RidgewayGirl Reads What She Wants in 2023 -- First Quarter

Keskustelu2023 Category Challenge

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RidgewayGirl Reads What She Wants in 2023 -- First Quarter

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 31, 2022, 1:49 pm

Hello, friends! I show up every year a few days before the New Year's to find all of you have been settled in for months. I'll get around to all of you, eventually, and get a good look at what you are all planning. As for myself, 2022 was a year of great change and some turmoil. And so this year, my reading theme is to read only according to whim and inclination. My categories are ridiculously broad because I have no idea where I will go this year. Here's to just reading what I want.

To introduce myself, since this group keeps growing: My name is Kay. I currently live in Bloomington, Illinois, in a wonderful 123-year-old house. I've also lived in Phoenix, AZ and Greenville, SC, as well as in Canada (Edmonton, AB and London, ON), France (Paris), England (Wantage and Warwick) and Germany (Munich). I share my life with cats, college-age children and a husband, as well as my father who lives down the street. I read mainly literary fiction and crime novels (gritty, not cozy) and I'm trying to make my reading more global.

Yeah, so I don't have a theme.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 30, 2:18 pm

Currently Reading

Recently Read

Recently Acquired

Reading Miscellany

Owned Books Read: 10

Library Books Read: 14

Audiobooks: 2

Netgalley: 3

Borrowed: 0

Books Acquired: 8

Rereads: 0

Abandoned with Prejudice: 0

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 6, 2:07 pm

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 16, 11:36 am

Category Three.

Murders and Other Bad Things: Crime Novels, Noir, Horror

1. Don't Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 25, 1:27 pm

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 30, 2:20 pm

Category Five.

Immigrants, Expats, Works in Translation

1. Babel, Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution by R.F. Kuang
2. 1,000 Coils of Fear by Olivia Wenzel, translated from the German by Priscilla Layne (Germany)
3. The Book of Goose by Yiyun Li
4. Life for Sale by Yukio Mishima, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Dodd

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 17, 10:53 am

Category Six.

Books Off of My Own Shelves

1. Cherry by Mary Karr
2. Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra
3. An Island by Karen Jennings

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 20, 2:41 pm

Category Seven.

Library Books

1. A Very Nice Girl by Imogen Crimp

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 24, 7:23 pm

Category Eight.

Books Read on My IPad

1. Flight by Lynn Steger Strong
2. The No-Show by Beth O'Leary

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 14, 11:06 am

Category Nine.

Longlisted, Shortlisted and Award Winners

1. Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet (longlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize)
2. The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty (National Book Award for Fiction, 2022)
3. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (Shortlisted, 2023 Tournament of Books)

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 21, 3:40 pm

Category Ten.

Brand New Books: Books Published in 2023

1. Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 30, 2022, 7:37 pm

And with that, I'm open for visitors. Come in, say hello, tell me what's up with you.

joulukuu 30, 2022, 8:13 pm

Hurray, you're here! Hope you have a great reading year ahead :)

joulukuu 30, 2022, 8:28 pm

>14 rabbitprincess: Thanks, rp. It's good to be here.

joulukuu 30, 2022, 9:50 pm

You have some great categories as well as pics! Good luck with your 2023 reading!

joulukuu 30, 2022, 10:06 pm

Good luck with your 2023 reading. I also wait until right before the new year to open my challenge.

joulukuu 30, 2022, 10:32 pm


joulukuu 31, 2022, 1:17 am

What great pictures! Happy reading in 2023!

joulukuu 31, 2022, 5:26 am

>7 RidgewayGirl: This picture makes me think maybe I could buy an old bus and turn it into my library.
Happy reading in 2023!

joulukuu 31, 2022, 5:45 am

Glad to see you here and looking forward to the BBs I'll be getting from you.

joulukuu 31, 2022, 7:45 am

Hello, glad to see you here! I'm sure I'll pick up loads of interesting BBs from you that I know I'll never actually get round to reading (I suspect that's mutual :D ).

joulukuu 31, 2022, 1:06 pm

Glad to see you here. Happy New Year!

joulukuu 31, 2022, 1:40 pm

>16 Tess_W: Tess, my categories are less "great" than they are broad. But I'm excited about them. I'm always eager to jump into a reading project at the start of the year, and this year I'm resisting the impulse.

>17 lowelibrary: At least that's two of us. I always arrive just before New Year's and see that I have a lot of catching up to do.

>18 VictoriaPL: Yay back, Victoria. Here's hoping you stick around for the entire year!

>19 NinieB: Thanks. It feels weird to not have some sort of theme though.

>20 JayneCM: Jayne, that's from a meme that made me laugh.


If it doesn't show up for you, it's the picture in >7 RidgewayGirl: with the dialog:

Me: No serial killer will ever lure me into their murder van. I'm too smart for that.
Serial Killer:

>21 dudes22: Likewise, Betty. Here's to a year of great reading!

>22 Jackie_K: It's not that we're not getting around to reading them, it's that we haven't gotten around to them yet. We will read ALL the books!

>23 majkia: Happy New Year to you, too!

joulukuu 31, 2022, 2:40 pm

Here you are, I have you starred and look forward to seeing what you read during the year. I almost always find something that you're reading that I have yet to acquire or already have and forgot that I had it.

Happy reading and happy new year!

joulukuu 31, 2022, 2:56 pm

>25 lsh63: I'm looking forward to following your reading, too, Lisa, bad as that is for my wishlist.

joulukuu 31, 2022, 3:48 pm

Broad is good! Otherwise, you end up with Books That Don't Fit Elsewhere that's longer than all the other categories put together. Happy reading in 2023.

joulukuu 31, 2022, 4:40 pm

>27 pamelad: Since I have categories for ebooks, library books and my own books, I think I have every eventuality covered.

joulukuu 31, 2022, 5:04 pm

Good to see your thread and looking forward to sharing your reading experiences in the year ahead!

joulukuu 31, 2022, 5:11 pm

>29 VivienneR: Thanks, Vivienne! I hope to catch up on all the various threads before too long.

joulukuu 31, 2022, 7:30 pm

Cheers indeed to reading what you want! I laughed at "quitter strip." I'm sure I will once again be impressed by your reading in 2023!

joulukuu 31, 2022, 8:13 pm

Happy new year! Looking forward to your reviews and a hail of book bullets, as always.

tammikuu 1, 5:58 am

>31 christina_reads: Haha, I laughed at that too!

tammikuu 1, 4:09 pm

Wishing you a great year of reading in 2023!

tammikuu 1, 6:11 pm

Stopping by to wish you a wonderful year of reading in 2023!

tammikuu 2, 11:27 am

>31 christina_reads: Christina, I'm sure you'd never resort to using a quitter strip!

>32 sturlington: Likewise, Shannon. You are a constant source of additions to my wishlist.

>34 thornton37814: & >35 lkernagh: Thanks, Lori and Lori!

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 3, 6:30 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, 8:11 pm

>37 RidgewayGirl: I've had this on my WL for sometime.

tammikuu 3, 9:47 pm

>38 Tess_W: I really liked it -- I like that way of telling a story through documents.

tammikuu 4, 1:16 am

I am very happy that you are here as I am selfishly looking forward to all the book bullets that you regularly hit me with. To start off, Case Study sounds intriguing, I really liked His Bloody Project so this one should fit nicely into my TBR.

tammikuu 4, 4:44 am

I love the images you've chosen for your new year of reading, I'll be following along again this year.

I wasn't a fan of >37 RidgewayGirl: and his previous book (also widely praised, I realise!) left me cold too. I feel like I'm missing something, as I just don't see how they are cleverly written or particularly innovative. I guess just not an author for me.

tammikuu 4, 10:29 am

>37 RidgewayGirl: Taking a BB for Case Study. I really liked His Bloody Project and would like to read more from this author.

tammikuu 4, 8:51 pm

>40 DeltaQueen50: & >42 mathgirl40: Oh, if you liked His Bloody Project, you'll like Case Study.

>41 charl08: Charlotte, there is a distance to both the structure and his writing.

tammikuu 5, 11:35 pm

>39 RidgewayGirl: When my college freshman have to do a history research paper they are only permitted to use primary sources--mostly documents. It is their first introduction to primary sources and they do struggle with it; however, primary sources is the "stuff" of which history is composed!

tammikuu 6, 7:55 am

Great to see you're back, Kay. I'm looking foreward to your comments!

tammikuu 6, 7:59 am

Tämä käyttäjä on poistettu roskaamisen vuoksi.

tammikuu 6, 12:32 pm

>44 Tess_W: Speaking of primary sources, my husband's project over the holidays was to get our pocket doors in working order. They have not been used for decades and when the previous owners refinished the wood, they simply left the third of the doors they couldn't make work alone. When Dirk pulled out the first door, he found a postcard-sized card inside. It's a love letter, written who knows when.

>45 MissWatson: I promise to have plenty to say!

tammikuu 6, 2:30 pm

I looooove pocket doors! How wonderful! 😊💗

tammikuu 6, 2:37 pm

>48 VictoriaPL: This house is a whole adventure. As far as I can tell, only two people have died in the house -- Elizabeth "Buffie" Ives, Adlai's older sister died in here in 1994 at the age of 96 and Ruth Merwin on December 30th, 1912 at age 16 -- she's the girl who was shot on our upper landing.

tammikuu 6, 2:57 pm

>47 RidgewayGirl: both the doors and the note, priceless!

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 6, 5:18 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.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 6, 6:25 pm

>51 RidgewayGirl: Hi Kay! I enjoyed Flight when I read it recently and you’re right it did have an Anne Tyler type touch to it.

>47 RidgewayGirl: That is so cool! All we found in our house was a lot of newspaper( from 1960) used for insulation *eyeroll* and some jewelry hidden in the ceiling.

tammikuu 6, 7:19 pm

>52 lsh63: Jewelry hidden in the ceiling! There's a story there.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 6, 8:35 pm

>47 RidgewayGirl: I tend to swoon over any old personal writing. I wonder how the letter got in the door...it wasn't attched was it? I've done some transcription of women's diaries from the 19th century and when I started felt like such a voyeur! Still, we learn about family life during that period from them and about other things men wouldn't consider important. After all, not much was about them.

I also collect old postcards, primarily from the WWI period, and mother's writing to their sons at war, or to notify someone they haven't heard from the son in a long time just tears my heart out!

tammikuu 6, 8:38 pm

>54 clue: It's far more interesting to find out how people lived than to learn about the politics and wars of the time.

tammikuu 7, 7:22 am

>51 RidgewayGirl: - I thought this title sounded familiar only to discover that it was Flights by Olga Tokarczuk that's on my TBR pile. So this is a BB for me - Ann Tyler and Elizabeth Strout are good recommendations for it.

tammikuu 7, 2:22 pm

The discussion about the letter in the door reminded me that in my childhood home, my parents built an extension to the back of the house, and when the builders knocked out the wall they found a newspaper cutting that had been placed between two bricks, a small paragraph announcing that Hitler had invaded Poland (the house was built in 1939).

In our current house we didn't actually have to knock anything down to find all sorts - the vendors (who were two brothers who'd lived in the house as students and then rented it out for several years to students before selling to us) left absolutely everything - we had no idea until we got the key and walked in as the new owners, and found a house full of furniture! We got rid of a lot of it, kept a few things (mainly bookshelves, now I think about it...), and laughed over many random things, including a paint-by-numbers portrait of Sylvester Stallone. The oddest thing though was an X-ray image of one of the brothers' chests.

tammikuu 7, 5:10 pm

>47 RidgewayGirl: Yours is the house that keeps on giving up secrets. Fascinating.

tammikuu 7, 5:13 pm

How did I miss your thread! Looking forward to another year of great reading.

>1 RidgewayGirl: *snort* I have a whole shoe box of quitter strips - and always mark my place with a postcard.

tammikuu 8, 12:23 pm

>56 dudes22: I have that Tokarczuk on my tbr, too. I really liked Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. I think you'll like Flight.

>57 Jackie_K: The weirdest thing I ever found in an empty house was a velveteen painting of Snoopy the Dog committing suicide. It was intently creepy. Glad this house is just yielding love notes and parking signs!

>58 VivienneR: Hoping the next one is just as charming and not, for example, a skeleton!

>59 Helenliz: Postcards make great quitter strips.

tammikuu 8, 2:21 pm

>60 RidgewayGirl: Oh, that is super-creepy! *shudder*

tammikuu 8, 3:05 pm

>60 RidgewayGirl: - I've always wished I lived in a house where there were "hidden treasures". But that is really creepy.

tammikuu 8, 3:40 pm

I love pocket doors! You seem to be finding all sorts of history in your house.

tammikuu 8, 6:55 pm

>51 RidgewayGirl: I really love the cover of that one!

tammikuu 9, 1:43 pm

>61 Jackie_K: Jackie, it certainly colored how I viewed that house. I might have thought it was cute otherwise (the house, not the painting).

>62 dudes22: Betty, fortunately the surprises here are all ones I like. I'll have to post a picture of the parking sign my husband found laying on a very high shelf.

>63 hailelib: I do too! I don't think will ever use them, except to show visitors that we can, but it's fun to know they are there. The one very wide doorway has a single long door and one of the small doorways has two doors.

>64 thornton37814: It is a great cover. And it suits the novel very well.

So I haven't counted audiobooks when I listen to them because I feel like I miss so much that it's unfair to the book to assess it or count it.* But I ended up listening to Babel, Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution by R.F. Kuang because it's one of the books competing in the Tournament of Books in March and while the library's wait list is very long, I did have an Audible credit to use. Also, I'm not a huge fan of fantasy/speculative fiction so I didn't want to buy a copy. And it was the perfect book to listen to. It's heavy on plot, told chronologically, and the characters are sort of YA in their simplicity. So I listened attentively to all 21 hours and 47 minutes, much to my astonishment.

* This is my own personal decision and I'm a huge fan of people reading in the forms that best suit them.

tammikuu 9, 2:00 pm

>65 RidgewayGirl: That Kuang book is on my TBR, so I'm glad to see you enjoyed it! Though to be fair, it will probably be a while before I get to it.

tammikuu 9, 4:14 pm

>66 christina_reads: I think I liked it more as an audiobook than I would have in print form.

tammikuu 9, 6:12 pm

>65 RidgewayGirl: Good to know about the audiobook. I've requested the print edition from the library, but I'm number 272 on the list (there are 16 copies). It's going to take a while.

I get you on feeling like you miss things in audio. I can't do anything more complicated than *maybe* an online jigsaw puzzle while listening to them, otherwise I tune out.

tammikuu 10, 5:49 am

>65 RidgewayGirl: - So far, I only listen to audio books while I drive. (Or sometimes when I'm doing my daily walk if my friend doesn't walk) I feel I would probably miss things otherwise.

tammikuu 10, 11:42 am

>69 dudes22: Usually, audiobooks don't even work for me when I'm driving. I'm easily distracted and I spent most of my life learning how to just ignore sounds (so I could read in noisy places) so that's my default. I once spent a holiday season in a small room with four toddlers who watched the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas movie on repeat and I didn't hear a word of it. But Babel held my attention and I really enjoyed the experience.

tammikuu 10, 12:21 pm

Babel: or the necessity of violence sounds like a book I would like so I may give it a try.

Somehow audiobooks just don't work for me. I can only listen if that is all I'm doing and I still miss a lot.

tammikuu 10, 2:57 pm

>71 hailelib: I really enjoyed it. While it is largely an adventure story set in an alternate history, there is some very interesting stuff about translations in there.

tammikuu 10, 4:59 pm

I find my best audiobook listening time, if I'm only listening and not reading along, is if I have a huge pile of ironing to get through (I love ironing though, I find it very relaxing - I realise that a lot of people hate it!). I just stick the headphones on and am in my own little world for a couple of hours. But mostly I like listening to the audiobook and reading at the same time, I find that very immersive.

tammikuu 10, 5:57 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, 5:59 pm

>73 Jackie_K: Ironing is a fantastic time to listen, although a less ideal time to catch up on an exciting show. I have a scar from trying to do that. But I do almost no ironing anymore.

tammikuu 11, 4:59 am

>73 Jackie_K: At last! Another person who finds ironing restful. I usually watch the TV while ironing, usually binge watching documentary series. But I have listened to audiobooks before as well.

I usually listen to audiobooks while driving, so it can't be anything too engaging. Short stories are good, as you can always skip back & pick up the thread, if necessary. Also Dickens. The serialisation thing really works for commuting.

>75 RidgewayGirl: ow!

tammikuu 11, 10:38 am

>76 Helenliz: Dickens would work well for audio. Hmmm. And, yes, I am clearly unsuited for housework!

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 11, 11:34 am

>69 dudes22: ; >70 RidgewayGirl: +: I enjoy audiobooks but not while driving, I'd never hear a word. Same goes for cooking. I thought an audiobook would go well with grating, chopping, etc. But like driving, I didn't hear a word. Haven't tried while ironing, probably because I avoid ironing like the plague. Exercise is the best accompaniment to audio for me.

>74 RidgewayGirl: That's a BB for me. And it's on the shelf at the library!

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 11, 5:23 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 13, 6:35 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 15, 2:54 pm

>80 RidgewayGirl: This definitely sounds like my kind of thing -- not a BB because a friend already recommended it to me, but you've definitely confirmed its place on my TBR list!

tammikuu 15, 3:47 pm

>81 christina_reads: Christina, it really is right in your wheelhouse.

tammikuu 15, 4:15 pm

>80 RidgewayGirl: A promising candidate for the speculative fiction option of the Historical Fiction Challenge.

tammikuu 15, 4:30 pm

>83 pamelad: And it's a rare instance of an alternative history that doesn't involve Nazis or the South winning the Civil War.

tammikuu 16, 4:17 am

Just dropping by to wish you a wonderful reading year, Kay.

Your reading is as varied and interesting as always, I see. x

tammikuu 16, 7:08 pm

>85 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul. I'm enjoying my book for the African Challenge so much. I can't believe that I let it sit in my tbr for years.

tammikuu 19, 7:55 pm

>84 RidgewayGirl: ha! I enjoyed catching up on your reading.

tammikuu 20, 2:30 pm

Babel is ordered from my library and I may get it in time for a February read.

tammikuu 20, 2:37 pm

>87 VictoriaPL: I knew that would make you laugh, Victoria.

>88 hailelib: It's a chunkster, but it reads quickly. A lot of momentum and it is, at heart, an adventure story.

tammikuu 20, 4:36 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 24, 2:09 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.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 25, 5:03 pm

It was a beautiful snowy morning! Oliver is sure that if I would just let him out, he would blend into to surroundings and finally be invisible.

tammikuu 26, 11:03 am

Oh Ollie!

tammikuu 26, 1:57 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, 3:33 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 26, 8:52 pm

>92 RidgewayGirl: Oh, poor Oscar! However, if he went out he might quickly change his mind about snow.

tammikuu 26, 10:06 pm

>96 VivienneR: He went out with me later that day when I cleared the walkways, but came right back in with me when I was done. And hasn't wanted to go out since.

Muokkaaja: 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.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 7, 5:55 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.

helmikuu 7, 6:32 pm

>99 RidgewayGirl: were there any mummies?

helmikuu 7, 6:36 pm

>100 VictoriaPL: Not even one!

helmikuu 7, 6:39 pm

helmikuu 8, 6:08 pm

>99 RidgewayGirl: - I have 3 of his other novels which I want to read but keep putting off for the same reason. You've encouraged me to try them.

helmikuu 10, 11:39 am

>103 dudes22: Betty, he's writing about people and he really does well at creating characters who are complex and fascinating, although not always likable. I'm definitely continuing with this trilogy.

helmikuu 10, 4:55 pm

>99 RidgewayGirl: One of the things that struck me was the way that religion permeated every aspect of people's lives. I was just as impressed as you were and went on to read the next two books in the Palace Walk series, then Midaq Alley.

helmikuu 10, 6:41 pm

>105 pamelad: Yes, definitely. I enjoyed learning so much about Cairo a hundred years ago through the lives of the people in this one family. I will read more by Mahfouz.

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, 1:59 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 16, 6:46 am

Hi Kay, just checking to see what you've been reading. I have Mercury Pictures Presents slated for next month. I'm glad to see that you enjoyed it. Also, way back at >98 RidgewayGirl:, I thought that book looked familiar, and it turns out that I have it on my Kindle.

helmikuu 16, 10:58 am

>109 lsh63: Lisa, I think you'll enjoy Mercury Pictures Presents. It's such a solid, well-told book. A bit of the feel of A Gentleman in Moscow but with a wider cast and less sentimentality.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 16, 4:56 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, 3:19 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 17, 3:21 pm

>91 RidgewayGirl: We just chose this book for the first read of a new book club. It will be interesting to see what the opinions are! Thanks for the review!

helmikuu 17, 3:26 pm

>113 JMC400m: Hi, Julia, I hope you like it. I'm glad it's not a choice of my book club, though. I don't want to hear any criticism of this book. Looking at my past reading, I've felt that way about novels by two other Irish writers (Eimear McBride's The Lesser Bohemians and Milkman by Anna Burns) so maybe there's just something about that style of writing that appeals to me.

helmikuu 17, 4:24 pm

>112 RidgewayGirl: I've put it on hold. I also liked Milkman, but have never tried another book by Eimear McBride since becoming bogged down in A Girl is a Half-formed Thing and giving up. Is The Lesser Bohemians written in the same prose style?

helmikuu 17, 10:11 pm

>115 pamelad: The Lesser Bohemians is very stream-of-consciousness, to the point of my needing to reread a bit to get into the flow of it. Trespasses is far more traditional in form.

helmikuu 20, 6:26 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 22, 3:07 pm

Thought I'd drop in to wish you a Happy Thingaversary. I assume you're busy ordering your Thingaversary books.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 22, 3:21 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, 6:34 pm

>118 dudes22: Oh it is!! Happy Thingaversary!

helmikuu 22, 10:13 pm

>118 dudes22: Wow, I hadn't noticed, thanks for letting me know! Fifteen years!

>120 VictoriaPL: Thanks, Victoria.

helmikuu 23, 3:56 am

>121 RidgewayGirl: That's quite the anniversary! Happy belated Thingaversary!

helmikuu 23, 11:21 am

>122 MissWatson: I know! I can't believe I didn't remember it until Betty reminded me! Will be looking at books when I get some free time!

helmikuu 23, 10:31 pm

> Happy Thingaversary.

helmikuu 24, 10:03 am

Happy Thingaversary and I added Trespasses to my WL! Milkman is waiting on my shelf, too.

helmikuu 24, 4:09 pm

>124 lowelibrary: Thank you!

>125 MissBrangwen: Thank you and both of those books are excellent.

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 28, 1:14 am

>127 RidgewayGirl: Oh, that looks like fun.

And a belated Happy Thingaversary!

helmikuu 28, 12:06 pm

>128 VivienneR: Thank you, Vivienne!

maaliskuu 4, 9:03 pm

Happy Thingaversary! I know it's a bit belated, but I think we all celebrate these things for an extended period of time.

maaliskuu 5, 4:25 pm

>130 thornton37814: Thanks, Lori! It will take me awhile to buy that many books!

maaliskuu 5, 4:49 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 6, 8:19 am

>131 RidgewayGirl: Mine is later this month, and I doubt I'll get them all bought. I'm trying to mostly borrow books from the library rather than spending money on books I'll read once. I'm beginning to think about downsizing my own library as I begin thinking about retirement.

maaliskuu 6, 1:55 pm

>133 thornton37814: Lori, having fewer books right at the point in time when you have more time to read doesn't make sense. You should be stockpiling them.

maaliskuu 6, 2:54 pm

>132 RidgewayGirl: - I grabbed this after Paulina (mathgirl40) mentioned it and I'm hoping to get to it soon.

maaliskuu 6, 3:04 pm

>134 RidgewayGirl: Believe me. There are plenty here to read. I've still got a few years until retirement, and if I decide to move into an RV, the books will need to be e-books! I'm just trying to get some of what's on hand read and out the door to the used bookstore. I also managed to drag home a few cross stitch books and leaflets from the used bookstore in White Pine when I went out today. I really went in to look for a copy of a book we've been reading for the C-N book club this semester. I keep borrowing an e-book copy from one of the two libraries and am always afraid it won't be available to renew. (We read one to two chapters a week.) I'm hoping I'll be able check it out of the other library if I can't get it from one.

maaliskuu 6, 6:06 pm

>135 dudes22: Betty, I would love to hear what you think about it when you do read it.

>136 thornton37814: An RV sounds like it would suit you and your love of travel. You and the boys hitting the road and exploring America. Make sure to stop by Bloomington, IL for a visit.

maaliskuu 7, 2:02 pm

>137 RidgewayGirl: I'm sure I would if that's what I do!

maaliskuu 8, 7:08 am

Hi Kay, you've been reading some great books lately. I'm trying to be patient for my turn at the library for Trespasses. It's not like I don't have hundred of other books to read.

maaliskuu 14, 8:42 pm

>139 lsh63: Ha, I know the feeling. I have holds on a few books that I would like to read now.

maaliskuu 18, 4:38 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, 6:59 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 19, 7:08 am

>142 RidgewayGirl: I tried twice with this book, and twice couldn't finish it. I thought the writing was good, but like you say I just couldn't buy into it.

maaliskuu 19, 10:08 am

>143 Jackie_K: Having encountered it in a few books this year, my very least favorite thing is when an author avoids the more interesting option of having conflict between characters in a novel, and just sends them off to brood alone. Conflict drives a novel! Why would an author choose the boring option?

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 21, 1:09 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.

maaliskuu 21, 5:16 pm

I’m happy to see you enjoyed The Book of Goose. I’ll be reading it shortly hopefully before the month is over.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 21, 11:28 pm

>146 lsh63: It's amazing how much overlap there is in our reading. I'm interested in finding out what you think of The Book of Goose.

maaliskuu 23, 2:25 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, 5:24 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 24, 5:29 pm

>149 RidgewayGirl: I'm getting caught by an awful lot of BBs today! There's another one onto the wishlist!

maaliskuu 24, 6:05 pm

>150 Jackie_K: I was excited to find an author from Botswana, but also these stories are really good.

Muokkaaja: 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 25, 4:35 pm

>149 RidgewayGirl: >152 RidgewayGirl: Great reviews, and two books straight to the wish list!

maaliskuu 25, 5:36 pm

Both of your latest reads are new to me, and very tempting. Thank you for posting such thoughtful reviews.

maaliskuu 26, 1:22 pm

>153 MissBrangwen: Both are excellent and I like one for taking me into a place and culture I know little about and the other for returning me to Arizona, where I went to university.

>154 charl08: Thanks, Charlotte. I'm pretty sure Call and Response: Stories will be in UK bookstores soon, Sinking Bell, on the other hand is published by an independent press (Graywolf) and so might only be found over here.

maaliskuu 27, 6:19 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.