RidgewayGirl Reads All Over the Place - Part Two
This is a continuation of the topic RidgewayGirl Reads All Over the Place.
This topic was continued by RidgewayGirl Reads All Over the Place - Part Three.
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Already almost a third of the way through the year! I hope everyone is having a great reading year. I certainly am. I'm opening a new thread and promise that it will feature at least 60% more cats. We've got a lot of cats in the house now, is what I'm saying. Still more books than cats, but it's getting close.
Books Acquired in 2018: 49
Books Off of My TBR: 26
Category One -- Ellensburg, Washington
I was born here, but was moved when I was four. I don't remember a single thing about it.
Debut Novels First books by new authors.
1. The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris
2. I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
3. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
4. Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
5. Tangerine by Christine Mangan
6. Brass by Xhenet Aliu
7. The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn
8. Elmet by Fiona Mozley
Category Three --Ottawa, Ontario
Louise Bourgeois was an artist who received far too little acclaim while she was alive. One of her spider sculptures lives outside of the National Gallery of Canada.
Books by Women
1. The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald
2. Tampa: A Novel by Alissa Nutting
3. Multitudes by Lucy Caldwell
4. The Red Car by Marcy Dermansky
5. Florida by Lauren Groff
6. Kudos by Rachel Cusk
Category Four -- Edmonton, Alberta
Books Published in 2018
1. Sunburn by Laura Lippman
2. I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O'Farrell
3. The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman
4. In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt
5. You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld
6. How to Be Safe by Tom McAllister
Category Five -- London, Ontario
This is the house I lived in when I was 13 to 16. There was a good snow last night and our old neighbors sent pictures of the old house with new snow.
1. My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
2. Keep Her Safe by Sophie Hannah
3. Heaven's Crooked Finger by Hank Early
4. Dating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren
5. The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
6. Country Dark by Chris Offutt
Category Six -- Phoenix, Arizona
The summer I turned sixteen, we packed up and moved to Arizona. It was quite an adjustment.
Books I Brought Home
1. Promise by Minrose Gwin
2. The World's Largest Man by Harrison Scott Key
3. Let's No One Get Hurt by Jon Pineda
Category Seven -- Paris, France
Expats, Immigrants and Works in Translation
1. Refuge by Dina Nayeri
2. Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
3. The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat
4. The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
5. Straying by Molly McCloskey
6. The Italian Party by Christina Lynch
7. The Aviator by Evgenii Vodolazkin, translated from the Russian by Lisa C. Hayden
Category Eight -- Bavaria, Germany
One of the places we lived in Bavaria was an old cottage originally built for the fish workers hired to work the ponds in the area. Later, the area became a protected wetland, but the two tiny cottages remained and we got to live there (it was damp all the time, but beautiful). We raised chickens with the neighbors so this is the category for all the various books listed on one of the Tournament of Books longlists. The Tournament of Books is commonly known as The Rooster.
1. The Idiot by Elif Batuman
2. Smile by Roddy Doyle
3. The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch
4. White Tears by Hari Kunzru
5. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
6. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
7. Dear Cyborgs by Eugene Lim
8. Census by Jesse Ball
Category Nine -- Warwick, Warwickshire
1. Trell by Dick Lehr (January ColorCAT - Black)
2. Red Clocks by Leni Zumas (March RandomCAT - Ripped from the Headlines)
3. Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall (June ColorCAT - Purple)
4. Detective Inspector Huss by Helene Tursten (July MysteryCAT - Police Procedurals)
Category Ten -- Wantage, Oxfordshire
We lived for two years in a refurbished barn along an ancient footpath called the Ridgeway. It was a path that led people all across Britain.
Around the World
1. At the Heart of the White Rose: Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl edited by Inge Jens, translated from the German by J. Maxwell Brownjohn (Germany)
2. Savage Theories by Pola Oloixarac, translated from the Spanish by Roy Kesey (Argentina)
3. The End of Eddy by Édouard Louis, translated from the French by Michael Lucey (France)
4. Riot Days by Maria Alyokhina (Russia)
5. Tomb Song by Julián Herbert, translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney (Mexico)
6. Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright (Iraq)
Category Eleven -- Munich, Germany
Munich is a city where a quarter of its residents were born somewhere else. It's a large, vibrant and beautiful city, made more vibrant and beautiful by the many people who chose to make their lives here.
1. So Much Blue by Percival Everett
2. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
3. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
4. Watershed by Percival Everett
5. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
6. When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors
7. Grace by Natashia Deón
2. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
4. At the Heart of the White Rose: Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl edited by Inge Jens
6. White Tears by Hari Kunzru
7. The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald
8. Sunburn by Laura Lippman
9. A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O'Connor (acquired in 2011)
10. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
12. The End of Eddy by Édouard Louis
13. Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
16. The World's Largest Man by Harrison Scott Key
17. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
21. The Italian Party by Christina Lynch
22. So Much Blue by Percival Everett
24. In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt
25. The Idiot by Elif Batuman
Happy new thread! From your last thread, your remark about your cats "on a bed, on a shelf, in a box" makes me think you should write a Dr. Seuss book.
Happy new thread. From your last thread, I think the phrase "If I fits, I sits" applies to cats and boxes.
Betty, kittens are Dr Seuss-like characters, that's for sure.
Helen, I had a cat who loved boxes. He was seventeen pounds of cat, and would put himself into the tiniest of boxes, so that the box was largely hidden under all that cat. His motto was clearly, "If I sits, it fits."
rp, there will be more cat photos. There are so many cats now.
Lori, how did you survive having three kittens at once? This one kitten is more kitten than we can handle.
If you haven't heard of Tayari Jones's new novel, An American Marriage, you haven't been paying attention. Oprah picked this one out, it's already heading every "most anticipated" list and the publisher has printed enough copies to put generous stacks on the tables of every book-selling outlet in America. Which is a lot of hype to put on a book by a largely unknown author. Can it possible live up to the expectation? Happily, the answer is, for the most part, yes.
Celestial and Roy have been married eighteen months, living together in Atlanta and both succeeding in their fields; Roy's a businessman with the world in front of him and the suits to prove it, Celestial's an up-and-coming artist, when Roy is arrested from the Louisiana motel they're staying in while visiting Roy's parents. What follows places intolerable strains on their fledgling marriage.
Jones is audacious and clever in how she uses a small story about very specific people to address some huge issues. And she manages to pull it off with a deceptively light touch.
MissWatson, the kitten turns everything into a game. She's fun to watch until you see what she's batting around so charmingly and then you have to go retrieve the contact lens case or the bottle of aspirin.
Eva, four cats is exponentially more cats than two. The house feels like it now holds at least a good dozen. But they're now used to each other so the bed doesn't periodically erupt into hisses in the middle of the night as one cat realizes they're sleeping a foot away from another cat.
"the bed doesn't periodically erupt into hisses"
Haha!! That'd be the beginning of a great horror-story! :)
>24 RidgewayGirl: Mine all seem to have their own spots in the bed. Lately Barney has been encroaching upon my spot more and more.
>28 RidgewayGirl: Barney sometimes gets on top of me too. He's only started that recently.
Happy new thread! I always enjoy opening new threads because it gives me a chance to look at people's category photos again. I like the photo of your house in London, Ontario, as I have fond memories of living in that city myself for a couple of years.
Paulina, it is a good city to live in. I have very fond memories of those days.
You're welcome, MissWatson. It's hard to catch her being still enough to take a picture, but bird watching is one of her favorite things.
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton is set during a gold rush in New Zealand, where men (and a few women) come from all over to make their fortunes. One of these men is Walter Moody, a young man who arrives in the port town of Hokitika under stressful circumstances; the ship he sailed on ran aground near the harbor and so he arrives without his luggage, settling into a mediocre hotel and then heading to the public sitting room to relax. A group of men have already gathered there, intending to discuss some pressing issues and they are left to loiter unconvincingly when Moody shows up.
The pressing issues include the captain of the ship Moody sailed on, a prostitute with an addiction who attempted suicide and the disappearance of a young and successful miner. Catton takes her time here, not to stall the momentum of the novel, but to give it depth. Each man's point of view is accounted for, building a story that becomes more complex with every telling.
The Luminaries is not so much sweeping as it is thorough. It has the feel of a Victorian novel, not just in the length and setting, but in its willingness to take its time. It was a great deal of fun to read.
Back in the olden days, surgeons were valued not by their skill with a knife, but by their speed. Without anesthesia, surgery was the last resort of those in terrible pain and, indeed, most would die either from the surgery or soon afterwards from infection. One story has a surgeon completing an amputation in a mere 28 seconds, although he also managed to remove a testicle, three of his assistant's fingers and slice open a bystander's coat in the process. The patient died. As did the assistant and the bystander.
The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris begins with the first uses of ether, which allowed surgeons to operate on more complex cases. Unfortunately, this new ability did not increase the chances of survival, since infection was still an unsurmountable danger in a world where surgeons would move directly from the autopsy table to the operating table to examining patients in hospital beds, all without changing their clothes or even washing their hands. Medical students were known for being fancy dressers and also by the filthiness of their shirts.
Into this world stepped Joseph Lister who, influenced by the work of Louis Pasteur, began to work with the idea of keeping wounds clean and free of contamination. This was a controversial stance to take in a world that thought that infection was caused by bad air and essentially unavoidable. But through patience, working to persuade people and by constant improvements in his own strategies for keeping wounds and incisions infection-free, Lister gradually changed how surgeries are performed and hospitals maintained.
Fitzharris does a good job in communicating the importance of Lister's work. The book loses momentum after Lister's methods became accepted, and she was mainly accounting for Lister's final years, but the story itself is compelling as long as the reader has a fairly strong stomach for the details of amputations and the varieties of bacterial infections common in nineteenth century hospitals.
>34 RidgewayGirl: wow that sounds gruesome but really interesting. I'm going to see if my library has a copy.
>34 RidgewayGirl: This was so good! I'm glad it made the Wellcome Book Prize list.
>35 virginiahomeschooler: Ha! Yes, if my comments didn't dissuade you, than you'll probably really enjoy it.
>36 charl08: Charlotte, The Luminaries was so, so good. And I knew it would be, because every time I mentioned wanting to read it soon, several people would show up to tell me to get reading. Why is it so hard to start a long novel?
>37 rabbitprincess: Ages ago, I read a book about surgery in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries called The Age of Agony by Guy R. Williams and reread it more than a few times. This one picks up where The Age of Agony left off. There is, apparently, an operating theater from the eighteenth century that survived by being closed off and forgotten that you can now visit in London and I'd really like to see what one actually looked like. The descriptions scream "unsanitary!"
>38 whitewavedarling: Thanks. It really is a fascinating book.
>39 RidgewayGirl: I'm not sure, but I do like a short one every now and again. The Peirenne series (always short) have become a favourite for those days when I just can't fit anything long in / concentrate.
>39 RidgewayGirl: I have visited the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garrett (to give it its full name - website is here: http://oldoperatingtheatre.com/ ) and it was really fascinating - if you're ever in London it's really worth a trip, it's near Guys Hospital. I have to say though, the things that gave me the biggest heebie-jeebies weren't in the operating theatre, it was more the photos of the Victorian matrons (exactly as dragon-like as you would imagine!), and the gynaecological instruments (oh boy they made my eyes water even just seeing them in a glass case).
>34 RidgewayGirl: - I heard the author interviewed a few months ago and thought this sounded fascinating. Based on your comments it sounds like I was right. I need to go put this on hold at the library.
Charlotte, it's easier for me to jump into a short book than a long one. Which is probably true of most of us. But I do find a book that I have to spend a week or two with very satisfying.
Jackie, I'm envious! And yes to the horror of early gynecological instruments. I've seen more than a few of those in various hospital museums.
Stacy, it's fantastically interesting.
Helen, if you're interested enough to go see historical operating theatres, you'll love The Butchering Art.
Katie works for a marketing firm in London. She's the low man on the totem pole, she's underpaid, her commute is long and complex, her boss is a nightmare, but she loves working in marketing and living in London and she's working to move up in the firm. And then her boss fires her and she's back home at her father's farm in Somerset, helping her Dad and stepmother set up a business running deluxe "glamping" holidays for Londoners.
My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella is the literary equivalent of having a milkshake for dinner. It's light and fun. Kinsella is good at writing dialogue and coming up with ridiculous situations that make complete sense in the world of that novel. I did like that this was a novel about a young woman with career dreams that weren't made light of. Katie earns her happy ending in a way that was refreshing and new. Of course there's a love interest, this is, after all, Chick Lit, but that definitely plays second fiddle to the more important story of a young woman receiving recognition for her own hard work and talent.
"You can't murder Indians," Dicky said.
"Murder is a legal concept. You can kill an Indian, but you can't murder one. You've got to have a law against it before it's murder."
Robert Hawks is a hydrologist, taking a little time off to spend at his cabin north of Denver, Colorado, to fish and also to get away from a relationship he'd like to end but can't manage to do so. It's in an out-of-the-way location near an Indian reservation and one cold evening he gives a ride to a small Native American woman, an act that will involve him in a conflict generations old.
With Watershed, Percival Everett gives a masterclass on how to write a novel, from the carefully crafted plot and the slow revelation of the protagonist's personality and past, to the perfectly crafted sentences. Watershed opens with a bang; Hawks sits in a small cold church on the reservation, across from an FBI agent who is tied to a chair. Around him sit several other armed men while outside the church, a large number of law enforcement have gathered near the bodies of three other men.
From there, the story moves to how Hawks reached this point, from his past as the son and grandson of doctors active in the Civil Rights movement, to his life in Denver, involved with the wrong woman, to how he is gradually drawn into a conflict between members of an Indian tribe and the FBI. There's a lot going on in 200 pages, but it never feels hurried or anything less than deliberate.
>46 RidgewayGirl: I haven't read his novels but his short stories can be stunning. I'll put this one on my ever growing list.
clue, I was wondering what of his to read next. I'll try a book of short stories.
It has not escaped us that older generations must do all they can to improve the lives of future ones, but we had believed ourselves to be the future. We were under the impression that we were the owed ones. We had not counted on this debt of service.
Nafkote Tamirat's debut novel, The Parking Lot Attendant, begins on an unnamed sub-tropical island, where the narrator and her father are living with a cult-like group for reasons that are unclear. The novel then jumps to the central story, a less fantastic one about a teenage girl, the child of Ethiopian immigrants, who becomes drawn to an older charismatic man who manages a Boston parking lot, but who is also involved in some other stuff, stuff the girl knows nothing about.
At heart, this is a small story, of a girl figuring out her world and how she fits into it, as a second generation immigrant, as a daughter being raised by a single father, as a black girl in a school with nobody like her, as a girl growing up. The titular parking lot attendant, Ayale, is a mysterious figure and the attention he pays to the protagonist is equally inexplicable, although she is bright and interested in the world around her and he seems pleased to have someone so obviously fascinated by him without wanting any favors. The framing device of the cult living on the island is not effective, nor does it add anything to the story. Fortunately, it takes up only a few pages at each end of the novel.
The Golden State Killer is an uncaught man responsible for over fifty rapes and/or murders across California. Until recently, law enforcement were not even aware that the unknown rapist known as the East Area Rapist was the same person as the serial killer working further south, who was known as the Original Night Stalker. Author Michelle McNamara became fascinated by unsolved crimes after a young woman was killed in her community when McNamara was fourteen. She would eventually start a blog and become a well-known amateur sleuth who used the internet to find clues and to look over the original police work, becoming knowledgeable enough to be accepted by the detectives and forensic scientists who had worked or are still working on finding the criminal. I'll Be Gone in the Dark is the result of years and years of work.
There's a lot of hype and publicity surrounding this book. The author died before the book was finished, but her husband and fellow researchers worked to put together a finished book from what she's already written as well as drafts of magazine articles and her notes. The result should be a mess, but instead makes for fascinating reading. McNamara takes a series of crimes in which the perpetrator varied little in his approach and methods, and crafted a well-paced and insightful book. Her writing combines accounts from survivors, family members, and law enforcement with the story of her pursuit of the killer and how it affected her, as well as how advances in forensics have allowed clues and evidence to be found that was unavailable when he was committing his first crimes. McNamara's writing shines and stands in startling contrast to the plodding prose of the final chapters put together by others.
Her name should have rung a bell, as I'm a big Patton Oswalt fan and he's talked about her obsession with murderers. Also, I'm from California and a girl who babysat me once or twice was murdered back in the 70s. I'm glad you liked it and it's going on my list. Thanks for the review!
You're welcome, Jennifer! I have a good friend who normally jumps on this kind of book, but she spent a part of her childhood in Dana Point, where one of the murders occurred and the whole thing has her creeped out.
That's exactly what I thought after I'd posted, that hmmm, when I think about it, no I don't want to read about the murder of someone I knew. But her killer was caught, so it won't be in that book. And I think it's pretty great that Oswalt worked to get his wife's work published.
I have always enjoyed reading, but I've never been sure how to select appropriate material. There are so many books in the world--how do you tell them all apart? How do you know which one will match your tastes and interests? That's why I just pick the first book I see. There's no point trying to choose. The covers are of very little help, because they always say only good things, and I've found out to my cost that they're rarely accurate. "Exhilarating" "Dazzling" "Hilarious." No.
Eleanor Oliphant is pedantic and humorless. She works as an accountant at a marketing firm, where she corrects her co-workers and endures office social occasions with ill-grace. She lives alone and can spend an entire week-end without speaking to anyone. She isn't popular. But the new IT tech, an out of shape, sartorially-challenged guy, refuses to be anything but friendly, forcing Eleanor out of her comfort zone.
Gail Honeyman's debut novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, is written in the light, breezy style common in Chick Lit novels, but here is applied to what would otherwise easily be a very dark story. The novel has a similar feel to A Man Called Ove and Goodbye, Vitamin, addressing mental health issues and unhappiness with humor and compassion.
Trying to catch up on what everybody else is reading. You have posted some great reviews! Bullets flying!
>44 RidgewayGirl: "But I do find a book that I have to spend a week or two with very satisfying."
What's worse is spending a week or two with a 200 page book, as I have been doing. I keep thinking it's time to abandon it, but there are only about 20 pages to go...
Vivienne, ok, I've done that and it's not fun. There have been a few this year that were an effort to make myself get back to.
And I've got one I started in August, abandoned in September and still mean to go back to, but I'm so disappointed with it I'm not rushing! (it was a childhood favourite, and I really wish I'd left it in childhood with my happy reading memories. Time and adulthood hasn't been so kind to it).
My condolences, Betty. What makes us stick with this kind of book?
Jackie, Black Beauty was that book for me. I adored the book as a child, then read it to my own children (who loved it) and discovered it was preachy unreadable propaganda.
Urgh the hanging around book. I didn't realise until I started tracking these things with LT how many books I pick up, read about 40 pages, put down and don't get back to (yet continue to think I am 'reading', somehow).
I've just finished When I Hit You from the (UK) women's prize longlist and feel like going all evangelical about a book. Really powerful first person novel about domestic violence. I'm really hoping it wins!
Charlotte, I noticed you bumped When I Hit You to the top of your rankings. I am refusing to begin reading until the shortlist is announced, but I'll keep an eye out for it regardless of whether it makes the shortlist.
Maggie O'Farrell is my go-to author when I want something full of drama, but also want the writing to be excellent. She's written several novels, but I Am, I Am, I Am is an intensely personal memoir that does exactly the same thing. Seventeen chapters recount seventeen dangerous situations O'Farrell has found herself in. They aren't arranged chronologically, but in an order that allows one chapter to allude to a later one, or to reflect back on an earlier event. The writing is very fine, and the focus on her own life brings a new depth to her writing. It's also interesting to see how her own life has informed her fiction.
>62 RidgewayGirl: This one is on the wishlist - that cover is new to me though, beautifully done.
The women's prize shortlist is up - kind of surprised The Idiot made it - I didn't hate it, but didn't think it was particularly special, either.
Charlotte, I am seeing a lot of disappointed surprise that The Idiot made the shortlist. I loved that novel and I'm so pleased that at least a few people also fell under Selin's awkward spell. I found it to be an intelligent novel that was also so well-written. I'm looking forward to the rest of Selin's undergraduate years.
>64 RidgewayGirl: Really? There's going to be a sequel? Nice to see different books have fans though - would be very dull otherwise.
Yes, I've heard that she's planning a quartet, a book for each year of uni.
"You ever speak to old Lamar Bibbs?" Pop would say.
"Not since him and Gola Mae went down yonder after the thing up at the place," Monk would say.
The younger me would perk up, eager to hear some gothic fable drawn from the mists of Mississippi Hill Country lore. Perhaps a story about a mule trampling a baby, or the time when everyone got the yellow fever and died.
But all was quiet. Monk would be leaning over and staring at his folded hands, as though he had be bludgeoned with a skillet, while Pop would be studying his dentures, which he held in his palm like a small, wounded vole. Then he would put them back into his mouth, having divested them of any lingering corn.
In The World's Largest Man, Harrison Scott Key tells the story of his own boyhood, where he lived with his family in rural Mississippi. His father was a force of nature, a man who was going to mold his son into his own image; a sports-playing, animal-hunting man's man. This worked well enough with his older brother, but Harrison mainly wanted to read books and go grocery shopping with his mother. Even as he did his best to thwart his father's ambitions, he still lived under the shadow of his father.
I was always coy about my books, afraid Pop would find them effeminate. In our family, the only books men read were in the Bible and you weren't supposed to do it for fun. You did it because Jesus would hurt you if you didn't.
The World's Largest Man is a very funny book. It's fatal flaw is that it often reaches for humor when it should reach for something more honest and heart-felt. Key occasionally moves in that direction; a later chapter about his marriage approaches real depth, but for the most part, this remains just a funny book about being bad at hunting and about a boy trying to become a man, when the example of manhood in front of him is far from who he wants to be.
Pop didn't have friends, which he believed were things meant for women and children, as were holidays and happiness. A real man didn't need all that. All a man needed was a gun and a wood stove and maybe, if things got bad, a towel for the blood.
Great review! Seems like it's worth looking for.
>63 charl08: I didn't even know there was a prize specific to female authors.
>68 mstrust: I'm holding on to my copy since the annual beach vacation is filled with people who simply expect me to supply their reading material while we are there.
In cat news: all is generally peaceful. I caught three cats sleeping on the bed at the same time, all carefully ignoring the others. I cleaned the screened porch in preparation for summer and the kitten loves being out there, chirping menacingly at the birds.
>69 RidgewayGirl: My three are often curled up next to one another. They really do get along well.
Lori, mine do not get along well. They are working on it, though. Homer will play with the kitten when he feels like it and the amount of hissing at the foot of the bed depends on how tired everyone is.
I have long enjoyed Sophie Hannah's crime novels, which lean hard on the psychological suspense, are often narrated by unstable and unreliable narrators, and have outrageous plots that somehow hang together, right to the end. They're fun. Keep Her Safe follows her usual pattern, but otherwise was not good at all.
Cara is a wife and mother who abandons her family, leaving behind only a note to say she'll be back in a few weeks. She's also taken a chunk of the family savings and used them to fly from Hereford, England to Phoenix, Arizona, to stay in a five-star resort. She's upset with her husband and children, but the reason isn't revealed into late in the book. Which is for the best. It's the most petulant reason possible and it's best not to hate the main character before the end of the first chapter. They'll be plenty of time for that.
While she's there, she sees a girl and eventually believes that she's seen a famous murder victim from several years ago, now alive and enjoying the spa amenities. She also meets a mother and daughter, there on vacation, and they all have a great deal of fun speculating on where the girl might be now. And then Cara is kidnapped and has to figure out why and how to get away, even as her new friends join forces with the local police force, the FBI and a Nancy Grace-like TV host to find Cara and solve the mystery of the dead girl.
This book was such a giant pile of terrible, that I found myself reading just to find out what ridiculous thing would happen next. I know that the author is British, but the American edition was not edited by any Americans at all, leaving in glaring errors and misperceptions about the US. It's not just how all the American characters were either broad stereo-types of what a Brit might think we are like, or they reacted just like a foreign tourist to ordinary American things, but there were glaring errors in how the legal system works that should have been caught and corrected. Everyone one in this book is not very smart, including law enforcement, which, fine. Hannah's writing a mystery she'd like everyone reading to follow easily, but even the newest of police detectives has presumably been taught some basic procedures for how to investigate a kidnapping or possible crime scene. And yet, no. Instead the detectives were instructed to do basic things like look at credit card receipts by an interested bystander.
The task force assembled to find a missing British tourist was also unique. The police and FBI were involved, but they then invited the TV host, her production assistant, the hotel manager and even interested bystanders into their inner circle. Of course, the interested bystander, a florist from Kansas, leads the investigation. This probably happens a lot in the United States. What I know would not happen is that the hotel manager (this supposedly enormous resort is shockingly understaffed) appearing on the TV host's crime show and giving the full names of several of the resort guests along with his opinion of their trustworthiness. No hotel, let alone one that would cater to prominent wealthy people, would be eager to see their brand shown on national TV as a crime scene and loose with the details of the guests staying there. But ok, let's let that man's looming unemployment not deter him from his moment of excitement.
There's a receptionist who goes missing just before Cara is kidnapped, but she's a tertiary character, so no one bothers to care, including her friends and co-workers. They continue not to care even as she becomes one of the story's lynchpins. She's just gone and that's that until her name pops up as a way to move the plot forward. But then we can forget about her again, so yay?
This is a lot of negativity to dump on a novel, but this is a novel by an author who has written good crime novels, novels with functional plots, with characters whose motivations go beyond doing random things to move the plot forward, with settings that feel like real places, and not just an excuse to go to a couple of resorts in Arizona for a few weeks. Sophie Hannah is capable of much better, has written better books. I hope this is a mis-step on her part and not a habit.
Charlotte, she's usually a solid author, but this and her last one were not great.
Paulina, as long as you are fine with descriptions of seeping wounds and graphic amputations, The Butchering Art is a lot of fun to read. It reminded me that non-fiction can be as pleasurable to read as fiction.
>72 RidgewayGirl: - That does sound like a big pile of terrible - loved the review though. Also, I'm now dying to know why she left her family.
I guess it is a good thing that I am still reading the early Sophie Hannah books so I don't have to worry about quality control for a few books more. Such a shame to hear that her work isn't up to her previous standards.
Judy, the series is much, much better. It's the stand-alones that fall apart. Maybe because the Spilling detectives are hot messes, but they are still intelligent?
I just love when you write a review about a book you don't like. Of course, I'm also sad that you had to read a less than stellar book. Seems like a waste of good reading time.
I always wonder when books vary so strongly from each other whether there is a ghost writer behind the scenes -- something like Frank Herbert not really being Frank Herbert anymore...
>79 RidgewayGirl: - Yeah, that is a really lame excuse to ditch the family. I really do get frustrated with stories where everything could be resolved with one simple conversation.
>84 LittleTaiko: And the worst part of it was that it would have been easy enough to come up with a reason to put a British tourist in an Arizona resort without all that contrived silliness.
>83 RidgewayGirl: Or she's too busy writing Poirot continuations to focus on her regular crime novels?
>86 rabbitprincess: You may have nailed it. Her crime novels are usually quite grim and graphic. This one felt like a gritty cozy, which doesn't work.
>87 RidgewayGirl: I think you might have invented a new genre there though...
Charlotte, I can't imagine the reader who would choose to read cozy noir. Probably the same reader who would want to read a steamy Amish erotic novel, featuring long descriptions of butter churning and bondage.
There's little less satisfying than a short story that doesn't get it quite right. And it's a hard medium to master; every element that a novel allows chapters to communicate, must be evident in a handful of paragraphs. Fully rounded characters must spring from a half dozen lines and the theme and plot must be pared down until each sentence serves a specific purpose. But when a short story works, it's like a shot of whiskey or a kick in the head, everything is there, all at once.
Lucy Caldwell's book of short stories , Multitudes, is a rare case of a collection in which each of the eleven stories works. Centered on the city of Belfast, the collection tells of ordinary people, usually children or teenagers, figuring out life. Often the protagonists feel like outsiders, or are dissatisfied in ways that can't always be communicated to their friends or family. Belfast, its weather, houses, roads and schools, is evocatively described. This is a lovely collection of stories, each of which stands ably on its own. I'll be looking for more by this author.
>72 RidgewayGirl: Excellent review! I really admire your ability to write a "rant" review! When I dislike a book, I find it difficult to write anything beyond a one-liner. And yet, a well-done hate review is the most valuable. Much appreciated!
Vivienne, the promise of being able to get my feelings about a bad book out there is what has gotten me through the final chapters of many a terrible book.
>89 RidgewayGirl: - featuring long descriptions of butter churning and bondage.
I almost spit out my tea when I read that line! Thanks for the laugh.
I really enjoyed dropping in and catching up, from the rant/review through the following conversation of butter churning and bondage :)
So the best time of the year is beginning - a long time ago I saw a post on the Bookmooch forum here on LibraryThing about a woman in Georgia who was trying to collect books for a second grade class. I jumped in and afterward started researching the value of giving kids books. I forwarded what I found to that woman in Georgia and that started a non-profit called Books for Keeps (http://booksforkeeps.org). It has grown over the years into an organization that this year is providing every student in sixteen elementary schools with twelve books each. We set up like a regular book fair, with books the kids want to read, and each child gets twelve books and a sturdy tote bag to keep them in.
Kids in low income households often lose ground over the summer. Children served by the Books for Keeps program not only don't lose ground, but they continue to improve their reading skills over the summer.
We give out the books shortly before summer vacation starts. This year that means three weeks of distributing books, often to multiple schools on a single day. Participating in the book distributions used to keep me going through the hard work of the next year. Now I can just go and help out and watch kids be super excited about books without the stress of being responsible for any of it. It's all very exciting. I'm heading to Elberton, Georgia tomorrow and Athens (where the program is based) on Wednesday.
It's very exciting to create the LibraryThing members of the future.
>96 RidgewayGirl:, That's amazing, and such an inspiring post :) I can't imagine how excited you must be to get started once again!
(Sorry--LT or my computer was glitching and I didn't think my first post went through!)
>96 RidgewayGirl: How wonderful! Good for you! That is truly inspiring. And the photo proves how successful it is!
>96 RidgewayGirl: that must be really rewarding. Good for you.
I will skip over erotic butter churning, the mind boggles!
I remember before you went to Germany and Books for Keeps was small and depending on books from yard sales, etc. Once you left and they started getting large donations from corporations and people, I kind of lost track. So glad it's still going so well. I had always thought I wanted to go to the big book sale they did as a fund-raiser.
>96 RidgewayGirl: So fantastic! I've volunteered to a similar project but on a smaller scale. Twelve books per child is really amazing.
Betty, Books for Keeps is going strong and growing! It's such a shift from the all volunteer, all donation-based group that was fueled largely by stress and fear that it would all collapse. It was a scary decision to hire the first full-time paid director and what a good decision that ended up being - there are now three paid staff members, permanent digs and most importantly, it's now sustainable -- meaning that the kids who depend on the program won't be abandoned.
clue, the number of books is based on some studies and a pilot program which showed that twelve books gives kids the same academic boost as a month of summer school. It's not just a fun thing for kids - it brings real results. We learned so much over those first years, like the importance of getting the books that the kids want, and not the books the teachers and parents would like the kids to be reading - it's not an effective program if the kids don't want to read the books.
I can talk about this in much greater detail than any of you want to hear, but I'm off to Elberton now.
>96 RidgewayGirl: - What a wonderful project and way to give back to the community. Have fun!
>96 RidgewayGirl: That sounds like an amazing project. I know Dolly Parton has been getting praise for doing something similar for the last several years. Here in Scotland we have the Bookbug programme (by the charity the Scottish Book Trust), which gives out bags of books at various ages pre-school. In my job (as a health visitor - public health nurse is the nearest US equivalent, I think) we give out the baby and toddler bags, and as she has gone through nursery my daughter has had two or three more bags. They also do weekly sessions at local libraries which we really enjoyed.
For the past four years I have collected books from my own home, asked teachers and staff to weed their shelves, and gotten ARCs from a local bookstore. During National Library Month I set out tables under the oak tree in front of the library and lay the books out for kids to help themselves. I print simple bookmarks which celebrate the event. Kids love going through the books and can't believe they are free. Teachers are remembering the event during the year so if they're cleaning out their classrooms or houses at other times they bring me their books. Even the custodians keep an eye out for books for me.
Free books for kids is such a wonderful idea. Something the kids enjoy now and that will have a lasting effect on them. Creating tomorrow's readers is something to be really proud of.
mamzel, what a wonderful way to make a difference! I'll bet that there are kids who look forward to visiting your book table every year.
I'm home, but will head back Friday morning. This year, BfK will be serving 7,800 students in eighteen schools, passing out 95,000 books. It's a far cry from three books per child delivered to a single grade level in one elementary school. But Books for Keeps would not exist today without the people from BookMooch joining together on their forum on LibraryThing to get the books needed in those first years of the program.
>89 RidgewayGirl: Erotic Amish novels with butter churning... I think I shall be laughing at that one for a long time!
The question, Victoria, is whether or not we would both agree on the book.
Tom Rachman writes really well and has, so far, chosen to write about things that interest me. So my expectations were unnaturally high for The Italian Teacher (art! Italy!). I'm happy to say that Rachman exceeded what I had anticipated. The Italian Teacher hit all my sweet spots, while also being a very good book.
Pinch is born in 1950, the son of Natalie, a young Canadian woman who came to Rome to work on her art, and Bear Bavinsky, a larger than life prominent painter who dominates every room he enters. Bear eventually leaves his second family for a third, and Natalie and Pinch become a team. She encourages his painting and he helps his increasingly unstable mother negotiate life in Rome and then in London. The novel follows Pinch all through his life, one that is quiet and restrained, but also dominated by the spirit (and occasionally the presence) of his father.
This book, guys. It's a whole bunch of things. Just when it starts to approach a dead end or seems to be going somewhere expected, it shifts into something different. The coming of age novel in which Pinch and his mother negotiate a rag tag life in Rome becomes a college novel set in Canada, and then it all becomes somewhat Stoner-esque, as Pinch, a naturally modest person, lives quietly as a foreign language teacher, and then the whole book explodes with deception, intrigue, forgeries and lies. I liked it.
>112 RidgewayGirl: that does sound interesting. Not an author I've heard of before. Will add him to the never ending list of people to look out for.
eta: library reservation placed! That was quick!!
Jennifer, it's hard to write a book about the art world that I won't love.
Helen, Rachman is really good! His first novel, The Imperfectionists, which is a series of inter-connected short stories centered on an English language newspaper in Rome is also very good.
Tara Westover has quite a story to tell. Born into a large family living on a mountainside in rural Idaho, she was raised by a colorful father who raged about socialist indoctrination in the public schools and spent his time preparing for the coming apocalypse. Instead of attending school, she worked sorting metal in her family's junkyard. Injuries, and there were many terrible ones, were not treated in a hospital, but by her mother, an herbalist. In Educated, she describes her childhood and how she managed to leave, eventually studying at Cambridge and Harvard.
This is a memoir of an extraordinary childhood and about living through the aftermath. Westover is nonjudgmental when discussing her family and it's clear that she still holds them in great affection. Nonetheless, the story is harrowing. It's like a first hand account of a pioneer family, with the same extreme dangers exacerbated by her father's possible mental illness and the risky nature of the family business.
Once Westover manages to escape to university, the story doesn't lose momentum. She's intelligent and resourceful, but ill-prepared and made uncertain by the foreignness of her new environment. All in all, this was a memoir that read like a novel.
That's the second time I've heard about this book today. First it was on the What Should I Read Next podcast when they were talking about books that they were looking forward to reading or that they thought everyone should read this summer, and now here. Must be a sign!
>116 RidgewayGirl: I got a copy of that recently (nice and cheap, thank you bookbub!), after having read an interview with the author a couple of months ago. I'm looking forward to reading it at some point.
>116 RidgewayGirl: I'm hovering on this one, but your review makes me teeter on the edge...
Stacy, it's part of the Tournament of Books Non-Fiction Pop-Up. I'm glad for the push to read it as I thought it was tremendously interesting.
Jackie, I'm curious to find out what non-Americans make of it.
Charlotte, I'm glad I read it.
I've tried to write a review for Ijeoma Oluo's excellent book, So You Want to Talk About Race, a few times now and failed, so I'm just going to write about what I, personally, got out of the book instead. If the title doesn't give the subject away, this is a book divided into chapters that address topics and issues surrounding race in America. Oluo writes clearly, both with an understanding of the difficulties involved in, and the necessity of, an on-going conversation about race that involves everyone. She points out that conversations about race are uncomfortable and that everyone tends to walk away from such conversations feeling worse than before the conversation started. But the need for the discussion remains.
I've been working to read more from authors of color and to follow the writings (from twitter, to articles, to books) of the voices explaining the experience and history of various minority groups, so some of what Oluo is saying are things I'd heard before. But there was a lot new in there, as well as Oluo's remarkable ability to explain concepts clearly. Among the things I took away from this book was that the conversations about race that need to be happening are between white people. We need to talk about the impact of racism among ourselves; it's not the job of any person of color to walk us through the basics of any of this, and that when we do have questions, google is an excellent source of information. Oluo also has an interesting chapter on the specific issues facing Asian Americans, and how the 'model minority' stereo-type can do real harm, just as our assumptions about the teachability of black boys does.
All in all, this was an excellent and well-organized primer on the basics every American needs to understand if we are going to move forward together.
>112 RidgewayGirl: My library has this "on order" so I will add it to my list of books to pick up. Sounds great!
>121 RidgewayGirl: Another one to look out for! I learned a lot about the current situation from When they call you a terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors, founder of Black Lives Matter, and I'm interested in reading more.
>121 RidgewayGirl: I'm putting this one on my wish list, along with Reni Eddo-Lodge's Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race.
This isn't a thriller. We know that The Perfect Nanny murders her small charges in the first chapter of French author Leila Slimani's novel. The question isn't who, but why, with the tension slowly rising as the parents fail to take seriously Louise's deterioration.
When it's time for the mother of two very young children to go back to work, she and her husband choose a nanny to care for their children. They are nervous, but Louise fulfills all of their needs and more, keeping the small apartment spotless and preparing wonderful dinners for them. They quickly grow dependent on her. At the same time, Louise is in crisis and as her situation worsens, the couple begin to have doubts about her, but they manage to set them aside because she has grown vital to the family's functioning.
There's a sense of remove to this story, with the characters remaining opaque. It is very much not a suspense novel, or even a crime novel. It's more a look at how people relate to one another, the expectations and disappointments that color how they see each other, and about loneliness.
Molly McCloskey is an American who spent decades living in Ireland. In Straying, she tells the story of an American woman who travels to Ireland and ends up staying. Alice gets a temporary job tending bar in Sligo, a large town on the west coast, and ends up marrying a local and staying. The novel goes back and forth through Alice's adult life, from her experiences as a young woman exploring a new place, to her marriage and it's demise, and her life afterward working for an NGO and traveling to various places in distress. The story itself is introspective; Alice imploded her own marriage with an affair, an affair where she grew increasingly reckless, as though she wanted to get caught.
This is a lovely, small novel about a woman looking inward for the first time in middle age. This isn't a book primarily about her infidelity (the original, European title is When Light Is Like Water), but a look back at an entire life, of which the adultery formed a part and that Alice looked back on as a part of her life she struggles to understand. Far more interesting were the snippets about her work for the Irish NGO, which sent her to places like Sri Lanka and Kosovo and Kenya.
This is a slender novel that packs a lot into it. I'm torn between thinking it was too short and lacked amplifying detail and thinking that it was wise of the author to leave more out than she put it. McCloskey is a skilled writer, with an observant eye and I look forward to reading more from her.
>125 RidgewayGirl: I've almost bought this a couple of times but didn't for some reason. After reading your review, I'm glad I didn't.
After Rachel miscarries, she has trouble recovering from her loss. She decides to find her father, who left her and her mother when she was young, and that search sends her to Rwanda, to her father's second wife, in the hopes of luring him home.
I have conflicted feelings about In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills. There were many things that worked well. Author Jennifer Haupt keeps the focus on Americans in this novel, primarily on Rachel, but also on two African American aid workers who came to Rwanda before the violence, and remained to help rebuild and also because, after years in Rwanda, they had built important relationships. Haupt spent just a month there interviewing people about their experiences and looking at the connection between forgiveness and grief, and so choosing to write about the genocide from a viewpoint just slightly removed was probably wise.
But centering the novel on a self-involved white American whose own pain looked so small in the face of what the people around her had endured was less inspired. While keeping the focus on Rachel makes the book more immediately accessible, it pays for this by keeping the Rwandan characters and their experiences at an arm's length. They never felt like real people, just foils for Rachel to demonstrate her goodness and pain on. The contrived dramatic conflict at the end of the novel felt unnecessary and badly handled, once again making the interests of the American visitor more important than those of the people living there.
There are far too few novels about what happened in Rwanda published here, so any attempt is to be lauded, but I'm waiting for the book that puts the focus on the country and its citizens, rather than on the problems of a comfortable Westerner.
Leah is living in a lackluster Queens apartment with her self-involved husband when she receives word that her friend and former boss has died. Going back to San Francisco, she encounters friends and co-workers from her past as well as meeting a few new people. She also inherits the car her boss died in, a speedy vehicle that frightens Leah, along with her boss's voice in her head.
What is lost in the summary is how very What a strange and perfect book The Red Car is. Marcy Dermansky manages to pack so much depth into this slim novel, and I was so sorry when I turned the final page and was finished with it. Leah's voice is so immediate that there was no way to avoid experiencing the book though her eyes, and over the course of the novel, I began to understand her reactions to events (which was very different than what my own reactions would have been).
Lori, I was just listening to an interview with the author on the NYT Book Review Podcast and thinking that I'll have to keep an eye out for a copy.
>132 RidgewayGirl: It checked out pretty quickly at our library, and others are interested in it. I suspect it will be one of the ones we keep after the lease time expires.
Scottie and Michael meet, marry and arrive in Siena, Italy to start their lives together before they really know each other. It's 1956, and Michael has come to open a Ford tractor dealership in the small Tuscan city. Both think they've got the better part of the deal because both are concealing secrets from the other. Along with their own secrets, there are plenty of others, especially since Michael's real job is with the CIA, which considers Siena to be the dark center of communism in Italy.
The Italian Party, Christina Lynch's debut novel, ended up being a lot of fun. It was a rocky start, though, with a few problems that threatened to derail my enjoyment, the most glaring of which was a pregnant woman worried about how much she was starting to show in the first chapters, but by two months later was only three months along. Despite hiccups like that, both Lynch's ample research and understanding of her setting as well as the madcap pace of the novel were more than adequate to redeem this fun, summertime book.
Tangerine is the wonderfully atmospheric noir by Christine Mangan set in the Moroccan city of Tangier in the 1950s.
Alice and Lucy were college roommates and inseparable until Alice dating a boy strained their friendship. After an incident they no longer spoke, but after Alice moves with her husband to Tangier, Lucy shows up and tensions quickly rise to a boiling point.
Tangerine is just a lot of fun. It's deliciously noir, with an ending that fit the novel perfectly, while also being unexpected. Tangier, hot, humid and confusing, is present in every moment set within it, the markets and Kasbah and the people. The chapters alternate between Alice and Lucy and while the book appears to be about figuring out which of the two narrators is the one telling the truth, something else, something more interesting is going on. This is Mangan's first novel, and not all of her risks pay off, but most do and the result is just a lot of fun.
>135 RidgewayGirl: Sold! Added to the wishlist.
And if you ever fancy a tour of Liverpool, please do shout. Tate is just one of the arty highlights.
Judy, it's a great summer book.
Charlotte, I will take you up on that someday.
Curtis Sittenfeld is one of the rare novelists whose short stories are every bit as good as their novels. You Think It, I'll Say It is the rare collection where all the stories are equally strong. Centered on women reaching a moment of epiphany, sometimes small and fleeting, sometimes life-changing, each story takes place in a different American city. From a woman whose encounter with the airport shuttle driver leaves her feeling uneasy about her own behavior, to the busy mother who spends a disproportionate amount of her time obsessed about the hypocrisy of a Pioneer Woman-type celebrity, each story digs into the heart of who we are and how what we see is not always what's there.
So the Early Reviewers program is sending me a copy of Melmoth, the new novel by Sarah Perry. I really loved The Essex Serpent so I am really excited about being able to dive into this book early. Then, this morning, I found out that I won an ARC of Megan Abbott's new novel. This summer is shaping up nicely.
A man lies in a hospital bed. He's being cared for by a doctor and nurse, who have asked him to write down his memories as he regains them. Slowly, his life returns to him, but how is it that his memories are of events a century ago?
The Aviator by Eugene Vodolazkin tells the story of Innokenty Platonov, who spent his childhood in a comfortable Petersburg apartment and a summer dacha, until the Revolution took the life of his father and moved him, along with his mother, from their home into a room in the apartment of a professor and his daughter. As Innokenty's memories return, he also realizes that he is no longer in his time and the doctor explains that he was part of an early Soviet experiment in freezing living men and then thawing them. He survived frozen for eighty years. His recovery isn't just physical, but in learning how to live in a time not his own.
The Aviator is an odd mix of things; there's the look at the effects of being out of one's own time and the dislocation that results, there's the vivid descriptions of life in Russia before and during its most turbulent years, and finally there's the character study of Innokenty himself.
It took me a while to get into the rhythms of this book, but once I had, I enjoyed it very much.
>143 hailelib: It was really interesting. While I'm a sucker for a Russian novel, the cryogenic angle was outside of my wheelhouse and I still really enjoyed it. Vodolazkin does go into the mechanics of the procedure, but the focus is much more on the impact the experience would have on a person's sense of self.
>141 RidgewayGirl: Sounds good!
I agree with your comments re Sittenfeld - her ability to poke at something assumed and come up with something new and interesting is (at least from my reading) not found in many places.
Charlotte, I want to read more Sittenfeld. I read Prep and bought a copy of American Wife, but she keeps getting mixed up in my mind with Lionel Shriver, and after Shriver's problematic comments at that book festival in Australia a few years ago, I haven't wanted to read her books. There is no reason for me to conflate these two very different authors.
Romy is given two life sentences plus eight years for killing her stalker after he shows up at the apartment in a new city she'd just moved to with her young son to get away from him. Moving back and forth between her life in prison and her life beforehand, when Romy was a dancer at a strip club called The Mars Room, as well as her childhood, Rachel Kushner's novel is hard to put down. It's bleak, but Romy's voice is strong and likable. Romy is interested in the people around her and her story as well as the stories of the women around her are fascinating.
Kushner knows how to write and she writes with a light tone that keeps The Mars Room from being about misery, and is instead about the people that society has little use for. The women imprisoned in a bleak facility in Central California were destined to be there from childhoods spent in foster homes or roaming the streets. While there is a lot to say about the serious flaws in American society and failures of the justice system, this is much more of a character study of a resourceful and intelligent woman than a polemic.
>146 RidgewayGirl: My regard for Curtis Sittenfeld hit rock bottom with American Wife and I won't read anything else by her. It was very clear the book was based on Laura Bush's private life including the traffic accident she caused as a teen that killed one of her classmates. Sittenfeld is a good writer but came across to me as an opportunist of the highest order with this book.
Laura Bush's name wasn't used and to my knowledge the author never admitted basing it on Laura Bush.
If her name had been used, and the writer had in good faith written a historical novel about her, I would 't have minded so much. Here the author created a character and created a life for her applying a few known events in Laura Bush's life. I read this soon after it was published and I don't think I was sure it was "about" Laura Bush until the wreck takes place. I thought the use of the accident was bad enough but the created aftermath (as I remember it) for the character was particularly unsavory. Yes, the fact that Mrs. Bush and her husband are living made a difference to me. How much do public figures owe?
One of the things I've wondered about the book is if Sittenfeld wrote a book about a young woman who became involved with a young politician and it was the publisher who wanted to include the Bush elements to create interest. I would also like to know how much time the publisher pondered the possible legal ramifications before deciding to publish.
Tomb Song is the story of a man sitting in his mother's hospital room, waiting for her to die. She was a prostitute and his life involved a lot of temporary fathers and moving around. Sounds like a book seeped in misery, doesn't it? Despite the scaffolding, Julián Herbert has written a surprisingly upbeat and honest novel.
This isn't a book propelled forward by the plot; it digresses, it heads off onto tangents, it meanders, returning to earlier topics, while abandoning others. The narrator waits. He cares for his mother. He follows often conflicting instructions from the nurses and doctors. He walks the halls, and thinks about his past, from his childhood to the trips he took to Berlin with his wife. Parts of the story are fascinating, some were less enthralling.
The writing style of this novel reminded me of another Mexican novel, Valeria Luiselli's The Story of My Teeth, although that may also be influenced by having the same translator. If you like discursive novels, you'll want to take a look at Tomb Song.
Pearl had an ordinary life with a father who taught at the university, a mother who was working on her doctorate, a nice house and a good dog. But now she, her father and her dog are living with two other squatters in an abandoned boathouse. Now fifteen, Pearl encounters a group of teenage boys, who live in the affluent town nearby and ride around on their golf carts, filming pranks for YouTube.
The feel of Let's No One Get Hurt is similar to some of Ron Rash's work, a bit like a less grim Daniel Woodrell. It's set in an unnamed part of the American South, although it felt like coastal Virginia to me. Author Jon Pineda is also a poet, so each word feels carefully chosen and his descriptions are vivid. This would be out of place in most stories about people living outside of society, but since Pearl is the child of two highly educated parents, it works. There's a strong narrative pull to this novel, but it's rendered largely in brief, snapshot-like vignettes. I'm looking forward to seeing what this author writes next.
Mike loves Verity and Verity loves him. Their relationship is all-encompassing until an unfortunate misstep on Mike's part splits them up. But Mike knows the separation is only temporary. What he doesn't know, is what Verity needs him to do to get back in her good graces.
Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall is a suspenseful novel that does not disappoint. There's an increasing feeling that something is very wrong, and a feeling that the narrator is either not reading the situation accurately, or is being manipulated, or manipulating things. I was reminded of the best novels of Barbara Vine, it's just a really effective and suspenseful novel and I enjoyed it immensely.
How To Be Safe by Tom McAllister is told from the point of view of a high school English teacher, a woman who was not at the school the day the shooting happened. With the murderer dead, there's a search for possible accomplices and Anna is briefly investigated by the FBI and hounded by the media.
As time moves on, Anna looks around at how the shooting has changed the town for good, and how easily these school shootings, and all the mass shootings, are quickly moved past, a few more guns are sold, a monument commissioned, a few more cameras installed to keep watch. But Anna is not moving on. She is consumed with how to be safe, when there are so many dangers out there.
On the highway, you can run into more dangers than you've ever imagined. Not just distracted drivers but stalkers, sex traffickers, teens throwing rocks through windshields from the overpass. If you pass enough cars, you will have passed at least one murderer; that's just statistics.
This novel is narrated by Anna, who spends a lot of her time thinking about what is dangerous. Now out of a job, she spends her day not interacting with her former friends, or spending time with her brother, although she finds that no matter how badly she wants to stay safe, people keep intruding into her life, and she can't stop herself from going outside and interacting with the other people living in the dangerous world.
"The world is not out to get you."
"I never said it was." Though I thought: What if it is?
"Your paranoia makes you not even human. It just makes you this jagged shard of fear that can't do anything."
I turned off the TV and stood. If he wanted to do things, then we would do things. I put on a jacket and some shoes and told him to follow me. If we got killed, it would be on him.
How To Be Safe is very much a commentary on how we have chosen to live in the US today, and how that affects our communities. But despite the subject matter, this book isn't bleak; Anna is too full of fight for that, and McAllister writes with a detached humor that suits this novel very well.
>154 RidgewayGirl: I'm interested in this topic so I'm taking it as a BB.
I have a friend that is somewhat like Anna although she has never been through a traumatic event. When B got a permit for concealed carry I asked her where she went she needed a gun and she said WalMart. I asked why she was going to WalMart if she thought there was a chance she would be shot there and she didn't come up with much of an answer. As time has gone by she has admitted she is just afraid, afraid everywhere. Although she doesn't bring her husband into our conversations I think he's the same. Recently she told me she might have to make a trip to Oklahoma City with her daughter so the daughter could attend a work related training class. They were both afraid for the daughter to go alone. The daughter is in her forties and lives about two hours from OKC. Her husband had planned to go with her but now has a conflict.
It makes me really sad people are living this way. At one time in my life I was stalked for a long period of time and I know there is nothing worse than living with fear.
Here's something that totally amazes me in this case. Her husband is and always has been a reader. He particularly likes WWI and WWII history but in recent years has begun to read novels. His favorite? Those that have protagonists that are assassins and he likes for her to read the ones he likes the most.
clue, I have a friend like that, too. I think she gets caught in a loop where fear makes her pay more attention to bad news and to watch the news (which is not out there to be reassuring). It is so interesting when people who read about WWI and WWII think that times now are more dangerous and hopeless than ever before - my father was telling me the other day about how the Spanish Influenza hit his hometown of Pittsburg - he says that his father lost his sister and that pretty much everyone in town lost a member of their immediate family - and all that with the catastrophic war going on in Europe. I can't imagine how we would deal with that today. Probably buy more guns.
There's a lot of misinformation floating around about the Black Lives Matter movement, some of it clearly intended to discredit their push to hold law enforcement accountable and to draw attention to serious issues, but also some based on inadequate reporting and system bias. When They Call You a Terrorist is a memoir by one of the three women who founded Black Lives Matters and her account of her own life, as well as of the beginning months of Black Lives Matter is a good start to learning about what is really happening.
Patrisse Khan-Cullors grew up in Van Nuys, California, a part of greater Los Angeles inhabited by low income and middle class Hispanic and black people. The father who was around during her childhood had had a good job at an auto manufacturing plant, a job which gave him both a solid paycheck and a sense of pride. When the plant closed, the only work he could find was intermittent and badly paid, which put strain on his family and he eventually left. When They Call You a Terrorist is both starkly honest and clear in depicting how policies and events had direct impact on her family -- here showing how changes in manufacturing hurt not just white people, but also other members of the working class. Throughout the book, Khan-Cullors shows through incidents that shaped her own life, how mental illness is treated when the person suffering is a young black man of limited means, how the policing of young black boys is harmful, how housing policy hurts families, how hard it is to navigate life as both a black woman and as a queer woman and how a person raised in this environment can nonetheless rise into becoming a community activist and how important that role is.
I learned quite a bit from this book, but I also enjoyed reading about Khan-Cullors herself and how her life shaped who she is today.
I've always liked Lauren Groff's novels, but not loved them, but I did love her collection of short stories, Florida. The stories here are bleak and largely unhappy, ironic for a collection largely set in the Sunshine State. In many of the stories, the protagonist is a white woman, with a few young children and a patient husband, and the action in the stories is largely quotidian; she takes walks, she feeds her children, she feels melancholic about the state of things. Really, these stories should be self-indulgent and boring. But in Groff's hands, and more specifically, in her words, the stories are so well told, the details so precisely laid out, that the stories ended up being just about perfect.
>159 RidgewayGirl: That one just arrived at the library today. Not sure if it will check out or not, but I occasionally like to see how an author will do.
>159 RidgewayGirl: Added this one to the wishlist - sounds really worthwhile.
In the decaying factory town of Waterbury, Connecticut, a young Lithuanian American girl gets a job as a waitress at the Betsy Ross diner. Her mother's an alcoholic, her younger sister has the brains and grades to get out of Waterbury, and Elsie's just hoping for a better life. Instead, she meets Bashkim, newly emigrated from Albania, where he left his wife behind in the hopes of a better life in the US.
A generation later, Elsie's daughter, Luljeta, also hopes for a better life somewhere else, but a rejection letter from the university she'd pinned her hopes on have her scrambling to find a reason to believe that she can make a better life for herself than the low income grind she has with her mother. Lulu goes in search of the father her mother won't talk about.
Brass may be a debut novel, but it's self-assured and well-written. Xhenet Aliu has managed something even seasoned authors struggle with; her two narrators sound different, but subtly so. She also writes with a dry humor and keen eye for detail. The characters inhabit a vivid, if run-down world and there's a lot of detail as to the cultural and social structures of the immigrant communities Lulu and Elsie live in, as well as the realities of always having to scramble to make the rent payment. I was impressed by this novel, loved that it shed light on people and places not usually given attention.
The addition of your mother's boyfriend, the postanarchist Professor Robbie, brings the total number of guests gathered for Christmas dinner to five, one more than the quartet of you, your mother, Mamie, and Greta, which had gathered for Thanksgiving and all other previous holidays you've sat through your entire life. Even with the addition of a Y chromosome, your Noel looks mostly like a nativity scene staged by a militant women's separatist group.
rp, he is always living his best life.
Victoria, I have bones so I can't manage that level of sloth.
>164 RidgewayGirl: - I'm quite envious of his ability to commit to relaxation. Love the colors on your chair too!
>164 RidgewayGirl: awww, comfy cat!
The candy stripe chair cover is lovely and cheery.
I always enjoy reading your reviews, but as I scrolled through your thread, what struck me was how many eye-catching covers you've posted in the last couple of months! I particularly like the one for The Italian Teacher.
Guys, that cat is a professional relaxer. And, yes, he is aware of how good his white fur looks set off against the vividly striped chairs. There is an orange blanket that he also likes to pose on.
Paulina, I think that book covers are getting more exciting. I've certainly seen fewer covers depicting women with their heads turned away.
So the premise of Country Dark, Chris Offutt's Appalachian Noir, is promising. A young man, newly returned from military service in Korea, is walking home when he encounters a man attacking a young woman. Intervening, he ends up taking her and the man's car with him when he continues on his path home. As a married man, soon with children, in the hills of rural Kentucky in the middle of the last century, he finds the only work he can, running illicit alcohol and other goods across state lines. When his life and his family are threatened, what will he do to protect them?
Country Dark was pretty good. The setting and plot certainly fit right into the genre. But Tucker, the central character doesn't fit into the role; he's flawless. Taciturn, with enviable skills in everything from nature lore to street fighting, he's an Appalachian Jack Reacher. He also loves his family with a perfect and gentle love, able to generate remarkable violence one moment, and be a loving family man directly afterwards. He was too perfect and it lessened the tension of the exciting plot once it became clear that Tucker would always figure out the best way out of a jam, would never lose a fight and would always be a great husband and father.
But the setting and plot, as well as a few interesting secondary characters did redeem this novel somewhat. I look forward to Offutt's future novels, and seeing how his work develops. He's no Donald Ray Pollock or Daniel Woodrell, but there's certainly room for more authors writing about the darkest corners and deeds of rural Appalachia.
We recently got that one at the library. I wasn't sure if I'd like it or not, but Appalachian stuff does pretty well so I ordered it.
>3 RidgewayGirl: Lindsey Fitzharris has a twitter site that is full of fascinating/lurid historical oddities. I also got her some Hollywood actress followers!
I used to give her heads ups when I found interesting things.
Some things are unpleasant but always historically or medically interesting.
I no longer twitter, as someone managed to use my twitter name and post a comment and photo of a man that might have been true but was worrying, as to legality. It had a date that had been set up as some time back and for a moment, I thought, WHY did I post that,? Clearly if in my right mind, I never would have and I had no remembrance of such a fellow and even though I knew I would never have posted such a thing, for a moment, I looked at the evidence and felt helpless.
However, my near computer illiteracy saved me, as I realised that I couldn't possibly have posted it, as I didn't know how to put a photo/picture in a tweet and had never done so. I only knew how to REtweet such things done by others. With the photo in my name, I knew it couldn't have been done by me.
The fact that someone had put it into my name and been able to date it a year earlier, greatly alarmed me. It was retweeted by someone claiming a French background that I had never heard of and when I investigated, although it was retweeted, there was no record of anywhere that they had retweeted it FROM - and even I knew you could trace everybody who retweeted your stuff, all the way back to your original tweet.
As usual, twitter management was totally useless, when given this very disturbing complaint, and I left, as it was quite clear that they weren't going to do anything and clearly, if I hadn't been incapable of putting a picture or photo in a tweet, I would have had a very hard time being able to deny that I had posted something I may have been able to be sued for...
All I could do was deny this tweet and warn people and leave to protect myself.
I write this to forewarn anyone using twitter.- tho I only set out to let people know that if such subjects are of intetest, Dr LF is a great person to follow.on twitter
>173 RidgewayGirl: I love the phrase 'an Appalachian Jack Reacher'. Not one I'll be rushing to pick up.
Lori, the Appalachian stuff should do well. And Country Dark might suit people who don't enjoy noir, as this was more pale noir. Some violence, but essentially about a moral, family man in extreme circumstances. I prefer flawed and mistake-prone characters myself.
Hi, roomsofbooks! Yes, I follow Lindsey Fitzharris on twitter and she is interesting. I also follow Dr. Judy Melinek, who wrote Working Stiff.
Charlotte, Offutt did do his research, so it's an interesting picture of a specific time and culture, but I'd suggest waiting and seeing if his next book is better.
>117 LittleTaiko: I don't know the name Judy Melinek at all.
I can't/won't go back to twitter now, sadly.
But thank you for the new name to look for
I loved Circe by Madeline Miller far too much to write a reasoned review of it's merits and flaws. I'm not drawn to mythology in general and would not have read this book if I hadn't already read The Song of Achilles and had Circe not been part of The Morning News Rooster Summer Reading Challenge, but I fell for it at some moment during the opening pages and the spell held for the entire book.
Miller takes the mythological character of Circe, a witch who turns part of Odysseus's crew into wild animals and who has a relationship with him, as well as other appearances she makes in Greek mythology and creates a wonderfully complex character, who struggles to find a place she belongs in, while tying her into many traditional events. There's a lot that can be said about what Miller is doing and how she's subverting some traditions, while keeping utterly to the spirit of mythology, but basically I read the entire book in a state of uncritical joy.
>179 RidgewayGirl: Sounds fascinating! I've heard nothing but good about Miller's books.
" I read the entire book in a state of uncritical joy." Love this. It's not one that shouts to me, but so great when a book achieves this: I'd be tempted to write a fan letter (perhaps just in my head though).
Charlotte, I couldn't write a fan letter. I feel like an awkward stalker just getting an author to sign a copy of their own book at an event in which they are there to sign books.
Ha! I know exactly what you mean. I went to a signing by Megan Abbott several years ago, and when it was my turn, I didn't know what to say because she'd just done a talk about the new book and covered it well. So I blurted out, "You live in New York City, don't you?" She paused, clearly trying to figure out if I was a stalker, then said, "Yes. And you live here?" I guess it would have been more awkward if I'd gone on to gush about our recent visit to Manhattan, so at least I spared us that. :-D
Jennifer, I always flop my book(s) down in a particularly awkward manner. They are unfailingly kind, though, so they must deal with weirdos all the time. I was oddly gushy with Denise Mina and she was so generous and funny, and Ron Rash was so nice even though he hated the movie made of his book, Serena, and that was the book I brought him to sign. Not the movie tie-in cover, though, thankfully.
I would not do well meeting Megan Abbott, between the real fangirl feelings I have for her and how I'd probably tell her about hiding the cover of Queenpin while reading as I was waiting for my daughter to finish a music exam at Bob Jones University.
Eva, I'm glad not to be the only one.
Charlotte, Queenpin is fantastic. It takes every tradition of noir and upends it brilliantly.
I'm on vacation at the beach for the next two weeks. It's lovely, but I probably won't be around very often. Sea turtles hatched last night. My husband and son stuck around until they'd all made it safely into the ocean, I left earlier, but did get to see four tiny turtles resting at the top of their nest.
What a perfect way to start your beach vacation - baby turtles!
There's a lot going on in Ahmed Saadawi's Frankenstein in Baghdad. There's Hadi, the old junk dealer whose friend is killed in one of the never-ending car bomb explosions. There's the elderly Christian woman, who ignores her daughters' pleas to come join them in Australia because she's still waiting for her son, who went missing in the Iran-Iraq war, to come home. There's a young journalist, working hard to write stories in a hostile environment and dragged along whenever his boss goes to network with important people. There's the head of a government department filled with magicians and fortune tellers, hoping to move on to bigger things. And there's the whatsitsname, cobbled together from the body parts left behind after various explosions, reanimated and looking to find out why he's alive.
Baghdad in the early days of American occupation is a dangerous and complex place and as each person negotiates the dangers, they are all affected by the presence of the unnamed monster in their midst.
I was surprised at how much I was drawn into Saadawi's story. It's complex, and I won't even pretend to understand the tensions between the different factions and groups. But running behind the complex plot involving a number of people, all with different goals and mindsets, is a deep compassion for each and every character in the novel. Saadawi writes with equal heart, whether his focus is on an elderly woman or a young man, and even his murderous monster. I'm glad Frankenstein in Baghdad was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize and I hope it reaches many readers as it deserves to be widely read.
192, That sounds really fascinating--bb taken! Thanks for the excellent review :)
>193 whitewavedarling: It was really good. And it may be the first book I've read by an Iraqi author.
Census tells the story of a man who, after the death of his wife, signs on as a census worker and heads out into a depopulated north with his son, who has Down Syndrome, listening to people's stories and remembering his wife, who had been a famous clown with an unconventional schooling.
My local library has this shelved in science fiction, but that's a categorization that will make no one happy. While the novel is set in a dystopic land that is both sparsely populated and yet has good infrastructure, author Jesse Ball isn't interested in explaining or amplifying the world he's created. What he is interested in doing is telling stories in brief vignettes and short segments. Some of the tales come from the people they meet along the way and others focus on his life and his wife's life.
I was not the right audience for this book, which came across to me as both underwritten and slightly pretentious. The heart of the book isn't evident on its own, but relies on both an introduction and on photos at the end to explain itself.
The Outsider is Stephen King at his most Stephen King-like. Which is to say that if you generally like King's style, you'll be pleased with this book. If his quirks annoy you, this isn't the book for you.
The Outsider tells the story of the aftermath of the murder and mutilation of a young boy. The perpetrator, Terry Maitland, a well-known and well-liked coach, was seen by several people who knew him at the scene and there was plenty of forensic evidence, so the police move quickly to arrest him. And then things go badly wrong, leaving the lead detective, Ralph Anderson, a man not unlike King's other detective, Bill Hodges, deeply uneasy and looking for answers. Joined by Maitland's lawyer and his private investigator, as well as the county prosecutor, along with help from a character in earlier King novels, Holly Gibney, the search for answers in on. But will they believe the answers when they see them?
This is an interesting blend of horror and crime novel, and it works as wonderfully as it did in the final books of King's Bill Hodges trilogy. There were several moments when I was pulled out of the story by something so characteristic of King that I had to pause and recognize that. There's no forgetting the author, which is not necessarily a bad thing, when King is so reliably able to pull off a complex and satisfying conclusion.
The Jane Austen Project is a mash-up of different genres that shouldn't work together at all, but debut novelist Kathleen A. Flynn manages to make it all work. Rachel is a doctor working in the crisis zones of a world where things have gone badly wrong. There's been a "die-off" of species and each new environmental disaster brings new hardships. She's an avid reader of Austen's novels, so when she hears about a project to time travel back and obtain a novel that Austen never published, she applies and is accepted to be part of the team traveling to Regency England. Rachel is an entirely modern woman, who has created an independent life for herself. It's an adjustment learning how a woman in the nineteenth conducts herself and it isn't helped by pairing her with a stand-offish British actor. They pose as a brother and sister newly arrived in London after selling their plantation in Jamaica, and intend to become friends with Jane Austen's favorite brother, as a way of being introduced to Jane and from there to steal her manuscript.
Somehow this mix of modern chick-lit, dystopian time travel speculative fiction, historical novel about the life of Jane Austen and gentle romance all work wonderfully together. Flynn has done her research, on what life was like in early nineteenth century England, on Jane Austen's life and in thoroughly thinking through the time travel aspect of the tale. This isn't a story that hand-waves away the logistics and consequences of time travel, but wrestles with all of that in a very satisfying way. Rachel is an engaging narrator, being entirely modern and out-spoken in her thoughts, but careful to behave appropriately. My only minor quibble is the reverence with which Jane Austen is treated. I'm not sure any human being could be as relentlessly perfect as this version of Austen.
Detective Inspector Huss is a police procedural. It begins with a crime and then the police show up and the slow, painstaking process of gathering information, canvassing neighborhoods, collecting evidence and, above all, sitting in long meetings begins. Helene Tursten walks the reader through each step, so that the book is slow paced and repetitive at the beginning, with long digressions as false leads are researched and names are ticked off the list of possible suspects. The story gains momentum as the investigation proceeds, ending with a burst of excitement, but the heart of the case remains with the paperwork and footwork required to reach that ending.
This was a refreshing change from the usual tropes of detective fiction. Irene Huss is happily married, with two children. She's just as involved in her family life as she is in the case she's working, which hinges not on a brilliant, rogue investigator, but on teamwork. Set in the Swedish city of Goteborg during the chilly winter months, this is a solid start to a series I'll continue to read.
Grace: A Novel is the debut novel by Natashia Deón. It tells the stories of two black women, Naomi, in 1840s Georgia and her daughter, Josey, in the 1860s in Alabama. Naomi flees the murder of a slaveowner, finding a refuge of sorts in a rural brothel. There, she has a contentious relationship with the brothel owner, but her impulsivity and naivety lead her into danger. Later, her daughter, blonde and troubled, experiences the dangers of being legally free, but living in the South.
This was an interesting novel that didn't lack for drama, but had a lot more melodrama than I would have liked. While Naomi was flawed, but willing to act, her daughter spent her life needing to be cared for and her decisions made for her, first by her guardian and then by her husband, making her a not very interesting character to spend half of a novel reading about. I also have some questions about some of the behaviors of a few of the characters and of whether that would have been at all likely in the antebellum south, but the two stories didn't lack for momentum.
>197 RidgewayGirl: Sounds intriguing! Adding it to the wishlist.
I read one of the Irene Huss books from later in the series - (my library only had later ones) enjoyed the way Huss seemed a believable older woman character - human.
Charlotte, that's the thing I liked most about this book - Huss is a professional who behaves professionally. No steamy affairs or secret drinking, just being good at her job and then going home to her family. Fun that this is Swedish - the same country that enshrined the gloomy investigator into a detective fiction staple.
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