Bonnie (brenzi) Takes Another Stab at this Reading Thing - Part 4
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The last one is Mia and her dad going to her first Father/Daughter Dance
1. Darktown - Thomas Mullen - audio - 4.2 stars
2. The Overstory - Richard Powers - eBook - 5 stars
3. Evening in Paradise - Lucia Berlin - audio - ????
4. The Chosen - Chaim Potok - OTS - 4 stars
5. Friday on My Mind - Nicci French - Audio - 4 stars
6. The Pursuit Of Love - Nancy Mitford - OTS - 4.2 stars
7. Started Early, Took My Dog - Kate Atkinson - audio/OTS - 4.5 stars
8. The Bolter - Frances Osborne - OTS - 4.5 stars
9. Lightning Men - Thomas Mullen - audio - 4.4 stars
10. Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love - Dani Shapiro - eBook - 4.3 stars
11. How to be a Woman - Caitlin Moran - audio - 4 stars
12. The Word is Murder - Anthony Horowitz - audio - 4 stars
13. The Paragon Hotel - Lyndsay Faye - eBook - 4.2 stars
14. Bibliophile - Jane Mount - L - 4 stars
15. Love in a Cold Climate - Nancy Mitford - OTS - 4.3 stars
16. Where the Crawdads Sing - Delia Owen - audio - 4.2 stars
17. White Mischief - James Fox - eBook - 3.6 stars
18. Transit - Anna Seghers - OTS - translation -5 stars
19. Becoming - Michelle Obama - audio - 4.3 stars
20. Finn - Jon Clinch - eBook - 4.5 stars
21. Dark Saturday - Nicci French - audio - 4 stars
22. The Nun and the Priest: Love, Celibacy and Passion - Evelyn McLean Brady - OTS - 4.2 stars
23. Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford - eBook - 4.3 stars
24. The Unknown Ajax - Georgette Heyer - eBook - 4 stars
25. Milkman - Anna Burns - audio - ????
26. These Truths: A History Of the United States - Jill Lepore - eBook - 4.5 stars
27. Travels in Siberia - Ian Frazier - audio - 3.8 stars
28. My Sister the Serial Killer - eBook - 4 stars
29. Second Person Singular - Sayed Kashua - eBook - translation - 4.5 stars
30. Force Of Nature - Jane Harper - audio - 3.6 stars
31. Say Nothing - Patrick Radden Keefe - eBook - 4.2 stars
32. I'll Be Gone in the Dark - Michelle McNamara - audio - 3.6 stars
33. Something Like Breathing - Angela Readman - eBook - 4.2 stars
34. Sunday Silence - Nicci French - audio - 4 stars
35. West - Carys Davies - audio - 4.5 stars
36. English Passengers - Matthew Kneale - OTS - 5 stars
37. Good Evening Mrs. Craven - Mollie Panter-Downes- OTS - 4.3 stars
38. November Road - Lou Berney- audio - 4.4 stars
39. River Of Darkness - Rennie Airth - eBook - 4.2 stars
40. The Day Of The Dead - Nicci French - audio - 4 stars
41. The Blackhouse - Peter May - audio - 4.5 stars
42. The Heart's Invisible Furies - John Boyne - eBook - 5 stars
43. Vacationland - John Hodgman - audio - 3 stars
44. The Gentlewomen - Laura Talbot - OTS - 4.5 stars
45. The Lewis Man - Peter May - audio - 4.5 stars
46. Disappearing Earth - Julia Phillips - eBook - 4 stars
47. Faro's Daughter - Georgette Heyer - eBook - 4 stars
48. Fall and Rise: the Story Of 9/11 - Mitchell Zuckoff - eBook - 5 stars
49. The Wolf and the Watchman - Niklas Natt och Dag - audio - translation - 4.3 stars
50. Big Sky - Kate Atkinson - L - 4.3 stars
51. There, There - Tommy Orange - L - 4.5 stars
52. Beartown - Fredrik Backman - audio - translation - 3 stars
53. Women Talking - Miriam Toews - eBook - 4.1 stars
54. The Long And Faraway Gone - Lou Berney - audio - 4.2 stars
55. A Tale Of Love and Darkness - Amos Oz - OTS - translation -4.7 stars
56. The Long Take - Robin Robertson - audio - 4.5 stars
57. Good Talk - Mira Jacob - L - 4.5 stars
58. The Nickel Boys - Colson Whitehead - L - 4.5 stars
59. The Lost Man Jane Harper - audio - 4 stars
60. The Chessmen - Peter May - audio - 4 stars
61. A Good Man - Guy Vanderhaeghe - OTS - 4.2 stars
62. The Body Lies - Jo Baker - eBook - 4 stars
63. Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial Of Harper Lee - Casey Cep- audio - 4.2 stars
64. Lost Children Archive - Valeria Luiselli - eBook - 4.3 stars
65. The Siege Of Krishnapur - J.G. Farrell - OTS - 5 stars
66. City Of Girls - Elizabeth Gilbert - audio - 3 stars
67. The Sentence is Death - Anthony Horowitz - audio - 4.1 stars
68. The Sisters: The Saga Of the Mitford Family - MARY S. Lovell - eBook - 4.3 stars
69. Dear Mrs. Bird - AJ Pearce - audio - 3.9 stars
70. The Women Of The Copper Country - Mary Doria Russell - eBook- 4.5 stars
71. Garden Of Beasts - Erik Larson - OTS/audio - 4.0 stars
72. A Better Man - Louise Penny - L - 4.2 stars
73. Only Killers and Thieves - Paul Howarth - audio - 5 stars
74. Burmese Days - George Orwell - eBook - 4.2 stars
75. Mrs. Tim Of the Regiment - D.E. Stevenson - eBook - 3.8 stars
76. A Woman of No Importance - Sonia Purnell - audio - 4.5 stars
77. Ghost Wall - Sarah Moss - eBook - 3.5 stars
78. A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway - L - 3.8 stars
79. Our House - Louise Candlish - audio - 4 stars
80. The Paris Wife - Paula McLain - OTS - 3.7 stars
81. The Dutch House - Ann Patchett - eBook - 4.2 stars
82. The Turn Of The Key - Ruth Ware - audio - 4.3 stars
83. The Horseman - Tim Pears - eBook - 4.3 stars
84. The Secrets We Kept - Lara Prescott - eBook - 3.8 stars
85. The Reluctant Widow - Georgette Heyer - eBook - 3.7 stars
86. Star of the North - D.B. John - audio - 3.5 stars
87. The Slaves of Solitude - Patrick Hamilton - OTS - 4.3 stars
88. They Called Us Enemy - George Takei - L - 4 stars
89. Conviction - Denise Mina - audio - 3.8 stars
90. The Space Between Us - Thrity Umrigar - eBook - 4 stars
91. Heartburn - Nora Ephron - audio - 2 stars
92. The Secrets Between Us - Thrity Umrigar - eBook - 4.5 stars
93. Ghost Soldiers - Hampton Sides - OTS/audio - 4.7 stars
94. The Wanderers - Tim Pears - L - 4.5 stars
95. A Train in Winter - Caroline Moorhead - audio - 4.3 stars
96. Dear Evelyn - Kathy Page - eBook - 4.3 stars
97. Five Days Gone - Laura Cumming - L - 4.2 stars
98. Ask Again, Yes - Mary Beth Keane - audio - 4.2 stars
99. The Ministry of Truth - Dorian Lynskey - audio - 3.8 stars
100. The Feast of the Goat - Mario Vargas Llosa - OTS - translation - 4 stars
101. The Johnstown Flood - David McCullough - audio - 3.8 stars
102. Mrs. Tim Carries On - D.E. Stevenson - eBook - 4 stars
103. Red at the Bone - Jacqueline Woodson - eBook - 4.1 stars
104. The Coroner's Lunch - Colin Cotterill - audio - 4 stars
105. In the Dream House - Carmen Maria Machado - L - 4.5 stars
106. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill - Abbi Waxman - audio - 3.7 stars
107. Guest House for Young Widows Azadeh Moaveni - eBook - 5 stars
108. Normal People - Sally Rooney - eBook - 4 stars
109. The Unpassing - Chia Chia Lin - audio - 3.7 stars
110. Hotel du Lac - Anita Brookner - eBook - 4.2 stars
111. Last Witnesses: An Oral History of the Children of World War II - Svetlana Alexievich - audio - translation - 4.3 stars
112. The Redeemed - Tim Pears - eBook - 4 stars
113. Olive, Again - Elizabeth Strout - eBook - 4.7 stars
114. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk - Kathleen Rooney - audio - 4.2 stars
115. Cantoras - Carolina de Robertis - eBook - 4.3 stars
116. Thirty-three Teeth - Colin Cotterill - audio - 3.8 stars
Total Books: 116
The Wanderers by Tim Pears
This is Book 2 in Pears’ West Country Trilogy and it continues on the same quiet, compelling trajectory as the first volume. Compulsively readable. It won’t be long before I pick up the third volume I’m sure.
Young Leo is on his own and trying to figure out how he will live his life with no resources. You know so well that he will find a way. In the meantime, Charlotte pines away for her Leo but there doesn’t seem to be a way for them to come together again. Or is there? WWI threatens.
A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead
The train is heading for Birkenau in the early years of WWII. The passengers include 230 women of the French Resistance. This was an incredible audio of a horrific experience. Part One was about living in France and taking part in the Resistance. Struggling with the Vichy government as well as the resident German troops was bad enough but nothing in comparison to life in the camps as detailed in Part Two. These women watched as many of their number were beaten and tortured or died of deprivation, exposure, starvation and disease (typhus was common). And yet, they developed a bond that was incredibly durable. As Moorehead relates at the end of the narrative:
”They had learnt, they would say, the full meaning of friendship, a commitment to each other that went far deeper than individual liking or disliking; and they now felt wiser, in some indefinable way, because they had understood the depths to which human beings can sink and equally the heights to which it is possible to rise.”
A devastating portrait of an inconceivable experience.
>9 NanaCC: Yes Colleen, a very tough read but really compelling.
>10 msf59: Thanks Mark, I just added People Who Eat Darkness to my Overdrive list.
>11 figsfromthistle: Thank you Anita.
>12 mckait: Hey it's Kath. How are you? And thank you.
>13 FAMeulstee: Thanks so much Anita.
Good review of A Train in Winter. It sounds like a powerful book.
>16 BLBera: Thanks Beth. I think you and Vivian are responsible for Ask Again, Yes being in my ears right now. Not very far into it yet but it's really compelling already.
>17 drneutron: Thanks Jim.
>18 vivians: Thanks Vivian, I would love to hear Mary Beth Keane speak. Lucky you.
Dear Evelyn by Kathy Page
I have a real affinity for Canadian authors but Kathy Page is a new one for me. After reading her beautifully written novel about the love and marriage of Harry and Evelyn Miles I will be seeking out more of her work.
The title would lead you to believe that this is an epistolary novel but that's not really true. It does have some excerpts of letters, mostly Harry's letters to Evelyn from Egypt during WWII, letters that are actually, word for word, letters written by the author's father; but for the most part the novel is a regularly framed narrative that covers their 70 years of marriage.
Although Page definitely brings out the joy and struggle of raising a family in the middle of the 20th century, I found the sections describing the changes that a marriage goes through, even after dealing with difficulties in raising children, to be the most heartbreaking, and yet probably very common.
Towards the end of the book, Harry and Evelyn are quite elderly and facing the extreme challenges of aging. Evelyn is distraught:
"What no one seemed to understand was that he was not the man she had married. Not the man who had written those letters in the war, or come back from it and built the house....The fact was that things ended. She felt suddenly very weak, sat down on the bed, put her head in her hands and sobbed until there was not a sound left in her."
Harry's got a quite different take:
"Evelyn, Evelyn! He had loved her all his adult life, long after the gloss of their youth and it's illusions had been worn away and left them with the essentials of who they were, along with a collection of sometimes contradictory memories...He had never denied her anything, material or emotional, that he could provide, and what she desired now was his absence from her daily life. Evelyn! She was frightened by weakness. It did help considerably to understand her from the inside. To align himself in that way with her."
Beautifully written, heartbreaking but at the same time so realistic, I was completely absorbed by Harry and Evelyn's story. Very highly recommended.
Five Days Gone: The Mystery of My Mother's Disappearance as a Child by Laura Cumming
>25 karenmarie: Thanks Karen.
>26 benitastrnad: You always seem to find excellent non-fiction Benita.
>27 benitastrnad: I have no idea why I read so many books in September and October Benita. I don't think the weather has anything to do with it and school has little effect on me so I don't think that's it. I guess it will remain a mystery lol.
Happy "who left the door to Canada open?!" weekend!
Five Days Gone: The Mystery of My Mother's Disappearance as a Child by Laura Cumming
"Photography gives us memories we hardly knew we had: the house where we were born, our infant selves, the embarrassing clothes we once wore. But the camera is also capable of giving us memories we cannot actually have because we were not there in the first place."
In 1929, the author's mother, Betty, disappeared from the beach near her home on the English coast. She was three years old. For five days no one could find her, leaving her adoptive parents frantic. This book is her daughter's effort to examine what was done and how it all unfolded as it all seemed to result in a life full of misery.
It's a beautiful book, filled with charming photographs and relevant artwork that I absolutely loved. And the mystery is carefully revealed through these pieces as well as letters and writings Betty contributed in the 1980s as she recalled certain events and people. It all comes together beautifully to unveil a life that could have been so different. Highly recommended.
This book is on the shortlist for the Baillie Gifford Prize for non-fiction writing, which I think will be awarded this week. Also on the shortlist, Furious Hours by Casey Cep, which I read earlier this year.
Ask Again, Yes by Molly Keane (audio narrator - Molly Pope)
In 1973, two young New York City rookie cops become partners and in doing so end up having a lifelong connection involving their families, the Stanhopes and the Gleasons. That relationship is cemented when they end up being next door neighbors in the suburban community of Gillam.
The author did a yeoman's job of illustrating the problems that can overwhelm families today and although mental illness and alcoholism isn't found in every family, it's common enough that we all know families effected by it in one way or another. Very well done and compulsively readable.
The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas
And on audio:
The Ministry of Truth: the Biography of George Orwell's 1984 by Dorian Lynskey
I just registered for Philadelphia ALA and will be looking for a roommate. I intend on getting one of the Conference hotels, which will make hauling books back and forth much easier. I will probably fly up late Friday and leave early on Monday morning. Would you be looking for a roommate for at least part of that time?
>45 PaulCranswick: Yes Paul and so are Prime Video and Apple+ which I just got and of course HBO and Showtime....they're all great but I feeling a bit overwhelmed by them all. I try to find only the shows I know will appeal to me but sifting through everything gets tiresome.
I don't understand the watching the whole series at once. Who has that kind of time? Or that kind of network access? Or that much electronic equipment? Answer - only those who live in cities.
Try streaming one episode out in Kansas and see how that goes.
The Ministry of Truth by Dorian Lynskey
I didn't know an awful lot about George Orwell so this book was very interesting to me. The first part of the book delves into Orwell's early work and all the factors that helped to develop his eventual later work for which he is known, especially 1984. He was quite ill with tuberculosis in 1947 when he spent many months in a cottage in the Hebrides writing his most famous novel. His idea was that it was a criticism of Russia and even though he was a socialist, he recognized early on the horrors that Russia was inflicting on her people.
Towards the end of the book the author draws parallels to many of the things we're witnessing today with particular emphasis on the efforts of the Trump administration to make lies appear to be true ("alternative facts") and emphasizing Orwell's prescience. Highly recommended.
The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa
Set in the middle of the last century in the Dominican Republic, this historical fiction told the story of forty nine year old Urania who returns to her native country after thirty five years in the U.S. As she gets reacquainted with her family, including the father she despises, the story of life under the rule of the brutal dictator Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo is related. Chapters rotate between Urania's story and the story of the horrid reign of this dictator and the plans for his assassination and its aftermath.
A brilliant book that revealed horrors too many to list here and many of which I skimmed over, the narrative absolutely pulses with energy and had me wondering how far this pathetic man and his cronies went to achieve their dominance over the people he ruled with an iron fist.
I learned a lot about a time and era I was aware of but knew little about. That's what I love about excellent historical fiction and this was a fine example of that.
>63 richardderus: sounds like a wonderful menu Richard especial the carrot cake. One of my favorites.
>64 Berly: Thanks Kim. Isn't it odd? Why is it always Romaine? I've sworn it off before but always resumed buying it but it gets to be a real drag.
>65 lauralkeet: Great Laura. I'll be ready. Will it be your first book in January?
I am glad to hear that Dr. Siri is putting a big smile on your face. The books will even get better, once you get used to these wonderfully, colorful characters.
Mrs. Tim Carries On by D.E. Stevenson
Another delightful entry in the Mrs. Tim series, this time after the start of WWII and the blitz. I love the character development and even with the travails of the war on the home front, Mrs. Tim really does carry on quite well. Tim had a harrowing experience while at Dunkirk But all is well now as they get ready for the next stage in their lives. Good stuff.
The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough
This audio, read by Edward Herman, told the story of the devastating flood in 1899 that took 2,000 lives and was the greatest man-made disaster in the history of the country. The blame lay ultimately with the dam on the property of the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club, which was done on the cheap without the direction of engineers or anyone knowledgeable. And of course the club was owned by wealthy Pittsburgh businessmen. The devastation to the valley below as the flood took buildings and made projectiles of them that washed away houses and residents was told in horrifying details. The club was never held responsible in any way. Criminal really.
>68 msf59: Hi Mark, we're savvy enough here in a Buffalo no to get too excited about the Bills. We've been let down too many times but somehow it feels a bit different this time. They are very entertaining at any rate. Yay for finally getting to Dr. Siri.
I hadn't thought that far ahead yet, Bonnie, but at this point I don't think there's anything else jockeying for first position. Will it be your first read of 2020?
>70 brenzi: I just finished Red at the Bone last night. She's such an excellent writer. I am still pondering my review.
Believe it or not Red at the Bone is my first Woodson but I'm loving it at the 74% point.
I'm really glad to see you're loving Red at the Bone. I've also read and enjoyed Brown Girl Dreaming and Another Brooklyn. Brown Girl Dreaming is Woodson's autobiography in verse. It's technically YA but you'd never know it. It's really brilliant.
Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
A beautifully written story about three generations of a Brooklyn family. When Iris and Aubrey engage in sexual relations as young teenagers, the result is the child Melody. What happens after her birth is the crux of the story. Lovely language and very short, this book could be read in a couple of sittings. Very well done character development.
ETA: I'll get $5 toward an eBook too.
In the Dream House by Carmen Marie Machado
The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill
I have no idea why I've waited so long to start this series. I was tempted to go on immediately to the next book....yes, that's how much I enjoyed it. As it happened, I was making Christmas cookies when I started to listen to it and I found myself laughing out loud and I had to stop what I was doing and tell Mark how much I was enjoying it because he was the one who said I had to listen to the audio. I really hope they used the same narrator on the books going forward.
At any rate, Dr. Siri is a coroner in Laos in the 1970s, trying to function with very few resources, as the bodies pile up. He somehow has several cases that are very suspicious. I assume this will continue throughout the series which is at fifteen books right now. That's a lot of suspicious death relying on the coroner to figure out whodunit.
Anyway, it's the characters that really shine. I love these characters especially the two lab assistants Dr. Siri has. Dr. Siri himself is a septuagenarian, a widower, who should be retired but the Communist government has sort of insisted that he be the chief coroner for the country so he's stuck. His sarcasm and flippant attitude about the most mundane elements of his job and Laotian life in general are just priceless. It won't be long until I tee up the next one.
In the Dream House by Carmen Marie Machado
I knew absolutely nothing about this book before I read it except that it was a memoir on several end of the year "best of" and was getting rave reviews. I like to go into books with little knowledge to avoid, well, you know.....spoilers of any kind. Sometimes this leads to all sorts of eye opening reading experiences. This was one of them.
It seems that Machado has created a new sort of genre with this book that relates her experiences with with an abusive partner as they worked through a lesbian relationship. To cut to the chase, Machado has set up a most unusual format for this memoir in which she she is blindingly honest in her explanation of exactly how she managed to get through what was obviously a horrific experience for her. And she doesn't hide the fact that she could've, should've gotten out of the relationship several times but somehow couldn't do it. It made me feel that she was so real, so human, because I could picture myself doing something very much like that.
The writing is beautiful and I could hardly stop reading wondering how long she would put up with this woman who was making her life hell. The format, as I mentioned, is very unusual. She compared the Dream House, where they thought they would be so happy, to a number of tropes and headed each section of the book with that metaphor: Dream House as Confession, as Bildungsroman, as Noir, as Here Comes the Bride, as High Fantasy, as Doppleganger, as Demonic Pissession, as Unreliable Narrator and on and on. Absolutely brilliant. And somehow left me feeling unexpectedly hopeful and joyful. Very highly recommended.
I am so glad you had such a good time with Dr. Siri & Co. And yes, the same audio narrator does all the books. Yah!
It does help that there's no physical abuse. I really have to gear up to make it through those. Not that emotional abuse is a walk in the park, but it's not quite as daunting for me as a reader.
I just read a Toi Derricotte poetry collection in which she was physically abused by her father. Tough going, but it helped that she was looking back after his death, from a mature survivor perspective.
I haven't read Her Body and Other Parties but I've added it to my Overdrive list.
>95 lauralkeet: Thanks Laura, I'm looking forward to Girl, Woman Other. And guess what? I just came back from dinner with friends and guess what I had.....a French 75. Very tasty. No one else had ever heard of it.
>96 jnwelch: Hi Joe, Machado is looking back also but not after anyone's death. But I agree that physical abuse is hard to take. It was what spoiled Ghost Wall for me earlier this year.
I love French 75's. The best one I had was at one of John Besh's restaurants in New Orleans. The restaurant was Luc, and it was very tasty. The second best one I had was at McCormick and Schmidt's in Seattle, WA. That one was huge and tasty.
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
Pure candy. Nina Hill is a young woman who suffers from anxiety, works in a book store, and plans every moment of every day down to the second. She schedules her reading like most people schedule their sleep. Most of us could relate to this but Nina is definitely compulsive. Things rain down on her in torrents: she discovers her father, whom she's never met, left her an inheritance and she has quite a large extended family, she's fallen for a man and hasn't any idea how to schedule time for him, and her employer is having trouble keeping the lights on in her book store. She may lose her lease.
I like mixing in a light read or two every month and this was a perfect audio for that purpose. Delightful.
Guest House for Young Widows by Azadeh Moaveni
"The caliphate suffered an abundance of widows, and widows, as everyone knows, are especially prone to envy. If the widows were widows twice or even thrice over, as was the case with many women, the problem of envy took on monstrous dimensions. To be a widow in the Islamic State was to be condemned to a rough, deprived existence in a guest house for widows."
I read this whole book thinking it was written by a man. Wrong. A young Californian/Iranian woman wrote it. And it's brilliant. I mean absolutely brilliant. I knew so little about ISIS and the war in Syria that you'd think I never read the news. But I do read the news. Pretty much everyday. And yet I didn't know sooooo much.
Do any of you remember seeing video in 2014 of some very young Muslim women in Heathrow getting ready to board a plane to Turkey and eventually arrive in Syria to participate in the war as part of the Islamic State? I saw the video many times. It never occurred to me to sympathize with the mothers of those very young girls. It never dawned on me that anyone so young could up and leave home and go to war. But they did. Unbelievably that's exactly what they did.
They weren't the only ones. Moaveni traces the lives of several of these young women. They came from Tunisia, Libya, Iraq, London, Germany, Turkey and Syria. They end up being forced into marriage, and having as many children as they could, and waiting, then, for the return of their husbands from the battlefield, or, worse, the notification that their husband was killed on the battlefield. And then, when they no longer had a husband, the grueling life of a widow, with children, who will be expected to marry the next ISIS soldier who is "assigned" to her. Horrible suffering.
And in the end, guess what? They're stuck in a camp in Turkey or Iraq living with their children because their country will not take them back. Some of them end up in prison. It's all pretty awful. And the author tries to detail why it all happened, the poverty and disrespect that many of them felt they could no longer tolerate and forced them to move on to the battlefield where they hoped to make a better life for themselves.
As I said, absolutely brilliant. Narrative non-fiction at its best. And very highly recommended.
So, happy weekend ahead!
Normal People by Sally Rooney
This is the story of two teenagers who come from much different social classes in a small town in Ireland. Connell's mother works as a cleaner for Marianne's family and it would seem they have little in common. They get to know each other, initially, when Connell comes to pick his mother up at Marianne's house. But it leads to a deep friendship between the very popular Connell and the very oddball and shunned Marianne. Although they have a very unusual relationship, they remain friends when they both continue on to Trinity College in Dublin. But the most interesting piece of this very well done narrative happens when they've settled into college life and things seem to change somehow.
Rooney is a new author to me but this novel really had me thinking about these characters, the anxiety that goes along with being young and navigating the rituals of living in a community that doesn't accept everyone for what they are. Really well done. And highly recommended.
Guest House for Young Widows also sounds wonderful. It looks like I have some great nonfiction reads ahead.
>111 BLBera: I have had a phenomenal year of reading Beth, my best ever I think. Guest House for Young Widows will be one of my top reads for sure.
Rooney is really good at characterization and that subtle change in narrative was very thought provoking. I need to read her earlier novel Conversations with Friends.
Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner
And on audio:
Last Witnesses: An Oral History of the children of World War II by Svetlana Alexievich
The Unpassing by Chia Chia Lin
I finished listening to this one yesterday and well, in a word, bleak. The only thing that relieved the bleakness was the narration by eleven year old Gavin. A Taiwanese family living in Alaska suffers one hardship after another. Mother, father and four children are struggling to get by when Gavin comes down with meningitis at the same time that the Challenger explodes taking its astronauts to their deaths. He wakes from a coma to discover the loss of the Challenger and also the loss of his sister Ruby who died from complications of meningitis. Life goes downhill from here, if you can imagine. I kept hoping for some light, some hope and just didn't find it. So although the writing was terrific and the story compelling, I was looking for more. I was drawn to the story because of the unusual setting and characters and that very setting added to its bleakness. I'm still glad I read it I was just looking for some hope I guess.
Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner
You will love this book if this is the kind of book you like lol. By that I mean it's a quiet, thought provoking, character study kind of book loaded with long beautiful poetic sentences and a dollop of humor thrown in for good measure. I love this kind of book and have found a new favorite writer. Brookner, who died in 2016, won the Booker Prize in 1984 for this book which was one of her early novels. She wrote a total of 24 novels and all but one are available from Overdrive so I now have a plan for next year's reading.
Edith Hope, a writer of romantic fiction books, is in residence at the elite Hotel du lac in Switzerland. The reason for her stay is murky but we learn pretty early on that there has been an incident that seemed to force her here. It's the off season and within a few weeks the hotel will close until next year's new season starts so there are only a few guests.
We get to know these guests fairly well because Edith is an observer of human nature. And so is Anita Brookner. Discovering the secrets that lie within the hearts of both Edith and the other guests is an integral part of the book. Things are not always as they seem.
"Taking coffee in the salon, Edith found herself treated a little distantly by Mrs. Pusey. Perhaps her return earlier that evening with Mr. Neville had been noted, and filed away without comment. In any event, Edith was obliged to listen to Mrs. Pusey's plans, which were, as usual, extensive, without being awarded any interest in her own. Reciprocity was a state unknown to Mrs. Pusey, whose imperative need for social dominance, once assured by her beauty and the mute presence of an adoring husband, had now to be enforced by more brutal means."
I am so happy to have found a new author who, it seems, hit all the right notes for me. Very highly recommended.
I do like the NPR Book Concierge list because (a) they include A LOT of titles; and (b) you can filter it multiple ways to find the perfect food-themed romance novel featuring a gay couple (or whathave you) :)
I didn't realize the massive NPR list had filters you could use. That could certainly be useful.
>115 brenzi: I liked the article you posted. I look at those lists as flawed and incomplete, but harmless fun for book lovers. But I hadn't thought about how problematic they would be for authors, that's a real downside. I don't have a single go-to list, preferring instead to read lots of them and get that bigger pool Kim mentions (although as the article states there's a lot of repetition, due to publicity budgets and such). Like Katie, I also really like the NPR Book Concierge because it's a huge list and the filters are fun to play with.
>121 lauralkeet: How in the heck am I so late coming to Brookner, Laura? I feel like I sleep walked through the last 40 years or so. When she mentioned "milky drinks" at one point in the book I thought shades of Barbara Pym! And as you know, I absolutely love Barbara Pym and I'm planning to reread all of her books in
2023, if I'm still alive lol. Anyway, I've found Brookner now and I'm planning to read a book every month next year. We'll see how that plan goes. I never got to the last volume of the J.G. Farrell trilogy this year which is what I had planned. Plans! Hahaha
As far as the lists go, I like looking at them and seeing what is considered the best I guess. But I also feel pressured by their appearance instead of gratified and that's frustrating.
Last Witnesses: An Oral History of the Children of World War II by Svetlana Alexievich
If you ever get in the doldrums and sit around feeling sorry for yourself about one First World problem or another, read this book to give you a better perspective of what it means to lose so so much. Heartbreaking doesn't begin to cover it. I listened to the audio and it was just excellent as the narrators took the parts of different Russians who survived the war when they were children. Barely.
It's not the first time I've read about people consuming their pets because they were in a state of starvation (see City of Thieves) but it is the first time I've heard actual first person descriptions of it. The children in the narration were aged from about four to early teens during the war. But believe me, they had no childhood; they were all adults regardless of their age because the horrific events they lived through took away any semblance of childhood.
This is a good book to keep in mind as we watch video footage of the innumerable war situations all over the world and consider the suffering of the children, especially the children.
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
>128 Berly: I think it is going to be fun Kim. You're right.
>129 jnwelch: I hope the audio was the right choice Joe. Mark is usually right about that lol.
Soviet Santa says "Happy Yule!" Solstice Greetings to all. Read more here: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/soviet-santa
The Redeemed by Tim Pears
This was the last volume of The West Country Trilogy. Leo is in the Royal Navy at the start of the book and Lottie is learning to be a veterinarian. Throughout the book the big question is....will they ever get together. As usual, Pears does not rush anything. Everything unfolds in a slow, detailed manner just as the first two volumes. Patience is the key.
I'm not sure why I enjoyed such a slow moving narrative but I certainly did. Leo had such a variety of experiences and Lottie had a goal in mind and worked hard for it. They both were such well rounded and full characters but the main character, for the most part, was the land that was so important to them both. Very good reading.
Hope you have a very merry Christmas with lots of family time!
We're having very mild weather here too.
>137 vivians: Yes Vivian, I have you to thank for The West Country Trilogy so thank you. I'll have to pay closer attention to the Walter Scott Prize because historical fiction is by far my favorite genre. I usually will read a couple of books from it but I really should concentrate on it more.
I hope you're getting in a lot of grandmother time 🤗
Or in other words, Happy Christmas! And have a great New Year as well.
>140 ChelleBearss: Thank you Chelle and I hope Santa was good to your two little darlings.
>141 karenmarie: Happy New Year Karen and lets just say Olive exceeded my expectations.
>142 msf59: Thank you Mark and Happy New Year to you and your lovely family.
>143 PaulCranswick: Happy New Year Paul. Let's hope 2020 is stress free.
Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
I didn't expect to like this Olive sequel as much as I did but I must say Olive is better than ever as she proceeds well into her eighties and faces the travails of aging in typical Olive fashion. You already know she pulls no punches and tells you just what she thinks, whether you want to hear it or not. Many people don't but that doesn't deter her. These linked stories are filled with typical Maine characters, the ones we've come to expect from Strout. My fondest wish is that Frances McDormund chooses to reprise her Olive character once more and this book ends up as another miniseries. If not, well we all lose I guess.
At the same time, coincidentally, I was listening to another book about another outspoken woman, in her 80s.
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
I enjoyed this New Year's Eve walk in 1984 with Lillian Boxfish as she traveled one end of Manhattan to the other and along the way detailed many of the experiences of her very very full life. It's hard to believe all the people she interacted with in just one night. Her adventures as an advertising copywriter in the 30s for Macy's, her experiences as a published poet, her marriage and subsequent divorce from the man of her dreams, being forced from her job as a married woman because she is expecting a child, her experiences fighting off severe depression.....Lillian really has seen it all. And after this very full life she caps it off with this meandering walk through the city she loves.
I expected this to be a light read but it's not really that because Lillian's life is not without its challenges. Like the city she travels, her life is one of change and I was glad to tag along with her.
Sorry, for the delay on my mini-review of American Dirt. It is forthcoming, but I just want to let you know, it will probably be 5 stars. Great stuff.
It was interesting that I read two books at the same time, about relatively similar women, both outspoken, in their 80s, up and down life experiences, and fascinating in every way.
Happy New Year to you and your family.
>161 Oregonreader: Hi Jan and Happy New Year to you! I was expecting of a light read but Lillian was a force of nature, wasn't she?
Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis
"A cantora," Flaca said, flopping another fish into the clean pile, "is a woman who sings"......"A woman like us, Malena said." (Page 37)
This is a book you can really sink into and allow yourself to be completely engrossed by the story. I knew little about Uruguay in the late 70s but it was another brutal dictatorship in South America, the second I've read about this year. This story highlights the horrors of being a queer woman at this time. Not only was the government against you but so were a great number of the populace. It wasn't something easily admitted to, so when five lesbian women somehow find each other and gather together enough money to purchase a shack on a squirt of land on the Atlantic coast where they have the freedom to be themselves.....well, it just was so uncommon an idea that they managed to pull it off.
The book details their individual lives and I came to admire their tenacity and ability to create a loving family, complete with all the warts that may be found in any family, but fiercely loyal. The shack on the Atlantic coast provided a warm respite from the horrors of the dictatorship in Montevideo, the capital city where they all got their start. I really enjoyed my time with Paz, La Venus, Romina, Flaca and Malena.
Beautifully written, historical fiction at its best, and highly recommended.
Thirty-three Teeth by Colin Cotterill
This second entry in the Dr. Siri series, about the national coroner in Laos in the 1970s, was just as entertaining as the first book. Not only mysteries to solve by the venerable doctor, but written with sly humor and satire that had me laughing out loud once again. I'm also getting to know and love his cohorts who are just such unique and interesting characters. Throw in a bit of the mystical and a top notch audio narrator and there you have it. Highly recommended.
I read 116 books this year!!! Never, ever has that happened before. Ever. Credit where credit is due: audiobooks. I learned to love audiobooks and read a lot of them. So……highlights:
A tie between The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag and The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware – they both showed me what an excellent narrator or narrators can do for an audiobook production to make it truly memorable.
Two terrific trilogies came my way because of excellent LT suggestions:
The Lewis Trilogy by Peter May and The West Country Trilogy by Tim Pears
MITFORD EXPLORATION: I really got into the Mitford Sisters and enjoyed every minute of it:
The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford which lead me to:
The Bolter by Frances Osborne which lead to
White Mischief by James Fox
Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford (memoir)
The Sisters: the Saga of the Mitford Family by Mary S. Lovell
(I may not be done with the Mitfords yet.
The Space Between Us and The Secrets Between Us by Thrity Umrigar (new to me author)
New author to explore further:
Guest House for Young Widows by Azadeh Moaveni
Fall and Rise: the Story of 9/11 by Mitchell Zuckoff
Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II’s Greatest Rescue Mission by Hampton Sides
A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
Transitby Anna Seghers
Siege of Krishnapur by J. G. Farrell
Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
English Passengers by Matthew Kneale
BOOK OF THE YEAR:
Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth