Vivian's 2019 reading, chapter 2!
This is a continuation of the topic Vivian's 2019 reading.
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Welcome to another thread!
The Heart's Invisible Furies
The Silence of the Girls
A History of Loneliness
The Cazalet Chronicles
Spain in Our Hearts
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Happy new thread, Vivian. I can't wait to see your favorites for this year, so far.
Happy new thread, Vivian! Hope the weekend afforded you some time to rest and recover.
Happy new thread, Vivian! As Katie said, I hope you have had a chance to rest and recover from what sounds like a great vacation.
Happy New Thread, Vivian! I hope you are fully back in the local time zone. It sounds like a great trip (Paris: how could it not be wonderful??).
I've neglected my own thread for so long! Thanks Jim, Beth, Katie, Judy, Ellen, Anita and Paul for the good wishes.
Life's been busy since our return from Paris, but that seems more and more to be the status quo. Work keeps me engaged all week, and often evening meetings, and I've just been asked to chair a critical committee (rabbinic search) for our synagogue. Lots and lots of meetings and differing opinions all around. My reading has suffered because I can't keep my eyes open at night! We'll be empty nesters when our youngest leaves for college next month, but still spend a fair amount of time with the others, including baby Rafa - pure joy!
Some brief reviews:
#87 The Chilbury Ladies' Choir Jennifer Ryan
Really predictable and formulaic but reasonably engaging.
DNF Gentlemen of the Road Michael Chabon
I love Chabon and all of his other works I've read so far, but this adventure story just didn't work for me. I love his writing and the way he can switch genres, but it still didn't sustain my interest.
#88 The Rosie Result Graeme Simsion
This seems to have become a series...#3 so far. This one focused on parenting but at times it read like a very repetitive treatise on autism. The first two were far better.
I also enjoyed The Chilbury Ladies' Choir, Vivian. And I did love Gentlemen of the Road; I laughed aloud frequently. But I can see that this would not appeal to all, and I think you would have to be in the right mood.
I haven't read any of the Rosie books; they seem like they might be good for light reading or for a vacation...
You sound super busy.
Hi Beth - the Rosie books are very light, so yes, they'd be great for vacation reading.
#89 Big Sky Kate Atkinson
I'm such an enormous fan of all of Atkinson's varied novels, with God in Ruins being one of my all-time favorites. I've recently reread the Jackson Brodie series, and this latest installment, although not my favorite, did not disappoint. It contained numerous threads that were all brought together, and I loved all the references to previous books. Just a great read. My RL book group loved it (with one exception) as well.
#90 A Darker Shade of Magic V.E. Schwab
I'm not a huge fan of fantasy, but the premise of 4 parallel Londons was really intriguing. Great characters but way too many fight scenes for my liking. I'll probably continue the series at some point.
#91 Golden State Ben Winters
This was an incredibly powerful dystopian novel. The narrator, Lazlo Ratesic, is a member of a special police force whose job is to enforce the primary credo of this California-like state: lies of any sort are forbidden. Both private and public lives are recorded in infinite detail, and exile is the punishment for those who stray. Some parts were unclear and twisty, but I couldn't stop listening. (Great narrator on the audio too.)
Well I just added Golden State to my Overdrive list Vivian. I'm not a big fan of dystopian novels but this one sounds awfully good.
Hi Beth and Bonnie - hope you are enjoying the weekend. It's glorious here today - sunny and warm but not humid.
#92 Murder in Misdirection Anne Cleeland
I'm losing patience with this series, which had intrigued me because of the unique relationship of the two, now married, principal police officers. Doyle has supernatural abilities (which too often cause her to solve a mystery out of the blue) and Lord Acton has questionable morals. Each of the last few books has relied too heavily on a prior scandal so that it feels no new ground is covered. But, at last, the long-awaited birth!
#92 Nanaville Anna Quindlen
The perfect essay compilation for a quiet afternoon's patio read. Having loved Quindlen's parenting essays years ago, I still feel that I know each of her children, one of whom has now become a father. Lots of humor here, a little wisdom, and some great stories.
Happy New Thread, Vivian. Sorry, for the delay getting over here. I want to get my mitts on Golden State. I love Winters. Maybe, I can track down the audio.
Catching up here! Mark, I think you'd like Golden State. I really liked his Last Policeman series too.
#93 The Wall John Lanchester
Booker longlist. Short and totally absorbing: Britain in a post-climate change future in which a massive concrete wall surrounds the island to protect against "others." I particularly liked the thoughts about generational conflict as the younger people, all forced to withstand a harrowing period of national service, blame their parents' generation for their past selfishness and unwillingness to act.
#94 The Seven Good Years Etgar Keret
Finally off my shelves, a great collection of modern Israeli mostly humorous essays.
#95 In the Bleak Midwinter Julia Spencer-Fleming
Not yet sure about this new series, I think in part because I listened on CDs from the library so I couldn't speed up the rather labored (and poorly accented) reading. A newborn is left on the steps of a church in the deep winter in a northern NY State town. The dynamic duo of Clare Fergusson, ex-Army and newly ordained Episcopal priest, and Russ van-something, also ex-Army and now police chief, investigate, with Clare frequently meddling and ending up in danger.
I think you've convinced me to give The Wall a try. Only 11-weeks wait time from NYPL :)
>17 vivians: I've enjoyed the Clare/Russ mysteries, which I read in print editions. I hope you try the next one.
I also read the Julia Spencer-Fleming series Vivian and really loved them.
Hmm, I will see if I can get The Wall from the Seattle Public Library -- or perhaps my local library. As is often the case, when the long list first comes out, availability can be limited. I've just started Lost Children Archive, which I had actually purchased a couple of months ago, and I think it's going to live up to the praise it has received. I know the short list comes out in a couple more weeks and I may wait so I can focus on that list rather than the whole long list.
I've had the series by Julia Spencer-Fleming on my radar but haven't gotten around to giving it a try yet. It sounds like I'll want to read, rather than listen to it.
HI to all! Katie and Beth - I've never read John Lanchester before but will look for his earlier works after really enjoying The Wall.
Laura and Bonnie - I think I'll keep trying the series but will switch to print. I know there are a lot of fans and I'm willing to stick with it.
I think I'm one of the few who didn't love Lost Children Archive, Ellen. It was just too dense and rambling for me.
A bit of catch-up:
#96 The Three Body Problem Cixin Liu
Chosen by my book group, an odd pick given our demographics and past choices. I've heard a lot about this book from my kids' generation. There are three threads: a young astrophysicist witnesses the execution of her scientist father during the Cultural Revolution and becomes involved in a secret military project; aliens in another universe experience "chaotic" and "stable" eras and attempt to survive these while searching for a new universe to inhabit; a nano-scientist undercovers a conspiracy to destroy the human race while playing a virtual reality computer game. There's a lot of "hard" science which I completely ignored, and I often felt lost during the game simulations. The beginning provided a gripping look at the cultural revolution and the impact on Chinese scientists, and some real questions were raised about the future of human civilization. This is a trilogy and I think I'll probably keep reading.
#97 The Bookish Life of Nina Hill Abbi Waxman
Total joy to read, lots of book references and an introverted main character. Hard to resist a story about a bookworm. A great recommendation from Katie.
#98 An Orchestra of Minorities Chigozie Obioma
Booker longlist, took a while to get into it but then riveting (although way too long). A Nigerian poultry farmer has committed a grave offense, and his "chi" (guardian spirit based on Igbo beliefs) has to testify on his behalf. It's a love story, an story of emigration and displacement, a tragedy of misunderstandings and powerlessness. A fair amount of magical realism but essential to the narrative. Highly recommended.
#99 Woman Warrior Maxine Hong Kingston
NPR book choice for August. A well known memoir written in the 70s, a mix of autobiography, Chinese myth and fantasy. Great audio narration by Ming Na. A deep dive into Chinese culture as well as the immigrant experience. I just found it difficult to wrap my head around a mother who constantly belittles her children.
>25 katiekrug: Hi Katie - move-in was efficient and smooth and she seems to be extremely happy. Nice roommate, already some friends, lots of DC activities (including a monuments tour with the Democratic club - yay!), and classes start today. I'm missing her but super busy so that's good.
>26 BLBera: Hi Beth - I've been following the NPR picks but haven't read all of them. The Kingston sounded like an intriguing mix of memoir and fiction, and I really enjoyed it.
>27 brenzi: Definitely an eye-opening look at cultural differences, Bonnie. My son is marrying a first-generation American whose parents emigrated from Beijing, so I'm that much more interested in learning about her background.
#100 The Nickel Boys Colson Whitehead
So worthwhile - disturbing yet somehow hopeful too. Great on audio.
#101 A Dublin Student Doctor Patrick Taylor
Another really worthwhile entry in this series, this one focusing on the medical school education of Dr. O'Reilly in the 1930s. Not much happens but the narrative is totally entertaining, whether about the students, the political backdrop, relationships or locations.
Lost Children Archive -- I can see your point about dense and rambling but I am finding myself quite swept up in it. I should finish in the next day or two.
An Orchestra of Minorities -- I wholly agree on this. Too long but, once you got into it, quite gripping.
The Nickel Boys -- that one is getting some good attention. I definitely have it on my wish list.
Congratulations on passing 100, Vivian! And with The Nickel Boys, which sounds great. I have it on "soon" pile. Fingers crossed that student papers don't cut into my reading time TOO much.
>30 EBT1002: I'm glad you and Beth loved Lost Children Archive as it reaffirms my confidence in the Booker list! It just didn't work for me.
>31 BLBera: I listened to The Nickel Boys on audio and that format worked well for me. I hope you get to it!
I just went on a ticket buying spree and have some great dates to look forward to: Ann Patchett in September (her new book The Dutch House will be out on 9/24); "The Height of the Storm", a play with Eileen Atkins and Jonathan Pryce in October; and the revival of West Side Story in December. I don't always take advantage of NYC proximity but the fall is always a good time.
The Paragon Hotel Lyndsay Faye
Among the Ruins Ausma Zehanat Khan
I think I'll revisit both of these at another time. Neither of them were bad, they just didn't grab me.
#102 Ask Again, Yes Mary Beth Keane
I'd love to remember who recommended this....Bonnie? Beth? Great and moving novel about love, families and forgiveness. Two NYC police officers are neighbors in a (fictional) Westchester suburb and are connected by the intensely close friendship of their children. Tough issues of alcoholism, mental illness, and abandonment are handled extremely well. Recommended!
Ask Again, Yes is one I heard about on NPR, Vivian, so you didn't hear about it from me. I do have it on reserve at the library, and after reading your comments, I am really looking forward to it.
I haven't read anything by Faye, and I must say while I really liked the first two by Khan, recently I thought they were less good. Still, if you're in the mood...
What a lot of fun things you have to look forward to.
I've been wanting to read Ask Again, Yes, so am glad to have your endorsement.
>32 vivians: Lucky you, getting to see Ann Patchett! She's appearing at the Free Library of Philadelphia also, and my book group was considering going as a group. However, the library seems to have changed their ticketing practices for some author events. The only tickets available for Ann Patchett require you to buy the book in conjunction with the talk. Not everyone wanted to buy the book, and some of us objected in principle to being forced to buy a hard copy edition (vs. Kindle, or a library loan, or waiting for paperback) in order to attend the talk.
We saw an excellent production of West Side Story a couple of months ago in Seattle. There were elements that were, of course, dated but the themes were absolutely relevant to our current era. Sad, but true.
I purchased a copy of The Nickel Boys in the Chicago airport the other day. It looks like a good one for the trek back across the country later this week!
I'm just starting Ask Again, Yes, Vivian. I'm expecting great things. :)
Thanks Beth, Katie, Laura, Bonnie and Ellen for keeping my thread warm! All's well here, just lots going on. We're off to Maine on Thursday for Gideon's (son #2) wedding. Weather looks promising but I'm just happy we'll have everyone together, especially Jo who will be flying up from DC. It's a long drive for us but no hope for an audiobook as my mother will be a passenger. For some reason she doesn't tolerate that format. And of course I'm so looking forward to a whole weekend with Rafa!
Short reviews to catch up:
#103 The Women of The Copper Country Mary Doria Russell
Loved it (but enjoyed Wiley Cash's novel of striking women in The Last Ballad just as much). Historical fiction at its best - I was googling away about the Calumet and Hecla Mining Co, the Italian Hall and Annie Clements.
#104 The Need Helen Phillips
Totally bizarre RL book group choice. Molly, a young exhausted mother of two whose musician husband is away, works as a paleobotanist at a dig site where some strange, otherworldly items have been discovered. An intruder arrives and then the promising beginning began to fall apart for me. It turned into part thriller, part horror story, with way too much repetition (particularly about lactation, which was pitch perfect in the first and second descriptions, but less so by the tenth...). I kept reading but I regret the time spent.
#105 A Better Man Louise Penny
I still enjoy this series, despite the the frequent references to Armand's vaguely sandalwood scent....Penny is extraordinarily topical in this latest installment, with a focus on domestic abuse and the impact of social media surrounding the death of a young pregnant woman. I found the subplot about the potential of damage from massive flooding around Montreal to be even more gripping.
#106 A Fountain Filled with Blood Julia Spencer-Fleming
Sticking with this series although Fergusson and Van Alstyn continue to get into too many outlandishly dangerous and contrived scrapes. Two gay men are viciously attacked and there are pollution and job concerns regarding the development of some land.
#107 The Shepherd's Hut Tim Winton
Must gush about this short novel, which I heard about from a wonderful Australian books podcast called "Books on the Go." Winton is greatly admired there but I hadn't heard of him. I loved the voice of Jaxie, a brutalized teenager who runs away after his father meets a violent death, and ends up in the remote and unpopulated western desert. Beautifully narrated, highly recommended.
Enjoy the wedding festivities (and Rafa)!
You mentioned on my thread a while ago about a Colson Whitehead event in early December. I'd definitely be interested in going. Did you get a ticket already?
Sorry I dropped the ball on that one - I'll get 2 tickets!
ETA: darn darn darn sold out!
You didn't drop the ball - I kept meaning to email you and kept forgetting :P
>40 vivians: What a darling little boy! Lucky Grandma🤗
>41 vivians: I found myself doing lots of googling too Vivian. Thanks for the reminder that I still need to get to The Last Ballad which is readily available on audio.
>42 vivians: I will look for the Tim Winton book. I had one of his earlier ones on my shelf at one time but it looks like it didn't survive the move🤷♀️
Enjoy the wedding and Rafa time. (Love the name).
I've added the Winton to the list. He is a new-to-me author as well. I have about 100 pages left in Ask Again, Yes -- a wonderful novel.
>45 katiekrug: Sorry again, it would have been fun.
>46 brenzi: I just listened to an interview with Winton on the NY Times book review podcast, and now I want to read everything of his!
>47 BLBera:, 48 Thanks Beth and Ellen. Weekend was wonderful!
Here's the happy couple, Gideon and Monica:
And my kids after they toasted the bride and groom:
And of course one of Rafa (and his dad, Marcus)
>49 vivians: Rafa does look like a happy baby. I want another grand baby!
Beautiful family photos Vivian. Of course the one of Rafa with his father is just so sweet.
Hi, Vivian. You might not post much but when you do, it is always interesting. Love the family photos and Rafa is absolutely adorable. You got amazing kids.
I just heard Tim Winton on the NYT Books podcast, discussing The Shepherd's Hut and it did sound like my cuppa. I will request it. I also have Ask Again, Yes on my list.
Have a great time at the Patchett author event. Can't wait to hear about it.
Love the photos, Vivian! That's a happy group. Nice to see another adorable Rafa. :-)
Thanks Anita, Bonnie and Beth! Rafa's a smily, happy kid - his parents are very lucky!
Hi Mark - I do feel incredibly grateful, that's for sure. They're all good people in their own way. I think you'll really like the Winton when you get to it.
Thanks Joe! Is your Rafa a Rafael? Ours was named after my father (who was originally Rolf when born in Germany and then Ralph when he got here) which of course makes my heart swell.
The Ann Patchett event last night was not what I expected. It was the first night of her book tour, and it was not an interview but a "reading." The entire city was a mess because of the UN, and it took me 95 minutes (95!) to cross from the West Side, where I had seen a play with my mother, to the East Side. Of course I blamed it all on Trump's presence. So I was stressed to begin with, and then the event started 20 minutes late. It had been moved from the main auditorium (where I had purchased reserved seats) to a smaller venue (first come-first served) because Gwyneth Paltrow was in the main hall. So....lots of reasons to be unhappy.
In the end it was a terrific and worthwhile event. Edwidge Danticat gave a reading from one of her short stories, and now I'm eager to look up her work. Then Patchett read from The Dutch House in a very animated and expressive way. She said she had just listened to the audio (read by Tom Hanks) and was trying to imitate him. She took a number of questions and then signed books. I was at the head of the line and so she was very chatty, and when I told her our book group was reading the new novel this month she said we should all come down to the Nashville bookstore and she'd make sure to be there and give us tons of recommendations. Now I can't wait to read it!
Now to catch up!
#108 The Handmaid's Tale Margaret Atwood
A reread in anticipation of The Testaments. Still great.
#109 Good Talk Mira Jacob
Really excellent graphic memoir - thanks Ellen for the rec! Wonderful conversations and exploration of interracial families and racism. But oh, I wanted to scream at those in-laws. How could they? Very heartfelt, moving and funny as well.
#111 The sentence is Death Anthony Horowitz
The second in the series, loved it. Hawthorne and the real-life Horowitz investigate the brutal death of a divorce attorney. Lots of London references, as well as allusions to Horowitz's work on Foyle's War and his novels. Very innovative and lots of fun.
#112 The House of Broken Angels Luis Alberto Urrea
Great narration by the author. This was the July pick for the NPR book club. The death of the patriarch frames this terrific immigrant story about a Mexican American family living in California. Humor, poignancy and realistic portrayals of several generations.
>55 vivians: Sweet Thursday, Vivian. It sounds like quite a battle to get to the Patchett author event, but it looks like you made the best of it. I have met Patchett twice, but very briefly. I am loving The Dutch House.
Hooray, for a re-read of Handmaids, Good Talk, (my favorite GN of the year) and Broken Angels which I also loved. Urrea is a treasure.
Congratulations for making it through the West-Side-to-East-Side ordeal to see Ann Patchett. How lucky to be able to chat with her! That makes it all worthwhile.
I'm so bummed I missed the Patchett event, not least because I also love Edwidge Danticat!Good for you for persevering to get there. I probably would have given up...
Oh my, you're right on my wavelength, Vivian. I loved House of Broken Angels, The Sentence is Death, and The Handmaid's Tale, and Good Talk may be my Book of the Year - so original, and so good!
Yes, our Rafa is a Rafael, too. In our case, our son and his Latina wife wanted a name that was both Jewish and Columbian-Mexican. They're welcoming a little girl in February, and her name will be Josefina. Rafa is Rafael Alejandro Welch - I said maybe we need to work on the musicality of that last name! :-)
P.S. Kudos to you for persevering in getting to Patchet and Danticat. I'm another Danticat fan. It sounds like Patchett was kind and courteous - so good to hear!
>55 vivians: Well I've read all of these except The House Of Broken Angels so I've just added it to my Overdrive list since I agree with you completely on the others. Horowitz has become a real favorite of mine Vivian. I can't wait for the next one and I love his references Foyle's War which I just loved.
I will probably start The Dutch House on Monday or Tuesday I hope.
It sounds like the Patchett event was wonderful, Vivian, despite all the obstacles you had to get there!
I also loved Good Talk - it is hard to understand what people are thinking (the grandparents). I look forward to the Urrea. I've heard lots of good things about it. And, of course, The Handmaid's Tale is one of my all-time favorites. I think my reserve copy of The Testaments should be available soon.
I am a big fan of Danticat. I am waiting for her new collection of stories to become available.
>56 msf59:, 57, 58 Great to hear all the Patchett love! I'm almost done with The Dutch House but have been slowing down my listening because I just don't want it to end.
>58 katiekrug:, 59 Any Danticat recommendations Joe & Katie? After hearing her read from a short story, I'm eager to read something of hers.
>60 brenzi: Sounds like we're still on the same wave length, Bonnie!
>61 BLBera: Hi Beth - I wish I could unreservedly laud The Testaments but I do have a couple of reservations. (I'm about 90% done.) I think I'm totally in the minority though, and it may have more to do with my high expectations after the brilliant Handmaid.
>62 EBT1002: Hi Ellen - I love British TV but have never watched Foyle's. It's high on my list, but I keep re-watching Doc Martin, to which I'm a total addict.
#113 The Redeemed - West County Trilogy Tim Pears
I highly recommend this series, about Leo Sercombe, a talented horse-handler, and Lottie Prideaux, his childhood friend and daughter of the county manor. This final episode finds Leo in the Royal Navy during WWI and Lottie fulfilling her dream of tending to animals. Incredible detail, always absorbing. The story of the German navy in the Scapa Flow (pictures of which I had seen on Twitter because I follow the Orkney Library site!) was gripping. Really fabulous.
#114 Fleishman is in Trouble Taffy Brodesser-Akner
So much NY Times publicity for this novel about marriage, parenting, divorce, dating, etc. Some sharp observations but overall I just didn't like it. Almost all of it is from the husband's POV, and a little about the wife at the end (shades of Fates and Furies, which was much, much better).
#115 They Called us Enemy George Takei
Excellent graphic memoir about the author's childhood in an internment camp. This will be in my top 10 for this year.
#116 Night Boat to Tangier Kevin Barry
Booker prize longlist: 2 Irish gangsters/former drug smuglers wait unsuccessfully in a Spanish ferry terminal. Their back stories slowly emerge as they banter back and forth. Great writing - I'll definitely look for Barry's backlist.
Hi, Vivian. I always enjoy following your reading choices. Hooray for the Takei. Great GN. I have requested Night Boat, after Richard warbled. I am starting the audio of the new Atwood soon.
BTW- Loving the new Winterson. Just sayin'...
Michael Kitchen is so good in Foyle's War. I do encourage you to give the series a try when you have a moment.
>70 EBT1002: Adding my recommendation for Foyle's War! It's fabulous.
Hi Katie, Mark, Laura, Bonnie, Beth and Ellen! Thanks for the Danticat recommendations - duly added. And Foyle's War does sound right up my alley, albeit sadly not featuring the singular Martin Clunes.
I think I'm in the minority about The Testaments and confess to being quite disappointed. I'm still very glad to have read it, and was pleased in her conclusion that one can still retain hope about the demise of a totalitarian regime, but I wish Atwood had let The Handmaid's Tale stand on its own. Hope you all will forgive me on this one!
#117 The Testaments Margaret Atwood
I sadly did not love this sequel, although one of the audio narrators was fabulous and really drew me in (Aunt Lydia - Ann Dowd). I thought the timeline was confusing, the writing clumsy and the voice of the teenagers unconvincing. The "Schlafly" café was amusing and pointed, but it too lost in the repetition.
#118 The Dutch House Ann Patchett
This was a top ten read for me - I absolutely loved it. Patchett is such an amazing storyteller, and I was completely drawn into this tight little family. I loved the brother-sister dynamic, found it funny and moving and entirely believable with one small exception. I also loved the Columbia setting, since I was there in the late seventies and it was totally in sync with my recollections (especially the Hungarian Pastry shop). I loved the real estate subplot as well, but mostly it was the deep connection between Danny and Maeve that completely won me over.
Count me in on the love for The Dutch House, Vivian. I too loved the brother-sister connection. I'm jealous that you got to see Ms. Patchett in person…and Edwidge Danticat was a bonus.
Rafa is adorable. Thanks for sharing the pictures of your lovely family. Congratulations to Gideon and his lovely bride.
I loved The Dutch House too! And even though I'm currently reading -- and really liking -- The Testaments, I respect your right to form your own opinion LOL! It would be boring if we all agreed all the time. I kind of agree with your point about the teenagers' voices though, having just read some dialogue that sounded way too sophisticated for someone so young.
I'm attending a meeting in our student union in about 44 minutes. The enthusiasm around here is enough to make me want to stop by the bookstore, also in the union, to purchase a copy of The Dutch House. I'll at least pick it up, pet its cover, consider its weight in my hand....
>76 msf59: Waiting to hear what you think, Mark. I'm decidedly in the LT minority on The Testaments.
>77 Donna828:, >78 lauralkeet: Hooray for The Dutch House love, Donna and Laura. I'm dying to make a trip to Nashville just to visit Patchett's bookstore!
>79 EBT1002: I hope you bought it Ellen! I really loved it.
>80 BLBera: I hope it's a success for you too Beth.
I got my second shingles vaccine yesterday and am feeling the lousy side effects (headache, overall achiness, etc.) We're driving down to DC this afternoon to visit Jo and I'm hoping these are short-lived.
#119 Dear Mrs. Bird AJ Pearce
A bit of a slow start, but after that a very enjoyable audio about an advice columnist during the Blitz. Mostly light and charming if a bit repetitive.
#120 An Irish Country Wedding Patrick Taylor
This continues to be a light and entertaining look at village life in Ireland in the 1960s.
Now reading and enjoying Cantoras and The Other Americans.
#121 Cantoras Carolina De Robertis
I highly recommend this riveting story of five young lesbian women living under the repressive Uruguayan dictatorship of the 1970s. They come together in a remote beach town which eventually becomes their home in various ways. Great dialogue, gripping backstories of each. Really worthwhile.
DNF Flights Olga Tokarczuk
Just couldn't stay focused on these short vignettes and stories. Will try again another time.
Wonderful DC trip included 2 fabulous bookstores (Politics & Prose and Kramerbooks). Jo is happy as can be, has already made great friends, and was happy to see us (and the brownies I baked). It was a great visit except for the traffic coming home.
#122 The Other Americans Laila Lalami
Character-driven story about a hit-and-run accident in a small town in the Mojave Desert. It's a mix of suspense, romance, the story of immigrants and small-town life. Rotating narrators allow the story to gradually unfold. Good but not great - I'm somewhat surprised it's been nominated for the National Book Awards.
#123 Red Notice: a True Story of High Finance, Murder and One Man's Fight for Justice Bill Browder
Stunning narrative about Sergei Magnitsky, the Hermitage Fund, astonishing wealth and luxury, and the depth of Russian corruption. I didn't want to be impressed by Browder, an intrepid hedge fund manager who is in the "1%" and has certainly facilitated the obscene wealth of others, but his determination and persistence, coupled with his deep guilt over the death of his friend, were compelling.
Ohhh I read Red Notice last year Vivian, or maybe the year before and loved it too. And yes I started the book being totally unimpressed with the man but my opinion changed over the course of the book. Very well done.
Your DC trip does sound fun, Vivian, minus the traffic, of course.
I had the same reaction as you did to The Other Americans. In fact, both novels by Lalami that I have read have underwhelmed me, especially in the face of all the praise they have received. I must be missing something. Or maybe she just isn't for me.
Hi Bonnie, Beth and Laura on this very rainy & chilly day! I just finished the Ben Lerner book, a relatively quick read that my library had on audio. Now trying to decide what's next (one of my favorite things to do.) I spent the entire day yesterday taking care of Rafa while his mom worked and his dad and Gary worked on their new Brooklyn home, almost ready for move-in. It was a great day, and ended with the news that Rafa will be a big brother in May!
#124 Leaving the Atocha Station Ben Lerner
This kind of autobiographical novel usually leaves me cold, especially with a self-centered, drug-abusing, lying narrator. But for some reason I liked Adam Gordon, perhaps because he reminded me of some of my sons' friends or maybe just because the book was short and well written. Somewhat lost, but still connected to his family at home, Adam spends his fellowship year in Madrid trying to overcome his self-doubt, gain fluency in Spanish, and make progress on his poetry. I loved the passages in which Adam's inability to converse result in multiple interpretations of the same conversations.
Wow. You've been doing a lot of reading! And congratulations on the new grandchild.
I would list the book bullets, but it will have to suffice to say I want to read almost all of them. Sigh.
>88 msf59: Yes, I loved Ghost Wall, Mark! Now I need to remember to look at her back list. I'm going to read the second Ben Lerner before getting to The Topeka School.
Thanks Bonnie, Katie, Beth, Laura, Judy and Donna. Hard to believe how quickly things change - new daughters-in-law, new babies - it all happened very fast.
DNF Good Omens
I've never read any Gaiman or Pratchett and thought this would be a good start, but despite great narration it just didn't engage me.
#125 A Bitter Feast Deborah Crombie
Still loving this series, and hoping Crombie continues to add one each year. The action leaves London as Kincaid and family are invited to Melody's family home for a country weekend. A London chef is involved in a fatal traffic accident, which provides the mystery while still allowing character development on all fronts.
#126 The Man Who Saw Everything Deborah Levy
Booker longlist. I haven't been a fan of Levy's earlier works - they just seemed obscure and relatively plotless. This one took a little while but eventually I found it intriguing and unsettling (in a good way). The historian narrator, Saul Adler, heads to the GDR in 1988 after a break-up with his girlfriend. This is immediately after being hit by a car on Abbey Road while recreating the famous Beatles photo. In a really enigmatic twist, a similar but more serious accident happens to Saul again in 2016. All the earlier events are called into question. This is definitely a book that would benefit from a second reading. A difficult but worthwhile read.
>97 msf59: Hi Mark - I liked it much better than Hot Milk, also a Booker nominee. I hope it works well for you.
>98 BLBera: Hi Beth - I'm listening to 10 Minutes 38 Seconds on audio and reading Girl, Woman, Other and really enjoying both! Then I think I'll start The Grammarians, which was written up in the NY Times but hasn't gotten any LT love yet.
>99 brenzi: Good luck with the Levy, Bonnie. I'm still thinking about it, so that's a good sign for me.
>100 EBT1002: Hi Ellen. I just checked in with my 30-something nephew who is a voracious reader and seems to have a thoughtful opinion whenever I ask him about a new-to-me author. He said Ben Lerner is his current favorite, and suggested I should read his poetry as well as the novels.
>127 Late in the Day Tessa Hadley
I heard a couple of interviews with Hadley and was intrigued. She's a prolific British author (seven novels I think) but this is the first for me. It's the story of two married couples and their relationships over many years. Both women are fairly passive and I found them both annoying and self-obsessed. We're told of the death of one of the men in the first few pages, and the novel goes back in time to trace their very enmeshed relationships. The writing is good, so I stuck it out, but wouldn't recommend it.
If anyone wants my copy of Girl, Woman, Other when I'm done, just let me know!
>102 vivians: ooh Vivian, if no one else has claimed it I would be interested. My library doesn't have copies available for distribution yet and it's not clear to me whether that will happen anytime soon.
Absolutely Laura, just PM me your address!
#128 Red at the Bone Jacqueline Woodson
Such a talented writer: in relatively few words each character is fleshed out and fully realized. This was a beautiful story, focusing on motherhood/fatherhood, sexual identity, teenage pregnancy, racism, education. Aubrey is an amazing character. Terrific read.
#129 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World Elif Shafak
Tremendously evocative writing in this Booker shortlist title. As her brain shuts down, Leila, a murdered sex worker, recalls her family, her friends and her life. Pivotal moments in modern Turkish history are woven into the story, including a particularly vivid description of a 1977 workers' protest which turned into a massacre. Immigrants, women in a patriarchal society, and other marginalized groups are all given voice. Very worthwhile.
So glad you also loved the Woodson, Vivian. I bought a copy for my permanent library.
And the Shafak is on my list.
Ooh, I missed out on Girl, Woman, Other. Bummer. I really want to read that one.
You are doing some great reading. I am glad you loved 10 Minutes. I really enjoyed the Levy. Her writing is terrific.
>107 msf59: Mark, I'd be happy to pass it along to you after I read it.
>104 vivians: Both of these books are on my Overdrive list Vivian and you make me want to read them sooner rather than later.
>101 vivians: That is so interesting to me that your 30-something reader-of-a-nephew says Ben Lerner is currently one of his favorite authors. I will see if I can find some of his poetry, too.
Thanks for taking one for the team, I'll give Late in the Day a pass.
I'm glad you enjoyed both Red at the Bone (on my wish list) and 10 Minutes 38 Seconds (one of my favorites of the year).
I'm so behind here (and in life) - too much going on and reading and LT are suffering. Mostly good stuff, plus lots of work, so I don't want to complain. I'm just unable to read my print book at night due to an inability to keep my eyes open....so audio is king for me these days.
>105 katiekrug: Your review pushed me to get to Red at The Bone Katie, so thanks for that!
>106 lauralkeet: So, so sorry for the delay Laura, but I promise it'll be on its way soon!
>107 msf59: Hi Mark - I'm glad to hear positive comments about The Man who Saw Everything. I think that's one I might reread.
>109 BLBera: I agree Beth, Red at the Bone was really outstanding.
>110 brenzi: Glad to add to add to your list, Bonnie! Mine just keeps growing....
>111 EBT1002: Hi Ellen - I'm saving The Topeka School for sometime next year because I'm sorry that I'll be done with his novels. I've never read Dance of Anger but after reading about it on other threads I may give it a try.
#130 Frankissstein Jeanette Winterson
My first Winterson, on the Booker longlist. Very funny in parts, interesting speculation about artificial intelligence and the future of human connections. I liked the parts about Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, etc. but felt that her attempt to mirror the two time periods was clumsy. The modern female characters were offensively clueless and the transgender protagonist seemed somehow trivialized. I loved the one connection between Lord Byron's only legitimate child (Ada Lovelace) and the modern computer age. So not a great success for me but still glad I read it.
#131 10:04 Ben Lerner
One reviewer wrote; "fluctuates between being brilliant and being the trivial ramblings of a pompous douchebag." I did love the writing and his reflections as he wanders around NY trying to get to work on a novel. There's one passage as he sits on a bench outside Mt Sinai on the Upper East Side, and looks at the faces of exiting visitors and patients as they accustom themselves to the daylight and to the new realities they may be facing. Another great satire, this time of the art world: The Institute of Totaled Art, in which insurance companies store damaged art assumed to be valueless once the claims have been paid. Not much plot, which is usually fatal for me, but still wonderful.
#132 Frog Music Emma Donoghue
Available on audio from my library so I grabbed it before getting to Donoghue's newest, Akin. Set during a smallpox epidemic in San Francisco in 1876 and based on a true crime. The timeline and the dialogue are both awkward but I liked the characters, especially the cross-dressing frog catcher. The other main character is a conflicted mother and prostitute who makes multiple poor decisions. Racial riots, a heat wave, the city's seediness and unwanted infants in "baby farms" add to the atmosphere. Ok but not great.
>112 vivians: no worries, Vivian. I have plenty of reading material on hand. I've already promised the book to Mark after I'm done, and he's a nice patient sort as well. 😀
>113 lauralkeet: Great to have this book chain going Laura!
>114 BLBera: Hi Beth - that's my complaint too these days. I started out the year at a much better pace but just can't seem to find as much time these days. I'm listening to a lot more podcasts (just two topics: politics and books) so that's been cutting into my reading time too.
>115 msf59: Hiya Mark! I'm looking forward to The Topeka School now that I've become a Lerner fan.
#133 Kopp Sisters on the March Amy Stewart
This has been a consistently good series, with historical events and people woven into the narrative. Set in 1917, Constance Kopp, newly fired from her position as sheriff's deputy, becomes the matron of a camp readying women for national service. Great insight into historical events about which I knew nothing - my favorite genre. The story is shared with the real-life Beulah Binford, the infamous mistress of a wealthy Virginian who was executed for the murder of his wife.
#134 Girl, Woman, Other Bernadette Evaristo
So deserving of the Booker, even though it had to be shared (a political statement, rather than a judgment of quality in my opinion) with Margaret Atwood. These are linked short stories following 12 black women of different ages, backgrounds, sexuality and voices in contemporary England. I loved the bitter schoolteacher, the rebellious teenager. It's written in a unique style (no capitalization, no full stops) but is totally accessible. Great musings about feminism and the ultimate message that no matter race, age, orientation or class, we are all the same. I'd like to draw a diagram of all the relationships: my only complaint is that sometimes I lost track of how many of the characters were related to each other. Highly recommended, very uplifting.
I have the first in the Kopp series on my Kindle. Not sure why I haven't read it yet. As a Jersey girl now, I feel it is my duty ;-)
I have a copy of Girl, Woman, Other and am looking forward to it!
Hope you had a good Thanksgiving!
You are still reading at a pretty good clip, Vivian. I HOPE to reach 134. :)
Great comments on Girl, Woman, Other. It sounds like the kind of book I would love. Maybe I'll get to it during break...
>117 brenzi:, >118 katiekrug: The Kopp series is so enjoyable for me, mostly because of the mix of fiction and history. Both of you will enjoy them, I'm sure!
>119 BLBera: I've definitely slowed, Beth. It's the nighttime reading that's really suffering - just can't keep my eyes open. Plus our house is FREEZING (a combination of being too old to heat efficiently and an insane husband who thinks 55 degrees is a perfectly adequate temp) so my hands get too cold to hold a book and burrowing under the covers with headphones is much more palatable! Then I drift off....
>120 lauralkeet: Hope you continue to enjoy it Laura. I think it was truly deserving of the Booker and am sorry to read about how it has been eclipsed by Atwood's sharing. I read somewhere that it is being cited as the unnamed one that shared the prize with The Testaments.
#135 Olive Kitteridge Elizabeth Strout (reread)
I didn't like this much when I read it ten years ago but have since aged and become much more sympathetic to Olive's crankiness. This time I was much more willing to focus on the writing skill and the way the stories are interwoven, and enjoyed it immensely. Looling forward to Olive, Again.
#136 Fingal O'Reilly, Country Doctor Patrick Taylor
This was #8 in my go-to "light" series which is available on audio from my library. This one has two timelines: 1930s Dublin as Fingal works in his first job as a "dispensary" doctor tending to the poor, and the continuation of the 1960s story as Fingal finally marries his first love. Lots of critical medical developments and new techniques, and lots of warm and believable characters. And oh the Irish dialogue and cursing! It helps to have a great narrator.
>121 vivians: Happy Friday, Vivian.
* insane husband who thinks 55 degrees is a perfectly adequate temp
We've had those battles chez moi as well. My hubs is not quite that insane but also, to be honest, it became less of an issue when we moved into our current house which seems to distribute and retain heat better. I hope your reading doesn't suffer tooo much this winter!
* Girl, Woman, Other is absolutely amazing. I am loving it and as much as I also loved The Testaments, really wish GWO had been the sole prize winner. It's fresh, inventive, and so well written.
* become much more sympathetic to Olive's crankiness.
Ha! I totally get that. I really liked Olive Kitteridge when I read it *gulp* 10 years ago but when I read Olive, Again I could empathize with her so much more.
Have a great day!
55 is a wee bit low for sure :) Our new house has two zones and two furnaces, and I'm still trying to figure out what controls what. The Wayne is obsessed with having wood-burning fireplaces, so we've been making use of the one in the family room a lot, though his fire-making skills could use some help...
I can't wait to get to Girl, Woman, Other!
>122 lauralkeet: Hi Laura - hope Girl, Woman, Other continues to hold up for you. I've always had a bias against short stories because without a lengthy time spent with plot & characters I seem to be unable to remember any details. That didn't feel like a problem this time but I'm hoping I'll be able to recall enough to discuss at my book group next week!
>123 katiekrug: Friends who have a wood burning stove swear by it & say it heats the whole house. I find that when we use the fireplace (which is glorious when I'm sitting close by) the rest of the house cools down. Oh well, just 4 more months of this....
Finally getting some more reading time...
#137 The Innocents Michael Crummey
I've really enjoyed this Canadian author's work in the past, particularly Galore. This is another atmospheric tale set in 18th century Newfoundland, and centers around an orphaned brother and sister and their efforts to survive the isolation, deprivation and extreme weather. A gripping struggle and great writing as well.
#138 Sabrina and Corina Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Stories about Latinas, mostly set in Colorado. Great reading but not memorable.
#139 Akin Emma Donoghue
A slow start but then it completely drew me in and I became attached to the main characters: 79 year old Noah Selvaggio and his great-nephew Michael. I wasn't thrilled about the subplot of Noah's mother's activities in Nice during WWII and found it a bit contrived. But great food and location references, and I enjoyed the interaction between the two. Another very different Donoghue work - what a talent.
>125 lauralkeet: Hi Laura - I'm still looking for some kind of graphic to show how all the characters are connected. My book group is scheduled to discuss it next week and I'm eager to hear what others thought.
>126 msf59: Hi Mark - I've never really been a short story fan, and I think that's just a function of my inability to retain plots and characters in that form. But I'll keep trying!
#140 The Sisters Dervla McTiernan
This was an audible original, and I believe it's the prequel to a new series. It was short and a very satisfying account of sisters living together, one a police officer and the other a junior barrister, and their collaboration on a murder case.
Last night my tiny local library hosted Mary Beth Keane, author of the recent excellent Ask Again, Yes. It was a small group, about 20 (mostly women), with loads of really thoughtful and intelligent questions. Lots of enthusiasm for the book (which I really liked) and wonderful insights from the author, both about her writing process and the story itself.
>121 vivians: I appreciate your comments about Olive Kitteridge, Vivian. I have been less of a fan than many have been but I wonder if it would land differently from this moment in my life span.
I'm taking Frankissstein on vacay with me and I look forward to it but appreciate your caveats.
I loved Girl, Woman, Other.
>129 EBT1002:, 131 I've been thinking of you on vacation Ellen, and hope it's as wonderful as anticipated!
>130 BLBera: Keane's talk was great, Beth. She said George was her favorite character, and even that she sometimes finds herself "looking" for him in a crowd of people! She said the book tok 4 years and numerous drafts to write, and that she had lower expectations for it than she did for her previous book, Fever, which I think was about "Typhoid" Mary. She also talked about wanting to portray both Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope as complex characters, neither of them all good or all bad. She told some amusing stories about being on Jimmy Fallon's show (her book was chosen for a summer reading contest) and how surprised she was that he seemed to have actually read the book! It was a great talk.
#141 The Grammarians Cathleen Schine
I had trouble finishing this and am sorry I did. It had received a lot of positive reviews but I just didn't enjoy this story of identical twins who both are infatuated with language. Sibling jealousy is explored, as well as each child's connection with her parents. Not much happens, the characters are unlikeable, and the writing was far from the gorgeous evocative prose some of the blurbs had extolled. So, not a success for me. That being said, I have a pristine hard copy I'd love to pass along if anyone is interested.
#142 The Giver of Stars JoJo Moyes
My first Moyes, which I decided to read after hearing a fascinating BBC interview. It's the fictionalized account of the Kentucky Pack Horse librarians, who operated in rural Appalachia in the 1930s and 40s. That aspect was interesting but there was too much drama, predictable romance and neatly tied up resolutions.
#143 The Topeka School Ben Lerner
Another terrific accomplishment, with glorious prose and great plot & characters. I liked the earlier two slightly better, but would recommend it whole-heartedly. The focus is on Adam Gordon's high school years and on his parents (renowned psychoanalysts - as are Lerner's parents). Fabulous insights into a variety of topics, from high school debate societies to Midwestern culture, to disturbing portraits of disenfranchised teenagers. Lerner ends with seemingly more autobiographical notes on his virulent opposition to the current administration. Criticisms: weak on feminism and female characters, and very blurred lines between fiction and autobiography.
>133 vivians: a friend in one of my bookclubs recently sang the praises of The Giver of Stars, but I haven't been tempted. I found Me Before You enjoyable but predictable, and am not rushing to read more of her work. That said, I could imagine her suggesting The Giver of Stars for book club at some point. I'll go with the majority rather than raise a stink LOL.
>132 vivians: Hi Vivian, I had to think for a minute about who George was in Ask Again, Yes but of course he was Brian's brother and my favorite character too. I found that I like that book even more now than just after I read it somehow.
I'll be skipping The Grammarians and The Giver of Stars and I'm looking forward to The Topeka School.
The Keane talk does sound great, Vivian. Great comments on The Grammarians - the description sounds tempting, but I think I'll pass on it and on the Moyes. Thanks for taking one for the team. :). I must read Lerner though.
Have a great holiday season, with the family, Vivian. I hope to get to The Topeka School in the coming months .
Hi Vivian. The holiday is a bit more challenging than we had hoped; the weather has really not cooperated at all. We sit here on Christmas eve with a "light" tropical storm blustering outside. But the windows are open and it's still Kauai. We're hoping the warned-about power outages don't occur.
>133 vivians: I just finished that one by Moyes. I agree with your assessment although I may have liked it a bit better overall. Still the book had problems, and you've summarized them well.
Another week of neglecting my thread....will try harder in 2020!
>134 lauralkeet: JoJo Moyes has so many fans, but I just didn't think this was a convincing book. I was disappointed since the interview I heard was so enticing. I'm with you - probably won't read any more of hers.
>135 brenzi: I agree with you, Bonnie - Ask Again Yes continued to grow on me well after finishing it. I may even include it in my top books of the year.
>136 BLBera: I definitely recommend any of Ben Lerner's 3 novels, Beth. I've also heard that his poetry is pretty amazing, but I haven't looked at it yet.
>137 msf59: Thanks Mark!
>138 EBT1002: I'm glad the weather didn't dampen your spirits, Ellen.
>139 PaulCranswick: Thanks Paul, and same to you!
>140 thornton37814: I don't regret having read it Lori, mostly because the historical context was so interesting. But it was just way too predictable for me.
Some short reviews:
#145 Nothing to See here Kevin Wilson
Another really creative and unputdownable novel with a terrific voice. Lillian is an outsider, down on her luck, living i her mother's attic, when a childhood best friend (beautiful, rich, well-connected) asks her to be a nanny for her two very unusual stepchildren. Funny, poignant, and beautifully read on audio.
#146 The Second Biggest Nothing Colin Cotterill
I think this is my favorite Dr. Siri so far, although somewhat bittersweet with the end of a favorite character. This is the 14th in the series which has at times veered too much into the magical but for the most part has been a fabulous ride. This installment has wonderful flashbacks to Siri's time in Paris as well as a great subplot of a US POW in Vietnam, as he and all those close to him are threatened with death. As usual, terrific insight into the political and the personal.
#147 Out of the Deep I Cry Julia Spencer Fleming
Better than the first two installments because of the connection with a cold case from the 1920s dealing with a diphtheria epidemic, a troubled family and bootleggers. I still find Reverend Clare Ferguson to be pushy and self-righteous, but the vaccine debate and the relationship with Russ were pluses.
Last minute vacation plans: on the 2nd I'll be taking a 4 day mother-daughter trip to Turks and Caicos! I'm so excited to spend a few days together in a restful and warm location. And I figure it's the perfect opportunity to dive into the 1,000 page Ducks, Newburyport which has been languishing on my night table. Happy new year to all!
I want to read Nothing to See Here.
And hooray for a getaway - I assume with Jo and not with your mother? Or both?
>142 vivians: wow! that sounds like a ton of fun. I can't wait to hear more about your trip.
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