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RidgewayGirl Reads in 2016 -- Part Two

This is a continuation of the topic RidgewayGirl Reads in 2016 -- Part One.

This topic was continued by RidgewayGirl Reads in 2016 -- Part Three.

Club Read 2016

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1RidgewayGirl
Edited: Jul 6, 2016, 3:31pm Top

Another year of Club Read - what a good thing that is! I'm looking forward to following the various threads, which will heavily influence my reading - and always for the better.

Still, I do have a few reading goals. Last year, I worked on reading more books by women, and would like to continue that. It's been rewarding.

And I'd like to broaden my reading into the wider world. I'd like to restrict my British and American titles to an adequate 60%, with the rest taking a look at authors from the rest of the world. Last year, 77% of my reading came from those two countries, so a small decrease should not be difficult. And as for my American and British reading, I'd like that to include a greater diversity of voices. Fewer comfortable white men (don't worry! They will still be generously represented!) and more authors writing from different viewpoints. There are some good books being published and I don't want to miss them.

I've been reading the books in contention in The Tournament of Books. This has broadened my reading, but reduced the number of women authors considerably. I hope to remedy this in the coming months.

Last year, I posted sexist advertisements. I was trying to come up with a new idea, but it seems that Madison Avenue is willing to continue to supply me with pictures, so who am I to disagree?



At least this ad is not at all offensive.

I generally also write about my art museum excursions. I'd like to be a little more consequent about writing my impressions down. Feel free to skip these, but there are pictures.

Currently Reading



Recently Read



Recently Acquired

4RidgewayGirl
Edited: Jul 3, 2016, 1:08pm Top

Third Quarter Reading

July
Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

5RidgewayGirl
Feb 27, 2016, 8:31am Top

Fourth Quarter Reading

6RidgewayGirl
Edited: Jul 3, 2016, 1:09pm Top

Pedantic Lists

Books Read By Year of Publication

1951 Tempest-Tost by Robertson Davies
1954 Leaven of Malice by Robertson Davies
1958 A Mixture of Frailties by Robertson Davies
1967 The Man on the Balcony by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
1974 Oreo by Fran Ross
2003 Starter for Ten by David Nicholls
2004 The News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck
2006 Death in Breslau by Marek Krajewski
2008 Island of Lost Girls by Jennifer McMahon
The Outcast by Sadie Jones
2009 The Boy Next Door by Irene Sabatini
2011 Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
2012 Capital by John Lanchester
The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey
2013 A Fort of Nine Towers by Qais Akbar Omar
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
One of Us: Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Åsne Seierstad
The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli
2014 The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
The New World: A Novel by Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz
Texts From Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg
The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes
2015 The Bastard of Fort Stikine by Debra Komar
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard
Eileen: A Novel by Ottessa Moshfegh
Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present by Alison Matthews David
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
The Followers by Rebecca Wait
A Game for All the Family by Sophie Hannah
Girl at War by Sara Novic
A Guide to Berlin by Gail Jones
How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz
The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild
Negroland by Margo Jefferson
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
The Whites by Richard White
The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith
2016 American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie
Reader I Married Him edited by Tracy Chevalier
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma
The Widow by Fiona Barton

7RidgewayGirl
Edited: Jul 3, 2016, 1:11pm Top

Books Read, Arranged by Nationality of Author

Afghanistan
Qais Akbar Omar (A Fort of Nine Towers)

Australia
Gail Jones (A Guide to Berlin)

Britain
Fiona Barton (The Widow)
Belinda Bauer (The Shut Eye)
Michel Faber (The Book of Strange New Things)
Sophie Hannah (A Game for All the Family)
Sadie Jones (The Outcast)
John Lanchester (Capital)
Margot Livesey (The Flight of Gemma Hardy)
David Nicholls (Starter for Ten)
Helen Oyeyemi (What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours)
Hannah Rothschild (The Improbability of Love)
Alexander McCall Smith (The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine)
Rebecca Wait (The Followers)

Canada
Alison Matthews David (Fashion Victims)
Robertson Davies (Tempest-Tost, Leaven of Malice, A Mixture of Frailties)
Debra Komar (The Bastard of Fort Stikine)

Germany
Nina George (The Little Paris Bookshop (originally titled: Das Lavendelzimmer))

Ireland
Marian Keyes (The Woman Who Stole My Life)

Jamaica
Marlon James (A Brief History of Seven Killings)

Japan
Marie Kondo (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up)

Mexico
Valeria Luiselli (The Story of My Teeth)

Nigeria
Chinelo Okparanta (Under the Udala Trees)

Norway
Åsne Seierstad (One of Us: Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway)

Poland
Marek Krajewski (Death in Breslau)

Sweden
Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (The Man on the Balcony)

United States
Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz (The New World: A Novel)
Sarah Addison Allen (Lost Lake)
Ta-Nehisi Coates (Between the World and Me)
Matthew Desmond (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City)
Angela Flournoy (The Turner House)
Lauren Groff (Fates and Furies)
Kent Haruf (Our Souls at Night)
Kristopher Jansma (Why We Came to the City)
Margo Jefferson (Negroland)
Sue Klebold (A Mother's Reckoning)
Lisa Lutz (How to Start a Fire, The Passenger)
Elizabeth McKenzie (The Portable Veblen)
Jennifer McMahon (Island of Lost Girls)
Ottessa Moshfegh (Eileen: A Novel)
Sara Novic (Girl at War)
Viet Thanh Nguyen (The Sympathizer)
Richard Price (The Whites)
Fran Ross (Oreo)
Rainbow Rowell (Attachments)
Nancy Jo Sales (American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers)
Jim Shepard (The Book of Aron)
Karin Slaughter (Pretty Girls)
Elizabeth Strout (My Name is Lucy Barton)
Lily Tuck (The News from Paraguay)

Zimbabwe
Irene Sabatini (The Boy Next Door)

8RidgewayGirl
Edited: Jul 3, 2016, 1:11pm Top

Who Doesn't Love a Map?

Nationalities of Authors



create your own visited country map
or check our Venice travel guide

This is just a visual to encourage me to choose authors of diverse nationalities. Also, it is a map.

9RidgewayGirl
Edited: Jul 3, 2016, 1:12pm Top

Another Pedantic List

Where the Books Are Set
Thanks to Joyce (Nickelini), I have finally found another list to compile. As she pointed out, the author's nationality is not necessarily where they have set their novel. For now, I'm omitting or including books set in multiple locations as I see fit.

Afghanistan
A Fort of Nine Towers by Qais Akbar Omar

Botswana
The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith

Britain
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
Capital by John Lanchester
The Followers by Rebecca Wait
A Game for All the Family by Sophie Hannah
The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey (Scotland)
The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild
The Outcast by Sadie Jones
The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer
Starter for Ten by David Nicholls
The Widow by Fiona Barton

Canada
The Bastard of Fort Stikine by Debra Komar
Leaven of Malice by Robertson Davies
A Mixture of Frailties by Robertson Davies
Tempest-Tost by Robertson Davies

Croatia
Girl at War by Sara Novic

France
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

Germany
Death in Breslau by Marek Krajewski
A Guide to Berlin by Gail Jones

Ireland
The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes

Jamaica
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

Mexico
The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli

Nigeria
Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

Norway
One of Us: Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Åsne Seierstad

Paraguay
The News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck

Poland
The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard (Warsaw)

Sweden
The Man on the Balcony by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö

USA
American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (Nebraska)
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Eileen: A Novel by Ottessa Moshfegh (Massachusetts)
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond (Wisconsin)
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Girl at War by Sara Novic
How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz
Island of Lost Girls by Jennifer McMahon
Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold (Colorado)
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (New York)
Negroland by Margo Jefferson (Illinois)
The New World: A Novel by Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz
Oreo by Fran Ross
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (Colorado)
The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie (California)
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter (Georgia)
The Sellout by Paul Beatty (California)
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (California)
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy (Michigan)
The Whites by Richard Price (New York)
Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma (New York)

Vietnam
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Zimbabwe
The Boy Next Door by Irene Sabatini

10RidgewayGirl
Feb 27, 2016, 9:57am Top



I loved The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber. Peter and Bea are a Christian couple. Peter is the pastor of a small church and Bea is a nurse. When the opportunity arises, Peter takes a job on another planet ministering to the native population for six months. They plan to use the generous salary to pay off their mortgage and make some improvements to the church. They're confident that while they will miss each other, this opportunity is worthwhile.

And for Peter it is. His encounters with the aliens go better than he could have anticipated. A significant number of the aliens are eager to hear more from the Bible, which they call The Book of Strange New Things and Peter is challenged and buoyed up to learn as much as he can about the Oasans, so that he can help them. But back on earth things are going badly wrong and Bea isn't coping well with the breakdown in society.

This is a fascinating story about a missionary encountering an alien race. The world building is imaginative and well thought out, from the types of people who might deal well with living on another planet to the flora and fauna of the planet itself. This is a look at how the breakdown of a country affects its citizens and how a woman deals with the loss of all of her certainties. But The Book of Strange New Things is mostly about faith, and what that means to different people. How relevant can Jesus be to a world so removed from first century Judea? How can parables and psalms be explained in a world without sheep or green pastures or even male and female? And how does even a strong relationship survive when one person is energized and excited about his life and the other is watching everything she cares for be torn down?

I will be very disappointed if Michel Faber follows through on his intentions to quit writing. His novels are so inventive, beautifully written and substantive that we would all lose out.

11avidmom
Feb 27, 2016, 1:18pm Top

>10 RidgewayGirl: Thanks for the review. That sounds really wonderful. Another one on the wishlist....

12RidgewayGirl
Feb 28, 2016, 4:26am Top



If ever a book had a claim to being Book of the Year, that book would be Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me. Written as a letter to his son about his experiences, this is a powerful examination about what it means to be an African American in the United States. This is a book that elicits strong reactions from everyone who reads it, from David Brooks' "Why should I care?" to the emphatic nodding of those who share Coates' bleak but determined evaluation.

I'm not comfortable evaluating this book. It often made me uncomfortable, and always made me think. It's a short book, so if you're at all curious, the easiest thing to do would be to read it yourself and draw your own conclusions.

13RidgewayGirl
Feb 29, 2016, 7:21am Top



Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf is a bittersweet tale, simply told. Addie, a retired widow, visits her neighbor Louis, a widower, to ask him to visit at night, to lie down together in her big bed so that they don't have to sleep alone and to talk a bit. A friendship forms, and then a gentle relationship, building slowly and honestly in a very touching way. And then her son hears about the relationship and is outraged.

I enjoyed Our Souls at Night. It's a slight and not terribly deep story, but the simplicity of the writing suited the subject. I was honestly surprised at the ending, since I can't imagine a world in which two people, both unattached, forming a relationship could be found transgressive, but Holt, Colorado and the people in it seem to be from an earlier time. The characters are one-dimensional, but given the brevity of the novel, this could not be avoided. It is a pleasant book, and in the midst of all the harsher, more ethically complex books I've been reading, it was a nice intermission.

14Nickelini
Feb 29, 2016, 12:44pm Top

The blonde girl in the ad looks like me at that age (except I didn't have ortho until I was older, so my teeth weren't as nice). My mom aspired for me to be a secretary. Yep, I can really relate to that one!

15avaland
Feb 29, 2016, 4:11pm Top

I see you have the new Gail Jones listed! It just happened that the other day I went looking to see if she had anything new. Not sure it's available here yet.

16dchaikin
Feb 29, 2016, 9:51pm Top

Your thread is making me want to read new books again. I think the last five books you reviewed caught my interest. (Although fortunately I've read the Coates and listened to the Haruf)

I also had trouble rating or really figuring out how to respond to Coates.

17janemarieprice
Mar 1, 2016, 7:45pm Top

>13 RidgewayGirl: Sounds interesting. My grandfather (a young widower) had an also widowed female friend that lived across the street, and they had afternoon coffee at one or the other's house every day. I always wondered what the relationship was and why there wasn't more of one, perhaps it was too scandalous for it to be more in that community.

18RidgewayGirl
Mar 2, 2016, 8:31am Top

Aww, Joyce, you must have been very cute. What went wrong, that you weren't able to climb to the dizzying heights of being an executive's secretary, or even mid-level manager's secretary?

Lois, I loved it. And I like being able to get British books ahead of y'all. That all ends this July.

Daniel, I am going to have to work hard to read books that have been out a while. I just need longer breaks between the announcement of shortlists. And I think it's good to not have a ready response to Between the World and Me.

Jane, I don't get why people disapprove. Or feel that they have a right to disapprove. Do older people have an obligation to remain lonely for years or decades after their spouse dies? In Our Souls at Night, an adult child fears he'll inherit less money as a result of the relationship - which seems such a crass and embarrassing reason to object.

I've given up on Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving. The first hundred pages were abysmal. The main character thinks almost exclusively about his blood pressure medication and his Viagra. He also thought that the woman who helped him negotiate a hotel reservation might come by his room to have sex with him. She doesn't but her daughter does. But she does help him with his shoes the next morning. And the sex scene was so bad, and it lasted so very long (Viagra!) that I decided to give up, mainly to avoid the next sex scene.

19RidgewayGirl
Mar 2, 2016, 3:04pm Top



Ottessa Moshfegh's debut novel, Eileen, is classic noir. Harsh and unflattering, Eileen tells the story of a few days at the end of 1964, and the dramatic change those few days made in her life. At the start of the book, twenty-four year old Eileen has a terrible job as a secretary in a bleak detention center for boys and a terrible, filthy home with her brutal, alcoholic father. She dreams of escape, and has been saving for the day when she can leave the coastal Massachusetts town she's grown up in, plain, dull and over-looked, for a more passionate, vital life elsewhere. And, because this is noir, in walks the femme fatale.

This isn't a pleasant novel. Eileen isn't likable. As the book is narrated from inside of her head, there's no way to avoid discomfort. When she isn't having naive, yet off-putting fantasies about one of the guards at the boys' home, she's busy feeling heartily sorry for herself. That is, until her life changes and she sees a way forward. It's not that Eileen becomes a more pleasant person to spend time with, but she does become more interesting.

I do like noir and Eileen is a fantastically well-done entry into the genre. If there's a category of literary noir, this would fit right it. It sounds creepy to say this, but this book delighted me. If you are at all squeamish, you might want to pass on this though, which is not to say that it's overly graphic; it's just that uncomfortable scenes are described with such skill as to make them very real.

20janemarieprice
Mar 2, 2016, 9:49pm Top

>18 RidgewayGirl: Ah I see, more logical I guess though terrible. My older self is just fascinated by the relationship which I took for granted before my grandfather died (I was 13 when he passed). My gut tells me there must have been something more there that I didn't comprehend at that age, but maybe they were just friends?

21RidgewayGirl
Mar 3, 2016, 6:54am Top

>20 janemarieprice: And even if they weren't just friends, they are over the age of consent and really don't have to worry about an unintended pregnancy. Let them dance naked in the woods (paying attention to one's footing, and not forgetting the walker).

22sibyx
Mar 3, 2016, 8:52am Top

Chastened, a bit, by your review of The Book of Strange New Things -- I couldn't wrap my head around it, couldn't find a way in. I can't entirely figure it out but I think, somehow, the setting was not convincing to me, but felt like a set-up for this ethical exploration of faith. I found myself wondering why bother with the guy going to another planet -- I had some trouble with the Maria Doria Russell jesuit-in-space novel as well, for similar reasons, but ultimately was able to struggle through. It has to do, I think, with deep-seated notions of ingredients in a book of sf, and here, I somehow couldn't suspend disbelief, I just didn't believe or I didn't want to, or I don't know what. I'm glad you liked it - but it's always unsettling to find a book that others love impossible.

23RidgewayGirl
Mar 3, 2016, 9:14am Top

sibyx, it's so interesting how different people react to different books. I'm interested in how sincere people of faith relate to the world and how their faith changes with life experience, so The Book of Strange New Things was going to be a hit with me. I'm about as sure as I can be that I'll love The Sparrow, given that I love the topic and I've loved Russell's other novels. And Peter in The Book of Strange New Things wasn't an entirely easy character to get inside of or even like. I'd quickly grow frustrated by his tendency to reply to need with a handy Bible verse! I did like how gender was handled - the Oasans didn't seem to understand what Peter wanted to know, and it was interesting how invested he was in giving them the same cultural roles as humans. Maybe not being a science fiction reader, really, helps with this book? I have no idea of the usual rules of the genre, or how this book differed. I can't assess it as science fiction any more than I could assess Station Eleven or Ancillary Justice. They only cross my path when they cross over into mainstream popularity or are championed as being "literary."

And wouldn't it be terrible if we all liked the same books? Discussions would boring!

24FlorenceArt
Mar 3, 2016, 12:29pm Top

I bought The Book of Strange New Things recently but I'm a bit reluctant to start reading it. Your review hasn't helped I'm afraid, as faith is something entirely foreign to me and that I don't feel the need to get closer to. But who knows, maybe I'll find something else for me there.

25RidgewayGirl
Mar 4, 2016, 9:04am Top

Florence, I thought it was a good depiction of faith, and how it can both strengthen and weaken a person. I liked the depiction of the new planet, which is very unearthlike.

And I have a flu. Or a cold. Fever and my whole body hurts. Also, I'm coughing up ectoplasm. But I do get a brief moment of not-complete-wretchedness for a short stretch after I take my ibuprofen. So here goes a review. If it's incoherent, please blame the cold flu. On the other hand, my son just texted me to ask if I'd like a cup of tea. I have no voice, just a sort of low gargle, so texting is a practical way to communicate.



When Jane's husband, Jim, dies suddenly she barely has time to reach the hospital before she discovers that a cryogenics company has already taken his head. What follows is a back and forth between Jane and Jim's' experiences in the following weeks, as well as a look back at their relationship.

The New World: A Novel by Chris Adrian and Eli Gottlieb is a very short novel about the nature of our connectedness with the people who share our lives. Upon arriving in his new world, Jim is informed that in order to move forward, he will need to forget all the relationships and memories that make him who he is. And Jane engages in a desperate and seemingly futile battle to retrieve her husband's head.

This is an inventive novel, but less inventive than it might be, it's brevity requiring that none of the ideas presented be fully developed. Still, it was entertaining enough, even if the relationships that form the centre of the novel were somewhat shallowly drawn.

26rebeccanyc
Mar 4, 2016, 10:18am Top

i don't read much contemporary fiction so I always enjoy reading about the books you read.

27SassyLassy
Mar 4, 2016, 10:21am Top

>25 RidgewayGirl: What a book to read when you are sick in bed and feel as if you are struggling with your own mortality! I exaggerate, but I think I would need a nice sunny day outdoors for this.

I hope you recover soon.

28RidgewayGirl
Mar 4, 2016, 2:15pm Top

That is one of the strengths of CR - we all read such different things. I'm thinking that I should try adding some older books to my reading pile - I want to read Doctor Thorne and maybe some Roberson Davies. But the new books call to me. They are so shiny.

Ha, SL! Actually having the rest of my body removed from my head is an appealing idea. Especially if my neck is kept with my body. If I feel any worse, I'll have to watch The Seventh Seal, which is absolutely the best movie for when you're feeling wretched, but are expected to recover.

29RidgewayGirl
Mar 6, 2016, 5:39am Top



The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer tells the story of Anna Buck, a woman devastated after the disappearance of her son, four months earlier. She's falling apart and she'll do anything to find him. She visits a psychic, and discovers that she may have some psychic abilities of her own, leading not to her son, but to another missing child. DCI Marvel is an unpleasant man; he doesn't like other people and he's less than collegiate to his co-workers. His boss asks him to find a lost dog and this leads him into contact with Anna. Despite himself, he's sure she sees something.

This was a troublesome book. Bauer is a fantastic crime writer, and I've enjoyed her books enormously. Here, she has her usual nuanced eye for the humanity in every character. Even Marvel has his brief moments of grace. The scene where he searches the Battersea Dogs' Home for the missing poodle is just perfectly written. But there's a problem at the heart of the novel, a bit of stereotyping that seemed both out of character for the writer and unnecessary for the plot, that made me like this book a lot less. Bauer is a solid writer, and I trust her instincts. I'll read her next novel eagerly. But if you haven't read Bauer yet, I'd suggest beginning with any of her other books, and if you're already a fan, I'd say to read The Shut Eye, but be aware that parts of it are problematic.

30FlorenceArt
Mar 6, 2016, 6:17am Top

I looked up Belinda Bauer and found that Rubbernecker is in my wishlist, although I had forgotten adding it. You make me want to push it up.

31RidgewayGirl
Mar 6, 2016, 2:53pm Top

Florence, I really liked Rubbernecker. It's told from a different perspective and Bauer ably misdirected me several times along the way.

32AlisonY
Mar 6, 2016, 4:40pm Top

You have me very intrigued by Eileen. Have enjoyed catching up on your reviews.

33avaland
Mar 7, 2016, 5:51am Top

>18 RidgewayGirl: Some of us do still order from the UK .... hee hee

34RidgewayGirl
Mar 11, 2016, 2:37am Top

Alison, it was an interesting take on the classic noir.

Lois, I wonder if I'll be "forced" to do so after my return. I've grown spoiled.

35RidgewayGirl
Mar 11, 2016, 2:37am Top



Originally published in 1974, Fran Ross's only novel, Oreo, is a frantic, funny and intelligent story about Christine, called Oreo, a unusual girl growing up in Philadelphia with her brother, who invents his own language, and her grandparents, while her mother travels for work. Her Jewish father left years earlier, and the plot of the book concerns her Theseus-like search for him in the labyrinth of New York, encountering everyone from a bad shoe salesman to a pimp and his entourage. By turns profane and erudite, this book never slows down for a moment.

I appreciated this book much more than I enjoyed it. I'm sure I missed many of the references, but it was fun to catch one now and again. Ross is a writer of fearsome intelligence and a cutting wit, and her character, Oreo, is nobody's fool, equally able to fight her way out of a jam as talk her way out, a sort of teenage Pam Grier with a fluency in Yiddish and a mind for the absurd.

36FlorenceArt
Edited: Mar 11, 2016, 4:59am Top

>35 RidgewayGirl: Sounds very interesting! Wishlisted.

37RidgewayGirl
Mar 11, 2016, 8:42am Top

Florence, you'll love the way she plays with language. In one scene, a boy speaks English, but with an entirely French construction.

38sibyx
Mar 11, 2016, 9:12am Top

I am intrigued by Oreo. Definitely WLed.

39RidgewayGirl
Mar 16, 2016, 8:05am Top



The Story of My Teeth is an odd novel. Valeria Luiselli wrote it as a project done with a factory, having each section read aloud, and listening to the comments of the workers. Each section is quite different, and one, a sort of chronology, is written by her English translator. The sections are divided by pictures of hand-marbled paper, which would certainly have been more interesting in color, but as I read this as an ebook, the reproductions were in black and white. There are photographs in the final section, showing a few of the places mentioned in the book.

Gustavo Sánchez Sánchez, known as Highway, is an auctioneer and a collector of odd items. Among those items are the teeth of famous people, including the full set of Marilyn Monroe's teeth, which he had implanted into his own mouth. He build a house and a warehouse next door to hold his vast collection, and he wants to catalog it before auctioning it off. Along the way, he holds an auction of teeth for the local church, finds an aspiring author to write his biography and his son takes revenge on him. Which are things that happen in this book, but I would hesitate to call these events part of a plot. This book exists as it is, a sort of entertaining experiment in just going with it.

40janeajones
Mar 16, 2016, 12:05pm Top

Catching up here and enjoying your reviews -- particularly as I shall probably never read many of these books. As you've said, one of the joys of CR and LT!

41RidgewayGirl
Mar 20, 2016, 11:07am Top



Elizabeth McKenzie's novel, The Portable Veblen, was delightful. Witty, self-assured and charming; I enjoyed this book enormously. Set in Palo Alto, The Portable Veblen concerns Veblen, a free spirit living in an old cottage at the end of a cul de sac in Palo Alto. Working a pink collar job at the university, she meets Paul, an up-and-coming medical researcher. So up-and-coming that he is promptly poached by a large pharmaceutical firm that wants to market his invention - a kit that allows for brain injuries to be treated by Army medics at the scene of the injury. Paul and Veblen fall in love, but they have very different visions of their future. Paul is being wooed by a much more affluent lifestyle than he's ever experienced, and Veblen loves her tiny cottage and simple lifestyle.

The story of Veblen and Paul is not so simple as one wanting status that the other finds abhorrent. Both have families that they are still having trouble dealing with. Veblen's mother is a controlling hypochondriac, who nonetheless dearly loves Veblen, and her father is in a mental institution. Paul was raised by hippies who grew pot and made furniture out of found objects. They're both intent on shaping their lives partially in reaction to their upbringing. What's lovely about this book is that McKenzie never goes for the easy answer. All of her characters are understandable, and even likable in their own ways, even when their actions are harmful to others. Also, there is a squirrel.

After a stretch of reading serious books doing inventive things to the story-telling process, it was wonderful to read a more traditionally (mostly) constructed novel. McKenzie has written an excellent book about families, and how they affect us, even in how we choose to be different from them and she's done so in a manner that charmed me.

42RidgewayGirl
Mar 21, 2016, 6:13am Top



The News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck is a historical novel about the very real person of Eliza Lynch, Irish courtesan, and how Franco Solano, the future dictator of Paraguay, met her in Paris and brought her back to Paraguay with him, along with all of the other items he'd purchased. Ella, stuck after her last relationship ends, is willing to become attached to this short, hairy South American, and to go back to his home country with him. He can't marry her, and she's viewed with distain by his family, but Ella nonetheless carves out a successful life for herself, raising Franco's children and being the center of Paraguayan social life. And then Franco declares war on pretty much everyone, leading to the disastrous Paraguayan War.

Tuck sticks to the historical record in this book, pulling excerpts from the letters and diaries of the many British and American professionals drawn to adventure and profit in Paraguay at that time. This lends it an authenticity, but means that there's less of a sense of who Ella was as a person instead of an historical figure. Ella Lynch led such an unusual life that just reciting the facts of her life make for fascinating reading, but I would have liked at least an imaginary attempt to get inside of her head.

43RidgewayGirl
Mar 21, 2016, 6:28am Top

I've posted a new ad up at the top of my thread. So, married ladies, is this how you finally caught your man? After all, why buy the cow, etc....

44ursula
Mar 21, 2016, 6:35am Top

>39 RidgewayGirl: I've seen that title around ... and the book sounds fascinating.

As for the new ad at the top - words fail me.

45NanaCC
Mar 21, 2016, 8:33am Top

Is that a current ad, Kay? U.S. Or Europe? Definitely awful.....

46RidgewayGirl
Mar 21, 2016, 9:38am Top

It's from several years ago, Colleen. Natan is a Brazilian jewelry company.

ursula, The Story of My Teeth is unique. There was a discussion in the comments thread for the Tournament of Books about whether knowing how the book was created enhanced the reading experience. I think it does, as it can seem disjointed without knowing the book's genesis.

47rebeccanyc
Mar 21, 2016, 9:45am Top

Wow! (the ad)

48RidgewayGirl
Mar 21, 2016, 9:47am Top

Rebecca, you get what you pay for? I'm not sure who the message is intended to appeal to.

49LolaWalser
Mar 21, 2016, 9:59am Top

>48 RidgewayGirl:

Men. "Humorous" little tutorial on how to get laid by whores; you know, those people Political Correctness crazily insists we should call "women". Open your pockets or start saving up for them diamonds, dudes--at least if you're after "classy" AKA "high maintenance" broads. No doubt there are cheaper varieties to be had, but we don't waste adverts on those.

I wonder if anyone in Brazil batted an eye...

50SassyLassy
Mar 21, 2016, 4:36pm Top

Noticed that ad immediately your thread opened.

>42 RidgewayGirl: Anne Enright has also written about this in The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch. She sounds quite intriguing.

51janemarieprice
Mar 22, 2016, 9:48pm Top

Not sure what's worse the ad or the fact that I'd read the comments here first and had an idea how bad it was going to be yet still almost did a spit take.

52RidgewayGirl
Mar 23, 2016, 2:51am Top

Lola, SL, Jane, the thing that surprises me, as I hunt down these gems, is how easy it is to find contemporary ads. We aren't looking at some chestnut from the 1950s. People today thought that ad was a good idea.

SL, I saw the Enright. I'm not sure whether to read it right away or wait awhile so that events from her life are not so vivid in my mind. Non-fiction to fiction is one thing - I read an excellent biography of Danton before reading A Place of Greater Safety, and it was useful being able to see what Mantel omitted or made up, but with fiction to fiction, I wonder if I'd just be comparing writing styles.

53RidgewayGirl
Mar 24, 2016, 3:06pm Top



Girl at War by Sara Novic is the story of a young Bosnian woman. Ana is ten when the break-up of Yugoslavia reaches her and her family in Zagreb. Life, which had been spartan, but full of the life of a child of ten, becomes harder and more dangerous. Time is spent in basement bomb shelters and the playground has shifted from the town square, now full of refugees, to the stacks of sandbags and getting to pedal the bicycle that powers the generator in the bomb shelter nearest Ana's school. Meanwhile, her little sister is getting sicker.

Years later, Ana, now a university student in New York City, is asked to speak to a group at the UN about her experiences in Bosnia. The event triggers her memories, and leads her to decide to return to Bosnia to find family friends.

This is an impossible book to rate. On the one hand, the subject matter is important and necessary. On the other, the writing just doesn't serve the story. It has the feel of an eyewitness account written, not by a writer, but by a survivor, with little care for style or pacing. Novic is an American of Bosnian descent. She's not writing from personal experience, but from her research and from conversations she had while visiting Bosnia. Maybe the writing style was a deliberate choice to make the book appear as though it was a first-hand account. But the wooden style distanced me from the main character and pulled its punches at the critical moments. I'm glad this book exists and that I read it, but I wish it had been a better book.

54wandering_star
Mar 26, 2016, 5:08am Top

Somehow I had completely missed your thread so far this year! Good to find it and read all your wonderful reviews.

I have no words about the jewellery ad... sometimes things come along which make you realise the depth of misogyny that still exists in our society.

55sibyx
Mar 26, 2016, 9:31am Top

Good grief. That ad.

56RidgewayGirl
Edited: Mar 27, 2016, 10:55am Top



Whenever I hear Edith Piaf sing 'Non, je ne regrette rien' -- which is more often than I'd like, now that I'm at university -- I can't help thinking 'what the hell is she talking about?' I regret pretty much everything. I'm aware that the transition into adulthood is a difficult and sometimes painful one. I'm familiar with the conventions of the rites of passage, I know what the literary term bildungsroman means, I realize that it's inevitable that I'll look back at things that happened in my youth and give a wry, knowing smile. But surely there's no reason why I should be embarrassed and ashamed about things that happened thirty seconds ago? No reason why life just should be this endless rolling panorama of bodged friendships, fumbled opportunities, fatuous conversations, wasted days, idiotic remarks and ill-judged, unfunny jokes that just lie on the floor in front of me, flipping about like dying fish?

Brian leaves his working class past for a new start at the University of Bristol. He's ready to remake himself as an intellectual, going so far as to tryout for The University Challenge quiz show. But nothing goes smoothly for Brian, who often finds that the witty remark he's come up with sounded much better inside his head than it does spoken aloud, and the friends and family he left in Southend cannot be so easily discarded as he might secretly hope. Still, he manages to interact with other students and even fall in love with the beautiful, privileged Alice, even if she doesn't quite return the sentiment.

Starter for Ten by David Nicholls was just a lot of fun. Brian is a wonderful character who managed to keep me rooting for him no matter what cringe-worthy words came out of his mouth, or how many mistakes he made. Nicholls makes clear that Brian's heart is good, despite his uncanny ability to say the wrong thing. The other characters are also a lot of fun, from his old friends trying (or not) to find a place for themselves in the adult world, to his new friends at university. The bits revolving around his participation in The University Challenge are especially funny, but Nicholls fills the novel heart as well as humor.

57RidgewayGirl
Edited: Mar 27, 2016, 11:05am Top



Happy Easter, everyone!

58Nickelini
Mar 27, 2016, 1:00pm Top

>57 RidgewayGirl: Years ago I bought a card with this image on it. I've never been able to give it away. Every once in a while I come across it and it always makes me happy (in my dark warped way). Thanks for posting.

59RidgewayGirl
Mar 27, 2016, 1:15pm Top

Joyce, I understand completely. I saw this and it made me so happy.

60LolaWalser
Mar 27, 2016, 2:01pm Top

>57 RidgewayGirl:

LOL!

Reminds me of the time I decorated my apartment with dozens of marshmallow peeps--heads bitten off... all for the benefit of eliciting a perfect GASP from a visiting friend. Funniest thing was, he noticed them as soon as he came in (I don't usually have neon-coloured stuff all over the place) but he didn't twig to the headlessness until he sat down on the couch, leaned back, and came eye-to-neck with a peep next to him. How he jumped! How I laughed!

61ljbwell
Mar 27, 2016, 3:44pm Top

>57 RidgewayGirl: Just catching up on your thread. There are a lot of books going onto the wishlist as a result. Yet, it's the giant rabbbit illustration that made me grin.

62NanaCC
Mar 27, 2016, 4:16pm Top

What is the rabbit illustration from? Can't help but smile!

63RidgewayGirl
Mar 28, 2016, 9:06am Top

Lola, have you tried Peeps Jousting? Stick a toothpick into the front of two Peeps, then put them in a microwave facing each other. Turn microwave on.

ljbwell, I think it's a festive illustration, personally.

Colleen, I have no idea. I pulled it off of the internet. Incidentally, googling "scary easter pics" gives one a large selection of children being terrified of the Easter Bunny. We should ask Joyce.

64AnnieMod
Mar 28, 2016, 9:53am Top

Ugh - that ad is... ok, I do not have any words. One person came up with you, another approved it, another made it (probably multiple anothers for most of those roles) and it somehow made it out from an agency?

65RidgewayGirl
Mar 28, 2016, 10:22am Top

Annie, the idea that this ad campaign was approved by a roomful of men in suits is both appalling and a strong argument for a diversity in the workplace. If just one woman had been there to say, "Hey, guys?" the entire problem could have been avoided.

66AnnieMod
Mar 28, 2016, 10:37am Top

I know... but the idea that even in a room full of men, it can be approved these days is mind boggling. And I work in a men dominated field - I know how it can get. And still....

67AlisonY
Mar 28, 2016, 12:24pm Top

>60 LolaWalser:, >63 RidgewayGirl: I've just Googled what Peeps are. Now feeling slightly hard done by that we don't have those in the UK...

68Nickelini
Mar 28, 2016, 1:07pm Top

>63 RidgewayGirl: Sorry, my copy is buried in one of my many art boxes. If I come across it, I'll post the info.

69LolaWalser
Mar 28, 2016, 3:12pm Top

>63 RidgewayGirl:

Peeps Jousting

SO epic.

>67 AlisonY:

Your government probably cares more about not poisoning the population with confections like that! :)

70RidgewayGirl
Mar 31, 2016, 3:01pm Top



My Name is Lucy Barton is a slim and exquisitely written novel by Elizabeth Strout. Lucy is in the hospital for several weeks. This is in NYC in the mid-1980s and she's alone; her husband is juggling their two young children and his job and can rarely visit. Then her mother arrives and spends several days sitting with her. That's the plot.

The beauty of this book lies in how much Strout can pack into a single paragraph. As Lucy lies in her hospital bed, she remembers her childhood living in the midwest in family so poor they lived some years in a relative's garage, crammed up against fiberglass insulation. It was an abusive and non-nurturing environment, and Lucy contemplates how her childhood affects how she sees the world, and her relationships. Written when she's older, looking back on that time she spent ill and alone, she also sees how this was also the time when the AIDS crisis was just beginning and how fearfully it's victims were treated.

I wish I'd been able to read this book in a single sitting, and been able to give it my full attention. It deserved that. I'll have to return to it in a few years and read it when I can properly appreciate it. Despite reading it in a piecemeal and distracted fashion, I can clearly see that it is something exceptional.

71RidgewayGirl
Apr 2, 2016, 9:55am Top



Set in what is now Wroclaw, Poland, Death in Breslau by Marek Krajewski takes place in 1934, when it was a German city near the border. Two women, a member of German nobility and her companion, are found on a train, eviscerated, scorpions found on and around the bodies. A conductor is found killed by three scorpion stings. Inspector Mock is sent to find the murderer. He quickly finds the obvious suspect, a Jewish epileptic pet store owner. Before he can bring the man in for questioning, the man is taken and tortured to death by the Gestapo, a group Mock has no control over. Still, the case is closed, until it becomes obvious that the pet store owner was not the murderer. Since Mock is now tainted by the incident, a police officer from Berlin, Herbert Anwaldt is sent to lead a new investigation.

Death in Breslau is one weird story. The odd murder weapons (scorpions) are the most straightforward part of this convoluted tale involving everything from the Crusades, to brothels, to the constant need to maneuver around the Gestapo and their allies. Mock may be a rotund, middle-aged man with a love of German cuisine, but he's far from simple, and his continuing survival in his position is largely due to how he manages to out-think and out-manipulate those around him. Anwaldt is an interesting character as well; an alcoholic being given one last chance to prove himself in the provinces, he's constantly haunted by his past as a fatherless boy making his way through orphanages and harsh Catholic schools. No one is entirely good, but there are plenty of people who are entirely evil. All in all, this was an odd, but rewarding book.

72FlorenceArt
Apr 2, 2016, 4:12pm Top

>71 RidgewayGirl: Sounds like a weird book. And... German cuisine?

73ELiz_M
Apr 2, 2016, 5:37pm Top

>73 ELiz_M: Thanks for the review. I read this fairly recently and also didn't know how to react. I thoroughly enjoyed the realistic portions -- the navigating of politics, but the crusade angle annoyed me.

74RidgewayGirl
Apr 3, 2016, 9:59am Top

Florence, a quantity of beer is drunk, many sausages are eaten.

ELiz_M, yes, parts were far-fetched, but the atmosphere was well done.

75RidgewayGirl
Apr 3, 2016, 10:01am Top



Sophie Hannah writes intense, convoluted novels centered around a woman who is involved in a crime (as a witness or participant or victim) but from an odd angle that make her seem delusional. Her main characters are often unpleasant or frantic, often doing things to make it hard for anyone to believe them. In A Game for All the Family, Hannah sticks to this blueprint, but she has done away with her usual counterpoint of the point of view of the detectives investigating the case.

Justine has left her fast-paced career and moved her family to rural Devon, hoping to do nothing but putter around the beautiful estate they've purchased, Speedwell House, while her husband travels and her daughter attends school. But even on the way to their new home, Justine is struck by an affinity for an unattractive house along a busy road. Soon after arriving, her daughter becomes distressed by the expulsion of another pupil and Justine begins receiving threatening phone calls from a woman who thinks Justine is called "Sandie."

A Game for All the Family is certainly as complex and odd as any of Hannah's other books. Justine is an unlikeable character, being arrogant and high-handed in her dealings with others. She's also prone to not doing basic things that most people would do in her circumstances, while reacting strongly to much smaller events. It's a stand-alone novel, with out the usual detectives to do the work of solving the crimes and puzzles, and this is a weakness. Since the only view the reader has is from the inside of a biased and erratic narrator, there's no way to ground the story in any sort of objectivity. And Justine is consumed with her own opinions and personal bugbears that I'm still not entirely certain what happened. And some of the reactions of the people around the main character make very little sense.

Still, this is a rare misfire by an author who has so far been reliable in her crime novels. I look forward to reading the next one, which I am relieved to see is once again balanced by the usual detectives.

76RidgewayGirl
Apr 4, 2016, 5:44am Top



Margo Jefferson's memoir of growing up affluent and African American, Negroland, is a fascinating and illuminating look at a world that is both similar and very different to my own. Jefferson's father was a respected pediatrician and she and her sister grew up in private schools and clubs, wearing expensive clothes, but constantly reminded of their otherness in a world (Chicago in the middle of the last century) that would allow a limited and select number of African Americans into their white, liberal enclaves, but with a certain amount of discomfort. Jefferson grew up with the idea of needing to respectable, to behave so perfectly as to overcome the ideas white people had of black people. Then, as a teenager and adult, Jefferson experiences the changes wrought by the sixties, from the Civil Rights Act to feminism as she forges a career as a journalist.

Negroland discusses the black experience and the effects of racism from a world where it was more subtle. The mothers who are overly formal with her mother, the homes where she isn't invited for playdates, the attention paid to skin tones and hair textures and the constant need to prove themselves worthy of living in a white world by being better by orders of magnitude than her peers. Jefferson has the same experiences every other girl has; self-consciousness about wearing glasses, crushes on cute boys, having a best friend. She writes with great honesty about her failings and the dreams she had.

Jefferson writes with an admirable clarity and complexity about the world she grew up in and about her adult life. That this book was so easy to read in no way dilutes the story she tells.

77NanaCC
Edited: Apr 4, 2016, 5:57am Top

>76 RidgewayGirl: Great review of Negroland, Kay.

Edited to fix typos. I shouldn't try before I've had my coffee. :)

78cabegley
Apr 5, 2016, 9:16am Top

>76 RidgewayGirl: Negroland sounds very interesting, Kay--I'll have to check it out.

79RidgewayGirl
Apr 6, 2016, 1:55pm Top



When Tanya finds her husband dead at the foot of the stairs, she reacts not by calling 911, but by packing a bag and going on the run. This isn't the first time she's run from a dead body and so she has some experience in disappearing.

Lisa Lutz's new novel, The Passenger is a lot of fun. The plot is complex, but reasonably believable, the characters are fully rounded and the atmosphere is tense. This is one of the best thrillers I've read in some time.

80wandering_star
Edited: Apr 8, 2016, 11:29pm Top

That sounds good!

ETA: and it's a low price on the UK kindle store today - which I've taken advantage of.

81RidgewayGirl
Apr 9, 2016, 2:52am Top

>80 wandering_star: The Passenger is excellent. I hope you like it as much as I did.

82dchaikin
Apr 10, 2016, 4:03pm Top

Enjoyed catching up. I guess The News from Paraguay (>42 RidgewayGirl:) was a mix. I'm still interested. Negroland (>76 RidgewayGirl:) sounds terrific. I'm hesitant with Elizabeth Strout, but noting your very positive review of Lucy Barton (>70 RidgewayGirl:).

83RidgewayGirl
Apr 12, 2016, 5:34am Top

Daniel, The News from Paraguay was a good primer into the wackiness of Paraguayan history. Pico Iyer has written a great article about Paraguay's history. I'll have to dig it out and reread it. Negroland was an excellent addition to my knowledge of recent American history, as well as a reminder that our lives are as diverse as our backgrounds. And Lucy Barton would be a good introduction to Strout - it's her best writing and it's very short.

84dchaikin
Apr 12, 2016, 6:41am Top

>83 RidgewayGirl: I read Strout's Olive Kitteridge, but I wasn't a fan. I know I should try her again, but there are a lot of books out there... But, maybe I will try the Lucy Barton book.

85RidgewayGirl
Apr 12, 2016, 6:50am Top

Daniel, it's neither connected short stories, nor unsympathetic protagonist. Very much a feel of the mid-eighties, which I liked, being old and all.

86dchaikin
Apr 12, 2016, 7:07am Top

"mid-eighties... being old and all" - are we 80's teenagers old now?

87sibyx
Apr 12, 2016, 8:43am Top

Negroland look like a good read, so onto the WL it goes.

I very much like Olive Kitteridge and have more waiting in the wings.... the something-Boys. Haven't acquired the Barton (yet).

88RidgewayGirl
Apr 12, 2016, 9:12am Top

sibyx, I thought that The Burgess Boys was her weakest novel (although I still liked it).

89RidgewayGirl
Apr 13, 2016, 5:43am Top



I've been late to discover the charms of Rainbow Rowell's novels, but I do like them. Rowel has a talent for dialogue and an ability to write likable, flawed characters.

In Attachments, Lincoln is an underemployed IT worker hired to monitor employee emails at a newspaper. He frequently reads the conversation between two co-workers and friends and falls for one of them, which leads to him taking steps to move on with his life. Meanwhile, Beth is intrigued by occasional sightings of a guy she thinks is hunky, as her own long-term relationship hits a rough patch.

The story is charming, but predictable. It was interesting how two people used what were essentially idle fantasies about the other to spur personal change, but you can probably guess how it all ends. This was, for me, the least successful of Rowell's novels. She's grown as an author since.

90RidgewayGirl
Apr 14, 2016, 4:03am Top

I've put up a new ad at the top of the thread. This one is from Russia and is not over-burdened with subtlety.

91LolaWalser
Apr 14, 2016, 10:09am Top

"After a weekend spent scrubbing the floors with a used toothbrush, I like to relax with last week's newspaper and half a litre of average vodka."

92RidgewayGirl
Apr 14, 2016, 10:18am Top

>91 LolaWalser: I like to get drunk and then clean my house. Flirt is a quick, cheap drunk.

93LolaWalser
Apr 14, 2016, 10:59am Top

It's really an ad for knee pads.

94RidgewayGirl
Apr 14, 2016, 11:15am Top



I grew up in western Canada and so my imagination was full of stories of the voyageurs, the Métis and the freedom of a canoe and the wilderness. Fort Edmonton was a favorite weekend outing, and I vastly preferred the actual fort to the turn of the century town set up nearby. Now that I'm an adult, I'm pretty sure that the romance of guiding a canoe down the North Saskatchewan river was in reality a smelly, dangerous and mosquito-ridden endeavor, so The Bastard of Fort Stikine by Debra Komar was the perfect book to remind my inner child that those times were not so great.

The Bastard of Fort Stikine concerns the murder of John McLoughlin, Jr., the manager of a Hudson's Bay Company fort near the Pacific coast on land then owned by Russia (now Wrangell, Alaska), in 1842. Kumar, a forensic anthropologist, looks at the history of "the honorable Company," under the control of the despotic George Simpson, as well as the background of McLoughlin, the son of a doctor and HBC bigwig and a First Nations mother. Simpson disliked McLoughlin, and essentially blamed the victim for his own murder. Despite his father's increasingly desperate efforts, this became the narrative. Komar reveals the actual events through examining the eyewitness statements, some of which were clearly fictitious, or self-serving, but many not only agreed, but remained constant over the years.

95AnnieMod
Apr 14, 2016, 6:44pm Top

>90 RidgewayGirl:
Actually, this is from Bulgaria, not Russia. The text says "Flirt helps you keep the memories" (that had been that brand of Vodka's slogan for the last decide or more) :)

I am... speechless. Subtlety was never a strength of the local ads but that one is even worse than most. And despite it being targeted to me in a way (local culture and so on), I have no clue what they mean.

96RidgewayGirl
Apr 15, 2016, 12:43am Top

>95 AnnieMod: Thanks for the clarification! But how on earth does drinking vodka improve one's memory retention?

97AnnieMod
Apr 15, 2016, 1:21am Top

>96 RidgewayGirl:

Bulgarians drink a lot and a common problem with drinking a lot, especially bad alcohol, is that you do not remember much after that. And when this specific vodka came to the market, the cheap booze on sale was... let's say not so good. So it was targeting the people that are looking for cheap vodka - and promising them a difference. It can kinda be seen as a word play and be translated as "Flirt keeps the memories" (if you decide to be a bit more creative with your understanding) as in "So you do not need to bother remembering what happened; your vodka knows".

Let's just say that this is one of the better slogans of that era - some were even less logical :)

98lilisin
Apr 15, 2016, 2:29am Top

>91 LolaWalser:

I have a feeling the woman isn't so much giving the floor a polishing as much as she's giving a man one.

Cheap liquor ads do tend to have the "remember the alcohol, forget your night" kind of vibes to them, don't they? Not something I'd think would be a good idea.

99LolaWalser
Apr 15, 2016, 10:52am Top

>98 lilisin:

...and the subtext becomes text...

:)

100brodiew2
Apr 15, 2016, 11:18am Top

>98 lilisin: Maybe it's my male brain, but that was my first impression.

101LolaWalser
Apr 15, 2016, 11:26am Top

>100 brodiew2:

I think we can safely assume it's almost everybody's first impression. :)

102kidzdoc
Apr 18, 2016, 8:09am Top

Catching up here. Nice review of Negroland, Kay. I bought it earlier this year after it was chosen as a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography (and it won the award last month). I'll try to get to it in June.

>98 lilisin: I had the same first impression as well. Yikes.

103RidgewayGirl
Apr 20, 2016, 2:54pm Top

I think we can all agree on what the advertisers intended to insinuate in this ad!

Darryl, I look forward to finding out what you think of Negroland. I'm glad it's getting attention.

104RidgewayGirl
Apr 20, 2016, 2:54pm Top



The stories in Helen Oyeyemi's new collection, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, have a fairy tale feel to them, full of magic and mystery. Oyeyemi's writing style is well suited to this atmospheric approach, but not to the form of the short story. Her stories meander and characters that seem central to a story when it begins, wander off as Oyeyemi's focus turns to someone else. I'm now eager to read what she comes up with in the less restrictive parameters of a novel, but I'm not eager to read another short story collection by this author.

That said, some stories were more successful than others. The shorter offerings were more focused. I enjoyed A Brief History of the Homely Wench Society, which only digressed for a few pages early in the tale. Telling the story of Day, a student at Cambridge University, who joins the eponymous society, which was formed in reaction to the Bettencourt Society, an especially vile boys' club that once created a list of the homeliest women students, only to discover that a classmate is a member of that club. The Wenches come up with a clever prank to play on the Bettancourt boys, which ends up having repercussions on both sides.

105baswood
Apr 21, 2016, 9:29am Top

Great add.

106rebeccanyc
Apr 21, 2016, 10:34am Top

I enjoyed the homely wench story the best too.

107RidgewayGirl
Apr 21, 2016, 10:45am Top

>106 rebeccanyc: Because it didn't wander off and switch protagonists and forget about the first twenty pages of the story before the end. There was that odd Eurovision interlude that didn't add anything to the story, but the rest was excellent.

108ljbwell
Apr 22, 2016, 5:12am Top

>107 RidgewayGirl: I've seen so many lukewarm reviews, I'd written off What is not yours is not yours, but now that you mention a Eurovision interlude I have to admit I'm curious. :-)

109RidgewayGirl
Apr 28, 2016, 11:35am Top

>108 ljbwell: It is just a brief interlude a few pages long. Is it time for me to post a picture of Conchita Wurst?

110RidgewayGirl
Apr 28, 2016, 11:35am Top



When the residents of Pepys Road in London begin receiving postcards that say only, "We want what you have" they're either bemused or dismiss the cards as junk mail. Pepys Road is filled with houses initially sold as starter homes for the aspirational white collar workers of a century ago, but London is not what it once was and those houses are now worth millions. From the elderly lady who has lived all her life in number 42 and whose kitchen was last renovated in 1958, to the banking executive and his resentful wife, the denizens of Pepys Road are a diverse lot. But as 2008 grinds on, the economic landscape is changing.

John Lanchester has the ability to make each of his characters, from the sympathetic to the venal, compelling. Capital has a large cast of characters, but all of them read as real people, complex and interesting. There's Quentina, an asylum-seeker from Zimbabwe who is illegally working as a traffic warden, determined to keep moving forward even as she longs to be able to return to the country she loves. There's Smitty, a Banksy-style artist who loves his nan, even if he doesn't visit very often, and Petunia, who had a difficult and controlling husband and who had expected to live a more expansive life after his death, but who instead is simply continuing in the same restricted routine she has always kept. And there's Zbigniew, the Polish builder who prides himself on the quality of his work and who dreams of returning to Poland with his savings, to give his father the retirement he deserves. There are so many characters, but Lanchester keeps them all moving forward, making the reader care about all of them.

Capital is a superlatively well-written book. It's a joy to read a substantial novel with both heart and plot.

111NanaCC
Apr 28, 2016, 11:57am Top

>110 RidgewayGirl: Capital sounds like one for my wishlist.

112Nickelini
Apr 28, 2016, 12:14pm Top

>110 RidgewayGirl: Nice comments on Capital. I really liked it when I read it, and then sort of forgot about it. A few weeks ago I came across some passages I'd recorded in my reading journal and it reminded me what an excellent book it really was. I read it within six months of reading A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks. Have you read that one? Lots of similarities. I'd have to read them both again to decide which I prefer.

113janeajones
Apr 28, 2016, 1:56pm Top

Great review of Capital.

114RidgewayGirl
Apr 28, 2016, 2:21pm Top

Colleen and Jane, Capital will probably make my five best books of the year, unless I read several superlative books soon.

Joyce, now that you mention it, there are similarities with A Week in December, although Capital is a much, much better novel. I normally love whatever Faulks writes, but I thought A Week in December was missing something.

115Nickelini
Apr 28, 2016, 2:22pm Top

although Capital is a much, much better novel. I normally love whatever Faulks writes, but I thought A Week in December was missing something.

Well now I'm going to have to reread them both to see if I agree.

116RidgewayGirl
Apr 28, 2016, 2:24pm Top

And then I'll have to do the same thing and we'll enter into some sort of ouroboros that means we never read anything else besides those two novels ever again.

117Nickelini
Apr 28, 2016, 2:56pm Top

>116 RidgewayGirl: I was just listening to a podcast about Hell, and I'd say that sounds like a possible definition of Hell. Even if we like the books.

118baswood
Apr 28, 2016, 5:06pm Top

I like John Lanchester's novels and his articles (he usually has a left of centre political viewpoint) and so I will get Capital to read.

119kidzdoc
Apr 28, 2016, 9:21pm Top

Nice review of Capital, Kay. I really need to get to it, and A Week in December, which have both sat in my unread collection for several years.

120ljbwell
Apr 29, 2016, 2:59am Top

>109 RidgewayGirl: I'm in Sweden, where Eurvision is preceded by a month-long+ run-up to choose our contribution. It's cheesy fun if you don't take it too seriously.

121RidgewayGirl
Apr 29, 2016, 3:25am Top

Joyce, it does, rather. It could be worse, though. What if the only two books were The Da Vinci Code and Fifty Shades of Grey?

Bas, Lanchester writes gloriously well - in that understated way that means you never notice the writing while you're reading it. I really liked The Debt to Pleasure, too.

Darryl, it would be interesting to read those two books back to back.

ljbwell, the Eurovision contest is a lot of fun. I wish I'd known about it back in high school, when a group of friends would gather to watch the Miss Universe pageant, because the national costumes portion was so weird. Eurovision has the nutty costumes, plus singing and dancing.

122rebeccanyc
Apr 29, 2016, 10:17am Top

>114 RidgewayGirl: That's a great recommendation!

123LolaWalser
Apr 29, 2016, 10:46am Top

Nothing captured the Eurovision spirit better than Father Ted and Father Dougal's My Lovely Horse! (Probably illegal and soon-to-combust YT link: "A Song For Europe")

Twenty years already, sniffles!

124RidgewayGirl
May 1, 2016, 9:50am Top



After reading David Cullen's excellent book about the Columbine school shooting in Colorado and having read a lengthy article by Andrew Solomon (who also writes the introduction here), I was interested enough to pick up A Mother's Reckoning. Sue Klebold is the mother of one of the two boys who shot so many of their fellow students and who shot themselves at the end of their rampage.

Klebold is honest and open. She's spent years thinking over what happened, wondering about her own culpability in missing the signs of her son's intentions. This isn't a traditional true crime story, but a look at how what Klebold calls brain illness can affect a person's thinking. She has become active in the suicide prevention community and much of the emphasis of this book is on how we might prevent such events by recognizing the signs of mental distress in teen-agers early enough.

She also effectively debunks the idea that children raised in loving and well-run homes will not run into serious problems, a comfort parents give themselves to avoid facing the fact that this can happen to anyone. The Klebolds were good parents, and the changes they noticed in Dylan's behavior were the kind of things common in most teen-agers.

While memoirs by survivors, the families of murder victims and even accounts about murderers abound, it's unusual for a parent of a murderer to speak up. Klebold's account is an invaluable resource to those seeking to find a solution to our violence problems. It's also a difficult book to read, as her grief is often palpable. I'm reminded that it's important to react to people, no matter who they are, with compassion rather than judgement.

125VivienneR
May 1, 2016, 12:41pm Top

>110 RidgewayGirl: Nice review of Capital. It's already on my wishlist but you have prompted me to move it up!

126AlisonY
Edited: May 1, 2016, 2:40pm Top

>124 RidgewayGirl: really interested in your review of A Mother's Reckoning as I read about this in The Times a while back and thought it sounded horribly fascinating - a real life We Need to Talk About Kevin perspective on nature versus nurture.

Was it well written? I must check if I ever got around to putting it on my wish list.

127RidgewayGirl
May 2, 2016, 2:39pm Top

Alison, it was the NYT review that prompted me to pick it up, along with an interview with Klebold on their weekly podcast.

Thanks, Rebecca and Vivienne. It really is an excellent book.

128RidgewayGirl
May 2, 2016, 2:39pm Top



After finishing Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Matthew Desmond's study of what people living under the poverty level face in their struggle to keep a roof over the heads of their children, I've wanted to place a copy in the hands of everyone I know, and ask them earnestly to read it. It's an important book, on an issue that is largely hidden to those of us lucky enough to take secure housing for granted. It's also a tremendously readable book; while Desmond does present a great deal of research, the research is presented behind the stories of real people, over years, both tenants and landlords. And those stories provide the emotional wallop behind the dry statistics. When Desmond points out, for example, how difficult it is for an African American woman with a limited income to find any housing at all when she has children, it's not an abstract idea, but the life Arleen and her sons are living.

Arleen had given up hoping for housing assistance long ago. If she had a housing voucher or a key to a public housing unit, she would spend only 30 percent of her income on rent. It would mean the difference between stable poverty and grinding poverty, the difference between planting roots in a community and being batted from one place to another. It would mean she could give most of her check to her children instead of her landlord.

Desmond spent over a year as a fieldworker, living with the people he studied, living first in a trailer park that had been condemned by the city and then moving into a rooming house in the center of Milwaukee's north side. His words are informed not just by rigorous research, but by seeing for himself the effects of relentless poverty and the lack of a stable or even safe living environment. And once he'd taken the reader through the lived experiences of the people at the very bottom of our society, he provides the sobering numbers of how very many people are living under constant threat of eviction, and how it affects the families for years, especially the children.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. Every American should be aware of what's happening within a few miles of their own home.

129japaul22
May 2, 2016, 3:26pm Top

Thanks for the review of Evicted. I put it on hold at the library.

130kidzdoc
May 2, 2016, 11:22pm Top

Nice review of Evicted, Kay. I bought a copy of it in March, and I'll read it this summer.

131RidgewayGirl
May 3, 2016, 2:07am Top

Jennifer and Darryl, I'll be very interested in what you make of it.

132dchaikin
May 8, 2016, 5:20pm Top

>128 RidgewayGirl: not caught up on your thread at all, but I wanted to read your review of Evicted after the conversation on the what are you reading now thread. I'm thinking of using my next audible credit on this.

133RidgewayGirl
May 9, 2016, 5:18am Top

You should, Daniel. It's an eye-opener and well-told. I just noticed it had become available on audible. There's books I'm interested in, but my son uses all my credits. He absorbs information better by hearing it than by reading it, so books assigned for school are both read and listened to. He loved The Giver, so I got him the other books in the series. And now I'll need to wait until next month for anything for myself.

134dchaikin
May 9, 2016, 7:05am Top

What a great use of your credits.

I made the mistake of looking at options last night and now there are endless audiobooks I want to try, so I'm not so certain anymore. (I discovered the Audie awards) I'm trying a library book at the moment, so I should have some time to decide.

135RidgewayGirl
May 9, 2016, 9:48am Top



Leaven of Malice is the middle book in Robertson Davies's Salterton Trilogy. This review may give mild spoilers to first book.

Gloster Ridley is the editor of The Clarion, Salterton's daily paper. Things are going well for him; he helped to design the curriculum for a new department of journalism at the university and he's expecting an honorary degree as a result. His paper is doing well and while there's an old journalist he'd like to put out to pasture, in general things are under control. Then a wedding announcement is printed in the paper on Hallowe'en announcing the nuptials of Pearl Vambrace and Solomon Bridgetower on November 31st in the cathedral, setting off a perfect storm of controversy and over-excitement.

Dean Knapp is the most reasonable of those affected, merely being annoyed that people expect to use the cathedral without bothering to tell him about it. He's busy dealing with the rowdy goings-on at the cathedral on Hallowe'en night to spare much time for anything else. Ridley is annoyed by the incompetence of the staff who not only allowed the announcement to be printed with the impossible date of November 31st, but who also allowed the paperwork to be filled out with an obviously false name. His annoyance has barely begun, however. Professor Vambrace, a man known for both the inflated sense of his own worth and his quick temper, has decided that this announcement can only be a personal attack on him and he is determined to seek redress with the paper which so maliciously printed the notice.

Left out of the equation entirely are the two people named in the announcement. Pearl and Solly know each other, but not well. He's in love with someone else and she's caught between her controlling parents. They don't even particularly like each other and that's not helped by the constant congratulations they're both being subjected to.

It might be said of Mr Higgin that he brought a great deal to the music he performed -- so much, indeed, that some composers would have had trouble in recognizing their works as he performed them. He had a surprisingly large voice for a small man, and he phrased with immense grandeur and feeling, beginning each musical statement loudly, and tailing off at the end of it as though ecstasy had robbed him of consciousness.

This was a highly satisfactory book. It was the writing that stood out. It's understated, with a great deal of humor. Here's an account of a music teacher showing his talents to a group of elderly society ladies. I see where the comparisons to Trollope come from.

His first song, which was Because by Guy d'Hardelot, he sang with his eyes opening and closing rapturously in the direction of Mrs Bridgetower, in acknowledgement of her ownership of the piano. But when he was bidden to sing again he directed his beams at Auntie Puss.

"I should like to sing a little thing of Roger Quilter's," said he, "some lines of Tennyson." And he launched into
Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal. It is doubtful if, at any time in her life, anyone had sung directly at Miss Pottinger, and she was flustered in a region of her being from which she had had no messages for many years.

136detailmuse
May 9, 2016, 4:44pm Top

Enjoying your reviews and adding three to the wishlist: Capital, A Mother's Reckoning and Evicted.

137brodiew2
May 11, 2016, 4:37pm Top

>133 RidgewayGirl: Hello Kay. I saw that you mentioned The Giver above and I wonder if you might tell what you son liked so much about this book.

I dislike the book. I read it recently, for the first time, as an adult. I think it was the ending which colored my feeling of the entire book. However, I am interested in other perspectives.

I bet you didn't expect his kind of post, today. :-)

138RidgewayGirl
May 13, 2016, 9:03am Top

Thanks, MJ. The wish lists never get any shorter, do they?

Brodie, I'll chat with him about it and get back to you. I do know that he was most excited to read the book (Son) that is set in the same community.

139rebeccanyc
May 13, 2016, 10:48am Top

Just catching up, and it's interesting that Davies is compared to Trollope because I love both.

140RidgewayGirl
Edited: May 14, 2016, 5:32am Top



In Irene Sabatini's novel, The Boy Next Door, Lindiwe is a shy, bookish girl who is fascinated by the white boy who lived in the house next door in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. He was arrested for his stepmother's murder, but released when his conviction was over-turned. Now that he's back, she's one of the few people who will talk to him, although only when her strict parents can't see. They form a tentative relationship that persists over the years. The story begins with Robert Mugabe's presidency, and the history of Zimbabwe along with its culture are as important as the story itself.

Ian grew up in a white Rhodesian household, with racism built into his language, while Lindiwe is wary of how white people have treated her. She is the only black girl at her high school and her family is the first to move into what was once a whites only neighborhood. Over time that changes, as do Ian and Lindiwe.

This is a well-written and fascinating book. Sabatini is telling the story of two very different people and that is where her focus remains, even as Zimbabwe itself becomes a primary force in their lives. And as it follows both Ian and Lindiwe through a significant portion of their lives, Sabatini also shows how they change as they mature and as events shape them.

This is an excellent novel and I highly recommend it to anyone who would like to know more about Zimbabwe or anyone who just likes a good story with characters who are complex and sympathetic.

141FlorenceArt
May 14, 2016, 2:14am Top

>140 RidgewayGirl: Thank you for the review, this book was not on my radar at all, it sounds very interesting.

142baswood
May 15, 2016, 4:32am Top

Enjoyed your review of The Boy Next Door, Irene Sabatini Another one to add to the TBR, because after reading Doris Lessings books on Southern Rhodesia it would be interesting to read a novel set in the more modern Zimbabwe.

143RidgewayGirl
Edited: May 15, 2016, 9:28am Top

Barry, the book is also written by and from the perspective of a black woman. I'm now looking at We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo, to see another experience of life in Zimbabwe.

Florence, I only learned about through Darryl's (Kidzdoc) excellent review.

144kidzdoc
May 15, 2016, 9:19am Top

Nice reviews of Leaven of Malice and The Boy Next Door, Kay. Thanks for the compliment for my review of Sabatini's superb book.

145RidgewayGirl
May 15, 2016, 9:28am Top

Thank you, Darryl, for bringing it to my attention! I would have passed right by the book otherwise.

146RidgewayGirl
Edited: May 15, 2016, 4:36pm Top



If I were to make a list of things I liked in books, The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild would check off a good number of them. It's set in the London't art world. It has a plucky heroine. There's a forgotten masterpiece discovered in a junk shop. It's shortlisted for a prize. There's a love story. It goes a bit meta, in that the painting itself narrates portions of the novel. There are even Nazis and Holocaust survivors. It really does check off so many boxes for me.

And yet, I had to push myself to finish. While Rothschild clearly knows a great deal about art, she communicates as little of that knowledge as she can. This is a novel written as though the author is imagining the subsequent screenplay as she writes. I've read other books that give the impression that the author is picturing the story more as a movie than a book, and it can work, but here, with the large cast of characters and references to history and art, it does not. What happens instead is that the characters, of which there are simply too many, become cartoon-like. Rothschild needs each one to be memorable based not on their inner lives, but on physical quirks and exaggerations. Humorous novels are difficult to pull off, and Rothschild relies heavily on stereo-types to make her characters funny. So the gay man spends the book wearing more and more outrageous outfits. The male lead falls in love with our plucky and beautiful heroine at first sight and never deviates from his slavish devotion (which quickly made him more creepy than anything else, but tastes in stalkerish behavior vary). And the leading professional expert on Rococo art? Well, she's overweight. So every single scene that involves her, has her either eating while the other characters look on disdainfully, or mentions that her shirt is smeared with whatever she just finished eating off-stage. A second fat woman appears near the end of the novel, and here Rothschild simply has the other characters yell insults at her for being so unattractive. Her husband makes a comment about how she'd be lucky to get raped. This is a humorous moment.

And so, this book, that held so much potential, became an exercise in endurance, and I have no doubt that the dislike I felt for this book colored my impressions of it. I noticed every continuation error or factual mistake that, in a better book, I might have been willing to overlook. Rothschild clearly knows about the art she's writing about and she also knows about expensive items, but she failed to do even cursory research on the criminal side of things, leading her to point out that because one bad guy wore gloves, no DNA could be found on the scene, for example, and she failed to look up some of the more basic working of the British criminal justice system.

Many other readers have enjoyed this novel, and it has made the shortlist for this year's Baileys Prize, so if the premise of the novel appeals to you, don't be put off by me. But don't say I didn't warn you.

147kidzdoc
May 15, 2016, 9:40am Top

>146 RidgewayGirl: No, thank you. Nice review, though.

148RidgewayGirl
May 20, 2016, 4:39am Top



Truth is a gritty, noiresque police procedural by Peter Temple, who also wrote The Broken Shore. Set in a crime-ridden, decaying version of Melbourne, Australia, Truth follows Steve Villani, the head of the homicide squad as he works to keep his job and maybe solve a few homicides.

Villani's a detective in the classic style; he's alienated his family and is not entirely in control of what's left of his personal life. He's spent years dedicated to his job, and now that he's in charge, he's discovering that might not have been the best choice. His father is out in the bush, where a wildfire is raging, trying to save what he can. His wife left him, one of his daughters is on her way out and his remaining daughter is barely returning his (occasional) texts. But he's really more involved in the murders he's trying to solve. One is of an anonymous young woman, found murdered in an empty apartment in an exclusive building. There's pressure to do nothing, so as to not impact the value of the other apartments in the building, as well as the new casino. There's a gruesome torture-murder of the members of a criminal gang, but Villani and his crew aren't making much headway there, either. Each piece of information is leaked before it can be used. Everywhere, Villani faces corruption, not the least of it his own.

This is, I think, the book Richard White intended to write with The Whites. There's a vast quantity of corruption quietly going on, and as Villani rises in the ranks, the expectations of preferential treatment increase. But Villani is, at heart, someone who still believes that the law should stand for something, even as he misuses it.

The settings depicted, from Villani's rural childhood home, now threatened by a wildfire that can't be contained, to the valuable properties along the waterfront in Melbourne are vividly described. Australia may not be so dark and crime-ridden in fact, but this version of it is certainly colorful.

149ursula
May 20, 2016, 5:56am Top

>143 RidgewayGirl: I liked We Need New Names a lot, although it also spends a good portion of the book talking about the experience of being an immigrant to the US.

150RidgewayGirl
May 20, 2016, 12:02pm Top

ursula, good to know. The experience of being an immigrant is also interesting to me. I'm moving north to Nigeria for my next Africa read, with Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta.

151baswood
May 21, 2016, 4:55am Top

Enjoyed your review of The Improbability of Love It sounded very fair.

152sibyx
May 24, 2016, 9:39am Top

Catching up on your reviews! WL'ed several (Capital, the Improbability of Love and The Boy Next Door!

153VivienneR
May 24, 2016, 1:44pm Top

>135 RidgewayGirl: Your review of Leaven of Malice is excellent. Love the quotations. I was using sticky notes in my book to mark great lines and soon the book was bristling with them!

154RidgewayGirl
May 24, 2016, 2:09pm Top

Thanks, Bas. I think that there was the faint whiff of revenge review about the edges. It could have been a much better book.

Lucy, I'll be interested in seeing what you think of all three when you do get to them (understanding that this may be some years from now).

Vivienne, I loved this trilogy so very much.

155NanaCC
May 24, 2016, 5:51pm Top

I have Robertson Davies' trilogy on my wishlist. I'll get there some day.

156RidgewayGirl
May 25, 2016, 9:18am Top

Colleen, I think you'd love Robertson Davies. He deserves to be well-known outside of Canada.

And a brief moment of crankiness. Hannah Rothschild has just won the Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction. I'm cranky that telling a fat woman that she would be lucky to get raped is what passes for prize-worthy humor these days. I think I'm turning into a ranty curmudgeon.

157RidgewayGirl
May 26, 2016, 7:48am Top



*Mild spoilers for the previous two books in the trilogy.*

"You certainly do see life in terms of literature, Johnny."

"Well -- just look at the fun I have! But now, you see, I'm bang in the middle of one of those terrific novels about Who Gets the Dibs; the next thing to be decided is -- are we in a Jane Austen situation, or a Trollope situation?"

"Does it have to be one or the other?"

"But you can't call it a modern situation?"

"Well, it's happening now, isn't it?"


The final book in Robertson Davies's Salterton Trilogy, A Mixture of Frailties, concerns what happens after Mrs Bridgetower dies, leaving behind what can only be seen as a revenge will. She'd hated that her son had married, and hated his wife, who tried to be accommodating, but there was no woman in the world Mrs Bridgetower would have liked to see supplant herself in her son's affections. And so she had a will written that guaranteed their financial situation would be dire until Veronica produced a son. The money is placed into a trust, to be administered by Solly, his mother's best friend, Auntie Puss, and the Dean of the Salterton cathedral. The trust is to provide a scholarship for an artistic young woman to study in Europe.

And so the narrative splits in two. One portion of the novel involves the petty maneuvering of the members of the trust along with the lawyer administering it. Auntie Puss keeps a eye on the house that now belongs to the trust, even as Solly and Veronica struggle to maintain it on the salary of an assistant professor, as well as under the pressure to conceive, and to conceive quickly. Auntie Puss also keeps an eye on the morals of the young women who apply for the trust, rejecting those insufficiently modest for her antiquarian tastes. But eventually a candidate is found.

The other portion of the narrative concerns Monica Gall, who is brought to the attention of the trustees by the fabulous Mr Cobbler. She sings on a radio show hosted by the pastor of an off-beat sect of protestantism called the Thirteeners. Raised in a religious working class household, Monica is not only sheltered but somewhat ignorant. Despite reservations, she accepts the scholarship and sets off to study in England. Her mother had predicted that the experience would change her, and so it does.

Davies is a compassionate writer who is able to write in a way that is both humorous and illuminating. Despite the book first being published in 1958, his attitudes toward the variety of human experience is modern and by setting a portion of this book in Europe, he's able to venture outside of the provincial world of Salterton. I enjoyed each subsequent book in the Salterton Trilogy more than the last and I'm looking forward to reading more by him.

158rebeccanyc
May 26, 2016, 10:20am Top

I love Robertson Davies! Great review.

159RidgewayGirl
May 26, 2016, 1:10pm Top

Thanks, Rebecca. I last read him when I was in high school. I'm so glad to have rediscovered him and I do plan to read all his books in chronological order over the next few years.

160dchaikin
May 26, 2016, 2:06pm Top

Enjoyed your latest Davies review. I own The Cornish Trilogy, but unfortunately I've placed it in what seems to have become the one place books are sure not to get read - my to-read shelf.

161RidgewayGirl
May 28, 2016, 6:57am Top

Daniel, I have The Cornish Trilogy in storage in SC and so will be able to read more Davies as of mid-July. I wonder how much time unpacking will take. Surely not more than a few hours.

162RidgewayGirl
May 28, 2016, 7:06am Top



The Flight of Gemma Hardy is Margot Livesey's reimagining of Jane Eyre in 1960s Scotland. Livesey's a good writer and she did a wonderful job of keeping most aspects of the novel, while changing the details to suit the new environment.

This was a case of the right book at the right time for me. I enjoyed wondering how Livesey was going to portray the familiar events of one of my favorite novels. For the most part, she remained true to the spirit of the novel, while keeping the story fresh.

163dchaikin
May 28, 2016, 7:56am Top

>161 RidgewayGirl: you might plan for a tiny bit more time than that for unpacking, you know, just to be safe.

164FlorenceArt
May 28, 2016, 9:48am Top

>163 dchaikin: Well who knows, given the right motivation...

165RidgewayGirl
May 28, 2016, 12:12pm Top

For my part, I'm trying to get rid of everything we don't need or use while we're still here in this small house with no closets. In the larger house with lots of closets and cupboards and shelving, the extra stuff is invisible. So, if I get rid of enough things...

166RidgewayGirl
May 29, 2016, 8:46am Top



Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö are credited with having created the first series of police procedurals. Originally published in Sweden between 1965 and 1975, the series feels both like an artifact of that time and surprisingly modern. The Man on the Balcony is the third in the series, and is based on actual events.

Children had a great deal more freedom to roam fifty years ago, and during the long, sunlit summer evenings in Stockholm it wasn't unusual for a child to go out alone to a park after dinner. Until, that is, an elementary school girl is found murdered in a local park. Finding the murderer becomes an endurance test, with hundreds of leads being called in. The lead detective, Martin Beck, knows that solving the crime will require both skill and luck.

Reading a crime novel that takes place in the 1960s was an education. The detectives talk about the new computer system as cutting edge, and rely on newspapers and land-line telephones. And yet the emotions and basic skills are the same as in today's police procedurals; the officers are emotionally drained by the case and it's solution is based on the detectives' ability to remember details and dogged determination.

167baswood
May 29, 2016, 8:56am Top

Interesting to read your review on an early Police procedural; not having mobile phones must have helped.

168RidgewayGirl
May 29, 2016, 9:02am Top

Bas, in the first book, Roseanna, a police department in the US is consulted. The long-distance call is quite a procedure. It does mean that the investigators can work regular work hours, since the lack of mobile phones mean that they can't be reached. And when a detective goes on vacation, he returns with no idea of the huge case that began while he was gone.

169RidgewayGirl
May 30, 2016, 4:21am Top

And now for two lackluster books. It's not entirely their fault. In the case of the first book, YA just isn't my genre. I get frustrated with the simplicity and lack of nuance. As for the second, I've just outgrown the formulaic mystery novel. Basically, I'm picky and jaded.



Between Shades of Gray illuminates an aspect of WWII that is not commonly known in the western world. It tells the story of a Lithuanian teen-ager who is sent to work in labor camps in Siberia with her mother and younger brother. Written for a YA audience, the book does an adequate job of describing how difficult it was to survive without being overly grim.

The author, Ruta Sepetys, has done her research and has managed to set the scene without it feeling like she's regurgitating what she'd read. It hasn't been long since the archives held in eastern Europe have been opened and I hope that the future will bring us many more books and articles, both non-fiction and fiction, that broaden our understanding of Europe in the twentieth century.



As Rhonda watches, a large rabbit in a VW Beetle calmly abducts a little girl sitting alone in another car. She's stunned into inaction and her lack of action spur her to join the volunteers helping with the search for the kidnapped girl as well as to do some investigating of her own. The main suspect is the older brother of her childhood best friend, a friend who also disappeared one morning on her way to school, although Lizzy was presumed to have been abducted by her father, who had left his family a few years earlier.

Island of Lost Girls by Jennifer McMahon is exactly the kind of book I used to devour with great enthusiasm. McMahon is a capable writer and the character of Rhonda is well realized. Unfortunately, the person eventually revealed to be the kidnapper and the reasons behind the crime don't hold together very well. And the author carefully made sure there were no loose ends at the end of the novel, making sure the reader has no need of an imagination or even much of a brain.

I read this book as it has been on my tbr for some time and the author has a new book out that looked interesting. There is something satisfying about crossing an author off of the list of authors to read; there are already too many books out there. Still, McMahon can write and if she attempts something less formulaic and tidy I would be tempted to give her another shot.

And the cover for this book. The abducted child is describes as being sturdy and dark-haired. Rabbits and images of rabbits play a large role in the story. So, naturally, the cover features a slender blonde girl holding a frog. Of course.

170sibyx
Jun 1, 2016, 9:42am Top

I'd like to reread Davies - I blasted through them all in the eighties. I'm thinking too they might, with the right reader, make for a great listen.

171RidgewayGirl
Jun 11, 2016, 4:18am Top

Lucy, I do plan to read all of Davies, chronologically, over the next few years. It's been a long time since I read anything by him, and he's well worth rereading. Were I an audiobook person, I'd look for his books, but who has the right kind of mid-century Canadian accent?

172RidgewayGirl
Jun 11, 2016, 8:26am Top



The Widow, a first novel by Fiona Barton, is the story of a newly widowed woman whose husband was suspected of having abducted a pre-school child. The story is narrated by the widow as well as by a journalist and the detective who had been in charge of the case. The author has a long career working in print journalism, so those segments are the most detailed and interesting. The plot itself is diverting enough although the end is weaker than it could have been.

173SassyLassy
Jun 11, 2016, 10:57am Top

>171 RidgewayGirl: Good question. It's funny how that accent has changed. It's really noticeable when you hear political clips from mid century.

Christopher Plummer? Gordon Pinsent? (He can suppress the Newfoundland traces) Timothy Findley could have done a really good job.

I think Christopher Plummer would really enjoy it.

174RidgewayGirl
Jun 12, 2016, 5:12am Top



The Outcast is Sadie Jones's debut novel and I came to it after reading her other books and enjoying them enormously. Set in the stifling world of an English village in the 1950s, the story follows Lewis Aldridge from when he first encounters his father after the war and his troubled life after the death of his mother. Being motherless and then having a young stepmother unprepared to deal with a grieving boy, sets him apart from the rest of his peers and his increasingly destructive behavior get him sent to prison for a few years, but it's his unwelcome return that sets in motion events that change the accepted order of the village.

Jones knows what she's doing, and even her first novel feels self-assured. Her characters are fully developed and the story is well-plotted. It's a melodramatic tale, full of the intense and immediate feelings of adolescence and young adulthood.

175RidgewayGirl
Edited: Jun 12, 2016, 5:17am Top

SL, with most older novels, I don't think an era-appropriate accent is needed, but Davies is so firmly rooted in that time and place, it would be a pity if an audio version didn't take that into account. A British author would probably work and Christopher Plummer would be great. I don't listen to audiobooks much, but I'd buy that!

I've put a new ad up. No boobs, but maybe the message is just as damaging, given that it's aimed right at teenage girls?

176RidgewayGirl
Jun 12, 2016, 8:17am Top



A year after her husband's death, Kate wakes up to find that her mother-in-law has taken over her life, selling Kate's house so that Kate and Kate's daughter Devin can move in with her and moving Devin to a private school. Kate takes Devin and they set off to pay a visit to her aunt, who owns a decaying lake resort near the coast in Georgia. Kate's aunt Eby has just decided to sell the property to a developer and so she, Kate and Devin spend a last summer together along with a few regular visitors.

After so many excellent books, Sarah Addison Allen has finally written a lackluster novel. It's not lacking in atmosphere or in whimsical characters, it's more that there are far too many of them. With the backstories of eight characters, as well their current lives to be told, there isn't enough of any one character to be invested in the outcome. The main story, of Kate and her childhood friend, Wes, is barely outlined, while the stories of others are abruptly finished in the final few pages. Lost Lake has enough characters to fill at least three other novels, and would have benefitted by reducing the cast down to just a few main characters, with a few in supporting roles.

177lilisin
Edited: Jun 13, 2016, 7:58pm Top

>175 RidgewayGirl:

It seems like they were going for the same kind of punchline used for male ads (think Axe Deodorant) but forgot to put in the humor. This does seem unusually cruel. As a teenager, although I wouldn't have taken the "oh you don't have a boyfriend" offense personally, this type of advertisement would have seem a bit under the belt and put me off the brand entirely. It just reeks of someone who once did marketing for Abercrombie & Fitch and though they were cool.

Good thing this was an advertisement of the 90s and they've since gone for a softer form of advertising.

178RidgewayGirl
Jun 14, 2016, 10:05am Top

>177 lilisin: Those Axe ads did have a sense of humor. And the guys weren't sad losers, even before they sprayed themselves down. This is just mean-spirited.

179AlisonY
Jun 15, 2016, 8:38am Top

I loved The Outcast. It's been a few years now since I read it - I really must try another one of Sadie Jones novels.

180RidgewayGirl
Jun 15, 2016, 10:25am Top

Alison, Jones is a wonderful writer. And each of her books is different than the others, which is also something I like.

181RidgewayGirl
Jun 17, 2016, 5:44am Top



Kristopher Jansma's novel, Why We Came to the City, concerns four close college friends who move to New York, where they remain best friends. Sara's organized (she's the least developed of the five main characters) and she loves George, a schlumpy astronomer with a drinking problem. Jacob is fun when he's in the mood, with a cutting wit and he's mysterious and unpredictable. Irene is the free-spirited, brilliant artist who never discusses her past; a manic pixie dream girl that they all love so much. And then there's William, who was never worthy of being included into their group when they were in college, but begins a relationship with Irene when they meet up again at a holiday party.

I'm not going to be very nice to this book. The quality of the writing is good; Jansma knows how to write a sentence that stays out of the way of what he's trying to say, and there's some interesting writing segments at the beginning and end of the novel that bring Joshua Ferris's Then We Came to the End to mind. The heart of the novel is fine, if done to death already; four friends graduate and discover adulthood is complex and not as easy as they thought. It was in the execution that this book fell flat for me. It's predictable and not different enough from all the other novels by MFA holders living in Brooklyn to stand out.

The first segment of the novel is the tragic tale of the untimely illness and death of one of the characters. Nothing new is said, although the parts about chemotherapy felt educational. The second segment involves a character with the same name as a character in the first segment, although this character is a very different person. This segment is the story of a guy who grows up a bit and finds purpose in trying to help out one of the patients at the psychiatric institute where he works. The final segment is about two other characters who have to get over their deep feelings of grief and move on with their lives.

There are female characters in this book, but Jansma leaves them as ciphers and objects of some variation of affection rather than fully rounded characters. He's kind to them, though, and may well move beyond this in later novels. Jansma shows promise and it would be interesting to see what he does when he isn't writing about stock situations and characters and allows his imagination to do more.

182RidgewayGirl
Jun 19, 2016, 10:10am Top



With Reader I Married Him, Tracy Chevalier has compiled an excellent selection of short stories, all based on Jane Eyre's final line. The authors represented include Audrey Niffenegger, Francine Prose, Emma Donoghue, Lionel Shriver and Susan Hill, resulting in an anthology that is varied and imaginative. Some of the stories take place in the same time, or share a character with the famous novel, while others are looser interpretations. The variety keeps each story feeling fresh and surprising.

Usually, in a collection of short stories and especially a collection of short stories commissioned around a common theme, there are a few excellent stories, a few that aren't bad and a slew of quickly and carelessly written stories that are not worth the time it takes to read them. This collection avoids that beautifully, having only one story I didn't find to be at least very good, and several that I loved. The variety of authors (and these authors are very different from each other) leads to a refreshing lack of sameness.

This is a book I will be happy to read again in a few years.

183torontoc
Jun 19, 2016, 10:11am Top

>182 RidgewayGirl: - this is a book to return to!

184avidmom
Jun 19, 2016, 10:30pm Top

>182 RidgewayGirl: I'm reading Jane Eyre right now. It certainly is a long book.

185RidgewayGirl
Jun 27, 2016, 5:43am Top

>183 torontoc: Cyrel, it really is. I'm going to have to find a copy for myself as I read it as a library book. I wish there was a way of knowing ahead of time which books I'll want to keep.

>184 avidmom: I read Jane Eyre so many times as a teenager. I think I need to read it again now. I certainly agree with its status as most beloved novel ever, though. Jane is a great character.

The contents of our house are packed onto a container and on their way to Hamburg to enjoy a sea voyage. I request that media outlets delay any articles about containers being swept off of ships during storms, the contents of lost containers washing up on beaches, or rogue waves sinking container ships until August. I would appreciate it.

186NanaCC
Jun 27, 2016, 6:49am Top

Safe travels, Kay! Are you looking forward to your return to the U.S.?

187mabith
Jun 27, 2016, 9:17am Top

I managed to totally miss this thread! I had Negroland on my list already, but have bumped it up somewhat thanks to your review. In trying to read more from other countries yet keep my non-fiction ratio high I've been more hesitant to pick up US memoirs. Definitely loking for The Bastard of Fort Stikine and The Boy Next Door as well.

That acne med ad... Even ignoring the meanness of it, there's no logic there. I'm pretty sure no teenager asks their boyfriend about dealing with acne. I went to a tiny boarding school for high school where the girls dorm put up a giant chart with everyone's name and boxes to mark when we had our periods (totally optional) right in the main hall where everyone coming in could see it and we didn't even ask each other about acne treatment (there were all-school meetings in the dorm's parlor regularly, so all the male students and staff saw the chart).

188RidgewayGirl
Jul 1, 2016, 10:14am Top



Stephanie is a single mother, a waitress barely getting by and when the charismatic Nathaniel begins paying attention to her, she's more than willing to move with her daughter Judith to his remote compound and learn to adapt to the religious strictures of his small sect of Christian believers. Judith, on the other hand, longs to return to her friends and is deeply skeptical of the sect's teachings. Small and isolated, Nathaniel's followers are thrown off-kilter by the two new members and things rapidly become unbalanced and then dangerous.

I picked up Rebecca Wait's novel, The Followers, on a whim and for once it worked out for me. Wait has written a book in which the dynamics of a religious cult feel real and plausible. The reader knows from the outset that things go badly wrong, and the finding out of how and why that happens makes for compelling reading. Judith is a wonderful character; as a child she is simultaneously opinionated and uncertain, she just knows that she doesn't want to stay up on the moors. As an adult, she's stuck with what her past has done to her, and with her conflicted feelings. The look at both what draws a person into a religious group like this one, as well as the dynamics of a small, close-knit community are fascinating.

189RidgewayGirl
Jul 1, 2016, 10:20am Top

I have mixed feelings, Colleen. I miss my family and friends in SC and will be glad to get back to them as well as our house, which we liked very much and which contains exotic American treats like closets, ceiling fans, air conditioning and a full-sized fridge (which has an ice-maker - an ridiculous luxury that I can't wait to overuse). On the other hand, we have made friends here and we lucked out and got fantastic neighbors, which will be missed. And we'll all miss the easy, safe public transportation and I'll miss the museums, cafes and ever-present sense of history.

Meredith, I love the idea of a menstrual chart right out in the open. What a great way to make it an everyday thing.

190Nickelini
Jul 1, 2016, 12:12pm Top

>188 RidgewayGirl:, >189 RidgewayGirl: The Followers sounds like something I'd like. I will try to track down a copy.

I was feeling sorry for you for having to move back to the States, but closets! Those are nice indeed.

I love the idea of a menstrual chart right out in the open. What a great way to make it an everyday thing. Or it's completely creepy, like when the Duggars (19 Kids and Counting) all see mom's chart prominently displayed on the wall so all the kids know when mom and dad are trying to make another baby. Shudder.

191janeajones
Jul 1, 2016, 5:46pm Top

Wonderful reviews -- illuminating and enticing. I'm particularly interested in reading The Boy Next Door. Safe travels.

192dchaikin
Jul 1, 2016, 9:30pm Top

I'm reading Fates and Furies and thinking over your comments back on Why We Came to the City and how "It's predictable and not different enough from all the other novels by MFA holders living in Brooklyn to stand out." (>181 RidgewayGirl:) Now, I like F&F, but still, there is an unoriginal feel to it, or at least I sense that and can't shake it.

Wish you well on everything related to your moving back to SC.

193RidgewayGirl
Jul 2, 2016, 3:48am Top

That is creepy, Joyce. And the wonders of closets are not exaggerated. The kids are busy picking colors to paint their rooms as that is our summer project - I will teach them how to properly paint a room. It's a useful skill to have. And if they want to personalize their rooms, then they need to do the work (now that they are 12 and 15, this isn't a ridiculous idea).

Jane, The Boy Next Door is excellent.

Thanks, Dan. And I agree with you on Fates and Furies. I wonder if this is the downside of reading so much. I blame Joshua Ferris. Had I not read To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, I may not have noticed the similarities for a few more books yet.

194ursula
Jul 2, 2016, 8:10am Top

>189 RidgewayGirl: ...contains exotic American treats like closets, ceiling fans, air conditioning and a full-sized fridge...

Mmm, yes. One does get used to the lack of those things, but it doesn't mean they're not welcome when they appear again!

195mabith
Jul 2, 2016, 10:27am Top

>190 Nickelini: Ha, definitely a different vibe between teens normalizing menstruation (on a voluntary basis) and kids seeing their parents sex schedule. Granting, my boarding school was a weird little oasis. Before the chart my boyfriends kept better track of my cycle than I did, so they'd be there with ice cream for me the day before it started. I really should have appreciated that more.

196RidgewayGirl
Jul 4, 2016, 6:39am Top



With The Toast shutting down, I took the opportunity to revisit Mallory Ortberg's literary texts in Texts from Jane Eyre. Ortberg has fun creating messages from mythical and literary characters from Medea and Achilles, to Hamlet and Jane Eyre, to Sweet Valley High's Wakefield twins and Harry Potter. Ortberg has a light hand and a humorous outlook and each segment was a great deal of fun to read.

Here's Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

what if the moon was haunted
by women who had sex with demons


what

what if kubla khan made a whole dome
just for pleasure
and put an ocean underneath the ground
with no sun in it


wow
i don't know

and rivers flung boulders up out of the earth at people
ha ha
flung 'em right up at people's stupid faces


i guess that would be really something

you're damn right it'd be something
caves of ice
and ancestral war voices prophesying about damsels
and sacred rivers screaming beware
and your hair would float
and
ugh hang on
two seconds
there's a guy here


ok

be right back

197RidgewayGirl
Jul 5, 2016, 9:44am Top



I picked up American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales because I have a teenage daughter. The book looks at how teenage girls use and are used by social media. Most of the book is comprised of conversations that Sales had with teenage girls, or conversations between teenage girls that she listened in on. Based on an article that Sales wrote for Vanity Fair, there's quite a bit of padding and wheel-spinning before Sales begins to draw conclusions from her research. Much of the information Sales presents should be familiar to anyone paying attention to the news cycle or who is raising a daughter, however, a few of her conclusions are worth considering; the most thought-provoking is her asking whether girls are able to have full agency over their own behaviors in the society they are raised in.

Here are her comments on agency:

There's so much emphasis on acknowledging the need for this, and in honoring girls' and women's capacity for this, that there's never much questioning of whether they actually have it. Agency isn't something that's always necessarily present in someone's decision-making. In fact, ti's the nature of a sexist society to rob a woman of her agency long before she becomes a woman, when she's still a girl. Women's identities crystalize in cultures that are in many ways dead set against their interests. Girls are exposed to expected norms of behavior long before they're able to decide whether these norms are what they choose to inhabit.

While American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers is twice as long as it needs to be, it does raise issues that we should be discussing as a society, from how to raise independent girls acting in their own best interests, to what responsibility social media sites like Yik Yak and Snapchat should have towards their young users.

198mabith
Jul 5, 2016, 7:29pm Top

>197 RidgewayGirl: I feel like I should read that, but I don't think my oldest niece really has much access to social media and I fear it would anger me. I feel very lucky that I was a relatively oblivious to social norms kid/pre-teen (and had a number of aunts who broke those norms), and that's one of the traits I would gift all girls if I could. I know women in their 40s who feel like they *have* to shave their legs and stress about their doctor seeing unshaved legs. How do we create agency when 90% of culture we imbibe from birth trains us to find leg hair repulsive in women but perfectly acceptable in men?

199Simone2
Jul 6, 2016, 2:45am Top

>197 RidgewayGirl: I have a teenage girl as well but I wonder, is it very US focussed or do you think it would be as interesting to European readers?

200RidgewayGirl
Jul 6, 2016, 3:31pm Top

Meredith, that was the most interesting take-away from that book. How on earth do we determine what actions and attitudes are our own free will and what attitudes and actions are we conditioned to have? Shaving is the easiest to see, but there's the entire question of sexual activity (including sexual activity on social media) and what is freely chosen and what is chosen because the culture we've been living in since birth expects it.

Simone, we've been living in Germany since my daughter hit her teenage years, so the effects of social media are different than that depicted in the book. But I found it useful in knowing what to look for and what is needed to prevent the behavior addressed in the book. Basically, a lot of uncomfortable conversations on even more topics than before.

201dchaikin
Jul 7, 2016, 12:23am Top

>197 RidgewayGirl: noting! My daughter is almost a teenager now.

202RidgewayGirl
Jul 7, 2016, 4:40am Top

Daniel, it will scare the crap out of you, the worst that can happen. I had to keep in mind my daughter as I read it, as well as her friends or I would have despaired. But it is useful to know what conversations need to take place.

This topic was continued by RidgewayGirl Reads in 2016 -- Part Three.

Group: Club Read 2016

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