Simone2 in 2019
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Hi I am Barbara and this will be my 4th year on Club Read.
I am from the Netherlands (Amsterdam) and are not as active on LT as I used to be. I like to keep track of my reading though with short reviews and those are what I’ll post here.
I like to read books from the 1001 list and nominated books for the Man Booker Prize and the Tournament of Books. I am also on Litsy as @BarbaraBB.
JANUARY - MARCH
1 - Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney: 5*
2 - The Hunting Gun by Yasushi Inoue: 3*
3 - Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: 4,5*
4 - Faithless by Karin Slaughter: 4*
5 - Heat Wave by Penelope Lively: 4*
6 - My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite: 4*
7 - Smile by Roddy Doyle: 4*
8 - The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey: 3,5*
9 - The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt: 4*
10 - When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: 4*
11 - Go Down Moses by William Faulkner: 1*
12 - The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea: 4,5*
13 - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: 4*
14 - The Invisible Man by HG Wells: 2*
15 - The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell: 4,5*
16 - Vathek by William Beckford: 1*
17 - Milkman by Anna Burns: 3,5*
18 - How to be Safe by Tom McAllister: 3,5*
19 - Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin: 3*
20 - Sunburn by Laura Lippman: 4*
21 - The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling: 4,5*
22 - Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout: 3,5*
23 - Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala:
Happy New Year! I'm looking forward to following your contemporary readings as well as your thoughts on 1001-books. :)
Happy New Year, Barbara! Do the Dutch go as fireworks mad as the Germans on Sylvester?
1 - Conversations with friends by Sally Rooney
I started the year with a 5* read. I absolutely loved this book. The way the four main characters act because they don’t know what the other thinks, how they misinterpret signals just to defend themselves against being vulnerable or get hurt.
Such smart people, such great conversations, and yet...
And then that ending! I guess I’m a sucker for this kind of books.
Normal People is good too but with this one, Sally Rooney definitely stole my heart.
PS Don’t let the cover fool you!
2 - The Hunting Gun by Yasushi Inoue
A man receives three letters after his mistress dies: one from her, one from her daughter and one from his wife.
The unreliability of individual perception forms the central theme of this Japanese novella, in which nothing is what it seems.
Conversations sounds better. That’s a quick two for the year. (I’ve read 35 pages so far... : ) )
3 - Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Totally worth the hype, this gorgeously written story about the wild and beautiful Kya, who grows up (abandoned by her family) in the marsh outside a small town in NC. Sometimes she meets one of the town boys because she needs company and love, but she’s also naïve. A bit predictable maybe but the writing is so good that I didn’t mind at all.
>13 dchaikin: I loved Conversations but I know some people think it too adolescent - contrary to her other novel. Anyhow, I’m wishing you a good reading year. Are you finished with García Márquez and moving on to Baldwin?
>15 Simone2: yes! Reading a biography of Baldwin, which is making me anxious to read his actual writing.
Boom! Straight in with some book bullets!! Noting Conversations with Friends especially.
>17 AlisonY: I hope you’ll get to it and like it. It gets mixed reviews but I was really touched by it. The Crawdads is great too!
4 - Faithless by Karin Slaughter
I loved this installment of Karin Slaughter’s Grant County series. It was so much better than the 3th and 4th! This one is about a religious community where strange things happen and no one wants to talk. Of course there is a gruesome murder, but also lots of twists and strong characters. My favorite Sara Linton book so far! One more book to go.
5 - Heat Wave by Penelope Lively
How she can write, Penelope Lively. Like Moon Tiger, this is a book about a woman, looking back at her life. Pauline shares her house one Summer with her daughter, her husband and their child. Watching her daughter, Pauline remembers her own marriage. She wishes she could protect her daughter from making the same mistakes she did. A very intelligent read in my opinion. Highly recommended.
6 - My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
I really enjoyed this story. It’s a quick and easy read about a young woman who literally cleans up the mess her sister makes of her life and her lovers. Despite the dark subject it is light and funny and bittersweet. It is definitely a typical Tournament of Books read: highly original.
7 - Smile by Roddy Doyle
Roddy Doyle used to be one of my favorite authors when I was young. I had forgotten all about him though until I came across this new book of his. And he still knows how to deliver.
This is the shocking story of Victor, a middle-aged Irish man trying to get his life together after his wife leaves him. In the pub he meets a man he went to school with although he doesn’t remember the man. Or does he?
>23 Simone2: funny, I've not read anything by Roddy Doyle either for 20 years, and I used to read loads of his books.
Did his writing still appeal with the passing of time, or is this writing that particularly draws us in our youth? I don't know why I've not gone near him for so long, given how many of his books I read in my 20s.
>24 japaul22: I loved Moon Tiger too and was disappointed in another of her books (The Photograph), but this one is as good as Moon Tiger. I hope you’ll read it one day!
>25 RidgewayGirl: Doyle still writes well indeed. I really liked My Sister the Serial Killer, I am curious which book it will meet in the brackets.
>26 AlisonY: I have to admit reading Doyle is a bit nostalgic but in the end he blew me away like he used to. It is a short one, you can read it in one go ;)
8 - The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
I was pleasantly surprised by this sweet, feel good story about a childless couple who move to Alaska, where a mysterious little girl appears in their life. Is she real or is she a snow fairy? The plot is nice, the descriptions of Alaska are very good.
9 - The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt
Eli Sister is one if the infamous Sisters brothers, hitmen. On horsebacks on their way from Oregon to gold digging California, this may seem a cliché western novel, but it‘s so much more. Eli is the softer of the brothers and he is a fantastic narrator, who thinks of life, the world around him and his role in it. A great read, funny and sad.
10 - When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
He would be famous neurosurgeon, but it went different. Paul Kalanithi died of cancer at 37 years old.
The way he approaches the diagnosis is very scientific, probably the only way for him to deal with the situation. I can understand but it made this a difficult read for me as it felt very detached. The epilogue by his wife was heartbreaking though. How I wish for a world without cancer.
>31 Simone2: I've skirted around this book for a while, wondering whether or not to put it on my wish list. It sounds like a sad read, and I'm struggling to get past that point at the moment.
11- Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner
I couldn’t finish this one, I couldn’t even read it. The short stories in this book together form a novel. I started each story but finished none. It’s me, I know. I loved Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, but now the typical Mississippi accent just irritated me (reading English is difficult enough as it is). So no, not for me.
Haven’t read Faulkner. Scared to (although I’ve convinced myself I’ll try very hard sometime. Huge influence on Toni Morrison and Gabriel García Márquez, among numerous others.) I have an old hardcover of Go Down, Moses lying around. Not tempted at the moment.
12 - The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
What a storyteller Urrea is. All these stories come together during the last birthday of Big Angel, who is dying of cancer. Surrounded by his family and neighbours, all with their own Mexican roots and their lives in the US. It is a cacophony of voices, sad and hilarious but full of love.
>36 dchaikin: I can imagine. You’ve got enough hard reads as it is, I think, with your ambitious projects!
13 - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I’d never would have thought so, but I really enjoyed this delightful and enchanting novel.
There’s a magical circus that’s beyond imagination and that I’d love to visit - and there are two old magicians who let their protégés outwit eachother on this stage. Fantasy? Yes. And ghosts and yet I loved it!
>39 Simone2: now you've intrigued me, as I also didn't think I'd enjoy this book for the same reason. You've piqued my interest!
>39 Simone2: I loved this book. Sadly I didn't keep even basic notes about my reading back then, but I think I was simply enchanted.
>40 AlisonY: You should try it Alison, it was really such a pleasant surprise! By the way I just started Milkman, have you read that one?
>41 auntmarge64: Thank you Marge, that’s nice to know. I’ve starred your thread as well!
>42 rhian_of_oz: Enchanting really decribes it best, don’t you think? It is a circus that will stay with me for a long time I think!
14 - The Invisible Man by HG Wells
Griffin was a brilliant medical student who discovered how to turn invisible. He wants to use this superpower to terrorize people. He confides in his old friend Kemp who tries to stop him.
I really didn’t care for this book, its plot or its characters.
Milkman - I almost selected an audiobook copy last night but talked myself out of it. (Narration sample seemed only ok). Will keep an eye out for your post.
15 - The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell
In one timeline, Lexie is living the life in post-war Soho, London, with the charismatic editor Innes. In the other timeline Elina and Ted are trying to adapt to the changes a firstborn brings.
It’s not immediately clear how the storylines relate but that didn’t matter to me: I loved them both, I loved both female characters, I loved their thoughts on motherhood. Maggie O’Farrell now definitely has become a favorite author of mine.
>48 AlisonY: She really is. She is from Northern Ireland by the way. Which is the reason I mentioned Milkman earlier to you. I am reading that one now and kind of blown away by it but you should read Ridgeway Girl’s recent review of it in her thread, that says it all and way better than I ever could!
>46 dchaikin: My review will follow but as I mentioned above, just read Kay’s and you’ll know all :)
16 - Vathek by William Beckford
Vathek, ninth Caliph of the race of the Abassides, is tempted by a supernatural being (‘the Giaour’), who promises to bestow on him the treasures and talismans of the ‘palace of subterranean fire’. Encouraged by his ambitious mother, the sorceress Carathis, Vathek embarks on a journey through exotic landscapes and begins a descent into hell. It is kind of a fairy tale that mixes eastern mythology and Islamic culture.
The book may be worth reading only for its historic value or if you’re a hardcore fan of weird gothic/fantasy, which I am not.
>50 Simone2: safely no fear of a book bullet with this one :) Kudos for finishing it.
17 - Milkman by Anna Burns
“... that I came to understand how much I’d been closed down, how much I’d been thwarted into a carefully constructed nothingness by that man.”
Was it really so hard, living in Belfast during the Troubles? I had no idea. Middle Sister’s live is aimed at survival. Nearly-Boyfriend is her saviour but then Milkman appears, the paramilitair who stalks her.
The book is wonderful but difficult to read. I had a hard time staying focussed. Yet I really admire Middle Sister and Anna Burns.
18 - How to be Safe by Tom McAllister
All those guns and mass shootings in the States... This book is called a satire but I found it pretty depressing.
The narrator is a woman who gets a bit paranoid after a school shooting in her hometown. She doesn’t know how to feel safe anymore in a world where violence is responded to with more violence or the threat of it.
>47 Simone2: This sounds interesting. I've put it on my list at the library. Thanks!
19 - Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
Aviva has a relation with a congressman and of course she’s the one to blame when they are caught and all comes out in the open. She starts anew as Jane Young in Maine. The story is told from different POVs, which is quite nice.
It’s the perfect book to read in the plane and kick off my vacation but it’s a bit too fluffy and chicklit to my taste.
20 - Sunburn by Laura Lippman
The perfect beach read, this noir thriller which was fun to read with lots of twists that didn’t disappoint.
I also liked the American character of this novel, I’d love to pay a visit to this small town in Delaware, drink a beer in the High-Ho with Polly and eat some of Adam’s famous meals while listening to the jukebox.
21 - The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling
I didn’t expect much of this book since it got such mixed review but I ended up loving it. I think this is partly due to the fact that I could relate deeply to the main character, a mother struggling to deal with herself, her toddler and motherhood. I remember so well being that young mother. Also I loved the writing style and the plot so yes, another favorite on the ToB shortlist.
22 - Olive Kitteridge by Elisabeth Strout
All stories in this book are more or less centered around Olive Kitteridge, a local teacher, one with character. Tormented by menopause and aging she makes life hard for her son, husband, students and herself. Not in the least because she can’t show any vulnerability. She seems so hard while we as readers know better. Another impressive book by Strout, although I keep preferring My Name is Lucy Barton!
I'm glad you liked The Golden State. I wonder if the mixed reviews are largely down to how each reader feels about how Kiesling handled the monotony of being the mother of a young child.
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