Jennifer's 2018 Reading (japaul22) Part 2

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Jennifer's 2018 Reading (japaul22) Part 2

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1japaul22
Jul. 1, 2018, 7:41pm

New thread!

2japaul22
Bearbeitet: Dez. 21, 2018, 8:47am

These lists are to help me pick books when I don't have a "next book" in mind. They will also give you an idea of the kinds of books I enjoy.

Contemporary Authors that I follow (i.e. I'll probably read any new novel they put out and am reading any backlog I haven't gotten to yet):
Hilary Mantel
Kate Atkinson
Eleanor Catton
Eowyn Ivey
Amor Towles
Tana French
Marilynne Robinson
Hannah Tinti
Barbara Kingsolver
Ann Patchett
Kamila Shamsie
Chimamanda Adichie
Margaret Atwood
Madeline Miller

Series/Mysteries that I follow:
Robert Galbraith, Cormoran Strike mysteries
Tana French
Jane Harper
C.J. Sansom
Sharon Kay Penman

Classic authors I love (reading novels I haven't read yet or rereads):
Jane Austen
the Brontes
Virginia Woolf
George Eliot
Trollope
Thomas Mann
Doestoevsky
Tolstoy
Haldor Laxness
Sigrid Undset
Faulkner
Zola
Scandinavian classics

Poetry I'm reading:
She Walks in Beauty collected by Caroline Kennedy

I'm going to try this year to record the chapter books that I read outloud to my sons. They have pretty different interests so I read with each separately on alternating nights. I've failed miserably at recording these in years past, but hopefully I'll stick with it this year.

William (age 8):
Double Fudge by Judy Blume
The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket
Superfudge by Judy Blume
The Austere Academy by lemony snicket
The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier
Nuts to You by Charlotte Rey Perkins
The Ersatz Elevator
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Isaac (almost 5 years old):
My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Elmer and the Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Catwings by Ursula K. Le Guin
Ricky Ricotta and his Might Robot #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Dragon Masters #1
Dragon Masters #2
Dog Man
Dog Man a Tale of two Kitties
The Miniature World of Marvin and James
James to the Rescue
Dragon Masters #3, 4, 5, 6

3japaul22
Jul. 1, 2018, 7:42pm

Books Read in 2018
January:
1. The Fugitive by Marcel Proust
2. Time Regained by Marcel Proust
Which means I've finished In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust after a whole year of reading!
3. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
4. Emma by Jane Austen - audio book read by Juliet Stevenson
5. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
6. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
7. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

February
8. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, audio book read by Donada Peters
9. The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell
10. The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton
11. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
12. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre
13. A House full of Females by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

March
14. I Refuse by Per Petterson
15. Mrs. Osmond by John Banville
16. Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley
17. What Maisie Knew by Henry James
18. The Honourable Schoolboy by John Le Carre
19. Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

April
20. The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth
21. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
22. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
23. The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen
24. The Hounds of Spring by Lucy Andrews Cummin

May
25. Night and Day by Virginia Woolf
26. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, audiobook read by Juliet Stevenson
27. Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck
28. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
29. Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser
30. Circe by Madeline Miller
31. The Dry by Jane Harper
32. Varina by Charles Frazier
33. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

June
34. July's People by Nadine Gordimer
35. The Violent Bear it Away by Flannery O'Connor
36. Smiley's People by John Le Carre
37. Melmoth by Sarah Perry
38. A House Full of Daughters by Juliet Nicholson
39. Iceland's Bell by Halldor Laxness

4japaul22
Bearbeitet: Dez. 28, 2018, 8:46pm

July
40. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
41. Force of Nature by Jane Harper
42. Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
43. Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
44. Tangerine by Christine Mangan
45. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
46. Other Minds by Peter Godfrey

August
47. The Years by Virginia Woolf
48. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
49. Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth
50. An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
51. Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively
52. A Brave Vessel by Hobson Woodward
53. Radical Candor by Kim Scott
54. Before I Burn by Gaute Heivoll
55. A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul

September
56. The Overstory by Richard Powers
57. She-Wolves by Helen Castor
58. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
59. Shirley by Charlotte Bronte

October
60. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
61. Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner
62. Katherine by Anya Seton
63. The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
64. Invisible by Paul Auster
65. Wild Harbour by Ian MacPherson
66. How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
67. Aristocrats by Stella Tillyard

November
68. The Diaries of Jane Somers by Doris Lessing
69. A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride
70. A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
71. Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake
72. Winter by Ali Smith
73. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
74. THe Witch Elm by Tana French

December
75. The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead
76. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
77. The Debut by Anita Brookner
78. Women and Power by Mary Beard
79. The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald
80. Fugitive Pieces by Ann Michaels
81. Transcription by Kate Atkinson

5japaul22
Jul. 1, 2018, 7:59pm

#40 American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

Wow, Laura Bush had a lot of sex as a young woman.

Just kidding . . . kind of.
I would never have read this novel based very loosely on the life of Laura Bush if it hadn't been for a "book friend" of mine who loves Curtis Sittenfeld. Though the book has some flaws, I'm very glad I read it and it was a perfect summer read. In fact, I found this novel compulsively readable and flew through all 555 pages in a matter of days.

The book is told in four sections and each one contains one true life event of Laura Bush and the rest is fictionalized around it. The first section is her teenage years and a car accident where she kills a friend of hers in another car after running a stop sign. The second section is based around her time as a public school librarian. The third is her marriage to "Charlie Blackwell", aka George Bush and his alcoholism. The fourth is her time in the White House.

This book works really, really well when you just stop worrying about what is true and what isn't and think of it as a woman in her 60s looking back at her life - describing her mistakes, problems, luck, friendships, etc. In fact, for most of the book, I didn't think of this as being about Laura and George Bush at all. The first three sections were really excellent. The last section gets more political and there is lots of hand-wringing about whether or not she should publicly disagree with some of her husbands policies and some of her past comes back to haunt her. This section I found the least satisfying. I wondered if Sittenfeld just had a harder time imagining this section because there was too much info out there that already created a picture. I think the author had much more freedom in the earlier sections and that worked really well. One other mistake, I thought, was that she set the action in the early sections in Wisconsin instead of Texas. Being pretty familiar with Wisconsin, a lot of the action didn't seem to fit with the setting. Several times I found something jarring and thought, yeah, that's cause that sort of thing would make more sense in Texas.

Anyway, I really liked this and found it pretty fun to read. It came out in 2008 and is probably the kind of book that you either read when it came out or you'll never read, but if it's still lingering on your shelf, give it a try. I found it a pleasant surprise.

Original publication date: 2008
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 555 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library sale paperback
Why I read this: for fun, off the shelf

6kac522
Jul. 2, 2018, 12:13am

>5 japaul22: probably no cheese curds in Texas...

7janemarieprice
Bearbeitet: Jul. 5, 2018, 7:39pm

>5 japaul22: I've got this one on my shelf still; sounds like not a bad read for something a little lighter?

>6 kac522: Nope, just whole blocks of cheddar

8kac522
Bearbeitet: Jul. 6, 2018, 11:51pm

>7 janemarieprice: That's Texas; the bigger, the better...

9japaul22
Jul. 6, 2018, 12:34pm

>7 janemarieprice: Oh my . . . that's a lot of cheese! And, yes, American Wife is great for a lighter read.

10japaul22
Jul. 7, 2018, 8:13am

#41 Force of Nature by Jane Harper
I liked this second mystery in Harper's series about Australian detective Aaron Falk just as much as the first. This centers around a group of women who go on a forced team-building exercise for work where they do a 4 day hike in the Australian bushland. They have a map and compass but not much else - no phone service - and after making it to the first camp site (supplies are staged at each day's destination) they get horribly lost on day 2. They end up losing one of the women and the search for her is the mystery.

What I actually found most interesting about this book was the dynamic between the women on the team-building exercise. From the beginning, they failed miserably. The five women were from different levels of the company - from the president to a data-entry position. The whole point of these types of exercises is to level the playing field and see everyone's strengths outside the office, but the president of the company, Jill, insisted on making all final decisions and controlling everything even though she was by far the weakest link as far as outdoor knowledge and fitness was concerned. And the women couldn't leave their work drama behind them and band together. This was really odd to me - they were completely unsupportive of each other. The nature of my job leads our unit to be very close, even with those we wouldn't otherwise get along with, because we are repeatedly put in high pressure performance situations and also in physically demanding work. Basically, we do constant team-building. So in some ways I found it pretty unrealistic that these women didn't naturally become supportive of each other in the challenging environment, but it definitely made the events realistic so I guess it worked for the book.

Regardless of all that, I find Harper's mysteries interesting and very readable which is exactly what I want in a mystery.

Original publication date: 2018
Author’s nationality: Australian
Original language: English
Length: 336 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased kindle
Why I read this: for fun

11janemarieprice
Jul. 7, 2018, 2:57pm

>10 japaul22: That does sound odd especially since (in my experience anyway) people who get to higher level management (politics aside) seem to have a really firm grasp on their own strengths and weaknesses and knowledge base.

12japaul22
Jul. 8, 2018, 9:17am

>11 janemarieprice: Exactly, it made the book work, but the more I think about it the more I question how realistic it is.

13japaul22
Bearbeitet: Jul. 8, 2018, 9:21am

I've heard of three books coming out in late September/October that I'm really excited about.

Transcription by Kate Atkinson
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
The Witch Elm by Tana French

I love that time of year for new books. Any others you've heard about that you're excited about?

14RidgewayGirl
Jul. 8, 2018, 11:37am

I'm so excited about the French and the Atkinson! And also November Road by Lou Berney. He wrote The Long and Faraway Gone, which I loved. And someday the next Cormoran Strike book will be published.

15japaul22
Jul. 8, 2018, 12:05pm

>14 RidgewayGirl: ooh, I never read The Long and Faraway Gone - it sounds great!

16NanaCC
Jul. 8, 2018, 1:40pm

>13 japaul22: I’m looking forward to those books, as well, plus a new Cormoran Strike book...it doesn’t get much better than this.

17japaul22
Jul. 12, 2018, 3:59pm

#42 Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton read by Lorna Raver

This was a reread for me, this time on audio. I love the way Wharton writes and the situations she comes up with. In this, Newland Archer, on the cusp of marrying a beautiful, conventional, boring girl from New York society, becomes enthralled with Ellen Olenska, who is intriguing, foreign, and anything but conventional. I'm annoyed by Archer for the whole book because his relationship with Ellen seems to be based on nothing but infatuation and a need to get away from stifling New York society, in other words its much more about him than actually about Ellen. But, then again, that feels real to me, that often these relationships are like that. I can't imagine Newland and Ellen ever actually settling down together. And in the end I don't think May (his wife) is as clueless and dumb as he supposes.

And that is why the ending of this book (you'll have to read it to find out) is absolutely perfect.

Original publication date: 1920
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 11h45m
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library audiobook
Why I read this: for fun, reread

18japaul22
Jul. 12, 2018, 4:07pm

#43 Under the Net by Iris Murdoch

I never know what to make of Iris Murdoch's books. This is the third of her novels that I've read and I'm always left a little perplexed about whether I loved it or hated it.

This heads in a more predictable direction than the other novels I've read by her, maybe because it's her first. It follows Jake Donaghue, a young-ish man with no money who lives very comfortably by borrowing from friends as he tries (sort of) to be a writer. All sorts of unusual and unrealistic things happen to him and he never takes the conventional path out of a situation. This leads to random drinking, swimming in rivers, stealing dogs, breaking into apartments, and running across rooftops. All sort of in the pursuit of love with a woman it seems he can't make up his mind about, and a man whose intellect he's obsessed with.

So I don't know. Something about the craft of Murdoch's writing keeps bringing me back but I'm still not convinced.

Original publication date: 1954
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 253 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, library sale
Why I read this: 1001 books

19avaland
Jul. 12, 2018, 4:18pm

I like the idea of your "contemporary authors I follow" list. I may try to make one, although I might have to consider authors who have at least two or three books. I wonder what we can devine about ourselves by the choices of the authors and the fiction they write?

20NanaCC
Jul. 12, 2018, 10:00pm

>17 japaul22: I love that book, Jennifer. Wharton is a favorite. Have you ever read The Custom of the Country? It’s my favorite of hers.

21Simone2
Jul. 13, 2018, 2:57am

>18 japaul22: Great review. I feel the same about Murdoch’s books although I mostly end up loving them.

22japaul22
Jul. 13, 2018, 7:48am

>19 avaland: Did you notice all except one of mine are women?! Also a lot of them write what I think of as literary historical fiction. At least they have a strong setting/sense of time period in the past. A strong setting or era that is central to the story and evocative of a time and place that I don't live in I've found to be important to me.

>20 NanaCC: I loved Custom of the Country Colleen. And also House of Mirth.

>21 Simone2: Thanks - I probably wouldn't have heard of her if not for the 1001 books list.

23avaland
Jul. 13, 2018, 8:04am

>22 japaul22: Yes, you had an interesting list. So, I spent way too much time in my digital library yesterday attempting to assemble similar lists. It was very difficult. But, in the process I came across authors and thought, wonder what they have written lately, and ordered two books .... LOL.

24japaul22
Jul. 15, 2018, 9:02pm

#44 Tangerine by Christine Mangan

This was fun - a well-done suspense novel set in Tangier in the 1950s. It involves two young women, Alice and Lucy, who have a past together as roommates at a women's college in Vermont, Bennington. Alice is unhappily married and her husband has moved her to Tangier, where she basically hides in their apartment. One day Lucy shows up and the past is slowly revealed as the present crumbles. It's one of those books where who is telling the truth is confusing - a double unreliable narrator book.

I enjoyed this and I thought the story and setting was compelling enough to keep me interested, but the book does have some faults. It's told by alternating voices of Lucy and Alice and they weren't very easy to tell apart. I had to keep reminding myself whose voice I was hearing - a more experienced author would have done that better. And the plot, while entertaining, was familiar - a little too similar to Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley. But if you're looking for an entertaining summer read, I think this fits the bill.

Original publication date: 2018
Author’s nationality: not sure - Irish? American? bio isn't very helpful
Original language: English
Length: 320 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: for fun

25japaul22
Jul. 29, 2018, 4:43pm

#45 Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko is a family epic novel about a Korean family living in Japan that follows several generations through the 20th century. The book centers around Sanju who grows up in her parent's boarding house in Korea. She is seduced by an older man, Hansu, and becomes pregnant. She then finds out that he is married and has a family in Japan. He is obviously rich and offers to support her living in Korea, sort of set her up as a second wife/mistress, but her upbringing doesn't allow her to consider that. A kind Christian man boarding with them offers to marry her and raise her child as his own if they move to Japan. She agrees. They move to Japan and live with his brother and wife who are childless.

This move to Japan sets in motion a lot of what happens to the family in subsequent generations. They face unrelenting racism and obstacles as Korean immigrants but Hansu keeps track of Sanju and appears at some of the worst times to aid the family - sometimes behind the scenes and sometimes with Sanju's approval. He tries to support his son, Noa, without revealing that he's his father. Sanju has two sons, Noa and Mazuso, who take different paths but both end up as wealthy owners of multiple pachinko parlors. Pachinko is Japanese pinball where people bet on outcomes and is a huge industry.

Too much happens in this long book to describe all of the plot, but there are lots of themes explored - racism, immigration, politics, sexism, family secrets, etc. - that add a lot to the book and keep connections between the generations. I definitely preferred the first half of the book that focused more on Sanju and her sister-in-law and their climb out of extreme poverty. I liked the book as a whole, though, an definitely recommend it to anyone who likes this sort of multigenerational work set in a different culture (well, different to me).

Original publication date: 2017
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 496 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: for fun

26Simone2
Jul. 30, 2018, 9:47am

>25 japaul22: Great review. I loved this one too and learned a lot about Koreans in Japan that I didn’t knew.

27japaul22
Jul. 30, 2018, 8:26pm

Just reposting an updated post from the top of my thread. These are the books I've read out loud to my boys so far this year. They have pretty different interests, so I read separately to them on alternating nights. William also somewhat reluctantly reads chapter books on his own but I'm not tracking those (he loves being read to and I'm hoping he lets me do it for a few more years!). Isaac LOVED the Ricky Ricotta series. I'm always interested in what others are reading with their kids if anyone has any recommendations.

William (age 8):
Double Fudge by Judy Blume
The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket
Superfudge by Judy Blume
The Austere Academy by lemony snicket
The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier

Isaac (5 years old):
My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Elmer and the Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Catwings by Ursula K. Le Guin
Ricky Ricotta and his Might Robot by Dav Pilkey #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Dragon Masters #1
Dragon Masters #2

28karspeak
Bearbeitet: Jul. 31, 2018, 10:25am

My 8 year old listens to a ton of audiobooks through the overdrive app. His top favorites have been Hugo, Eragon, I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, Watership Down, and Quantum Leap.
Other audiobooks he has really liked include the Jack Stalwart series, Land of Stories series, Humphrey series (it's a hamster), Frindle, False Prince, Miss Piggle Wiggle, Art Dog, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Snow Treasure, Narnia series, Cricket in Times Square, The Wild Ones, Terrible Two series, Hardy Boys, and Boxcar Children series.
His favorite books to actually read with his eyes are the Big Nate series. I am trying to have him do more eye-reading, since he needs to develop that skill more. But he can listen to much more advanced books than he can eye-read!
My 11 year old has very different reading tastes, although they overlap on some of the books. My 11 year old prefers more fantasy, such as Percy Jackson.

29karspeak
Jul. 31, 2018, 10:35am

And, thanks, I just downloaded several books from your sons' lists!

30japaul22
Jul. 31, 2018, 12:07pm

>28 karspeak: We've read some of those and others I've added to a list for him. THanks! I think my 8 year old likes me reading to him because his comprehension and interests are still quite a bit above his reading level.

31valkyrdeath
Jul. 31, 2018, 6:23pm

I've enjoyed catching up on your thread after falling behind as usual. And your mentioning of Transcription by Kate Atkinson as got me excited about it too after reading up on it! Glad to see another positive review of Pachinko too, as I enjoyed the author's previous book. I still can't decide whether I want to read Iris Murdoch or not.

32japaul22
Aug. 1, 2018, 2:21pm

#46 Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith

This book was sort of part biology/evolution and part philosophy. Godfrey-Smith delves into the lives of octopuses to explore the evolution of the mind. Humans and cephalapods share a very distant common relative so by exploring how octopuses use their minds, we are exploring a parallel but distinct evolution of thought. It isn't like other animals with intelligence, like other mammals and birds, where our thought systems were at least partially developed before we branched off from each other.

Godfrey-Smith asks questions like what makes an octopus need the ability to have conscious thought from an evolutionary standpoint, why would an animal that only lives a couple of years develop these traits, and how did this develop in an animal that has a very limited social life? None of these questions has a firm answer, but the book's philosophical tone gives a lot to ponder.

In the end, I'm not exactly sure what I got out of this and it seems a rather obscure topic, but it was fun to read and gave me some things to think about.

Original publication date: 2016
Author’s nationality: Australian
Original language: English
Length: 272 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: sounded interesting

33japaul22
Aug. 2, 2018, 8:35am

#47 The Years by Virginia Woolf

And with that I've completed all of Virginia Woolf's novels. My next Woolf project will be to read the massive Hermione Lee biography and reread all or most of the novels. I also want to delve into some of her essays and short stories. I've only read A Room of One's Own of those.

So what about The Years? Well, I recognized Woolf's impeccable writing style and her introspective character writing, but I didn't love this one. The Years follows two branches of the Pargiter family, beginning in 1880. The first part of the book is a series of vignettes from 1880-1918 where one or two characters are developed (almost as in a short story). Then the final section is in the "present day" (probably some point in the 1930s) where many of the family members come together at a party.

The book is smart and sophisticated and has a couple of memorable characters, but I didn't find the connection that I have had with some of Woolf's novels and didn't find the message as dramatic as I hope for in her writing.

Original publication date: 1939
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 436 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, purchased
Why I read this: 1001 books, Woolf completionist

34japaul22
Aug. 4, 2018, 2:52pm

#48 The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

I finally read this book because it just won the Golden Booker and it's been on my shelf for a long time. To be honest, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. I thought this book was well-written and interesting, but not all that memorable.

Most of you probably know the premise from already having read the book or seeing the movie. The "English patient" is a man who has been horribly burned in a plane crash and ends up in Italy in a small hospital. As WWII ends, the hospital is disbanded and the English patient remains with a young nurse, Hana, who has been traumatized by the war, an older man named Caravaggio who knows Hana through her father, and Kip, an Indian man who defuses bombs. The English patient doesn't remember who he is and by telling his story under the influence of morphine he discloses enough details that Caravaggio thinks he knows who he is. There are many layers to the book and the characters end up fitting together in different ways than you might expect.

I enjoyed this but I wasn't impressed enough to run out and read more by this author.

Original publication date: 1993
Author’s nationality: Sri Lanka and Canada
Original language: English
Length: 305 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library sale, paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books, Golden Booker winner, off the shelf

35RidgewayGirl
Aug. 4, 2018, 3:05pm

I was left underwhelmed with The English Patient as well.

36Simone2
Aug. 5, 2018, 10:30pm

>34 japaul22: I really loved it but I read it about 20 years ago. Maybe I would judge it completely different if I’d read it today.

37AlisonY
Aug. 6, 2018, 2:31am

>34 japaul22: I've only read one Ondaatje book (Coming Through Slaughter), and I remember finding it quite tedious.

38japaul22
Aug. 6, 2018, 6:39am

>36 Simone2: I wonder sometimes if reading a popular literary book too long after publication lessens its impact because other authors have imitated it in some way (intentionally or not) and it just feels too familiar. Or maybe because the movie was so popular. I think if I'd read it "fresh" I might have really liked it. I certainly appreciated the writing.

39japaul22
Bearbeitet: Aug. 6, 2018, 6:57am

#49 Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth

I read this brief novel by Irish author Maria Edgeworth because it was on the 1001 books to read before you die list and I'm always interested in female authors on the list. This book was published in 1800 and seems to have been written about a "typical" Irish gentry family for the English public. She certainly didn't give Ireland the best representation! This book is narrated by Thady, a servant for the Rackrent family, who witnesses three generations squander away their money and land through poor management, gambling, drink, and unwise marriages. Their land ends up in the hands of Thady's son.

This book is important historically because the English ate it up and took it as a real insight into the rise of the middle class in Ireland and the bad habits of the Irish landed gentry. But the writing, plot development, and character development are basically non-existent. Thady's voice gives some character and there are a few funny moments, but this is basically a long run-on sentence in 90 pages. Any book published in the early 1800s will be compared by me to Jane Austen and there is zero comparison here. I'm always impressed with Austen's tight plot and character development and coherence when compared to her contemporaries.

This was interesting from a historical perspective, but not really a pleasurable reading experience.

Original publication date: 1800
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 89 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle freebie
Why I read this: 1001 books

40kac522
Bearbeitet: Aug. 7, 2018, 5:22pm

>39 japaul22: Back in 2015, Liz lead a Group Read of Castle Rackrent. Some of her comments and discussion might be of interest, now that you finished the book:

https://www.librarything.com/topic/190749

41japaul22
Aug. 7, 2018, 7:50pm

>Oh, great! I was wondering the whole time I was reading it what Liz would say about it! I'll check that out.

42kac522
Aug. 8, 2018, 11:16am

>41 japaul22: She's leading a group read right now of The Wanderer by Fanny Burney. LONG book, but based on the few chapters I've read so far, it's more engaging than I thought it would be. Set during the French Revolution, but published in 1814.

Even if you don't read the book, it's always interesting to follow her comments: https://www.librarything.com/topic/294385

43japaul22
Aug. 8, 2018, 7:35pm

>42 kac522: I saw that. I've read Burney's Evelina which I really enjoyed and Cecilia which was ok, but I don't think I'll read The Wanderer right now. I will observe the comments though and try to remember the thread exists if I ever get to it. Thanks!

44japaul22
Aug. 9, 2018, 9:19am

#50 An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro

I really love Ishiguro's writing. He writes simply but beautifully and there are always multiple layers and interpretations of his work. This book is no different. Ono, the very unreliable first-person narrator, is musing on his life in the aftermath of WWII Japan. He slowly reveals some of his actions during the war and seems to not be able to admit to his mistakes and also not be able to understand if he or those around him should/do judge his actions harshly.

There is a ton to discuss regarding the book and luckily this was for a group read in the 1001 books group. I'm looking forward to hearing others comments.

Some may not like the ambiguity that the reader is left with, but I thought the open-ended nature made me consider the book and the time period more intensely than I would if everything had been answered.

Original publication date: 1986
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 206 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: 1001 books group read

45japaul22
Aug. 11, 2018, 10:30am

#51 Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively

I absolutely loved this book. Claudia is at the end of her life and decides to "write" a history of the world in her head while lying in the hospital. She muses on her life and her relationships. Among these are a brief love affair during WWII, an intimate relationship with her brother, and a tense relationship with her daughter. There are lots of insights into living along the way. I found the whole thing very well done.

Highly recommended.

Original publication date: 1987
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 208 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library paperback
Why I read this: booker prize, golden booker

46japaul22
Aug. 20, 2018, 8:05am

#52 A Brave Vessel by Hobson Woodward
We just got back from a fabulous cruise to Bermuda with our extended family. Bermuda is a beautiful island and we had a great time - the beaches in particular are lovely. As I often do, I searched for a book based in Bermuda for the trip. The pickings were sort of slim, but I found this nonfiction account of the first colonists on Bermuda and it ended up being really interesting.

In 1609, the Sea Venture and several other smaller ships made a crossing from England to Jamestown to reinforce the settlers there. On the way they encountered a hurricane which split them up. Most of the fleet actually made it to Jamestown (where everyone was starving, by the way) and the Sea Venture ended up at Bermuda. Bermuda was a known island, the Spanish had discovered it and tried to use it as a stopping point - they even introduced wild pigs hoping to use them as food, but no one had settled there and there was no indigenous population. The main reason it was still uninhabited is that there are shallow coral reefs surrounding the island and only a few places where the shore is anywhere near approachable by a large vessel. Luckily, the Sea Venture ended up at one of these relatively deep approaches.

Once on the island, the normal issues arise - differences of opinions on how to run things, how and if to get off the island, etc. Luckily there was plenty of food and water on the island. Some end up going to Jamestown and some stay on the island.

Woodward pairs this story with Shakespeare's writing of the Tempest, which he probably used as inspiration. This part of the book was weaker for me. I was much more interested in the settlers' experience than an analysis of The Tempest, but nonetheless this was a really good book that fit my vacation very well.

Original publication date: 2010
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 304 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: on vacation in Bermuda

47karspeak
Aug. 20, 2018, 1:17pm

>46 japaul22: That looks interesting, thanks for the review.

48japaul22
Aug. 20, 2018, 4:15pm

#53 Radical Candor by Kim Scott
This is a pretty solid leadership/management book. The main premise is to "care personally and challenge directly". Lots of good advice on how to communicate with your team.

FYI there is also a podcast that covers the info in this book and I find it even more effective than the book.

Original publication date: 2017
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 272 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: pondering leadership at work

49japaul22
Aug. 21, 2018, 5:22pm

#54 Before I Burn by Gaute Heivoll

This is a Norwegian bestseller in which the narrator ruminates about an arsonist who terrorized his community at the time of his birth. He also thinks extensively about his relationship with his father and his father's death. This book definitely has that Scandinavian feel - it is written a bit flat and matter-of-factly - it's not as dramatic as the subject of an arsonist on the loose sounds like it would be.

I liked it, but I found myself losing interest periodically and in the end I don't think it will be very memorable for me.

Original publication date: 2014 (translation
Author’s nationality: Norwegian
Original language: Norwegian
Length: 336 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: LT reviews

50japaul22
Aug. 30, 2018, 8:25am

#55 A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul

This book is hard for me to review as I had wildly different reactions as I read the 278 pages. It starts out when a young man of Indian descent living on the East coast of Africa buys a shop in an isolated village at "the bend in the river" of a newly forming African country. The beginning was so interesting and beautifully written. I loved the descriptions of the growing town and its inhabitants, especially the various cultures all trying to navigate life. But then, as the town grows and the politics of this newly formed country get messy, the book sort of lost me. The characters didn't feel real anymore as they did in the beginning. They all felt like simple representations of various points of view. So I started to lose interest. And then the token woman and violent/passionate love affair happens. I absolutely despise books where an author tries to portray a passionate relationship as needing violence to show how deep the emotions are. So then I wanted to just quit reading.

I persevered to the end, but I never got back to enjoying the book as I did at the beginning. So for me, it just wasn't a great reading experience.

Original publication date: 1978
Author’s nationality: British/Trinidad
Original language: English
Length: 278 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, library book sale
Why I read this: 1001 books, Nobel prize author

51japaul22
Sept. 7, 2018, 8:01pm

#56 The Overstory by Richard Powers

Powers has written a novel that is about trees as much as people. The first section of the book tells brief stories of eight people and their interaction with trees - largely in childhood or youth. It's absolutely beautiful. As I read this section of the book I was gasping in awe of Powers' writing and insight and feeling a deep connection with the world of trees. It was magical. A five star read for sure.

And then in the second half of the book, these people grow up and their early tree experiences lead to something that I would call eco-terrorism. Having been so moved by the first section of the book, I could see the point and felt empathy for their points of view, but I was very uncomfortable with the actions. I started not wanting to pick the book up. On the strength of the first section I continued on and started to see that part of the author's point here was probably to challenge me, the reader, as to just how much humans are interfering with the world and make me think about what the reasonable steps to take really are. So even though I still was uncomfortable, I started to appreciate the point again. I never got back to how captivated I was by the first section, but I see why the book developed the way it did.

In the end, I think this is a great book though I'm sure not everyone will connect with it. I expect it will be a memorable book for me and I'm definitely interested in reading more by Richard Powers.

Original publication date: 2018
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 502 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library hardback
Why I read this: Booker nominee

52japaul22
Sept. 11, 2018, 2:28pm

#57 She-Wolves: The women who ruled England before Elizabeth by Helen Castor

Well, the title says it all. Very readable non-fiction about women who ruled in varying capacities in the hundreds of years before Queen Elizabeth I. While this was a good book, my excessive historical fiction reading (thank you Sharon Kay Penman) meant that there wasn't much new in this book for me. But the review was fun.

Original publication date: 2012
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 496 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: for fun

53lisapeet
Sept. 11, 2018, 2:46pm

>52 japaul22: I liked that one a lot. Maybe particularly because I wasn’t super grounded in period history at the time I read it so it was pretty fresh for me.

54japaul22
Sept. 19, 2018, 12:40pm

#58 Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

This is the story of a 1950s marriage. Both parties want to be different, but reality is they live in the suburbs, have two kids, and the husband has a boring job. Their relationship seems to be built on not much at all and they are basically coexisting. Most of the book is told from Frank's point of view, with his typical 1950s views of marriage, family, and maleness.

What I liked about this novel: well-written as in the construction was good, the dialogue was good, definitely has a good sense of time period. When I think about how Yates crafted the book, I'm impressed. He starts with a community theater scene that the wife acts in which sets up the book for the acting out of life that the Wheelers are doing. And you see April's disappointment in life and yearning for something more that she repeatedly squashes down.

What I didn't like: it's unfortunate to be stuck inside the point of view of someone you find repulsive for an entire book. Frank just drove me crazy - crafting his reactions to everyday events to make himself look good even though the reader could tell people around him weren't buying it. And the time period, with its blatant sexism, just isn't one I want to be immersed in.

Original publication date: 1961
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 355 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback library sale
Why I read this: 1001 books, off the shelf

55japaul22
Sept. 19, 2018, 2:27pm

#59 Shirley by Charlotte Brontë

Oh, this book. How did the same author who wrote my beloved Jane Eyre also write this and Villette?

Unfortunately, I felt much the same way as I did about Villette when reading Shirley - boring, pretentious, and practically intolerable. I wanted so badly to like this but I just couldn't connect to the story or characters. Bronte throws some social commentary (owner vs. worker) in your face but doesn't make it feel integral to the story. And we get the typical woman who is disappointed in love and takes to her death bed only to recover when she finds her long lost mother has been right in front of her the whole book. I'm not sure how a book can be over-dramatic and boring at the same time.

I feel guilty not liking this, but there it is.

Original publication date: 1849
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 496 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle freebie
Why I read this: 1001 books

56AlisonY
Bearbeitet: Sept. 20, 2018, 10:07am

It's a shame Richard Yates didn't work for you. I have to admit he's one of my reading crushes.

57japaul22
Sept. 20, 2018, 12:30pm

>56 AlisonY: I remembered that and it's one reason I gave it a try even though I was hesitant. I'm just not a fan of reading about that time period, but I will definitely admit that the writing was very good.

58AlisonY
Sept. 21, 2018, 4:12am

>57 japaul22: I totally get that. There are certain periods and places that I'm not a fan of reading about. I must take some skewed delight from reading about miserable 50s skirt-chasers as I'm a big fan of Updike too!

59japaul22
Sept. 21, 2018, 5:58am

>58 AlisonY: ha! I’ve never tried Updike and doubt I ever will. Just the thought of reading his novels makes me uncomfortable and crabby!

60Simone2
Sept. 25, 2018, 4:59pm

>57 japaul22: >58 AlisonY: Echoing Alison, Yates is indeed comparable to Updike and I love them both but can imagine that People can’t stand the both of them!

61japaul22
Bearbeitet: Okt. 2, 2018, 8:01pm

#60 Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

I really like this mystery series. Not going to review it because I don't want to give anything away. I'll just say that I liked that the mystery was less gruesome than some of her other books but I did thing the whole think was a little convoluted. I also liked how she handled Strike and Robin's relationship, though probably not everyone will.

I do wish that Robin didn't get kidnapped, hurt, stalked, etc. in every book

62NanaCC
Okt. 2, 2018, 10:43pm

>61 japaul22: Picking it up at the library tomorrow. Yay!

63japaul22
Okt. 7, 2018, 12:31pm

#61 Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner

I had varying reactions to this book. It's about Sophia Willoughby and takes place in the mid-1800s. When we first meet her, she seems to be in a typical wealthy woman, married and raising her children. But early on, you find that she's separated from her husband and he's living in Paris with his mistress, Minna. Then her children die and she decides she wants another child and will use her husband for this purpose. She goes to Paris where she drops this idea but meets and becomes enamored with Minna, who introduces her to various revolutionaries and a whole new way of thinking. They find themselves living together and participating in the 1848 revolution in Paris.

Overall, I liked this but I also had stretches that I found pretty boring and lost the story a bit. I also didn't like the focus on Minna's Jewishness and the stereotypes that were continually referenced about her.

This was ok, but won't be for everyone.

Original publication date: 1936
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 352 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: nyrb book
Why I read this: 1001 books, nyrb off the shelf

64dchaikin
Okt. 7, 2018, 8:55pm

catching up - Naipul, Powers, Richard Yates, Bronte - quite a bunch your going through. And I see Summer Will Show is on the 1001 list. Enjoyed your reviews, even for the books you didn't like or had some issues with.

65japaul22
Okt. 10, 2018, 3:33pm

#62 Katherine by Anya Seton
I am on a never-ending quest to find historical fiction (the historically accurate Kings and Queens type) that measures up to Sharon Kay Penman. I stumbled upon this one in a random google search and I thought it was pretty good, but, alas, not Penman-good.

It's about Katherine Swynford, who is born to a lesser knight and orphaned at a young age. Her beauty gains her a noble husband, Hugh Swynford. She also meets John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and son of King Edward III. He falls in love with her and they have a long relationship after her husband dies while he his married to Constance of Castile. She has four children with him who are subsequently legitimized when he marries Katherine towards the end of his life. Later their ancestors will be both the Tudor/Stuart line and Edward IV/Richard III.

I liked this book and found it rich in historical detail and interesting in the political sense. I felt it focused a bit too much on Katherine, though, and her inner turmoil. I got a little bored and wished Seton would have spent more time on the bigger picture.

This was fun and a nice diversion from heavier reading.

Original publication date: 1954
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 608 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: for fun

66NanaCC
Okt. 11, 2018, 7:17am

>61 japaul22: I just finished Lethal White last night. I just read your hidden sentence in your review, and I agree completely. I did enjoy the book.

67japaul22
Okt. 11, 2018, 8:14am

>66 NanaCC: I still really like them too, despite a few annoyances.

68japaul22
Okt. 15, 2018, 8:03pm

#63 The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

I really liked this debut novel by Imogen Hermes Gowar. It is set in the 1700s as lonely Mr. Hancock, who owns a shipping business, receives a mermaid from his ship captain. The captain has traded Mr. Hancokc's ship for this "mermaid". The mermaid is an ugly little baby-sized creature but people line up to see it. Mr. Hancock ends up making quite a bit of money off of it. In the meantime we've met Angelica Neal, a high-end prostitute. She is at loose ends after the wealthy older man who had been supporting her has died. Their paths end up crossing and she becomes Mrs. Hancock. After their marriage, they acquire a real, living mermaid and the grief that comes with it.

This book sounds fantastical, but actually most of it is very down to earth and realistic. It was a great mix of the two. I loved the historical setting and the characters were interesting. I will definitely look for the author's next book. This will appeal to fans of Sarah Waters and Emma Donaghue.

Original publication date: 2018
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 496 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: Women's prize for Fiction short list

69japaul22
Okt. 18, 2018, 10:21am

#64 Invisible by Paul Auster

I picked this up because it's on the 1001 books list and on my shelf from a library sale. While I appreciate Auster's concise, self-exploratory tone, I just don't really care for his books. I've found both that I've now read very male-centered and sort of gross. This one has a large scene about an incestuous relationship.

There is a certain tone he gets that I can't quite describe but that I do respect even while finding it a bit off-putting. It's hard to describe but his characters are self-reflective (lots of first person), yet self-centered, sort of pretentious and introspective, and engaged in the world in a very narrow way.

The story sort of meanders in and out of various plots and ended with a character's voice that didn't wrap things up for me sufficiently. This book was not a good fit for me, but others may like it.

Original publication date: 2009
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 309 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library book sale, hardback
Why I read this: 1001 books, group challenge

70dchaikin
Okt. 18, 2018, 9:06pm

Always interested in a review of Paul Auster. I just need to try him and see if I can deal with all his difficulties. Anyway, interesting comments.

71japaul22
Okt. 21, 2018, 11:42am

#65 Wild Harbour by Ian MacPherson

This is an interesting book written in 1936. The action is set inn 1944 and revolves around one couple's reaction to an impending war. MacPherson predicts this timing pretty accurately. This couple, Terry and Hugh, find a cave in the Scottish wilderness and decide to leave their home to camp out here while the war happens. They feel a sense of deserting their fellow man, but feel more strongly that they don't want to participate again in a world war after experiencing WWI. They spend a few months learning to survive in the wilderness but then find themselves in the middle of the war anyway and death and violence encroaches on their attempt at isolation.

I found this book conceptually interesting, but highly annoying to read. The format is as a diary written by Hugh. The dialogue is atrocious and hyperbolic. Not really for me, but I was interested to know the book exists and at least it was short.

Original publication date: 1936
Author’s nationality: Scottish
Original language: English
Length: 178 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle purchase
Why I read this: 1001 books group read

72japaul22
Okt. 23, 2018, 10:58am

#66 How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

Fabulous. "Strident Feminism" explained - Moran is funny, direct, thoughtful, and a little crude. This is perfect on audio.

Original publication date: 2011
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 8h45m
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library audiobook
Why I read this: for fun

73japaul22
Okt. 27, 2018, 11:21am

#67 Aristocrats by Stella Tillyard
Really good nonfiction about 4 wealthy sisters who lived in the 1700-1800s. They wrote many, many letters that Tillyard combs through to paint a picture of their lives. I always love reading about how women lived in other eras so this book was pretty interesting to me. Lots of info about marriage, child-bearing and rearing, love affairs, and politics. Obviously, not a look into "everyday" life as these women were very privileged, and it doesn't go much into daily things like food, clothing, comforts, but I found it interesting overall. This was written in 1994 and I gather it was an earlier example of historical writing focused on women in a narrative way.

I liked it.

Original publication date: 1994
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 394 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library hardback
Why I read this: for fun

74japaul22
Okt. 29, 2018, 12:12pm

The Diary of a Good Neighbor by Doris Lessing

This is the first of two books collected into one volume, The Diaries of Jane Somers. Though they are now usually published together, the second being If the Old Could, they were originally published separately. After finishing the first, I'm very much viewing it as a complete work. So I'll review it now, and add a review of the next later, still counting it as one book.

In this book, Janna Somers, a successful magazine editor in her 50s, meets an elderly woman, Maudie, and begins to care for her. This is out of the norm for Janna, who takes beautiful care of her appearance and has always held herself at a bit of a remove from others, even from her family and recently passed husband. But something about Maudie keeps drawing her back. Maudie lives in squalor and can barely care for herself and we, through Janna, experience all the indignities of old age, and especially old age lived in poverty. It's interesting to read this through a diary - you can see Janna's writing first centered all around herself and gradually shifting to being all about Maudie.

I really liked this and thought it was very well-written. It isn't easy to read, though, because of the topic, and is a bit depressing at times. But important themes about aging and death. Also brings up thoughts of what our responsibilities to the elderly are and how best to support them.

I'm interested to read the next book in this pair.

75baswood
Okt. 29, 2018, 7:43pm

>74 japaul22: I read these two novels a couple of years ago and thought they were excellent.

76japaul22
Nov. 3, 2018, 9:37am

#68 The Diaries of Jane Somers by Doris Lessing

The Diary of a Good Neighbor by Doris Lessing

This is the first of two books collected into one volume, The Diaries of Jane Somers. Though they are now usually published together, the second being If the Old Could, they were originally published separately. After finishing the first, I'm very much viewing it as a complete work. So I'll review it now, and add a review of the next later, still counting it as one book.

In this book, Janna Somers, a successful magazine editor in her 50s, meets an elderly woman, Maudie, and begins to care for her. This is out of the norm for Janna, who takes beautiful care of her appearance and has always held herself at a bit of a remove from others, even from her family and recently passed husband. But something about Maudie keeps drawing her back. Maudie lives in squalor and can barely care for herself and we, through Janna, experience all the indignities of old age, and especially old age lived in poverty. It's interesting to read this through a diary - you can see Janna's writing first centered all around herself and gradually shifting to being all about Maudie.

I really liked this and thought it was very well-written. It isn't easy to read, though, because of the topic, and is a bit depressing at times. But important themes about aging and death. Also brings up thoughts of what our responsibilities to the elderly are and how best to support them.

I'm interested to read the next book in this pair.

And now I've finished the second of this set, If the Old Could. I also really liked this, though not as much as the first. This one takes place after Maudie has died and Jane meets a man who she falls in love with on first sight and he with her. Unfortunately, they both have so much baggage that they have trouble getting past their initial attraction. I got a little tired of this relationship. In the first book, Janna's relationship with Maudie ends up revealing a lot about herself, but I didn't feel like this relationship did that as successfully. I sort of wish I'd only read the first of the pair of books and left it at that. Excellent writing, though, as I have come to expect from Lessing.

Original publication date: 1983 and 1984
Author’s nationality: British-Zimbabwean
Original language: English
Length: 500 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: ebay
Why I read this: 1001 books

77japaul22
Bearbeitet: Nov. 4, 2018, 7:32am

#69 A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride
I'm calling it a day and admitting to a lot of skimming to get through this one. This is a highly experimental novel in terms of language. It's written in the thoughts of a young woman from age 2 through her late teens. The language is very fragmented all the way through - incomplete sentences, odd word choice (even made up words), and lots of disjointed thoughts. There are books with interior language style that I love, like Faulkner's works or Woolf for example, but I had a really hard time following the plot. And also didn't find the beauty of language that I look for, even in an unconventional format.

And combine that with an excessively dark plot and I just didn't want to read this. The girl's brother has brain cancer, her father has run out on them, her uncle sexually abuses her which leads to a string of sexually abusive encounters and then her own promiscuity. It was just all so dark.

This is an ambitious try for a debut novel, but it just didn't work for me.

Original publication date: 2013
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 230 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library hardback
Why I read this: 1001 books

78japaul22
Nov. 10, 2018, 4:06pm

#70 A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

This was a very readable, plot driven novel about a married couple who is known for their solid marriage and respectable life in the country. But then the wife, Brenda, gets bored. Out of sheer boredom she starts an affair with a young man. At first she (and all her friends) obvious feel that this is just a diversion for Brenda and no big deal. But things start to spiral and about half way through the book the plot takes a big turn that leads to pretty radical life changes for both Brenda and Tony (the husband).

I liked the book. It was readable and kept me entertained. It mainly consists of dialogue so it reads quickly. As always with Waugh, it has lots of slang from the time period which is always kind of funny. I'm not sure it's very memorable, but I enjoyed it.

Original publication date: 1934
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 307 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books

79japaul22
Nov. 16, 2018, 2:53pm

#71 Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake

Set in the enormous castle of Gormenghast and its surroundings, this novel is a fantasy of an odd assortment of characters who come together as Titus Groan, the heir to Gormenghast, is finally born. It's richly drawn with great language and great imagination, but even so, it just isn't my cup of tea. I liked the beginning, but got bored by the end and I don't think I'll bother to continue with the rest of the trilogy.

Definitely recommended for classic fantasy lovers (although you've probably already read this) and I'm glad I tried it, but the first novel was enough for me to get the gist.

Original publication date: 1946
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 396 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library sale paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books

80japaul22
Nov. 20, 2018, 12:12pm

#72 Winter by Ali Smith
This is the second in a quartet of books that Ali Smith is writing. This one focuses on the relationship between two sisters, their son/nephew, and his "pretend girlfriend" Lux. There are surprise connections and, as in Autumn, commentary on very current events including immigration and refugees. She also does a beautiful job with subtle word play which I enjoy.

I liked this but I'm not blown away. I actually think Jenny Erpenbeck's Go, Went, Gone does a better job exploring the refugee crisis. In the end, I didn't find this particularly memorable.

Original publication date: 2018
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 336 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: 1001 books, enjoyed Autumn

81japaul22
Nov. 24, 2018, 9:00am

#73 The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Pat Barker has done a retelling of Achilles' story, this time from the point of view of Briseis, the captured and enslaved princess of a city in Troy. Briseis is given to Achilles as part of his spoils of war. When Agamemnon and Achilles have a falling out, Briseis is in the middle, taken from Achilles by Agamemnon as a show of power.

Briseis's complicated feelings towards her captors, even those who are relatively nice to her are explored throughout the book. This is especially true of her feelings towards Patroclus, Achilles's best friend, but also in the end true for her feelings towards Achilles. Also, as the title suggests, the way that women are silenced in the story is explored.

Overall, I loved this book. However, I kept thinking the reason I loved it is because the story itself is still so good, even after 1000s of years. The complicated Achilles with his love of Patroclus, his hero status, but his petulant behavior just can't be beat. And his story does overshadow Briseis, even while the book is meant to be about her story. So this is compulsively readable and a great story, but I'm not positive Barker achieved what she set out to.

Original publication date: 2018
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 304 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: love a good Greek retelling

82AlisonY
Nov. 26, 2018, 3:18am

Some great book bullets there. The Doris Lessing first read of the twin pair sounded great.

I've brought A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing home from the library before and not got past the first page, so you did well to even skim most of it.

83japaul22
Nov. 29, 2018, 2:51pm

#74 The Witch Elm by Tana French

This is another solid mystery/suspense novel by Tana French. I love her Dublin Murder Squad series so I put myself on the library wait list for this right away. I wasn't disappointed, though I didn't like it quite as much as the best of her other books. I won't give away any plot, but the premise is great and I thought the first person narrator was well-drawn. There are overlapping mysteries that make you wonder the whole time if/how they are connected. She lost me a little toward the end as this is one of those mysteries where there's LOTS of talking to reveal all the plot points. That annoyed me a little. Overall, though, I found all 500 pages pretty enjoyable.

Original publication date: 2018
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 528 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: love the author

84NanaCC
Dez. 2, 2018, 6:04pm

>83 japaul22: I just finished this book yesterday. I really enjoyed it. She’s a solid writer.

85japaul22
Dez. 7, 2018, 5:15pm

I didn't get much reading done this week because I played with our Marine Chamber Orchestra for the State Funeral for George H.W. Bush at the National Cathedral. It was a very meaningful and memorable event to be a part of.

86japaul22
Dez. 15, 2018, 11:45am

#75 The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead

Oh, this book. I went through many stages of hating this book. I read it because it was a group read for the 1001 books to read before you die group. First confusion was that I thought this was on the list as an Australian class and assumed it would be set in Australia. Nope - Washington, D.C./Baltimore/Annapolis. My neck of the woods. This is in essence a family epic - a very large family scraping by in D.C. until the father loses his job and they become basically destitute. But the real problem here is the vitriolic hatred between the father, Sam, and mother, Henny. It's very disturbing to witness, especially consider the book is supposed to be semi-autobiographical.

In the end, the book kept my attention, but only because it was like watching a train wreck. I really wouldn't recommend it.

Original publication date: 1940
Author’s nationality: Australian
Original language: English
Length: 527 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books group read

87japaul22
Dez. 15, 2018, 2:23pm

#76 State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Patchett's book about a pharmaceutical researcher from Minnesota who travels to the Amazon to try to understand the circumstances surrounding a colleague's death really shouldn't work. The plot and characters seem too improbable and far-fetched. But somehow I loved every minute of it. The characters and their relationships and emotions keep the book grounded even in the exotic setting.

I really like Patchett's writing. I've read 3 of her novels now and have enjoyed them all.

Original publication date: 2011
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: off the shelf, library sale
Why I read this: off the shelf

88dchaikin
Bearbeitet: Dez. 16, 2018, 4:35pm

I’m another Patchett fan, but also wanted to just that does sound special, in >85 japaul22:

89japaul22
Dez. 17, 2018, 7:29am

>88 dchaikin: It was really special, Dan. Words like honorable, respectful, and decent come to mind which can be hard to come by these days, regardless of political leanings.

90japaul22
Dez. 17, 2018, 7:34am

#77 The Debut by Anita Brookner

I always like Brookner's books, which are quiet, reflective, and always a little sad or melancholy, but I never find them particularly memorable either. So I enjoy the act of reading these, but I doubt I'll ever find one that is a "favorite".

This one is about Ruth Weiss, a Balzac scholar, as she reflects back on her "coming of age". Most of her struggles are gaining confidence and escaping her childlike parents who repeatedly need her care and interfere with her independence.

I liked this, as always, but her books won't be for everyone.

Original publication date: 1981
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 192 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: off the shelf, library sale
Why I read this: off the shelf

91kac522
Bearbeitet: Dez. 17, 2018, 2:26pm

>90 japaul22: Spot-on assessment of Anita Brookner; that's exactly the way I feel about her books.

Some twenty years ago after reading my first Brookner, Hotel du Lac, I went back and started reading all of her books, in order. But I never made it to the last few novels, which I hope to remedy this coming year.

92AlisonY
Dez. 17, 2018, 5:09pm

>90 japaul22: I just read another Brookner book recently, and I agree with your sentiments entirely. Enjoyable, sad but quickly forgettable just about sums it up.

93thorold
Dez. 18, 2018, 12:52am

>90 japaul22: Yes, I have trouble remembering which Brookner novels I’ve read ... I did read quite a few around the time Hotel du lac won the Booker, and obviously enjoyed her writing, but drifted away again to writers with a bit more sense of fun - Byatt/Drabble, Barbara Pym, Elizabeth Taylor, Penelope Fitzgerald and so on.

94japaul22
Dez. 18, 2018, 12:41pm

#78 Women and Power by Mary Beard

These two short lectures are adapted into essays discussing the silencing of women and the separation of women from power. Beard uses her extensive knowledge of Greek and Roman culture to explore the earliest roots of misogyny and shows how these earliest ideas are sadly still a part of our culture. These essays are smart, clear, calm, and to-the-point. Definitely recommended.

Original publication date: 2017
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 112 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: off the shelf
Why I read this: off the shelf

95japaul22
Dez. 21, 2018, 8:28am

#79 The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald

The Blue Flower refers to an uncompleted story that the late 18th century poet, Novalis, wrote. This book explores the early days of Novalis's (born Friedrich von Hardenberg) formation as a poet. Fritz grows up in a very large family, and Fitzgerald explores his relationships with his siblings. Also, he works in the family's salt mines. Most importantly, he meets and falls in love with 12 year old Sophie von Kuhn. Yes, 12 years old. Before they marry she contracts tuberculosis and dies. The book stops there, but the epilogue gives the sad story of the early deaths of most of the characters in the book.

This is a pretty brief book considering how much more Fitzgerald could have explored with these people, but I think it worked well. I don't know much about this era of Germany, except for the study of musicians and composers at the time, who of course were also influenced by the philosophers, poets, and writers of the day. It's an interesting time period and I'd like to read more about it. Interesting to contrast with what was going on in France at the time.

Recommended for literary historical fiction readers.

Original publication date: 1995
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 226 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: off the shelf, library sale
Why I read this: off the shelf

96japaul22
Dez. 22, 2018, 3:50pm

#80 Fugitive Pieces by Ann Michaels

This is a very good novel about the aftermath of WWII, particularly on the Jewish community that survives. The first part is told by Jakob Beer, who is a small child when his parents are killed in their home. He escapes and doesn't know the fate of his sister Bella, who haunts the book. Jakob is taken in by a Greek archeologist, Athos, who takes him to his home in Greece and then to Toronto. The setting is very strong and vivid, especially while they are in Greece. Jakob falls in love with words and language.

In the second part, Ben tells his story of being raised by parents who experienced German concentration camps. They have secrets from him that he only learns upon their death. He is influenced by Jakob's writing and knows him tangentially. When Jakob dies, he is sent to retrieve his journals that are believed to be in Greece.

There were many things that I really loved about this book. The writing is beautiful and lyrical, and the ideas are important. I didn't really like the second part though, told from Ben's point of view. I didn't find it to be closely enough related to the first and it was jarring to change narrators. I also didn't like any of the writing describing the various male/female relationships. It just didn't strike me as realistic.

So overall, I think this was a good book and well worth reading, but I didn't find it a great book.

Original publication date: 1996
Author’s nationality: Canadian
Original language: English
Length: 226 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle purchase
Why I read this: 1001 books group challenge

97AlisonY
Dez. 26, 2018, 6:42pm

The Blue Flower sounds interesting - going to keep an eye out for that one.

98japaul22
Dez. 28, 2018, 8:54pm

#81 Transcription by Kate Atkinson

I quite liked this new novel by Atkinson. She's written another WWII London novel, this time about a young woman who is recruited to be a spy. The book takes place in two main timelines (and an additional "present day" at the beginning and end), 1940 as Juliet Armstrong is recruited to spy for M15 and 1950 where she deals with the ramifications of her wartime spy-work.

I really liked Juliet and many of the other characters and I always find Atkinson's writing engaging. I did not, however, find this book to be as special as Life After Life or A God in Ruins. If you haven't read anything by her, read those first, but fans of Atkinson will probably like this.

Original publication date: 2018
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 352 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle library
Why I read this: love the author

99japaul22
Bearbeitet: Jan. 3, 2019, 12:06pm

I won't finish either of the long books I'm in the middle of right now before the end of the year, so here is my 2018 wrap up. You can find me in Club Read in 2019 here https://www.librarything.com/topic/301161 or in the Category Challenge here. https://www.librarything.com/topic/299214

Below are my favorites of 2018. I find it interesting that I have only one “classic” favorite this year, even though I read a lot of those. I think I’ve gotten down to the “b list” books of most of the canon of classics authors and they just aren’t destined to be favorites. I’ll keep trying though, as I really love reading older books and certainly still have many to explore, especially in translation. I also reread 5 books this year, all of which were classics favorites that I read in audio form.

I read 29 books from the “1001 books to read before you die” list and only 3 made my favorites list (Proust, Half of a Yellow Sun, and Artist of the Floating World). But even though many of these books I almost dislike, I still like how it stretches my reading out of my comfort zone.

I let goodreads track my “pages read” this year – last year I added it all up myself and it was within about 100 pages of the goodreads count, so I’ll forgo all the math. I read 30,120 pages in 2018, which is about 83 pages a day. I read 81 books total.

Best Books of 2018:

Classics:
Finished In Search of Lost Time by Proust – an epic lifetime reading experience

Newer Books: (* = my “super favorites”)
*A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
*The Snow Child by Ewoyn Ivey
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck
*Circe by Madeline Miller
*Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
Moon Tiger by Penelope Fitzgerald
The Overstory by Richard Powers
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Nonfiction:
Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley
How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
Women and Power by Mary Beard

Rereads favorites – these were all on audio books and I liked rereading that way:
Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

100japaul22
Dez. 30, 2018, 7:14am

I also tracked the chapter books that I read to my boys this year and it’s fun for me to remember what we read. They, of course, also read on their own and we read lots of picture books with my younger one still. These are just the longer ones I read to them.

William (age 8):
Double Fudge by Judy Blume
The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket
Superfudge by Judy Blume
The Austere Academy by lemony snicket
The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier
Nuts to You by Charlotte Rey Perkins
The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Isaac (age 5):
My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Elmer and the Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Catwings by Ursula K. Le Guin
Ricky Ricotta and his Might Robot #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Dragon Masters #1
Dragon Masters #2
Dog Man
Dog Man a Tale of two Kitties
The Miniature World of Marvin and James
James to the Rescue
Dragon Masters #3, 4, 5, 6, 7

101NanaCC
Dez. 30, 2018, 7:52am

You have a few books on your favorites list, Jennifer, that I keep meaning to read. Maybe 2019 will be the year.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and peaceful new year.