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chlorine in 2020

2020 Category Challenge

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1chlorine
Edited: Dec 29, 2019, 9:41am Top

Hi, I'm Clémence, I'm French and live in Paris. I've been lurking in this group in 2019 and participated in some Kits, and this coming year I'd like to have my own thread to keep track of things. Don't expect detailed reviews from me, as past experience shows I don't have what it takes to keep writing reviews all year long.

My categories are more things that I want to keep track of in my reading, and are therefore overlapping.
I want to keep track of books:
- written by female authors
- written by authors I haven't red a book of before
- geographical provenance of the author of the book. I'll make this very broad, with three categories: one for French books, one for UK-US-Canada, and one for the rest of the world.
- nonfiction books, of which I try to read ten each year
- various awards I'm keeping track of, mainly the Hugo and Nebula awards for SFF but also possibly the Pullitzer prize for fiction
- short fiction, either in collections or by reading single short stories or magazine
- books belonging to series I'm currently reading, mainly the Rougon-Macquart by Zola
- SFF books
- Horror books

I want to participate in four CATs and KITs, which is far too ambitious for me but I'll see how it goes:
- SFF Kit
- ScaredyKit
- GeoCAT
- Nonfiction CAT

4chlorine
Edited: Feb 29, 3:16am Top

Geography 1: books by French authors

Nous n'avons pas vu passer les jours by Simone Schwarz-Bart and Yann Plougastel - 22/02
Babylone by Yasmina Reza - 26/02

5chlorine
Edited: Today, 5:54am Top

Geography 2: books by authors from the US/UK/Canada

The long Mars by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter (UK, 17/01/20)
The Exorcist by William Blatty - 26/01
Self-made man: one woman's journey into manhood and back by Norah Vincent - 29/01
The last colony by John Scalzi - 02/02
We crossed a bridge and it trembled: Voices from Syria by Wendy Pearlman - 16/02
Espedair Street by Iain Banks - 18/02
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire - 24/02
The long Utopia by Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett - 4/03
The woman in Black by Susan Hill - 18/03
Zoe's tale by John Scalzi - 27/03
The hidden Girl by Ken Liu - 31/03
Rant: an oral biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk - 2/04

6chlorine
Edited: Mar 26, 4:11pm Top

Geography 3: books from the rest of the world

Kyrgyztan Djamilia by Tchinghiz Aitmatov - 2/01/20
Uzbekistan The Dead Lake by Hamid Ismailov - 29/01
Poland Le printemps by Bruno Schulz - 07/02
Australia Call me Evie by JP Pomare - 09/02
Iran La muette by Chahdortt Djavann - 7/03
South Africa Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela - 24/03

8chlorine
Edited: Today, 5:54am Top

Short fiction

Immersion by Aliette de Bodard (Nebula award) - 2/01/20
Isabel des feuilles mortes by Ian R. MacLeod - 19/01
Le printemps by Bruno Schulz - 07/02
The Waiting stars by Aliette de Bodard - 15/02
The hidden Girl by Ken Liu (collection) - 31/03
How David got his scar by Scott Westerfeld - 2/04

9chlorine
Edited: Mar 27, 4:22pm Top

Series.

Read:
The long Earth
The long Mars (17/01/20)
The long Utopia - 4/03

Old man's war
The last colony by John Scalzi - 02/02
Zoe's tale by John Scalzi - 27/03

Wayward Children
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire - 24/02

To read:
Old man's war
The human division (and others in the series)

The long Earth
The long Cosmos

Wayward Children

11chlorine
Edited: Mar 19, 4:23pm Top

12chlorine
Edited: Today, 5:55am Top

SFFKit

January I should have read it in 2919
The long Mars by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter - 17/01/20

February Transformation
The last colony by John Scalzi - 02/02
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire - 24/02

March Series
The long Utopia by Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett - 4/03
Zoe's tale by John Scalzi - 27/03

April Time travel
Rant: an oral biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk - 2/04

13chlorine
Edited: Mar 19, 4:24pm Top

ScaredyKIT

January
The Exorcist by William Blatty - 26/01

February
Call me Evie by JP Pomare - 09/02

March
The woman in Black by Susan Hill - 18/03

15chlorine
Edited: Mar 26, 4:12pm Top

16chlorine
Edited: Feb 29, 3:18am Top

Awards

Nebula awards
- Immersion by Aliette de Bodard - short story
- The Waiting stars by Aliette de Bodard - 15/02 - novelette
- Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire - 24/02

Hugo awards
- Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire - 24/02

Prix Renaudot
- Babylone by Yasmina Reza - 26/02

17chlorine
Edited: Dec 29, 2019, 9:46am Top

Reserved just in case. Happy reading year everyone!

18sturlington
Dec 29, 2019, 9:53am Top

Welcome to the challenge!

19hailelib
Dec 29, 2019, 10:15am Top

Have fun with your categories.

20Dilara86
Dec 29, 2019, 11:46am Top

Hey! Glad to see you're still around! Looking forward to reading your thread.

21majkia
Dec 29, 2019, 11:52am Top

Glad to see you with us!

22rabbitprincess
Dec 29, 2019, 12:59pm Top

Welcome aboard and have a great reading year! I will follow your French author category with interest; I read a few books in French each year and am always looking for new authors to try.

23DeltaQueen50
Dec 29, 2019, 2:17pm Top

Welcome to the challenge. :)

24JayneCM
Dec 29, 2019, 5:28pm Top

>22 rabbitprincess: I read her books in English and I'm sure you have already heard of her, but I have loved all the Amelie Nothomb books I have managed to find in English.

25JayneCM
Dec 29, 2019, 5:29pm Top

Happy reading in 2020!

26LittleTaiko
Dec 29, 2019, 9:40pm Top

Welcome and happy reading!

27Tess_W
Dec 29, 2019, 10:17pm Top

Good luck with your 2020 reading!

28Zozette
Dec 30, 2019, 3:03am Top

Welcome, I hope you have a very enjoyable reading year.

29chlorine
Dec 30, 2019, 7:15am Top

Thanks for the kind welcome everyone! :)

>22 rabbitprincess: I fear you will be disappointed with my French author categories. I tend to be heavily influenced by the English speaking world, and hanging here doesn't help with that, so I feel like I don't read as many books of my own country as I should. Which is why I'm planning a category to keep track.

30pamelad
Dec 30, 2019, 4:36pm Top

Bonjour, Chlorine. Happy reading in 2020.

31chlorine
Dec 31, 2019, 5:28am Top

>30 pamelad: Thanks! :)

32chlorine
Jan 2, 1:54am Top

I've discovered the website dotepub.com that makes it possible to transform a short-story available online into an ebook with just one click of a button.

This allowed me to read my first short story of the year with the confort of my ebook reader: Immersion by Aliette de Bodard, which won the Nebula award in 2012. It was nice but not terrific.

33VivienneR
Jan 2, 2:08am Top

Welcome. Your name is familiar because I've followed your thread at Club Read. I hope you enjoy the categories.

34chlorine
Jan 2, 2:11am Top

>33 VivienneR: Hi! I remember you (and others) from Club Read too! :) I was unable to keep up with Club Read because I didn't manage to write reviews consistently. In Categories I am at writing very short reviews, which I hope will allow me to keep up.

35MissWatson
Jan 2, 12:09pm Top

welcome and Happy reading!

36chlorine
Jan 2, 2:52pm Top

>35 MissWatson: Thank you and same to you!

37lkernagh
Jan 2, 8:55pm Top

Welcome to the challenge and have fun with your reading!

38chlorine
Jan 3, 2:32am Top

>37 lkernagh: Thank you! Happy reading year!

39chlorine
Jan 3, 5:42am Top

(cross posted from the GeoCAT thread)

Djamilia (or Jamilia in the English translation) by Tchinghiz Aitmatov is described by French poet Louis Aragon (who participated to the translation of the original Kirghiz text) as the most beautiful love story ever.
It's a beautiful text, full of the atmosphere of Kyrgyztan during WW2, when the people had settled down from their nomad ways not long before. The love story is told very sparingly, and in a sense nothing much happens, but the whole text is beautiful.

40JayneCM
Jan 3, 6:21am Top

>39 chlorine: I would love to read this. Sounds beautiful.

41chlorine
Jan 4, 2:05am Top

>40 JayneCM: Beautiful is exactly the right word for this text IMO. I don't know how the English translation is. The fact that Louis Aragon, who is a renowned poet, participated in the French translation, certainly helps. Though there were some weirdnesses of language, things like "both of us Djamilia" instead of "Djamilia and I", they served to promote a certain kind of atmosphere.

42thornton37814
Jan 5, 1:23pm Top

Happy 2020 reading!

43chlorine
Jan 6, 3:42am Top

>42 thornton37814: Thanks, right back at you!

44Dilara86
Jan 6, 4:42am Top

>39 chlorine: I really like Aitmatov, but I have put off reading Djamilia in case I'm disappointed. After reading your review, I might get to it sooner rather than later...

45LisaMorr
Jan 16, 3:00pm Top

I loved reading Jamilia (I guess that's the US publication name) back in 2016 - I think it was the GeoCAT that year that pushed me to read it. I definitely need to read more Aitmatov.

I look forward to seeing what you read this year!

46chlorine
Jan 17, 2:37am Top

>44 Dilara86: What other books by Aitmatov did 7read?

>45 LisaMorr: Jamilia (or Djamilia) seems to be a widely read book! Strange I had never heard of it before this challenge.

47chlorine
Jan 18, 3:26am Top

I was distracted in the beginning of my reading year because I discovered a type of logic puzzles that I wasn't familiar with, called nonograms, and which prove quite addictive! I did manage to finish to read my ongoing book though. :)

(Cross-posted from the SFF-Kit January thread)

The long Mars by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter is the third book in The long Earth series.
The first book in the series introduced the concept of "stepping", which allows to go from our world to one that exists in parallel with it and is almost identical, and then to the next world, and so on, in an apparently endless chains of world in which humankind did not appear.

As is usual in this series, in this third book we follow several groups of characters, some of them going to Mars and stepping there on the chain of the long Mars. There was seemed to me to be a plot hole (How were Joshua and Sally able to help the Next children escape from the army facility by stepping, as the facility was underground?) and some of the characters seem a bit hastily sketched-off, or adolescent. But the story is great, the short chapters and the going back and forth between several story lines makes the book hard to put down. Kudos also for the character of Maggie Kauffman, the military captain of a stepping ship who is one of the most interesting characters in the book IMO.

Now I have to find a month for the challenge in which to fit the next book in the series. :)

48chlorine
Edited: Jan 19, 4:03am Top

Second short fiction of the year is 2019 special issue of the gorgeous collection Une heure-lumière (one light-hour) dedicated to SFF novellas.
Isabel des feuilles mortes (Isabel of the Fall) by Ian R. MacLeod has great world building but some points in the story did not make sense to me.

49chlorine
Jan 19, 6:30am Top

So I'm reading The exorcist for ScaredyKit and wanted to take a moment to be thankful for being spared problems that some other people face: the main character is a very sucessful (and rich) actress and when she hosts a party she likes to pour the drinks to her guest herself rather than let her servants do it because "it added an intimacy, she felt, that might otherwise be lacking". Who knew that having servants would lessen intimacy, and how glad I am to be spared this issue! :D

Also I've come on a common topic in The Exorcist and the other book that I'm reading: the difficulty of priests to express affection for fellow priests. One of the exorcist's colleagues expresses it; the other book is Self-made man: one woman's journey into manhood and back again by Norah Vincent: the author dresses up as a man and experiences various contexts in which relationships between males occur. One such instance is a retreat she makes into a monastery, and she notices exactly the same issue of difficulty of intimacy between monks.
I love it when such coincidences happen!

50rabbitprincess
Jan 19, 9:42am Top

>49 chlorine: That's always neat when your current reading throws up the same idea in two different books!

51Dilara86
Jan 20, 4:36am Top

>46 chlorine: I read Le léopard des neiges (The Snow Leopard). Recommended.

52casvelyn
Jan 21, 12:44pm Top

>49 chlorine: Reminds me of:

Come, let us pity those who are better off than we are.
Come, my friend, and remember
that the rich have butlers and no friends,
And we have friends and no butlers.

~Ezra Pound, "The Garret"

53chlorine
Jan 26, 11:30am Top

>52 casvelyn: A-ha, that's exactly it!

>51 Dilara86: Thanks, I will make a note of it!

54chlorine
Jan 26, 12:23pm Top

(cross-posted from January's ScaredyKit thread)

I finished The Exorcist by William Blatty. It was a much richer book than what I remember of the movie, with a story broaching many other subjects than the possessed child (though I've seen the movie a very long time ago so I might remember poorly). It was decently written but in some parts it felt a bit clumsy, as if the author tried to hard and failed somewhat. This was especially true in the beginning, less so later. The book had some scary parts but I was hoping it would be more scary. The end scene in particular was a bit of a let down, though I thought the book concluded nicely.

55chlorine
Edited: Jan 29, 1:46pm Top

I'm happy to have finished one book for each of my 4 CATs/KITs, because joining 4 was really ambitious for me!
I just finished the first book for January nonfiction cat, Journalism and news. And one more short book is in progress!

(this is crossposted from the January non fiction thread)

I finished Self-made man: one woman's journey into manhood and back by Norah Vincent.
The author dressed herself up as a man, with a long preparation including learning how to put on a false stubble, building up her muscle and taking voice lessons. Then she engaged men and women in various contexts. This is not a scientific book and she makes no claim to derive general conclusions from her experience. I don't follow her in some of her conclusions:at times she seems to think that many differences between men's and women's behaviour, in which IMO culture and upbringing (both by parents, by siblings, friends and general societal messages) plays a huge role, are biologically induced; for instance the supposedly stronger sex drive of men than women, or some differences in expressing emotions. Then at other points she seems to imply the opposite so maybe I just don't understand her fully.

Despite this minor gripe I really liked this book. I greatly admire the guts she has to have performed this and wonder if I would be able to do it, if only for a day, not speaking of extended periods of time as she did. Her conclusions, though not ringing true sometimes, are very interesting and remind of some other reading I've done with respect to gender, and in particular that our gendered society in which men have the upper role has also some aspects detrimental to men. This is just the experience of one person but I found it really enlightening at times.

56LisaMorr
Jan 29, 4:39pm Top

Well done on 4 books for 4 kit/cats!

57chlorine
Jan 31, 3:34pm Top

>56 LisaMorr: Thanks! The books I picked are short, which explained how I managed to acheive this. In fact I managed to sneak in two more short books for two CATs!

58chlorine
Jan 31, 3:34pm Top

(Crossposted from the GEOCat thread)

Hamid Ismailov is an Uzbek author and his book The dead lake is set in Kazakhstan. I wasn't aware that the soviet regime had used a region of Kazakhstan steppe as a nuclear test site for 40 years, even though the region was (probably sparsely) inhabited. The book is placed in this region and tells the story of Yerzhan, a precocious boy whose growth stops at 12 years old due to radiation exposure. The story reads like a tale, with Yerzhan telling his story to a traveller in a train, and the traveller imagining part of the end of the story, which is a type of open ending I haven't seen before.
I read the French translation of the English translation and it was very beautifully written and poetic. It's a very short book (less than 150 pages) that completely immersed me in its story telling. Highly recommended.

59chlorine
Feb 1, 8:06am Top

Technically I finished this today but since I read most of it in January and had only three pages to read today I count it as another book for January's non-fiction theme, Journalism and news. :)

Les racines de la colère (Roots of Wrath) by Vincent Jarousseau is a photography reporting about some people in Denain, a small town in the North of France were unemployment and low income are at their highest. The goal is to put forward people who are not taken into account when our government makes its reforms. I found it very enlightening and very relevant in this time of political turmoil in France. Unfortunately I'm not sure that Macron will read it...

60chlorine
Feb 2, 11:47am Top

The last colony by John Scalzi was nice but I liked it a bit less than the first two in the series. It's more serious than the others as John Perry is involved in serious relationships, and in consequence there is much less of the friendly and funny banter that I enjoyed so much in the other books. And it seems to me like Scalzi is less at ease with describing serious relationships and emotions. Also one interesting part of the plot is left dangling in the air (there is a race of intelligent but hostile beings on the planet, some farmers try to kill them and get killed instead, and then these beings are never brought up again). Still this was an enjoyable read, with a captivating story and I really like the no-nonsense characters of this series. I'll certainly read the sequels.

61chlorine
Edited: Feb 8, 3:47am Top

(Cross posted from the GeoCAT thread)

I'm not sure what I just read.

Is Le printemps (Spring) by Bruno Schulz the story of a young boy going mad? A critique of Emperor François-Joseph 1st? A dream? Poetry? A documentary about stamp collecting? A love story?
It was rather well written, though repetitive, but it didn't make any kind of sense to me.
I wouldn't have finished it if it hadn't been so short.

This is the first book by Schulz I read and I'd be curious to know if this is representative of his work or not. I'm under the impression that he is a highly regarded author but this does really not make me want to explore his other works.

62pamelad
Edited: Feb 8, 5:54am Top

>61 chlorine: Street of Crocodiles is just as confusing, but that didn't matter. These were my impressions.

Schulz's descriptions are like paintings, but more, because the objects are active, and sounds, movement and colours all play a part.

It's impossible to classify this book. It is a comic memoir with Schulz as the young narrator and his eccentric father as the main character. It is a fantasy of the end of the world, an elegy to the death of a Galician town and its way of life. In parts it makes no sense, but if you let the words wash over you, there is meaning all the same.

I really enjoyed this book, though it is not at all the sort of thing I usually read. I got lost, and had to re-read many paragraphs and pages, but because the book is so short there is no rush to reach the end.


63chlorine
Feb 8, 10:04am Top

Thanks foe for sharing your thoughts about Street of Crocodiles! It seems Schulz was trying for the same effect that you describe with Printemps but either it didn't work for me or he was less successful.

64chlorine
Feb 9, 8:49am Top

For some reason I read short books since January and therefore have read a much higher number of books since the beginning of the year than what could normally be expected.

(cross posted from February ScaredyKIT)
I read Call me Evie by JP Pomare. Seventeen-year old Evie (whose real name is Kate) is in hiding with her "uncle" Jim in a small town in New Zealand. She doesn't have clear memories of the events that cause them to be in hiding. Her uncle says he wants to protect her, but can she trust him or has he done something terrible and is he trying to manipulate her?

I felt a bit frustrated that Evie, as the narrator, doesn't tell what she does remember of the the events: we learn it little by little as the story unfolds, alternating between "before" and "after" these events. But this was still a gripping read and the ending wrapped up things very neatly.

65JayneCM
Feb 11, 1:56am Top

>64 chlorine: I just picked up In The Clearing from the library by the same author. Had to wait a while!

66chlorine
Feb 11, 5:30am Top

>65 JayneCM: This one seems really good also!

67chlorine
Feb 15, 10:02am Top

The waiting stars by Aliette de Bodard is a beautifylly written novelette about cultural identity and the theft of it. Unfortunately the ending didn't really make sense to me. It's available freely on the web for those interested.

68chlorine
Feb 16, 3:13pm Top

(cross posted from February's nonfictionCAT thread)

I thought that We crossed a bridge and it trembled: Voices from Syria by Wendy Pearlman was about migrants out of Syria but it's about much more than that. Wendy Pearlman interviewed many, many syrian people who opposed the regime and left the country. She constructed a narrative, in the persons' own terms, of what was life in Syria since the rule of Hafez al-Assad, Bashar's father, and how things evolved under Bashar al-Assad, then the onset of the revolution and the war.

I am vastly ignorant about the history and geopolitics of this part of the world, so this was a real eye opener for me of how much the regime was oppressive before the revolution started, and how terrible the events since the start of the revolution have been. Pearlman is cautious in reminding the reader that she presents only the narratives of people who opposed the regime, and has not interviewed any supporter (she was conducting her interviews in the neighbouring countries), but still this is eye-opening. This was not at all a pleasant read, but I thought it was an important one.

69pammab
Edited: Feb 19, 11:53pm Top

>55 chlorine: I read Self-made man a long time ago and had the same reaction -- it didn't feel like the book had a consistent thesis. I ended up assuming that the author came out of the experience struggling hard with nature vs. nurture on gender identity, and that it made everything more complicated than it seems from one's favorite dogma. I don't think that ever got stated clearly as the take-away, though, did it?

70pammab
Feb 19, 11:51pm Top

>58 chlorine:
>59 chlorine:
>68 chlorine:
I love the theme I'm seeing here of looking at folks you aren't familiar with. How do you find this kind of book? The Syrian one in particular has me clicking through and taking note of the title for later this year for me potentially.

71chlorine
Feb 20, 4:48am Top

>69 pammab: I completely agree with you conclusion about Self-made man, and that she doesn't phrase it like that.

>70 pammab: Two of the books were gifted to me by my mother, because she's cool like that. :) (I had told her about the GeoCAT challenge of January which had central Asia as its focus).

I learned about the Syrian book through a friend who I follow on GoodReads.

Generally when I want to read books from region of the world I'm not familiar with I try to browse by tags here on LT and read the reviews. The Reading Globally group here is also a nice source of inspiration.

72chlorine
Edited: Feb 23, 4:44am Top

(cross-posted from the GeoCat February thread)

Espedair Street by Iain Banks is set in Glasgow.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand I found it well written and gripping in a rare way: when I started reading I realised I was focused in a way that almost never happen to me. OTOH, the story about an ex-rock star living a bit like a recluse, possibly in depression, was interesting but not special, and I found myself sometimes thinking: "do we need another novel about a white man spending his time navel gazing?" (it's actually the first time I think that about a book). Incidentally this book cannot by construction pass the Bechdel test as it is told in first person by the male main character: all women orbit around him and cannot talk to each other.

I guess this was not the right book at the right time for me but that won't stop me from looking out for other Banks novels as I think he is overall a very impressive writer.

73chlorine
Edited: Feb 23, 4:44am Top

(cross-posted from the Nonfiction March thread)

Nous n'avons pas vu passer les jours (We didn't notice the days passing) by Simone Schwarz-Bart and Yann Plougastel is the biography of André and Simone Schwarz-Bart. André is Jewish of Polish origin and Simone is black and from the Antilles (Guadeloupe more precisely).

Several of André's relatives, including his parents and a baby brother, died during the holocaust. He entered the resistance very young. He later became a writer and his first book, about the holocaust, won the prestigious French Goncourt prize. When he visited the Antilles he found a link between the misery of the Jewish and the black people and explored that, together with Simone who is also a writer, in the next part of his work. This led to a lot of controversy.

The book was interesting and very moving at times but did not really make me want to read André's or Simone's books. Still it is a quick, very worthwile read.

ETA: I finally read a book by a French author! It was about time! I already started the second one.

74chlorine
Feb 24, 2:57pm Top

(cross-posted from the February SFFKit thread)

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire is a novella about teenage kids who travelled through magic gates to other worlds and came back. The travelling has changed them and their parents place them in a home, hoping they'll become their old self again.
Some aspects seemed a bit stereotypical to me but otherwise I thought it was a nice, enjoyable read about what it means to be different. I'll probably seek out the other novellas in the series at some point.

75chlorine
Feb 29, 3:14am Top

(cross-posted from February's GeoCAT France)

Marie-Aude Murail is an author very dear to me. She writes for older children and/or young adults and usually her characters are full of endearing details that make me cherish her books like small treasures.

Mytho is about a father and his son who lies compulsively, or maybe he doesn't lie because some of his lies turn out true and lead father and son to a strange country that nobody knew existed (the book starts in France and continues in the fictional but European country of Wiétlanie). Unfortunately this did not work for me, many situations seem artificial and I do not care what happens to Yann or his father. I'll not finish this book.

76chlorine
Feb 29, 3:15am Top

(cross-posted from February's GeoCAT France)

I was hesitating between two choices the other night for my next book and decided to read the first few pages of each to decide. I opened Babylone by Yasmina Reza and never put it down. This is my first book by Yasmina Reza and I was really impressed with her writing style.
The book is about Elisabeth, a 60 years old woman living in a flat in the small town of Deuil l'Alouette probably in the North of France, and her relationships with her neighbours. Some events occured that cause the upstairs flat to be empty, but Elisabeth takes her time telling us about it. The story goes back and forth in time, from yesterday's events, to her meeting with her neighbour Jean-Lino, alongside with reflections about what it means to age, or to be connected to people. The characters are ordinary people very-well described in all the details that make them human.

This is my best read of the year so far, and I really want to explore the other books of Yasmina Reza.

77chlorine
Mar 5, 3:17pm Top

(cross-posted from March's SFFKit thread)

I read The long Utopia by Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett, the fourth book in the series starting with The long Earth. I find the long earth structure, that is unveiled little by little, fascinating. The characters could have more depth but they seem to be more fleshed out than in the previous books (probably because we see less of Joshua and Sally). The book easily passes the Bechdel test with many female protagonists occupying various positions and discussing about the structure of the universe. The books in this series are quick read and hard to put down, and I'll try to read The long Cosmos in not too long.

78chlorine
Mar 8, 1:56pm Top

(cross-posted from March's GeoCAT thread)

La muette (the (female) dumb one - dumb as in "cannot speak") by Chahdortt Djavann takes place in Iran. 15 year-old Fatemeh is sentenced to death and awaits hanging in jail. She tells her story, which is closely linked to that of her aunt, the dumb one, who has loved a man she was not allowed to love.
I can't tell too much without spoiling the book (which is very short, 77 pages). The book as a book did not quite work out for me. Maybe it was too short, but I felt it did little more than tell the story grand lines. It would have needed more details, and also I felt the character of the mother was caricatural. Still, the story is very intense and it is so shocking that women can be treated like Fatemeh and her aunt are, so this is a worthwhile read.

The author is French but as she was born and raised in Iran and the book takes place in Iran I'm counting this as a book from this country.

79mathgirl40
Mar 9, 9:20pm Top

>72 chlorine: I found it interesting to hear your thoughts on Iain Banks. I've not read any of his books yet but I do have Wasp Factory on my shelves.

80chlorine
Mar 10, 2:09am Top

>79 mathgirl40: I loved the Wasp factory! I hope you enjoy it as well when you get to it!

81LisaMorr
Mar 16, 3:14pm Top

You are getting through so many interesting books!

I'll take a book bullet for Call Me Evie.

82chlorine
Mar 16, 4:56pm Top

>81 LisaMorr: I'm glad my reviews make the books seem interesting! :)

83chlorine
Mar 16, 5:01pm Top

On non-book related topics, the university is closed so I work from home and president Macron announced a ban on social calls. I live by myself so I won't see anybody for some time. I wonder if this will help me read more or if I'll be depressed?

Kudos to Macron who urged people to read more during the confinement period, and I recognize the gravity of the situation, but part of me can't help but think that this is an ideal ground for the emergence of a fascist state.... The number of times he said that we are at war during his address did not make a good impression on me.

84chlorine
Mar 19, 4:22pm Top

Strangely enough, I seem to read less since the beginning of the confinement here than before. It makes me wonder what I do with my time.

I still managed to finish The woman in Black by Susan Hill. I really liked this book and it spooked me more than many other reads for this KIT did. The story is rather classical: a worker in a law firm goes to sort the papers of an old woman after she dies, and guess what? The house is haunted! But the book is very well written and exudes a really frightening atmosphere. This is a short book (approx. 130 pages) that achieves its purpose really well.

85VivienneR
Mar 20, 2:10am Top

>83 chlorine: Staying at home with no social calls might be difficult although I enjoy staying home alone. If social calls are banned here I have all I need to repaint my bedroom. I've been ready but putting it off for a while. And I have enough books to last a couple of lifetimes.

I second your kudos to M. Macron.

86LisaMorr
Mar 24, 8:57am Top

>83 chlorine: I understand your concern. The guy over here keeps saying he's a wartime president, but he's not doing anything to address the issue, and in fact yesterday is talking about opening up the country again sooner rather than later and that the cure (social distancing and what that does to the economy) may be worse than the disease, and that more people will die from the economic downturn than the virus.

And we're still not doing enough testing...

Ugh, the news is very depressing...

Take care and stay safe.

87chlorine
Mar 26, 4:16am Top

>85 VivienneR: >86 LisaMorr: Thanks for stopping by!

The social isolation is going well so far after a week and a half. One sad point is that I seem to read less, rather than more, than before! I don't really understand what I'm doing with my time...

It's not clear that our guy in charge knows what to do either. The government urges people to stay at home and to go to work, there is no protection for people who have to work, especially in the hospitals and supermarkets, and we have a shortage of masks that I think would help quell the epidemic if we had enough of them and knew how to use them (atm the government says masks are useless but it's hard not to believe that they say that so that they won't be blamed for not providing any...)

Stay safe.

88chlorine
Mar 26, 4:10pm Top

Another month during which I was able to read for my four KITs and KATs with ease! :)

I finished Long Walk to Freedom, the autobiography of Nelson Mandela.
I was completely ignorant about the history of Mandela and South Africa, so this was a very interesting and important read for me. The book is long, at more than 700 pages, but is well written and though I confess to sometimes being a bit confused about who was who among the multitude of activists that Mandela worked with, he did a very good job at giving a clear narrative.
I was particularly interested in this biography because although Mandela is very commonly described as a hero and got the Nobel prize for peace, I also heard him referred to as a terrorist by people saying that there is no excuse for terrorism. In the end, though I'm not sure that I completely agree with him that the armed struggle was imposed upon them by the violence of the apartheid regime, I still respect that those acts of armed struggle he planned were targeted at things such as power stations and not meant to hurt people.

He and his colleagues really achieved something extraordinary.

89chlorine
Mar 27, 4:19pm Top

Zoe's tale by John Scalzi is the third book in the Old man's war series.
It retells more or less the same events than The last colony but, guess what... from Zoe's point of view!
I really like this idea. It reminded me of Ender's shadow (which is cited in the acknowledgements) and Scalzi pulled it off really well. Zoe's character and voice are different enough from John's so that this feels like a different story, and of course not all the scenes are the same as John and Zoe are different people and did not spend all their time together.
The wittiness and banter that I liked so much in the first two books, and was a bit missing in the third, is back full time and this makes the book a fun read, but it is also a moving read as Scalzi managed to give depth to the characters and make them touching.

Also, one of the parts of the plot that I felt was underdeveloped in The last colony is more addressed here, which I really liked. All in all a really good addition to the series.

90chlorine
Apr 1, 12:56pm Top

I was blown away by Ken Liu's first short-story collection, The paper Menagerie. So I bought the second one, The Hidden Girl, on the day it went out! I had made a note in my calendar which is something I never do but the first collection was that good.

I guess it's kind of logical that, with such high expectations, I was disappointed by The hidden Girl. The stories were nice but only one or two had that spark that made almost all of the stories in the first book so special, so moving, or made me reconsider my take on things.
Moreover one story is an excerpt of The Veiled Throne, book three in his series that begins with The Grace of Kings. I wanted to read that series but this excerpt did not encourage me in that direction...

So all in all it was a good collection, with a consistence between some stories that broached the same theme or were part of a larger story, but I'm still a bit sad it wasn't great like the first one.

91LisaMorr
Apr 2, 9:36am Top

>90 chlorine: That's too bad! When I'm really waiting for the next book to come out in a series and it turns out to be a disappointment, it's a big letdown for sure.

Hopefully your next read will meet your expectations!

92chlorine
Apr 2, 1:19pm Top

>91 LisaMorr: Thanks! I'm currently reading Rant: an oral biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk and really liking it! As a bonus I was surprised to discover that it fits the April SFFKit theme! :)

93chlorine
Today, 5:53am Top

Rant: an oral biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk is the story of Buster Casey, aka Rant, told by many people, sometimes contradicting each other. The story takes place in a dystopian world in which people living during daytime are kept separate from those living during night time, and many characters are endearing weirdos and misfits. The story involves a rabies epidemics and therefore one interviewed character is an epidemiologist, who even uses the word 'coronavirus'! That was a surprise for a book written in 2007. The story also involves time travel which I'm a sucker for and it's hard to tell more without completely spoiling the plot. Recommanded.

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