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KatieKrug's Mostly Random Challenge

2018 Category Challenge

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Nov 19, 2017, 4:08pm Top

Hi All! I’ve done the Category Challenge before but took a break the last couple of years or so… I’m looking forward to “freshening up” my reading life with some new people and new sources of recommendations :) Also, some of my favorite people *cough*Judy*cough*Mamie*cough*Amber*cough*Roberta*cough* are over here, and I like to stalk them.

I’ve decided to approach my categories similarly to how some others are - by focusing on the source of the books I read. I have over 3000 books in my house and on my Kindle, plus long wish lists at the libraries I have access to. I try to balance where I pick reads from with the (ridiculous) idea that somehow it will help me get to them all - ha!

Most of my picks from the various sources will be made randomly - either by using random.org, book roulette on the LT homepage, or asking someone to pick for me. I may make some intentional selections, but I often find myself paralyzed by choice when it’s time to pick what’s next, and I find using an objective selector helpful.

Looking forward to a fun reading year!

Edited: Dec 6, 2017, 7:34pm Top

A word about my comments and ratings - I am not super consistent with how I rate books, so take the star ratings I give with a grain of salt. You might consider them accurate, give or take half a star or so. And I am also not consistent in my comments about books - sometimes I am moved to write a lot and sometimes it’s all I can do to put together a couple of sentences. The length of my comments should not be taken as an indicator of how much or how little I enjoyed a book.

My ratings (based on how the book landed on me, not necessarily on literary merit or anything more worthy than personal opinion):
5 stars - O.M.G.
4 stars - Bravo!
3 stars - Comme ci comme ça
2 stars - Not for me
1 stars - A big ol’ NOPE!

Edited: Apr 24, 3:36pm Top

Off My Fiction Shelves

The vast majority of the physical books in my possession are fiction.

1. True Grit by Charles Portis
2. Men and Dogs by Katie Crouch

Edited: Apr 17, 4:08pm Top

Off My Nonfiction Shelves

I follow the Nonfiction Reading Challenge in the 75ers group, so many of my reads listed here will have been chosen for those monthly topics.

1. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
2. Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie
3. Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat
4. The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin

Edited: Apr 24, 3:36pm Top

Off My Kindle

LT tells me I have 1700+ books on my Kindle. I travel for work, so use my Kindle during those times, but I also try to always have something easy to start and stop on the app on my phone in case I get stuck somewhere…

1. Running Back by Allison Parr
2. The North Water by Ian McGuire
3. Black Water Rising by Attica Locke
4. Pistols for Two by Georgette Heyer
5. Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace
6. A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie
7. London Calling by Clare Lydon

Edited: May 3, 10:18am Top

Off My Audio “Shelves”

I used to consume a lot more audio books, but now that I work from home, I don’t have that commuting time to devote to listening. Still, I always have something going - it just takes me a lot longer to get through them!

1. How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
2. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
3. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
4. The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
5. Dog Crazy by Meg Donohue

Edited: Nov 19, 2017, 4:16pm Top

Off My Library Wish List

I keep a wish list of books available from my local library and the excellent consortium of libraries that it belongs to and from which I can also request books.

Edited: Nov 19, 2017, 4:17pm Top

Off My Overdrive Wish List

I use Overdrive primarily for e-books, but sometimes audios, too. I mostly agreed to move to the New York City area when my husband got a job offer just so I could use the New York Public Library…

Edited: Jan 24, 12:03pm Top

Picked by The Wayne

That handsome devil in the photo is my husband, affectionately known as The Wayne. The books listed here will have been chosen with his input in some way - whether I ask him to pick a book, a shelf from which I will pick a book, etc…

1. He Who Fears the Wolf by Karin Fossum

Edited: Apr 26, 1:00pm Top

Shiny and New!

I sometimes get caught up in the hype surrounding a new book and I always peruse the New Books shelf in the library, so this category is for those books that demand my attention.

1. One Fine Day by Cindy Kirk
2. The Judge Hunter by Christopher Buckley
3. Big Guns by Steve Israel
4. The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths
5. The Completionist by Siobhan Adcock
6. The Grave's a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley

Edited: Mar 8, 2:42pm Top

Itch Relief

My picks are mostly random, but sometimes I get an urge to read a favorite author, or I spot a book as I pass by a shelf and I suddenly want to read it RIGHT NOW. Those will go here.

1. Red Lightning by Laura Pritchett
2. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

Edited: May 3, 10:18am Top

CATs, DOGs, and Other LT (and non-LT) Group or Theme Reads

Self-explanatory, I think. I am tentatively planning to participate, at least sporadically, in the RandomCAT, MysteryCAT, BingoDOG, American Author Challenge, and Nonfiction Reading Challenge here on LT, and the PopSugar, BookRiot, and Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenges on the internet, as well as face-to-face book groups.

1. Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
2. The Power by Naomi Alderman
3. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
4. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Edited: Nov 19, 2017, 4:25pm Top

Nov 19, 2017, 5:31pm Top

Nice categories, you should have no trouble fitting all your books in somewhere in 2018. I like "The Wayne" category, I'm wondering if he puts a lot of thought into his selections or is super random.

Nov 19, 2017, 5:37pm Top

Hi Ro -welcome!

I have occasionally asked him to pick a book for me, and depending on his mood, he has been known to look for the thickest tome and hand it to me with an evil smile. That's when I decide I should pick my own book!

Nov 19, 2017, 5:42pm Top

I like the idea of including a category for scratching book itches -- you never know when those will arise! Have a great reading year :)

Nov 19, 2017, 5:44pm Top

Welcome back to the group, Katie! Love your categories and the image for the Shiny and New category.

Nov 19, 2017, 5:55pm Top

Hi, Katie!! WOOT!

Nov 19, 2017, 6:27pm Top

Nov 19, 2017, 6:56pm Top

Good luck! I'm afraid I'll be wounded a lot here.

Nov 20, 2017, 8:32am Top

>16 rabbitprincess: - Thanks, rp!

>17 lkernagh: - Hi Lori - thanks!

>18 scaifea: and >19 Crazymamie: - Heeellllllooooooooo, ladies!

>20 majkia: - Hi Jean. I'd apologize in advance for the BBs but.... :)

Nov 20, 2017, 4:34pm Top

Katie's here! Katie's here. Wow, 2018 is shaping up to be a very fun year!

BTW >19 Crazymamie: that clip never get old and always makes me smile!

Nov 20, 2017, 5:26pm Top

Hi Judy! I'm here, I'm here!

And totally agree about Mamie's .gif. It always makes me smile!

Nov 21, 2017, 1:07am Top

Good to see you here! Love the categories, they should cover everything!

Nov 21, 2017, 7:24am Top

Great setup!

Nov 21, 2017, 8:01am Top

>24 VivienneR: - Thanks, Vivienne. I think I have enough buckets to catch everything - we'll see!

>25 MissWatson: - Thank you!

Nov 26, 2017, 8:43pm Top

Did I hear my name? *cough* I think you need something for that cough Katie. Welcome back!

I love your categories.

Nov 26, 2017, 9:22pm Top

Nice setup! Looking forward to seeing what you read.

Nov 27, 2017, 10:06am Top

>27 luvamystery65: - Howdy, Ro! Thanks for stopping by and for the *cough* medicine :)

>28 LittleTaiko: - Thanks, Stacy! Like others, I am champing at the bit to get started!

Nov 27, 2017, 3:38pm Top

>8 katiekrug: That is one great library, for sure! You're lucky your husband got a job in a city with a great library.

Nov 28, 2017, 9:02am Top

>30 mamzel: - And I am taking full advantage of it!

Nov 28, 2017, 10:17am Top

Morning, Katie! We watched Persuasion last night, so thank you for the discussion that brought it up and made me have to revisit it. Now I need to read the book again. *happy sigh*

Nov 28, 2017, 10:31am Top

I just saw that, Mamie! I'm so glad the girls liked it - they are women of impeccable taste, obviously.

Nov 28, 2017, 10:36am Top

Persuasion is Birdy's favorite Austen. And she is completely snarky. You would LOVE her!

Nov 28, 2017, 10:41am Top

So I am in good company with my Persuasion love!

Nov 28, 2017, 10:45am Top

Yes, ma'am.

Dec 8, 2017, 6:31pm Top

Great setup! Welcome back and enjoy your reading. :)

Dec 14, 2017, 9:59am Top

>15 katiekrug: Does this mean I have to follow you in TWO places?!?! Or are you going to call this home next year? :) I like The Wayne's evil sense of humor.

Dec 14, 2017, 10:09am Top

Hi Kim! I'll be keeping two threads, but you don't have to follow both if you don't want to ;-)

The Wayne is a piece of work...

Dec 14, 2017, 10:12am Top

I'll watch and learn from you. ; ) I am going to get my toes wet and try the Color and Random Challenges, but probably post my reads over in the other group. We'll see.

And, yup, a priceless piece of work!

Dec 21, 2017, 10:35pm Top

>40 Berly: - I somehow managed to ignore my own thread - sorry, Kim!

Glad you are going to dip in and out over here :)

Jan 1, 7:02pm Top

Happy new year, everybody!

I am currently reading Go Tell It on the Mountain for a book group, and listening to How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, which is hysterical.

Here's to a great year of reading :)

Jan 1, 7:04pm Top

>42 katiekrug: I just ended my year with Baldwin's The Fire Next Time. Go Tell It on the Mountain was my first Baldwin.

Happy New Year KAK!

Jan 1, 7:18pm Top

Howdy, Ro! Thanks for stopping in.

The only other Baldwin I've read is Giovanni's Room, which was very good.

Jan 3, 8:17pm Top

Happy New Year!

Thanks, you just reminded me that I've been meaning to pick up How to be a woman by Caitlin Moran from the library.

Jan 4, 5:08pm Top

My first book bullet of the year! I read How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran last year and loved it - so I am adding How to Be A Woman to the list!

Jan 5, 9:40am Top

>45 VivienneR: and >46 DeltaQueen50: - I was not very familiar with Moran, but she is very smart and funny. Having her read the audio version is a treat. I'll be looking for others by her, narrated by her!

Jan 5, 9:49am Top

>46 DeltaQueen50: I just picked up How to Build a Girl in the last 2 for 1 credit Audible sale, Judy, so I am happy to hear you loved it. I am thinking that Charlotte also loved it, which is how it landed on my list - or maybe that was you. Now I am confusing myself. Heh.

Morning, Katie!

Jan 5, 9:54am Top

Morning, Mamie! I need to take a closer look at that title - I didn't realize it was a novel until I was just over on Audible. Alas, it is not read by Moran herself.

Jan 5, 10:03am Top

No, but I did love the sample that I listened to before purchasing it.

Edited: Jan 5, 10:19am Top

I've put it on my Audible wishlist.

Jan 5, 11:58pm Top

Stopping by with happy weekend wishes, Katie and to see what you are reading at the moment.

Jan 6, 10:55am Top

Hi Lori! Thanks for stopping by.

I am currently reading He Who Fears the Wolf by Karin Fossum (Norwegian mystery) and listening to How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. Both are great!

Headed over to your thread now...

Jan 6, 11:28am Top

Jan 6, 11:58am Top

Howdy, Ro! I totally agree. It's a great read!

Edited: Jan 6, 6:09pm Top

Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

A beautifully written semi-autobiographical novel about a boy coming of age in Harlem in the 1930s and his religious awakening. The book deals with the role of religion as both a positive and negative force in the lives of African Americans - a source of encouragement and community but also of hypocrisy and cruelty. In places, Baldwin's writing has the rhythm of a sermon, and I found myself reading passages out loud. Though slow to get started, the last half is powerful and stirring, if - to my atheist self - a bit overbearing in its religious imagery and Biblical references. I had previously read Giovanni's Room by Baldwin and found that a similarly worthwhile read. I look forward to reading more of his work.

4 stars

Jan 7, 3:48pm Top

>56 katiekrug: - Lovely review. I have only read Giovanni' Room, so it looks like I have more worthy Baldwin reads to look forward to!

Jan 8, 9:04am Top

Lori, this one is definitely worth reading. Now I need to find some more of his...

Jan 8, 9:40pm Top

He Who Fears the Wolf by Karin Fossum

This third entry in the Inspector Sejer series is an atmospheric tale taking place over the course of a single day involving murder, robbery, and insanity. A series of coincidences places three lives on course to intersect and interact; in the midst of it all, the reader learns the back stories of the characters and begins to sympathize with them, even the criminals. That Fossum does all this in the space of just about 270 pages is quite an achievement; I appreciate writers who can draw specific and indelible characters with out giving in to the temptation to overdo it. A very satisfying read.

4 stars

Jan 9, 6:20pm Top

>59 katiekrug: Great review! I agree with how impressive it was that Fossum was able to pack all that story and character into so few pages, by current standards.

Jan 9, 9:57pm Top

>60 rabbitprincess: - Thank you! A lot of contemporary writers do seem to go on and on, don't they?!!?

Jan 24, 12:02pm Top

The North Water by Ian McGuire

I gobbled up this brutal, vivid, and violent tale of the experience of a 19th century British whaling ship in the ice fields near Greenland. McGuire has brought this world to life, visceral detail by visceral detail. No character is particularly sympathetic – there are just shades of less worse. If you need likeable people and shy away from violence, this is probably not the book for you. But I loved it and just some small quibbles with the ending prevented me from giving it the full 5 stars.

4.5 stars

Running Back by Allison Parr

An uneven contemporary romance with good characterization but a rather ridiculous plot involving an archeological dig in Ireland. Still, sports romance!

3 stars

How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

Caitlin Moran hasn’t really made it across the ocean (yet), so I was not at all familiar with her. I listened to this memoir/feminist “manifesto” read by Moran herself and frequently found myself laughing out loud. She has a snarky sense of humor and a quick wit and important things to say. I hope she won’t remain a British secret.

4 stars

Jan 24, 2:03pm Top

>62 katiekrug: I will eventually read The North Water. I just don't know when I'll get to it.

Jan 24, 2:05pm Top

I've been eyeing the Moran book for a long while. Need to get round to it soon.

Jan 24, 2:09pm Top

>63 thornton37814: - It's a great read, Lori, as long as you aren't sensitive to gore and violence.

>64 scaifea: - Do try to find it on audio, Amber. Hearing her read it increased my enjoyment, I think.

Jan 24, 2:13pm Top

>65 katiekrug: I can tolerate some kinds of it--and others I can't. I guess I can start it and see if I can stomach it. Worst thing that can happen is that it will end up in the "Harlan, Kentucky" category of abandoned reads.

Jan 24, 2:15pm Top

>65 katiekrug: Good idea. I'll have to check the library...

Jan 26, 1:12pm Top

Great review for the McGuire book, Katie! On the future reading list it goes, but not right away. I have had enough brutal violence for the moment, having recently completed Blood Meridian. ;-)

Jan 27, 9:57am Top

>66 thornton37814: - Easy enough to just stop reading if it's a bbit much for you, Lori.

>67 scaifea: - Hope you can get a hold of it, Ambere

>68 lkernagh: - Ooof, Blood Meridian. YEs, I think a break is in order!

Jan 27, 9:57am Top

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke

This is the story of Jay Porter, a bottom-rung lawyer in Houston in 1981. Jay was a civil rights advocate in his college days, was arrested on a trumped up charge, went to law school, and now keeps his head down. His clients are prostitutes, drunks, minor criminals and the like. And then in one night, celebrating his pregnant wife's birthday, his life is turned upside down. Political power, ghosts from his past, labor unions, "Big Oil," hit men, and all sorts of other fun stuff collide to threaten Jay, his family, and the few things he still cares about.

Locke does a great job portraying the time and place of Jay's story. Houston is seedy and gritty in one block and the next gives way to green spaces and mansions. She nails the uneasy truces and accommodations, the simmering tensions, and also the opportunity of a big and brash city. And Jay as a character is unendingly frustrating *and* sympathetic. I had some quibbles with the novel, mostly related to Locke trying to do a little too much, but overall it was a great read.

4 stars

Jan 27, 10:56am Top

>62 katiekrug: How to be a Woman caught my interest -- I've never heard of Moran before, but it sounds like this might be a book that's up my alley. I will keep an eye out!

Jan 29, 8:18am Top

>71 pammab: - I hope you like it!

Jan 29, 8:58pm Top

4.5 stars. A very honest and occasionally almost clinical look at grief and loss and mourning. I don't think this would be everyone's cup of tea, but I found it moving and very compelling. I plan to read more Didion, especially Blue Nights her follow-up to this one. And I will make some time to watch the documentary about her on Netflix.

"Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself." (page 189)

"'A single person is missing for you, and the whole world is empty." (Philippe Aries, as quoted by Didion on page 192)

Feb 6, 9:47am Top

One Fine Day by Cindy Kirk

I picked this one from the Read Now section on NetGalley. I'd read a previous book by the author - another first in a series set in a cute Midwestern town - and didn't love it but didn't hate it, either, and I needed a quick read to get some numbers going on NG.

One Fine Day is the story of Abby Fine who agrees to serve as a surrogate for her best friend and his wife. And then things go terribly wrong and five years later, Abby is a single mom in Hazel Green, IL, an over-the-top cute suburb of Chicago straight out of central casting (i.e. completely unbelievable).

Abby is a decent heroine if a little wishy-washy, and Jonah, the hero, is sympathetically neither all good nor all bad. He is actually the more interesting of the two. But both are well drawn and while the chemistry and speed of the relationship development might strain credulity, it wasn't outside the bounds of believable.

There are some nice details included in the story, and I just wish Kirk knew when to stop. Less is more. Show, don't tell. Rather than adding to the story, much of the exposition and needless detail served to distract and rather than bringing the setting to life, made it seem so unbelievable and unrelatable that it took away from the whole story.

In the end, though, this is a romance, and not a bad one. I found it satisfying taken just at face value and if I didn't think too hard about it. The supporting characters are interesting, and as the first in a new series, it sets up further stories well. I may or may not read a new one by Kirk, but less picky readers will find something to like here.

2.5 stars

Feb 15, 11:10am Top

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

This memoir is sub-titled "Stories from a South African Childhood." Truth in advertising - this is NOT an autobiography detailing the full sweep of Noah's life, including his rise as a comedian, journey to America, and success as host of The Daily Show. I think some people missed that somehow...

Anyway, this was a fascinating book and would have been even if the writer weren't well-known. I learned a lot about South African society and the institution of apartheid. Obviously, I knew about apartheid but to hear about how it was institutionalized, maintained, defended, and how it affected everyday life was fascinating. Noah's humor shines brightly throughout this memoir, even when it deals with some very dark issues. It was an excellent audio as read by Noah himself - one of those books I imagine would not have been as good had I just read it in print.

4 stars

Edited: Feb 15, 11:10am Top

True Grit by Charles Portis

Why did I wait so long to read this? What a great novel. (It reminded me in many ways of News of the World by Paulette Jiles, and I would be interested to know if Jiles was influenced by it.) I loved the humor and Mattie's strong narrative voice, as well as the complexity of Rooster's character. I have an audio version, too, which I think will be a great way to re-visit the story sometime in the future.

4.5 stars

Feb 15, 11:12am Top

I'm currently in the midst of three books:

The Power by Naomi Alderman - This is for book club and it's very good.

The Judge Hunter by Christopher Buckley - This is from NetGalley and has Buckley's characteristic humor.

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie - On audio; very good but very long!

Feb 15, 2:27pm Top

>76 katiekrug: True Grit is so good! Glad you enjoyed it -- and I'm glad to see you compare it to News of the World, which is on my TBR shelf.

Feb 15, 4:21pm Top

>75 katiekrug: I have this on Mt TBR (the ebook version). I'm not an audiobook fan, but I am very tempted to make an exception in this case.

Feb 15, 4:28pm Top

>78 christina_reads: - News of the World is wonderful! You are in for a treat :)

>79 Jackie_K: - You might give the audio a try and see if it works. If you can get it from the library, no harm - no foul if you don't like it...

Feb 15, 4:33pm Top

Hi Katie, I think I've already told you that I am overdue to read True Grit so I will be trying to work that one into my schedule. I've heard so many good things about Trevor Noah's book that I think I will spend my next Audilble credit on it.

Feb 15, 4:41pm Top

Judy, I think you will enjoy both - TG especially seems right in your wheelhouse!

Feb 16, 11:08am Top

>76 katiekrug: - Hmmm, I might need to consider reading True Grit if it reminded you of NoTW which is a book I adored.

Feb 16, 11:12am Top

Do it, Stacy!

Feb 16, 1:05pm Top

>83 LittleTaiko: Adding my encouragement -- I really liked True Grit, and I am not generally a fan of Westerns!

Feb 16, 6:22pm Top

>76 katiekrug: I love True Grit and really need to re-read it sometime! :)

Feb 20, 9:54am Top

>86 rabbitprincess: - I have it on audio and plan to re-visit it that way in the future. But I'm also holding on to my print copy!

Feb 20, 9:54am Top

The Power by Naomi Alderman

I love books with shifting view points, where chapters alternate among characters and eventually, they start overlapping and intersecting. This format was especially effective in The Power as it allowed Alderman to build the world in such a way that it didn't seem overly explained or in need of a lot of set-up. The premise of the novel is that women discover a previously hidden ability to inflict pain on others and what this means for society, gender roles, the meaning of violence, etc. It's a fascinating question and this book is a lot more nuanced than "Ha ha, stupid men getting what they deserve." I did have some issues with it - the end felt a bit like the author was losing control of her own story, and a good editor would have caught embarrassing flubs like referring to UNESCO in the context of helping refugees. But overall, this was an entertaining and thought-provoking read; I look forward to a good discussion about it tonight with my book group.

4 stars

Warning: the book is very violent in parts, so if you are especially sensitive to that, proceed with caution.

Mar 6, 5:37pm Top

>75 katiekrug:
I had missed that sub-title, and as I wasn't hugely interested in his career, I skipped it. It's now on my wishlist!

Mar 6, 10:19pm Top

The Judge Hunter by Christopher Buckley

I'm a fan of Christopher Buckley's novels, especially his contemporary ones. This is his second historical novel, after the great The Relic Master. In this one, Buckley takes us to 17th century New England, home of Puritans, Quakers, outlaws, and Native Americans. Our "hero" is the hapless Balty, brother-in-law of Samuel Pepys, who is charged with finding two regicidal judges wanted back in England. But is that really his mission?

He is paired with Hiram Huncks, a soldier and fixer, who helps Balty navigate the New World. This novel is amusing in parts, but never laugh-out loud funny like some of Buckley's better work. The best parts were those set in New Amsterdam, governed at the time by Peter Stuyvesant. Here we see the kidnapping of a parrot, get descriptions of the pastoral beauty of what is now Manhattan, and witness the bloodless takeover by the British (who re-name it New York). Buckley obviously knows his history and has done good research but somehow I never became immersed in the story. It may be that the very contemporary-sounding language prevented me from buying into the portrait of 17th century America. Still, it was a diverting read, and I will follow along to wherever Buckley takes us next.

3 stars

This was an ARC, courtesy of NetGalley. The book is scheduled for publication in May.

Conversation between Balty and Peter Stuyvesant, touring the defences of New Amsterdam:

"'People now are saying we must have a bigger wall."

'Not on our account, I hope.'

Stuyvesant shrugged. 'If to this it comes, maybe I will ask your King Charles to pay for it.'"

Mar 6, 10:21pm Top

Red Lightning by Laura Pritchett

This is the follow-up to Sky Bridge, which was, I believe, Pritchett's debut novel. I read SB a couple of years ago and liked it, but not nearly as much as the first two of hers I had read - Hell's Bottom, Colorado and Stars Go Blue. Pritchett writes about the Western plains, specifically in Colorado, and I love her spare, evocative prose. Unfortunately, this novel seemed overwritten in parts, and I didn't fully buy into the characters and their motivations. It's told int he first person and, oddly, the narrator was the least believable of the characters. It's about identity and redemption and grace, and while Tess searches for hers, she sees it clearly in others. I just didn't buy that this would be so black and white.

It's worth reading for Pritchett lovers, but if you are new to her, do not start here...

The good: "Thank god. Thank some god for my sister, who seems to be willing to keep her heart open for at least a moment despite all the very good reasons not to, proving, I suppose, that we humans are kinder and more generous than whatever god struck us into life."

The bad: " 'Yes. I want to let the winter come down around me and just... hold me. I need to make some peace. Connect myself. Put the puzzle pieces back together. Merge. Solidify. I need to find the ways to leave my worst self and find my better one. A unified better one.' "

3 stars

Mar 6, 10:22pm Top

Big Guns by Steve Israel

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Steve Israel really wants to be friends with Christopher Buckley. He's written a very Buckley-esque political farce regarding our broken political system and the gun control debate. He knows of what he writes - Israel is a former Democratic Congressman - and he ably skewers both sides, though the reader has no doubt which garners more of his sympathy. There are laugh out loud funny lines in this book, and his characters often combine recognizable traits of real people. My only real quibble with the book is a lack of context for the motivation of a main character - why she suddenly had a change of heart. But I'm not necessarily looking for a lot of depth and complexity in a book like this. i enjoyed it, even if it painfully in parts, for what it was - an all too plausible fictional look at the dirty intersection of politics, money, ambition, greed, and "culture war" issues - served with a side of humor to make it a tad more palatable. The timeliness of this book after the Parkland, FL school shooting made it that much more urgent but discouraging a read.

3 stars

This was an ARC, courtesy of NetGalley. The book is scheduled for publication in April.

Mar 6, 10:25pm Top

>89 -Eva-: - It's definitely worth a read, Eva!

Mar 25, 7:24pm Top

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie

A very good and readable/listenable biography of a fascinating woman. We see different facets of Catherine - her intelligence, ambition, frustration, and power - which come together in a fulsome portrait.

4 stars

Mar 25, 7:24pm Top

The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths

This is the newest int he Ruth Galloway series, scheduled for release in the US in May, I think. As with most of the more recent entries in the series, the mystery is not particularly strong or intriguing. I read these for the character development and relationships among the characters, and this one was strong on both counts.

3.5 stars

Mar 25, 7:25pm Top

Pistols for Two by Georgette Heyer

A sweet collection of short stories with the usual Heyer hallmarks. I found I enjoyed it more when I stopped reading it straight through and just dipped in and out...

3 stars

Apr 4, 9:34am Top

Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat

A beautifully written memoir about Danticat's extraordinary family and their deep capacity for love and survival. Moving from conflict-ridden Haiti to the US, and going back and forth in time, the many threads of her story are expertly woven into a portrait of enduring hope and faith, even in the midst of death and loss. It's incredibly moving, and I cried through about the last 20 pages of it.

5 stars

Apr 4, 9:34am Top

Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

I wish I could quote the entire chapter on Texas, because it is Spot On, even 50-some years later :) Overall, I very much enjoyed this fact-fictitious /fict-factual account of a road trip Steinbeck took in 1960 with his dog, Charley. Some sections stood out more than others, and some of his encounters seemed a little too fortuitous to be wholly true. That said, taken as a whole, I think he presents a pretty realistic portrait of America at that time. And what I wasn't expecting was for so much of what he said to still ring true today.

4 stars

Apr 4, 9:34am Top

Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace

I can't say I missed this series as a child. I was well aware of them and just not particularly interested. I think I was being encouraged to read them around the same time as I was reading The Great Brain books, and John Bellairs spooky ones, so these sweet tales of another time just didn't interest me. Timing is everything, and had I been given them when I was reading Laura Ingalls Wilder, or Anne of Green Gables, I might have been more interested. ANYWAY, I picked up a collection of the first 4 Betsy-Tacy books in a Kindle sale in honor of my mother who loved, loved, LOVED them. And I enjoyed this first one and actually found it more engaging than I expected to. My mom and her sisters would be so happy to know I finally came around :)

3.5 stars

Apr 4, 9:35am Top

Men and Dogs by Katie Crouch

The best part of this book is the cover.

Beyond that, this was an utterly forgettable novel of a dysfunctional Southern family. I think Crouch was going for quirky in some ways, but it fell flat. And the protagonist is very difficult to like. My favorite character was the step-father who was buffoon-like, but at least seemed realistic. Still, something kept me reading, so I'll give it a lackluster (but generous) 3 stars.

Apr 4, 2:12pm Top

>97 katiekrug: I've added that to the wishlist, it sounds great!

Apr 4, 2:55pm Top

>98 katiekrug: - Spot on Texas descriptions? Now, I'm really intrigued.

Apr 4, 3:51pm Top

>101 Jackie_K: - I hope you like it!

>102 LittleTaiko: - Well, I enjoyed it as a non-native Texan who spent 12 years there but was very glad to move on, so take that for what it's worth :)

Apr 4, 4:43pm Top

Oh Katie, you always hit me with multiple book bullets. At least I already have Travels with Charley on my shelf. I think I read the Betsy-Tacy series when I was young but I don't remember them at all so I went and picked up the first four for my Kindle. And of course I am going to add Brother I'm Dying to my wishlist. I read her Farming of the Bones a few years ago and remember it as a very powerful and well written story as well.

Apr 4, 10:02pm Top

Sorry-notsorry, Judy *grin*

Apr 6, 1:27pm Top

>99 katiekrug: If I read the series as a child, I don't remember it.

Apr 9, 2:32pm Top

A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie

A fun Christie, slightly marred for me by a major plot hole. Colonel and Mrs. Easterbrook discover his revolver is missing, but she remembers seeing it in his drawer AFTER the first murder. But during the resolution, it’s mentioned that the murderer stole the Colonel’s revolver. But even a holey Christie is a good read.

3.5 stars

Apr 9, 2:33pm Top

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein

I am not the target audience (middle schoolers) for this book, but I don’t think I would have liked it even way back when. There were some fun bits, but overall, the puzzle wasn’t very puzzling and the characters were paper cut-outs of stereotypical adolescents. Also, the narrator on the audio was terrible, so that didn’t help.

2.5 stars

Apr 9, 2:33pm Top

The Completionist by Siobhan Adcock

Siobhan Adcock has written a compelling novel set in a near-future in which infertility has caused a dramatic decrease in the birth rate, environmental disasters have caused catastrophic collapse, and water is no longer naturally available but must be engineered. She builds this world piece by piece, never descending to that annoying habit some authors have of just explaining everything up front. We learn how this new world works through various details that combine to paint a devastating portrait.

At heart, this story is about family and the love and conflict that binds parents and children and brothers and sisters. Carter is a Marine, recently back from two years at war in what used to be California. His oldest sister is pregnant – a minor miracle – and his younger sister is missing. In his search for her, he learns just how far society goes to protect the few children who are born and what the cost of that protection is. Carter is a mess – he’s been badly wounded in war, has developed a severe drinking problem, and can’t seem to make a good or responsible choice most of the time. But he loves his sisters fiercely, and it is this love that redeems him as a character. Adcock writes him very realistically – flaws and all – and he is hard to like or root for. But in his insistence on learning what happened to his missing sister and on protecting his other sister as much as he can, we see that at his core, he is a good man.

The Completionist started off a bit slow for me, but I am glad I persevered. It’s an intriguing premise, and while nothing is resolved neatly, the ending was satisfying in a way a lot of novels aren’t – it was in keeping with the story and the characters and the world that Adcock created.

4 stars

I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley. It is scheduled for publication in the US in June.

Apr 17, 4:07pm Top

The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin

This was a solid and interesting read about an event I was not aware of until hearing about this book. A fast-moving and powerful blizzard struck the Great Plains of the US in 1888 and killed hundreds, including scores of children who were on their way home from school. Laskin provides some interesting details about weather forecasting at the time and puts the pioneer families' backgrounds and histories in context. Reading the details of the storm and extreme cold that followed it and how people either survived or didn't was harrowing, but overall, the book fell a bit flat for me. It may have been some of the repetition, or Laskin's need to theorize about what happened in places given the paucity of original resources, but something kept this from being at least a 4-star read for me. It also paled a bit in comparison to Isaac's Storm which is an excellent non-fiction account of another weather disaster in American history.

3.5 stars

Apr 17, 4:08pm Top

The Bookshop on the Corner* by Jenny Colgan

This was a delightful novel about a shy librarian who loses her job and decides to take some risks in life. Nina opens herself up to new experiences and new people and new places and despite some bumps in the road, she ultimately finds the risks worth taking. The story shines with humor and charm and bibliophilia, and the audio is beautifully read by Lucy Price-Lewis.

4 stars

* UK title: The Little Shop of Happy Ever After

Edited: Apr 24, 3:37pm Top

London Calling by Clare Lydon

A cute romance set in contemporary London, in which Jess may or may not be carrying too much emotional baggage to make a go of it with Lucy. Jess' friends and family make for a nice cast of characters, but her obtuseness and wishy-washiness wore a little thin.

3 stars

Apr 26, 1:00pm Top

The Grave's a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley

This latest entry in the Flavia de Luce series made me remember why I first enjoyed them. The last few have been a bit meh, but I found this one to strike a nice balance between Flavia's precociousness and her growing maturity. The resolution of the mystery struck me as a bit odd, with a few loose ends left hanging, but I suspect they may be addressed in the next installment. The real star of this story was, for me, the real and realistic character development, and the changing nature of the various characters' relationships. As always, the audio was wonderfully narrated by Jayne Entwhistle.

4 stars

May 3, 10:17am Top

Dog Crazy by Meg Donohue

I picked this one up because dogs. And the dogs are the best part about it. Donohue does a good job of imbuing her canine characters with unique personalities and believable doggy-ness. Other than that, this is a pretty weak novel about an agoraphobic pet grief counselor and how she overcomes obstacles by helping an obsessed owner of a lost dog. There is a ridiculous "mystery" as to what happened to the lost dog, and some gentle romance, but really, the only reason to read this one is for the dogs. And don't listen to the audio, because the narration is Not Good.

3 stars

May 3, 10:17am Top

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

A re-read that maintained its 4.5 star rating. There is a lot contained in this short novel, and my book group had a good discussion of it. Hamid doesn't pretend to have many answers, but he invokes the many questions beautifully.

Jul 2, 7:04pm Top

I keep forgetting I have this thread, and since I'm not on LT as much as I used to be, I think I'll just shutter it.

My 75ers thread is here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/292914

Group: 2018 Category Challenge

156 members

21,663 messages


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