RidgewayGirl Reads in 2018, Part Three

Dies ist die Fortführung des Themas RidgewayGirl Reads in 2018, Part Two.

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RidgewayGirl Reads in 2018, Part Three

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Bearbeitet: Dez. 30, 2018, 1:09pm

I like to open my thread with something visual and so I thought this year I'd post pictures of art I liked that I discovered wandering around museums.

In honor of my recent trip to Charleston, which included a visit to the Gibbes Museum of Art, here's a painting called Rain in Charleston by Thomas Fransioli.

Currently Reading

Recently Read

Recently Acquired

Bearbeitet: Dez. 30, 2018, 1:16pm

America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
The Book of M by Peng Shepherd
Brass by Xhenet Aliu
Calypso by David Sedaris
Census by Jesse Ball
Circe by Madeline Miller
Country Dark by Chris Offutt
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro
Florida by Lauren Groff
Foe by Iain Reid
The Friend: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez
Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott
The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
His Favorites by Kate Walbert
The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
How To Be Safe by Tom McAllister
The Hush by John Hart
I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O'Farrell
I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt
The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon
The Italian Party by Christina Lynch
The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman
Kudos by Rachel Cusk
Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
Let's No One Get Hurt by Jon Pineda
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
Melmoth by Sarah Perry
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
The Outsider by Stephen King
Ohio by Stephen Markley
Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall
Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks
The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat
Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter
Promise by Minrose Gwin
Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
Severance bt Ling Ma
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Some Trick: Thirteen Stories by Helen DeWitt
Sugar Land by Tammy Lynne Stoner
Sunburn by Laura Lippman
Tangerine by Christine Mangan
There There by Tommy Orange
Transcription by Kate Atkinson
The Unforgotten by Laura Powell
Varina by Charles Frazier
Vox by Christina Dalcher
Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman
What Luck, This Life by Kathryn Schwille
When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors
White Houses by Amy Bloom
The Witch Elm by Tana French
You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld

Bearbeitet: Dez. 22, 2018, 10:46am

Books Arranged by the Nationality of the Author

Create Your Own Visited Countries Map

Pola Oloixarac (Savage Theories)

Martha Batalha (The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao)

Kate Atkinson (Transcription)
Belinda Bauer (The Facts of Life and Death)
Lucy Caldwell (Multitudes)
Lee Child (The Midnight Line)
Rachel Cusk (Kudos)
Sebastian Faulks (Paris Echo)
Lindsey Fitzharris (The Butchering Art)
Robert Galbraith (Lethal White)
Araminta Hall (Our Kind of Cruelty)
Sophie Hannah (Keep Her Safe)
Gail Honeyman (Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine)
Sophie Kinsella (My (Not So) Perfect Life)
Hari Kunzru (White Tears)
Jon McGregor (Reservoir 13)
Fiona Mozley (Elmet)
Maggie O'Farrell (I Am, I Am, I Am)
Sarah Perry (Melmoth)
Laura Powell (The Unforgotten)
Tom Rachman (The Italian Teacher)
John Webster (The Duchess of Malfi)

Iain Reid (Foe)
Richard Wagamese (Indian Horse)

Ling Ma (Severance) (country of birth)

Édouard Louis (The End of Eddy)
Leila Slimani (The Perfect Nanny)

Inge Jens (editor) (At the Heart of the White Rose: Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl)

Dina Nayeri (Refuge) (country of birth)

Ahmed Saadawi (Frankenstein in Baghdad)

Roddy Doyle (Smile)
Tana French (The Witch Elm)

Sayaka Murata (Convenience Store Woman)

Julián Herbert (Tomb Song)

New Zealand
Eleanor Catton (The Luminaries)

Maria Alyokhina (Riot Days)
Evgenii Vodolazkin (The Aviator)

Carlos Ruiz Zafón (Labyrinth of the Spirits)

Helene Tursten (Detective Inspector Huss)

Bearbeitet: Dez. 30, 2018, 1:18pm

United States
Megan Abbott (Give Me Your Hand)
Elliot Ackerman (Waiting for Eden)
Xhenet Aliu (Brass)
Jesse Ball (Census)
Elif Batuman (The Idiot)
Amy Bloom (White Houses)
Elaine Castillo (America is Not the Heart)
Christina Dalcher (Vox)
Natashia Deón (Grace: A Novel)
Marcy Dermansky (The Red Car)
Helen DeWitt (Some Trick: Thirteen Stories)
Hank Early (Heaven's Crooked Finger)
John T. Edge (The Potlikker Papers)
Percival Everett (So Much Blue, Watershed)
Kathleen A. Flynn (The Jane Austen Project)
Charles Frazier (Varina)
David Grann (Killers of the Flower Moon)
Lauren Groff (Florida)
Minrose Gwin (Promise)
John Hart (The Last Child, The Hush)
Jennifer Haupt (In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills)
Dorothy B. Hughes (In a Lonely Place)
Tayari Jones (An American Marriage)
Joseph Kanon (Defectors)
Harrison Scott Key (The World's Largest Man)
Patrisse Khan-Cullors (When They Call You a Terrorist)
Lydia Kiesling (The Golden State)
Stephen King (The Outsider)
Rachel Kushner (The Mars Room)
R. O. Kwon (The Incendiaries) (country of residence)
Christina Lauren (Dating You / Hating You)
Dick Lehr (Trell)
Winnie M. Li (Dark Chapter)
Eugene Lim (Dear Cyborgs)
Laura Lippman (Sunburn)
Christina Lynch (The Italian Party)
Ling Ma (Severance)
Betty MacDonald (The Egg and I)
Carmen Maria Machado (Her Body and Other Parties)
Rebecca Makkai (The Great Believers)
Christine Mangan (Tangerine)
Stephen Markley (Ohio)
Anthony Marra (A Constellation of Vital Phenomena)
Tom McAllister (How To Be Safe)
Molly McCloskey (Straying)
Michelle McNamara (I'll Be Gone in the Dark)
Claire Messud (The Burning Girl)
Madeline Miller (Circe)
Ottessa Moshfegh (My Year of Rest and Relaxation)
Dina Nayeri (Refuge) (country of residence)
Sigrid Nunez (The Friend: A Novel)
Alissa Nutting (Tampa: A Novel)
Flannery O'Connor (A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories)
Chris Offutt (Country Dark)
Ijeoma Oluo (So You Want to Talk About Race)
Tommy Orange (There There)
Jon Pineda (Let's No One Get Hurt)
Jamie Quatro (Fire Sermon)
George Saunders (Lincoln in the Bardo)
Kathryn Schwille (What Luck, This Life)
David Sedaris (Calypso)
Shanthi Sekaran (Lucky Boy)
Peng Shepherd (The Book of M)
Curtis Sittenfeld (You Think It, I'll Say It)
Karin Slaughter (Pieces of Her)
Tammy Lynne Stoner (Sugar Land)
Matthew Sullivan (Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore)
Nafkote Tamirat (The Parking Lot Attendant)
Luis Alberto Urrea (House of Broken Angels)
Kate Walbert (His Favorites)
Jesmyn Ward (Sing, Unburied, Sing)
Tara Westover (Educated: A Memoir)
Lidia Yuknavitch (The Book of Joan)
Leni Zumas (Red Clocks)

Okt. 2, 2018, 8:19pm

And my new thread is open for business.

Okt. 2, 2018, 10:41pm

I like your new painting.

Okt. 3, 2018, 8:15am

Colleen, I spent a lot of time with it at the Gibbes, which is a much better museum than I had anticipated, although there was a ton of 18th and 19th century portraits of wealthy people painted by indifferent artists. I did learn some interesting things about those portraits -- the outfits they're portrayed in aren't anything they ever wore. Artists would paint the faces, then let the clients choose from a catalog of opulent outfits (often much more expensive than anything they would ever own) and the artist would finish the painting with all the fictitious decorations the client wanted.

Bearbeitet: Okt. 3, 2018, 7:08pm

In a Lonely Place is the reminder I needed of how perfect those early noir novels are. Dorothy B. Hughes has written an extraordinary book told from the point of view of a very bad man. And even as she stays within his point of view throughout, she still manages to create strong female characters whose bravery shows despite the misogynistic lens through which they're seen.

Dix has moved to Los Angeles. He served in WWII in England where he was friends with Brub and when he is in Santa Monica one evening, he calls Brub up and they rekindle their friendship. There are two problems, one is that Brub is now a detective, working on solving a series of stranglings of young women, and the other is Brub's wife, who sees Dix much too clearly for his peace of mind.

What a fantastic novel this was. I enjoyed every paranoid, claustrophobic minute spent trapped in Dix's vile headspace.

Okt. 4, 2018, 1:29pm

Mitch Landrieu was mayor of New Orleans when the statues came down. His book, In the Shadow of Statues, is about why he decided that he needed to use all of the political capital he'd built up over decades of public service to bring them down and the challenges he faced in doing so. But first the book is about growing up in NOLA, and how he entered politics, what it was like living through Katrina (he was Lieutenant Governor at the time) and what that experience taught him, as well as a bunch of wonky details about the work of campaigning and governance.

It's a mixed bag. Landrieu is a likable guy and his perspective, as a white Southerner whose family has been in Louisiana for generations, is an interesting one. His father was mayor of New Orleans during the desegregation of the schools and his memories of that time were well worth reading. Landrieu has a talent for seeing people as people, whether that person is in prison, a politician in the opposing party or yelling at him in the street. That quality of valuing everyone is a good one for a politician to have (and for the rest of us, too).

But the book wandered off into the weeds for me for much of the middle section, as Landrieu talked about various political campaigns he'd run or been part of, and he sometimes fell into the carefully coached language of a seasoned political operative as he discussed what could and could not be achieved.

In the end, though, In the Shadow of Statues ended with the heart of the book, that difficult fight to pull down those symbols of racism and segregation in a city that has a majority black population and of what message those statues sent. As someone who was deeply immersed in the history of Louisiana, his journey from dismissal of the idea to coming to the realization that it was the right thing to do was fascinating. And his final words, the speech his most famous for, is a powerful piece of writing.

Okt. 6, 2018, 11:04pm

>15 RidgewayGirl: I was really proud of New Orleans. Those statues were no small thing, but some were major landmarks. Interesting choice to read this kind of book.

I was admiring your lists and how the year 2018 has it's own LT-touchstone-response-testing burgeoning list.

Okt. 10, 2018, 9:26am

Daniel, I've been slowly reading books by black authors about how racism is still alive and well in the US today, and I thought I'd like to hear about the same issue from a slightly different angle. In that, it was useful to me.

And this is what happened once I stopped thinking I needed to balance my reading across the decades and just read what interested me at the time. I like new and shiny books, where the author is out there giving interviews and talking about the book, people are reviewing and talking and it's just fun. Also, I like to see how authors are innovating and changing fiction, and how the world as it is now is reflected through the lens of fiction, if that makes sense.

Okt. 10, 2018, 9:26am

A Jack Reacher thriller is usually a reliably entertaining read. Lee Child has written a few that were duds, but the quality is generally high and The Midnight Line is a perfectly respectable entry into the series. In this one, Reacher finds a woman's class ring from West Point in a pawn shop and sets out to find the owner, a quest that takes him into the world of opioid drug dealing and addicted veterans, and also into Wyoming, which he likes.

I heard somewhere that Lee Child is one of those writers who don't write with an outline, but let the story take shape as they write. I suspect that a closer look at The Midnight Line would show the flaws of this way of writing a complicated thriller, but the Jack Reacher novels are intended as entertainment and in that, this novel succeeded for me.

Okt. 10, 2018, 1:28pm

>1 RidgewayGirl: Gorgeous painting. I don’t know this artist but I must Google him and see more of his work.

Okt. 10, 2018, 5:32pm

>18 RidgewayGirl: You and Vivienne have put Lee Child/Jack Reacher on my wishlist, but I haven’t started the series just yet. I’ll get there eventually..:)

Okt. 10, 2018, 7:18pm

>20 NanaCC: Colleen, the nice thing about Lee Child (as >18 RidgewayGirl: told me) is that the series doesn't have to be read in order.

Okt. 10, 2018, 7:44pm

>21 VivienneR: Even better! :)

Okt. 10, 2018, 9:57pm

>17 RidgewayGirl: I keep thinking some day I’ll go all new books, and maybe I will. My current reading, the single authors and the weird way I’m reading the bible does weird stuff to my habits and comfort zones, and patience. But, I feel guilty when I pull away and I feel like I’ve accomplished something when I put those books down. It’s kind of like I’ve programmed myself to be this way. But, someday, more new shiny books.

Okt. 11, 2018, 10:08am

Colleen, Lee Child is perfect when you need a book but can't put your full mind to it. Waiting rooms, while babysitting, a bad cold are all good times to go hitchhiking with Reacher. Just don't start a book late at night. The chapters are really short, so it's hard to not read just one more.

Daniel, I love your deep dives into an author's work. I suspect you're getting much more depth from your reading than my magpie-like running after the new and shiny.

School has been canceled today because of the rain and wind. I hope everyone in Michael's path is safe and dry.

Okt. 11, 2018, 11:52am

>24 RidgewayGirl: I hope you escape the worst of the hurricane, Kay. The weather has been crazy lately, and getting crazier.

Okt. 11, 2018, 1:15pm

Colleen, the worst is past us now, but I'm worried about those parts of NC and SC that were still underwater from Florence. The rivers were full before Michael showed up and where is that water going to go? And as of last night, the SC governor was saying that no preparations or actions were going to be taken because maybe the hurricane would head off to the other side of the Mississippi.

Okt. 11, 2018, 2:46pm

>26 RidgewayGirl: ”because maybe the hurricane would head off to the other side of the Mississippi.”

He probably believes in the Easter bunny too. ;(

Okt. 12, 2018, 5:53pm

Lethal White is the fourth installment in the series written by J K Rowling under the name Robert Galbraith. The series follows Cormoran Strike, who works as a private detective in London, England, and his partner, Robin, who originally worked for him as a temp assigned to corral his paperwork, but who has since become a detective herself. While each book in the series follows a different, unrelated crime, the real story is that of the friendship between Robin and Strike and so the series is best read in order.

As someone who has been waiting for this book for some time, I can tell you it did not disappoint. I'm eager for the next one and I'm glad that Rowling has hinted at plans for a lengthy series.

Okt. 12, 2018, 6:02pm

>28 RidgewayGirl: I’m glad you enjoyed it too. I wonder how long we will need to wait for the next. Maybe she won’t be writing plays and screenplays for a while. I think that is what held this one up.

Okt. 12, 2018, 6:39pm

Colleen, I'm just happy that she's planning to make it a ten book series.

Okt. 15, 2018, 9:18am

Catching up, including on your old thread. I’m intrigued by what you say about My Year of Rest and Relaxation. I found the characters in Moshfegh’s first novel, Eileen so unpleasant that it overshadowed any enjoyment I might have had of the novel as a whole, but now you say the characters here are supremely unpleasant, and it’s one of the best novels you’ve read this year. I just have to get my hands on it!

Bearbeitet: Okt. 15, 2018, 9:49am

>31 rachbxl: Rachel, take into consideration that I also loved Eileen and love novels with unpleasant characters. But it is very, very good and the protagonist here is more likable than Eileen.

Okt. 15, 2018, 10:49am

It's been ages since I've looked at Club Read threads.

That's a gorgeous painting. I passed through Charleston a couple of years ago and found the downtown area very beautiful.

Dorothy Hughes' Blackbirder is one of my all-time favorite novels, but it's a lighter read. I'll take a second look at In a Lonely Place.

Aside: I miss the old Femmes Fatales covers. There are now only a handful of the books in print through Feminist Press and they have very different covers.

Okt. 15, 2018, 11:35am

>33 libraryperilous: Yes, those old pulp-based covers are the best.

Okt. 15, 2018, 11:36am

His Favorites by Kate Walbert is a novel best read with as little knowledge about it as possible. The book begins with fifteen-year-old Jo hanging out with her two best friends one night, when they decide to steal a golf cart and go joy-riding around the course.

His Favorites is a very short novel, that covers a lot of ground, but each paragraph and sentence is so well-crafted, and the book is so well put together that it has the impact of a much larger work. If you decide to read it, I highly recommend learning as little as possible about the plot as possible.

Okt. 19, 2018, 2:35pm

I know we don't talk about politics here, and rightly so, but I met Senator Kamala Harris while phone banking today and it was amazing.

Okt. 19, 2018, 2:51pm

Kay - that’s awesome.

Okt. 19, 2018, 3:41pm

Verrry cool.

Okt. 19, 2018, 11:48pm


Okt. 20, 2018, 7:14am

Happily following you to your new thread :)

Okt. 22, 2018, 5:03pm

It's a lot harder to review a book I loved than one that I found flawed. And so I've put off reviewing The House of Broken Angels for a week now. Luis Alberto Urrea has filled this novel with a loud, boisterous extended family, brought together for a birthday celebration, let the reader see each character's struggles, flaws and dreams and then knit that all together into a novel with a great deal of heart.

Big Angel is dying, but he has one last birthday celebration before he goes. When his mother dies, he even postpones her funeral a week so that people won't have to make two trips. The House of Broken Angels takes place over a single weekend, where relatives are brought together at Big Angel's house in San Diego, from a university professor to an undocumented veteran, and everyone in between. Urrea draws a vivid portrait of a large family and of the complex and flawed man who has fought to protect them. He's both unsparing and compassionate in his portrayal and I was so sorry when the last chapter ended.

Okt. 22, 2018, 10:26pm

Urrea sounds terrific.

Okt. 23, 2018, 7:19am

>41 RidgewayGirl: I loved The Hummingbird's Daughter, which I think is the first of a trilogy. Haven't read any of the others, but that one was a standout.

Every time I see the cover of this book I read it as "House Broken Angels." I mean... you'd hope so, right?

Bearbeitet: Okt. 23, 2018, 8:34am

Daniel, Urrea is terrific. This is only the second of his I've read - the other was The Devil's Highway, non-fiction about migrants crossing into AZ and the terrible dangers they face along the way.

Lisa, I keep hearing that The Hummingbird's Daughter is good, and I've made a note to look for a copy.

Okt. 24, 2018, 10:48am

When The Duchess of Malfi is widowed, her two brothers are insistent that she not remarry, leaving her fortune intact for them. She remarries, but in secret, to a commoner, and they keep their secret long enough for her to bear three children. Eventually, though, they are betrayed, and by a trusted friend, the desperately ambitious Bosola. The play reminded me of Othello, being similar in the sheer quantity of murders and in increasingly overwrought behavior of everyone involved.

This was a surprisingly easy play to read. The play jumps forwards in time without explanation and the character development is minimal, but it's certainly entertaining.

Okt. 24, 2018, 11:39am

I rarely reread books, and never just a few months from the first read, but after hearing Tayari Jones discuss her novel, An American Marriage, at the Decatur Book Festival and my book club choosing it for October's book, I wanted to read it again.

The first time I read the book, I read it quickly. An American Marriage does not lack for forward momentum and it was good to read the novel more slowly, paying attention to language and how Jones chose to tell the story. I found it to be a stronger novel than I had initially thought and although there was a lack of character development in a few of the characters, it looked more deliberate on a second reading.

I enjoyed the act of rereading and I'd like to do more of it. I suspect though, that without the push of needing to be able to discuss a book in detail, my rereads will remain few and far between.

Okt. 25, 2018, 10:59am

Calypso by David Sedaris is just great. This is Sedaris at his best, with personal essays continuing the story of his life and his colorful family, although like his other collections, this one has moments of melancholy and clear-eyed sadness, especially as he discusses his mother's alcoholism and his sister's suicide. In Calypso, Sedaris buys the beach house his father had always talked about buying and much of the action takes place as he meets up with various members of the Sedaris clan at the Sea Section to do everything from feeding a lipoma to a turtle to playing Sorry with his niece.

Okt. 25, 2018, 4:18pm

>36 RidgewayGirl: That is awesome!

Okt. 25, 2018, 8:46pm

Just posting to say I enjoyed these three reviews. Really interesting to read about your re-reading An American Marriage.

Okt. 29, 2018, 10:14am

Saul Indian Horse is just a young boy when he is taken to live in a residential school, a boarding school set up to force First Nations children to lose their native way of life. It's a brutal life where many don't survive, and those that do are broken, but Saul finds an outlet and escape in hockey, playing first with other boys from the school, but then moving on to the Native League and further.

Richard Wagamese packs so much into this slender book, and does so with the assurance of a master at his craft. There's a real joy communicated as Saul plays hockey, and the harshness of his childhood is written about with a matter-of-factness that makes the abuse seem both routine and extraordinary. There's a grace to this harsh tale that will stay with me.

Nov. 1, 2018, 11:45am

Kathryn Schwille's debut novel, What Luck, This Life, is structured as a series of short stories and vignettes all centered on the dying town of Kiser, deep in the thickets of east Texas. When the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated in the air in 2003, the pieces rained down on this rural community. Schwille explores the lives of the ordinary people in Kiser, their dreams and disappointments, all against that measure of time of before and after the disaster.

Schwille's writing is similar to that of Elizabeth Strout and Alice Munroe. She has an eye for detail and a love of the ordinary. She manages a compassion for all of her characters from the most hapless to the most manipulative. This is an impressive debut and I'm looking forward to reading whatever she writes next.

Nov. 1, 2018, 4:39pm

More appealing shiny new books. Noting.

Nov. 1, 2018, 6:12pm

Damn, reading your thread is dangerous: What Luck, This Life, A House of Broken Angels, and
His Favorites just went onto the TBR list.

I read your comments on The Dutchess of Malfi and had to laugh because my initial reaction to The play reminded me of Othello, being similar in the sheer quantity of murders was the thought Oh yeah? Have you watched "Midsomer Murders"? (I've seen the whole series before but I'm binging on a repeat and have watched little else for weeks. I'm up to Season 14 of 20. What I'd like to know is, how is there anyone still alive there? (Not real, I know.)

Nov. 4, 2018, 2:13pm

It's been more than ten years since his brother, about to be caught sharing secrets with the Soviets, defected to the Soviet Union. Simon Weeks had to leave his job at the State Department, but connections and hard work have brought him a comfortable job as an editor with a New York publishing house. Now he's in Moscow. His brother has written a memoir and Simon is there to go over the final edits, always in the presence of his brother's handler. But all is not as it seems. His brother's wife is unhappy and Frank wants to return to the US for her sake.

Joseph Kanon has a skill for writing complex novels set in the immediate aftermath of WWII and Defectors is one of his best. Once again, a man of principle is placed into an impossible situation and how he works his way through all the various lies and subterfuges to find his way out is just a lot of fun. Kanon also writes vividly of Moscow in 1961 and of the peculiar world of American and British defectors living in the USSR and their precarious place of both suspicion and privilege.

Nov. 4, 2018, 2:21pm

Daniel, The Morning News Tournament of Books will be releasing their very long longlist next week. I'll be reading even more new books as soon as I've gotten to see what they found exciting in this year's novels.

Margaret, there are very few people left standing at the end of The Duchess of Malfi. The convenient thing about small English villages hit with a ridiculous number of murders is that the villages all seem to magically repopulate between episodes.

Nov. 4, 2018, 4:26pm

Vox: In which a popular and timely classic dystopian novel is reimagined in such a way as to remove all tension and danger, replacing them instead with romance, paper-thin characters and a ridiculous plot. I was hugely disappointed with Christina Dalcher's retelling of A Handmaid's Tale. There have been a few recent riffs on this classic vision of a society in which women are reduced to the contents of their uteruses published this year and, by and large, they have been well worth reading; imaginative and thought-provoking novels that take both Margaret Atwood's chilling tale and current events and say interesting things about the role of women. This was not one worth reading.

Jean is suffocating in this brave new world where women are fitted with bracelets that allow them only one hundred spoken words a day. She's more worried about her six year old daughter and what not being allowed to speak is doing to her development. And while she's sure her middle sons are fine, she actively dislikes her oldest son, who believes what he is being taught about gender roles. Her husband is nice and all, but even though he works in the current Administration, he's a passive and apolitical guy. Luckily, Jean is also an intelligent scientist who, in the final days before being sent home with all of the rest of the female workforce, and with the help of a super hot Italian dude scientist and a sassy Asian sidekick who is also a scientist, but strangely expendable, had just developed a serum that cures Werneke's aphasia. So when the President's brother develops exactly this medical issue, she's recalled for duty, her bracelet is removed and she's back being a scientist again, along with the hot Italian dude and her Asian sidekick friend.

Of course things are terrible and repressive and the lab they are working in is highly monitored, except for the parts with she and her sexy Italian lover are able to talk freely and also other things. She's torn, of course, between escaping with her sexy Italian lover and saving her daughter, and also she has to wrestle with the way her work is helping a repressive regime. Clearly, Jean will have to make some moral choices and people she love will die or be taken from her, right? Actually, not. Everything works out super fine for Jean and all the characters she likes. Yay!

Nov. 6, 2018, 5:11pm

>56 RidgewayGirl: I have been interested in your take of this book. Sorry about the disappointment. You are certainly harder on it than I, but I certainly can't disagree with much of what you wrote. I was able to suspend disbelief adequately to find the first half of the book very thought-provoking. How would one function in daily life if one's communication was limited so severely... But when the book starting dropping into thriller mode I mostly read to finish the story (the latter part of the book read like a mediocre SF book from the late 90s). Great review!

Bearbeitet: Nov. 9, 2018, 5:26pm

Lois, it was a quick read and there were some great ideas, but, oh, it was bad. I think that it did answer the question as to whether a grim dystopian tale about a misogynistic dictatorship can be successfully paired with steamy romance.

Nov. 7, 2018, 3:20pm

>58 RidgewayGirl: ha ha, Funny thing, I barely remember the 'romance'....

Nov. 13, 2018, 12:14pm

So Kate Atkinson has written another novel about WWII, this time coming at it from the direction of a young woman involved in spying on German sympathizers in London. At first, she simply types up transcripts of recorded conversations, but later her duties expand.

Transcription is the work of a master. Atkinson takes her time setting things up and then lets loose, finishing up with an ending that left me wanting to turn back to the first page and start the novel over again.

Nov. 13, 2018, 12:30pm

>60 RidgewayGirl: Oh good, I'm number 1 in line for this at the library. Can't wait!

Nov. 14, 2018, 4:32pm

Convenience Store Woman, by Japanese author Sayaka Murata, and translated into English by Ginny Tabley Takemori, is a novella about a woman who is happy and fulfilled with her job at a large convenience store. But as she ages, her friends marry and advance in their careers and a menial job is no longer acceptable. Keiko's happiness begins to falter at the pressure and disapproval. At the same time, a new employee, one who openly despises the job, begins work at the store.

This is just a delightful story. Keiko is an unusual narrator, utterly devoted to routine and rules, she carefully studies the demeanor of others to know how to behave. This leaves her unable to withstand the social opprobrium she faces from her friends and family. Keiko is such a wonderful character, and her story is told with such understated compassion.

Nov. 15, 2018, 5:32pm

I'm starting Transcription tonight, on what promises to be a very chilly evening. I like espionage tales on cold night.

Convenience Store Woman sounds utterly delightful.

Nov. 16, 2018, 11:36am

Diana, I think that Transcription is ideally read in long chunks of uninterrupted reading. I hope you enjoy it!

Nov. 23, 2018, 12:42pm

The Witch Elm sits at the bottom of the garden of the Dublin house once inhabited by Toby's grandparents. Now and during his teenage years, it has been lived in by Uncle Hugo, a gentle, easy-going man who allowed the teenage cousins, Toby, Susanna and Leon, to live there during the summer holidays and to hold parties. It's the place where the entire extended family gathers.

Toby is a young man with a job he loves, being in charge of PR for a prominent art gallery. He has an airy, modern flat, drives a BMW and has a girlfriend he adores. He's a charming guy who has always sailed through life until suddenly his luck changes, when he wakes one night to the sounds of intruders in his home.

Tana French takes her time setting the scene, developing the characters and their relationships with one another before she dives into the central mystery. She's less concerned with the crime than with how crime impacts the members of the Hennessy family, and especially Toby. While The Witch Elm lacks some of the heart and easy familiarity of her Dublin Murder Squad series, this is French's most skilled and complex novel to date and one well worth reading.

Bearbeitet: Nov. 23, 2018, 1:16pm

>65 RidgewayGirl: I just picked up The Witch Elm at the library this week, and will start it tonight. I had to finish Transcription first, which I did last night. I also just put my request in for Louise Penny’s new book, Kingdom of the Blind.

I just want to add that I agree with your assessment of Transcription. I would have loved to read it again right away, but had to get it back to the library.

Nov. 23, 2018, 1:34pm

Colleen, what did you think of that little tidbit of information dropped at the very end of Transcription?

Nov. 23, 2018, 4:59pm

>67 RidgewayGirl: I was surprised by the twist at the end, Kay. That was one of the reasons I wish that I had time to reread it. (I will eventually.) I would like to have seen if there were clues that I missed. You?

Nov. 23, 2018, 5:12pm

Exactly, Colleen. I know that Atkinson would have left indications, clues that I utterly missed as I read.

Nov. 25, 2018, 2:27pm

Potlikker is the liquid left in the pot after boiling greens like collards or mustard. During slavery, the owners would dine on the greens, while the liquid in the pot was left for the slaves to consume. This potlikker is far more nutritious than the boiled greens and modern Southern chefs have reclaimed it. The Potlikker Papers is a social history of food in the American South and how the food the South is known for, from fried chicken to hopping John to gumbo to po' boys is a result of the African, Native American and European cultures that influenced what we eat now. John T. Edge, is the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, and his passion for every aspect of Southern cuisine is evident in every page of this excellent book.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in food or who lives (or has lived) in the American South. For those who appreciate good food and live in one of the Southern states, it's required reading.

Darryl, this book has me eager to revisit Revival. What a wonderful dinner we all had there!

Nov. 25, 2018, 5:46pm

hmm, Transcription... might need to check that out. Very fun review of Vox and The Potlikker review left me hungry.

Nov. 25, 2018, 5:47pm

>71 dchaikin: You're in the South, Daniel. And there was quite a bit about the current food scene in Houston.

Nov. 29, 2018, 11:17am

Ohio is a big book with big ambitions. Stephen Markley has written a book that intends to take in the sweep of what it is to be an American in a specific place and time, and he mostly nails it. Bill returns to the Ohio town of New Canaan to deliver a package. He spends his first hours back doing his best to get as wasted as he can, as he wanders the streets, avoiding cops and talking with a guy who might have some drugs on him, a guy who attended high school at the same time, but who moved in different circles. At the same time, a few other people from that graduating class are back in town for Thanksgiving, one a vet, another a graduate student. As the visitors run into the people who never left, they remember their high school years.

Ohio felt to me like an attempt at writing the Great American Novel. There was a bit of everything in here, from the fate of a dying factory town, to the horrors of our foreign wars, to our political divide, to the opiod epidemic, to the struggles of getting by, to the experience of growing up gay and Evangelical. It's a lot and, for the most part, Markley manages to hit all the issues while crafting a character-driven novel that allowed for each of his disparate characters to be complex and sympathetic. Markley is skilled at giving that telling detail, delivered off-handedly, the kind of detail that sticks and makes a character into a breathing person.

There is a series of events in this book involving sexual assault. Markley manages to tread that very fine line of writing about the full effects of rape without downplaying or glorifying the abuse. And he writes so well about the effects on the teenage girl who lived through it. There is also a murder that is depicted with such vividness, and yet with no voyeuristic thrill to it. It's a terrible deed, done badly and the reader is left cringing and appalled.

The hardest part of a novel is knowing where to end it and this is Markley's one real misstep, the book was a chapter too long. Sometimes a story remains stronger and more resonant when not all the questions are answered. Still, this is a remarkable achievement for a debut novel and I'm eager to see what the author writes next.

Nov. 29, 2018, 1:00pm

Whoah - another pile of book bullets there! Some really interesting reads as always.

Dez. 1, 2018, 12:28pm

Great review of Ohio.

Dez. 1, 2018, 4:14pm

Alison, the longlist for the Tournament of Books has now been released and my reading will be filled with new and exciting novels.


Thanks, Daniel.

Dez. 1, 2018, 4:15pm

Tommy Orange's debut novel, There There, follows several Native Americans before and during a big Pow Wow in Oakland, California. Each of the many characters has a story to tell, and Orange gives them the space to tell it, not unlike Dene Oxendene, one of Orange's characters. He comes up with the idea of getting Indians to just talk about their life experiences, filming them telling their stories. He applies for a grant to finance his project, feeling out of his league in the interview stage, when surrounded by people with slick presentations. As the twelve characters in There There tell their own stories, Orange moves them purposefully toward the Pow Wow, where they will come together in ways both hopeful and disastrous.

There's a lot packed into this relatively slender novel. Orange has things to say and he will say them. Often when an author is angry or has a purpose behind his writing, it diminishes the writing, but this forcefulness works well with this novel of urban Indians navigating a world that has disadvantaged them without care or understanding. There are a lot of separate voices, but they sort themselves out as the book progresses. This is a remarkable achievement and I look forward to being broadsided by Tommy Orange again with whatever he writes next.

Dez. 1, 2018, 5:57pm

>73 RidgewayGirl: I've had Ohio on the pile for a while, and I liked that review a lot. I have a secret soft spot for the idea of the Great American Novel, as elusive as it may be, and I'm always eager to see what people come up with toward that end. Bumping it up a few notches—thanks.

Dez. 3, 2018, 9:25am

R. O. Kwon's The Incendiaries begins with the end; a group of people standing on a rooftop and watching an explosion in the distance and celebrating. And then the novel returns to the start of the story, when an awkward sophomore, who transferred from his Bible College when he lost his faith, is standing alone at a party when he has a drink spilled on him by the vivacious, popular Phoebe. Both have secrets. Will's are routine and prosaic - he doesn't have money and to get by works at an Italian restaurant on the other end of town. He also has a difficult relationship with his mother. Phoebe's secrets go much deeper - her mother is dead and she feels it was her fault, the specific circumstances change over the course of the book, and she had devoted her entire childhood to the piano, and once giving that up, she's left floundering for purpose. Which leaves her open to the oddly charismatic John, who reportedly was held for a time in a North Korean labor camp, and who arrives in town and begins to drawn people to him and his version of Christianity, carefully controlling who is allowed in.

A lot is going on in this slender novel. Kwon tells the story from the viewpoints of the two main characters and she dives deeply into who they are and what motivates them. I found Will to be the more compelling character as he struggles with his girlfriend becoming more and more entangled with John's cult, and his own ambivalence about his past. There are a lot of ideas here, presented with some beautiful writing.

Dez. 3, 2018, 9:28am

>78 lisapeet: Lisa, I agree. There is something about the sheer audacity of attempting the Great American Novel, and that Markley just went for it in his debut novel is something. He did take a pretty good stab at it, I thought.

Dez. 5, 2018, 10:12am

Iain Reid first came to my attention with his eerie horror novel, I'm Thinking of Ending Things. It was so well conceived and there was a twist at the end that I never saw coming, yet was carefully written into every chapter of the book. So I was quick to grab a copy of his new novel, Foe, which I read watching for any clue as to what would come next. It did me no good. I spotted nothing and was exactly as surprised as when I wasn't expecting it.

Foe tells the story of Junior and his wife, Hen, who live in an isolated farmhouse in a rural area. Junior works in a local grain mill, Hen in a nursing home and while their lives are simple and quiet, Junior is content. And then a man from the government shows up at their house with some astonishing news, Junior has been put on a long list of candidates to go build a space colony. As they wait to hear back, their relationship goes off-kilter, even more so when the government man returns with more exciting news.

Foe is all about atmosphere, and this rising sense that things are wrong, without precisely being about to say how or why. Reid sets this novel in a near-future where things are almost, but not quite, identical to how things are now, creating a sense of being off-balance that he uses to enhance the reader's sense of both familiarity and dislocation. This book is just fantastic and I'm still thinking it over.

Dez. 5, 2018, 2:58pm

The Book of M begins with a couple hiding out. They've run out of food and Ory is determined to go and find something in Arlington, the nearest city. He's equally determined that Max remain behind and wait for him. As Peng Shepherd's novel continues, she describes a world in chaos. People are losing their memories and, as they forget things, they alter the way their surroundings are structured. The only way to know who is infected and who is not is that those who are losing their memories first lose their shadows.

This is a highly imaginative work of fiction by an author who is unafraid to stray far from scientific reasons and effects and into the metaphysical. There were a lot of interesting ideas woven into this world. In the end, this is a novel filled with odd and wonderful ideas, and the world-building often took precedence over character development. Certainly one of the better dystopian novels I have read this year.

Dez. 6, 2018, 9:41am

>81 RidgewayGirl:, >82 RidgewayGirl: These both sound fabulous, especially Foe, which wasn't on my radar at all.

Dez. 6, 2018, 9:43am

>83 libraryperilous: Iain Reid's last novel, I'm Thinking of Ending Things, is being made into a movie, so I expect that he'll be more widely known soon.

Dez. 6, 2018, 3:58pm

Oh dear, more books for the TBR pile, especially The Defectors, The Book of M, and Foe. And I'm going to go over and take a look at I'm thinking of Ending Things, too.

Bearbeitet: Dez. 8, 2018, 5:38pm

>70 RidgewayGirl: Nice review of The Potlikker Papers, Kay. I'll add it to my wishlist, and I may consider buying it as a Christmas gift for an ailing partner of mine.

I saw my barber early this morning in his shop, which is on Auburn Avenue on the same intersection as Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Daddy King, MLK's father, preached for many years, and a stone's throw away from the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park. I told him about the great meal we had at Revival, one of Chef Kevin Gillespie's signature restaurants, and I'm eager to return there ASAP.

Dez. 9, 2018, 4:17pm

>86 kidzdoc: The most convenient time to return to Revival would probably be Labor Day weekend. I hear they do a nice Sunday brunch.

Dez. 10, 2018, 1:56pm

Carlos Ruiz Zafón says in The Labyrinth of Spirits that the beginnings of books are merely entry points and that his quartet, The Cemetery of Forgotten Books can be jumped into at any point. While possible, I do think that this is a series that rewards being read in order, in seeing the Sempere family change over time, and in truly enjoying the way this final novel ties up old story-lines. Each of the four novels is different from the other, and The Labyrinth of Spirits is an old-fashioned noir, where the hard-boiled, quick-witted, world-weary and self-destructive detective is also the femme fatale.

Alicia Gris lost her mother to a wartime bomb in Barcelona, Spain. She is escapes across the rooftops as the city burns, pulled from the wreckage by a family friend, who loses her when she falls through a glass dome and into the mysterious cemetery of books, a labyrinthine library. She is terribly injured in the fall, and those injuries still affect her now that she's an adult and working in Madrid for a secretive agency working for Franco's government. When a powerful cabinet member disappears, leaving behind his daughter and a banned book, Alicia is pulled in to partner with a police detective to find him. Their path takes them to Barcelona, to secrets from the past and to a small bookstore run by the Sempere family.

No one does atmosphere like Zafón. His version of Barcelona appears like an old movie, all fog and shadows, a black and white homage to a complex and colorful city. Alicia is a wonderful character to follow. She's the one men fall in love with, but she also terrifies them. She's good at her job, and her job is not one for the faint of heart. Still, she is drawn to the warm family life of the Semperes and will need their help to not only solve the mystery, but to survive.

This novel was a delight. The plot was convoluted and tended to wander off into lengthy tangents, but the whole journey was just so entertaining that I was happy for each of the more than 800 pages.

Dez. 14, 2018, 9:33am

In Dark Chapter, Winnie M Li's debut novel, Vivian, a young Asian American woman sets out for what she hopes will be a pleasant and relaxing hike on the outskirts of Belfast, Northern Ireland. But not long into the walk she encounters a teenage boy. What happens will change both of their lives forever.

This is a book about rape and its aftermath. The author had a similar experience and the novel is both an honest depiction of what happens, in both the legal sense and in the ramifications for her. Li also imagines the life and thoughts of the boy who rapes Vivian who, as an Irish traveller, lived a marginalized life even before he committed a violent rape. Dark Chapter was well-written and the bravery required to write it is unquestionable, even as the subject matter made it difficult to read at points.

Dez. 14, 2018, 10:41am

Elliot Ackerman's powerful short novel, Waiting for Eden, concerns a soldier named Eden who was injured in the Iraq War. Narrated by his dead best friend, who was in the same vehicle when it drove over an explosive, the novel describes how Eden's wife sits by his bedside and advocates for him, caring for him tirelessly, despite being the mother of a young child and that Eden is incapable of communicating, covered in burns and with terrible brain injuries.

This novel is one that pulls no punches. Eden's injuries are not glossed over, nor are the conditions of the VA hospital he is in. It reminded me so much of Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun, both in the nature of the injuries sustained by the soldier, but also in the clear rage at the fate of a man who was once so full of promise, but who was ground down by multiple deployments even before he was injured. Ackerman probes what deployment does to an otherwise strong marriage and his depiction of Eden's thoughts and experiences is stark and brilliant. This is a novel well worth reading and one that will be read for some time to come.

Dez. 18, 2018, 4:01am

>81 RidgewayGirl: >82 RidgewayGirl: these covers are so similar I thought it was a series by the same author. I don't think the publisher strayed too far in terms of the designer it used for both!

Dez. 21, 2018, 5:13pm

I'm not going to summarize the plot to Jamie Quatro's first novel, Fire Sermon, because the book is less interested in a plot than it is in exploring faith and infidelity. This is a gutsy book and Quatro is fearless in writing a book that is guaranteed to alienate a large proportion of its potential readers. The novel centers on a woman who is deeply committed to her Evangelical faith and who also has an extra-marital relationship. See? A bunch of you decided not to read the book because of one thing or the other.

Fire Sermon is an introspective and thoughtful novel, one that is willing to explore ideas and doesn't flinch from honestly portraying some very uncomfortable themes. While I disagreed with the protagonist often, there's no question that she wrestled with her thoughts and actions. I'm looking forward to reading whatever Quatro writes next and I've got her earlier book of short stories on my wish list.

Dez. 21, 2018, 5:14pm

>91 AlisonY: Alison, at least the covers aren't of women facing away. There is certainly a shortage of cover design that is surprising or innovative.

Dez. 21, 2018, 7:57pm

>92 RidgewayGirl: Actually that makes me more inclined to read it. I like some good moral thorniness in a novel.

Bearbeitet: Dez. 21, 2018, 8:19pm

>94 lisapeet: I do, too, Lisa. I was eager to read Fire Sermon from the first description I read of it and this piece made me buy a copy.


Bearbeitet: Dez. 23, 2018, 11:12am

I have enjoyed every single book by Sebastian Faulks that I have read, and loved On Green Dolphin Street so much, so my reluctance to read Paris Echo makes no sense at all, except that the bare outline of the description made me nervous. Hannah, an American post-doc, comes to Paris ten years after her last stay, to do research into the lives of ordinary Parisian women during the Second World War. Tariq is an Algerian teenager who, through a series of events, ends up as a lodger of sorts in her small apartment. I think I was worried about what would happen in the wrong hands, that Tariq would do something terrible, or Hannah would, and I would be left feeling unhappy about the novel.

But Sebastian Faulks is not a first-time author looking to write something edgy or controversial. He knows exactly what he's doing. Here, Hannah is a naturally cautious woman who is used to being alone. She's given access to a series of recordings of women recalling their wartime experiences living in Paris and she is drawn into their lives. Meanwhile, Tariq is figuring out how to survive in a city that doesn't welcome him. His natural resilience means he's willing to explore the city and he especially loves the Metro. He gets a menial job at the fabulously named Paname Fried Poulet spends his free time exploring. The careful way they manage to form a friendship is just wonderful.

There's a clever bit of blurred time in this novel, but the main thing is how evocatively Faulks describes a Paris, not of tourists and grand avenues, but of immigrants, not always in France legally, trying to get by and of ordinary Parisian women during the war, and how they managed to survive. There were moments where it was clear that Faulks is much more comfortable with the thoughts of teenagers living eighty years ago than with a teenager today and he sometimes adds actions and thoughts to Tariq that don't feel entirely natural, but this was still an extraordinary novel, that I enjoyed thoroughly.

Dez. 22, 2018, 6:54pm

Oh, that looks good. When someone features a book I'm not familiar with, a lot of the time I'll go to the LT page and check out the Recommendations section to get a... I don't know, a taste? a sense? for the book, and see where it overlaps with my own collection. Do other folks here do that? Anyway, that seems like it would be right up my alley.

Dez. 22, 2018, 11:28pm

Reading through your last several posts makes me think there maybe are some good new books out there. A lot of great reviews.

Dez. 23, 2018, 11:19am

>97 lisapeet: Lisa, it had never occurred to me to look!

>98 dchaikin: So many good, interesting new books!

Dez. 25, 2018, 1:23pm

Elaine Castillo's debut novel is about a Filipino family in Milpitas, California. Paz is a nurse who emigrates from the Philippines to take a nursing job in California, when Pol, a doctor she had had a relationship with, needs to leave the Philippines, they marry and have a daughter. Paz supports her family, as well as a number of siblings and cousins, sending money back to the Philippines and helping those in the US as well. She works two jobs, often adding extra shifts so that she often gets home long after everyone is in bed, and is gone before they wake in the morning. Pol works as a security guard, working through his naturalization papers. When his sister, Hero, moves in, entering the US on a tourist visa, she takes care of their daughter and learns to negotiate this new country, even as she deals with what happened in the Philippines.

The experience of Filipinos in the US is one I know almost nothing about and I enjoyed getting a glimpse of that culture and how it adjusts to life in the US. Hero is a fascinating character to follow. She is guarded and quick to shut out people, so learning about her was a gradual process. Life in the Filipino community of Milpitas is almost as foreign to her as it was to this reader and that angle allowed Castillo to explain without it feeling like she was dumbing things down for her readers. Castillo also structures things well, having a prologue that gives the story of Paz's life in the Philippines, so that although she is largely absent from the narrative, she remains central in the reader's mind.

America is Not the Heart has it's clumsy moments and a romantic relationship overwhelms the novel for a stretch, but this is an solid addition to American literature and I look forward to reading whatever Elaine Castillo writes next.

Dez. 25, 2018, 9:23pm

>91 AlisonY: I just picked up a stray ARC of the Ackerman. I never know when I'm going to want to pick up a short book. Good to know that if I do, it will be worth it.

>100 RidgewayGirl: I lived in Milpitas, CA for a year in '77-78. Worked for the police department there. I can't imagine a book set there:-)

Dez. 26, 2018, 10:59am

>101 avaland: I wonder if America is Not the Heart is the first novel set in Milpitas. I like when novels are set somewhere that isn't already memorialized in print. A book set in Milpitas is a rarer thing than a book set in San Francisco (where all the security guards, hairstylists, restaurant workers and medical staff can't afford to live in anyway).

And Waiting for Eden is a strong book. Read it when you want to be smacked in the head.

Dez. 26, 2018, 11:57am

In a small town in Texas in the summer of 1923, Miss Dara falls in love with a girl. Terrified of what that means and what her family and community would think, she flees to the safety of the kitchen of the farm prison at Sugarland, which isn't a safe place for a young woman, but she makes a place for herself nonetheless.

Sugar Land follows the life of Miss Dara from a young woman falling in love, to a cook in a difficult environment who makes a few friends; an inmate with immense musical talent, another cook whose quiet decency protects her, and the prison warden, to a wife and step-mother and through to the end of her life.

Despite the bleakness of Miss Dara's surroundings and her situation of always have to conceal who she really is, Tammy Lynne Stoner keeps the tone of the novel upbeat. Miss Dara is simply too pragmatic and too optimistic to allow herself to do anything other than to persevere and to take joy out of what she can, from a stray cat to the trailer she'll eventually call home.

This is a novel about family, and about loving the family and friends that you are given. It's about learning to accept oneself and to accept others as they are and not as you'd wish them to be. Sugar Land is published by the very small Red Hen Press and it reminded me of how small presses are constantly publishing interesting and unusual novels, and how finding and reading books put out by small presses is always rewarding.

Dez. 27, 2018, 3:40pm

>102 RidgewayGirl: "Read it when you want to be smacked in the head." That's a GREAT line :-)

Dez. 28, 2018, 5:29pm

Not long ago, I decided that the genres of romance and dystopian lit don't mesh very well. Now, I'm here to say that dystopian lit meshes superbly with literary fiction, with Severance by Ling Ma being my sole example.

Candace is a young woman living in New York. She shares an apartment with a friend, throwing parties and filling her blog, NY Ghost, with pictures of the city she is growing to love. She's met a guy she likes and eventually finds a job at a publishing company, supervising the printing of various Bibles, which involves her going on business trips to China, the country she emigrated from when she was six years old and her father received a grant to get his doctorate at a university in Utah.

Ma writes so engagingly about Candace, a woman who prefers to have things happen to her than to take decisive action. Her job's not great, but it's not bad. Her boyfriend isn't perfect, but he's not terrible. When Shen Fever reaches New York, she keeps going into her job in Manhattan. Once bus service ends, she stays in an empty office and continues to send emails to China, and filing status reports, despite the rapidly diminishing number of people coming in to work. Long after she's the last one working, she finally leaves New York and finds a small group to travel with. The group's leader wants to be some kind of cult leader, but no one really takes him seriously, or at least Candace doesn't.

What made this novel work is that all of it was so interesting. Ma makes Candace's memories of growing up in Salt Lake City and of being generally aimless in New York as fascinating as life in the cult, traveling across the depopulated US, stopping now and then to "go stalking," which is to say, breaking into people's houses and stealing stuff. As the group becomes more restrictive, Candace awakens to the fact that she will have to take decisive action if she wants to survive.

Dez. 30, 2018, 8:04am

Thank you for adding to my wish list again this year, Kay.

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

Dez. 30, 2018, 8:11am

>106 NanaCC: Ditto that—you and I have similar taste, Kay, and I've been taking note of the books you recommend. I'd seen Severance around forever but it had, for whatever reason, gone just under my radar. I think I'll have to find a copy now because that sounds good—thank you!

And a healthy, happy, New Year to all.

Dez. 30, 2018, 1:20pm

Thanks, Colleen. See you soon in 2019.

Lisa, it's really good. Happy new year to you, too.

And I've just finished two five star reads, The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai and A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. Will spend the next week reading crime novels and non-fiction in an attempt to recover.

Dez. 30, 2018, 3:12pm

The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling begins with a woman's sudden decision to leave work mid-morning, pack a few bags, collect her baby from daycare and drive out to the high country of northern California, where she has inherited her grandparent's house. She misses the space and the smell of the air and the sheer weight of working, caring for her daughter, managing to pay the bills and all the daily hassles of life in San Francisco have worn her down. Her husband, though a bit of dishonesty on the part of Immigration, surrendered his Green Card and while they battle the system and pay for a lawyer, he's stuck back in Turkey.

But life in a rural community is not quite the respite she'd thought it would be. For one thing, she's still the sole caregiver to a toddler, a challenging, rewarding and yet mind-bogglingly boring task. And it's not like the dying neighborhood she's landed in is going to provide much in the way of social interaction. At best, there's Cindy, the neighbor who has joined a separatist movement or the elderly lady who is always in the diner when they go there to get out of the house.

This is a novel that isn't afraid to make clear the repetitive and constant work of raising a toddler. The forward movement of the plot is constantly hindered by Honey's need for constant care and supervision. The space Daphne needs to figure out what to do is filled instead with the need to monitor what Honey eats, when she naps, how she's doing. I don't think I've come across a clearer picture of what it means to have a baby in fiction, layered in with what life in a dying rural community is like, the reactions she receives when people find out that she's married to someone they blithely categorize as a possible terrorist, and the challenges of a long-distance marriage conducted over a slow and unreliable internet connection.

Dez. 31, 2018, 5:00pm

The Great Believers tells the story of the AIDs crisis from the vantage point of the Boystown neighborhood of Chicago. Rebecca Makkai begins the novel with a wake, a gathering of Nico's partner, his sister and his friends, who were specifically not invited to the funeral held by his parents. The novel moves forward from there, and a second plot-line follows Nico's sister, Fiona, in 2015, as she looks for the daughter who cut ties some years ago.

This is perhaps the best book I've read this year. It's just superbly written, and the way the stories mesh together is brilliant. I'm already looking forward to rereading this book.

Dez. 31, 2018, 5:17pm

Five years ago, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra was the book everyone was talking about and somehow, despite my love of the new and shiny and talked about, I missed it. But I've read it now, and it's just wonderful.

After two intense reading experiences, I retreated to the comfort of a nice novel about serial killers. What You Don't Know by JoAnn Chaney was an above average book in which two detectives and a reporter find their lives permanently affected by the time they spent with a man who tortured and murdered twenty-two people and buried their corpses in the crawl space of his Denver home. Seven years after he was found guilty and imprisoned, people associated with the killer are murdered, in ways that bear an uncanny resemblance to the original crimes.

While it wasn't difficult to figure out who the killer was, the characters were well-developed and the plot was neither too arcane nor too predictable. I enjoyed it.

Well, that's it for 2018. I look forward to spending time with you all next year!

Jan. 3, 2019, 2:25am

>110 RidgewayGirl: Hurrah! I loved this book, hope that it gets more attention (and readers) when it comes out in paperback. So moving and thoughtful about the impact of such a loss.

Thanks for all the great books you read and reviewed (and made me want to read) in 2018. Looking forward to more of the same this year.

Jan. 3, 2019, 9:20am

I’m patiently (sort of) waiting for my turn with The Great Believers at the library. I hear it’s set in Chicago, which being my hometown, I think will add to it even more for me.

Jan. 3, 2019, 9:44am

Charlotte, it's so good. It's received quite a bit of attention here in the US, and every bit of it is deserved. I heard her speak at a book festival and it was really interesting.

Jennifer, it will be interesting to hear what you think of it. It does make reference to neighborhoods and areas in Chicago, which was all just background for me, but to you that will be much more meaningful.

Jan. 3, 2019, 10:40am

>111 RidgewayGirl: I loved A Constellation of Vital Phenomena when I read it in 2015. Definitely a recommended book.

Jan. 3, 2019, 10:42am

Colleen, it was so wonderful. I'm going to read his next book soon.

Feb. 27, 2019, 3:22am

>105 RidgewayGirl:

I also very much enjoyed Severance. I think the author could have taken the satire of NYC a little bit further instead of going full dystopian novel by the end but I still thought it was really well done. As you say she made things very interesting and I liked all she avoided all the cliche that usually surround books about NYC and dystopian books in general.

Bearbeitet: Feb. 27, 2019, 7:00am

>111 RidgewayGirl: I've lagged behind on that one, though I loved his The Tsar of Love and Techno and the LT Recommendations feature gives me back about 20 books I've read and liked (not foolproof readers' advisory, but I often click on it just to get a sense of the "flavor" of a book, even though I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy that one).

Feb. 27, 2019, 4:20pm

>114 RidgewayGirl: I'm glad - it seemed to disappear here. I'm hoping it might still get picked up by the Orange prize (if it fits their dates - I'm never sure!)