Vivian's 2018 Reading
This topic was continued by Vivian's 2018 Reading, Part 2.
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Happy New Year LT friends - I'm looking forward to another year of trimming my TBR.
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
Life After Life
The Cuckoo's Calling
The Big Rock Candy Mountain
A Land More Kind Than Home
The Hired Man
How the Light Gets In
The Black Count
Eventide Kent Haruf
Longbourn Jo Baker
The Martian Andy Weir
Burial Rites Hannah Kent
The Silkworm Robert Galbraith
The Painter Peter Heller
The Rise and Fall of Great Powers Tom Rachman
All The Light We Cannot See Anthony Doerr
History of the Rain Niall Williams
The Bone Clocks David Mitchell
Every Man Dies Alone Hans Fallada
Euphoria Lily King
An Officer and A Spy Robert Harris
Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver
Gilead Marilynne Robinson
Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant Roz Chast
Last Days of the Incas Kim MacQuarrie
The Boys in the Boat Daniel James Brown
A Place of Greater Safety
The Daughters of Mars
The City and the City
Out Stealing Horses
A God In Ruins - #1 of the year
A Little Life
Life After Life
Year of Wonders
A Spy Among Friends
When a Crocodile Eats the Sun
Four Seasons in Rome
King Leopold's Ghost
Not My Father's Son
Hero of the Empire
A Tale of Two Cities
A Gentleman in Moscow - #1 of the year
The Glorious Heresies
News of the World
The Spinning Heart also loved The Thing About December
Poldark So far have loved the entire series
A Perfectly Good Man
all the remaining Poldark novels
The Gustav Sonata
The Painted Veil
Lincoln in the Bardo
Stay With Me
Autumn (Ali Smith)
The House of Names
Days Without End
Sing, Unburied, Sing
The Black Tower
I'm first! I'm first!!!
*Waves enthusiastically from frozen Providence* (Actually, waving so as not to freeze in place...)
Hi Suzanne and Katie - thanks for the star! We're off to Ithaca for New Year's with most of the kids (translation: 8 hours in the car to READ!!!!).
Thanks for setting up the group again Jim - you're a treasure!
Hi Lori - same to you and happy new year!
Don't freeze in the car... But then I suppose with most of the kids in tow, you'll have enough body warmth to keep you going!
Happy New Year
Happy New Group here
This place is full of friends
I hope it never ends
It brew of erudition and good cheer.
Thanks for the good wishes Anita, Rachel and Paul!
>7 Chatterbox: It was really brutally cold - but probably much the same as in Providence. And now another storm headed this way!
#1 Artemis Andy Weir
Hard to live up to his debut novel, and in many ways just a rewrite. But very entertaining (I just ignored the science stuff) and imaginative story of a lapsed Muslim smuggler living on a colony on the moon. She attempts some simple sabotage and gets caught up in the fight to control the entire colony.
Happy New Year, Vivian. Love your best of 2017 list. I think we share some favorites.
Hmm - not sure about Artemis. I'll put it on the back burner for now.
Hi Beth - yes, I think we generally have a lot of titles in common!
#2 Game of Mirrors Andrea Camilleri
This series is more and more repetitive and the characters aren't developing in any way. Montalbano continues to savor his elaborate meals and fret about ageing, Fazio is efficient and skillful, and the other guy butchers names and dates. The books are short, so maybe that's why I persevere. This one had some graphic deaths and a Mafia conspiracy.
Vivian, your favorites make my heart happy. We do share similar reading tastes. I was just notified by my local library that Sing Unburied Sing will be waiting for me on my return home next Monday. Have a Happy New Year Of Reading!
Hi Vivian I’ve got you starred now. I really liked Manhattan Beach too much more so than her previous novel whose name escapes me now.
>18 vivians: I've read Heyer's books completely out of order. I don't think I've read that one though.
Hi Bonnie and Lori - thanks for your messages!
#5 Under a Pole Star Stef Penney
Nominated for a Costa - otherwise haven't heard much talk about this one. It's well worth it - an all-consuming romance between a Scottish meteorologist who had traveled to the Arctic as a child with her whaling father and a New York geologist-explorer. Most of the novel takes place in the late 1890s, but there are flash-forwards to a trip to the North Pole in 1948. Beautiful prose, and evocative descriptions of the brutal cold. Quite long, but well worth it, especially the glimpses into the lives of the Inuit people.
>23 BLBera: I also loved The Tenderness of Wolves, which I read before our trip to Scandinavia. She's really drawn to bleak landscapes, although I believe she is Scottish. I'll definitely add The Invisible Ones to my list.
>24 thornton37814: Hi Lori - it's really worthwhile. I listened on audio so it was quite long, but two terrific narrators.
#6 Cold Earth Ann Cleeves
I'm enjoying this series and now longing to visit the Shetland islands. One has to suspend belief given the number of murders in this relatively small community....Despite being a little formulaic (two murders again), the plot was engaging as are the recurring characters. A relentlessly dark and wet winter, a landslide which reveals a woman's body, and detective Jimmy Perez, the classic loner, returns to his pre-tragedy brilliance.
I love the BBC series, "Shetland," Vivian, which I watched in lieu of reading the series. I read the first one and found it very good but too many books and too little time! Have you seen the series? The scenery is remarkable, and I would love to visit as well.
>26 BLBera: That series is on my list but I agree, just not enough time. My TV time has been limited to "Doc Martin" and anything else starring Martin Clunes. A minor obsession of late....but very enjoyable.
#7 The Rat-Catchers' Olympics Colin Cotterill
The best of the series so far. Dr. Siri and his entourage attend the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. Without the participation of the US and other countries (due to a protest against the invasion of Afghanistan), the Laotian delegation and other small countries have the opportunity for prominence. There's a convoluted espionage plot, but mostly so much humor and wonderful dialogue that the plot is irrelevant.
Hi Lori! Another series I really like is Deborah Crombie'sDuncan and Kincaid.
#8 Spain in Our Hearts Adam Hoschschild
This is my second book by Hoschschild (I read King Leopold's Ghost a couple of years ago), and it has placed him high on the list of my favorite non-fiction authors, together with Candace Millard, David Grann and Michael Lewis. This was a gripping account of American participation in the Spanish Civil War. Highly recommended.
#9 A Piece of the World Christina Baker Kline
Ok I'm heading over to MOMA as soon as I can to see this painting, now that I feel I know the woman in the pink dress. This book started very slowly for me, and at first seemed repetitive and uninspiring. But something changed mid-way through and by the end I felt totally connected to Christina and her story, even shedding some tears at a very emotional exchange between the repressed spinster and her brother/caregiver. I thought this was infinitely better than Orphan Train and highly recommend it.
>32 vivians: - Guess I'm going to have to add that one to the list... *sigh*
Sorry Katie! ;)
#10 Green: A Novel Sam Graham-Felsen
What a treat to have a connection to an author: Sam is my future daughter-in-law's good friend. As a result, I got a signed copy of this debut YA novel - woohoo! It's the story of a 6th grader in Boston in the early 90s, one of just a few white kids in the school. The story deals with bullying, racism, anti-Semitism, adolescence and the strains of a close friendship that just can't seem to overcome cultural and circumstantial differences. A few minor quibbles (the use of slang was sometimes over the top, and some plot lines were never resolved, the most interesting one about a silent younger brother) but otherwise a really solid and enjoyable read.
DNF Priestdaddy Patricia Lockwood
I have had an on-again off-again liking For the Duncan and Gemma books. The early ones,I really enjoyed and then there came a point midway through the series where I just got bored and the plots seemed to be getting repetitive. Then I got interested again a few books ago and now I'm reading steadily forward in the series. I guess that's what can happen when you have a particularly long-live series.
Someone earlier mentioned Idaho, which is a book that I read last year only to conclude that ut was exceptionally well-written but very frustrating and annoying from a plot perspective. Nor did the characters strike me as compelling or even tremendously credible. They were there to push the author's ideas forward.
For anyone who has not yet read Hochschild's other books, I would urge you to grab them off the shelves as soon as you have the opportunity to do so.
My grandfather like Heyer's detective novels a lot. But although I have all his old paperbacks, I haven't yet read any of them. It sounds as if it's time to rectify that.
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Hi, Vivian. I see you are kicking off the year, with some mighty fine reads. No surprise there, eh?
I have been hearing good things about A Piece of the World. i need to get my mitts on that one.
I am so glad you enjoyed Spain in Our Hearts. I agree with you, that he belongs in the ranks of our finest NNF authors.
>35 BLBera: Hi Beth - Green: A Novel is getting a lot of attention, which is great for a first-time author. I think he had a lot of connections to the literary world (and lives in Brooklyn, which of course helps!).
>36 Chatterbox: I agree with you about Idaho. I have a hard time even remembering the plot, despite the fact that it's only been a couple of weeks since I finished it. I have to go back and add at least a couple of lines to my post, otherwise the entire endeavor of reading it will have flown out of my sorry, ageing brain.
>37 msf59: I think you'll love A Piece of the World, Mark!
#11 Little Fires Everywhere Celeste Ng
Book group choice.
#12 The Western Star Craig Johnson
A good addition to the Longmire series, with flashbacks to the sheriff's first case. The whole runaway train thing was a bit too much, but the early years as a deputy were a good read. Ends with a cliffhanger so I guess the series will continue.
#13 A Bachelor Establishment Jodi Taylor
What a wonderful surprise! I downloaded the audio by mistake, thinking it was another installment of Taylor's time travel series. This one is a Regency romance, with snarky banter and a slightly more modern feel than a Heyer. Fabulous narration, perfect pacing and an all around hoot.
I'm a fan of Taylor, so I'll add that one to the list, Vivian.
Have a wonderful weekend.
Looks like you've made several completions since I managed to check in.
Hi Katie, Beth and Lori - thanks for the loyal visits!
#14 Winter Ali Smith
Second in the quartet, somewhat tied to the first with common peripheral characters. I usually don't enjoy non-linear novels with lots of external commentary, but there's just something about Smith's writing that grabs me. The opening section, sounding the death knell for everything from God to government, was riveting. The story is about a blogger who visits his seemingly demented mother and estranged aunt for Christmas, bringing along a stranger to pretend to be his girlfriend. The mother-aunt relationship was brilliant. There were many references that flew over my head and I googled quite a bit. Lots of Brexit and U.S. presidency allusions, so I wonder how this very topical novel will hold up.
I can't wait to get to Winter, Vivian. I've heard so many great things about it.
I love to see what you're reading!
Nice review of Winter, Vivian. It's on my list of books to read in March, along with Karl Ove Knausgaard's book with the same title.
Hi Beth - can't wait to hear your thoughts about Winter. It's one I'd very much like to talk about. I've read a bunch of reviews and am still thinking about it a lot.
I just started Go, Went, Gone on your recommendation and I am utterly engaged. What incredible translation skills - to be able to impart all those thoughts in such clear language.
Thanks Darryl! I'm thinking of giving Knausgaard's quartet a try too.
I'm making some progress with ongoing series:
#15 The Grave's a Fine and Private Place Alan Bradley
Very meh, but great narration by Jayne Entwistle. Another installment of precocious pre-teen (this time post-familial tragedy) stumbling into a murder investigation. Convoluted but engaging characters.
#16 The Murder of Mary Russell Laurie King
I've found this series to be very uneven, but I enjoyed this one's focus on Mrs. Hudson's back story.
I'll probably read Winter next month, Vivian. Feb. is Black History month, so I am focused on African and African American writers.
I'm glad you are liking Go, Went, Gone; I always worry when I rave about a book. Recommendations can be tricky.
I agree about the Mary Russell series. There have been some stinkers. Still, I keep reading them. I did like this one as well.
>48 BLBera: Still enjoying Go, Went, Gone, so no worries Beth! I actually gave it to my mother to read first, and she not only loved it but promptly went on Amazon to order another Erpenpeck. She's 92 and a refugee from Germany, still avidly reading and very politically involved.
#17 A Finer End Deborah Crombie
I usually hate paranormal phenomena in novels but somehow they just didn't bother me in this one. The setting is the ancient abbey of Glastonbury - an enormous frustration because I was in Cornwall this past summer and would have loved to make a stop there. The set-up was quite long but very enjoyable: great characters and back stories. The supernatural element ("automatic writing" to a cousin of Duncan's from an 11th century monk - in Latin) is presented in a very nonchalant manner. One recurring theme of the series which I find quite annoying is the perpetual availability of Gemma's saintly landlord to provide childcare, cook, and fill in for her
with no evident compensation.
I totally agree about the "perpetual availability" of Hazel. Does seem a bit convenient... My last read in that series focused a lot on Hazel - it was interesting to have her come more to the forefront.
>49 vivians: Whew! I'm so glad. I have some others by Erpenbeck on my shelf and will try to get to them this year.
>50 katiekrug: Sometimes I think I'm too critical about these things....but that's just the way it is!
>51 BLBera: Your recommendations are great, Beth - I'll be waiting for more!
#18 The Ninth Hour Alice McDermott
Early 20th century Catholic Brooklyn, and as much a story of a nursing order of nuns as the story of a single mother raising her daughter after the suicide of her husband. Also a great tangent of a wealthy man who hired a volunteer to serve in the Union army for home. Great sense of place but a bit too rambling at times.
#19 Elmet Fiona Mozley
Quite memorable debut novel, short-listed for the Booker. At first it read like a fairy tale: a house in the woods in northern England, the time perhaps contemporary or perhaps in the near future after somehow civilization has broken down. Daniel (the narrator), his sister Cathy, and father John live a secluded life, fiercely independent and self-reliant. A villain arrives, and there's a violent and dramatic end. Beautifully written but I'm not sure I liked enough to recommend.
>44 vivians: I could have picked up Winter right off the shelf at the library last week but wanted to read Autumn first. I'm currently on a waiting list for it.
Vivian, I noticed that Priestdaddy was a DNF for you. Darn, that is one that my book group chose for summer reading. I hope I can finish it. Care to share any thoughts about it?
>54 katiekrug: I think The Ninth Hour is worthwhile. It was quiet and slow-moving but really succeeded in recreating Irish-Catholic Brooklyn in the early 1900s. Also - it was narrated by a collective “we”: the children and grandchildren of the main characters. I thought this was an effective vehicle to show how the stories and faith were handed down from generation to generation.
>55 BLBera: Hi Beth!
>56 Donna828: Hi Donna - I picked up Priestdaddy from the library after seeing it on a number of "best of" lists. I read about 100 pages but just couldn't finish it. It seemed so exaggerated and contrived. The father was too odd and his behavior somewhat disturbing.
#20 And the Rest is History Jodi Taylor
Another thoroughly entertaining chapter in the time travels of St. Mary's. Lots of personal developments for Max and her family, all of which stay true to her ambivalence about motherhood. Absolutely terrific descriptions of William the Conqueror and King Harold's oath, and a very amusing duo of teenage amateur time-travelers. I love Taylor's dialogue and will keep reaching for the next installment.
DNF The Painted Queen Elizabeth Peters
This series is close to my heart: the first book kept me company while I sat by my son's bedside in a Boston trauma center after a life-threatening motorcycle accident. He recovered 100%, and I continued to read the adventures of the intrepid Egyptologist. Some were better than others, but this last one, competed after the author's death, just didn't hold up.
Jodi Taylor is fun. I'm not sure which one is next for me, but maybe it's time for the next installment.
#21 Go, Went, Gone Jenny Erpenbeck
I took my time reading this, as the language is rich and the stories elaborate. I was completely drawn into the life of Richard, a retired classics professor who had lived in East Berlin until the reunification. He befriends several African refugees who are seeking asylum in Germany after having experienced nightmarish cruelties and persecution. Richard's small acts of kindness, welcome and generosity make a tremendous difference, but not enough to overcome bureaucracy, a myriad of (typically German) regulations, and xenophobic sentiment. The refugee issue is humanized in this book, and there are many insights into ageing, the impact of East vs West on a generation of Germans, friendship and marriage. Thanks to Beth for recommending - I think this will be in my top reads of the year.
#22 The Heart's Invisible Furies John Boyne
Unforgettable and unputdownable, my first 5 star read since A Gentleman in Moscow. Set in Ireland from the 1940s to the present day, the novel follows Cyril Avery at 7 year intervals from his birth to a teenage mother, through his lonely childhood as an adoptive son, and then through adulthood. There is humor, tragedy, wonderful dialogue, memorable characters and on top of all that just brilliant narration by Stephen Hogan. I can't recommend this enough. Thanks Mark for steering me to this one!
>60 BLBera: Hi Beth - have you read the above? I think I'll be rhapsodizing about it for the near future....
>61 vivians: It's on my list to read soonish, Vivian. I'm going to Ireland in May and so will be reading through some Irish authors before then.
>62 katiekrug: It's really worthwhile!
>63 BLBera: How great! Where will you be traveling and for how long? We were there a couple of years ago but I'd really like to go back.
#23 And Justice There is None Deborah Crombie
Another good Kincaid/James mystery, with a pretty convoluted plot about antique dealers, drugs, and a historical vendetta going back many decades.
#24 Call Me By Your Name Andre Aciman
The movie closely followed this novel, with dialogue taken almost verbatim. There was a different (I thought more satisfactory) ending in the book.
well you and Mark both raved about The Heart’s Invisible Furies so I guess that’s one I need to get to sooner rather than later Vivian.
Hi Mark, Bonnie and Beth!
>67 BLBera: So many fabulous Irish writers...Donal Ryan, Colum McCann, Tana French and Colm Toibin among my favorites. Now I think I'll be adding John Boyne...
#25 A Beam of Light Andrea Camilleri
A darker version of Montalbano, once again consumed by a new love but also mourning his youth and missed opportunities. The mystery involves a possible Tunisian arms smuggling ring and the assault of young woman married to a much older man.
And there's a new Donal Ryan novel due out in the UK in spring, and in the US in summer... From a Low and Quiet Sea.
Clearly, I need to read some Erpenbeck. Her writing always feels challenging when I find myself picking it up, so perhaps I'm not trying it at the right time.
>69 Chatterbox: I'm disappointed that so many titles on the list are still unavailable in the US. I think I'll have to splurge at Book Depository!
>70 BLBera: I've really enjoyed Maggie O'Farrell's novels, but I was disappointed in her latest - the memoir I Am I Am.
#26 An American Marriage Tayari Jones
This popped up on my library's available so I grabbed it....a huge disappointment after all the press it received. The enormous issue of mass incarceration seems to be just an aside to a very messy relationship story.
#27 Make Me Lee Child
Trying to fulfill a commitment to a client to read the whole series. This one wasn't bad, particularly since it's been a long hiatus for me. Jack Reacher is finally hurled into the 21st century with the plot revolving around the "deep web" and an isolated town with lots of creepy characters.
Hi Vivian - I remember your comments on the O'Farrell memoir, so, for now, I'll stick to her novels. I have one or two I haven't read.
I've been looking forward to An American Marriage - I'll probably read it when it comes available, but I trust your judgment. Darn.
Hi Vivian, I just thought I'd stop by to say how great it was to meet you in Philly this weekend. Thank you so much for joining us!
>44 vivians: I just bought Winter a couple of weeks ago so I'm pleased to see your strong review.
>71 vivians: And I've been tempted by An American Marriage because of the hype ... in the interest of "too many books" I think I can safely deprioritize this one.
>72 BLBera: I really wanted to like An American Marriage, especially after hearing a terrific interview with the author on a books podcast. But it just seemed very superficial to me, and overall quite disappointing.
>73 lauralkeet: Hi Laura - thanks for organizing and hosting a great meet-up!
#28 Simon vs the Homosapien Agenda Becky Albertalli
The best incentive EVER for reading a book: my 16 year old non-reader (tragic, right?) spent the entire 2 1/2 hour car ride to Philadelphia NOT on Instagram, Snapchat or even listening to the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack for the millionth time.....but reading this book. I could barely contain my glee, and of course had to immediately gobble this up. It was YA at its best: a difficult and contemporary issue (a gay teenager coming to terms with his sexuality), great characters, important lessons without heavy-handedness. And...soon to be a movie.
It sounds like you had a great meet-up, Vivian.
It's great that your teen found a book to love!
It was really a pleasure to meet up with LT folk.
#29 All Passion Spent Vita Sackville-West
Written in the 1930s, this is a very contemplative short novel which packs a punch. Beautiful writing as an 88 year old aristocratic woman examines her life. She frees herself from familial expectations after the death of her husband, a former prime minister, and separates from her very dislikable (and elderly) children. I hear there's a wonderful movie with Dame Wendy Hiller so I'll get it from the library.
Ohhh very disappointed to see An American Marriage fell flat for you. I had been looking forward to it.
>77 brenzi: I think I'm in the minority on this one, Bonnie!
>78 lauralkeet: I finished it last week, Laura, and I'm still thinking about it! My library had the movie and I spent part of the snow day watching it...the acting was superb and it was fairly faithful to the book. It had a quiet, contemplative pace, and I really enjoyed it.
>79 kidzdoc: Hi Darryl - so sorry you couldn't make it to Philadelphia. You were missed!
#30 How to Stop time Matt Haig
I'm not sure how I heard about this British author, who doesn't seem to be widely known in the US (or at least I hadn't heard of him.) The premise sounded intriguing: because of a rare medical condition the protagonist has been alive since the late 1500s, aging very slowly and living a life of isolation and loneliness. I enjoyed the audiobook and will look for more by Haig. It would make a great movie.
NF Leonardo Walter Isaacson
The fabulous narration of Albert Molina does not make up for the fact that this should be READ, not listened to. Constant allusions to specific paintings and sculptures require more than just ears! I'll definitely get this in print.
That's my thought about Isaacson's bio of Leonardo, too -- it just seemed to be tempting fate to do anything but read it. And to read a hardcover version of it, not a digital one. Ho hum. Just have to suck it up!
I got the Haig novel at ALA Midwinter, after coaxing my buddy Hugo at the Penguin booth to let me have one of the finished hardcovers. Hugo is a fantasy/sci-fi afficionado, and loved the book, and I think I'll pass my copy along to my niece now that I have finished. I loved it, too. Sweet, thought-provoking and intriguing.
Hi Vivian. The Haig book sounds good.
I just started An American Marriage, and so far, it seems promising.
The Leonardo book sounds great. For audiobooks to work for me, they have to be fairly easy to follow.
Hi Suzanne - yes, you're right about Leonardo. That's one I'll certainly buy.
Hi Beth - I'm glad you're enjoying An American Marriage and wish it would have worked for me. Perhaps I shouldn't have listened to it....
#31 Birdcage Walk Helen Dunmore
Walter Scott longlist...I hope they are all this good. This novel was excellent on so many levels. First there are the varied personalities: Lizzie Fawkes, whose youth was shaped by her radical mother and her writings; John Diner Tredevant, her conservative-minded, domineering husband who is gradually becoming bankrupt during a building boom in Bristol; his first wife, who haunts Lizzie's thoughts (very reminiscent of Rebecca), and many others wonderfully drawn secondary characters. Then there is the backdrop of the French Revolution, which impacts all of Britain as the events of the Terror unfold. And most significantly, Dunmore's author's note makes clear that her focus was on legacy and "what's left behind" as she herself was dealing with a terminal illness. Julia Fawkes (Lizzie's mother) was a leading writer in the 1790s, although none of her work survives.
Hi Vivian - I loved Birdcage Walk as well! I have another Dunmore to get to when I'm done with my book club book...
I just finished An American Marriage and I loved it; I thought the flashback part in the middle didn't fit, but otherwise I thought the characters were vividly portrayed, and I loved how she used the letters. But you are right; it was a messy relationship. :)
It's really worth it, Lori!
Beth - another one of your recommendations really worked for me - see below!
Yet another snow day here...an unplowed driveway means work at home for me.
#32 A Catalog of Birds Laura Harrington
Extremely moving story of the Flynn family in upstate NY in 1970. Billy's Vietnam experiences, his similarly traumatic war history, his close and affecting relationship with his sister Nell, the disappearance of his girlfriend and Nell's coming-of-age, all beautifully handled. Highly recommended; I wish it had received more attention.
Next up is The Last Man in Europe about George Orwell. It ties in nicely with the non-fiction Spain in Our Hearts which outlined Orwell's experiences during the Civil War.
>80 vivians: I've experienced that paucity of illustrations in many books. I read a bio of Diane Arbus, last fall, that lacked reproductions of her photos. I attributed the lack to finances, marketing, and the awkwardness of reading a 600 to 800-page oversize book (say, a 9" x 12" trim). Turned out, buried in the acknowledgements, there was an explanation that Arbus's estate wouldn't permit their publication in this book. So I bought a separate book of her photos and looked at others on-line.
I just looked at the book page at Amazon, including the "Look Inside" feature. It looks like a print book to me.
Hi Bill - yes, it's hard to imagine a Diane Arbus bio without the photos! I saw a terrific exhibit of her early works at the Met in NYC last year.
Hi Beth - I'm enjoying the Orwell novel a lot, but since it's my bedtime reading it's taking me some time...just too tired at night!
Well Bonnie it looks like you loved Home Fire too!
#33 Miss Burma Charmaine Craig
An overlap of prize nominations for this one: the 2018 Women's Prize and the 2017 National Book Award longlists. It follows one family through the years of colonialism in Burma to independence and the civil war. It's based on the true story of the author's mother, a beauty pageant winner, an activist and a guerilla fighter as the member of an oppressed minority. A little dense in parts and often inconsistent (the main characters seem to change completely at the drop of a hat), but worthwhile.
I'm torn between Home Fire and Manhattan Beach so far, but will probably read a few more.
#34 March 2 John Lewis
A terrific second volume.
#35 The Last Man in Europe Dennis Glover
I recently read another novel about an author's life - Jo Baker's A Country Road, a Tree about Samuel Beckett. I liked that one slightly more than this, a biographical novel about George Orwell's life from 1935 until his death in 1950. But I still found it a fascinating exploration of his time in Spain, his broadcasting work during WWII, and his creation of 1984. Orwell featured prominently in Spain in Our Hearts which I recently finished. I think a reread of 1984 is definitely in my future.
Hi Beth - I'm revising >92 vivians: to agree with you...Sing, Unburied, Sing does rank above Manhattan Beach in my mind. Kindred spirits indeed!
#36 A Boy in Winter Rachel Seiffert
Apparently the author is the granddaughter of Nazi party members, and she wrote the book in an effort to attempt to understand the bystanders, victims and perpetrators of the Holocaust. As the granddaughter (and daughter) of survivors, I continue to read these novels. This one is set in a Ukrainian village in 1941, as the Germans push back the Red Army. The focus is on just a few individuals (rather than the effort to incorporate every event/faction/experience of the war into one book, such as The Nightingale does), which to me increases its impact. The characters include Yankel and his younger brother, running away from the roundup of the town’s Jewish population, his parents and sister who are caught, Yasia, a country girl who, although ambivalent, shows mercy to the two young boys, and Otto Pohl, a German road engineer who only wants to do his job and tries to ignore the evil around him. This is long-listed for the Women's Prize. I thought it was well-written but would hesitate to recommend it.
#37 Census Jesse Ball
I was about to DNF this but then read a very thoughtful review which encouraged me to stick it out. I had found it hard to follow: unnamed places, unnamed characters, unclear whether the setting is post-apocalypse and why the government is conducting this bizarre census that involves tattooing its respondents. But the underlying story is of a grieving widower, just handed a terminal diagnosis, who takes his son on a journey. The son has Down Syndrome, as did Ball's brother to whom the book is a tribute. There is no real plot, only vignettes of the people they meet, some friendly and others not. I'm not typically a fan of this kind of writing (short sentences, no quotation marks, repetitive and dreamy-like language) but I'm glad I finished it.
A Catalog of Birds? How can resist a title like that? I will have to snag a copy and start warbling my tail off.
I have also been interested in Census, after seeing some good reviews. I didn't know it would be as challenging, as you described, but I am glad you stuck it out. I have not read Ball before, although I have heard of him.
I've had A Catalogue of Birds sitting in my amazon shopping cart for a few weeks. Maybe instead I'll walk to the bookstore today and purchase a copy from them.
>95 vivians: I imagine I would also struggle with that writing style but your comments will at least get me to give it a look.
Happy Wednesday, Vivian!
Hi Beth, Mark and Ellen! We're in the middle of a snow day here so I'm home from the office, but so far there is no accumulation.
Census was a challenging read for me, Mark, but ultimately worthwhile. The book ends with some moving photos of the author's brother, which made me glad I had the physical book.
#38 See What I have Done Sarah Schmidt
Another entry from the Women's Prize longlist, the fictional account of the Lizzie Borden murders. This event seems to have compelled people for decades, but I wasn't one of those. The author was very skillful in portraying this dysfunctional family, with Lizzie appearing to be a sociopath living with a tyrannical father and a desperately unhappy stepmother. I found much of it boring and repetitive (particularly in reference to certain kinds of foods), as well too gratuitously graphic.
Vivian, your comments on See What I Have Done reinforce my thoughts that this one probably isn't for me.
Have a great weekend.
Thanks Beth - we marched on Saturday with my very passionately involved 16 year old. It was really inspiring to hear Parkland survivors speak, and there was a very optimistic vibe from the marchers.
#39 A Test of Wills Charles Todd
An Audible sale prompted me to give the Ian Rutledge series a try. My major complaint about the Bess Crawford series was the constant back and forth between Bess and all the suspects, as well as major leaps that were taken, justified only by incessant interior monologues. It looks like this will be handled via Rutledge's haunted interior voice: a Scotsman who was killed while under Rutledge's command in WWI France. "Hamish" allows the reader to see the inspector trying to keep a grip on his sanity, and he also provides a dissenting point of view for every theory. Rutledge's insanely jealous superior sends him to a small town, where a decorated fighter pilot is suspected of murdering his fiancée's guardian. I thought the ending came out of left field, which felt a little unfair, but I'll continue the series.
#40 Turtles All The Way Down John Green
Absolutely gripping tale of a teenager suffering from acute anxiety/OCD. I was glad that romance was not the driver of the story, and I thought his portrayal of teenagers was excellent.
The marches looked inspiring, Vivian. Listening to the passionate young people gave me hope.
My reaction to Charles Todd is similar to yours.
Ellen also raved about Turtles All the Way Down; this sounds like a good place to read my first John Green. I have some students who are fans. I'll have to ask them if they've read this one.
I have mixed feelings about John Green's works and have read a few that I haven't enjoyed at all. But Turtles was very genuine.
#41 The Horseman Tim Pears
Wow - this was a complete surprise. I hadn't read anything about it, other than it being on the Walter Scott longlist. It's the story of 12 year old Leopold living on a farm in Somerset in 1911, told in vignettes of daily life. His father and virtually all his relatives serve the lord of the estate in some capacity. Like his father, Leo has a special talent for caring for horses, and this quiet, dreamy boy is noticed as he handles the animals. There is a lot of detail about farm life, equipment and animals which I would have bet would completely bore me. But somehow the writing and especially the pace completely drew me in, and I'm thrilled that this is volume one of a trilogy.
>103 vivians: This sounds lovely, Vivian. Onto the list it goes. Your name seems to be dominating my list these days!
I've been absent form my own thread...mostly due to a couple of college-hunting trips with Jo and the resultant back-up at work upon my return. Not too much reading despite the long drives, just lots of "Mom, you have to listen to this song." I did almost finish Lillian Boxfish, the perfect light travel book thanks to Beth!
#42 The Left Hand of Darkness Ursula K. Le Guin
Finally got to this classis, prompted (sadly) by Le Guin's recent death. A fabulous tale of an emissary arriving in an alien world, attempting to make a connection with the inhabitants. In addition to the elaborate world-building, Le Guin addresses issues such as sexuality, gender, ecology, politics, diplomacy and much more. An entire section of the book is devoted to an Artic-like trek which I found incredibly compelling. Loved it.
#43 Three Things About Elsie Joanna Cannon
A story about ageing, memory loss, and a long-buried secret. Sometimes overly sentimental, but also a quick and enjoyable read. I thought the "twist" was obvious from the start, but that didn't matter. A little surprised that it made the Women's Prize longlist.
#44 When They Call You a Terrorist Patrisse Khan-Cullors
Extremely powerful and worth reading. Narration by the author packed even greater emotional punch.
I'm glad you liked Lillian Boxfish, Vivian. I'd like to listen to When They Call You A Terrorist; reading it was a powerful experience; I imagine listening to the author read it would be even more so. I think Three Things About Elsie won't go to the top of my list. I'll get to it eventually.
I've never read LeGuin. One of these days.
So, are you hearing lots of new music on your drives?
Have a great weekend.
So much driving, Beth! But some great one-on-one time so it was all worth it. Music was mostly the two Bway musicals with which Jo is obsessed (Dear Evan Hansen and Book of Mormon) but lots of Disney nostalgia (Moana, Frozen and Beauty and the Beast...with Emma Watson singing!) as well as more current bands. Luckily I like her taste for the most part!
#45 Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk Kathleen RooneyVery engaging story of an 85 year old advertising executive walking the streets of NY in 1984 and reminiscing about her career, marriage, devastating bout of mental illness, but most of all her relationship with the city. It definitely resonated with me as a lifelong New Yorker.
I thought New Yorkers might appreciate it more than I did, even though I did like it.
Oh good, I'm glad you also enjoyed Turtles All the Way Down. It's headed for my best-of-2018 list, I think.
I read on Beth's thread about your college visits with your daughter. It's great that you are pretty relaxed about it. It looks like she is considering great places and I fully believe that there are many roads to happiness and they don't go through any one college or university. Whichever she chooses, she'll make it hers and have a great learning experience!
>108 BLBera: Just super-critical of one passage in which Lillian appears to come up with the idea for our very beloved High Line (built to preserve the elevated train tracks on the West Side).
>109 EBT1002: Hi Ellen - thanks for those thoughts! It's a lot easier the 4th time around. I really do believe that she'll most likely be happy wherever she goes. Now to get her to relax....
I just started Sugar Money which was longlisted for the Walter Scott. I'm happy to pass it on when I'm done!
DNF Grace Paul Lynch
I intend to revisit this on audio. The beginning completely grabbed me: a poor Irish girl is cast out by her mother during the great famine, and she travels the countryside in men's garb just trying to survive. The language is very poetic and descriptive and I often lost track of the speaker (no quotation marks). I do think it's very worthwhile and hope that I'll have a better experience listening to it.
I've been intrigued by Sugar Money, Vivian. I'll watch for your comments. If a copy is on offer, and you think I'd like it, I'd love it.
I’m interested in it no matter what you think of it Vivian. I loved both of her previous books. Maybe Beth could send it to me when she finishes.
>111 BLBera: Just PM me your address Beth and I'd be happy to send it!
>112 brenzi: It's my nighttime reading, Bonnie, so it may take me a little while. But so far there's a lot to like.
#46 Etta and Otto and Russell and James Emma Hooper
Entertaining, once I decided not to be too critical of the mechanics of an 82 year old trekking 2000 miles and of a talking coyote. Very ambiguous ending, which apparently is what the author was going for.
#47 Now May you Weep Deborah Crombie
Another good addition to the Kincaid/James oeuvre. This one takes place in Scotland, and focuses on Jemma's friend Hazel and her family connection to Highland distilleries. As has become usual with this series, I've added another UK destination to my long travel wish list.
Hi, Vivian. I’m delurking to tell you that you are becoming my go-to person for book recommendations. Please keep up the interesting selections and comments. Most recent book bullet was for The Horseman. Ellen beat you to the punch with her love for Turtles All the Way Down.
I hope you have a relaxing book-filled weekend!
Looks like you've got a lot of good reading going, Vivian.
Hmm - I'll have to look at the Pulitzer nominations; I can't track all of the prizes. I've read something by Greer but can't remember what.
>119 BLBera: Hi Beth - I'm mailing Sugar Money to you today!
>120 msf59: Hi Mark - all's well here, thanks! This spring is busy with one son's college graduation, one son's wedding, and lots of work on top of it all! It's all making me feel very grateful, but also cutting into my reading time!
#48 Sugar Money Jane Harris
This is an exceptionally suspenseful novel based on a true story of a 1765 "rescue" attempt of 42 slaves living under British rule on the island of Grenada. The narrator is young Lucien, who is sent to Grenada along with his beloved older brother by their owners, an order of monks living on Martinique. Lots of layers to this one: the adventure itself, which is thrilling and page-turning, the brutality and inhumanity of the masters, the bonds of brothers. Well worth it.
#49 Asymmetry Lisa Halliday
This book received a lot of acclaim in the press, so my reading group chose it. I'm eager to hear what others thought, and I'm also going to listen to a podcast with the author. There are 3 novellas: the first follows an affair between a young editor and a much older and famous novelist, living in NY on the upper West Side. Then there is an abrupt transition to the unrelated (I think) interrogation of a Kurdish-American economist as he is detained at Heathrow on his way back to Iraq to see his brother. The final section returns to the aged novelist reflecting on is life in an episode of Desert Island Discs. I read somewhere that the third section is supposed to illuminate the other two but it didn't for me.
Sweet Thursday, Vivian. An kind LT pal, sent me up a copy of Sugar Money. Sounds great. Better move it up the stacks.
Sugar Money sounds excellent. None of my libraries has it on Kindle - I may have to do the print thing which I don't love with library books....
Did Jo fall in love with any of the schools you visited last weekend?
Thanks Vivian - It sounds great. I have Asymmetry on reserve at the library, but not sure when I'll get to it.
It sounds like RL is keeping you busy.
>122 msf59: I think it's right up your alley Mark!
>123 katiekrug: We saw a couple of schools in Boston, which is where she originally thought she'd want to be. But both Northeastern & BU were too urban, Tufts is probably out of reach, Brandeis (which I went to and LOVED) is not under consideration because, well you know, it's "my" school, and so she may give up on the Boston idea. Right now the most likely are still American in DC and University of Vermont, both of which I think would be great choices for her.
>124 BLBera: I keep reevaluating my thoughts on Asymmetry, so maybe that's a sign that it was more worthwhile than I originally thought. I listened to a Guardian author interview and was completely turned off by the author (a Massachussetts native with an artificial British accent...) but I'm still mulling over the book.
I really wanted to go to Georgetown but didn't get in (I'm still bitter about it...). But I did a semester in DC my junior year, and it was great. And then I moved there. I think it would be a cool city to go to school in. I had a friend who went to UVM and liked it - she was a big skier. I think it would have seemed too isolated in the winter for me, but it's beautiful and Burlington is a fun place.
BTW - a friend and I are going to see Rachel Kushner at the NYPL on May 1. Just FYI :)
It sounds like your daughter has a lot of good options, Vivian. It will be interesting to see what she finally decides on.
I'll get to Asymmetry eventually - in three weeks school is out, so I'll have more time to read.
>126 katiekrug: I think DC would be a great place to be for college. Actually I think she'll be happy almost anywhere - just a friendly & flexible kid. (Counting my blessings there!)
>127 BLBera: Three weeks - hooray! No summer term?
#50 The Bedlam Stacks Natasha Pulley
I really liked this combination of historical fiction, world-building, mystery, adventure, myth and folklore. It rambled at times, and I'm not sure I would have had as much patience with the written word as I did with the excellent narration by David Thorpe. Set in 1860, it features Merrick Tremayne, an injured veteran opium smuggler, who is tasked by the East India Company to find a supply of quinine from the Amazon jungles of Peru. A wonderful relationship develops between Merrick and his guide, a Catholic priest named Raphael who is deeply connected to the spiritual world and connected to Merrick's forebears. Lots of humor, and this great quote: "you know white people are much worse, don't you?" "We're terrible at everything. Lasting much past forty-five. Learning more than one language. It's a miracle, actually; sickly prematurely aging worrying inbred horsey idiots have managed to convince everyone else their way is best by no other means than firmness of manner and the tactical distribution of flags."
No summer school, Vivian. Great comments on The Bedlam Stacks - I should have listened to it; I didn't like it as much as you did. Great quote, too.
>126 katiekrug: Katie - did you read the NY Times excerpt of Kushner's new novel? I didn't have much success reading The Flamethrowers but I'm willing to try another one!
I didn't - I will go hunt it down.
I didn't even try The Flamethrowers because it held no appeal. This one sounds more interesting, but I would not have gone to the event on my own. My friend wanted to go and I'm trying to encourage her to get back on the bookish bus (she was a big reader but for a variety of reasons, has lost the interest/drive/whathaveyou)...
#51 The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock Imogen Hermes Gower
Very imaginative story about a late 18th century widowed shipbuilder and his relationship with an aging (27!) courtesan. The pacing was slow but the writing was gripping and overall very enjoyable.
#52 The Idiot Elif Batuman
There has been so much press about this debut novel, and I find it hard to understand why. Told in the first person (and adequately narrated by the author), a Harvard 1st generation freshman struggles to find her place away from home. A little too introspective for me, with very little plot other than an unrequited love. Too long, too little humor.
#53 Exposure Helen Dunmore
Thank you Beth! I loved this! 1960s England, the Cold War, and plenty of spy scandals in the news. Simon and his German-refugee wife Lily are married with 3 children, living an apparently conventional life. Simon becomes entangled in an espionage ring, putting his life and his family's in danger. Dunmore's characters are complex and vividly rendered. Really fabulous.
#54 Sight Jessie Greengrass
Not my kind of book: analytical, self-absorbing and not enough of a narrative. The in-named pregnant narrator agonizes over her decision to have children. Interspersed with her rather pretentious (to me) self-involvement are historical accounts of scientific developments, such as the discovery of x-rays, the founding of psychoanalysis and 18th century investigations into human anatomy. These were fascinating and beautifully written. I also thought the parts dealing with her grief following the death of her mother to be extremely moving.
#55 A Voice in the Night Andrea Camilleri
I'm getting tired of this series, the food, the spats with Livia and Cat's name mangling, but my library has it on audio and it's always tempting to pick up the next one. This mystery concerned a supermarket robbery which leads to two Mafia-related deaths.
What did you think of Sight, Vivian? I just started Exposure - it is drawing me right in.
Exposure seems to be the Dunmore getting the best reviews Vivian. I hope to get to it soon.
#56 The Only Story Julian Barnes
I was very indifferent to this love story, written by an author whose varied novels I've really enjoyed. The narrator looks back more than 40 years to his first love with a much older woman. The attraction never seemed clear to me and the repetition is tedious. Although reminiscent of The Sense of an Ending this just doesn't live up to it.
#57 A Distant View of Everything Alexander McCall Smith
A pleasant, if totally unrealistic, addition to the series. Isabel continues to lead a charmed life: perfect children, ideal husband, challenging & thoughtful work. Kind of annoying.
Hi Katie and Darryl - I was disappointed in The Only Story and also loved The Sense of an Ending. I haven't read any reviews and wonder how it's been received.
Glad to help, Beth!
Thanks Paul, it was a lovely weekend which, as always, went by too quickly.
#58 Blindness Jose Saramago
I should have read this long ago and don't know why it slipped so far down the TBR pile. (I understand that there are few breaks in the text and no dialogue marks, so perhaps listening to it made it easier to digest.)Powerful and unforgettable parable about the disintegration of society. The epidemic of blindness amplifies all the evils that existed before, although there remain some vestiges of humanity and caring. Very thought provoking and most worthwhile.
#59 In A Dark House Deborah Crombie
Several cases combine: an arsonist who is attempting to recreate the Great London Fire, an unidentified body found in a burned warehouse, a missing caretaker of a disabled young woman, and a kidnapped child. The pacing is good and is interspersed with the detectives' domestic situation. Remains a good series.
I am reading In a Dark House right now! Just about 100 pages left - I think it's one of the better entries in the series.
I’m planning to read Blindness soon Vivian. I’ve had it on my shelf for ages.
>121 vivians: Adding Sugar Money to the wish list.
>132 vivians: Oh dear, I just ordered a copy of The Idiot. Well. Maybe I'll like it better than you did. And I want to obtain a copy of The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock. It sounds delightful. And I think I have a copy of Exposure on the shelves....
I rather loved The Sense of an Ending but the reviews of The Only Story have been off-putting.
Happy Mother's Day, Vivian! I love your short reviews with so much in them, Vivian. It helps that we often think alike about the books we read, too. I am totally puzzled by the fact that my library doesn't have Sugar Money. I may have to pay a visit to Amazon.
Side note to Ellen: I think with your connection to academia and college students in general, you will like this book more than I did. That world is a long way from my life today but it did make me remember how hard we try to fit in and how self-absorbed most young people are. I know I was. ;-)
Hi Katie, Bonnie, Beth, Ellen and Donna! Just returned from a hectic weekend in Rochester for my son's graduation. It was a wonderful celebration, and so gratifying to hear all the lovely things people said about him! I got lots of reading done during the interminable car trips and will update tomorrow. In the meantime, thanks to all for stopping by and I'll visit threads tomorrow!
#60 Happiness Aminatta Forna
Fabulous - as soon as I finished I wanted to turn back to page 1, which was the same way I felt about The Hired Man. (Strangely I was in the minority about The Memory of Love, and liked but didn't love it.) This novel centers on a coincidental meeting between an American wildlife biologist studying urban foxes in the heart of London, and a Ghanaian psychiatrist whose expertise is post-traumatic stress. I wish I could explain how the evolution of coyotes could be so fascinating, as were the theories of how both humans and animals adapt trauma. Forna posits the theory that trauma, whether experienced in war or in everyday life, does not have to equate to continual suffering. It is possible to change, to move on, to find community in another place, to rebuild, to have hope. A hopeful and inspiring message.
#61 The Wanderers Tim Pears
Another winner, the second in a trilogy about western England in the years before the first world war. I read the first because it was on the Walter Scott longlist, and loved it too. It alternates between the poverty of Leo Sercombe's solitary journey after having been exiled from his home, and the wealth of Lottie's education on her father's estate. Leo finds respite with a band of gypsies, but their rescue becomes enslavement and he is forced to flee. Lottie continues to revel in her own way. Once again, Pears makes brilliant use of detailed descriptions of nature and of rural practices.
#62 The Custom of the Country Edith Wharton
I think both Beth and Laura recommended this; I listened to an able narration by Grace Conlin. Undine Spragg is a narcissistic, beautiful, manipulative, clever (but not overly intelligent or curious), and, above all, ambitious young woman. A scathing view of America's nouveau riche. Really excellent.
Congratulations on your son's graduation, Vivian. What is next for him?
I am so glad you loved Happiness as much as I did! It is a gem of a book, and I felt the same way. As soon as I finished it, I wanted to read it again.
I will be looking for the Pears trilogy. I already have the first one on the list.
Wharton is always a winner.
Thanks Beth! He has an internship at Illinois State University in emergency services (he's an EMT and firefighter and is interested in emergency health management). After that he'll come home and look for a full-time job while he figures out if med school is in his future.
Loved, loved, loved Happiness. I think your rave review pushed it up on my list, so thanks!
I started An Odyssey, so far so good. Great narration by Bronson Pinchot.
Hi Beth - I can't rave enough about Happiness. And thanks again for the Wharton push!
#63 An Odyssey Daniel Mendelsohn
Highly recommended - a combination of a memoir and a classics tutorial. Great narration (including NY accents) by Bronson Pinchot and a wonderful exploration of the father-son relationship.
I'm interested in all the titles you've recently listed, but I think the only one I've read is The Sense of an Ending, which led me to the academic book of the same name, to which the novel clearly relates. I did love the novel.
I don't recall if I knew your son was in school in Rochester. That's the one in New York, yes? Did he graduate from the University of Rochester? My alma mater, as it turns out. I hope he had a good time while he was there.
Late to the party, but congrats on your son's graduation. I guess you are off to Portugal soon?
Hi Judy - he graduated from RIT - Rochester Institute of Technology. He had a terrific 4 years there, despite the rough winters.
Thanks Katie - still have the wedding ahead (this weekend), then leaving for Lisbon on 6/3.
A suggestion for any grammar nuts out there (Katie....) with an interest in Texas politics (Katie...)- a terrific podcast by Malcom Gladwell in his "Revisionist History" series, which focuses on the use and misuse of a semi-colon in the Constitution. Funny and worthwhile.
>156 vivians: as you're flying out, we'll be returning home from visiting Lisbon/Madrid/Granada. We leave tomorrow!
Eek! How could I forget about the wedding?!!? :-P
That podcast sounds interesting - both the episode and the premise of the podcast itself. I need to figure out how to fit podcasts into my life...
Hope your trip is great, Laura!
Podcasts definitely cut into my reading time Katie, but some are really worthwhile.
#64 Salt Houses Hala Alyan
Multi-generational story of a wealthy Palestinian family, who fled Jaffa during the 6 Day War, then are again displaced from Kuwait and Beirut. Although their wealth shields them from the deprivations of most refugees, the emotional consequences filter through successive generations. Quite a strong bias against Israel, including a disturbing tale of a rape that occurred well before the establishment of the State of Israel, which implies by omission that the perpetrators were Israeli soldiers.
Tonight I'm going to hear Michael Chabon speak about his new memoir, Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces. He's one of my favorites so I'm really looking forward.
Hi, Vivian. I always like following your reads. Always something interesting. Sorry, to hear the new Barnes novel didn't sing, like his last one.
Glad you finally got to Blindness. It is such an excellent book. Hooray for Happiness, I enjoyed it too and yah, for the Wharton. She was so consistently good.
Have a great time at the Chabon event.
Fabulous weekend wedding! No time for reading, but who cared? Above are my four kids, and now a fifth.
Thanks Darryl - I just sent you an email about the Lisbon trip. I hope we can meet!
Hi Bonnie, Mark and Laura, and thanks for the posts. I'm still floating from the weekend but luckily have the Lisbon trip to look forward to, so no opportunity for a post-celebration let-down.
#65 Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces Michael Chabon
Slim volume, beautifully written, very enjoyable.
I saw Chabon at a book signing event in Brooklyn last week. He was interviewed by Julie Orringer, who was ok in that function, not great. She took great pains to let the audience know she was a close personal friend so that was a bit annoying. Chabon was very personable and took lots of time signing books and making small talk with patrons, so that was nice.
#66 Assume the Worst Carl Hiasen
I feel like I'm cheating since this was so short but I did read it twice.....Very amusing, with perfect illustrations by Roz Chast.
Fingers crossed, Darryl!
#67 American by Day Derek Miller
I loved Norwegian by Night, which I read right before a trip to Oslo. The sequel did not disappoint. The Norwegian inspector travels to upstate NY to search for her missing brother who is suspected of murder. Her US counterpart is a former divinity student who has been elected sheriff of Jefferson County, another great character. Best of all are her musings about social and political issues in the US from the point of view of an enlightened European, particularly the institutionalized racism, political divisiveness and lighter things as well.
#68 Halsey Street Naima Coster
Debut novel. My enjoyment was somewhat marred by the pace of the narrator, which was so agonizingly slow that in the end I borrowed the book from the library in order to finish it (I had borrowed it on CDs so couldn't speed it up as I usually do with Audible). Broken family relationships set in the gradual gentrification of a Brooklyn neighborhood. Lots of loneliness suffered by all the main characters, most of whom were quite unlikable. Still very worthwhile.
>149 vivians: I checked and I'm rising in the queue for Happiness. I hope I get it before it's too late to read a physical (as opposed to an e-) book from the library. If not, I'll just have to buy it. Or, of course, put it on hold at my new public library. :-)
>161 vivians: and >162 vivians: Congratulations!
>168 vivians: I am also a fan of Chabon and I still have a couple of his yet to read!
>171 vivians: Sorry to hear the audio marred your experience. It sounds like reading it was the way to go (I quite enjoyed it in that format).
Hi Vivian - I just got back and you are leaving. Have a fabulous time in Portugal. That is on my bucket list.
Lovely wedding photo.
I loved Halsey Street more than you did. Certainly, I'll look for more novels by Coster.
The Chabon event sounds wonderful. My cousin's kids went to the same Hebrew school as his kids for a while, and I remember her saying that he was super nice.
Happy Sunday, Vivian. Glad you had a good time at the Chabon event. I hope to finally get to Moonglow this summer.
I just sent you an email about dinner on Friday. Hopefully you and your friend can join deebee1, her husband and I in a marisquería in Almada, just across the river from Lisbon.
>172 EBT1002: Hi Ellen - I think Happiness will be on my reread list. I really loved it, as I did The Hired Man.
>173 BLBera: Welcome back Beth! Hope it was a great trip - I'll check on your thread for updates. One of the books I'm taking on my trip is one by Donal Ryan, one of the many Irish authors I can't get enough of.
>174 msf59: Hi Mark - a very hip Brooklyn bookstore sponsors these author events. Barbara Kingsolver is next, in October.
>175 kidzdoc: Got it Darryl, and we'll see you Friday evening! I leave in a couple f hours and am very excited.
#69 Whispers Under Ground Ben Aaronovitch
>176 vivians: Great news, Vivian! I just sent a message to deebee1, and she'll make reservations for the five of us. She and I will spend the day together walking through the old neighborhoods of Lisbon, so I imagine it would make sense for the four of us to meet up, and take a ferry to Almada from there.
An LT group meet up in Lisbon! I wonder if that's ever happened before.
ETA: I replied to your email, and provided you with her mobile number, as well as mine.
I'm excited to hear about the LT Lisbon meetup and can't wait for photos!
Vivian, we enjoyed visiting Lisbon and I hope you have a great time.
Vivian, your life is a real whirlwind these days. A graduation, a wedding (loved the family picture), and now a trip to Portugal AND an LT meetup! I’m a little green about the latter but I know you and Darryl will give us enough details so we can share vicariously in the fun.
On the reading front: you got me twice in one review. I really enjoyed Memory of Love so am excited to know you liked two of Forna’s books even better. I’ve had Norwegian By Night on the WL for too long now, and will add the sequel. No wonder my own books are probably beginning to feel unloved these days.
Enjoy your trip!
Hi laura and Donna! I'm back from a fabulous trip to Portugal, which included work, a wonderful reunion with my college roommate, travel, an LT meet-up and much more. I'll post the photo (Darryl already has one up on his thread) of the meet-up and some other very book-worthy events sometime later today.
Not much reading got done....
#70 An Irish Country Doctor Patrick Taylor
Perfect light airplane reading.
Wow, Vivian! Portugal is on my bucket list; I can't wait to see pictures. I missed you.
Yay, you're back! I'm headed for the other side of Europe on Monday (Romania). Maybe we can get together in July for a good catch-up!
Hi Beth and Katie - I'm now paying for the trip with a horrific cold and just struggling to stay upright at my desk. Ugh. Hope you have a good trip Katie!
#70 Lisbon - A Cultural and Literary Companion Paul Buck
I skimmed this before the trip and then read it more closely on the way home. I was pleased to find that we had covered much of what was highlighted. A great introduction to the city.
I'm glad you enjoyed your trip to Lisbon. I would definitely go back. Meanwhile, we are on a quest for readily-available Portuguese wines (the PA state stores have not been helpful), and I found a recipe for pasteis (those yummy custard tarts).
>183 vivians: Great to know, Vivian. Portugal is on my bucket list. Sorry to hear about the cold; I often end up sick after a flight, too. Masks! They should hand them out as we board.
I'm loving The Last Man in Europe.
Hi, Vivian! It was great to meet you and Connie last week. I'm glad that you arrived home safely, athough I'm sorry that you acquired a URI on the return flight.
I posted several photos from last Friday, although most of them were taken before DB and i met you, Connie and Nuno.
I'm still in Lisbon, as I decided to stay here a bit longer and save a trip to Coimbra for the future. I leave for Porto on Monday, and I'll fly from there to Barcelona on Friday.
So far I'm hooked on Portugal, or at least Lisbon, as a potential place to retire. I spent half of an afternoon with DB on Thursday, and we talked more about her experiences living there as a long time expatriate. There is a very good chance that I'll return to Lisbon during my last week of vacation of 2018 in November, and if Portugal seems like a more viable option than Spain, as it is at the moment, I'll likely visit at least once a year, and explore other areas in the country.
I'm eager to hear more about your travels outside of Lisbon!
Hi Laura - I loved the food in Portugal, especially the fish. And the breakfasts....the morning spreads at the hotels are such a treat! That's the one great advantage of hotels over air bnbs.
My cold is finally a bit better, Beth, but it was a bad one. The last month was so hectic with family events, and then the Portugal trip was fabulous but exhausting. I think my body was telling me to take a rest!
Hi Darryl, hope the Spanish portion of the trip is equally successful!
#71 Itch Simon Mayo
I listened to a podcast about this charming and talented BBC broadcaster, who wrote a fictionalized account of an 18th century episode at the Dartmoor Prison, the only facility in the UK which segregated black and white prisoners on the insistence of white sailors incarcerated there. It sounded fascinating but is not yet available in the US. So I decided to read his earlier YA fiction, about a Cornish amateur scientist who is an "element" collector. It reminded me of the Alex Rider adventures I used to read to my boys: fast-paced, funny and a fun read.
Just see that The Gallows Pole won the 2018 Walter Scott prize for historical fiction. I've read most of the list but this was not available at my library....I just succumbed and ordered it on Amazon and will be happy to pass it along once I'm done!
>187 vivians: That's the one great advantage of hotels over air bnbs.
You are so right, Vivian. In Lisbon we found a lovely coffee shop just around the corner which became our go-to breakfast place, but it was still no substitute for a hotel breakfast. My husband and I are going to France in September, staying in Paris for a couple days and then with some friends in Languedoc who own a B&B. I'm really looking forward to the breakfasts!
Hey Mark! There's a great Brooklyn bookstore which hosts author events. So far I've heard David Mitchell, Ann Patchett and Michael Chabon. It's a bit of pain to get there (always traffic!) but it's well worth it. I don't know about Night of the Gun but I'll look it up!
Beth I'll send you Gallows Pole when I'm done....sounds like it might be a good one for us!
Oh Laura - another great trip ahead! I guess you might be planning to sample some Languedoc wines....;)
#72 Elevate: An Essential Guide to Life Joseph Deitch
I felt compelled to read this "self-help" book because the author is a business associate. As this genre goes, it's very good, an easy narrative written in an organized and accessible manner by a successful and engaging narrator.
Thanks Vivian! I hope I can return the favor one of these days.
I need to move -- your bookstore events sound wonderful. All authors I love.
>194 BLBera: :)
#73 The Female Persuasion Meg Wolitzer
Read for book group - but meeting has been cancelled for 3 months in a row so we may never end up discussing it. I found it a long and somewhat uninteresting story about 4 characters: a young, smart, self-absorbed college student; her college friend, another smart, idealistic, slightly less self-absorbed gay woman; her high school boyfriend who faces an unbearable family tragedy; and a 70 -something year old feminist icon and mentor. The author pays lip service to a variety of feminist issues such as misogyny, reproductive rights, political activism, but it just seemed superficial to me.
Yay! Another Wolitzer book That won’t waste my precious reading time. What’s up with your book group, Vivian?
I am closing in on the end of The Overstory. It’s been fruitful and deep. I can see reading it again someday to get even more out of it.
>195 vivians: okay then, that's all I need to know! I've been in a verrry long library queue for this one and now I don't see a need to wait for it. Thanks for taking one for the team, Vivian.
>196 Donna828: Hi Donna - my book group has been meeting for about 22 years now. There are only 6 of us; we met when our boys were together in a baby group and we were all thirsting for adult contact. It seems to be getting harder to find convenient meeting dates as we are all working, traveling, etc. But we're going to keep trying since we have such a history together.
I'm definitely adding The Overstory after reading your thread.
>197 BLBera: Why does it seem like such a surprise when our preferences don't match???? But you're right, I think I'll give up on Wolitzer for the time being. I finished The Gallows Pole, thought it was great, and mailed it off to you!
>198 lauralkeet: Glad to help, Laura!
#74 The Gallows Pole Benjamin Myers
Winner of this year's Walter Scott prize for historical fiction. 18th century Yorkshire, the fictionalized account of the Cragg Valley Coiners, a group of farmers and weavers turned forgers. There is a stylized narrative which tells the tale of the "King" of the forgers, effectively using repetition of names, rhythm of language and very evocative descriptions. Alternating with the narrative is King David Hartley's jail cell memoir, which rails against the oncoming industrialization which he correctly intuits will change the lives of his people. (I'm tempted to find the audio to hear the heavily accented, grammarless Yorkshire man's words.) Highly recommended!
Sneaking in a big announcement here: grandmotherhood ahead! My son and his wife are expecting in January and I'm beyond excited.
#75 Yes We (Still) Can Dan Pfeiffer
I listen to Pfeiffer's podcast "Pod Save America" religiously and find him to be articulate, persuasive and extremely well-informed. It's a very thoughtful memoir of how we got from Obama to Trump, filled with anecdotes and a real dive into the media and other social changes. Many reviewers found it hopeful but I found it utterly depressing to reflect on how far we've sunk, especially after yesterday's devastating news about Kennedy's retirement from the bench.
>200 vivians: woo hoo! That's fantastic news, Vivian!! Congratulations!!
Seventy-five books already AND upcoming Grandmotherhood. Double congratulations, Vivian!!
Thanks Katie, Anita, Jim, Laura, Bonnie and Donna!
#76 The Light Years Elizabeth Jane Howard
I thoroughly enjoyed this first volume of the Cazalet series. A large wealthy family summers together in Sussex as the clouds of WWII are gathering.In a way I found similar to Winston Graham's Poldark series, I felt plunged into their lives, with each character fully developed. Lots of fascinating details.
#77 The Train Georges Simenon
Phew - this short novel packed a lot of punch. A truly despicable narrator, utterly selfish and sounding like a true existentialist. Set during the German invasion of France, it's really a gem and very worthwhile.
#78 All We Shall Know Donal Ryan
I will read anything written by this man...this one measures up to the brilliance of A Spinning Heart and The Thing About December The narrator Melody Shee is trapped in an unhappy marriage to her childhood boyfriend Pat, until she seduces a young Traveller boy who she is teaching to read. Each chapter follows a week in the ensuing pregnancy. Family feuds, bullying, suicide, friendship, father-daughter relationships...all these are explored in beautiful prose. A raw story with deep emotions.
#79 A Nest of Vipers Andrea Camilleri
Short, kind of sordid tale of incest, inheritance, murder.
#80 Water Like A Stone Deborah Crombie
#81 The Burning Girl Claire Messud
I'm not a huge fan of Messud so I'm finding it hard to understand why I tore through this novel in one sitting on a warm Sunday afternoon. Maybe it was having a kidless house, or maybe it was the subject matter of teenage girls and their fragile friendships. Not a great book but certainly a gripping one.
Hi Vivian - Congrats on upcoming grand motherhood! Grandkids rock!
I've read the Cazalet books and enjoyed them. It sounds like I need to read Donal Ryan.
Oh, and you've reached and passed 75.
By the way, I realize that I read The Thing About December in 2015 and gave it four strong stars. I remember thinking he was an author to follow.
>209 BLBera: I really recommend all of Ryan's books. They are short too! I'm very excited about the baby news but feel totally unprepared to be a grandmother, or a mother-in-law for that matter. And son #2 just announced his engagement, wedding in September 2019!
>210 EBT1002: Hi Ellen - travel is a really important part of our lives. We live in a tiny, old house, and basically spend as little as possible in order to take these great family trips. One is coming up in late August, to South Africa and Zambia.
#82 The Immortalists Chloe Benjamin
I should have known to skip this one because there was no LT buzz about it. I had heard a couple of podcasts about it and the premise sounded interesting (4 siblings visit a fortuneteller in 1950s New York and are told the dates of their eventual deaths). I'm sorry I slogged through the whole thing - a real waste of time.
I'd been wondering about The Immortalists, Vivian. Thanks for taking one for the team. I will forget about this one.
Wow, you're family is going through a lot of changes. You will love being a grandma - think of all the books you can read to the little one!
You're right Beth - I have a long list of baby book favorites but I can only wonder how many new ones I'll have to explore!
#83 Circe Madeline Miller
A bit of a slow start but then completely captivating. My Greek mythology was very rusty but that didn't matter in the least. This was a captivating retelling filled with lots of very mortal themes: family dysfunction, sibling rivalry, nutty parents, unrequited love, remorse, father/daughter and mother/son relationships. Loved it.
>212 vivians: Oh no, that is the book for my Book Group in August. Oh well, at least I will have some fellow sufferers.
>212 vivians: Hi Donna - maybe you'll think more highly of it than I did. I know a lot of people are Meg Wolitzer fans.
>213 BLBera: I'm still thinking about Circe, Laura. Hope you love it!
>214 vivians: Hi Beth! Your dystopia list looks really good. I loved Station Eleven and a few of the others you mentioned.
#84 An Irish Country Village Patrick Taylor
Another driving weekend was the perfect opportunity to listen to this second volume of a very light, entertaining and enjoyable series. Dr. Laverty is now established as the associate doctor in a rural village in northern Ireland in the early '60s. Slight mentions made of "the troubles" but mostly just stories of cantankerous and odd-ball villagers and their various ailments, as well as some relationship developments.
Hooray for Circe! I really enjoyed it too. Thanks for the warning on The Immortalists. I had that one saved on audio.
I have wanted to read this Irish Doctor books, forever.
I hope life is treating you well, Vivian.
Hi Mark! All's well here, thanks. The Irish Doctor series is very light and entertaining, without much depth. Next up for me will be the Booker longlist.
#85 From a Low and Quiet Sea Donal Ryan
This book appears to be three separate narratives with common threads of loss, sadness and self-doubt. Farouk is a refugee, fleeing with his family from Syria; Lampy is a frustrated Irishman coping with a dead-end job and a failed relationship, and feeling misunderstood at home; and John is a dishonest schemer coming to terms with his life of deceit. Ultimately the three strands are linked in a final section. Beautifully written, with humor, wonderful characters (especially Lampy's grandfather, a foul-mouthed "pub wag" whose deep love for his grandson is never expressed) and beautiful writing. Ryan remains one of my favorite Irish authors.
>220 vivians: I have this one on reserve at the library, Vivian. I've been meaning to give Ryan a try because of your wonderful comments about him.
>220 vivians: - I'm currently reading this one. Not very far in, but I'm loving it. It's my first by Donal Ryan.
I'm glad that you enjoyed A Low and Quiet Sea, Vivian. I bought the Kindle version of it yesterday, after it was selected for this year's Booker Prize longlist, and I'll read it sometime next month.
>221 BLBera: >222 katiekrug: >223 kidzdoc: I have really enjoyed listening to Ryan's books. There's something about that Irish lilt that I love to hear. Although I must say that the first narrator's Arabic accent was not terrific.
#86 An Argumentation of Historians Jodi Taylor
Another great romp through time. The time travel is great (Henry VIII, Persepolis and then a very extended stay in 1399 Norfolk). There's still an evil villain racing up and down the time line, and there's lots of humor, great dialogue and wonderful characters. This is definitely a series to read in order.
Just realized I neglected adding:
#87 Marking Time Elizabeth Jane Howard
Cazalet chronicles #2. The narrative now focuses on the three teenage girls Louise, Polly and Clary and the family around them in the first years of WWI. Loved it. Would love to see dramatization.
I’ll be starting volume three of The Cazalet Chronicles tomorrow Vivian. I really loved volume two.
I’ve only read one Donal Ryan and I absolutely loved The Spinning Heart so I’m looking forward to this new one.
Vivian - it's always great to see you. Thanks for taking the time yesterday - I know you have a lot going on.
Hi Katie - thanks for getting me out for a bit and away from the dysfunctional other side of the family.
My father-in-law died last week at the age of 91. My husband's family has always been the source of great difficulty for us, but my FIL was a lovely man, and my husband was close to him. Unfortunately, he was always extremely passive about all the behavior going on around him. All 4 of my kids came to the funeral (quite a logistical nightmare, involving flights, car rentals, finding appropriate clothing, etc.) and it felt wonderful to see them there to support their dad.
#88 Sabrina Nick Drnaso
I've only read a few GNs, but this one was longlisted for the Booker and I was lucky enough to get a library copy before word got out. Here's the publisher's description: When Sabrina disappears, an airman in the U.S. Air Force is drawn into a web of suppositions, wild theories, and outright lies. He reports to work every night in a bare, sterile fortress that serves as no protection from a situation that threatens the sanity of Teddy, his childhood friend and the boyfriend of the missing woman. Sabrina’s grieving sister, Sandra, struggles to fill her days as she waits in purgatory. After a videotape surfaces, we see devastation shown through a cinematic lens, as true tragedy is distorted when fringe thinkers and conspiracy theorists begin to interpret events to fit their own narratives.
It's quite extraordinary to actually witness the grief and isolation of the characters, rather than just read about them. This is a very chilling and worthwhile read.
#89 Where Memories Lie Deborah Crombie
Another good Kincaid/James installment. A friend who appeared marginally in earlier stories becomes the center of this mystery. A refugee from Nazi Germany and now an old woman, she is shocked when a long-lost brooch reappears at an auction house sale. There was something a little off-putting about Crombie's use of the Holocaust as backdrop but that just may be oversensitivity on my part.
Vivian, I am sorry to hear about your FIL. I am also sorry to hear that the family is difficult.
Sabrina sounds good; my library doesn't have a copy yet, but I imagine it will get one eventually.
My reading has not been spectacular during July, but I am enjoying the new Anne Tyler right now, and just picked up the Ryan from the library.
Vivian, I'm sorry to hear about your FIL's passing. I totally understand the complicated feelings about this given the family dysfunction (I have some personal experience in this area as well). I'm glad you were able to attend the meetup and escape for a time.
I also stopped by to say I was all ready to start reading The Immortalists today, and was kinda looking forward to seeing if my experience is similar to yours. Then one of my library Kindle holds came through all of a sudden so now I've pushed it down the queue again.
Thanks Beth and Laura. Family saga continues; it's comforting to know I'm not the only one! I've been driving back and forth to Long Island every night and traffic is horrendous. Thank goodness for audiobooks.
#90 The Boy in the Striped Pajamas John Boyne
I loved both The Absolutist and The Heart's Invisible Furies and follow John Boyne's on twitter as well. So I thought I should try this early work of his. The interview at the end helped me to understand what he had been trying to accomplish, but the whole thing was so implausible and simplistic that it was actually uncomfortable to read.
I'm sorry to hear about your father in law's death, Vivian. I hope that things become less hectic and stressful for you soon.
I'm glad that you could join us for brunch on Saturday, especially given your family crisis.
I'm glad that you liked Sabrina! I looked for it when Katie and I went to Strand Book Store on Saturday, but I didn't see it. I'll read it soon.
Sorry to hear about your FIL's passing, Vivian. Sounds like he had a good, long life.
>227 vivians: "This is a very chilling and worthwhile read." I also just finished Sabrina and agree with your assessment. Strong stuff. My only "minor" issues, were the tiny print and many of the characters looked similar, but other than that...
ETA- So in your humble opinion, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is not worth reading? I have it saved on audio. Funny, I thought the film version was weak.
>231 kidzdoc: Thanks Darryl! I'm working my way through that Booker longlist...I just started Snap on audio and so far I'm enjoying it but not yet seeing its Booker-worthiness.
>232 msf59: Thanks Mark. I keep thinking about Sabrina, all the more so after scrolling through Twitter and seeing some of the right-wing insanity. This morning I hear a NY Times report about "Qanon", the newest Trump-fueled conspiracy, and it seemed to be taken right from the pages of the book.
#91 The Word is Murder Anthony Horowitz
Very innovative murder mystery as the author inserts his real-life personality into the story. I enjoyed reading his Alex Rider series to my son years ago, and he's also credited as the writer of Foyle's War. His method of weaving himself and other figures (Steven Spielberg!) into the narrative was very entertaining. The actual mystery (a woman is found dead a mere six hours after walking into a funeral home and arranging her own funeral)had sufficient twists and turns to be engaging.
The Horowitz sounds like fun, Vivian. I'll add it to my WL and check the library. I want to read Sabrina!
Loved Foyles War and Horowitz’s Magpie Murders so cant wait to get to this one Vivian.
Glad I can recommend The Word is Murder Beth and Bonnie!
#92 The Mars Room Rachel Kushner
The Flamethrowers was a DNF for me so I approached this Booker longlisted novel with a bit of trepidation. This was an indictment of mass incarceration, specifically of young, disenfranchised women. It was structurally challenging - told by a number of narrators (including the first person narration of Romy, a 28 year mother, former stripper, serving a double life sentence for the murder of a particularly slimy stalker) with different perspectives of the prison experience. It seems that Kushner spent years doing research and many of the characters are based on true stories. I found it deeply disturbing and unlike anything I've read before.
On another note: I'm an infrequent movie-goer, only due to lack of time, not interest. Yesterday I saw "Three Identical Strangers", about triplets who were separated at birth. Really good.
I really want to read The Mars Room. Eileen and I went to hear Kushner at the NYPL but it was a dud of an event, because she was "in conversation" with the director Paul Schrader (a pairing I didn't really understand) and he was another older white man who felt the need to dominate the conversation. Yawn. We actually left in the middle of it, and were not the first ones to do so.
But Eileen had bought a copy of the book so I need to borrow it from her.
I never attempted Kusners’s The Flamethrowers because so many people here on LT disliked it but I really enjoyed her first novel Telex From Cuba. I’m about halfway through The Mars Room which is a different book altogether Vivian.
I went to see Three Identical Strangers on Saturday and really liked it too.
Hi, Vivian. I am 130 pages into The Mars Room and I am really enjoying it. I love her gritty, no-nonsense style and I can completely believe that she spent years researching it. It has an almost insider feel to it.
I am going to have to try The Flamethrowers, just to see for myself.
Three Identical Stranger sounds great. I will keep an eye out for it.
Vivian, I also really liked Three Identical Strangers. I saw it with a film group that meets afterward for discussion. And ooh boy did that film generate a lot of discussion! There were the egregious ethical issues, of course, but we also talked at length about things that weren't addressed in the film, like
>237 BLBera: >238 katiekrug: >239 brenzi: I tried The Flamethrowers when it came out but it just didn't work for me either. It was too disjointed and too much of an insider's view of the New York art scene - I didn't get most of it. I know it got almost universally great reviews.
>241 lauralkeet: Wow a film group! What a great idea! To come out of a stimulating, interesting or even disturbing movie and actually talk about it afterwards, instead of just going home and to bed. This one definitely warranted discussion.
We're leaving in two weeks for our family trip - eight of us going to South Africa. So I'm pivoting away from my Booker reading and have begun Nelson Mandela's autobiography and I'm also rereading Cry, The Beloved Country.
#93 Snap Belinda Bauer
Katie's review said it all: extremely engaging and absorbing read, great mystery, hard to see how it is Booker-worthy. Three very different stories, seemingly unrelated - the murder of a pregnant mother, a sinister intruder frightening a young woman at night, and a sneaky burglar sleeping in kids' beds. They are cleverly woven together in a gripping conclusion.
Wow, South Africa! Have a great time, Vivian. I reserved Snap from the library.
^Did you miss your pal up there? Sad face...
I am truly loving The Mars Room, despite it's grim and disturbing subject matter.
>242 vivians: I look forward to hearing about your upcoming trip to South Africa, Vivian!
>240 msf59: >245 msf59: Ack - missed you Mark - sorry! Thanks for visiting!
>243 lauralkeet: I agree Laura, and it's even better the second time around. Yes, the Mandela autobiography is Long Walk to Freedom.
>244 BLBera: >246 kidzdoc: I'm really excited about this trip and will report back! We've had a couple of glitches: my newly pregnant daughter-in-law decided she felt a little too nervous to go and we're really disappointed about that (but certainly understand her trepidation). And on Tuesday my husband had to have hernia repair surgery. The surgeon assures us he'll be fit to travel in 2 weeks but today he's doing the "old man shuffle" and I'm not convinced yet!
#94 The Great Believers Rebeca Makkai
Can anyone take credit for recommending this? I don't remember how I heard about it but it's very worthwhile. Two timelines: the first focuses on a group of friends confronting the AIDs crisis in 1980s Chicago, the second on a search for a missing daughter in present-day Paris. Couldn't put it down.
Another one for my list, Vivian.
I just finished My Name Is Leon and LOVED it - it will certainly be one of the best of the year. I couldn't believe how perfect de Waal got Leon's voice.
Good to know Cry, the Beloved Country is a good one, Vivian. It's been on my shelf for a long time.
I think writing from a child's point of view is tricky, and certainly not everyone cares for it. Leon hit me just right.
Great comments about The Mars Room, Vivian. I think I want to read it.
Have a great trip!
The 2018 Dayton Literary Peace Prize fiction finalists are:
•Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Riverhead): An astonishingly timely love story that brilliantly imagines the forces that transform ordinary people into refugees and the impossible choices that follow.
•Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck (New Directions): A scathing indictment of Western policy toward the European refugee crisis, but also a touching portrait of a Berlin man who finds he has more in common with his city’s African refugees than he realizes.
•Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (Grand Central): Exiled from a homeland they never knew, four generations of a poor Korean immigrant family fight to control their destinies.
•Salt Houses by Hala Alyan (Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt): A heartbreaking story that follows three generations of a Palestinian family and asks us to confront that most devastating of all truths: you can’t go home again.
•Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (Scribner): A family makes the trip from their Gulf Coast town to the Mississippi State Penitentiary, testing the strength of their emotional bonds and the pull of a collective history.
•Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar (Little, Brown): Raised in the Czech countryside by his doting grandparents, Jakub Procházka has risen from small-time scientist to become the country's first astronaut. A dangerous solo mission to Venus offers him the chance at heroism he's always dreamed of -- and a way to atone for his father's sins as a Communist informer.
The 2018 Dayton Literary Peace Prize nonfiction finalists are:
•Enduring Vietnam by James Wright (St. Martin’s Press): A recounting of the experiences of the young Americans who fought in Vietnam and of the families who mourned those who did not return.
•Ghost of the Innocent Man by Benjamin Rachlin (Little, Brown): This gripping account of one man's long road to freedom provides a picture of wrongful conviction and of the opportunity for meaningful reform, forever altering how we understand our criminal justice system.
•Lolas’ House by M. Erdina Galang (Northwestern U. Press): The stories of sixteen Filipino “comfort women” are told in unprecedented detail in what is not only testimony and documentation, but a book of witness, of survival, and of the female body.
•Reading with Patrick by Michelle Kuo (Random House): In this stirring memoir, Kuo, the child of Taiwanese immigrants, shares the story of her complicated but rewarding mentorship of Patrick Browning, a teenaged student from one of the poorest counties in the U.S., and his remarkable literary and personal awakening.
•The Newcomers by Helen Thorpe (Scribner): Helen Thorpe’s intensive, year-long reporting puts a human face on the U.S. refugee population through an intimate look at the lives of 22 teenagers enrolled in a beginner-level English Language Acquisition class at South High School in Denver, Colorado.
•We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates (One World PRH): “Biting cultural and political analysis... reflects on race, Barack Obama’s presidency and its jarring aftermath, and Coates’s own evolution as a writer in eight stunningly incisive essays.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
>250 BLBera: >253 BLBera: Spaceman is the only fiction I haven't read - I'll wait of your comments! I'm definitely remiss on the non-fiction list and will get to the Coates at the very least.
>251 EBT1002: Thanks Ellen! We leave next Tuesday and I'm beginning to get excited.
>254 kidzdoc: I'm thinking of you enjoying Edinburgh at this moment! Maybe Scotland will a goal for next year. It's always been very high on the list.
#96 To Die But Once Jacqueline Winspear
The backdrop of the Dunkirk evacuation and the fear of invasion are what makes this 14th Maisie Dobbs entry interesting. A neighbor's 15 year old son, an apprentice painter whose company is completing a government contract to apply fire retardant paint on air force structures, is missing. There are several other threads, including a German spy, a plot to rob the Bank of England, ambulance training and the theft of rations by an organized crime family. Most interesting were all the earmarks of home defense: blackout curtains, barrage balloons, observation posts all along the coast, gasoline rationing, and "reserved professions" vital to feeding the people. Lots of family issues too, highlighting the desperation of a generation which had suffered greatly from the first war now sending their children to fight again.
I'm behind on Maisie Dobbs, Vivian. I have to catch up. It's hard to imagine what people who lived through WWI suffered when WWII came around.
Wow, you must be busy packing. How long will you be gone?
I read the first two Maisie Dobbs books and haven't circled back to it yet. I was trying to decide if it was a little too twee. The fact you've continued so far into the series is very encouraging.
>252 vivians: That's a fantastic list. I must copy it to add to my unrealistic TBR.
Don't forget Nadine Gordimer's books, which show much of South Africa. I recently read July's People, but there are many others of her. Also J. M Coetze. Among others, he wrote Disgrace, a painful look at a man and also at race relations in the country.
I'm sure you'll have a great trip. Come tell us about it when you're back.
Hi Beth - we're leaving tomorrow but I'm still at work today. So tonight will be a little crazy!
>257 lauralkeet: Hmmm - I can't say I'm making a resounding recommendation for Maisie Dobbs. I enjoy the characters and the background political situation but the mysteries are usually contrived and I didn't like all the spiritual stuff in the early books.
>252 vivians: Thanks for reminding me about Gordimer, Judy! I have Disgrace in my bag for the trip. My brother is an academic who rarely reads fiction, but he insisted that I read it and said it's the only book he ever completed and reread immediately. So I'm looking forward to it.
Our trip is 12 days long - seems way too short when all the travel time is considered. I was sad but completely understanding when my daughter-in-law, who is now four months pregnant, felt too uneasy about joining us. My son was still planning to come but as of last night, I'm glad to say, has woken up to the fact that he should forego the trip. The other three kids are coming, and one future daughter-in-law, but I have to say that some of the joy has gone out of it (to say nothing of the full payment we made a year ago) now that we won't all be together. I think this is a lesson in planning less elaborate trips in the future, now that the family is changing. We've been incredibly lucky with all of them and have traveled a lot, but I think flexibility will now be the key.
#97 A History of Loneliness John Boyne
I read this older (2014) work since his new release (a Ladder to the Sky) is only out in the UK. This man can really write. A very timely read about an Irish priest, the turmoil in the church, his complicity and willing blindness. Fabulous, fabulous. Can't recommend it enough.
>259 vivians: I think this is a lesson in planning less elaborate trips in the future, now that the family is changing.
Oh wow, yes, I guess I can see that. Our two are still unattached and we enjoy vacationing together. We have every desire to continue doing so, even as they begin having families of their own. But you make a good point about the complexity and taking that into account in the planning.
I hope you have a wonderful trip despite not having everyone there. Maybe you can invite your son & daughter-in-law for virtual cocktails via Skype, or something like that, so they are with you in a different way.
Safe travels, Vivian. I can't wait to hear about your trip. I can't imagine trying to plan a vacation for such a large group. Have a great time.
Another Boyne to add to my list...
We're back!!! We had a fabulous trip: Capetown, Krueger National Park, then Victoria Falls in Zambia. I posted some photos on FB and will try to add some here. Phenomenal animal sightings, including a walk with rhinos and a petting session with some rescued elephants. Three of our four kids were with us, as well as one fiancée and a niece (last minute substitute for my oldest son and newly pregnant daughter-in-law. They were all terrific travelers and got along tremendously for a lot of together time.
#98 Disgrace J. m. Coetzee
#99 Warlight Michael Ondaatje
#100 The Long Walk To FreedomNelson Mandela
#101 The Overstory Richard Powers
Will update to add mini-reviews to all of these.
I looked around the bookshops in the Amsterdam airport during our layover and was thrilled to find the newly published Transcription by Kate Atkinson, just released that day. That will definitely be next on my list!
Wow! 101 books and a family trip to Africa. I’d love to see some pictures. I’m also impressed that you got the new Kate Atkinson. I love her books. Oh, and welcome home, Vivian!
Welcome back Vivian, I'm glad you had a great vacation. I'm patiently awaiting your book reviews, since I'm almost finished with Warlight myself.
And a new Kate Atkinson? Squeeee! I didn't realize this was on the horizon. Now I can't wait.
Hi Katie, Beth, Donna and Laura. Great vacation = swamped at work upon return. This one was definitely worth it!
I have to go back and add reviews. I loved Warlight, much more than you did I think, Laura. And I was blown away by The Overstory although it was a little too long.
#102 Confusion Elizabeth Jane Howard
The Cazalet series continues to entertain. I loved book 3, which covers the last three years of the war. Each of the many family members has a distinctive voice and story, and I feel as if they are now old friends. One of the best family sagas I've read.
Hooray for your South Africa trip, Vivian. I am sure it was amazing. I am not pals with you on FB, so I did not see the photos. Sad face. Krueger National Park is on my birding bucket list! It has come up once or twice on my bird book reading.
Congrats on snagging the new Atkinson. Hope she continues her stellar roll.
Vivian, my husband and I are in Paris and paid a visit to Shakespeare & Co today. It was mobbed with tourists but thanks to you I spotted the new Kate Atkinson and bought it immediately. Woo hoo!
>271 msf59: I sent you a FB friend request, Mark!
>272 lauralkeet: Hooray for the Atkinson snag! I've listened to some interviews with her and am enjoying the book much more after hearing some background. It was a little disappointing in the beginning, only because my expectations were so high. A God in Ruins remains one of my all time favorite books.
Your trip photos look great!
>Hi Ellen - yup, Scotland is very high on my list. I love reading about the Shetlands (Ann Cleevesseries) but it seems a little remote. I'll have to plan that trip at some point.
It was wonderful to read The Overstory before and during our Africa trip. Our guide in Krueger National Park was an amateur botanist and cited lots of research about how trees communicate. He suggested some additional reading which I hope to get to.
#103 Earning the Rockies Robert D. Kaplan
I thought this was an odd choice for the "Now Read This" NPR book club. It purports to explain how geography has shaped and will continue to shape the role of the U.S. in foreign affairs. To me it seemed an apology for both the author's neo-con views of the Iraq war and for American exceptionalism. It was disguised as a "travelogue" but is filled with elitism and snobbery, with adjectives like "shabby", "tacky", and "tasteless' used frequently. One review I read said this was "a voyage of pontification rather than a voyage of discovery." Much of the book is spent reviewing the theories of Devoto and Stegner, who wrote during the mid-twentieth century.
>274 vivians: I'll seek out some interviews, Vivian, and listen before I start the book.
The Overstory is long, Beth, but really worthwhile.
>276 lauralkeet: Hope your trip continues to go well! I'd love to visit France again. One of our more memorable vacations was renting a camper and travelling through Normandy.
#104 Milkman Anna Burns
Man Booker longlist. I'm glad I had read a little about this very unusual book before starting. It takes place in Belfast (though the city is unnamed) in the 1970s. There are very few proper names and the entire structure feels quite innovative. I listened on audio (the narration was brilliant) so I wasn't challenged by the long paragraphs and dense sentences. The narrator is an 18 year old girl, presumably Catholic, who tries to ignore the turmoil surrounding her community. By doing so, she actually focuses attention on herself. This is a vivid portrait of an entire community torn apart, suspicious of each other, and an atmosphere so suffocating as to be almost intolerable. A really worthwhile read.
Renting a camper and driving through Normandy sounds like fun -- can I be part of your family and go on some of these vacations with you?
Milkman goes on my list, Vivian, even more because I am trying to read more Irish writers. This sounds like another one I would like.
I really want to read The Overstory, but I am so busy/distracted with school that I don't want to start it and only be able to read it in fits and starts. So, I might have to wait until break. I think my reading in the near future will be short and/or not too challenging.
We are FB friends! We are FB friends! Hooray! Have a great weekend, Vivian and Happy Reading!
Yay Mark! I'm looking forward to seeing your birding, brewing and travel posts!
#105 Transcription Kate Atkinson
Atkinson is one of my favorite authors and A God in Ruins is one of my all-time favorite books. Silly as it sounds, I was loath to even begin this, afraid of disappointment and disenchantment. I listened to an interview she did with Simon Mayo, and that provided a lot of background to her interest in MI5, the "phony war" and the desperate fear on the part of the British of a "fifth column" of German sympathizers who might have turned the tide of the war had Britain been invaded as was feared.
I thought the beginning was slow and I often felt confused and mixed up names. Here's a good summary: "The novel starts in 1950 with Juliet Armstrong moving towards spinsterhood with a rather dull job producing children's educational radio shows for the BBC. A chance encounter with someone from her past in MI5 sets off a long flashback to 1940. Juliet is barely an adult when she's brought in to do secretarial work for the government as so many women did during the war. She ends up, seemingly through sheer happenstance, taking on a covert job as a transcriptionist, listening in on a British spy who is undercover among German sympathizers. It starts out as dull work but soon Juliet is roped into taking on a larger role in the operation. For a while we move back and forth between these two times, learning more about what Juliet did for MI5 during the war and following her growing paranoia a decade later as she suspects that someone is after her for what she did back then."
Atkinson inserts lots of humor and twists, and by the end I was furiously turning pages. Juliet's inner dialogue is superb. A total joy to read, albeit less straightforward than earlier works.
I'm dying to talk about this one - Laura? Bonnie after you get it?
Vivian - I ordered it and am waiting patiently? for it to arrive. I skimmed your comments but will be happy to discuss with you when I read it.
Hi Beth and Laura - I'm still thinking about Transcripton and reading all the reviews. I'm tremendously excited that Kate Atkinson is going to be in New York next week for a short book tour. The venue happens to be just a few blocks from my mother's apartment so we're going to go (next Tuesday night). I'll give a full report!
#106 The Blue Hour Laura Pritchett
Beautifully written linked short stories about a mountain town in Colorado. The suicide of one of its residents, a troubled but well-loved veterinarian, reverberates through the town and impacts all the residents. The earlier chapters are the strongest, with some weakening towards the end. Thanks to Donna for recommending - very worthwhile.
NF Robin Dave Itzkoff
Got about half-way through, just not enough interest.
Lucky you to see Kate Atkinson! Transcription just arrived in the mail. I hope to get to it in the next couple of weeks. I have a huge pile of library books, though, so we'll see. Also grading...
I just started The Sparsholt Affair, so that will keep me busy for a few days.
I've been wanting to read The Blue Hour; I really enjoyed Hell's Bottom.
I have a hard time putting a book down if I've gotten halfway. I need to get better at it. What I have started to do with library books is to read the first few pages, and if they don't grab me, I take them back.
>286 BLBera: ooh, lucky you! I'm hoping to start reading soon but I also have a library book "in transit" (but taking a while) and a book group commitment I need to get started on. Ack!
Beth - I have The Sparsholt Affair on my radar so I'll look to you for a thumbs up or down! I've never been good at DNFing books but always pledge to try harder.
Hi Laura - yes, I'm really looking forward to hearing Atkinson tomorrow. Unfortunately, it's UN week in the city and traffic is going to be horrendous. I have a commitment until 6PM and doubt whether I'll make it to the city by 7:30. I'm trying not to get anxious about it already today!
Haha Ellen - I feel the same....my list keeps growing at a faster rate than I can read. The new Kingsolver! The new Pat Barker! The new JK Rowling! The new Tana French! And meanwhile work just won't go away....
#107 Island of the Mad Laurie R King
Enjoyable if a little over the top adventure in Venice, 1925. Mary investigates a missing person and Sherlock concentrates on the new fascist regime. Mary invents water-skiing at the Lido and Sherlock provides the inspiration to Cole Porter's Let's Misbehave and Anything Goes (Porter really did live in Venice for a while). There's also a nod to Nelly Bly and a look into the Bedlam. Light and fun.
#108 Miss Kopp Just Won't Quit Amy Stewart
Another quick read, as Stewart follows historical events. The election of 1906 is underway and Deputy Kopp tries to fulfill duties as jail matron, rescue a woman committed by her husband to an insane asylum, and keep her job.
>285 vivians: - I'm a big fan of Laura Pritchett, Vivian. I still have The Blue Hour to read - it's on my shelf!
Good luck getting to the Atkinson event on time, Vivian. You'll tell us about it, right?
I'm not loving The Sparsholt Affair so far; the loves and lusts of teen boys are not that interesting to me. It is so hard for me to stop reading a book. I did it once this year with The Innovators; I got about halfway then realized I really didn't care who came up with technical innovations that made computers, internet, etc., possible.
Your comments on Island of the Mad were spot on. Light and fun describes it perfectly.
Hi Katie - agree on Pritchett.
Hi Beth - eager to hear your thoughts on the new Barker!
Last night I went to the city to hear Kate Atkinson speak on her very abbreviated US tour. The weather was horrendous (massive flooding, roads closed, pouring rain) so I took the train in. It felt like a huge ordeal of many hours and then Atkinson only spoke for about 45 minutes. I had listened to the Simon Mayo podcast last week, and her comments last night were very similar. She apologized for being "jet-laggy" but seemed sharp and funny to me. Annoyingly, the vendor ran out of Transcription (I had been intending to buy the hardback, having read the paperback edition I purchased in Amsterdam last month), but I did buy another copy of God In Ruins for her to sign.
The best news is that she announced completion (!!!) of a new Jackson Brodie novel which will be published next fall. Darn, I forgot the title. I think it had "Sky" in it. She said she had to let sufficient time pass after the Jason Isaacs BBC adaptation because she didn't want to imagine Isaacs' face (admittedly gorgeous, she said) during the writing. She noted that she rarely describes her characters in any specific way, preferring to imagine them as a blank canvas. There's another novel in the works as well, so we have lots to look forward to.
#109 A Place For Us Fatima Farheen Mirza
RL book group choice. Greatly in need of editing, this novel about an observant Muslim American Indian family received rave reviews. I thought parts were interesting, and the final section from the POV of the father was very moving, but overall I found the pacing very slow and the disjointed timeline somewhat irritating. Maybe I was just being grumpy.
Thanks for sharing your Atkinson talk, Vivian. Hooray for more Atkinson. I can't wait to get to Transcription, and I still have a collection of stories of hers and Emotionally Weird to read, so I should be set until her new work comes out.
Thanks for the comments on A Place for Us. I had been looking at that one. I think I might pass and wait for another novel from this writer.
I am loving the Barker so far.
Thanks for braving the weather and reporting back on the Atkinson event. I'm delighted to hear there's a new Jackson Brodie in the works!
I'm reading Transcription right now and enjoying it very much.
Lucky you Vivian, seeing/hearing Kate Atkinson.. I am just a little way into the Transcription because of very little reading time but I was hooked from the first page.
I love Laura Pritchett and especially loved Hell’s Bottom Colorado and The Blue Hour to a lesser extent but they were both quite good.
Hi, Vivan. I always enjoy following your current reads. Always something interesting. I was also crazy about A God in Ruins, so I am looking forward to her latest. I also enjoyed reading your thoughts on it.
I loved Hells Bottom, so I want to get to The Blue Hour. It is hard to keep up with all these promising reads.
Vivian, thanks for that exciting news about the upcoming Jackson Brodie novel. I have loved everything I've read by Atkinson but have a real soft spot for JB. I am on the library list for Transcription so that will serve as a fix in the meantime.
I am keeping all my Laura Pritchett books for a binge rereading session. It's a good thing they are fairly short. Most of the books I want to visit again are so darn long that I keep putting off my plans for a reread. Well, for that reason and the 'shiny new books' at the library excuse.
Hi, Vivian! I nearly bought a copy of Transcription when I was in London last month, but didn't, for some reason, especially since I loved Life After Life and A God in Ruins. I'll probably return to London in December, and if I do I'll pick up a copy of it then.
I'll almost certainly visit my parents in Philadelphia during Thanksgiving Week, and there is a good chance that I'll meet up with Katie in NYC while I'm there. I'll be in touch with you, Judy and others later this week, after I confirm my flight reservations, which I'll probably do tomorrow.
>294 BLBera: Glad to hear positive thoughts about the Barker. I loved the Regeneration trilogy - one of the best of the many WWI novels I've ever read.
>295 lauralkeet: Hi Laura - the whole audience cheered when Atkinson (slyly) said that a new Brodie was already written. Not sure why it will take a year to be released....
>296 brenzi: >297 msf59: >298 Donna828: Nice to hear all the Pritchett love, Bonnie, Mark and Donna.
>299 kidzdoc: Glad to hear you'll be back in NY Darryl and hope to see you there!
#110 Washington Black Esi Edugyan
I've been mulling this one over for the last few days, mostly because I wasn't quite as enthusiastic as many others. The adventures Wash experienced seemed too fantastical, from the balloon landing on a boat in storm ravaged seas to life in an igloo, and they detracted from what was to me a compelling question: were Titch's motives self-serving or was he truly helping Wash. Somehow the romping nature of the narrative was at odds with the horror of the plantation. If I consistently added stars to my reviews I would say this earned 3 1/2. Definitely a worthwhile read but not at the top of my Booker list.
DNF Confessions of the Fox Jordy Rosenberg
I think I heard about this on a podcast and it sounded intriguing. In any case, I just couldn't get past the first few pages.
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