

>77 cindydavid4: I look forward to finding out what you think of it.

>78 BLBera: Yes, this one really works as an audiobook, Beth. At least it did for me.

tammikuu 16, 8:38 pm

>79 RidgewayGirl: I haven't read Lit yet... I'm always a little leery of sobriety/redemption memoirs, but should probably make an exception because I like her storytelling.

tammikuu 16, 11:39 pm

>80 lisapeet: Yes, that's the thing that makes me pause too.

tammikuu 17, 12:50 am

Hey, there! Greetings and happy 2023 thread. Love that found letter. How grand to have those sorts of discoveries to find in your new house.

Aimless readers rule! And so do readers who make reading plans.


tammikuu 18, 5:01 pm

>72 RidgewayGirl: I DNF'd The poppy war, but am intrigued by the setup in this one. I'm going to wait for the fuss to die down (and the hold lists to dwindle), but may try it later in the year as a lighter read.

the way this novel talked about translation and colonialism and how they are tied together, has resonance in this non-imaginary world and were anything but simplistic; they were fascinating. is a good recommendation.

tammikuu 19, 1:21 pm

Just checking in to see what you've been reading. Case Study is going on the wish list; I was totally captivated by His Bloody Project, creepy as it was, and this sounds similar.

tammikuu 20, 1:41 pm

>82 rocketjk: Hi, Jerry. Thanks for the title of my thread -- based on a comment you made when I trotted off to a book festival on a whim.

>83 markon: Ardene, it certainly fits the bill for a light, but immersive read. I'm fascinated by the art of translation and the ideas that Kuang was exploring were either new to me, or she was approaching from a new direction.

>84 Cariola: It's good to see you here, Deborah. I look forward to finding out what you think of Case Study, and adding books to my list when I visit your thread.

tammikuu 20, 1:58 pm

Eight books in and I'm already learning a lot by sorting my books by publisher. Imprints that I thought were independent houses, and substantial publishing companies are now just imprints under one of the Big 5 Publishers.

tammikuu 20, 1:59 pm

>86 RidgewayGirl: Yes! The imprint thing is tricky, isn't it? I'm enjoying figuring out whose publishing what I'm reading as well. Thanks for the idea!

tammikuu 20, 2:00 pm

>86 RidgewayGirl: Yeah, a lot of that had been going on lately. And some imprints had moved from one of the big houses to another occasionally :)

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 20, 2:03 pm

>87 japaul22: That Knopf and Henry Holt are just imprints now surprised me. I did know that publishing has been consolidated down to five publishing giants, but actually seeing that is a different thing. I'm glad there are still small and even mid-sized independent publishers out there, but there are far too few.

>88 AnnieMod: It's just bad for publishing and bad for readers.

tammikuu 20, 2:07 pm

>89 RidgewayGirl: I wonder how much autonomy the imprints have? It may be that they aren't as "under the thumb" of the big five as we might expect. Hard to know!

tammikuu 20, 2:14 pm

>90 japaul22: There isn't any transparency there, that's for sure. And the employees at HarperCollins are still on strike, the company had brought in scabs and is refusing to meet with the union. It's hard to just not buy books published by HC because the details of who own who are not clearly spelled out on the spine or cover pages.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 20, 4:09 pm

The big five publishers are mostly owned by media companies. This may be TMI for some of you, but here goes

Harper Collins: Though headquartered in the US, Harper Collins is owned by NewsCorp (Rupert Murdoch)

Link to imprints list on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HarperCollins) may or may not be current and complete.

Penguin Random House is owned by Berteslmann (https://www.bertelsmann.com/#st-1)
Bertelsmann’s attempt to purchase Simon and Schuster (and make it the big 4) was blocked by a US Justice Dept. Lawsuit, finally decided in the fall of 2022.

Simon and Schuster is currently owned by Paramount Global, which is in turn owned by National Amusements, a privately held company in the USA.

Hachette Livre is owned by the the Lagardère Group.

Macmillan is owned by Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, a privately held firm in Germany.

tammikuu 20, 4:10 pm

>89 RidgewayGirl: Absolutely agree. Thankfully there are enough small presses out there... but the reality is that the big publishers set the tone for awards, talk shows and the general noise - which ends up being what most people hear of and read.

My local library is better at buying small publishers than I expected it to be surprisingly enough.

>92 markon: And that will get worse with corporate mergers. The Penguin Random House is big enough as it is... S&S being added would have been a disaster. Although they can stay independent and still be defacto working together if they want to (yeah, I am cynical on the topic).

tammikuu 20, 4:41 pm

>92 markon: Thanks for that, Ardene. It's no wonder that most of the publishing energy goes into celebrity memoirs.

>93 AnnieMod: I am grateful for the independent presses and the work they do to bring us alternatives. They are also where most of the translated fiction is coming from these days. (On this topic there is ample room for cynicism.)

tammikuu 20, 4:42 pm

1,000 Coils of Fear by Olivia Wenzel follows a woman as she goes about her life in Berlin. She's struggling under the years of being a Black German woman, the cumulation of open racism and microaggressions (which are not that "micro" at all) wears on her, as does her brother's death to suicide. Her mother faced her own struggles, first as an openly punk girl in the DDR, then as the wife of an Angolan man who had to return to his country, leaving her to raise two Black children in a place that not only encountered very few non-white people, but where conformity was highly valued. As this unnamed woman thinks through her current relationship and remembers her past, she decides what form her future should take.

Told in short vignettes, this novel was easy to read, despite the way this format chopped up events and recounted them in pieces scattered across the novel. This is a format that I usually dislike as it feels lazy, like the author couldn't be bothered to write complete scenes, but it works for this novel, better than a more traditional format, allowing for breathing room in the more intense events. It also mirrored the protagonist's disorganized habits and how she is at an inflection point in her own life. There's a lot to think about in this book, which was longlisted for the German Book Prize.

tammikuu 20, 6:13 pm

>92 markon: whoa. Things I didn’t know, and am a little sad to learn

>95 RidgewayGirl: a new-to-me interesting title.

tammikuu 20, 6:43 pm

>85 RidgewayGirl: Wow! I'm honored. And you're welcome!

tammikuu 21, 2:29 pm

>95 RidgewayGirl: That looks interesting! I'm always good to read about offshoots of the DDR punk scene.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 21, 3:59 pm

>95 RidgewayGirl:

Yeah, me too. Have you seen by any chance the Audre Lorde documentary, Audre Lorde in Berlin 1986-1992? It's an interesting thing that it took an American to popularize the term Afro-German (Afro-Deutsch).

Comparative stats between the DDR and West Germany are tough to tease out, as I found out recently discussing the Vietnamese in Germany. I'm not sure that statistically it wasn't more likely to run into a PoC in the DDR than in the West, at least from the seventies onward. Then again, this would depend on the definition on PoC--Americans think of Turks and Arabs as PoC, but Europeans (and in particular back then) did not.

This also relates to how Black Germans defined themselves--in 1989 only 10K declared themselves as having African ancestry. Assuming this didn't represent the entire Black German population in West Germany, it still doesn't seem it's possible to get a more correct number. (Mixed race children of the postwar years and their descendants in particular seemed to have every reason to hide, not flaunt their ancestry.) In the same year in the DDR there were 17K temporary workers and students from Mozambique alone. And the DDR total population was 5 times smaller than that of West Germany. The Black populations had different provenance but the DDR numbers are at least straightforward (only a negligible percentage of foreigners claimed citizenship).

Sorry if this bores! It was actually a BBC documentary about "brown babies" that led me to Lorde and the German situation back then.

ETA: edited for clarity

tammikuu 22, 1:19 am

>95 RidgewayGirl: Added this one to my library "to read" list.

tammikuu 22, 3:01 am

>95 RidgewayGirl: Sounds very interesting ! Unfortunately the book doesn’t seem to be translated to French yet. I’ve been toying with the idea of reading in German for a while, but I doubt very much that my very rusty language skills would be up to it.

tammikuu 22, 9:31 am

>99 LolaWalser: That sounds like something I'd want to check out. Is it streaming somewhere?

tammikuu 22, 2:57 pm

>102 lisapeet:

If you mean the Audre Lorde docu, sorry, not sure--I borrowed the DVD from the library.

As for the BBC one, I found this on YouTube, about the British situation: WW2 'Brown Babies': A little-known part of British 20th Century history - BBC World Service podcast

About the German: 'Brown babies': The Mischlingskinder Story I can't find the longer version--and I know I saw this but don't remember whether it covers the same ground, it goes wider to encompass immigrants:

Afro Germany - Being black and German | DW Documentary

I suppose the key thing to remember is that when the war ended the US was still in full Jim Crow mode and interracial marriage was criminalized so this carried over and affected also the relationships of black Americans elsewhere. This also affected policy in West Germany, but I don't remember exactly what it involved (however, expatriating children was within possible outcomes).

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 22, 2:57 pm

So sorry! double!

tammikuu 22, 10:00 pm

>95 RidgewayGirl: That does look interesting.

tammikuu 22, 11:10 pm

>103 LolaWalser: I was thinking about Audre Lorde, but the Brown Babies doc looks good too. I'm very aspirational when it comes to watching things, because I never really sit down long enough to do it, but maybe someday.

tammikuu 23, 4:46 pm

>96 dchaikin: New to me, too. I ran across it at the library and decided to take a chance.

>98 lisapeet: Having lived in Germany for some years and had friends who were Ossies, I found it very interesting. And I'll read anything set in Berlin.

>99 LolaWalser: The Audre Lorde documentary sounds interesting. 1,000 Coils of Fear described one woman's experience in the DDR through the voice of her daughter, no comparison with the BRD was made.

>101 FlorenceArt: It was longlisted for the German Book Prize, so maybe a translation will eventually be published in French?

tammikuu 24, 2:11 pm

...he tries to compute why he finds one person's distance alluring while he finds his wife's distance funereal. The faucet pummels water in the tub; he listens to his wife pull the metal valve and wonders how much water is lost as it is rerouted between the faucet and the showered. James never lost interest in his wife, even after the color drained from her hair and her laugh, but she lost interest in him...

The Rabbit Hutch, Tess Gunty's debut novel, is certainly the literary book-of-the-moment, winning the National Book Award and laudatory reviews everywhere. Set largely in a decaying low-income apartment building in the fictional Indiana city of Vacca Vale, the novel follows a few residents and others, but focuses on Blandine, a teenager who shares an apartment with three boys, all of whom are, like her, graduates from the foster system. Blandine is brilliant and oddly charismatic and beautiful in an off-beat way. She loves mystics, especially medieval women, and likes to rant in what sounds like lengthy twitter threads. Everyone is drawn to her, from her high school drama teacher to the three boys who live in the same apartment, to a middle-aged woman who speaks to her once. Gunty has a writing style that sometimes feels over-written and witty for the sake of being witty, but which flows nicely and she does have an eye for the interesting detail.

I struggled with this novel, I really did. I loved the sections that weren't about or told from the perspective of Blandine, which is to say, there were a handful of chapters I enjoyed. But Blandine is the focus of the novel and of the people in this novel. She's beautiful and brilliant, and quirky and unique, and everyone thinks about her all the time. I like novels with unlikeable protagonists and I like books with likable main characters, but here is an unlikeable character whom everyone genuflects to and thinks about all the time. Random people notice how beautiful she is as she passes them on the street. I was bored with her and a little baffled that being told over and over that this character is fascinating is enough for many readers to decide that yes, she is. Anyway, greater minds than mine loved this book.

tammikuu 24, 2:45 pm

Heh. I image-googled the author aaaaand... a touch of Mary-Sueing mayhap?

tammikuu 24, 4:41 pm

yikes, think Ill leave that one alone and it won a booker?

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 24, 7:01 pm

>109 LolaWalser: Wow, wow, wow, definitely looks like it!

>110 cindydavid4:, No, the National Book Award. I usually like the books they choose, though.

tammikuu 24, 7:44 pm

>108 RidgewayGirl: "The faucet pummels water in the tub . . . "

Well, I can go along with 'The faucet pummels water into the tub . . . " Otherwise I've got a picture of the faucet sitting in the tub pummeling the water.

tammikuu 24, 10:12 pm

>112 rocketjk: It's the kind of writing that sounds great when you're sailing along, but when you slow down and look at it on a sentence level, it just doesn't work.

tammikuu 25, 12:32 am

>113 RidgewayGirl: hmmmm. I wonder what the editor was doing …

tammikuu 25, 7:36 am

I was curious, so I’m glad someone read it. Enjoyed your review and the comments. (I had to google Mary Sueing)

tammikuu 25, 9:14 am

>115 dchaikin: there is also a male equivalent Gary Stu

tammikuu 25, 1:40 pm

>108 RidgewayGirl: Hmm, think I'll pass on this one!

tammikuu 25, 1:55 pm

>111 RidgewayGirl:

lol... As I was reading your post... "Blandine" (common French/Italian fairy tale princess name), "mystics", random people observing how beautiful she is... all that conjured the image of a Burne-Jones maiden instanter! And I thought, now what are the chances...

>112 rocketjk:

Glad you mentioned that, I flinched too. One can see exactly the image she wanted to convey, but that verb just won't tolerate such mishandling. Water was pummeling the tub; the faucet is completely innocent.

tammikuu 25, 2:11 pm

>114 Nickelini: Maybe her editor liked it and considered it poetic or something.

>115 dchaikin: Alway happy to send someone into the depths of the internet!

>117 Cariola: It did win the National Book Award. It's a huge hit.

>118 LolaWalser: While reading the book, I wondered if Gunty based the character's appearance on Anya Taylor-Joy (from The Queen's Gambit and Emma, but when you sent me to look at an author photo, it all became clear.

tammikuu 25, 5:05 pm

I know it's inconvenient for many, but I do love waking up to a snowy day. Here's what things looked like at 7 the morning. The cat is Oliver who is thinking that he might be well-camouflaged if only his mom would let him go outside.

tammikuu 25, 5:41 pm

Pretty! Especially the branches.

tammikuu 26, 1:59 pm

>121 dchaikin: I love the look of snow-covered branches, but it's so windy here that it never stays that way for long.

tammikuu 26, 1:59 pm

Anna is A Very Nice Girl in her first year of training at a prestigious London conservatory to be an opera singer. She's struggling financially, working in a jazz bar and renting a room in a truly dire house, but she loves her craft. Then she meets an older man and begins a casual relationship with him and her life spins out of control.

I love novels in which women destroy their own lives and this is a variation of that, although Anna is less self-destructive than simply an over-whelmed person who make an occasional bad, but understandable, decision that balloons into disaster. It's less watching someone burn down their own life than it is a reminder at how precarious life is for so many. In Imogen Crimp's novel, Anna is hampered by having been raised by an anxious and over-protective mother and parents who do not support her, financially or emotionally. This is also a novel about the process of studying to become an opera singer, how competitive, repetitious and exciting that world is and how hard it is for someone without outside support and resources to make a go of it, regardless of talent. This is a well-written book that I enjoyed enormously.

tammikuu 26, 3:35 pm

The No-Show is a light novel by Beth O'Leary in which a man stands up three women on Valentine's Day. Told in alternating chapters about each of the three very different women, the story of their relationship (past, present and on-going) with this guy is described. He doesn't seem like a bad guy and yet he also seems shady, and the twist is fairly predictable, but O'Leary's writing is good and the story so engaging that by the time things are wrapped up in a much too tidy way, I was enjoying myself enough not to care.

tammikuu 27, 9:16 am

Your thoughts on The Rabbit Hutch were similar to mine, Kay. I really didn't know what to think about it when I finished. I thought maybe it was because I read it around the holidays when I was busy and distracted...

A Very Nice Girl sounds like one I would like.

tammikuu 27, 10:20 am

Just catching up again and amazed by how much you have devoured already this year. Lots of interesting things here, but when I got to I love novels in which women destroy their own lives I cracked up. Not the appropriate response, and I do know what you mean as I also find this theme intriguing, but it was all in the moment.

>31 RidgewayGirl: Interesting cover in that it seems to reference the science books published by Pelican way back. Someone knew what they were doing for this cover.
I read His Bloody Project and will read this one too.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 27, 4:40 pm

>125 BLBera: I'm glad not to be alone in not loving it. And regarding A Very Nice Girl -- I just really enjoy novels that go into detail about an artist's process.

>126 SassyLassy: Glad to make you laugh, SL.

tammikuu 31, 1:46 pm

>108 RidgewayGirl: I'm still kind of curious about The Rabbit Hutch... sometimes those reviews that find books somewhat but not 100% problematic pique my interest. So: maybe, maybe not.

tammikuu 31, 2:14 pm

>129 RidgewayGirl: I would very much like to find out what you think about it, if and when you do read it. I'm looking forward to the discussion about it in the Tournament of Books as I'd like to hear from people who didn't find the Blandine parts terrible, and why.

tammikuu 31, 10:37 pm

I actually liked the Blandine parts the best and was annoyed by the other parts. :)

helmikuu 1, 2:43 am

The Rabbit Hutch is on my radar for this year too, now I'm extra curious about it!

helmikuu 1, 3:01 pm

>130 BLBera: Beth, that intrigues me. Did you think the book worked as a whole? I suspect one needs to buy into Blandine's whole deal to enjoy the book.

>131 ursula: I'm eager to find out what you make of it.

helmikuu 2, 2:08 pm

When the American oil company first started work on the village's lands, the villagers were excited about the benefits and improvements that were sure to come. But what followed were lands destroyed and dying children, the water undrinkable and the village stuck between a company that insists that they'd like to help, but their hands are tied, and a government that silences anyone who might get in the way of the current arrangements.

How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue isn't a fun read, but it is an informative one. Mbue has made some interesting decisions about how she told this story, including the use of the first person plural for some chapters, a choice that works far better here than in other places I've encountered it. This is very much a book written by an African (Mbue was born in Cameroon and now lives in New York) for an American audience but it isn't a book that coddles the reader. It explains without over-simplifying. At heart, though, this is less a novel propelled by a story than one motivated by a cause.

helmikuu 3, 12:01 pm

Nice review of How Beautiful We Were, Kay. I've added it to my library wish list, and I'll consider reading it for the African Literature Challenge later this year.

helmikuu 3, 12:53 pm

helmikuu 3, 3:03 pm

>134 kidzdoc: Mbue makes interesting decisions in how she tells the story. It's worth reading.

>135 dchaikin: I'm thinking of reading Behold the Dreamers later this year.

helmikuu 4, 11:56 am

I loved both How Beautiful We Were and Behond the Dreamers, Kay. I agree that she made interesting narrative choices in her latest novel. Great comments, by the way.

helmikuu 7, 5:56 pm

Wow, wow, wow is Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz fantastic. It's a substantial book, and the first of a trilogy by a Nobel Prize-winning author and it certainly has the reputation as An Important Book, which put me off reading it despite having picked up a very nice copy over a decade ago. This book seemed like it would require effort and somehow I was never up for making the effort. And so when I finally pulled it down off of the shelf, I was astonished at how vibrant and fun this novel was, one of those rare novels where time disappeared while I was reading.

Set in Cairo, in the years before Egyptian independence from Britain, the novel centers on al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad and his family. In public, Sayyid is the life of the party, a fun-loving and generous man who loves nothing more than gathering with his friends, drinking and singing, and sleeping with a series of mistresses. At home, however, he is intent on having a strictly observant religious household, the women who stay home and never show their faces to anyone outside the family, and sons who obey his every order and remain free of all vice. At home, his genial personality transforms into one that is quick to rage. Each family member reacts differently to their circumstances and the novel concerns itself with domestic issues and the crises that pop up in ordinary life, until the dissatisfaction with being an occupied country is expressed in demonstrations and rebellion and the family has to adjust to these new circumstances.

Mahfouz writes so engagingly about ordinary life of a shopkeeper's family that it's impossible not to be drawn into their lives. He's clear about the restrictions placed on women and how onerous and damaging that is, while also showing how a rigid, patriarchal society harms everyone in it, even the ones in charge. He also goes into detail about what life was like in that time and place, in a way that makes me eager to jump into the second book of the trilogy.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 7, 6:10 pm

Hi!! Cool thread :)
>72 RidgewayGirl: I've just recently borrowed this book from a friend, I haven't gotten too far on it but this review makes me excited to keep reading! Thank you!

>123 RidgewayGirl: Wow, I will look into reading this one. Looks interesting!

helmikuu 7, 10:16 pm

>139 liz4444: Hi, Liz! Palace Walk is well worth the time it takes to get pulled into the story. It's a rewarding read.

helmikuu 8, 7:40 am

>138 RidgewayGirl: I had much the same reaction as you, Kay, when I read Palace Walk, although I doubt I expressed it as nicely. I too was pulled into the entire trilogy, and while I enjoyed the rest, the first was something special.

helmikuu 8, 11:22 am

>138 RidgewayGirl: Oh, I plan to read this is a few weeks time. I've read so many positive reviews, including yours, that I am eager to start this small-print 600+ book! Great you liked it so much!

helmikuu 8, 11:37 am

>1 RidgewayGirl: I love this painting! There is a neo-expressionist painter, Elvira Bach, and her work kind of reminds me of this one. They are definitely different styles but the expressionism and the similar energy is there!
>140 RidgewayGirl: I will check Palace Walk out for sure :) your book reviews are really convincing!

helmikuu 8, 1:58 pm

>141 labfs39: I have a copy of Palace of Desire ready and waiting.

>142 raton-liseur: It does not feel like you are reading a massive tome while you are reading. It's all so immediate and real.

>143 liz4444: I had never heard of Elvira Bach's work and have just enjoyed taking a look. I can see the similarities.

helmikuu 9, 2:35 pm

>138 RidgewayGirl: You’ve added Palace Walk to my wish list, Kay. It does sound good.

helmikuu 9, 4:57 pm

>138 RidgewayGirl: fun inspiring review!

helmikuu 9, 6:06 pm

>145 NanaCC: Colleen, I think you'll really like it.

>146 dchaikin: Thank you, Dan. My head is now twice its usual size.

helmikuu 11, 10:41 am

>138 RidgewayGirl: I loved this book, but read it so long ago I think I'd want to reread it before tackling the rest of the trilogy (I have all of them sitting on my shelf). That's one that definitely wouldn't suffer from a second read, especially since my first time around I was much younger and had less of a picture of Egypt's more recent history.

helmikuu 12, 3:29 pm

>138 RidgewayGirl: I hated the main character too much to enjoy the book myself. Interesting to hear another take. I think others around me also enjoyed the book, but it put me off Mafouz and I never read anything else by him :-/

helmikuu 12, 4:15 pm

>149 FlorenceArt: Oh, I was enraged by Sayyid every time he appeared on the page. Such a fantastically written character to create that kind of anger in a reader. But I've never had a problem with novels with unlikeable protagonists. They are far more interesting than blandly good ones, in my opinion.

helmikuu 13, 7:20 pm

Set in an alternate history world, 2 A.M. in Little America by Ken Kalfus tells the story of Ron, an American living as an immigrant in an unspecified country, getting by working as a servicer of some unspecified machine that is in many buildings, from office building to government buildings to apartment buildings. The US is still involved in a bitter civil war, one that makes it impossible for him to return and so he lives a sort of impoverished shadow life, avoiding anyone's notice. But the life of a refugee is an uncertain one, and almost as soon as he's started a relationship, he is forced to hastily migrate to another country, eventually ending up in an enclave of American refugees in an unspecified Asian country. But the divisions that led to civil war in the US are also present in this ghetto and no matter how hard he tries, Ron is unable to stay under the radar.

This novel is intentionally vague, from refusing to ground any of the places Ron lives in an identifiable country to giving Ron the inability to recognize faces. The whole story feels foggy. The conceit; what if Americans were the refugees? is an interesting one, somewhat undercut by the vague descriptions, which made it harder for the book to make an emotional impact. I found the lack of anchor points frustrating even as I found many of the points this book made were worth thinking about.

helmikuu 15, 11:08 am

>138 RidgewayGirl: Wonderful review. I downloaded this book for the African Novel Challenge but haven't gotten around to it yet. But I'm looking forward to it even more now.

helmikuu 15, 2:01 pm

>152 Trifolia: Monica, the African Novel Challenge has me pulling books off of my tbr shelf and excited to read them.

helmikuu 15, 2:01 pm

Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra is a novel that moves from Italy in the early days of fascism there, to the back lots and sound stages of a Hollywood studio. Along the way, Marra tells us the stories of con men and desperate sons, of feuding brothers and absent mothers and a movie studio teetering on the edge of insolvency. At the center of the story is Maria, a girl when her father is arrested and sent into internal exile, who immigrates to Los Angeles with her mother, grows up and begins work at a movie studio, where she works her way up to run the place for her boss, a man of many toupees and a summons to appear before a Congressional committee. Maria works in a studio filled with the flotsam and jetsam of the war in Europe, all hiding secrets. Maria has one of her own, and her chances to come clean are narrowing by the day.

So this is a big novel, both in size and sweep. Marra doesn't limit himself to only a few characters or only a few places. It's a testament to his skill that it all comes together as well as it does; that his many diversions into side characters don't sink the story he's telling, but instead enhance it. This was a fast-paced novel with some happy endings, but also some tragic ones. Marra manages to write a novel full of heart without tipping into sentimentality. It was a lot of fun to read.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 15, 5:22 pm

I enjoyed (not aure thats the right word) his A constellation of vital phenomena I felt the same way about how he managed to juggle many story lines so easily in that one. Been wanting to take a look at the new one, Ill do so based on your review

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 16, 11:39 am

>155 cindydavid4: While it has moments of tragedy, Mercury Pictures Presents is both broader in scope and more optimistic than A Constellation of Vital Phenomena.

helmikuu 16, 2:47 pm

good to know, thanks

helmikuu 16, 2:52 pm

>151 RidgewayGirl: hmm. 2 A.M. in Little America sounds a little forced. ??

>154 RidgewayGirl: Mercury Pictures Presents sounds very interesting.

helmikuu 16, 3:46 pm

>158 dchaikin: As a concept, yes, probably. I was fine with that, just irked by the constant over-vagueness. I needed more details to feel grounded in the story. The style of writing felt a lot like Jesse Ball's Census -- a sort of attempt to feel universal by not giving anything of substance.

helmikuu 16, 4:32 pm

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin is the story of two people who meet when they are young and thought their lives they alternate periods of intense friendship with long stretches of not speaking to each other. Along the way, they design some computer games and found a company. The tone of the story is angsty and full of unspoken longing, very YA in feel (this is not to disparage the genre, but as a descriptor of the tone). Much of the drama and angst of this story would not occur had the characters ever been willing to have an open conversation, which leads me to my frustration with this book -- I have little patience for conflicts that could be solved over a five dollar Frappuccino. Talk to each other, people. That said, there was one chapter in which the death of a character was described as though they were playing a video game which was surprisingly effective, but I did run out of patience for the two main characters long before I ran out of book.

helmikuu 17, 8:37 am

Oh, nice review. I’ve come across a zillion but yours may be the first to give me a sense of the storyline and what the novel is actually like. Good communication would kill a lot novels.

helmikuu 17, 8:49 am

>160 RidgewayGirl: Much of the drama and angst of this story would not occur had the characters ever been willing to have an open conversation, which leads me to my frustration with this book -- I have little patience for conflicts that could be solved over a five dollar Frappuccino.

yup totally agree , more than a few of those were DNF.

helmikuu 17, 12:40 pm

>161 dchaikin: Ha! Yes, you're right, of course. But when all conflict is avoided in every instance by the two protagonists simply not speaking for years, it's just not that interesting. Conflict is needed for a novel to work and two people sitting in different places contemplating their feelings makes for a less exciting book than one where they have an argument. I do get that the reason the author chose to write it this way is to amplify the angst and tender feelings of the characters, but I've never been a big fan of navel-gazing.

>162 cindydavid4: Cindy, I would never have picked this one up were it not a competitor in the upcoming Tournament of Books. It goes up against a much quieter, but more substantial book, Lydia Millet's Dinosaurs, so hopefully it will fall out of the competition in the first round.

helmikuu 17, 3:20 pm

Trespasses by Louise Kennedy is a novel set in a garrison town near Belfast, Northern Ireland, in early seventies. Cushla is a young woman, working as a primary school teacher at a Catholic school, living with her alcoholic mother and helping out at the family-owned pub, one that serves members of the military, the RUC and others on the Protestant side of the sectarian divide. She's a teacher who is concerned about her students, especially Davy, a boy from a "mixed" family, the mother Protestant. They live at the back of a housing estate, their walls tagged with graffiti and enduring a constant low level of harassment. Cushla is lonely, although she is slowly forming a friendship with the teacher who teaches the other half of the seven-year-olds. So when she catches the eye of the charismatic barrister Michael Agnew, she is willing to fall in love, despite he being much older, Protestant and married.

This was, to me, a perfect novel. It vividly portrayed a specific time and place, the characters were all so well crafted and complex and Cushla is a wonderful protagonist, brave and with a sarcastic sense of humor that sees her through so much. She's also very much a twenty-four year old woman, still figuring things out and unsure about a lot. Kennedy writes with such immediacy and the dialog shines. I'm pretty sure this is the best book I'll read this year, which makes writing anything about it difficult.

helmikuu 18, 1:12 pm

>154 RidgewayGirl: I enjoyed that one. It took me a little while to get into his style of verbal cleverness—it felt a bit like mugging for the camera until I just relaxed and went with it—but I thought it actually suited the subject matter and that great sweeping scope. Definitely a big sweeping book that didn't feel overly long even though it was something like 600 pages (I think... I read it in e).

helmikuu 19, 11:27 am

Great review of Trespasses, Kay; I've added it to my library wish list.

helmikuu 19, 12:14 pm

helmikuu 19, 12:35 pm

>164 RidgewayGirl: Yep, onto my wish list too. I've seen Louise Kennedy popping up on various literary discussions locally. This debut novel seems to have got rave reviews far and wide.

helmikuu 19, 1:06 pm

>164 RidgewayGirl: Sounds terrific. Great review

helmikuu 19, 2:00 pm

>165 lisapeet: I thought there was an old-fashioned feel to the writing, and it didn't feel at all overly long despite it's size. The many digressions into the lives of secondary (and even tertiary) characters were so interesting. Some of the wildest bits were based on real events -- like that Berlin neighborhood in the desert.

>166 kidzdoc:, >167 japaul22: & >169 dchaikin:, It's such a vividly rendered picture of a specific time and place. I love books like that.

>168 AlisonY: I would definitely like to find out what you think of it.

helmikuu 19, 8:48 pm

>164 RidgewayGirl: You've sold me on Trespasses, Kay.

helmikuu 19, 9:06 pm

>164 RidgewayGirl: I thought I had this, but apparently not... so on the wishlist it goes.

helmikuu 20, 11:55 am

You’ve added Trespasses and Mercury Pictures Presents to my wishlist, Kay. Both sound great.

helmikuu 20, 6:35 pm

Don't Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones is both the middle book in a trilogy and a slasher novel, combining two things I don't usually like; series and horror. Which is to say, I liked the first book in this trilogy, My Heart is a Chainsaw, well enough to jump right into the second book. And *spoiler alert* I'm planning to read the third book when it is published. Because it is the second book in a horror trilogy, spoilers are unavoidable for the first book. Just letting you know.

A handful of years after the massacre, Jade returns to Proofrock along with an enormous snowstorm which has everyone hunkering down at home. She reunites with her friend Letha, still recovering from her injuries but also married and mother to a toddler. At the same time, a transport moving a serial killer disappears in that same storm. Is it a surprise when the serial killer, a man as well-versed in slasher lore as Jade, shows up in Proofrock?

What makes this book interesting are Jade and Letha and their relationship and knowledge that it's up to them, once again, to stop what's happening. They believe themselves too old to be the target of the killer, but they are certainly willing to take him out, at considerable risk to themselves. Jones manages to make the secondary characters interesting as he gives attention to both characters from the previous books, and a few new ones. Especially well done is the chapter about Jade's mother's life. This is a horror novel that absolutely respects the genre, but it's also a novel about people living in an isolated town in the Wyoming mountains.

helmikuu 21, 3:13 am

Ah I didn't realize it was a trilogy, I've been meaning to get to My Heart Is a Chainsaw, now I'll go into it with that bit of information. :)

helmikuu 22, 12:52 pm

>175 ursula: It is, but the first book stands quite well on its own, so you can decide if you want to continue after reading that one.

helmikuu 22, 3:24 pm

Set on a tiny island, off the coast of an unnamed African country, An Island by Karen Jennings tells the story of Samuel, an elderly lighthouse keeper, and what happens when a man washes up on the shore of his island. Samuel's history, including a long stretch in prison as well as years alone on this lonely island, inform his reaction to the strange man, with whom he cannot communicate.

I'm not sure what I think about this book. It's another book where details are deliberately kept vague in an attempt, I think, to make the story feel like a universal one. And, being told solely from the point of view of Samuel, the novel never reveals much about the stranger. This should work, but when the only point of view the reader has access to is a person who doesn't think deeply or understand much of what goes on around him, I'm not sure it does. Sorry to be so uncertain and ambiguous, but I'm not sure how I feel about it, not in a "there's a ton here to think about" kind of way, but more in a "this book makes me feel uncomfortable about its motivations" sort of way.

On a positive note, the island itself is crisply and vividly described, as are the lighthouse keeper's routines. His work to cultivate and tame his environment is described along with the constant maintenance that requires. Jennings also writes movingly about what it means to grow old and how it feels to have a body not up for what needs to be done.

helmikuu 22, 10:17 pm

Today marks my fifteenth Thingaversary. It doesn't feel that long!

And while I began the year with the intention of reading whatever I felt like in the moment, the Tournament of Books derailed that plan by presenting me with a list and a deadline. I'm going to recalibrate and aim a little more deliberately at not reading because of obligation.

helmikuu 22, 10:59 pm

Happy Thingaversary, Kay. Good luck with your reading plans -- or unplans. :)

helmikuu 23, 7:34 am

>178 RidgewayGirl: Happy 15th, Kay! How are you intending to celebrate?

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 23, 9:09 am

>174 RidgewayGirl: the title prompted Blue Oyster Cult to go on repeat in my head

>177 RidgewayGirl: I read this review in light of the comments on The Trees. Interesting. I’m trying to remember what captivated me. I think it was the island itself, the idea of isolation and spare simplicity. And the unrealized promise it proffered, maybe. Certainly I hoped for a different ending .

helmikuu 23, 1:01 pm

>179 BLBera: Thanks, Beth. I have got to be more deliberate about not planning, because it is so easy to choose a book based on external pushes.

>180 labfs39: Thanks, Lisa. The tradition is to buy a book for every year and one to grow on, but at this point, that's ridiculous. Maybe I'll just be a little more generous to myself at any bookstores I wander into.

>181 dchaikin: Yes, that ending was powerful and surprised me, although it was the right ending for that book.

helmikuu 23, 2:41 pm

>182 RidgewayGirl: My 15th Thingaversary is next month and I'm going to treat myself to some books, but over time. I've already purchased 6 at a $2 per book sale on Daedulus (Including Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up, which I've been wanting), but have set them aside and not added them to LT or anything until next month. Saturday is the library book sale, and with luck I'll find some more to add to my pile.

helmikuu 23, 3:38 pm

>183 labfs39: Oh, when it comes to a big book sale, all bets are off. Have a lot of fun!

helmikuu 23, 5:55 pm

>177 RidgewayGirl: I _love_ that cover. I wonder if it's manipulated or someone just hit a lucky moment. Pity the book doesn't sound like something I'd enjoy at all.

helmikuu 25, 4:34 pm

Uh-oh, I missed my thingaversary. I have no business buying a pile of books, though, so that's probably a good thing. But happy 15th to you!

helmikuu 25, 5:23 pm

>185 jjmcgaffey: It's a little too perfect to not be manipulated, but definitely a very good cover. I'm tired of the bright blocks of color that say nothing about the book in question.

>186 lisapeet: I don't either, Lisa, and I'm not even in the mood to buy books. There are so many already in my house that I want to read right now.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 27, 1:34 pm

Very sad news: one of our favorite Atlanta area restaurants closed earlier this month, after a costly robbery in January, followed by storm damage later in the month. The owner, Kevin Gillespie, hopes to reopen elsewhere later this year.

Kevin Gillespie Closes His Decatur Restaurant Revival, but Might Reopen It Elsewhere

I can't remember if Lisa (labfs39) ever joined us whenever you, Pattie and I dined there.

helmikuu 27, 1:37 pm

>188 kidzdoc: Lisa only joined us at The Iberian Pig, but you, I and Pattie had a great dinner there, and the following year Benita joined us for an excellent Sunday brunch. That is sad to hear.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 27, 1:41 pm

>189 RidgewayGirl: That's right; it was Benita (benitastrnad) who had brunch with the three of us at Revival, probably in 2019. I remember Lisa and her friend dining with us at The Iberian Pig during the 2018 Decatur Book Festival. Good times...

helmikuu 27, 1:42 pm

>190 kidzdoc: They were very good times. And to think I blithely thought that they would continue forever.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 27, 1:44 pm

>191 RidgewayGirl: Right. The COVID-19 pandemic ruined so many things, including the Labor Day weekend long Decatur Book Festival.

helmikuu 27, 5:08 pm

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka is a wild ride of a book. Maali wakes up dead in his hometown of Columbo, Sri Lanka with no idea of how he died. He has seven nights (moons) before he has to decide between going on to whatever eternity is or be trapped on earth as a ghoul. He desperately wants to find out how he died, but this is far from an easy thing to find out. The world of spirits, of ghosts and demons, isn't easy to negotiate and Maali was a photojournalist who took the kinds of pictures any number of groups and people would gladly kill him to stop from coming to light; he's also a gambler with debts, a man with many lovers and a partner whose father hates him. As Maali looks for ways to tell a friend where his negatives are hidden and looks for clues as to his quick and violent end, the world of the spirits and life on the streets of Columbo continues.

It took me several pages to find my footing with this novel, which leaves the reader as disoriented as the titular character as the author slowly reveals the structure of the novel and the framework of Maali's life and afterlife. There's a lot going on here, but stick with it, this is a rewarding and inventive novel.

helmikuu 27, 5:20 pm

Glad you enjoyed. And, I completely agree with your last sentence.

helmikuu 27, 5:55 pm

>194 dchaikin: Dan, thanks for the advice to stick with it.

maaliskuu 1, 4:28 pm

I'm also glad that you enjoyed The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, Kay, as it was one of my favorite books of 2022. A wild ride, indeed!

maaliskuu 2, 4:17 pm

>133 RidgewayGirl: Interesting....

Happy 15th Thingaversary! Celebrate, go wild!!

maaliskuu 2, 5:08 pm

>197 avaland: There are a quantity of new releases coming up that will end up in my hands, don't worry!

maaliskuu 3, 9:55 am

>193 RidgewayGirl: Oh good, looking forward to this one.

maaliskuu 5, 4:51 pm

>199 lisapeet: My recommendation is to just go with the book from the first sentence. It's confusing at the start, but things fall into place as you go.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 5, 4:52 pm

In The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb, Ray, an up-and-coming violinist about to take part in the most prestigious music competition in the world, has his violin stolen. His violin is not just an expensive instrument, but a Stradivarius he inherited from his Grandmother. As the days tick by, Ray attempts to raise money for the ransom and to keep preparing for the competition, even as he searches for his beloved instrument with the help of the FBI. There are no shortage of suspects, from the family that enslaved his ancestor and who claim the violin was stolen by him in the final days of the Civil War, to his own family, who didn't care about the old fiddle until its worth was revealed.

So this is a mash-up of thriller and novel about the experience of growing up and becoming a Classical musician who is Black and the racism that comes with being part of a profession where there are very few Black people. Slocumb is himself a musician and pulled some of the events in the book directly from his own life. It's easy to read and the characterizations are very much in keeping with the thriller genre, with some characters being one dimensional. There's a lot more backstory and descriptions of Ray's development as a musician than I suspect many thriller fans would prefer, but despite not quite being one kind of thing or the other, this was a book I really enjoyed once I saw what it was doing. Slocumb's writing style is very easy to read and he knows how to balance the sections exploring Ray's past with the momentum of a mystery to be solved.

maaliskuu 5, 8:32 pm

Nice review of The Violin Conspiracy, Kay. Someone else had written a positive review of it, so it's already in my library wish list.

maaliskuu 6, 8:16 am

>201 RidgewayGirl: Great review; that's definitiely a book bullet. I actually love books that blend genres, so your description of The Violin Conspiracy as "not one thing or the other" only increases its appeal for me.

maaliskuu 6, 9:05 am

>201 RidgewayGirl: great review. It makes me think about the father of James McBride - who died before he was born. He was a talented and serious musician who moved from North Carolina to NY, but had to find other work because no orchestras hired black musicians in the 1930’s.

maaliskuu 6, 4:29 pm

>202 kidzdoc: Darryl, it's a good book for when you want something light that doesn't insult your intelligence.

>203 Julie_in_the_Library: I like blending the lines between genres, too. In this case, it gave the meatier coming-of-age story a nice framework.

>204 dchaikin: There's a story of Ray playing in a chamber orchestra when he is a teenager that the author pulled directly from his own experience that is quite something.

maaliskuu 6, 6:00 pm

I found this picture today. Isn't it an entire novel?

maaliskuu 6, 6:59 pm

>206 RidgewayGirl: Oh, I love that! Where did you find it? Do you know who it is?

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 6, 9:19 pm

>207 japaul22: No, it was posted on twitter with the message that they knew nothing about where the photo came from, but they are fascinated by it. And rightly so.

Ok, I did an image search and discovered that it was taken by Félix Thiollier (c. 1899) and it's called The Horse Trainer.

maaliskuu 10, 1:24 pm

>201 RidgewayGirl: That one sounds interesting. A few years ago I read a memoir by a former Korean child prodigy who had her Stradivarius stolen. She ended up being unable to perform, and her life basically fell apart. The interesting thing was that the thieves didn't know what they were taking--they initially tried to sell the violin, worth almost $1 million, for 100 pounds. (The book is Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym.

maaliskuu 11, 6:55 am

>201 RidgewayGirl: Great review, added to the WL!

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 11, 10:07 am

>209 arubabookwoman: Ooh, that's a book bullet for me. That makes 35 books that you've placed on my wishlist, Deborah!

ETA: And of the ones I've read, they average 4*. Only one didn't work for me, Almost Dead by Assaf Gavron, and I didn't write a review so I don't remember why. :-)

maaliskuu 12, 8:40 am

What a lovely, evocative photo. The Violin Conspiracy looks good—I'll keep an eye out for it

maaliskuu 14, 9:50 am

>201 RidgewayGirl: My work book club is reading this one in December, so I'm glad to see your positive review. We tend to read literary, historical and nonfiction so it may be comparatively a break for us.

>206 RidgewayGirl: Oh wow, that's such a cool image!

maaliskuu 15, 1:27 pm

>206 RidgewayGirl: Love that photo!

maaliskuu 17, 5:05 pm

>209 arubabookwoman: That's fascinating, Deborah. I wonder if Slocumb got the idea for his novel there.

>210 MissBrangwen: Thanks, I enjoyed the way this book was both coming of age novel and mystery.

>211 labfs39: Club Read is a rich source of book recommendations!

>212 lisapeet:, >213 bell7: & >214 Cariola: It's just an extraordinary image. I want to know the whole story.

maaliskuu 18, 4:40 pm

But the moment he shut the apartment door, Ingrid couldn't help but feel a drop of relief. Although self-pity could be magnified when others corroborated it, in truth it was best enjoyed alone. Now she could sink into her lowness, really swim around and bathe in it. She also had no intention of calling anyone.

Ingrid Yang has always worked hard. Currently, she's stalled out on her dissertation, mainly because the subject matter, the famous Chinese-American poet Xiao-Wen Chou, isn't a subject that interests her, but is the subject that puts her in the running for a tenure-track job after she graduates. An accidental discovery sends her on a wild investigation, helped by her best friend Eunice Kim, that leads her to a startling discovery about the poet and into the middle of campus politics.

By all accounts, Stephen Greene was plain. He had a plain, thin face and plain brown hair. He wore plain glasses and preferred plain clothes paired with plain, unpatterned socks. He had the face of an unremarkable passerby or, when he stood in shadowy lighting, of someone on the sex offender registry.

Ingrid is a wonderful character and Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou is a lot of fun, even if it is sometimes heavy-handed in its parody of campus politics, especially as the rotate around the subjects of race and gender. Ingrid has always kept her head down and worked hard and now that she's faced with the destruction of all her years of study, she's determined to do the right thing, if only she can figure out what that is. I do love campus novels and this one has reinforced my love of them.

maaliskuu 18, 7:00 pm

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards is a novel about a decision made in an instant that has repercussions for decades. When Dr. Henry's wife goes into labor during a snowstorm, he ends up delivering the baby with the help of a nurse at his Lexington, Kentucky clinic. But there is an unexpected second baby and this baby has Down's syndrome. What the doctor decides to do puts a secret at the heart of his marriage.

So this is a book with a lot going on. It was a bestseller and a book club favorite and if you like a story where all the people have a lot of emotions and secrets and yet somehow a reasonably happy ending, this is the book for you. I didn't buy into the heightened emotions and would have set this book aside had it not been a book club pick. The writing was serviceable enough, I guess. I really dislike the "look at these people having Very Intense Feelings And Not Communicating" trope, so this was never going to be the book for me.

maaliskuu 21, 1:11 pm

What if someone wrote My Brilliant Friend about psychopaths? It might look a lot like Yiyun Li's The Book of Goose, which tells the story of a girl living in a poor French village soon after the end of WWII, whose best friend, Fabienne, is cleverer than she is and the leader of the two, but also a girl who has left formal schooling early and lacks even the small opportunities that Agnes has. When one of Fabienne's ideas leads Agnes away from the village and their friendship, neither girl knows what the repercussions will be.

Told from the point of view of an adult Agnes, this novel evokes the intensity of childhood friendships and the impossibility of returning to a life once you've left it. The games the girls play to amuse themselves, are games in which the emotions, and even the fates, of the people they target are utterly unimportant to them and these are girls whose precocity allows them to do real damage. This is a book about how two girls, utterly powerless to affect anything and stuck in the roles they were born into, took charge of their lives using their wits and their willingness to do what they needed to do. Their actions were often monstrous, but also necessary to their survival, even if in one case it wasn't enough.

I loved this book with its deeply flawed characters and beautiful writing. It's not a book for everyone, but if you're comfortable feeling uneasy, you might love it, too.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 21, 7:38 pm

Great and intriguing review of The Book of Goose, Kay.

Did you see that the Decatur Book Festival has been cancelled this year?

Decatur Book Festival Pauses in 2023 to come back stronger in 2024

The chance of me going this year were already very slim, so I'm not particularly disappointed.

maaliskuu 21, 10:55 pm

>219 kidzdoc: Pattie texted me about that earlier today. I'm glad we got to go in its heyday. And I hope it does come back strong.

maaliskuu 22, 6:17 am

>218 RidgewayGirl: I don't see myself reading this one, but I really love the cover.

maaliskuu 22, 10:05 am

>218 RidgewayGirl: My Brilliant Friend about psychopaths sent me directly to Libby. I've got a hold on it now.

maaliskuu 22, 1:23 pm

>221 japaul22: The cover is why I bought a copy of this instead of getting it from the library. And since I liked it so much, this worked out for me.

>222 ursula: Ha! I can see our reading tastes are closely aligned.

maaliskuu 22, 6:38 pm

>218 RidgewayGirl: For me, this one was a disappointment. I liked her previous books so much better.

maaliskuu 22, 6:45 pm

>224 Cariola: My book club is reading A Thousand Years of Good Prayers next, so I'll be reading more by her soon.

maaliskuu 22, 6:51 pm

>225 RidgewayGirl: Oh, that's a good one! She has another short story collection that I also enjoyed, Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, and The Vagrants was wonderful.

maaliskuu 22, 6:58 pm

>226 Cariola: I'm a fan based on the one book you didn't like, Deborah! No convincing necessary. I am constantly reminded at how many excellent and well-established authors there are that I've never heard of.

maaliskuu 22, 7:06 pm

>227 RidgewayGirl: Have you read anything by Han Kang? Her books are brutal but so moving. Not for the weak of heart.

maaliskuu 22, 7:40 pm

>228 Cariola: Yes, The Vegetarian and Human Acts. Human Acts is one of the most brilliant novels I have read. I haven't read The White Book yet.

maaliskuu 22, 7:50 pm

>226 Cariola: Gold Boy, Emerald Girl was such a good collection.

maaliskuu 22, 8:01 pm

>229 RidgewayGirl: Added Human Acts to my wishlist

maaliskuu 22, 10:42 pm

>231 labfs39: Lisa, this book will eviscerate you.

maaliskuu 23, 2:36 am

>223 RidgewayGirl: Yes! f I hadn't already read Human Acts, seeing you describe it in >232 RidgewayGirl: as a book that would eviscerate you would also send me straight to it. :)

maaliskuu 23, 7:17 am

>218 RidgewayGirl: - I've seen this cover before and always been drawn to the book based on that alone. And your comment in >227 RidgewayGirl: about how many great authors there are that we've never heard of is so true. Although, LT has really made a difference for me there.

maaliskuu 23, 2:27 pm

My Volcano by John Elizabeth Stintzi is a weirdo of a book. Jumping among a large collection of characters, most of whom do not interact with each other, the novel jumps back and forth through time, or maybe through alternate fates, most of which are bizarre, but some are very normal.

One day, a mountain begins to grow in Central Park. It grows at a rapid rate, sending scientists, tourists and New York residents into a frenzy, and then things calm down and the mountain becomes background, or it takes out a large part of the tri-state area, sending millions into refugee camps hastily erected in neighboring states. This is a novel about ecological disaster and the end of the world, where a malevolent golem-like creature does battle with an entity composed of foliage and bees. There's a guy who flies back to New York from his family home in Hawai'i only to find that he also stayed in Hawai'i. Meanwhile, a young writer deals with an ant problem, and buildings, from tents to apartment buildings, grow animal legs and go places. And everything is fine, or the world ends; it's kind of hard to tell.

This is experimental fiction that follows the exuberant imagination of Stintzi's brain. There's a real fondness for all of the characters and a steadfast hope in the resiliency of the human spirit that grounds this truly bizarre novel. Each character gets a short chapter (there are hundreds of chapters) then the book moves on to the next character, only to circle back to an earlier character, who may or may not be in the same situation they were when their previous chapter ended. Sometimes, dead characters return, having never died at all. I liked Stintzi's love for their characters and the sheer audacity of their imagination, even as I was reminded that I like a little more grounding in reality and a more cohesive kind of novel.

maaliskuu 24, 5:22 pm

I still go into the city sometimes. When it cannot be avoided, I, as we used to say, very-nice myself. I powder my face, paint my lips red, and subdue my body into skintight jeans. I brace myself for the city center and its deceptions.

The stories that make up Call and Response by Gothataone Moeng are all set in Botswana, most in the town of Serowe, but also in the Capitol city of Gabarone. Most are coming-of-age stories, mostly following young women as they try to find their way in a world sandwiched between traditional expectations and modern aspirations. The author grew up in Serowe, where she currently lives, but she attended university in the US and this collection is written with its western audience in mind.

Every winter, Mrs. Botho Kennekae's husband took time off from his driving job in the city and spent three weeks at the cattle-post, where he did whatever men did there--presumably off the softness they withheld from everyone to their cattle, for the cattle were the great loves of their lives, so beloved the men called them wet-nosed gods, so beloved the men agreed: without cattle, a man pined and lost his sleep; still, having cattle, a man fretted and lost his sleep.

Moeng writes well, but where she shines is in her character studies. From an earnest young man trying to avoid any sinful activity, to a lonely married woman who may not have told her family the truth about her life in Gabarone, all of Moeng's characters are wonderfully complex and full of life. I really enjoyed this peek into a place I know very little about.

maaliskuu 25, 2:39 pm

I look back, thinking that only the matte black walls, the mirrors, lights, pole, faux-velvet-and-vinyl-seats will remain the same, the atmospheric voice of the DJ a steady and placating drone. The rest in interchangeable: the bouncers, the girls, the customers. And it seems we're all the same person coming from work with money meant for better things; coming from a job we lost, wishing that the next one lasts long enough to get us by; coming from nowhere only to follow someone who needs something from us into a room where we hope they at least turn on the light before closing us in.

In Sinking Bell: Stories by Navajo author Bojan Louis people struggle to get by. They struggle to find a future and do their job and get paid what they are owed. Set in and around Flagstaff, Arizona, these characters all exist as outsiders on the margins of society. In Trickster Gods a young man who is trying to remain sober waits for his girlfriend to finish partying. In Volcano, another young man lives in a motel room with his cousin's son, a boy with Downs Syndrome, while trying to keep his job as an underpaid electrician. In Usefulness an ex-convict finds that the job he was hired to do is different from the one he ends up doing. In each of the stories, the characters fight against their pasts and against the circumstances they find themselves in. This is gritty, life on the edges stuff and hope comes hard in these sharply-written stories.

maaliskuu 27, 6:21 pm

Birnam Wood is a collective, one of those groups where all decisions are voted on and the chair of meetings rotates around the membership, at least half of whom are vegan. But really Mira is the driving force. This guerrilla gardening collective is her idea and it's her energy that drives in on. Shelley is the one who does all the administrative tasks and makes Mira's ideas work. But it's never been self-sustaining and now Shelley wants to leave. She hasn't told Mira yet, but Mira can see the cracks as well as anyone. And then Mira finds a perfect place to do some larger scale gardening and there's even a billionaire there who is talking about funding them in a way that could really get the project from a volunteer project to a viable concern. Of course, this means trusting the kind of person Mira had always considered the enemy and hiding a few details from the rest of Birnam Wood, but this is far too good an opportunity to turn down, isn't it?

Eleanor Catton's book is one that begins as a character study of a diverse array of stock characters, to a sort of eco-thriller in its final third. Does it work as a novel? Yes and also I expected more from Catton, a superlatively gifted writer who gave us both the unsettling The Rehersal and the expansive and intricate The Luminaries. I do like what Catton attempted here, with all the many characters going in their many directions and the way she is poking gentle fun at the dynamics of groups and left-leaning individuals, and less gentle fun at the wealthy. Her plot was improbable, but she wrote it so well that I was able to go with it. It was ham-fisted at times, but within acceptable limits. Which is to say, had the author been anyone else, I would have had a more favorable opinion of it, but is it fair to hold Catton to a higher standard when even a great author is going to have less-than-great books? After all, I honestly enjoyed this novel.

maaliskuu 27, 8:12 pm

>236 RidgewayGirl: I love both the sections you quoted!

maaliskuu 28, 7:32 am

>238 RidgewayGirl: There it is, the review I've been waiting for!

I do like what Catton attempted here, with all the many characters going in their many directions and the way she is poking gentle fun at the dynamics of groups and left-leaning individuals, and less gentle fun at the wealthy. Her plot was improbable, but she wrote it so well that I was able to go with it. It was ham-fisted at times, but within acceptable limits. Which is to say, had the author been anyone else, I would have had a more favorable opinion of it, but is it fair to hold Catton to a higher standard when even a great author is going to have less-than-great books?

I agree with all of this, except that I would go the other way at the end. Meaning that, if the author had been anyone but Catton, I wouldn't have made it past the first 50 pages and would have set the book aside. But knowing that Catton wrote it made me at least give it a chance. In the end, I think she was more successful at writing a book around this particular plot/characters than anyone else would have been.

But I still don't think I would recommend it widely.

maaliskuu 28, 9:41 am

>238 RidgewayGirl: Love the idea of a guerrilla gardening collective. It sounds like plot material for Margaret Atwood or T C Boyle. I haven't read Catton as yet.

maaliskuu 28, 1:46 pm

>239 wandering_star: Gothataone Moeng writes well and I'm looking forward to reading her novel whenever that is published.

>240 japaul22: Thanks, Jennifer. I enjoyed it, but not in the same astonished way I read her other two books. I wonder if part of the reason it was less effective is that Catton was more emotionally invested in this story -- after all, it's impossible not to feel the stakes involved.

>241 SassyLassy: It is a good idea. It's just that gardening happens on a timeframe that isn't really congruent with thrilling action.

maaliskuu 28, 5:55 pm

depends on what you are using to bury, um I mean plant someone

maaliskuu 31, 10:03 am

Thanks for that great review of Birnam Wood, Kay. I loved The Luminaries, but I think I'll skip this book.

maaliskuu 31, 1:35 pm

>243 cindydavid4: LOL.

>244 kidzdoc: I think this is one you can safely skip. Is it fair, though, to constantly judge an author against her best work?

maaliskuu 31, 5:23 pm

I'll come back to your comments on Birnam Wood because I do plan to read it. I am waiting for the library book. I was one who didn't love The Luminaries, so I wonder what I will think of this one.

maaliskuu 31, 6:59 pm

>245 RidgewayGirl: Is it fair, though, to constantly judge an author against her best work?

I would say no. Many of my favorite authors, those whose books I've read, seem to have written at least one book that I wasn't particularly fond of, possibly in a genre that I don't normally read or appreciate; Harlem Shuffle, Colson Whitehead's crime novel, comes to mind immediately. I may not have enjoyed that book as much as his previous two novels, but I'll almost certainly still read everything he puts out.

maaliskuu 31, 10:29 pm

>246 BLBera: Beth, I really want to find out what you thing about it.

>247 dianeham: Thanks, Diane!

>248 kidzdoc: Darryl, someone told me today that Whitehead's newest book, Crook Manifesto, the sequel to Harlem Shuffle is fantastic. It will be out in July.

huhtikuu 1, 3:58 pm

>138 RidgewayGirl: Somehow I missed your review of Palace Walk. I just noticed it in your 'read' list in your new thread and so came back to it.

Sounds fantastic. I was bought Palace Walk for Christmas but haven't got to it yet. Your review is making me nudge it up the pile.

huhtikuu 1, 4:08 pm

>250 AlisonY: It took me far too long to get around to it, but Palace Walk is very good. But boy is there a lot of competition for top-of-the-pile status!

huhtikuu 8, 1:26 pm

>232 RidgewayGirl: "Eviscerate" is the perfect word for Human Acts. Better than my word, "brutal."