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RidgewayGirl Reads Books in 2019 - Part Three

This is a continuation of the topic RidgewayGirl Reads Books in 2019 - Part Two.

2019 Category Challenge

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Edited: Dec 31, 2019, 12:32pm Top

Roughly halfway through the year seems a good time to start a new thread, especially since I need to catch up on reviews. The Tournament of Books Summer Reading Challenge is underway, my two favorite booksales happen in August (when I will bid farewell to reading as many of my own books as I bring home) and the Decatur Book Festival takes place on Labor Day weekend - a book festival I have been looking forward to since drive home from it last year.

Let's hit the road!

Currently Reading

Recently Read

Recently Acquired (fine additions to the tbr)

Books obtained: 94 -- I was very good at the book sales this year, even if the numbers say differently.

Owned books read: 46 -- Yay!

Library books read: 59 -- the goal of reading at least 50% of my own books is not off to a great start.

NetGalley: 22 -- not sure yet whether this was a good idea or not.

Edited: Dec 16, 2019, 1:47pm Top

Category One.

Around the World

Create Your Own Visited Countries Map

1. Lying In Wait by Liz Nugent (Ireland)
2. Seventeen by Hideo Yokoyama, translated from the Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai (Japan)
3. The Death of Noah Glass by Gail Jones (Australia)
4. The Years by Annie Ernaux, translated from the French by Alison L. Strayer (France)
5. The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag, translated from the Swedish by Ebba Segerberg (Sweden)
6. Klotsvog by Margarita Khemlin, translated from the Russian by Lisa Hayden (Russia/Ukraine)
7. The Ditch by Herman Koch, translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett (Netherlands)
8. Afterwards by Rachel Seiffert (United Kingdom)
9. The Tiger's Wife by Teá Obreht (Yugoslavia, now Serbia)
10. Berlin Noir edited by Thomas Wörtche, translated from the German by Lucy Jones (Germany)
11. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Poland)

Edited: Dec 10, 2019, 8:43am Top

Category Three.

Expats, Immigrants and Works in Translation

1. A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen
2. Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell
3. Children of the Ghetto: My Name is Adam by Elias Khoury, translated from the Arabic by Humphrey Davies
4. Second Person Singular by Sayed Kashua, translated from the Hebrew by Mitch Ginsburg
5. Dawn: Stories by Selahattin Demirtas, translated from the Turkish by Amy Marie Spangler and Kate Ferguson
6. Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
7. The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon
8. On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
9. Akin by Emma Donoghue
10. Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
11. The Unpassing by Chia-Chia Lin

Edited: Dec 10, 2019, 8:18pm Top

Category Seven.

CATs and My Book Club

1. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (RandomCAT and book club)
2. American Pop by Snowden Wright (book club)
3. Staff Picks by George Singleton (book club)
4. First Execution by Domenico Starnone, translated from the Italian by Antony Shugaar (June TBRCAT)
5. Past Tense by Lee Child (July RandomCAT)
6. The Topeka School by Ben Lerner (August RandomCAT)
7. Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout (September RandomCAT)
8. Lightning Men by Thomas Mullen (October SeriesCAT)
9. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (October RandomCAT)
10. Over the Plain Houses by Julia Franks (October TBRCAT)
11. Reproduction by Ian Williams (December RandomCAT)

Edited: Dec 27, 2019, 1:26pm Top

Pop Sugar Reading Challenge 2019

1 - A book becoming a movie in 2019 -- Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
2 - A book that makes you nostalgic -- The Years by Annie Ernaux
3 - A book written by a musician (fiction or nonfiction)
4 - A book you think should be turned into a movie -- My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
5 - A book with at least one million ratings on Goodreads
6 - A book with a plant in the title or on the cover -- Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
7 - A reread of a favorite book
8 - A book about a hobby -- Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken
9 - A book you meant to read in 2018 -- Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
10 - A book with "pop", "sugar" or "challenge" in the title -- American Pop by Snowden Wright
11 - A book with an item of clothing or accessory on the cover -- Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
12 - a book inspired by mythology, legend or folklore -- The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
13 - A book published posthumously
14 - a book you see someone reading on TV or in a movie
15 - A retelling of a classic
16 - A book with a question in the title -- Who's That Girl? by Mhairi McFarlane
17 - A book set on a college or university campus -- The Altruists by Andrew Ridker
18 - a book about someone with a super power -- Golden State by Ben H. Winters
19 - a book told from multiple POVs -- Make Me a City by Jonathan Carr
20 - a book set in space
21 - a book by two female authors -- Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell
22 - A book with a title that contains "salty", "sweet", "bitter" or "spicy"
23 - A book set in Scandinavia -- The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag
24 - a book that takes place in a single day -- All This Could Be Yours by Jami Attenberg
25 - a debut novel -- Our Man in the Dark by Rashad Harrison
26 - a book that's published in 2019 -- East of England by Eamonn Griffin
27 - a book featuring an extinct or imaginary creature -- Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
28 - a book recommended by a celebrity you admire
29 - a book with "love" in the title
30 - a book featuring an amateur detective -- The Wolf Wants In by Laura McHugh
31 - A book about a family -- A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen
32 - A book written by an author from Asia, Africa or South America -- Seventeen by Hideo Yokoyama
33 - A book with a zodiac sign or astrology term in the title
34 - a book that includes a wedding -- Ways to Hide in Winter by Sarah St. Vincent
35 - A book by an author whose first and last names start with the same letter -- Snap by Belinda Bauer
36 - A ghost story
37 - a book with a two-word title -- Desert Fabuloso by Lisa Lovenheim
38 - A novel based on a true story -- On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
39 - A book revolving around a puzzle or game -- Past Tense by Lee Child
40 - Your favorite prompt from a past Popsugar Reading Challenge

Jul 8, 2019, 12:34pm Top

And my new thread is open for business, including the business of catching up on reviews. Which I will be doing now-ish...

Jul 8, 2019, 2:10pm Top

Happy new thread, Kay! Those pictures are so very atmospheric!

Jul 8, 2019, 2:35pm Top

Happy new thread! You've had some great reading so far this year!

Jul 8, 2019, 2:59pm Top

Congrats on at least making it halfway through the year reading just as many books as you brought in. It's funny how one good book sale can just throw everything off. :)

Jul 8, 2019, 3:38pm Top

Happy new thread! Very striking black and white photos.

Jul 8, 2019, 4:10pm Top

Thank you all!

And here's the answer, at long last, to that burning question we all have as we plan our summer holidays:


Jul 8, 2019, 5:11pm Top

>20 RidgewayGirl: Thanks for sharing! Thank goodness for ebooks so you can safely have well over the recommended amount just in case. I tend to have two physical books though just in case and usually end up reading those first. I may have to bump that up though as I'll be flying to Hawaii soon and the eight hour flight might require an extra book or two. :)

Jul 8, 2019, 5:15pm Top

>21 LittleTaiko: Not to mention the danger of a delay or a canceled flight! Enjoy Hawai'i!

Jul 8, 2019, 5:29pm Top

Sarah and David fall in love. They break up for reasons that remain unclear, but fraught. It's an ordinary story, but supercharged because they are both in a competitive performing arts high school, both as drama students, in a small group that feeds on heightened emotion. And then there's the head drama teacher, who is very involved in the lives of his students.

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi begins with this story, one that reminded me of Eleanor Catton's The Rehearsal, but twists at the mid-point into a very different book that takes the events of the first half and examines them from a different viewpoint, casting doubt on the reliability of what is communicated in the first half, and an unavoidable skepticism about the events of the second half, taking place when the characters are much older.

I do love it when an author invites the reader to recognize that what they are reading is fiction and to play around with what is and isn't real within both the fictional world they've created and the world of the author writing a book. Choi manages to do this and to maintain interest in what happens to her characters. I was fascinated with what the author was doing and I'm going to be reading whatever she writes next.

Jul 9, 2019, 1:39am Top

>20 RidgewayGirl: that did make me smile! I tend to take more than I think I will need, unless I know there's a source of books where I'm going. I've never yet (fingers crossed) run out of books while travelling.

Jul 9, 2019, 7:25am Top

Happy New Thread, Kay! I'm one who always worries about how many books are too many to take. So glad I can now do ebooks from the library and other places. I can remember having almost more books than clothes on some vacations.

Jul 9, 2019, 10:28am Top

>24 Helenliz: I got stuck once in a long line at the post office without anything to read. The residual effects of that ensure that there is always a book with me! And, yes, I usually end up bringing more books than I read, especially given that I will hunt down bookstores wherever I go.

>25 dudes22: Betty, don't forget to bring a physical book (or six). What if your ereader chooses the start of your vacation to die?

Edited: Jul 9, 2019, 11:00am Top

What if your ereader chooses the start of your vacation to die?

This happened to me once with my Kindle and it was traumatic. It was probably the first I ever had and the online support said it would reset. Not on only could I not reset it, neither could the IT person I was traveling with. I have never traveled again without both. I like trade paper backs and if I don't have one in the TBR I actually go to the bookstore a few days before leaving and shop for a few to take. As I told my brother once, I know all the things that are wrong with this but I'm still going to do it.

Jul 9, 2019, 11:06am Top

clue, the same thing happened to me. My trusty old kindle died decisively on the second day of a two week trip. It was a sad, sad moment. So now I pack my iPad, loaded with all the books I might want to read, AND all the physical books needed for the length of the trip.

Edited: Jul 9, 2019, 11:54am Top

Rachel is taking care of her writing prof's poodle in exchange for a good grade. She also slept with him, but because she wanted to, not for an A. She takes the dog home for the summer, where her mother is still adjusting to life without her husband, who has left her to live in Tribeca with an airline pilot. Zahid, the writing professor, had a successful debut novel but he's spent the advance for his second novel long ago and now needs to find a new teaching position, so he sub-lets his apartment to the sister of his best friend, a woman who works in the male-dominated world of finance.

Very Nice is a short novel with many characters, all of whom get to be the centers of their own chapters. And the novel has a broad reach, from dissatisfaction in an affluent commuter town, to the misogynistic reaches of New York finance, to the inner workings of publishing and academia. So it shouldn't work. The characters should be one-dimensional. And yet, Marcy Dermansky manages to pull it all off. There are a ton of characters, all of them behaving in the most outrageous of ways, yet they all feel very human. Zahid may be sleeping with the mother of the student he once slept with, and to be angling very hard to become her kept man, but somehow I couldn't not be pleased when his writing was going well. Dermansky has a talent for connecting her characters to the reader very quickly, regardless of what kind of self-destructive behavior they are engaged in or how selfish they are and here that talent is able to take a large collection of characters, all behaving badly, in a wide variety of situations, and make a cohesive novel out of it. I do prefer it the intense experience she creates when keeping her writing tightly focused on a single character (The Red Car is a fantastic book) but with Very Nice, Dermansky set her difficulty rating much higher and landed every jump.

Jul 9, 2019, 6:19pm Top

>20 RidgewayGirl: Happy new thread! Thanks for sharing the article. My rule of thumb is at least four print books of varying sizes and genres, plus a few audios, plus a few public-domain ebooks, plus magazines on my iPad.

For visits to my parents, I've managed to knock it down to one print book, max, for the trip down, so that I can raid their bookshelves while I'm visiting.

Jul 10, 2019, 7:41am Top

I do also take a few books with me and don't rely on my e-reader. Luckily, the place we go in Mexico has a take-one/leave-one shelf of books and in the US, I can usually find a used book store or can check out a local library for their FOL sale shelf. We're going to Fla for a longer time next year and going from there directly to Mexico, so I'm already trying to decide what I should take for physical books which I prefer, actually. That's why I still have books that have been hanging around for years unread on my e-reader.

Jul 10, 2019, 12:31pm Top

Happy new thread, Kay. Your opening pictures are giving me a definite desire to pick up a noir mystery! As for >27 clue: & >28 RidgewayGirl: : this is one of the reasons I have multiple Kindles and always travel with at least 2!

Jul 11, 2019, 4:00pm Top

>30 rabbitprincess: My Dad raids my shelves, although I make it easy for him now and just pull out books I think might appeal to him. He did drop by to give me Tony Horowitz's last book the other day, so there is some reciprocation. And no matter how many bookstore visits are scheduled, I still somehow always pack as though there is no possibility of obtaining books during the trip and also we might all be stranded there for reasons unknown.

>31 dudes22: How has the take-one/leave-one shelf been for you? There was one of those in a vacation rental last year and it's the entire reason I finally read Lonesome Dove (I had brought plenty of books with me, but a book on the shelf is more attractive than the book in the suitcase).

>32 DeltaQueen50: It's always time for a noir!

Edited: Jul 11, 2019, 5:09pm Top

When her husband invites home for dinner a man she knew in high school, 37 year old Maddie is jolted out of her comfortable world of being a Jewish housewife and mother to a teenage son. It's 1966, Baltimore is changing and Maddie wants to be out in the world, living. She moves out, gets an apartment and a secret lover and decides that she wants to become a journalist. But she's too old and the wrong gender to get a job at a newspaper the traditional way, so when the disappearance of a little girl gives her an opportunity, she grabs it. But when her dream job turns into her being a glorified secretary, she finds another missing persons case to dig into, a woman whose body is found dumped in a public fountain. But Maddie is an outsider just learning her job there are people who have a vested interest in keeping her quiet.

Maddie is a fantastic character. She's by turns yearning and manipulative, honest and willing to do what it takes to get what she wants, independent and insecure. I'm not sure I'd like her if I met her, but she is a fascinating person to follow around.

Laura Lippman is that rare kind of bestseller writer, the kind that is constantly improving their work. She's always been good at putting together a suspenseful plot and paired that with solid writing, but she's been expanding her reach. Yes, The Lady in the Lake is set in Baltimore, as most of Lippman's books are, but this one deals with both Civil Rights issues and political corruption. There's a lot more depth here than usual and Lippman is up for it, writing a crime novel that works well in its genre, while also providing a novel rich in historical detail and nuanced characters.

Jul 11, 2019, 5:10pm Top

>33 RidgewayGirl: - Last year I got Ordinary Grace by William Ken Krueger which turned out to be my best read of the year and a couple of Craig Johnson's Longmire series that I didn't have. Since e-books, it's not as good as it used to be - they've gone from 2 bookshelves to just 2 shelves (they're using the room it used to be in for something else), but usually I find something.

Jul 12, 2019, 7:07pm Top

>35 dudes22: I would be so worried that my only options would be the Twilight series and a bunch of back issues of Gun & Garden magazine.

Jul 12, 2019, 7:20pm Top

In a remote Mennonite community in South America, women, girls and even toddlers are waking up with unexplained injuries and coming down with inexplicable STDs. The leader of the community explains it to them that they were violated by demons as the consequences of their own sin, but it is eventually discovered that some of the men are drugging the women and then raping them while they are unconscious. Despite all efforts, the attacks continue until outside authorities are brought in. They arrest the rapists and take them to the city, but the remaining men decide that the best course of action is to go bail the men out and bring them back to the community. During the men's absence, the women come together to discuss what they can do. Women Talking by Miriam Toews is an account of those meetings.

The most terrifying aspect of this novel is that it is based on true events.

Toews presents a group ill-prepared for life outside of the Mennonite community. Unlike men, who receive a very basic education, the women are illiterate and don't even know what lies beyond their own lands. They know that they will be expected to forgive the attackers and struggle with whether this is even possible. This is a thoughtful book, carefully representing a faith community that is little known to outsiders. It's also a very quiet, contained novel, despite the lurid subject matter. In the end, the question the women must collectively decide is whether to stay or to leave, and as they grapple with the possible consequences of both actions, a slow consensus builds.

Jul 13, 2019, 4:45pm Top

So Jack Reacher is doing his thing, hitchhiking around, this time heading south for the winter, when he's dropped off in the town his father grew up in. He's a little curious, so he does a little research, which makes him a little more curious. Along the way to satisfying his curiosity, Reacher will play match-maker, learn some things about his father, and interrupt some very bad men, one of whom shares his name.

If you've read any of Lee Child's novels, you'll know exactly what you're getting into. In Past Tense everything is exactly where it's supposed to be. I was disappointed to have correctly figured out what the bad guys were up to immediately, but the contents of a mysterious suitcase were a surprise. I don't know whether it's this installment of Reacher's adventures, or me just being very slow to pick up on this, but many of the characters just happened to share Reacher's unique way of talking and of interpreting the world around him. I've never met anyone like that, and here pretty much everyone in the town shared his unusual way of explaining things. Still, it was a highly enjoyable bit of escapist reading.

Edited: Jul 16, 2019, 7:22pm Top

I picked up John Jay Osborn's Listen to the Marriage off of my local library's New Books shelf based on the cover art and the concept -- that this is a novel set in a marriage counselor's office and centers on a single, troubled marriage. And, as happens most of the time when I chose a book this way, the experience of reading this book was decidedly mixed.

Gretchen and Steve are separated, contemplating divorce. Steve's a high powered executive and Gretchen is a university professor. They have two kids. Steve had an affair and Gretchen feels he can't be trusted. Over an extended length of time they meet weekly with Sandy, a somewhat unconventional therapist. In the right hands, this could have been a fascinating character study and a look at what it means to move toward divorce, but the author sticks to the surfaces of his characters. Steve reforms immediately, becoming a dedicated father and thoughtful partner all at once. The entire tension of the novel rests on whether or not Gretchen can forgive Steve enough to move back in with him. They're rich and privileged, in ways that reduce the potential tension of the story -- when Gretchen worries about money, Steve hands her a check for two hundred thousand dollars, childcare is easy with Steve's parents always willing and available.

Still, it's interesting to eavesdrop on marriage therapy, even if I'm not convinced that the therapist's methods were based on any actual therapeutical practices. I did move from being very interested into wishing the sessions were less repetitive, less rehashing of familiar ground. And the writing was straight-forward, with an old-fashioned feel to it that made the novel feel like it could have been set anytime in the past fifty years.

Jul 16, 2019, 8:30pm Top

>39 RidgewayGirl: When I saw "John Jay Osborn" I was shocked, truly shocked. I thought John Jay died years ago. I have known some of his family, particularly a cousin he was very close to. It's odd because I've been thinking about her lately, and wondering if she had moved because I haven't seen or heard anything about her for several years. She really loved him and told the funniest stories about him.

John Jay grew up in the small town of Paris, Arkansas about 40 miles from where I live. You've probably read about him, Harvard law school and very successful with his first book The Paper Chase, it was also a successful TV series.

Of course I'll read this although it doesn't sound like something I'll be particularly interested in. I just read online that he based it on his own marriage counseling. He is probably rather wealthy now, his family was pretty well off and as a successful California lawyer I would think giving his wife $200,000 might be something he could do.

Jul 16, 2019, 10:11pm Top

>40 clue: How very interesting. I wonder if the book would have worked better as a work of non-fiction?

Edited: Jul 17, 2019, 5:14pm Top

Friday Black is the debut short story collection by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. It received a lot of attention and appeared on several "best books of 2018" lists. So as someone who likes short stories and is a sucker for a good book list, I picked up a copy. It really is as good as the hype makes it out to be. The first story, The Finkelstein 5, hits with all the force of a chain saw swung through the air and then immediately follows with an entirely different, but also powerful story called Things My Mother Said.

Many of the stories are set in versions of a dystopian future America and concern events like a Black Friday sale gone violent, a man who works for a company that provides people to engage in live action role-play involving seeing a strange black guy in your neighborhood and a bleak, apocalyptic tale of people having to return to a specific time and place over and over again.

I was impressed with this collection and I look forward to reading more by Adjei-Brenyah.

Jul 18, 2019, 12:40pm Top

When Violet Rue Kerrigan is twelve, she comes downstairs in the middle of the night to hear a confusing conversation between two of her older brothers. It will be a few days before she puts together the pieces of a conversation about fixing a car and hiding a baseball bat with the murder of a black high school student. The Kerrigans are a large Irish family with an unpredictable father, whose moods are carefully monitored by the rest of the family, especially by Violet's mother and sisters. Her brothers are rapidly becoming as domineering and prone to violence, although they still defer to their father. As their family, along with the working class Irish Catholic community as a whole, draw together to protect the boys, Violet is feeling increasingly unsafe around her brothers, a fear she shares with a teacher in a vulnerable moment. That moment will shatter Violet's life.

Joyce Carol Oates writes best when she's describing the experience of being a girl growing up in dysfunctional patriarchal households, of being unsafe and knowing that the very men that you love can easily do you great harm, and often do. With My Life as a Rat, JCO is writing to her strengths and the result is a powerful and emotionally resonant novel about belonging, identity and resilience. I don't think I've ever read anything that so perfectly explains why an abused child will desperately try to return to the very environment that endangers her. JCO's singular writing style is perfectly suited to the voice of Violet Rue and while this isn't a novel that pulls any punches with what happens to children removed from whatever security they may have known and the battles Violet wages just to survive, she also tempers this all with grace notes and moments where Violet discovers that she's stronger than she thought she was.

This may well be my favorite work by this author.

Jul 19, 2019, 6:25am Top

>43 RidgewayGirl: Have read a couple of Oates and they were meh; but not so bad that I would not give her another try. This book goes on my WL. Great review!

Jul 19, 2019, 1:27pm Top

>44 Tess_W: Tess, it took me a long time to warm up to JCO. But there was a reader I admired who is a fan and she pushed me into trying different kinds of her work -- she so enormously prolific and writes on such a variety of subjects. I started liking her writing after reading some of her short stories.

Edited: Jul 19, 2019, 5:40pm Top

Andrew and Eric take their eight-year-old daughter and go on vacation in an isolated cabin on a scenic lake in New Hampshire they're anticipating nothing more than time to unwind, to live without wifi or their phones, to let Wen goof around outside without constant supervision. But they've barely settled in when a man shows up on foot and starts a conversation with Wen, who is in the front yard catching grasshoppers. By the time she runs to tell her parents about the man outside, it's too late.

I picked this up after seeing mentions of how very scary this book is. Horror is hit or miss with me, and usually it misses. It's either so over the top I stop being scared and start to roll my eyes, or it's just not that scary. The Cabin at the End of the World leans towards both simultaneously and so sort of worked for me. Not in the sense that I was scared, but I was interested in what was going to happen next that I kept turning the pages. This is a home invasion story with a twist; the four intruders come armed with the most terrifying weapons imaginable (kudos to Paul Tremblay for thinking up those nightmare-worthy objects) and they are utterly convinced that the world will end unless the family does a horrific thing. These aren't monsters taking pleasure in causing pain, these are true believers. Tremblay does a good job of walking the fine line between presenting the intruders as delusional and of presenting them as being correct. He leaves enough room for the reader to interpret the events how they choose and he ends the book at the exactly right moment. If your secret fear is of being the target of a home invasion, this book will probably be terrifying in all the right ways.

Jul 20, 2019, 11:56am Top

>46 RidgewayGirl: Horror stories work much the same way with me as they do with you, nevertheless, it seems I can't stop reading them! I haven't read this author before although I do have one of his on my Kindle, after reading your thoughts it will soon be two on my Kindle. :)

Jul 20, 2019, 1:57pm Top

>47 DeltaQueen50: And yet hope really does spring eternal and I keep looking for a book that will frighten me the way The Amityville Horror did the summer I was fourteen.

The first chapters of The Body Lies by Jo Baker had more rising menace than any horror novel I've read recently. I was reading it late at night while my husband is on a business trip and I had to set it aside as I was getting too frightened. It was lovely.

Edited: Jul 22, 2019, 6:14pm Top

Marianne writes poetry, but given how lucrative that is, mainly she teaches in an elementary school. When her landlord cancels her lease, her ex-fiance jumps in with a job offer - to be the administrator of a writing program run out of his aunt's defunct motel outside of Sarasota, Florida. With Eric's hedge fund manager brother handling the finances, and Eric joining her later as the fiction teacher, Marianne grabs the opportunity. The thing they think will make this program successful is that they are aiming it at people who want to write inspirational books.

Quickly, things become complex. There are so many more applications than Marianne had anticipated, it's harder than expected to find teachers for the non-fiction and poetry courses and the motel is falling down around her.

The Gulf by Belle Boggs could easily have stuck with making this novel a funny send-up of low residency writing courses and the kind of writers who find themselves making a living teaching people whose work will likely never be publishable, or the ambitious yet gullible students. It is that, a little, but mostly it's about Marianne finding out that she likes some of the students, from the middle-aged home ec teacher who writes poetry about Terri Schiavo, to the R&B singer looking for a new start after he loses control of his own fame. The Gulf is both funny and insightful, razor-sharp and heartfelt.

Jul 22, 2019, 7:26pm Top

That sounds really interesting, so BB. I ran a writer's group years ago and there should be a good story just in the kooky stuff people want to get published. Thanks for the review!

Jul 23, 2019, 9:15am Top

>49 RidgewayGirl: And that's yet another one on the wishlist! (it is creaking at the seams now!)

Jul 27, 2019, 9:25am Top

>50 mstrust: Writing groups of various kinds do provide ample inspiration for a novel. The next book I read, The Body Lies, is about a woman who gets a job teaching creative writing at a small university. I could probably fill my reading time entirely with books set in writers' retreats, MFA programs and writing groups.

Jackie, it's very important to have a long and varied wishlist. Imagine - there are people who have trouble finding a book to read. Fortunately, we do not.

Jul 28, 2019, 4:49pm Top

While pregnant, a young woman is mugged by a stranger as she walks home from work late one winter afternoon. While the physical damage is minimal, she no longer feels safe. When her child is a toddler and it's time for her to return to work, she applies and gets a job teaching at a university in the north of England. Her husband is unwilling to follow her and so they begin a sort of half-relationship where he drives up on weekends and holidays, while she and her son settle in to an isolated cottage. She's quickly in over her head at the college, as the head of the department keeps adding to her workload. Her main class is a graduate course on creative writing, where she is shepherding a small group of aspiring writers, one of whom quickly begins to behave inappropriately.

The Body Lies has such a sense of menace and foreboding about it that I often had to set it aside when reading it late at night. Yet, that sense of menace is so subtly created that I questioned, along with the main character, whether there was any reason for my sense of dread. Jo Baker does a fantastic job of writing a thriller. But there's more to it than the usual "woman in peril" trope. Baker examines misogyny from several directions, from the way women are written about, to how women are conditioned to downplay harassment and to not make a fuss. Her scenes set during the creative writing seminars were brilliant, as was her depiction of a woman growing ever more exhausted as she attempts to cope with all the challenges of an overloaded work schedule and the demands of raising a toddler.

Edited: Jul 29, 2019, 5:47pm Top

Maya Klotsvog is just doing what she needs to to get by, to get ahead, to have a moment to herself, to put a little aside against the hard times. She's living the Soviet Union, in Kiev, and her passport marks her as a Jew. She spent the war in exile in Kazakhstan and she's all too aware of the precariousness of life for those of Jewish descent in the Soviet Union. She also knows that she's going to have to do what is needed to get ahead.

As Maya narrates her own story, it's clear that she's massaging the details, of her first relationship, then her hasty marriage to her boss, a sad man who lost his entire family to the Nazis, then her second marriage, and the next relationship, meant to make things just a little easier. Maya is self-centered and manipulative, using her beauty to avoid working, or to improve her circumstances, but she uses her relentlessness in service to her family occasionally as well and I was left with the impression of having read about one of the few personality types that could improve their circumstances under an intolerable regime. Just because she left a trail of destroyed lives behind her is no reason not to root for Maya to finally get what she wants, at least until she sees something else.

Margarita Khemlin was a Jewish-Ukrainian novelist and short story writer whose work has not been widely available outside of the former Soviet Union. Columbia University Press has begun publishing untranslated works under the Russian Library imprint. Klotsvog is both a fascinating character study and a stark look a what ordinary life looked like in the middle of the last century in the Soviet Union.

Jul 29, 2019, 6:13pm Top

<54 I love stories by Russian authors. This goes on my wishlist!

Aug 1, 2019, 3:12pm Top

Having been generously given a copy of Good Omens and since there's a mini-series and all, I finally read it. Clearly, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman had a fantastic time writing this funny novel about the apocalypse. There are an angel and a demon who have become something approaching friends after a few millennia of being co-workers of a sort, each assigned to the same task of influencing humans. There's a socially awkward witch finder, who meets an actual witch and falls in love. And there's the Antichrist, who having been accidentally given to the wrong family, heads up a small gang who specialize in annoying the vicar and in generally wholesome hijinks.

Good Omens is fun. It isn't deep or important or breaking new ground, but it is a solidly told story with some very funny sentences here and there. It's certainly dated, but in the kind of way that adds to it's charms.

Aug 1, 2019, 8:16pm Top

>56 RidgewayGirl: I read this in university and don't remember a lot about it. But now that I have Michael Sheen and David Tennant to picture for the protagonists, I just might have to read it again.

Aug 2, 2019, 9:01am Top

>57 rabbitprincess: I started watching the miniseries last night and it's fun. The first episode stuck closely to the book, but I'm hoping there will be differences to come as the most interesting part of watching an adaptation is seeing how the visual version differs and figuring out why.

The best instance of this is the BBC adaptation of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which stuck very closely to the story (and perfectly cast Rupert Graves as Huntingdon) and then radically changed the ending.

Aug 2, 2019, 12:00pm Top

Black Leopard, Red Wolf is the first in a fantasy trilogy by Marlon James. But to call this a fantasy novel is misleading, it is that, but it's also a literary novel and a novel that revels in being labyrinthine and in upending many of the fantasy tropes it makes reference to.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf is told from the point of view of Tracker, the red wolf of the title, a man who can follow people by their scent, no matter how far away they are or how old the scent. He becomes part of a group hired to find a boy kidnapped three years earlier, brought in by his friend (if Tracker can be said to have friends) a were-leopard. But what appears to be the standard set up of a group of mis-matched outsiders going on a quest together is set on its head almost immediately. What follows, and what precedes this beginning, is confusing, maddening, explicitly violent and outrageously imaginative.

This novel is based in an African past much like how countless fantasy novels are based in a sort of medieval Europe, and there are clear references to classic fantasy novels. Here, Tolkien's Lothlorien is reimagined in a horrifying way, faithful companions are as trustworthy as strangers and the very thing these companions are searching for may not be what it seems. I very much loved the sad, yet murderous giant (who gets angry at being called a giant), the wise buffalo, and an odd group of abandoned children who find refuge together.

James has stated that each book of the trilogy will be told from the point of view of a different character, so the picture created by Tracker is frustratingly incomplete. Despite my lack of interest in this genre and utter boredom with battles and magical creatures, I suspect I'll be reading the next books in the trilogy just to see how James fits the stories of the other characters together to build a complete tale.

Aug 7, 2019, 7:00pm Top

The following comes courtesy of Judy's (DeltaQueen) thread.

Reader’s Meme

1. The persons who helped me fall in love with reading were:

My kindergarten teacher who taught me to read and my father, who would only read a single chapter of The Chronicles of Narnia each night, no matter how much I wanted more. I took over somewhere in the middle of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

2. One book I love to give as a gift is:

I tailor my book gifts to the receiver. I'd rather gift a book I disliked, but that they will love than a favorite of mine. In fact, I tend not to give copies of books I love as it's too gutting when a friend dislikes it.

3. If I could write like one author it would be

I'd love to write like Ottessa Moshfegh, Denise Mina or David Mitchell.

4. One book I think deserves more attention is

The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen. But don't read it unless you promise to love it.

5. The friend(s) I always turn to for reading recommendations is/are

You know who you are and I would like you to stop reading until I catch up (around 2047).

6. What do you do about a book you're not liking

If it's a book by an author with a good reputation, I'll stick with it. If I hate it, my review will reflect that. If the book is badly written, I have no trouble stopping partway through.

7. One book that absolutely shocked me was:

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. I expected to be offended and upset and ended up being blown away by its brilliance.

8. My favorite place to read is:

Anywhere quiet.

9. If I could read only one book for the rest of my life it’d be:


10. The books I’m currently reading:

The Topeka School by Ben Lerner
Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips
The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon
The Ditch by Herman Koch
Afterwards by Rachel Seifert

Edited: Aug 9, 2019, 9:55am Top

I've spent the past few days helping to set up a booksale for Books for Keeps, a literary non-profit. If you're anywhere near Athens, Georgia on August 15 - 18 or August 24 -25, go check it out. They've got a ton of great books, and I only brought home seven of them.

But that means my days of maintaining a parity between books purchased and books read off my tbr are officially over. I'm going to a local booksale on Saturday with VictoriaPL and then it's time for the Decatur book festival.

Oh, and here's what I brought home:

Aug 8, 2019, 10:16pm Top

>60 RidgewayGirl: Great meme answers. Your answer to #1 reminded me of my sister and I begging our mom for another chapter or another story - we didn't sway her either!

>61 RidgewayGirl: Great haul. I finally picked up a short story collection by Joyce Carol Oates and OMG I love her writing!

Edited: Aug 9, 2019, 10:11am Top

In her glummer moments, she thought that reading was the only thing she was good at, and what sort of skill was that for an adult to rely on in this world?

The short stories in Polly Rosenwaike's collection, Look How Happy I'm Making You, all concern women of that age when relatives and acquaintances feel free to ask about one's plans for having children. And in each story, a woman deals with pregnancy or not being pregnant, the struggles of having and caring for a baby, or the determination to not have children.

Eve was made of wailing, of banshee mouth and fighter fists. She might well have been called There There, or What's The Matter, or Please Shut Up Already. Two states of being were known to her: fury and sleep.

The women in these stories are intelligent and their concerns don't primarily focus on the quest to have a baby, but because of age and gender, they are forced to reckon with the issue, willingly or not. Rosenwaike is a talented writer and I'm happy to have gotten to know her writing.

Edited: Aug 10, 2019, 10:45am Top

Just catching up and took a bullet for >53 RidgewayGirl: - nice review!

Edited: Aug 10, 2019, 12:36pm Top

>64 sturlington: It's so good. It's hard genre to get right, and Baker does such a good job of creating a sense of rising dread.

There was a big booksale today and VictoriaPL and I were there when it opened. I was so, so well-behaved, bringing home only this modest stack:

Aug 10, 2019, 5:39pm Top

>65 RidgewayGirl: Ooh, Robertson Davies! Nice choice. And I have a different book by Tim Gautreaux on my shelves. Not read yet, of course.

Edited: Aug 10, 2019, 8:17pm Top

>65 RidgewayGirl: bringing home only this modest stack

I see reason for concern.

Our library has it's adult nonfiction sale in two weeks and I plan to walk by certain areas with my eyes closed.

Aug 10, 2019, 8:34pm Top

>66 rabbitprincess: I pick Davies up when I find him, although the first couple of trilogies were read so long ago that I could reread them now and be utterly surprised by the contents.

>67 clue: I have a tidy amount set aside so that I can buy books at the Decatur Book Festival. I hope you at least peek at the nonfiction book sale. There might be something there you've been looking for.

Aug 11, 2019, 3:05pm Top

>53 RidgewayGirl: I think I got hit by a book bullet on that one.

>65 RidgewayGirl: Nice haul. I need to figure out what all is on my upcoming schedule soon. I just heard a couple of things today at church where our choir has been invited to sing in a mass choir. I definitely need to add both of those to my schedule while I'm thinking about them.

Edited: Aug 11, 2019, 4:14pm Top

Connell and Marianne start a relationship in high school. Marianne's an outcast, the kind of loner to puts on an air of disinterest in her classmates, but who longs to be included. Connell is part of the popular crowd, but as the son of a single mother who works as a housecleaner, he is painfully self-conscious about his place in the world and wants to keep his relationship with Marianne secret. It's not until they meet again at university in Dublin, where their social roles have reversed, that they begin to see each other openly. But their relationship is fraught by social expectations, by the habits of their shared past, by an inability to converse honestly.

Sally Rooney can write, and she writes conversations better than most, but while her debut novel, Conversations with Friends, dove into the relationships between people, Normal People stays much closer to the surface, substituting drama for insight into Connell and Marianne. I found this book simpler and less interesting than her first, and the repetition of some of the scenes and circumstances (the al fresco dinner at a holiday home, a character believing that being employed was pointless...) made me wish I'd left a longer span between the books.

Aug 13, 2019, 11:49am Top

That's a very nice book haul, but congrats on being well-behaved. I think you're going to cut loose at the next one and Decatur won't know what hit it.

Aug 13, 2019, 3:13pm Top

>65 RidgewayGirl: A very well chosen haul! Well done!

Aug 13, 2019, 9:18pm Top

>71 mstrust: Jennifer, I am planning to buy many books at the festival. And because it's independent bookstores selling books there, I can both indulge myself and support bookstores at the same time. And tomorrow I head to Athens to help with the final quality control of the booksale that starts this weekend there. I may come home with a book or two.

>72 VivienneR: It is! But you should see VictoriaPL's stack. She brought a rolling cart with her and used it.

Aug 16, 2019, 8:45pm Top

When Jane and Jonathan each go to work at the Topeka School, a innovative psychiatric clinic, they never mean to make it permanent, but after finding each other and a nice Victorian they could never have afforded to buy in New York, they have a son, Adam, and settle in. The Topeka School moves back and forth between these three characters, and a fourth; a patient at the clinic. The novel is about the three members of the Gordon family, but it's also about the overly close relationships that formed between the therapists working at the clinic, a film project run by Jonathan, the city of Topeka, Kansas in the nineties, Jane's battle with The Men, and a great deal about high school debate tournaments.

Ben Lerner has an easy writing style and and this novel went down easy, despite the broad range of ideas and numerous plot threads. And disjointed as it all felt after a while, he does pull all the seemingly disparate elements mostly together at the end. Given the quantity of different topics introduced, there were some I was less interested in (debate team) than others (all of Jane's chapters), but I was never tempted to skip any of it.

Edited: Aug 17, 2019, 12:24pm Top

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips begins with the abduction of two sisters, eleven and five, from a beach in the city of Petropavlovsk, the administrative centre of Kamchatka peninsula. The chapter is told from the point of view of the big sister, bored with summer and having to watch her little sister. Each subsequent chapter follows a character, often connected to the investigation, or interested in the search for the children, but the focus is on what is important in their lives. An indigenous woman from the isolated town of Esso struggles to find her footing at university in the big city, torn between her enjoyment in joining a dance troupe and loyalty to her boyfriend back home. A woman who has learned to trust no one loses her dog. A teenage girl is faced with being ostracized from her group of friends. A woman struggling with being stuck home caring for an infant develops fantasies about the crew of foreign workers working on the building site across the road.

I began the book thinking that it would be the story of how two plucky children survived the wilderness, or escaped something bad, an assumption aided by the book's cover. Then it appeared to be a collection of linked stories about life in Kamchatka and while interesting, didn't seem to fully justify the hype surrounding this book. But the penultimate chapter was just perfectly written, calling back to an earlier chapter, but telling its own story, that I suddenly saw the larger picture Phillips is creating here, and the final chapter pulling everything together into a unified whole. This is a very promising debut and I'm absolutely going to be reading what ever Julia Phillips writes next.

She'll be speaking at the Decatur Book Festival at the end of the month and I'm eager to hear what she has to say about this excellent novel.

Edited: Aug 19, 2019, 4:35pm Top

Tensions are high in Lisa Lutz's new novel, The Swallows. Alex Witt takes a job teaching creative writing at an expensive Vermont boarding school because her family's friendship with the Headmaster means her recent past won't be looked into, but finds that her secrets pale in comparison to the ones the boys are keeping. And once the girls start to figure things out, it might just take down the entire school.

This is the kind of book where it's important to start reading early enough in the day that you won't end up losing a night's sleep while you race to finish it. It's a novel filled with rage that runs head first towards catastrophe. It has characters that are believable and who breathe and live and make amazingly poor choices. This novel is what would be written if Curtis Sittenfield and Gillian Flynn collaborated. It's just a lot of hard-edged fun.

Aug 19, 2019, 7:14pm Top

I went to a book signing lunch with Joshilyn Jackson today. It was very nice and she came and sat next to me at our table and I was able to tell her about my favorite scene in gods in Alabama, which she signed for me as well as her new book, Never Have I Ever. She did put my location as Georgia instead of South Carolina, but as she said she's been traveling to promote the book for several weeks, I'm giving her a pass.

Aug 20, 2019, 11:56am Top

Congrats on meeting and getting to talk to Jackson!

Aug 22, 2019, 10:17am Top

>78 mstrust: It's always fun to meet an author!

Aug 27, 2019, 5:22pm Top

My son got a package in the mail a week ago and the box was carelessly thrown on the ground. But I can't put it out in the recycling as the cat is spending most of his time in it.

Edited: Aug 28, 2019, 7:16am Top

The mayor of Amsterdam is at an obligatory holiday party when he sees his wife laughing at something one of his councilmen has said. His suspicions are raised. He can't believe his wife would even be having a conversation with that man and when he goes over to them he finds their behavior to confirm his suspicions. If you've read any of Herman Koch's other novels, you'll know that his worries about this possible affair quickly overwhelm him. And as he studies his own wife's behavior, his father is having a crisis of his own. He and the mayor's mother want to die peacefully before they become incapacitated.

The Ditch is a novel in which the narrator/protagonist is a very unpleasant man, prone to short rants about everything from recycling to using windmills to produce clean energy (he has negative opinions about both) and while this should make for an unpleasant reading experience, Koch knows how to write a character who is both vile, insecure and charismatic. And as his actions become more and more extreme, the novel becomes harder to set aside. This is an entertaining thriller that has the added bonus of being set in Amsterdam, a city that the protagonist assures us is provincial and dull. I wouldn't want to spend any time with these people in real life, but they do make for a fun book.

Aug 28, 2019, 4:30am Top

>80 RidgewayGirl: If I fits, I sits. >:-) Love a cat in a box.

Aug 28, 2019, 8:32am Top

>82 Helenliz: Tarzan is obsessed with boxes. If we pull out the pet crate, he's in it and has to be removed before we can take a different cat to the vet. If we use masking tape to mark a square on the floor, he's sitting in the middle of it before we can finish taping the square. (I highly recommend doing that last thing. It's hilarious to watch a cat sitting proudly in an imaginary box.)

Aug 28, 2019, 11:52am Top

If we use masking tape to mark a square on the floor, he's sitting in the middle of it before we can finish taping the square.
I so wish that worked on dogs.

Aug 28, 2019, 11:54am Top

>83 RidgewayGirl: ha! That's brilliant and I am so going to try that if (read when) I get a cat.

Aug 30, 2019, 1:13pm Top

I wonder what it is about boxes that is so attractive to cats. Too big, too small, they are all intensely alluring - even the imaginary ones.

Love the photo. Tarzan is a beauty.

Sep 2, 2019, 6:46pm Top

>84 mstrust: That would be useful. Ivy thinks visitors are there to see her and sits in front of them, keeping them from moving about and enjoying themselves.

>85 Helenliz: Helen, cats are free and plentiful. Why not collect a half dozen?

>86 VivienneR: Tarzan knows he is handsome, but thanks you for acknowledging this basic fact.

The Decatur book festival was fantastic and I'll post more about it, along with pictures, when I get a chance. I got Thomas Mullen to sign my copy of The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers, which made me very happy. My tbr has received quite an influx of new books, too.

Sep 5, 2019, 5:14pm Top

OMG - you read every book I want to read, that's all I can say. I don't understand it. 12 BBs taken...


But as was mentioned above, I'm not one of those people who have trouble finding a book to read.

Sep 6, 2019, 10:33am Top

>88 LisaMorr: Hi, book twin! My shelves are groaning, which didn't stop me buying nine (nine!) books at the Festival.

Edited: Sep 6, 2019, 12:18pm Top

Lazarus Averbuch survived a Ukrainian pogrom, but in 1908 he's shot by the Chicago Chief of Police in the entry of the Chief's home. A century later, Vladimir Brik, an immigrant from Bosnia now married and living in Chicago, becomes interested in Averbuch and decides to write about him, sending him to Eastern Europe along with an old friend from Sarajevo, a photographer who survived the war there.

It's impossible to communicate how very brilliant and well-constructed The Lazarus Project is without going into far too much detail. There's a lot going on, but it's so well-juggled that each thread shines on its own, and enhances the book as a whole. There's much about the life of Eastern Europeans in Chicago along with the nascent labor movement, the war in the former Yugoslavia and how one man survived, the memory of the Jews of Moldova and Ukraine, the current state of life in those two countries, and a recent immigrant's struggles to belong to the new life he finds himself in. Aleksandar Hemon's writing style is razor-sharp and tinged with a black humor.

I'm eager to read his next book, a memoir of his parents, who immigrated to Canada from the former Yugoslavia. I heard Hemon speak at the Decatur Book Festival and he was motivated to write about his parents' experiences because he wanted to remind us that each and every single refugee, asylum seeker and migrant is an individual with a rich personal history who is every bit as human and marvelous as anyone else.

Sep 6, 2019, 1:19pm Top

>90 RidgewayGirl: It takes a fair bit for me to add fiction to my wishlist, but that book has just gone onto it! Great review.

Sep 6, 2019, 4:18pm Top

>91 Jackie_K: Jackie, there's so much history, and the exploration of history, that I think you'll really like it. The parts where Brik and Rora are in Moldova and rural Ukraine are brilliantly written travelogue.

Rora walked out of the bathroom, glanced at the TV disinterestedly, and switched on the light: for a moment, the two narrow cots and the socialist-fifties furniture were overlit like a prison cell, until a couple of bulbs hiccuped and died; the air stank of lead-based paint and suicide.

Sep 8, 2019, 4:27pm Top

I am in the process of baking a peach bourbon cake and if it tastes as good as the house currently smells, I will be very happy.

Sep 8, 2019, 4:41pm Top

I bought some peaches at the farmer's market yesterday and I'm thinking I might make a peach cobbler tomorrow. Hope your cake is good.

Sep 9, 2019, 10:05am Top

That sounds really good!

Sep 9, 2019, 12:52pm Top

>94 dudes22: My initial idea was cobbler, Colleen, but the peach bourbon cake showed up first on the website I chose (Southern Living) and since I recently bought a good bundt pan...

>95 mstrust: Jennifer, it was delicious! The recipe required three sticks of butter and six eggs, as well as a homemade caramel sauce, so it was very rich and tasty. I made the mistake of taking it out of the pan too early, so it fell apart. I'll make this again and not make that mistake.

Sep 10, 2019, 2:57pm Top

After reading Milkman and Say Nothing, I was looking for a book that showed things from the Loyalist/British perspective and Afterwards by Rachel Seiffert was recommended to me.

Alice meets Joseph and they begin to see each other. It's a cautious relationship between two ordinary people. Alice is concerned about her recently widowed grandfather and wishes he was more willing to talk about his time serving in Kenya during the Mau Mau uprising. Joseph is maybe not as talkative as she's like, but he's kind, even going over to paint her grandfather's house. Joseph was also in the British army and served in Northern Ireland. An incident there replays often in his mind and he struggles with PTSD, which he handles by disappearing for weeks at a time, a behavior that wreaks havoc on both his employment history and on his relationships.

This is a tonally quiet novel and manages to maintain that air of calm even when both men's experiences are being described. What comes across vividly, though, is how deeply both men have been adversely affected by their experiences. Rachel Seiffert writes so well and so subtly about her characters that I would have happily read another few hundred pages.

Sep 10, 2019, 10:53pm Top

>81 RidgewayGirl: Though it had received mixed reviews, I'd really liked Herman Koch's The Dinner. I think I'd like The Ditch as well. Thanks for the review.

Sep 11, 2019, 11:54am Top

>98 mathgirl40: I did, too, Paulina. I think it depends on a reader's tolerance for unpleasant and unreliable characters.

Sep 11, 2019, 12:53pm Top

Joshilyn Jackson usually writes novels about women set in the South, where the many facets of living in the South, especially in the rural South, are examined with a sharp, but loving eye. Jackson's protagonists belong to families dominated by women, have pasts, and are figuring out their way forward. They're escapist reading for readers who like a little grit and a deep sense of place. With Never Have I Ever, those elements remain, but for the first time, Jackson is writing a straight up thriller.

When Roux shows up at the neighborhood book club meeting, Amy is annoyed. And she becomes more annoyed as she watches Roux take over the meeting, turning it into a drunken party where far too much is said. But Roux is there to do more than have some fun; she's out to get something. And her target is Amy. So begins a game of cat and, well, cat. Roux is an adept blackmailer, but Amy has a family to fight for and she's not willing to go down without a fight.

Never Have I Ever is a lot of fun. It's a well-plotted story, where the elements fit together. It's fun to see a book that focuses so heavily on the minutiae of the daily life of a mother of a young child be so exciting and fast paced. While I prefer Jackson's quieter novels, this one was no hardship to read.

Sep 11, 2019, 1:32pm Top

>97 RidgewayGirl: Definitely one for my wishlist.

Sep 12, 2019, 9:21am Top

>101 VivienneR: Afterwards is definitely worth reading, and you'll enjoy the time spent with the book. I loved the author's depiction of Alice's grandfather.

Sep 13, 2019, 10:43am Top

An unfortunate moment at the wedding of two co-workers has Edie a pariah on social media and convinced she'll have to quit her job. Instead, her boss sends her to her hometown of Nottingham, a place she couldn't wait to leave, to ghostwrite the memoirs of a minor celebrity. She's back in her childhood home, back with her sister who resents her and her sad, broken father.

But Who's That Girl? is chick-lit, that eternally optimistic genre, and Edie is nothing if not resilient, so she finds two old friends who are living in Nottingham and starts to make a temporary life for herself, even if she's ghostwriting for someone who doesn't particularly want to have his memoirs written for him. But either Birmingham has changed, or she has, and her life in London is looking less attractive than starting over in her old hometown.

Mhairi McFarlane writes with the required light and breezy touch, but her heroines are never that interested in shopping and her novels tend to feature strong secondary characters, emphasizing the importance of close friendships and finding one's own place in the world. This novel isn't of great substance, but it is solidly written, featuring a protagonist who refuses to give up and who decides to confront her family's issues rather than avoid them. it was a fun read, if slight.

Sep 15, 2019, 3:25pm Top

In 1980, a festival called the Rainbow Gathering was held in a National Park deep in West Virginia's Pocahontas county. Attended by hippies and free spirits, some of the local residents were not pleased with the influx of outsiders. Then two young women on their way to the Gathering were found murdered not far from their destination. The local police quickly reach the conclusion that the murderer was a local, but who the culprit was, in an isolated part of the country where most people know each other and many are related, is no small task.

Emma Copley Eisenberg lived in Pocahontas county after finishing university. She was employed by a camp working to improve educational outcomes among local girls and she found the work both inspiring and frustrating. At the same time, her own life was spinning out of control, even as she fell in love with the people and the landscape of West Virginia.

The Third Rainbow Girl is that odd hybrid of true crime and personal memoir, a new format that includes books like The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich and Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolin. It's an odd mix of an intensely personal account of the years the author lived in West Virgina, where her behavior grew uncontrolled and then dangerous, until she moved back to the safety of a big city, and an impersonal account of a true crime. The depth of the one is not met by depth on the account she writes of the double murder, so there's the feeling of reading two different books sandwiched together. The true crime account is hampered by the large cast of characters, who all presented conflicting accounts of what happened and the identity of the likely actual murderer. Eisenberg isn't able to create a cohesive narrative out of the sheer amount of information she has to work with, and all her character studies remain frustratingly superficial. One is left with the feeling that the author would have been better served by writing a long article about the crime and saving her personal story for a later time. The writing was solid and once Eisenberg finds her subject matter, she's certain to write something well worth reading.

Sep 22, 2019, 12:49pm Top

If you've read Olive Kitteridge, you'll be immediately familiar with the structure of Olive, Again; individual chapters that read like stand-alone short stories, but which build into a deep character study of a single woman. Olive is older. She's a widow who has a tense relationship with her son and his family, whom she rarely sees. After her last visit to see them, they have not invited her to return and if you've read Olive Kitteridge, you'll know why. As Olive figures out how to live life alone, she interacts with the folks of Crosby, Maine and the surrounding towns, she learns both how to be lonely and how to let people into her life. It's a lovely story, and Elizabeth Strout's love for her out-spoken and prickly creation is evident.

While this can be read on it's own, why would you deny yourself the pleasure of following Olive from the beginning? There are some surprises in this sequel, but it's written in the same quiet, unvarnished way as the first book.

Sep 22, 2019, 4:54pm Top

I won't be taking this as an actual BB because I had already seen in the new library "Book Pages" that it was out. I'm looking forward to it. There are already a bunch of holds on it and the libraries don't have it yet, so I'll probably wait til early next year to try and get it. Did you manage to get this early when you were at the Book Festival?

Sep 22, 2019, 6:17pm Top

>106 dudes22: No, Betty, I was lucky enough to get this as a netgalley request. You're really going to enjoy it!

Sep 24, 2019, 3:13pm Top

When your fight has purpose--to free you from something, to interfere on behalf of an innocent--it has a hope of finality. When the fight is about unraveling--when it is about your name, the places to which your blood is anchored, the attachment of your name to some landmark or event--there is nothing but hate, and the long, slow progression of people who feed on it and are fed it, meticulously, by the ones who come before them. Then the fight is endless, and comes in waves and waves, but always retains its capacity to surprise those who hope against it.

The Tiger's Wife by Teá Obreht is a novel about the conflicts in the Balkans, but told obliquely, both as the story of a young doctor who goes to provide medical aid to orphans in a village now located in a different country now that the war is over, and in stories about her grandfather's life, also a doctor working in a war-weary land, but also of his childhood. These stories have a fairy tale feel to them, where what is real and what is tradition or folklore is uncertain.

Obreht's writing is very, very good and she weaves the various elements of her story together beautifully. This novel was a big deal when it was first published and maybe I should have given in to the hype and read it earlier, but I am glad I finally pulled it off the shelf.

Sep 25, 2019, 1:04pm Top

>108 RidgewayGirl: That one is on my TBR list, I'm always interested in central/eastern European books and am looking forward to getting to it at some point.

Sep 25, 2019, 9:18pm Top

>109 Jackie_K: Jackie, I had it confused in my mind with that non-fiction book about the Polish zoo in WWII and never really wanted to read it. I'm glad I finally did. Obreht is an author to watch and I'm now eager to read Inland.

Sep 26, 2019, 5:25am Top

>110 RidgewayGirl: Do you mean The Zookeeper's wife? That's on my TBR too!

Sep 26, 2019, 7:17am Top

>105 RidgewayGirl: I am just rereading Olive Kitteridge before I read this. I am so looking forward to it as I adored Olive, both the book and the series. Frances McDormand was wonderful.

Edited: Sep 26, 2019, 7:59am Top

Wow, sounds like we are all on the same page. I have Olive Kitteridge and The Zookeeper's Wife on my TBR pile. Also, The Tiger's Wife was a RL book club read and I concur with your assessment that they have a fairy tale feel to them and sometimes I was not able to tell what was real or what was imagination or folklore.

Sep 26, 2019, 11:10am Top

>111 Jackie_K: Yes, that's the one. I'm sure it's a fine book, just not one I want to read.

>112 JayneCM: Hi, Jayne! You'll enjoy just continuing on with Olive's story. Strout writes so lovingly about prickly, filter-free Olive and Olive, Again is a delight to read.

>113 Tess_W: Tess, it was interesting how Obreht wove magic realism into the story. I'm eager to read Inland as it sounds like she is also using that element in her new book. What's your take on the Deathless Man?

Edited: Sep 26, 2019, 8:55pm Top

One afternoon, S.T., a domesticated crow, is hanging out in the backyard with his best friend, Big Jim, and Big Jim's idiot bloodhound, Dennis, when Big Jim leans forward and his eye falls out. This begins the story of the zombie apocalypse, as told by S.T. as he struggles to take care of his radically altered friend, and then to find a solution before human civilization is gone.

The real delight of this book is the voice of the crow, a foul-mouthed aficionado of the MoFos*, who is so desperate to hold his world together that he just might join forces with Dennis and go forth to figure out what exactly is going on and maybe find some delicious Cheetos along the way. Hollow Kingdom takes an often told tale and turns it on its head; while the victims of the virus are human beings, the story is told entirely from the point of view of animals, with S.T.'s chapters interwoven with chapters told from everyone from a self-involved poodle to a polar bear (the chapter told by a cat named Genghis is especially good). Kira Jane Buxton takes the story in new directions, where there are changes happening far beyond what is happening to the humans.

S.T. was raised by Big Jim, a beer-drinking, fast food-eating guy with outsized opinions and a solid devotion to the local sports teams, and S.T. has modeled his behavior and language after his friend. S.T. firmly believes himself more of a MoFo than a crow but along his journey he needs the help of the very creatures he has previously shunned. And, it turns out, they need him. This is not my genre. At all. And yet I couldn't wait to spend more time with S.T., whose love of human kind and distinct crow-ness may just hold the key to survival in this new world.

* Humans

Sep 26, 2019, 8:37pm Top

>115 RidgewayGirl: Oh my goodness, this sounds pretty amazing. Zombies are definitely not my thing, but the narrators are piquing my interest!

Sep 26, 2019, 8:54pm Top

>116 rabbitprincess: Yep. The whole genre is not my thing, but the friend I went to the Decatur Book Festival really wanted to go to hear Buxton speak and all I can tell you is that if you aren't hooked with the first few pages, you can walk away. But it hooked me. And Buxton was just lovely. She signed our copies and talked about corvids with us. Then when we ran into her hours later, I thanked her again and she remembered our names, which is astonishing given the crowds and the sheer number of books she signed.

Sep 27, 2019, 11:47am Top

I added Hollow Kingdom to my wishlist as soon as I read my first review and since have noticed that most people love this book - I can hardly wait!

Sep 27, 2019, 12:34pm Top

>118 DeltaQueen50: The friend I went to the book festival with just texted to say she finished Hollow Kingdom and loved it. The book was just so fun.

Sep 27, 2019, 12:58pm Top

>115 RidgewayGirl: That's going on my WL too! I'm a zombie fan and this sounds like an interesting take.

Sep 27, 2019, 5:15pm Top

OK - I can't resist. If both you and Judy love it, it has to be a BB for me.

Sep 27, 2019, 6:34pm Top

>115 RidgewayGirl: I was hit by the ricochet of that bullet! Not that I care for apocalyptic stories but it sounds terrific. My husband has a "pet" crow who sits beside him and "talks" (gurgles) to him when he's working or reading outside.

Sep 28, 2019, 7:30am Top

>122 VivienneR: - That's funny!

Sep 28, 2019, 6:36pm Top

>122 VivienneR: Me too! My family had a pet crow (wild) for years when I was growing up. He would show up at certain times of the day and call us from the big hackberry tree in our backyard. I'll get it on my next trip to the library, I'm looking forward to reading it...although it's not my genre either.

Sep 28, 2019, 6:45pm Top

Jennifer, it was interesting to have the zombies viewed from a different angle. And the reason why humans became zombies was interesting, too.

Betty, it's a lot of fun. I'd love to hear what you think of Hollow Kingdom.

Vivienne and clue, you'll definitely be interested in this book, then. Buxton spent a lot of time observing crow behavior before writing it. You'll recognize your crow acquaintances in S.T.

Sep 28, 2019, 6:49pm Top

Add me to the list of people who are now interested in this book despite this not being my normal genre. I love unusual narrators!

Edited: Sep 30, 2019, 6:31pm Top

>126 LittleTaiko: Yes, that's what sold me on the book. This is really well done. The only other book I can think of where the animal narrator really worked was Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann, which was narrated by a sheep.

Well, in a good news, bad news turn of events, I'm off for outpatient surgery on Monday. I'm glad the issue is easily repairable, not my fault and they could schedule the surgery so quickly. I'm less pleased at the thought of recovering from surgery, but will be a little more realistic this time round and just schedule myself two full weeks of down time. However, Jacqueline Woodson is speaking in town on Tuesday and I had a ticket for that. Deciding between giving up and getting a second ticket and having someone go with me to do the standing in line part of things. I mean, Jacqueline Woodson, guys! And by then I'll have had a full 24 hours of recovery.

Sep 30, 2019, 7:40pm Top

>127 RidgewayGirl: Get someone to go with you! Or could someone running the event arrange to have your book signed for you?

Good luck with the surgery!

Sep 30, 2019, 8:29pm Top

Thanks, rp. My husband has agreed to go with me, although he is skeptical that I will want to go on the day.

Edited: Oct 1, 2019, 7:14am Top

Good luck with your surgery Kay. I just finished Red At The Bone in one day. I absolutely loved her gorgeous writing, and good character development, all in a short novel. It was effortless reading.

Oct 1, 2019, 11:09am Top

>127 RidgewayGirl: Best wishes for a successful surgery and a speedy recovery!

Oct 1, 2019, 11:26am Top

>130 lsh63: I'm eager to get a copy, Lisa. And to hear her speak. She spent part of her childhood here in Greenville.

>131 christina_reads: Thanks, Christina! I'm preparing by deciding which books to stack by the bed.

Oct 1, 2019, 12:43pm Top

I am twenty-eight years old, 5ft 4in tall, 112lbs. I am handsome at exactly three angles and deadly from everywhere else. I am writing you from the inside of a body that used to be yours. Which is to say, I am writing as a son.

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is written as a letter from a son to his mother, who will never read it. That conceit comes and goes throughout this book, which ranges back in time to his grandmother's life during the Vietnam War, telling a story of an immigrant family, grandmother, mother and son, struggling to get by in Hartford, Connecticut. Raised by a mother who has PTSD, Little Dog is shy, abused and desperate for affection, but the bonds between the members of this small family are strong, even as he struggles with his sexuality and drug addiction as he comes of age working jobs alongside migrant workers and boys whose home lives are equally flawed.

This novel is bleak, and is made bleaker by Ocean Vuong's writing, which forces the reader into witnessing each vivid scene. There's no plot, and questions about events often are answered long after they've been raised. Vuong's writing is, well, gorgeous and not without hope. Still, although I think the book is brilliant and noteworthy, I don't think I want to reread it any time soon. It left me drained and not entirely sure that the images Vuong put into my head are images I want to retain.

You steer the Toyota home, me silent beside you. It seems the rain will return this evening and all night the town will be rinsed, the trees lining the freeways dripping in the metallic dark. Over dinner, I'll pull in my chair and, taking off my hood, a sprig of hay caught there from the barn weeks before will stick out from my black hair. You will reach over, brush it off, and shake your head as you take in the son you decided to keep.

Oct 1, 2019, 3:44pm Top

Good luck with the surgery! Hope you can get some reading done during the recovery period.

Oct 2, 2019, 2:37am Top

Good luck and a speedy recovery, Kay.

Oct 2, 2019, 7:57am Top

Hope you recover quickly from your surgery, Kay.

Oct 2, 2019, 9:29am Top

>134 LittleTaiko: That is the fantasy, Stacy. That the whole thing will be a week of enforced reading time instead of self-pity and naps.

Thanks, MissWatson and Betty. It shouldn't be that bad. And I like the part where I cancel plans and stack books by the bed.

Oct 2, 2019, 12:54pm Top

Hope the surgery goes well! Honestly, self-pity and naps sounds pretty good too, but hopefully you'll get a decent amount of reading done too.

Oct 2, 2019, 3:35pm Top

You have my best wishes for a speedy recovery. Enjoy the down time with some excellent reading.

Oct 2, 2019, 3:55pm Top

Jackie, I am always pleased to get a nap and it's so rare that the opportunity presents itself. I'm hoping the cats do not want to nap on top of me, though. Last night, they demonstrated what they planned to do by walking back and forth over the part of me scheduled for surgery. My husband has suggested adding spikes to my pajamas as a deterrent.

Vivienne, I may already have a very fine stack of books ready, including the newest novels by Kate Atkinson and Denise Mina.

Oct 2, 2019, 9:21pm Top

>140 RidgewayGirl: My fur boys do love to cuddle with me when I nap or sleep at night, but they generally only get atop me when I don't get up early enough for them. Occasionally one of them will start out on top of me just to get a little extra petting, but generally they sleep next to me. They each have a favorite spot. Sherlock gets the pillow by my head. Mr. B gets on the pillow I use as a body pillow but on the edge of it so it really doesn't interfere with my sleep pillow. Barney gets closer to my feet. They are so cute!

Oct 3, 2019, 12:25pm Top

>141 thornton37814: There really is nothing better than a cat on the bed.

Oct 3, 2019, 5:38pm Top

>142 RidgewayGirl: Except maybe 3 cats on the bed. ;-)

Oct 8, 2019, 2:33pm Top

For now, it's no cats on the bed. But I'm home and healing and glad that's over with.

Oct 9, 2019, 3:34am Top

>144 RidgewayGirl: That's good news!

Oct 10, 2019, 2:33pm Top

Glad to hear the worst is over and you're back home. Enjoy your naps and reading as best you can!

Oct 10, 2019, 4:49pm Top

Looking forward to hearing what you think about the latest Denise Mina! Hope your recovery goes well :)

Oct 10, 2019, 7:40pm Top

Thanks, all. I'm now in the easiest part of the recovery - the part where I'm not in pain and can do more than just sleep and whine, but before boredom takes the fun away. Hoping to get a few reviews written tomorrow. I spent today with Savage Appetites by Rachel Monroe, which is about women's fascination for crime as viewed through four women who took things to the extreme.

Oct 11, 2019, 6:01pm Top

I hope you are doing well. Just popped in to say that I loved The Body Lies. I haven't written my review yet, but I hope that it's broken my reading slump, so thank you for that bb!

Oct 11, 2019, 9:59pm Top

>149 sturlington: It was so good! I'm glad you enjoyed it, too and I'm looking forward to reading your comments on it.

Oct 12, 2019, 1:01pm Top

Noah is unprepared for the social worker's request; to foster his nephew's eleven-year-old son, at least temporarily. He's about to turn eighty, content with his quiet, well-heeled life as a retired academic and planning a trip to the French city he left as a young boy. He and his wife had cut ties with their nephew after he'd stolen from them to support his drug habit, so Noah had never even met his great nephew. But he can't quite brush aside the request, given that Michael's only other option is to be put permanently into the system, where he'll lose all contact with his incarcerated mother. So off they go, a careful elderly man looking for his roots and a unmoored child covering his loss and lack of security with a fierce bravado.

With Akin, Emma Donoghue takes a few familiar literary tropes (the protagonist looking for his roots, the odd couple, the fish out of water) and approaches them with an unexpected freshness. Every time I thought the novel was falling into a rut, Donoghue surprised me. Noah spends his time in Nice searching for evidence of his mother's years after she'd bundled him alone as a four-year-old to make the long transatlantic voyage to his father in New York, until she joined them after the war. And as he learned both about what happened in Nice during WWII and specifically about his mother, he begins to form a picture of what she was doing in those years. But Noah's research has holes in it, and he's making some big assumptions.

And then there's Michael, a heartbreakingly realistic boy. He's got layers of defense built up and all the habits that seem designed to annoy a cultured old man, from the refusal to eat anything but the familiar to the constant phone time. Donoghue allows Michael to be revealed through Noah's observations and it's beautifully done.

Akin is a quiet, reflective novel about change, whether utter, life up-ending change or as an adjustment in how a relationship is viewed long after its end. Donoghue manages to inhabit the lives of two characters at opposite ends of their life trajectories and to do so with great empathy. A solid novel that I'll be thinking about for some time to come.

Oct 12, 2019, 3:31pm Top

>151 RidgewayGirl: Excellent review! I'm putting this one on my wishlist.

Edited: Oct 12, 2019, 5:36pm Top

Perhaps true crime stories are contemporary fairy tales--not the Disney versions but the dimmer, Grimm-er ones, where the parents are sometimes homicidal, where the young girls don't always make it out of the forest intact. We keep following them into the dark woods anyway. Parts of ourselves long for these shadowy places; we'll discover things there that we can't learn anywhere else.

A friend recommended Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession by Rachel Monroe to me when we discussed why we like crime novels so much. What is it about the darkest, more horrible things that one human can do to another that exerts such a draw on our imagination? Her answer was that we're all ghouls, but she also mentioned this book, when I wondered if it was more a way of explaining the inexplicable, of forming a pattern out of disorder. And I have to thank her for the recommendation. Savage Appetites goes further into this topic, one that is often raised and written about, and delivers, I think, some plausible answers, or at least a bit of clarity.

Monroe looks at four women, the first woman, Frances Lee, was born over a century ago. Denied the opportunity of a career or even higher education, she'd eventually throw her full efforts into funding a department of forensic science and then, as she saw herself valued only as a cheque-writer, she created a series of dioramas, intended to teach police officers how to look at crime scenes.

The chapter on Lee was followed by chapter about a woman who insinuated herself into the family of a famous murder victim, eventually taking over the role of speaking on behalf of the family and living in their home; a chapter about a woman who felt so compelled to advocate for a man she saw as being falsely convicted that she changed her entire life into fighting for his release, eventually even marrying him; and finally a look at a woman who contemplated murder herself. Monroe used each case study to examine the different ways women are fascinated by crime, from the readers of detective fiction to those who spend hours running down leads in abandoned unsolved crimes, to the dark corners of the internet where murderers have fan clubs.

Detective stories satisfy our desire for tidy solutions. They make the seductive promise that we can tame the chaos of crime by breaking it down into small, comprehensible pieces. They allow us to inhabit the role of the objective observer, someone who exists outside and above the scene of the crime, scrutinizing the horror as if it were a dollhouse.

Oct 12, 2019, 5:51pm Top

>152 VivienneR: Vivienne, I've loved everything I've read by Emma Donoghue, but this one is much more thoughtful and nuanced. It's worth reading.

Oct 13, 2019, 12:03pm Top

Berlin Noir is a collection of crime-oriented short stories written by authors living in Berlin. Chosen and edited by Thomas Wörtche, the stories range from solid to very bad, but the overall quality is a bit lower than has been the case with the other books in the Akashic Noir series. The center of the collection is padded with lazy entries, including a few that could have been set anywhere, with a simple alteration in the street names. I will admit that I expected more than this collection given Germany's love of crime novels and Berlin's reputation as an artistic center. Berlin is such a unique and vibrant city and it's a shame that some of the stories could have easily been set elsewhere.

Most of my dissatisfaction boiled down to one story that irked. I fail to see the value of writing a story from the point of view of a violent misogynist if the payoff is just to read a graphic description of the narrator achieving his dreams. It's 2019, and this read as both tired and exploitative, and I question the value of reading the ways a man might find women to be gross and disgusting and murder-worthy. This was an author looking to be edgy, while walking down an well-worn path.

Complaints aside, there were some stand-out stories, primarily Local Train by Mark Annas, in which a group of football fans plan the murder of a fan from the rival team. Their comic ineptness doesn't hide the brutality of what they are doing. I Spy with My Little Eye by Ulrich Woelk concerns a reporter drawn in to the story of a missing schoolgirl and thinking hard about his relationship with his own daughter. This story managed to both show a heart underneath a callous exterior and delivered a surprising ending. And while the ending of One of These Days by Robert Rescue was tacked on as an afterthought, the picture Rescue drew of the working class neighborhood of Wedding was wonderful.

Oct 15, 2019, 2:49pm Top

Helen Phillips's novel, The Need, is a bizarre one and one that left me wondering what really happened. In it, Molly is a paleobotanist, excavating a site behind a defunct gas station where a large number of plant fossils are being found, including some new discoveries. She's also finding some newer, odder artifacts -- items that are just slightly off, like an Altoids box that is shaped differently or little army men with tails. She also finds a Bible in which only one detail is changed, and that is causing an influx of visitors, which is helping to finance the work.

Molly also has two small children and a husband who travels for work. While she does have a full-time babysitter, she feels isolated and overwhelmed by her two children. She's not sleeping well and she's worried that she's overreacting when she hears someone in the house one night. She hides with her children, until she decides she was imagining things, but later that evening her daughter asks about the man in the house and soon after she finds a menacing note in her daughter's favorite picture book.

The Need is playing with two different premises, that an overwhelmed Molly is slowly losing hold of what is real and the idea of an alternate universe, accessible through the dig site, and how the things leaking through are altering the world Molly exists in. It's a lot, and because Phillips is keeping her options open, neither possibility is fully realized. It's certainly a book for those who like things odd and ambiguous. And also for those who are fine with a lot of details of life with very young children.

Oct 17, 2019, 4:43pm Top

Fishnet by Kirstin Innes I got that in spades. Fiona's sister Rona disappeared from her life, devastating her family who did all they could to find her. Six years after her disappearance, Fiona ends up in the Scottish town she disappeared from and this time, without her parents, she gets more information from her sister's old flatmate, who tells her that she kicked Rona out for working as a prostitute and bringing clients back to the flat. This information sends Fiona into turmoil, she was already not that much fun to be around, but now she alienates her last friends. She is also given a new avenue to search for her sister, a search which consumes her.

Fishnet reminded me of both The Cutting Room by Louise Welsh and Garnethill by Denise Mina. There's a depth to the characters that isn't always present in noir, where the story often takes precedence over character development. Fiona is both off-putting and wholly sympathetic, as she works through her complicated emotions for her sister. The novel also follows Rona to a lesser degree, and while this novel has an agenda (as made clear in the author's afterword), it doesn't overwhelm the story. Innes isn't preaching, just writing about an issue she cares about and which I knew very little about. Fishnet is an outstanding Scottish noir and I'm glad to have discovered this author.

Oct 18, 2019, 2:14pm Top

Glad to hear you are recovering nicely, Kay. As usual I am leaving your thread with my wish list a little longer - I am adding Akin and The Need.

Oct 20, 2019, 5:13pm Top

Judy, you'll like both of those and I'm eager to find out what you think of them.

I spent my day reading The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. She knows how to tell a story.

Oct 25, 2019, 11:45am Top

Lightning Men is the second installment in a crime series by Thomas Mullen. Set in Atlanta, Georgia in the middle of the last century, the series follows Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith, two of the first black police officers hired by the city. It's not an easy job. They work out of the basement of a YMCA, because the white officers will not allow them into their headquarters. And they are denied patrol cars and the right to arrest white suspects. They patrol one of the black parts of town, where previously there had been no police presence, outside of those cops who were running their own criminal activity in a place they could operate unhindered.

In Lightning Men, Smith's brother has managed to buy a house for his family, moving into a white working class neighborhood. There are a few other black home owners and tensions are high. This is also the neighborhood of Denny Rakestraw, a white police officer who has helped Smith and Boggs in the past, motivated largely by his deep antipathy for the Klan. Rake has troubles of his own; his brother-in-law, a Klan member, did a favor for someone claiming to be from an out of town Klavern, but things go very wrong and he needs Rake's help to protect himself. At work, Smith and Boggs are trying to find out who is involved in a enterprise bringing in moonshine and weed to Darktown, the neighborhood they patrol.

There's a lot going on in this book, but Mullen manages to keep all the different plot lines moving and brings them together at the end. It's well-plotted, well researched and well-written. Mullen manages to write characters who are firmly rooted in their time and place, without making them unlikeable. Rakestraw is a fascinating example. By the standards of his time, he's very liberal and open minded, but today's reader can't help but cringe at many of the things he says and things. Mullen isn't afraid to make his characters complex and full of contradictions.

Oct 27, 2019, 7:28pm Top

I couldn't see the point of a sequel to The Handmaid's Tale, when that is such a classic and fully-realized novel, let alone one written thirty years later. I was not going to read The Testaments, and then I read Ann Enright's review, where she comments about Margaret Atwood: She is interested not in how people become degraded, as objects (that is so easily done), but how they became morally compromised. And so my mind was changed and I'm so glad it was. Alongside Atwood's many other skills as an author, she really knows how to pace a novel. I ended up spending a day just reading reading the whole thing, because each section led so naturally to the next, not with the thriller's cheap tactic of cliff-hangers located in the final paragraph of each chapter, but organically.

I'm not sure if the question of whether The Handmaid's Tale is better than The Testaments matters that much. They both, despite the length of time between their writing, illuminate our current age and make a prediction for the future that is hopeful.

If you're interested in the review I read: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/sep/10/the-testaments-by-margaret-atwood-...

Oct 29, 2019, 7:25pm Top

A government agricultural agent comes to a small Appalachian town in Georgia at the tail end of the Depression. His wife is also employed to teach the local women about modern housekeeping. Irenie, a lay pastor's wife with a teenage son, is drawn to the freedom Mrs. Furman represents, even as her husband clings desperately to the traditions of his rigid faith.

Over the Plain Houses was a debut novel with a lot of promise, that nonetheless read very much as a first novel. Julia Franks writes well and the setting was well described. She has a talent for describing nature. But there was a simplicity to the characters that left out room for contradictions and complexity. Franks is clearly loves the area she is writing about and those passages a delight to read. I was frustrated by the tidiness of the ending and the way she turned one character into a monster, but I'll still be looking at anything Franks writes in the future.

Oct 31, 2019, 9:24am Top

Jessa is doing her best to hold her family together, keeping the family taxidermy business afloat, trying to prevent her mother from sneaking into the shop to put up lascivious window displays, and missing her brother's wife, who left years ago. Her father left a note telling her to keep things going and that's what she does, until circumstances intervene in the form of an art gallery owner named Lucinda.

There is a lot of taxidermy in Mostly Dead Things. A lot. The title is accurate, although also metaphorical as the various family members struggle to rejoin life after the loss of the two people the family revolved around. Kristen Arnett's writing is fine, and she manages to make taxidermy interesting and Florida sound filthy.

Oct 31, 2019, 4:32pm Top

I finished The Bus on Thursday by Shirley Barrett and wondered what on earth I'd just read. The novel begins with Eleanor being diagnosed with breast cancer and her beginning to blog about it as part of getting through. She's snarky and sarcastic and disappointed in her best friend's reaction to the news. She's a bit of a mess, but so likable and angry, refusing the pressure to be an ideal cancer victim. She's Bridget Jones with a bit of an edge to her, and I was happily settling in to read a novel about a woman with cancer.

And then. Eleanor gave up her job after her diagnosis, and when she is finally in remission she finds a new teaching job, this time in a small town in the Snowy Mountains. The job is ideal. The school is very small, with less than a dozen students, and the job comes with a small house. The town is in a gorgeous location and Eleanor is sure it will all be fine. And then things start to go oddly, in a way that someone paying attention might notice, but Eleanor's being her usual self-absorbed self.

This book is fantastic. Just bonkers. How Barrett slowly turned this novel from Chick-Lit to horror is so well done and effective. And how she slowly built on the character of Eleanor until everything is revealed was also brilliant.

I'm grateful to whoever it was who reviewed this book on their thread. I had a late meeting one evening at the main library and used the opportunity to browse the new books shelves. I saw The Bus on Thursday remembering only that the review had made a positive impression. So thanks for the recommendation and I'm sorry I forgot who recommended it!

Nov 1, 2019, 1:09am Top

>164 RidgewayGirl: I will have to save this one for next year' ScaredyKIT!

And good to see an Aussie author. She is originally a director and screenwriter and I enjoyed all three of her movies, especially South Solitary.

Nov 1, 2019, 11:30am Top

>165 JayneCM: Perfect for the ScaredyKIT, Jayne! I didn't realize that the author was Australian until I'd read a bit of it. And the town it takes place in is a real place call Talbingo. It looks lovely.

Nov 1, 2019, 1:47pm Top

>164 RidgewayGirl: That does sound unusual, and really interesting. BB for me, thanks for the review!
I'm hosting a haunted house theme for next year's ScaredyKIT. Would it fit in?

Nov 1, 2019, 3:06pm Top

>167 mstrust: Not really, unless you can stretch it to an entire creepy town. I think you'd like this one, Jennifer.

Nov 2, 2019, 4:24am Top

>166 RidgewayGirl: Talbingo is lovely. It is at the base of the Snowy Mountains. The town was originally built as a construction town for the workers on the Snowy Mountains scheme. Miles Franklin was born there - she writes about it in Childhood In Brindabella, her autobiography.

>167 mstrust: Wasn't there a theme called Haunted Places?

Nov 2, 2019, 9:18am Top

>164 RidgewayGirl: sounds like it's right up my alley. On my wish list it goes!

Nov 3, 2019, 4:46pm Top

>46 RidgewayGirl: - Taking a BB for The Cabin at the End of The World! My spine tingled just reading your review.

>160 RidgewayGirl: - Lovely review! I really enjoy Mullen's stories but haven't read Lightning Men yet.

Nov 3, 2019, 5:30pm Top

>169 JayneCM: I've only read My Brilliant Career and My Career Goes Bung by Miles Franklin. It had never occurred to me that she'd written more! I'll have to check that out.

>170 Tess_W: It's so weird to have horror and Chick-Lit mashed up like that, Tess. I'm still thinking about it.

>171 lkernagh: Lori, I'd never read any other novels by Paul Tremblay and I'm wondering about his other books, now. It's my opinion that horror is the hardest genre to get right. Lightning Men is as good as Darktown and I hope he manages to write another one soon.

Edited: Nov 3, 2019, 6:56pm Top

>168 RidgewayGirl: Thanks. The theme has been broadened to Haunted Places, so it could still fit.
>169 JayneCM: Yes, I'll be hosting Haunted Places in March. It'll be fun, though I have no idea what I'll read yet.
>172 RidgewayGirl: I really liked Tremblay's A Head Full of Ghosts. Modern spooky!

Nov 3, 2019, 8:25pm Top

>173 mstrust: I will look at A Head Full of Ghosts. Thanks for the recommendation!

Edited: Nov 5, 2019, 12:06pm Top

Louis is on the way to the drug store to pick up his diabetes medicine when he sees a sign saying "FREE DOGS" taped to a mailbox and stops to see what the deal is. Then he's on his way home, in the company of a dog named Layla, who "...didn't look particularly smart of energetic or interested in me. In other words, she wasn't anything you might want in a dog." And so begins the story of Louis, a 63 year-old divorcé, who took early retirement on the expectation of a windfall from his deceased father's estate, although the lawyer is no longer returning his calls. He mainly sits in his chair, drinking and watching Naked and Afraid. Can a dog change a life, even one as lackluster and prone to gagging as Layla?

Biloxi by Mary Miller is a novel that relies on the voice of the main character and narrator. Miller's writing is wonderful and she makes what could be a somewhat treacly story a delight to read, rooted in a specific place and full of grit and hope.

Nov 6, 2019, 8:54pm Top

Creeper is a girl living on the streets of New Orleans when she overhears some men talking. She takes what she hears to an airship captain and together with the captain and her crew, she races to stop disaster. Creeper lives during the late 1800s, in a steampunk New Orleans that exists as a free city on the edge of a Confederacy that fought the Civil War into an uneasy standstill. She also lives with an Afrikan goddess living in her head.

The Black God's Drums by P. Djeli Clark is a novella that packs in an enormous number of elements. The world building here is just fantastic. Clark is an historian and there's a depth of knowledge that informs his alternate world, which he wove into the story in a natural way. And with both Creeper and Captain Ann-Marie, Clark has managed to create complex and interesting characters in very few pages. This genre is not at all in my wheelhouse, but I really liked this and I wanted to learn more about this world.

Nov 7, 2019, 11:55am Top

In Pursuit, a young woman, on the day after her wedding, steps in front of a bus. As she lays in a coma in the hospital her husband sits by her side, praying for her recovery. Was her action deliberate or accidental? And why might a young woman do such a thing? When Willem meets Abby, he's intrigued. She's kind and very, very shy. She's also extraordinarily innocent, something that appeals to Willem, a young man devoted to his fundamentalist faith. But why is Abby so withdrawn and passive? Could Willem be as sincere as he appears to be?

Pursuit is written by Joyce Carol Oates, so I was ready for things to be more than a little off-kilter. It was certainly that and I enjoyed reading it. This is a novel that could only have been written by Oates; not only is the writing style immediately identifiable as hers, with this novel, she's playing with her usual themes. If you're familiar with Oates's work, you'll find no new insights or ideas here, just the usual patterns of a girlhood spent as witness to a marriage destroyed by domestic violence and the child's feelings of guilt and complicity, abandonment and the less than nurturing care of relatives who are doing their best, but after all, she's not their child, and a young woman who is left to put a life together without family. There's an oddly old-fashioned feel to this story, and although Oates specifically places it in the present and near past, it feels as though it would have been more comfortable situated in the middle of the last century. While this novel does nothing Oates hasn't done before and often and while it will never been numbered among her better novels, it was still an enjoyable read. I'm not sure what so appeals to me about Oates's writing, but I'm always willing to read another of her novels, even one as forgettable as this one.

Nov 7, 2019, 2:19pm Top

I've been in the mood for thrillers and trying to find good ones certainly reminded me of how difficult this genre is to get right. There are a ton of them out there, and most are . . . fine, I guess? My Lovely Wife certainly falls firmly into the "ok, fine" category, and while that's no great praise, it should be noted that there are so many worse domestic thrillers out there.

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing is the story of a marriage, a happy one in the husband's assessment. They've had struggles and they could always use a little more money, but they have two children and a shared passion for murder. They're not quite a Bianchi and Buono, or even a Brady and Hindley, preferring to distribute the tasks involved between them, rather than share the experience, but when you've got kids and jobs, it's really the most practical arrangement. But being married to a murderer doesn't always feel safe and while he finds the whole process exciting, he may like it just a little less than his wife.

So this was fine. None of the characters were sympathetic, which might have made for a more interesting book, or at least one that asked for more emotional investment from the reader, but it was well-paced and the writing was fine. I was never tempted to abandon this book, nor did I ever roll my eyes or throw the book across the room in disgust. Downing's plot holds up for the most part and this book was fine.

Edited: Nov 8, 2019, 11:06am Top

Bunny is depressed and has been depressed her entire life, although she was usually able to function in the world. She hasn't left her apartment in weeks and bathing is an unsurmountable chore. But she is going to make it to the regular New Year's Eve dinner out with their friends and to the gathering afterward, even though her patient and kind husband tells her, over and over, that she doesn't need to.

Rabbits for Food by Binnie Kirshenbaum tells how Bunny's life has been derailed by her chronic depression, which she can't escape, no matter how many therapists and doctors she visits, no matter how many drugs and combinations of drugs she's prescribed. The novel follows Bunny's experiences and thoughts closely, but this isn't a sad instructional tale. Bunny is too much herself for that - she's not a very likable character, although one can see that she's witty and sarcastic when she's at her best. As she spirals down into needing to stay at a psychiatric facility (not a spoiler, it's revealed in the opening pages) she finds herself making a drastic choice, a choice make believable by how well Kirshenbaum has described Bunny's lived experience.

Kirshenbaum is a talented writer and I'm not sure many authors could have kept me reading about a woman whose life is reduced to a few shades of grey, occasionally colored by annoyance. I thought the final sentence reduced the impact of the novel and I wish it hadn't been there, but complaining about a single sentence is to be looking very hard for things not to like about this unusual and extraordinary book.

Edited: Nov 9, 2019, 5:59pm Top

In general, books about writing are generally either instructional or inspirational. They might provide guidance in how to outline a novel, or advise on the proper use of semi-colons. Or they create a desire in the reader to put down the book and start writing immediately. Writing Past Dark by Bonnie Friedman manages to do neither. It does use a lot of words to describe the author's experiences in the famous MFA program in Iowa, her childhood relationship with her older sister and how changing her handwriting helped her writing process, but while those stories were fine, they did little to address any of the topics her chapter headings promised would be discussed. It had a good title, though.

Nov 13, 2019, 1:24pm Top

Black Light: Stories by Kimberly King Parsons is a collection of short stories primarily set in a semi-rural working class Texas, where there are quantities of both insects and grime. The characters in these stories are primarily children and young women negotiating lives that are marked by insecurity, whether emotional, parental or financial. Despite this common thread, the stories are varied and very interesting. While I liked Parsons's stories set in this world, the two stories that had the most impact were the two that step outside this environment. The first, Guts, follows a young woman whose relationship with an almost-doctor gives her the ability to see the diseases and ailments of the people around her. The other, Into the Fold, concerns a student at an exclusive boarding school who witnesses the ostracism of a new classmate.

Parsons is a writer to watch. Her observations are razor sharp and compassionate. I look forward to reading more by her.

Edited: Nov 13, 2019, 2:59pm Top

The Yoo family are immigrants from Seoul. They've settled in the small Virginia community of Miracle Creek where they open Miracle Submarine, a facility that offers HBOT (Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy), where patients are put under higher pressure and given oxygen. It's a therapy that speeds the healing of some injuries, but is here being used in off-label way. Matt is there at the urging of his wife, to cure his infertility, two children are there with their mothers to fix their autism and the final client is a teenager with cerebral palsy and other disabilities linked to a childhood illness. They've been undergoing treatments together for several weeks, but a disaster occurs during the final session; a fire erupts near the oxygen lines, resulting in two deaths and several severe injuries.

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim begins with the opening of the criminal trial resulting from that event. Each chapter follows a different character as they reveal what led them to Miracle Submarine and what has happened since that night. As the trial proceeds it becomes clear that the right person is not necessarily on trial and that culpability might not lie with just one person.

This is a fast-paced legal thriller that does not give the characters much room to breathe, but the heart of the novel is held by Young Yoo, a devoted wife and mother who is always willing to think kindly of others. Her quiet integrity keeps this novel grounded despite the speed and nature of the secrets revealed.

Edited: Nov 18, 2019, 4:14pm Top

Ayesha lives with her grandparents, mother and brother in a Muslim neighborhood in Toronto. She writes poetry, preforming it at a local lounge on open mic night, but she's setting that aside to pursue teaching. She's also a little lonely, despite her large extended family and best friend, Clara. Khalid lives nearby with his widowed mother. He has a great job with an IT firm and while he's socially awkward, he's good at his job, a devout Muslim and anyway, when the time comes, his mother will pick his bride for him. He trusts her judgement. But he's also intrigued by the woman he sees every day wearing a colorful hijab.

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin is, in many ways, a typical Chick Lit style romance, right down to it's loose attachment to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. But the setting is certainly out of the ordinary, with a look at a culture many of us know very little about. Khalid and Ayesha are attractive characters and their relationship is developed over time from an initial antipathy to falling in love. Jalaluddin takes the time to allow all of her characters to breathe and even the most villainous is given motivations and are not entirely unsympathetic. It's a well done bit of entertainment that also serves to humanize immigrants and illuminate the vivid culture of Muslims living in a single Canadian community.

Thank you, Carrie (cbl_tn), for bringing this book to my attention. I can never resist an Austen adaptation set in the modern world.

Nov 18, 2019, 4:16pm Top

>182 RidgewayGirl: - I'm hoping to get to this one really soon.

>183 RidgewayGirl: - I'm glad you enjoyed this one as well. It was quite fun and I agree that the characters were given ample time to develop.

Nov 20, 2019, 11:19am Top

>184 LittleTaiko: It reads quickly. Look forward to finding out what you make of Miracle Creek. And I'm glad that Ayesha at Last is getting a wide readership. I really like the way Chick-Lit and romance is slowly growing to be more diverse. Still a long way to go, though.

Edited: Nov 20, 2019, 12:09pm Top

Oak Knoll is a neighborhood beginning to gentrify when the Whitmans buy a property, tear down the existing house and have an enormous house and pool built. Still, the neighborhood welcomes them warily, even when Brad Whitman assumes a neighbor is the lawn boy, up until it becomes clear that a neighbor's beloved oak has been fatally injured by the construction work and a neighborhood boy becomes involved with the oldest Whitman girl.

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler is a novel with a lot going on. The Whitmans are a blended family, with Brad being a stepfather to Juniper and a father to Lily, the younger daughter. In an effort to provide stability, they attended a church that was fairly fundamentalist in it's teachings about a woman's role and as a result, Juniper and Brad went through a "purity ceremony" where she pledged to remain chaste and to not date. There's also the assumption that she won't need a university education. While they have more than enough money to pay for her to go to college anywhere, she's expected to live at home until she marries, after which she won't need to work. Juniper mainly agrees to this, but when she meets a neighborhood boy, she begins to adjust her thinking, going so far as to want to go to university and at least move out of the family home once she graduates.

Meanwhile, ecology professor Valerie Alston-Holt, who teaches at the local university and is a prominent figure in the neighborhood, is heart-broken that her oak has been damaged by the builders illegally working too near the tree, and takes action, even as her college-bound son falls in love.

A Good Neighborhood is a fast-paced novel where a lot is happening. It's melodramatic and full of plot. It's also more than a little heavy-handed as the author makes sure that the reader understands each point she's making. Fowler uses the neighborhood as a greek chorus, writing in the first person plural to make the deeper issue clear to the reader. For the most part, it works, although since the plot makes these points on its own, it's often repetitious. And the story itself is so predictable, with each character doing exactly what they are supposed to do from their first introduction. This book would work well for a book club that enjoys discussing issues as so many different ones are raised by this book. But subtle it is not.

Nov 21, 2019, 4:41pm Top

>183 RidgewayGirl: I forget, have you read Soniah Kamal's Unmarriageable? It's also a P&P adaptation and is set in contemporary Pakistan. I thought it was fine but didn't love it...but I am somewhat interested in giving Ayesha at Last a try! If you've read both, which did you like better?

Nov 22, 2019, 12:07pm Top

>187 christina_reads: No, but it's on my list. I really am unable to resist a modern day Austen retelling, no matter how many bad ones are out there. I think that Carrie (cbl_tn) read both and thought Ayesha at Last was better. It's a very loose adaptation. Very loose.

Edited: Nov 25, 2019, 3:12pm Top

>188 RidgewayGirl: Good to know, thanks! Unmarriageable is a fairly close adaptation, and that was one of the things that oddly didn't work for me!

Edited: Nov 25, 2019, 6:58pm Top

In an isolated Polish community near the Czech border, Janina is one of the only three people who live there all year round. When one of them, a poacher disliked by Janina, is found dead, it falls to her and the other neighbor to dress him and notify the authorities. When a second man goes missing and a third man is found murdered, Janina notices things that are missed by the authorities, like the animal tracks around the bodies.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk is an odd and wonderful noir, with a main character who is even more interesting than the murders. Janina is given to strong opinions, deeply devoted to astrology and considers animals every bit as conscious and valuable as human beings.

This was a wonderful introduction to Tokarczuk, who has won both the Man Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize. I look forward to reading more by her.

Nov 26, 2019, 3:45am Top

>190 RidgewayGirl: I will take a BB on this one for my books in translation category for next year. Especially when I read a review that described the main character as a Polish Olive Kitteridge.

Nov 26, 2019, 7:34am Top

>190 RidgewayGirl: - I think I'll take a BB for this. I have a Nobel prize category next year, so this is a definite possiblility.

Nov 26, 2019, 11:57am Top

>191 JayneCM: Oh, that's an apt description. Especially since the novel is nothing like Olive Kitteridge, despite similarities in their protagonists.

>192 dudes22: This would be an excellent choice for that. This book is so accessible and interesting. Nobel Prize-winning authors intimidate me.

Edited: Nov 26, 2019, 2:13pm Top

>193 RidgewayGirl: - Well me too! But since I have a few Nobel authors in my TBR, I thought it might be time to move them along. Also I'm trying to read more of the e-books I have to move them out and we'll be going away for two months this winter - so many reasons to try.

Nov 26, 2019, 4:50pm Top

>193 RidgewayGirl: It's the Booker winners that intimidate me! With the exception of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, I don't think I've ever managed to both finish and understand a Booker winner or nominee.

Nov 26, 2019, 5:32pm Top

>194 dudes22: I just added all my unread kindle books to my catalog here. It was a sobering activity - I have a lot of kindle books!

Nov 26, 2019, 5:33pm Top

>195 Jackie_K: That's so interesting. I find the Booker books so friendly, but I'd hesitate to dive into as much non-fiction as you do.

Nov 27, 2019, 11:07am Top

>190 RidgewayGirl: definitely a BB for me!

Nov 28, 2019, 4:42pm Top

The Dutch House is named after the first owners, a Dutch American family that made their fortune, then lost it in the Depression. When Maeve moves into the opulently furnished house with her parents she has no idea of how that house will shape her life. Told from her brother's point of view, Ann Patchett's novel follows Maeve, an intelligent, resourceful girl who is constrained by both familial and societal expectations into caring for her younger brother after they lose their mother, and pouring all of her dreams and aspirations into him and into the Dutch House.

This is a quiet novel, and while Danny and his father are the ones who make the choices, the novel centers on Maeve and her relationships with her mother, her step-mother and her daughter-in-law as she lives her life through her brother and through her obsession with the house of her childhood. Patchett is a talented writer and she writes brilliantly about the not always easy relationships between women. It's a cliché to say that the house is a character in its own right, but Patchett writes so evocatively about a specific time and place. This is an extraordinary novel.

Nov 28, 2019, 10:35pm Top

>199 RidgewayGirl: That one arrived at the library the other day. I hope to read it at some point in the next year.

Nov 29, 2019, 12:43pm Top

>200 thornton37814: It had the longest library waitlist I've experienced, with the exception of a Stephen King novel one year.

Nov 29, 2019, 1:31pm Top

>201 RidgewayGirl: Where the Crawdads Sing is the one we haven't been able to keep on the shelves. Most academic library users have not figured out they can place holds although it's easy to do. Still, that one had the highest circulation of any book in recent history. It will be interesting to see if another tops it.

Nov 29, 2019, 4:39pm Top

>202 thornton37814: That book! It's everywhere! And it's one that I have both bought as a gift (and been thanked profusely a few months later once she'd read it) and will never, ever read myself. Do crawdads sing well? VictoriaPL pointed out that lobsters scream when placed in boiling water, so that's almost the same?

Nov 29, 2019, 8:30pm Top

>203 RidgewayGirl: I think the story lives up to its hype, but I'm not one to say it's for everyone.

Edited: Nov 30, 2019, 6:06pm Top

Sophie Hannah starts her thrillers with something so bizarre and inexplicable and works forward from there. When it works, the result is a novel that is a lot of fun, even if it might not hold up to a close examination. When it doesn't, the reader is left with an incoherent mess. Perfect Little Children is one with a particularly improbable beginning, and while it never really became believable, it was a novel that I was always eager to get back to.

Beth and her best friend parted under acrimonious circumstances twelve years earlier, but that doesn't stop Beth from tracking Flora down and driving by her house. She sees her friend outside, with her two children, but unlike Beth's own two, Flora's children are still the same age they were when Beth last saw them. This is enough to turn Beth's fascination with her old friend into an obsession and no one, not her husband, not Flora herself, can make Beth stop digging into Flora's life.

This is the kind of thriller where there aren't any likable characters. Beth is not someone you'd want to know, but neither is anyone else, except perhaps Beth's daughter, who is doing everything she can to avoid revising for exams, but who has the moral center that her parents lack. Hannah knows how to keep a plot moving, rushing from one bizarre situation to the next, constantly fueled by Beth's determination to get to the bottom of things. While I doubt I'll remember the details next week, I did have fun reading it.

I'd also like to note that the British titles for Hannah's books are far superior to the American ones, which aim to be as forgettable and non-descriptive as possible.

Dec 1, 2019, 4:27pm Top

>205 RidgewayGirl: So far I have only read from her Spilling Detective series but I have loved the three that I have read so far. I must try one of her stand alone stories.

Dec 1, 2019, 5:59pm Top

>206 DeltaQueen50: That's how I got to know her. Some of her later stand alones have not been great - Did You See Melody? was mind-bogglingly terrible, with plot elements that made no sense at all and A Game for All the Family, was likewise just nonsensical. I was so relieved that Perfect Little Children held together enough for a quick read, but I do prefer her Spilling Detectives series.

Edited: Dec 5, 2019, 8:12pm Top

That got a big laugh. For the rest of the journey, whenever there was a pause or the mood dipped, someone would repeat the punchline and everyone would laugh. This went on until the garroting in the toilet.

In keeping with the very best thrillers, describing the plot of Conviction either goes on for page after page, or one simply keeps the summary to the first chapter and leaves the reader to discover all the truly fascination stuff as they read. Denise Mina knows how to write, she is fantastic at creating interesting characters who are never entirely one thing or another, but complex, breathing people, and she certainly knows how to plot a fast-paced caper.

Anna lives with her two girls and her husband. It's a comfortable life, although the relationship between her and husband is slowly dying. One point of contention is that she reads or listens to podcasts too much. And on one terrible morning, the new podcast she's started, a true crime investigation into a sunken ship, turns out to involve someone she once knew well. And her husband tells her to leave.

So there are secrets and lies, hit men and grifters, an anorexic washed-up pop star and one woman who has been hiding from her past. It's fantastic.

Dec 5, 2019, 8:22pm Top

>208 RidgewayGirl: Another author that I love! Conviction goes on my wishlist.

Dec 5, 2019, 9:36pm Top

>209 DeltaQueen50: It's so good! And Reese Witherspoon has just chosen it for her book club so it will get the attention it deserves.

Dec 6, 2019, 5:41am Top

>208 RidgewayGirl: - Sounds great! A BB For me. But might take longer to get from the library now.

Dec 6, 2019, 9:11am Top

>211 dudes22: Betty, put your hold on it now.

Dec 6, 2019, 6:27pm Top

>208 RidgewayGirl: Yay! Been waiting for you to read this one :D I may have to re-read the Paddy Meehans sooner rather than later.

Dec 6, 2019, 7:11pm Top

>213 rabbitprincess: It was fun, wasn't it? I put off reading it as long as I could bear to.

Dec 6, 2019, 7:31pm Top

>212 RidgewayGirl: - I was going to but based on the number of holds, it would show up while we're away this winter. So I think I'll wait a bit.

Dec 9, 2019, 4:56pm Top

You know the kind of book where you forget that you're reading words on a page and all of a sudden it's much later than you'd wanted to stay up? Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis is that kind of novel. Set in Uruguay during the civic-military regime during the seventies and eighties, when Uruguayans lived under constant surveillance and danger of arrest, the novel follows a group of queer women who find a haven of sorts in an isolated beach community. For a few days or a week at a time, they can live authentically, although always careful of the people around them.

De Robertis takes her time, revealing the women's histories slowly, as the years go by, as well as taking the women forward as they age. It's a bit of a balancing act, illuminating recent Uruguayan history to readers who know very little about that small South American country, while not boring those who might know more, and while keeping the focus on the five women at the center of the story.

At times dramatic, at times understated, I found this novel to be one that fully captured my attention. I'm looking forward to De Robertis's next novel.

Dec 10, 2019, 10:31am Top

Sabrina and Corina is a short story collection by Kali Fajardo-Anstine that is primarily set in Denver's Northside neighborhood among the Latinx community there. As the neighborhood gentrifies, the old homes are replaces with luxury housing and fewer and fewer of the original inhabitants remain. A few stories are set in a small town in northern New Mexico, where the same pattern holds; the locals don't stay.

There's a cohesiveness to the setting, but the stories themselves are varied. An elderly lady being is being urged to sell her house and move to a retirement community, a request she resists until an incident takes that choice away from her. A girl accompanies her mother when her mother decides to leave the home they share with her grandmother, for better opportunities in Los Angeles. A woman goes to live with her brother and his son when she is released from prison. A woman feels stifled by her affluent life and so sneaks back to her old neighborhood to hook up with an old boyfriend.

Each story is so perfect on its own, but made richer by its inclusion in the collection. I loved that the center of these stories is a neighborhood, and a neighborhood that changes over time.

Dec 13, 2019, 9:52am Top

In The Unpassing Chia-Chia Lin tells the story of a family coming apart. After emigrating from Taiwan, the family eventually settles in Alaska, where the father works digging wells and installing septic systems, jobs that go dormant during the long winter months. The family struggles financially and the parents' relationship is marked by hostility. Then, one of the four children dies of meningitis and the father is sued by a customer and the fault-lines in the family split open.

The Unpassing is told from the point of view of eleven-year-old Gavin, who struggles to fit in at school and who is sinking under the weight of the guilt he feels for having given his sister the disease that killed her. There is no room for his grief and nobody he can talk to about what happened in his family, where everyone is coming apart in different ways.

This is a beautifully told story, where the geography and weather of Alaska are so vividly described. Telling the story from the point of view of a child whose understanding of events is both incomplete and half-understood gives the novel a cloudy feel as Gavin struggles to make sense of the unexplained.

Edited: Dec 16, 2019, 11:50am Top

Felicity and Edgar meet when their mothers are assigned to the same room, in a Toronto hospital that is dealing with being flooded. One mother lives, the other does not. Felicity and Edgar develop a relationship based on a combination of need, compassion, and a willingness to take advantage. This is not a love story.

Years later, Felicity and her son are renting the downstairs portion of a split level home in a diverse neighborhood. Army is determined to make his fortune. His landlord and upstairs neighbor would like him to stop conducting his business in the shared garage. The landlord's son is interested in ant life. The landlord's teenage daughter is bored, but she has her eye on a cute guy working at the mall.

Reproduction is about families, and how they sometimes form because of nothing more than proximity and need. It's about being an immigrant and a hyphenated Canadian. It's about choices and living with those choices. Ian Williams won the Giller Prize for this novel. It's a lively and modern take on the usual immigrant tale. It also sagged in the final third as Williams played with format and style. Some of his risks paid off (like how a character's name was misspelled in different ways near the end) but others proved more distracting than effective. In the end, I appreciated this novel more than I enjoyed it.

Dec 16, 2019, 10:11pm Top

>219 RidgewayGirl: Thanks for the review. I've been hearing a lot about this book lately, and I'm sorry I missed the chance to attend Ian William's reading when I was at Word on the Street in September.

By the way, did you see the ToB shortlist announcement today?

Dec 17, 2019, 9:08am Top

>220 mathgirl40: I may have been refreshing The Morning News page often yesterday. I've read six, so I've got some reading to do! How about you?

Dec 17, 2019, 11:05am Top

>221 RidgewayGirl: I've only read 2 but I've now put a whole bunch on hold at my library. :)

Dec 17, 2019, 9:27pm Top

>221 RidgewayGirl: >222 mathgirl40: I just have to read Mary Toft, or, The Rabbit Queen after reading the description. What?! Have you read that one?

Dec 17, 2019, 11:30pm Top

>222 mathgirl40: I've been checking to see which ones I can get from the library. There are only two that I'll have to find elsewhere.

>223 JayneCM: I haven't read that one, but it does sound good. It's was only published recently, in November, I think.

Dec 18, 2019, 2:30pm Top

>164 RidgewayGirl: Great review! I've just put this title on hold at the library. Now to catch up on the rest of your thread where for sure I'll pick up more BBs.

Dec 18, 2019, 3:28pm Top

>225 VivienneR: The Bus on Thursday is so good! I just sent a copy of it to a friend.

Dec 19, 2019, 2:11pm Top

The Body in Question is a short novel with a lot going on. Juror C-2 is in her fifties, she married an older man, a famous journalist, when she was a young photographer and now she's his caretaker, helping him as his health fades. She could get out of jury duty by mentioning his dependence on her, but selfishly, she wants the break.

She and Juror F-17 joke around a bit, but by the time they are assigned to a high profile murder case, and sequestered at a motel, they are involved. And this affair does affect Juror C-2's ability to pay attention as the trial of a teenager charged with having set her baby brother on fire takes place in front of her.

Jill Ciment's novel looks at the other jurors, the burgeoning relationship between C-2 and F-17 and their efforts to hide it from their fellow jurors and the officers there to supervise them, and the complexities of an outwardly open-and-shut murder case. This isn't a book that wastes time and Ciment balances the truly horrific, but not entirely ironclad case being presented at the trial with the boredom of a small group of people trapped together who don't necessarily like each other much and the excitement of the two people having a clandestine affair. C-2 isn't looking for a relationship, viewing her actions as a sort of last chance to have a fling before she's too old, and she anticipates that her husband will live long enough to make a new relationship after his death unlikely. It was interesting to see the inevitable outcome of a May-December marriage and I appreciated how Ciment kept C-2 from being entirely sympathetic. This is a novel that doesn't manage to maintain the momentum in the final chapters. The aftermath of the trial was so interesting, with a look at how the trial looked outside of the jury box, and how what the jury had to work with was different from how the case was portrayed in the media, but the novel lost some of it's narrative tension once C-2 was back home.

Dec 19, 2019, 4:11pm Top

>227 RidgewayGirl: I live in Fort Smith, Arkansas where a sedition trial was held in 1988. The government charged 14 white supremacists with plotting to overthrow the government and establish an all white nation in the Pacific Northwest. All were found innocent but several went to prison on other charges.

Several years after the trial one of my friends got new neighbors next door. They seemed like very nice people and actually they were. She was stunned months after they moved in to find he was just out of prison and one of the defendants in the sedition case. She was one of the jurors.

Dec 19, 2019, 7:36pm Top

>228 clue: Oh, that's wild!

Dec 20, 2019, 1:02pm Top

>228 clue: Spooky!

Dec 20, 2019, 4:00pm Top

Books about writing fall into one of two categories; inspirational or instructional. Either the book is full of writing prompts and outlining tips, or it requires the reader to put the book down and get to writing immediately. Your First Novel, written by Ann Rittenberg, a literary agent, and Laura Whitcomb, an author, is mostly the first kind of book, but quickly moves into something else entirely. This is a walk through the process from when an aspiring author completes that first draft, through to publication and afterwards.

The first half talks about perfecting that novel, with notes on things like dialog and structure. It's got a few interesting ideas, as well as many of the usual ones. The second half, however, is less expected. Here, Rittenberg explains how to go about finding an agent and getting them to represent you. Here you find out what exactly an agent does and how they work, followed by what happens once a publisher has taken your book on. It's fascinating stuff.

This was published in 2006 and many of the references are dated. There is a new revised edition that was published just last year that will be more up to date.

Dec 21, 2019, 11:07am Top

>231 RidgewayGirl: - So when are you starting?

Dec 21, 2019, 12:23pm Top

>232 dudes22: Ha ha ha hahahaha... There's an on-going thing I've been working on, but I'm at a point where "the proper use of semi-colons" is far more useful than "how to write a query letter."

Dec 25, 2019, 4:06pm Top

Happy holidays, everyone! Here's hoping your days are merry and bright, with plenty of time to read.

Dec 26, 2019, 2:49am Top

>234 RidgewayGirl: Hilarious! Hope you had a lovely Christmas!

Edited: Dec 26, 2019, 3:50pm Top

>234 RidgewayGirl:- Thanks great!

Dec 26, 2019, 11:54am Top

>234 RidgewayGirl: That would certainly be one way to get your relatives to sit up and take notice! Hope your holidays are full of the 3 R's - Relaxation, Rejuvenation, & Reading!

Dec 26, 2019, 12:20pm Top

>234 RidgewayGirl: That's a fabulous concept! My dad always used to call my cousins "The Tribe" I'm almost sure they could have added a few without being noticed too much!

Dec 28, 2019, 10:12am Top

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson is the story of Iris, and of her parents and of her daughter. It's the story of Aubrey, the father of her daughter, and of his mother. This is a family saga and despite it being told sparely, it digs into the experiences and lives of the family over three generations with depth and compassion.

Iris grows up in a neighborhood in Brooklyn, nurtured by her solidly middle class parents. Her mother holds her own mother's memories of the Tulsa Massacre, when an entire community was destroyed and her father has worked hard to raise his family into the middle class. She's about to have her coming out party, when she becomes pregnant and that event never occurs. Within a few months, she goes from a girl with everything to look forward to, to the girl parents warn their children about. But her story doesn't end there, and while her path forward isn't easy, or without harm done, she perseveres.

Woodson's writing is beautiful. There isn't a single unnecessary word in this novel. She has a talent for bringing her characters to life in very few words and of making their experiences vivid to the reader.

Edited: Dec 28, 2019, 10:29am Top

A man in his mid-twenties moves in with his parents one summer at their summer cabin on Lake Michigan. He wants to be a writer, but he's aimless and not sure what to do. He does enjoy long swims, especially late at night and in this pursuit he finds a companion, a recently widowed woman in her fifties. They swim for hours at night, together, but silent and alone. He becomes fixated on her, breaking into her house, stealing keepsakes and, in one instance, vandalizing her cabin. Over the years, his fascination with her continues, even as she doesn't reply to his letters. Years later, when he is married with children, he meets her again briefly.

The Night Swimmers by Peter Rock is a novel that I read grimly, turning pages and hoping for a moment of substance to weigh the thing down. No such luck. This is navel-gazing at its finest. If you enjoy semi-autobiographical novels about a well-off white man with a lack of direction and a poor understanding of boundaries, then this is the book for you.

Dec 28, 2019, 3:05pm Top

When Leon, who works nights and spends his weekends with his girlfriend, needs to raise some money and Tiffy is dumped by her boyfriend and needs to find a place to live in a hurry, the answer seems simple. They never even have to meet each other. The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary is a delightful novel in which two people communicate by leaving notes for each other and who find themselves entwined in each other's lives before they've even said hello.

What makes this Chick-Lit so good is that both characters have full lives, friends and family outside of their relationship, and the needs of secondary characters are just as important to Tiffy and Leon as their own relationship and, most importantly, none of the conflicts in the novel were ones that were based on a lack of communication. This was a fun book and certainly one of the best of the genre.

Dec 29, 2019, 3:31pm Top

The goal is to catch up on reviews before setting up my 2020 challenge. Just a few more to go!

While Red at the Bone was a family story told as sparely as possible, The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo takes the opposite approach, layering up stories and events about a family of four daughters. There's nothing earth-shattering here. David and Elizabeth live a comfortable life in a Chicago suburb and while their marriage has had its stress points, they still love each other. And while their daughters might have their conflicts and challenges, they remain connected, so that while this novel is full of dramatic twists and turns, that the family will persevere is never really in doubt. The ending was too tidy and pleasant to fit well with the rest of this highly enjoyable book, but that's a small complaint about a book that I was happy to spend time with.

Dec 29, 2019, 4:30pm Top

>164 RidgewayGirl: I took a BB after reading your intriguing review. Started it at bedtime last night and had almost finished it by 4am when I had to get some sleep!

Dec 29, 2019, 5:48pm Top

>243 VivienneR: I have this one down for next year's ScaredyKIT after reading the review. It must definitely be a page turner! Hope you can get some rest in today.

Dec 30, 2019, 11:22am Top

>243 VivienneR: Vivienne, isn't The Bus on Thursday wild? I'm glad you got to experience it.

Dec 30, 2019, 2:16pm Top

Her mother hung up.

Alex waved at the bartender, who gave her a polite nod. "I'll have another," she said.

They always do, he thought for the thousandth time in his life. Get on the phone with your mother at a bar and it's two drinks, minimum. He'd been there. He gave her a healthy pour of rye in an act of camaraderie.

When Alex's father is dying in a hospital room, she flies to New Orleans to see her parents. She wants to know what her father did. Specifically, she wants her mother to tell her about her father's criminal past. She already knows he was an abusive, authoritarian and largely absent father. Her brother is not coming back home from his business trip to Los Angeles, leaving his wife to fill the gap. He has his reasons for staying away and they aren't ones he'll share with his sister. Her mother wants her to forgive her father, even as she prefers to avoid the hospital room.

Taking place over a single day, All This Could Be Yours by Jami Attenberg tells the story of an unhappy family, none of whom are particularly good people, although none of them approach the sheer immorality of the man in the coma. Attenberg's writing is wonderful and her love for the city of New Orleans is apparent.

Edited: Dec 30, 2019, 5:30pm Top

In Blue Moon by Lee Child Jack Reacher is back, knocking heads and serving his own kind of judgement. Here, he meets an elderly couple being preyed on by a loan shark, which leads him into the middle of two eastern European gangs and some very bad men are out to get him, the elderly couple and a cute waitress. Of course he saves the day, but how he does it and the twists and turns along the way are fun to read about. One quibble though -- I don't think I've ever seen Reacher take quite so much pleasure in straight up murdering people before. I guess he enjoys his work.

Dec 30, 2019, 6:45pm Top

>241 RidgewayGirl: Glad you enjoyed The Flatshare! O'Leary has another book coming out in 2020 and I'm really excited for it, despite the fact that I know nothing about the plot. :)

Dec 30, 2019, 7:48pm Top

>248 christina_reads: I loved it whole-heartedly. Thanks for reviewing it in your thread!

Dec 30, 2019, 8:16pm Top

I've added The Flatshare to my wishlist too. One of these days I'll read the books I already own.

Edited: Dec 31, 2019, 5:29pm Top

Cleanness is a novel about a gay English teacher teaching in Sofia, Bulgaria. It's dangerous to be gay here, the small group who attempt to march together in a protest march are beaten. The unnamed narrator tries to support a gay student, even as he deals constantly with his own insecurities and desires, observes this gray eastern European city that he has come to love, and falls in love.

Garth Greenwell's writing is both brilliant and nakedly honest. Whether he's writing about sitting in a café on a windy day or the shame he knows will follow bad behavior on a drunken night out, the writing and the experiences are so true that they are sometimes hard to read, or they bring an experience so fully to life that I half feel like I might have once been to Sofia.

This novel follows the narrator from Greenwell's earlier novel, What Belongs to You, but as someone who has yet to read it, I can tell you that Cleanness stands easily on its own. I will be reading it soon, though.

Group: 2019 Category Challenge

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