RidgewayGirl Reads in 2019 -- Part Four

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RidgewayGirl Reads in 2019 -- Part Four

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1RidgewayGirl
Editado: Out 4, 2019, 11:07am

Fall is finally here and although it was over a hundred degrees yesterday, there is a hope that someday cool weather will return. For this final quarter of the year, my reading plans are to read without a plan, although I'd like to make sure that my reading is less American-centric than usual. I have a nice stack of books recently acquired at the Decatur Book Festival, and I'd like to read those.

This quarter's picture is from an exhibition called Strange Light: the Photography of Clarence John Laughlin. Often called the father of American Surrealism, Laughlin created odd, unsettling images, of which this is one of the most traditionally beautiful. Lots of creepy pictures of New Orleans cemeteries and decaying Southern plantations, in other words.

2RidgewayGirl
Editado: Out 4, 2019, 3:29pm

TK

3RidgewayGirl
Editado: Dez 27, 2019, 1:27pm

Currently Reading



Recently Read



Recently Acquired

9rocketjk
Editado: Out 4, 2019, 1:33pm

Ah, Berlin Noir! Hope you enjoy the exploits of Mr. Gunther. I am about halfway through this series, which I love pretty much entirely.

11RidgewayGirl
Editado: Jan 1, 2020, 12:55pm

2019
Akin by Emma Donoghue
All This Could Be Yours by Jami Attenberg
The Altruists by Andrew Ridker
American Pop by Snowden Wright
American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson
The Ash Family by Molly Dektar
Berlin Noir edited by Thomas Wörtche, translated by Lucy Jones
Biloxi by Mary Miller
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
Black Light: Stories by Kimberly King Parsons
Blue Moon by Lee Child
The Body in Question by Jill Ciment
The Body Lies by Jo Baker
Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken
Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis
The Children of the Ghetto: My Name is Adam by Elias Khoury
The Churchgoer by Patrick Coleman
Conviction by Denise Mina
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Death of Noah Glass by Gail Jones
Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
East of England by Eamonn Griffin
Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
Golden State by Ben H. Winters
A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
The Gulf by Belle Boggs
Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton
The Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman
Look How Happy I'm Making You by Polly Rosenwaike
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
Make Me a City by Jonathan Carr
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett
My Life as a Rat by Joyce Carol Oates
My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing
The Need by Helen Phillips
Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
The New Me by Halle Butler
The Night Swimmers by Peter Rock
Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
Paris, 7 a.m. by Liza Wieland
Pursuit by Joyce Carol Oates
Rabbits for Food by Binnie Kirshenbaum
Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
Reproduction by Ian Williams
Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Savage Appetites by Rachel Monroe
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
The Snakes by Sadie Jones
Staff Picks by George Singleton
The Study of Animal Languages by Lindsay Stern
The Swallows by Lisa Lutz
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg
The Topeka School by Ben Lerner
Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
The Unpassing by Chia-Chia Lin
Very Nice by Marcy Dermansky
The Water Cure by Sophie MacKintosh
We Are All Good People Here by Susan Rebecca White
The Wolf Wants In by Laura McHugh
Women Talking by Miriam Toews

2020
Cleanness by Garth Greenwell
Perfect Little Children by Sophie Hannah

12RidgewayGirl
Editado: Jan 1, 2020, 12:58pm

Nationalities of Authors Read

Argentina
Samanta Schweblin (Mouthful of Birds)

Australia
Shirley Barrett (The Bus on Thursday)
Gail Jones (The Death of Noah Glass)

Bosnia
Aleksandar Hemon (The Lazarus Project) (country of birth)

Britain
Jo Baker (The Body Lies)
Pat Barker (The Silence of the Girls)
Belinda Bauer (Snap)
Graeme Macrae Burnet (His Bloody Project)
Anna Burns (Milkman)
Lee Child (Blue Moon, Past Tense)
Diana Evans (Ordinary People)
Eamonn Griffin (East of England)
Sophie Hannah (Perfect Little Children)
Kirstin Innes (Fishnet)
Sadie Jones (The Snakes)
Sophie MacKintosh (The Water Cure)
Mhairi McFarlane (Who's That Girl?)
Denise Mina (Conviction)
Sarah Moss (Ghost Wall)
Rachel Seiffert (Afterwards)
Ruth Ware (The Death of Mrs. Westaway)

Canada
Margaret Atwood (The Testaments)
Emma Donoghue (Akin)
Esi Edugyan (Washington Black)
Uzma Jalaluddin (Ayesha at Last)
Michael Ondaatje (Warlight) (Country of Residence)
Heidi Sopinka (The Dictionary of Animal Languages)
Miriam Toews (Women Talking)
Ian Williams (Reproduction)

France
The Years by Annie Ernaux

Germany
Thomas Wörtche, editor (Berlin Noir)

Ireland
Liz Nugent (Lying in Wait)
Sally Rooney (Conversations with Friends)

Israel
Sayed Kashua (Second Person Singular)

Italy
Domenico Starnone (First Execution)

Jamaica
Marlon James (Black Leopard, Red Wolf)

Japan
Hideo Yokoyama (Seventeen)

Lebanon
Elias Khoury (Children of the Ghetto: My Name is Adam)

Mexico
Valeria Luiselli (Lost Children Archive)

Netherlands
The Ditch by Herman Koch

Nigeria
Oyinkan Braithwaite (My Sister, the Serial Killer)

Poland
Olga Tokarczuk (Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead)

Russia
Margarita Khemlin (Klotsvog)

Serbia
Teá Obreht (The Tiger's Wife)

South Korea
Angie Kim (Miracle Creek) (Country of Birth)

Sri Lanka
Michael Ondaatje (Warlight) (Country of Birth)

Sweden
The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag

Turkey
Selahattin Demirtas (Dawn: Stories)

13RidgewayGirl
Editado: Jan 1, 2020, 12:57pm

USA
Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Friday Black)
Kristen Arnett (Mostly Dead Things)
Jami Attenberg (All This Could Be Yours)
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)
Jill Ciment (The Body in Question)
P. Djeli Clark (The Black God's Drums)
Patrick Coleman (The Churchgoer)
Carolina De Robertis (Cantoras)
Molly Dektar (The Ash Family)
Marcy Dermansky (Very Nice)
Samantha Downing (My Lovely Wife)
Emma Copley Eisenberg (The Third Rainbow Girl)
Kali Fajardo-Anstine (Sabrina & Corina)
Therese Anne Fowler (A Good Neighborhood)
Julia Franks (Over the Plain Houses)
Bonnie Friedman (Writing Past Dark)
Keith Gessen (A Terrible Country)
Myla Goldberg (Wickett's Remedy)
Garth Greenwell (Cleanness)
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)
Angie Kim (Miracle Creek) (Country of Residence)
Binnie Kirshenbaum (Rabbits for Food)
Christina Lauren (The Unhoneymooners)
Ben Lerner (The Topeka School)
Chia-Chia Lin (The Unpassing)
Laura Lippman (The Lady in the Lake)
Claire Lombardo (The Most Fun We Ever Had)
Lisa Lovenheim (Desert Fabuloso)
Lisa Lutz (The Swallows)
Janet Malcolm (The Journalist and the Murderer)
Elizabeth McCracken (Bowlaway)
Laura McHugh (The Wolf Wants In)
Mary Miller (Biloxi)
Rachel Monroe (Savage Appetites)
Thomas Mullen (Lightning Men)
Joyce Carol Oates (My Life as a Rat, Pursuit)
Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi (Call Me Zebra)
John Jay Osborn (Listen to the Marriage)
Kimberly King Parsons (Black Light: Stories)
Ann Patchett (The Dutch House)
Helen Phillips (The Need)
Julia Phillips (Disappearing Earth)
Richard Powers (The Overstory)
Taylor Jenkins Reid (Daisy Jones & The Six)
Andrew Ridker (The Altruists)
Ann Rittenberg (Your First Novel)
Peter Rock (The Night Swimmers)
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)
Jacqueline Woodson (Red at the Bone)
Snowden Wright (American Pop)

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

14RidgewayGirl
Out 4, 2019, 2:48pm

>9 rocketjk: Jerry, this isn't the superlatively good trilogy by Phillip Kerr, but another installment in the Akashic Noir series, this one set in Berlin. It's much more uneven than the others in this series and I will have things to say about it soon.

15rocketjk
Out 4, 2019, 3:49pm

>14 RidgewayGirl: Ah. C'est la vie. I'll look forward to your thoughts, as always.

16avaland
Out 4, 2019, 5:43pm

Love the photo at the top of your thread.

17BLBera
Out 4, 2019, 9:54pm

Happy new thread, Kay. I love your lists. Good luck with the surgery.

18RidgewayGirl
Out 5, 2019, 12:17pm

>16 avaland: Lois, Laughlin's work is odd. I think that he and John Waters could have made some interesting films together. He has an eye for finding the rot in the beauty and the beauty in trash.

>17 BLBera: Thanks, Beth. According to the stack of books I've set next to the bed, I'll be laid up for a few months. Probably I'll be more or less back to normal in a week.

19avaland
Out 8, 2019, 6:20am

>18 RidgewayGirl: I completely missed the end of your last thread and the mention of surgery; hope it goes well.

20RidgewayGirl
Out 8, 2019, 2:31pm

>19 avaland: Thanks, Lois. I'm home and able to get around, albeit slowly. Glad it's over with.

21RidgewayGirl
Out 12, 2019, 1:04pm



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

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

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

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

22NanaCC
Out 12, 2019, 2:51pm

>21 RidgewayGirl: I think you got me with this one, Kay.

23RidgewayGirl
Out 12, 2019, 5:47pm

>22 NanaCC: It's a good one, Colleen. I really enjoyed it.

24RidgewayGirl
Out 12, 2019, 5:49pm



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

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

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

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

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

25BLBera
Out 12, 2019, 9:13pm

Great comments on Akin, Kay. Onto the list it goes.

Savage Appetites also sounds interesting.

26dchaikin
Out 12, 2019, 9:28pm

>24 RidgewayGirl: fascinating opening quote and interesting thought process/conversation you described. Not sure if this book appeals or not, but great review.

I'm just reading about your surgery. Glad it's over with and wish you a good recovery. Sorry about Woodson (guessing you couldn't go)

27RidgewayGirl
Out 13, 2019, 11:20am

>25 BLBera: Thanks, Beth. Akin may be Donoghue's strongest novel yet. There's so much depth to it.

>26 dchaikin: Thanks Dan. I did indeed miss the Woodson event. Not happily, but I can still read Red Bone. And I find the whole topic of why crime exerts such a pull on us fascinating. I really enjoy crime novels and why that is is a question I have yet to find a full answer for. It's interesting to look at why crime fascinates women in particular, and I have found some societal and historical reasons for that - most obviously the use of fear of crime in keeping women from participating fully in society, as well as way knowledge gives us the illusion of safety. There have also been a few books written recently on the topic, but this is the first I've found that tries to find answers beyond the obvious.

28RidgewayGirl
Out 13, 2019, 12:07pm



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

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

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

29rocketjk
Out 13, 2019, 12:45pm

>28 RidgewayGirl: Your review, here, more or less mirrors my wife's take on St. Petersburg Noir, which I bought for her for fun after our trip to that city (a side jaunt from our two weeks in Finland) several years back. I think she gave up on it about a third of the way through, saying the first story was good but the next few weren't particularly well written. Maybe I'll give it a go one day.

30RidgewayGirl
Out 13, 2019, 1:29pm

>29 rocketjk: Jerry, I've enjoyed reading the various Akashic Noirs - especially when I have a tie to the location and I can clearly picture the neighborhood the story takes place in. They tend to be strongest for the less well-known areas, where you can find some exciting writing by new authors and those who have never been published outside of their country. Mumbai Noir and San Juan Noir were both installments I really enjoyed. Despite their unevenness, I will continue to pick these collections up when I find them.

31VivienneR
Out 13, 2019, 2:14pm

I love new threads and lists! Yours always adds more to my wishlist - this time Sadie Jones and Emma Donohue.

32RidgewayGirl
Out 15, 2019, 2:53pm



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

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

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

33BLBera
Out 16, 2019, 10:27pm

>32 RidgewayGirl: I've been wondering about that one, Kay. I was underwhelmed by The Beautiful Bureaucrat, but The Need sounds interesting.

34RidgewayGirl
Out 17, 2019, 8:30am

Beth, you may find it interesting. I was hampered in my enjoyment by my antipathy for the protagonist and her situation. I've done what she did, but without full-time help so while I could empathize with how tiring the task of raising two small ones when one's partner is out of town, she had so many more resources and more help than so many women today that her rapid descent into an altered mental state felt inauthentic to me, however, if the alternate explanation for the events is the real one I still think that a scientist should have been able to react in a less frantic way. So I'd be very interested in finding out what others make of this odd book.

35RidgewayGirl
Out 17, 2019, 5:05pm

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

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

36charl08
Out 19, 2019, 4:24pm

Well, somehow I lost track of your thread and have just found the new one and plenty of book recommendations. Adding >21 RidgewayGirl: and >24 RidgewayGirl: to the wishlist, and hoping that Lagos Noir is better than Berlin... (it's on my shelf waiting to be read). I've read some great crime set / written there - the Turkish / German series springs to mind in particular, but if interpreting loosely I guess also the Bernie Gunther novels? So as you say, a shame this one didn't work so well for you.

37RidgewayGirl
Editado: Out 20, 2019, 5:20pm

Charlotte, I've found the Akashic Noirs to be best in obscure places. The authors are often not known outside of their country and they seem to put more effort in. Or maybe it depends on the editor and what they can cajole out of writers. It's an uneven series, but I do enjoy them.

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

38rachbxl
Out 22, 2019, 11:43am

>37 RidgewayGirl: doesn't she just? I'm in the middle of The Testaments, really enjoying it.

39RidgewayGirl
Out 25, 2019, 11:47am



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

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

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

40charl08
Out 25, 2019, 12:49pm

I thought this was really great. Such a good series. I hope the next one comes out in a reasonable amount of time!

41VivienneR
Out 25, 2019, 1:57pm

>35 RidgewayGirl: That one goes on my wishlist right away. Anyone who is a reminder of Denise Mina is a shoo-in.

>37 RidgewayGirl: I was delighted to see this, when Atwood was recently given an honour by the Queen: https://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/atwood-queen-companions-honour-1.5335396

42BLBera
Out 26, 2019, 9:38am

I also loved The Testaments, not as much as A Handmaid's Tale, but even less-than-perfect Atwood is still very good.

43RidgewayGirl
Out 26, 2019, 6:25pm

>40 charl08: Me too, Charlotte. I was expecting one this year. I guess I'd rather have one very well done book than him rushing to write three or four in the same time span.

>41 VivienneR: I'd be interested in finding out what you think of it, Judy. And Atwood is one of our great living authors. I'm glad she's receiving recognition for that.

>42 BLBera: Beth, it's been decades since I last read The Handmaid's Tale. I'm going to try to reread it soon.

44RidgewayGirl
Out 27, 2019, 7:31pm



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

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

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

45RidgewayGirl
Out 29, 2019, 7:26pm



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

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

46lisapeet
Out 29, 2019, 8:05pm

>45 RidgewayGirl: I love that cover.

47RidgewayGirl
Out 29, 2019, 9:09pm

>46 lisapeet: Lisa, the cover is why I bought the book.

48lisapeet
Out 30, 2019, 6:16am

>47 RidgewayGirl: I'll almost always pick up a book with a fox on its cover, not sure why. It's why I read Sasa Stanisic's Before the Feast, which I liked very much, and picked up Lissa Evans's Crooked Heart (this cover, not the horrible new one), which I haven't read yet.

49markon
Editado: Out 30, 2019, 8:32am

>44 RidgewayGirl: I agree that The Testaments read well, and I was quite interested in the development of Aunt Lydia's character. However, on reflection, I felt disappointed in the novel overall. I wanted more character development of the teens, and wondered also about Comander Judd or the Martha's. Events came together too easily - the breaking of a regime like Gilead seemed too easily accomplished, and little of the cost to those within who may have been resisting was shown.

Atwood is an excellent writer; I just dont think this was one of her best efforts.

Edited to correct typos.

50RidgewayGirl
Out 30, 2019, 4:29pm

>48 lisapeet: Wow, Lisa. One cover for Crooked Heart is wonderful and I'd definitely pick it up in a bookstore. And I wouldn't touch the second one. And I have another of Saša Stanišic's novels on a list for my husband to pick up in Germany next week. Herkunft just won the German Book Prize in an apparent rebuke to Peter Handke being awarded the Nobel.

>49 markon: I find the way different readers have differing views of the same book so interesting, Ardene. I do think this is one where opinion is more than usually polarized. Maybe I was happier with The Testaments because it's been a good two decades since I last read A Handmaid's Tale. I did download a copy to read soon (I have no idea where my old mass market paperback went) so maybe my delight in The Testaments will fade on reading the previous book. One thing I very much liked about The Testaments was how it resonated with what is going on now.

51RidgewayGirl
Out 31, 2019, 9:25am



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

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

52avaland
Nov 2, 2019, 7:26am

>44 RidgewayGirl: Enjoyed your comments on the Atwood. That's mostly my experience, too (although I took two days to read it, LOL).

53RidgewayGirl
Nov 5, 2019, 12:14pm



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

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

54dchaikin
Editado: Nov 5, 2019, 1:04pm

>37 RidgewayGirl:, >38 rachbxl:, >42 BLBera:, >44 RidgewayGirl:, >49 markon:, >52 avaland:, I have a half-hour left in The Testaments and I'm pretty down on it. Interesting all the opinions. Mostly I agree with >49 markon:, but ... well, I'm in the moment and every time I listen I cycle through what I don't like in my mind, reinforcing and making my (negative) response overly strong and one-sided. I'll have to process. But one big thing that bothers me: I think Gilead isn't scary unless it's scary. If it's run by a bunch of morons, then there is nothing of substance to concern us and we can discard the whole thing once the thrill of moment has passed. (A second thing that bothers me is that everyone knows or is related to each other. I have trouble expanding Gilead beyond the size of, say, Charlotte, NC.)

55RidgewayGirl
Nov 5, 2019, 6:16pm

That's interesting, Daniel. I think that my reaction to The Testaments was largely visceral. It felt very personal and real. And the religious underpinnings were likewise very real to me as not that different than what I was being taught as a teenager in an Evangelical church - obviously not as extreme, but Atwood has clearly done her research here. I wonder if being able to read it at a remove changes the experience of reading this novel. It would have to, wouldn't it?

56dchaikin
Nov 6, 2019, 9:47am

I wonder about the audio perspective. For example, Aunt Lydia is read in a stereotypical way - which emphasizes the stereotypical aspects of her as a stodgy but sharp and conniving but outwardly proper old lady. That’s kind of a critical loss in the book, and I never believed her character added to my first impression. But, yes, I never had buy-in. I was mildly entertained, but always at a remove and generally disappointed.

57RidgewayGirl
Nov 6, 2019, 10:38am

>56 dchaikin: Audiobook readers can really make or break a book. Lydia's such a nuanced character in the novel, so much so that I lost my image of her as played by Ann Dowd. She was such a full person in the book. Not sure how to communicate that with voice, though.

58dchaikin
Nov 6, 2019, 11:53am

Acting can invigorate or kill characters. I typically prefer non-acting narration (although there is always some performance). In this case the actors were mostly good, but not perfect. I wouldn’t have minded a more toned down plain reading to let the text give color. But I’m not sure how it really impacted the book. It could simply be the mystery of voice was a critical part of the novel’s suspense. Just having a tone exposes a lot, and maybe told me too much up front.

59RidgewayGirl
Nov 6, 2019, 8:52pm



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

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

60charl08
Editado: Nov 10, 2019, 7:16am

>55 RidgewayGirl: I went to see an encore screening of Atwood launching The Testaments, and she discussed how both books are based on real events from dictatorships and other corrupt states. That reinforced the power of the book for me (having already recognised some of the examples eg of people bound into the system acting as agents of its downfall to help the opposition.

61rachbxl
Editado: Nov 8, 2019, 4:54am

I’m with you entirely on The Testaments, Kay. I read The Handmaid’s Tale so long ago that I wasn’t really in a position to have an opinion about whether a sequel was a good idea or not, so I came to The Testaments with an open mind. I thought it was marvellous. I’m interested in Dan’s take on Aunt Lydia, through the audiobook; like you (Kay, I mean), I found her to be much more nuanced. I want to read The Handmaid’s Tale again now!

62RidgewayGirl
Nov 7, 2019, 12:01pm

>60 charl08: Charlotte, I'm going to have to hear Atwood's take on what she wrote. I have checked and there are a few interviews with her on the topic available on-line.

>61 rachbxl: Rachel, I was astonished at how much I ended up sympathizing with Aunt Lydia! It really was a masterful portrait on how a person can be co-opted into a system. I'm also eager to reread The Handmaid's Tale.

63RidgewayGirl
Editado: Nov 7, 2019, 2:23pm



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

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

64RidgewayGirl
Nov 7, 2019, 2:22pm



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

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

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

65AlisonY
Nov 7, 2019, 2:54pm

>63 RidgewayGirl: sounds like another great JCO novel. Can't beat a good tale of dysfunctional family trauma!

I have developed serious FOMO on the Atwood discussions. I think they've pushed me over the edge on reading The Handmaid's Tale - I'll have to keep an eye out for a copy in the secondhand bookshop.

66RidgewayGirl
Nov 7, 2019, 3:03pm

>65 AlisonY: Ha, yes, this is classic JCO and she writes so well about domestic violence from the point of view of a child.

67lisapeet
Nov 7, 2019, 7:37pm

>61 rachbxl: >62 RidgewayGirl: My copy of The Testaments just came in at the library, and I'm in the same boat as you alls—I'm going to need to reread The Handmaid's Tale but I'm going to read this first because it's here (though there's an e-copy of the earlier book available to grab now if I want to binge on reproductive dystopia). But I'm not starting it tonight because I'm super bleary after a two-day conference stuck in the Charleston Airport hoping that my flight that was already delayed two hours doesn't get any later than that, and I'm thinking my reading retention is basically crap.

Which is why I'm working instead, hahaha.

68BLBera
Nov 7, 2019, 8:49pm

Great conversations about The Testaments here, Kay. It is remarkable how differently people react to the same book.

69RidgewayGirl
Nov 8, 2019, 10:00am

>67 lisapeet: Lisa, I found my decades old memories of The Handmaid's Tale were more than enough for The Testaments. These two books are more companion volumes that books in a series, although The Testaments takes place after the events of The Handmaid's Tale.

And I'm waving to you from the other side of South Carolina and hoping you managed to get home.

>68 BLBera: Beth, it makes for a much more interesting conversation than when everyone agrees a book was great and then we all sit there, wondering what there is to talk about.

70RidgewayGirl
Nov 8, 2019, 11:09am



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

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

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

71dchaikin
Nov 8, 2019, 3:31pm

( >65 AlisonY: mission accomplished? 😉)

>67 lisapeet: sending you sympathy. Trapped in Charleston sounds nice - but not in the airport.

>63 RidgewayGirl: Enjoyed your JCO review. I’m never sure if I would like her or not. Some day will try.

>70 RidgewayGirl: Enjoyed this review too, has me wondering about Bunny’s motivations, or if “motivations” is the appropriate word. (Also, I’m a little too entertained that it’s Binnie on Bunny.)

72RidgewayGirl
Nov 8, 2019, 9:11pm

>71 dchaikin: I wondered about the Binnie/Bunny name, too, Daniel, especially given there's a scene where a therapist insists that can't be her real name, that it must be a nickname or shortened form of something else.

And JCO was a slowly acquired taste for me. I was convinced to keep trying because of Lois's (avaland) appreciation of her.

73lisapeet
Nov 8, 2019, 9:46pm

>69 RidgewayGirl: >71 dchaikin: Charleston was a lovely place to get stuck for a couple of extra hours, to be sure—I had time to take myself out for a nice meal and walk around a bit, plus the night before I went to a part at the aquarium, which was super cool. The airport, eh. All airports beat my native LaGuardia, so there's that. And once the flight left all went smoothly, though today I'm sooo tired.

>70 RidgewayGirl: I've been wondering about Rabbits for Food—that sounds kind of fascinating in a dark way.

74rachbxl
Nov 9, 2019, 3:36pm

>71 dchaikin:, >72 RidgewayGirl: Exactly the same for me WRT JCO, a taste very slowly acquired, and I only persevered because of avaland. Come to think of it, I haven’t read any JCO for a while; it’s time for another fix.

75RidgewayGirl
Nov 9, 2019, 4:39pm

>73 lisapeet: I like Charleston's little aquarium, but mostly I like that one touch tank full of small sharks (catsharks?) who rub up against your hands with their sandpaper skin. And, in my opinion, Kirshenbaum does a good job describing what depression is like, but that doesn't necessarily make for a fast-paced or upbeat novel.

>74 rachbxl: Rachel, I'm really attracted to her writing style. It's so distinctive that I know immediately that it's her by the bottom of the first page.

76RidgewayGirl
Nov 9, 2019, 6:02pm



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

77RidgewayGirl
Nov 13, 2019, 1:25pm



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

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

78RidgewayGirl
Editado: Nov 13, 2019, 2:58pm



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

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

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

79NanaCC
Nov 16, 2019, 9:40am

Just catching up, Kay. Sorry about the disappointment in Writing Past Dark. I’ve been lucky this year, and haven’t hit any books that I wanted to fling across the room.

80RidgewayGirl
Nov 16, 2019, 2:20pm

>79 NanaCC: Overall, Colleen, I'm having a great reading year. One or two duds in with the large quantity of fantastic books is nothing to complain about!

81RidgewayGirl
Editado: Nov 18, 2019, 4:13pm



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

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

Thank you, avaland, for bringing this book to my attention!

82NanaCC
Nov 18, 2019, 7:16pm

>81 RidgewayGirl: This does sound like one I’ll enjoy, Kay.

83RidgewayGirl
Nov 18, 2019, 8:42pm

https://themorningnews.org/article/the-year-in-fiction-2019

The Morning News Tournament of Books long list is out!

Colleen, I think you'll like it. It's a fun read.

84dchaikin
Nov 18, 2019, 9:02pm

>83 RidgewayGirl: Well, for better or worse I signed up for the newsletter

85charl08
Nov 19, 2019, 1:18am

>83 RidgewayGirl: Wow, that's quite a list. I'm intrigued to see that Manchester happened by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi has acquired a new title, too.

86RidgewayGirl
Editado: Nov 19, 2019, 10:24am

You're in for it, Daniel. It's impossible not to get sucked in. On the other hand, it's really broadened my awareness of current novels.

Charlotte, there are so many books I now need to go take a look at. From what I can tell, the Makumbi book's new name is based on the title of an anthology of Caribbean British writing.

87RidgewayGirl
Nov 20, 2019, 12:09pm



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

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

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

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

88BLBera
Nov 24, 2019, 10:33am

>83 RidgewayGirl: I was thinking of you when I saw that the list was out, Kay! Enjoy. Have you read many?

89RidgewayGirl
Nov 25, 2019, 9:38am

>88 BLBera: Beth, I've read thirteen of them and am reading another now. And I have a new stack from the library. I do like how it pushes me into reading books I'd never choose myself.

90Simone2
Nov 25, 2019, 5:22pm

Catching up on your thread. You’ve read so many new books - published this year, you’ll be able to finish the whole ToB longlist I think!
Lots of inspiration for me in your reviews, thank you!
If you think there are real must-reads om the longlist I’d love your recommendations!

91RidgewayGirl
Editado: Nov 25, 2019, 7:11pm

>90 Simone2: If you're wondering which books will make it on to the short list, the only one I can say for sure is Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli, since it won the summer reading challenge. I thought it was a fantastic book and well worth reading.

I also especially loved Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips, which I thought was fine until the final two chapters, in which she ties things so beautifully together that it became brilliant. And I loved Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout.

I did come home with a stack of long listed books from the library. I'm enjoying Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine right now, but the one I really want to jump into is Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha. I've added it to my Christmas wishlist, so hopefully someone in my family will pick me up a copy.

92RidgewayGirl
Nov 25, 2019, 7:11pm



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

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

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

93charl08
Nov 26, 2019, 5:22am

>92 RidgewayGirl: I like your cover better than the plain blue one it gets over here! I had to return Flights to the library unread as I had too many on reserve, but hopefully in 2020...

94BLBera
Nov 27, 2019, 2:42pm

>92 RidgewayGirl: Janina is one of the most memorable characters I've encountered in a while. I will also be reading more by Tokarczuk.

I LOVED Sabrina & Corina. From the first story, I was captivated.

I'll have to look at the list again. I've read some of them.

95RidgewayGirl
Nov 28, 2019, 12:38pm

>93 charl08: I have Flights on my list of books I'd like to reading in 2020, Charlotte. Now that she's won both the Nobel and the Booker, I expect her other works will be translated soon.

>94 BLBera: Yes, I've been grabbed by Sabrina & Corina, too.

I started Denise Mina's Conviction last night, then got up very early this morning to finish it.

96RidgewayGirl
Nov 28, 2019, 4:45pm



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

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

97Simone2
Nov 29, 2019, 12:37am

>91 RidgewayGirl: Thanks! I loved both Disappearing Earth and Lost Children Archive and I am a fan of Elisabeth Strout, so I’ll trust your recommendation blindly and will buy a copy. I am looking forward to the shortlist and the tournament!

98RidgewayGirl
Nov 30, 2019, 6:07pm



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

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

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

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

99BLBera
Nov 30, 2019, 6:19pm

>96 RidgewayGirl: I'm waiting for my turn at The Dutch House, Kay. It's fortunate that I have a couple of other books to read while I wait.

100RidgewayGirl
Nov 30, 2019, 9:10pm

>99 BLBera: There was quite a waiting list at my library for The Dutch House, too. It's good to see literary novels being in demand!

101AlisonY
Dez 5, 2019, 7:00am

Catching up here too. Great review of the Tokarczuk novel and The Dutch House. Both are on the TBR, although when I reach them is another thing....

102RidgewayGirl
Dez 5, 2019, 8:16pm

Alison, with me the thing that happens is that a book ends up on the stack of books to read next, but then gets shuttled to the bottom as new books land on top.

103RidgewayGirl
Dez 5, 2019, 8:17pm



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

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

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

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

104AlisonY
Dez 6, 2019, 4:54am

>102 RidgewayGirl: yep - there's always the 'new shiny thing' issue of new books landing on the pile!

105Jim53
Dez 6, 2019, 1:19pm

>103 RidgewayGirl: I took a hit on this one.

106RidgewayGirl
Dez 6, 2019, 5:04pm

>104 AlisonY: All the time! I used to take those shiny new books I was excited about and make them wait their turn, but I've realized that I really enjoy reading the books everyone is talking about now, so I don't do that anymore. Now if I could just bar the door to the new ones until the older new ones are read, it would all work perfectly.

>105 Jim53: It really is a lot of fun. Mina knows her stuff.

107RidgewayGirl
Dez 9, 2019, 5:24pm



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

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

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

108Simone2
Dez 10, 2019, 12:43am

>92 RidgewayGirl: Another one I really want to read!

109charl08
Dez 10, 2019, 8:23am

>107 RidgewayGirl: Sold! Sounds marvellous.

110RidgewayGirl
Dez 10, 2019, 8:38am

>108 Simone2: Barbara, I really enjoyed this. The picture Tokarczuk painted of life in a small Polish community was so wonderfully rendered. I'm eager to read Flights now.

>109 charl08: Charlotte, a few people in the goodreads Tournament of Books discussion group were so excited about it, so I caved to peer pressure and I'm so glad I did.

111RidgewayGirl
Dez 10, 2019, 10:34am



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

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

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

112lisapeet
Dez 10, 2019, 4:47pm

>111 RidgewayGirl: I really, really liked this collection, which wasn't even on my radar until it showed up as a NBA finalist. I felt like she hit just the right tone in terms of keeping the stories cohesive as a collection but varied enough in tone and subject to feel really fresh all the way through. The story of the two sisters who try to bring their ill mother home absolutely knocked it out of the park for me--but they were all terrific, not a weak one in the bunch.

113RidgewayGirl
Dez 10, 2019, 6:25pm

>112 lisapeet: I agree. There wasn't a weak story in the collection. I'm so happy to have read this. I also liked that the setting wasn't any of the usual cities.

114charl08
Dez 11, 2019, 2:24am

>110 RidgewayGirl: Argh, doesn't seem to have a UK publisher yet. Hopefully Virago (who did her previous ones) will step up.

115RidgewayGirl
Dez 11, 2019, 10:12am

Charlotte, do you know how often I hear of some fantastic new book, only to see that it's still only available in Britain or Australia or Canada? You'd think in this internet age, books would be published worldwide on the same date. I know this is impossible and there are rights and negotiations and distribution issues, but in my ideal world, this would happen.

And books would keep their titles across borders.

116RidgewayGirl
Dez 13, 2019, 10:53am



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

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

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

117avaland
Dez 13, 2019, 4:25pm

>63 RidgewayGirl: I read far less of Oates' books labelled suspense. Thanks of the review, though.

>81 RidgewayGirl: You're welcome. Did I mention that Ayesha reminded me another book I read pre-LT, a much more serious story about a young Muslim woman from the states who agrees to an arranged marriage back in India. It's called Madras on Rainy Days by Samina Ali. You'd like it, I think.

https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781429930796

>92 RidgewayGirl: Loved the Tokarczuk. I still haven't reviewed it although I read it lakeside in September. "odd and wonderful" sounds accurate.

>103 RidgewayGirl: Agree the Mina was a wild ride :-)

118BLBera
Dez 14, 2019, 4:57pm

>107 RidgewayGirl: This one sounds good, Kay. I'll have to check it out.

I also loved Sabrina & Corina. I love linked stories and the place that linked all of these was so vividly imagined. I can't wait to see what she does next.

119charl08
Dez 14, 2019, 5:45pm

Reading Akin and absolutely loving it. Reminds me a bit of The Man in the Wooden Hat.

120RidgewayGirl
Editado: Dez 15, 2019, 11:44am

>118 BLBera: Cantoras is fantastic, Beth. And I can't say enough good things about Sabrina and Corina. It was a delight to read both books during the same week.

>119 charl08: Charlotte, I'm going to have to take a look at The Man in the Wooden Hat then. I confess that I hadn't even heard of it before now. Edited to add: I must have heard of it at some point, because I own a copy!

121charl08
Dez 15, 2019, 12:44pm

>120 RidgewayGirl: I like that whole series Kay (Old Filth) - very reflective on a past that wasn't perfect, and in senior years may require a rethink.
Set me off reading her back catalogue too.

122lisapeet
Dez 15, 2019, 4:25pm

>120 RidgewayGirl: Kay, I think you'd really like The Man in the Wooden Hat. It's such good writing, good storytelling. It's one of my lifetime favorites.

123RidgewayGirl
Editado: Dez 16, 2019, 11:52am



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

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

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

124markon
Editado: Dez 16, 2019, 2:39pm

>107 RidgewayGirl: I agree, I loved Cantoras, though I haven't written any kind of review yet. Have you read any of her previous work? I loved The invisible mountain and liked The gods of tango, but I had trouble getting into Perla.

125RidgewayGirl
Dez 16, 2019, 4:49pm

>124 markon: Ardene, I didn't even know De Robertis existed before I read Cantoras. I will definitely be reading her other books. Good to know that about Perla.

126dchaikin
Dez 18, 2019, 1:26pm

All these great books before Reproduction (which you still appreciated). Cantoras sounds terrific - as does learning about Uruguay. S & C and The Unpassing Chia-chia Lin sound terrific too.

Saw the ToB shortlist is out. I’m thinking about it.

127RidgewayGirl
Editado: Dez 18, 2019, 3:29pm

>126 dchaikin: You've already read quite a few of them, Daniel.

128dchaikin
Dez 18, 2019, 3:53pm

Just 3 ... (limited Booker overlap)

129RidgewayGirl
Dez 18, 2019, 4:31pm

>128 dchaikin: I'm currently reading books that were long listed, but didn't make the shortlist. In two of those cases, the books are wonderful and I'm happy to have been led to them, but in the case of the third novel, I was less than a hundred pages from the end and sheer stubbornness is making me finish.

130dchaikin
Dez 18, 2019, 5:22pm

iirc - there should be 50 books that didn’t make the tournament. Something like that anyway. Admiring your determination and wishing you well through the tough ones. The numbers overwhelm me! If I do read these TOB books, it will just (just?!!) be the 9 left on the short list that I haven’t read or listened to. 🙂

131RidgewayGirl
Dez 19, 2019, 2:22pm



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

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

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

132RidgewayGirl
Dez 20, 2019, 4:03pm



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

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

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

133RidgewayGirl
Dez 25, 2019, 4:07pm



Happy holidays, everyone! I hope you each are gifted with time to read and a stack of suitable books.

134VivienneR
Dez 26, 2019, 1:14am

Hope you have (had?) a very Merry Christmas and best wishes for all the good things in 2020.

>133 RidgewayGirl: Good one! But it wouldn't work for me, I have so few relatives.

135bell7
Dez 26, 2019, 7:13pm

>133 RidgewayGirl: Hahahaha Oh gosh...

136RidgewayGirl
Dez 28, 2019, 10:14am



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

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

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

137RidgewayGirl
Dez 28, 2019, 10:31am



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

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

138BLBera
Dez 28, 2019, 12:14pm

>136 RidgewayGirl: I also loved this one, Kay. I wish it were a little longer...I wanted more about Iris and her mother.

>137 RidgewayGirl: Thanks for taking one for the team. I'll pass.

139kidzdoc
Dez 28, 2019, 12:54pm

Nice review of Red at the Bone, Kay. I'll be on the lookout for it.

140RidgewayGirl
Dez 28, 2019, 3:08pm

Beth and Darryl, has Woodson ever written anything that wasn't perfectly crafted? She's an extraordinary author.

141RidgewayGirl
Dez 28, 2019, 3:08pm



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

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

142charl08
Dez 28, 2019, 4:21pm

>141 RidgewayGirl: I enjoyed this one too. Fun idea and plenty of interesting characters.

>137 RidgewayGirl: Yikes!

143japaul22
Dez 28, 2019, 4:28pm

>137 RidgewayGirl: Hmmmm. Someone around here liked The Night Swimmers because I put it on my amazon wishlist. But since I despise books like this semi-autobiographical novels about a well-off white man with a lack of direction and a poor understanding of boundaries, I think I'll pass.

144AlisonY
Dez 29, 2019, 9:55am

>137 RidgewayGirl: for a minute I was poised to add this one to my wish list! Shame - it sounded quite good to begin with.

145RidgewayGirl
Dez 29, 2019, 12:38pm

Charlotte, if all Chick-Lit were as good, I'd read far more of them.

Jennifer and Alison, I'm sure that many people have enjoyed this novel. It made the Tournament of Books longlist after all. But autofic is a hard sell for me unless the author is doing something more with it, like illuminating a time and place or describing noteworthy events. Annie Ernaux's The Years was extraordinary, The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis was raw and painful. The Night Swimmers felt self-involved to me, and this was exacerbated by a few stylistic trends that annoyed me when I first encountered them in other novels. It felt very much to me like an author following innovations by other authors for the sake of it.

146RidgewayGirl
Dez 29, 2019, 3:34pm



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

147Simone2
Dez 29, 2019, 3:43pm

>136 RidgewayGirl: Great review. I loved this one too. And I was eager to read The Most Fun We Ever Had but now I am having second thoughts!

148RidgewayGirl
Dez 30, 2019, 2:19pm

>147 Simone2: Barbara, I enjoyed reading it! It only goes saccharine in the final chapter as the author attempts to wrap up every single conflict into a happy package. It's a forgivable flaw for a debut novelist to make. Her writing style is very easy to read.

149RidgewayGirl
Dez 30, 2019, 2:20pm



Her mother hung up.

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

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


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

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

150RidgewayGirl
Dez 30, 2019, 5:32pm



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

151NanaCC
Dez 30, 2019, 10:31pm

>150 RidgewayGirl: I will have to get to this series some day....

152charl08
Editado: Dez 31, 2019, 4:59am

>149 RidgewayGirl: Looking forward to reading this - Katie recommended Attenberg's Saint Mazie which I loved.

153RidgewayGirl
Dez 31, 2019, 11:49am

Colleen, it's a great one for just being a lot of fun. Child knows how to pace a thriller (very, very fast) and how to create a character we're all happy to read 24 books (so far) about.

Charlotte, I have both Saint Mazie and All Grown Up on my tbr, but hadn't gotten to them. I certainly will now. She writes so well!

154bragan
Dez 31, 2019, 3:13pm

>149 RidgewayGirl: Ooh, I'll have to add that one to the wishlist. I loved Attenberg's All Grown Up, even though at first blush it didn't look like my sort of thing at all.

155RidgewayGirl
Dez 31, 2019, 5:28pm

>154 bragan: I'm going to read more Attenberg soon. I hadn't expected to be so charmed by her writing.

156RidgewayGirl
Dez 31, 2019, 5:31pm



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

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

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