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RidgewayGirl Reads in 2016 -- Part Three

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

Club Read 2016

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Edited: Dec 28, 2016, 10:36am Top

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

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

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

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

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

Happy holidays, everyone!

Currently Reading

Recently Read

Recently Acquired

Edited: Dec 28, 2016, 10:37am Top

Pedantic Lists

Books Read By Year of Publication

1951 Tempest-Tost by Robertson Davies
1954 Leaven of Malice by Robertson Davies
1958 A Mixture of Frailties by Robertson Davies
1967 The Man on the Balcony by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
1974 Oreo by Fran Ross
1985 Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
2003 Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer
Starter for Ten by David Nicholls
2004 The News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck
2005 The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino
2006 Death in Breslau by Marek Krajewski
2007 Trashed by Alison Gaylin
The Vegetarian by Han Kang
2008 Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest's Most Controversial Season by Nick Heil
Island of Lost Girls by Jennifer McMahon
The Outcast by Sadie Jones
Quiet, Please by Scott Douglas
2009 The Boy Next Door by Irene Sabatini
The Gardner Heist by Ulrich Boser
The Wife's Tale by Lori Larsens
2011 Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
2012 Capital by John Lanchester
The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey
Honour: a Novel by Elif Şafak
2013 Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee
The Crooked Maid by Dan Vyleta
A Dual Inheritance by Joanna Hershon
A Fort of Nine Towers by Qais Akbar Omar
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
One of Us: Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Åsne Seierstad
The Orenda by Joseph Boyden
The Pursuit of Mary Bennet by Pamela Mingle
The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli
To Catch a Rabbit by Helen Cadbury
2014 Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch
The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley
Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
The New World: A Novel by Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz
Revival by Stephen King
The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante
Texts From Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg
The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes
Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek

Edited: Dec 23, 2016, 10:46pm Top

Books Read By Year of Publication continued

2015 The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
The Bastard of Fort Stikine by Debra Komar
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Blood, Salt, Water by Denise Mina
The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard
Eileen: A Novel by Ottessa Moshfegh
Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present by Alison Matthews David
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
The Followers by Rebecca Wait
A Game for All the Family by Sophie Hannah
Girl at War by Sara Novic
A Guide to Berlin by Gail Jones
How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz
The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild
Negroland by Margo Jefferson
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
The Whites by Richard White
The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith
2016 American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
Commonwealth by Anne Patchett
Darktown by Thomas Mullen
End of Watch by Stephen King
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee
The Fireman by Joe Hill
A Gambler's Anatomy by Jonathan Lethem
The Girls by Emma Cline
Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith
Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith
Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie
Reader I Married Him edited by Tracy Chevalier
San Juan Noir edited by Mayra Santos-Febres
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
While the City Slept by Eli Sanders
Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma
The Widow by Fiona Barton
Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman
The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves
You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

Edited: Dec 28, 2016, 10:38am Top

Books Read, Arranged by Nationality of Author

Qais Akbar Omar (A Fort of Nine Towers)

Gail Jones (A Guide to Berlin)
Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies)

Fiona Barton (The Widow)
Belinda Bauer (The Shut Eye)
Helen Cadbury (To Catch a Rabbit)
Michel Faber (The Book of Strange New Things)
Sophie Hannah (A Game for All the Family)
Andrew Michael Hurley (The Loney)
Sadie Jones (The Outcast)
John Lanchester (Capital)
Margot Livesey (The Flight of Gemma Hardy)
Denise Mina (Blood, Salt, Water)
David Nicholls (Starter for Ten)
Helen Oyeyemi (What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours)
Hannah Rothschild (The Improbability of Love)
Alexander McCall Smith (The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine)
Zadie Smith (Swing Time)
Susie Steiner (Missing, Presumed)
Rebecca Wait (The Followers)

Joseph Boyden (The Orenda)
Alison Matthews David (Fashion Victims)
Robertson Davies (Tempest-Tost, Leaven of Malice, A Mixture of Frailties)
Debra Komar (The Bastard of Fort Stikine)
Lori Lansens (The Wife's Tale)
Dan Vyleta (The Crooked Maid)

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

Hong Kong
Janice Y. K. Lee (The Expatriates)

Emma Donoghue (The Wonder)
Marian Keyes (The Woman Who Stole My Life)

Elena Ferrante (The Story of the Lost Child)

Marlon James (A Brief History of Seven Killings)
Nicole Dennis-Benn (Here Comes the Sun)

Keigo Higashino (The Devotion of Suspect X)
Marie Kondo (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up)

Valeria Luiselli (The Story of My Teeth)

The Netherlands
Herman Koch (Dear Mr. M)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Americanah)
Chinelo Okparanta (Under the Udala Trees)

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

Marek Krajewski (Death in Breslau)

South Korea
Han Kang (The Vegetarian)

Edited: Dec 17, 2016, 4:44pm Top

Books Read, Arranged by Nationality of Author Continued

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

Elif Şafak (Honour)

United States
Megan Abbott (You Will Know Me)
Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz (The New World: A Novel)
Sarah Addison Allen (Lost Lake)
Brit Bennett (The Mothers)
Ulrich Boser (The Gardner Heist)
Emma Cline (The Girls)
Ta-Nehisi Coates (Between the World and Me)
Matthew Desmond (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City)
Scott Douglas (Quiet, Please)
Angela Flournoy (The Turner House)
Lauren Groff (Fates and Furies)
Kent Haruf (Our Souls at Night)
Nick Heil (Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest's Most Controversial Season)
Joanna Hershon (A Dual Inheritance)
Joe Hill (The Fireman)
Kristopher Jansma (Why We Came to the City)
Margo Jefferson (Negroland)
Stephen King (End of Watch, Revival)
Sue Klebold (A Mother's Reckoning)
Rebecca Lee (Bobcat and Other Stories)
Jonathan Lethem (A Gambler's Anatomy)
Laura Lippman (Wilde Lake)
Lisa Lutz (How to Start a Fire, The Passenger)
Elizabeth McKenzie (The Portable Veblen)
Jennifer McMahon (Island of Lost Girls)
Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove)
Judy Melinek (Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner)
Pamela Mingle (The Pursuit of Mary Bennet)
Ottessa Moshfegh (Eileen: A Novel)
Thomas Mullen (Darktown)
Maggie Nelson (The Argonauts)
Sara Novic (Girl at War)
Viet Thanh Nguyen (The Sympathizer)
ZZ Packer (Drinking Coffee Elsewhere)
Anne Patchett (Commonwealth)
Richard Price (The Whites)
Virginia Reeves (Work Like Any Other)
Fran Ross (Oreo)
Rainbow Rowell (Attachments)
Nancy Jo Sales (American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers)
Eli Sanders (While the City Slept)
Jim Shepard (The Book of Aron)
Karin Slaughter (Pretty Girls)
Alexis M. Smith (Marrow Island)
Elizabeth Strout (My Name is Lucy Barton)
Lily Tuck (The News from Paraguay)
Anne Tyler (Vinegar Girl)
Colson Whitehead (The Underground Railroad)
Jacqueline Woodson (Another Brooklyn)

Irene Sabatini (The Boy Next Door)

Edited: Nov 23, 2016, 8:47am Top

Who Doesn't Love a Map?

Nationalities of Authors

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

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

Edited: Dec 28, 2016, 10:38am Top

Another Pedantic List

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

A Fort of Nine Towers by Qais Akbar Omar

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

The Crooked Maid by Dan Vyleta

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith

Blood, Salt, Water by Denise Mina (Scotland)
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
Capital by John Lanchester (London)
The Followers by Rebecca Wait
The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey (Scotland)
A Game for All the Family by Sophie Hannah
Honour by Elif Shafak
The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild (London)
The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley
Missing, Presumed (Susie Steiner) (Cambridgeshire)
The Outcast by Sadie Jones
The Pursuit of Mary Bennet by Pamela Mingle
The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer
Starter for Ten by David Nicholls (Manchester)
To Catch a Rabbit (Helen Cadbury)
The Widow by Fiona Barton

The Bastard of Fort Stikine by Debra Komar (British Columbia)
Leaven of Malice by Robertson Davies (Ontario)
A Mixture of Frailties by Robertson Davies (Ontario)
The Orenda by Joseph Boyden
Tempest-Tost by Robertson Davies (Ontario)
The Wife's Tale by Lori Lansens (Ontario)

Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest's Most Controversial Season by Nick Heil (Tibet)
The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee (Hong Kong)

Girl at War by Sara Novic

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

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

The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes
The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

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

The News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck

Edited: Dec 17, 2016, 4:45pm Top

Where the Books Are Set Continued

The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard (Warsaw)

Puerto Rico
San Juan Noir edited by Mayra Santos-Febres

South Korea
The Vegetarian by Han Kang

The Man on the Balcony by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö

Honor by Elif Shafak

American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (Nebraska)
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee
Darktown by Thomas Mullen (Georgia)
A Dual Inheritance by Joanna Hershon
Eileen: A Novel by Ottessa Moshfegh (Massachusetts)
End of Watch by Stephen King
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond (Wisconsin)
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
The Fireman by Joe Hill (New Hampshire)
The Gardner Heist by Ulrich Boser
Girl at War by Sara Novic
The Girls by Emma Cline
How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz
Island of Lost Girls by Jennifer McMahon
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith
The Mothers by Brit Bennett (California)
A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold (Colorado)
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (New York)
Negroland by Margo Jefferson (Illinois)
The New World: A Novel by Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz
Oreo by Fran Ross
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (Colorado)
The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie (California)
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter (Georgia)
Quiet, Please by Scott Douglas (California)
Revival by Stephen King
The Sellout by Paul Beatty (California)
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (California)
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy (Michigan)
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (Maryland)
While the City Slept by Eli Sanders (Washington)
The Whites by Richard Price (New York)
The Wife's Tale by Lori Lansens (California)
Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma (New York)
Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman (Maryland)
Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves (Alabama)
You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Boy Next Door by Irene Sabatini

Jul 7, 2016, 8:15am Top

New quarter, new thread, new tasteful advertisement.

Jul 7, 2016, 9:58am Top

Your thread is so beautifully organised, it's a pleasure to read. Looking forward to your third quarter reviews!

Jul 10, 2016, 4:53am Top

Thanks, reva! Your comment made me happy. I do enjoy setting up my thread each year and adding more and more things to measure and look for.

And I've finished Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Quartet. Not sure how to continue on.

Jul 11, 2016, 11:26am Top

Hey RG - I'm a bit stunned by what I'm reading about in American Girls. This book is worth a discussion. I finding it really revealing and scary, but also a bit hard to believe. Are our girls really all this messed up? Are these just extremes?

I note this quote, which is not extreme at all, or surprising, but sad:

"A 2015 study at University College London found a possible link between anxiety in girls ages eleven to thirteen and and seeing images of women being sexually objectified on social media. Girls this age were significantly more likely to feel nervous or show a lack of confidence than they were just 5 years ago, according to the study. "We were surprised to see such a sharp spike in the emotional problems among girls" in "a relatively short period of time," said psychologist Elian Fink, the study's lead author. It seems relevant that it is in about the last 5 years that the majority of girls have gotten smartphones." page 92

Jul 12, 2016, 1:57am Top

>15 RidgewayGirl: So what did you think of the Neapolitan Quartet? Did you review them here? I bought the first part although I did not like some other works by Ferrante. But I hear these ones are very good. Like to hear your thoughts, especially when you say 'not sure how to continue on'.

Jul 20, 2016, 3:12pm Top

Dan, what are your thoughts on American Girls? I found myself grateful that we've been out of that environment for the past three years. And a reminder to keep talking with both my children (the behavior of the teenage boys seemed to me to be more egregious than that of the girls, with a lot of that down to how they have been taught to perceive women) about all these things - social media, messages we receive from marketing and our culture, relationships, etc... But there are certainly plenty of scare stories in the book, which seemed to me to gain focus only toward the end.

Simone, I loved it so much. So very much. I have reviewed (I think) all but the last book. I read that one as slowly as I could, and was sorry to leave that world. I'll miss those books. I felt as though I lived alongside them. I know the books have their detractors (and I do think that part of the backlash is due to the books being so unapologetically female-centered), but I loved those books and plan to read them again someday.

So, I'm back in Greenville, SC, in my house. It's rental furniture and renovations until August, when our furniture is scheduled to arrive, but it feels good to be home. I'm sure the missing Germany part will show up soon, but for now it's good to be back among friends and family. I have internet again, too and may even catch up on reviews once the house is ready to receive all of our stuff.

Jul 20, 2016, 3:30pm Top

Welcome home! I'm sure you have mixed feelings about being home vs leaving Europe.

Jul 20, 2016, 3:32pm Top

Vivienne, I think the Missing Munich part will hold off until we've been here a few months. Right now it's a whirlwind of getting things done and revisiting places. Took the kids to Subway for lunch and the joy they felt was out of all proportion to the actual event.

Jul 20, 2016, 3:50pm Top

Good ol' Subway :)

Jul 21, 2016, 12:37am Top

Welcome home.

I have a lot of semi-coherent thoughts on American Girls. I hope I can talk with my kids, yes both, the boy too! A lot of what she says as the kids get older isn't new and isn't directly related to social media, although that does play a role and does change things. But there are always mean kids and college undergrad life has been sex-crazy for a long time. But, the aspects of the stress and abuse through social media, and how we, as parents, have no way in. A quiet, private kid can be going through hell, and we might not even realize it. That was shocking to me. The other thing that really shocked me is the affect on kids. We all know how crazy people can be online and say things that are so ridiculous and offensive and mean that they would never say in person. But that is amped up with adolescence, more so with the younger teens than the older ones. All the stories about boys asking for nudes (They ask about homework, and then it's like send noodz) is insane. And the girl abuse, and back-steps in feminism, the epithets tossed around, that is just really sad. 50% of students experience sexual harassment in school. That seems nuts.

Sorry, did I mention semi-coherent.

Anyway, thanks for pointing me to this book.

Jul 21, 2016, 1:35am Top

Wow, you're already back in the US. Crazy. Sounds like quite a whirlwind at the moment.

I've been slowly working my way through the first Ferrante (L'amica geniale) in Italian. I'm about 3/4 of the way there now and I'm enjoying it more now that the girls are a little older.

Jul 21, 2016, 9:23pm Top

Welcome home, and good luck with kid re-integration.

Jul 22, 2016, 8:39am Top

>21 VivienneR: Indeed! We're feeling like tourists, although instead of sites and museums, it's restaurants (mainly Mexican) and activities. We all went to Ghostbusters, which the guys liked (my son's jaded friend declared it awesome) but my daughter and I loved. I don't think I've seen a movie that so matter of factly allowed a group of women to be focused on their career and to be amazing while not undergoing romantic drama or wearing silly outfits. There's one scene where a character fights ghosts that is breath-taking. She's wearing coveralls and boots. The movie is also really funny and has cameos from all the original cast (who are still alive). It's not sending a message or pushing feminism at all, but just having four women work together in the kind of movie we've seen dozens of times with men in the leading roles ends up feeling ground-breaking.

>22 dchaikin: I'm caught between running around screaming that the world is ending and being a little skeptical. Many of the girls seem to be aided and abetted by their parents, which I found troublesome. I do think that many girls avoid the worst of this by not being a part of that "popular" crowd, but who focus on a sport or an activity and pull their friends from that group. I don't know. I'm having an allergic reaction to the current love of fear-mongering.

>23 ursula: I envy you reading it in Italian! For me, the series really got going partway through the second book. Then I couldn't put it down and had to read the second and third books back to back. I would have done the same with the fourth, but it hadn't been released in English yet.

>24 janeajones: Thanks, Jane. I think they'll be fine, but I know from my own childhood moving experiences that it's never easy.

Jul 22, 2016, 1:02pm Top

Re - Sales and fear-mongering.

You know, I think I was primed to get worked up over this book. It's stuff I was already worried about, so it played into my own fears. And, I also thought she emphasized the bad news and mostly avoided the normal kids. But, still, there are valid things to worry about in there too. I would like to separate the useful stuff from all the extensive unlikely scenarios.

Jul 22, 2016, 2:15pm Top

>25 RidgewayGirl: Totally agree on fear-mongering!

I haven't read American Girls and don't have kids, so I don't have an opinion on it. But for a different perspective you might want to read Danah Boyd, for instance her book It's complicated. She is a sociologist who's been studying teenagers' use of social networks for years. I have the book but I have to confess I haven't read it yet.

Jul 22, 2016, 6:41pm Top

>26 dchaikin: I would like to separate the useful stuff from all the extensive unlikely scenarios.

Me, too. And I do try to keep up to date on the topic, so with that and following a few feminist sites, this isn't revelatory stuff. It is useful in that knowing that this is out there is useful in parenting, but I'm wary of teaching my daughter to fear the world. Balance, balance.

>27 FlorenceArt: I'm feeling like I'll read more on the subject when someone says something new. Right now I'm looking at books about feminism aimed at younger women and teenagers.

Jul 23, 2016, 9:34am Top

Welcome back!

Jul 24, 2016, 10:15am Top

Thanks, Rebecca! It feels good to be home.

Jul 24, 2016, 10:15am Top

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta was a delight to read. Telling the story of a girl during Nigeria's Biafra War, whose father is killed and whose mother sends her to live as a housemaid in order for her to be safe and fed. I expected a grim tale, and while Okparanta doesn't gloss over the conditions Ijeoma faces, her protagonist's spirit shines through. There's an added layer of complexity here; Ijeoma develops a relationship with another girl and when this is discovered, the people around her react with shock and horror. She's not only trying to start her life in an uncertain environment, but men and women like her are beaten and even killed. Ijeoma's path is anything but clear, and the decisions she makes (or fails to make) will affect more than just herself.

Chinelo Okparanta sets a high bar for her novel; to not only describe life in a specific time and place that we know far too little about, but to also explain what life is like for someone discovering that who they fundamentally are is not compatible with the society they are living in. For the most part, she succeeds. The novel does lose some of its intensity as it moves from the story of a girl surviving war, to a young woman trying to forge her own path to a woman living with the decisions she made, but it remains a fascinating portrayal of a woman's life.

Jul 24, 2016, 12:10pm Top

>31 RidgewayGirl: I've wondered about this war since reading Half of a Yellow Sun. Enjoyed your review.

Jul 24, 2016, 2:54pm Top

Thanks, Dan. The only thing I knew going in was that Biafra was the place where the children were starving before Somalia. So anything at all is more information than I had. Both Under the Udala Trees and The Boy Next Door have shown me the depth of my ignorance about an entire continent and that the books currently being published are of a very high quality. I plan to read more. Half of a Yellow Sun is on that list.

Jul 24, 2016, 9:32pm Top

After living in Europe, I can't imagine being plunked down in the Carolinas (esp. in this crazy election year). Any plans for another trip to live abroad?

Jul 25, 2016, 7:16am Top

Ha, Joyce, yes there is an adjustment. But I do like the friendliness and the tendency of people to chat with strangers while waiting in any sort of line. No current plans, but my husband and I have long discussed how we will be able to live in more exotic locations once the kids are all launched out into their adult lives. Also, it will take a few years for me to forget what an ordeal moving a household to another country is.

Jul 25, 2016, 7:16am Top

End of Watch was a satisfying end to the Bill Hodges trilogy. I spent the first book, Mr. Mercedes, wary of Stephen King veering off into horror and the supernatural, but he played the first two books straight, demonstrating an understanding an love of the private eye genre. In this final book, he deviates from this, but he does it well, keeping his characters consistent and not creating an unstoppable bad guy, just one who appears that way.

Bill Hodges visited Brady Hartsfield regularly in his hospital room for years, but he's moved on and the staff of the hospital where he laid in a coma changed. Then a series of apparent suicides hit the area, but the victims are all attendees of either Hartfield's first rampage, or his second attempt at mass murder. What could the connection be? Hodges former partner calls him in to take a look.

Jul 26, 2016, 2:48pm Top

>33 RidgewayGirl: interesting review. The only thing I knew about Biafra is that when we were kids and wouldn't eat our dinner my Mum kept saying "if the wee kids in Biafra had that good dinner...". Going to put this one on the wish list - sounds like a great read.

Jul 27, 2016, 9:04am Top

>37 AlisonY: That was the sum total of my knowledge, too, Alison. Under the Udala Trees is worth reading and it's a pleasure to read.

In moving news, the container of our stuff did not get washed overboard in a sudden squall. Customs officials did not decide that our ratty possessions merited a closer look. Everything arrives tomorrow, ten days earlier than planned. Looking forward to being settled, and also to next week, which will be spent at the beach, which is where this weather is appropriate.

Jul 29, 2016, 8:03am Top

Nice surprise to have your stuff early. (Weather by me is not appropriate for anything).

Aug 2, 2016, 10:47am Top

My reading was slow in July and I'm behind on my reviews. While each of the books deserves a thoughtful review, in the interest of catching up, here are some brief sets of comments.

The final book in Elena Ferrante's series deserves pages. If you liked the other books, you will read The Story of the Lost Child no matter what I say here. And if you haven't, well, they are worth reading. They immerse the reader in a time and place like few other books, and the story of the charged and uncertain friendship between Lena and Lina is compelling and fascinating. This is a story about and dominated by women, that is set in a world controlled by men. The result is complex, maddening and impossible to put down. I read The Story of the Lost Child as slowly as I could, but it was still finished far to soon.

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley is an atmospheric gothic novel about a boy growing up in a staunch Catholic household, with an older brother who lives most of the year in an institution, but with whom he shares a close bond. Their family joins a half dozen others congregants on a retreat to an isolated house on the coast with the new priest, where local customs unsettle everyone.

Hurley does a good job of getting into the mind of a boy just becoming aware of the flawed nature of the people around him and of the connection he shares with his mentally challenged older brother, as well as of the claustrophobic nature of strong personalities together at a retreat where the isolated location brings all the conflicts to the forefront. This is a book more concerned with how situations and events affect people, than with action or plot.

Aug 2, 2016, 11:15am Top

The cover of the Lonelyjumped out at me at the bookstore, but I'm not sure about the story. Good to read your comments.

Aug 3, 2016, 10:43am Top

Catching up! My daughter is 20 now, moving into a new set of challenges, but I do think the wireless media effect was huge on her teenage years. She was not actually allowed to have her laptop alone in her room until she was 16. She did have a phone, it was a must for communicating from school about pick up times, etc. but it was fairly locked down for the first year also. Around 16 we gave up, but I think she was significantly more mature by then. A boy we know got into really serious trouble over harassing two girls on line and that made it obvious, even to our daughter, why we had the constraint.

Welcome back stateside.

Aug 3, 2016, 6:35pm Top

Joyce, it was an odd book, but I liked it.

sibyx, it's interesting how quickly smartphones became necessary! The kids plug theirs in downstairs at night and we talk quite a bit about them, especially with the older child (the 12 year old will watch cartoons, but he's more likely to leave it alone for days). But it's a new world and we're still learning about it.

Aug 4, 2016, 9:34am Top

Blood, Salt, Water is the latest installment in Denise Mina's crime series centered on a Glasgow police detective. Set in the middle of the Brexit campaign, Morrow is looking for a missing woman, a woman the department had been keeping an eye on as part of a larger money laundering case based in London. And then a body is found in Loch Lomond.

I'm not a good judge of Mina's books because I love them too much. She has a skill of humanizing even the characters doing very bad things, that a lesser author would be content to just make out as evil. Motivations and personal histories are complex and meaningful to Mina, so her books are always more than just crime novels. And Morrow's a wonderful character to follow. She's changed over time and as a woman who has a husband and young children, she may be cranky, but she's not the typical jaded loner the genre tends to produce.

Canadian author Dan Vyleta's novel, The Crooked Maid, begins in a train compartment a few years after the end of WWII. A schoolboy is traveling home to Vienna after spending the war in a Swiss boarding school. He shares the compartment with a woman returning to Vienna after receiving word that her estranged husband has been released from a Soviet POW camp.

Their lives intertwine, along with the people they meet along the way; family, friends, neighbors and acquaintances. There's a Dickensian feel to the novel, with a large cast of characters and reliance on coincidence, but it never feels forced or unwieldy. Centering on the trial of a former Gestapo officer who is accused of killing his own father, The Crooked Maid tells the story of Vienna in the aftermath of the war, as it begins to reimagine its history as one of occupation rather than collusion, and the Cold War takes precedence over the past.

You'd think that by now Stephen King would be coasting along, exerting less and less effort, secure in the knowledge that no matter how lazy his writing, his books will earn millions. And yet he recently tackled a new genre, the PI novel, with his Bill Hodges trilogy and did an excellent job. Revival is back in his preferred genre, but there's nothing tired or rehashed about it.

Jamie is a young boy playing with plastic army men in the dirt when he first meets the new pastor of the church his family attends, and Pastor Daniels will be a part of his life forever. King builds the story and the suspense slowly, first establishing the characters. The ending was properly creepy. King is one of the few authors who can write a scary story without having me either shrug or roll my eyes at the climactic moments.

Aug 4, 2016, 11:13am Top

>44 RidgewayGirl: As I said on Colleen's thread, that's a new Mina for me. Off to look it up.

Aug 4, 2016, 12:11pm Top

I've just finished catching up on your reading. And look at you, all moved back to NC. I'm sure it must be crazy.

I read the first Ferrante in that series, and for some reason, never went further. I think I have the second book on my Kindle. Your reviews make me want to continue and to find out what I've been missing.

I haven't read the third book in the Bill Hodges trilogy, but plan to do so very soon. The first two books were excellent, and the second one kept making me feel anxious. I had to finally stay up late one night to finish because I had to know how it ended.

I'm currently listening to Blood Salt Water and enjoying it. I haven't read any of Mina's other series, but will get to them eventually. I love her writing.

Aug 4, 2016, 2:18pm Top

I enjoyed your comments about Denise Mina. I'll catch up on Slip of the Knife, the last of the Paddy Meehan series while I'm waiting for the library's order of Blood, Salt, Water to arrive.

Aug 4, 2016, 4:00pm Top

I hope you like it, Rebecca. I find her to be dependably good.

Colleen, I'm in SC, the (for perhaps the first time ever) less nutty Carolina. I liked My Brilliant Friend less than the other books - by partway through The Story of a New Name I was helplessly hooked. And the final chapters of End of Watch are no less gripping as the final chapters of Finders Keepers. Plan your reading accordingly!

Vivienne, I really loved the Paddy Meehan series. Mina told me that Paddy is based on an actual person, and she will reappear in a later book in the Morrow series (she had a brief appearance in a scene set at a news conference in another Morrow novel).

Aug 4, 2016, 4:05pm Top

>48 RidgewayGirl: Oops! South Carolina. I've made 'note to self' regarding making time for these books. I always enjoy your recommendations. I'm looking forward to more by Mina.

Aug 12, 2016, 9:53am Top

Colleen, they are both small states and they are attached!

The boxes are slowly becoming less numerous. Unpacking is so much less stressful than packing and getting ready for a move. Still, I'm looking forward to the theoretical day when the boxes are all unpacked.

I went to the library yesterday to reopen my account. The librarian at the desk looked up and said, "I haven't seen you in a while." Not sure whether that's a good or a bad thing. I did check out Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler to demonstrate faith that I will have time to read (and have the attention span to read) an entire book sometime in the next three weeks.

Aug 13, 2016, 3:04pm Top

I successfully avoided reading Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize winning and best known novel until now, put off by both the size and the fact that it's about a cattle drive, a subject that interests me only in the most abstract way and certainly not 900 pages worth. But an accumulation of laudatory reviews from people here as well as the happy coincidence of coming across a copy just when I had a week of vacation gave me the push to try a few chapters. And then I had to read the whole thing.

Yes, it is about a cattle drive, led by Call, a former Texas Ranger who has been living near the Texas-Mexico border and running a livery stable of sorts with a fellow Ranger named Gus in the sleepy settlement of Lonesome Dove. When he hears that Montana is on the verge of being tamed, he decides to take a herd of cattle north and settle those grazing lands.

While there is quite a bit of adventure and the sort of activities one expects in a Western; gambling, saloon girls, horse thieves, pioneers, etc...this is more a story about people. McMurtry has a talent for quickly making the reader care about his various, and tremendously varied, characters. Even his heroes are flawed and his villains have real depth. I spent each page of the novel deeply invested in the fates of Newt, Clara and even Roscoe. McMurtry has written a book about a specific time and place, and given it depth and breadth. While I'm sure this book would appeal to those who like adventure and books set in the Old West, it's really much more than just a good historical novel. It certainly deserved to win the Pulitzer.

Aug 13, 2016, 4:34pm Top

So, it won you over too? I really should read this. Fun review.

Aug 13, 2016, 4:55pm Top

I've been avoiding this, like you, but everyone I know who has actually read it, loves it. I've checked it out from the library twice and not read it. Some day.

Aug 13, 2016, 4:56pm Top

I loved Lonesome Dove but I don't remember anything about the story. I do remember I cared about the people though. I tried reading the following books but they weren't as good.

Aug 13, 2016, 9:34pm Top

And you live in Texas, Daniel! Part of what caused me to read Lonesome Dove is that my brother (who is Cormac McCarthy-obsessed) gave me the Border trilogy and was expecting me to read at least All the Pretty Horses immediately. So I fudged and read a different famous Western. He was not pleased, but it did make me more eager to revisit that time and place.

Jennifer, it's so big. This is one to read on a kindle, although I found a battered, old mass market paperback in the beach house we were in. It was in the perfect condition to take to the beach.

Florence, I have no intention of reading The Streets of Laredo. The Lonesome Dove ended in the right place.

Aug 13, 2016, 10:48pm Top

I do feel guilty being in Texas and not having read Lonesome Dove. At one time I had a list of ten Texas essentials and I was certainly going to read them and this was on the list. (Can't remember if McCarthy was - crazy as McCarthy is, All the Pretty Horses was really nice. )

Aug 14, 2016, 9:08am Top

I do plan on reading McCarthy, it's just that I don't think I can read anything challenging in the middle of a move.

Aug 15, 2016, 5:00am Top

>55 RidgewayGirl: Yes, that's probably wise. Streets of Laredo was okay but not as good. Then I read Zeke and Ned, but that's not part of the series. I'm not sure I even finished that one.

Aug 17, 2016, 10:16am Top

I read Lonesome Dove so long ago that I don't remember much about it, except that I loved it. I'm glad you did too.

Aug 17, 2016, 8:24pm Top

Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner is the story of how Judy Melinek became a medical examiner and her experiences working in the OCME (office of the chief medical examiner) in Manhattan. Along with the usual stories of bizarre cases, Melinek talks about dealing with the families of the deceased and the frustrations of trying to get overworked detectives in the NYPD to pursue the cases she called homicides.

This would be just an enjoyable book about an interesting profession had Melinek not been partway through her training on September 11, 2001. Located in lower Manhattan, the building she worked in became the central area for the processing of all the remains found in the wreckage of the twin towers. Her account of that experience made this book more substantial and much more difficult to read.

Aug 17, 2016, 9:51pm Top

>60 RidgewayGirl: Hadn't heard about this. I'm listening to Lab Girl, which seems like it might make a good pairing with Working Stiff, although I'm pretty sure it lacks any gut wrenching 9/11 stuff. WS sounds it might be terrific in audio.

Aug 17, 2016, 10:00pm Top

Daniel, I would think it would be good in audio. It was episodic enough and to get me through the busiest days of this move when I rarely remembered what happened previously when I picked it up at night. It really was very interesting if you're fine with fairly detailed descriptions of autopsies. The 911 stuff was gripping. I think it hit me harder than everything else I've read about that event.

Aug 18, 2016, 12:23am Top

>60 RidgewayGirl: Sounds interesting! For some reason, I didn't think there were any remains from 911 (like everything was crushed to dust or incinerated) but I realize I'm confusing this with the lack of live but injured bodies pulled from the site -- I remember they had set up emergency stations and the doctors and nurses just sat there with no one to work on. Chilling. )

Aug 18, 2016, 7:29am Top

Joyce, that's described in the book, as well as how they dealt with remains that were small and very damaged. The few intact bodies were from those working to rescue people at the site (firemen, police).

Aug 18, 2016, 8:41am Top

Nice review of Working Stiff, Kay. I've added it to my wish list.

Aug 18, 2016, 10:30am Top

Mary Brody is in a rut. She's committed to living her life in the routine it's grown accustomed to. She also struggles with her weight (which she calls the obeast, an issue affecting her daily life, her confidence and her relationship with her husband. When he leaves her on the eve of their 25th wedding anniversary, Mary is forced to take action and she decides to go and find her husband.

What elevates The Wife's Tale by Lori Lansens is the fairy tale tone of the story, with ordinary events and suburban locations described in a way that feels like a fable. Lansens simultaneously allows for a sense of the fantastic (conjoined twins in cornfields, a fairy godmother in the form of an Israeli limousine driver) while keeping the story grounded in reality. The transformation of Mary Brody depends not on a man (present or missing), weight loss or supernatural influences, but on her own intrinsic good nature. Here, a willingness to help out by cleaning a kitchen or babysitting a trio of pre-schoolers is what is rewarded, rather than her beauty or especial goodness. She stumbles with that willingness to help, too, with clumsy but heart-felt attempts to do the right thing. It's impossible not to root for Mary as she negotiates situations she's avoided her whole life.

The Wife's Tale has been on my tbr for a while. Thanks, Nickelini, for pushing this off of the shelf and into my hands. I enjoyed it tremendously.

Edited: Aug 18, 2016, 12:16pm Top

>66 RidgewayGirl: Glad you liked it too!

ETA: the cover of your edition is truly awful.

Aug 18, 2016, 12:33pm Top

>67 Nickelini: Yes, it is! It's for some other book entirely. I like this cover

best, but none are really great. They're clearly trying to market this as a chick lit/women's fiction kind of thing, which it does sort of fit, but that whole genre needs to break out of its cover style rut immediately.

Edited: Aug 18, 2016, 12:36pm Top

Nice review of The Wife's Tale.

That does seem a daft cover if the protag is actually overweight.

Ah - the second cover makes a bit more sense!

Aug 18, 2016, 12:55pm Top

I like that second cover a lot! Hadn't seen it anywhere. The whole book industry needs to do some thinking about the covers they're putting out. So many awful ones.

Aug 18, 2016, 2:49pm Top

>51 RidgewayGirl: Lonesome Dove sounds like fun (I think we have the movie here... that no one has ever watched.) I read his Buffalo Girls a long time ago and really liked it. I walk by the "McMurtry" section of the library almost every time I'm there and rarely bring anything home. Maybe I should!

That second cover makes more sense; the first one is almost false advertisement! I'll be on the look out for that one too.

Aug 21, 2016, 8:30am Top

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series in which current authors retell Shakespeare's plays. The Taming of the Shrew is a difficult story to adapt to modern day, and Tyler manages by making Petruccio into Pyotr, a Russian immigrant who works with her father in his lab and whose visa is about to expire. Tyler's focus remains on Kate for the duration of this brief novel. Kate is stuck -- caring for her father, who relies on her more than he should, and her younger sister Bunny, a teenager the rest of the family dismisses as being flighty, but who is the most level-headed and socially adjusted of the family. It's just that she's fallen for Edward, who is a bit odd. Kate is stranded in her own life; not entirely happy as an assistant teacher at a pre-school, but lacking the impetus to move herself out of that rut.

Vinegar Girl was a fun book to read; although it was much less substantial than Tyler's usual writing, it was still set in an old fashioned version of Baltimore. It was also a decent adaptation of the source material, although far from the best, which remains the 1999 film 10 Things I Hate About You.

Aug 24, 2016, 7:42pm Top

We have a new dog named Ivy. She is beautiful and is, so far, doing her best to please us. We are in love with her, especially the children who have taken her on three walks so far today. Cats strongly disapprove.

Aug 24, 2016, 9:24pm Top

Aug 24, 2016, 9:32pm Top

She really is beautiful. Impressed that your cats don't mind.

Aug 24, 2016, 9:36pm Top

Thanks, Darryl. She's so pretty and she's trying to do what we want. She was a yard dog until a neighbor persuaded the owner to surrender her to a rescue group. She's polite and (so far) house-broken, but she does lay down several feet away from us.

Daniel, the cats are outraged. They are currently upstairs plotting an overthrow of the occupation. Curiosity has brought them down a few times, but only on brief visits to gather intel and taste the dog food.

Aug 24, 2016, 9:47pm Top

Ha! (I had read "disapprove " as "approve" - don't ask why) They might not forgive you for a while.

Edited: Aug 24, 2016, 11:11pm Top

>73 RidgewayGirl:, >76 RidgewayGirl: You're lucky if that's all they're doing. I've had two cats (one male, one female) who showed their displeasure by peeing on my bed. They did it to my face, looking at me with a mocking expression. Drycleaning duvets, ironing the cover, etc . . . expensive and time consuming. How do they know that? They're SO dumb otherwise.

Aug 25, 2016, 4:00am Top

Oh what a lovely pup! What kind is she?

So long as she does well with the cats (no chasing and such, heh), then they will probably learn not to mind her once they get used to her presence and see that she's not a threat, either physically or to their household positions, lol.

Aug 25, 2016, 7:25am Top

Daniel, it might be some time.

Joyce, we're keeping the upstairs box very clean. I'm hoping that they won't take revenge in that way, although they are capable.

Monkey, she's a German Shepard and she's six. She was a yard dog through a very hot summer and a neighbor convinced the owner to surrender her to a rescue group. She's eager to please, though, and when we say no, she turns away immediately. There's no hunter instinct there, just a "hey, we're playing the chasing game!" and I can work with that. Curiosity will bring the cats down soon enough.

Aug 25, 2016, 7:30am Top

Isn't she darling! Congrats on the new family member!

Aug 25, 2016, 8:13am Top

Wow her coloring looks quite unique to me for a German Shepherd, very pretty. She sounds like a great pup. :)

Aug 25, 2016, 8:56am Top

Thanks, Sace. We're still getting to know each other.

Monkey, she is pale. And I'd be surprised if she's a pure bred. But she's very Shepardy in her fur pattern and body shape.

Aug 25, 2016, 9:42am Top


Aug 25, 2016, 2:18pm Top

Megan Abbott is one of my favorite authors and You Will Know Me does not disappoint. Told from the point of view of the mother of a gymnastics champion, the novel is both a crime novel and an unsettling story of family life, asking how well we know the people we live with. Katie's daughter Devon is a prodigy, an athlete with a shot of making the Olympic team, as long as she doesn't lose focus or make any mistakes along the way. The whole Knox family is dedicated to Devon's progress, as are the trainers and boosters of the gym she trains at. Katie and her husband Eric drive thousands of miles between getting her to the gym and to the various meets. Her younger brother has grown up in the bleachers and back rooms waiting for his sister. Then a senseless, random tragedy occurs; the boyfriend of one of the trainers, the niece of the gym owner, is killed in a hit and run accident. The timing is terrible; Devon is just six weeks away from qualifiers that would place her well on the way to her dream. As Katie struggles to keep everything going, she begins to see the cracks in the whole edifice.

There's a lot in here about how hard the gymnasts train, the pressure it places on them as well as on their families and how, for these girls, puberty is regarded with terror; the development of hips and breasts can bring a budding career to a quick end. Reading descriptions of what serious gymnastics training entails makes me watch the sport with a different attitude (and, yes, I did spend time watching gymnastics on YouTube after finishing this book). But the sport is only a path into the mind and life of a young athlete who, having already sacrificed so much to reach a certain point, is no longer able to make decisions based solely on her own desires, but has to weigh the sacrifices and expectations of those around her. Katie finds her daughter to be self-contained and difficult to read, a skill Devon has had to learn for self-protection. And Katie is also faced with how giving so much attention and time to their prodigy, has left their younger son short-changed, and how her relationship with her husband is largely based on their shared goal.

Unsettling and fascinating, You Will Know Me is a fantastic novel.

Aug 25, 2016, 4:16pm Top

Great review of You Will Know Me, Kay!

Aug 25, 2016, 7:59pm Top

Wonderful review! This book has caught my attention on several different bookish sites. After your review I may have to add it to my wishlist.

Aug 25, 2016, 9:47pm Top

I've never read anything by Megan Abbott. I looked her up and she's written a lot of books! Any advice on where (or where not) to start?

Aug 25, 2016, 9:56pm Top

Thanks, Darryl.

Sace, it has been getting a lot of well-deserved attention.

Jennifer, It depends. If you'd like a classic hard-boiled noir with a twist, I recommend Queenpin. And if you'd like an unsettling contemporary noir, You Will Know Me is excellent.

Aug 26, 2016, 9:11am Top

Just another picture of our new dog, Ivy. She and the braver of our two cats, Tarzan, are now peacefully coexisting. The other cat will take some time to warm up to the interloper.

Aug 26, 2016, 3:52pm Top

>85 RidgewayGirl: noting this author - sounds interesting. I hadn't heard of her before.

Cute dog. She still seems to have a 'will you keep me if I'm a good girl?' look in her eyes. Wee poppet.

Edited: Aug 26, 2016, 4:13pm Top

>85 RidgewayGirl: I think this will go into my wishlist. The subject is fascinating. I've never read any book by Megan Abbott.

Ivy looks adorable. Glad that one of the cats has come to terms.

Aug 26, 2016, 7:59pm Top

Alison, Megan Abbott is a talented author and I'm glad she's starting to receive the attention her novels deserve. And Ivy very much has that attitude. We keep telling her we love her and she's part of the family and she keeps trying hard to do what we want.

Florence, You Will Know Me is a fascinating look into what is required of a talented gymnast. And Abbott is worth reading if you like to be subtly unsettled. And the second cat is edging closer, although she remains unconvinced of her own safety. Ivy is a large dog.

Aug 27, 2016, 3:50am Top

Don't worry, cats will rule OK.
Excellent review of You will know me

Aug 27, 2016, 12:13pm Top

Thanks, Bas. Tarzan has already taken charge. Interesting to see a 75 pound Shepard leap away from a ten pound cat.

Big Little Lies was suggested by someone in my old book group. It wasn't chosen, but when I ran across a copy, it seemed a good idea to try this author out. In the end, it kept my interest enough to keep reading, especially towards the end, and mainly because I was interested in seeing how Liane Moriarty could wrap all the disparate threads together in time for the happy ending she was clearly heading for.

The novel tells the stories of three women who meet and become friends when their children attend the same kindergarten. Jane is a single mother who spontaneously moves to the charming seaside town with visions of her son playing in the surf after school. Madeline has older children and an ex-husband she has not forgiven for leaving her with a newborn fifteen years earlier. That he now lives nearby with his new family does not help things, especially since their teenage daughter prefers to spend her time with her father's family. And Celeste is beautiful and married to a charming and wealthy husband who happily gives her everything she wants. As the cracks in their lives are revealed, it turns out that no one's life is without problems, but they are also not without resources.

This was a fairly routine novel with the twist that it provides a picture of domestic abuse that is nuanced and vivid. By avoiding the popular trap of making the abuser into an obvious monster, Moriarty tells a more realistic story of that relationship than is common, and for that reason I would recommend this book.

Moriarty writes with a light, breezy style that is very easy to read; although I grew annoyed with it over time, it's certainly makes for an immediately engaging story, and the colorful characters are easy to tell apart. Basically, this is a well-done escapist read, with the added virtues of being well-researched and charmingly set by the Australian seashore.

Aug 29, 2016, 12:31pm Top

>44 RidgewayGirl: A Brexit novel already! Is it the first off the mark or have I just forgotten how long the whole ghastly thing has gone on?

Congratulations on the move and the dog. She is looking a bit uncertain in the second picture, perhaps wondering how long it will take to work out life with cats.

Edited: Aug 29, 2016, 5:08pm Top

O, it was published before the referendum. But the run-up to the vote was very, very long.

And Ivy is doing so well here! She and the cat now move about the house comfortably, and even the shy cat doesn't mind when the dog enters the room she's in. Today, they both greeted me at the front door and walked to the kitchen with me. And then this happened when my son took the dog out for a walk:

Tarzan waited patiently for them to return. He used to go on the evening walk with me and our previous dog. I hope he takes up the habit with this dog.

Aug 29, 2016, 6:23pm Top

Such a sweet picture. I am really enjoying your Ivy reports and pictures.

Aug 30, 2016, 10:51am Top

Thanks, Sace. I discovered Ivy's flaw today at the vet's. She does not like other dogs. I've signed her up for group obedience lessons and we will work with her. I also discovered that she can bark. Good to know, I guess.

Aug 30, 2016, 10:51am Top

He would turn his moony, moody eye on a sketch and see things I had never imagined -- sunlit pools, fragrant winding gardens, gathering parties, cascading staircases. He would see people living out their lives. He would see life on earth. I would emerge from these sessions with him wanting desperately to run and run to catch up with his idea of what I might do, and in this way he created within me an ambition that would long outlast our association.

Bobcat and Other Stories is a collection of seven short stories by Rebecca Lee. Mostly set in the world of academia, the stories are varied in topic; in Bobcat a New York dinner party attended by a few writers and their editor becomes an observation of one marriage, while also foreshadowing another's demise, while The Banks of the Vistula involves a college freshman dealing with the repercussions of an act of plagiarism.

She smiled at me and then walked off. And I turned to walk back to my room, slightly horrified at myself. Go ahead, I repeated to myself. Oh, hey, go ahead. This is the whole problem with words. There is so little surface area to reveal whom you might be underneath, how expansive and warm, how casual, how easygoing, how cool, and so it all comes out a little pathetic and awkward and choked.

What differentiates this from any other short story collection is the quality of the writing. Lee writes beautifully, with well-crafted sentences that create an atmosphere in each story. At their best, short stories contain all the depth and color of a novel, distilled down into a perfect few pages, and Lee's short stories are very good at this. She's a short story writer for fans of that medium and I look forward to reading her next collection.

If you looked carefully, he was a wonderful man. He played the harmonica, he had a beard, he was ten years older than me, he was a settled man, and smart and humble, you could trust him never to have an affair or even leave the house too much.

Sep 2, 2016, 1:18pm Top

There's a new angle in my carefully curated selection of advertisements up at the top of my thread. What do you think about this one?

Sep 2, 2016, 1:36pm Top

It's one of the sexist prejudices that annoys me most, the idea that women can't stand each other because they are competing for the only goal worth fighting for for a woman: getting a man.

Sep 2, 2016, 2:12pm Top

What is it advertising?

Sep 3, 2016, 7:41am Top

Joyce, it's rosehip oil. Lovely that the natural cosmetics people are getting in on the game.

Florence, that irks me, too.

Sep 5, 2016, 10:35am Top

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden is a chronologically told historical novel set in the mid-seventeenth century. It tells the story of a tribe of Huron as they deal with the French and face increasing hostility from the Iroquois. If you've read Brian Moore's novel Black Robe, you'll be familiar with the broad outlines of this book. A Jesuit priest joins a village of Huron and remains with that village for years, despite hostility from some and the many hardships and dangers that were part of life for the Huron at that time. So far, this is the making of a solid historical novel. What pulls it into the extraordinary is that Boyden tells the story from three distinct points of view; Bird, a warrior and leader of that Huron tribe; Snow Falls, an Iroquois girl kept alive after an ambush by the Huron to become the adopted daughter of Bird; and Père Christophe, a missionary sent to convert the Huron, who is allowed to stay in the village because the Huron rely on trade with the French. Boyden allows each of his narrators to be fully rounded and sympathetic, even as their aims and viewpoints are in direct opposition to the other narrators.

This even-handedness is especially stark given the real repercussions their encounters with the French have for the Huron. In addition to unsettling the usual balance between the Iroquois and the Huron, each encounter brings fresh diseases to the village. Having the story carried primarily by non-western narrators gives the telling a different angle than what I've read before. Instead of being entirely the story of a white man encountering "savages" or even "noble savages," this is the story of a long-standing and complex culture's reaction to an interloper who wants to change how they do things. And adding Père Christophe's viewpoint makes clear how differently the two cultures saw the world and how they were mystified and upset by the behaviors of the others.

This isn't a comfortable book, or a particularly easy book to read. There's far too much detail about the realities of life in that place at that time, and Boyden is an adept writer who makes the reader experience things I would have preferred him to gloss politely over. But it is a brilliant book and one I think that we'll be reading for decades to come.

Sep 7, 2016, 7:01am Top

Both The Orenda and The Black Robe sound fascinating. I've put both on my wishlist, but with such heavy subject matter I may have to save them for vacation reads.

Sep 7, 2016, 9:50am Top

Brace yourself first, Sace. I now want to reread Black Robe.

Sep 7, 2016, 9:50am Top

Cora is a slave on a Georgia plantation when she is offered the chance to escape by a recently arrived slave. She initially says no, but circumstances change her mind and they travel along the underground railroad, searching for safety and freedom.

There's been a ridiculous amount of hype surrounding Colson Whitehead's new novel, The Underground Railroad and, if anything, there has been less hype than this book deserves. It's impossible to characterize, combining as it does brutal realism, improbably fantasy and a structure - each state that Cora travels through represents a different facet of racism - that so easily might be heavy-handed and preachy. And yet Whitehead pulls it all off, so effortlessly that I had no trouble accepting every event, unlikely or all too probable.

If this novel doesn't appear on all the awards shortlists, I will be surprised. It's an accomplishment, an innovative tour de force and one that I couldn't stop reading and thinking about.

Edited: Sep 7, 2016, 8:51pm Top

>108 RidgewayGirl: excellent! This is a novel that I want to read because everyone is talking about it, so I'm glad to know that it's living up to expectations. I've never read any of Colson Whitehead's work, so I'm excited to give it a try. I'm number 1000 and something on the library list ;-)

Sep 7, 2016, 8:24pm Top

>109 japaul22: I was lucky enough to walk into my local branch of the library and see a copy on the New Books shelf. Both the librarian and I were astonished.

Sep 7, 2016, 8:51pm Top

>110 RidgewayGirl: wow, that's amazing that there was no competition for it!

Sep 7, 2016, 9:52pm Top

>108 RidgewayGirl: "if anything, there has been less hype than this book deserves. "

Ok, I want to read it.

Sep 7, 2016, 10:00pm Top

Enjoyed your other reviews too, especially The Orenda and that quote at the beginning of Bobcat.

Sep 8, 2016, 6:56am Top

>108 RidgewayGirl: The hype didn't make it so far over the Atlantic to the Netherlands, but after your review I'll make sure I'll get a copy.

Sep 9, 2016, 7:18am Top

>108 RidgewayGirl: I will admit I have been avoiding this one precisely because of the hype. I've been burned by hype before (in more than just books.) This is the first review I've read that actually made me want to read the book. Off I go to put it on my wishlist.

Sep 9, 2016, 10:17am Top

Jennifer, the branch near my house is small and uncrowded. I did return it as early as I could, though.

Thanks, Daniel. I think you'll find it worthwhile.

Simone, it does shed light on what's going on now in the US, I think, so it may be interesting for you, too.

Sace, I try to get in front of the hype -- I love having read a book everyone is talking about, but have also fallen prey to the increased expectations that come with a hyped book. Of course, that means I read books that are not good, and then which fade out quickly. I'd like to be the person who reads without care for what the book world is talking about, but I love to stick my nose into conversations and to hold opinions far too much.

Sep 10, 2016, 9:39am Top

I had The Underground Railroad in mind to get, and your review makes me enthusiastic.

Sep 10, 2016, 11:16am Top

>116 RidgewayGirl: At the risk of sounding creepy

"...but I love to stick my nose into conversations and to hold opinions far too much."

I love you and I think we are soul mates. :-)

Sep 12, 2016, 10:35am Top

Rebecca, I'll be interested to see what you think of it, when you do read it.

Thanks, Sace. We opinionated women must stick together.

And the author list for the National Book Festival is amazing. I challenge everyone to read through it and not find at least a half dozen authors you'd love to meet.


Edited: Sep 12, 2016, 10:36am Top

I enjoy Laura Lippman's stand-alone crime novels. They're set in Maryland and often concern how the past influences the present, but are dissimilar and imaginative. The protagonists vary widely, and the plots are never predictable. So after a spate of more serious reading, I picked up a copy of Wilde Lake knowing that I'd enjoy reading it.

Wilde Lake moves back and forth between Lu Brant's present as a widow, mother and first female state's attorney of Howard County, as she prepares for her first trial since the election, the murder of an older single woman by a homeless man; and her childhood in the same county, where she followed her older brother around and idolized her father, who also served as state's attorney.

The story was fine, and I enjoyed reading it. There was a stretch were the story seemed to be going in a troubling direction, but having faith in an author meant I could enjoy seeing how Lippman would turn things around. All in all, though, this is not one of her stronger efforts. If you already enjoy her novels, you'll enjoy this one, but if you've never read anything by Laura Lippman, I'd begin somewhere else.

Sep 12, 2016, 6:28pm Top

Look what Ivy left on my bed while I was out taking the kids to school.

That's her bone, which she had taken out to the back yard and buried, then dug up and brought back inside, just for me. It was a touching moment.

Sep 12, 2016, 7:35pm Top

I'm overcome with emotion. What a generous and caring dog. :-)

Sep 13, 2016, 7:27pm Top


That tickles my heart!

Sep 14, 2016, 7:30am Top

Dogs are always so thoughtful.

I stumbled across this 2012 article and thought of your adds. Maybe you have already seen these?


Sep 14, 2016, 8:44am Top

>121 RidgewayGirl: Oh, dogs. They do the sweetest things that you really wish they wouldn't. :)

Sep 16, 2016, 10:59am Top

Thank you all for recognizing what an awesome dog Ivy is.

Daniel, thanks for that link.

Sep 17, 2016, 9:25am Top

Harper is a school nurse when the virus commonly called dragonscale first appears, and as the infection widens into a global pandemic, she works tirelessly in the local hospital. The virus causes a rash that looks like an elaborate tattoo and the infected die when they self-combust. There's widespread panic that Harper manages to stay free of until the hospital burns down and she returns home to her beloved husband, Jakob.

If you didn't know that Joe Hill was Stephen King's son, you would by the end of The Fireman, which reads as a loving homage. This feels like a King novel, although Hill's writing style is different, he retains King's love of adding pop cultural references. I don't want to give away any of the plot, as it's too much fun to read without knowing what will happen next as Harper goes from being a sweet young woman who loves Mary Poppins to finding out that she's got an iron will and the personal strength to lead. Hill takes the time to create fully developed characters; ordinary people facing extraordinary conditions and keeping their reactions nuanced and believable.

And, best of all, The Fireman is just a lot of fun to read.

Sep 19, 2016, 2:55am Top

>108 RidgewayGirl: Nice review of The Underground Railroad, Kay. Colson Whitehead will be appearing at the Carter Center in Atlanta on Wednesday to speak about his book, but I won't return until next Monday. I'll buy it shortly after I return, and read it next month.

>121 RidgewayGirl: LOL!

Sep 19, 2016, 7:27am Top

I'll be interested in what you think of The Underground Railroad, Darryl. It seems on track to be in every single shortlist that its eligible for.

Sep 20, 2016, 9:59am Top

The Gardner Heist is one of the most famous art thefts of all time, especially since it remains unsolved and none of the stolen objects have ever surfaced. The bare bones of the theft go as follows: in 1990, two men dressed as police officers talk their way into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the early morning hours. They tie up the guards and make off with 13 works of art, including Vermeer's The Concert and a Rembrandt seascape. Their haul also included random items like the finial from the top of a Napoleonic flag.

The FBI investigated and leads abounded, implicating everyone from local Boston criminals, to the mob, to Whitey Bulger, to the IRA. Whether or not any of the suspects had any role in the crime remains unknown. Ulrich Boser takes the angle of interviewing and following around an art detective working for insurance companies, Harold Smith. Smith has had some notable finds, but he's older and ill and dies soon after Boser begins his research, and this is where The Gardner Heist goes off track. The history of the museum, its founder and of the crime itself were well covered, but once Boser began conducting his own investigation, the focus of the book changed from the heist and the missing artwork to the adventures of Boser as he hangs out with grifters, retired policemen and criminals who have gone straight but who might know someone who knows something. Boser writes about every fruitless lead and wild goose chase he is sent on and long before he starts recounting his dreams and his imaginary conversations, I was reading the book solely to finish it.

As far as solid information goes, there's a solid magazine article in here, underneath all the filler and fantasy. I would have rather just read an article.

Sep 20, 2016, 11:25am Top

I remember the Isabella Stewart Gardner theft; too bad the book was too long.

Sep 20, 2016, 12:16pm Top

Rebecca, it was padded at 241 pages. I would have rather learned more about each artist, the history of each piece of art, similar thefts (he touched briefly on that) or the work of tracing stolen art. Instead, it was a vanity project. I learned more about Boser than the artwork.

Sep 26, 2016, 9:33am Top

Virginia Reeves's first novel, Work Like Any Other, was long listed for the Man Booker prize. It didn't make it on to the short list, but I was happy to have read this historical novel set in Alabama between the world wars.

Roscoe is an unsuccessful farmer. Which is to say, he's an electrical engineer who was happy in his work until his wife's father died and left her the family farm. Living on a farm isn't something that fulfills Roscoe and things are going downhill when he comes up with the idea of tapping into the electrical wires now being strung across the state. It does indeed help the farm, but at a terrible cost, and when the theft is discovered, both he and Wilson, who has worked on the farm for decades, are sent to prison. No spoilers here; the book is divided into the events taking place before the arrests and after they are sent to prison.

Reeves opens the novel with Roscoe abusing his wife and son, and yet still manages to make him a sympathetic character. He's a wonderfully written character; an ordinary man stuck in terrible circumstances, which he handles as well as he can. He's complexly written, as are most of the other characters. I especially appreciated how Reeves wrote about Wilson and his family. Wilson's time in prison was much harsher than Roscoe's, with Roscoe, a white man, being sent to a "model" prison and Wison, a black man, being rented out to work in mines, effectively as slave labor.

There are a few signs that this is a debut novel. At times the research show through and is presented heavily. Reeves clearly researched every aspect of this novel and there's a solidity to her descriptions of prison life and of farm life that show that she isn't just winging it.

Sep 28, 2016, 4:19am Top

Nice review of Work Like Any Other, Kay. I'm glad that the judges chose it for the Booker Prize longlist, but I thought it would certainly make the shortlist. I was disappointed that neither it nor Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi were selected for the National Books Award for Fiction longlist.

Sep 28, 2016, 9:46am Top

That's the way it goes, Darryl. My favorites often don't go far! But I'll be reading Homegoing soon - I read an interview of Gyasi and I'm eager to read her novel.

Oct 3, 2016, 6:07pm Top

San Juan Noir is a collection of crime stories edited by Mayra Santos-Febres. Most were written originally in Spanish and there is a Spanish language edition available. This collection is slenderer than the other books in this series, but Santos-Febres has made up for this by choosing stories that are relentless dark. The stories, like in most anthologies, an uneven group and having a single translator for all the stories makes all but a few sound as though they were written by the same person. Still, there were several memorable stories.

Death on the Scaffold details the narrator's unrest at losing their privacy when their apartment building is undergoing renovation and a scaffolding is erected that passes in front of the living room window. In A Killer Among Us, a schoolboy and his friends join a group of neighbors who have found the body of a murdered man. Y tells the story of a teacher's search for his missing student, and Death Angel of Santurce narrates the final hours of a woman's life.

The Akashic Noir series is strongest when the subject matter is somewhere off the beaten path. Once again, this edition has provided me with a half dozen authors to keep an eye out for.

Oct 7, 2016, 7:22am Top

I've put a new ad up in the first post of my thread. See if you can spot the misogyny!

Oct 7, 2016, 11:32am Top

>137 RidgewayGirl: Lovely. A groaner of a joke, and also revolting, all at the same time.

Oct 7, 2016, 9:44pm Top

Ugh. No words.

Fortunately scrolling down slightly cheered me up - I am currently reading a different Ron Rash book and have recently looked at Quiet, Please so I look forward to your thoughts on both those!

Oct 8, 2016, 8:02am Top

There seems to be a never ending supply of distasteful ads.

Oct 8, 2016, 10:07am Top

Joyce, I am endlessly surprised at the blatant misogyny on display. They make no attempts to make it deniable and no one raised any questions during the process of writing, shooting and publishing the ads.

Ooh, what Ron Rash book, wandering_star?

Colleen, I have yet to have any trouble finding a new ad to post.

Oct 8, 2016, 1:06pm Top

>140 NanaCC: Or videotapes...

Edited: Oct 8, 2016, 3:50pm Top

>141 RidgewayGirl: Chemistry - short stories - really good.

Oct 8, 2016, 3:52pm Top

>142 kidzdoc: Oh, so true!

Oct 9, 2016, 10:48am Top

I finished Darktown by Thomas Mullen over a week ago and at the time thought it was a well-written, well researched and well-plotted novel. But it's been growing on me since I read it; I keep thinking about one of the characters and how Mullen did a masterful job in writing about him.

Set in 1948, when the first eight African American police officers donned uniforms and began patrolling the black neighborhoods of Atlanta, Darktown is, on its surface, an excellently plotted crime novel that is full of details about Atlanta, Georgia at a specific point in time. Boggs, the son of a prominent minister and Smith, who spent WWII in a tank, are patrolling the African American district of Sweet Auburn on foot when they see a car crash into a streetlight. The car is being driven by a belligerent white man who knows that Boggs and Smith have no authority over anyone white and there is a young black woman in the passenger seat. When the car drives off, they see the man punch the woman and see her flee the car. In following the man and finding a call box to summon white officers they lose sight of the woman. When she is later found murdered, the two officers work to solve the crime, despite ample obstruction from their white peers.

Meanwhile, Dunlow and Rakestraw speak with the man in the car. Dunlow is one of the few white officers who will set foot in black neighborhoods, but he does so more to administer beatings and shakedowns than to do any actual police work. One of the reasons the African American community fought for having African American officers was to stop this behavior from the white cops, and Dunlow is not having it. Sweet Auburn, known as Darktown to white officers, is his personal fiefdom. Rakestraw is his rookie partner, a man wary of risking his job or his safety to take any action, but who is deeply uneasy with the actions and attitudes of Dunlow and his fellow officers. Rakestraw also recognizes the dead woman and begins investigating the crime on his own, keeping his activities secret from his partner.

The murder plot and it's dual investigations, is gripping and well-plotted and at the most basic level, this is an excellent historical thriller. But the strength of this book lies in how well researched it is. Darktown is full of details of what it was like to live in that time and place, described vividly. And his characterizations are marvelous. Boggs is a member of the elite, a college-educated man whose family is prominent in both the social life of their community and its political life. Smith comes from a much more hard-scrabble background and the two men work well together, both being fully aware of the risks to their lives they are taking. They aren't even allowed into the police headquarters, their own headquarters being the basement of a YMCA, where a janitor's cupboard had to be turned into a bathroom for their white supervisor.

Rakestraw is the character who is the most interesting. While Boggs plays a more prominent role, and is the most understandable character for the reader, Rakestraw's ambivalence and slow conviction that he has to take action or be complicit in the corruption and racism of the police force is wonderfully depicted. Rakestraw isn't someone the reader can admire and while his views are progressive for that time and place, they certainly would not be regarded as progressive today. Rakestraw isn't a modern man sent back in time, but one firmly rooted in his era. My personal pet peeve with many historical novels is that the heroes are all really just modern people dressed up in old timey clothes. Mullen doesn't do this. His characters are firmly of their time.

Thomas Mullen is one of my favorite authors and with Darktown he has cemented his place in my literary heart.

Edited: Oct 9, 2016, 12:50pm Top

Ooh! I'm surprised that I haven't heard of Darktown before, given that I live in Atlanta; the barbershop I go to is on "Sweet" Auburn Avenue, just across the street from Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Daddy King, MLK's father, held court as pastor. I'll definitely pick this up, based on your fabulous review of it.

ETA: I think I'll buy a paper copy for my father, and read it after he's finished it.

Oct 12, 2016, 10:16am Top

I'll be very interested in finding out what you think of Darktown, Darryl. I wonder how the novel will differ for a resident of Atlanta. You'll certainly see if he took any liberties with geography. And I think I'll pick up a copy for my father, as well. He'll enjoy the history.

Oct 12, 2016, 10:16am Top

Korean author Han Kang's novel, The Vegetarian, tells the story of Yeong-hye, a woman who seeks a sort of self-annihilation, first through becoming a vegetarian and then in other ways. Yeong-hye's story is told in the form of three short stories told from the points of view of her husband, then a brother-in-law and finally her sister. As Yeong-hye's behavior becomes less and less comprehensible to her family, their reactions spark changes in how they experience the world.

This is an unusual book, but it repays the reader, becoming more fascinating as the story continues. Her husband believes that his wife is unremarkable in every way and he takes her vegetarianism as an insult to him. He is especially outraged by the idea that he will no longer be served meat at breakfast, the meal his wife prepares for him. As his discomfort increases, his behavior becomes more extreme. The brother-in-law, far from being repulsed by her, is intrigued and then obsessed. As an artist, he begins to center a new project around her body. And then her sister tells the final story, rounding out Yeong-hye's story by remembering their childhood together.

The writing, which is translated into English by Deborah Smith, is pared down, with even the most violent and upsetting of scenes described in a matter of fact way that suits the melancholy and lonely atmosphere of the novel.

Oct 14, 2016, 9:20am Top

After graduating with an English degree and with vague plans to write, Scott Douglas ends up working in the local library as he waits for his real life to get going. After going back to school for his MLS, Douglas eventually realizes that he's a librarian. In Quiet, Please, he documents both his journey to librarianhood and his experiences working in a public library in Anaheim, California.

If you're a regular patron of your local library, parts of this book will feel familiar. I enjoyed learning the different library positions and what their duties are, as well as his comments on the changing nature of libraries and their importance in this digital age. Douglas admits that he is a bit of a jerk and I have to agree with his assessment, but this makes for a more entertaining book, as he dislikes a few of his co-workers, is astonished that some of the people employed in a library aren't readers and pokes fun at the patrons.

Oct 17, 2016, 12:52pm Top

There are three kinds of books about climbing expeditions; those written by serious climbers - these are usually not particularly well-written, but are gripping because of their passion and the drama of their lived experience; Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer; and books written by non-climbers or amateur climbers who are hoping to write a successful book just like Into Thin Air. Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest's Most Controversial Season by Nick Heil falls firmly into that third category.

In 2006, a decade after Into Thin Air was written, Everest was even more crowded with more climbers who required greater comfort and more help to reach the summit and return safely. On the north (Tibetan) side of Everest, the biggest and most luxurious outfitter is run by Russell Brice, who throws the best parties and is the one responsible for stringing the lines that allow all those climbers to reach the summit. Heil is fascinated by Brice and most of the book is told from the points of view of members of his team of guides and climbers.

That season saw several deaths, but the controversy referred to in the subtitle is the death of one man and the survival of another. David Sharp was climbing alone, using a climbing outfit solely as a way of getting access to the mountain. He climbed without sherpas and without anyone knowing his plans. He ended up stranded above a tricky bit of climbing (the Second Step) and while he was noticed by several climbers and passed by at least forty, no one helped him in any substantial way, despite his obvious peril. Another climber, who had been left for dead, was found by climbers heading up to the summit early the next day. He was rescued, in an effort that involved several teams.

Afterwards, questions were raised about why one man was rescued and the other abandoned. These are not unfamiliar issues and while the question of who gets rescued and who is not, and when is abandoning an attempt to reach the summit the right decision and when is the summit (given the time and money required to even make the attempt) more important than another adventurer's life. Ultimately, Heil's book is a disappointment. While his account of what happened over those few days is gripping, he fudges the serious questions he raises and is far too infatuated with Brice and his impressive business to pay serious attention to the issues of the ethical considerations of climbing a mountain that is a capitalist free-for-all, with the wealthiest climbers being able to purchase the certainty of a rescue being attempted if they run into problems, as well as the many unprepared climbers seeking to be the first of a category to summit (in this season, the first double amputee and the youngest teenager, for example) or simply gain the bragging rights, without the needed experience on other difficult peaks.

Oct 17, 2016, 1:01pm Top

>150 RidgewayGirl: I love your categories (I agree that Into Thin Air probably is a category of its own, although the list made me laugh just with the unexpected brevity of that one). A shame that this book was a disappointment, I suppose on the upside I can strike it off my mental list of mountaineering books to read. Those questions about Everest are indeed the interesting and relevant ones, too bad he didn't really address them.

Oct 17, 2016, 3:00pm Top

>148 RidgewayGirl: You've done a much better job of commenting on The Vegetarian than I did! I was fascinated by the way everything unravels, and how the characters react to that.

Oct 17, 2016, 3:35pm Top

>150 RidgewayGirl: Seems like three pretty accurate classifications.

Oct 17, 2016, 5:18pm Top

Thanks, Ursula. I'm fascinated by mountaineering, probably because I don't like being cold or hiking up-hill for long stretches. The philosophical questions that arise around the Everest climbing industry are interesting and worthy of serious discussion. There's everything from man's responsibility to his fellow man to the implications of the trash and dead bodies littering the slopes of Everest to the treatment of the sherpas who do all of the hard and dangerous tasks that allow wealthy westerners to live their dreams. And as the mountain becomes more crowded, those issues all become more than theoretical.

Thanks, Rachel. I keep thinking about that book.

Daniel, I wonder if I could institute some sort of mountaineering book rating system?

Oct 17, 2016, 7:32pm Top

Enjoyed your excellent review of Dark Summit. I read and enjoyed the Jon Krakauer book, but however gripping the story telling maybe I am not sure I am too bothered about more super rich people risking their lives (and other peoples) just because they can.

Oct 18, 2016, 6:30pm Top

>149 RidgewayGirl: That's funny. I just started working as a library page (part time) at my local library. It's a lot of fun and a lot of work. At least that's how it feels now, as a new hire.

Oct 19, 2016, 6:42pm Top

Well, that's another issue for discussion, Bas. So many interesting things to delve into and this book just skimmed the surface.

How fun, avidmom! And because of Quiet, Please, I know exactly where you fit in the library hierarchy.

Oct 19, 2016, 6:42pm Top

I have long been a sucker for modern chick-lit based on the novels of Jane Austen. If it's out there, I will read it. I have, however, never been interested in the novels using Austen's characters, set in the same time period. Except The Pursuit of Mary Bennet by Pamela Mingle is about Mary, the awkward, unpleasant, sanctimonious middle sister from Pride and Prejudice. Despite myself, I had to take a closer look. Here is the opening paragraph:

Sometimes anger is a living thing. It rose up in my chest and made me want to chew thorns. The would tear at the tender flesh on the roof of my mouth, at my cheeks and tongue. When I swallowed, the sweet, salty taste of blood would linger on my palate, along with pointy bits of thorn. I squeezed my eyes shut, contemplating the pain.

Is it any wonder that I brought that book home with me and continued to read?

No, the rest of the novel's writing does not live up to that opening paragraph, although it is written well enough. And the idea that Mary's affect was due to inner rage does not hold up either, but she's a pleasant enough character to spend a book with. In the end, this is a gentle romance novel that reminded my of Georgette Heyer and was a fine way to spend an evening. Mingle is a huge Austen fan and it shows. There are no glaring anachronisms and she remains faithful to the characters Austen created for the most part. I don't think I'll be giving any more books in this genre a try, but I don't regret my time with Mary and her kind, but not very forceful suitor.

Oct 22, 2016, 9:12pm Top

The Argonauts is an extended personal essay by Maggie Nelson about her relationship with a gender fluid trans man, their marriage, the family they form and her experience with pregnancy and motherhood. Nelson examines what it's like to be transgressive and queer and yet be living a traditional life, thinking through aspects of her life with ample references to queer thinkers, arguing and agreeing with what they have said.

Structured without chapters, but organized into short segments of thought, The Argonauts reminded me of the novel Department of Speculation, in structure and subject. The structure worked well for me, as much of the issues she addressed were either well outside of my comfort zone or familiar subjects approached from an angle I'd never viewed them from before. This was not a work written for me, someone largely unfamiliar with what life is like for those who fall outside of what is considered the norm in sexual and gender orientation, and her habit of referring to the people she's responding to solely by their surnames often left me stranded. But much of what Nelson describes is familiar to me, as she discusses her pregnancy and people's reaction to her pregnancy, as well as her experience of being a mother.

This is a meaty book, with much packed into a few pages, but what I have taken away from The Argonauts is the impossibility of a single person being a representative of the queer community, as there is such a wide range of lived experience and ways of living their lives, and the sheer universality and uniqueness of each person's experience with motherhood. This is an thought-provoking book and while much of it was inaccessible to me without a lot of research on my part, I nonetheless learned a great deal.

Edited: Oct 28, 2016, 10:25am Top

Honour: a Novel by Elif Şafak begins with a woman driving to pick up her brother on his release from prison. She's deeply ambivalent, and the novel then goes back in time; to Iskander's time in prison, to the months before he commits the crime, and farther back to the childhoods of their parents in Turkey, especially that of his mother, Pembe, who grows up in a small Kurdish village with her twin sister, who doesn't emigrate to England, but remains behind, unmarried and respected as being the closest thing that area has to a doctor.

Şafak varies the writing in the novel, with the Kurdish and Turkish portions reading like unfamiliar folktales and the parts set in London written in a more straightforward style. This is a novel about immigrants and their children, how they change in response to their new home and how they refuse to change, and how their children juggle two very different worlds.

This was an interesting and thought-provoking book. At times I was frustrated with the hypocrisy built into the patriarchal society the characters come from, but the writing was lovely and the issues and questions raised never took precedence over the characters.

Edited: Oct 28, 2016, 11:09am Top

Sharing this because today is dedicated to the second rung of that ladder, which feels pretty much like the first rung. On the other hand, I dislike roaches, grime and untidiness and do not aspire to an eventual appearance on Hoarders. Note that the top rung reads Presidency.

Oct 28, 2016, 9:15pm Top

>159 RidgewayGirl: "but what I have taken away from The Argonauts is the impossibility of a single person being a representative of the queer community,

A good take away. Interesting review. interesting about Honour too. But your ladder is very depressing. And does anyone ever really get away from house drudgery?

Oct 29, 2016, 4:02pm Top

I loved The Wonder far too much to be able to write an impartial and helpful review. Please take that under consideration.

Lib Wright trained under Florence Nightingale in the Crimea. Now, she's been hired for two weeks in rural Ireland with no details given. Arriving, she finds out that her patient will be a young girl, the daughter of a farmer. Her family and priest claim she has eaten nothing for four months and is yet healthy. Lib, along with another nurse, a nun, will be watching her to verify that she is indeed not eating. They are to function as guards and witnesses. Lib finds Anna, and the entire family, to be a strange and religious child. Neither Irish nor Catholic, Lib is confused about much of the behavior surrounding her.

This was just such a meaty, atmospheric story. Lib's a prickly, cold woman, but she won me over and there is just so much to think about in this book; the role of religion in Ireland's history, the power of the Catholic church in Ireland, what living through the famine did to people and the question of what to do when doing your job is hurting someone. Emma Donoghue researched the phenomenon she's describing here, and she certainly has a talent for evoking specific times and places.

Oct 31, 2016, 11:18am Top

The true crime genre has come a long way since I worked in bookstores and it consisted of a few rows of red and black books, spines inevitably cracked at the point where the crime scene photos were located. A co-worker dubbed it the "how-to section" and there was no denying that it was a creepy, creepy selection of books. While I'm sure that these kinds of books still exist, the genre has become more thoughtful, less sensational, and downright respectable. While the City Slept is written by Eli Sanders, who won a Pulitzer for his journalism on this specific murder, and focuses mostly on mental health services or, more exactly, the lack thereof.

On a hot July night in 2009, a man broke into the small house shared by a lesbian couple in the South Park district of Seattle. He raped both women and managed to kill one of them. It was a brutal and inexplicable crime. Sanders begins with the lives of the three people present on that night, showing how Jennifer Hopper and Theresa Butz ended up living in that house as they planned their commitment ceremony and lived their lives. He also looks at Isaiah Kalebu's life, beginning with his childhood living in a house where his parents battled, sometimes violently, and how the early signs that he needed help were lost among the family turmoil, poverty and the inability of the school system (in this case, a church-based school) to take action. As Isaiah's issues became more and more apparent, he still failed to receive help, the over-worked court system and over-burdened mental health systems being geared to keeping him on the street without sufficient support. (It should, of course, be noted that the vast, vast majority of people with mental health issues (Isaiah's never having been formally diagnosed, as he had only brief encounters with mental health professionals who gave conflicting diagnoses) never commit even a single act of violence.)

This is a sobering account of how little we do for the mentally ill in our communities and how that constant need to not spend taxpayers' money on basic services results in much higher costs as the police and prison systems become the help of last resort. While the City Slept is a work of solid journalism.

Nov 5, 2016, 10:46am Top

I usually read books before any hype surrounding them builds to a ridiculous level or manage to ignore it. Both options are impossible when it came to Emma Cline's novel, The Girls. Not only is it the culmination of the trend of books about girls wearing coats on trains, but hype surrounded this book long before the publication date, bleeding into every review and mention.

It's the story of a teenage girl's encounter with a nomadic group centered around a charismatic leader. Set in the 1960s, a few members of the group murder the people who were staying in the home of a Hollywood actor, leaving behind cryptic signs in blood on the walls. Among the murdered are a beautiful actress and her young son. A fictionalized account of the Manson murders was always going to be an easy sell, especially when it tells the story from the viewpoint of a teenage adherent.

So is the hype justified in this case? On the publisher's side, of course. It's a crime novel centered on a young woman who is involved in the Manson cult-like group and who walks away (this is evident from the opening chapter of the book). How could this book fail to reach the bestseller lists? It's a thinly veiled retelling of an infamous case that we're still fascinated by and given the respectable veneer of literary fiction.

And the book itself isn't bad. It's overwritten; the poetic descriptions and flowery language often intrudes into the story itself, but it's not badly written. The story itself is fine, too. And there's where the hype hurts the reader's reaction to the novel itself. A book so lauded and celebrated should just be better. Instead, it's typical. There's the framing device of the narrator's older self living her current life and looking back on the events of that summer. There's the coming of age story of a teenager feeling out of sorts with her friends and discovering that her parents are flawed. There's a relationship with a cooler, older woman, who influences her. There's nothing new here, outside of it being about a murderous cult. But it was a diverting read, and I can't say I didn't enjoy it.

An Aside: I'm irked at the tendency to call women over the age of twelve "young girls." Why do we do this? We'd never call a man in his twenties, or even a teenager, a young boy. It's infantilizing and inaccurate. Let's not do this. Let's allow books to feature women, and refer to them as such right in the title.

Nov 15, 2016, 10:46am Top

In The Expatriates, Janice Y. K. Lee's new novel, three women as the negotiate life as American expatriates in Hong Kong. Margaret arrives with her husband and three children ready to enjoy the privileged life of an expat and to explore Asia with her family. Hilary is another expat wife, although she and her husband are childless. She toys with the idea of adoption, but life in Hong Kong is leaving her unmoored and drifting apart from her husband, who is working long hours. And Mercy is a young Korean American woman, who found that building a life in New York after graduating from Columbia was more difficult than expected. She moves to Hong Kong as a way of jump-starting her life, but finds herself just as stuck.

Some of what Lee writes about being an expat is true for expats everywhere, while much of what goes on is specific to Hong Kong, which she renders vividly. There are echoes of novels about British colonial life of a hundred years ago; in many aspects, that lifestyle has not changed substantially, with a small number of people, constantly encountering each other, despite living in a city of millions. Lee writes her characters well with enormous understanding and while the story ending is a bit contrived, the rest is very readable and well-paced.

Nov 18, 2016, 9:40am Top

All the stories go with you, Franny thought, closing her eyes. All the things I didn't listen to, won't remember, never got right, wasn't around for. All the ways to get to Torrance.

Commonwealth by Anne Patchett is a novel about two ordinary families, tied together by divorce and remarriage, who are messed up in ordinary ways. What makes this book so extraordinary is Patchett's writing, which is so perfect as to fade into invisibleness, never getting in the way of this story, and her compassion and interest in every member of these two families.

Each chapter reads like a short story, complete unto itself, and joined together, the chapters tell the story over several decades, beginning with the christening party where Bert Cousins first meets Beverly Keating, a meeting that will eventually result in six children spending summers together largely unsupervised, not naturally drawn together, but connected by proximity and shared experience in a way that will bond them through their adult lives.

I'm not drawn to family sagas and I'm glad I had no idea what the book was about before beginning, or I would have put off reading it. All I knew, opening the book to the first chapter, was that people were losing their minds over this book. This book is wonderful; that's all you need to know about it before you start. Enjoy.

Nov 18, 2016, 11:35am Top

I used to love Ann Patchett and I have no idea why I stopped reading her.

Nov 18, 2016, 11:36am Top

I felt the same way about Anne Tyler, Rebecca. I loved her novels, and then suddenly realized it had been over a decade since I last read one. Maybe because they aren't flashy?

This is my first Patchett and I'll be reading more. I've heard good things about Bel Canto.

Nov 18, 2016, 11:50am Top

Bel Canto was my first Patchett and then I devoured all the books available at the time. And I feel the same as you about Tyler.

Nov 19, 2016, 11:23pm Top

I've changed the picture at the top of my thread. I just wanted to see something positive there, as I'm pretty sure the coming few years will provide me with plenty of misogynistic ads.

Nov 20, 2016, 7:36am Top

I have Commonwealth on my library ebook wait list. I've only read Bel Canto by her, but I really loved it. Looking forward to this!

Nov 20, 2016, 10:02am Top

Jennifer, this was my first book by Patchett. I wonder why I'm so late to discover her? I'm keeping an eye out for a copy of Bel Canto.

Nov 20, 2016, 10:36am Top

I've heard State of Wonder is really good too.

Nov 22, 2016, 10:04am Top

Back in the day, I read Motherless Brooklyn, Jonathan Lethem's brilliant and emotionally resonant noir about a private eye with Tourette's Syndrome. I always meant to read more by this talented writer, but never got around to it. So when A Gambler's Anatomy began to be reviewed and I found myself with a copy of it in my hands, I was excited to see what Lethem would do with the story of a high-stakes backgammon player, down on his luck.

The book begins brilliantly, with Bruno going to Wannsee, just outside of Berlin, to play backgammon against a man he has been assured will be easy prey. Bruno needs the money; after the disaster in Singapore he's utterly without resources. And those opening chapters are excellent, with the small exception of the stereo-typical younger and attractive woman who is drawn to the desperate and thread-bare Bruno. Bruno's descent coincides with a blot in the center of his vision, one which requires him to look at things through the corners of his eyes and may be related to the headaches and other health issues. The evening in Wannsee does not go well.

From this promising beginning, A Gambler's Anatomy turns out to be just another WMFuN*, where the world and especially the women in it, exist to spotlight what's happening to the self-absorbed main character. Add a long stretch of men being more interested in their own thought-processes than anything around them and the utter relegation of women to helpers and sex and the book ended up being quite a bit less than I had hoped. It's stylistically interesting, in the way a novel by a prominent white guy who has read everything David Foster Wallace ever wrote usually is, but at the expense of any heart whatsoever. Also, Mr. Lethem, it's 2016. Women are no longer merely props. If you can't write them as people, leave them out.

*The all-too-common White Male Fuck-up Novel. There are already too many of these.

Nov 25, 2016, 10:00am Top

A prominent aging writer lives upstairs and the man downstairs writes him oddly intimate letters, detailing how closely he follows the author's life. Because this is Herman Koch, you can trust that Dear Mr. M begins dark and only becomes more sinister as the novel proceeds. The stalker, Herman, has a connection to Mr. M, along with no small amount of resentment. For his part, Mr. M is not a sympathetic character. And while Koch keeps the reader guessing as to the final outcome of the men's encounters, there's no doubt that it will be satisfactorily horrific.

The narration of Dear Mr. M passes between Herman, Mr. M and Herman's high school girlfriend, Laura, whose growing fascination with the odd and manipulative Herman will culminate with the disappearance of one of the teachers at their school. How they were involved, however, remains uncertain until the very end of this superbly plotted novel. If you need sympathetic characters, this isn't the book for you, but I found it gripping and impossible to put down.

Nov 25, 2016, 10:07am Top

>176 RidgewayGirl: Dang. I almost bought that from the Foyles bookshop in Royal Festival Hall when I visited London in September. I'll add it to my wish list.

Nov 25, 2016, 11:28am Top

Darryl, ever since The Dinner, I've been a fan of Herman Koch's writing. I'm glad they're publishing each of his new novels in English, but I'd like them to translate the seven books he wrote before The Dinner. I suppose I'm asking for the moon with that, though.

Nov 25, 2016, 11:40am Top

>175 RidgewayGirl: What a shame. I also loved Motherless Brooklyn. I read Lethem's Dissident Gardens after that, which was well-reviewed but didn't do a thing for me.

>176 RidgewayGirl: I'm not reading that review right now because that's coming up on my Kindle pretty soon, but I'll be back once I've finished it. :)

Nov 25, 2016, 11:54am Top

Ursula, I have soured on that certain kind of self-absorbed white male novelist. They do write well, but I'm less and less interested in what they have to say. I may just need a long break from them, or maybe it's because I've been reading so much more diverse fiction over the past few years that I've recognized how much more is out there. That said, Motherless Brooklyn was brilliant and I'll give Lethem another book or two before setting him aside entirely.

Nov 25, 2016, 12:12pm Top

>176 RidgewayGirl: Ooooh, that sounds good. I'm a Herman Koch fan too, and I've been looking forward to Dear Mr M. However, I really dislike hardbacks, and I have so many other books to read, so I've been trying to hold out for the paperback to be published. Not sure I'll make it. And the stalker has the same name as the author -- hmmmmmm.

Nov 25, 2016, 11:26pm Top

>176 RidgewayGirl: I had never even considered reading Koch, although he is quite popular here in the Netherlands. Because of reviews in this group, I read The Dinner earlier this year and after reading your review I guess I'll have to read the so far neglected Mr M as well!

Nov 26, 2016, 7:58am Top

>176 RidgewayGirl: I requested that through the ER program and got it too. Haven't gotten to it yet, but I loved The Dinner, so I'm looking forward to it!

Nov 26, 2016, 10:30am Top

That's funny, Barbara, although I do wait until I've seen a few people comment on a book before I'll pick it up myself. So few books are translated into English that I'm sure we miss a lot of fantastic books.

Jennifer, I look forward to finding out what you think about it. Since you've read The Dinner, you won't be expecting sympathetic characters and a predictable plot.

Nov 27, 2016, 4:49pm Top

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a novel about Ifemelu, who grew up in Lagos, Nigeria in a middle class family, then managed to get a student visa to go to college in the US. Ifemelu struggles with adjusting to a new and foreign culture, earning enough money to survive, and with the paradoxes of being African in the United States without being African American. She eventually becomes both successful and a citizen, but ultimately decides to return to Nigeria (no spoilers; this is all laid out in the opening pages of the novel.)

for the most part, Ifemelu's journey kept me fascinated. Under the guise of being part of a blog Ifemelu writes, there are frequent asides to comment on race relations and cultural assumptions from the point of view of a non-American. These do distract from the narrative flow, but are interesting in and of themselves. It's a view that most of us never see, and it's more valuable coming from someone who is treated as black as soon as she arrived in the US. The book does lose steam after Ifemelu has achieved security; a long segment where the characters stand still and discuss the 2008 elections, which seems so dated now, only eight years later, but manages to regain momentum as Ifemelu returns to Nigeria and finds adjusting to her old home more challenging than she'd anticipated.

Overall, this was a thought-provoking and fascinating book about many currently pertinent issues, as well as being a character-driven novel in which a lot of stuff happens. While there were flaws, it certainly deserves the awards and attention it has received and I will be reading more by this author.

Dec 2, 2016, 2:01pm Top

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino is an unusual police procedural set in Tokyo, Japan. The reader knows who the murderer is from the beginning, and the suspense comes from finding out whether the cover-up will be successful. There's a cat and mouse game being played, but not between the detective and the murderer, but between a physicist working in a university lab who sometimes consults for the lead detective and the next-door neighbor of the murderer who engage in the battle of wits.

Ishigami, a high school math teacher, loves his neighbor, Yasuko. Yasuko is a divorced mother who works in a small shop selling bento boxes. He buys his lunch from her every day, but lacks the courage to speak to her. On day, her estranged ex-husband appears and after he follows her home and forces his way into her apartment, there's an altercation and he is killed. Hearing the commotion, Ishigami appears and takes charge.

The Devotion of Suspect X was an interesting deviation from the usual police procedural. Coupled with the Japanese setting, this proved to be a fun evening's read.

Dec 3, 2016, 5:51pm Top

>145 RidgewayGirl: RidgewayGirl Getting caught up. I am intrigued. My uncle used to run the Sweet Auburn station, but not in the 40s. More like the 90s. I can't believe I've never heard of Darktown.

Am also a fan of Herman Koch, but I liked The Dinner better than the swimming pool book. I'll get around to M sooner or later.

I read The Devotion of Suspect X some time ago but still have not read anything else quite like it. But I don't read a whole lot of Japanese crime novels. I've always wanted something to live up to the promise of Out by Natsuo Kirino.

Definitely gonna have to get into The Argonauts at some point.

Dec 3, 2016, 6:24pm Top

citygirl! So good to see you here! I hope all is well with you and your progeny.

Darktown is a book that has, in my opinion, been getting far to little attention. I wonder what your father would think of the descriptions of Sweet Auburn.

And Out is the best Japanese crime novel I've read, too, although I also liked All She Was Worth by Miyuki Miyabe and Honeymoon to Nowhere by Akimitsu Takagi.

Dec 3, 2016, 8:46pm Top

>186 RidgewayGirl: The Devotion of Suspect X is something I put onto my list a long time ago and I'd completely forgotten even what it was. It's not the sort of book I usually read, but it does sound interesting and unusual.

Dec 4, 2016, 11:45am Top

Gary, it's not the best executed of plots, but it does win points for being different and unusual. There are better Japanese crime novels out there, but this is certainly worth reading.

Dec 7, 2016, 6:40pm Top

Zadie Smith's new novel, Swing Time, is about two girls who meet in a dance class. They're the only two brown girls in the class, but they become friends because of their shared love of dance and those old movies starring Fred Astaire. Tracey has talent, and eventually their paths diverge, as our narrator gives up dance and moves on to university, then a job at a television studio and then as an assistant to a famous singer (a little too obviously modeled on Madonna). But their paths will eventually cross again.

Swing Time feels like two novels mashed together. The parts set during the narrator's childhood are fantastic. They feel true and they make for fascinating reading as both girls grow up. They are both interracial girls living in housing estates who share a common interest, but there the similarities stop. The narrator's mother is driven to better herself, to get a degree and to change the world and her father is loving and present. Tracey is being raised by a single mother who is harshly judged by the neighbors for first being lazy and then, after she finds a job, for leaving her daughter alone too much. But Tracey's house is freer and her mother more present in her life than the narrator's.

The other part of the book concerns a famous rock star who is interested in Africa and who sends the narrator there to keep an eye on the school she founds. The narrator's experiences in the unnamed African country don't quite reach the level of Westerner-touched-by-the-simple-lives-of-the-natives, but it's not comfortable reading. And the parts involving the Madonna-like Aimee were interesting, but fell short of the other part of the book.

Still, this is an interesting book by a gifted writer and worth the time spent with it.

Dec 7, 2016, 7:15pm Top

>191 RidgewayGirl: Swing Time feels like two novels mashed together.

I've gone back and forth with whether I want to read this or not, so your comment caught my eye. The part about the girls' childhood intrigues me, and reminds me about what I liked in NW. The dance part . . . not so much.

I'm also confused about where the novel is set. Can you give me some insight?

Dec 7, 2016, 9:43pm Top

Joyce, it's set in London. I know the book mentions specifically where, but I can't remember.

Dec 7, 2016, 9:54pm Top

Nice review. I'm happy to read it because I was curious about this new Zadie Smith.

Dec 13, 2016, 9:51am Top

Alexis M. Smith's debut novel, Glaciers, was quirky and off-beat and it charmed me (and I am not easily charmed). Her new novel, Marrow Island, is more structured and focused, but still had that odd charm I remembered from her first book.

Lucie was a child living on a small island off the coast of Portland, Oregon when the 1993 earthquake destroyed the oil refinery on the nearby Marrow island, killing her father. She survived the months after because of her close friend, Katie, but when Lucie and her mother move away, their paths diverge; Lucie working as a journalist and Katie joining a small, environmentally conscious commune that is working to restore Marrow Island's ecosystem. When Lucie loses her job and is given the title to her parents' house on the island, a letter from Katie brings her to Marrow Island, with the hope of writing an article about the commune, but events and Lucie's presence destabilize the commune and lay bare the flaws within.

Marrow Island is a lot of fun to read. It's full of a sense of place, whether it's the San Juan Islands or the Malheur refuge, the other setting of this slender novel. The structure and plot remind me of the old school suspense novels I devoured in high school, although Lucie prefers to rescue herself. The environmental theme is thoughtfully done, and never comes across in a heavy-handed way; it's clear that Smith is not using the novel to send a message, but allows the environmental theme to serve the plot. I just really enjoyed this book.

Dec 14, 2016, 4:58pm Top

Catching up on reviews.

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is an excellent and varied collection of short stories by ZZ Packer. From a troop of Girl Scouts plotting revenge on the other troop at camp, to a lonely nurse whose church provides less support than one of her patients, the stories never feel repetitive (I ended up reading several in a row) or lack heart.

Alison Gaylin's thriller, Trashed, is set in the tawdry world of tabloid reportage. Desperate for a job in her field, Simone takes a job for one of the least respected celebrity-focused tabloids and in the process of learning how to steal trash and sneak into private parties she finds evidence that the suicide of a has-been starlet might have been murder.

This isn't literary fiction by any stretch, Gaylin isn't pushing any boundaries or subverting the genre, but the writing is solid, the plot does not insult the reader's intelligence and the novel was fun to read.

I'm conflicted about Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn. On the one hand, it's a vivid and unrestrained portrayal of life on the margins in Jamaica, with attention paid to the roles class, color, sexuality and gender play in a Jamaican's life chances. On the other, it's both unrelentingly grim and not very well written. The dialog is written in dialect, and not well done at all, turning every conversation in this novel into an endurance test.

Margot works as lower level management at a posh, but down at the heels resort in Jamaica. She earns most of her money servicing guests, being discrete to preserve her hopes of a promotion. She's working to put her clever younger sister, Thandi, through school. Thandi does well at school but dreams of being less black, thinking that will help her fit in with her more affluent classmates. She also doesn't want the future her sister is planning for, but obligation runs deep. And their mother, Delores, works long hours selling trinkets to the tourists, barely hanging on and unable to support or help her daughters.

If you've read Jacqueline Woodson's poetic memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, you'll know that she can write beautifully, with a talent for creating vividly evocative vignettes. Her novel, Another Brooklyn, is similar in tone and feel to her memoir, but follows instead a girl named August, who moves to Brooklyn in 1973 with her father and younger brother. There she meets three other girls and together they form a fearless and inseparable band, ready to take on everything they can't handle alone.

Dec 16, 2016, 9:14am Top

>195 RidgewayGirl:, > 196 - I had recently seen both Marrow Island and Here Comes The Sun on an end-of-year best-of list and wondered about both of them, so your reviews are very timely and helpful!

Dec 16, 2016, 9:55am Top

>196 RidgewayGirl: I'm looking forward to Another Brooklyn. I've heard good things, and I really liked Brown Girl Dreaming.

Dec 16, 2016, 1:45pm Top

>197 wandering_star: wandering_star, I'm glad to hear that Marrow Island is making it onto a few lists. I loved it.

>198 NanaCC: Colleen, if you liked Brown Girl Dreaming, you'll like Another Brooklyn. While not in verse form, Another Brooklyn has the same lyrical style and vivid sense of place.

The time is coming to start putting together an end of the year list of my own. Time to start looking back over the books read in 2016. No offense, 2016, but I'm looking forward to leaving you behind.

Dec 22, 2016, 10:25am Top

Brit Bennett's The Mothers is a difficult one for me to review because there's a lot to discuss, but all of that would lead to spoilers that would reduce the next reader's enjoyment of this excellent debut novel. It's well-written, in an assured and subtle way that most authors don't achieve until the height of their writing careers and there's an issue at the heart of the novel that is rarely discussed with such nuance, since it's one that tends to polarize. People on both sides of the issue will feel uncomfortable with this book, and not because Bennett handles the issue in an uninformed way.

The Mothers are a group of long retired women, who gather together at church to work their way through prayer requests. They're nosy and gossipy, but they also care deeply for the congregants of The Upper Room church. They provide a Greek chorus to the story of Nadia, a young woman whose mother has died suddenly and who is negotiating her way through her last summer in Oceanside, California, before she leaves her almost-boyfriend, the pastor's son, and her best friend, who has also lost her mother (but for very different reasons) to go to university. What she does and doesn't tell her best friend will impact their lives for years after that summer.

The Mothers has been receiving a lot of attention and is on the long list for the Tournament of Books. It deserves the accolades it has received; they are not over-blown.

Dec 22, 2016, 12:56pm Top

>199 RidgewayGirl: "No offense, 2016, but I'm looking forward to leaving you behind."

I'm hoping this pertains only to your reading...but, still, reading wise, what went wrong? (I'm asking because whenever I get sick of the Greeks and now Romans, I think to myself that I really ought to be reading new books instead, like Alison does. )

>200 RidgewayGirl: interesting. This leaves me really curious about what the issue at the center is.

Enjoyed your other reviews too. I don't know anything about Packer. I would really like to read that Woodson.

Dec 22, 2016, 4:16pm Top

Ha, no, Daniel, reading was great this year, in part because I've given in to my love of the new and also because of trying to focus on writing by people who have a harder time getting published (women, PoC, works in translation, etc...) has improved the general quality of the books read, while also introducing me to a lot I didn't know.

After three years in Germany, with their low-key and time-limited election campaigns, I was unprepared to return to the US in the middle of what was an ugly and largely lie-based election season and for the misogyny to be quite so loud and obvious. And there were some personal things; my brother died this year and although we haven't spent much of our adult lives in the same places, he's still a constant absence.

As for the issue at the heart of The Mothers, I may be the only person carefully navigating around it. Any other review or look at the tags for this book and all will be very clear.

Dec 22, 2016, 5:14pm Top

Ah, I see. Unfortunately I imagine that for the next 4 (or 8) years we will long for way back when, in 2016.

And, yup, the tags for Mothers told me what I wanted to know.

Dec 23, 2016, 11:48am Top

Here's another crime novel being promoted as the next The Girl on a Train, which it really, really isn't. I mean, they didn't even bother to call it The Missing Girl, Presumed or Missing, A Girl, Presumably on a Train. Instead, it's the debut in a new series of police procedurals following a DS named Manon Bradshaw who is not very good at social interaction, mainly because she's cranky and has terrible taste in men; she'll try anyone. But she is good at her job, as are the other two officers working with her to solve a high-profile missing persons case as the press dogs their every step. Edith is the woman who is Missing, Presumed. She's got a complex personal life and prominent parents, making her disappearance a dream for the press.

Susie Steiner's writing is much better than is usually the case in the debut of a new series (this is her second book) and she writes each of her characters as fully-rounded people, treated with empathy whether they are a distraught mother, an officer trying to do her job or a criminal. With her compassionate treatment of even those on the margins of society, the main character's messy personal life and the excellent pacing, I was reminded of the police procedurals of both Sophie Hannah and Denise Mina. I eagerly await the next installment.

Dec 23, 2016, 2:03pm Top

I like your alternate titles. You might want to look for a job in publishing.

Dec 27, 2016, 3:29pm Top

>204 RidgewayGirl: Just what I needed, another series. :)

Dec 27, 2016, 5:42pm Top

Joyce, I would love a job of coming up with titles for other people's books. And also searching through stock footage for the right picture of the woman with her head turned away. That's pretty much my dream job right there.

Look on the bright side, Colleen -- maybe you'll hate it.

Dec 27, 2016, 9:08pm Top

>207 RidgewayGirl: And also searching through stock footage for the right picture of the woman with her head turned away.

Evidently that's a real job!

Dec 28, 2016, 10:51am Top

>208 Nickelini: I'll keep my eyes open, but I've yet to see that in a job description!

Dec 29, 2016, 11:12am Top

The end of the year is upon us. I don't expect to finish any books before January first, so here is my assessment of 2016's reading.

Books Read: 103
Percentage by Gender: 36.5 male, 63.5 female (goal was 60% women authors)
Diverse Books: 14 (I counted only books by authors living in English-speaking countries, so 18%)
Countries Read: 20 (48% American, 16% British, 6% Canadian)
Books by the Year: 31% were published in 2016, 22% in 2015. Oldest was published in 1951.

Overall Assessment: Reading books by women is getting easier (this is the third year that I've paid attention to this) and it was a fair start at reading more diversely. My love of reading awards shortlists keeps my percentage of Americans and British authors high.

Best Books:

Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present by Alison Matthews David
The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
Darktown by Thomas Mullen
The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith

Worst Books:

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George won handily.
A Game for All the Family by Sophie Hannah
The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

Please note that my best books list reflects the books I loved the most this year. Several books I read this year had greater literary merit. The bad books were simply bad.

Dec 29, 2016, 12:17pm Top

You read so many brand new books - you are probably my main source for new-book reviews. I'm curious, though, if you are still finding it satisfying or if you've thought about trying to skew a bit more to classics? Or, put another way, what do you love about reading newly published works?

Part of my question reflects my personal doubts because as I've read more and more brand new works I'm finding my reading less satisfying overall and I'm thinking of trying to get back to more "classics" in 2017. But then again, some of my favorite books this year were newly published and 3 of my least favorites were classics. (not quite ready to publish my stats yet, but I've started compiling)

Dec 29, 2016, 12:36pm Top

Jennifer, I've been drawn to new books since I started seriously following various awards and reviewers. I've fought it in with the rationale that I should be more "balanced," but gave into it this year, and even actively tried to read entire shortlists before the prizes were announced (this failed). It has led to my reading being more rewarding and more challenging as I read book I would not have chosen myself. And I love having read that book everyone is talking about. It's been great, and I plan to embrace it again next year.

Another reason for ending up reading so many new books is that I'm trying to read more diversely. There is more available now than was in the past (although still far too few).

On the other hand, I usually read a Victorian or three and love it. I'll have to remember to look back, too. There's nothing as satisfying as total immersion in a Victorian novel.

Dec 29, 2016, 1:27pm Top

>212 RidgewayGirl: That's one reason I love your reviews - you're always reading the books that have the most "literary buzz". And good point about the diversity issue.

Dec 29, 2016, 4:27pm Top

To Catch a Rabbit is another debut in a planned series of police procedurals. Helen Cadbury's novel follows community services officer Sean Denton. He's not a real cop, but he wears his uniform and does things like untangle swings and provide a presence on the streets and housing estates of Doncaster, England. Then two of the boys on the estate take him out to a field and show him the body they found, which leads to his involvement in a series of murders, human trafficking and police corruption.

This isn't a bad book, nor is it a good one. As far as first-in-a-series goes, it's about average. Which is to say that Cadbury might end up with a solid series in time, or maybe not. The promise is there, but this book was hampered by the tendency to leave all of the bad guys and the secondary characters as cardboard cut-outs. This could change as her writing skills improve, in which case, this may turn into a series well worth following. I'm going to wait and see. If the series reaches four or five books, I'll give the newest a try.

Dec 29, 2016, 4:32pm Top

>211 japaul22: This would be a great future question for the avid reader. Certainly it's a decision I've flipped around in my head a lot - new books (with lots of flops) or classics (with lots of their own challenges). Obviously, I'm on the classics trail.

And, I also use this thread for new book reviews.

Dec 30, 2016, 11:18am Top

I agree with sentiments above AND, if you had your own book website, I would bookmark it. You're like my reading doppelganger: what you think is interesting, so do I.

So, thanks for your service ;-)

Oh, and yeah, you are so right: when you find that perfect Victorian novel, it's heaven. Long live the Queen!

Edited: Dec 31, 2016, 12:25pm Top

You're reading a fair number of new books, Daniel. Your heart is just living with the ancients.

Hi, citygirl! So good to see you here!

And my 2017 thread is open.


Jan 1, 2017, 1:49am Top

Kay - That was a really nice thing to say. Happy New Year!

Jan 1, 2017, 4:02am Top

>212 RidgewayGirl: I completely agree with >213 japaul22:, so am looking forward to your reviews in 2017 as well!

Jan 1, 2017, 2:44pm Top

Happy New Year, Daniel! I'm looking forward to your thoughtful and readable comments about what you're reading.

Thanks, Barbara. It's grey and rainy outside today, which is what the weather was like the last time I was in Amsterdam. I wouldn't mind being there now. Enjoy the Dutch winter!

Group: Club Read 2016

117 members

16,666 messages


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