Nickelini's Category Challenge 2021

Forum2021 Category Challenge

Melde dich bei LibraryThing an, um Nachrichten zu schreiben.

Nickelini's Category Challenge 2021

Bearbeitet: Jan. 24, 5:46pm

I'm back again this year with an assortment of categories-- most of which I've done before. I guess I know what I like. This thread is a bit of a copy of the opening pages of my physical book bullet journal, and that's my main record-keeping spot. I've also added the lists from my bingo cards.

My main thread is over at the Club Read 2021 group

Just parking this here for now (countries I've physically visited)

Create Your Own Visited Countries Map

Bearbeitet: Jun. 26, 12:28am

CANLIT - Canadian books

1. Moon of the Crusted Snow, Waubgeshig Rice (First Nations)
2. The Better Mother Jen SookfongLee (Chinese Canadians)
3. Bride of New France, Suzanne Desrochers (Quebec history)
4. We All Fall Down, Daniel Kalla

Bearbeitet: Mai 24, 11:55pm

Bearbeitet: Jun. 26, 12:29am


1. The Chalet, Catherine Cooper
2. Whatever, Michel Houellebecq
3. Bride of New France, Suzanne Desrochers
4. One More Croissant For the Road

Bearbeitet: Mai 24, 11:56pm


1. There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
2. A Fairy Tale, Jonas Bengtsson
3. Hansel and Greta, Jeanette Winterson

Bearbeitet: Mai 24, 11:57pm


1. The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett
2. Passing, Nella Larson
3. Anxious People, Fredrik Backman
4. Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Stuart Turton

Bearbeitet: Jun. 26, 12:31am


1. The Lost Spell, Robert MacFarlane (touchstone goes to the wrong Robert MacFarlane book)
2. The Weather Detective, Peter Wohlleben
3. Machiavelli: Philosopher of Power, Ross King

Bearbeitet: Jun. 26, 12:31am


1. Alpine Cooking: Recipes and Stories from Europe's Grand Mountaintops, Meredith Erickson
2. One More Croissant For the Road, Felicity Cloake

Bearbeitet: Jun. 26, 12:32am


Civita di Bagnoregio, between Rome & Florence. I visited in 2009

Venice Rising: Aqua Granda, Pandemic, Rebirth; various
Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino
A Girl Returned, Donatella Di Pietrantonio
Dreaming of Italy, TA Williams

Bearbeitet: Apr. 25, 7:33pm


1. The Gilded Cage, Camilla Lackberg (Swedish)
2. Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill, Dimitri Verhulst (Dutch)
3. The Housekeeper and the Professor, Yoko Ogawa (Japanese)

Bearbeitet: Jul. 17, 1:19pm

NEW TO ME (new books, new topics)

25th Anniversary Bridget Jones's Diary (And Other Writing)
Bitter Orange, Claire Fuller

Bearbeitet: Jun. 26, 12:33am

BIG BOOKS books that are physically large, not necessarily long

1. The End of Her, Sheri Lapena
2. The Hunting Party, Lucy Foley
3. How to Build a Girl, Caitlin Moran
4. Anxious People, Backman
5. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Stuart Turton

Bearbeitet: Jun. 26, 12:25am


I created 2 cards for myself (based on my interests), that I track in my physical book bullet journal. Here are the lists of questions:

Card One
1. Written by female Italian author A Girl Returned
2. A physically large book - Theft By Finding
3. A bird on the cover - The Lost Spells
4. Set in BC or author from BC - Food Floor: My Woodwards Years
5. Set in a place I’ve never visited - Dunger (New Zealand, but one day I'll get there . . . )
6. My British women
7. A classic
8. About food - One More Croissant For the Road
9. By, or about, Virginia Woolf
10. Features a forest - Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill
11. Author named Penelope
12. Snow on the cover - The Hunting Party
13. Book published the year I left school
14. Set in a country house - The Likeness
15. An Asian author - The Better Mother
16. A retelling
17. From my TBR - The Weather Detective
18. Romance - Dreaming of Italy
19. Features a murder
20. Virago
21. Has a place name in the title - The Essex Serpent
22. A gorgeous cover - The Wanderer
23. 1001 list - Whatever
24. Set in Australia

Card Two
1. A short story collection - There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband and He Hanged Himself
2. Book club – selected by someone else - The Vanishing Half
3. Animal in the title or on the cover
4. Features bees or beekeepers - Here Is The Beehive
5. Read a book in Italian
6. Memoir written by a woman - Beyond the Pale
7. Mid-century modern
8. Bought in 2021 - Venice Rising
9. Written between 1882 & 1941
10. Set on an island (not Britain or Ireland) -Happisland (Iceland)
11. Author named Sarah
12. Set during spring - Mothering Sunday
13. Historical fiction- Bride of New France
14. Set in the Alps -The Chalet
15. Translated from French -
16. Fairytale, myth, - Hansel & Greta
17. I’ve owned over 10 yrs - Housekeeper & the Professor
18. Bildungsroman - Purple Hibiscus
19. An intriguing title - Moon of the Crusted Snow
20. Europa Editions - Peace Talks
21. Book cover in one colour - How to Build a Gril
22. An ugly cover
23. Over 400 pages long -Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
24. One word title - Passing

1. May

Dez. 27, 2020, 12:08pm

Hi, Joyce. I'm looking forward to following along on your 2021 reading journey.

Dez. 27, 2020, 12:19pm

I like your idea of making up your own bingo card. I may have to borrow that idea.

Dez. 27, 2020, 12:29pm

>16 dudes22:

I did it after I looked at about a dozen book Bingo cards and all of them had too many squares that I'd never check off in a million years of reading. "A middle school novel that includes a baseball game," "a science fiction novel where the aliens can read minds," etc.

Dez. 27, 2020, 10:23pm

Welcome back! I hope you enjoy your reading this year.

Dez. 28, 2020, 7:55pm

Have a wonderful time with your 2021 reading!

Dez. 30, 2020, 7:08am

I love the idea of creating your own bingo cards. Enjoy your reading!

Dez. 30, 2020, 8:59am

I also like the idea of creating your own bingo cards! Looking forward to seeing what makes the cut for the "ugly cover" square on card 2. Well, also looking forward to seeing the "gorgeous cover" on card 1, but sometimes ugly covers are so bad they're good! Have a great reading year :)

Jan. 1, 12:42pm

Lovely to find your thread and wishing you Happy New Year, Joyce! I am looking forward to following your 2021 reading.

Jan. 1, 4:16pm

>17 Nickelini: Wow, those are very specific topics!

Jan. 1, 4:16pm

Happy New Year! Popping in to follow a few people's threads, but I'm afraid there may be too many to keep up. So, I may or may not continue throughout the year! Happy reading!

Jan. 2, 4:46pm

The Lost Spells, Robert MacFarlane, illustrations by Jackie Morris, 2020

cover comments: gorgeous

Comments: A stunningly beautiful book with some poetry, all about the natural world, and leaning toward the British and the wintery. I was lukewarm on MacFarlane's prose but the illustrations by Jackie Morris were outstanding

Recommended for readers of all ages who enjoy nature and physically beautiful books

Rating: 4 stars

Why I Read This Now: seemed like the perfect book to read on a rainy New Year's Day

Jan. 2, 6:14pm

I've seen Lost Spells and agree that the illustrations are great. Best wishes for a fine reading year!

Jan. 2, 6:42pm

What a beautiful book! It looks absolutely gorgeous!

I keep a physical book journal, too, it's mainly for the dates when I read a book and for beautiful quotes.

Jan. 3, 5:06am

>25 Nickelini: "I was lukewarm on MacFarlane's prose but the illustrations by Jackie Morris were outstanding"

This was exactly my reaction to their earlier book The Lost Words.

Jan. 5, 12:13pm

Welcome back! Good luck with your personal Bingo cards, that's a great idea!

Bearbeitet: Jan. 15, 4:35am

BINGO: Has a place in the title

The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry, 2016

cover comments: Gorgeous perfection How can you go wrong with using William Morris elements for a late Victorian era novel? There were a few copies at the used bookstore and I found the most pristine. And then got home to find that I'd spilled half a bottle of Perrier on it in the bag, and so my copy is rather wibbly and not in any condition to ever display on a shelf.

Comments: An intricate historical novel set in the late Victorian period. (Sorry, I had a death in my family today and I'm just not up to giving a book report on this. Maybe I'll come back later and add one).

Rating 4 stars. Excellent structure, excellent writing, great exploration of themes. But the story was not really what I'm personally interested in at the moment, and so overly long for me.

Why I Read This Now: I recently noticed that the book started on New Year's Eve, and I needed a book to start on December 31st.

Recommended for: people who want to read well-written historical fiction set in the late Victorian period. It reminded me of Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. It also reminded me of Once Upon a River, which I slogged through last January, but the Essex Serpent is a much better book.

Jan. 15, 8:24am

>30 Nickelini: I'm so sorry that you've had a family loss. I'll keep you and your family in my thoughts.

Jan. 15, 5:27pm

>30 Nickelini: I am sorry to hear about the loss in your family, Joyce. That is one gorgeous book cover!

Bearbeitet: Jan. 19, 2:06am

>31 scaifea:, >32 DeltaQueen50:

Thanks, I appreciate it.

>32 DeltaQueen50:
Judy, I can't remember what groups you're on but I finally read Dunger, which has been at the top of my massive TBR pile for too many years. It was just the right book for the right time, so thank you! I just posted about it on my main thread - ClubRead2021, and also the ROOTS group. I can't figure out how to fit it into my category challenge.

Jan. 20, 1:05pm

>33 Nickelini: I am glad that you enjoyed Dunger, Joyce. It's always good to have a couple of those lighter works on the pile to give one a break from the more serious tomes.

Jan. 20, 5:27pm

Happisland: A Short But Not Too Brief Tale of a Swiss Spy in Iceland, C.H. Roserens, 2015

cover comments: fits the book well

Fantasviss, C.H. Roserens, 2019

cover of the comments: sure, this works

Thank you Thorold for recently introducing me to these two very short books.

Comments: The Swiss government is horrified to have lost their "top quality of life" status to Iceland and so send Hans-Ueli Stauffacher XXI (who had served admirably in Samoa, among other places) as an undercover agent to discover what Iceland is doing better. Told in monthly letters to his mother, he reports that Iceland beats Switzerland with it's tax-payer funded healthcare system, more generous parental leave, and superior status of women and LGBT people.

Three years later, Switzerland has regained its top status, and in Fantasviss, Sigmundur Sig Sigmundsson (of the Icelandic LGBT and Culture Ministry) takes a whirlwind tour of the 26 Swiss cantons. He finds that food in Switzerland is far superior, and also their excellent rail system.

These are both told in a manner that is both humorous and mostly factual (in spirit, anyway). So much fun.

Why I Read These Now: too much fun and too short not to read as soon as they arrived at my door. I'm looking for European books that are lighter than the stuff I've been reading.

Recommended for: on top of what I've already said here, I also thihk Happisland is a fun look at Iceland for someone planning their first trip there; Fantasviss doesn't quite do the same thing for Switzerland although it gives a basic outline of the 26 cantons.

Rating: Both 4.5 stars

Bearbeitet: Jan. 31, 4:21pm

The Gilded Cage, Camilla Lackberg, 2019, translated from Swedish by Neil Smith

cover comments: it's fine. The sliced feather is symbolic to the title. There's a language book designers use so that shoppers will have an idea of what type of book they are getting. The book browser will instantly know this is a suspence, thriller, crime or mystery book by the colour combination with the large sans-serif text, and the title and author name taking up almost the same amount of space. I never find these covers particularly arty, but they do express their purpose.

Rating: Well . . . I read this in three sittings over two days, and I did say I was looking for more translated fiction that was fun and compelling, and I particularly wanted to read recent books written by women. So 4 stars. However, when I read 2 star reviews I have to agree with every criticism they offer. But it was the book I needed now, so I'll still give it 4 stars even if it might not be warranted.

Comments: Faye is married to a successful businessman. They live in a spectacular huge apartment in Stockholm's best neighbourhood, and they have a perfect young daughter. In alternating bits, we see her life, we see 15 years ago when she first came to the city and met her friends and husband, and occasionally we see her buried abusive past as a teenager in a village on the west coast of Sweden. And then half-way through the novel, everything caves in for Faye and she plots her revenge. This was a fun, compelling read and the writing was good. I liked the Stockholm setting, and I liked her friendships with Kirsten and Chris.

Right on the front cover, it says "Trapped in a perfect life . . . she would kill to be free." Yes, that is mostly true. So I guess I shouldn't be surprised the the main character, Faye, actually isn't a great person. It's clearly written for her to be sympathetic, but really, when she's awful, she's sociopathic. Yes, her perfect husband was a vile narcissist who deserved his comeuppance, but she went over-overboard. Also, main plot points were improbable, although I can play along with it because this is fiction-for-entertainment. And I guessed the two twists at the end, but that's okay too. The main problem was that the heroine wasn't a heroine.

Apparently there's a sequel coming that's been published in Sweden? I might read it.

This is the sort of book that would be made into a movie, and I'd watch it when it came on some streaming service and it wouldn't make sense to my husband-who-hasn't-read-the-book and would be sort of lousy but okay. And if they moved the setting to the US it would be dreadful.

Why I Read This Now: Oh loads of reasons. One being that I bought a stack of suspence-thriller-psychological thriller-mystery novels at the end of 2020. I usually read only one or two of this genre a year, but I'd like to read more. I don't even know the difference between all of those. This wasn't a murder mystery, but what was it?

I don't know anyone who has read this book and I stumbled on it online. Probably an Instagram post by the publisher.

Recommended for: Appparently the Gilded Cage won the Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2020 - Mysteries & Thrillers category. Kirkus is generally a tough marker, so I think that says something. Lots of 5 star rave reviews by readers online. If this sounds like your thing, go for it. Trigger warning for domestic abuse and also there are quite a few graphic sex scenes.

Jan. 21, 4:40pm

I have a couple of Camilla Lackberg books from her police procedural series on my stack so I won't rush out and get The Gilded Cage, but I am taking note of it.

Jan. 21, 5:50pm

>37 DeltaQueen50:

I saw quite a few comments from readers who didn't think this compared to her police procedural series

Jan. 24, 2:11pm

The End of Her, Shari Lapena, 2020

cover comments: oh look, it's a cover for a crime-suspense-mystery-or-thriller. I don't think clever or arty is the goal with these

Why I Read This Book Now: After the last thriller I read, I tried a couple of other books, but they didn't work on any level, so I picked up this one from my new stack of thrillers.

Comments: Stephanie and Patrick haven't had a decent sleep in months because they are struggling with four month old colicky twins. But other than that, they are living a perfect life in their fictional upstate New York small town. And then evil Erica arrives and demands $200 thousand dollars or she gives the police evidence that Patrick's first wife didn't die in an accident. Patrick can explain everything, but Erica can too, and she's very convincing. There are two subplots where Erica is trying to blackmail other people too.

Suspense and tension are what readers look for in books like this, and The End of Her certainly delivers. With each chapter, new complications up the stakes. The couple aren't making good decisions due to their chronic sleep deprivation. Lots of fun to read.

I didn't think the big twist at the end was in character, and the resolution on the last few pages was a bit of a cop out. Also, Stephanie and Patrick had the money to hire a nanny to give them some relief, and that's what normal people would have done, so this whole mess could have been averted. Finally, the young-white-American-family-suburban setting was a big yawn for me (give me a creepy house in Scotland or sophisticated Stockholm like in my previous two thrillers Turn of the Key and The Gilded Cage). Despiste that, this was a still a worthwhile, entertaining few hours.

Recommended for: a reader looking for an entertianing few hours

Rating: 3.5 stars, which in my books is solidly good but not special

QUESTION: This far into the 20th century, does a Canadian author still have to set her novels in the US in order to make $$? Are all of Lapena's novels set in the States?

Jan. 29, 10:34pm

Alpine Cooking: Recipes and Stories from Europe’s Grand Mountaintops, Meredith Erickson, 2019

Cover comments: On one hand this is a lovely picture, and iconically “Alps”; on the other hand, a picture of the Matterhorn is cliché. But then the Alps are full of clichés, and the Matterhorn is indeed beautiful, so I guess it’s good enough. I want to add that this is a BIG book – only 350 pages, but it’s 8”x11’ and weighs 2 kilos (4.4 lbs). Every page has interesting photos by Christina Holmes. There are full page maps of each country with all the restaurants and places mentioned. Overall, this book is GORGEOUS.

I thought that Stanley Tucci praising this book was a bit odd – I know he was wonderful as Julia Child’s husband in Julie and Julia, but I didn’t know that was a qualification to write book blurbs. Silly me. Since then, I’ve learned that Tucci has written several books on food and has an upcoming series on CNN where he travels foodie sights of Italy. (Did I mention I adore Stanley Tucci?)

Comments: This is a long post, but I’ve been reading this book for two months and there’s a lot to say.

I bought this thinking it was a beautiful cook book, but then realized it’s equally as much a travel book. Meredith Erickson, a food writer from Montreal, has spent many summers and winters enjoying the outdoor life in the Alps, and enjoying even more the cuisine found at mountain huts, chalets, and hotels. She focuses only on Italy, Austria, Switzerland and France (no Liechtenstein, Bavarian Germany, or Slovenia – the last is supposed to have amazing cuisine, but that’s another book). It’s divided into sections for each of these four countries.

The Recipes: Erickson includes a variety of recipes, from somewhat traditional to eclectic, that she gathered visiting foodie sites in the Alps. There is an abundance of carbs, dairy, and meat.

She rates each recipe using the European ski pistes system – blue for easy, red for medium or intermediate difficulty, and black for expert. I’m a confident cook, but I don’t think there is one black-diamond (as we call it in North America) that I’m even interested in trying. They all include boujee ingredients, equipment and techniques that don’t interest me. The intermediate recipes have some “maybe I’ll try that sometime” recipes, but there are a lot of the so-called easy ones that I’m all over. I’ve made the “Herdsman Macaroni” (traditionally known as Alpermagronen) a few times and I prefer it to the recipe I’ve been using from my Swiss cookbook.

My daughter who has lived in Switzerland for three years rolled her eyes at most of the recipes: “I guess you’d find this at a fancy hotel.”

One recipe that I’ve looked at several times in puzzlement: “A Proper Bullshot,” which is a stolen recipe for the official club drink from the St Moritz Tobogganing Club (founded 1887). It’s a cocktail that’s made from “Van Hoo” vodka (sorry, pleb that I am, don’t know this brand); Campbell’s beef consommé, lemon juice, Tabasco, Lea & Perrins, horseradish, celery salt, and pepper. This grossed me out the first 12 times I read it, but then I realized it was just soup with vodka added to it, which isn’t so terribly awful. Except it’s served cold. Still makes me shudder.

The Travel: The Alps travel parts are equal to the recipes. The author loves to bike and hike in summer, and ski in winter. I knew you couldn’t drive from Italy into Switzerland at the Matterhorn, but you CAN ski there. Who knew? Travel by downhill ski, what a concept. Anyway, lots of yummy travel detail, including asides about helpful wine and cheese info, hotels and restaurants to visit, “Bond in the Alps,” and more. Looks like there are some great travel ideas here. If it’s ever safe to travel again, I’ll look into them.

The Problem: Sigh. It’s a letdown when basic facts are wrong. For me, it destroys an author’s credibility. Here are two egregious examples:

“One apt location to actually see and feel this is Ticino’s village of Lavertezzo, a rocky chasm of a valley where the Verzasca runs down from Alps thousands of miles in the north . . . One afternoon while having a simple lunch on the rocky bank of Verzasca, I followed the river as far west as my eyes could see. . . .” I was at this spot in 2019, so I can picture it easily, but I struggle to understand what she’s saying. Am I reading this wrong? Is it me? But no, the river’s source isn’t one thousand miles away, and the far side of the Alps is barely one hundred miles away. And as for gazing at the river disappearing to the west . . . well, it runs north-to-south, and bends slightly rather frequently, so I suppose her gaze was all of 30 feet?

And then in the Switzerland intro she said there are 25 cantons (no, 26) and “eight lay in the path of the Alps: Bern, the Valais, Vaud, St Gallen, Uri, Appenzell, Ticion, and Braubunden.” To which I immediately scribbled in the margin, “Lucerne, Obwalden, Nidwalden, Schwyz, Zug, Glarus” and then Googled it. LOL- No, it’s not 8, it’s 17. Seriously? DO YOU NOT HAVE AN EDITOR? These are such simple mistakes to avoid.

Another reader reviewer made similar comments about her section on France. I don’t know the French Alps so can’t comment but I’m not surprised. This sort of nonsense just trashes an author and publisher’s credibility for me. If I notice this, what else is wrong? I know facts are out of style, but some readers still care. Despite my disgust at these errors, I still loved the rest of the book.

Why I Read This Now: I’ve owned this for almost a year, and had made a couple of the recipes, but then I started taking a close look at it in December and realized it was actually a book worth reading cover-to-cover

Rating: Such a 5 star book. But I have to deduct at least 1 star for errors of fact that were unacceptable. 4 stars

Recommended for: you know who you are. Alpine Cooking would make a lovely gift for the Alpine-lover-who-is-also-a-foodie in your life.

Bearbeitet: Jan. 30, 12:53pm

>39 Nickelini: I've enjoyed The Couple Next Door and An Unwanted Guest, but I agree with you: The setting/character background becomes a bit repetitive, and I don't understand why she doesn't write stories set in Canada. I found both novels really gripping, though!
I have A Stranger in the House waiting on my shelf, but I don't know when I'll get to it. Right now I'm not in the mood for thrillers!

Jan. 30, 12:47pm

>39 Nickelini: QUESTION: This far into the 20th century, does a Canadian author still have to set her novels in the US in order to make $$? Are all of Lapena's novels set in the States?

That's a good question. I always wondered why Linwood Barclay sets all his in the US, too. :-(

Jan. 31, 2:11pm

Moon of the Crusted Snow, Waubgeshig Rice, 2018

cover comments: I love this -- it's atmospheric and I love the typeface and how the title takes up the whole space. If I were designing it, I'd probably actually shown a moon, but maybe that's too obvious

I don't know why I had never heard of this book here in Canada, but I learned about it from one of my favourite BookTubers, who is British. I was immediately drawn to the evocative title, and she made it sound interesting.

Comments: Moon of the Crusted Snow opens with Evan Whitsky field dressing a moose as he prepares for a long winter in northwestern Ontario. He's part of a rez community where many are trying to regain some of their traditional First Nations ways and create a balance with modern conveniences. When he arrives home, he finds out that the satellite TV had gone down. Followed by cell phone reception and hydro power. It's inconvenient, but disruptions are not rare in this isolated community. Then winter blows in, and eventually they learn that something has gone very wrong in the south. And then visitors begin to arrive . . .

I dislike a feeling of dread when I read a book, and I had to put this aside a few times and read something else. But I quickly picked it up again each time. I found the ending to be satisfying.

Rating: All through this I thought it was a solid 4 star read, but the last 15 pages or so (after the last twist) I thought were particularly strong. In the end I'm giving this 4.5 stars. Highly recommended.

Recommended for: I think a dystopian novel written from an indiginous point-of-view could appeal to a wide variety of readers

Jan. 31, 2:35pm

>43 Nickelini: This sounds really intriguing and goes on my wishlist! Your comments really captured my interest.

Jan. 31, 2:42pm

>44 MissBrangwen:
I look forward to reading your comments if you read it. I struggled to say something interesting without giving too much away

Feb. 1, 12:53pm

>43 Nickelini: This has been on my library list for a while now, it certainly does sound interesting. I'm looking forward to it.

Feb. 3, 11:22pm

>46 DeltaQueen50:
Knowing what you like, I think you're going to enjoy this one too

Feb. 7, 8:41pm

Peace Talks, Tim Finch, 2019

cover comments: this captures the feel for the book -- ooooh, symbolism

Rating: 4.5 stars. I enjoyed the writing in this novel immensely. I"m not alone, as I've found many 5 star reader reviews online.

Comments: Edvard Behrends is a Norwegian-British diplomat leading a group to resolve a conficit between two unnamed Arabic-speaking factions, sequestered at a resort high in the Tyrolian Alps of Austria. The 171 page novel is told in Edvard's internal monologue to his wife. How he got to this place in life is told in bits, and details are gradually revealed. Peace Talks is both sad and humorous, full of subtle, beautiful passages that tell a story of loss and grief.

This doesn't sound like the kind of novel I'd hurry to pick up, but the Austrian Alpine setting drew me in, and the back story of the peace negotiations was unique and interesting.

Peace Talks is one of four books shortlisted for the 2020 Costa Award.

Why I Read This Now: I had heard so many good things about this, and I love books set in the Alps. And I like to try Europa Editions. I don't like everything they publish, but I find more hits than misses in their catalogue.

Recommended for: In this case it's easier to say who this book isn't for: people who want a strongly defined plot; readers who don't want to read yet another book about the thoughts of an older middle aged white man; readers who don't care for books that refer to other books and art; and readers who don't like books set in a privileged European world.

Feb. 12, 7:59pm

cover comments: vague photo image in neutral colour, all-caps text in vermillion: could this be a thriller? Why, yes! Also, the picture is fine, but my guess is that the designer read the description of the book but not the book itself, because what we can see of the hunting lodge looks traditional for Scottish Highlands (Balmoral, perhaps). However, in the book the "lodge" was a modernist all-glass building. So a bit of a fail there.

Comments: Every New Years, a group of nine 30-somethings of Oxford friends go away together to recreate their fun university parties. The problem is by December 30, 2018 is that they've mostly grown apart and have little in common with each other. Off they go to a private luxury hunting lodge in the Scottish Highlands. From the beginning, we know that 3 days later, one of them has been murdered. It's very close to the end of the book before you find out who it was, although I guessed fairly early on, since there was one character who seemed to be the one that most of the other characters would want to murder. But that didn't spoil anything for me.

The Hunting Party is told in alternating chapters by three of the female guests, plus the lodge manager, Heather, and the gameskeeper, Doug. The premise is good, the setting is fabulous, but the characters are . . . well, at first I really disliked the chapters by the two employees. But then I got to know the guests a bit better, and they were all pretty terrible people. And as the story went on, I grew to like the manager and the gameskeeper. (BTW- I thought the names "Heather" and "Doug" for the two Scottish characters was a bit on the nose. Are there actually baby girls born in Scotland in the 80s named "Heather"? That seems like such a North American idea of a Scottish name for a girl. It's a perfectly nice name and I've known some wonderful Heathers, it just doesn't seem authentic. Please feel free to correct me if you're a Heather from Glasgow) *ETA that on my ClubRead thread, a friend searched it, and yes, Heather was the 31st most popular name for girls in 1985.

Recommended for: Readers looking for a thriller set in a wintery, isolated retreat.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Why I Read This Now: I've been enjoying thrillers lately -- a new genre for me. This one had a great setting

Feb. 13, 4:40am

>49 Nickelini: This sounds like a perfect read for winter. It goes on my wish list!

Feb. 13, 7:17pm

>49 Nickelini: I've wondered how that one is. If I can get through the alternating narrators, it might be a good read. It's already on my TBR list, I believe.

Feb. 14, 2:09pm

Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill, Dimitri Verhulst, 2006; translated from Dutch by David Comer, 2009

cover comments: This is rather nice. You can't go wrong with snowy forests on book covers, and the typeface is perfect. The "coming down the hill" event of the book, however, is set when Madame Verona is 82 years old. So I'm not sure what's with the young woman wearing that bizarre outfit. Maybe it's supposed to be symbolic or something.

I couldn't find a copy of this book from my usual Canadian sources, but found me a copy from Blackwell's Books in Oxford -- a wonderful book shop that I hope to visit again someday

Comments: Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill, by Belgian author Dimitri Verhulst, is set in the diminishing isolated village of Oucwegne, and in meandering vignettes, tells of its quirky inhabitants. After each bit the book circled back to the widowed Madame Verona, living alone on the hill and remembering the love of her life, Monsieur Potter.

A quiet, unusual novel, written with interesting language that was often so convoluted that I had to reread sentences multiple times. Further, these sentences expressed things in a way that had never crossed my mind. Sometimes this was highly amusing, and other times it just made me scrunch my eyebrows. I think part of my problem with this was that I expected a different book and it took me a while to click with it.

Rating: Although I was unsure for much of the book, in the end I did really like this, and for the most part I appreciated the odd sentences. 4 stars.

Recommended for: I can promise you've never read a book quite like this before. Generally Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill gets high reader reviews. The few low-rating reviews are by readers who weren't in the mood to unravel the weird sentences or who are looking for a more narrative story.

Why I Read This Now: In early December I put all my books that seemed wintery on the top of my TBR pile. I noticed this one was set in February, so saved it for this month.

Feb. 20, 11:49pm

>52 Nickelini: You got me at quirky inhabitants! On my WL it goes.

Feb. 21, 12:04am

I'll be interested to hear what you think of Submission. I'd already read Au Rebours/ Against the Grain by Huysmans, which was useful because Huysmans crops up a lot.

Feb. 25, 1:41am

Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2004

cover comments: I love this cover. My edition is part of the limited Perennial Collection that Harper Perennial published in 2008. I own two others from the set of 15. The magenta colour of the flower and the text is foil, and the spine is the same magenta foil. Since I acquired this in 2012, I've taken up adult colouring books, and I'm very tempted to pull out my Faber-Castel collection and get to work on the black and white line drawing-- it would be fun to colour

Comments: Fifteen year old Kambili is the sheltered daughter of a wealthy Nigerian factory owner. She lives, along with her brother Jaja and her mother, under the tyrannical control of his fanatical Catholic ideology-- this man is desperately trying to out-pious any pope. Eugene is beloved by the community for his generosity and integrity, but at home he punishes the slightest infraction of his rules. This is set against the political turmoil of mid-80s Nigeria. Kambili catches a break and goes to stay with her much poorer aunt and cousins, and their home, filled with love, chatter and laughter open Kambili and Jaja's eyes. And then there's the cute young priest she meets there . . .

Note: I appreciate her nod to Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart with her opening words: "Things started to fall apart at home when my brother Jaja did not go to communion and Papa flung his heavy missal across the room . . . " I do love intertextuality in novels.

Why I Read This Now: I've owned this book for 9 years, but although I wanted to read it some day, that day never seemed to show up. Then last summer, a friend at work told me how he took a mandatory English class as part of his math degree, and read Purple Hibiscus, and did so poorly on his essay that he had to meet with the professor. She accused him of not reading the book, but he pulled out a ream of notes to show he had. The problem was that my friend, who I suspect is somewhere on the autism spectrum, did not understand what was going on in the novel. He thought it was about a nice family in Nigeria, but his professor questioned him about all this abuse that he didn't notice. There's a scene where the father punishes Kambili for "walking into sin" by pouring boiling water on her feet. My friend thought it was an accident until his professor told him otherwise. When I told him I owned Purple Hibiscus he asked me to read it and see what I thought. I popped on to LT and quickly found my LT friend VivienneR's 1-star review, and sent him a screen shot: "Adichie describes a religious fanatic of the worst kind. Although her prose is lovely and she evokes the characters quite well, this simple story has not much more to it than a man who savagely assaults his wife and children if they fail to obey his own twisted version of godliness. It was difficult to endure the book. I cannot recommend it to anyone."

He really is a nice young man, and clearly brilliant with things about numbers and airlines, and he is never malicious. I wonder about the value of forcing a math geek to take an English lit course.

Rating: 3 stars. I get why VivienneR gave this 1 star. I get why people liked this more than I did.

I read Half a Yellow Sun in 2008 and gave it 3.5 stars then, and thought it was over-rated. Maybe Adichie isn't the novelist for me.

Recommended for: people exploring African literature.

Feb. 25, 3:33pm

I've so many comments to make since I last visited your thread.

>43 Nickelini: Great review! I have this on hold at the library but I'm far down the list. I'm looking forward to it more than ever now.

>48 Nickelini: This one is going on my wishlist. It sounds like a book I would enjoy and the added Alpine attraction is a bonus!

>49 Nickelini: I enjoyed this one too but then read the next offering by Foley only to find it is much the same story but the party is set on a boggy island in Ireland. I'll be interested in your opinion if you ever try it.

>55 Nickelini: Excellent review! And an interesting story of your friend's experience proving that we can all have different reactions to the same book. As I mentioned in our pm conversation, I found the abusively "pious" father was repulsive in the extreme. I'm not sure that that alone warranted my low rating but I often think of the family with sadness and I'm sorry I read the book.

Feb. 25, 10:13pm

>56 VivienneR:

I think I have that boggy Ireland Foley book (The Guest List), which I've heard is basically the exact plot of The Hunting Party. Oh well, I'll save it for next year when this one has faded in my mind.

As for Purple Hibiscus, if you're sorry you read it, then I think your 1-star rating was accurate for you!

Feb. 26, 2:01am

Earlier I was thinking of you and your books set in Switzerland as I started Eiger Dreams by Jon Krakauer. So far it's excellent but not all the stories are from the Alps. I have to admit I get the collywobbles now and then.

Feb. 26, 10:55pm

>58 VivienneR:

I read his two later mountaineering books. I can't imagine that I'd learn anything from this unless it's particularly Swiss? I'm more interested about Swiss culture (which is bizarre, and more so I find as I dive into it). Into the Wild showed me, without him saying it, that high-mountain climbers are slightly insane. I read that one soon after it came out, and nothing I've read, seen, or heard has ever changed my mind.

Feb. 27, 1:59pm

Theft By Finding: Diaries (1977 - 2002), David Sedaris, 2017

cover comments: okay, whatever

Why I Read This Now: Never in a million years would I have picked this book up on my own. I have read a David Sedaris book years ago (for my book club) and I liked it just fine, but there are so many other books. Sedaris just isn't on my radar. But a co-worker gave this to me as a gift, and I needed something to read on my breaks, so this fit in nicely. The diary format and his overall tone were perfect for lunchtime reading. Even though--at 514 pages--it's significantly longer than books I voluntarily pick up.

Comments: This is a large collection of some of his diary entries starting in his early 20s. I knew nothing about Sedaris, and was amazed at what a terrible loser he was for so many years -- drug addicted, wandering from one odd job to another, living a pretty seedy life. Then there was a long period where he lived in Chicago and New York, and started to pull himself together. My favourite section was the last part where he mostly lives in France.

I found this sometimes boring, and sometimes laugh out loud funny. In the course of my life, I often think funny observations about things I see, people I overhear, and life in general. This book made me kick myself for not writing them down, getting published, and becoming a successful writer. Can I start now?

Rating: somewhere between 3.5 and 4 stars

Recommended for: David Sedaris fans

Feb. 28, 11:30pm

The Weather Detective: Rediscovering Nature's Secret Signs, by Peter Wohleben 2012, translated from German by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp, 2018

cover comments: lovely.

Rating: This was an interesting and informative read, but it won't stick with me the way the same author's The Hidden Life of Trees does. I gave that one 4.5 stars, so I guess this is 3.75

Comments: I believe this book has been mis-named in its English translation, and it appears that that misleads people into expecting that this book is all about weather, and how to read what's happening outside (and that's what I thought when I picked it up). The original German title is Kranichflug und Blumenhr, which Google Translate tells me says " Flight of Crane and Flower Clock," which this book IS about, but I'm hoping some German readers will enlighten me. To me that could only describe a painting or a poem, and not a non-fiction book. German is such a strange language because I can pick apart those words and make them English, but then doesn't mean anything. Why does that make sense in German but not English? (I follow a lot of Italian, French, and Swiss things on the internet and the Italian & French translate just fine, but I find that Google translate struggles with German. In my job I often try to translate Cyrillic and Arabic, and it pretty much comes out as gibberish).

Anyway, this book is more about how to read signs of what is going on in your garden, and how things like weather affect it. Also bugs and animals. Specifically, it's, for the most part, describing a garden in Germany. As a gardener in Vancouver, lots of it transferred over, but not all of it. Still, interesting enough.

Recommended for : Gardeners in Germany. The further you are from that climate, the less this will mean anything to you, although there is a chapter on the moon, sun and stars that was interesting (also, not weather). People who like nature writing that is neither academic or highly-personal will also find this a pleasant read.

Why I Read This Now: I was looking for a non-fiction read, and I've enjoyed this author previously.

Mrz. 1, 12:49am

I think Google Translate was right and that it depicts what it says: The flight of cranes and a flower clock. In Germany we very often see (and hear) cranes migrating in autumn and spring (I love seeing them in the skies!), and I think the other part of the title refers to flowers in form of a clock - maybe to see when in the day they open their blossoms? Probably it makes more sense when one has read the book.

German nonfiction books often have titles like that, picking out one or two aspects and referring to those. I noticed that especially with travel books.

One more reason that Google Translate doesn't make as much sense might be that German is strong in compounds and they are written as one word, so it's harder for Google Translate to convey the sense of the word. In English you often need lots of prepositions or at least you write a compound in two different words while in German it's all connected to make one long word (sometimes VERY long).
That's just my idea, though.

Maybe more German speakers will add their thoughts to this!

Mrz. 1, 2:25am

The Better Mother, Jen Sookfong Lee, 2011

cover comments: I've always thought this was a lovely cover. The art deco font of the book's title is repeated in the section and chapter titles, and the book has an all-round lovely feel. I've owned this book for nine years (I own a lot of books, only so much you can read) and I did wonder why with an author who focuses on the Canadian-Chinese experience would have a cover model that could be Asian, but looked more . . . not. No worries, it's because the character of "The Siamese Kitten" was indeed white. A case where the book designer might have actually read the novel! (the red lips play a part)

Rating: 4.5 stars. This is one of those books that generally gets good reviews but didn't get much attention.

Comments: A historical novel of two intertwining stories set in a somewhat seedy Vancouver, and where the city itself is a character. The city has always sat in astounding natural beauty, but it has a history of being the end of the railway, a port city, and a place to escape from the cold areas of Canada. Also called "Lotus Land", which is a reference to the Odyssey. As someone who's grown up there, and has long lived in the land of the gorgeous Olympic city, the Expo 86 city, and place of always insane real estate prices, I say we complain about the price of living here, but enjoy the upgrade, and forget about the past. In The Better Mother, I was made to remember how gritty a lot of Vancouver used to be.

Danny struggles as a young Canadian-Chinese gay man coming of age in the early years of the early 1980s AIDs epidemic, but this novel focuses on his interactions with a burlesque dancer many years older than him. The first part of the novel shows him growing up not fitting into his world, but then goes into the story of Val, and we delve into her life in the post WWII-1960s. This is basically the description I read of the novel and thought sounded "meh" but I went with it and so glad I did. Val, the "Siamese Kitten" was an engaging character who became increasingly interesting.

The Better Mother seemed simple at the start, but got more complex as it went on, and wound into a satisfying ending. For most of the novel, I thought the title of The Better Mother was odd. Certainly it didn't draw me in. But by the end, I found it rather clever: There are several mothers in this story. All of them have faults (of course). Which is the Better Mother?

This is a book that will stick with me and that I will think about. I enjoyed the same author's Conjoined, and I do remember it, but I think this one will stick with me more.

Recommended for: anyone who thinks this sounds intriguing, anyone interested in novels about gay men at the cusp of the AIDS crisis, or the Chinese diaspora, anyone interested in 20th century historical fiction set in Vancouver, anyone interested in the life of burlesque dancers . . . I feel I could go on . .

Mrz. 1, 2:38am

>62 MissBrangwen: \
Oh that's all fascinating. I've travelled a little in Germany and I have fun with the language, but it's always puzzling. My parents spoke low German, and I'm blonde, so when I'm in Europe, I can't count how many times I've been approached by people speaking German and I'm always confused because I feel like it's soooooo familiar, yet I can't make any sense of it. Like this book title.

Thank you for your thoughts, I learned something :-). If I could live my life over again I would have learned so many languages. But my German speaking parents didn't even teach me German, so I was raised in that North American world of "all English". Then when I was in grade 5 in Canada, suddenly it was "oh, also, too, French," which was a big fail for most of us on the west coast at that time.

Mrz. 1, 5:19am

>61 Nickelini: "Flight of Crane and Flower Clock,"
>62 MissBrangwen: "cranes migrating in autumn and spring"

I'd definitely read that as references to seasonal time and possibly also daily time. In England the flower moscatel or clocktower flowers in early spring so I assume the same in Germany (and the wine grape vine of the same name is harvested in autumn). Moscatel is also one of the herbs that gives off scent only towards evening, to attract specific pollinators. We also have dandelion clocks which are the seed heads of dandelion flowers. I bet there's a wildflower in Germany nicknamed clocktower or clock-something. Some flowers, such as daisies (day's-eye) physically open and close with the sun every day and sunflowers turn to follow the sun across the sky!

"One more reason that Google Translate doesn't make as much sense might be that German is strong in compounds"

I think there might be some truth in this. Also perhaps that German expressions are often colloquial whereas western Romance languages tend to be either formal and literary or simple and conversational (but this is probably too wide a generalisation - although written French definitely tends to be more formal than English, and I would say this has been true in literary Italian too).

Mrz. 1, 6:45am

>61 Nickelini: >62 MissBrangwen: Yes, I was thinking along the same lines. I was curious and looked it up at the DNB, and the summary says that the cranes are an indicator for temperature, and marigolds can be used to tell the time which I find intriguing. It's too bad we can't go down to the bookstore and peek inside.

Mrz. 1, 6:58am

>66 MissWatson: Or can we.... (sorry for the temporary thread-jacking Nickelini)

"The flower clock

Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish natural scientist of the eighteenth century, made an exciting discovery during his nature walks. He realized that the flowers of different species of plants opened their flowers at different times of the day, with impressive reliability. They were so reliable, in fact, that they could rival the accuracy of the church clocks at the time. What better, then, than to create a living clock composed of a variety of flowering plants? Linnaeus put the idea into practice, planting a very special flower bed in the Uppsala Botanical Garden. He arranged the plants in the shape of a clock face, dividing the bed into twelve segments. In each section, the flowers opened at the appointed hour, enabling passersby to tell the time. However, the clock didn’t function quite as intended, since the plants finished flowering after a few weeks and had to be replaced constantly. Moreover, specimens from the mountains behaved differently in the city, because of the warmer climate. Nevertheless, the principle is fascinating, and even without planting a clock-shaped bed, you can still tell the time from your garden with the help of your perennials and herbs.

Pumpkins and zucchini kick things off first by opening their flowers at 5 o’clock in the morning. From 8 a.m., the marigolds spread out their petals, and the daisies follow at 9. When the sun is at its zenith in the south, midday flowers (Mesembryanthemum, also known as ice plants) open their blossoms. Between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., dandelions start to close up, and by 3 p.m. the gourds have finished for the day. At around 6 p.m., poppies also shut up shop.

But why do plants go to the trouble of opening their flowers at different times? The reason for this is to attract pollinating insects, which risk being overwhelmed by choice. At the rush hour, when many flowers are open for business, the bees can’t possibly visit all of the plants on offer, so some flowers would have to go without a visit. It gives you a competitive edge if you tout your nectar and pollen later in the day, when your rivals are asleep. So it’s a way of improving the chances of pollination. It also helps the bees to take advantage of the available stocks of nectar, to bring as much as they can back to the hive for the winter. The more nectar supplies they bring back, the more bees survive of the next generation, which in turn ensures better pollination chances the following year.

Having said that flowers keep good time, in fact researchers from the University of Göttingen have discovered that even flowers’ internal clocks can be slow. This also appears to be linked to their effort to attract bees. Once the flowers are pollinated, they close on time. But if they’re still waiting for a visit, they extend their opening times, probably in the hope they might still attract a passing pollinator. If you notice distinct changes from the normal rhythm of your garden’s flower clock, there may be a lack of beekeepers and wild bees in your locality. You could take remedial action by setting up an insect hotel or even installing an entire bee colony in your garden."

Mrz. 1, 7:01am

>67 spiralsheep: Wow. Thanks!

Mrz. 1, 8:57am

>61 Nickelini: On Google translator.....can't comment on German translations, but the Spanish translations are often way off--sometimes so off that it makes the translation silly!

Mrz. 1, 12:10pm

>65 spiralsheep: We also have dandelion clocks

And here I thought they were named that because they were round. How do you tell time with a dandelion clock?

Mrz. 1, 12:16pm

>69 Tess_W: Have you found that recently? I find that the online translators have improved tremendously over the years. Twenty years ago I had a friend in France who I used to play translation games with, and had hilarious results. But a decade later I studied Italian at university, and my prof told us not to use an online translator, but sometimes I did anyway and never lost any marks. Since then the translators have become quite amazing. My husband speaks fluent Italian, and whenever I double check with him, it's pretty spot on. I am, of course, talking about every day language, and not literature.

I don't have to translate Spanish very often at work, but when I have it's been good enough for me to understand what the person is saying. But the German often comes out quite wonky and nonsensical.

Mrz. 1, 12:59pm

>70 Nickelini: You blow on it and the hour is supposedly the total count of puffs it takes to clear all the seeds. Of course, children are possibly more likely to indulge in this on warm afternoons and it might work then, lol. It's in the same category as divining if someone likes butter by holding a buttercup under their chin to see if there's a reflected yellow spot from the shiny petals acting as a mirror for the sun (which is cool science but useless divination).

Mrz. 1, 1:02pm

>71 Nickelini: "I am, of course, talking about every day language, and not literature."

Although there has been a movement towards less literary language in written Italian, most visibly by novelists from immigrant backgrounds, so this might be changing.

Mrz. 1, 1:14pm

>72 spiralsheep: We did that buttercup thing when I was a kid too. I never really got what it was all about and when other kids showed me I shrugged and said "okay."

>73 spiralsheep:
I have no idea what you mean -- "literary" Italian doesn't really factor into the lives of any of my Italian friends or family, or when I'm traveling in Italy. My entire interest is day-to-day living.

Mrz. 1, 1:22pm

>74 Nickelini: I was furthering the conversation above about why google translate is better at some languages or types of language and worse at others. I didn't mean it to be personal to you. :-)

Mrz. 3, 8:46am

>71 Nickelini: I had 3 exchange students from Ecuador in my American History Class and they really seemed "lost." So to help them out, I would use Google translator for specific things I wanted to impart to them, and they told me it was worse than trying to understand English. They asked for the material in English and they would attempt to translate themselves. That was 3 years ago.

Mrz. 3, 8:54am

>76 Tess_W:. Interesting! I wonder how Ecuadorian Spanish compares to what ever the translator uses? I’m guess just standard European Spanish.

Bearbeitet: Mrz. 5, 9:32am

The Chalet, Catherine Cooper, 2020

cover comments: I mean, it sort of looks like a thriller cover, but what's with the serif font? How unusual. Anyway, drinking Bollinger champagne in the French Alps is a big yes for me. My aesthetic standards for thrillers isn't very high -- they have their language they need to speak, so artistic options are limited

Rating: I just had so much fun reading this. 4.5 stars.

Comments: The Chalet is told in short chapters that alternate between December 1998 and January 2020 at a ski resort in the view of Mount Blanc in the French Alps. There's also a smaller timeline of one character's childhood living in poverty with a mentally ill mother (this section had some heartbreaking writing, but it although it was a different tone, it worked). Both main timelines, which are told by alternating characters, focus on fraught relationships, and both involve murders. For the most part, the characters in The Chalet were not very likeable people, which created an ample group of suspects, and made me wonder WHO was going to end up murdered, and WHO was going to do the murdering.

I loved the Alpine ski resort setting, which was also a character. When I've stayed at ski resorts I've often thought they'd make a great setting for a novel, and I'm so excited that in the past few months, I can count four (four!) thrillers with this setting: The Chalet, One By One by Ruth Ware, Shiver, by Allie Reynolds are all in the French Alps, and Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse is in Switzerland. I will read them all. Just what I've been looking for!

Catherine Cooper is a British journalist who has lived with her family in France since 2009, and is clearly familiar with the world of skiing.

Why I Read This Now: I needed a new book for my breaks at work and the short chapters made this a good fit. I ended up bringing it home because I couldn't wait to get back to it. Loving the new thrillers I've been reading. Also, it's March, and that's when we used to take our family ski vacation.

Recommended for: people who like books set in the Alps, thrillers, books with alternate timelines and narrators

Mrz. 5, 9:13am

>78 Nickelini: On my WL is goes!

Mrz. 6, 2:16pm

There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya; introduction & translation from Russian by Anna Summers

cover comments: I was drawn to this fabulous title and it's twisted fairy tale promise. This Penguin edition has a lovely tactile feel. Full marks to book design.

Comments: Seventeen short stories over 171 pages that cover life in late- and post-Soviet Russia. These "love stories" all centre on the lives of women--mostly mothers--living in dingy apartments with ungrateful adult children, cheating alcoholic husbands, and difficult older aunts and parents. There's a dark humour to them, but not enough to raise them over the flat voice that kept me from connecting to the stories.

Why I Read This Now: I love a good riff on a fairy tale, and when chanced to look at this on Valentine's Day and saw the "Love Stories" pop on the cover, I thought this was the perfect time. The "love" part of the stories was too tongue-in-cheek for me.

Rating: I can see why some readers like these stories, but they didn't do much for me. 2.5 stars. At least it was a quick, easy read.

Recommended for: Russian lit fans

Mrz. 7, 9:40am

>78 Nickelini: I love thrillers in a wintery/snowy setting, so this is a big BB for me, as well as the other titles you mentioned!

And another addition to the Google translator discussion: I agree with you that German-English doesn't really work. I teach English in Germany and I can very often tell when my students use it. They do love it and feel like it helps them, but it creates more mistakes and it's so obvious, both because of the syntax and the words. I have no idea why! But I totally ban it from my courses and encourage my students to use proper online dictionary apps if they cannot bring themselves to use a paper dictionary (which is preferable because they have to use those in written tests and exams).

Mrz. 7, 9:54am

>78 Nickelini:
>81 MissBrangwen:

You could be correct. The Spanish teacher at our school said there are 2 basic types (brogues) of Spanish: Spanish Peninsular (Castilian) and Latin American Spanish. She said the difference was akin to the difference between English spoken in the UK and English spoken in the U.S. Could account for the inaccuracy of the Google translator?

Mrz. 11, 4:06am

Down By the River, Edna O'Brien, 1996

cover comments: The painting they used for this cover by Karin Littlewood is suitable, but the whole arrangement of the cover is a dog's breakfast. What's with the gold font for the author's name? The whole arrangement is nasty.

Rating: ahhh, almost a 5 star read. 4.75 stars. This is my 4th Edna O'Brien book, and the best of the lot. I finished this a couple of days ago and am struggling to write briefly about it. If I don't write briefly, it will be pages . . .

O'Brien writes in an opaque style where everything is implied (I could use less of that, hence the not 5 star read)

Comments: Although clearly set in the 1990s, Mary McNamara's world seemed closer to O'Brien's 1960s Country Girls trilogy. However, O'Brien showed that people around her had moved on and were living at least in the age of U2 and Enya.

Based on a true story, Down By the River tells of Mary McNamara, a 14 year old girl who has been repeatedly raped by her father. Her mother dies of cancer* so she's isolated in a farm on the west coast of Ireland. She becomes pregnant, and has few resources, is naïve, but knows she can't fathom giving birth to her father's child. She enlists an empathetic neighbour and escapes to England to get an abortion, only to be dragged back to Ireland ("the doctor here will be ruined! HE has a family!"). I was so frustrated to read this story of this young girl's life, struggling to deal with violation after violation. She's forced into the world of anti-abortion pro-birth fanatics, who had no empathy at all and no realistic help on how a 14 year old was supposed to actually deal with any of the realities of pregnancy, childbirth, and being a teenage mom. Mary has no autonomy whatsoever -- at first she's under her father's control, but then the police, the pro-birth fanatics, and the highest levels of government (all men) take control of her. The public opinion is mixed -- many support this victim, but many others assume the worst about her. Utterly heartbreaking.

For my health and wellbeing, I avoid books about realistic tragedy and suffering, but this one drew me in despite that. I read in three sittings (that averages to 100 pages at a time, which in my world means "couldn't put it down")

Down By the River is considered one of three of O'Brien's "state of the nation novels." I've read In the Forest and have House of Splendid Isolation on my TBR pile.

* Irish LTers, please tell me: the doctors didn't tell her the cancer diagnosis, but told her husband?! In 1990s Ireland? This happened to my grandmother in 1972 Canada, but was this shite still happening then? Or is O'Brien manipulating the reader?

Recommended for: I don't know, but I thought this was a great read and I wish more people would read it so I could talk about it

Why I Read This Now: I've liked Edna O'Brien in the past, and it's been in my TBR for ages, and it's Irish-readathon March. Check mark!

Mrz. 11, 11:56am

>83 Nickelini: I've liked the two Edna O'Brien novels that I have read (Country Girls and Girl) so this one is going on my wishlist.

Mrz. 13, 2:24pm

Venice Rising: Aqua Granda, Pandemic, Rebirth; Various authors, 2020

cover comments: has that self-published look, but it's okay. The back cover has the much-photographed complete double rainbow over Venice, which I think should have been the front cover

Comments: The summer of 2019 was hard on Venice with the mass over-tourism and a cruise ship crashing into a dock. Then in November, the stars misaligned to combine exceptional--but forecast--high tides (called aqua alta ) with sirocco winds from the southeast and bora winds from the southwest, and a heavy rainfall. This resulted in the Aqua Granda with the water's peak height of 187 cm (6'1") and submerging about 80% of the city. This was the worst flooding they've seen since 1966, which was called a 100 year event. After finally drying out and cleaning up, Venice appeared to be in recovery for Carnevale in February 2020. But the grand final days of that event were suddenly cancelled when COVID-19 burned through northern Italy and the city slammed into full lockdown.

Venice Rising is a collection of 31 pieces about these events, all told by Venetian residents. I sought this out more for the pandemic parts, because I remember a year ago as I closely followed the news coming out of Italy and watched in disbelief as their world, and then all of our world, crashed to a halt. I guess there is only so much you can say about quarantine though, and the most interesting bits were about the Aqua Granda of November 2019.

Many of these Venetian writers are wondering if this series of catastrophes is a reset, and that's a nice thought. I'm not sure it's realistic, however.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Recommended for: readers interested in current events, the pandemic, extreme-weather events; lovers of Venice

Why I Read This Now: I happened across this a month or so ago and thought the one year anniversary of the beginning of the pandemic in Italy was a good time to read it

Mrz. 13, 8:59pm

>85 Nickelini: Definitely a BB for me. Great review!

Mrz. 13, 10:22pm

>86 Tess_W:
If you're really interested, I think you might have to get it from Amazon. I avoid Amazon myself, but that's where I found it and I think they actually publish it. Possibly print on demand?

Mrz. 14, 9:45pm

Mothering Sunday, Graham Swift, 2016

Cover comments: Pleasant. Uninspiring, but pleasant.
This one is really nice, in that sort of classy way:

And this one takes an entirely different approach:

Rating: I loved this. 4.5 stars. I read this in one sitting on a rainy Sunday morning in March.

Comments: Sunday, March 30, 1924 is Mothering Sunday in England, and it's the day when the servants get time off to go visit their mothers. Twenty-two year old housemaid Jane Fairchild is an orphan, so instead she has her last tryst with her lover, the rich son of a neighbour who is soon to be married to a young woman more wealthy than he. This story is told in bits, and continuously circles back to fill in details, until we learn about Jane's life where she lived into her late 90s and was a famous writer. But the focus of this short (177 pg) novel is on the one sunny spring day that was life changing for her.

I loved the 1920s setting, and I loved the descriptions of the unseasonably warm spring day with its bright sunshine. Oh, and it's labelled "a romance," and I'm pondering whether I agree with that description or not.

Recommended for: Readers who enjoyed On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan; The Sense of an Ending, by Julien Barnes; or maybe even The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield, will probably love this one too.

Why I Read This Now: It been high on my TBR for ages, but I thought I'd save it for the actual Mothering Sunday. This year it's today, March 14. I've learned that the day changes each year because it's tied to Lent.

ETA: There's a film of this coming soon The leads are played by two actors who I'm not familiar with -- Josh O'Connor plays Paul (Oh! He was Mr Elton in the latest version of Emma and he plays Prince Charles in the last season of The Crown. I know him after all). Jane is played by Odessa Young and I don't think I've seen any of her films. But when the movie was announced, a big deal was made that Colin Firth and Olivia Colman were to play Mr and Mrs Niven. Colin Firth plays a lot of small roles in big movies, so I can see him in this. But they must be changing the role of Mrs Niven, because I don't think she actually says anything in the novel, and I'm sure they didn't need to hire the Queen and hot property Olivia Colman to stand in the shadows. We will see!

Mrz. 16, 1:24am

Passing, Nella Larson, 1929

cover comments: I like it, and the more I look at it, the more it grows on me. I'm pretty sure this scene didn't happen in the book, but it still fits. The painting is The Subway, 1930, by Palmer Hayden. I love how this scene doesn't look that out of place today, yet it was painted 91 years ago. Certainly, life on the subway (well, pre-COVID) was the same

Rating: Like my opinion on the cover (above), I started this book thinking it was "okay," but the more time I spent with it, the more I liked it. There were lots of layers of meaning, which was all the more impressive considering this was a book of only 114 pages. I also loved the 1920s setting. Somewhere between 4 & 4.5 stars

Comments: Irene and Clare, both light-skinned African-Americans, were friends in childhood. Years later, on a hot summer day, Irene is lunching at a breezy roof restaurant at a department store in downtown Chicago and hoping that no one will recognize her race. She's married to a black doctor back in New York, and spends her time "passing" as a happily married middle-class wife and mother, involved in the arts and intellectual life in Harlem. But right now, to sit in this luxurious restaurant, she needs to pass as white and not draw attention to herself. Yet someone is staring at her. And here Clare drops back into her life. Irene learns that Clare has married a racist white husband who doesn't know her race, and has spent years in the capitals of Europe where she doesn't meet any other black people. Irene sees trouble, and tries to avoid Clare, but is also strongly drawn to her at the same time. Clare is missing something in her life, and is drawn to Irene's life in New York with its charity balls and diverse crowd. And so their lives twist together toward a surprising end.

I'd love to have studied this book at university when you can really dig into all the variations of passing. This is a good book to reread, I expect.

Side note: As with my last book, Mothering Sunday, I loved the 1920s setting. And as with that book, this one too has an upcoming movie. Apparently it will be on Netflix later this year. Watching that one for sure.

Why I Read This Now: I've owned Passing since 2010, but there it sat. Now my book club is reading The Vanishing Half this month, and the author Brit Bennett was heavily influenced by Passing. So I thought that this was the time (Interesting video of Bennett talking about Passing to the NYTimes: )

Recommended for I thought it was great. If you have a "I'd like to read more . . . " reading list, I'm sure it ticks off some box.

Mrz. 16, 2:20am

>89 Nickelini: I really thought Passing was very well done as well. I didn't know there is going to be a film - I will be now be looking for it.

Mrz. 16, 4:41am

>89 Nickelini: I also have had that book for last least 10 years. Your cover is much more attractive than mine. I will make sure I get to it this year.

Bearbeitet: Mrz. 20, 12:58pm

The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett 2020

cover comments: this cover tells you at a glance that it's a current novel about a POC. I guess the colours represent the different characters. At a glance I think it's ugly. The actual images of the faces merging is lovely and hint to storylines, but the colours repulse me. I borrowed my copy from a friend and removed the dust jacket, and underneath was just the nice strong blue colour. Much better.

Why I Read This Now: book club.

Rating: somewhere between 3 stars. It started off slowly and not hitting any keys for me, but then it got better . . . and better . . . and even better. It did make me ask a lot of questions, which is a good thing.

Note: the last few books I've read felt like they deserved film adaptations. This one too, and yes, it was bought in a bidding war. No casting yet, but expected to move quickly. So look out for this one on your screen in 2022 or 2023

Comments: So much has been written about this already. Identical twins who go off to lead vastly different lives. I can see the influence of Passing, which I just read, but not a lot. I was expecting more focus on the twins, but the secondary characters where maybe more sympathetic. There were a few "wow" parts of this book, but it was uneven.

Recommended for: One of the top hot books at the moment. I think everyone who might read this has read it.

Bearbeitet: Mrz. 21, 2:01pm

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 2- Wirrow & Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 2012

cover comments: pretty boring compared to the wonderful illustrations within

Comments: I can't believe it took me 5 years to get around to reading this gem of a book after loving The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 1. This is a collection of 62 spreads of very short illustrated stories, done by a variety of artists. Most of the stories are only a sentence long, and it's the art that completes them. The profound little bits are about life, love, and death. I could quote some examples, but with only the text, I couldn't show their true beauty. I do adore an illustrated book.

I'm tired
of being tired
of being tired
of being

Savage mice overran
Mallory's home until she
built a better mousetrap
and attracted a more
elegant class of rodent

Ambiguity lived in a place
with some people
who did some things

Rating 5 stars

Why I Read This Now: I was tired of dusting it every week

Recommended for: anyone with a heart. The is one 1-star review on LT. That person has a miserable empty life.

Mrz. 21, 7:44am

>89 Nickelini: and >92 Nickelini: Interesting reviews, thank you!

Mrz. 23, 11:44pm

Whatever, Michel Houellebecq, 1994

cover comments: next level awful

Comments: I've seen Whatever described as a "study of contemporary alienation," and that fits well. The 30 year old unnamed narrator goes through life in 1990s France in his stable, but uninspiring, job as a computer programmer. He's incredibly unpleasant and there's no real plot to speak of.

Rating: 3 stars. The first section, which was 50 pages, was pretty awful but it got more interesting after that point. I didn't like this book, but I didn't hate it either.

Why I Read This Now: I've never read this author before, although I've owned three of his books for years. This one was short, and also on the 1001 list, I was in the mood for something French.

Recommended for: readers who like nihilistic short novels

Mrz. 24, 6:18pm

>95 Nickelini: Recommended for: readers who like nihilistic short novels

Yes. Once I get over the disgust, I appreciate Michel Houellebecq's humour. Gasp first, smile later. I recommend Submission, and must get to Serotonin soon.

Mrz. 24, 7:21pm

>96 pamelad: oh good! I own Submission and it sounds interesting

Bearbeitet: Mrz. 28, 2:34pm

Here is the Beehive, Sarah Crossan, 2020

Cover comments: Gorgeous! I ordered it from the UK because the North American copy is ugly (and wasn’t actually out when I bought this).

Comments: The tagline for this book asks, “What happens when you lose something the world never knew was yours?” Ana and Connor had been having an affair for three years when he is killed in an accident. Ana descends into deep grief, but she can’t tell anyone. This novel is told in free verse, which could come off as gimmicky, but doesn’t here. It made Here is the Beehive an energetic, slightly feverish read, which matches the erratic mood of the narrator, and shows how infidelity destroys lives. As the novel went along, Ana revealed herself to be a terrible person, and the author was artful in how she showed Ana's increasing bad behavior, while still making the reader empathize with her raw emotions.

Rating: 4.5 stars. I thought this novel was amazing.

This was yet another great recommendation from Simon Savidge and Jen Campbell

Recommended for: readers who like unique, interesting books, and stories about secrets

Not recommended for: The most common complaint about this is that people don't like the main character. Readers also say they are disturbed by the subject matter. Others don’t like how the timeline jumps around abruptly. Sarah Crossan is an acclaimed writer of books for young people, and her adult fans seem cross that she’s written this. And I think this would be a tough read for someone currently going through grief.

Why I Read This Now: it’s been on the top of my TBR since I bought it six months ago

Bearbeitet: Mrz. 28, 5:31pm

>98 Nickelini: I've only read a couple of YA books from Sarah Crossan which didn't impress me much, but Here is the Beehive sounds interesting, and I note that my library has a copy.

Mrz. 30, 9:02pm

How To Build A Girl, Caitlin Moran, 2014

cover comments: I've always found this cover to be ugly, but when I look closely at it, it's a picture of scuffed up Doc Martens and some ripped stockings -- a classic look. What's not to love about that? I guess it's the garish GREEN, and the serif font mixed with the super serif font (I just made up "super serif", so if you're a font head, don't scold me).

Comments: Teenage Johanna Morrigan is struggling in poverty with her family Wolverhampton, England, in the West Midlands in the early 1990s, and feeling like a major loser. So she reinvents herself Dolly Wilde, a name she took from Oscar Wilde's niece, who was "like, this amazing alcoholic lesbian who was dead scandalous, and died really young." Johanna loves to write, and knows she has talent, and ends up writing critical reviews for a music magazine. Dolly Wilde is unleashed on the 1990s English music scene and goes wild. And predictably crashes. And picks herself up again.

How To Build A Girl is one of those humorous novels that touches on serious subjects, but mostly it makes light of Johanna's life as a teenager growing up poor. She has some amazing good fortune, and has some wonderful people in her life, which maybe isn't all that realistic. From the beginning I felt liked I'd heard her voice before. Adrian Mole, perhaps? (Later in the book she reads some of that series.) Or Bridget Jones, if she'd been born poverty-stricken? (I see Helen Fielding wrote a blurb on the back cover.)

And now time to go listen to "For Tomorrow" by Blur . . .

Rating: 3.5 stars. I don't think I'm the target audience for this. At 338 pages, I found it a bit over-long. A good 100 pages shorter and it would have been less tedious. The last section after she picked herself up from her lowest point was well done, with some wise writing wedged into the story. The writing is good, and there are lots of funny bits, but I didn't need so many details of her loser life that lead to Dolly Wilde, and I didn't need so much on her bad drunken shags. I suppose I've read enough of that elsewhere.

Recommended for: people who want to read a humorous novel set against the 1990s British Indie music scene; people who like stories of teenagers exploring who they are

Why I Read This Now: I was cleaning up a stack of books, and I thought this one would be good to read during lunch at work. It was.

Mrz. 30, 9:21pm

>93 Nickelini: I like the reason you gave for reading this. :)

>100 Nickelini: This one has been on my wishlist for a while. I'll remember your comments when I get around to reading it one of these days.

Mrz. 31, 10:22pm

The Wanderer, Peter Van Den Ende, 2019

cover comments: stunning

Rating: 5 stars


->To capture the feel of the book, I invite you to watch a 1.5 minute video trailer on YouTube:

-> The artist describing the story on YouTube (also 1.5 min):

A sailor and a "mysterious black-clad figure with a crescent-moon-shaped head" create a paper boat and let it free to sail the vast oceans. It encounters seals and whales and crocodiles, and countless magical sea creatures; it travels over coral reefs and past mangroves, under billions of stars and above thousands of eyes; into the polar regions, and skirts several disasters, mostly man-made. Finally, he arrives at a safe harbour. I think the message is be bold, go out and adventure . . . something like that? The little boat is a character, even without a face or words.

It feels a bit funny counting a book with no words as "a read," but there is so much going on in this sumptuous 92 page illustrated book (it's sometimes catalogued as a graphic novel). This is Belgian artist Peter Van Den Ende's first book, and it's won several awards. The detail in the illustrations is amazing, and I thought he must have used a computer for some of it, but I've researched it and it's done with dip pens and India ink. The crosshatching, for example, is masterful.

Recommended for: people who love detailed illustrated books, armchair adventurers

Not recommended for: people who suffer from trypophobia might be triggered by this. When I learned about trypophobia, I learned that I have the opposite--I'm drawn to these patterns. Trypophilia, perhaps? I didn't know that this book would be so satisfying when I ordered it.

Why I Read This Now: It arrived yesterday.

I came across this while going down some bookish internet rabbit hole, and it was expensive so I looked at my local library, and they said if I put in a request they'd buy it, but then one of my websites put it on sale, so I just bought it. I think I'll request it from the library as well, so my community can also discover it :-)

Apr. 3, 1:32pm

The Cockroach, Ian McEwan, 2019

cover comments: sure, fits the story

Comments: In a reversal of Kafka's The Metamorphosis, a cockroach wakes up one morning to find he's turned into the prime minister of Great Britain. McEwan wrote this novella in 2019 as a satirical stab at the current political situation in the UK. This is the 13th book by McEwan that I've read.

Rating: 3.5 stars. It was okay. Quite clever in parts, eye-rolling in others. I think others who know the nuances of UK politics better than I will either like it more, conversely, less.

Why I Read This Now: I was looking for a novella for a fun challenge I'm doing this weekend. I tried two others before settling on this one.

Recommended for: you know who you are

Apr. 3, 3:55pm

>103 Nickelini: the premise is hilarious!

Apr. 4, 2:09pm

Tales From The Inner City, Shaun Tan, 2018

cover comments: perfectly gorgeous

Comments: This is an illustrated collection of 25 untitled short stories and poems, all about human-animal relationships. I've heard this book described as "surreal", "urban-fantasy", "mesmerizing", "futuristic" and "bizarre." The combination of the astounding illustrations and unusual text packs an emotional wallop. My favourite pieces were these:

- how to avoid imminent tiger attacks (which includes a detailed and prescient case for how wearing a mask is key to survival)
- bears with lawyers
- an orca in the sky
- a secretary's challenge of how to deal with the board members who all turned into frogs
- pigeons as a metaphor for humans
- the beauty of giant snail love
- missing cats
- the last rhino
- crocodiles that live on the eighty-seventh floor of an office building
- dog & human companionship

Rating: 4.5 stars

Recommended for: everyone. This was shelved in the teen section of my library, but it's a sophisticated book that is undoubtedly adult. This would make a lovely gift for an animal lover

Why I Read This Now: I was looking for a different book by Shaun Tan at the library. It was out but this one was available.

Apr. 4, 2:14pm

Some of the illustrations from Tales From The Inner City

giant snail love

the missing cat

the orca in the sky

Apr. 5, 2:56pm

>103 Nickelini: I think all Prime Ministers/Presidents should spend some time as a cockroach!

>106 Nickelini: Gorgeous illustrations!

Apr. 10, 2:39pm

Bride of New France, Suzanne Desrochers, 2011

cover comments: It's fine. I think the cover trope of the woman's silhouette was very popular around the time this was published. The lace edge is nice, and appropriate as the main character was a gifted lace maker.

Comments: As a child, Laure was taken from her parents when Louis XIV ordered the poor to be removed from the streets of Paris. She was institutionalized along with other children of paupers and orphans, and in the same building as the mental ill, prostitutes, and petty criminals. Over the years she became an expert lace maker and seamstress. The first third of this novel covers her life of oppression growing up in Paris.

When she came of age, Laure was sent to New France (current day Quebec) as one of the filles du roi (daughters of the king). This was a program financed by the French crown to boost the population of New France and encourage the men that were already there to create a settlement instead of returning to France. She is married off to a rough and neglectful man that she calls "the pig," and the second two-thirds of the novel cover her first few years in Canada. It was interesting to read about Montreal and the surrounding area being a settlement scratched out of the dense forest.

I didn't know much about the filles du roi, and was happy to learn more about them. Starting in 1663, around 800 young women, mostly poor, were shipped off to become baby machines. Apparently there were bonuses from the king for popping out 10 or more babies. The program was successful in more than doubling the population in a decade, and wasn't needed after that. Doing some side research, I learned that most French Canadians can trace their ancestry back to one or more of these women. Hilary Clinton also appears on lists of their descendants.

Note: Desrochers did her Ph.D. thesis comparing the migration of women from Paris to colonial North America with those from London. She also wrote her M.A. thesis on these French women. So the historical detail was probably pretty solid.

Recommended for: readers who want to learn about a period that isn't covered much in historical fiction

Rating: This is a solid novel, but I'm only giving it 3.5 stars, based more on my personal feelings, and not necessarily reflecting its quality. Readers complain that the character of Laure was unlikeable, but that doesn't bother me. The author has noted that she knows Laure is selfish, and thinks selfishness may have served someone in this situation well. I see her point. I was more bothered that some of her actions and choices seemed improbable. My second reason I'm not giving this 4 stars is that I think my tastes have changed and I'm just not as interested in historical fiction as I used to be.

Why I Read This Now: I borrowed this from a friend YEARS ago and I'm determined to return all the borrowed books in my house (I think I only have two left)

Apr. 10, 4:27pm

>108 Nickelini: Looks like I also gave it 3.5. I didn't mention whether or not I liked Laure, so I don't remember!

Apr. 11, 12:41pm

>108 Nickelini: I've had this book on my library list for eons! Not sure why I haven't gotten to it yet. Quebec has a history of paying for babies. In the 1960s it found itself with a vastly lowered birth rate so in 1988 it introduced a payment schedule for families having babies. $500.00 was awarded for the first child, $1,00.00 for the second and then each additional child was worth $6,000.00. This did indeed raise their birth rate and eventually (I believe) the government was able to cancel this program.

Apr. 11, 12:50pm

>110 DeltaQueen50:
I thought about that while reading this too! Some things never change, I guess

Apr. 11, 3:15pm

Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino, 1972, translated from Italian by William Weaver

cover comments: meh. The picture would be nice if it were large enough to see

Comments: Marco Polo visits the court of Kublai Khan and describes 55 cities he's imagined. There is no plot. The cities he describes are dreamlike, contradictory, and mostly impossible. This book is essentially a literary game and writing exercise where Calvino arranges the blurbs describing the cities in a mathematical pattern. There is a chart at Wikipedia to explain this.

Although there were frequent snips of beautiful, evocative writing, overall I found this tiresome and lacking in purpose.

This is definitely a book from the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die list that you do not have to read, ever.

Why I Read This Now: I started this for a challenge last week, that I didn't use for the challenge but kept reading anyway. It was fairly short.

Recommended for: people who want to read the 1001 and Guardian 1000 lists

Rating: Ugh. 2.5 stars. There are many 5 star reader reviews (especially at GoodReads), so don't let my disdain for this stop you from reading Invisible Cities. I found it pretentious, but you might find it brilliant.

Apr. 11, 10:15pm

>108 Nickelini: definitely a BB for me!

Bearbeitet: Apr. 14, 2:19am

A Fairy Tale, Jonas T Bengtsson, 2011; translated from Danish by Charlotte Barslund, 2014

cover comments: what cover? Oh, Lt doesn't have it. I can tell you it's sort of a dusky blue . . .

Recommended For: I can confidently say that I think most of my LT friends would also like this novel. It's one of those books you read and think "why isn't everyone talking about this?" There are scads of 4 & 5 star reader reviews on GoodReads, and only a few little 2 & 3 star reads. I did find it dark, and there where times when I couldn't face it. . . but I think that's me; it was never the writing.

Comments: Wow. Where do I start with this?

I'd never heard of this novel when I found it while browsing at a book store in 2015 (remember doing that?), and the description on the back cover, and the title, and it being Danish, all intrigued me. I had no idea what to expect.

It opens in 1986, with the assassination of the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme (a shocking crime, unsolved to this day). A father tells his 6 year old son that it's time to go. The first half of the novel covers the next few years of the unnamed boy traveling through the fringes of Danish society with his father, moving from some seedy make-shift housing to the next, being home schooled, his dad picking up jobs, and his being exposed to things that children shouldn't have to see. I could swallow this because throughout the father was invested in taking care of his son. And they had a great bond and a deep love. But so many questions. What happened to the boy's mom? Was the father a criminal, running from the law? Or was he a hero, running from dark forces? This is definitely a realistic novel, but it has fairy tale metaphors.

Anyway, the tension builds as they move between different situations, and just when you think the dad might be settling down, a shocking event happens.

The second half of the book is roughly divided into the boy being a teenager, and living in a stable environment, but struggling, and he finds out more about his father. The final section is him as a young adult and his resolution. Heartbreaking.

I looked up A Fairy Tale on YouTube and found an English interview with the author who said that he ended this novel with the most hopeful note of anything he's written. I watched this before I finished the book, so when I read the end, I laughed out loud. Which was probably inappropriate.

Rating: 4.5 stars. I started reading this in January and I was really immersed in the dark, gritty story. But then my brother died, and A Fairy Tale was just too raw at that time. I've been picking it up now and again, and thinking it was amazing, but then needing to put it down. I can't remember when it's ever taken me so long to read such a good book. Especially since it was written in very short chapters, which I usually find quick to read.

Why I Read This Now: This has always been physically at the top of my TBR stack since I bought it

Apr. 15, 2:48am

>114 Nickelini: Another BB for me! I am sorry to hear of your brother.

Apr. 18, 4:18pm

the Housekeeper and the Professor, Yoko Ogawa, 2003; translated from Japanese by Stephen Snyder, 2009

cover comments: lovely!

Why I Read This Now: there were cherry trees blooming outside my window, and I noticed the same trees on this book's cover. How silly a reason is that? Also, I always mean to read more Japanese fiction. Thirdly, it's been on my shelf since 2010. I had picked it up a few times and read the first page, but then always said "later!"

Rating: so many of my LT friends raved about this, but I found it sort of annoying. 3 stars. I predicted that I wasn't going to like it, so not a disappointment.

Comments: An unnamed housekeeper goes to work for an unnamed professor who had once had a brilliant career as a mathematician. He had suffered a traumatic brain injury in 1975 and since then could only remember the past 80 minutes. She brings her 10 year old son to work one day, and the professor takes a particular liking to him, and nicknames him Root. The three of them share a bond and have a lovely relationship. Unfortunately for me, they are also obsessed with mathematics and baseball, two subjects that I find intolerably boring.

Recommended for: People who have more tolerance reading about baseball and math than I do.

Apr. 18, 10:44pm

>116 Nickelini: I have this book on my TBR; not in any hurray to get to it!

Apr. 19, 12:12am

>117 Tess_W:
I don't mean to dissuade anyone from reading anything. It just wasn't for me. I have 52 people marked as "friends" on LT, and 20 of them have this book, and all of them rated it between 4 & 5 stars. I believe that I'm on the edges with this one. However, maybe you'll one day feel like reading it (it's a short book) and you'll join me, over at the edge.

Apr. 19, 8:04am

>118 Nickelini: I completely understand, but you are not the first one I've read about that did not care for this book! I will read it, eventually, hopefully!

Bearbeitet: Apr. 19, 5:32pm

>118 Nickelini: I think I rated it ok (3 stars). I might have rated it good (3.5).

Checked - looks like I rated it "good".

ETA: I do also remember it being short, so Tess, at least there's that if/when you want to get it off your tbr.

Apr. 26, 1:26am

Anxious People, Fredrik Backman, translated from Swedish by Neil Smith, both 2020

cover comments: I like it, especially the colours (oh, I just noticed they are the colours of the Swedish flag, and the colours of national hockey team's uniforms)

Rating: 4.5 stars. For most of this I wasn't rating it that high, but the last quarter really came together, and in the end I loved it

Comments: From the first sentence of the second paragraph on page one: "This story is about a lot of things, but mostly about idiots." In the end, it was about a lot of things, but the characters weren't idiots at all.

In some small city in Sweden, a desperate person fails to rob a bank, and escapes into the nearby apartment building, and runs into a viewing for a suite for sale full of potential buyers. This turns into a hostage situation with "the worst hostages ever." The cops who are called to the scene are a father and his son, and they have baggage of their own. Everyone is anxious, for all sorts of reasons.

I was drawn in right from the beginning. The author Backman, and his translator, write some fabulous sentences that are clever, or funny, or insightful, or unique. But the story jumps in timeline A LOT, and jumps between characters a lot, and there was quite a bit of annoying behavior (in the end, I learned that some of this was purposeful). I started calling this novel "Obnoxious People." But then with all the jumping around, the author pulls it together, and it's really rather amazing and lovely. My patience paid off. In the last bit, I almost teared up twice, and definitely teared up once, so yeah, I almost never cry in books, and I didn't cry here either, but almost.

This was my first Fredrik Backman, and I'll definitely read more. I already own Beartown, and A Man Called Ove is his best seller, so maybe I'll pick that one up too. It appears that people who loved any one of these three doesn't like some other one, so that actually intrigues me.

Recommended for: Not sure. Most reader reviews are great, a few are terrible. I can see both sides, but I think some of the DNFs might have liked Anxious People in the end. I definitely want to read more books of this sort: by that I mean novels in translation that aren't arty or literary or heavy. I read those too, but I'd like to read more of this for a change.

Why I Read This Now: book club

Bearbeitet: Apr. 29, 2:04am

Beyond the Pale: Folklore, Family, and the Mystery of Our Hidden Genes, by Emily Urqhart, 2016

cover comments: Fabulous cover. Love the image, love the colours. I actually ordered this edition from the UK because I preferred the cover to the one available in Canada (this book is by a Canadian author)

Why I Read This Now: Top of my TBR since I ordered it.

I've been interested in albinism since I was a young child and my older brothers brought home albums by Johnny Winter and his brother Edgar Winter ("come on and take a freeride . . . " and the 70s rock classic Frankenstein). My Dutch heritage has given me light blonde hair and alabaster skin (but dark blue eyes), and a few years later, boys I didn't know would approach me on the playground or on the street and ask (in a tone of distain) "are you albino?!". I was treated with disgust by all sorts of other white people well into my 20s for being too white skinned (after that all the sun damage caught up with me and I gained a bit of permanent colour). WTF is it with white people -- obviously don't be brown or black skinned, but guess what! Don't be too white skinned either. It made me wonder what people with actual albinism have to go through.

About a decade ago, I listened to a documentary on CBC radio about what I now know was a N.O.A.H conference (National Organization of Albinism and Hypopigmentation). They talked about people with albinism gathering from all over the world, and how they kept the lights low because of the sensitivity to light challenges, but also sight issues. I didn't know that--I thought they just had even-lighter-than-me colouring. And then they talked about how people with albinism were hunted in Africa, and I was shocked and horrified. And I thought-- "this is an amazing topic for a book. There's a novel in this." But I'm only a hobby writer, so I haven't made it to this topic yet. But then in 2020 I learned about Beyond the Pale and I had to read it.

Comments: Beyond the Pale: Folklore, Family, and the Mystery of Our Hidden Genes is part exploration of albinism, but mostly it's a memoir of giving birth to a child with a visible disability. The author is a folklorist, and I had heard this described as a blend of personal memoir and myths around the world about albinism, and it wasn't really that. So let's look at what it was actually about.

On a late December night in Newfoundland in 2010, the author gives birth to her first child: a daughter who has a shock of white hair. Perfectly healthy at birth, in the next few weeks they realize that she has albinism, which is a genetic condition that results in unusually pale hair, skin, and eyes; and more significantly, lifelong vision problems. Her husband is a biologist, and gives a solid scientific approach to their parenting, while the author--a daughter of two artists*, and a PhD in folklore--explores the cultural and historical side. All while learning to parent, and learning to parent a child with challenges and who looks different from her parents and all the other kids.

The first third of this 268 page book is parenting memoir and learning about albinism, the second third is about her trip to Tanzania with the aid organization who help the people with albinism in Tanzania, and the last third is exploring family history to find the thread of this genetic mutation. I found all of it quite interesting, but although I had heard about the slaughter of people with albinism in Africa, I found the part in Tanzania especially important, even though it was horrifying. Tanzania has a high percentage of people with albinism, but they are often viewed as living ghosts (aka not human), and witch doctors use their body parts to concoct potions to sell for . . . whatever magical thing you want. Also, raping a woman with albinism will cure HIV. Sadly, this trend is spreading through Africa. Urqhart worked with Under the Same Sun, a non-profit ( ) that's run by a Canadian with albinism.

*The author, Emily Urquhart, is the daughter of famed Canadian painter Tony Urquhart, and novelist Jane Urquhart (author touchstone is failing, but she wrote Away, The Stone Carvers, The Underpainter, and many others) (which reminds me . . . I haven't finished her oeuvre yet. I do like her when I'm in the mood for a thoughtful novel)

Rating: 4 stars. I have to say about a quarter of the way into this I had to regroup, because I was expecting something different. And it's not the author's fault that she didn't write the book I envisioned. I bought this because the author is an expert on folklore, and thought she'd bring more of that angle into her look at albinism. It also jumps around quite a bit. But otherwise, a really solid, interesting, informative read.

Recommended for: I learned about this book from author and YouTuber Jen Campbell (more touchstone fail from LT) who is a huge advocate for representation of people with disabilities in literature (she actually blurbs my UK edition: "One of the most powerful non-ficton books I've ever read. Read it and buy copies for everyone you know.")

Otherwise, I'd recommend it for people like me who are interested in albinism. And very much recommended for new parents of a child who is "different." Also readers who are interested in inherited genes and tracing your ancestry

Mai 6, 11:58pm

Volatile Texts: Us Two, Zsuzsanna Gahse, 2005, translated from German by Chenxin Jiang, 2016

cover comments: On one hand, it fits with the Dalkey Archive look in general. But on the other hand, ugh! This is a book set all over Switzerland -- is this grainy, underexposed photo the best they can do? Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Comments: Zsuzsanna Gahse was born in Hungary and grew up in Austria and Germany. She now lives in Switzerland. The translator Chenxin Jiang was born in Singapore and grew up in Hong Kong and studied at Princeton. Volatile Texts: Us Two is a literary exploration that explores the accents, languages, and landscapes of Switzerland, which is a stand in for all of Europe. The 13 chapters are called "prose miniatures," and they are bits of story and writing with varying degrees of obliqueness.

What I Didn't Like: I'm not in a place in life where I can appreciate high brow literature such Volatile Texts because there is very little narrative. Some of the pieces are more like poetry that anything else.

What I Liked: it was only 121 pages. It takes the reader all over Switzerland, and explores language, and touches on the four national languages of Switzerland (German, French, Italian and Romansch).

Recommended for: readers who love languages -- I admit that quite a bit of the playfulness went over my head. I also think that a knowledge of Switzerland would help picture the author's descriptions (it did for me, anyway).

Rating: 3 stars. At another time of life it would have been more.

Why I Read This Now: I'm always up to try a book from Switzerland

Mai 13, 11:47pm

40. The Likeness, Tana French, 2008

cover comments: not terrible, fine, I guess, although with the country house setting, I could imagine a hundred more interesting covers

Rating: 4 stars. I enjoyed this a lot, but it was slow and overly long. Otherwise I found it interesting, atmospheric, and well written

Comments: The Likeness is book two of the Dublin Murder Squad series. I started with Broken Harbour, which I liked very much, and the the first book In the Woods which was a huge disappointment. I think The Likeness is my favourite of the three.

This one follows police officer Cassie Maddox going undercover to solve the mystery of Lexie Madison, a young woman who has turned up dead, and who could be identical twins with police office Maddox, and who is using one of Maddox's discarded undercover aliases. To solve the murder, Maddox goes undercover with the victims room mates, an eccentric group of Trinity College PhD students living in a fabulous rundown great house in the Irish countryside.

To enjoy this book, the reader must completely suspend disbelief and go with the premises. And then it's lots of fun. But slow -- I feel like I've been reading this 466 page book for weeks. The scenes in the country house with the tight knit group of five was wonderfully evocative.

Recommended for : thinking of reading Tana French? I really don't think you have to read them in order. Try this one.

Why I Read This Now: It fell into my "read on work breaks" pile, but then I ended up packing it home every day and just reading it

Mai 14, 9:43pm

>124 Nickelini: I always find it interesting how everyone seems to have a different favorite in the Tana French series. My favorite is book number three, Faithful Place and I would put The Likeness at the bottom of the list (still liked it but not as much as her others).

Mai 15, 5:30pm

>124 Nickelini: I've only read 2 Tana French and she has scared me away--too long and tedious---but I'm glad you like it better than I!

Bearbeitet: Mai 17, 12:11am

A Girl Returned, Donatella Di Pietrantonio, 2017; translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein, 2019

Cover comments: I like it, especially after reading the book.
The original Italian cover was also lovely:

Rating: 4.5 stars. A Girl Returned also won the 2017 Campiello Prize, among other awards.

Comments: A Girl Returned opens with the unnamed 13 year old narrator being dumped at her biological family, who she didn’t even know existed. Brought up an only child in middle class urban comfort, suddenly and without explanation, she is living in poverty with parents who hardly notice her, sleeping with her bedwetting younger sister, and dealing with three dangerous older brothers. There’s the mystery to figure out about why she’s here, along with watching her learn to live in this messy, difficult family and mourning her past life.

Under 200 pages, A Girl Returned moves along quickly with clean writing and short chapters. While I was wrapped up in the narrator’s struggles, an Italian reader pointed out to me that in the original Italian, the main point of this book was an exploration of class struggles. The text was in Italian and all the dialogue was in Abruzzo dialect. This theme isn’t exactly a surprise as the English translation certainly captures that idea, but the nuances and subtleties just didn’t come through in the translation. Despite that, I think this is a great read for the non-Italian reader.

I have to add that there are some wonderful characters and relationships. I especially loved her younger, plucky sister, Adriana.

Recommended for: Fans of Elena Ferrante Neapolitan Novels will probably like this book, both of which were translated by Ann Goldstein. Personally, I much preferred A Girl Returned, but I couldn’t get past My Brilliant Friend.

Why I Read This Now: I'm trying to read more Italian literature.

Mai 17, 12:23am

>127 Nickelini: I've added this one to the wish list. I didn't get far into The Story of a New Name, and was waiting for a good time to try again, so will try A Girl Returned in the meantime. I see that it's short, which is a very good thing.

Mai 17, 12:30am

>128 pamelad:
Yes, short and a quick read. Unlike those books that look short, but are still a slog (I'm looking at you, Heart of Darkness, with your 67 punishing pages)

Mai 17, 12:39am

>129 Nickelini: Yes, I gave up on HoD then gave my copy away so that it didn’t sit on the shelf looking reproachful.

Bearbeitet: Mai 17, 6:07am

>129 Nickelini:
>130 pamelad:

On my WL is goes! I concur HOD is a slog, I probably started that thing 20 times before I finished it. I can only say I finished it----I can barely remember a thing. I may give it another go as it's free at Audible, read by Kenneth Branagh. I also have Lord Jim languishing on my shelf.

Mai 24, 11:38pm

On the Edge, Markus Werner, 2004; translated from German by Robert E. Goodwin, 2012

No cover comments because my cover is not available on LT

Comments: Lawyer Thomas Clarin escapes to his second home in Lugano, Switzerland (Italian Switzerland) to write some work-related papers over the Pentecost long weekend. On his first evening, he goes for dinner at an upscale restaurant terrace and strikes up a lengthy conversation with another diner. They drink and chat into the early hours, and then continue the next evening, with their conversation getting more personal as they go on. Sunday noon, Clarin realizes that everything was not what he supposed.

I read Werner's Cold Shoulder last year, and enjoyed it very much indeed. As with that book, this novella started out with paragraphs that sometimes went on for a page or two, and covered the random thoughts of privileged, educated, white men; thoughts that were sometimes interesting, but often navel-gazing nothings. Cold Shoulder had an unexpected twist at the end, and I was promised that On the Edge did too. Unfortunately, the twist came very late in the book, and honestly, I thought it was less than intriguing.

Fun fact 1: On the Edge sent me to google a few times. Most of the novel was set on the terrace at the Hotel Bellevue in Montagnola, which is a real hotel and restaurant: (Hmmm, next trip to Lugano?)

The other key location is the Sanatorium and wellness hotel in Cademario, which I googled and found this: (Hmmm, maybe I want to stay here instead)

Fun fact 2 The original title is Am Hang, which translated into English is "On a Slope". Both of these are a clever play of words on the content of the novel, as well as the three settings of hillside buildings over Lake Lugano. But in French, the title is Langues de Feu, "Tongues of Fire," which I guess also has at least two clever connections to the novel, and ties to what the novel has to say about Pentecost (I never did get why Pentecost was important to this story). But in Italian, it's Quando la Vita Chiama, "When Life Calls," which isn't clever at all, and as my Italian-speaking husband just said, "it sounds like a Harlequin romance."

Rating: Most readers appreciate this more than I did. The writing is good, and I hear it's an excellent reread, but I can't imagine caring enough. I loved the setting in the various hill communities around Lugano. Being generous, I'll give it 3 stars.

Why I Read This Now: it was on my to-read in 2021 list, and I noticed it took place over Pentecost weekend, so I looked up what that was, and this year it coincides with the Victoria Day weekend in Canada, so I saved it for this long weekend. The Pentecost weekend in the book was actually in June (it's tied to Easter, so one of those moving holidays)

Recommended for: Most reader reviewers liked this more than I did. If it appeals, go read it.

Mai 29, 3:46pm

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Stuart Turton, 2018

cover comments: I think it's terrific. Very simple, but is subltly evocative of the setting and mood of the book

Rating: This wildly popular book just didn't work for me. 2 stars

Why I Read This Now: Book club

Comments: When I started this, it felt like a novelized version of the game of Clue. "Col. Mustard in the library with the knife," "Miss Scarlett in the conservatory with the lead pipe," etc. The cover of my edition says "Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day. Other comparisons include Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson; Downton Abbey, Gosford Park, The Time Traveler's Wife, and Black Mirror. All of that sounds great to me.

Aiden Bishop finds himself in a stranger's body at a country house gathering. He body hops and time travels through eight characters and eight "days", trying to solve (and stop) the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle. I really enjoyed the country estate setting at Blackheath House, and vaguely 1920s mood (it's really more of an alternate universe rather than a real time and place).

Readers praise its ingenuity and intricacy. However, I found this to be an overly long, overly manic, overly complicated, and confusing enough to make me not care. What killed this book for me was the overall premise. There were intricate rules to follow, but who was making these rules and who were these characters who showed up to explain them? It made no sense. This book raised a lot of questions and offered flimsy half-answers. I would have DNF'd this early on, or anywhere along the way, actually, but I paid $25 for it, and I've skipped 50% of our book club books this year, so I decided to suck it up. And now I'm so happy to get back to the book I was enjoying previously.

Recommended for: Lots of 4 & 5 star reader reviews, so if you think it sounds interesting, give it a try.

Jun. 1, 1:04am

One More Croissant for the Road, Felicity Cloake, 2019

cover comments: tres bein!

My quotation for 2021: "Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are" (M Cooley)

Rating: 5 stars.

This book should automatically be deducted one star for not including a map (or 21 maps), and photos. Apparently the hardcover edition has a lovely hand drawn map, but, alas, my paperback did not. Despite that, I loved this reading experience so I'm in a forgiving mood. It really was so much fun.

To make up for this map flaw, before I started reading, I printed out a map of France, and based on the Table of Contents, marked her route.

Comments A British food writer's personal Tour de France where she cycles around France in search of the best classic French cuisine. A few years ago my husband and I started planning a cycling-food trip in France with friends. My husband and his lifetime friend are avid cyclists, the friend's wife and I are friends who are happy to drive the support vehicle and nosh our way through France. Life happened, and the trip didn't happen, but I still hope to do a version of this at some point. I'll even cycle if I get an e-bike for the hills. So when I went down some internet hole on a January 2021 night and found this book, I had to order it right away. I didn't know the author, but now that I google her, I've probably looked at some of her "How to Make the Perfect . . . " in the Guardian.

Cycling around France! In search of good food! What's not to like about that? I also liked to read how she had a budget, so it wasn't just all nice hotels and grabbing a ride when things got ugly (which would definitely be my plan). She had friends and family show up now and again, but had long stretches alone, and 150km rides in the rain. And then pitched her wet lycra-clad self into a tent. There were train strikes. And arriving in towns to find almost everything closed (I've shared that traveling in Europe experience).

Also there are asides about French food culture, and each of her 21 Tour de France stages includes a recipe, which is influenced by French locals' advice. Yesterday I made the ratatouille, which was easy, delicious, and also vegan. (I googled her online Ratatouille recipe, which is much more complicated. I'll stick with this local version).

Part way through this book, I found this author on Instagram and she's lots of fun. In the last two weeks she's been in Iceland and is now cycling and camping in her tiny tent in Devon. I commented elsewhere that I think if we met in person we'd be great friends (Emma Thompson would really round out this friend trio).

Why I Read This Now:: See my quotation, above. I've wanted to read it since I discovered it in January.

Recommended for: Armchair travelers. Foodies. One More Croissant for the Road is focused. While it was utterly delightful for me, it's not for everyone: My cyclist husband would be irritated at her how ill-prepared she was for the technicalities of the trip (I read him passages, and he had lots of comments); people looking for a French experience--this is very much a British person's memoir (she does speak fluent French, if that make a difference to you); her travel details are not enough to plan a trip based on this.

But if you have a sense of humour, and want some fun, with learning a few things about French food, I think you might like this one.

Jun. 1, 2:23am

>134 Nickelini: Thank you for a great review. On my WL is goes!

Jun. 2, 3:34am

Wow, cycling and eating one's way across France - sounds like the perfect vacation! I hope you get to go ahead with it!

Jun. 6, 3:01pm

We All Fall Down, Daniel Kalla, 2019

cover comments: it's a thriller cover. They aren't supposed to be artistic

Comments: Dr. Alana Vaughn, a NATO specialist in bioterrorism, is called to Genoa, Italy where a critically ill patient has a mysterious disease that turns out to be the Black Death. Vaughn and her team race to find out the source of the disease before the plague gets loose and kills billions. There is a connection to an 800 year old monastery and a smaller subplot from a diary kept during the plague of 1348. Parallels to the COVID outbreak in Northern Italy were interesting.

Rating: 3.75 stars. Medical thrillers aren't really my thing, but this one was a solid good read.

Why I Read This Now: Five months ago I had never heard of Daniel Kalla and now he seems to be everywhere, possibly because his last three novels have been incredibly relevant to current events. We All Fall Down has a potential pandemic, The Last High is set against the fentanyl crisis in Vancouver, and his latest, Lost Immunity features anti-vax fundamentalists. I now own them all and may even read all three this year.

Daniel Kalla is the head of emergency at St Paul's Hospital, one of Vancouver's busiest, and he also teaches medicine at the University of British Columbia. In his spare time, he's managed to write a stack of novels. Apparently, the medical details in them are excellent (even if some of the other details are not).

Recommended for: readers who enjoy medical thrillers

Jun. 6, 4:16pm

>103 Nickelini: McEwan's book is definitely going on my wishlist!

>105 Nickelini: I really enjoyed this one too and set off on a search for more by Shaun Tan.

>134 Nickelini: Oh, I'm a fan of Felicity Cloake's column in The Guardian - even though I don't cook much anymore since my husband developed strange food preferences along with Parkinson's disease.

>137 Nickelini: Kalla must be a human dynamo to accomplish so much. As you know, I didn't care for Pandemic but enjoyed Blood Lies and look forward to reading more.

Jun. 7, 7:32pm

>138 VivienneR:
I look forward to your comments on The Cockroach.

I'll let you know how I get on with the Daniel Kalla books.

I'm wondering what your husband's new food preferences are -- is this a Parkinson's thing? Share as little or as much as you're comfortable with.

Jun. 9, 4:14pm

>139 Nickelini: My husband eats very little now and just snack food. I don't know how he survives. The only vegetable he eats is a leaf of lettuce or a pickle - not at the same time of course! We've both been vegetarian for decades but now he buys those little cans of flavoured salmon that look like Fancy Feast cat food. :( One can for two meals, maybe more, I don't count. The only thing I can cook that he will eat is cake, any kind, preferably plain. My son and I have both given up trying to tempt him with tasty treats. I'm assuming this is related to his Parkinson's because prior to the diagnosis he was such a health nut. I know there is loss of taste and smell with the disease but pound cake doesn't taste or smell better than say, pizza, or a juicy piece of fruit. I'm still trying to adjust my shopping and usually buy far too many vegetables and fruit.

Jun. 9, 10:04pm

>140 VivienneR:
Oh that sounds really challenging. I'm sorry you're having to go through that. Thanks for sharing, I didn't know about that side effect.

Jun. 12, 2:21pm

Spring, Ali Smith, 2019

cover comments: I think the covers on the Seasonal Quartet series are lovely. This one is a 1922 painting by Boris Michaylovich Kustodiev called Summer, which I find amusing

Rating: There were a few interesting parts in this, but overall I found it more of a muddle than anything. 3 stars

I rated Autumn (read Sept 2019) and Winter (read Dec 2020) 4 stars. I'm hoping to read Summer later this year, and hope the series gets back on track

Comments: This disjointed tale of a has-been filmmaker, a detention centre worker, a magical refugee child, and Alba (what even was she?) covers all the hot-button issues in 2018 Britain. I did not get on with it, but it wasn't all bad. Most of it wasn't even set in spring, and that made it even worse. So much can be done with a spring theme, but this book just wanted to be dark and grumpy.

Why I Read This Now: I think the Seasonal Quartet is written to be read as close to publication as possible.

Recommended for: completists of the series

Jun. 12, 2:34pm

>142 Nickelini: The cover is beautiful!

Jun. 12, 2:41pm

>143 Tess_W:
Yes, the whole series is beautiful, and look so nice on the shelf. I think I'll trade them in at the used book store when I'm done though, as I can't imagine rereading these, so no reason to keep them.

Jun. 18, 1:45am

Why Should I Learn to Speak Italian?: The Strugglers' Guide to La Bella Lingua, by Gerry Dubbin, 2016

cover comments: this is lovely, especially for a self-published book

Why I Read This Now: I stumbled across this one night this past January when I was clicking around the internet. The title, "Why Should I Learn to Speak Italian?" is really dumb, but I was drawn to "the Struggler's Guide" part. I had been struggling, but winning!, with learning Italian in late 2019-early 2020, but then my classes shut down in March 2020, and my May 2020 trip to Italy was cancelled, and I completely lost all my steam. I was hoping that this book would inspire me to get back on the Italian learning track.

Rating: 1.5 stars . . . terrible writing, says almost nothing, so 1 star, but I added half a star because as bad as it was, I flew through the 209 pages and was consistently amazed at the atrocious sentences.

Comments: The author fell in love with Italy over his career as an Australian businessman selling wool to the fashion producers in Italy. He wanted to be able to speak to the Italians in their language, but was frustrated by his lack of progress. The fact that he's writing a book tells me that he's figured it out and is going to share how he can help you avoid some of the inevitable struggles. I was also hoping he'd include a few tips specific for English speakers learning Italian.

I have never read so many words saying so little.

He's crazy repetitive. I'm not talking about an author saying the same thing 2 or 3 times, but actually countless times. I'm sure he said the "learn a language in 2 weeks programs don't work" at least 20 times. Yes, we all know that. He'd explain concepts at the highest and vaguest levels. No evidence he did any research at all about language learning. Clearly he'd never head George Orwell's advice to "never use a long word when a short one will do." Nothing in this book began, instead it always commenced. Why use something when you can utilize it? He made footnotes out of information that belonged in the text. He described a website and quoted paragraphs from it, twice, but not only did he not give the URL, he didn't even give the name of the site. He went on a page and a half rant against people who go on cruise ship vacations (fine, but it nothing to do with helping people learn Italian). It made my editor-self twitch. No exaggeration: if I deleted all the repeated info, deleted all the paragraphs that said absolutely nothing, rewrote the ridiculous wordy sentences, deleted all the comments added by Captain Obvious, and reorganized the material so it made sense, this book would be 20 pages long maximum.

As for helpful info, he missed a wide variety of tools available to the language learner who has a smart phone and the internet. Info that's easily found over an evening of searching.

I'm not sorry I read this. Sometimes it's fun to read absolute garbage. If you're still here, enjoy some random excerpts that I marked. Keep in mind that he's trying to help and encourage people thinking about or starting out learning Italian:

On Italian verbs, he didn't give much past: "The different ways in which various verb forms need to be linked when discussing a variety of differing situations is more advanced and can prove difficult to remember which combinations to use, and where, during conversation." (yeah, thanks man. That helps a lot)

"As a learner, it is not recommended that you even attempt to read works written by Dante Alighieri, Italy's claimed equivalent to England's Shakespeare."

"....I was to some extent lucky in my Italian studies at the time, in that the then lady in my life was a Melbourne-born lass of Italian extraction, the daughter of dialetto-speaking Italian parents." (Ew, of all the ways you could have said that, this was what you came up with? This was probably the icky-est worst tho -- he didn't seem like a complete creepoid otherwise).

Ah, the beauty of self-publishing: you don't have to worry about those pesky editors with their "ideas." As I said above, but have to repeat: I have never read so many words saying so little.

Recommended for: absolutely no one

Jun. 18, 1:19pm

>145 Nickelini: It's unfortunate that the book was a flop as, you are right, that is an eye-catching cover.

Jun. 19, 9:09am

>145 Nickelini: I laughed out loud at Sometimes it's fun to read absolute garbage. Hope your classes will start back up again soon!

Jun. 19, 1:54pm

>147 rabbitprincess:
Happy to entertain. Somehow I can write more interesting comments about a lousy book than an excellent one

Jun. 19, 2:18pm

>145 Nickelini: Wonderful review! When "was consistently amazed at the atrocious sentences" rated a half star, that says it all, but I'm glad you said more.

Jun. 22, 5:56am

>147 rabbitprincess: I always find that writing and polishing a really snarky review is a good way of working off my disappointment or fury over a bad book. It is therapeutic to get it off your chest.

Jun. 23, 2:09am

Dreaming of Italy, T.A. Williams, 2020

cover comments: this is the style of cover that I've walked past in drug stores for most of my life without blinking. I was not a reader of these sorts of "little" books. But a couple of weeks ago I had about two and a half minutes to pop into a mall book store to pick up a baby book gift, and as I trotted past the $6 table, this one jumped out at me. Who doesn't want to ride in a red convertible in Vernazza on the Cinque Terre? (this scene did not happen in the book, but close enough. The lone woman in the car is more a suggestion of where this book will take you). I scanned the description and I thought, "I'm taking a $6 chance."

Rating: 4 solid stars for a light but satisfying book.

Comments: As Dreaming of Italy opens, we meet Emma, a 35 year old English woman with a successful career as a location scout working in Hollywood. She's assigned a project to scout locations for a historical romance set in pre-WWI Italy. She's told that everyone has already seen Rome and Florence on film, and the touristy places are logistically prohibitive for filming anyway, so she's tasked to find fabulous filming locations that are 1914 Italian eye candy where a film crew can go. I ADORE this premise. One of my dream jobs in another life is to be a location scout. I live in Vancouver, where zillions of movies and TV shows are filmed every year, so this could be a realistic career for me. But I only want to do this job if I'm driving around Shropshire looking for that perfect country house for the adaptation of some 1920s novel (not interested in finding zombie locations back here at home).

The catch is that Emma has to take along the boss's 28 year old son who just got out of rehab. They meet up with their Italian expert, Marina, in Turin, and off they go driving around Italy, with a generous budget. They soon meet up with the English-Italian historical advisor, Mark, and then along the way, the big name actors and director. All very light and fluffy and clearly a romance is building between Emma and Mark.

The story was fine. No big stakes, no melodrama, fairly predictable but nice to ride along and enjoy. What really made this was all the locations they visited -- some that I've been to, and some I've never heard of. I certainly took notes for my future trips back to Italy. For interested travelers, I skimmed over the novel at the end and pulled out these locations (clearly I missed some others): Turin, Valli di Lanzo, wineries in Alba & Asti, Bordighera (on the sea, near France), Hanbury Botanical Gardens, Rapallo, Monterosso & Riomaggiore on the Cinque Terre, Pisa, Lucca (where my husband's family lives), Certaldo, Staggia, Siena, Orvieto, Gubbio, Umbrian villa, Bologna, Ferrara, Padua & Venice. That's one sweet Italian tour!

The author: surprised me. First, T.A. Williams is Trevor Williams, who lives in Devon with his Italian wife. He has a degree in modern languages and has lived in Switzerland, France, and Italy. Back in the UK, he runs a prestigious language school. His hobby is long-distance cycling. Not your usual "romance" book writer. I found that he's written a bunch of these sorts of books, several of which I've now ordered, including La villa dei sogni (The Villa of Dreams), which he wrote in Italian. I bought it to give to my mother-in-law (she adores Nora Roberts, and also Danielle Steele, who she reads in Italian). Now I'm wondering if I might be able to read it after a bit more study.

Recommended for: someone looking for pure escapism that includes beautiful but nice people exploring Italy and falling in love. Heavy on the dream trip through Italy aspect. The romance was of the "will they, won't they" genre, where of course they always will. Sex eventually happens off screen with no cringy descriptions. Sorry if that's a spoiler, but if you don't know that going in, well I don't know what to say to you.

Why I Read This Now: I always promise myself I'll read more light books. I think I'm getting a bit better at it. Especially when "reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are." (My COVID motto)

Jun. 23, 1:17pm

Sometimes light reading fits perfectly.

Jun. 23, 4:08pm

I love armchair travelling and I also like light reading for my audios so I picked up one of this author's to listen to on Audible. I went with Under A Siena Sun and hopefully I will pick up more at a later date.

Jun. 23, 5:38pm

>151 Nickelini: I've read 12 books over 500 pages this year and some were real stinkers. I'm on the quest for lighter, shorter, but still "good" books. I'm taking a BB for this one!

Bearbeitet: Jun. 25, 12:21am

Machiavelli: Philosopher of Power, Ross King, 2007

cover comments: lovely, but why is there a picture of my father-in-law on this cover? Since my father-in-law looks so much like Machiavelli, and he was born about 60km away, I've decided that my husband is a descendant of the famed Renaissance political philosopher. (Machiavelli's descendants live on, so technically we could do a DNA test. Or I can just decide it's true)

Comments: Pretty much a just-the-facts telling of Machiavelli's life, with a discussion of his legacy in The Conclusion. I've actually read a lot about this time period. It was a bloody, violent series of conflicts between the Borgia, Medici, and Sforza families, the French, Spanish, and Popes. I heard this described as reading a game of snakes and ladders, and that's a perfect description.

This is part of the Eminent Lives series.

Why I Read This Now: I've enjoyed this author before and I like reading about Renaissance Italy.

Recommended for: readers interested in the politics of Renaissance Italy.

Rating: 3 stars. I think I'm done with non-fiction from this time period. In the future I'll look for historical novels when I want to read about this period.

Jun. 30, 2:19pm

The Godmother, Hannelore Cayre, 2017, translated from French by Stephanie Smee in 2019

cover comments: I like it. Blue covers are generally pleasing. I wonder if it looks too chick lit though. This book isn't chick lit.

Why I Read This Now: I can't remember what book-net rabbit hole I was down when I discovered this book a few months ago, but I had to order it right away. I'm interested in reading more non-literary translated fiction

Comments: I'll share the description that hooked me:

For 25 years she has toiled honestly, translating police wire-taps of north African drug gangs. She knows she's just a footsoldier in a senseless politicians' war against high-grade hashish, a tiny cog in the state machinery of racism and repression. But it's always paid the bills -- until now . . . With her mother's extortionate care home eating her savings, a lonely and impoverished old age lies ahead.

So when Patience gets the chance to take possession of a vast stash of top-quality Moroccan Khardala, she doesn't hesitate long. Exit the grey-suited civil servant. Enter "the Godmother." Life in the banlieues will never be the same again."

Rating: A quick, fun read, and most unique. 4 stars

Recommended for: Readers who want to see an unglamorous side of current day France.

Jul. 9, 12:38am

Feminist City: A Field Guide, Leslie Kern, 2019

cover comments: I like it! There is black on black writing that says: "public space is not designed for women. My fear is not irrational. Headphones on--don't talk to me. City space is my space. The city needs to hear my voice." and on the back cover, "I am not public property. Don't tell me to smile. I can't take a shortcut home. A woman's place is in the city. Dude, really--two seats? Whose streets? Her streets."

Why I Read This Now: a few months ago I heard the author interviewed on CBC and I ordered this book the same day. I've been reading it in bits and pieces over the past few months.

Comments: Leslie Kern has a PhD in women's studies and teaches geography and environment, and is the director of the gender studies program at Mount Allison University. In this readable fairly short book, she shows how western cities are built to maintain traditional gender roles and assist cis white middle class males. She uses many personal stories to illustrate her points. The sections are City of Men, City of Moms, City of Friends, City of One, City of Protest, City of Fear, and City of Possibility.

Overall, it was an interesting read and pulled together various issues into one narrative. Although focused on women, she also included all groups that aren't cis white middle class males. I was hoping for more solutions, rather than just describing the problems.

Rating: 4 stars. When I heard her interviewed, she gave an example of the Cornell University Library:

Apparently this architectural marvel was designed to showcase the books. And no one ever thought about usability. Women with skirts and thin heels have trouble using this space, as do people who use canes or crutches. I'm sure this cost jillions of dollars to design and build, and no one thought about usability?

I was hoping for case studies like this in the book, and more detailed urban design, and less at the high level problem identifying.

Recommended for: you know who you are. I'm passing my copy along to my daughter who is in 3rd year geography and thinking of doing a masters in urban planning.

Jul. 9, 3:13pm

Wow, that library is very eye-catching until you start to think about the accessibility!

Jul. 10, 3:24am

>157 Nickelini: I agree with you, it probably cost a jillion dollars! In addition to the problems you mentioned, it's just downright cold and ugly, imho!

Jul. 13, 2:57pm

>157 Nickelini: Eye-catching, as >158 DeltaQueen50: says but I think it is just ugly and I can't help wondering what the acoustics are like. Libraries like to have standout designs with photos all over the internet making them famous and I can imagine the designers promoting this one with that idea. I am willing to bet Cornell regrets going along with it. I hope your daughter keeps it in mind in her urban planning studies.

Jul. 13, 8:48pm

I also think it's ugly. It looks very industrial. It doesn't look comfortable or inviting.

Jul. 15, 12:06am

25th Anniversary Edition Bridget Jones's Diary (And Other Writing), Helen Fielding, 2021

cover comments: I'm a huge Bridget Jones fan, so I don't care what the cover looks like, and this could be so much worse. But! I'm not crazy about this, to be honest. Obviously they had some fun with it, by combining the granny panties with the motif of Penguin Classics hardcovers, but I just find it cheap looking. That said, I'm not sure what a better motif for BJ would be if not the giant granny panties. Maybe a wine bottle? But that could apply to a lot of literary characters. And the granny panty scene in the movie still makes me laugh out loud, even after about 70 viewings. Perhaps it's that the execution could be better.

Lots of words, and I haven't made it to my book comments yet . . .

Comments: I adored Bridget Jones's Diary when I read it in the 90s, and then I loved the early 2000s rom-com film version. It's one of my top go-to comfort movies. When I heard they were releasing a 25th Anniversary Edition Bridget Jones's Diary, I didn't think I needed it until I heard there was over 100 pages of new material. And that's what I'm reviewing here-- the 126 pages of content outside of a reprinting of the novel. (If you want to know my thoughts on that, see my review from 2015

25 Years of Bridget Jones

These are the extra wobbly Bridget Jones bits that I'll review here. Each has a half page introduction by the author, and then the rest is in Bridget's voice. These author introductions put the pieces in context and were gold:

Life Before Bridget: How Helen Fielding ended up writing BJD. At some point, she got a gig writing restaurant reviews for the Sunday Times and she included a few, starring her mum and her aunt, who turned into her mum and Aunt Una in the novel; and in another, her friends Sharon and Tracey, who became Shazzer and Jude.

The Diary of Bridget Jones: some of her newspaper columns that became the novel, not all of which made it to the novel. (There are alternate Bridget universes)

Bridget Becomes a Thing: After the novel became a best seller, one of Helen Fielding's highlights was when the Independent arranged for her to meet up with Colin Firth (her muse as Mr Darcy/Mark Darcy/himself) in Rome. They had lunch with a bottle of wine in one restaurant and because they were having so much fun they went to a second restaurant and a second bottle of wine and then did an interview of Fielding being in character as Bridget interviewing Firth. There is a version of this in The Edge of Reason and another version on YouTube of Renee Zellweger in character (search Bridget Jones interviews Colin Firth), and this is the original.

Bridget in the 21st Century : This might be my most favourite of the sections.

First, Fielding's goddaughter asked her to contribute to an edgy collection of essays about feminism. She wrote this: Bridget on attending the 40th Anniversary viewing of Saturday Night Fever with her friends. Shazzer loudly loses her shit over the insanely sexist script. I found this funny because a few weeks ago my 21 year old daughter told me that she'd just watched and hated Saturday Night Fever. She was very puzzled about how it could be a "classic." I said, "oh, that's a terrible movie." (I was too young to see it when it was a phenom, but I was old enough to babysit for couples going to see it. Saw it 25 years later. I was bored). Anyway, Shazzer's take on it was spot on. And why IS it a classic? Ugh.

Then March 2019 on freaking out about impending Brexit (among many lists, "Are we going to run out of wine?" was my fav entry, to which I say, with global warming, England will return to producing wine as it did in the 1200s)

This was followed by 29 March 2020 - Britain in full lock down, and then 24 May 2020, being allowed to maybe gather outdoors, with all its variations.

Finally, some pictures to suggest a self-help book written by Bridget Jones.

Why I Read This Now: it arrived in the mail 2 days ago

Rating: 4.5 stars. BJ has been a big part of my life. And I still relate to her. I think it's because she's always striving to do her best, and tries to meet society's or culture's expectations and mostly not making it. And being so human about it. Probably a few of us can relate to that, although over the past 25 years, I care a whole lot less! (and when I met Bridg in my early 30s, I already cared less than she did). But her character has grown, and she's a good person, and also, Mark Darcy!

Recommended for: anyone who has read this far has some warm spot for BJ and should probably read this. If you're here, and haven't read Bridget Jones's Diary, and it sounds good, go read that, but take it in context. As the author says in one of the introductions:

I tend not to read my own books (once I've written them, obviously) or re-watch the movies, but a couple of years ago I took my children, Dash and Romy, to see a screening of the Bridget Jones's Diary (event) . . . I was shocked at the casual sexism in every scene, which an unenlightened Bridget just put up with as part and parcel of having a job. Honestly, in this day and age all of Bridget's bosses would have been fired and shamed on the spot. Solemn Feminists could get angry about what Bridget put up with, but the fact is, I didn't write the diary as a sociological treatise. It became widely read because there was recognition. It was reflecting a reality, not creating it. .

I saw the movie opening weekend, and in my corporate experience, we all knew it was exaggerated for comedic purposes.

Comfort read.

Jul. 15, 7:56am

Just catching up on your thread, very enjoyable browsing. Who are your favorite BookTubers?

Jul. 15, 7:58am

>162 Nickelini: Have never read or watched Bridget Jones. Will place it on my WL!

Jul. 15, 6:47pm

>163 VictoriaPL:
My very favourite YouTuber is Simon Savidge from SavidgeReads, followed closely by Jen Campbell. I listen to a bunch of others, and * e m m i e *, Audrey at Chapter and Converse, and April at Getting Hygge With It are the ones I listen to most often (after Simon and Jen)

>164 Tess_W: - If you do read it, make sure you put on your 1990s glasses

Jul. 15, 7:32pm

>165 Nickelini: thanks! I just dipped a toe into BookTube and it's a bit overwhelming. The only one I’ve really watched consistently so far is Olive from abookolive.

Bearbeitet: Jul. 15, 8:06pm

>166 VictoriaPL: I watch Olive sometimes. Our book tastes aren’t very similar or I’d watch her more often. I think she writes reviews for the Christian Science Monitor, which is pretty impressive

Jul. 15, 8:07pm

>165 Nickelini: Simon is my fave too!
After Simon, my other favourite is Jean from Jean Bookishthoughts, particularly if you like ancient literature.
Olive is great for nonfiction.
Lauren and the Books is just super fun.
For classic literature, Books and Things is the best - she always finds the more obscure classic literature.

Bearbeitet: Jul. 15, 8:46pm

>168 JayneCM:
I've watched all of those . . . I don't follow Jean anymore though because we don't read ANY of the same books. I follow her on Instagram though because she posts nice pictures.

For classic literature, Books and Things is the best - she always finds the more obscure classic literature.

I watched her today and she says she's read over 100 books so far in 2021. That's crazy!

Jul. 15, 10:07pm

>167 Nickelini: Olive also mentioned Harvard Review in a recent video.

Thanks for the suggestions!

Jul. 17, 2:51pm

Bitter Orange, Claire Fuller, 2018

cover comments: This is gorgeous and drew me right in. The background pattern is "Bird and pomegranate' wallpaper from William Morris. I always love William Morris on a cover

Why I Read This Now: When I was browsing in Munro's books a couple of weeks ago, I was considering the same author's Unsettled Ground (which sounds excellent), and then I noticed this, and I was drawn to the title and the spine art. I have a thing for books with fruit in the title, don't ask me why. The blurb on the back sounded irresistible, especially this bit, "hot summer rolls lazily on", as I was very hot when I read that. (We're having a lengthy heat wave here in Western Canada.) Bitter Orange bypassed my massive TBR pile and I started it right away.

Comments: It took me about 10 days to read Bitter Orange because I was absolutely savoring it. It just dripped with stifling summery atmosphere.

Thirty-nine year old Frances arrives at the decaying Hampshire country house in the summer of 1969 with the job of cataloguing the garden structures for the new owner. Also staying there are bohemian Cara and her spouse Peter, who is documenting the house. Frances has spent her adult life in isolation caring for her ailing mother, who has recently died, and she is socially awkward and naïve. The three form a friendship of sorts, and spend the sultry summer drinking wine and smoking cigarettes, and slowly secrets seep out.

Bitter Orange is compared to: Daphne du Maurier, Anita Brookner, We Have Always Lived in a Castle, and A Month in the Country. I could list a lot of other books it reminds me of, but I think it's just that the English country house in summer setting is one of my favourites.

Rating: Absolutely loved this, perfect summer read. 4.5 stars.

Recommended for: There isn't enough action in Bitter Orange for many readers, but if you like an atmospheric, intriguing and elegant novel, check it out.

Jul. 17, 3:01pm

>171 Nickelini: I also love the cover! Am putting it on my WL.

Jul. 17, 3:23pm

>171 Nickelini: Great review! I just put this on my wishlist at the library. Glad to hear it's so good. "Atmospheric, intriguing, and elegant" sounds like it's just right for me.

Bearbeitet: Jul. 17, 8:18pm

>171 Nickelini: I have Unsettled Ground here to read, and just looked and my library has this one on shelf. Hopefully I will get to it soon!

Jul. 18, 2:47pm

>171 Nickelini: This is an author that I need to get to! I have her Endless Numbered Days on my shelf and both Bitter Orange and Unsettled Ground on my library list.

Jul. 18, 7:17pm

>175 DeltaQueen50: Ooh, Our Endless Numbered Days looks good too - I think I'll just have to read all her backlist!

Jul. 21, 12:11am

Breath, Tim Winton, 2008

cover comments: I really like this cover, but I don't think it fits the book

Rating: for most of this, I thought it had great atmosphere, but perhaps lacking in story, and then in the last third, bam! It turns and everything comes together. I was wowed. It went from 3.5 stars to 4.5 stars over a few pages.

Comments: Bruce Pike, a paramedic, looks back on his early teen years growing up in the 1970s in a small town on the south coast of Western Australia. Before extreme sports were a thing, he makes friends with Loonie through their mutual interest of risk taking. While out surfing, they are swept into the world of Sando, a retired pro-surfer, who becomes a guru to them. Together, and then apart, they take on increasingly bigger risks.

Winton writes beautifully, and I enjoyed more pages about waves and swells than I would have thought possible. The story flowed nicely, even if I wasn't completely invested in it. Then Winton steered the proverbial surfboard of this novel sharply and pulled me in. Lots of layers on the theme of "breath" were handled beautifully. After finding this author's In the Winter Dark to be forgettable, and Dirt Music to be better but a bit "meh", I thought I was done with him, but now I will definitely pick up at least Cloudstreet.

I see in my 2015 comments on Dirt Music that I complained about the lack of quotation marks around dialogue. Oh my, how things change. I was 3/4 of the way through Breath before I noticed they were missing.

Recommended for: I'm not sure. Would someone with no interest in surfing still like this? Surfing is minor in my life, but it's always been out on the periphery -- whether through my older brothers surfing in SoCal in the 1970s, or watching surfers in Australia and Hawaii. There is something mesmerizing about watching them, especially in bigger surf like the North Shore of Maui. And I've had enough body surfing mess ups to relate in some small way to what Pike was talking about. I guess if Breath sounds remotely interesting, give it a try.

Why I Read This Now: a beachy Australian book sounded like a good summertime read, even if my own summer is spent mostly in an air conditioned office

Jul. 21, 12:28am

>177 Nickelini: Do not watch the movie of Breath, it is terrible!
I think Cloudstreet is, by far, his best novel - hope you enjoy it. I also loved Blueback.
I have The Shepherd's Hut on my list to read for BingoDOG soon.

Jul. 21, 1:23am

>178 JayneCM: lol I’ve seen the trailer for the movie and it didn’t look great