Nancy White's 2023 Reading

KeskusteluClub Read 2023

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Nancy White's 2023 Reading

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 15, 11:13 pm

I've been hanging about LT forever and Club Read since its inception.

Since I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis a few years ago the number of books I read has steadily declined. Fatigue and brain fog interrupt my focus and concentration.

Nevertheless, I will do my best to read and record my books for 2023.

Link to books by year Wikipedia:

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 12, 9:30 pm

1. When We Lost Our Heads by Heather O'Neill

I cannot top the review that Heather O'Neill herself re-tweeted: "Like Alice in Wonderland, but in Montreal and with weird sex."

Two girls meet and become obsessed with one another. Unintended violence separates them until adulthood. Their lives intertwine once again and their obsession renews. Through a dark lens, the novel concerns itself with feminism and class.

I'm a huge O'Neill fan. She writes with wicked lyricism and a nearly mystical viewpoint, and this was both wonderful and difficult to read. I've no need to like the main characters generally, but these women were ugly in their complete disregard for anyone but themselves. When the working girls and women revolt against their conditions, it was easy to want them to succeed in their revolution.

The book is inspired by the French Revolution wish I which I knew more about so that I could see more of the easter eggs hidden in the writing.

tammikuu 8, 9:18 pm

>2 nancyewhite: Hi
I loved this book last year. Like you, I am a huge fan of O'Neill and I loved the French Revolution stuff, even if I don't know much about it. I looked some stuff up (sign of a good book, makes me look stuff up because I feel like there is more to the book than I am getting) and her parallels were crazy good and add such a layer to the story. I loved the female version of all the characters.

tammikuu 8, 9:25 pm

Hello, Nancy!

>2 nancyewhite:

hooked instantly...

tammikuu 9, 7:29 am

Welcome to Club Read 2023, Nancy! I look forward to seeing what you read this year.

tammikuu 9, 9:30 pm

>2 nancyewhite: I like the tweet.

I wish you well, and hope you find some good reading time this year.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 14, 7:22 pm

2. Straight From the Horse's Mouth by Maryem Alaoui - 4 Stars

A gritty first-person novel about a sex worker in Morocco. Most of the story takes place in the blocks of her neighborhood where she fights, sees clients, hangs out with her friends, eats pepitas, drinks too much and raises her young daughter. Throughout the novel other people come into her life and her circumstances change. In the distant background of the story, we see evidence of the political state of affairs with immolations and the religious uprisings of 'bearded men'.

The true star of this book is the narrator who has an unforgettable voice. She's direct and ballsy. She sees the truth of her world and builds a life within those confines. Like many street-hardened people she's hard to like for a little while and then, suddenly, easy to love. For me a scene where she dances alone until she collapses with laughter was the turning point.

I read this for the 75ers read around Africa which is beginning with Northern Africa.

tammikuu 14, 7:22 pm

3. Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin - 3.5 Stars

Splattercore. Gore everywhere. Tons of sex. Basically The Walking Dead where anyone with greater than a little testosterone turns into a raping cannibal. The heroes are trans folks and the villains are much more organized and armed TERFs. The book is a well written graphic exploration of the violence of anti-trans rhetoric imagined to its hateful conclusion.

tammikuu 14, 8:02 pm

When We Lost our Heads sounds intriguing and I've been meaning to read Heather O'Neill. On the list!

tammikuu 14, 9:31 pm

enjoyed both reviews. Interesting look into Morocco. Your comments on Manhunt are very entertaining.

tammikuu 15, 8:44 am

>7 nancyewhite: I have this on the shelf already and really must try to find time for it!

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 15, 3:17 pm

4. Zeina by Nawal El Saadawi - 5 stars

Read as part of the 75ers reading Africa project for Northern Africa.

A beautifully written rage scream of a novel. I moved from the streets of Casablanca to the home of a privileged family in Cairo. El Saadawi writes with the cadence of holy books. Doubling back, telling the same stories over and over, staccato lists of sins, switching between daily life, dreams and stories she pulls the veil off the suffering of women at the hands of men empowered and encouraged by patriarchal religions to abuse them with fists and sexual violence.

The story doesn't sound as powerful as it is - a privileged young woman has a brief affair with a young activist before he is executed by the state, she has a baby which she leaves on the street so that she can avoid shame and retain the soft life she is used to. Neither her miserable marriage nor her career satisfy her, and she longs for her first child as she writes a novel while her husband sleeps. In El Saadawi's more than capable hands this story becomes a brick thrown through the window of the powerful men of Egypt. From lengthy descriptions of the life of street children to an offhanded reference to female genital mutilation, she is relentless in her desire to open the reader's eyes.

Honestly, I'm reaching for words to describe the emotions evoked by reading this novel. It was published in 2009 - late in her prolific career. She'd been subject to circumcision, imprisoned, educated, lauded, stripped of her credentials, exiled, repatriated and haunted. To retain this level of passion and righteousness and translate it into a beautiful, furiously political, poetic book is beyond belief.

This one is definitely reminder of what literature can do and why books are always among the first things to burn.

tammikuu 15, 4:14 pm

terrific review. Definitely noting the author's passion and experiences. Great thematic choice.

tammikuu 15, 6:47 pm

>12 nancyewhite:
That was a book I never made it through because I was so enraged by everything that was going on. I knew it was an important book but I just had to put it down.

tammikuu 15, 8:33 pm

>12 nancyewhite:

That's how I felt when I read Woman at point zero! Saadawi went instantly onto my faves list. Her voice is missed so much.

tammikuu 15, 9:16 pm

>14 lilisin:

That is a totally reasonable response as well.

tammikuu 15, 9:19 pm

I'm excited by everyone interacting with my thread! Welcome

tammikuu 16, 7:12 pm

5. The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths - 4 Stars

I haven't read one a Ruth Galloway mystery in a few years, and I can't help but think the break was good for our relationship. It was fun to get reacquainted with the characters and to meet the suspects/new folks. As ever there are the underlying romantic and personal entanglements to poke around with along with the murder and archeology. I love Ruth's capable and matter-of-fact exterior which covers her emotionally heated interior. I think that there may be a little less fat-centric self loathing in this outing, but there is enough for it to be annoying. The landscape is so beautifully invoked, that even with a few years between visits, I often imagine myself cozy and reading a book in her cottage on the English salt marshes. Enjoyable and will likely read the next in the series sooner rather than later.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 16, 8:12 pm

tammikuu 17, 7:35 am

>18 nancyewhite: I can't help but think the break was good for our relationship

LOL, I know what you mean

tammikuu 21, 8:32 pm

7. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson - 4 Stars

A young girl and her grandmother spend summers on an island in Finland. The girl's mother has died recently and her father is also on the island, but never says a word. The book focuses on the natural world, the simple wonders to be found by exploring and deeply knowing a small island of your own. The book is a series of vignettes rather than a chronological story. By deeply focusing on these clipped moments in time, we come to know the emotional truth of this small family. It may be my age, but I fell in love with the grandmother and hope to become like her someday.

tammikuu 22, 8:47 am

>21 nancyewhite: Nice review. I could relate to both the girl and the grandmother. Past and future, perhaps?

tammikuu 22, 11:23 am

>21 nancyewhite: This is one of my favorite books and is due a reread. Maybe this year!

>18 nancyewhite: I read the first Ruth Galloway mystery last year and liked it well enough. But when I started the second, I only got through about 25 pages and decided I didn't need to read a book with all the fat-shaming. It felt really dated.

tammikuu 22, 11:47 am

>22 labfs39: interesting thought. the girl was able to be her full self in a way that I could only have dreamed of...

>23 japaul22: I can see how the fat negativity isn't worth reading more. While I think it is an accurate representation of how many women feel about themselves, it's really no fun to read about. I like the characters and the setting enough that I continue.

tammikuu 22, 5:52 pm

8. Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker - 5 Stars

If I'm being honest, I favor books set in the 20th and 21st centuries. After reading a lot of good things about this, I decided to give it a whirl. Barker writes in modern language which makes the Iliad much more accessible to me given my taste.

Of course, the story of the lives of the enslaved women, told from the perspective of Briseis, is interesting to read since like most women they've been neglected in history and literature except as a side note to the men.

The story itself is propulsive even though the descriptions of these women's lives and the warfare are brutal, it never feels gratuitous. Barker brings the Trojan War to life in its stink, death and misery. Briseis is clear-eyed and matter of fact and uses the limited agency she has to survive.

tammikuu 22, 6:26 pm

>24 nancyewhite: you're right that it is probably accurate self-talk, sadly, for a lot of women. But mysteries, for me, are for fun entertainment, so I decided not to continue on.

>25 nancyewhite: Have you read Circe by Madeline Miller? It's my favorite Greek retelling. I also think Pat Barker has a follow up to Silence of the Girls out now. I'll have to check again. I liked that one too.

tammikuu 23, 8:14 pm

>26 japaul22: I own Circe but haven't read it yet. I'll move it up the TBR

tammikuu 25, 8:55 pm

9. Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich

An oral history of the nuclear power plant disaster from the people that lived through it. Nobel Prize winner, Alexievich managed to talk to bureaucrats, scientists, workers, farmers, children so we get a very wide sense of how things were on the ground. Reading it is harrowing, but at the same time very worthwhile since the people have keen insights and philosophies that they express poetically and sincerely. I also gleaned a lot of the transition from the USSR and its impact to the identities of day to day people. It's a lot to take in as a reader and very challenging to write a review of a book as profound as this one. I cried on and off throughout and feel privileged to have heard the words and sorrows of these individuals

Note: I did skip the chapter about pets. I couldn't face it.

tammikuu 26, 1:16 am

>28 nancyewhite: i read this in 2015 and there are several parts seared into my memory. (But I don’t remember the pets.)

tammikuu 31, 4:41 pm

10. Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami - 4 Stars

A group of people are escaping from Morrocco to Spain by raft. This short novel explores what led them there and what happens to them thereafter. I consider this to be character sketches rather than deep exploration. That said, a sketch can reveal a lot about the motivations of desperate people and the country from which they fled. As in the other books by women authors I've read for the North African month of the 75ers Group, religion, sexism and poverty figure largely in the background of the story.

helmikuu 4, 8:27 pm

11. By Night the Mountain Burns by Juan Tomas Avila Laurel

A man looks back on his childhood on an unnamed island off the coast of Africa. With a few exceptions that feel like the 4th wall breaking, the narrative voice feels like it belongs to a child. This is an exceptional story told in an exceptional way where the stories repeat, turn around on themselves and swoop off onto tangents which I totally loved.

However, the story itself was difficult to read because it really relentlessly depicts how difficult it is to live on an unnamed island off the coast of Africa. The child voice buffers the woe by telling the tales simply, but we learn of a cholera outbreak, hungry bellies, an act of unspeakable violence, abusive teachers, she-devils, dangerous waters and fires all being part of this man's childhood. There is love, but no laughter. Even though this is a child's tale, there is very little play, no silliness, no whimsy or joy. None of the things American's associate with childhood are given much attention here. This is a story of hardship and scarcity.

The people here live in strong community. It's a small island and the people are all familiar with one another even when they aren't close. They are dependent on one another for survival and so grief, food, fire, parenting are all shared. Almost everything is done with what the boy describes as customs, rules and traditions. Men whistle as they take canoes out to sea, children must stay inside during funeral processions, women plant and farm while men fish.

It was a challenge to remain present while reading this one, but nevertheless important to do so. Strongly recommended.

I read it as part of the 75ers Africa Challenge. February is devoted to books from Lusophone Africa. Avila Laurel is from Equatorial Guinea, and one of very few writers translated into English. After finishing the book, I dug around a little to learn more about him. His family is from the island of Annobon which, I think it's safe to say, is the basis for the island life depicted in the novel. He is a strong voice for democracy and a vocal opponent to the dictatorship in place since the country became independent. Although he resisted longer than most artists and intellectuals, he did eventually leave the country and migrate to Barcelona. There is a documentary about him called 'The Writer From a Country Without Bookstores' that I hope to track down as well.

helmikuu 4, 9:34 pm

>31 nancyewhite: Sounds powerful, Nancy. Great review.

helmikuu 5, 4:23 am

>31 nancyewhite: Very interesting review.

helmikuu 5, 4:05 pm

>31 nancyewhite: I have had that on my Kindle for years. I knew vaguely what it was about and that the author was from an island off Africa, but didn't realize it would fit the Lusophone Africa category for the Africa challenge (I was going to read The General Theory of Oblivion by Jose Eduardo Agualusa, also on my Kindle, but not for as long). Maybe I'll even get to both of them. (HaHa)..

helmikuu 5, 5:29 pm

>34 arubabookwoman: They're like potato chips. LOL

helmikuu 6, 4:17 am

Great review of By Night the Mountain Burns, Nancy. I also have a copy of it on my Kindle, so I may read it this month for the African Literature Challenge.

helmikuu 12, 3:03 pm

>36 kidzdoc: I'd love to hear your thoughts about it!

helmikuu 12, 3:15 pm

12. New Bohemians Handbook by Justina Blakeney - 2.5 Stars

Since developing a chronic illness which requires the use of immunosuppressant drugs, I spend a great deal of time at home especially in the Covid era. That combined with brain fog has increased my desire to read books about ways to create an interior that will bring me joy with bonus points for making my life easier.

This book was very high level and probably a grab for attention solely based on the popularity of boho style. The photos were good and the section on plants were useful. I also thought color schemes by astrological sign was silly fun and a good way to explore color schemes that were more complex than usual.

In general, though, this book doesn't offer enough style or depth to be very useful.

helmikuu 13, 7:23 am

>38 nancyewhite: I'm sorry to hear that you are having significant health issues, Nancy. Good luck with your interior redesign research. Joy and easy are important.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 14, 5:42 pm

Creative Style by Lizzie McGraw - 2.5 Stars

13. Another meh home design book. This person owns a shop of some sort and also decorates the homes of rich people. So, the book is full of the same neutral pallets and MCM shapes as HGTV. Although she describes her individual clients traits and desires at length in each section, each appears fairly devoid of personality besides hers.

helmikuu 14, 5:43 pm

>39 labfs39: Thanks. Sometimes I think the way its impacted my reading is the worst part of RA.

huhtikuu 2, 7:13 pm

14. Family of Woman - Jerry Mason ed. - 3.5 stars

A book of B&W photographs of women published in 1979. Images from around the world. Arranged roughly from girlhood through death with some thematic pages - such as friendship. It's a reminder that 1979 was now a long time ago. I enjoyed this thrift store find more than I expcected.

huhtikuu 2, 7:19 pm

15. Havana Modern: Twentieth-Century Architecture and Interiors by Michael Connors - 3.5 Stars

Primarily exterior photographs of the usual suspects of early and mid-century Cuban architecture. Lovely to see them, but widely reviewed in other books of this nature. Luckily they are being, "preserved by neglect," unlike so much of the same real-estate in the US. My mother visited a year of so before the Revolution. I'm still hoping to get there one day. In the meantime, I see things vicariously through books like these.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 2, 7:43 pm

16. AphroChic by Jeanine Hay - 4.5 Stars

An excellent interior design book. This features the personal interiors of many Black homeowners. There are very few overlaps of style and while each home is stunningly staged, they feel genuinely individual and liveable. Each home includes stories of the homeowners experience of their relationship with home decor, design decisions, art, and childhood experiences of home. Highly recommended.

huhtikuu 2, 7:50 pm

17. The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James - 3.5 Stars

A young woman, Shea, runs a true-crime website. Having been a victim as a child, she carries shame and paranoia through her adult life. One day her town's most notorious potential murderess walks through the doors at her day-job and Shea convinces her to be interviewed. She was acquitted, but did she do it? If not, who did? And why has she never left her childhood home?

St. James writes fun mystery-thrillers with a supernatural bent. This was firmly planted in that patch and made for an enjoyable vacation read.

huhtikuu 2, 7:54 pm

18. The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War by Jeff Sharlet - 4.5 Stars

An excellently written series of essays about America, extremism and the rot at the heart of the things. I follow Sharlet on Twitter, but it was this article that convinced me to buy the book. I'm very, very glad I did.

huhtikuu 2, 7:58 pm

19. Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay - 3.5 Stars

Another good enough vacation read. A young man left alone after a series of violent events have killed most of his family must figure out what happened. It's propulsive and good enough. I am not a person who strives to guess the killer, but I figured it out a bit earlier than I would have liked.

huhtikuu 4, 7:06 am

Wow, lots of reviews Nancy. It seems like you've been having a string of good to great reads. Are you planning an interior design project or just reading about it?