Mabith's 2018 Reads Part II
Melde dich bei LibraryThing an, um Nachrichten zu schreiben.
Dieses Thema ruht momentan. Die letzte Nachricht liegt mehr als 90 Tage zurück. Du kannst es wieder aufgreifen, indem du eine neue Antwort schreibst.
Time for a new post for the second third of the year. My reading enjoyment and amounts have been wildly up and down so far this year. I go weeks without posting reviews and then post ten or fifteen in one go. I'd like this to change, but don't expect it to. My mother passed away extremely suddenly last fall, only a month after being diagnosed with cancer (she was totally asymptomatic until the few weeks before that). I expect to be struggling with this for a long time to come. She was my best friend, and it's compounded by my own disability, which my mom was the main support and help with.
Anyway, it's a strange year for reading (and for most things).
Maurice by E.M. Forster
Black Man in a White Coat – Damon Tweedy
The Pleasure of Finding Things Out – Richard Feynman
The Interior Castle – Teresa de Avila
Trumpet – Jackie Kay
War and Turpentine – Stefan Hertmans
Kokoda – Paul Ham
Bismarck – AJP Taylor
The Midwife's Apprentice – Karen Cushman
Theatre Shoes – Noel Streatfeild
Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi
Unmentionable – Therese Oneill
Becoming Unbecoming – Una
The Hospital Always Wins – Issa Ibrahim
Phoenix Rising – Karen Hesse
The Real Indians All Died Off – Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Tinker Dabble Doodle Try – Srini Pillay
The Bolivian Diary – Che Guevara
Photographic – Isabel Quintero and Zack Pena
Sing, Unburied, Sing – Jesmyn Ward
Voices from the Second World War – Candlewick
I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced – Nujood Ali
Truckers – Terry Pratchett
The Bread Givers – Anzia Yezierska
Into the Silence – Wade Davis
It Ended Badly – Jennifer Wright
Iraq + 100 – Hassan Blasim
Wolfskin – Juliet Marillier
The Neanderthals Rediscovered – Dimitra Papagianni, Michael A. Morse
Bold Spirit – Linda Lawrence Hunt
The Children of Willesden Lane – Mona Golabek
Zinky Boys – Svetlana Alexievich
The Stranger – Albert Camus
The Meursault Investigation – Kamel Daoud
The Line Becomes a River - Francisco Cantu
The Trauma Cleaner - Sarah Krasnostein
The Wizard and the Prophet - Charles C. Mann
On Sanity - Una
The Fox Was Ever the Hunter – Herta Muller
The Orphan Mother – Robert Hicks
I am, I am, I am – Maggie O'Farrell
Dirty River – Leah Piepzna-Samarasinha
Go Tell it on the Mountain – James Baldwin
Showa 1926-1939: A History of Japan – Shigeru Mizuki
The Spider King's Daughter – Chibundu Onuzo
Dead Souls – Nikolai Gogol
The Hello Girls – Elizabeth Cobbs
Home Fire – Kamila Shamsie
Interesting Times – Terry Pratchett
1066 And All That – WC Sellar and RJ Yeatman
Magnificent Delusions – Husain Haqqani
The Pleasure Shock – Lone Frank
Fire Road – Kim Phuc Phan Thi
Redemption in Indigo – Karen Lord
Dear World – Bana and Fatemah Alabed
Archangel – Sharon Shinn
Diggers – Terry Pratchett
Ghost Bride - Yangsze Choo
The Blue Tattoo – Margot Mifflin
Wings – Terry Pratchett
What Unites Us – Dan Rather
Memoirs of a Polar Bear – Yoko Tawada
Barkskins – Annie Proulx
Don't Ask - Donald E. Westlake
Mister Monday - Garth Nix
Grim Tuesday - Garth Nix
Drowned Wednesday - Garth Nix
Sir Thursday - Garth Nix
Lady Friday - Garth Nix
Superior Saturday - Garth Nix
Lord Sunday - Garth Nix
Jovah's Angel - Sharon Shinn
Feminism is for Everybody - bell hooks
It Devours! - Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
Citizen: An American Lyric - Claudia Rankine
The Alleluia Files – Sharon Shinn
Where We Once Belonged – Sia Figiel
Jagannath – Karin Tidbeck
Cosmopolitanism – Kwame Anthony Appiah
A Writer's People – V.S. Naipaul
Deadly Election – Lindsey Davis
Warriors Don't Cry – Melba Pattillo Beals
A Corner of White – Jaclyn Moriarty
Justinian's Flea – William Rosen
Anarchism and Other Essays – Emma Goldman
Barracoon – Zora Neale Hurston
Animal Magnetism – Rita Mae Brown
The Cracks in the Kingdom – Jaclyn Moriarty
The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion – Fannie Flagg
The Girl Who Smiled Beads – Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil
The Spy Who Couldn't Spell – Yudhijit Bhattacharjee
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora – Pablo Cartaya
A Tangle of Gold – Jaclyn Moriarty
Radio Silence – Alice Oseman
Playing in the Dark – Toni Morrison
Other People's Children – Lisa Delpit
Fascism: A Warning – Madeleine Albright
The Creature in the Case – Garth Nix
Goldenhand – Garth Nix
Call Me American – Abdi Nor Iftin
You All Grow Up and Leave Me – Piper Weiss
The Inner Life of Animals – Peter Wohlleben
Evalina – Fanny Burney
The Kindness of Enemies – Leila Aboulela
The Search for Modern China – Jonathan D. Spence
Oceanic – Aimee Nezhukumatahil
Pandemic – Sonia Shah
Six Days in Cincinnati – Dan Mendez Moore
Wounded in the House of a Friend – Sonia Sanchez
Small Country – Gael Faye
The Black Pearls of Tabu Yama – Carl Barks
Angelica – Sharon Shinn
Welcome to Lagos – Chibundu Onuzo
Summer for the Gods – Edward J. Larson
Zami: A New Spelling of my Name – Audre Lorde
Comics For Choice – Hazel Newlevant, Whit Taylor, OK Fox
The Course of Honour – Lindsey Davis
And Be a Villain – Rex Stout
The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin
Overture to Death – Ngaio Marsh
MEM – Bethany Morrow
I Contain Multitudes – Ed Yong
Unpunished – Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Picking Cotton – Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, Ronald Cotton
A Vietcong Memoir – Truong Nhu Tang
Hypercapitalism – Larry Gonick and Tim Kasser
The Silver Pigs – Lindsey Davis
Unnatural Death – Dorothy L. Sayers
The Lightless Sky – Gulwali Passarlay
Belle – Paula Byrne
Foxmask – Juliet Marillier
Astrid the Unstoppable – Maria Parr
The Empire Striketh Back – Ian Doescher
Five Children and It – E. Nesbit
The Chessmen of Doom – John Bellairs
The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
The Secret of the Underground Room – John Bellairs
Operation Nemesis – Eric Bogosian
Red Winter – Anneli Furmark
Coming of Age in Mississippi – Anne Moody
Angel-Seeker – Sharon Shinn
Farthest North – Fridtjof Nansen
Lincoln's Melancholy – Joshua Wolf Shenk
The Man Who Wasn't There – Anil Ananthaswamy
Rez Life – David Treuer
The Three Caballeros Ride Again – Don Rosa
The Old Castle's Other Secret – Don Rosa
Maskerade – Terry Pratchett
Spilt Milk – Chico Buarque
The Almost Sisters – Joshilyn Jackson
Saturnalia – Lindsey Davis
Newt's Emerald – Garth Nix
The Other Side of Paradise – Staceyann Chin
The Hippopotamus Pool – Elizabeth Peters
Heart Berries – Terese Marie Mailhot
Dread Nation – Justina Ireland
Lafayette in the Somewhat United States – Sarah Vowell
Thinking in Pictures – Temple Grandin
No God but God – Reza Aslan
Red Azalea - Anchee Min
The Polish Boxer – Eduardo Halfon
The Wife – Sigrid Undset
The Cross – Sigrid Undset
Talking to my Daughter About the Economy – Yanis Varoufakis
Gender Outlaw – Kate Bornstein
Dear America – Jose Antonio Vargas
Daughter of the Forest – Juliet Marillier
The Library Book – Susan Orleans
Girl at War – Sara Novic
Son of the Shadows – Juliet Marillier
Vietnam – Stanley Karnow
SPQR – Mary Beard
Get Well Soon – Jennifer Wright
The Unwomanly Face of War – Svetlana Alexievich
Radium Girls – Kate Moore
The Bully Pulpit – Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Vanishing Velasquez – Laura Cumming
The Gulag Archipelago Vols 1 and 2 – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Come as You Are – Emily Nagoski
The Death and Life of Great American Cities – Jane Jacobs
The Chinese in America – Iris Chang
William Wells Brown – Ezra Greenspan
The Man Without a Face – Masha Gessen
Reading Lolita in Tehran – Azar Nafisi
The Spiral Staircase – Karen Armstrong
Bone Black – bell hooks
Stammered Songbook – Erwin Mortier
My Mother's Sabbath Days – Chaim Grade
Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
MiddleMarch - George Eliot
Passing – Nella Larsen
The File on H – Ismail Kadare
The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake – Breece Pancake
Zorro – Isabel Allende
Poor Cow – Nell Dunn
Stone Butch Blues – Leslie Feinberg
The Sorrow of War – Bao Ninh
The Testament of Mary – Colm Toibin
The Book of Night Women – Marlon James
Under the Udala Trees – Chinelo Okparanta
Beneath the Lion's Gaze – Maaza Mengiste
Chronicle of a Last Summer – Yasmine el Rashidi
Madonna in a Fur Coat – Sabahattin Ali
The Handmaid's Tale – Margaret Atwood
Maurice by E.M. Forster
This book was written in 1913-14, but Forster did not seek to publish it during his life. It was published within about a year of his death.
The book follows Maurice started at age 14 as he's about to leave prep school for public school. A teacher is informing him about sex and marriage so he won't be hopelessly misinformed by older boys at the school or get into trouble or whatnot. He feels very separate from the idea of marriage and being with a woman. We follow him through to Cambridge where he falls in love with Clive.
I was reminding myself of Forster's details and came across a, to me, puzzling little item. Some sources state this book was inspired by poet Edward Carpenter's relationship with George Merrill (a working class man from the slums of Sheffield). Only that aspect comes in very near the end. It sort of feels like it was put forth because Merrill was much more "out" and to draw attention away from Forster's own homosexuality. The largest part of the book seems to me drawn from Forster's own life and experiences (or at least no less so than Carpenter's).
Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor's Reflections on Race and Medicine by Damon Tweedy
Tweedy was a medical student at Duke in the mid 1990s, and the subtitle really says it all. The style is very introspective, appropriate to someone who eventually made psychiatry their specialty. The book is very well written, and an important read for anyone.
I'm not capable of doing a very nuanced review right now, so here's this:
The Pleasure of Finding Things Out by Richard Feynman
This is a collection of essays and articles written by Feynman, from a range of dates and an extreme range of subjects. There's some classic Los Alamos stuff, articles about teaching science, and some pretty technical writing as well.
Mostly fun, interesting, though plenty of sexism.
The Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila
Sometimes I read older non-fiction simply because it's there, and can be difficult to find on audio. Teresa of Avila eventually became St. Teresa of Avila. She was a reformer of the Carmelite order of nuns, working to bring them back to older, more ascetic habits (inspired by the Desert Fathers and Mothers and other hermit-like groups).
In this book she's talking about the paths of prayer and meditation and such like. She's very clear on the "if you think God is speaking directly to you then you're probably wrong and just want attention."
It was an interesting, but not an amazing read. I am not religious myself, but I do enjoy reading books about religion and by religious people.
Trumpet by Jackie Kay
There are some interesting echos of Kay's own life here. The main couple consists of a black father and white mother, as did Kay's parents. Their child was adopted, as was Kay. The similarities end there, but I like when authors use everything they know to make a book more convincing. Kay published three books of poetry before this, her first novels.
Joss and Millie get together and Joss reveals he's transgender. In their life together, and in his career as a jazz musician, he passes as male and it isn't until his death that people find out he was assigned female at birth. Their adopted son, Colman, particularly struggles with this, feeling angry that he was never told, even as an adult. The book changes character many times, revealing different aspects of Millie's and Joss' life together, people reactions after his death, and their memories of him.
Very good book, well done.
War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans
When I find an audiobook by a Flemish Belgian author I'm required to read it to appease a Flemish Belgian friend (Francophone Belgians just don't count as much).
This is largely historical fiction. A grandson has his grandfather's memoirs and is going through them, perhaps preparing them to publish. So there are brief bits of him narrating which then switches his grandfather's perspective. One dominant focus of the book is WWI, which his father served in. It was interesting to have a Belgian perspective, as those early days of attempting to defend Belgium aren't covered as often in fiction (not fiction that's easily available in English, anyway).
It was a good book, but not a great book for me.
Kokoda by Paul Ham
I really liked Ham's book 1914: The Year the World Ended, so quickly put all of his books on my to-read list. The organization of it, and the way he brought in perspectives and quotes just worked SO well, and it's one of the best WWI-focused histories I've read.
Kokoda refers to Kokoda track/trail which runs through the Owen Stanley mountain range in Papua New Guinea. The book is about the WWII campaign to prevent the Japanese from taking Port Moresby. It was almost exclusively fought by Australian forces, and initial battles involved the rawest of militia men. Again, Ham constructs the book very well (especially as this was his first), and tracked down quotes and statements from a huge variety of people. There are some fascinating and little remembered things in this book, like the fact that Australia had far stricter censorship rules, regarding the war, than any other Allied country.
This book also appealed because my grandfather was stationed in Papua New Guinea towards the end of the war (long after the fighting, he was signal corps and wasn't supposed to be overseas at all due to the army lying about his horrendous eyesight so they could have his telephone systems expertise training folks on the home front, but the note in his file got lost and he wasn't about to remind anyone).
Very highly recommended.
Bismarck: The Man and Statesman by A.J.P. Taylor
Another slightly random older non-fiction pick. I could have sworn I'd read something else by Taylor, but it's not showing up on my records. It would be interesting to compare with a very recent book on Bismarck.
An interesting read. Not a masterpiece, and I don't know how it holds up with modern research, but I know a lot more basics about mid-to-late 19th century Germany now, which isn't a bad thing.
The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman RE-READ
Cushman is one of my childhood obsession authors, but I've only read this book once or twice before. I say *only* once or twice, because in late grade school and throughout middle school I was a slightly shifting list of about twenty books that I got out of the library and read without fail every single month. I read new books as well but this list I just wanted to imprint on my heart. I can still see my mom shaking her head about it. Only the library didn't have much Cushman and my main re-read of hers was a book I owned.
She writes really solid historical fiction for children and young adults. She does not sugar coat the past, she does not create characters who seem simply transplanted from modern times, and she doesn't leave out any of the filth. In this book Alice was an orphan wandering from place to place begging or stealing food, and sleeping in dung heaps for warmth. She finds a sort of welcome with a midwife. She isn't given much, and certainly isn't made a proper apprentice, but it's better than sleeping in dung heaps... The book is set in the earlyish medieval period in England.
The way it ends I can see both sides of "bad message for children" and "realistic portrayal of options and how young non-family members were treated," but lean toward liking it (and love the rest of the book). Cushman is good at getting in those little facts that build a picture, like the way bread was over-yeasted so it looked larger but was mostly air, or watering down beer, plus the difference between the theater of midwifery (in that period) and the more practical aspects. I was a history-mad child, and Cushman helped me keep that by giving me interesting stories and great women/girl characters.
Theater Shoes/Curtain Up by Noel Streatfeild RE-READ
The shoes books are family favorites, but I didn't actually read any of them as kids. The editions we had were printed in the 1980s and had the worst covers, most of which were so stereotypically girly that I steered clear. Which is SUCH a shame, because they're great books and only the first is lacking in strong boy characters.
In this one three children have been staying with their grandfather (well, they go to boarding school so they're only there in the holidays) as the war is on and they can't visit their father overseas (I forget now if a specific country is mentioned, but maybe Singapore). He is reported missing by the Navy and that's a worry, but then their grandfather dies and they're suddenly uprooted and sent their maternal grandfather who they've never met before. That side of the family is all in the theater and they're expected to go to a theatrical school, which is obviously unacceptable.
As usual, Streatfeild's children are realistic and struggle, but they're also resourceful and know they can't just count on adults to do everything.
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi RE-READ
Another re-read, this one for my online book club. These are Satrapi's graphic memoirs on her childhood in and out of Iran.
Really valuable read, and was good to go back to it, fifteen years after first US publication. It's one of the graphic memoirs that started the tide, and I love her artwork. While it can seem very static she's able to get wonderful movement into the work when it's necessary.
Jane, definitely great re-reads (mostly that's the case if I'm re-reading something, though some are just book club ones as I'm leading one now and feel I need to remember the books a little better!).
Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill
I am basically the target audience for this book. I collect etiquette and advice books, and I love to poke fun at them (and quite like Victorian novels). It's one of those reads where I want to contact the author and beg to be best friends.
The book takes on specific subjects and quotes from a variety of books published at the time. It doesn't try to stick to one specific part of the Victorian era, but does tell you when the books quoted were published and such. It also deals with romantic assumptions about the period very well.
Very fun, fairly informative (though not a book going into great depth), recommended if you like this sort of humorous book.
Becoming Unbecoming by Una
This is a graphic memoir about the author's childhood in Yorkshire, and also about the serial kill Peter Sutcliffe, known as the Yorkshire Ripper. During the time that he was active and being learned about, the author was sexually assaulted multiple times through childhood. The book deals with this amidst a broader picture of life for girls at the time, the labels of 'slut' and 'slag' and how they effect girls and are used to silence sexual assault.
Very well done, and I really like the style of art she employs. The stories intertwine well, and make sense together. She goes into the police investigation of Sutcliffe and also her struggles after leaving school. She's a remarkable woman, and still living and working in Yorkshire to help and educate others.
The Hospital Always Wins by Issa Ibrahim
This is a rough book, in many ways. Ibrahim began to show symptoms of schizophrenia in late adolescence and his symptoms were made were due to marijuana use (though honestly, it would likely have gotten worse anyway). Ibrahim suffered a break with reality, and convinced that his mother was possessed, tried to exorcise her. As he panicked and tried to hold her so he could think, he knelt on her chest and killed her.
His insanity plea was accepted and he spent the next twenty years in a psychiatric hospital. The book is told in two streams. The beginning of his stay in psychiatric facilities moving forward to his release, and the story of his personal mental health and family life starting in childhood and moving forward to the death of his mother.
The book is not long, and you don't really get a sense of the twenty years spent inside. Though, this is common with institutionalization. Without a schedule, without meaning to days and months that pass the sense of time is altered. I've certainly found that since becoming disabled.
An interesting book. Maybe not a favorite one for the year, but then I read a lot of books!
Phoenix Rising by Karen Hesse RE-READ
One of my constant re-reads throughout middle school. I obsessively read Hesse's novels after reading Letters from Rifka in third or fourth grade.
This book takes place after a large nuclear accident, similar to (maybe not quite as bad as, it's hard to tell) Chernobyl, centered around Massachusetts. The narrator, Nyle, lives on a sheep farm with her grandmother. They haven't yet had to cull any sheep (unlike some family members) but there are worries about what wind shifts will bring and the future is very uncertain. Their lives are even more uprooted after Gran brings two evacuees, one with fairly serious radiation sickness, to stay with them.
It's a pretty short book, and sometimes feels like the pacing is off, but it's a good introduction to the idea and deals with some important themes.
"All the Real Indians Died Off": And 20 Other Myths About Native Americans by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
The title kind of says it all with this one. The book is straight forward, helpful, and really informative. It talks about controversies and deals with the fact that of course not everyone agrees on all counts.
Tinker Dabble Doodle Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind by Srini Pillay
A really fascinating popular science book about the importance of letting the mind wander, in a deliberate way (vs the spacing out we might do while anxious, thinking of everything that can go wrong).
It builds on the fact that in office work there seems to be a set amount of time that people can really focus for. Important work, especially for anyone involved in creative work or work that requires a very deep focus. Some aspects reminded me of Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.
Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide by Isabel Quintero and Zeke Pena
A wonderful graphic biography of Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide. Written by Quintero (of Gabi, a Girl in Pieces fame) and illustrated by Pena. It includes some of Iturbide's actual photographs, and ink renderings of them as well. The book is just really beautiful and fascinating. A great work.
My brother's mother-in-law sent this to me for my birthday. It was so incredibly thoughtful, done due to my mother's death last September. My brother is so lucky in his in-laws.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
I have a theory that book titles with commas in them are usually great reads. Granting this is largely born of Evie Wyld's two novels.
I really loved this poet, lyrical, magical realist novel. It deals with themes that are incredibly common in my area - grandparents raising grandchildren due to their children's drug habits (or just not wanting to be parents, or jail time). Children watching their parents fade away, giving themselves to completely destructive forces, whether that's addiction or involvement in abusive relationships. Children feeling totally responsibly for younger siblings because their parents aren't there.
This was a book club read, and I'm surprised that most of the rest of the book club really liked it. The writing was beautifully done, and the magical realist elements largely worked for me. I'm even more excited to read Salvage the Bones now, since I know many people prefer it to this novel.
Voices From the Second World War edited by Candlewick Press
My review is a dissent from the others for this Early Reviewer title. It is a book targeting children, middle-grade/juvenile level. It is broken up into sections with different people involved in WWII talking about their experiences, both on the home front and around the world, and from a variety of ages. Many of them are specifically narrated to children (relations or random school children).
However, the selection of voices is homogeneous. The focus is British, yet there are almost no (I think literally no, but I don't have the energy to check through every page again) people from the Commonwealth represented. Yet there are numerous Americans quoted. There are also precious few pages devoted to the Holocaust, representing a very narrow range of experience. Some of them are taken up with a member of a host family speaking for one of the Kindertransport (or similar) children, though this person was only born in 1940 and many of those children are still alive to tell their own stories. There is also an implication that Alan Turing killed himself simply because he was gay, with no mention of the persecution of the government and his chemical castration (and that bit written by someone who has generally opposed gay rights).
It is possible that the publisher was just lazy in putting this together. I don't know. There is some merit in the book, but it could have been so much better. Just because a book is intended for children doesn't mean it needs to be narrow or that the standard is lower. Indeed, the standard should be higher, especially because children tune out of enjoying history at this age. Not recommended.
I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali
This book came out in 2010, it's brief written by Ali with a French publisher, it what feels like a fairly authentic voice (it's a bit twee in some bits, but some children are, of course). It details Nujood's childhood and forced marriage to a much older man at age nine or ten. Marriages that young are illegal unless the husband agrees not to consummate the union until the bride is older. This was not abided by in Ali's case and she was repeatedly raped and beaten. Her father's second wife advised her to go directly to court and ask the judge for a divorce.
This was granted, but post book Ali's life has not gone the way she (or anyone) would have hoped. The publisher had no choice but to give installments of money to her father, and while she was initially back in school she was quickly out again, with not enough money trickling down to her and her siblings from their father plus demands put upon her by family to try to get more money. She married again when she was 15 or 16.
However, she did inspire other children trapped in abusive marriages to seek help from the courts. It's important that this book exists, and I hope that somewhere down the line she writes another (she's only 20-ish now).
Truckers by Terry Pratchett RE-READ
A comfort re-read, though I timed it poorly so the second book is still on hold.
These are non-Discworld children's fantasy books, about the Nomes. Some wild Nomes looking for a new home have stumbled into some department store Nomes, some of whom don't believe in Outside. However, the store is closing and will be demolished, so a few Nomes must convince the others and find a way to leave safely.
Very funny and very human, as always with Pratchett. The religion the store Nomes have cobbled together based on the runnings of the store and the signs, is particularly amusing. The beneficent goddess, Bargains Galore, and the hateful demon Prices Slashed.
Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska
Originally published in 1925, this seems to be the most available and most studied work by the author. Yezierska and her family immigrated to the US from Poland when she was 10. She dreamed of being a writer for some time while working difficult jobs and going to school at night.
This is very similar to the protagonist in Bread Givers, the youngest daughter in an Orthodox Jewish family. Her father refuses to help support the family and instead studies the Torah and expects his daughters to work and hand over their wages. As such he makes demands of his older daughters' suitors which cannot be met and then marries them off to other much unsuitable men. The title refers to the useless men who see themselves as bread givers but in reality live off their wives' work and enterprise.
A classic I hadn't heard of until recently. I enjoyed it and found it well worth reading.
Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis
This has been on my to-read list for some time, but it's quite long and I was weary of Wade Davis due to having to read The Serpent and the Rainbow in high school for class. Also I think Everest-Climbing and similar ventures to be ridiculous. And Mallory, that man... You have a wife and child you purport to greatly love but you risk your life merely to get to the top of something? Merely to conquer a bit of nature? Over and Over! What a way to treat your family.
The connections between the men involved and the arrangements with various governments and the men's various WWI histories was very interesting and the book is well written. Grumble grumble grumble.
It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Breakups in History by Jennifer Wright
I great enjoyed Wright's book Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them, read towards the end of last year. I would like to be best friends with Wright. Perhaps me, her, and Therese Oneill (what wrote Unmentionable could become cool drinking buddies who collection odd, old books and don't mind the grisly things. A person can dream.
The book is funny, and light, and full of the fabulous tidbits you want in a humorous popular history work.
Iraq + 100: Stories From Another Iraq edited by Hassan Blasim
Blasim solicited Iraqi writers to try their hand at science fiction and write stories set 100 years after the US invasion. These are not writers who regularly write (or perhaps even read) science fiction. I'm also not sure how many are usually short story authors. So what I'm getting at is the collection is very uneven. There were a few more interesting stories but most of them had issues (for me) with pacing and with balance (the "it's future tech!" mostly felt forced).
Wolfskin by Juliet Marillier RE-READ
A favorite book by a favorite author, newly released in an audio edition. It starts out with Vikings in Norway and a young boy, Eyvind, who wants to be part of the elite warrior group, the Wolfskins. He has to befriend an odd boy, Somerled, who sometimes worries him. They are both eventually included on a voyage to rumored islands (Orkney) to help potentially start a settlement. But the leader, Somerled's brother Ulf, is killed and the previously good relations turn sour. The focus switches between Eyvind and Nessa, a local girl who is part of the ruling family and a future priestess.
Historical viking stuff, certainly not perfectly accurate, but I care not! I love this book. Marillier does have a fondness for the Picts, and why not. She has a real gift for wrapping you up in her characters and they always feel realistic. Her books are historical fantasy but with the emphasis on historical vs on the fantasy.
The Neanderthals Rediscovered: How Modern Science is Rewriting Their Story by Dimitra Papagianni and Michael A. Morse
A great little book for getting you up to date on current research and findings about neanderthals, plus background of past ideas.
Short, but that's good. They're not writing the be-all end-all book, because that's impossible. I appreciate the spareness and the clearness about where some ideas have come from, plus the limitations of the field.
Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America by Linda Lawrence Hunt
Interesting popular history about Estby, women's rights, and how she took a huge risk to attempt to secure her family's future. An anonymous woman said she would put up $10,000 for any women who walked across the US, to prove a point about women's capabilities. Estby and her daughter took up this challenge. The book covers the walk, what led Estby to do it, and the aftermath.
Really good, interesting work.
The Children of Willesden Lane by Mona Golabek
This is a book about Golabek's mother's experience during WWII. As a teenager she was taken to England through the kindertransport program. Initially sent out into the country to be a maid, she soon made her way back to London and ended up on Willesden Lane, in a house with a large group of teenagers and children in similar circumstances.
This book brings up the experience of the end of the war coming, but young people who'd been sent away having no real knowledge of the camps. Suddenly being confronted with the images of the liberation of the camps, after years without hearing from family in Europe.
It's an important book. And again, as with some other asylum books, why we ever think it's appropriate to strand people in pockets where they will always be the Other, where there's no support from their fellows. How could we ever take people out of desperate circumstances and put them in situations where they barely (or don't) know the language, where they have no religious or national support.
Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War by Svetlana Alexievich
This is (as far as I can tell) Alexievich's third oral history work. The title refers to the zinc coffins the soldiers were returned in.
While the audio edition of this one isn't done as well as some of her other works, it's a very well done book, and an important read.
The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud
This book follows after the events of The Stranger where Meursault (the main character) shoots a man referred to only as The Arab. Daoud's book has the man's brother attempting to investigate the shooting and sort of solve the puzzle of it for his mother and himself.
It was a really interesting treatment.
The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantu
Cantu's mother was the daughter of a Mexican immigrant, and he grew up near the border on various state parks where she worked. He got a degree in international relations, studying for part of the time in Mexico. He told friends and relatives he wanted to work at the border as an extension of that degree and to get a better understanding of the work on the ground.
The book is his reckoning with US immigration policies, with his work there, with friends and families and the general attitude and atmosphere of the border control agents.
A well written book and important for everyone in the US to read.
The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman's Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein
Wow, what a book! Sandra Pankhurst grew up abused and excluded from her birth family. She was AMAB (assigned male at birth), and began doing drag acts after she left her wife and children, before she came out as trans. She was a sex worker, businesswoman, and trophy wife. In all her jobs she was an exceptional worker. Eventually, she became a trauma cleaner. Someone who cleans up crime scenes when the police are done and works on the houses of hoarders (who sometimes ask for help themselves and sometimes it's ordered by the city). She has blocked out details and timelines of her life due to trauma, and Krasnostein is good at acknowledging holes or even misconceptions.
It was a great read, and Sandra is an amazingly strong and kind character. I'd feel lucky to know her.
On Sanity by Una
A very short graphic treatment on the day the author's mother was sectioned (involuntarily committed), seen from both their points of view. This piece was started years ago by the author and finished later, though I wish it had been extended into a longer work. It's important, and having her mother's own words and thoughts on treatment, etc... makes it a more complete work.
The Wizard and the Prophet by Charles C. Mann
This book looks at two sides of the environmentalist movement. The 'wizard' side represented by Norman Borlaug, and the idea that we can engineer plants to keep up with population growth and climate change, and the 'prophet' side looking at William Vogt who believed we needed to cut back. Without cutting back we would eventually exhaust our ability to make the land produce more and would then be lost. This is the basis for a lot of argument today – the idea that science can save us and the idea that maybe it can but if we don't cut back and the science doesn't come through we'll sink.
The book doesn't get into “this is the best, no this is the best” it just presents these two men and their work and views and how that's carried forward. It was especially interesting to learn more about Borlaug who I knew a tiny bit about going into this.
One criticism stood out. Food waste. Everything I've ever read looking into it says that grocery stores, restaurants, etc (commercial outlets) waste far more food than consumers (which makes sense given the volume), yet this book only mentions consumers.
The Fox Was Ever the Hunter by Herta Muller
The book is set in Romania during the last month's of Ceausescu's regime. It is somewhat strange and atmospheric. One main character, Adina, finds pieces of her fox skin rug missing and this means she's being watched.
It always seemed like the book was only a few steps away from going into fantasy (or more concrete fantasy), and I felt somewhat unsatisfied that it didn't get there. I didn't dislike the book, but I didn't love it either.
The Orphan Mother by Robert Hicks
Not a good read, not recommended for anyone.
A former slave, now midwife, loses her son to violence surrounding an upcoming election. She works to find out why. Only it reads like the author did zero research and it's beyond obvious that this is a white author. The characterization never felt right, and there's zero depth to any of the characters.
No one in my book club enjoyed it, and I've seen some of those people find good in some really questionable books, so take that as a sign. It also read as the publisher saying "You had this success with a previous book, we'll give you an advance for a related book that we can heavily market to book clubs."
I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O'Farrell
WOW. This book was amazing. I've been meaning to read more fiction by O'Farrell but saw a review for this memoir on here and had to read it. I read O'Farrell's first novel (After You'd Gone) when it was new, and liked it quite well. I don't read that much contemporary fiction though, so she's not always on my radar.
This memoir is stunning. It is memoir in the purest sense (vs autobiography), not looking at her life A-Z but at bits of it which make up a chunk of herself. The writing is wonderful, and it's often simply harrowing.
Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home by Leah Piepzna-Samarasinha
This will be a polarizing memoir, partly because it's not written to educate, it is written for the other people in her communities (South Asians, mixed race folks, LGBT+ folks, early childhood sexual abuse survivors). It is also written in a punk rock kind of way, if that makes any sense, she lived for many years in the hardcore activist scene, squatting, dumpster, etc... We go here and there, she does not pretend she can give us exactness or pure fidelity, and she admits all that she doesn't know or doesn't remember. The writing is also very poetic.
I really liked the book, but the other two people in my non-fiction book club didn't get it (they don't fall in her of her identities, I fall in a couple and I'm tuned in to others) and didn't like it. So there's my "your mileage may vary" warning!
Showa 1926-1939: A History of Japan by Shigeru Mizuki
Giant graphic non-fiction. Really information, though some of the author's personal recollections scattered in felt more distracting than enhancing. I imagine that's much less so in the next volume and during his military service.
Some of the drawing styles involved caricatures that we certainly see as racist if drawn by someone who isn't Japanese. It was unexpected and left me feeling rather odd.
The Spider King's Daughter by Chibundu Onuzo
The online book club and I had a little too much hope for this book, given how young the author was during the writing and publishing process (17 when she started writing it, 19 when it was accepted by the publisher, 21 when it was published). It definitely reads as a very young first novel. Plot is rich girl falling for/toying with poor boy with tragic backstory.
The writing and the sense of place is good, but the plotting is really where it's let down and maybe the character depth/development isn't right. I like the writing enough to request (and win) her second book, Welcome to Lagos in last month's ER giveaway though. I'm eager to see how she's grown.
The Hello Girls: America's First Women Soldiers by Elizabeth Cobbs
Fascinating book about women's military service in WWI, focusing heavily on the women's signal corps who were occupying a strange gray area where they were subjected 100% to military standards (there was almost a court martial, if I recall), yet the army claimed they were not at all in the military and deserved none of the benefits of their service (even those they'd been promised in some cases).
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
I really enjoyed this book about three siblings whose lives are blighted due to their absent father's life as a Jihadi and their relations to that, each other, and the world at large. I'm only just reading that it's also a reimagining of Antigone. Regardless of what you go into the book expecting, it's a great read.
Isma has raised her twin younger siblings after their mother dies. They are finally 18 and she is picking her life back up and going to graduate school in the USA. Her brother Parvaiz has disappeared and she worries about her sister Aneeka taking care of herself and her schooling.
I think this one is best gone into without too many expectations. I found it well done and almost the moment I thought it was too simple or too predictable it shifted and developed further. It's not a LOUD action packed story, and that's a good thing for me and the type of book Shamsie was writing. Highly recommended, I'm eager to read more by her.
1066 And All That: A Memorable History of England by WC Sellar and RJ Yeatman
I've been meaning to read this for a while, so when a good friend mailed me a copy I started right away (granting for that to necessarily happen it also has to be a very funny book).
It's all the history that can be remembered, so there are only two dates (four were proposed but two cut for not being memorable). I loved it, and am familiar enough with English history to only need to look up a few things as I went. This was a favorite little bit:
"Although the plan failed, attempts are made every year on St Guyfawkes' Day to remind the Parliament that it would have been a Good Thing."
Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History by Husain Haqqani
Really good history, the vast majority of which I did not know. Well written and very readable as well.
The Pleasure Shock: The Rise of Deep Brain Stimulation and Its Forgotten Inventor by Lone Frank
The subtitle says it all! One of the reasons for the book is also to more fully investigate why the NEW studies using these techniques didn't seem to recognize that it had been pioneered decades earlier.
It's a well done, interesting book, though a few things the author said made me give her the side-eye pretty hard. That was very minor though and I don't think impacted the important substance of the book.
Fire Road: The Napalm Girl's Journey Through the Horrors of War to Faith, Forgiveness, and Peace by Kim Phuc Phan Thi
Kim Phuc was the subject of a famous photograph of the Vietnam war, of children fleeing after a Napalm attack. She survived thanks partly due to chance and was left with extensive scarring.
After she started attending college she was was trotted out as a propaganda piece for foreign interviews (eventually removed from school completely), and her words were not translated accurately. Eventually she was able to leave the country and spent a number of years in Cuba before seeking asylum in Canada.
A lot of the book centers around her conversion to Christianity as a young adult, her converting others, and her faith. That's fine, of course, but hers is not a faith that seems to respect other faiths, and it is one which asks most people she interacts with if they're sure of their place in heaven with Jesus.
Dear World: A Syrian Girl's Story of War and Plea for Peace by Bana Alabed and Fatemah Alabed
The background on this is that a very young Syrian girl starting sending out tweets about life in Aleppo. There's some discussion on how much her mother influences the content (beyond the English), and accusations of the account being propaganda (though it seems most of those are coming from within Syria).
As far as the book goes it's the best young author work I've read, I think. It's only half from Bana's perspective, the other half is her mother, which helps. Bana's sections felt like there was enough substance to warrant being there but the voice is realistic for her age (vs that extra cloying "adults badly writing a child's voice" that you get sometimes).
Good work for children to introduce the conflict to them.
Archangel by Sharon Shinn RE-READ
Tis the year for my fantasy re-reads. I really enjoy Shinn's Samaria books, especially the original trilogy (there are two stand alone novels in the same world), which twist a bit from what you might expect. The characters are very well developed and she writes anger very well, which I think some authors struggle with.
In Samaria there are mortals and angels. Angels literally have wings and their songs to their God, Jovah, in order to change the weather, call down medicines, etc... An Archangel is chosen to serve for twenty years and each year a Gloria is held where voices from all the races and groups in Samaria are raised together to show Jovah there's harmony. The previous Archangel's reign has been anything but harmonious though and more and more issues come to light.
Love these every time.
The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
There was so much promise in this book, in the premise. Set in Colonial Malaysia, it's about a young woman whose father is draining the family money with his opium habit. Another family requests that she become a ghost bride for their son. It could have had a wonderful light-fantasy, supernatural, folklore feel, but it got lost.
The plot just wanted to go twenty different places and none of them added up to much. Not recommended. If you're trying to fill a reading spot with a Malaysian author I'd recommend The Garden of Evening Mists or Sorcerer to the Crown.
The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman by Margot Mifflin
I really liked this work, but the rest of my book club found it too academic. I've read MUCH dryer works, and with a fascinating subject, I can't imagine how they were bored, but each to their own.
Olive Oatman was taken captive by (Yavapai Native Americans) with her sister in 1851 after most of their family was killed. After a year or so they were sold to a Mohave group, who adopted the girls as their own and integrated them into the tribe. Olive underwent facial tattoos to mark this before being turned back into white society.
I quite liked the book, but if you don't read much non-fiction your mileage may vary.
What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism by Dan Rather
I found this book rather anemic. It slides over complex issues as if they're simple, it occasionally has a little bit of the "both sides are as bad as each other" vibe, and in the end I felt the title should be "What should unite us."
There are no solutions, there are not even strategies for uniting people. It's a vague book which I don't feel serves much purpose.
Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada
Finally the last book club book of the month! This is a very strange book. It looks at three 'generations' of polar bears (though they're not really connected one situation to another for how the child of bear got there).
Some of the bears can literally talk to humans (the first writes her own memoir) and there are other animals just sort of living among humans. But later they can't communicate that directly or can only communicate in dreams. It was very odd.
Barkskins by Annie Proulx
This is a very long book focusing on the timber industry mostly in the US, going through two huge family trees and hundreds of years. Parts of very impactful and parts are not.
I think especially in the last quarter or third of the book Proulx tries to go too quickly. We're with characters so briefly that we don't care about them or their stories aren't explored fully. It needed to be a bare minimum of fifty pages longer.
I liked it, but I couldn't love it.
Don't Ask by Donald E. Westlake RE-READ
It's re-read kind of month for me, not surprising as it's been a very hard month.
This is the eighth book in the Dortmunder series and for me a particularly amusing one, if only because it has some especially amusing characters and Westlake's history of the saint in the book is so funny (the chapter on the saint's history specifically listed as "optional, not for credit").
Dortmunder must steal the femur of Saint Ferghana, a relic, being used to determine which new county (of a formerly single county) gets the UN seat for reasons which somewhat elude Dortmunder and the gang. As usual, the path to success is never an easy for Dortmunder. Westlake has a lot of fun creating the history and personality of the two countries.
The Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix RE-READS
The titles of this juvenile fantasy series each have a day of the week in them, so when I finished the first (Mister Monday) on a Monday and the second on Tuesday I decided to just read the series straight through in order to finish each on the appropriate day. This is exactly the sort of silly thing I enjoy, though I don't usually like reading so many books by one author in such quick succession. This series is kind of like one giant book though, and I've had a hard time reading lately, so it worked for me.
Nix is my favorite children's/YA fantasy author when it comes to world building and good writing. The world of The House in this is particularly fun and you get nicely thrown into it. Our main hero, Arthur, really doesn't want to be the Chosen Hero and really doesn't see it as an 'adventure' but just wants to get back home to his family. They're such fun books with some really good lessons and cracking characters (particularly Arthur's main sidekick, Suzy Turquoise Blue). High recommended for children age 9 and up.
The last two books aren't paced quite as nicely as the rest of the series but it makes some sense given that by then Arthur has more power, knowledge, and friends.
Jovah's Angel by Sharon Shinn RE-READ
Since I read the first book in this trilogy I kind of had to read this too. And then I got sucked in and made my main book. I'm trying to be okay with binging re-reads but it's against my usual style.
So Samaria has literal angels who basically lead the world and can fly and sing prayers to change the weather, bring down medicine, etc... This book takes place 150 years after Archangel. The Archangel (leader of Samaria, basically), Delilah, is injured and can no longer fly. The new Archangel Alleluia is anxious and unsure politically. She's also one of the only angels that the god, Jovah, can still hear, so parts of Samaria are suddenly mired in rain and everyone's getting pretty unhappy.
I remember reading this for the first time so clearly and getting to the foreshadowing of the twisty bits and being so excited and amazed (there was foreshadowing in the first book too, but I tend not to notice until it's fairly obvious). Love these books.
Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks
This is a basic primer on feminism, and the type of book that hooks said she'd been looking for for years. So finally she wrote it herself. Definitely a useful and important work, though one wonders if the people who need it (other than the young) would actually open it.
It's a reminder about the most important tenets and where the message has gotten lost or twisted along the way. Even as an educated (on this subject) reader there were a few interesting things about the earlier second wave movement that I didn't know.
It Devours! by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
The second Welcome to Night Vale novel. I actually read the first before really listening to the podcast, though I'd been seeing an immense number of quotes from it around for months ahead of that.
This one balances the podcast and the novel better, I think, cutting out the radio show interludes (which is the main aspect of the podcast) and integrating the trademark Night Vale humor more successfully (assuming my memory of the first novel is at all accurate!). The audiobook could have been better, as I don't think Cecil Baldwin was the best choice for the reader, much as I love his voice, since he's a character in Night Vale and all. I wonder if that was a choice insisted on by the audiobook publisher.
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
A devastating collection of prose poems on the subject of racism in the US. One I'd been meaning to get to for a while, and it's an incredibly important read.
The Alleluia Files by Sharon Shinn RE-READ
The final book in the Samaria trilogy. The two later books are stand alone, but I think it's best to read the trilogy in first and it MUST be read in order, or at least it's better that way. Don't be fooled by the fact that they take place 100-150 years apart and think they'll read well in any order.
This one has some really interesting relationships and is maybe my favorite of the three, except they all stand together so there's no point having a favorite. In this one Samaria is again experiencing very difficult times, combined with the first decades of their own industrial revolution.
Really excellent SFF books, a good series for people who don't usually read it fantasy or science fiction (or one of the two).
Where We Once Belonged by Sia Figiel
I spent too long working on this book. Not because I didn't like it but because partly it's hard reading in print with physical pain (and emotional pain) and that was made a bit harder due to the all the Samoan. Luckily for me, my power went out for six hours recently and I had no choice but to read in print! Maybe I should arrange to have the power cut for one to two hours every day...
The book was really good, though it suffered from my slow, spread out reading. This is definitely one to read more quickly. As I said there's a lot of Samoan, some of which is in the glossary in the back and some of which isn't. It can pretty much all be googled and a fair bit you can get from context.
It's one of those books which is foreign and familiar. Alofa is a teenage girl and we're witness to her family, friends, inner thoughts, school life, and experiences with love, sex, and violence.
Really good read, if challenging.
Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck
This is a collection of very short stories. For me it didn't quite work. They were interesting, sometimes very interesting, and the writing was really good. But honestly they all felt far too short. Too short to say all that much, too short to become invested in.
However, there's some equally short fiction I HAVE felt invested in, so it's less an issue with length and more an issue with the author or the subjects.
Deadly Election by Lindsey Davis
This is the third Flavia Albia novel. The first two I wasn't convinced by, but this one seemed more enjoyable what whatever reason. Maybe she just had to get used to writing Albia. She should get some good political humor of the most recent, as she's set these books during the reign of Domitian. Domitian was long regarded as power-mad, extremely paranoid, uneducated and the worst of tyrants.
In this one Albia is also helping with a political campaign which is quite fun (Lindsey Davis writing about it makes it quite fun anyway).
Warriors Don't Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock's Central High by Melba Pattillo Beals
This is such an important book, and one of the hardest I've read. Beals experience was absolutely horrific and she writes so well. Her task is also helped and enhanced by her own diaries kept throughout her childhood.
I read a lot of tough books, but I do honestly think this was the hardest (partly testament to Beals gift for writing) and arguably one of the most important as well. I'd seen some descriptions of what the group of nine kids integrating this school went through, but they were obviously dealing only with the lightest of what the Nine endured.
Justinian's Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe by William Rosen
An okay history work, but quite dry and I'm not sure Rosen really connected everything to the extent that the subtitle suggests. Or wasn't skilled enough as a writer to make this reader feel that "Of course! It makes so much sense!" moment.
A Writer's People by V.S. Naipaul
I actually finished this writing memoir just before Naipaul died, which was especially random as it's the first work of his I've read. The book is about some of the influential writers in his life and how he got started as a writer as well.
A good read, well written and interesting.
Barracoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo by Zora Neale Hurston
Cudjo Lewis or Oluale Kossola was the last known survivor of the Atlantic slave trade. Hurston interviewed and visited with him numerous times in order to get the materials for this book in 1928 (after an initial brief interview in 1927) but it has only just been published this year. The book goes into details about the ship that took them, and the Africatown neighborhood the survivors of that transit organized for themselves.
Well worth reading.
Animal Magnetism: My Life With Creatures Great and Small by Rita Mae Brown
This book was billed as a memoir focusing on Brown's life with animals. Brown is best known for mysteries involving animals, the Mrs. Murphy series being co-authored by her cat. The animal bits were well and good, but these anecdotes are constantly interrupted by Browns gross and often hypocritical and misinformed opinions on disability, taxes, minimum wage, etc... This was published in 2009, so quite recently.
The tax and minimum wage rantings mostly felt like bitterness that she wasn't able to have a giant farm/ranch. She literally said there should be a secondary minimum wage scale for agricultural workers, as if those workers don't have their own dreams to finance. She blames taxes for her inability to hire servants and people "trying to do everything on their own makes people miserable" as if the servants don't still have housework and cooking and such at their own homes? Who will pick up the slack there? She encouraged all rich people to leave the country and take their money, as if they don't already? As if they don't avoid taxes and outsource jobs. Yet she also talks about rich people gobbling up land and ruining it/cutting it off from people. She says the Everglades must be protected at any cost, and doesn't seem to realize taxes are part of that.
She also pretty much literally said that sure, more babies live now due to modern medicine, but what about overpopulation. Scientists have debunked the idea that we're close to overpopulation food-wise for a long time (and it's giant companies that are causing the vast majority of pollution and waste). We also have abundant proofs that prehistoric groups cared for disabled members long after the disability happened (if they can, we can, and in the book she says humans have always left disabled people behind). She says being "useless" is the worst thing ever for humans (kind of her able-bodied self to decide for ALL people) and seems to only count physical ability as useful. Yet later decries the lack of respect for emotional intelligence. Then towards the end tells an inspiration porn type of disabled-sighting story where she implies that a DOG is a hero for 'working with' a disabled trainer in a dog show. She also says "love works miracles" when it comes to accepting/caring for animals but is blind to how that works with humans.
There's also a reasonable helping of sexism in the book, such as “Horses, like women, dazzle. The result? Brains fly out the window.”
And then this book to dredge in the hypocritical crap. “They were impaled on belief systems that bore no correspondence to reality. Caught up in... the worst vice of all self-righteousness.” Rolling my eyes so hard.
I kept reading the book to see how deeply she'd dig herself in, and because it's quite a short book. Otherwise I'd have chucked it right after her first bit about disability and now I am not reading anything by her again.
The Colors of Madeleine Series A Corner of White, The Cracks in the Kingdom, A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty
I didn't read these all in a row, but thought I'd just post a single review for the trilogy. Personally, I think Moriarty is one of the best writers of teenagers AND of the adults in their lives. A lot of authors can do one of those, but not the other. They either make the teenagers the ideal, cool teens they wish they'd been or they idealize the adults into perfect adults. Moriarty does it beautifully in Feeling Sorry for Celia and it's present again in this SFF YA trilogy.
Madeleine lives in England, where she's recently landed with her mother after running away from home (her mum tagged along). Once used to the finer things in life, she is now friends with Belle and Jack who are all home-schooled together, with different adults in their lives teaching different subjects. One day Madeleine sees a note sticking out of a parking meter. This turns out to be a crack connecting her world to the Kingdom of Cello and she begins corresponding with a boy there. The books alternate between their perspectives though remain written in the third person.
The trilogy also teaches you rather a lot about Isaac Newton, light, color, and other scientists. It's a really fun ride and an interesting world. I love the rules around the magic in Cello, and aspects feel very Baum-ian (always a good thing for me). The teenagers make mistakes and grow but not in an obnoxious way. The audiobook productions are flawed, but bearable enough that this is the third time I've listened to the trilogy. Definitely recommended.
The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg
Funny to have read this almost directly after the Rita Mae Brown book since she and Flagg used to be a couple.
Flagg's books are generally on the lighter side, with some more serious issues, and a soft humor. This is no exception but also delves into the history of the WASPs, the women pilots who ferried airplanes during WWII in the USA. They operated for a very short period, unlike women in UK who were part of the WAAFs or ATA. This aspect of the book is so important.
Sookie has just married off most of her children and needs a break. She must still deal with her domineering (and frankly mean) mother. She then discovers that she was adopted, and after all her mother's harping about the Simmons family and that legacy, it's quite a shock.
We just read this for my book club after a number of too-depressing (according to other members) books in a row, and it was a good break. Every single person who came to the meeting finished the book, which hasn't happened the entire two years I've been a member. Everyone liked it, though to different degrees. Some of the aspects they disliked I really liked because it made everything feel more realistic and less pat.
Generally a good read with some quite funny moments, and what I needed right now.
The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya
The memoir of a Rwandan girl who was separated from family during the fighting. She and her older sister lived together in refugee camps before being able to move to the USA. As usual, they received so little support after arriving, which always shocks me (I've read a number of similar memoirs).
Wamariya really struggles with her anger, and it's so important that it's shared. The book is really well written and her feelings are expressed so clearly. Highly recommended.
The Spy Who Couldn't Spell: A Dyslexic Traitor, an Unbreakable Code, and the FBI's Hunt for America's Stolen Secrets by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee
Really interesting book about, Brian Regan, a signals intelligence expert who worked for the National Reconnaissance Office for five years. After feeling slighted and racking up massive credit card debts he began smuggling out classified documents (around 15,000 pages) and formulated a plan to sell the intelligence to either Libya, Iraq, or China.
He showed a mix of very smart behavior and ridiculously sloppy mistakes. It was quite an interesting book, and I enjoyed hearing the story.
Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
This YA novel is very of the moment. It deals with podcasts (quite inspired by Welcome to Night Vale, I think, which it mentions), teen identity (school behavior vs home behavior), expectations, and more shades of sexuality than we usually get (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and demi-sexual).
It's done quite well, and seemed pretty realistic. I'm not a big fan of contemporary YA, just don't love spending my reading time with teenagers. A good book, all in all, which I picked up specially for the demi-sexual representation.
Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination by Toni Morrison
This is a fascinating work of literary criticism, and something I (shamefully) had never thought about.
From Wikipedia - "Linda Krumholz described Morrison's project as "reread(ing) the American literary canon through an analysis of whiteness to propose the ways that black people were used to establish American identity.""
Really worth reading, especially if you read very many American classics.
Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom by Lisa Delpit
Another great work of cultural criticism, and vital for anyone remotely involved in the school system (whether it's working for them, or just having a kid in school).
Really important and interesting research. Delpit isn't afraid to talk about her mistakes and assumptions in her early career. Some of the real quotes from people about children/teaching are very disturbing though. Great work for strategies and the reminder that we need to train teachers in a variety of methods and in how to recognize when a switch to a different method is needed.
Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright
Relatively good book, but colored by Albright's preconceptions. She is very snappish about communism (principle, not the flawed practice the 20th century has seen) due to her family history. It could also use some talk about how centrists and neo-liberals contribute to fascism's rise with the assumption that it can't last and things will work out.
A mixed read, but generally good.
The Creature in the Case and Goldenhand by Garth Nix
The former is a novella the events of which immediately precede the later full length book. I'd read the novella when it was newer, but wanted to see how much Nix repeated and have the story fresh in my mind. In the events of the previous full novel Abhorsen, Nicholas Sayre is taken over by a destructive entity. Lirael saved him and Sabriel attempted to get him to stay in the Old Kingdom but he returned to Ancelstierre out of fear. In the Novella he chased a free magic creature back to the wall and Lirael is there to save him again.
Goldenhand introduces us to some nomad tribes who we haven't really met before, and a number of people and events slowly come together as the kingdom is under an especially serious threat.
Definitely a good one, and makes me want to reread all of the books again. I've read seventeen books by Nix, but I've reread some of them so much that my reading history spreadsheet shows his name 52 times...
Call Me American by Abdi Nor Iftin
This is the memoir of a boy who grew up in Mogadishu, born around 1985. His parents were from a nomadic tribe who moved to Mogadishu during one of the seirous droughts that made their life unsustainable. When he was about six the civil war started, and the family barely survived a flight from the city. The tile of the book comes from his nickname, due to his fixation on American culture and teaching himself English. He witnesses the shifting power structures of Mogadishu, and the rise of the Islamist faction and imposition of Shari'a law.
It's a very good memoir, well told and worth reading. It deals with his culture shock on coming to the USA as well (in terms of racism, violence, etc vs the picture presented in Hollywood movies).
>115 mabith: Nice to see Playing in the Dark pop up. Difficult essay, no?
You All Grow Up and Leave Me: A Memoir of Teenage Obsession by Piper Weiss
In this book the subtitle reviews to both the author and the subject sharing her memoir's focus, Gary Wilensky. He was a teenage coach who largely coached girls under 18. In 1993 he attacked and attempted to kidnap one of his students. After fleeing the scene he left a trail of possessions before killing himself.
The author was won of his students, and struggling with her own deep insecurities and depressive thoughts at the time (an in an elite prep school where she felt she didn't belong). When the basic events came out she wondered why she hadn't been his favorite (and thus the target). After discovering her mother had a box of clippings from the time about the case and Weiss' time as Wilensky's student she becomes obsessed again.
The combination of memoir and true crime works really well for me here, just well written and fascinating.
The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief, and Compassion--Surprising Observations of a Hidden World by Peter Wohlleben
This book didn't work for me, or anyone in my book group that read this, as far as I know. Wohlleben is a forest manager, and has more encounters with forest animals than most of us. He brings in actual scientific studies and findings of animals but still seems to think that the vast majority of scientists believe animals have no capacity for emotion or creative intelligence. He doesn't go into the scientific bits as much as most of us wanted and when he does he doesn't have the training to explain them as well as most need. I think this sort of book needs to either be one side of the other. The science or the personal stories, when written by a layperson.
I highly recommend Bats Sing, Mice Giggle: The Surprising Science of Animals' Inner Lives instead, or The Gifts of the Crow for a more niche read.
The Kindness of Enemies by Leila Aboulela
This was a really good read. It switches back and forth between the UK in 2010 the Caucasus and Russia in the mid 19th century. Nadiya is a half-Russian, half-Sudanese professor studying Imam Shamil, who led anti-Russian resistance in the Caucasus. Her favorite student's family possesses what they believe to be Shamil's sword and and his mother agrees to Nadiya coming for a visit to talk about it. When he student is arrested it throws her world into turmoil.
I really liked this and found it to be a very quick, absorbing read, especially the historical sections. The writing style itself isn't wonderfully beautiful, and sometimes feels fairly clunky, but the story kept me involved. Recommended.
The Search for Modern China by Jonathan D. Spence
The work starts in the 17th century and carries on to almost present day (depending on which edition you're reading, it was first published in 1990). And what a different end picture he would have had in 1990 compared with today.
Very good work, and especially handy for me to go over some of the earlier ground (I've done a fair bit of reading about China in the 20th century). This is a more academic work, definitely not popular non-fiction, but I didn't find it dry at all. Though my book club members would state I have a very general scale for dry non-fiction (nothing compares to The Eastern Front 1914-1917 for dryness).
Pandemic: Tracking Contagions from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond by Sonia Shah
The subtitle kind of says it all! It's a very balanced book. Shah doesn't limit herself to a single disease or try to cover too many or too many aspects of pandemics. Very readable and informative. Recommended.
Six Days in Cincinnati: A Graphic Account of the Riots that Shook a Nation a Decade Before Black Lives Matter by Dan Mendez Moore
Short but well paced graphic non-fiction covering a complex subject. The protests and riots were a response to a police shooting of an unarmed black man (as you might guess from the subtitle). The author was in high school at the time, but participated in protests. The book isn't just his recollection though, but quotes and interviews from a wide variety of people about their memories and experiences.
Well done work, recommended.
Small Country by Gael Faye
Novel by a man who grew up in Burundi as the son of a French father and Rwandan mother. It's about a young boy with the same background as the author and his experiences of life in the run up to the Rwandan genocide.
However, the book didn't really work for me. The working in of the necessary political background that the reader needs is clumsy (it's a first novel, written by a musician, so that's not surprising) and the narrator is far too articulate to be remotely believable. I think Faye would have done far better to work with a 16-20 year old narrator (or to just write a memoir, frankly). Writing adult novels from a child's point of view is difficult even for experienced writers and I'm surprised an editor didn't insist on a change there.
Your mileage may vary, and the book seems to be getting good reviews. It just didn't work for me and the "debut novels" problems were dominant for me.
The Black Pearls of Tabu Yama by Carl Barks
Volume 19 of the complete Carl Barks Disney library covering 1957 and 1958. Includes one of my favorite stories from childhood, known to me as "the pickle borer story" (properly titled Forbidden Valley). It had a few other stories I remember as a kid as well. A fun volume.
Angelica by Sharon Shinn RE-READ
Continuing with some comfort re-reads. This is the fourth book in the Samaria series, but a stand-alone volume which actually takes place long before Archangel (first published book in the original trilogy). Regardless of all that coming and going I recommend only reading them in published order the first time as there are sort of spoilers.
Shinn does lovely character development, and while her plots aren't dull this is definitely character driven SFF. She is also great at building gradual relationships and varied relationships.
In this one catastrophic visitors are coming to Samaria, no one knows how to stop them, and Susannah must adapt to isolated angel hold life after a nomadic existence where family and clan and love took upmost importance.
Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo
I read Onuzo's first book The Spider King's Daughter earlier this year, and while I didn't find it an amazing read, I saw a lot of potential in the writing. While Welcome to Lagos is a more solid novel, there were still a lot of issues in the writing.
It's the story of a disparate group of people who wind up banding together, trying to survive and leave their pasts behind. My trouble was that Onuzo didn't show this process well. One minute they were strangers who disliked each other and the next they were living in semi-harmony. It wasn't a believable transition (the transition wasn't shown, we just skipped from one moment to one weeks or months ahead) and this impacted my enjoyment of the entire book.
The strength is in showing us Lagos and a few slices of Nigerian life. I greatly enjoyed aspects of the book but couldn't enjoy it as a whole novel.
Summer for the Gods: the Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion by Edward J. Larson
A good read and a surprising book in some ways. Predictably, our cultural consciousness of the Scopes trial is way off base from the real history (thanks, Inherit the Wind). Really interesting to catch up to the reality. It also delves into the resurgence of evangelicalism trying to have a stranglehold on education.
In WV in the 1970s we had a bit of a textbook war in my county. It wasn't exactly religion vs science (more like racism and religion vs multiculturalism), but there were a lot of bombs planted and I believe someone was shot. A woman I know was a student then and LOVED it because they canceled a crapload of school days. We're in a group that mostly has non-West Virginians in it and she regularly gets to shock them with the story.
I have had a lot to catch up on!!! That's a Herta Muller I'm not aware of, but I'm intrigued.
>115 mabith: I agree about the Morrison. There is a reason I've never liked Hemingway and I think she touches on it.
>125 mabith: I just noticed in the latest Publishers Weekly that Leila Aboulela has a new book coming out in February called "Elsewhere, Home." They gave it a starred review, if I remember correctly. I jotted it down in my notes to check it out, but quite honestly, if I kept up with all the authors whose work I have enjoyed, I would need to live for a very, very long time.
>131 mabith: Sorry the book didn't work for you, I loved it.
The Course of Honor by Lindsey Davis RE-READ
Davis' first novel set in ancient Rome, but not published until the Falco books were well established. It's a beautiful, quiet, subdued love story with humor and a great flow. I love Lindsey Davis so much.
And Be a Villain by Rex Stout RE-READ
Been in the mood for mystery re-reads lately, and it's been a while since I've read a Rex Stout. This is a really fun one. For some reason mystery books and TV shows set around radio production, theatre, or movies are usually great (this is a radio one).
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
Finally got around to this after my online book club picked it. I enjoyed it and the world and the writing, though I think Le Guin couldn't quite get out of gendered thinking enough. It was written in the 1970s when a wave of alternative pronouns were being created, but instead of creating one for her world she has the narrator (who is making a somewhat sociological record) use he/him for everything (while noting this isn't accurate). The male characteristics also seemed to get a lot more attention. Still well worth reading though.
Overture to Death by Ngaio Marsh
I've really enjoyed the earlier Marsh books and am trying to get back to them. They've been harder to get from my library system.
This one is set around an amateur theatrical production, with a fairly small group of suspects and a very trick mode of killing. Very enjoyable. Inspector Alleyn is really fun, very much a regular person and so likeable.
MEM by Bethany C. Morrow
I'm going to paste in the publisher's summary for best clarity:
Set in the glittering art deco world of a century ago, MEM makes one slight alteration to history: a scientist in Montreal discovers a method allowing people to have their memories extracted from their minds, whole and complete. The Mems exist as mirror-images of their source ― zombie-like creatures destined to experience that singular memory over and over, until they expire in the cavernous Vault where they are kept.
And then there is Dolores Extract #1, the first Mem capable of creating her own memories. An ageless beauty shrouded in mystery, she is allowed to live on her own, and create her own existence, until one day she is summoned back to the Vault.
I really enjoyed this! It's a slim thing, but means the idea doesn't get overplayed or more complicated than necessary. It is also still long enough to be satisfying.
I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong
The subtitle says it all! Solid popular science book, nothing mindblowing, but good and interesting.
Unpunished by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
This mystery novel was written in 1929 but Gilman was unable to find a publisher (I mean, maybe doing a more edited manuscript would have helped, Charlotte, but that wasn't your way, according to the afterword). More immediately after her death it was sent round again but still not accepted. This was finally published in 1997.
A doctor who is meeting with a private detective friend is called to a private house and asks the detective to go with as the family is a bit funny. Inside the patriarch is found dead, killed in five ways (shot, stabbed, strangled, bludgeoned, and poisoned).
It was a fairly enjoyable read in the end. Not a really great masterwork, and I thought for a minute Gilman had decided to end the book in a ridiculous way, but there were some nice aspects. The detective is really a team with his wife, who is great, though one can tell this is not a genre Gilman loved. The book fights with itself, trying to get Gilman's message of gender equality and current pitfalls for women across while using a popular genre for marketability.
Gilman herself could have been so much more. She was rampantly racist, eugenicist, and had weirdly strong feelings about breeding programs of domestic farm animals due to the inbreeding in those systems for someone who married her own first cousin (and had fictional characters do the same). Given her stance on Anglo-Saxon blood (and belief that certain people should be "taken hold of by the state"), if she'd been younger she'd have been been a prime candidate for a Lord Haw Haw-esque broadcaster from Nazi Germany (she died in 1935).
Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption by Ronald Cotton and Jennifer Thompson-Cannino
This has been on my to-read list for so long, but I kept skipping over it because I didn't for "up to" the subject matter.
Thompson-Cannino was raped at knife point and tried to make a point of memorizing his features. When the police showed her photographs she assumed they had a suspect in mind and picked the one closest to her memory. Other aspects of the case reinforced in her mind that Ronald Cotton was her attacker. Only he wasn't, and spent 11 years in prison until DNA evidence exonerated him.
The book goes back and forth between their lives and perspectives and was really well written. It's an important book for a lot of reasons and very much a test case of the unreliability of eyewitness testimony.
A Vietcong Memoir by Truong Nhu Tang
Tang remains the highest level official to have defected from Vietnam. He was a founder of the National Liberation Front and had fought extremely hard for Vietnamese independence, but by 1978 he was disillusioned enough to flee the country.
A really interesting book about important events, and very readable. Recommended.
Hypercapitalism: The Modern Economy, Its Values, and How to Change Them by Larry Gonick and Tim Kasser
This is a comic book, but it's not of the ones that you can read quickly in one sitting. It's packed full of information, some of it quite dense.
Great book about the extremely artificial system we're in and how we got here. Highly recommended.
The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis RE-READ
It's been a long time since I read this, the first book in Davis' Falco series. I adore the series so much, and even though some aspects of this first book are rough, I still love it. Davis is totally in her stride by book four, but the first three are really enjoyable as well.
Marcus Didius Falco is an informer, a private investigator. The Emperor Vespasian is trying to get Rome back on an even footing, and there should be more silver coming out of Britain. Someone has to investigate and Falco is in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Davis seems to have a lot of fun imagining what Romans would have thought of stereotypical British weather. Her books always have humor as well.
>147 mabith: I've not heard of this book, but it sounds fascinating.
The Lightless Sky: A Twelve-Year-Old Refugee's Harrowing Escape From Afghanistan and His Extraordinary Journey Across Half the World by Gulwali Passarlay
Subtitle says it all, really. I've read a number of refugee journey memoirs and this isn't a bad one. First published in the US Jan 2016.
Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice by Paula Byrne
This is a rare instance where, I believe, the movie came before the book. The book is well done, but the reader must go in knowing that the facts directly related to Belle are thin on the ground. Starts out quite dry but that drops away.
Foxmask by Juliet Marillier
Audiobooks are finally out of this book duo by Marillier (Saga of the Light Isles, starts with Wolfskin. I really love the set, dealing with Norse arrivals in the Orkneys. As usual, you become attached to Marillier's characters so quickly. Emotional connections are the key to her books in general. This takes place a generation after Wolfskin where three young people are looking for their futures and happen upon a strange community.
Most of Marillier's books are historical fantasy, real time/place/people but usually with their religion/mythology being real. They aren't hanging out with talking cats for the whole book. I recommend her to everyone because her character building is just a wonder.
Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr
Astrid is the only child living on Glimmerdal, and spends her time annoying the health retreat owner, skiing, and sledding. The book is being posed alongside Pippi Longstocking, Anne of Green Gables, etc...
Unfortunately the book didn't work for me. It seems to be trying too hard and Astrid never felt like a fully developed character. Her bad behavior didn't seem warranted or explainable in the way Pippi's is (having been raised by pirates), so just appeared rude and entitled (but it's not at all a "spoiled child unlearns bad behavior" book like Understood Betsy either or the daydreamer just gets carried away like with Anne Shirley). The deeper story line also felt very contrived and extremely rushed in characters suddenly opening up or liking each other after all. I don't think it comes anywhere close to the classics of children's lit or the great girl heroines.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison's first novel. It may not be her 100% finest work ever (according to most people? I'm a baby Morrison reader), but her language is so beautiful and brilliant, the structure of it was really effective, and the subject of internalized racism so well handled.
Looking forward to working my way through her novels.
Operation Nemesis: The Assassination Plot that Avenged the Armenian Genocide by Eric Bogosian
Really solid non-fiction book, well written, and a good initial primer on the genocide itself. Plus gives you a great list basically for further reading.
Red Winter by Anneli Furmark
Graphic novel set in northern Sweden during the late 1970s. Siv, a married mother of three, begins having an affair with Ulrik, a Maoist who's in the area to try to militarize a steelworkers union. The point of view shifts between Siv, Ulrik, and at least one of her children (I am way behind on reviews so finished this November 2nd!).
It was moderately interesting, but not amazing.
Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody
First published in 1968, Anne Moody worked with the NAACP, CORE, and SNCC during college. The book covers her life from childhood growing up poor and working as early as she could. Her voice is so strong and confident and the book is such an important snapshot (she was born in 1940, so everything is very immediate).
I'm so far behind on reviews, but this is one I really wish I'd written within a couple days of finishing the book. There's a lot in here, and I highly recommend the book.
Angel-Seeker by Sharon Shinn RE-READ
The last of the Samaria books. Unlike all the others, which are set a few or many generations apart, this is set within the reign of the Archangel Gabriel, one of the main characters in the first book. It's the only one of the series that has any focus on the Jansai peoples, where women are kept secluded from men outside their families. I think she actually does a really good job with the balance there too vs "all the men are evil, all the women are unhappy"
No summary, since this wouldn't be a good place for anyone to start reading from! Not that it would necessarily ruin anything, but if you have the choice I do think it's best to read these books in publication order (Archangel is first).
Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled his Greatness by Joshua Wolf Shenk
Interesting book, a good read. Subtitle says it's all really, and I thought the book was quite well done.
The Man Who Wasn't There: Investigations into the Strange New Science of the Self by Anil Ananthaswamy
Solid popular science book. I read a fair few of these covering different areas but this covered more unusual things, like the people who feel like one of their limbs is not their own to the extent that they often try to amputate it (or cause damage that will lead to amputation) themselves.
Nice one if you read these.
Rez Life: An Indian's Journey Through Reservation Life by David Treuer RE-READ
Re-read for my book club. A well balanced book that goes back and forth between Treuer's own family and experiences and events on various reservations and Native history.
Rest of the book club really liked it, and I was happy to re-read it.
The Three Caballeros and The Old Castle's Other Secret by Don Rosa
Volumes 9 and 10 of the Don Rosa library, the last ones! I grew up on Rosa, and these still make me laugh so much. Rosa was such a genius and I'm forever sorry he quite. The forward to this says he quit because he didn't have more stories to tell but what I remember is a story that he stopped due to contract issues (not being able to keep his original art maybe?) and vision issues. Whatever it was, huge loss for Duck comics.
Happily, when my niece and nephew are over, Duck comics are the first thing they go for.
Maskerade by Terry Pratchett RE-READ
Being a casual opera and less casual theatre fan, this is a favorite Discworld book of mine. The Witches books are so brilliant anyway, but the combo with opera is just perfection.
“Well, basically there are two sorts of opera," said Nanny, who also had the true witch's ability to be confidently expert on the basis of no experience whatsoever. "There's your heavy opera, where basically people sing foreign and it goes like "Oh oh oh, I am dyin', oh I am dyin', oh oh oh, that's what I'm doin'", and there's your light opera, where they sing in foreign and it basically goes "Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer! I like to drink lots of beer!", although sometimes they drink champagne instead. That's basically all of opera, reely.”
Spilt Milk by Chico Buarque
Really interesting little novel. The narrator is in a nursing home and his memory is getting worse. We hear different versions of the same events, we skip around in time, we hear him pleading with or trying to impress staff or confusing staff with family.
I found it remarkably well done and vivid.
The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
Most of my book club liked this book, but it wasn't my cup of tea.
Leia is a comic book artist, a successful one who has drawn for numerous Marvel (and DC? I forget) titles. She realizes she's pregnant, her step-sister's marriage implodes, and she finds out her grandmother has serious dementia all very very early in the book.
If it sounds really book-clubby and cluttered (I'm leaving half the other early things out of that synopsis) it is. There are some good things, like some really nice work on white privilege. On the other hand the narrator is SO immature in a ton of different ways that weren't very believable for a 38 yr old freelance artist who wasn't particularly spoiled by her family. The writing of a nerd character was done in a very 18-yr-old male nerd way, which to be fair is the stereotype. The way people actually IN the industry are is generally a far cry from that stereotype. All the characterization felt so heavy and generalized.
Saturnalia by Lindsey Davis RE-READ
The 18th Falco book (there are *only* 20). It takes place, as you would guess, around the holiday Saturnalia, which is thought to be the root for some aspects of Christmas (perhaps particularly the old Lord of Misrule).
This one revisits one of my favorite early books, The Iron Hand of Mars, which saw Falco in Germany and he and Helena Justina's favorite brother need to seek out and negotiate with a German priestess, Veleda, who is inciting the tribes to rebel. She's been brought to Rome at this late date as a prisoner when she escapes. A brutal killing happens in her house-arrest residence, so Falco's just got Veleda to find, a murder to solve, and his brother-in-law's marriage to fix (a side effect of Veleda being in Rome).
Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix
Something a little different from Mr. Nix, a Regency fantasy number. It was very light and fairly fun, but I definitely prefer the full fantasy works where I get to revel in Nix's world building.
After Lady Truthful's magical Newington Emerald is stolen from her she devises a simple plan: go to London to recover the missing jewel. She quickly learns, however, that a woman cannot wander the city streets alone without damaging her reputation, and she disguises herself as a mustache-wearing man. During Truthful's dangerous journey she discovers a crook, an unsuspecting ally, and an evil sorceress—but will she find the Emerald?
The Other Side of Paradise by Staceyann Chin
Chin is a spoken word poet and performing artist. This is her memoir of growing up in Jamaica, dealing with various shades of hardship and abuse. Towards the end it's also her realization about her sexuality and how people around her treated her.
Really good read. I loved Chin's spirit and attitude.
The Hippopotamus Pool by Elizabeth Peters
The 8th Amelia Peabody book, and a really fun one. These are candy books, and as ever Peter's sense of humor is perfection.
Amelia and Emerson are in Cairo to greet the 20th century, when a mysterious Mr. Shelmadine presents them with a gold ring from an unknown tomb bearing the cartouche of Queen Tetisheri. The Emersons must defend against criminals and tomb robbers. This time, Amelia is up against two unknown parties, one to save, one to avenge.
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
This books was GREAT! It was unique and well written, the narrator is the best, and it was fun (plus some great commentary on racism/passing/privilege in there). Highly recommended, one of my top reads for the year!
Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever.
In this new America, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Education Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.
But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It's a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.
Thinking in Pictures: My Life With Autism by Temple Grandin
Memoir detailing the author's thought process and how thinking in pictures has aided her or hindered her. Good book, but best to treat only as a personal memoir. A fair bit of the generalizations about autism are outdated. Important book, good read.
No God But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam by Reza Aslan
Does what it says on the tin. Well written, fascinating. There are some places where I think he's a little too sure on ancient actions/motivations without providing back up facts, but that's religion for you.
The Polish Boxer by Eduardo Halfon
A man character in this book is named Eduardo Halfon and I never know how to take that. The books deals with Eduardo, his life, and his grandfather's story (who is Polish and was in a concentration camp but was not a boxer).
The book shifts rapidly between events. Interesting, but not something I can love.
Kristin Lavransdatter Parts II and III, The Wife and The Cross by Sigrid Undset
I read the first part. The Wreath, at the end of 2016, which I quite liked. It was the old translation using the more archaic language. For these two volumes I read the new translation and didn't like them nearly as much. Potentially just because of the heavier emphasis on religion and female guilt but it's hard to say. All very conflicting.
The book was written in the 1920s and Undset was the third woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature. The volumes read as one long novel following Kirstin, set in the 14th century. They're praised generally for their depiction of medieval Norway.
Talking to my Daughter About the Economy: A Brief History of Capitalism by Yanis Varoufakis
Great little book. Well written, really informative.
Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us by Kate Bornstein
Bornstein was assigned male at birth but transitioned as a woman in the 1980s, eventually having sex reassignment surgery, which was pretty much required to be trans at that time. However, Bornstein never felt comfortable with the then mandatory and still prevalent idea that all trans femmes were "women trapped in men's bodies," and now identifies as non-binary. Bornstein doesn't regret her surgery and often states that if there's only male/female they're female, but luckily there's a wider story.
The book was first published in 1994 and has now been updated. It's a good read for anyone, with a lot of humor. There's science and history and lived experience.
Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas
Vargas left the Philippines for the United States when he was 12, to live with his grandparents. He did not realize he was there illegally until he was a teenager and, unbeknownst to his grandparents, took his papers to go take the driver's exam. After that he and people around him helped him attend college and get work. After seven years working as a journalist Vargas wrote an article detailing his immigration status.
Really good book, required reading.
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier RE-READ
I just read this trilogy in January but here I went and started it again. Very much comfort reads. Like all but four of Marillier's books they're historical fantasy, this one being set in the 10th century in Ireland and England. It's Marillier's first book, and this trilogy especially is built on oral tales, so the writing isn't high and beautiful. Marillier's gift always, before and after the writing improves, is in making us care.
"Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives, they are determined that she know only contentment.
But Sorcha's joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, a spell which only Sorcha can lift--by staying silent. If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever. "
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
The perfect book for most book lovers! Orlean gives us an intermittent history of the LA public library and the serious fire that engulged it in the 1980s. That was very interesting and well done, but my favorite parts were the bios of various heads of the library, many of whom were quite eccentric and the library history in general.
Girl at War by Sara Novic
Book club selection. It was okay, good in giving a snapshot of the Croatian War for Independence and its aftermath. The US focus was on Bosnia and in general super simplified reasons for the conflicts in the former Yugoslav states. The author's family is Croatian. One interview I read said she was born in the US and went to Croatia after high school but another book club member said an afterward mentioned being in Croatia until age 5 but leaving before anything kicked off. My audio edition didn't have the end note.
The book didn't quite work for me. We jump into things without any good sense of who the characters are or their family dynamics before the war and obviously those change because of the war and the narrator's younger sister being seriously ill. We also don't spend long in any one bit or setting. It's a short book and we're seeing what felt like a few moments and some general observation during the war and then the same for the next part of the book, set in 2001.
For me, I didn't know enough about any of the characters to really care about them. There are good seeds here, but definitely still suffering from first novel issues that weren't otherwise compensated. Most of my book club had a higher opinion of it.
My dad was a librarian from when I was born until I was almost 30 and my mom and I did a serious library visit every single week for most of my childhood so I definitely treat the library as an extension of my personal collection.
Child of the Prophecy by Juliet Marillier RE-READ
Another comfort re-read, the third in Marillier's Sevenwaters trilogy. I appreciate this one more each time I read it, as the protagonist is much more complicated than in the other two books.
Recommended if you like historical fantasy and character driven fantasy.
Archangel by Sharon Shinn RE-READ
So many re-reads, more fantasy this time, the first in another trilogy. Love these books so much.
I'm noticing lately how often favorite books have really misleading or odd summaries online and this is one (it includes a massive spoiler for the rest of the trilogy). So here's my short version.
Samaria is home to angels and mortals, brought to the planet from a homeland of war. They willingly gave up advanced technology in hopes of living in harmony. Their god, Jehovah, requires a demonstration of this each year at the Gloria where all groups must be represented singing together. Gabriel is set to become Archangel after 20 years of growing inequality and corruption and no one knows how difficult the transition will be.
38% of my reads had authors with maximum privilege (in the big five anglophone countries, who were white, cis, straight, and abled). Given that I had to do a lot of comfort reading by those privileged authors, I'm proud this percentage still stayed that low.
57% of my reads were by women. 63% of authors were from the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
The Fact of a Body – Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
The American Plague – Molly Caldwell Crosby
How Dare the Sun Rise – Sandra Uwiringiyimana
Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe – Kapka Kassabova
Things I've Been Silent About – Azar Nafisi
The Queen of Whale Cay – Kate Summerscale
Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide – Isabel Quintero and Zack Pena
The Line Becomes a River – Francisco Cantu
The Trauma Cleaner – Sarah Krasnostein
I am, I am, I am – Maggie O'Farrell
1066 And All That – WC Sellar and RJ Yeatman
Magnificent Delusions – Husain Haqqani
Warriors Don't Cry – Melba Pattillo Beals
Playing in the Dark – Toni Morrison
Other People's Children – Lisa Delpit
The Search for Modern China – Jonathan D. Spence
Zami: A New Spelling of my Name – Audre Lorde
Heart Berries – Terese Marie Mailhot
Red Azalea – Anchee Min
The Library Book – Susan Orleans
Roots – Alex Haley
Amatka – Karin Tidbeck
Darkness at Noon – Arthur Koestler
We Didn't Mean to go to Sea – Arthur Ransome
Lotus: A Novel – Lijia Zhang
Nada – Carmen Laforet
The Queue – Basma Abdel Aziz
Adam Bede – George Eliot
Circe – Madeline Miller
Home Fire – Kamila Shamsie
Trumpet – Jackie Kay
Sing, Unburied, Sing – Jesmyn Ward
The Bread Givers – Anzia Yezierska
Redemption in Indigo – Karen Lord
Where We Once Belonged – Sia Figiel
MEM – Bethany Morrow
Spilt Milk – Chico Buarque
Dread Nation – Justina Ireland