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Cait86 Reads in 2019

75 Books Challenge for 2019

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Edited: Dec 30, 2018, 8:19am Top

Hello, and thanks for visiting my thread!

My name is Cait, and I am a high school English teacher in Burlington, ON, Canada. I was part of this group in 2009 and 2010, and a few other years on and off, but I have a terrible habit of joining yearly challenges, posting until March, and then never returning. Every December, however, I feel the pull of LT. So I'm back, to try again.

I currently have 176 books on my TBR shelves, so my 2019 reading will be dedicated to making a dent in these books. I read mostly fiction, along with the occasional memoir or book of investigative journalism. In 2018 I read 76 books, which is a huge increase from the last few years. My plan is to continue this trend into 2019.

My five star reads from 2018 were (in reading order):
1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
2. Harry Potter: A History of Magic by the British Library
3. Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by John Krakauer
4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (reread)
5. Columbine by Dave Cullen
6. Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
7. Crow Lake by Mary Lawson
8. The Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery (reread)
9. The Power by Naomi Alderman
10. Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Besides books, I love to cook, travel, and attend theatre performances. I have a Siamese cat, Ariel, who is my favourite reading buddy.

Please drop by and say hi -- looking forward to rekindling old friendships, and meeting new readers!

Edited: Dec 26, 2018, 7:51am Top

Book-Related Goals for 2019

1. End the year with less books on my TBR shelves than I started the year with
2. Complete the POPSugar Reading Challenge
3. Read every day

Edited: Feb 18, 6:19pm Top

Books Read in 2019

1. The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante, trans. by Ann Goldstein - 4.5 stars
2. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante, trans. by Ann Goldstein - 5 stars
3. Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick - 3 stars
4. Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue - 4.5 stars
5. The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck - 5 stars
6. Romeo and/or Juliet by Ryan North - 1 star
7. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley - 3 stars
8. Transcription by Kate Atkinson - 4 stars
9. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer - 4.5 stars
10. Women Talking by Miriam Toews - 4 stars
11. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas - 4 stars
12. Ines of My Soul by Isabel Allende - 3.5 stars
13. One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus - 3 stars
14. I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara - 4 stars
15. The Golden Road by Lucy Maud Montgomery - 3 stars
16. Winter by Ali Smith - 4.5 stars
17. If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin - 5 stars
18. To Kill a Mockingbird: A Graphic Novel by Harper Lee and Fred Fordham - 5 stars
19. Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling - 3.5 stars

Edited: Feb 17, 8:52am Top

Books Obtained in 2019

1. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas - read
2. If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin - read

Edited: Jan 13, 10:33am Top

January Reading Plan

1. The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante - completed!
2. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante - completed!
3. Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick - completed!
4. Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue - completed!
5. The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck - completed!

Dec 26, 2018, 12:03pm Top

Hello and welcome back. I love your book related goals for 2019. I should add something like that to my thread.

Dec 26, 2018, 7:06pm Top

Hi from Michigan (so we're sort of neighbors?!) I'm Jenny- it looks like we have some shared reading interests. Looking forward to see what you're reading this year.

Dec 27, 2018, 7:27am Top

>6 crazy4reading:, >7 jennyifer24:: Thanks very much to you both for stopping by! I'll be sure to visit your threads too :)

Dec 31, 2018, 3:35am Top

Happy New Year!

Dec 31, 2018, 9:13am Top

Happy reading in 2019, Cait!

Dec 31, 2018, 10:58am Top

Happy new year and new thread!
I saw you on the introductions page and we are almost neighbours (I'm 30 minutes from London)
Have a great reading year!

Dec 31, 2018, 4:25pm Top

Happy to see you back again, Cait. Much luck with your goals for the year!

Jan 1, 7:11pm Top

>9 The_Hibernator:, >10 FAMeulstee:, >11 ChelleBearss:, >12 MickyFine: Thank you all for dropping by, and for the best wishes! I will be following your reading as well.

Edited: Jan 1, 7:33pm Top

And here we go! I'm not a full reviewer of books, but I will try to leave a few comments/impressions.


Book #1: The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante, trans. by Ann Goldstein
PopSugar Category: A book by two female authors (I'm including the translator, because I don't think they get enough recognition!)

I love when the new year starts with an excellent book! What a pleasure it was today to immerse myself once again into the story of Elena and Lila; despite being three years since I read My Brilliant Friend, I quickly remembered their story and was swept away by Ferrante's narrative.

If you haven't yet read this quartet of novels set in Naples, Italy, please do! They are rich in character development, and beautifully written and translated. I find myself identifying a lot with Elena, as she struggles to find her place in an academic world that is very different from the neighbourhood where she was born. Lila, on the other hand, is stuck in a bad marriage, and she often takes out her unhappiness on Elena and the other people who love her. Both women are fascinating characters, and their friendship is even more interesting. While their life situations often push them apart, a strong bond continues to pull them back to each other. I'm looking forward to seeing how these characters evolve over the course of the next two books.

4.5 stars

Jan 1, 7:41pm Top

Happy 2019
A year full of books
A year full of friends
A year full of all your wishes realised

I look forward to keeping up with you, Cait, this year.

Jan 1, 9:42pm Top

looking forward to following your reading in 2019!

Jan 1, 9:46pm Top

Happy New Year, Cait. I also loved Home Fire and The Power last year.

Edited: Jan 2, 9:10am Top

Happy New Year Cait.

>14 Cait86: I'm in the minority, but I didn't get along with Volume 1 of this series, so DNF it or go on to the next. I'm not really sure why. It may have been a mood thing. I'm not big on 'coming of age' novels, which much of the first is, and I've been told it gets better from V2. At the moment no plans to give it another go, but never say never!

Jan 2, 10:35am Top

Happy New Year, Cait and Ariel!

Jan 2, 11:04am Top

Happy New Year, Cait!

Jan 2, 3:47pm Top

Thank you Paul, Rhonda, Beth, Caroline, Nora, and Darryl for the kind words! It really is a treat to find a thread full of visitors.

>18 Caroline_McElwee: If you aren't typically a fan of 'coming of age' novels, Caroline, you probably wouldn't like The Story of a New Name either. The two main characters are still quite young, navigating the transition from girlhood to womanhood, where the first book was about childhood-girlhood.

Jan 3, 7:23pm Top

Burlington? Seriously. I live in Buffalo. I can practically reach out and touch you Cait. To say nothing of the fact that I have relatives in Burlington..

I loved the Ferrante series and I also enjoyed the first season of the HBO series last year. Have you seen that? Also I’m a huge MaryLawson fan and have read all her books. She needs to write faster lol. I look forward to following your reading.

Jan 3, 7:35pm Top

It's so good to see you back again, Cait. I hope you stay with us all year this time. ;-) I have fond memories of Crow Lake in the past, and Home Fire made my Top Ten of 2017 list. I also really enjoyed the Ferrante series as audio books. I look forward to sharing more good books with you this year.

Jan 3, 8:49pm Top

>22 brenzi: No way! We are so close! If you are ever here visiting your relatives, let me know and we can get together! I haven't seen the HBO series yet, bit I want to very much. I'm halfway through the third book right now and love it even more than the first two.

>23 Donna828: Thanks Donna, it is good to be back! I hope I make it through the year as well. I have read several of Kamila Shamsie's books now, and Home Fire is definitely my favourite. That ending... so powerful.

Jan 4, 3:30pm Top

Book #2: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante, trans. by Ann Goldstein
PopSugar Category: A book that includes a wedding

Oh wow, what an emotional roller coaster! I loved this book even more than the first two, with its theme of the trials of motherhood juxtaposed with political upheaval and violence. Elena is such a complex character, and I go through periods of sympathizing with her, and periods of absolutely hating her. The same can be said about Lila, who shines when Elena is at her worst, and vice versa. Social concerns such as working conditions and gender politics come to the forefront of the narrative - one of the things I love about these books is the skillful way that Ferrante transitions between very private moments in Elena's life to much larger world issues that existed in Italy at the time. In this way, this story is of Elena and Lila, but also of their country.

5 stars


I'm on a book buying ban for now, but I will definitely ask for the fourth Ferrante novel for my birthday in March!

Next up: Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick, which is a retelling of Henry James' The Ambassadors (which I have not read).

Jan 6, 7:25am Top

Book #3: Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick
PopSugar Category: A retelling of a classic

Foreign Bodies is the story of a fractured family, set in the early 1950s: Bea is a late 40s divorced teacher living in NYC who is ordered by her estranged brother, Marvin, to go to Paris to hunt down Marvin's son Julian, who has been living there for longer than planned, and shows no signs of coming home. Julian's sister, Iris, is the perfect child ready to shed that reputation, and their mother, Margaret, is at a "retreat" that is actually a centre for people struggling with their mental health. From that set-up comes secret after secret, lie after lie, told through chapters that alternate between the various characters, often in the form of letters to each other.

All of this sounds rather juicy and exciting, but in reality it wasn't. Ozick is a beautiful writer, but these characters were boring and I never came to really care about their problems. I didn't dislike this book, but it certainly didn't wow me.

3 stars

Jan 6, 8:21am Top

>26 Cait86: agreeing with your review of this novel Cait. I read it a while back, and was underwhelmed.

Jan 6, 10:16am Top

>26 Cait86: I think I agree with your comments, Cait. I know I read this but have no memory of it.

Jan 9, 7:00am Top

>27 Caroline_McElwee:, >28 BLBera: Thanks Caroline and Beth! I'm glad I'm not the only one who disliked this novel. I think I picked it up on a whim from a sale table at my local bookstore, which is something I never do. I really only ever buy books that I have read reviews of, or was nominated for an award, because I like to know that I'm purchasing something I'll like. I don't like to waste my time on 3 star books.

Jan 9, 7:05am Top

Life update: I went back to work on Monday after two lovely weeks of vacation, and immediately got sick. I was out with some friends one night last week and one of my friends was coughing, and I just knew I was going to catch a cold from him. So, here I am at home on a sick day, only three days into the new year. I hate taking sick days, particularly in January when my students are stressed over final evaluations and exams, but I know that if I don't recover today, I'll be really sick by the end of the week.

My plan for today at home is still to get some work done, as I should really mark about ten essays, and I have to proofread all of the exams for my department before submitting them to the main office for photocopying tomorrow. Once that is done, I'm planning on reading a significant chunk of my current book, Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue, which I love so far.

Happy Wednesday!

Jan 9, 7:32am Top

>14 Cait86: I have at least one of Ferrante's books around my house somewhere. I really must get to it!

>30 Cait86: Sorry to hear that you are sick, Cait. I hope you get well soon!

Jan 9, 12:09pm Top

>30 Cait86: Sorry to hear about the sick day, Cait. Hopefully the day of rest has you feeling much more the thing tomorrow. :)

Jan 10, 10:05am Top

Get better soon Cait. I've had a low grade cough for ten days which is hanging on.

Jan 10, 6:57pm Top

I hope you’re feeling better today Cait. I hate getting sick and as a teacher it seems you’re more susceptible

Jan 11, 10:01am Top

Hope your sick day helped you to not get any worse! Could you at least mark the essays from the comfort of bed?

Jan 11, 11:29am Top

Hope you get better soon!

Edited: Jan 12, 7:16am Top

>31 alcottacre:, >32 MickyFine:, >33 Caroline_McElwee:, >34 brenzi:, >35 ChelleBearss:, >36 figsfromthistle: Thanks very much for the well wishes, Stasia, Micky, Caroline, Bonnie, Chelle, and Anita!

I ended up going to work on Thursday and coming home at lunch, and then taking yesterday off as well. I have never taken multiple sick days in a row in my ten years of teaching, but I was just so run down that I needed the rest. I am feeling back to almost normal today, and I'm off to my school to work with our robotics team as we build a robot to compete in this year's FIRST Robotics Competition. I know absolutely nothing about robotics or engineering, being an English teacher, but this group of students does such amazing things, and so I volunteered to help out. I'm not sure how much help I am, beyond paperwork and attendance and that sort of thing, but the few girls in the club do love that they now have a female teacher involved.

Hope everyone has a wonderful day!

Jan 12, 7:16am Top

Book #4: Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue
PopSugar Category: a book with an item of clothing or accessory on the cover (a ribbon)

Slammerkin is the story of Mary Saunders, a real woman who lived in the 1700s whose story Donoghue imagines from a few mentions in historical documents. Mary is fourteen, living in London with her mother and step-father, and is very poor. She has an obsession with pretty things, including a prostitute who adorns her hair with a bright red ribbon. Mary desperately wants a ribbon just like that, which she sees as a symbol of a better life, and her desire leads her into a whole lot of trouble.

I won’t say any more about the plot, because the fun of this novel is in the ups and downs of Mary’s fortune. She’s a fascinating character living in a fascinating world — if you’ve ever watched a historical film or tv show and thought, I’d like to have lived in England in the 1700s... well, this book will change your mind. Donoghue is great at writing historical fiction that shows the good and the bad about history, instead of glorifying it, and her focus on female characters and their lot in life always reminds me how much I have to be thankful for, as a woman living in 2019. Our world isn’t perfect, not by a long shot, but it is certainly better than Mary’s.

Other Donoghue books I’ve read (all good, though this is my fav): Room, Frog Music, and The Wonder

4.5 stars

Jan 12, 7:55am Top

>38 Cait86: sounds like a good read Cait. I've Bly read Room which was quite a journey.

Jan 12, 1:50pm Top

Nice review of Slammerkin, Cait. I loved Room, so I'll keep my eye out for this book.

Jan 13, 10:17am Top

>39 Caroline_McElwee: I agree, Caroline; Room was quite the book. Slammerkin is very different in subject matter, obviously, but what is similar is that Donoghue always creates such vivid characters.

>40 kidzdoc: I would be interested in whether you would like this one or not, Darryl. It's very different from what I think of as your usual reading, though I don't think that means you shouldn't pick it up!

Edited: Jan 13, 12:39pm Top

Book #5: The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck
PopSugar Category: a book set in Scandinavia

The Moon is Down is set in an unnamed town in an unnamed northern European country, but it is generally assumed to be about Norway, since Steinbeck was awarded a major Norwegian war honour for writing it. Steinbeck wrote this book in 1942, as propaganda really, to inspire resistance in Nazi-occupies countries. It was distributed across Europe secretly, and reading it could result in death at the hands of Hitler’s army. I’m not really a Steinbeck fan, having only read Of Mice and Men and started East of Eden about ten times. So I didn’t exactly have high hopes for this one.

I was so wrong. I loved every page of this tiny book — its message about resistance is still applicable today, and the actions and words of the townspeople left tears in my eyes. It is a simple story, told in simple language, but wow does it pack an emotional punch. Highly recommended.

5 stars

Edited: Feb 1, 8:38pm Top

January Reading Plan, Part Two

1. Romeo and/or Juliet by Ryan North - completed!
2. Transcription by Kate Atkinson - completed!
3. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer - completed!
4. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley - completed!

I cannot believe that I have finished all of the books I listed in >5 Cait86: -- I never stick to a plan like that! Knock on wood that I can keep going for the rest of the month.

The Invisible Bridge is quite long, so it might bleed over into February. I'll borrow The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie on audio from the library, and listen to it while I drive to work, and Romeo and/or Juliet is one I borrowed as well.

Jan 13, 12:41pm Top

Book #6: Romeo and/or Juliet by Ryan North
PopSugar Category: a choose your own adventure book

Ridiculous. Read solely to complete this PopSugar category, which I think is so silly. At least it was short.

1 star

Jan 13, 12:52pm Top

>42 Cait86: ooo, a Steinbeck I've not read Cait. Actually I've probably only read half of his work so far, but I do have most of it.

Jan 13, 12:53pm Top

Burlington, Ontario would be on the way to Stratford if I ever get back to Stratford. I used to go every summer, but not for about 20 years now. When my partner retires (this year), we will have more time to indulge in summer theater trips. If we do, I'll certainly let you know! Maybe we can schedule one of those infamous meetups.

Jan 13, 1:10pm Top

>38 Cait86: That one sounds good. I have only read Room by Emma Donoghue and I loved it, so I will happily try another of hers.

>42 Cait86: I get to dodge that BB as I have already read that one. Whew!

Jan 13, 2:13pm Top

I"ve had both Slammerkin and The Moon Is Down on my WL for ages, Cait. Maybe your wonderful comments will push them up to the top of the pile.

I hope you're feeling better.

Jan 13, 3:14pm Top

Hi, Cait!

Like you I'm not a huge Steinbeck fan, though I have The Grapes Of Wrath on my best-of list for last year. I recently added The Moon Is Down to my Wishlist via the best-seller challenge---thank you for the recommendation.

Jan 13, 3:53pm Top

Slammerkin and The Moon is Down are now on my Hope to Read sometime soon. Thanks Cait.

Jan 13, 3:55pm Top

Dropping off a star as I think we have similar reading tastes! I loved the Neapolitan novels when I read them a few years ago. Do you plan to watch the HBO series? I'm interested but haven't been moved to actual watching yet.

Jan 13, 5:56pm Top

I've added Slammerkin and The Moon is Down to my wish list. I've never heard of this Steinbeck novel.

Jan 14, 10:32am Top

Thanks for the Slammerkin review - I'm adding it to my list. I really enjoyed The Wonder, even more than Room, because of Donoghue's terrific sense of place.

Jan 14, 11:39am Top

Hi Cait, dropping a star, and looking forward to what you think of The Invisible Bridge. It's long, but I remember not wanting to put it down when I read it.

Jan 15, 6:15pm Top

>42 Cait86: I loved this lesser known Steinbeck when I "discovered" it a few years ago. I may want to visit it again someday.

I also have fond memories of The Invisible Bridge. It was a keeper for me and a real page-turner. It may go faster than you think!

Jan 19, 10:49am Top

Oh dear, I am woefully behind on threads, including my own, after a very busy week. Luckily for me, today is our first real snowstorm of the year, so I have the perfect excuse to spend the day relaxing.

>45 Caroline_McElwee: Do you have a favourite Steinbeck from what you have read, Caroline? Besides having East of Eden on my shelves, I also own Cannery Row.

>46 ffortsa: That would be lovely! I am a regular Stratford patron; my best friend and I have been going multiple times a summer for over a decade. It's my favourite part of the summer. I hope you get back there soon!

>47 alcottacre:, >48 BLBera:, >49 lyzard:, >50 brenzi:, >52 socialpages:, >53 vivians: I hope you all enjoy Slammerkin and/or The Moon is Down as much as I did!

>51 curioussquared: I do want to watch the series, though I have essentially sworn off television for the moment. I'll watch Star Trek: Discovery every week, and Handmaid's Tale when it comes back, but I am really trying to limit my tv time, in an effort to increase my reading time.

>54 aktakukac:, >55 Donna828: I am really looking forward to The Invisible Bridge, which I have owned for years, so I am glad to know that you both enjoyed it so much!

I am currently about a third of the way through Transcription by Kate Atkinson, which I am really enjoying.

Jan 19, 1:31pm Top

>56 Cait86: I love Of Mice and Men Cait. Tortilla Flat. I've mostly read his shorter fiction, and Travels with Charlie. I've had a problem getting into East of Eden because, at least in the first 50 pages I read, there feels like such a misogynistic feel to it, there is nothing positive about the women, but I saw the film years ago, and will have another go.

Jan 19, 7:07pm Top

>57 Caroline_McElwee: Thanks for the recommendations! I'll add Tortilla Flat to my list.

Jan 19, 7:09pm Top

Book #7: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
PopSugar Category: a book featuring an amateur detective

This fun mystery was a harmless way to spend a very snowy day. I listened to the audiobook while I did a jigsaw puzzle, cooked, and cleaned my kitchen. It was relaxing and funny in places, but overall not my preferred genre or style.

3 stars

Jan 20, 4:28am Top

Wishing you a great weekend, Cait.

Jan 20, 10:21am Top

>59 Cait86: Glad to see you liked Flavia. I had a hard time getting into the third book but she has grown on me now and I just picked up the fifth book. I couldn't do them on audio though. I can't handle higher pitched female voices on audiobooks.

Jan 20, 11:47am Top

>46 ffortsa: >56 Cait86: I try to get to Stratford with a group of friends each summer too. We missed last year but will hopefully get back this year. It's such a relaxing weekend away!

Jan 20, 1:01pm Top

>60 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul -- the same to you!

>61 ChelleBearss: The narrator was pretty good, though it took me some time to warm up to her voice, which I found grating at first. Ultimately though the annoyingness fit Flavia's voice, so it worked in the end. My audio pet peeve is narrators who do different voices for different characters. An audiobook is not a radio play, in my view, so I don't like overly dramatized ones. I find it so off-putting when narrators create voices for characters who are very different in age than the narrator, or different gender. Jim Dale's Hermione voice in his Harry Potter audiobooks, for example, irritates me to no end.

>62 jennyifer24: I love that Stratford is such a vacation draw! It's such a delightful town, and the theatre is really wonderful. I'm looking forward to The Crucible and Little Shop of Horrors this season, as well as the Shakespeare plays,

Edited: Feb 1, 8:39pm Top

Book #8: Transcription by Kate Atkinson
PopSugar Category: a book you think should be turned into a movie

Transcription is the story of Juliet, a young woman who works for MI5 during WW2, transcribing conversations between a British spy and secret Nazi sympathizers. The narrative jumps around in time a bit, with chunks of the book set in 1950. The reader knows from this later timeline that something alarming happened during the war, something that ten years later is still haunting Juliet.

This was a great book with a twisty plot that kept me on the edge of my seat. As with many books about spies, the reader is never really sure who is telling the truth, and for what "side" characters are really fighting.


4 stars

Jan 20, 6:38pm Top

I need to read more Emma Donoghue. I should look for Slammerkin

Jan 21, 11:02am Top

>56 Cait86: I'm a regular patron of Stratford as well. They also have a wonderful used bookstore ( Book Stage).

>64 Cait86: Transcription looks to be a great book. I have two of her books on my TBR shelf.

Have a fantastic week :)

Jan 21, 12:51pm Top

>64 Cait86: So glad you enjoyed Transcription! There have been mixed reviews but I really loved it.

Jan 21, 11:27pm Top

I was another fan of Transcription, Cait.

Feb 1, 8:36pm Top

>65 banjo123: If you like historical fiction, Slammerkin is definitely a good one! I'm still thinking about Mary, the main character.

>66 figsfromthistle: So many Stratford fans! I'm always thrilled when someone else loves it as much as I do. I've never been to Book Stage before -- thanks for mentioning it!!

>67 vivians:, >68 BLBera: I can see why Transcription has received mixed reviews, with its slow start and an ending that is kind of... ambivalent maybe? I really liked it though.

Thanks to you all for keeping my thread warm while I was away! The past two weeks were exams weeks, which means tons of marking and report card writing for me. A new semester starts on Monday, so things will slow down a bit again. I should be back here more regularly in February.

Feb 1, 9:00pm Top

Book #9: The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
PopSugar Category: your favourite prompt from a past POPSUGAR Reading Challenge - a novel set during war time (2017)

The Invisible Bridge starts in 1937 in Budapest, Hungary. Andras Lévi, an ambitious young man, is about to leave for Paris to attend architectural school. Andras is excited, but nervous to leave behind his family, especially his older brother Tibor. In Paris Andras begins a new life full of learning, sees success as a student, and is pulled into the drama of a woman with a mysterious past. This Paris section of the novel is quite the love letter to the city, and despite obstacles, Andras does well for himself.

However, it’s the late 1930s, and Andras is Jewish, so the good times don’t last very long. From the glamour of Paris the reader is pulled into the labour camps of Eastern Europe, where Andras’ optimism is challenged again and again.

This was a beautiful, albeit very long, novel about humanity’s will to survive, the importance of family, and the power of love. Highly recommended.

4.5 stars

Book #10: Women Talking by Miriam Toews
PopSugar Category: a book that takes place in a single day (which is a cheat... it actually takes place over two days, but I value reading what I want over strictly adhering to random challenges)

Women Talking is based on the true story of a group of men from a Mennonite community in Bolivia, who repeatedly drugged and raped the women and girls in their town and convinced them that their injuries were punishments for their sins. Toews sets her story after the women have discovered the true cause of the attacks, as they are debating how to move forward.

Set over two days, Women Talking is narrated by August Epp, the community's teacher, who is asked by the women to keep written records of the their debate (because the women themselves cannot read or write). August listens as eight women of three different generations argue their options: to do nothing; to stay and fight; or to leave. To his minutes August also adds some of his own thoughts on the issue.

Women Talking started quite slowly, and I didn't love August as a narrator, but Toews' exploration of this story feels so important. This tale seems to serve as a metaphor for all of the discussions happening around women's rights, both past and present. The way she distills these complex issues into simple terms was kind of amazing.

I am so glad that I read this book.

4 stars

Edited: Feb 17, 2:06pm Top

January Wrap-Up

I read ten books in January, all fiction, for a total of 3,872 pages. Seven were by women; three by men. Four were by Canadian authors, three were by Americans, two were written by an Italian author, and one was by an English author. I really enjoyed or loved seven of them, thought two was okay, and disliked one.

Pretty great for the first month of 2019!

Plans for February

1. Ines of My Soul by Isabel Allende - completed!
2. The History of the Rain by Niall Williams
3. Winter by Ali Smith - completed!
4. Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw
5. The Magus by John Fowles
6. One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus - completed!
7. Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
8. The Golden Road by Lucy Maud Montgomery - completed!
9. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas - completed!

This is potentially too ambitious, especially given the size of The Magus and Seveneves, but whatever I don't finish will carry over into March. I'm going to see Angie Thomas speak at the end of the month, so I will make sure to read her book before that event.

Feb 2, 9:17am Top

Both The Invisible Bridge and Women Talking are on my WL, Cait. Great comments.

>71 Cait86: Good luck with your Feb. reading plans. Lots of good ones on the list.

Feb 2, 12:20pm Top

>70 Cait86: it looks like you got two good hits there Cait.

>71 Cait86: it's years since I read The Magus. I once stayed on the Island of Spétses where Fowles taught and which inspired the novel. Now I regularly stay in Lyme Regis where he lived for many years, and where The French Lieutenant's Woman is set. Also one of the settings in Jane Austen's Persuasion.

Feb 3, 2:03pm Top

>72 BLBera: I hope you like both books, Beth! Women Talking is quite short and quick to read, while The Invisible Bridge is more of a commitment.

>73 Caroline_McElwee: Hi Caroline! I'm looking forward to The Magus, which I've owned for ten years I think. In 2008 I read Fowles' The Collector and loved it, so I'm not sure why The Magus has sat unread for so long. Very cool that you've been to the island that inspired the novel!

Feb 3, 2:05pm Top

I'm currently about a third of the way though Ines of My Soul, my first Allende novel. I feel like it isn't typical of her, given that it is straight historical fiction, without any magical realism (at least not yet). I am really enjoying it, and I'm planning on reading The House of the Spirits later this year.

Feb 3, 6:09pm Top

>75 Cait86: I loved The House of the Spirits when I read it several years ago but haven't read anything else by Allende aside from her YA novels. Thanks for reminding me to pick up something else by her!

Feb 5, 7:31am Top

>70 Cait86: I must get to read The Invisible Bridge soon, Cait. Really enjoyed your review of it too.

Feb 6, 1:20pm Top

>76 curioussquared: I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed The House of the Spirits, as I am a bit intimidated by it. I'm hoping to finish Ines of My Soul today; it continues to be an excellent, if dense, historical fiction novel.

>77 PaulCranswick: Thanks Paul! I hope you enjoy it!

Feb 6, 2:11pm Top

Book #11: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
PopSugar Category: a book that's published in 2019

So... this book was only released yesterday, I bought it on my way home from work, and I finished it today. This should tell you how engaging and readable it is — thank you to my school board for having a snow day today, giving me the time to fly through this delightful book!

On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’ second book after The Hate U Give. It’s set in the same neighbourhood of Garden Heights, and there are references throughout to “the boy who was killed by the cop” and “the riots” from THUG. Life in Garden Heights has not, unfortunately, changed since Starr worked to draw attention to police brutality, and this book deals with many of the same ideas, though in a lighter way.

The protagonist here is Brianna Jackson, a sixteen year old aspiring rapper living with her older brother and mother in Garden Heights. Bri’s mom is an eight-years sober former drug addict who struggles to find work, and her brother Trey is college educated but forced to work at a neighbourhood pizza place in order to help his mom pay the bills. Bri attends a local public school for the arts, and dreams of making it big in the hip hop world like her dad, who was killed by an opposing gang member just as his career was taking off.

At school, Bri and her friends from Garden Heights feel like outsiders who are targeted by the school because of their ethnicity. One day Bri is assaulted by a school security guard, and one half of the plot kicks into gear. Alongside the story of the fallout from this incident is Bri’s rap success. Angry at her treatment at school, Bri writes and records a song that gains her some fame. Suddenly Bri is being portrayed as a “hood” and a gang member, when really she is a frustrated girl trying to process her emotions.

All of this sounds quite heavy, and it is, but it doesn’t have the gravity of THUG. Bri is scrappier and funnier than Starr, and this book definitely feels lighter, despite having many sad, difficult elements. Don’t get me wrong — a lot of Bri’s life upset me, but I have more hope that her life is “on the come up” than I did at the end of THUG, where I felt like nothing was really improving for Starr.

I’m going to see Angie Thomas speak at the end of the month, and I’m so excited to gain more insight into her writing, and hopefully to hear what she has planned next.

4 stars

Feb 6, 4:48pm Top

>79 Cait86: I'm so excited to read this -- and jealous that you get to see her speak! I'll have to check if she's going to be in my area.

Feb 6, 8:45pm Top

Cait - I love Allende's historical fiction - not all has magical realism, at least the ones I've read. My favorite one is Island Beneath the Sea.

I still have a friend's copy of The Hate U Give sitting here. Must get to it and return it soon.

Feb 6, 10:00pm Top

Absolutely loved The Invisible Bridge when I read it in 2011, Cait. Seared into my brain is the building of the road to the East by the Jewish prisoners. Orringer is a brilliant writer. And she has a new book coming out soon😊

Feb 8, 11:52pm Top

>70 Cait86: I really like the sound of Women Talking. I'm adding it to my Wish List.
>71 Cait86: I'm interested to hear how you fare with The Magus. It's a great book but without giving anyway any spoilers I found the ending frustrating. The Collector is a memorable and disturbing read. Loved it.

Edited: Feb 9, 10:40am Top

Stopped by and added 3 books to my tbr pile. Slammerkin, Transcription and The Invisible Bridge all sound like books I need to read!

Feb 12, 7:22am Top

>80 curioussquared: I'm really looking forward to seeing Angie Thomas speak about this book. It adds so much to a reading experience to have some input from the author on the creative process. I hope you get to this one soon!

>81 BLBera: I really enjoyed Allende's writing, though I had some concerns with Ines of My Soul that I'll put in my comments. I'm still going to read House of the Spirits later this year, and I'll definitely look for more Allende novels in the future - I've added your fav to my notes on books to try!

>82 brenzi: I am SO excited for Orringer's new book.

>83 socialpages: I have my fingers crossed that I will enjoy The Magus, though it sounds kind of weird LOL

>84 jennyifer24: I hope you enjoy them!

Feb 12, 7:54am Top

Book #12: Inés of My Soul by Isabel Allende
PopSugar Category: a novel based on a true story

Inés of My Soul is based on the life of Inés de Suarez, a Spanish woman who followed her husband to the “New World” in the 1500s, and played a major role in the colonization of Chile. This book is really dense, realistic historical fiction; Allende does not hide the awful details of Spain’s tactics for colonization, so reader beware: there are lots of violent scenes.

I’m torn by this book, because ten years ago, when I bought it, I think I would have loved it. Allende gives a voice to a woman who has been largely ignored by history books, and shows how women play an important role in the creation of a society. 2009 Cait would have been all over that. 2019 Cait has had way more education on Indigenous issues in our world, and so I struggled to celebrate this powerful woman, since she was part of something so heinous. To be fair to Allende, she makes it really clear that the Spanish were vicious towards the Indigenous people, and Inés hates the violence. However, Inés doesn’t frown about colonization as a whole — she just wants it to be less torture-filled.

3.5 stars

Book #13: One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
PopSugar Category: a book told from multiple character POVs

I love the odd quick, fun YA novel. One of Us Is Lying has been all over my local bookstores lately, and so when a friend read it and enjoyed it, I decided to pick it up from the library. I loved most of this book; I was totally sucked in to the lives of Bronwyn, Nate, Cooper, and Addy, the four students who witness the death of a fifth student, Simon, during detention one afternoon. Bronwyn and Nate, in particular, had really engaging narratives for me, and I was hooked into trying to figure out how and why Simon had died.

And then the ending happened. I totally HATED the ending; the “plot twist” made me so angry at McManus for misrepresenting a serious issue (trying to avoid spoilers here). I flew through this book in less than 24 hours, and was totally on board to recommend it to students in my class, but now I won’t, which makes me sad because the first 4/5 of the book was really fun.

3 stars

Book #14: I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
PopSugar Category: a book published posthumously

Oh boy. If you like true crime or investigative journalism, or if you are interested in serial killers, read this book. Just not at night.

4 stars

Feb 12, 12:52pm Top

Great reviews, Cait! I'm thoroughly caught up in The Story of a New Name and will happily go on with the series. Like you, I read the first one several years ago.

Ha! on your book buying ban. I try, I struggle, I buy books.

I do have Ines of My Soul on Planet TBR.

Feb 13, 4:23pm Top

>70 Cait86: I remember loving The Invisible Bridge when I read it a few years ago. Glad to see you enjoyed it so much.

Feb 14, 1:42pm Top

Happy Valentine's Day!! ❤️💚💗💙

Feb 17, 8:44am Top

>87 streamsong: Glad you are enjoying Ferrante! My birthday is next month, and I am going to ask for the last book in the series, so that I can read it without actually being the one to buy it LOL

>88 thornton37814: I really did love it, Lori. It is a book I think about a lot, and I'm looking forward to Orringer's next book.

>89 ChelleBearss: Thanks Chelle!

Feb 17, 8:52am Top

Book #15: The Golden Road by Lucy Maud Montgomery
PopSugar Category: a book that makes you nostalgic

I’m slowly trying to read all of Montgomery’s books, since I’m such a fan of her Anne and Emily books. This one, the sequel to The Story Girl, is about Sara Stanley and her King cousins; the two books formed the inspiration for the tv show Road to Avonlea, which I watched as a child. I don’t love these characters the way I do Anne and Emily, but it is still classic Montgomery — lots of descriptions of PEI, everyday stories of quirky people, and the right amount of sentimentality.

3 stars

Book #16: Winter by Ali Smith
PopSugar Category: read a book during the season it is set in

I wanted something really literary after some less than stellar books, and this novel seemed perfect for another snow day. Ali Smith is always fabulous, though super challenging with her use of language. I think of her as a contemporary Virginia Woolf; I don’t always fully know what’s going on, but I am happy to let her gorgeous sentences wash over me. Her writing is far more important that the plot, and like Woolf, she plays with time and the idea of memory.

Winter is the second book in her quarter of season novels, after Autumn (which I read two years ago). Spring comes out this year, and Summer in 2020. These books are very “of the moment,” as they comment on the politics and world issues of present day. Autumn was called the first post-Brexit novel, and this one in similar, with direct references to British and American politics.

I wonder how well these novels will age, given how rooted they are in their published year, but I do think that Smith will be an author English majors are reading in 100 years.

4.5 stars

Book #17: If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
PopSugar Category: a book you meant to read in 2018

Friends, this book. Oh my. It broke my heart. It’s short, but not easy. Please read it.

5 stars

Feb 17, 9:05am Top

>91 Cait86: I just saw the film of If Beale Street Could Talk Cait, and they did a great job. I need to reread the book soon, I read it first as a teenager, long ago.

Feb 17, 2:07pm Top

>92 Caroline_McElwee: I am really looking forward to seeing the movie, Caroline. Have you read other books by Baldwin that you would recommend?

Feb 17, 3:18pm Top

I love Baldwin's work Cait, I read most of his work (novels and essays) in my late teens and 20s, and am slowly rereading him. You might like Giovanni's Room and the semi-autobiographical Go Tell it on the Mountain.

Edited: Feb 17, 8:43pm Top

Great first time visit over here Cait and getting some good ideas for future reading from you.

I have read several of Emma Donoghue books and thought they were very good. Local library system sadly does not have Slammerkin.

I read Women Talking in the fall and it was one of my top reads for 2018. There is a documentary 'Ghost Rapes of Bolivia' in 2 parts about this.

Interesting, Toews wrote this book in 2016 before the #MeTooMovement (published in August 2018).

Edited: Feb 18, 6:59am Top

>94 Caroline_McElwee: Thanks Caroline -- I've added both to my list of books to seek out. Being Canadian, I have quite the gap in my American Literature reading, as my English degree focused on Canadian and British Literature. Before I learned about the movie version of If Beale Street Could Talk, I had never even heard of Baldwin.

>95 mdoris: Hi Mary, thanks for visiting! I am definitely going to watch that documentary; thank you for telling me about it. I cannot believe that Toews' book is based on a true story. It seems too horrible to be real.

Edited: Feb 18, 6:18pm Top

Book #18: To Kill a Mockingbird: A Graphic Novel by Harper Lee and Fred Fordham
PopSugar Category: a reread of a favourite book

This beautiful book was a Christmas gift from a lovely student who knows my reading tastes well. I loved rereading TKAM for the umpteenth time in this new format.

5 stars

Feb 18, 4:35pm Top

>91 Cait86: Added the Dutch translation of If Beale Street Could Talk to my library wish list.

Feb 18, 6:22pm Top

>98 FAMeulstee: I hope you enjoy it, Anita!

Edited: Feb 18, 6:25pm Top

Book #19: Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
PopSugar Category: a book with a question in the title

I’m in the middle of a really boring literary novel, and also the longest sci-fi book ever, and so while I really wanted to read today, I just couldn’t read either of those books for longer than a half hour at a time.

Mindy Kaling’s second book of memoir essays was totally the antidote I needed — quick, funny, and surprisingly relatable. I didn’t love her first book, but I found this one far more engaging, particularly the piece on her struggle to feel good about her body. This was lazy holiday Monday fun reading at its best.

3.5 stars

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2019

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