RidgewayGirl Reads in 2019 -- Part Three

É uma continuação do tópico RidgewayGirl Reads in 2019 -- Part Two.

Este tópico foi continuado por RidgewayGirl Reads in 2019 -- Part Four.

DiscussãoClub Read 2019

Aderi ao LibraryThing para poder publicar.

RidgewayGirl Reads in 2019 -- Part Three

Este tópico está presentemente marcado como "adormecido"—a última mensagem tem mais de 90 dias. Pode acordar o tópico publicando uma resposta.

Jul 6, 2019, 9:53pm

Summer is well underway as is the Tournament of Books Summer Reading Challenge. And when that wraps up, there's the Decatur Book Festival, which I've been looking forward to since driving away from Atlanta last Labor Day.

This quarter's picture is from the Princeton University Art Museum, where I recently saw a special exhibit entitled Miracles on the Border: Retablos of Mexican Migrants to the United States. Retablos are small paintings, traditionally painted on tin, to commemorate an event in a person's life that was miraculous. The pictures collected for this exhibit centered on the migrant experience, with thanks being given for things like the safe return of a family member from the US, or a successful crossing of the border. It's a powerful collection that spans more than fifty years.

Editado: Out 10, 2019, 12:02am

Currently Reading

Recently Read

Recently Acquired

Editado: Out 4, 2019, 6:29pm

Editado: Set 29, 2019, 5:54am

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Friday Black)
Lou Berney (November Road)
Belle Boggs (The Gulf)
Alice Bolin (Dead Girls)
William Boyle (The Lonely Witness)
Jamel Brinkley (A Lucky Man)
Taffy Brodesser-Akner (Fleishman is in Trouble)
Halle Butler (The New Me)
Kira Jane Buxton (Hollow Kingdom)
Jonathan Carr (Make Me a City)
Susan Choi (Trust Exercise)
Patrick Coleman (The Churchgoer)
Molly Dektar (The Ash Family)
Marcy Dermansky (Very Nice)
Emma Copley Eisenberg (The Third Rainbow Girl)
Keith Gessen (A Terrible Country)
Myla Goldberg (Wickett's Remedy)
Nicola Griffith (So Lucky)
Jasmine Guillory (The Wedding Date)
Kristen Hannah (The Great Alone)
Rashad Harrison (Our Man in the Dark)
Uzodinma Iweala (Speak No Evil)
Joshilyn Jackson (Never Have I Ever)
Patrick Radden Keefe (Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland)
Christina Lauren (The Unhoneymooners)
Ben Lerner (The Topeka School)
Laura Lippman (The Lady in the Lake)
Lisa Lovenheim (Desert Fabuloso)
Lisa Lutz (The Swallows)
Janet Malcolm (The Journalist and the Murderer)
Elizabeth McCracken (Bowlaway)
Laura McHugh (The Wolf Wants In)
Joyce Carol Oates (My Life as a Rat)
Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi (Call Me Zebra)
John Jay Osborn (Listen to the Marriage)
Julia Phillips (Disappearing Earth)
Richard Powers (The Overstory)
Taylor Jenkins Reid (Daisy Jones & The Six)
Andrew Ridker (The Altruists)
Polly Rosenwaike (Look How Happy I'm Making You)
George Singleton (Staff Picks)
Lindsay Stern (The Study of Animal Languages)
Elizabeth Strout (Olive, Again)
Sarah St. Vincent (Ways to Hide in Winter)
Paul Tremblay (The Cabin at the End of the World)
Ocean Vuong (On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous)
Sarah Weinman (The Real Lolita)
Susan Rebecca White (We Are All Good People Here)
Colson Whitehead (The Underground Railroad)
Liza Wieland (Paris, 7 a.m.)
Lauren Wilkinson (American Spy)
Ben H. Winters (Golden State)
Snowden Wright (American Pop)

Ocean Vuong (On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous) (country of birth)

Jul 6, 2019, 10:05pm

And my third quarter thread is now open for business!

Jul 6, 2019, 10:05pm

Marie is an intelligence officer with the FBI. She's brilliant, knowledgeable and dedicated. But it's 1986 and Marie is a young black woman, so the FBI doesn't know what to do with her, leaving her to fill out paperwork and cultivate assets she'll never be allowed to use. She's seen a family friend sidelined and she's intent on avoiding his fate. So when the CIA comes knocking with an assignment that sounds too good to be true, she's cautious, but very interested. And so Marie becomes involved in the workings of the government of Burkina Faso and with American interests there that may or may not be above board.

This is a well-plotted spy thriller that respects the parameters of the genre while blowing them away with a clear-eyed look at how our government's agencies worked to destabilize foreign governments and how racism and misogyny kept them largely composed of clean-cut white men. Which is not to say that American Spy isn't full of action-packed scenes or fascinating geopolitics. Lauren Wilkinson has managed to write a novel that is a fast-paced thriller and a nuanced exploration of what it means to be a black woman working in a field dominated by white men.

Jul 6, 2019, 12:48am

Following along. Happy reading!

Jul 7, 2019, 6:29am

American Spy sounds fantastic!

Jul 7, 2019, 11:35am

Hi, Petroglyph! Welcome to my thread.

w_s, it is a lot of fun.

Jul 7, 2019, 1:35pm

>1 RidgewayGirl: That picture looks like it was part of an interesting collection.

>12 RidgewayGirl: This also looks interesting.

As usual, I’m along for the ride.

Jul 7, 2019, 2:23pm

Happy new thread, Kay. Love the lists! I'm just too lazy to make them. Are you enjoying Good Omens - I laughed aloud in parts. And I thought the TV adaptation was very good as well. Excellent acting.

Jul 7, 2019, 3:05pm

I love looking through your lists! I know you read lots of new books, but your publication year break down really makes that obvious. I had to do a double take!

Editado: Jul 7, 2019, 4:09pm

Colleen, it was fascinating. I hadn't known about this part of Mexican culture and the pieces, with the way they commemorated ordinary lives had a surprising emotional force to it. People have been moving back and forth across the US-Mexico border for decades and decades.

Beth, Good Omens is a lot of fun. I'm holding off on watching the mini-series until I've finished the book. I thought about how all CDs in Crowley's car eventually end up being Queen's Greatest Hits when I turned on the radio yesterday to hear Europe's The Final Countdown. It's not Queen, but it's certainly in the same wheelhouse.

Jennifer, having given up on corralling my reading into anything but what I want, this is what has happened. I'm sure I end up reading a fair number of books that will be forgotten in a few years, but I'm enjoying it.

Jul 8, 2019, 7:48pm

>19 RidgewayGirl: I'm delighted to see the popularity of the TV series is bringing so many people to read Good Omens for the first time. I read the book shortly after it came out, and am wondering if it's time for a re-read, but I loved the show so much that I'm genuinely happy for that to be the version in my head for now. (BLBera is right, the acting is fantastic. Just absolute perfect casting.) Reading the book first does mean you'll be in on at least one joke, though, as the show never does explain why all Crowley's CDs play nothing but Queen.

Editado: Jul 8, 2019, 9:36pm

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

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

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

Jul 8, 2019, 1:18am

>19 RidgewayGirl:
Good omens (the book) was one of my favourites as a teen, and I think it still holds up today. That bit about Best of Queen has been firmly lodged in my head since I first read it and it just pops up at random intervals. I don't know why: it isn't a particularly important bit in the book, but to me it's one of the defining jokes.

Jul 9, 2019, 4:32am

>1 RidgewayGirl: That must have been an excellent exhibit. I get the impression that it would have been very poignant.

Looking forward to another quarter sharing your reading.

Jul 9, 2019, 3:03pm

>22 Petroglyph: It sticks in your head because it's funny and because who hasn't noticed that Queen songs appear much more often than one would expect. I'm enjoying Good Omens quite a bit. It's clear the authors were having fun when they wrote it.

>23 VivienneR: It was a fantastic exhibit and it went well with the long article in Harper's by William T. Vollmann that I was reading about what life is like for migrants and asylum seekers on the border.

Jul 9, 2019, 4:06pm

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

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

Jul 10, 2019, 11:48am

>25 RidgewayGirl: This one definitely goes on the WL. Great comments, Katy.

Jul 10, 2019, 3:38pm

Thanks, Beth. It was very entertaining.

Jul 10, 2019, 5:05pm

Finally visiting your new thread. A bit mesmerized by the artwork in your initial post. Of course I enjoy tracking your reviews, you’re often the first one to point a new interesting book out to me. And...you do go through a lot books.

Jul 10, 2019, 8:29pm

>25 RidgewayGirl: And it is available through my library. I reserved it.

Jul 11, 2019, 4:11pm

>28 dchaikin: Daniel, I'll admit to feeling instantly defensive about the number of books I've been reading lately, like somehow it's a bad thing. I'm going to have to think about why that is.

>29 BLBera: Beth, I'm eager to hear what you make of it. It's a good summer read.

Jul 11, 2019, 4:23pm

>30 RidgewayGirl: That’s not the way it’s supposed to work...

Editado: Jul 11, 2019, 9:10pm

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

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

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

Jul 11, 2019, 9:55pm

>32 RidgewayGirl:
Sounds interesting. Good review!

Jul 11, 2019, 1:47am

>32 RidgewayGirl: I took a bullet on this one.

Jul 11, 2019, 1:48am

>32 RidgewayGirl: Hmmmm. Sounds like a definite maybe for me. I’m adding to my wishlist. :-)

Jul 11, 2019, 2:23am

>32 RidgewayGirl: I never had any thoughts about Laura Lippman or her books, but I saw her speak at the Carnegie Medal Awards in DC last month and she was great—very smart, funny, pleasingly library-geeky. Funny how that can spark interest even though it shouldn't really have anything to do with the books she writes. But, there you go. And now I'm a little motivated to try something of hers—this new one sounds good.

Jul 12, 2019, 9:36pm

Are the lists in messages 7 & 8 “best of” lists?

Editado: Jul 12, 2019, 11:05pm

>37 avaland: Just books I've read this year arranged by year of publication. It certainly highlights how focused I am on newer books.

Jul 12, 2019, 11:23pm

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

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

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

Jul 13, 2019, 5:07am

That sounds chilling.

Jul 13, 2019, 1:55pm

>39 RidgewayGirl: I've loved other books by Toews. This does sound interesting.

>32 RidgewayGirl: This does sound good. Your description reminds me of Sara Paretsky, whom I love. I'll have to give this one a try.

>30 RidgewayGirl: Your comment about being defensive about the number of books you've been reading strikes a chord; I never tell people how many books I read in a year. Isn't that interesting.

Jul 13, 2019, 3:57pm

>40 wandering_star: It was gently and thoughtfully told, but it was impossible to forget the great harm done. It also highlighted what happens to women in patriarchal religious groups.

>41 BLBera: Beth, I wrote up a few comments and then realized that I grew up with the constant refrain of "you read too much," at least all through elementary and middle school. It's just the stupid stuff implanted in my brain and I'm happy with the amount of time I spend reading, and wish I could scrape a little more time out of each day for it honestly.

Jul 13, 2019, 8:48pm

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

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

Jul 14, 2019, 2:38pm

>38 RidgewayGirl: I know what you mean. My Publishers Weekly digital subscription expired in May, I think, but they keep sending it to me, so I shop away in their reviews section. I have books ordered into the fall. Sometimes, I think that the culture is changing; moving so fast these days that fiction written 10, 20 years old might seem quaint. I admit that the dating of a JCO collection of "allusive comedies" (stories written in the late 60s, early 70s) I read recently, certainly added an extra bit humor to the reading. I got into the habit as a bookseller, but maybe, at this moment in history, it's because of something else....

Jul 16, 2019, 11:26pm

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

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

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

Jul 17, 2019, 9:16pm

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

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

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

Jul 18, 2019, 11:41am

Well, I've just added 3 books to my wishlist, thank you! I wasn't as sold on the Lippman as you - although the writing was good, I think I felt a bit misled by the genre description - I was expecting more of a plot and instead there was more character and a bit of a genre-defying twist. Not many crime novels where the victim isn't dead!

Jul 18, 2019, 12:52pm

>47 charl08: With me, the thing with Laura Lippman is that I trust her. With crime fiction, I don't know how many times the ending didn't hold together, or the tension in the novel depends on the main character behaving in an uncharacteristic or stupidly reckless way. But I know when I read a Lippman novel that the characters will be well-developed and the resolution will make sense. Which means I just enjoy the experience and, unsurprisingly, I end up liking her novels.

I'm reading Jo Baker's The Body Lies, and it is fantastic so far.

Jul 18, 2019, 4:19pm

>48 RidgewayGirl: Oh, I'm jealous. Hoping to get hold of this one soon.

Jul 18, 2019, 4:43pm

>49 charl08: It's so good. I'm doing my best not to rush through it.

Jul 18, 2019, 4:50pm

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

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

This may well be my favorite work by this author.

Jul 18, 2019, 1:45am

Glad to see the good review of American Spy, I'm looking forward to that one.

I've been meaning to read something by Miriam Toews, and that one does sound really interesting. Likewise Joyce Carol Oates. Thanks for the reviews! Too many books to get to.

Jul 18, 2019, 1:57am

>46 RidgewayGirl: I was really knocked out by Friday Black. Not every single story, but the ones that were home runs were deeply and strikingly so, and I wouldn't say even the lesser ones were weak. Given that this is his debut, I'm excited to see what he does next.

Jul 19, 2019, 5:33pm

>52 mabith: There are always far too many books that I want to read. It may well be a problem that every single member of Club Read shares.

>53 lisapeet: Lisa, by the time I was halfway through the second story I was convinced that Friday Black was an extraordinary collection. I'm not a huge fan of dystopian lit, but he really managed to create vivid worlds very quickly and then do something interesting. There were a few I was less enthusiastic about, but none I thought were lackluster.

Jul 19, 2019, 9:38pm

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

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

Jul 20, 2019, 8:57pm

>51 RidgewayGirl:

That JCO sounds great, but I have 6 of her books in my TBR pile so I must ignore it.

Jul 20, 2019, 10:22pm

>56 Nickelini: I do, too, but there it was on the New Books shelf at the library and then it was on the front seat of the car next to me as I was driving home. Who knows how that happened.

Okay, I looked and I only have three unread books by JCO, so taking her newest one home was a rational act.

Jul 20, 2019, 10:28pm

>56 Nickelini:, >57 RidgewayGirl: I haven’t read a lot of JCO, but I’ve enjoyed the ones I have. I thought that Blonde was terrific, but I haven’t been able to tempt Lois.... 🙂

Jul 20, 2019, 11:31pm

>57 RidgewayGirl: but there it was on the New Books shelf at the library and then it was on the front seat of the car next to me as I was driving home. Who knows how that happened.

LOL! It must be magic. Book magic.

Editado: Jul 21, 2019, 4:48pm

Hi, Kay! I can't remember if I told you that I'll be able to attend the Decatur Book Festival, as I'm off from Friday through Sunday of Labor Day weekend.

Nice review of Friday Black; I enjoyed it as well.

Jul 21, 2019, 9:39pm

>51 RidgewayGirl: I have never been a big JCO fan; I've never managed to finish one of her books. But, if this is a good one, maybe I'll give her another try.

>55 RidgewayGirl: This sounds pretty scary to me, and I don't like to be scared!

Jul 21, 2019, 12:16am

>57 RidgewayGirl: AKA "It followed me home!" I tell my husband this all the time.

Jul 22, 2019, 8:34am

>51 RidgewayGirl: I love a bit of JCO, so noting this one. I agree - she's best at writing about dysfunctional families, and I do love a good angsty family drama.

Jul 22, 2019, 3:15pm

>58 NanaCC: I haven't read Blonde, either. My Dad came by to raid the shelves and left with We Were the Mulvaneys, which I'm pretty sure he will not enjoy, but maybe he'll become a huge JCO fan. That would be weird, though.

>59 Nickelini: Joyce, it happens to me all the time. That the New Books Shelves have to be walked by to get to the Holds shelf has got to be part of some nefarious plan.

>60 kidzdoc: Hi, Darryl! I'm very excited about the festival. I've picked up a few books to read ahead of time. I'm hoping the schedule is released soon. There are so many authors I'd like to hear speak that I really need to see the schedule to decide what is possible. I'm also looking forward to some fantastic and lively meals!

Jul 22, 2019, 3:20pm

>61 BLBera: Beth, JCO is an acquired taste. I'm so glad that Lois (avaland) kept pushing me to try different books by her - if you don't like her gothics, you may like her short stories, or her books about girls growing up in hardscrabble families in upstate New York.

>62 lisapeet: Seriously, Lisa, this is a problem affecting many people today. But it's a good problem.

>63 AlisonY: Yes, I think that's the topic she writes most authentically about.

Jul 22, 2019, 5:40pm

>58 NanaCC:, >64 RidgewayGirl: Blonde was hard to get in the UK for a while some years back and as a result was quite expensive for even used paperbacks. It seems to be more available now - it must have gone out of print here for a while at some point. I've read great reviews about it so must grab a copy at some point. Seems quite different to the usual JCO fodder?

Jul 22, 2019, 9:47pm

>62 lisapeet: That's a good one!

Jul 22, 2019, 10:14pm

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

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

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

Jul 23, 2019, 10:45am

>66 AlisonY: I haven’t read enough of her stuff to know what her usual fodder would be. When I read it, I had read Marilyn by Gloria Steinem, and my daughter said that I should try Blonde for a totally different perspective. I just looked back, and in my comments I said, Where Steinem handled Monroe's story with kid gloves, Oates' version lets everything hang out, warts and all. Both books were great by the way.

Jul 23, 2019, 2:03pm

>69 NanaCC: great - look forward to getting to it. I think I'd like the warts and all version :)

Jul 24, 2019, 10:11am

>51 RidgewayGirl: Great review of the JCO, Kay. Just read an old 1974 collection of "allusive comedies" where her focus is on academia. Insecure & anxious professors, mostly male.

>64 RidgewayGirl: We Were the Mulvaneys, another I have not read! But, I'm fairly certain the 40 or so I have read, probably covers some of the same territory, so I haven't felt pressured to read it. My obsession in JCO began just after this book came out in the late 90s, although I had an close encounter with her back around 1980, a sign of what was to come.

>58 NanaCC: Now, Colleen, don't underestimate yourself! You have indeed reminded me that her "masterpiece" is still unread. And the copy is on an accessible shelf...it's just that it's a big book, and likely a sad story in the end, and what with current events and all.... (I have read three JCOs this year, not anywhere near my record of 9, but I will get to it eventually....:-) She is certainly good at the "warts and all," isn't she?

Jul 28, 2019, 6:17pm

>69 NanaCC: JCO's specialty is focusing on the warts, isn't it? She's not one to gloss over unpleasantness.

>70 AlisonY: Colleen does make it look intriguing, doesn't she? I'm already eying JCO's newest book, Pursuit, because why read the books on my shelf, when there's one just about to be published?

>71 avaland: Given that JCO published at least two books a year, it will be some time before I'm rooting through the more obscure offering in her oeuvre, but your review was interesting.

Jul 28, 2019, 8:51pm

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

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

Jul 29, 2019, 11:00am

>73 RidgewayGirl: you sell it well - sounds great. Is this a newish novel?

Jul 29, 2019, 6:37pm

>74 AlisonY: It's brand new here, but I don't know if it was published earlier in the UK.

Editado: Jul 29, 2019, 8:46pm

>32 RidgewayGirl: Just catching up, here. The Lady in the Lake looks very good. I've never read any Lippman. Don't know if you're a baseball fan at all, but a lot of what I know about Baltimore circa 1966 I learned through reading Black and Blue: the Golden Arm, the Robinson Boys and the 1966 World Series that Stunned America by Tom Adelman. In 1966, the Baltimore Orioles were in the World Series for the first time in a long time, playing the LA Dodgers in Sandy Koufax's final season. Anyway, the book goes into the social conditions in Baltimore that year by way of describing the season leading up to the Series. For example, before the season started, the Orioles traded for Frank Robinson, already a huge star in the game. Everybody in Baltimore was very happy to have Robinson on the team. But he was black. So no one would sell him a house in a good neighborhood. The mayor had to make a public speech basically begging someone to come forward to sell Robinson and his wife a house to live in.

>45 RidgewayGirl: "They're rich and privileged, in ways that reduce the potential tension of the story . . . "

It's always an issue for me when fictional characters, in books or movies, have their problems smoothed over for them by their bank accounts.

I'm looking forward to following along with your reviews going forward.

Jul 29, 2019, 9:54pm

Hi, Jerry, I'm enjoying your reviews quite a bit. Lippman is an interesting author -- she writes bestselling crime novels, but she's also continually improving her craft and diving into issues like race and her historical novels are very well researched. She's fun to read.

And you've hit my main annoyance with many novels. What is the point of writing about people for whom life is lived at the easiest possible setting. I want the full complexity, not something pretty.

Jul 29, 2019, 9:54pm

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

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

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

Ago 1, 2019, 7:15pm

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

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

Ago 1, 2019, 9:55pm

>73 RidgewayGirl: Is this the Jo Baker who wrote the Pride and Prejudice spin off, Longbourne? Sounds like a very different book, if so.

Ago 2, 2019, 7:48am

>78 RidgewayGirl: noting this one - that sounds really interesting. I'm currently reading a non-fiction book that's a literary travelogue around the Soviet Union, and it's definitely piquing my interest in learning more about everyday life there.

Ago 2, 2019, 1:20pm

>80 japaul22: Yes, it is. I love authors who can entirely change directions from one novel to the next and now I'm eager to read her novel about Samuel Beckett, A Country Road, A Tree.

>81 AlisonY: This project by Columbia University Press - to translate and publish novels written in Russian and previously unavailable to English-language readers, is an interesting one and I've signed up to be notified whenever another book in the series is published.

Ago 2, 2019, 3:17pm

>73 RidgewayGirl: >78 RidgewayGirl: The Baker and the Khemlin both look really interesting, and neither was on my radar before—thanks!

Ago 2, 2019, 4:07pm

You're welcome, Lisa. Was your "books to read" list getting uncomfortably short?

Ago 2, 2019, 4:07pm

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

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

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

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

Ago 2, 2019, 4:53pm

>84 RidgewayGirl: Hahahahahaha.

Ago 2, 2019, 7:29pm

I loved A Country Road, A Tree and look forward to the new Baker. Since I plan to read it soon, I skimmed over your comments.

I'm on the fence about Black Leopard, Red Wolf; I've heard it's ultraviolent...

Are you planning to watch the Good Omens miniseries? I quite enjoyed it. The actors were very good. Jon Hamm has a small part but is hilarious as Gabriel.

Ago 2, 2019, 8:48pm

Beth, it is explicitly violent and the violence is fairly unrelenting and often directed at women and children.

I've seen the first episode of Good Omens and liked it a lot. I do love Jon Hamm, but I have trouble seeing him as a good guy. He always has the air of someone getting away with something.

Ago 4, 2019, 6:31pm

I am another fan of A Country Road, A Tree. Look forward to hearing what you make of it!

Ago 9, 2019, 1:59pm

>89 charl08: I've shelved it where I can see it when I sit down to read. But the stacks of new books keep growing...

Ago 9, 2019, 2:12pm

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

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

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

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

Ago 11, 2019, 8:17pm

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

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

Ago 13, 2019, 11:34pm

>68 RidgewayGirl: I just finished The Gulf after seeing it here and enjoyed it.

Ago 13, 2019, 12:32am

I've heard really varying opinions about Normal People, Kay. I loved it, but I haven't read Conversations with Friends, so I can't compare them. I thought she portrayed really well the ups and downs of a relationship.

Editado: Ago 13, 2019, 1:12am

>93 Jim53: Hi, Jim. I'm glad you liked it. I'm interested in what Boggs writes next.

>94 BLBera: Beth, I think that if I'd read Normal People first, I would have liked it more. I do think that Rooney is a talented writer and I'll probably read whatever she writes next.

I'm getting ready to attend the Decatur Book Festival in a few weeks and there are more interesting sessions than I can attend, especially given that many take place at the same time. I am ridiculously excited.

Ago 14, 2019, 3:52pm

The book festival sounds great, Kay. I googled it and am jealous. I need to retire, so I can attend these things.

Ago 16, 2019, 2:45pm

>96 BLBera: This one is convenient - over Labor Day weekend and just a few hours drive away. I'd happily attend many more book events if I could! This one also has become a chance for a close friend and I to get together. As she lives in AZ and I live in SC, we have to work at it.

Ago 16, 2019, 1:21am

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

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

Ago 17, 2019, 4:25pm

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

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

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

Ago 19, 2019, 8:37pm

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

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

Ago 19, 2019, 12:11am

I see we've been sharing reads with Disappearing Earth, Kay. Great comments.

The Swallows sounds good as well. I've read Lute's Spellman files books, which are entertaining, but not suspenseful.

Editado: Ago 19, 2019, 12:26am

Esta mensagem foi removida pelo seu autor.

Editado: Ago 19, 2019, 12:37am

>100 RidgewayGirl: Oh, The Swallows sounds good. Dysfunctional Vermont boarding school is always a selling point, since I went to one. Library's got it, but I'm going to hold off for a bit because I have some books to read for review (and really, I should read off the physical and virtual piles around here... Disappearing Earth would fit that bill, actually).

Ago 20, 2019, 6:10am

>99 RidgewayGirl: That was pretty much my experience with the book also.

Ago 20, 2019, 1:16pm

>101 BLBera: Beth, The Swallows was very hard to put down, less because of the suspense, and more because the reader can see everything heading towards a collision and watching the characters either do nothing to stop it, or trying to amplify the effects. I haven't read any of her Spellman books as I prefer stand-alones, but The Passenger is also a solid thriller and we all know that well-crafted thrillers are hard to find.

>103 lisapeet: Ha! I hear you about the piles of books that need to be read right now, and I don't even have a job that requires a reading list. I went to a book signing for Joshilyn Jackson's newest book yesterday and I'm tempted to leave the ARCs and library books in order to just sit down with the newest, shiniest book now. And I may do that.

>104 avaland: Disappearing Earth is really sticking with me. Oh, and my father grabbed a JCO (We Were the Mulvaneys) off of my tbr shelf a few weeks ago and took off with it. And he recently returned it and told me he'd loved it. This is a man who often hands the crime novels I give him back to me with the complaint that they dwell too heavily on the dark side of life, so I was astonished to find him responding to JCO, who never meets a flaw or uncomfortable situation that she doesn't lovingly examine.

Ago 21, 2019, 3:14pm

>100 RidgewayGirl: Did someone say Curtis Sittenfeld? Sold! This thread is exponentially increasing my TBR pile.

Ago 22, 2019, 12:02pm

You’ve had a few interesting books lately, Kay. I’m noting Disappearing Earth. Your comment about your dad enjoying the JCO made me smile. I always love it when surprises like that happen.

Ago 22, 2019, 1:53pm

Catching up!

>21 RidgewayGirl: Your review is intriguing, I have read so many negative reviews but your review makes it sound as a must read to me.

>32 RidgewayGirl: This one goes on the TBR too, I really enjoyed Sunburn and if this one's even better…

>55 RidgewayGirl: Looking forward to this one, it's on my shelves to read next month

>99 RidgewayGirl: Another one I'd love to read!

Ago 22, 2019, 9:46pm

>106 charl08: Ha! I like Curtis Sittenfeld a lot, too. Lutz's previous novel, The Passenger was also solid.

>107 NanaCC: Colleen, you think you know someone's reading tastes, and then they surprise you.

>108 Simone2: Hi, Barbara! Trust Exercise seems to be a polarizing book, but I did like it. The Lady in the Lake isn't as good as Sunburn, but that book is hard to top. I do like when Lippman sets her novels in the past.

Meanwhile, Mindhunter, season two is out on Netflix and I'm enjoying it a lot.

Ago 23, 2019, 7:33am

Disappearing Earth sounds like a good read - I'll look out for that one. I'm supposed to be staying away from the book shop for a few weeks as I've got a lot of TBRs on my shelf, but, well - you know how that goes....!

I hope you enjoy JCO's We Were the Mulvaneys when you get to it. Yes she's definitely one for sucking you into some terrible family trauma or other, but she does it so well :). I thought she handled the inside and outside perspectives of the family drama in that novel very well - you could see from the outside looking in that things just didn't need to be the way they were turning out but the family were too entrenched to see that.

Ago 23, 2019, 2:20pm

>110 AlisonY: Alison, I'm eager to dive into We Were the Mulvaneys, especially as my father left passages marked with post-its.

Ago 27, 2019, 5:44am

>104 avaland: That's fascinating about your Dad reading Oates. My next one will be another one of her early anthologies (1966). May take it with me on vacation lakeside (I'm taking a box of books so I can have choices, LOL)

Ago 27, 2019, 9:12pm

>112 avaland: I think that going on vacation without a box of books would be reckless behavior. Have a wonderful vacation!

Ago 28, 2019, 11:18am

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

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

Ago 28, 2019, 11:53am

>114 RidgewayGirl: I like your review, but having read one Koch (The Dinner) I think that's enough for me!

Ago 28, 2019, 12:30pm

>115 charl08: Definitely, Charlotte! Koch's protagonists are always unpleasant people and if you didn't love The Dinner, you certainly won't like The Ditch!

Ago 31, 2019, 2:02am

Oh, the Ditch sounds interesting. I like Koch. On my list.

Set 1, 2019, 10:19am

>113 RidgewayGirl: Yes, I can see you as another person who would need a box of books in order to have choices :-)

Set 1, 2019, 12:39pm

>113 RidgewayGirl: The proverbial box of books always makes me think of the literal box of books my parents bought at a library sale in California to keep me occupied on a cross-country drive back to New Jersey when I was ten. Happy memories of lying on a sleeping bag in the back of our Volvo wagon (no seatbelts, of course) with our German Shepherd, pulling one book out at a time and paying absolutely zero attention to the sights unfolding outside the window. I was that kind of little kid, very oblivious to everything that wasn't the written word, for better or worse.

Set 1, 2019, 5:53pm

>99 RidgewayGirl: Thanks for the review of The disappearing earth. Between you and avaland and a review I saw somewhere else, this is going on my library hold list.

Hope you enjoyed the Decatur book festival. I had picked out a few talks I wanted to go to, but then discovered i was not in the mood yesterday, so stayed home.

Set 2, 2019, 10:37pm

>117 Nickelini: Joyce, if you like Koch's kind of unpleasant character, you'll enjoy this one.

>118 avaland: Always. And for family vacations, I am responsible for bringing books the rest of the family will enjoy because they have been hand-fed books for years and have grown lazy.

>119 lisapeet: At about that same age, I was given a box of books by a family friend who helped clear out out-dated books from a school library. There were some fantastic books in there, hidden behind ugly library binding, including Shantymen of Cache Lake, which I loved so much and read several times.

>120 markon: I saw Julia Phillips speak at the festival and it was a fascinating talk. She appeared with Ingrid Rojas Contreras, who wrote about her childhood in Colombia and a young woman explained on the walk out of the hall about how Contreras' book was controversial in Colombia and why.

The festival was fantastic and, once again, I was unable to look around at all the various book-related booths as every time slot had authors speaking that I didn't want to miss. I and the friend I was with met up with both kidzdoc and benitastrnad and enjoyed a few great discussions over excellent food. My favorite conversation was each of us defending controversial authors against all the reasons to dislike them given by the other three. I, of course, gave a spirited defense of the oeuvre of Joyce Carol Oates, while Darryl tried to argue that Phillip Roth is not terrible. We should all try to forgive him. I'll post pictures later.

Set 2, 2019, 12:18am

>121 RidgewayGirl: It sounds great, Kay. I loved Contreras's novel; and it seemed to be pretty realistic, given what Colombian friends of mine have told me.

I'd love to hear your debate.

Set 4, 2019, 7:49pm

>122 BLBera: From what the woman was telling us as we walked out of the venue, Contreras's novel is controversial because there is a new peace arrangement with the former insurgents and there's a feeling that everyone should try to be quiet about things. It did make me wonder about Jaime Manrique's new novel, also set in Colombia and about the violence, and how it's being received as well. He was visibly reluctant to do the book signing part of things, not sitting at the author table or using the pens provided.

Yes, the controversial authors debate was a lot of fun. I do enjoy a good book fight among friends.

Set 6, 2019, 8:08am

Sounds like a great book festival, and so nice that you get to meet up with other CRers. My friend and I (who lurks around CR but doesn't post) are heading to the Cheltenham Literary Festival next month. Really looking forward to a few good talks, a stack of new books that I don't need and a rare little mini break by myself rolled into one.

Set 6, 2019, 2:28pm

>124 AlisonY: It was a wonderful few days. My perfect mini-break is definitely a good book festival in the company of a book-minded friend(s).

Having spent the first days of the month too busy to read (really, this is the single downside of a book festival), I'm just now getting back into the swing of reading.

Editado: Set 6, 2019, 8:00pm

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

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

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

Set 6, 2019, 5:09pm

>126 RidgewayGirl: I loved this book. Such skillful use of perspective shifting and stories within stories. I made my wife read it, and she loved it. Then she brought it to her reading group and most of them loved it, too. Whenever I got a copy in my used bookstore, I always sold it quickly because I always recommended it to readers I thought would appreciate it.

Set 6, 2019, 8:04pm

>126 RidgewayGirl: This sounds wonderful, Kay.

Editado: Set 6, 2019, 8:12pm

>127 rocketjk: It was extraordinary. I'm eager to read My Parents: An Introduction soon.

>128 BLBera: Beth, it really is worth reading.

Set 6, 2019, 9:55pm

>126 RidgewayGirl: I'd seen the book in passing but didn't really know anything about it—thanks for that. It sounds really good.

And because I'm procrastinating fiercely, I looked up the name and Averbuch is a variant of the name Auerbach (I know a couple of really nice people named Auerbach), and it means "from a meadow brook."

Set 7, 2019, 3:15pm

>126 RidgewayGirl: I was looking out for your review on this after Gerry (rocketjk) recommended it on my thread. Sounds great - on to the list it goes.

Set 7, 2019, 8:36pm

>126 RidgewayGirl: Another book for my gigantic wishlist. It sounds great.

Set 7, 2019, 12:05am

>129 RidgewayGirl: And, my library has a copy!

Set 8, 2019, 3:16pm

Alison, Colleen and Beth, I look forward to finding out what you think of it!

Set 10, 2019, 6:59pm

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

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

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

Set 10, 2019, 8:27pm

Yes, I love Seiffert. Amazing writer. And that book is so good at bringing the legacies of colonialism (both near and far) home to the reader. (Imho).

Set 10, 2019, 1:41am

I read Afterwards many years back now and also liked it. I should look for something else by her.

Editado: Set 11, 2019, 9:26am

>135 RidgewayGirl: Delighted you have chosen to read about the Troubles from both perspectives - many people start and end with a book that gives one position.

There was an interesting documentary on TV last night in which they interviewed soldiers who were stationed in NI during the Troubles. A mixed bag of comments overall. Most of them agreed that things weren't perfect and mistakes were made. Some still felt that overall if they hadn't been there things would have been a lot worse. Others felt that the situation shouldn't have been allowed to escalated during the 1960s and that the whole conflict was entirely avoidable. A few did comment on PTSD, and remarked that you would have been considered weak if you'd raised a flag that you were finding it hard to cope with. Others were more enthusiastic about talking about LSD, and what a great time they had tripping at the mess discos unbeknown to their superiors...

My husband commented that the programme being on to begin with was a political attempt in the middle of this Brexit back stop mess to fan the flames and remind people how bad the Troubles were.

Set 11, 2019, 3:50pm

>136 charl08: Charlotte, she has a skill for presenting difficult issues in a quiet, nuanced way. The only other book of hers that I've read is The Dark Room, but I'll be looking for her three others.

>137 mabith: Meredith, I was very impressed with The Dark Room when I read it.

>138 AlisonY: Alison, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit have got to be taking a toll on all of you.

Set 11, 2019, 4:55pm

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

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

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

Set 11, 2019, 6:53pm

Catching up. Khemlin sounds interesting. Have you read anything else by her? I just read a sample of The Investigator, which made me want to read the book. And as for Disappearing Earth, if it weren’t already on my wishlist thanks to avaland, it would be now.

Set 11, 2019, 9:56pm

>141 rachbxl: Rachel, I didn't know that another of her novels had been translated. I'm going to look for a copy of The Investigator. And Lois's comments about Disappearing Earth are why I read it in the first place.

Set 13, 2019, 2:46pm

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

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

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

Set 15, 2019, 7:25pm

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

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

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

Set 22, 2019, 4:51pm

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

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

Set 22, 2019, 9:42pm

>146 RidgewayGirl: I loved Olive Kitteridge, Kay. I’ll definitely get to this one.

Set 23, 2019, 4:06pm

>147 NanaCC: You'll really enjoy it, Colleen. I loved spending more time with Olive.

Set 24, 2019, 12:46pm

>146 RidgewayGirl: Loved this book. More than delivered on the promise of more Olive. Makes me want to go read it again, now I am thinking about it!

Set 24, 2019, 3:33pm

>149 charl08: I'm glad Strout decided to continue Olive's story.

Set 24, 2019, 7:16pm

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

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

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

Set 25, 2019, 2:51am

>151 RidgewayGirl:
That one never interested me (too much hype?) but you make it sound good. I'll reconsider.

Set 26, 2019, 3:26pm

>152 Nickelini: Hype is an odd thing. I do love reading books that are new and being talked about, but if they're being talked about too much, I stop wanting to read them for no real reason. I'm glad I returned to this book and I'm eager to read her new novel, Inland.

I've been likewise reluctant to read Margaret Atwood's The Testaments for the same reason, but then Ann Enright's review changed my mind.

Set 26, 2019, 7:46pm

>153 RidgewayGirl: I get like that: notable casualties glaring holes in my reading backlist.

I really loved the Atwood. Does that make it worse or is it ok now you've decided?

Set 26, 2019, 9:16pm

>154 charl08: From you, Charlotte, it definitely makes me want to read it more.

Set 26, 2019, 10:28pm

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

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

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

* Humans

Editado: Set 30, 2019, 10:31pm

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

Set 30, 2019, 11:30pm

>157 RidgewayGirl: I hope all goes well with this!

I stooped by looking for a bullet or two--you're a pretty reliable source--and took one on The Lazarus Project.

Set 30, 2019, 12:28am

Jim, that is such a good book. And thanks. My husband has agreed to go with me and do all the standing in line. He is highly skeptical of my even making it, but he has never read Brown Girl Dreaming.

Out 1, 2019, 12:40pm

>157 RidgewayGirl: I’m sorry to hear about your surgery, but glad you feel you'll be up to the event. Yay for your husband.

Out 1, 2019, 2:22pm

>160 NanaCC: Thanks, Colleen! I'm not entirely sure my resolve will still be strong when faced with getting up on the day, but so far I'm still planning to go.

Out 1, 2019, 5:07pm

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

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

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

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

Out 2, 2019, 1:26am

>162 RidgewayGirl: I was scared off of this one by reports of a particularly gruesome scene of animal cruelty, which is my line in the sand. You haven't quite talked me into it either.

I hope your surgery and recovery go well, and the Jacqueline Woodson event if you're up for it.

Out 3, 2019, 4:27pm

>163 lisapeet: Lisa, I did almost stop reading early in because of that scene. Vuong's ability to bring a scene to life does not work in his favor here.

And my husband has volunteered to go to the Woodson event, even if I'm unable to.
Este tópico foi continuado por RidgewayGirl Reads in 2019 -- Part Four.