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

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

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 1, 4:37 pm

With winter finally receding and Spring on its way, it's time for a new thread. Here's to being outside and to having the space and time to read.

No reason for posting this one, but it is an entire mood.

Currently Reading

Recently Read

Recently Acquired

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 22, 3:42 pm

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 29, 1:15 pm

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
Brother & Sister Enter the Forest by Richard Mirabella

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
--- HarperVia (imprint of HC)
The Laughter by Sonora Jha
--- Mariner Books (imprint of HC)
Flight by Lynn Steger Strong
--- William Morrow (imprint of HC)
Chlorine by Jade Song

Kensington Publishing Corporation (Independent Publisher)
--- Citadel (Imprint of Kensington)
Never Suck a Dead Man's Hand by Dana Kollmann

Macmillan Publishers (Big 5 Publisher)
--- Farrar, Straus and Giroux (imprint of Macmillan)
Biography of X by Catherine Lacey
Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton
The Book of Goose by Yiyun Li
Couplets by Maggie Millner
The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman
--- MCD (division of FSG)
Sing Her Down by Ivy Pochoda
--- Henry Holt & Co. (division of Macmillan)
My Last Innocent Year by Daisy Alpert Florin
A Very Nice Girl by Imogen Crimp
--- Minotaur Books (imprint of Macmillan)
A Death in Tokyo by Keigo Higashino

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

New York Review Books (independent publisher)
Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih

Penguin Random House (Big 5 Publisher)
Cherry by Mary Karr
How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue
--- Ballantine Books (imprint of PRH)
--- Bantam (imprint of PRH)
The Things We Do to Our Friends by Heather Darwent
--- 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
Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez
--- Knopf Doubleday (division of PRH)
Silent Winds, Dry Seas by Vinod Busjeet
--- Anchor Books (imprint of Knopf Doubleday)
Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz
The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb
--- Knopf (imprint of Knopf Doubleday)
The Midnight News by Jo Baker
The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
--- Pantheon (imprint of Knopf Doubleday)
Autumn by Ali Smith
--- Penguin Press (division of PRH)
Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou
The Dog of the North by Elizabeth McKenzie
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
--- Random House (division of PRH)
Black Dog, White Cat: Stories by Kelly Link
Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld
--- Riverhead Books (imprint of PRH)
Trespasses by Louise Kennedy
--- Ten Speed Press (imprint of PRH)
Kurashi at Home by Marie Kondo
--- Viking (imprint of PRH)
Call and Response by Gothataone Moeng
An Honest Living by Dwyer Murphy
--- Pamela Dorman Books (imprint of Viking)
Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson
--- Vintage International (imprint of PRH)
Life for Sale by Yukio Mishima

Penzler Publishers (Independent Publisher)
--- Mysterious Press (imprint of Penzler)
48 Clues into the Disappearance of My Sister by Joyce Carol Oates

Polis Books (Independent Publisher)
Find Him by Jake Hinkson

Simon & Schuster (Big 5 Publisher)
--- Atria Books (Division of S&S)
The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz
--- 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
--- Scribner (imprint of S&S)
Big Swiss by Jen Beagin

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

maaliskuu 31, 10:52 pm

Ok, my Spring thread is now open. Come on in!

huhtikuu 1, 1:39 am


huhtikuu 1, 6:03 am

Love the opening image. I bought Call And Response after reading your review, haven’t read it yet.

huhtikuu 1, 10:54 am

Such wonderful and diverse reading already this year, Kay. Looking forward to what the next quarter brings.

huhtikuu 1, 1:05 pm

>10 wandering_star: Welcome!

>11 FlorenceArt: Oh, I'm interesting in finding out what you think of it.

>12 labfs39: Lisa, it has been a good reading year so far, but not really one of whim and inclination yet. Getting there. I have pulled down a book for the Africa reading challenge, but other than that and a few book club books, I have an open road ahead of me.

So I added publishers to the things I am tracking about my reading and it's been eye-opening. Penguin Random House just dominates. And all these once independent publishers have been vacuumed into the Big Five. I was surprised to find that W.W. Norton is one of the hold-outs.

huhtikuu 1, 3:42 pm

Central Places by Delia Cai is the story of Audrey, a young, hip New Yorker, who returns to her small midwestern hometown for the Christmas season eight years after she graduated high school and got away as fast as she could. She brings her fancy New York fiancé with her and before she's been back long, she runs into her high school crush and discovers that her boyfriend is a bit of a dud. But this is not a Hallmark movie. As the daughter of Chinese immigrants, Audrey always felt distanced from her peers both by her appearance (and the casual racism that went with that) and her parents's lack of knowledge of how to be American parents. She also rebelled against her mother's expectations and refused to learn Mandarin or eat the foods her parents prepared. Returning isn't something she's happy about. But as she runs into people she knew, spends some time with the guy she had a crush on and fights with her mother, she's learning about herself and how impossible it is to truly leave the past behind.

This novel started slowly, but by the halfway mark, I was having trouble putting it down. I'd be thrown out of the story by the tension between the author mentioning specific places that exist in Peoria, Illinois, but then having other specific places, like the sizable airport, not exist. The author grew up in this area and her own experience makes Audrey's adolescence feel very real. As she struggles against the ideas about her past that she's told herself, she begins to see that the truth might be more complex than she's imagined and that having a central place to call home, no matter how often or infrequent the visits is important. The writing in this novel was good, with the light touch that gradually gives way to a deeper exploration of Audrey's complicated relationship to where she grew up.

huhtikuu 1, 7:38 pm

Happy new thread, Kay. Interesting topper picture.

huhtikuu 3, 10:38 am

Happy new thread, Kay! Somehow I find the painting in #1 less disturbing than the thread toppers from last year...

Nice review of Central Places.

huhtikuu 6, 11:13 am

>15 BLBera: I love the confusion on the first guy's face. He's clearly thinking, "Well, it's really hot and there's an over-whelming sulphur stench, but on the other hand, they did let me bring a book, so where am I?"

>16 kidzdoc: It's the books. Hard to be too scared of a situation that lets you bring your book with you. And thanks, it was weird reading about a place just up the road.

huhtikuu 8, 3:00 pm

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers is an early short story collection by Yiyun Li. All but one story is set in China and they often have the feel of a folktale. From the village that supplies eunuchs to the Imperial Court to a chilly Chicago street, the author tells stories that illuminate what it is to be human. This is a solid collection that is understated and full of detail.

huhtikuu 10, 2:33 pm

Heather Darwent's debut novel, The Things We Do to Our Friends, begins with a shocking act that sets the tone for the rest of this thriller. Clare (not her real name) has looked to friends to fill the role her parents don't and she has high hopes that going to university in Edinburgh will give her the opportunity to make friends and a fresh start. But she finds it harder than she thought. The people who want to be her friends are not the people she wants to have as friends. Then she runs into the charismatic Tabitha and her careless and wealthy friends and she is delighted and surprised to find that they want her to be a part of their group. But there's a reason they want her that reason has a lot to do with what happened in her past.

This is the kind of thriller where events and revelations occur so rapidly that it's impossible to figure out what the end game is. Clare is quiet and she works hard to blend into her new group of friends, but she's not as passive as they assume. And Clare doesn't know what is being planned when she's not there. Every few pages, a new event throws what came before into question and while there's plenty of foreshadowing, the events hinted at show little resemblance to what seems likely a few chapters earlier. Does this wild ride of a book hold up under scrutiny? Oh, certainly not! But does it matter when the whole thing is so much fun to read? Darwent's writing is never clunky or lazy. She's adept at dropping hints without them looking obvious and at creating a sizable cast of complex characters that she manages to make live and breathe, no matter how unlikely they would appear out in the actual world.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 11, 3:52 pm

Find Him is a solid noir by Jake Hinkson, author of the also fantastic Dry County. Set in Conway, Arkansas, just a half hour's drive from Little Rock, the story opens with a pregnant teenager looking for her fiancé, who has gone missing just a few days before they were supposed to be married. She tries reporting his disappearance to the police, who just laugh and state the obvious conclusion, a conclusion shared by the man's mother. But Lily refused to give up, although as a member of a fundamentalist Pentecostal church who has never cut her hair or owned a cell phone, she's not at all prepared to go out into the world to look for him. But she finds an unlikely ally in one of Peter's co-workers, who may not fully agree that Peter didn't run off, but who sees the danger in letting Lily wander into dangerous places unwittingly. He's willing to be the one to drive her into Little Rock and to let her know what is going on around her.

"Annnnd you ruined it," Allan says, grimacing like he tastes something sour. "Look, Lily, I'm not here to be a stand-in for all the gays, ok? You ain't Kimmy, and I ain't Titus."

"What does that mean?"

"Do you even own a television?'


But for all the charm of a mismatched duo on a quest, this is not a novel looking to make anyone feel warm and happy. Peter and Allan were working in a motel where drug dealers and human traffickers were operating and Allan is fully aware of how dangerous these men are and of the bad things going on in the back annex. He knows that even asking around for Peter could get them both killed. But he's a man with a heart despite himself and he liked the seemingly straight-laced Peter, and he's got a clear idea of what could happen to a naive girl like Lily.

So this isn't a novel with a happy ending, but it's also not a hopeless one. What makes this book shine is the complex characters Hinkson has created here. No one is entirely good or bad, and there's a nuance to his portrayal of the members of Lily's church that is rare to find. Allan, an intelligent gay man stuck in a small Southern town caring for his FOX News-watching father, while filling his apartment with books and old movies, is a fantastic character. And Lily may know nothing about the world, but she does know that her child will need a father and she refuses to let her shame at what happened, and for which she is blamed far more than Peter, prevent her doing what she thinks is right.

This is the second book I've read by Hinkson and it won't be my last. It's good stuff.

huhtikuu 11, 4:49 pm

>20 RidgewayGirl: That sounds good, and my library has it. This is why I can never stick to my vow to read what I already own... so much fun stuff and NYPL has so much of it as ebooks.

I have to say I identify with TV-less Lily and her cluelessness about pop culture references.

huhtikuu 11, 4:52 pm

>20 RidgewayGirl: That sounds interesting. My library has both books you had ready by him - which do you think is better as an introduction?

huhtikuu 11, 7:18 pm

>21 lisapeet: Lisa, my excuse is that at least I'm not buying them. And supporting public libraries in this particular point in our history is more important than ever. Those new fiction shelves draw me in even when I only mean to return a book.

>22 AnnieMod: Annie, Dry County is a little darker and has a main character who is a little less appealing than Lily. So if you prefer grim, go with Dry County, otherwise, Find Him is the slightly better book, in my opinion. I will note that if you are sensitive about Christians being portrayed as fallible people and not always the good guys, you might want to steer clear of this author.

huhtikuu 11, 7:33 pm

>23 RidgewayGirl: Had you ever seen anything in my reading that hints at me having issues with anyone being portrayed as fallible and not a good guy? These days everyone's favorite bad people are Bulgarian anyway - we had been cropping up all over the place (although the Russians are getting that back with that idiotic war) :) Thanks for the warning though - it is appreciated.

I will go in order then. Thanks for the answer!

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 11, 10:10 pm

>24 AnnieMod: Not at all! Just mentioning it. I did see one Goodreads review that was fine with the sex trafficking but offended that sex traffickers used swear words. We all contain multitudes, I guess. I do think Hinkson's novels portray Evangelical Christianity in a way that shows he has experience, but no illusions with it.

huhtikuu 12, 5:32 am

>25 RidgewayGirl: "I did see one Goodreads review that was fine with the sex trafficking but offended that sex traffickers used swear words."

This is something that baffles and irritates me with American morals. At least I see it as typically American. Though I’m sure not all Americans.

That books sounds really interesting, I’ll have to look it up.

huhtikuu 12, 1:47 pm

>26 FlorenceArt: It irritates me, and I'm an American! And Hinkson does a good job of explaining the culture of a small corner of the US and I think at least a few of his books are available in French (not that you need that!).

huhtikuu 12, 1:57 pm

>25 RidgewayGirl: No, I appreciate the warning - I do not need it but I would rather have it attached to a book for people who may get offended from that - otherwise they try to read the book and then declare it trash or something :)

The whole "this bad thing is acceptable but that almost normal thing is the worst thing in the world" always amused me while I was still in Europe. Then I moved here and it amuses me less. A movie can have a teen-aged prostitute and a ton of blood and violence but cannot have a nipple showing or a swear word? I'll never understand how violence is somehow better than a word. Although it is not just America - I was looking at a YA book which had been translated in Russian and they had slapped a 18+ warning on it (there was a law in the last years (which I think is finally abolished) about books and materials for children and young adults going against the Christian family (I am oversimplifying but that was the gist of it) so most publishers bringing out any book with any LBGT topics was slapping the 18+ just to be on the safe side. No such restrictions for books with graphic violence...)

Anyway - I will stop grumbling on the topic. :)

huhtikuu 12, 5:47 pm

>28 AnnieMod: Given that they are closing public libraries in Texas and Missouri to "protect the children" I suspect we could both grumble for some time.

huhtikuu 12, 5:47 pm

Hanio wakes to find that he's still alive after attempting suicide. Too bored to try again, he quits his job and advertises a Life for Sale. What follows is his being hired for increasingly odd tasks, beginning with being asked to sleep with the paramour of a jealous mob boss and culminating with him being targeted by a secretive international cabal. But no matter how dangerous the job, he can't seem to find a way to die.

This is old school noir. First published in Japan in 1968, Yukio Mishima has his too-cool-to-care protagonist sleep with the ladies and impress mobsters and spies with his sang-froid. Even vampire like him. This is a weird story, but also a lot of fun, despite the dark premise.

huhtikuu 13, 8:58 am

>25 RidgewayGirl:, >26 FlorenceArt:, >28 AnnieMod: Reminds me of this column by Alexandra Petri (gift link) after the Nashville school shooting:
I can think of nothing worse than children — in school, sitting at their desks, reading banned books. A horrible thought, all those children solemnly holding books in their hands and reading them and putting the thoughts in those books into their minds. Learning the wrong lessons and growing up — the wrong way. Growing all the way up. Getting to grow up and think thoughts about those improper things they read in unsanctioned books, their whole lives, maybe. Horrible.

huhtikuu 13, 9:15 am

>31 qebo: Reading this article made me so sad. Thinking of all these children, alive and reading the wrong books.

huhtikuu 13, 6:45 pm

>31 qebo: Right??

huhtikuu 13, 9:49 pm

>31 qebo: Gah, that's heartbreaking. And we choose to live like that.

>32 FlorenceArt: It's inexplicable and indefensible.

huhtikuu 14, 7:25 am

>34 RidgewayGirl: - I think heartbreaking is the right word.

huhtikuu 18, 4:23 pm

When Alex is invited to an exclusive writing workshop with superstar author Roza Vallo she is thrilled. She has worshiped the writer of feminist horror novels since she was a teenager. There are only two catches. The first -- since her best friend Wren ghosted her a year ago, Alex hasn't written a word, and second -- Wren will be there. But this is her last and best chance to chase her dreams and so of course Alex goes to The Writing Retreat. Awkwardness with an ex-friend turns out to be the smallest of the problems Alex will face at the retreat, because Roza's house is hiding more than nervous writers and Roza has a plan of her own.

This is the kind of thriller that starts strong and then just keeps piling on new elements until it all becomes ridiculous. But if you read the first chapter, in which a feminist woman author of horror novels is a star, complete with covers of fashion magazines and appearances that sell out in a matter of minutes, who is nonetheless described as "reclusive," you've already agreed to suspend all of your critical facilities to this book. Julia Bartz left nothing on the table when she wrote this thing and you've got to appreciate how she manages to keep raising the stakes. Is this a good book? Absolutely not. Is it a good thriller? Not if you need your thrillers to make sense. Is it a fun read? Yes, it is, as long as you keep turning the pages without thinking too deeply about what just happened. And you've got to like a novel in which an author (I imagined Silvia Moreno-Garcia in the role) is a celebrity made unimaginably wealthy through her handful of feminist horror novels.

huhtikuu 18, 8:05 pm

I'm trying to think of a single feminist star and drawing blanks.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 18, 9:42 pm

>37 LolaWalser: And young. She's in her thirties, I think, from context. The women I can think of are "famous" in the sense that people who follow current lit closely would be super excited to meet them, but I've yet to see Carmen Maria Machado in a fashion spread, or showing off her fabulous house purchased with all the millions authors are paid these days.

I admit that I like that this scenario exists, if only in a fictitious world.

huhtikuu 19, 12:55 pm

Yeah, I was thinking maybe Atwood, in the sense of "would some non-zero number of people who've heard of her also correlate her with feminism", but that sort of mainstream "stardom" just isn't there for feminism--and that, I may add, precisely for reasons that make feminism necessary. :)

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 19, 9:03 pm

>39 LolaWalser: And certainly not for a woman in her thirties. Imagine having written one's way into icon status in a decade and a half dozen books. The only authors I could come up with who have a prominent enough name are Margaret Atwood, as you mentioned and maybe Joyce Carol Oates, much assisted by her absolutely bonkers twitter feed. Of course there is one woman author one could argue does have celebrity status, but I would argue strongly against giving her the label of feminist.

huhtikuu 19, 6:10 pm

>39 LolaWalser: >40 RidgewayGirl: Also thinking of Susan Sontag in her early career.

huhtikuu 19, 7:36 pm

>40 RidgewayGirl:

Hahahahaaa!NO. I genuinely had to stop and think for a second... :)

>41 SassyLassy:

Very interesting choice. Famous from early on, but I've no feeling at all for how "feministy" she struck her contemporaries as being.

huhtikuu 21, 4:03 pm

Forensic anthropologists come up with weird titles. From Dead Men Do Tell Tales by William R. Maples to Bone Voyage by Stanley Rhine, you can picture the authors giggling to themselves as came up with that "perfect" title. And Never Suck a Dead Man's Hand certainly fits right in, even if the author didn't finish her doctorate until after she spent ten years working for the Baltimore PD as a crime scene investigator. It's her years as a CSI that this book is about. When Kollmann got her job as a CSI it was during a difficult period for that department. Previously, the job had been saved for police officers nearing retirement and there was a great deal of resentment aimed at these new civilians now working that job. Kollmann was subjected to cold treatment and some not-entirely-benign hazing but she stuck with it and did her job, often working in terrible conditions.

Kollmann is not a writer and this book would have benefited from some editorial attention. The first half is far better than the second, as Kollmann runs out of stories and fills the pages with the kinds of stories that are only funny after a long day and several beers. Kollmann has had an interesting career, and includes pictures of the archaeological digs she worked on and the work she did in the Balkans identifying victims of that war. Sadly, the pictures were included, but nothing made it into the text of the book, leaving this reader convinced that had she had more time (she admits that she wrote this book while she was working on her dissertation and caring for a baby) and someone to help her with the writing, this would have been an excellent and informative book.

huhtikuu 21, 7:42 pm

Really interesting set of books you have been reading - I haven't heard of most of them before! >19 RidgewayGirl: and >20 RidgewayGirl: are definitely going on the wishlist

huhtikuu 22, 2:29 pm

>44 wandering_star: I do tend towards the newest and shiniest of books. I look forward to finding out what you think of them.

huhtikuu 22, 3:20 pm

Kurashi at Home is Marie Kondo's book of vibes. It's not a how to; that's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which covers everything. This book is intended for people who have read the main book and also like a book with pretty illustrations of spare, well-curated rooms.

I read the first book awhile ago and am still folding my laundry and using a few of the ideas from that book, but a year ago we all moved to a new house and there are still, a full year later, a few boxes stuck here and there. I was looking for more inspiration than instruction, and this book suited that aim. The main thing I took away from this book was that the purpose of finishing up the move and unpacking those final boxes and getting those last spaces organized and clear is the satisfaction that comes from being in a space that looks the way I want it to look. It's about making one's home, regardless of size or how long one plans to live there, into a space that feels restful and restorative.

All in all, a pleasant book, in which it's fun to see that Kondo has relaxed her standards now that she is married and has young children. There's some interesting bits about how her religious faith influences how she looks at her surroundings, making the process of tidying up something other than being uptight about clutter.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 25, 12:13 pm

Dust rose up behind us, and I watched the bedouin running towards some tattered tents by some bushes southwards of us, where there were diminutive sheep and naked children. Where, O God, is the shade? Such land brings forth nothing but prophets. This drought can be cured only by the sky.

After studying in Europe and having taken a civil servant job in Khartoum, a man returns to his home village on a bend in the Nile only a few times a year. On one visit, he is astonished to meet another English-speaking man and is unsure of what to make of a Western-educated man living in a farming village where traditions remain unchanging and education is rare. Mustafa later shares his story, a remarkable one, with the narrator.

Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih is a remarkable book. Originally published in 1966, it holds many insights about the effects of colonialism that remain relevant today. The narrator allows the customs and traditions of his birthplace to commit an injustice, with repercussions that shock everyone. There's a lot going on in this slim novel set in an obscure corner of Sudan and I'm glad to have read it.

The war ended in victory for us all: the stones, the trees, the animals, the iron, while I, lying under this beautiful, compassionate sky, feel that we are all brothers; he who drinks and he who prays and he who steals and he who commits adultery and he who fights and he who kills. The source is the same. No one knows what goes on in the mind of the Divine. Perhaps he doesn't care. Perhaps he is not angry.

huhtikuu 25, 7:20 am

>47 RidgewayGirl: Wonderful review of a wonderful book

huhtikuu 25, 6:03 pm

The Laughter by Sonora Jha is a tenured English professor's account of what led to an incident involving a colleague who teaches law. Oliver Harding is fascinated by Ruhaba Khan, a much younger professor who comes from Pakistan and who wears a head covering. When her nephew arrives to live with her, Oliver sees his opportunity to form a connection. As a divorced man with an estranged adult daughter, Oliver has plenty of free time to spend with Ruhaba's nephew and he happily hires him to walk his dog and takes him on hikes, all with the intention of getting closer to her. But these are tense times at the university, with indications that the curriculum is being pushed away from the dead white guys, a change that would certainly affect a professor in late middle-age who gained tenure due to his focus on G. K. Chesterton. And Oliver is hearing hints that Rhuhaba is under investigation by the university and he's getting visits from the FBI, asking about her nephew.

Oliver is telling the story and he's more concerned with making himself look good than accuracy, we're talking Humbert Humbert levels of manipulation. It's a fun exercise to peer past the narrator to try to see the events as they really are. The reader learns quickly that Oliver is unreliable, but what about Rhuhaba? Is she as blithely unaware of Oliver's attitude towards her? And why is she under investigation by their university? Is it for the same reasons the FBI is interested in her nephew? Jha seems to delight in writing from the point of view of Oliver Harding and she doesn't pull any punches in this excellent campus novel.

huhtikuu 26, 3:34 am

>47 RidgewayGirl: Did the fighting in Sudan at the moment precipitate your reading of Season of Migration to the North

huhtikuu 26, 11:06 am

>50 baswood: No, PaulCranswick is running an African Novels challenge where each month focuses on a different region or theme. I'm joining in when I have a suitable book on my tbr -- it's been a good push to finally read Salih, and Mahfouz earlier in the year.

huhtikuu 26, 1:16 pm

>46 RidgewayGirl: I doubt that I will ever read Kondo (I am aware that she is much more than "throw it away if it does not bring you joy" and the soundbits about the number of books one needs) but it made me smile to see her relaxing her standards now that she has a family. Who would have thought that may happen.

I am almost afraid to finish unpacking the last of my boxes from when I changed apartments awhile back (7 years? Jeez... what happened with time). It feels like the moment I do that, it will be time to move again - now it feels like an excuse - I cannot possibly move, I had not fully moved in. It would be different if I own my place I guess but... :)

>47 RidgewayGirl: Nice review. This one is on my dining room table (which is my "read it soon-ish" pile but it keeps getting buried under newer books.

>49 RidgewayGirl: That sounds interesting - especially because the author decides to stick to the narrative voice and not to give us an epilogue (or second part) from the other side of the story - when done properly that can work but most newish authors use that as a crutch - under-develop the main story and then fill the blanks from another perspective...

huhtikuu 26, 2:08 pm

>47 RidgewayGirl: Oh, this book seems so interesting, and from a country I might never have read anything from. Avidly noting…

huhtikuu 26, 3:12 pm

Catching up on what you have read and what you are reading. I have not read the JCO yet. After years of reading her, I've not read one since sometime last year. I look forward to your review.

huhtikuu 26, 3:28 pm

>36 RidgewayGirl: Very interesting review! But the discussion that follows it is even better!

I've probably mentioned before that my personal feminist trinity has always been Atwood, Oates and the prematurely late Angela Carter...however, I'm closer to 70 than 60, and can't imagine these three would be choices for much younger reader (I know...define 'younger')

huhtikuu 26, 4:20 pm

>49 RidgewayGirl: Great discussion, Kay. This sounds interesting, and I see my library has a copy.

huhtikuu 27, 4:56 pm

>52 AnnieMod: The book thing was taken out of context and boy, did it strike a nerve. In the book, she talks about not hiding a collection in boxes, that the collection should be displayed in a way that makes you happy to see it. It was good for making me rearrange things so that my books were out of boxes and corners and just better organized. The act of holding each one and asking if it "sparked joy" was not good for helping me reduce the number of books, but it was good at reminding me of how much I loved/wanted to read each one.

And when I was packing up everything for the move a year ago, I did find a few boxes that had managed to live undisturbed from the last move. That is not going to happen this time, I am determined. We all have dreams.

>53 raton-liseur: Salih is quite well-known, although I only heard of him when I came across this novel. It's published in the US by the New York Review Books, which publishes books that have fallen out of print and translated literature in pleasing paperback copies and I pick them up when I run into them.


>54 avaland: Lois, I tend to read one or two of her novels each year, which means her oeuvre is growing faster than I'm reading it, it seems. This one is right in her wheelhouse, with creepy undertones, a beautiful dead girl (or is she) and a somewhat unpleasant narrator.

>56 BLBera: Beth, I look forward to finding out what you think of it.

huhtikuu 27, 7:00 pm

>57 RidgewayGirl: The act of holding each one and asking if it "sparked joy" was not good for helping me reduce the number of books, but it was good at reminding me of how much I loved/wanted to read each one.

Ha, this made me laugh coz I would have done the exact same thing

huhtikuu 28, 12:09 pm

>58 cindydavid4: I suspect the same would be true for quite a number of us here!

huhtikuu 28, 1:25 pm

After her wife dies and a biography about her wife is published that CM feels is full of inaccuracies and lies, CM sets out to write the real Biography of X. But the artist known most prominently as X has a past filled with obfuscations and deceptions, not all of them done in the name of art. As her widow dives deeper into her wife's life, what emerges is a conundrum. Was her wife a great and multi-talented artist who acted with her art in mind? Or was she a narcissistic grifter who hurt far too many people? Or does the truth lie somewhere in between?

Catherine Lacey has created a confounding novel; the subject is largely unsympathetic and the narrator is made unreliable by her motivations and loyalties. It's the kind of novel that needs an assured and talented author to pull it off, and Lacey does have the chops. Adding to the mix, Lacey has also set this biography in an alternate history of the United States, parts of which are described in detail, larger questions are hand-waved away or ignored. It was a lot to put in one book. X interacts with pretty much every famous person from the seventies to the late nineties, from Andy Warhol and Kathy Acker, to David Bowie, Warren Beatty and Susan Sontag. Lacey sticks to the format and there are amply endnotes, often referencing real people who accomplished different things in this alternative world, sometimes flipping details, like Rachel Cusk becoming Richard Cusk.

So does this audacious project work? Yes, mostly, almost? The alternate history that allows X to be in/famous and allows her a large role in the lives of many well-known people, lessens the stakes of the novel by constantly reminding the reader that this is fiction. The world Lacey has created has some large holes that are never addressed, while other issues are carefully laid out and it left me increasingly impatient, waiting for the information that never arrived. This is a book that looks at sexism, as it exists in the different countries the US has split into, in detail but ignores racism, which seems to have never existed in this version of the world. And many huge changes occur peacefully and largely off the page. The US split without war, women took over art without more than an occasional article wondering if men can even create real art, and despite the fact that the US is now three separate countries, no one wanted names more creative than the Northern Territory, the Southern Territory and the Western Territory (I really had trouble believing that we wouldn't have ended up with variations on the United Republic of America, the Democratic Republic of America and the Free Republic of Real American States.)

Lacey is a fantastic author and as CM learns new things about her wife, she reassessed their relationship, that was structured very much as a traditional marriage, where CM gave up her own career and aspirations to be X's support staff. These realizations come slowly, having to penetrate the gloss that grief has put on her memories of X and it's very well done. And the endnotes look like they were a lot of fun to write.

huhtikuu 28, 1:38 pm

>60 RidgewayGirl: “I really had trouble believing that we wouldn't have ended up with variations on the United Republic of America, the Democratic Republic of America and the Free Republic of Real American States.”

That sounds more likely. I like the names you came up with.

huhtikuu 28, 2:46 pm

>61 FlorenceArt: The structure of the northern and southern countries is based on Germany, when it was divided, so I expected the names to reflect that.

huhtikuu 28, 4:45 pm

I will add that if you like novels about women artists, both Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg and The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt are far better.

huhtikuu 28, 7:56 pm

>61 FlorenceArt: cue Monty Pythons Life of Brian

huhtikuu 30, 2:16 pm

Catching up. Lots of interesting titles and authors that are new to me, as always.

huhtikuu 30, 4:59 pm

>65 AlisonY: Yes, I have been leaning towards brand new books lately. I keep meaning to dive into the older books, but then something shiny shows up and like a raven, I am unable to resist.

toukokuu 3, 2:45 pm

An Honest Living by Dwyer Murphy follows a down-on-his-heels lawyer living in New York City in a railroad apartment and doing whatever jobs come his way to make ends meet. He's hired by a mysterious woman to see if the husband she's divorcing is trying to sell some valuable legal booklets that belong to her. The money is good and the job is easy, until our protagonist discovers that the woman who hired him was not who she said she was. And so he becomes involved with the woman who was impersonated, someone equally mysterious to him, as he tries to make amends for what he was tricked into doing and to find out who hired him and why.

This is heavily marketed at noir. In descriptions and reviews the terms "hard-boiled" and "homage to noir" are thrown around like confetti. The protagonist sure seems like the kind of detective one found in a classic noir; he's sort of world weary, but also compassionate and in love with the version of New York he lives in, in which the chains stores and luxury apartments have been replaced with colorful neighborhoods full of friendly bars and diners. So by the time I figured out that "noir" was referring only to the stage setting and not at all to the story, which is absolutely cozy in tone, without a hint of danger, I was taken enough with the decor not to mind too much. The main character is a likable guy, who knows a lot of interesting people and just hanging out with him as he wanders around sort of working on solving a case that involves some high level wheeling and dealing, but only marginal amounts of crime, none violent or even menacing (the tensest moment in this novel is our guy sneaking out of a house early to avoid being roped into a fishing trip) is pretty pleasant. There's some nice stuff about old books, some long walks through Manhattan, a few drinks and what is less a conclusion, let alone a climax of any sort, than just the end of the novel, the lawyer's life as he walks away essentially the same as when he walked on stage.

This book was nice. I liked it fine. Noir it ain't.

toukokuu 5, 11:53 am

>18 RidgewayGirl: Glad you liked this one. If I'm not mistaken, there's a film based on the title story. Been years since I believe I saw it!

toukokuu 5, 1:34 pm

>68 Cariola: Oh, is there? I will have to track that down. I know you like Yinyun Li's writing (although not so much The Book of Goose), and I'm really excited about her writing now, too.

Today I saw that Lydia Millet, an author I love, gave a lukewarm review to a novella by Claire Keegan, another author I love, and it make me feel like my parents were fighting. I prefer it when my favorite authors either don't ever speak about each other, or do so in loving and reverent tones.

toukokuu 5, 2:02 pm

>69 RidgewayGirl: what was the title?

toukokuu 5, 2:12 pm

>69 RidgewayGirl: Foster? or Small Things Like These? I loved them both.

Found the film. It's from 2007, directed by Wayne Wang, with Yiyun Li listed as the writer, so she must have helped with the dialogue


toukokuu 5, 6:33 pm

>70 dianeham: & >71 Cariola: I think it was Keegan's newest short story, So Late in the Day. Millet's criticism centered on how Keegan's version of rural Ireland in the 1980s made no reference to the popular pop culture of the time and was reasonably mild in tone. I do like that there is such appetite for Keegan's work now that each short story is published in book form. She's making people realize that short stories as good.

>71 Cariola: I will hunt that down. Thanks.

toukokuu 5, 8:45 pm

I'm long overdue to read my copy of Season of Migration to the North, which I've owned for at least a decade. Hopefully I'll get to it this year.

toukokuu 6, 2:17 pm

>73 kidzdoc: Darryl, it sometimes seems like my read-soon pile is sometimes taller than my to-be-read-eventually pile. It is a slender book and does give a small amount of insight into what is going on now in Sudan, if that pushes it a little higher on the priority list.

toukokuu 6, 2:54 pm

In 48 Clues into the Disappearance of My Sister, Marguerite's younger sister begins with her last glimpse of her older, glamorous sister and tells the story of what happened after Marguerite disappeared somewhere between the home she'd moved back to after her mother's death to care for her father and younger sister, and the local college where she worked as an artist-in-residence. M. is beautiful and talented and her disappearance brings a lot of attention to their town and to Gigi and her father. Gigi is very different from her sister, not a beauty and unlike her sister, whose art career is taking off, Gigi works as a clerk in the post office. Gigi begins to explore her sister's life, finding surprises in a sketchbook and in the attentions of a man who claims to have been her sister's mentor.

Joyce Carol Oates is playing to her strengths with this novel. There's the young woman both repelled and drawn to an over-bearing man, there's the distant father, there's that sense of being uncomfortable in one's own body and, more than anything, JCO's writing style that gives everything an off-kilter feel, a touch of the creepy. All those things are why I like JCO's writing so much and yet, here, they fail to deliver. JCO is pulling out all the usual tricks, but this novel feels like she's just going through the motions. She's written dozens of books like this one and, for once, it shows. It's not a bad book, but there are so very many better books by her out there. She is an extraordinary author who has written a remarkable number of books so a rare stumble is no doubt to be expected, although her mistakes are usually ones where she takes a chance and fails, not when she's writing to her strengths. A bad book by JCO is still better than most other books, but she's written far better books.

toukokuu 10, 6:47 pm

This is a reread, to refresh my memory before diving into the rest of the quartet and Companion Piece all in a row. I remembered far more than I thought I would have, but enjoyed revisiting it enormously. The parts about the artist Pauline Boty were as wonderful as the first time, and the friendship between Daniel and Elisabeth just as lovely. I had thought a book so rooted in feelings about Brexit would have felt more dated, but given that the UK is still dealing with the unhappy consequences and repercussions, it felt remarkably timely.

toukokuu 11, 1:21 pm

I will definitely read the quartet again, Kay. I hope you enjoy the others. The first time I read it, Winter was my least favorite, but I loved it on the second read, so the novels do offer new ideas on rereading.

toukokuu 11, 6:49 pm

>77 BLBera: I'm excited about the rest. I read Autumn right away, but Winter somehow got stuck in the wishlist for long enough for Spring to be published, at which point it made sense to just wait and read them in succession. Of course, I waited unto Companion Piece was published to start.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 11, 6:52 pm

Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson is the story of a family told through the eyes of three women. The Stockton family is wealthy, their money old and self-perpetuating. Georgiana is the youngest, with a job with a non-profit where she has a crush on one of her co-workers. Darley is married to a high-flying executive and they have two small children. Georgiana and Darley are united in their dislike for the third woman, Sasha, their brother's wife. Sasha came from an ordinary middle class background and is always tense about doing or saying or wearing the wrong thing. Her husband, a golden boy who is everyone's favorite, is no help. And they were given the family home, a large house in Brooklyn, which would be fine except it's clear that to the Stocktons, the house is still the family home that must not be changed, family members can walk in whenever and the two sisters are resentful of Sasha hinting that they should get their things out of their childhood bedrooms.

On good days, Sasha could acknowledge how incredibly lucky she was to live in her house. It was a four-story Brooklyn limestone, a massive, formal palace that could have held ten of the one-bedroom apartments Sasha had lived in before. But on bad days, Sasha felt she was living in a time capsule, the home her husband had grown up in and never left, filled with his memories, his childhood stories, but mostly his family’s shit.

I'm not going to claim that very wealthy people can't have problems. I am going to say that if you want me to care about their problems, you're going to have to work a lot harder to earn my sympathy. And Jackson did try to make me feel bad for the woman whose married lover died and she can't express her grief because the affair was a secret. And she tried to make me feel bad for the rich lady whose husband loses his job and she might have to ask for money from her parents. And I did feel for Sasha, dropped into that den of resentment with no support, except she did choose a guy who resolutely never stood up for her. I kept reading expecting something dramatic but the ending was rushed and the resolution unconvincing. Which would have been more disappointing had there ever been any stakes to the conflict.

This is definitely a reminder to me to slow down and learn more about a book before reading it.

toukokuu 15, 1:06 pm

Though I'd have preferred to have company, there was no question that I felt comfortable being alone at that moment and was glad to see there were other people in nearby cars who felt the same. I thought about all the times I'd sat at the edges of groups in conversation, listening, enjoying myself, but surely considered the person with the least to contribute, the way the least interesting creature in an aquarium is generally agreed to be the slug over in the corner. Overall, it seemed like I had to work extra hard just to make any kind of relationship work. And in that sense, I had a lot to offer.

It's hard to review a book I enjoyed so thoroughly as Elizabeth McKenzie's The Dog of the North. It's an oddball book, to be sure. Any description of the plot is either gives too much away or is inscrutably cryptic. There's a hostile Grandmother who is both a scientist and a hoarder, with an uncertain number of literal skeletons hidden away. There's an accountant undergoing a health emergency who may or may not share a toupee with his younger brother. There are parents long lost in the Australian outback and a dog named Kweecoats, for absolutely the most convoluted reason. There's an old van that is conveniently furnished with a futon and less conveniently furnished with a tire and a bike. And through all the chaos, Penny, our protagonist does her best. She's a mess, but she's also resilient and determined to find her way and help her family.

I hesitate to call this book charming, because I will absolutely not pick up a book anyone calls charming, thank you very much. Penny has such a wonderfully weird take on life, a life in which she has been beat up pretty thoroughly, that gives her a determined kind of optimism and to make friends out of people very different from herself. I loved this book, was entirely immersed in every strange thing life threw at Penny, and will be automatically reading whatever McKenzie writes next.

toukokuu 15, 2:54 pm

>80 RidgewayGirl: "I hesitate to call this book charming, because I will absolutely not pick up a book anyone calls charming, thank you very much."

Ditto, and you have piqued my curiosity. Another book added to the absurdly long list (sigh).

toukokuu 15, 3:02 pm

>80 RidgewayGirl: Sounds like fun!

toukokuu 15, 8:58 pm

>80 RidgewayGirl: Penny has such a wonderfully weird take on life, a life in which she has been beat up pretty thoroughly, that gives her a determined kind of optimism and to make friends out of people very different from herself

sounds like my kind of book!

toukokuu 16, 12:16 pm

>81 KeithChaffee: Ah, the infinite wishlist. Source of delight and obligation. I do recommend Elizabeth McKenzie. The Portable Veblen is also wonderful.

>82 FlorenceArt: Sometimes a fun book is called for!

>83 cindydavid4: Cindy, I think you'd enjoy it.

toukokuu 16, 5:17 pm

There are two kinds of book I avoid and one of them is books with a Second World War setting. There are other wars, writers! Mix it up a little! That said, I have loved everything Jo Baker has written, from her look at the Bennet household from the point of view of the servants, to her thriller about an academic being stalked, even to her novel about Samuel Beckett set during, yes, the Second World War. So despite the setting, I was eager to read her latest novel, The Midnight News.

In this novel, a young woman has a job typing for the ministry of information and an attic room in London. Charlotte has had some unspecified problem in her past and a father she is clearly wary of, but she has a few friends in London and is enjoying her independence. Then the bombings begin and although nights spent in the basement kitchen with her landlady are not entirely comfortable, she feels safe enough, but as she worries about her friends, family and acquaintances, she notices that she's being watched by someone. And people connected with her are dying.

This is a shape-shifter of a novel, one where it's often impossible to get one's footing, and parts where I was just as lost as Charlotte. But Baker is an author who repays a reader's trust and what seems like treading water turns out to be forward motion and where what seems to be solid ground dissolves at the slightest pressure. This is a very satisfying novel and if Baker decides to just write books set during WWII for the rest of her life, I will read every single one (there are other wars though!).

toukokuu 16, 7:15 pm

>80 RidgewayGirl: I also enjoyed the new McKenzie novel, Kay. I've heard it described as "quirky," which I think fits.

I'm really looking forward to the new Baker as well.

toukokuu 16, 7:35 pm

>80 RidgewayGirl: could find this one at the ued but did find the portable veblen Ill try that in the meantime waiting to get the book

toukokuu 16, 7:38 pm

>84 RidgewayGirl: oh good, I couldnt find the first book but this one was there as well so I took a chance and grabbed it! looking forward to reading it while waiting for the other

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 17, 11:13 am

Um, she is a very very good writer and I want to go passed the 100 pg mark where I am at not. But I so despise the mother, shes just too much even reading about here that Im not sure I can stand it. Im really angry at this fictional character! Part of this was my own dysfuntional family, and I think I recognize my mother in it; she wasnt over the top but passive agressive, tactless, clueless to other peoples needs, fits. So maybe the extreme of Melanie is just to much Should I keep reading anyway? is there more fun to come without her?

toukokuu 17, 12:08 pm

>89 cindydavid4: I would say to put it down and wait for a copy of The Dog of the North instead. There's no point revisiting old harm. There is a grandmother in Dog who is all those things, but she doesn't take up too much space and the relationship is different. Now you have me wondering if McKenzie has or had someone like Melanie/Dr. Pincer in her own life.

toukokuu 17, 12:31 pm

So today there was a knock on my front door and I answered (wearing my oldest t-shirt and sweatpants) to be asked if my driveway could be used for a photoshoot because it is "so handsome." There are now a ton of people in the back yard with even more equipment. I have met the guy who did the asking once before, so it wasn't entirely weird and it is the company my husband works for, but it certainly is something that has never happened to me before. The bonus is that the pile of old wood and branches left by the previous owner has now been dealt with, a task we've been meaning to get to for over a year now.

toukokuu 17, 3:24 pm

Congratulations on a handsome driveway! And getting rid of a pile of wood without having to chop/package it up.

toukokuu 17, 3:28 pm

>92 markon: Ardene, it is too much for the cat. She's gone into hiding.

toukokuu 17, 11:18 pm

>93 RidgewayGirl: Poor kitty!

toukokuu 18, 9:30 am

High praise indeed for Jo Baker - I was aware of the Austen-linked book but not her other work.

toukokuu 18, 11:10 am

BB for Dog of the North - and when I went to reserve it at the library, the "alternate choices" offered were so weird I had to come report them. Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris (humor, I think?), Keep Me Warm at Christmas by Brenda Novak (romance), and an omnibus of Charlaine Harris' Harper Connelly Mysteries series (I assume paranormal, given the author). Fascinating, and make me want to read the book more - while those particular books don't appeal, that's definitely my wheelhouse(s).

toukokuu 18, 11:45 am

David Sedaris is an acquired taste I believe. his work is considered humor but I don't see it.

toukokuu 18, 2:11 pm

>94 dianeham: This cat is doted upon to an embarrassing degree.

>95 wandering_star: You know how some authors just resonate with you? She does that for me, I always end up just immersed in what she writes. Her novel about Samuel Beckett's war years was fascinating.

>96 jjmcgaffey: Oh, that is an odd group of books! But I can see it. If I were to make the list, I'd put something by Elif Batuman with Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus and The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao by Martha Batalha. Maybe replace David Sedaris with Heather Havrilesky. That's a fun exercise.

>97 cindydavid4: He is definitely not for everyone, although I love his early humor. Me Talk Pretty One Day resonated with me as I struggled to learn German. He has an essay about the genders in German that never fails to make me choke with laughter.

toukokuu 18, 2:39 pm

I gave up trying to comment on the handsome driveway, everything comes out sounding like Beavis & Butthead.

That cat is me and a meme!

Aw, yes, I too find Sedaris hilarious. But it's been a while since I read him.

toukokuu 18, 3:08 pm

>93 RidgewayGirl: Poor kitty indeed! but at least he found a safe place to hide.

toukokuu 19, 9:09 pm

>99 LolaWalser: Melmoth is very memeable. And telling me our driveway was handsome was odd, but there is no doubt that it was highly effective in getting me to cheerfully agree to lending them the driveway and yard for the day.

>100 markon: Melmoth is napping next to me right now. She appreciates all the sympathy.

toukokuu 21, 3:48 pm

Kelly Link's short stories often have an otherworldly feel, with odd and unaccountable things happening all the time. So a collection of reimagined fairy tales sounds like it might be something special. Black Dog, White Cat: Stories is exactly this and it is even more marvelous than I had hoped. Link sticks mostly with slightly less well-known stories, like The Musicians of Bremen and Snow White and Rose Red. Each story is wildly inventive and solidly based in its origin story. My favorite was a take on Tam Lin that had an otherworldly, magical atmosphere, even before introducing the supernatural aspect. The best story, in a collection where all the stories were good, was a take on East of the Sun, West of the Moon called Prince Hat Underground, in which a man sets out to find and rescue his husband, who was taken away by a mysterious woman, a journey that leads him to Iceland and an ever increasingly odd set of adventures.

Link knows how to create an atmosphere in her writing, which is a skill that shines in these fairy tales. They are set ostensibly in this world, but each has such a different feeling and air about it, even before the tale gets to the fairies, or the talking animals, or the 300 year old man. Link also knows how to create a story that is hard to put down, even if that story is spent within the walls of a single house or even sitting in the middle seat of a crowded flight. If you have any interest in fairy tale retellings or even a well-told short story, this is the collection to pick up.

toukokuu 21, 3:50 pm

>102 RidgewayGirl: ok I'm sold!

toukokuu 22, 4:08 pm

>102 RidgewayGirl: I'll be watching for this one at the library.

toukokuu 22, 4:55 pm

>103 cindydavid4: & >104 markon: Yes, if you like reimagined fairy tales, this is catnip. I pounced on this book!

toukokuu 22, 6:07 pm

Kelly Link was a lot of fun on the So Many Damn Books podcast the other day.

toukokuu 22, 6:08 pm

>106 lisapeet: I used to listen to that! Do they still overuse the musical interludes? I'm more a Maris Review girl these days.

toukokuu 22, 6:34 pm

>107 RidgewayGirl: Yeah, I hate the musical interludes but they're at least short. But obnoxious as those are, I love the conversations and book (and other stuff) recommendations. It's just the one guy now, Christopher, because Drew left to work on his own projects.

I'm a Maris Review girl too, and an Otherppl fan as well. I love me some podcasts.

toukokuu 23, 9:17 am

I've been away for a few days, and your thread has exploded! Loved the story of the handsome cat and illustrious driveway. And the book talk, of course. :-)

toukokuu 23, 12:09 pm

>108 lisapeet: I will check out Otherppl!

>109 labfs39: Hi, Lisa, there has been a lot going on!

toukokuu 23, 6:05 pm

In Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld, Sally is a writer for a sketch comedy show (obviously Saturday Night Live) and the first section of the novel covers a single week in which she works on a sketch called The Danny Horst Rule, about how ordinary-looking male comedians often end up with gorgeous stars, but the reverse never happens. She also works a lot with the week's host, a gorgeous musician. You can see where this is going, right? Yes, and also this is a great how-the-sausage-is-made look at a writer's job at SNL. I enjoyed this section enormously. Talented people doing a complicated thing and two witty people flirting? Five stars, no notes.

In the second section, all tension and interest is bled out of the novel. Sally and the hunky musician are quarantined in different states, he in his California mansion, she in Kansas City, living with an elderly relative. So they email. And the emails are exactly what would flow between two people who don't know each other well. Lots of do-you-have-any-pets? kind of questions, and long descriptions of their daily routines. There is no man hunky enough for me to maintain interest through a description of his work-out routine. But I made it through this section. One star, would edit down to six brief text messages.

The third section is about two people in their late thirties figuring out how to make a relationship work. It's nice enough, and who is going to complain about reading about nice people doing nice things and settling into a life of obscene wealth together? Me, a little. Happy for them, would rather read about almost anything else. Three stars, mainly because Sittenfeld is a very good writer who can make buying a shower chair at Target almost worth reading about.

So a mixed bag.

toukokuu 23, 8:21 pm

>111 RidgewayGirl: I have a feeling I enjoyed your review way more than I would enjoy the book. I'll stop right here, content.

toukokuu 28, 2:01 pm

When a man dies below the statues on a famous Tokyo bridge, two detectives from different divisions are part of the task force convened to solve the case. Kaga and Matsumiya are cousins, but Matsumiya admires his cousin's skill at solving complex crimes and happily plays sidekick to his taciturn colleague. When a perpetrator is quickly found, it looks like the case will be wrapped up, but a few questions remain and as Kaga looks into the victim's life, he finds clues that show a connection between the victim and his murderer. But still a few questions remain.

A Death in Tokyo by Keigo Higashino is a police procedural where the two detectives are able to act independently and to continue to investigate long after the case is considered closed. This isn't a thriller, it's a methodical examination of a life, with a detective who carefully untangles each thread, no matter how unrelated to the crime it seems. This is a fascinating look at life in Japan and a quiet sort of crime novel. I enjoy this author's novels and it's good to see that more of them are being translated.

toukokuu 30, 3:19 pm

My Last Innocent Year by Daisy Alpert Florin centers on the Spring semester of Izzy's final year at a prestigious private university in New Hampshire. She's an English major about to take a senior seminar in creative writing, when a not entirely consensual sexual experience throws her off-kilter. This is the late nineties, the Lewinsky scandal is dominating the airwaves and this book is a reminder that even the relatively recent past is a foreign country.

As everyone and especially the college administration quickly try to move past the idea that anything should be done, Izzy quickly develops what should have been an innocent crush on her creative writing teacher but, again, the rules were a bit different then and Izzy is still trying to collect herself. The star couple of the English department, the department head and her professor husband, are undergoing a public and very acrimonious divorce and, again, how we saw things in the past is not how we see things now.

This is an uncomfortable novel that leans hard into gray areas and how difficult it is to make huge life decisions when barely older than a teenager. Izzy is learning how to take control of her own life, to not be reflectively polite and apologetic in the face of hostility and learning how to make her own decisions in the face of people telling her what she should do, should want, should react. This is an ambitious debut novel that just doesn't mind diving into murky waters. It certainly reminded me of how much has changed in the past 25 years, and how much just hasn't.

toukokuu 30, 3:25 pm

>79 RidgewayGirl: Your review of Pineapple Street confirms that my reasons for skipping this one were valid.

toukokuu 30, 3:39 pm

>115 Cariola: Cariola, you would have hated it so much!

kesäkuu 2, 4:02 pm

Ivy Pochoda's new novel, Sing Her Down, begins in a violent women's prison in Arizona, with the voices of three women. There's Kace, who hears the voices of the dead; Florida, who comes from an affluent family from Hancock Park and who was so high when she drove her boyfriend away from where he set a fire that killed a man, that she has no memory of it; and Dios, who loves singing narcocorridos and being feared for her random acts of extreme violence. When both Dios and Florida are paroled at the start of the pandemic, Florida impulsively jumps on an illegal bus to Los Angeles, hoping to go home. But Dios follows her onto the bus and before the bus reaches its destination, both Dios and Florida are not just breaking parole, they are on the run.

This is a novel not about the pandemic, but set in a dystopian Los Angeles ravaged by the shuttering of businesses and the explosion of homelessness. Centered on the skid row neighborhoods around downtown, there's a real feel of hopelessness and of end times to this world, despite its proximity to the comfortable Tudor-style manors and shady avenues of Hancock Park. There's a recurring character from her previous novel, These Women, who serves to ground this novel while Florida and Dios circle each other in a way that feels like a Western, albeit one with an urban setting.

There's a lot of over-the-top violence at the start of this novel and while that isn't something that usually bothers me, Pochoda's writing made it just that bit more vivid and real. It's a wild beginning, that leaves the reader ready for anything. Pochoda is an interesting author and her version of Los Angeles, one of dirty street corners and a capacity to explode into violence at a moment's notice, is a compelling one.

kesäkuu 3, 9:57 pm

>114 RidgewayGirl: I'm curious how the author identified the celebrity couple of the English department. She seems to have borrowed heavily from her own experience. The author graduated from Dartmouth College (in NH) in 1995, the year that Louise Erdrich '76 and English Professor Michael Dorris split up in a very acrimonious and public way.

kesäkuu 4, 10:22 am

>118 labfs39: Lisa, thanks for that information. Those two certainly fit very well in with the events (save one critical one) of this novel. That part of the novel was presented from the point-of-view of a student only tangentially connected (the male prof was supposed to be her dissertation advisor and she attends a gathering at their home) so the view is blurry and off to one side, until it isn't.

It's interesting to read novels heavily based on an author's personal experiences. Of course, writers must inevitably pull from life, but when the parallels are clearer, it's impossible not to try to parse what is fiction and what is less so. I just finished a book of essays by Elif Batuman in which she talks about some events from her own life that mirror events in her later novels in interesting ways.

kesäkuu 8, 11:11 am

Every morning I called Aeroflot to ask about my suitcase. "Oh, it's you," sighed the clerk, "Yes, I have your request right here. Address: Yasnaya Polyana, Tolstoy's house. When we find the suitcase we will send it to you. In the meantime, are you familiar with our Russian phrase resignation of the soul?

The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman is a collection of personal essays centering on her time working towards her Ph.D in Russian literature. She goes to a Tolstoy conference in Russia, helps host a Babel conference at Stanford University and studies Uzbek in Samarkand for a summer and tours the more obscure corners of Turkey for Let's Go.

Batuman is a likable main character in her accounts. She appears to be a hapless victim of circumstance, having accidentally fallen into Russian literature, but she's also someone who is relentlessly curious about the world around her and willing to jump into circumstances most people would balk at. She cheerfully endures weird and trying experiences and turns them into funny stories. My favorite essays are the ones set during her summer in Samarkand, a city which sounds endlessly exotic, but is also in a former Soviet satellite state still struggling to regain its feet. Most of the stories are set among graduate students and visiting scholars and if that sounds even halfway interesting to you, this is a book you'll like; it's witty and intelligent and has a great sense of the absurd. And if you've read either of her novels, you'll get to read about the experiences that she later fictionalized.

kesäkuu 8, 11:42 am

>117 RidgewayGirl: I really want to read something by her, have heard nothing but good things. Maybe I'll start with this one, extreme violence is kind of my wheel house.

kesäkuu 8, 12:27 pm

>120 RidgewayGirl:

Is that a Roz Chast cover?! Niccce.

Batuman got stick for not cancelling Russian literature. Well, presumably there are others but I sort of recall seeing an article by her on the topic.

kesäkuu 8, 1:59 pm

>121 stretch: I'm now curious to find out what you make of her. She's good and she really has a way of describing the rough parts of LA. With These Women, the vibe was gritty and mean, this time the vibe is straight dystopian.

>122 LolaWalser: It does have an great cover. Hard not to give anything with a cover by Chast a second look - there's a new book about food that she's drawn the cover for and the cover made me consider buying the book even though I don't really want to read it. She is wonderful.

Thanks for pointing to the article. It's really interesting. Batuman enjoys grappling with complexity and contradiction.


kesäkuu 9, 6:02 pm

kesäkuu 9, 10:49 pm

>124 SassyLassy: I have books by two of the Ukrainian authors Batuman mentions in the article. I like her idea of looking for authors from what she calls the periphery.

kesäkuu 9, 11:37 pm

>123 RidgewayGirl:, >124 SassyLassy:

Complexity's been murdered, because war. I don't mean to rag on the Ukrainians. When people are being shelled and starved and killed, it's no surprise at all if they are not in the mood to indulge the enemy's culture.
But things like that article of Zabuzhko's (and she's by no means the only one) has nothing to do with culture, it is as pure a piece of inflammatory propaganda as anything contrived by Putin. Not that long ago Ukrainians were proving that Dostoevsky was Ukrainian (not a lie; his family stemmed from the Ukraine) and aiming to open a museum dedicated to him in his ancestral region.

If complexity were still viable, one might notice that "the WORST Russian EVER" was actually a Georgian (as were many of the high ranking Communist officials, down to independent Georgia's first president Eduard Shevardnadze), or that Ukrainians have, in fact, historically shown a great sympathy for and readiness to perform the annihilatory type of antisemitism and Nazism. This is not to say it's therefore OK to kill them--just that there isn't a clear demarcation between some "good" Ukrainian and "evil" Russian "character" ("mentality", "culture", or as I have also seen, "civilization"). And it's unfortunate that anyone is trying to foment a debate in this sense, not just because it's easy enough to point out embarrassing bits of Ukrainian history and culture, but also because it's so unnecessary--we all know the aggressor and the victim here.

Finally, this is just one aspect of a general attempt to dehumanize Russians as people, and by no means just the followers of Putin. Or we wouldn't be hearing such idiotic stuff about Dostoevsky. American and Western anti-Communism has always had overtones of an ethnic hatred of Russians as Russians. Hitler meant for them to be exterminated same as Jews, and in fact (people forget, if they ever knew) he did manage to murder 3.5 million Russian POWs in the camps and 2 million Russian civillians brought to Germany as slave labour. Almost the iconic six million. And this Hitlerian vision of Russians as subhumans is now being trumpeted all over the media. OK, that's beside the point to anyone in Ukraine now.

But it shouldn't be beside the point to us, when we're called upon, under pains of ostracism, to repudiate Dostoevsky and Pushkin etc.

kesäkuu 10, 9:52 am

>126 LolaWalser: I agree with all of this. There's a reason that calling Ukrainians Nazis resonates in Russia and the cheering over the dead bodies of boys conscripted into the Russian military is understandable in Ukraine, but less so here. Surely we can find a way to unequivocally denounce the actions of the Russian government and atrocities committed in Ukraine without forgetting the humanity of everyone involved. Or maybe we can't. Meanwhile, over here, we're watching people lose their minds over a rocking chair painted in a rainbow of colors and pre-school teachers who don't make sure the boys don't try on the princess outfits at playtime. Time to go bury my head in a book.

kesäkuu 11, 6:19 pm

All her life, Ren has loved stories of mermaids, from the sweet Disney story to the strangest of folktales. She longs to become a water-dweller, to be one of the mermaids. Her beginning her transformation begins with joining the high school swim team, of spending her her hours and days soaked in the Chlorine-rich waters of Olympic-sized swimming pools, water colored blue and sharply scented, each lane marked off with floating ropes. Becoming a swimmer isn't easy, the coach is abusive, the other team members come from wealthier, whiter families, but Ren makes one friend, and besides friendship isn't the point. The point is becoming better, the point is becoming a mermaid.

This wild and off-kilter story by Jade Song is one that is unsettling and almost claustrophobic in feel. Ren is a lonely Chinese-American girl whose mother works long hours and who both longs to be the best swimmer on the high school team and has the drive to do so. This coming-of-mermaid tale shows how dedicated an athlete longing to excel must be, as Ren sacrifices everything in her life to be the best and eventually comes up with a plan to be even more than that. This novel was unsettling and surprised me often.

kesäkuu 11, 7:05 pm

>128 RidgewayGirl: I just downloading ebook samples. I’ll never read them all.

kesäkuu 12, 6:25 am

>102 RidgewayGirl: Hoping to get to Gavin and Kelly's bookstore this weekend (Easthampton , MA)

kesäkuu 12, 1:51 pm

>129 dianeham: Look at it this way, it's not that you'll never read all the books you want to, but that you'll never run out of books you want to read.

>130 avaland: Oh, how fun! I love to visit new bookstores. I've done a few road trips with friends, hitting up every independent bookstore in a given area. I've done trips through Georgia, SC and an especially rich lode in the Raleigh-Durham area of NC. I'd like to do Chicagoland next.

kesäkuu 13, 2:14 am

it's not that you'll never read all the books you want to, but that you'll never run out of books you want to read

Ooooh I want this in six foot letters framed in gold!

kesäkuu 13, 8:12 am

That is an excellent way to think about it!

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 13, 2:23 pm

It was outrageous, to be criticized by him, after she'd stood by him all these years, after she had held his blood in her hands, trying to press it back into his body. "It's all about what happened to you. You never asked me what it was like for me."

The old anger returned. He should know how much anger she'd kept inside her, afraid to send it in his direction, worried he couldn't handle it. Always worried about his feelings.

A long time ago, Willa and Justin were good friends. Willa looked up to her older brother and depended on him in a broken household, with a dead father and a mother trying to keep them going, with no room for nurturing. But in high school, they splintered apart. Through the years they've drifted apart, Justin into addiction and dealing with the aftermath of a brain injury, Willa working to create a quiet, secure life for herself, but when Justin knocks on her door asking for a place to stay, she cautiously lets him in. What follows is a novel about how hard it is to rebuild a broken relationship and how family has the power to both nurture and destroy. Both Willa and Justin were deeply marked by their childhood, Justin in obvious ways, but Willa just as deeply.

Brother & Sister Enter the Forest by Richard Mirabella is a novel about ordinary people, which is the kind of novel it turns out I really like. Mirabella takes a deep and careful look at two damaged people and asks if they will be ok and if they can be a part of each other's lives. He is willing to sit in uncomfortable places with his characters and he avoids all easy answers. I loved how he explores how even when you want the best for a family member and go to great lengths to help them, that your efforts might still be inadequate, and that even someone who has messed up again and again is deserving of care and love. Mirabella writes so well about difficult family relationships and I'm very eager to see what he writes next.

kesäkuu 17, 4:41 pm

Another book about uncomfortable family relationships!

Winter, the second in Ali Smith's seasons quintet, centers on Art, who has a side gig writing a blog about nature, a blog he just makes up. When his girlfriend dumps him, he hires a girl he meets at a bus stop to stand in for his girlfriend during his trip to his mother's house for Christmas. But a stand in girlfriend is not the greatest secret in the house over the holidays. Art's mother isn't doing well, and her estranged sister is called in to help. What follows is an uncomfortable, but necessary encounter between mother and son, between sisters, and Art learning a little about himself. The only stable person in the house is a homeless foreign girl trying to stay under the radar until the Brexit question is settled.

As I read this novel, I felt that it was missing the thing that made Autumn such a good book. The relationship between Daniel and Elisabeth had been so extraordinary that following that with a book about difficult people struggling was a hard sell. But then, on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I looked up to see that it was a few hours and half a book later -- the lack of deeply sympathetic characters didn't hamper Smith's ability to deliver a compelling story. I'm looking forward to continuing with this series of books.

kesäkuu 17, 4:46 pm

>135 RidgewayGirl: nice review. I felt Autumn was the only really well done book in the quartet. That each gets a little thinner along the way. Not bad, just less. So, for me, Winter was the second best. But i don’t sense many other readers felt as i do.

kesäkuu 17, 5:20 pm

>136 dchaikin: Well Autumn was an extraordinary book, but I like books that let the characters be uncomfortable with each other and I like unsympathetic characters, both Art and his mother certainly fall into that category, so I probably liked this one more than you did. I'm looking forward to Spring.

kesäkuu 19, 10:53 am

I read Ali Smith's Quartet out of order, and Winter was the one I read first. It is also the one I liked the least, and after reading it I didn't intend to continue on with the others. Then a year or so later Summer somehow came my way, and I read it and was blown away. So I went back and read the others. I wish I had read them in order, may someday (but likely this is only aspirational and will never happen) go back and read them in order. Overall, a wonderful series.

kesäkuu 19, 12:24 pm

>138 arubabookwoman: Ali Smith is so good that I'm happy to read anything she writes.

kesäkuu 21, 3:01 pm

Greta has floated through life being feckless. She's worked a series of menial jobs and lived with whomever took her in. Now she's forty-five and living in a very old farmhouse owned by a weed dealer in Hudson, New York. She's found a job transcribing the one-on-one sessions run by a sketchy sex therapist and becomes fascinated by one women she names Big Swiss. Hudson is small enough that she eventually runs into Big Swiss and begins using her knowledge of her to strike up first a friendship and then a relationship.

Jen Beagin's novel spends a lot of time parodying a certain kind of people and creating bizarre situations. It's humorous at times, but often the humor feels forced to me. In this kind of book, it's important to not question or look too closely at a lot of plot devices and details, but eventually the number of times I was pulled out of the story because a scene or character was so over the top I couldn't accept it as part of the world of the story. I think that there is certainly an enthusiastic audience for this form of storytelling, but for me, much of it felt forced. I kept expecting each wacky thing to be integral to the plot or to point to something in the story, but each wacky thing was just wacky for the sake of being wacky. The parts sometimes were good, occasionally even very good, but it all added up to something that was decidedly not for me.

kesäkuu 23, 2:23 pm

Since this week has been weird, here is a picture of our formally feral cat, Oliver, looking very handsome, if he does say so himself. He would like to point out that he is still wild at heart, despite his love of comfortable napping spots.

kesäkuu 23, 3:50 pm

>141 RidgewayGirl: He’s beautiful!

kesäkuu 23, 4:58 pm

>142 dianeham: He agrees!

kesäkuu 23, 6:18 pm

Good looking cat, great picture. 🙂

kesäkuu 23, 7:32 pm

gorgeous! and looking very content

kesäkuu 25, 5:04 pm

>141 RidgewayGirl: He looks a lot like our formally feral cat, who has gotten to like his creature comforts, but still plays hell with the local wildlife.

kesäkuu 25, 5:43 pm

>144 dchaikin: Thanks, I like this picture of him because he looks so goofy in many of the other pictures.

>145 wandering_star: He does seem to have settled into being a cat with a house.

>146 baswood: Ollie seems to be missing the hunting skills one would expect of a cat who enjoyed a feral kitten hood. He's very bad at it. He does like to go out and cover himself with burrs, but watching him hunt, it's clear that none but the most unlucky of chipmunks are at risk.

kesäkuu 25, 6:37 pm

He does like to go out and cover himself with burrs, but watching him hunt, it's clear that none but the most unlucky of chipmunks are at risk.

LOL! This irresistibly brought to mind those "weekend warriors" in their silly camo.

kesäkuu 26, 1:15 pm

>148 LolaWalser: When he stands up to look out a window, he looks exactly like a middle-aged man in skinny jeans.

kesäkuu 27, 1:34 pm

The force of its seduction. That and the bagels.
You sally forth practicing your Kegels.

Couplets is a love story told in a series of, well, couplets, making it more poetry than a novel. A married woman meets a woman and, within a very short span of time, ends her marriage and moves in with her. I can see why the author, poet Maggie Millner, chose that format for this story; the play on words is too delightful to resist. But the result is unsatisfying, with many of the rhymes feeling forced and brought back memories of the very bad poetry I wrote in middle school. The story skips along the surface of the story, never diving into what it felt like to leave a long relationship, or made itself feel like a unique story, even as the author included many details that put the story at a specific time, the place never felt more than generic. Kudos to the author for choosing a difficult challenge and I'm not sure if the format could have allowed for more substance.

kesäkuu 27, 5:11 pm

kesäkuu 27, 6:58 pm

>151 baswood: The premise sounds good!

kesäkuu 28, 8:07 pm

>149 RidgewayGirl:

When he stands up to look out a window, he looks exactly like a middle-aged man in skinny jeans.

loving! this image :3

kesäkuu 29, 3:52 pm

And now for an Argentinian horror novel, by the author of the supremely excellent short story collection, Smoking in Bed, Mariana Enriquez. Our Share of Night begins as a horror story, and often returns to that genre, leaning heavily on gore. But there's a lot of book here, so this is also a family saga, the story of four childhood friends and a coming-of-age story.

A cabal of super wealthy people worship an entity they think of as Darkness, an entity that they believe can bring them a sort of immortality. In order to reach this entity, they need a conduit, but mediums are hard to find and, once found, quick to die, as each manifestation takes a physical toll and this group of worshippers insist on frequent ceremonies. A boy is found in Argentina and raised to be the medium by one of the families in the cabal. But despite marrying into the family, he isn't as docile as they would like. When he has a son, he takes steps to protect the boy, despite being desperately ill himself, steps that will protect the boy for a certain period of time.

The ceremonies are graphically described and there's a fair amount of child torture, although this takes place mostly off the page. It's intense in places, but also prone to long digressions and side plots. If you like your horror to involve ancient evil powers and contain a quantity of mutilations and dead bodies, while also enjoying a story that takes its time and wanders off on tangents about politics, social movements, history and the lives of secondary characters, you'll like this one. Enriquez has a wild and dark imagination and Megan McDowell's translation is, as usual, extremely smooth and readable. I'll also note that there are ample descriptions of child abuse in this book.