RidgewayGirl's Year of Books, Part Two
This is a continuation of the topic RidgewayGirl's Year of Books, Part One.
This topic was continued by RidgewayGirl's Year of Books, Part Three.
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Books acquired - TBR book read: 22:9 (22 - 9)
You can't kill the rooster. http://www.themorningnews.org/video/you-cant-kill-the-rooster
The Morning News Tournament of Books is a favorite book award of mine. The long list this year is very, very long at 120 books. I'll use this category to track my reading of that list.
Here's a link to that list:
1. American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis
2. To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey
3. Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty by Ramona Ausubel
4. The Nix by Nathan Hill
5. Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter
6. Mister Monkey by Francine Prose
7. Version Control by Dexter Palmer
8. Sweet Lamb of Heaven by Lydia Millet
9. Moonglow by Michael Chabon
10. High Dive by Jonathan Lee
Published in 2017
I like new books. I've decided to stop fighting and embrace it instead.
1. A Book of American Martyrs by Joyce Carol Oates
2. The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
3. Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
4. Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
5. Ill Will by Dan Chaon
6. A Separation by Katie Kitamura
Bookshelf Challenge, Part One
I've got some shelves with books on them. On some, the read and yet-to-be-read books share space, on others, the books are all unread. I've counted cases and shelves and am planning on reading a single book off of each shelf. This is the big white bookcase in the living room.
12. American Rust by Philipp Meyer
13. My Lover's Lover by Maggie O'Farrell
We Need Diverse Books
1. Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
2. We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge
3. Black Wave by Michelle Tea
4. The Break by Katherena Vermette
5. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
6. Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeline Thien
7. How to Survive a Plague by David France
Books by Women
1. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
2. The Beautiful Dead by Belinda Bauer
3. The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride
4. Transit by Rachel Cusk
5. Autumn by Ali Smith
6. Get in Trouble by Kelly Link
7. True Things About Me by Deborah Kay Davies
8. You Had Me at Hello by Mhairi McFarlane
9. The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood
As you can see, I have crafted a challenge with the surprising and no doubt controversial theme of "books." Here's to a great reading year in 2017 for all of us.
I'll begin posting here as of the first of January.
I almost forgot the BingoDOG!
2. Sudden Death by Alvaro Enrigue
3. A Book of American Martyrs by Joyce Carol Oates
4. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
7. To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey
9. Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter
10. Sweet Lamb of Heaven by Lydia Millet
11. Night School by Lee Child
12. The Public Prosecutor by Jef Geeraerts
13. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
17. Moonglow by Michael Chabon
18. Black Wave by Michelle Tea
22. American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis
24. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Happy new thread, Alison!
You have set me wondering if I need to re-arrange some shelves so that I can see my TBR selections at a glance. Hmmm, that sounds like a weekend project.
Ooh another thread. I really liked The woman from Hamburg. Heartbreaking though.
I recently picked up His Bloody Project when it was offered as 1.99 by Nook.
Jennifer, that sounds like a fun weekend! I do like to rearrange the shelves.
Roosters are fantastic creatures, Victoria. When the kids were very small, we lived in the country for a few years and had chickens, along with two roosters, Curly and Caruso. They were loud but beautiful, and would take the hens on field trips around the yard.
I'm eager to read it, Charlotte. I can't remember whose thread I discovered it on, but I do like the way that we all feed off each other, like literary vampires.
Thanks, Lori. See you Monday!
Chrischi, there are people who have finished all of the books, including the sports books and have made predictions on the outcome of the contest. I'm still working my way through Black Wave, the first half was meh, but the second half seems to be going somewhere.
Thanks, Shannon. I have a bracelet with the quote by Louisa May Alcott engraved on it.
rp, I'm eager to get to His Bloody Project. As soon as the ToB reading is done. . .
Thanks, Birgit. It's been a good reading year so far.
Oh, that's a lucky find, Kristel. My copy was a gift from the cat. Christmas in my house is weird.
Saw that you are currently reading The Refugees, how are you liking it? I'm about halfway through and really enjoying the stories.
>26 LittleTaiko: They're really good. I'm trying to keep myself to one or two stories a day, but they aren't at all repetitive. So far, I've liked The Transplant best.
I liked Rachel Cusk's novel, Outline, quite a bit, even more once I saw what she was doing with it. So it wasn't a big surprise that I enjoyed every page of its sequel, Transit, although she's not doing quite the same thing here. With Outline, the protagonist was passive, becoming a receptacle for the stories of others. In Transit, she has returned to the UK from Greece and purchased a flat in London that came with terrible neighbors and a desperate need of renovation.
For a long time, I said, I believed that it was only through absolute passivity that you could learn to see what was really there. But my decision to create a disturbance by renovating my house had awoken a different reality, as though I had disturbed a beast, sleeping in its lair. I had started to become, in effect, angry.
The protagonist is still listening to people as they bare parts of themselves to her, but she's also present in her life in a way she wasn't in Outline. That said, this is still not a plot-driven novel. She attends a literary festival, gets work done on her house and has coffee or dinner with people. Yet, the glimpses into the minds of others is fascinating, as well as her own reactions to what they tell her. And Cusk's writing is very fine; it's as clear and unobtrusive as water.
>29 mamzel: There are a Swedish series of children's books about an old man named Pettersson and his cat Findus that were very popular in Germany when my two were small. In one book, they get a rooster for their hens and it all goes badly. The rooster's name was Caruso, which is a perfect name for a rooster.
>27 RidgewayGirl: - I've been trying to limit myself as well but it's so hard...not my usual feeling when reading short stories.
Just catching up here. I hear there is a meetup next week. One of these days I'll have to join you for one of them!
I've had my eye on Outline. It's good to know that the sequel holds up.
Carrie, Victoria and I keep talking about heading up to your neck of the woods. We'll get there someday!
>28 RidgewayGirl: Really loved these two novels. Hope she can live up to it in the next two books!
>36 -Eva-: Yes, they do number among the few children's picture books I didn't mind reading for the umpteenth time. The TV program on the other hand - the German version chose a terribly high-pitched and sassy voice for Findus, which removed much of the charm.
Tomorrow begins The Morning News Tournament of Books. I'm looking forward to digging into the first judge's essay and decision and then enjoying the color commentary.
Plans led to disappointment, to regret, to chain-smoking and sadness. Michelle refused to be tragic. She would resist having plans.
Michelle is a young lesbian living in a run-down apartment in San Francisco during the 1990s, and also as the world is ending. She works in a bookstore, but she wrote a book once, and so she's collecting experiences for her next book, which mainly means she drinks a lot and takes whatever drugs are offered to her. In the name of artistic experience, of course, she's not an addict or anything.
Their hard drinking was a sort of lifestyle performance, like the artist who wore only red for a year, then only blue, then yellow. They were playing the parts of hardened females, embodying a sort of Hunter S. Thompson persona, a deeply feminist stance for a couple of girls to take. They were too self-aware to be alcoholics. Real alcoholics didn't know they could even be alcoholics, they just drank and drank and ruined their lives and didn't have any fun and were men.
The first half of Black Wave follows Michelle and her compatriots as they carouse around the dying city. It's a self-destructive artist novel in the style of the many published during the nineties, from Suicide Blonde to The Story of Junk. I read a slew of them back then and the story remains the same, although the characters always believe they are forging new ground.
The second half of the novel is an entirely different animal. Here, Michelle Tea makes the dystopian end-of-the-world theme explicit, while also going meta and becoming a novel about the writing of the novel, where what is happening in Michelle-the-character's life becomes a topic of debate. Tea also makes the decision to have Every Thing That Michelle Says Capitalized and has everyone else speak in italics. I had thought that I was fairly open to stylistic quirks, but this annoyed me to the point that I couldn't concentrate on what Tea was doing, or even what was going on in the story.
With Black Wave, author Michelle Tea takes big risks. That they don't entirely work means that the book doesn't hold together the way it might had she played it safe. But I can't help but admire her courage.
Great review of Black Wave, which has a rather lovely cover. I've been meaning to check out Tea's work for a while now and haven't gotten around to it. Your review makes the book sound rather interesting, even with the annoying quirks of style.
Andrea, it's definitely worth reading. She's experimenting and while some doesn't feel very new, it's always interesting.
Viet Thanh Nguyen has written a collection of short stories called The Refugees and it's really good. While each of the stories touches on being a refugee or outsider, each is completely different from the others. And they are all really good. It's a slender book, and Nguyen clearly chose to only publish his very best.
This is a much more accessible book than The Sympathizer, with Nguyen's emphasis remaining on the flawed humanity of each character. A woman is frustrated by her son's insistence that she give up the part-time library job she loves to be home with her ailing husband, a young man arrives in San Francisco to discover that his sponsor is an older gay man, a man receives an organ transplant and feels a sense of obligation to the donor's son, the young son of shop owners watches as his mother refuses to give into to blackmail.
>42 RidgewayGirl: We have that one at the library. I thought it was timely, and it's good to know it's good!
"The possession of a book becomes a substitute for reading it." --Anthony Burgess Ain't that the truth! Sometime during my spare money days, I thought I would get to every book I bought. Then a few years of vigourous book buying and I realized that I liked the idea of knowing about all these different subjects but was never actually going to read all of them. Now... ha! Should I tell you I have it under control? Would you believe me?
And had to laugh at your comments about Black Wave. That destructive artist's life novel goes back farther than the 90s! I'd describe Tropic of Cancer that way. Fascinating, destructive and ultimately depressing. But some of that "genre" have got to be unique and worth reading. I remember liking Tropic of Cancer and hating it at the same time.
>45 cammykitty: That's right! I'd forgotten about Henry Miller. And of course the eighties had their own versions - like Less Than Zero and certainly the 60s and 70s were awash in artistic and drug-fueled memoirs.
And I had a few years where I was collecting books at an embarrassing rate. I slowed down eventually, but I'm still buying books, albeit at a much slower rate - one that almost, but not quite, approaches stasis.
Because he'd seen, and not forgotten.
Because there is so little we can do. Yet it is our duty, to do it.
Because he had not lost faith and because I am hoping to learn what faith is.
So Joyce Carol Oates has written a big, meaty novel about abortion. A Book of American Martyrs isn't what I had expected it to be, but does JCO ever cater to expectations? Here JCO tells the story of two men, and then of two families and finishes by focusing on the daughters of the two men.
Gus Voorhees is a public health doctor working in women's clinics, vocal and visible enough to have worked his way onto the ten most wanted lists of the more radical right-to-life groups. Luther Dunphy is a carpenter who attends a fundamentalist church and who had once had dreams of becoming a minister himself. He's active in the right-to-life movement, often joining with those protesting at the clinic in his small Ohio city. The novel opens with Dunphy firing his shotgun, first at Voorhees and then at the clinic escort who had arrived at the clinic with the doctor.
Oates then goes back and forth in time, showing the lives of both families before and after the murder. The trial forms the backbone of the book. But Oates's attention is less on abortion than on how the sudden removal of the father from a family can destroy it, and on mothers who are unable, for different reasons, to be mothers and what that does to children. Oates's writing style keeps the reader at a short distance from her characters and thank goodness for that, the book is emotionally exhausting as it is. I will call the author out for her classism, where the poor are not just lacking money, but also intelligence and curiosity. The novel might have been stronger for allowing the Dunphys to be more than they were.
I really liked The Refugees, it caught my attention and held it, going in unexpected directions. I haven't picked up The Sympathizer yet but want to.
I don't know, Victoria. It's not her most accessible book. Of course, by the end of it, you'll have a strong opinion about JCO!
Charlotte, I liked The Sympathizer, but more for what the author was doing than for the book itself, if that makes sense. While every story in The Refugees was a delight.
My mother's cat is asleep in my lap. It has taken me seven years to woo this cat and I have to say I feel quite a sense of triumph. Using my laptop, however, is now more difficult.
The hubs is out of town for a few weeks. In this case he's in Munich and Johannesburg, South Africa, so we all all overcome with jealousy, although we are happy he gets to be in Africa. He's managed a short, mini-safari outing on his one free day.
I planned to spend the afternoon reading - once the kids' friends had gone back to their respective houses and the Saturday chores were done - but took a nap instead. It was amazing. I would have rather been on a mini-safari in Africa, but a nap is a fine thing.
Paulina, I think it's worth reading. Tea took chances that didn't always pay off, but I respected her willingness to take risks.
I was astonished by Katherena Vermette's novel, The Break. I picked it up solely because it's one of the Canada Reads contestants this year and I happened to find a copy, and going in with no expectations left me open to being swept away by this small book about an extended First Nations family living in Winnipeg, Manitoba and what a sudden act of violence does to them.
The Break refers to an open swath of land running between houses that holds the hydro-electric pylons. Left untouched in winter, it's where, in the early hours one morning, a woman holding a restless infant sees a group attacking a woman. She calls the police, but by the time they arrive, the only thing left is a disturbance in the snow and a pool of frozen blood. The cops don't entirely believe that she saw a woman being attacked, reasoning that she isn't exactly coherent.
While the crime does form a significant part of the book, the real focus is on the families involved, mostly headed by women, and even when there's a man in the picture, there's a real sense of a community of strong, strong women, who are used to facing both poverty and discrimination and to marching on regardless. Which is not to say they aren't often tired, or struggling along the way, but Vermette here has drawn a vivid picture of how these women relate to their communities, to each other and to themselves. She's also done a wonderful job of evoking life in winter in a northern city. I grew up in Edmonton, some distance away, but she really nailed the descriptions of what it was to walk home on a winter afternoon, or climb the porch steps when they're covered in packed snow. I'll be looking for more by this author.
Well, I was going to add it to the wishlist, and then found Deborah had already recommended it! Great review though.
>55 RidgewayGirl: Definitely a BB for me. It also sounds like this book is coming very close to reality, especially right now in Canada where we have a on-going political inquiry into Violence against Indigenous Women. I'm afraid the Indigenous people, women in particular, have had to learn how to be strong and resilient as well as develop a close sense of community due to their treatment over the years.
Charlotte, I'm glad this book is receiving attention. Vermette is one to watch.
I'll look forward to finding out what you think of it, Vivienne. I haven't lived in Canada since I was a child.
Judy, I follow a few First Nations people in my twitter feed (boy, is Joseph Boyden a controversial figure!) and it's interesting how Canada is addressing this problem head on (with a great deal of constant pressure from indigenous groups) while the US continues to ignore this problem. I mean, we don't even really think that Native Americans have a right to control their own land, as seen with the DAPL disaster. Reading a book from inside that community was really eye-opening for me.
>59 RidgewayGirl: I love Joseph Boyden's writing so I am trying not to get caught up in all the hoopla. I think he calls himself a "white kid with native roots" yet hasn't laid out those native roots to the satisfaction of many indigenous people and since he writes from an indigenous viewpoint, I would say this is a valid concern.
Charlotte, I hope that there will be plenty of new voices published in the coming years. I'm going to try to be a bit more active in finding them, since they tend to be published by small presses that lack the publicity machine of the Big Five.
Judy, me, too. I'm not qualified to have an opinion. But reading comments on it have given me a few new authors to look for, like Richard Wagamese.
"I'm not going to sleep with you," she repeated.
"Sure," he said. "Right."
It had been a very exciting development. Here was a woman, a beautiful woman, a new woman who didn't know the ins and outs of his every mistake, and she was thinking about not sleeping with him.
High Dive by Jonathan Lee is a fictional account of the 1984 IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton, which was targeted at Margaret Thatcher. It follows the lives of three people; Moose, the acting hotel manager, his daughter, Freya, working at the hotel through the summer as she decides what to do with her life, and Dan, a young IRA member finally given an important task.
This is the kind of novel I love - there's a clear sense of time and place, with the mid-eighties being especially well rendered, and the characters are complex and compelling. The framing device of the bombing is almost beside the point, although it does ratchet up the tension of the final chapters considerably.
>63 RidgewayGirl:, I'm not going to be able to resist picking this one up sooner than later! Thanks for the review :)
Ali Smith's new novel, Autumn, is the first in a planned quartet. It's a quiet novel, about the friendship between a girl and her elderly neighbor and how that friendship sustains itself over the years. It's set just after the Brexit vote, and the novel has a subdued, elegiac feel to it that suits the season that it draws its title from. But this isn't a gloomy book, it's full of Smith's careful observation of details and her beautiful writing.
Hope is exactly that, that's all it is, a matter of how we deal with the negative acts toward human beings by other human beings in the world, remembering that they and we are all human, that nothing human is alien to us, the foul and the fair, and that most important of all we're here for a mere blink of the eyes, that's all. But in that Augenblick there's either a benign wink or a willing blindness, and we have to know we're equally capable of both, and to be ready to be above and beyond the foul even when we're up to our eyes in it.
Autumn moves back and forth in time, between Elisabeth now, staying at her mother's house so she can visit Daniel every day in the hospice, and as she watches neighbors fail to greet one another, and she battles with the postal clerk as she tries to renew her passport, and Elisabeth at eight, meeting and becoming best friends with the elderly man next door, who loves to discuss books and to tell her about art and music.
I'm eager to see where Smith takes the rest of the quartet. Autumn was a quiet book, but deceptively so.
Even Dogs in the Wild is Ian Rankin at his best. Rebus is here, but he's retired, allowed back because Big Ger Cafferty is involved - a bullet is shot through his living room window one night and he won't talk to anyone but Rebus. Siobhan is in the middle of a complex series of murders and she and Malcolm Fox are seeing each other. Fox is stuck in a no-man's land, where he's too highly ranked to do basic police work, but there's very little available for an ex-Complaints guy. So he gets stuck chaperoning a group of Glasgow cops who have come to Edinburg as part of a long-term undercover operation. They don't trust him or want him anywhere near their work, but Fox has experience in finding out things.
It's a solid crime novel. And it's fun to see all the usual characters doing their thing. And Rebus's too cool for school attitude even has him opt out of getting information he would have found useful later, which I enjoyed seeing. This isn't a change in direction and the pattern of the series holds, but it's working well for now and Even Dogs in the Wild was fun to read.
I liked both those books - great reviews. I'm hoping Ali Smith is well on the way with book two in her series.
I'd like the next book in Ali Smith's quartet to be released tomorrow, but I may have to wait longer than that. I'm really interested in seeing how they relate to one another.
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker is the story of a friendship. Mel and Sharon meet in college, when they discover a shared love of animation and comics. While they are as different as two people can be, they also share traumatic and challenging childhoods that have marked them. After college they set up shop in Brooklyn, working long hours for little recognition until they make a film based on Mel's childhood in central Florida, which lands them publicity and a grant from a prestigious organization. The attention and financial freedom put stresses on their friendship that may prove fatal.
It's hard to believe that The Animators is Whitaker's first novel. Not only is the writing self-assured, but the pacing and emotional resonance are solid. Whitaker never takes the easy road, making every action taken by the characters completely understandable. Both Mel and Sharon have their own voices, and there's no reaction that isn't solidly part of who they are. There's also a deep and fascinating love of animation working through the novel. Mel and Sharon's love of their chosen career is a large part of the charm of this novel, which can been grim at times. Whitaker writes about uncomfortable situations with a light touch and a feel for the emotional heart of the matter. I'm already looking forward to her next novel.
>72 RidgewayGirl: I'll have a look for this, and also mention it to my brother, who has an interest in 'things like this', as I so helpfully label them. Thanks!
Charlotte, I started the book knowing nothing about it except that a few people had said something about it being good. And I agree. It is very good.
Our internet is out, and might be back Friday, or maybe Tuesday. It's not AT&T's finest hour. They do keep finding new discounts to add in, so if it lasts much longer, our cell phones, cable and internet may be free for the foreseeable future.
And speaking of cable, if anyone hasn't seen Planet Earth II, I highly recommend it. It has been a hit with jaded teenagers and husbands with Important Things To Do alike. Islands is my favorite episode although it is very snakey.
I'm taking a BB for The Animators. That sounds really good, thanks for the review.
If AT&T aren't providing you with the services, it should be free. And you can tell them I said so. That ought to move things along. ; )
>75 mstrust: They won't charge for the days we don't have service (which I will make sure happens) and they keep finding new discounts to give us to keep me from canceling. So far, it's just $3 short of our monthly internet bill and we've been given a year's worth of premium movie channels. At this point, I almost want to wait and see what they offer next, except not having internet is a pain.
Not having internet would be a pain, especially if you need it for something work or school related. Or just being here with us, which is most important. Here's to crossing our fingers that they get their mess sorted and then you have a year of HBO to show for it.
I've requested Planet Earth II from the library and am looking forward to it! Snakes are fine with me; it's insects and arachnids I don't like watching.
Hope your Internet is back soon!
Internet update: I had an appointment for this afternoon and the tech showed up before 9:00. But the larger outage that had the previous appointment canceled is still on-going. So he put in a new modem, so there are now three of them to choose from, and they plan to have me up and running tonight, allegedly. Since the problem is not with any of the modems, I am skeptical, but maybe?
rp, you will love it!
Loved Planet Earth II. I second that recommendation. The little lizards trying to cross the sand...
My favourite episode was the mountains one. The bears rubbing the trees and the dancing flamingoes were hilarious!
Hi, Charlotte and Jackie! I'm glad to hear others are enjoying this series. It's so unusual that our whole family likes the same show.
Still no internet. But they're allowing me to use my phone as a hotspot and it's working.
Tana French’s new novel, The Trespasser, returns her to the storytelling of the first books in the Dublin Murder Squad series. From the title echoing that of the only other book focused on a woman detective, to the dynamic of the first novel, centered around a partnership, this is French at her very best.
Antoinette Conway worked hard to earn a spot on the murder squad, but just two years in, she’s seriously considering leaving for a job with a private security firm. Her co-workers are openly hostile and she’s stuck on the night shift with the newest detective, fielding domestics and bar brawls. It’s not what she signed up for. Then, she and Moran are given what at first looks like another routine domestic murder, except they’ve been called in just as their shift ended and their gaffer has assigned a senior detective to assist them. From there, it only gets messier and before long, Conway has to question everything from the too-convenient suspect of the boyfriend to the actions of her fellow detectives.
This one never loses momentum or lets the reader come up for air. French does her best writing with the rote tasks of police work, and with the complex relationship that exists between two detectives working well together. French is writing something quite a bit more substantial than a simple police procedural and I was with her every step of the way.
And now I’m left to wait for the next in the series.
We have internet again! I'm withholding the new password from my offspring until their rooms are clean. It's an evil plan and I'm quite proud of it.
rp, it's so good! It combined my favorite aspects of the first two books.
>55 RidgewayGirl: I have The Break on hold at our library and am looking forward to reading it. One of my friends who had read it and followed the Canada Reads debates was shocked that it got voted off on the first day, but I guess the results depend as much on the ability of the defender as on the book's quality.
>62 RidgewayGirl: I highly recommend Richard Wagamese's works. I think he's a terribly underrated writer, and I was glad he started getting some recognition when Indian Horse was chosen for Canada Reads. I was very sad to hear of his death just a few weeks ago.
>88 charl08: Hmm! Machiavelli on the Internet. That could be a very interesting story!
Ha! My son has never cleaned his room that thoroughly or quickly. My daughter still hasn't gotten around to it, but she, being 16, is much busier in general.
Paulina, I have my eye on a few novels by Richard Wagamese. I'm surprised The Break was eliminated so quickly, but it was also from a small press and the cover was not great. I'm so happy to have read it, though and will be waiting for her next book.
Since you read all (?) the TOB books, I'm curious what you thought about the winner. (or did I miss your comments somewhere?) It was the first book I read, based on your review last year and, of the five that I managed to read, was my favorite. I've been recommending it to a lot of people.
Betty, I think that The Underground Railroad is a remarkable book and it will have staying power. I'm not surprised it railroaded right through all the other books, of which there were several that I thought were exceptional.
And a large reason as to how I managed to read the tournament books in time was that I'd already read five of them. I don't know whether more mainstream books were chosen this year, or if the Rooster has altered the books I choose to read, but it did mean I had an easy job of reading the rest - although I finished Sudden Death a good week after it had been eliminated.
Yeah - I don't read that many brand new books every year. I'm usually to busy reading all those books I didn't get to before or from my TBR pile.
You're better about your tbr pile than I am, Betty. I do want to read those books. I really do! But then there's a new book and it's all shiny and people are talking about it... I'm a crow, basically. But I'm not fighting it anymore. I'm enjoying new books and because I've let go of the obligation, I hope those elderly tbr books will feel comfortable sneaking in among all the shiny youngsters.
Carlo Borromeo annihilated the Renaissance by turning torture into the only way to practice Christianity. He was declared a saint the instant he died. Vasco de Quiroga saved a whole world single-handedly and died in 1565, and the process of his canonization has yet to begin. I don't know what this book is about. I know that as I wrote it I was angry because the bad guys always win. Maybe all books are written simply because in every game the bad guys have the advantage and that is too much to bear.
Describing what Alvaro Enrigue's odd novel, Sudden Death, is about is a thankless task. After all, when the author himself admits to not knowing what the book is about, how can the hapless reader (and I was very hapless) hope to write a tidy review? Sudden Death is structured around a sixteenth century tennis game between the Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo and the Italian artist Caravaggio. The novel ranges back and forth in time, from Hernán Cortés and the conquest of the Aztec kingdom to the Renaissance, amplified by comments and asides from the author, himself. There are tidbits on the history of tennis, a ton of history unfamiliar to this American reader and character studies of de Quevedo and Caravaggio. It's all very fabulous and unsettling.
It took me a while to settle into the rhythms and frenetic pace of this novel, but once I was there, I enjoyed it tremendously. It's a profane and heretical romp that leaves no historical figure unscathed. I had no doubt of Enrique's fierce wit or deep knowledge of the people and times he was writing about.
The popes of the Counter-Reformation were serious men, intent on their work, with little trace of worldliness. They put people to death in volume, preferably slowly and before an audience, but always after a trial. They were thoroughly nepotistic and they trafficked in influence as readily as one wipes one's nose on a cold day, but they had good reason: only family could be trusted, because if a pope left a flank exposed, any subordinate would slit his throat without trial. They had no mistresses or children; they wore sackcloth under their vestments; they smelled bad. They were great builders and tirelessly checked to see that not a single breast appeared in a single painting in any house of worship. They believed in what they did.
>96 RidgewayGirl: Several librarians and professors read that one last year. We couldn't resist the plot and agreed the plot volleyed just as much as the ball.
Lori, that's a great turn of phrase! I really felt my lack of knowledge of Spanish and Mexican history while reading this one. So much to learn about the world! I think this book would appeal to fans of Umberto Eco.
>96 RidgewayGirl: With a review like that, how can I pass it up? BB! The title would have made me think it was a crime story.
>96 RidgewayGirl:. I own this book and was very happy to see your great review.
Pachinko is a multi-generational story of a Korean family, from their modest farm on an island, through their move to Japan at the start of WWII and on into the 1980s. Min Jin Lee explores how Koreans living in Japan are treated, even after they have been their for generations and how it affects both them and Japanese society. Her descriptions of life in Japan during WWII were especially vivid. Sunja and Isaac move from Korea to Japan when he takes the post of a minister to a protestant Christian congregation, a difficult and dangerous position as any lack of conformity is considered treasonous. The struggles of the generations who came of age after the war do feel less weighty than those of their parents, but they still faced life in a country that was prejudiced against them and barred them from many kinds of employment, leading the family into the world of pachinko parlors, a world where the yakuza (Japanese gangsters) control many of the gambling dens and a world that isn't entirely respectable, although it is lucrative.
Pachinko was an interesting book to read. The author kept things moving and the history she recounted was largely unfamiliar. She was clearly writing for a western audience, and she took pains to explain historical events. My only complaint about the book is one that wouldn't be an issue for many readers; Lee keeps the secondary characters uncomplicated, and often the primary characters as well. They aren't complexly drawn. Admittedly, in a novel that has such a large cast of characters and which covers so much time, this is difficult to do.
>72 RidgewayGirl: I ended up getting this one from the Book of the Month Club but haven't read it yet. Based on your review, I'm quite looking forward to it.
>101 RidgewayGirl: - Glad you enjoyed this one too. Think you nailed it about the secondary characters. Found this one to be educational and entertaining- a combination that's hard to beat.
Stacy, what a great BotMOC pick! I hope you love it when you get to it. And I'm glad to have read Pachinko. It was weird reading a standard historical novel after all the Tournament of Books stuff, though.
>101 RidgewayGirl: I wanted to read this, but am now wondering if I do... something to think on, anyway!
I have finally caught up with your thread, though I am behind in general with the group. I am glad you have internet again! I'll be going to FL at the end of the week and plan to take American Rust with me.
Charlotte, while I'm not sorry to have read it, I'm not sure that I would have picked it up knowing what I do about it. I read Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeline Thien at the same time, and that may have amplified the differences as the Thien book is extraordinary.
I'm looking forward to discussing it with you, Victoria. Enjoy Florida!
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeline Thien is a multi-generational novel about the Chinese Cultural Revolution and afterwards that puts all other multi-generational novels to shame. It's really good, combining wonderful and vibrant character studies with excellent writing and story structure. Thien deserves all the praise she's received for this book.
Marie is a girl living Vancouver, Canada, with her mother, her father having returned to China and committed suicide, when they are joined by Ai-ming, a college student fleeing China in the aftermath of Tiananmen Square. She leaves them to go to the US in hopes of being granted asylum and Marie never sees her again. In adulthood, Marie undertakes a search for Ai-ming, who may have returned to China. As her search goes on, the story is told of how Ai-ming and Marie's family were connected and goes further back to the story of Ai-ming's parents and grandparents, as they survive WWII, Mao's reign as dictator and on into the turmoil of Tiananmen Square.
It's a lot of history, and a quantity of characters, but Thien juggles the storylines adeptly and makes each character from Big Mother Knife to Marie herself, vivid and complex. This is a novel well worth reading. Also, it's a page-turner.
>107 RidgewayGirl: I thought this was fascinating. Did you have a look at the author's tumblr page for the book? I love historic photos so this was right up my alley.
Oh, no, I didn't know that existed. Thanks, Charlotte. Ok, off to investigate!
That's just creepy, Jennifer.
Lori, I'm behind on reviews and the kids are out of school this week. On the bright side, my garden and deck look wonderful.
Woman No. 17 is Lady, a wealthy woman, separated from her husband, with two sons, one a toddler and one beginning college. She hires S as a nanny for her younger son, so that she can work on the book she's writing about her relationship with her older son, Seth, who is mute. S is adrift after the end of a relationship and determined to live her life as an art project.
There's a feeling of unease throughout the novel that Edan Lepucki executed really well. This isn't a crime story, or even a novel where a lot happens, but rather a close look at motherhood from the point of view of two women who both had very flawed and difficult relationships with their own mothers, one of whom is figuring out motherhood for herself. Halfway through, I found myself buying a copy of her first novel, which is to say, Woman No. 17 is worth reading, especially if you like character studies and fine writing.
Guess who has lost her home internet again? Yep. Don't ask me my opinion of AT&T, their customer service department or their technical services department. I don't think I could avoid swearing heavily.
It's the same problem as last time - not on my property - but because AT&T has steps to follow that it cannot deviate from, and because database the techs in the call center use is incompatible with the database the field techs use and they can't communicate with each other and they apparently keep no records, they need me to sit home all day and wait for the tech, who will stand in my spare room for an hour on the phone with his support line before telling me it's not in here and they'll call when it's fixed in a few days. They can't skip this step or any of the others and just tell me how long I'm paying for internet I don't get, and can they use the cell phone number I gave them so they can call me with valuable services and products I might like to purchase (no).
Fun. This is fun.
>117 RidgewayGirl: I've heard horrible things about AT&T UVerse or whatever their Internet is called. I'm glad I have Charter.
No worries, Judy, the outage was fixed and my internet is back. I hate dealing with them so much, it kills my mood for the rest of the day.
Lori, here Charter is the only other option and it has an even poorer reputation than AT&T. I thought about switching today though!
I live with two heavy internet users so we have a Comcast business account. It's not cheap but we have had nothing to complain about.
I like short stories. When they're done well, they pack a novel's punch into a a few dozen pages. Or, to belabor the point, they're like potent shots of whisky, to the novel's tankard of beer. Sometimes a short story does nothing more than perfectly depict a moment or a mood, and sometimes they're weird and discombobulating, like Kelly Link's collection, Get in Trouble. Link draws easy comparisons to George Saunders and Heather O'Neill, but she's her own off-beat thing.
Link sets the reader down in the middle of only superficially normal settings and tells a story, leaving the reader to figure out on the fly how the world Link is writing about is different from the one we're used to, even as her characters do ordinary things like sit on a hillside with a lover, prepare for a hurricane, or go to meet someone at a hotel. Link's stories occupy worlds where fairy tales are factual elements of daily life, superheroes do things like play chess in the park and attend conventions, and Florida has become, as we all knew it would, weirder than everywhere else.
As in any collection, some stories work better than others, but each contained a novel's worth of ideas. I'm still thinking about several of the stories. The opening story, The Summer People provides a perfect introduction to Link's off-kilter and brilliant mind.
So sorry about your internet woes. I, too, am a sufferer of AT&T. We have outages which last usually minutes, nothing long, but still annoying.
I can't even tell you when I last found time to read. I am so derailed.
>121 RidgewayGirl: Charter is quite reliable where I live -- hardly any downtime.
Victoria, when you've got time to catch your breath, I look forward to meeting for lunch. American Rust is really interesting so far.
Lori, now you're just showing off. : )
We had Verizon FIOS and where we've moved to we have to have Cox (the only two choices around here). The tech is supposed to come this morning to set us up. I just hate thinking about all the changes we'll have to make with anything that needs our Internet address. I know of no way to transfer my contact list from one to the other, so I imagine sitting copying them one at a time.
I've never heard of having to do that, Betty. Do you mean your email address? I use my laptop all over the place and the only thing that changes is the wifi I log in to. But I have an easy-to-use computer and I don't use anything more complex than the word processing program, the internet and iTunes.
My email address is the one address that has remained constant over the past few decades of many moves.
Well, I think if you use one of the generic email providers (i.e yahoo, maybe aol, etc), you probably don't. But I was using the email through our cable company which was Verizon (i.e....@Verizon.net) and since we switched to Cox, I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to switch my email to a Cox.net email address.
>129 dudes22: While I'm sure there's an easy way to do this, I'm the wrong person to guide you through it.
oh no - wasn't expecting that. just wanted to let you know you're not alone with internet problems.
Just popping in to say hello, and I hope you're having a nice weekend! :)
>123 RidgewayGirl: I've not read this new collection yet. However, I'd read two of Kelly Link's early collections, as well as a steampunk anthology that she had edited. She really does have a unique way of looking at (or imagining) the world. "Off-kilter" is a good way of describing it.
Hi, Laura. Yes, my weekend has provided some extra reading time, which has made me happy. Hoping for more today.
Paulina, Get in Trouble is the first book of hers I've seen, but someone said her earlier collections are marvelous and I'll certainly be tracking them down. I love the way she makes the reader figure out her worlds.
David France's book, How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS isn't a carefully balanced account of the work done to find ways to treat AIDS. It also isn't balanced geographically or emotionally. David France moved to New York city in the early eighties, looking for a place where he would find acceptance and be allowed to be himself. Instead, he entered the epicenter of a horrific epidemic at its beginning and remained through to its ending. So while How to Survive a Plague tries to be balanced and journalistic in its approach, the real human feelings, along with the chaos and frantic need to find any source of hope shines through this account of the New York gay community during the AIDS crisis.
Going through the crisis chronologically, the story is told with all of the physical and emotional turmoil intact. As people struggled, even to find out what was going on, what this new disease was, as the government and American society reacted with a callous disregard at best, and an unseemly schadenfreude at worst, the men at the center were frightened for both themselves and their loved ones. Out of that, rose groups willing to do what they could to find answers, to care for the afflicted and to find ways of compelling the NIH and pharmaceutical companies to get anything that might help to market. And these groups were often at loggerheads with each other, with one group fighting for one thing and another fighting with equal fervor for the opposite. France does a good job of reflecting those conflicts in his writing and his own experiences during this time are recounted along with those of the other members of New York's gay community.
I learned a huge amount from this book. And while it's length is daunting, and arguments could be made for tightening up the story, the way it was written, with each meeting of each group detailed, along with the inter-personal conflicts and resolutions carefully recounted, that very approach deepened my immersion in the subject. And while the focus stays fixed on the fight for a cure, and how that was achieved, what remains in my mind are the heart-breaking and utterly common stories that France includes like the one of one partner last seeing his longtime life companion at the doors of the emergency room, as hospitals routinely barred entry to the partners of people with AIDS.
Great review of a great book. I was so impressed by the way he told this story, demonstrating how hard those activists worked in the face of despair - but also the human frailties within the groups. One I'd like to own.
Charlotte, I'm glad to have read it.
Jackie, it's a worthwhile read. It left me angry and sad. It was not our finest hour. The people affected should have had our support and comfort, instead of having to solve everything themselves, in the face of indifference and hate.
With her first book, After You'd Gone, Maggie O'Farrell won my goodwill forever. She a writer who writes well, and has an ability to bring her characters to life, they don't exist idly on a page. Her novels are hard to characterize, they're somewhat lighter than most literary fiction, but they're lacking in any adherence to formula and tend to explore what loss does to a person in some way or another.
So This Must be the Place fits right in with her usual novels. In it, Daniel meets Claudette and they get married, but both of them have complicated pasts that they never fully dealt with. Daniel has children from a previous marriage, as well as romantic relationships that ended badly, while Claudette left behind a long-term relationship and a successful career that she fled from, leaving with her son early one morning and hiding out in the most rural corner of Ireland she can find. They're both not very good at trust or relationships.
It's in the telling that this novel runs aground. O'Farrell has a great story to tell, but since she gives the background of and center stage to so many secondary characters, from the children to a woman met on a holiday excursion, the story is so fractured it's hard to see the marriage at the center of the novel. Time is spent on both Daniel and Claudette, and on their relationships with the many people they were involved with at different stages of their lives,but little light is shone on their marriage, so that while I was interested in both Daniel and Claudette individually, I never saw why their marriage was important to either of them. In some writers' hands this approach of never showing the center of a novel directly can work, but here it just means that the book feels like it would have worked better as a series of unrelated short stories.
Maybe a book I'd pick up if I happened to come across it, but a well-done review.
Jennifer, it wasn't a bad book. It was just not as good as I expect this novelist to be.
I've had that happen too. A favorite author who seems to put out nothing but gold, then has one that sorta disappointed me because it wasn't as good as the others.
I'll look out for O'Farrell though.
A Gentleman in Moscow is the story of Count Alexander Rostov, who in 1922, was escorted to the doors of the Metropol hotel, where he had been staying, and told he'd be arrested if he left the building. Rostov was a member of the aristocracy, and should have been summarily shot, but a certain event meant that the government was unwilling to shoot him. And so he existed as a non-person, able to live in quite a bit more comfort than his countrymen, but stranded in the limbo of house arrest.
But living in a protected place, outside of the turmoil of life in the Soviet Union during the first half of the last century, didn't mean he was outside of life. The Metropol remained the premier hotel in the city, and was visited by government bigwigs, foreigners and celebrities alike. The two restaurants saw people from every walk of life and Rostov would eventually end up as a member of staff.
Amor Towles is a skilled writer, and one who has clearly taken the time to construct a solid novel. The book is well paced and the characters are wonderfully written. Alexander Rostov is a charming man and this book exudes charm and warmth. Which is really all I have to say in criticism; like his old university roommate points out when he visits Rostov after the end of the Great Patriotic War (WWII), by being incarcerated, Rostov ended up being luckier than all of his friends and associates. A Gentleman in Moscow provides a nicely buffered version of the history of the Soviet Union, free of the fears, struggles to survive and uncertainties faced by everyone else. Avoiding the Politburo is presented as a series of amusing escapades. I was charmed by this novel, although by the end, all tension was absent as I knew that all would be well, just like it had all turned out well in every other adventure undertaken by the Count. Still, this is escapist, comfort reading of the highest quality, written by an author who knows what he's doing.
>146 RidgewayGirl: - That was one of my favorite books from last year. Had the chance to hear him speak recently which made for a nice evening. He shared pictures of the actual hotel and the area around there with the highlight being a picture of the actual dining room at that time. His stories regarding the history of the hotel and the local government really added to my enjoyment of the book. Not sure if you head about this or not, but the chapter time frame doubles with each chapter. The first chapter was Day 1, then Day 2, Day 4, etc...until the midpoint when it reverses. Annoyed that I didn't pick up on that when I was reading but it makes for a neat structure.
I'm hoping to get to Rules of Civility soon.
>146 RidgewayGirl: With this one your bullets hit the target once again, sounds great. Happy 1 May!
Christina, after reading A Gentleman in Moscow, I kind of want to read The Rules of Civility. It does have a gorgeous cover.
That's so interesting about the time structure, Stacy. And Towles writes so well, I'd expect him to be an interesting speaker.
Kristelh, I'd be interested in finding out how the two books compare. I suspect I'll just read The Rules of Civility in due course. I have a copy on my tbr, purchased because of the lovely cover, and then around that time I got tired of books about the wealthy and beautiful.
Chrischi_HH, my Facebook feed has been crammed with people posting pictures of their lovely time out at festivals and enjoying their day off.
I liked Rules of Civility, he captured the time and place beautifully. When I finished it I pulled out the old Billie Holiday records and listened to them all one afternoon. Shear pleasure.
I have at long last started A Gentleman in Moscow just this morning.
I read Rules of Civility shortly after it came out and heard that Amor Towles had been invited to a weekend book festival in my area. I sent him an email to encourage him to come. He emailed me back immediately and told me he had just been in Dallas and couldn't work in another tour our way. His email was quite lengthy and profusely thanked me for "kind comments" of his first book. He seemed like such a nice person.
clue, I visited Amor Towles website, that Stacy linked to in >148 LittleTaiko: and his writing process is interesting. And there's a picture of the Metropol and a map of that area showing how the hotel was situated near the theaters.
That's so cool to have an email from an author. I've had replies to tweets or questions on goodreads and it's always a thrill.
Speaking of authors -- I managed to visit Avid Bookshop on a short trip to Athens, GA and I highly recommend it. It looked as though I had stocked it and I was so happy to find a signed copy of The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie, which was one of my favorite books from 2016. The bookstore guy was excited about the book and he told me all about how fun the signing had been and how amazing and funny McKenzie is.
Interesting to read about Towles. I was underwhelmed by The Rules of Civility but loved The Gentleman in Moscow. I was reading about the Metropol hotel again this week, but in quite a different context in The Patriots. One of those bits of history that I read about not quite believing was true - hundreds of Americans stuck in Stalin’s Russia (the story is based on history).
Charlotte, I was intrigued enough by your comments about The Patriots to check if my library had it. Sadly, they do not, but I have suggested they order it.
Life has been busy lately, and I haven't been home much. My reading has also slowed down - I'm falling asleep before I read more than a few pages at night. I'm also well behind on my reviews. I'm going to try to catch up today and tomorrow.
It astonishes me that American Rust is Philipp Meyer's first published novel. It's not so much that the story is gripping or that he's captured the atmosphere of a place; plenty of debut novels have done this, but that the pacing is perfectly timed, the characters fully realized and the book ends exactly where it should.
The story begins with Isaac English leaving his rural Pennsylvania home with the intention of riding the rails to California. He stops by to say good-bye to his best friend, Poe, a high school baseball star who never left and who lives in a trailer with his mother. They walk awhile together, and when they meet some other men when they take shelter in an abandoned building, violence ensues. American Rust deals with the aftermath of that crime and it's impact on the families involved. Mostly though, it's about a time and a place. Isaac and Poe live in a community that had made its living off of steel manufacturing, and with the mills closed, the towns in the county are sinking into poverty.
My father read American Rust, and said that it perfectly summed up the place he grew up. Given the amount of attention being paid to places like this one, American Rust is as timely today as it was when it was written almost a decade ago.
Sounds interesting, so you got me with a BB.
I hope you get to relax soon, unless you're really busy with exciting things. In that case, continue!
Glad to see that you enjoyed American Rust as much as I did. :)
True Things About Me by Deborah Kay Davies is a novel about a self-destructive young woman. The unnamed protagonist is an intensely self-involved and unstable woman who becomes involved with a man she meets in the benefits office where she works. It's a terrible relationship with a dangerous man, and both her parents and her best friend are unable to keep her from seeing him. Her behavior becomes increasingly erratic as the novel progresses and it's clear that she's even less in control of herself than her exterior behavior indicates.
This isn't a book for everyone. Told from inside the head of the protagonist, the novel is disturbing and, as her behavior and thought patterns become less and less reasonable, the reader is forced to endure her disequilibrium right along with her. The writing is good and the author's willingness to dive into dark places was impressive.
>161 RidgewayGirl:, I think that's a bb for me--it's hard to do an unreliable narrator so well as you've described, and I like dark :)
>157 RidgewayGirl: Finally found some time to read and finished American Rust and see that you have done the same. LOL. I liked it! Introspective. I really liked Harris, which is no surprise. Though I think if he was 100% sure about Grace, he would have taken her to the cabin to meet Fur. Don't you think?
Victoria, I wonder if Harris was right in thinking that by living in such an isolated location he'd condemned himself to bachelorhood, or if it was an excuse. Hard to tell.
I began reading Innocents and Others by Dana Spiotta armed only with the knowledge that a person whose taste in books is similar to mine made an off-hand comment about it being very good. The title gave me the expectation of the book being a collection of short stories, which was only the first surprising thing about this novel. I didn't even read the dust jacket until the book turned abruptly from being one story into being a very different one, and I think I was lucky in approaching Innocents and Others in complete ignorance about it.
Innocents and Others centers on Meadow, a driven young filmmaker, who has a strong friendship with Carrie, another filmmaker. As their lives progress from high school to adulthood, their friendship shifts in the way of adult friends whose lives have moved in different directions. But more than friendship, this book is about filmmaking and a passion for films and how they are made, with both women pursuing different visions in that art form. There's a lot of the detail of how films are made, the history of film and detailed accounts of each of Meadow's documentary films. It was fascinating, and I ended up looking up some of her topics to learn more.
I suspect that Innocents and Others would not appeal to everyone. It's an emotionally raw novel that is nonetheless written in a distancing way and the details of film-making may not prove fascinating for all readers. I loved this book, with its unapologetic focus on female friendship and the complexities of relationships.
I really like Mhairi McFarlane's light novels and You Had Me at Hello was no exception. The story doesn't always hold together perfectly, but McFarlane write with a humorous touch and her characters are intelligent and likable. The story follows Rachel, a reporter with a local paper in Manchester, who had a best friend while in university, but they parted ways after graduation. Now Ben has moved to Manchester and they rekindle their friendship. Rachel likes her job and is training a new court reporter, who may be less scrupulous than Rachel.
This is a fun, escapist novel about intelligent, likable people. Rachel is fun to spend time with, she loves her job, if not all her co-workers, and her friends are written as actual people who have more to do than be foils and sounding boards for Rachel. And the plot, slight though it was, moved along at a pleasant pace. I need to remember to read books like this one more often.
Did you see that there will be a ToB summer reading challenge this year?!
Christina, I didn't like Here's Looking at You - the Darcy character was so unlikeable. But I've loved all of her other novels and I'm glad that there's one I haven't read yet - Who's That Girl?.
Shannon, it will be so much fun. And The Night Ocean is all Lovecraftian, so that will be fun, too. I'm all for any version of Lovecraft with not so much racism.
>167 RidgewayGirl: Not an author I've come across. I'll have a look for her books. Sounds like fun.
Christina, I'll be getting a copy of Who's that Girl? soon, but once I've read that, I'll have to wait for McFarlane to write more, so I'll try to put it off. That said, I do need an occasional book that's just fun and light-hearted, and she's perfect for that.
Charlotte, good, escapist novels are hard to find. Either the plot is mind-numbingly bad, or the main character is vacuous. McFarlane is good at creating characters with depth and remaining light.
Paulina, it's very good. And I'm pleased to have The Son on my tbr to read soon.
This book! If I were allowed to do so, I'd give the first half of Alex Marwood's crime novel, The Wicked Girls, an enthusiastic five stars. Marwood started with a bang, with the story of two pre-adolescent girls who were convicted of a murder and, years later, given new identities after their release, to protect them as their case was a famous one. The novel begins with the adult lives of the two women, although the reader doesn't know which adult was which child as both stories unfold.
In the present day, there are a series of murders of young women in the holiday seaside town of Whitmouth. Both women are tangential to the crime; Amber works as a cleaner in the amusement park where one body is found and Kirsty is a freelance reporter, sent to cover the story. As their paths begin to circle, the story tightens.
I read the first half of the book sure that I'd found another author as brilliant as Tana French. Then, as the story unfolded, it became more predictable, so that the third quarter of the book slipped back to a three and a half star read. I was still interested, but the plot started to fall into predictability. And the last quarter of the book was a generous two star read; the writing and the characters lost their nuance and vivacity and became rote, predictable and something that would not surprise anyone. I'm still surprised that a novel that was so good could change so completely, as though the first half had been written by a different person than the second half.
>177 RidgewayGirl: Aw, what a disappointment. But thanks for the warning on this one.
>177 RidgewayGirl: That's awful that the writing deteriorated as it went along. I've come across books like that just a few times, and I always get the feeling that the author started off all excited, then ran out of steam and just put a cap on it because the deadline was looming.
>180 mstrust: - I've had that happen a couple of times too. I can see the deadline thing and sometimes I think they realize all of a sudden that the book could end up being 600 pages and decide to rush the ending to keep it a reasonable length.
Or the book was sold based on the first chapters? I don't know, but the author was clearly capable of very good work. Marwood had to work hard to turn complex, three dimensional characters into stereotypes like that. Still, I'm giving her one more shot. I would have been very happy with an excellent 600 page novel, though.
>177 RidgewayGirl: - Great review but sorry to see that the story started out so well and then deteriorated into predictability. How frustrating.
So frustrating, Lori. Still, I find myself mysteriously in possession of another book by Marwood, that seems to have traveled home from the library with me.
There's no way that I can write anything that accurately sums up my reaction to Elizabeth Strout's new book, Anything is Possible. In form, it's most closely related to Olive Kitteridge, being a collection of closely related short stories about people from Amgash, the small town where the protagonist of Strout's previous novel, My Name is Lucy Barton grew up. Amgash is a struggling agricultural community, whose residents work as high school guidance counselors, janitors, nurse's aides and housewives. Those who leave enjoy broader prospects, but are nonetheless shaped by the town they grew up in. Lucy Barton's existence hangs over the town; she's a success story, but the residents are ashamed of how she and her family were ostracized and of the bleak poverty that clung to them.
Each story stands on its own, but is made richer by being situated with other stories about the same place, with central characters from one story being mentioned in another. I'm a sucker for the interconnected short story format, and I'm a fan of Strout's understated but fine writing, but I'm pretty sure this book is very, very good.
I loved Anything Is Possible. She's a great writer and I also enjoy the interconnected short story format.
>186 jonesli: Yes, I loved it, too. But I've loved everything Strout has written thus far. I'm not the most objective of readers.
Back during the Tournament of Books, people kept mentioning how much more they'd loved Human Acts than The Vegetarian. I was sure that something was wrong with them. Now that I've read Human Acts, I have to concede that they had a point. While The Vegetarian was a weird, off-balance tour de force, Human Acts is more so.
In May, 1980, a student-led uprising in Gwangju, South Korea was violently quashed by authorities. Over 600 people were killed by government forces, and many more imprisoned. In Human Acts, Han Kang looks at the repercussions of that event in a series of inter-connected short stories, beginning with the story of a student searching for the body of a friend, and continuing with the stories of a protester who was imprisoned and tortured, an editor with a small publishing company who is punished for working with a specific translator, a young woman who grew up in a house which had previously held someone killed in the uprising and even a boy killed by government forces.
This book is astonishing, both in the brilliance of the structure and writing, and in the power of the story being told. Han Kang chose not to begin the story with the uprising itself, but with its tragic aftermath. And she repeatedly hammers the real human suffering home to the reader. While this isn't a cheerful book, it is an important and compelling one.
Just going to be happy about books for a minute. I went to my local independent bookstore, M. Judson Booksellers with the plan of signing up for their Southern Lit bookclub. It features both Donald Ray Pollack and Joshilyn Jackson, both authors I like, but they are very, very different, with Pollock being hardcore Appalachian noir and Jackson being funny and women-oriented. A sales clerk came by as I was browsing and she hand-sold me this book
which was just a lot of fun. I love it when people are excited about books, and coupled with this and a visit last month to Avid Books in Athens, GA, where a very excited guy sold me a signed copy of Elizabeth McKenzie's The Portable Veblen, I'm wondering if a new strategy for managing my tbr might be to keep my new book purchases to independent bookstores and booksales. It won't happen, but it is an idea.
You'll be happy to know that you've passed the interest on to me. You're contagious. I've never heard of Pollack or The Weight of This World.
I read about The Weight of the World somewhere and had already added it to my wishlist. I'll look forward to your thoughts on it.
Judy, I'd run across a mention of it somewhere, but can't remember where. Now to read the giant stack of ARCs and library books so I can read my own!
Ghachar Ghochar is a slender novella about a family in India who once struggled to get by but sudden business success has catapulted them into wealth, a state of affairs that is not altogether positive. Vivek Shanbhag's tale is charming, but with dark undertones and comparisons to Chekov's short stories are not without merit. There's a lightness to the writing, here gorgeously translated by Srinath Perur, that makes the book a delight to read. It had me hooked from the opening description of the narrator's favorite café. The book is very short, but there's a lot packed into its pages.
I've only read one or two by Strout. I enjoyed her work, but it's not something I want to read every day. I need a mix of good literature and "brain candy" in the fiction department. I also enjoy non-fiction.
Lori, this is so true - most of us read a mix of the challenging and the escapist. Strout is one of my favorites because I trust her to pull me deeply into her character's lives and to not drop the ball.
>198 RidgewayGirl: That's why they always smile when they see you at the door, LOL.
This topic was continued by RidgewayGirl's Year of Books, Part Three.
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