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Jennifer's (japaul22) 2016 Reading, Part 2

This is a continuation of the topic Jennifer's (japaul22) 2016 Reading.

Club Read 2016

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Jul 2, 2016, 9:23am Top

Welcome! Second half of the year means a new thread for me!

I'm Jennifer, a professional musician and mom of 2 little boys, living in Northern Virginia outside of D.C. I'm off to a good start this year, having read 50 books in the first half of the year! Looking forward to the next half!

Edited: Nov 1, 2016, 10:36am Top

Last year, keeping track of books I acquired and books I read off the shelf was very helpful for me. I purchased/acquired 53 books and read 64 off of my shelves. I include any book that comes into my home as "off the shelf" - doesn't matter to me if it was purchased years ago or yesterday since once it's here it's "TBR". Again, I'll set a goal of reading 10% more books off the shelf than I acquire. I have about 120 books on the shelf unread currently. That's a number I'm pretty comfortable with, but this project will help me keep the books on the shelf under control. I get stressed out if I have too many books around that I feel like I don't have time to read.

Acquired books:
1. Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback
2. Ashes and Diamonds
3. Wolf Winter
4. Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner
5. Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf
6. Remembrance of Things Past by Proust - counting this 7 volume set as one book :-)
7. Paintings in Proust
8-12 The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard
13. Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas
14. The Duchess of Bloomsbury
15. Q's Legacy
16. To the North
17. Butcher's Crossing
18-21 gifts from Paris from my mom and sister
18. The Merchant of Venice
19. Tales of the Jazz Age
20. The Travels by Marco Polo
21. Seven Ages of Paris
22. The Edwardians
23. Engineering Eden (ER book)
Mother's Day gifts (24-26):
24. Angle of Repose
25. Augustus
26. Fashion Victims
Library Sale (27-42)
27. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
28. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
29. Helen of Troy by Margaret George
30. The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer
31. The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat
32. A Friend from England by Anita Brookner
33. The Road Home by Rose Tremain
34. The Golden Child by Penelope Fitzgerald
35. The Virginia Woolf Reader
36. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
37. Officers and Gentlemen by Evelyn Waugh
38. Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey
39. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
40. The Way to Paradise by Mario Vargas Llosa
41. Scandinavian Folk and Fairy Tales
42. The Hag Seed by Margaret Atwood (ER)
43. Dear Mr. M (ER)
On tour purchases:
44. Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
45. What Jane Austen ate and Charles Dickens Knew
46. A Change of Climate by Mantel
47. The Vegetaraian by Han Kang
48. Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson

Books Read Off the Shelf:
1. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
2. Fludd by Hilary Mantel
3. Wolf Winter by Cecilia Eckback
4. The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf
5. Ashes and Diamonds by Jerzy Andrzejewski
6. Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
7. Trouble for Lucia by E.F. Benson
8. Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph by Jan Swafford
9. Harriet Hume by Rebecca West
10. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
11. The Parson's Widow by Marja-Liisa Vartio
12. The Giver by Lois Lowry
13. Where Monsters Dwell by Jorgen Brekke
14. The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard
15. Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder
16. Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas
17. The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West
18. The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope
19. The Vet's Daughter by Barbara Comyns
20. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
21. The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing
22. Engineering Eden
23. A Friend from England by Anita Brookner
24. The Known World by Edward P. Jones
25. Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf
26. Words on the Move by John McWhorter
27. Marking Time by Elizabeth Jane Howard
28. The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat
29. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
30. Dead Souls by Gogol
31. The Wine of Solitude by Irene Nemirovsky
32. Christina, Queen of Sweden
33. The Master by Colm Toibin
34. The Royal Physician's Visit by Per Olav Enquist
35. Fashion Victims by Alison David
36. tHe Glorious heresies by Lisa McInerney

Jul 2, 2016, 9:24am Top

Books Read in 2016:

January 2099 pages read, 16h35m listened to
1. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
2. Outliers by Malcom Gladwell, audiobook read by Malcolm Gladwell, 7h17m
3. Fludd by Hilary Mantel
4. Gut: the inside story of our body's most underrated organ by Guilia Enders
5. An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear, audiobook read by Orlagh Cassidy, 9h18m
6. The Good Gut by Justin Sonnenburg and Erica Sonnenburg
7. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

February 1921 pages read, 7h17m listened to
8. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
9. Wolf Winter by Cecilia Eckback
10.The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf
11. The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
12. Ashes and Diamonds by Jerzy Andrzejewski
13. Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
14. Trouble for Lucia by E.F. Benson

March 2902 pages read, 26h7m listened to
15. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, read by Holter Graham, 15h56m
16. Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph by Jan Swafford
17. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, audiobook read by the author, 10h11m
18. Harriet Hume by Rebecca West
19. Stoner by John Williams
20. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
21. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
22. The Parson's Widow by Marja-Liisa Vartio
23. Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
24. O, Pioneers by Willa Cather

25. The Giver by Lois Lowry, audiobook read by Ron Rifkin, 4h47m
26. Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
27. Out of Africa by Isak Denison
28. Where Monsters Dwell by Jorgen Brekke
29. The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard
30. The Story of America: Essays on Origins by Jill Lepore
31. Dreamless by Jorgen Brekke

32. Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder
33. The Manticore by Robertson Davies
34. Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas
35. Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon, audiobook read by Irin Carmon, 5h9m
36. The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West
37. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
38. The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope
39. The Vet's Daughter by Barbara Comyns
40. Lady Susan by Jane Austen

41. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
42. The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing
43. Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser
44. Engineering Eden by Jordan Fisher Smith abandoned after 149/336 pages
45. A Friend from England by Anita Brookner
46. The Known World by Edward P. Jones
47. Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf
48. Words on the Move by John McWhorter
49. Marking Time by Elizabeth Jane Howard
50. The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat

Edited: Dec 29, 2016, 2:52pm Top

51. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
52. Evicted by Matthew Desmond
53. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
54. The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
55. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
56. Longitude by Dava Sobel, audiobook read by Kate Reading, 4h20m
57. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
58. The Wine of Solitude by Irene Nemirovsky
59. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
60. How to be a Tudor by Ruth Goodman
61. The Dinner by Herman Koch

62. Ruby by Cynthia Bond
63. Christina, Queen of Sweden by Veronica Buckley
64. The Ambassadors by Henry James
65. The Master by Colm Toibin
66. My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
67. The Royal Physician's Visit by Per Olav Enquist

68. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
69. Fashion Victims by Alison Matthews David
70. The Glories Heresies by Lisa McInerney
71. The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee
72. The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
73. Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend
74. The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith

75. Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
76. Mrs. Bridge by Evan S Connell
77. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
78. Wrapped in rainbows
79. confusion by Elizabeth Jane Howard
80. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfield
81. The Wicked Boy by Kate SUmmerscale

82. The Trespasser by Tana French
83. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
84. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
85. The Duke's Children by Trollope
86. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

87. Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton
88. Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon
89. The Door by Magda Szabo
90. The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff
91. Monsieur Proust's Library by Anka Muhlstein
92. Human Acts by Han Kang
93. Less Than Angels by Barbara Pym
94. Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch

Edited: Dec 2, 2016, 9:05pm Top

Planned Reads:
finish Trollope's Palliser series, only 2 to go :-(
Dead Souls by Gogol
1 or 2 Virginia Woolf books

Group Reads:
War and Peace Jan-March
The Voyage Out February 1001 books group read
Harriet Hume March 1001 books group read
The Prime Minister whenever it happens!
Robertson Davies?? April-June
Camilla may/June/july
Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett September
Barbara Pym month in November

Books I'd like to reader sooner rather than later:
The Heart is a lonely Hunter
Revolutionary Road
Cazalet Chronicles
song of the Lark
Idea of Perfection
autobiography of henry VIII
The Round House

1001 books to read?:
Love in Excess
The Charterhouse of Parma
Summer (Wharton)
To the North
Summer Will Show
The Radiant Way
Tipping the Velvet
The Dispossessed

New-ish books I might want to read:
Mr. Mercedes
The Orchardist
Capital by John Lancaster
The Dove's Necklace
The Dust that Falls from Dreams
Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves
Hero of the Empire by Candice Millard
Avid Reader
The Orenda

Jul 2, 2016, 9:31am Top

#51 The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Very satisfying thriller-type book (thriller is too dramatic but I can't think of a better word) about a young man who murders a friend and takes over his personality. I thought the writing and the story were both good and it suited my mood for a page turner. I'd like to read more by Highsmith. Not sure if I'll continue with her other Ripley books right away, but probably some day.

Original Publication Date: 1955
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 273 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: used paperback
Why I read this: fun, 1001 books

Jul 4, 2016, 8:20pm Top

#52 Evicted by Matthew Desmond
This book is deservedly getting a lot of press for bringing to light the epidemic of evictions in our American cities. At heart, it's a condemnation of the availability of affordable housing and of the voucher system of housing the poor that is simply too small of a program.

As expected, this was hard to read. Nobody here comes off very well. The landlords, the tenants, the courts, or the millions of Americans (myself included) who don't even know this problem exists. I admit to thinking that most of the poor in this country were housed in public housing and if they weren't eligible for that, they had dilapidated rental units in cities. But I never really thought about evictions or thought about the percentage of salary or benefits that were being spent on rent by the poor for seriously sub-par housing. I do think, though, that giving the poor housing is not the only thing they are lacking. For example, many of the people have addictions or mental issues or a lack of education. All of these things are conditions that people with a more stable circle of support can get help with, but for the poor in this cycle, there is no one to help them out. I'm not sure that the suggested solution of expanding the housing voucher program will really help some of the people living in poverty. They seem to need medical care and support as well.

Having lived in several cities, I'm not really a fan of mass public housing. I've seen what the neighborhoods turn in to and I don't think anyone should have to live in those conditions. I've lived in a mixed income co-op in DC and it was a great situation. There, there were multiple tiers of income and the units have to maintain a certain percentage of units at each level. It was in a very nice area of the city, with million dollar homes all around, but in the two blocks of co-op there was a huge mix of people. I would like to see a lot more of this, but the problem is that there are SO MANY poor to house that I feel that these projects barely make a dent. I also assume that anyone with prior evictions, convictions, etc. don't make the cut to live in a place like this.

This is an important book for all Americans to read, but expect to feel sickened while you read. Not an easy topic.

Original Publication Date: 2016
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 432 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle book
Why I read this: lots of buzz and interested in the topic

Jul 6, 2016, 12:09am Top

Income inequaliy = housing inequality.

Jul 6, 2016, 12:15am Top

Jennifer - I might get to an audio version of Evicted soon. Interesting review and interesting points. Housing is only one problem of many for some people.

It seems like there are countries that handle this better than the US.

Jul 9, 2016, 8:26am Top

#53 Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell - audiobook
I know I was supposed to like this, but I just didn't. I enjoyed the 80s throwback references, but beyond that I thought it was too sappy and teen angst-y. I know it was a YA novel, but still.

Original Publication Date: 2016
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 8h56m pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library audiobook
Why I read this: buzz

Jul 10, 2016, 9:22am Top

>8 janeajones: certainly true, but there are definitely ways to provide humane living conditions for the poor in America. Also, tenant rights have become practically nonexistent for the poor. These are things we can fix.

>9 dchaikin: I'd be interested to hear your take on Evicted, Dan.

Jul 10, 2016, 9:36am Top

I was struck by how small the difference in rent there was between the worst housing and the best. Having had an eviction, and being black, pushes a person into dangerous housing that lacks basics like a stove or refrigerator. It's certainly not right that because of my skin color and comfortable financial position, that I should have access to good quality housing and if there's a problem, I can expect my landlord to deal with it in a timely manner, while someone else, by the randomness of birth, can end up being able to access none of that.

I think there's also a serious question as to whether we're willing to have children bear the brunt of this. The children in Evicted were stuck living in dangerous neighborhoods (Desmond does a good job of explaining how frequent evictions can destabilize neighborhoods) and changing schools every few months. Simply providing secure housing in a secure neighborhood would do a great deal toward giving those children a better chance of living a fruitful and rewarding life - something we all take for granted here.

Ok, stepping off of the soapbox. That book make an impact on me and I'm glad I own a copy so I can ask friends and family to read it, too.

Jul 10, 2016, 11:30am Top

> Agreed, Kay. I was also very surprised at the price of the apartments for the quality and neighborhoods that they are in. And then there are building codes and tenants can report violations if the landlords don't abide by them, but then landlords retaliate by evicting because it's such an easy process that a landlord can evict for almost anything. And there are so many poor people looking for housing that landlords can demand anything and supply nothing.

There is a lot of talk about "affordable housing" in my area (Washington, DC), and I now have a very different conception of what that means, or should mean.

Jul 10, 2016, 4:29pm Top

Evicted sounds fascinating. I doubt my library will ever carry it, but would like to read it sometime.

Jul 13, 2016, 8:40pm Top

#54 The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
I absolutely loved this novel that takes place leading up to WWI. It was one of those books that I just devoured and that clicked for me. Is it predictable? Absolutely - you'll know exactly what should happen and it will. Is it a bit sappy? Yep, and I loved every minute of it.

There's a single woman, Beatrice, who comes to a small town as a teacher, determined to remain single and independent with her meager salary. Of course she meets two eligible men who are cousins that spend lots of time with their Aunt and Uncle - the Aunt is progressive and big-hearted and the Uncle has an inside government job leading up to the war. Beatrice falls in love with the right cousin, who of course thought he was in love with someone else until he meets her. There are lots of side characters that bring different aspects of the war into the story and the whole thing just fits together so well.

Why read another novel about WWI, especially when I've admitted it's rather predictable? I loved the characters and flow of the novel and think it's really well done. Comfort reading, but not to be scoffed at.

Original Publication Date: 2016
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 496 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle book
Why I read this: loved Major Pettigrew's Last Stand and this is the author's second book

Jul 14, 2016, 5:04pm Top

Interesting to read about the difficulties of housing poor people in America.

Jul 14, 2016, 9:46pm Top

>11 japaul22: i finally got Evicted today.

Jul 15, 2016, 5:47am Top

>17 dchaikin: excellent! Looking forward to your thoughts.

Jul 16, 2016, 6:52am Top

#55 The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

I loved this emotionally charged nonfiction account of the 1936 Olympic men's rowing team that won gold in Berlin. This is narrative nonfiction at its best. These young men came of age out west (they all went to U of Washington) during the Depression. Many of them had hard lives before ever getting in a boat. The author does a great job of explaining the physical and mental demands of rowing. And it's always inspiring to read about teamwork and overcoming the odds. I had a tear in my eye for quite a bit of this book and really loved it.

This would make good Olympic reading before Brazil.

Original Publication Date: 2013
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 392 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: borrowed from mom
Why I read this: caught my eye, olympics coming up

Jul 16, 2016, 9:21am Top

Book sounds fun. Although I wonder why such a summer olympics book was published in 2013, long before the next summer olympics.

Jul 18, 2016, 4:06pm Top

>20 dchaikin: Even though the end result is their Olympic gold, the book is more about their personal trials both in the boat and out of it.

Jul 18, 2016, 4:09pm Top

#56 Longitude by Dava Sobel, audiobook read by Kate Reading, 4h20m

I liked this interesting audiobook about the search for a way to find longitude. I had never thought about the challenges as opposed to finding latitude, so this was interesting. It also ends up being about the history of timekeeping. Very interesting and a good subject for an audiobook.

Original Publication Date: 2005
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 4h20m
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library audiobook
Why I read this: LT review and available at the library

Jul 20, 2016, 3:52am Top

Boys in the Boat sounds terrific.

Edited: Jul 21, 2016, 11:40am Top

So I'll be going on our annual concert tour around the Southeast US for the entire month of October - going to places in the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, and lot of time in Florida. Obviously I need to start planning what books I'll bring! Sometimes I like to bring at least a few books that are set in the region or by authors from the region where we're traveling. Does anyone have any favorite books or authors from the southeast US that they'd recommend to me? Bonus points if you think it's a book that makes for good discussion since my roommate is also a reader (yay!) and we might read one or two of the same books on tour. Thanks!

Jul 21, 2016, 11:41am Top

That's exciting! Let me give that a bit of thought. Where in the Carolinas will you be?

Jul 21, 2016, 12:11pm Top

Jul 21, 2016, 1:43pm Top

>26 AlisonY: I have not! On the list it goes.

>25 RidgewayGirl: Kay, we do 29 concerts in 31 days, a different town each night. There are lots of places in NC and SC that we're playing. Here's a link to our schedule.


Jul 21, 2016, 3:24pm Top

Jul 22, 2016, 1:35pm Top

>28 ELiz_M: oooh, good idea. Short stories might work well on tour - there are lots of distractions.

Edited: Jul 22, 2016, 2:05pm Top

#57 Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
I went into this book with a little trepidation. I love some Russian novels (Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment) but have also found in some cases that I just feel so remote from the culture that I don't feel I know what is going on (Life and Fate, Dr. Zhivago). Hearing that Dead Souls is sort of a parody of different Russian classes and bureaucracy I wasn't sure I'd get it. But it ends up that Gogol's writing has a universal element to it and I felt I knew what he was getting at with his portraits of different types of Russian people. Certainly, if you've ever been to a DMV in the US this book will feel familiar to you!

Basically, we follow Chichikov who is trying to "get rich quick". He comes up with a plan to cheaply buy up all the deceased peasants he can find. Because censuses were taken so infrequently, landowners paid taxes on their muzhiks even after they had died. Chichikov offers to take them off their hands and plans to use the deeds to mortgage these deceased peasants later on. He meets a large cast of characters while trying to achieve this and a lot of the depictions and interactions are amusing. I loved the descriptions of food and over-eating and the muddled layers of bureaucracy.

The book is unfinished. My edition, translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky, has the complete first volume and the incomplete second volume. Even unfinished, this is worth reading and certainly gives a complete idea. Definitely recommended for readers venturing into the world of Russian novels.

Original Publication Date: 1842
Author’s nationality: Russian
Original language: Russian
Length: 393
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: interested in Russian writing

Jul 22, 2016, 1:59pm Top

#58 The Wine of Solitude by Irene Nemirovsky

Meh. I was excited to read another book by Nemirovsky after loving Suite Francaise but this left me annoyed and bored. This is supposedly the most autobiographical work about Nemirovsky's childhood/teenage years. Basically, she hates her mother and then tries to steal her mother's boyfriend away. I'm glad I read Suite Francaise before this because I doubt I would have picked it up.

Original Publication Date: 1935
Author’s nationality: Russian living in France
Original language: French
Length: 248 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: loved her other book

Jul 23, 2016, 7:43am Top

I have had Dead Souls on my TBR list for ages. I am encouraged by your review.

Jul 23, 2016, 7:58am Top

>32 baswood: I think you'd like it, Bas. It's pretty humorous in a satiric way.

Jul 23, 2016, 8:27am Top

I've owned Dead Souls a long time too. Enjoyed your review.

Irene Nemirovksy's mother was apparently a monster in a class all her own, iirc.

Jul 23, 2016, 9:33am Top

I loved Dead Souls.

Edited: Jul 23, 2016, 1:36pm Top

24> Florida books
Classic Florida: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Killing Mister Watson by Peter Matthiessen, Condominium by John D. MacDonald and Sun City by Tove Jansson

Florida Eco-Crime/Mysteries: the Doc Ford novels by Randy Wayne White and anything by Carl Hiassen

Cuban Florida: In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd and Adios, Happy Homeland by Ana Menendez

Contemporary Florida: River of Hidden Dreams by Connie May Fowler, Breaking and Entering by Joy Williams, The Paperboy by Pete Dexter, Swamplandia by Karen Russell

Jul 26, 2016, 1:03am Top

I loved A Turn in the South by VS Naipaul as a preparation through a journey through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama some years ago. It might work for you as well.

Jul 26, 2016, 1:09am Top

I loved A Turn in the South by VS Naipaul to prepare for travelling through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama some years ago. It might work for you as well.
And Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, although I didn't like it much but I seemed to be the only one.

Jul 26, 2016, 8:21am Top

>36 janeajones: Thanks! I think a reread of Their Eyes Were Watching God is in order along with the new-ish biography of Zora Neale Hurston that came out. I'll definitely look in to your other recommendations as well.

>38 Simone2: I would never have thought of Naipaul for the South - good rec! And I never read Cold Mountain, maybe it's time.

Jul 26, 2016, 8:23am Top

So my 6 year old son is home with me this week (I'm off work) and we decided to make a project of counting all the books in our house. This involved a lot of diagrams, counting, and adding and our grand total was 1137! I know that's peanuts to a lot of you, but I was surprised how fast they add up, especially the childrens books. Anyway, it was fun to do together!

Jul 26, 2016, 10:17am Top

As Hot As It Was You Ought To Thank Me by Nanci Kincaid is a novel pulled largely from her memories of growing up in central Florida in the 1950s. I highly recommend it.

Jul 26, 2016, 11:27am Top

>40 japaul22: what a nice thing to do, counting books with your son! Sounds like fun!

Jul 26, 2016, 2:20pm Top

>31 japaul22: totally with you on The Wine of Solitude. The characters were so cold and remote. I haven't read Suite Francaise, but that one pretty much cooled me on reading anything further by Nemirovsky. Maybe I should give her another go.

Jul 26, 2016, 8:02pm Top

>24 japaul22: What a great time of year to be going there.

Somewhat bleak but books I liked set in Florida:

Continental Drift by Russell Banks
The Garden of Last Days by Andre Dubus III

Will think of others and am encouraged by Dead Souls

Jul 26, 2016, 8:14pm Top

>41 RidgewayGirl: Thanks - that looks really good!

>42 Simone2: We had a good time counting. And he's so excited that we had more than 1000 days. We were joking the whole time that if we only had 999 we'd go out and buy another book! Wasn't a problem, though!

>43 AlisonY: I found Suite Francaise much different than Wine of Solitude. I think I would have abandoned it if I hadn't loved Suite Francaise so much. It's worth the time.

>44 SassyLassy: Yes, the weather should be nice! I haven't read anything by Russell Banks yet - good suggestion!

Edited: Jul 28, 2016, 11:34am Top

#59 The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

This is probably the fourth time I've read The Sound and the Fury. I read it the first time the summer before starting junior year of high school - I must have been 16? I already considered myself a "reader" but this was the first book that completely dumbfounded me. I vividly remember being on a family vacation and trying to read it by the pool - not even being able to figure out a basic plot timeline or why in the world Quentin seemed to be both male and female!! It ended up being the book I was assigned to read and do a week of presentations to our honors English class with a group. We spent the whole year on it and I developed a deep love for the book and for the process of decoding a complicated book.

I periodically like to reread it and this time it was a beautiful edition that Folio Society recently printed that has the color coded type for the first section. The first section is Benjy's version of events. He is a 33 year old man with a mental disability who can't talk. His section moves frequently back and forth in time and this book uses 14 different colored inks to delineate the 14 different memories/time periods he comes in and out of. The colored ink is effective (and beautiful), but I'd definitely recommend reading in natural, bright light or some are hard to differentiate.

Every time I read this, I read it a little differently. This time I was particularly struck by the way Faulkner silences Caddy and her daughter Quentin, giving the male brothers their say and not giving her a chance to tell her side of the story. This is effective because it reflects her life, but it still makes me mad. I also noticed, probably because of the colored ink, that though all three brothers spend a lot of time mentally in the past, Benjy can completely immerse himself in each incident. Quentin, on the other hand, mingles past and present and various past events simultaneously, creating an even harder reading experience than Benjy's chapter. And Jason . . . oh Jason. Such a jerk, but actually a little funny too, in a brutal sort of way. "Once a bitch, always a bitch, I say".

In addition to the colored ink, this book has excellent end notes that help describe the plot and themes. Highly recommended!

Original Publication Date: 1929
Author’s nationality: American (Southern!)
Original language: English
Length: 512 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased Folio edition hardback
Why I read this: been waiting for a time when I'd be home to read (can't carry this book around in my bag!)

Jul 29, 2016, 2:31am Top

>46 japaul22: Is it that good? I always assumed it would be just hard to read, no reward in that. So far, I did not feel like reading it, but your review makes me reconsider that!

Jul 29, 2016, 7:22am Top

>46 japaul22: nice post. One day I'll this. I hope to remember some of what you said here. It's good encouragement on a notoriously difficult book.

Jul 29, 2016, 7:23am Top

>47 Simone2: It's hard for me to know. It was so hard for me to read the first time, but I was only 16. Now when I reread it, I don't feel that it's all that difficult. I'm not sure if that's because of all the work I did on it, or because I have a lot more reading experience now. At the time it was written I think it was pretty revolutionary, but now we're used to reading a novel that takes one major event and tells it from several different first-person points of view. The first two sections are challenging, but then the last two are a much more conventional presentation of timeline and plot, so it enlightens the first two sections. I really think it's worth trying!

Jul 29, 2016, 8:36am Top

Can never decide whether to try this one either. I read and enjoyed As I Lay Dying last year which was my first Faulkner, but I definitely needed to refer to reading notes the whole way through. For some reason I assume The Sound and the Fury is even more complex.

Jul 29, 2016, 8:52am Top

>50 AlisonY: It is.

>46 japaul22: That edition sounds wonderful and beautiful and I would love to read the color-coded version someday, but oh my goodness it is an expensive book!

Jul 29, 2016, 9:20am Top

>50 AlisonY: The story itself is not complex - sort of typical troubled family - dad who drinks too much, mom who whines too much, mentally handicapped child, daughter who gets pregnant before marriage, son who is obsessed with his sister's misbehavior, and younger son jealous of everyone. It's the presentation that muddies the water. But if you arm yourself with the general plot beforehand, I think it's readable.

>51 ELiz_M: It is expensive! It was a treat, for sure. I got the member deal, so there was a slight discount, but definitely the most I've paid for a book. I generally use the library or purchase books at library sales, though, so basically the only books I pay for are nice editions.

Jul 29, 2016, 1:10pm Top

I guess I'll start with As I Lay Dying...

Jul 29, 2016, 6:38pm Top

#60 How to be a Tudor by Ruth Goodman

This was a fun look at the day of a person living in the Tudor England. As someone who reads a lot of both nonfiction and historical fiction set in the Tudor period, I enjoyed this. Goodman goes through the day chronologically. Some parts were more interesting to me than others - I particularly liked the food discussions. Goodman is obviously knowledgeable and has lived in the manner of Tudors herself at different points in her life.

Recommended if you're interested in the time period or like hearing about the lives of normal people in other eras.

Original Publication Date: 2015
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 289 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library hardback
Why I read this: Meredith's review, available at the library

Edited: Jul 29, 2016, 9:44pm Top

#61 The Dinner by Herman Koch

Excellent summer read! I was convinced to read this by several reviews here. I was not disappointed. I'll not give away any plot, but this is a page-turner, psychological thriller about parenting and family.

One thing I'll say (don't click on this if you haven't read it yet and intend to) the story might have been a bit more interesting to me if Paul, the father, hadn't had a serious mental condition. I would have been more interested in the morals involved if all four parents involved had been previously "normal" and sane people and then had made different choices about how to handle their sons' actions. It wouldn't be the violent thriller that it was, but it would have been more interesting psychologically to me. Though Claire certainly was the most interesting character in the book to me and she sort of fits that bill.

Anyway, I really liked this. Couldn't put it down.

Original Publication Date: 2009
Author’s nationality: Dutch
Original language: Dutch
Length: 320 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: intrigued by reviews

Jul 31, 2016, 1:33am Top

>55 japaul22: Regarding your commend above: I thought exactly the same afterwards, about Paul and about Claire. And yes, an excellent summer read.

Aug 2, 2016, 5:34pm Top

>55 japaul22: just about to start this one. Look forward to comparing notes when I'm done.

Aug 6, 2016, 8:11pm Top

#62 Ruby by Cynthia Bond

This was a painful book to read. Cynthia Bond's first book is a well-crafted, layered book but is built around a topic that will turn your stomach to read about.

Ruby arrives back in her hometown of Liberty, Texas in middle age and descends from a put-together woman fresh off the train from New York into utter madness. As the book moves on we find out the sources of her madness, repeated rape and abuse starting in her very early childhood. The people in Liberty have a strong belief in both church and the supernatural and these beliefs are woven into the story, both as threads of good and evil. I suppose, at it's heart, this book is a love story between Ruby and her childhood friend, Ephram, who ends up leaving his domineering sister to take care of Ruby and take on some of her troubles. For me, though, the women in this book were abused so terribly (literally all of them are) that I just didn't have room in me to see a love story on top of it.

This is one of those books that makes me curious to see what I think of it down the road. I thought the writing was good (though a bit over-done in some sections) but the topic is so hard to read about.

Original Publication Date: 2015
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 368 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: LT reviews and shortlist for the Bailey prize

Aug 6, 2016, 8:43pm Top

I have a copy of Ruby and I'm waiting for a calmer moment to read it. I'll have to take a few deep breaths ahead of time, too.

Aug 6, 2016, 9:03pm Top

I was assigned to read and do a week of presentations to our honors English class with a group. We spent the whole year on it and I developed a deep love for the book and for the process of decoding a complicated book.

In depth study is an excellent way to learn to understand a difficult book. I see reader comments here at LT and elsewhere on the internet on books that I dissected in detail at university-- books like Jane Eyre, Jacob's Room, Bleak House, Mansfield Park, Mrs Dalloway-- and they say "meh," or "pretty standard, not much there," and I'm all "are you kidding me?"

That said, I'm glad you like Faulkner so I don't have to. Read one short story at uni ("Barn Burning," I think. Is that one of his?), and it was okay but I found it really difficult. Not sure I absolutely need to tackle him. I feel the same about the more difficult books of James Joyce. I like reading your comments though!

Aug 6, 2016, 9:08pm Top

About your Folio Faulkner edition--what do you mean by colour coding?

Aug 6, 2016, 9:36pm Top

>59 RidgewayGirl: And a few deep breaths in the middle as well, Kay! I think it's worth reading, though - the writing is very good.

>60 Nickelini: Yes, I don't have the focus or desire anymore to do in-depth book study like that, at least not without some guidance, but sometimes I miss it. It is such a different way of reading and thinking about books.

>61 Nickelini: So The Sound and the Fury is told in 4 sections, the first 3 are by first person narrators. The first section is narrated by Benjy, the youngest brother who is mentally handicapped. His mind slips into many different past events with no warning, and tells each past memory in pieces. Faulkner envisioned printing the book with a different color for each memory so that as Benjy's mind jumps around the colored ink would clue the reader in to which event it was. Publishers couldn't do that when the book was published, so Faulkner compromised by using a few lines of italics to clue the reader in to a time shift/new memory starting. It's really hard to figure out. Folio Society identified 14 different events that Benjy refers to and chose a different colored ink for each memory. They also include a bookmark that has each color with a short description of the memory and the date it happened. It was really, really helpful. The other narrated sections also jump around in time through memories, but the memories aren't as distinct so the colored ink wouldn't really help.

Aug 6, 2016, 11:08pm Top

>62 japaul22: Re: coloured Faulkner

That's so fabulous! Okay, changed my mind -- if I could get that copy, I'd read it. Priciest book for you? Well worth it.

I have the Harvard Press annotated Jane Austens (the big coffee table ones--I think you know them, but if not, I'll show you). My copy of Pride and Prejudice is where I keep all my personal notes. So if I see something online, or in an article, or book, I'll find that part of the novel and scribble in my notes. I've colour-coded all of Elizabeth and Darcy's dialogue, and am slowly working at colouring the their indirect narration. Very helpful for looking things up, but your book takes that to a whole new level.

Aug 7, 2016, 5:36pm Top

Catching up with your reviews. I loved The Sound and the Fury when I read it recently. It is definitely a book that requires some help to read. The first time I read it I did not have much of a clue as to what was going on. I am presuming that the colour coding helps with the understanding: I must look out for a copy. It is a book that I look forward to re-reading again, but I will re-read the notes I made about it first.

Edited: Aug 10, 2016, 11:28am Top

>63 Nickelini: Love that method for your Austen reading! I have the Harvard Press editions of all but Mansfield Park which is finally coming out at the end of October. I also have paperback copies of all of them and other nice editions. Also impressed at working on the indirect narration in color. That was one of the things I learned about from the annotations. It was interesting to finally be able to put into words one of the interesting aspects of Austen's writing.

>64 baswood: The Sound and the Fury definitely takes some work, but I do think it's worth it. It's also a great book to reread, because you see new things each time when you aren't struggling so much in figuring out the basic timeline/plot.

Aug 11, 2016, 7:39pm Top

For anyone who read Fates and Furies and also listens to podcasts, I just listened to a very interesting podcast discussion of the book on Slate's Audio book club from Dec 8, 2015. Great discussion! They were pretty on the fence about whether they liked it, as many people here were.

Aug 11, 2016, 9:04pm Top

I love Slate Audio book club! Haven't listened to that one because I haven't read that book.

Aug 11, 2016, 9:25pm Top

I just discovered it! I'm sort of down on audio books right now and podcasts are working better for me. I just can't seem to keep my focus on audio books - my mind wanders all over the place. Podcasts I usually don't have that problem, but even if I do it doesn't matter because I don't have to follow plot or comprehend details, make links, etc.

Do you have any other favorite podcasts? Anyone?

Aug 11, 2016, 9:37pm Top

I've stopped listening to audio books because it's too wieldy to find anything on the library app I have. I've given up and switched to podcasts. Ooops, gotta go. I'll be back.

Aug 11, 2016, 9:51pm Top

I'll have to check out the Slate Audiobook podcast.

My wife got me into 99pi, which is excellent, even if I don't listen to it all that much.

Aug 12, 2016, 12:34am Top

>69 Nickelini: Okay, I'm back. Sorry about that. My family came home and I knew they were starving so I had to get food into them. Back to podcasts . . . I find podcasts by searching whatever subject I'm interested in at the moment and find all sorts of interesting things that way.

Some of the bookish ones I like:

The Readers -- my current favourite. Book conversation between Simon, a lovably shirty Brit and Thomas, who lives in Washington DC (I think). They read a lot of the same books I do, follow the Bailey's prize, and like mid-century women writers such as Daphne du Maurier and Anita Brookner. Older episodes have a different guy than Thomas. They're all quite funny.

Guardian short stories
The Guardian books
Adventures with Words
The Next Chapter from CBC Radio
Writers and Company from CBC Radio
Drunk Booksellers - hosts discuss bookstores with a guest
BBC Radio 4 Books and Authors
BBC Radio 4 Bookclub
Idle Book Club
The Reading Room
What Should I Read Next?
Inside the New York Times Book Review
Books on the Nightstand - they're not making this anymore, but they have lots in the vault
The New Yorker: Fiction - a famous author reads a different author's short story and then discusses it with the host
An Hour With Your Ex - they discuss a lot of interesting books and movies, but can sometimes be very annoying

Those are the bookish ones I follow.

Aug 12, 2016, 9:03am Top

>70 dchaikin: thanks, Dan, I'll check that one out.

>71 Nickelini: excellent list!! I'm excited to explore these!

Aug 15, 2016, 4:23pm Top

#63 Christina, Queen of Sweden by Veronica Buckley
This is a biography of the eccentric 17th century Queen of Sweden, Christina. Christina was the only child of King Gustav and gained the throne at age 5. She started actually ruling at age 18 and abdicated in favor of her cousin, Karl Gustav, who many wanted her to marry, at age 28. She was an odd woman - educated and considered sort of manly, she often wore men's clothing and was very active. Her sexuality was always suspect, but she seems to have been more asexual than anything. It's always hard to tell at this sort of distance what the truth is vs. what cultural sensibilities of the time implied.

She was ensconced in the Lutheran country of Sweden and made the highly politcal (though she probably didn't view it that way) decision to convert to Catholicism after her abdication. She lived most of her life after leaving Sweden in sunny, warm, Catholic, Rome. Pretty much as opposite from Sweden as she could get.

I enjoyed this book, but I think it could have been better. I was a bit bored at times, even though this woman led an eccentric and exciting life. She was constantly making bad decision politically and personally. I'm a little ambivalent about recommending it, but if you like historical biographies, it's probably worth the time. I'm always interesting in reading about women who wielded power in these eras.

Original Publication Date: 2005
Author’s nationality: Australian
Original language: English
Length: 416 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased
Why I read this: interested in Scandinavian history

Aug 18, 2016, 10:59am Top

#64 The Ambassadors by Henry James

I have a love/hate relationship with Henry James, in that I like his characters and the situations he puts them in, but his writing style can really turn me off. Way too much work to figure out all the odd syntax and dozens of commas in really long sentences. Despite this, The Ambassadors really worked for me.

The story is fairly simple. An American, Strether, travels to Europe to attempt to convince a young man, Chad Newsome, to give up his European lifestyle and return to America to run his family's business. Strether is involved with Chad's mother, probably going to marry her. When he gets to Europe he meets the wonderful Miss Gostrey who sort of takes him on as a project and tries to help him along the way. He also discovers that Chad is involved with an older woman, Madame de Vionnet, who is married. The thing is that once Strether sees Chad in Europe, he realizes that his lifestyle really suits him and sees a marked improvement in Chad's style and personality. So he's not so sure he wants to convince Chad to go back to Woollett, MA, even for all the money the business would bring. He also thinks Madame de Vionnet is pretty awesome. So he waffles. This leads Mrs. Newsome to send her formidable daughter, Sarah Pocock, to bring Chad back herself.

The whole thing is very clever and subtle. There is a lot of dialogue where the characters sort of talk around what they mean and things are left very vague, but I thought that was sort of true to life. I think often people have "conversations" where they are really just putting forward their own point of view and not necessarily listening, and certainly not being influenced by, the other person. I thought the dialogue was fantastic.

There were certainly long descriptive passages where my eyes were glazing over, but all in all, I really enjoyed this. It must have caught me at just the right time because it does take quite a bit of concentration to read Henry James. Definitely recommended to "classics-lovers".

Original Publication Date: 1903
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 495 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library paperback
Why I read this: wanted a Henry James to pair with The Master, biographical fiction about Henry James

Aug 20, 2016, 11:06am Top

That was a really nice review of The Ambassadors.

>73 japaul22: Interesting about Queen Christina. I'm wondering how much of the rest of her life she spent kicking herself, if any...or if maybe she was just happy to be done with politics, etc.

Edited: Aug 20, 2016, 12:01pm Top

>75 dchaikin: Oh, she kicked herself after abdicating! Although she didn't really appear to want to desperately to go back to cold, dark, Sweden. She tried to gain a crown in Naples when it needed a ruler. And she was always called "Queen Christina" and most places was treated socially as royalty. She kind of got all the glory (including a healthy stipend from Sweden) with none of the responsibility.

Aug 20, 2016, 1:10pm Top

I'd quite like the life of abdicated royalty. I think I'd be good at it.

Aug 20, 2016, 1:33pm Top

>77 RidgewayGirl: seriously! I kept thinking, wow, that's quite a racket! But sounds awesome!

Aug 22, 2016, 10:38am Top

#65 The Master by Colm Toibin

The Master is excellent biographical fiction about American author, Henry James, living and writing in Europe. Toibin focuses on the middle of James's career 1895-1899 including many flashbacks about his personal life and writing. During this time he settled in Rye, England, purchasing a house, and had already written Daisy Miller and The Portrait of a Lady. He was yet to write The Ambassadors, The Wings of the Dove, and the Golden Bowl.

Toibin seems to really capture James's personality in this book. Rather than a discovery of James through his known travels, correspondence, etc, Toibin uses these facts in the background to create a real character study. He subtly reveals James's habits of observation and how they were used to create his work. He also illuminates the personality traits of this fussy, particular, sensitive man in a way that made me feel fondness rather than annoyance, a great feat on Toibin's part as these are characteristics that drive me crazy!

Reading this book in tandem with The Ambassadors was a great experience for me. I really identified with Toibin's take on Henry James and could see how James's personality and writing style converged. This book may make me a bit more patient with James's wordiness (or not, but I hope so) and definitely will make me more appreciate the power of his characterization and observation. I do think James has a knack for creating seeming mundane situations that take on great importance in a character's life. I like that.

Toibin created excellent biographical fiction in which you can hear James's voice and witness his character all the way through the book, with no shift to an omniscient perspective or intrusion by the author. I thought it was a wise choice to present this book in third person limited. I got immersed in James without having to get too personal if it was in first person. Henry James does not seem to be the sort of person who could have given away his thoughts, even in his own head, so first person would have been too revealing.

Really excellent book.

Original Publication Date: 2004
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 338 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library sale, hardback
Why I read this: to pair with a Henry James novel, 1001 books

Aug 22, 2016, 11:00am Top

Excellent review of The Master, Colm Toibin. You are spot on when you say that the best time to read this book is when you have just read one of Henry James' novels. It relates so well to the way that Toibin describes the character and make up of Henry James. Usually you can see hims as one of the characters in his own novel.

Aug 22, 2016, 11:29am Top

>80 baswood: Yes, I was struck by James's similarites to Strether in The Ambassadors, particularly his way of noticing his surroundings. I thought Toibin did a fantastic job of not using just one of James's characters to create his version of James, though. It's a very complete book.

Aug 22, 2016, 7:31pm Top

Great review of The Master, Jennifer. I'll move it, and The Ambassadors, considerably higher on my TBR list

Aug 22, 2016, 8:20pm Top

>82 kidzdoc: Thanks! Definitely save them for a time when you want to dwell in a book - they both needed a quiet space to be read in for me.

Aug 23, 2016, 2:17pm Top

>79 japaul22: That was a wonderful book and I like the way you related it to your parallel reading of James.
I was lucky enough to find this in a rented cottage two years ago, among all the usual suspects for such a place, and I devoured it, but sadly there were no novels around by him. I don't think I would have picked it up otherwise had I not been there, but now I look for it whenever I find myself in a bookstore, i.e., out of town. It seemed like the perfect book to fall back upon when reading James.

Aug 23, 2016, 8:45pm Top

>84 SassyLassy: Definitely not a normal vacation book, but I'm glad it was there so you could read it! It's very different from the other book I've read by him, Brooklyn, which I also really enjoyed.

Aug 23, 2016, 8:54pm Top

And now for a book I didn't enjoy . . .

#66 My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
I think I'm done with Elizabeth Strout. I've not liked either of the books I've read by her (this and Olive Kitteridge). I have no idea what the point of this book was. A woman who had a tough childhood gets put in the hospital for a couple months. Her husband and children never come to visit so her mom who she hasn't seen in years comes for five days. They have a weird, pretty much implausible, relationship. The mom leaves abruptly when the daughter is told she might need emergency surgery. Also, Lucy, the first person narrator, keeps insisting this book isn't about her marriage, but it sure was.

So in addition to the implausible "plot", if you can call it that, there are all of these cheesy, obvious "emotional moments" or "big ideas". Like
At our small wedding reception she said to a friend of hers, "This is Lucy." She added, almost playfully, "Lucy comes from nothing." I took no offense, and really, I take none now. But I think: No one in this world comes from nothing.
I have said before: It interests me how we find ways to feel superior to another person, another group of people. It happens everywhere, and all the time. Whatever we call it, I think it's the lowest part of who we are, this need to find someone else to put down.

Not impressed.

Original Publication Date: 2016
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 189 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library
Why I read this: lots of buzz, Booker list

Aug 23, 2016, 9:31pm Top

>86 japaul22: I was never interested in that book, but recently someone around here posted a pretty interesting review. I still wasn't sold, but it sounded potentially good. But your review sounds hideously awful. Back on the nopety-nope list.

Aug 24, 2016, 9:01pm Top

>86 japaul22: I have no idea what the point of this book was.

That would be a perfect one sentence review of Lucy Barton, Jennifer. This was a forgettable and trite book that had no business being chosen for this year's Booker Prize longlist.

Aug 24, 2016, 10:03pm Top

I have no idea what the point of this book was.

I could apply that line to a Euripides play I just read. Sorry it sucked.

Farther up, that was a really nice review of Toibin's The Master

Aug 25, 2016, 3:24pm Top

>87 Nickelini: A lot of people have liked it, so I hate to turn you completely off it. But I personally can't recommend it.

>88 kidzdoc: I can't imagine it could have gotten on the Booker long list except that the author's name is known from her previous work.

>89 dchaikin: Thanks!

Aug 25, 2016, 3:34pm Top

#67 The Royal Physician's Visit by Per Olov Enquist
This was a very interesting historical fiction novel about 18th century Denmark. King Christian is not quite right in the head and married off to young Caroline Mathilde, sister to King George III of England. Because of his madness, there is a power vacuum around him and a German doctor, Struensee, who is brought in to tend to his illness ends up taking the reins. Struensee is an avid believer in the Enlightenment movement. The King ends up trusting him and signing hundreds of documents changing the government to reflect Enlightenment principles. Struensee also ends up having an affair, and a child, with the young Queen. This all happens over the course of a few years. Of course, no one who isn't the King can wield that much power alone without repercussions. Struensee sees it coming, but isn't able to stop it.

I always like good historical fiction and this qualifies. I particularly liked the tone of this book. It's written in terse, reporter-like sentences. The short sentences give a lot of forward momentum and also opportunities for brief and often wry observations. The tone stays rather cold through all the heated politics and the rather steamy affair. I really liked the contrast between the dramatic events and, for lack of a better term, cold writing. I imagine it might not be for everyone, but it worked for me.

Original Publication Date: 1999
Author’s nationality: Swedish
Original language: Swedish
Length: 312 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased
Why I read this: interested in Scandinavian literature and historical fiction

Aug 25, 2016, 4:07pm Top

>91 japaul22: That's been in my TBR stack for years and years and I never seem to get to it.

Aug 25, 2016, 4:13pm Top

>92 Nickelini: Ditto. Nice review, Jennifer.

Aug 25, 2016, 7:48pm Top

>91 japaul22: There is a 2012 film of this story, A Royal Affair, but it seems to come from a different novel, Prinsesse af blodet.
The film was well done, but I think I will have to check out your/ Enquist's novel.

Aug 26, 2016, 11:08am Top

>94 SassyLassy: The book cover says it is the inspiration for the film A Royal Affair. Maybe the title is translated differently depending on the translator?

Sep 2, 2016, 9:06am Top

#68 Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
The hype surrounding this book is well-deserved. Gyasi's debut novel is epic - tracing a family divided by slavery from the 18th century up to the present. Her technique is to chose a family member from each generation as the focus, exploring how the history of the time impacts the family. The book begins on the African Gold Coast (present-day Ghana) in the 18th century. Two half-sisters (same mother), Effia and Esi, who never meet have very different fates. Effia is sold in marriage to a white slave-trader. After his death she moves back to her village. Her descendants stay in Ghana until the recent generations, dealing with white colonization and their tribal lives. Esi is captured an sold as a slave to America. Her descendants are slaves and then live the lives of African-Americans, experiencing escape from slavery, recapture into slavery, the life of a convict coal-miner, the Northern migration to Harlem, etc. It's amazing to me that such an all-encompassing book never feels rushed or too "on-the surface".

This is a novel about deep connections and family and how the past affects the future, even without explicit knowledge of events. It could have gotten cheesy and deserving of eye-rolls in the hands of a lesser writer, but Gyasi uses fantastic subtlety while weaving these lives together. I'd actually love to reread this, because I was so enamored by the plot and characters that I'm sure I missed some of the connections and details. As with any book that switches point of view so often, there were certain stories that worked better than others. I favored the beginning stories over the most current and I also connected more to the American line of the family, probably because of familiarity with the cultural context. But I was amazed that she drew me in to each unique story and did this seamlessly, without losing the flow of the novel.

Highly recommended.

Original Publication Date: 2016
Author’s nationality: Ghanaian
Original language: English
Length: 320 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle book
Why I read this: it's gotten great reviews

Sep 2, 2016, 1:40pm Top

>96 japaul22: Great review! Sounds like a book worth reading.

Sep 2, 2016, 2:11pm Top

>97 FlorenceArt: thanks - I really loved it!

Sep 2, 2016, 2:18pm Top

#69 Fashion Victims: the Dangers of Dress Past and Present by Alison Matthews David

This is an interesting and fun look at how fashion has endangered our lives. David focuses on mainly the 1800s through the early 1900s, telling stories of dangerous dyes, flammable fabrics, and poisonous methods of construction.

The writing was interesting (not fabulous) but the illustrations are fantastic. This is a beautiful book with glossy pages and huge color prints, photos, and drawings. Without the illustrations, the book would be sort of boring, but instead it ends up being a fascinating read.

Of course, the author doesn't let us off the hook either. The final section gives several examples of our our clothing is still endangering our lives and especially the lives of those who make it.

Original Publication Date: 2015
Author’s nationality: Canadian
Original language: English
Length: 221 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: gift
Why I read this: for fun and off the shelf

Sep 2, 2016, 2:43pm Top

>99 japaul22: That one is on my tbr pile and I hope to get to it soon. Good to hear more positive comments on it.

Sep 4, 2016, 2:28am Top

>96 japaul22: Great review, I have put it on my wishlist

Sep 6, 2016, 11:50am Top

>96 japaul22: Great review. I think I've read a review in TIME magazine which was also full of praise for Homegoing.

Sep 6, 2016, 12:00pm Top

I loved the Fashion Victims book. You're so right that the illustrations made the book. I would wear a few of the items pictured, even knowing what they would do to me! That green dress, specifically.

Sep 6, 2016, 12:56pm Top

>102 OscarWilde87: THanks! It was great to read a book that I felt lived up to the expectations.

>103 RidgewayGirl: Yes! The greens were beautiful!

Sep 6, 2016, 8:46pm Top

#70 The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

This is a book I won from the ER program. I requested it without knowing what is was about because it won the 2016 Baileys prize, which I like to follow.

Not knowing anything about the book worked well in this instance, because I probably wouldn't have picked it up if I'd known the topic. And, honestly, even if I had picked it up, I probably would have abandoned it about a third of the way through if I hadn't felt obligated to keep going because it was a free book. In the end, I'm glad I stuck with it.

Basically, this is a book about damaged people behaving badly and perpetuating a cycle of drug use, abuse, murder, and crime. I really have no stomach for books with excessive drug use and prostitution, especially when it points out how hopeless the characters' lives are. These people legitimately have no one stable to turn to and it's just so bleak and depressing. I'd just rather not read about it. So, I really wanted to put this book down. But, I had to admit to myself that McInerney's writing was excellent and she was getting some subtle but meaningful connections into this book. I kept going, and I'm glad I did. Despite the circumstances in the book, it has a dark humor and writing good enough to make me very invested in the lives of these characters by the end of the book. That's impressive considering how much I was not liking it in the middle.

If you don't mind a story with a lot of troubled lives at the center, I think this book is very worth reading. Really, the writing and crafting of the book are excellent, I just didn't have the stomach for it to be able to say that it's a great book for me.

Original Publication Date: 2016
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 389 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: ER win
Why I read this: off the shelf

Sep 6, 2016, 10:28pm Top

>105 japaul22: well, that's an intriguing review. Glad you stuck it out.

>96 japaul22: interesting set up. Noting Homegoing.

Sep 18, 2016, 7:32am Top

#71 The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee

In this interesting study, Mukherjee focuses on the history of the scientific study of the gene, the morals/ethics involved in each step of discovery, and the science of how genes work. In that order of prevalence. For me, that really worked. I am more interested in the people studying the science and how their discoveries were received (or not) by the scientific community and the public. I thought the book was a bit weak on actually explaining what a gene does and how it works. It's in there, but a bit buried in all the stories and culture. Or, maybe, I just glazed a bit when it came to the hard science.

Either way, I found this book readable and informative and think many will enjoy it.

Original Publication Date: 2016
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 608 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle book
Why I read this: interested in the topic

Sep 19, 2016, 3:20am Top

Nice reviews of Homegoing, The Glorious Heresies, and The Gene, Jennifer. I loved Gyasi's novel as well, and I was disappointed that it wasn't chosen for the National Book Award for Fiction longlist last week.

I was supposed to have read the McInerney for a book club meet up in Cambridge last week, but I was too pooped to go to it and I haven't made any progress on that book in over a week. Hopefully I'll finish it this week.

I'll probably read The Gene later this year, or early in 2017.

Sep 19, 2016, 7:40pm Top

>108 kidzdoc: I was also disappointed that Homegoing wasn't chosen. I think it was ambitious and well-done. I'll be curious to hear your reactions to The Glorious Heresies and The Gene.

Sep 20, 2016, 5:10pm Top

#72 The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
Dorothy Dunnett is well-known in historical fiction circles for her well-written historical fiction. In The Game of Kings she has taken the backdrop of 16th century Scotland and created a fictional hero, Francis Crawford of Lymond. Lymond is a fantastic, complex character - it's hard to tell even half way through the book if he's good or bad at heart. The women in the book are great - good character development and clever dialogue. There is a ton of action that is really well written. You can see the fighting as you read. She also manages to write some really funny scenes.

So, lots of great parts, but for me it didn't quite add up to the standard of Sharon Kay Penman or Margaret George. There was just a bit too much reliance on action scenes and I thought the plot was a bit unnecessarily convoluted.

I can see why people love these books, and by the end I sort of wanted to read the next in the series even with my misgivings. We'll see, maybe I'll give another one a try sometime but I'm not planning on it right now.

Original Publication Date: 1961
Author’s nationality: Scottish
Original language: English
Length: 543 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle book purchased
Why I read this: looking for another historical fiction series

Sep 22, 2016, 2:00pm Top

#73 Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend

I found this newly published novel compulsively readable. It's one of those books that you can just fly through - the writing is nice but not complex and the story is interesting but also palatable and slightly predictable. Fun writing, though maybe not "great" writing.

This novel is very loosely based on the memoirs of Frances Conway who lived on the Galapagos Islands with her husband during WWII. It's more than just the story of surviving on an almost uninhabited island, though. In fact I'd say this is more the story of Frances's friendship with childhood friend, Rosalie. The book begins in early 1900s in Duluth, MN and explores the childhood friendship of these two girls. They run away to Chicago together and have a fight that splits them up after their adolescence. They ended up meeting each other again by chance in San Francisco just before Frances leaves for the Galapagos. She has been sent there by the U.S. government to spy on the German inhabitants of the island. She marries Ainslie Conway as part of this mission and part of the book focuses on how they learn to exist together.

All of that together sounds like it might read in a disjointed manner, but Amend does a good job of keeping the flow of the narrative and the pacing. And somehow keeping the theme of the female friendship at the core, even when the two aren't around each other.

I wanted to read this book because I've been to the Galapagos Islands and think it's a fascinating place. I wished that there was a bit more time spent on describing the island and how they lived on it. But all in all, this was fun to read.

Original Publication Date: 2016
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 301 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library hardback
Why I read this: story caught my eye (actually ear) in a podcast

Sep 30, 2016, 9:53am Top

#74 The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith

I thoroughly enjoyed this account of a fictional (though based on a conglomeration of historical figures) woman painter in the 1600s - the Dutch Golden Age of painting. Dominic Smith weaves together the little known life of Sara de Vos with a modern day story of the relationship between a woman art forger/historian and the man who owns the work she forges (Sara de Vos's painting).

Usually in these sorts of novels I get annoyed with the modern-day part and just want to read the historical part, but I actually enjoyed both parts equally here. I also though Smith hit just the right note in describing the paintings without being overly wordy or pretentious. He also cleverly works noting light patterns and the visual world of a painters into the story without interrupting the flow of the book or being overly obvious.

I really enjoyed this. Thanks to the LT members who have recommended it!

Original Publication Date: 2016
Author’s nationality: Australian
Original language: English
Length: 304 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: LT review piqued my interest

Sep 30, 2016, 10:13am Top

Well, I'm off on a 31 day concert tour of the Southeastern U.S. with the Marine Band starting tomorrow. I'm freaking out a little about not seeing my two little boys for an entire month, but I know we'll all be fine. They will be seeing lots of both of their grandmas and have lots of fun fall activities lined up. Probably the hardest job falls to my husband, carrying a large load this month!

Most importantly to you all, I've settled on the books I'm bringing. I will of course have my kindle and expect to have several library books come in to read on it. You would think I should read a ton (we have lots of bus time), but I've found in years past that it's hard to concentrate. There are always distractions on tour. So I'm trying to bring engaging books that can stand interruptions.

In paperback I'm bringing:
Hag-seed by Margaret Atwood (an ER win)
Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (a reread)
84 Charing Cross Road (a reread), The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, and Q's Legacy by Helene Hanff
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
Confusion (the 3rd book in Elizabeth Jane Howard's Cazelet series)
The House with the Blind Glass Windows by Herbjorg Wassmo
School for Love by Olivia Manning
Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

On my kindle I'm most likely to read:
Wrapped in Rainbows, a bio of Zora Neale Hurston
Romantic Outlaws a new double bio of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley
the new Harry Potter book
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfield
The Duke's Children by Anthony Trollope to finish out the Palliser series

In reality, I will only read 6-8 of these, but one must have choices on a month-long trip!

Sep 30, 2016, 10:48am Top

Rereads sound like a great idea for such a tour for as you say, there are always distractions. In total it sounds like a great selection with lots of choice. All the best on the tour.

Sep 30, 2016, 9:13pm Top

>114 SassyLassy: Thanks! I know I'll have a good time once I get out there!

Sep 30, 2016, 10:44pm Top

Have fun! I hope you read Eligible, because I'm interested in your opinion on it. I haven't read it yet (waiting for paperback), but it's not like there will be spoilers. I've heard lots about it. Slade book podcast did an episode on it and I enjoyed it.

Oct 1, 2016, 5:19am Top

Interesting review of The last painting of Sara de Vos. One for the wishlist.

Oct 1, 2016, 7:22am Top

>113 japaul22: I do the same with visits to the family -- I always think I am going to read a book a day, but it never works out. In any case, have a lovely trip!

Oct 1, 2016, 11:04am Top

Have fun, and enjoy the tour! VictoriaPL and I are hoping to make it to your show in Mauldin, SC if we can. If you need us to bring you a new stack of books, just let us know!

Oct 1, 2016, 11:27am Top

Oct 3, 2016, 10:08am Top

Day 3 of tour and starting to get into the rhythm of it. Thanks for all the well-wishes! It's hard to get the time to spend time on the internet, so I will probably be spotty in commenting on threads this month - I'll be reading them on my phone, though!

>116 Nickelini: I'm in line for Eligible on the library ebook list and I'll definitely read it when I get it. I'll also listen to the slate podcast afterwards - I love those!

>117 baswood: I think you'd like it with the Renaissance reading you've done.

>118 ELiz_M: Yep, and on tour I find it important to be sociable or it gets really lonely, even surrounded by people!

>119 RidgewayGirl: It would be great if you could come to the concert! Let me know if you think it's going to work out and we can say hi at intermission.

>120 rebeccanyc: Good - I couldn't remember any reviews of School for Love. And I always expect to love trollope!

Oct 3, 2016, 12:47pm Top

I have tickets, so it looks like we'll be there. I'm looking forward to it!

Oct 3, 2016, 3:08pm Top

Oct 4, 2016, 7:20pm Top

Good luck on the tour and with your reading! Glad to hear it's going well. I have also added Sara de Vos to my wishlist...

Oct 11, 2016, 10:59am Top

Well, we've had a few snags because we were supposed to be playing on the coast of Georgia and Florida during Hurricane Matthew. We had several concerts cancelled by our sponsors and had to do some rerouting which resulted in long days on the bus. Good news is that I got a lot of reading done. I'm going to do mini-reviews of these because I do not have the mental fortitude to do more! :-)

#75 Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
Loved this new book that I received from the Early Reviewers program. I've read many of Atwood's books, mainly the early ones, and loved them, so I had high expectations for this book. Overall, I'd say it doesn't disappoint. It's a somehow humorous retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest. As such, it's a much more "male" book than I'm used to reading from Atwood. The main character is a male stage director whose power is stripped from him, just as Prospero's is. He isolates himself and plots his revenge. The opportunity comes when he lands a job directing an English and literacy program in a correctional facility and chooses to put on Shakespeare plays as the curriculum. The book is funny and I really enjoyed it, but I never would have guessed that Atwood had written it if I hadn't known it upfront. That's not bad, but just a word of a warning.

#76 Mrs. Bridge by Evan s. Connell
I loved this forgotten (except on LT!) American classic from the 1950s. It's the story of Mrs. Bridge, a typical suburban housewife in the American midwest. Through short vignettes, Connell explores the boredom, naivete, and close-mindedness of life in this circumstance. It's not all bleak though. There's humor and insight and I really liked it. I'll definitely read the companion book, Mr. Bridge.

#77 Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
This was a reread for me that I chose now because I'm also reading a biography of Zora Neale Hurston. I loved it as much as the first time. It's a beautiful but sad love story that I loved because it shines through the struggles of being black in the south in the early 1900s. The struggles are obvious, but the point seems to be that in any walk of life the yearning for love and real human connection is really what is primary in life and possible in even the hardest of circumstances.

Oct 28, 2016, 11:04am Top

I have found a copy of Mrs. Bridge and hope to get to it soon.

Here's the picture. Turns out that middle school boys know their way around a smartphone! I really enjoyed the music although VictoriaPL was shocked that I didn't sing along to America the Beautiful. They didn't teach that one in the Canadian school system.

Oct 28, 2016, 11:27am Top

>126 RidgewayGirl: Yay! Great picture! I'm so glad you guys were able to come and I got to meet you. Hope you had a good time at the concert!

Oct 28, 2016, 12:32pm Top

Such a good time. Victoria and I had a conversation on how meeting someone you've only encountered on-line feels creepy and stalkerish, but worth it.

Oct 30, 2016, 2:44pm Top

That's so lovely that you got to meet. Totally understand the sentiments in >128 RidgewayGirl:, but isn't it lovely to meet people eventually that you've been chatting with for so long on LT.

Oct 30, 2016, 10:33pm Top

>128 RidgewayGirl: meeting someone you've only encountered on-line feels creepy and stalkerish,

That's funny to me. I've met LTers in England and Toronto, and have entertained two LTers here in Vancouver. I think it's lovely. Every time we have no problem at ll finding conversation.

Oct 31, 2016, 11:45am Top

>130 Nickelini: It always goes wonderfully, and there's plenty to talk about, but that initial looking around for someone you have never met is weird to me. And yet we always find each other easily.

Edited: Nov 2, 2016, 3:31pm Top

I'm home from a fun tour with great concerts and audiences. It was fun, but I'm very happy to be back to my family and our "normal" routine. I read four more books that I haven't reviewed yet, so here are some mini-reviews just to say I read them.

#78 Wrapped in Rainbows by Valerie Boyd
This is a bio of Zora Neale Hurston that I paired with my reread of Their Eyes Were Watching God. Fun because I was in Florida, her home state, while reading this. I found it interesting that Hurston led a much more cosmopolitan life than I'd realized and also had no idea she'd done so much work in the field of anthropology - documenting black southern lives.

#79 Confusion by Elizabeth Jane Howard
The third in the author's Cazalet series. Loved it - completely hooked at this point. Also made great tour reading because these are well-written but do have a sort "soap opera" feel, in the best sense.

#80 Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
Yes! I really liked this modern day retelling of Pride and Prejudice. My standards are low for these, and certainly the romance angle just didn't work as well as the original. But I thought it was cute and fun.

#81 The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale
The latest of Summerscale's nonfiction reexamining of a Victorian era crime. This one was much weaker than the other two I've read. I found it sort of meandering and wasn't sure what the point was. Read The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher instead.

Nov 3, 2016, 1:34am Top

Glad you had a great tour and even managed an LT meetup! Your entertaining reading has shot a couple of bullets my way. Eligible and the Cazalet series sound like fun.

Nov 3, 2016, 2:30am Top

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Nov 3, 2016, 9:20am Top

So I'm over the moon this morning after watching the Cubs win the World Series last night. I've been a Cubs fan my whole life and have watched my grandparents and parents watch every game loyally, waiting for this. Thinking of my Dad and Grandpa (dad's dad) who passed away before getting to see this. Super emotional.

Nov 3, 2016, 10:39am Top

I don't follow baseball at all, but the pictures and videos of the fans being so, so happy was a lovely anecdote to all the recent news.

Nov 3, 2016, 12:00pm Top

>135 japaul22:, >136 RidgewayGirl: I don't watch baseball either, but I loved this piece from The Onion: Millions Of Drunk Cubs Fans Rioting In Heaven Following World Series Win


Nov 3, 2016, 2:37pm Top

>136 RidgewayGirl: And I'm so happy that I haven't heard that the celebrations got out of control. It was an amazing night, though I'm so tired today! Only got about 4 hours of sleep!

>137 Nickelini: that's funny - love The Onion!

Nov 9, 2016, 11:54am Top

#82 The Trespasser by Tana French

I love Tana French's mystery series, but this new installment didn't work as well for me. Don't get me wrong, it's still well-written and interesting, but this one stays in the head of the investigator to a fault. I sort of lost the actual mystery in all the wondering about which versions were true and which were lies. So, read it if you love the series, but I wouldn't start here.

Original Publication Date: 2016
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 464 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: love the series and it came in at the library

Nov 11, 2016, 2:40pm Top

#83 Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

This was ok. Good story, characters all felt right, but I didn't like the play format as I didn't think it fleshed out the story enough. All plot, no depth. Harry Potter fans will likely enjoy this, though. Any excuse to get more of these characters!

Original Publication Date: 2016
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 320 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: felt I must

Nov 15, 2016, 11:20am Top

#84 The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
This brand new book has gotten a lot of buzz and deservedly so. The Underground Railroad follows Cora, a slave who runs away from a particularly cruel master, on her journey away from enslavement. She uses a literal underground railroad that takes her to several different stops. Each stop shows a different aspect of slavery and race relations, all ending in cruelty and suppression. Cora's journey is gruesome, particularly because there is nothing in this book that hasn't happened in one form or another.

While I thought the format was interesting and the mixing of true history with this sort of science fiction-y element of a literal train and places that had real names (for example South Carolina) but that didn't reflect a true moment in time was ingenious, at the same time it held me at arms length from the book. I thought it would have been stronger if Whitehead could also have made Cora and some of the other characters into stronger, more whole characters. Instead, I felt that they were all vehicles for his point. I wanted to know Cora more deeply and I think almost got there, but not quite.

Definitely worth a read, but maybe not as great as some of the talk around it has made it seem.

Original Publication Date: 2016
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 306 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library hardback
Why I read this: wanted to see what all the hype was about

Nov 15, 2016, 11:33am Top

After reading The Underground Railroad, I pondered the fact that this year I've read quite a few books about slavery in America and elsewhere, the impact of slavery, and the black American experience. I didn't do this intentionally, but it's made for a powerful and challenging reading year. I would highly recommend all of these books as they all tackle different aspects of the topic. I've starred my absolute favorites, but really, they were all great.

*I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
*The Known World by Edward P. Jones
*Ruby by Cynthia Bond (published 2016)
*Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (published 2016)
*Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Wrapped in rainbows (a biography of Zora Neale Hurston)
The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat (set in Haiti)
Evicted by Michael Desmond (certainly not exclusively a problem for African Americans, but definitely a focus of the book) (published in 2016)
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (published in 2016)

I'd love other suggestions on and around this topic.

Nov 15, 2016, 11:51am Top

>142 japaul22: Interesting list. I definitely agree about the books I've also read (Evicted, The Underground Railroad and The Known World). I have Ruby and Homegoing ready to read soon, but you've reminded me to go back and read some of the slightly older books, too. I'd recommend reading Negroland by Margo Jefferson for a look at African American life from a different angle.

Nov 15, 2016, 12:35pm Top

>142 japaul22: I'd love other suggestions on and around this topic.

I haven't read it yet, but The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill is wildly popular. It has some forgettable name in the US, please hold . . . right, "Someone Knows My Name." I think some of his other works are also related.

Nov 15, 2016, 3:24pm Top

>142 japaul22: Adding Kindred by Octavia Butler and The Polished Hoe, which takes place in Barbados, but slavery none the less.

>144 Nickelini: I can never remember the American title either. I wonder how Lawrence Hill feels about having the name of his book changed so as not to offend American readers. The Canadian title was his choice. I heard him talking to Eleanor Wachtel about it once, being diplomatic, but not sounding very happy about it.

Nov 15, 2016, 3:40pm Top

>145 SassyLassy: I thought I heard him interviewed about it and he didn't like it and thought it was stupid, but understood. I'm paraphrasing of course because he's better spoken than I. But that's what I remember. Also there was an incident where someone in the Netherlands started a book burning campaign, based on the title and not bothering to read the book.

Nov 15, 2016, 7:51pm Top

Thanks for all the suggestions - they are all books I haven't read yet and weren't even on my TBR list. Interesting about the title change of The Book of Negroes to Someone Knows My Name. It was recommended to me on my other thread as well, so I'll definitely add it to the list.

Nov 15, 2016, 9:04pm Top

I lost track of your thread for a while! Definitely adding The Last Painting of Sara de Vos to my list, and happy to see another glowing review of Homegoing.

Nov 22, 2016, 8:15pm Top

#85 The Duke's Children by Anthony Trollope
For those of you reading or planning to read the Palliser series, I'll say that I loved this book and you won't be disappointed if you love Trollope. But I can't review this without revealing a major spoiler that happens at the beginning of the book. So skip the rest if you've not yet read this.


OK, so, I knew this, but my favorite, Lady Glencora, dies at the very beginning of this book. Boo. So right off the bat I was sure that I wouldn't like this book as much as some of the others. Also, Phineas Finn isn't in it at all except for the briefest of appearances. Another negative. Instead, this is the story of Plantagenet Palliser, the Duke, attempting to parent his newly adult children on his own. He has two sons and a daughter and all are giving him trouble. His eldest son, Silverbridge, wants to switch political parties away from the traditional family party, loses 70,000 pounds horse racing, and decides he wants to marry an American, Isabel Boncassen, instead of Lady Mabel Grex who his father prefers. His younger son Gerald gets kicked out of school and also racks up some gambling debts. His daughter, Mary, wants to marry the nameless and penniless Gerald Tregear.

Most of the plot revolves around a rather complex love "triangle", though it's more of a pentagon. Lady Mabel Grex and Gerald Tregear had an early, youthful love but the practically put it aside since neither has money. Lady Mabel clearly still is in love with Tregear, though he moves on to Mary Palliser who he both loves and has a lot of money potentially. Silverbridge first proposes to Lady Mabel who tries playing games and refuses him (intending to take him as her most palatable option besides Tregear in the end). When Silverbridge is refused, he meets Isabel and falls in love with her. This does not sit well with Lady Mabel.

In the end I was a tiny bit unsatisfied with this book as the end of the Palliser series. I didn't care as much about the characters and I didn't see the big picture themes as clearly as I have in other Trollope novels. I still loved the book and loved the series as a whole, but I didn't think this was the strongest of the set.

Nevertheless, I'm sad to see the Palliser novels finish. Good thing Trollope wrote about a million books so I have plenty more options!

Original Publication Date: 1879
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 704 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased hardback set
Why I read this: to finish the series

Nov 23, 2016, 3:56pm Top

>145 SassyLassy: Lawrence Hill said his daughter chose the alternative US title Someone knows my name. I seem to remember reading this in the short book Dear Sir, I intend to burn your book: an anatomy of a book burning, also by Hill which was his response to a letter he received from someone in the Netherlands who objected to the Canadian title, The Book of Negroes.

Edited: Nov 24, 2016, 5:20pm Top

PSA for anyone who uses Amazon. They are having a $10 off if you spend $25 on books (not ebooks) - use the code HOLIDAYBOOK!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov 28, 2016, 4:31pm Top

I have a question for all of you audio book listeners out there who use audible. I'm thinking of getting a 3-month membership for a friend of mine for Christmas. It seems like that means she'll basically get 3 books from me. She can pick one per month for the price of the membership and she gets to keep them, right? So if it takes longer than a month to actually listen to it, she won't lose it? Is audible the best option for this? Best selection? Thanks for any info!

Nov 28, 2016, 6:38pm Top

I think Audible is the best for me, because that book is yours forever and they have a stellar return policy. You can return a book for any reason and pick up a new one, even if you've already downloaded it, even if you bought it months ago. The selection is also huge, probably the best out there. Five years from now she can login to Audible and re-download the books she got, regardless of whether or not she has a paid membership. She'll also have access to the daily deal books and any sales they might have during those three months.

Audible also lets you download the files, so you can listen to them on your computer, phone, mp3 player, or applicable Kindle regardless of whether or not you're connected to the internet. The other sites I've browsed only allow you to 'stream' books, though you can listen to as many as you want, and you have to be connected to the internet the entire time. If she never ever re-reads books then possibly one of the sometimes-cheaper streaming sites might be better, but keep in mind the internet issue.

Also I'd check LivingSocial and Groupon for deals. There have been a ton of audiobook site deals.

Nov 28, 2016, 6:43pm Top

>153 mabith: Thanks, Meredith, that's really helpful.

Nov 29, 2016, 5:57pm Top

I love Audible for all of the reasons Meredith has mentioned.

Nov 29, 2016, 8:34pm Top

.>155 NanaCC: Thanks for chiming in, Colleen. I think I'm going to get her a 3 month membership so she can try it out.

Dec 2, 2016, 9:00pm Top

#86 Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

This is a sweeping novel of a man's quest to uncover the lives and marriage of his grandparents, Susan and Oliver, through his grandmother's letters. Susan grows up in an educated, artistic Eastern family and marries Oliver, who sees his fate as tied to the potential of the West. The move around a lot, searching for engineering work for Oliver, and Susan keeps up with her illustrating and writing, often bringing in more money than Oliver. She becomes close to another man that works with them, Frank, and their relationship brings on the crux of the book.

Susan and Oliver's marriage is the focus of the book, but the lifestyle of those trying to tame the West in the late 1800s is also a major part of the book. I loved the setting and the exploration of one woman's life as she both loves being West and fights against it.

I very much enjoyed this book, but I can't say I unreservedly loved it. Susan's story is framed by her grandson's story and his use of her life to explore some of his own issues. The problem was that I found him a bit annoying and also didn't totally trust his version of events surrounding his grandmother's life. I think this was intentional on Stegner's part and is part of the beauty of the novel, but unfortunately it also bothered me a bit.

Despite my reservations, I really did enjoy this and definitely recommend it. I suspect this book will grow on me even more as I ponder it.

Original Publication Date: 1971
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 639 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: on the shelf

Edited: Dec 2, 2016, 10:29pm Top

>157 japaul22: haven't thought of this book for a while, until I came across a review recently of a book written by the real author of the letters (the true story behind the grandmother - Mary Hallock Foote). It's a thought provoking book. I had some reservations on it too, but I still like it in hindsight.

Dec 3, 2016, 6:56am Top

>158 dchaikin: Yes, I read a bit about the controversy behind his use of her letters verbatim. I think that conceptually I really like the idea of them being used word for word and a story created around them. However, I definitely understand and sympathize with the concerns of the Foote family.

Edited: Dec 6, 2016, 8:32pm Top

#87 Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton

Another book by Wharton that I absolutely loved. This one revolves around Susy and Nick Lansing who meet in New York as the poor friends of the very wealthy. They devise a plan to marry and live off the gifts and housing offers of their friends which they think will get them comfortably through at least a year of marriage. The caveat is that they can feel free to divorce when either of them finds a more suitable, i.e. wealthy, partner.

Well, of course they find themselves falling in love when they have a fight over how low they will sink morally to keep their wealthy friends happy and generous with them. They separate and each find the potential next wealthy spouse. Will they find their way back to each other in the end?

I loved the characters and thought the moral complexities were interesting. The end is a little weak, as I'm not sure they will really be content on Nick's meager writing earnings and I wonder if Susy will be able to stop "managing" to find them more money. But I loved reading this and never wanted to put it down. Wharton is an excellent writer. Her language is formal and vocabulary is extensive, but it doesn't feel off-putting or stilted to me. I always find the moral ambiguities in her books intriguing as well.

Original Publication Date: 1922
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 298 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library hardcover
Why I read this: caught my eye and hadn't read a book off the 1001 books list in a while

Dec 7, 2016, 8:00am Top

Nice review Jennifer. The title is new to me.

Dec 7, 2016, 1:50pm Top

>160 japaul22: Sounds really good indeed. I like Wharton a lot and it is a book on the 1001 list, so I should absolutely read it!

Dec 7, 2016, 4:46pm Top

>160 japaul22: ooh, that sounds great. Book bullet.

Dec 8, 2016, 9:13am Top

>160 japaul22: A book bullet for me too. I love Wharton, and have a collection of her works on my kindle. I should read more.

Dec 18, 2016, 12:13pm Top

#88 Romantic Outlaws: the Extraordinary lives Mary Wollstonecraft and her Daughter Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon

I really enjoyed this dual biography of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. I knew Mary Wollstonecraft as the author of The Vindication of the Rights of Women and an early feminist, but I didn't know the extent of her political writings or how her lifestyle reflected her views of the need for feminine independence. Mary Shelley I really only knew about Frankenstein and that she was married to Percy Shelley, the poet.

This book beautifully illuminates both of their lives and the influence that Mary Wollstonecraft still had on Mary Shelley through her writing and reputation, despite the fact that she died a few days after giving birth to Shelley. Gordon alternates chapters in the women's lives so that you see them growing up in parallel. I both loved and hated this. It succeeds in that it keeps the focus on how Wollstonecraft's life influenced Shelley despite the lack of physical presence. But it also was confusing sometimes to keep the two lives straight, especially as some people are obviously present in both lives. In the end, I think I have it mostly straight in my mind and I think the format was an interesting and effective choice.

Original Publication Date: 2016
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 672 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: new biography that caught my eye

Dec 20, 2016, 6:52am Top

#89 The Door by Magda Szabo

The Door is a novel by Hungarian author Magda Szabo only recently translated into English and published now by NYRB. In The Door, a woman author looks back on her younger self and her relationship with Emerence, an older woman who she hires to clean and manage her household. What she gets is much more. Emerence runs the household impeccably (and to her own tastes) and the two women end up with a troubled but deep relationship, much like a mother/daughter one. Emerence is rarely forthcoming about her childhood and war experience (the book takes place on the other side of WWII and as it is moving out of Communism). She goes as far as never opening her door to anyone in her community. What is she hiding in there? Despite her oddities, Emerence is respected in her community as she effectively runs the neighborhood: sweeping snow, delivering food to invalids, cleaning multiple homes. She also cares for the animals, immediately forging a deeper connection with the narrator's dog than the narrator does. The dog, Viola, was my favorite character. When Emerence falls ill as the narrator's writing career is taking off, their relationship is both damaged and deepened.

I loved the troubled and confusing relationship between these two women and the symbolism present in the book. I also ended up doing some quick research on Hungarian history to figure out the placement of this book in history. Reading translated books is often a challenge for me. There is often, and was in this book as well, a certain feeling of being an outsider while reading. Some of the customs and historical references leave me a bit confused, not in an obvious way, but just enough to make me realize that I would read this is a different, probably deeper, way if I was actually Hungarian. But I like stretching my reading experience and found this book interesting and rewarding.

Original Publication Date: 1987, translated in 2006 by Len Rix
Author’s nationality: Hungarian
Original language: Hungarian
Length: 262 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased nyrb
Why I read this: love to buy and read nyrb books

Dec 20, 2016, 2:14pm Top

#90 The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff

This is a follow up to the practically perfect 84 Charing Cross Road. Helene finally makes it to London and this is her travel journal.

Unfortunately, I found it extremely boring and rather pointless.

Just read 84 Charing Cross Road and leave it at that.

Original Publication Date: 1973
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 144 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased
Why I read this: to follow up 84 Charing Cross Road

Dec 20, 2016, 9:45pm Top

>167 japaul22:. Oh, how disappointing.

Dec 23, 2016, 12:15pm Top

#91 Monsieur Proust's Library by Anka Muhlstein

In an effort to get my mind in the right place to start reading Proust, I picked up this slim volume that focuses on reading and readers in In Search of Lost Time. Muhlstein focuses on authors who influenced Proust (Racine, Balzac, the Goncourts), the fictional author Bergotte, and the way his characters read and understand their reading. This was a great place to start for me as I now have some themes to grab on to that were presented in a very interesting and easy to read manner.

Recommended for anyone reading Proust.

Original Publication Date: 2012
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: English
Length: 132 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased
Why I read this: to prepare for Proust

Dec 23, 2016, 1:56pm Top

#92 Human Acts by Han Kang

This is a beautifully written but horrific book that takes place during a student uprising in 1980 South Korea and the aftermath.

I appreciated it and definitely recommend it, but I'll admit that it was a little beyond me. I felt that I didn't have enough background in the history or culture to really get it and that it would mean much more to someone who had lived through these events.

As always with a book like this, I'm glad I read it because it opened my eyes to some events I didn't even know about but for the same reason it kept me at arm's length.

Author’s nationality: South Korean
Original language: Korean
Length: 212 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: ER win
Why I read this: ER

Dec 26, 2016, 10:50am Top

#93 Less Than Angels by Barbara Pym

Another comforting and pleasant novel by Barbara Pym, and I do mean that as a compliment. This one is a bit less complex than some of her others, but I still enjoyed it. The story revolves around a group of anthropologists in various stages of their careers and the love entanglements that they get in to. I liked that there were various ages and stages of life represented here and some rather complex relationships. Overall, though, the characters were a bit flat compared to her other books.

Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 223 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: needed a comfort read

Edited: Dec 26, 2016, 11:50am Top

>171 japaul22: I think this is the next Barbara Pym I'll be reading and I'll bear what you say in mind. It's not a fully-tested theory, but, on the whole, I think I prefer those novels of hers that feature vicars!

Dec 26, 2016, 3:42pm Top

>166 japaul22: Yes, I had exactly that feeling of being an 'outsider' on reading this book. I came to it with high expectations as various Hungarian colleagues, as well as a non-Hungarian who is steeped in Hungarian culture, had raved about it. They all read the original, but I don't think it would be fair to blame the distance I felt on the translation; I think you're right about missing references that would be meaningful to a Hungarian. I didn't love the book, but I still think about it, though it's a good 5 years since I read it.

Dec 26, 2016, 8:13pm Top

>173 rachbxl: Yes, I think it will stick with me. Interesting to hear you had a similar experience. I also don't think it was necessarily the translation, but that it would just mean more to someone who had lived through the political times that are present in the background of the book but never explicitly referred to. It's a good example of why I both love and am frustrated by reading in translation or from foreign cultures. I hope that as I keep reading from these less familiar countries I'll start to get it more!

Dec 29, 2016, 2:59pm Top

#94 Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch
I loved Koch's The Dinner when I read it earlier this year so I was excited to win this book through the Early Reviewers program. While I think it was an ok book, it didn't grab me like The Dinner did.

This book explores the relationship between a real-life event of a teacher having an affair with a student and then going missing after visiting her and her new boyfriend at a secluded cabin with the same event as told by author, Mr. M, in a fictional thriller. I think the premise here was interesting, but the execution was lacking.

I felt mainly that there were too many points of view and timelines being explored. It felt very unfocused. There was the voice of an anonymous adult who is obviously connected with the student/teacher affair (I thought this voice should have been the only voice), Mr. M's point of view, and the exploration of the students' relationships told in a sort of omniscient voice. It was all just too much. And it never got creepy enough - always just on the edge. It was a 400 page novel and on page 294 I seriously thought about abandoning it - not a good sign for a supposed thriller/page turner!

I'd skip this and read The Dinner instead.

Original publication date: 2016
Author’s nationality: Dutch
Original language: Dutch
Length: 400 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: ER win
Why I read this: ER

Dec 29, 2016, 7:44pm Top

Nice review of Dear Mr. M, Jennifer. I almost bought it in London in September, but I held off, as the reviews of it at that time were mixed.

Dec 30, 2016, 8:32am Top

>176 kidzdoc: yeah, I'd skip it, but I'd read The Dinner if you haven't yet!

Edited: Dec 30, 2016, 12:01pm Top

I think I've wrapped up my 2016 reading as it's very unlikely I'll finish either of the books I'm reading in the next two days.

2016 was a good but not a standout year for me. My favorites this year were all great, but none are books that I think would make an "all-time favorite" list.

I read 94 books. I've tracked books by women, books in translation, and decade of publication below. I also reread 3 books which were all extremely satisfying. I think 3-4 rereads a year is a good number for me so I want to remember to make time for that.


War and Peace (reread)
Out Stealing Horses by Per Peterson
Stoner by John Williams
finishing The Pallisers by Anthony Trollope
The Vet’s Daughter by Barbara Comyns
The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Ambassadors by Henry James
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton

Gut by Guilia Enders
The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

Least Favorite Fiction:
The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf
The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
Harriet Hume by Rebecca West
Out of Africa by Isak Denison
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Books in translation:
Russian - 2
Norwegian - 3
Dutch -2

Books published by decade
1870 - 2
1910 - 2
1920 - 5
1930 -4
1950 - 6
1960 – 4
1970 - 4
1980 - 4
1990 - 6
2000 - 10
2010 - 21
2016 - 21

Percentage of books by women
57/94, 61%

New-to-me authors
59/94, 63%

26/94, 28%

3 Rereads:
War and Peace
The Sound and the Fury
Their Eyes Were Watching God

In 2017, you can find me

Group: Club Read 2016

117 members

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