Nickelini Reads Books She Already Owns

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Nickelini Reads Books She Already Owns

1Nickelini
Bearbeitet: Jul. 21, 12:15am



My reading goal is a book a week, or 52 books. I'll aim for half to be TBRs

1. The Lost Spells, Robert MacFarlane
2. The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry
3. Dunger, Joy Crowley
4. The Gilded Cage, Camilla Lackberg
5. The End of Her, Shari Lapena
6. Alpine Cooking, Meredith Erickson
7. Moon of the Crusted Snow, W. Rice
8. Peace Talks, Tim Finch
9. The Hunting Party, Lucy Foley
10. Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill, Dimitri Verhulst
11. Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
12. The Weather Detective, Peter Woleben
13. The Better Mother, Jen Sookfong Lee
14. There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
15. Down By the River, Edna O'Brien
16. Mothering Sunday, Graham Swift
17. Passing, Nella Larson
18. The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Vol 2, Wirrow and Joseph Gordon-Levitt
19. Whatever, Michel Houellebeque
20. Here Is The Beehive, Sarah Crossan
21. How To Build A Girl, Caitlin Moran
22. Cockroach, Ian McEwan
23. Bride of New France, Suzanne Desrochers
24. Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino
25. A Fairy Tale, Jonas T Bengtsson
26. The Housekeeper & the Professor, Yoko Ogawa
27. Anxious People, Fredrik Backman
28. Beyond the Pale, Emily Urquhart
29. Volatile Texts: Us Two, Zsuzsanna Gahse
30. The Likeness, Tana French
31. A Girl Returned, Donetella Di Pietrantonio
32. On the Edge, Markus Werner
33. Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Stuart T
34. Spring, Ali Smith
35. Machiavelli, Ross King
36. Breath, Tim Winton

Books Read in 2021 That Weren't in My TBR (see my ClubRead 2021 thread for comments or ask below)

1. Happisland, C.H. Roserens
2. Fantasviss, C.H. Roserens
3. Theft By Finding, David Sedaris
4. The Chalet, Catherine Cooper
5. Venice Rising: Aqua Granda, Pandemic, Rebirth; various
6. The Vanishing Half, Britt Bennett
7. the Wanderer, Peter Van Den Ende
8. Tales From the Inner City, Shaun Tan
9. Hansel and Greta, Jeanette Winterson
10. Food Floor, M Cadwaladr
11. One More Croissant For the Road, Felicity Cloake
12. We All Fall Down, Daniel Kalla
13. Why Should I Learn to Speak Italian?, gerry Dubbin
14. Dreaming of Italy , TA Williams
15. The Godmother, Hannelore Cayre
16. Feminist City, Leslie Kern
17. 25th Anniversary Edition Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
18. Bitter Orange , Claire Fuller

2Jackie_K
Dez. 31, 2020, 6:46pm

Enjoy your reading! I usually find a BB or two on your thread :)

3rabbitprincess
Dez. 31, 2020, 11:05pm

Welcome back and have a great ROOT reading year!

4connie53
Jan. 1, 5:08am

Hi Joyce, good to see you back again for a new year of ROOTs. Happy New Year.

5cyderry
Jan. 2, 4:05pm

Glad you're back!

6floremolla
Jan. 2, 4:08pm

Good luck with your reading goals for 2021!

7Nickelini
Jan. 2, 4:42pm

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

8Henrik_Madsen
Jan. 3, 8:16am

>7 Nickelini: That really looks beautiful! As I get older, I'm becoming more positive about books that are "just" aesthetically beautiful. A not-so satisfying text can be tolerated if the illustrations are great.

Good luck ROOTing!

9detailmuse
Jan. 4, 8:31pm

>7 Nickelini: Beautiful! Good luck this year.

10MissWatson
Jan. 5, 8:47am

Good luck with your ROOTing. That's a lovely book to start the year with.

11Lynsey2
Jan. 5, 8:57am

>7 Nickelini: I have their book The Lost Words on my coffee table. I pick it up and look at the illustrations frequently but have yet to read it in it's entirety. It is the most beautiful book I have ever owned. I was unaware that they had come out with a second book similar to this. Cursing my vow not to buy any books this year.

12Jackie_K
Jan. 5, 9:50am

>7 Nickelini: >11 Lynsey2: There's also an album to go with it if you fancied a listen: https://www.thelostwords.org/spell-songs/

13Caramellunacy
Jan. 9, 8:25am

>7 Nickelini: What a gorgeous fox illustration. I am in awe of people who can create such lovely things!

14Nickelini
Jan. 15, 3:05am

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.

15detailmuse
Jan. 18, 4:45pm

I'm so sorry, Joyce, condolences to you and your family.

16Lynsey2
Jan. 18, 6:46pm

>12 Jackie_K: Thank you for the recommendation! The music is as lovely as the book!

17Lynsey2
Jan. 18, 6:49pm

>14 Nickelini: I have this book on my shelf and am planning to read it this year. I am glad to hear it is better than Once Upon a River.
Sorry to read about your loss.

18Nickelini
Jan. 19, 1:56am

Dunger, Joy Crowley, 2013


cover comments: Fits the story perfectly

Why I Read This Now: A combination of reasons:
1. My LT friend Judy read this and wrote a lovely review (see the book's page, DeltaQueen50), and I commented that I wanted to read it. Judy is a wonderful person, and also generous, and sent me her copy of the book
2. And then it sat for too many years at the top of my TBR pile
3. See my post #14 above, and the Danish book I started after my last book was good, but VERY gritty, and rather grim, and I REALLY didn't need to go there now, so I started reading the books at the top of my TBR (told you this one was there) and this was the first one that clicked
4. Also, I like to read seasonal books. This was a summer read. Which it is in the southern hemisphere (#HowToGameYourTBR)

Rating: 4 stars. A solid book for its genre; also New Zealand! Who doesn't love New Zealand? Perfect time for me to read this book.

Comments: First off, as I said above, go read DeltaQueen50's review on the book's page because she will do it better justice.

Will, who is 11, and his fourteen-year-old sister Melissa are volunteered to spend their summer at their hippy grandparent's cabin. Lots of funny lack-of-self-awareness by the kids and sometimes by the grandparents, lots of family dynamics, all told in alternating chapters by the two kids. Everything you want in a realistic middle school novel.

Recommended to: who doesn't need to read this? But if you want me to pass on Judy's copy, PM me. Did I mention New Zealand?

19Nickelini
Jan. 19, 1:57am

>15 detailmuse:, >17 Lynsey2:

Thank you. It's always a weird and difficult time. Also sad.

20connie53
Jan. 19, 12:37pm

>15 detailmuse: So sorry to hear about the loss in your family, Joyce

21Nickelini
Jan. 20, 5:28pm

>20 connie53:

Thanks, Connie

22Nickelini
Jan. 20, 11:33pm

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.

23connie53
Jan. 21, 3:30am

>22 Nickelini: I did read this book too, in 2019. I did not like this book as much as I did the others by Camilla Lackberg. 3,5 stars for me.

24Caramellunacy
Jan. 21, 7:20am

>22 Nickelini:
I especially finding myself turning to suspense/thriller/psychological thrillers during the winter time (when I can cozy up in a safe blanket) - I would like to read more of them, but may give this one a pass for now.

25Nickelini
Jan. 21, 5:51pm

>23 connie53: - I'm not surprised you've read it - you've read everything!

>24 Caramellunacy: - yes, I agree winter is a good time for these

26connie53
Jan. 22, 4:50am

>25 Nickelini: Well, No! I've 409 unread tree-books and ebooks on the shelves. But some of them I've had for years.

27Nickelini
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?

28connie53
Jan. 25, 2:36am

Good question, I think Canada offers some awful nature for thriller like books. Snow and woods and that kind of things.

29Nickelini
Jan. 29, 10:32pm

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.

30Caramellunacy
Jan. 30, 9:55am

>29 Nickelini:
I *hate* it when there are blatant factual errors about places/things I know - and then I just start wondering about how wrong everything is for the places I don't...

31detailmuse
Jan. 30, 5:05pm

>29 Nickelini: I'm looking forward to the Tucci/CNN series, eager for some lush travel visuals. That cover feels harsh! - maybe to frame a mood for warming foods within?

32Nickelini
Jan. 30, 8:53pm

>30 Caramellunacy:

Exactly!

>31 detailmuse:
I just found out we don't get CNN so I'm going to have to figure out a way to get it. Drat.

33Nickelini
Jan. 31, 2:10pm

7. 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

34connie53
Feb. 1, 3:57am

>33 Nickelini: That sounds really interesting and I love the cover too. Sadly not translated.

35Nickelini
Bearbeitet: Feb. 1, 9:56pm

>34 connie53:
But you're so fluent in English! (the language in this isn't complex)

36connie53
Bearbeitet: Feb. 2, 3:32am

>35 Nickelini: Maybe I am and I do read some books in English. Like, right now I'm reading The once and future witches by Alix E. Harrow for my RL book-club. And I know my reading pace slows down. I read this book om my Kobo that has a dictionary, that helps. I noticed novels and thrillers are an easier read than fantasy books, because fantasy uses a lot terms that are not real English (or Dutch) words.

I asked my brother to find this book for me! Thanks for the encouragement, Joyce!

37Nickelini
Feb. 3, 11:21pm

>36 connie53:

I totally understand. You just fool us all by your flawless written English. :-)

It reminds me of two maybe related language experiences I've had:

1. I find that generally Germans speak very clear English. One time I was in a dispute with a manager at a hotel in Munich. He said he "had no English" but the English he did speak was perfect, so it took me a bit to understand that he really didn't know English. Obviously he did have some English, because we were able to come to a compromise. But I was flumoxed when he didn't understand me because the English words he said were perfect. (That all said, tables are flipped, and my daughter is living in Switzerland and struggling to learn German. 20 words for "the"?? What's with that?)

2. My heritage is Dutch (alas, no relatives I know to contact). I look Dutch--I'm in my mid-50s, have never dyed my hair, and I'm blonde. When I'm in Europe, strangers approach me and speak German. My parents spoke low-German at home, but other than a handful of words, they didn't teach us. But when people speak Dutch or German to me, I get into this state of struggling to understand, because it all sounds like I *should* understand. And then I get to a point where I realize what's going on. My husband, who is Italian, looks at me like I'm nuts. I'm struggling to learn Italian because that would be the most useful language for me, but I'd love to speak Dutch and German, and also French. And Swedish, because why not?

38connie53
Feb. 4, 4:00am

> O wow, You can adopt me as a relative.

I think, because I'm bad with numbers and good with letters it was easy for me to learn a language. What helped is French lessons when I was in primary school, age 9 or 10. We could follow the lessons after school and I don't know if my parents thought that was a good idea or if I wanted to do so myself.
Then when I went to secondary school we could not chose which classes you wanted to go to. You just had too. So it was Dutch, English, French and German for 5 years in a row. My German was very, very bad. My French mediocre and my English excellent. I even scored a 9 (out of 10) for my final exams. And I wanted to study English in university and become a translator of books! Hey, I was hooked by books from age 3.
But my mother had died when I was in my fourth year just 1 week before I turned 15. And in those days (1968) my dad and aunt and the chaplain (friend of my dad) decided I had to stay at home for at least a year to take care of the house and my younger sisters and brother. And that ended in never going to study anything.
I read a lot of English books during the 'waiting year" and kept that up for some degree after my plans had faded away.

But when people speak Dutch or German to me, I get into this state of struggling to understand, because it all sounds like I *should* understand.


I get that. When I posted titles form books I read last year in my thread I often translated the Dutch title into English. I could see similarities in words written down but when you pronounce them they are completely unrecognizable. So maybe you could try to read some Dutch books ;-))

39MissWatson
Feb. 4, 5:29am

>37 Nickelini: I have always found low German (Plattdeutsch) much closer to English and Dutch.

40Nickelini
Feb. 4, 10:22pm

>39 MissWatson:
Wow, I never run into people who know what Plattdeutsch means. My very-distant ancestors were from Friesland, which I've heard is the closest foreign language to English

41Nickelini
Bearbeitet: Feb. 5, 12:45am

>38 connie53:
> O wow, You can adopt me as a relative.

Ah, you're lovely! I accept the adoption. I haven't been to the Netherlands since 1992, and my husband and I loved it, so I'm really surprised we've never been back because I've been to Europe 6 times since then. But somehow it didn't work out. Now that it's just the two of us traveling and not hauling around kids as well, we will have more flexibility and can re-visit. Maybe when COVID restrictions are history, KLM will have an awesome Vancouver-Amsterdam sale, and we will grab it.


Then when I went to secondary school we could not chose which classes you wanted to go to. You just had too. So it was Dutch, English, French and German for 5 years in a row.

That's a LOT of language study! Wow, we do French all through Canadian school, but very few actually learn anything beyond reading a ceral box. But that explains why Dutch people were so easy to communicate with! My daughter lives in Switzerland and her boyfriend and his family all speak multiple languages. One night at dinner they were all flipping between German, Italian, French, and yes, English, and my older daughter was working at her German and Italian, and of course my husband is fluent Italian, and I looked at my younger daughter and said "do you ever feel like you're the dumbest person at the table?"

My German was very, very bad. My French mediocre and my English excellent. I even scored a 9 (out of 10) for my final exams. And I wanted to study English in university and become a translator of books! Hey, I was hooked by books from age 3.
But my mother had died when I was in my fourth year just 1 week before I turned 15. And in those days (1968) my dad and aunt and the chaplain (friend of my dad) decided I had to stay at home for at least a year to take care of the house and my younger sisters and brother. And that ended in never going to study anything.


Oh, that is such a sad story! I'm so sorry! My heart broke when I read that. (virtual hugs). My mom loved school too, and was forced to quit when she was 13 (this was in 1939). She mourned this her whole life.

I get that. When I posted titles form books I read last year in my thread I often translated the Dutch title into English. I could see similarities in words written down but when you pronounce them they are completely unrecognizable. So maybe you could try to read some Dutch books ;-))

Listening to language is the hardest part! I remember our 1992 Europe trip (after a week in the Netherlands), we were in Paris, and my now-husband decided that because I'd done better at French in school than he did (which means he failed and I got a lousy mark), that on this trip I'd "handle the French" and he'd do Italian (since he was Italian and fluent). So I approached a police officer and asked "Ou est le metro" and he replied "a;s ljf a;sl djf a lsj dfla;s djf. Tla, alsjdf aor sfjdasldj, won;fn. Ylsajflasj, as awoeu yom asfljd. Voausfd!"

I replied, "Merci"

As for reading Dutch . . . it looks pretty obscure, but maybe I need to spend a bit more time with it. I know when I'm in German speaking countries I'm often delighted to read German and figure out what it means. I remember seeing "Blumenshop" on a storefront in Munich (1992 again) and laughing when I realized it was a flower store.

42connie53
Feb. 5, 4:08am

>41 Nickelini: Thanks for the hug and the acceptation of adoption. And if you ever travel this way we could have a meet up somewhere in the Netherlands. I would love that.

Oh, that is such a sad story! I'm so sorry! My heart broke when I read that. (virtual hugs). My mom loved school too, and was forced to quit when she was 13 (this was in 1939). She mourned this her whole life.


I feel exactly what your mother felt. I would have loved to learn more and did take home courses, English, of course, and shorthand and typing. But I also think my live would have been not what it is now. Perhaps I would not have married Peet and had different kids than I have now and no Fiene, Lonne and Marie. So I think I don't really want to change that. But than, I would not have known. I'm too philosophical this early in the morning. ;-)

Bloemenwinkel! Love that. It's not recognizable at all. And shop is not really a German word.

We were traveling in France by car a few years ago and we had a tire that exploded. So Peet had me calling the police (when you are stranded on the highway in France you have to call the police). Peets French is very bad. So when I told the officer we had 'un pneu explodée' the police understood but then you have to tell him were you are. Luckily the officer knew some English so he could locate us and send a towing car.

43Nickelini
Feb. 5, 10:09pm

>42 connie53:
And if you ever travel this way we could have a meet up somewhere in the Netherlands.

I'd love that! I've visited two LTers -- one in England and one in Toronto, and I've hosted two here in Vancouver. And of course if you're ever in Vancouver, let me know what you want to see and I'll show you around.

What part of the Netherlands are you in? When we visited all those years ago, we were in Amsterdam of course, but then moved to a bed and breakfast in Haarlem. I had a hand drawn map from my aunt of where our ancestors were from, and it would have been a short drive from Amsterdam, but we had to take the train around the water to Groningen. From there we took a bus to Leewarden, and from there I went to the tourist office and pointed at my sad little map and they said "maybe you can rent bikes from the pub" and that's what we did. It was like a dollar for the afternoon, and they didn't even ask for payment at the beginning. It was a wonderful experience, riding bikes in between cow pasture! And we found the little village and found a tombstone with a familiar name, so success.

But I also think my live would have been not what it is now. Perhaps I would not have married Peet and had different kids than I have now and no Fiene, Lonne and Marie. So I think I don't really want to change that. But than, I would not have known.

I think exactly the same thing! I didn't have good guidence when I left school and I ended up floundering terribly and wasting my early 20s -- but if I hadn't done that I wouldn't have ended up with my husband, and I'd have different kids, and for the most part I like my life . . . Playing that "what if" game isn't very fun or useful.

Your France story sounds so much like something that would happen to us too.

What a lovely conversation we've had!

44connie53
Bearbeitet: Feb. 8, 1:51am

What part of the Netherlands are you in?


We are in Roermond in Limburg, that's in the south. I could throw a stone and reach Belgium or Germany. We could visit Maastricht. That's a beautiful old city (Roman) and it feels always like you are in France. My daughter lives there now. Roermond is older too, but not that old. It will take you 2 hours by train to Roermond and 2,5 hours to Maastricht.

What a lovely conversation we've had!


We sure did and I really love this kind of conversations. It has much more to it than the chit chat that is going on in some threads. So lets keep doing that. Maybe we are relatives!

45Jackie_K
Feb. 6, 9:41am

I've loved eavesdropping on this conversation too! :)

46Nickelini
Feb. 7, 8:40pm

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.

47connie53
Feb. 8, 1:53am

>45 Jackie_K:. Hi Jackie! Glad you loved it. Feel free to take part. I don't mind.

48Nickelini
Feb. 12, 7:58pm

The Hunting Party, Lucy Foley, 2019


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

49connie53
Feb. 13, 2:46am

>48 Nickelini: Thanks for the BB, Joyce. Again I might say.

I've always loved thrillers and I like finding new ones.

50Nickelini
Feb. 14, 2:14pm

10. 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 Amazon.ca 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.

51connie53
Feb. 16, 3:18am

Hi Joyce, Dimitri Verhulst is a Belgium writer and although they speak Dutch it's not the same as Dutch in the Netherlands. That might explain the weird sentences.

52Nickelini
Feb. 18, 2:30am

>51 connie53:
Well Connie, if you ever come across this book, consider reading it and come back and let me know what YOU think. In the end I quite liked it, and it's not long

53connie53
Feb. 18, 12:57pm

I have the book on my digital shelves and opened it, but I think something is wrong with the lay-out. I will put in on my reader and see if it stays that way.

54Nickelini
Feb. 25, 1:41am

11. 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.

55Jackie_K
Feb. 25, 5:41am

>54 Nickelini: I've enjoyed Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's short non-fiction about feminism, but I must say I've always felt wary about her fiction. I'm a bit of a fiction-phobe anyway, but ultimately, I just don't want to read about horrible, abusive people. Life's too short, there are enough of those sorts of people on the news without filling my head with them in my leisure time as well.

56Caramellunacy
Feb. 25, 6:25am

>54 Nickelini: I would love to see your colored version. Part of my brain is cranky with the cover since it refers to a PURPLE hibiscus and the only color on the cover is NOT purple... but that is just me!

57Nickelini
Feb. 25, 10:05pm

>55 Jackie_K:
If you don't want to read about abuse, you definitely want to skip Purple Hibiscus

>56 Caramellunacy:
It was an odd choice, wasn't it! The magenta is a particularly lovely shade, but you're right - it's NOT purple

58Nickelini
Feb. 28, 11:49pm

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.

59Nickelini
Bearbeitet: Mrz. 1, 2:58pm

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 . .

Why I Read This Now: I started this on Chinese New Year - pulled all the Chinese author books from my TBR and this won

60Jackie_K
Mrz. 1, 9:19am

>58 Nickelini: I'm adding that to my wishlist, it sounds right up my street! I enjoyed The Hidden Life of Trees too.

61connie53
Mrz. 5, 5:40am

Happy Thingaversary, Joyce!

62Nickelini
Mrz. 5, 9:04am

>61 connie53: oh thanks. I’ve been on Lt for over a decade and never paid any attention to it, but I think I’m supposed to use it as an excuse to buy books:-D

63connie53
Mrz. 5, 12:10pm

Yes, you do, but I gave up on that a few years ago. I could not afford to buy 8 books or 9 in one purchase.

64Nickelini
Mrz. 5, 1:23pm

>63 connie53:
I think I'm up to 13 or 14 books, which would make my husband very unhappy!

65Nickelini
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

66connie53
Mrz. 9, 2:25am

>65 Nickelini: I love that title. Or much better put: It's intriguing.

67Nickelini
Mrz. 9, 2:42am

>66 connie53:

If you look at the reader reviews, many are drawn by the title and disappointed. I am one of those.

68connie53
Mrz. 9, 2:46am

>67 Nickelini: I understand that. It sounds horrible but it looks funny.

69Nickelini
Mrz. 11, 4:05am

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!

70Henrik_Madsen
Mrz. 13, 11:02am

>69 Nickelini: That sounds interesting/horrible. Ireland has taken huge strides since then, concerning LGBT rights, right to abortion etc. but it is really crazy to think it happened so few years ago - and sadly is still happening every day in lots of countries around the world.

It is not always a quality in a book that it has a very obvious political agenda but I admire O’Brian’s courage in using her voice to make things change.

PS I might wait a bit with In the Forest - it is equally upsetting.

71Nickelini
Mrz. 13, 12:46pm

>70 Henrik_Madsen: That sounds interesting/horrible. Ireland has taken huge strides since then, concerning LGBT rights, right to abortion etc. but it is really crazy to think it happened so few years ago - and sadly is still happening every day in lots of countries around the world.

It is not always a quality in a book that it has a very obvious political agenda but I admire O’Brian’s courage in using her voice to make things change.


Yes, yes, and yes!

I might wait a bit with In the Forest - it is equally upsetting That was actually the first O'Brien I read. Got me hooked!

72Nickelini
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!

73Nickelini
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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtbK8Nufxd4 )

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.

74MissWatson
Mrz. 16, 5:23am

>73 Nickelini: I recently read that the movie was shown at the Sundance Festival, directed by Rebecca Hall, and the review I read was very enthusiastic. It put the book on my radar, and your review encourages me.

75detailmuse
Mrz. 18, 10:59am

>72 Nickelini:, >73 Nickelini: I like the novella form and have wanted to read Passing. Enticing reviews -- now I also want to read Mothering Sunday.

76Nickelini
Mrz. 19, 2:12am

>74 MissWatson: I recently read that the movie was shown at the Sundance Festival, directed by Rebecca Hall, and the review I read was very enthusiastic.

Oh, that's great! I've seen stills on Google Images, and it has a good aesthetic. Really looking forward to it.

>75 detailmuse:

I love novellas. I hope you read both books so I can read your thoughts on them.

77Nickelini
Mrz. 20, 4:52pm

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 he
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.

78connie53
Mrz. 21, 5:37am

>77 Nickelini: Great reason to read it now! And a 5 star book, so your weekend is of with a good start.

79Nickelini
Mrz. 23, 11:45pm

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

80Nickelini
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

81Nickelini
Mrz. 30, 9:04pm

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.

82connie53
Apr. 3, 6:27am

>81 Nickelini: Hit by a BB, Joyce! Thanks ;-))

Happy Easter to you and yours!

83connie53
Apr. 3, 1:21pm

Hi Joyce! I found the book and added it to my kobo. Now find time to read it!

84Nickelini
Apr. 3, 1:30pm

>82 connie53:, >83 connie53:

I look forward to your thoughts on it. Happy Easter to you too.

85Nickelini
Apr. 3, 1:31pm

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

86connie53
Apr. 3, 1:42pm

>84 Nickelini: I will let you know or you can read it on my thread!

87Caramellunacy
Apr. 4, 5:02am

>85 Nickelini: I laughed at the premise. Whoever could he mean?! That said, McEwan and I have not really got on recently, so I think I will chuckle at the concept and move on.

88detailmuse
Apr. 4, 3:37pm

>87 Caramellunacy: same: LOL'd!

>77 Nickelini:, >80 Nickelini: hmm three months in and already so many here I want to read. I think you're the BB years ago for my wishlisting the other book of Tiny Stories, and now the Beehive.

89Nickelini
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)

90Nickelini
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.

91Nickelini
Bearbeitet: Apr. 14, 2:20am

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

92connie53
Bearbeitet: Apr. 15, 7:15am

>91 Nickelini: A book with no cover is a strange thing. Could you not find it on internet?

I always read your reviews with interest since you send me BB's before!

By the way, I loved the beehive book! But I noticed you read my review over on my thread.

93Nickelini
Bearbeitet: Apr. 15, 3:10pm

>92 connie53: No cover on LT means no cover on my thread ;-)
Glad I can send BB your way

94connie53
Apr. 18, 6:57am

95Nickelini
Apr. 18, 4:17pm

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.

96connie53
Apr. 25, 4:14am

That sounds interesting, but it wasn't. A pity when that happens. I'm with you on being totally ignorant about baseball and math. I kind of panic whenever I see numbers.

97Nickelini
Apr. 25, 7:25pm

Yes, I've reached my goal. This is more of a reflection setting an easy target rather than doing anything remarkable. I had no idea what 2021 would be like, so I based my goal to be a little more ambitious than my past few years of reading. But since October 2020, I've been reading a lot, and it looks like it will continue. So a goal of 50 books would probably have been more realistic. Nothing to see here . . .

98Nickelini
Apr. 26, 1:25am

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

99connie53
Apr. 26, 2:47am

Congrats on reaching your goal, Joyce!

100MissWatson
Apr. 26, 2:54am

>97 Nickelini: Congratulations!

101Nickelini
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 ( https://www.underthesamesun.com/ ) 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

102connie53
Mai 2, 4:21am

Wow, that must be an interesting book to read.

How strange that you were 'too white'. No wonder you were interested in the subject, Joyce.

103detailmuse
Mai 2, 4:20pm

>98 Nickelini: I saw your comments about this on my thread -- I liked both A Man Called Ove and And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer (the latter is novella-length and tender). Re: your wanting more of that sort: I don't see Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty in your library -- it's not translated but it's Australian, and lots of fun.

104Nickelini
Mai 2, 6:25pm

>103 detailmuse:
Oh, I've heard of that but didn't know anything about it. Looks like one for me. Thanks.

105Nickelini
Mai 6, 11:57pm

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

106Nickelini
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

107Nickelini
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.

108Nickelini
Mai 24, 11:40pm

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: http://bellevue-bellavista.ch/index.php?node=302&lng=4&rif=40f8cd060a (Hmmm, next trip to Lugano?)

The other key location is the Sanatorium and wellness hotel in Cademario, which I googled and found this: https://kurhauscademario.com/en/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&ut... (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.

109Nickelini
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.

110Caramellunacy
Mai 30, 6:59am

>109 Nickelini: I actually also just finished this one! It worked fairly well for me in a Gothic atmospheric kind of way, but I did find it overly complicated and ultimately unsatisfying in terms of the "why"/ underlying premise. I think I could have dealt with the general unpleasantness of the hosts in the interest of the Clue game of the murders, but the meta-plot (or whatever you want to call it) spoiled things for me as I didn't think it made any sense.

I kept kind of wanting his last host to be the footman with some sort of explanation as to why he wanted to keep himself from succeeding...rather than the pseudo-redemption of a past serial killing sadist through the power of forgiveness through forgetfulness? Meh.

111Nickelini
Mai 30, 12:45pm

>110 Caramellunacy:
Responding to your spoiler - yes, that would have been an interesting twist. Honestly, by the time I got to that point, I'd given up and just wanted to finish the book.

112detailmuse
Mai 31, 3:59pm

>108 Nickelini: I want to go to there! Breakfast always seems to photograph stunningly. I love a breakfast out.

113Nickelini
Mai 31, 5:59pm

>112 detailmuse:
That's so true. I never noticed that. I look at a lot of travel porn and a lot of food porn, and breakfast does look the best!

114Nickelini
Jun. 1, 1:03am

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.

115Nickelini
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

116Nickelini
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

117rabbitprincess
Jun. 12, 6:58pm

>116 Nickelini: Ha! at the painting on the cover of Spring actually being called Summer. In a similar vein, Ian Rankin recently tweeted a picture of the Italian translation of his latest novel, A Song for the Dark Times. The cover had a photograph of a street scene... of Glasgow, rather than Edinburgh.

118Nickelini
Jun. 12, 7:10pm

>117 rabbitprincess: that’s worse!

119Nickelini
Jun. 18, 1:44am

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

120Caramellunacy
Jun. 18, 5:21am

>119 Nickelini: That sounds absolutely dreadful, but I'm glad you at least found some amusement at its expense.

121Jackie_K
Jun. 18, 11:21am

>119 Nickelini: As someone who's looking to write and self-publish, these are the sort of books that really make me cross. There are plenty of self-published authors who pay for decent editors, and who are really good writers, but for all those, there are plenty like this guy who seems to just rush out a first draft with no clue about quality. It means that when I say I am planning to self-publish, the default assumption is that I'm a crappy writer. Well, I might be, but my manuscript will at least be seen by a decent editor before it goes anywhere near readers!

122detailmuse
Jun. 18, 3:42pm

>119 Nickelini: Sometimes it's fun to read absolute garbage.
Ditto for fun to read a deservedly rant-y review!

>114 Nickelini: My husband and I rode RAGBRAI two years (bike ride across Iowa), and cycling/eating through France was my dream follow-up. Haven't gotten to it, and now the elevations seem completely duanting! This memoir sounds fun.

123Nickelini
Jun. 19, 1:03am

>120 Caramellunacy:
>121 Jackie_K:
>122 detailmuse:

I'm happy to entertain.

This year I started to track publishers (not sure why) but I've noted several books I've read as "amazon", which I assume are self-published, but they've all been really great, so . . . Hmm, not sure

>121 Jackie_K: I hear your frustration. I think self-publishing has evolved with everything else. The cream rises to the top, as the saying goes (we hope)

>122 detailmuse:
Well, I think you should read One More Croissant for the Road, just because it's fun. On another note, you should plan the French cycling trip you want. No need to do extreme elevation. No one, including the Tour de France, actually cycles the perimeter. Pick you areas of interest, take a bike tour, take a train

I think I'm speaking to myself here. Nevermind

124Nickelini
Jun. 23, 2:10am

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)

125Caramellunacy
Jun. 23, 5:28am

>124 Nickelini: That sounds lovely - I'll have that with a bellini and maybe some gelato :)

126Nickelini
Jun. 23, 11:51am

>125 Caramellunacy:
LOL -- I'll join you with a glass of prosecco

127Nickelini
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.

128connie53
Jun. 28, 6:47am

Hi Joyce, just visiting as many ROOTers as I can fit in today.
I think I need to read some Tana French some time soon. I read some books by her, but I don't think I read the one you mentioned.
Sorry Evelyn Hardcastle didn't do it for you. I really enjoyed it a lot. But those things happen.

129Nickelini
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.

130connie53
Jul. 2, 7:00am

>129 Nickelini: That sounds like fun! And certainly unique.

131Nickelini
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.

132rabbitprincess
Jul. 10, 3:07pm

>131 Nickelini: Wow, that looks really cold and uninviting, like a warehouse.

133detailmuse
Jul. 11, 3:00pm

>131 Nickelini: Interesting! I too would want more practicality in the book, but I'm going to look up some interviews with her.

134connie53
Jul. 13, 4:33am

>131 Nickelini: I like my libraries to be a bit more old-fashioned. With wooden shelves and good light.

135Jackie_K
Jul. 14, 5:37pm

>131 Nickelini: I got that book recently (it's published by Verso, and they were offering it free following a very high-profile case in the UK recently where a woman was kidnapped and murdered while walking home in London). Interesting review! I agree with you all about that library, it looks like something from a dystopian film set.

136Nickelini
Jul. 14, 6:01pm

>135 Jackie_K: That's cool that they were giving out some free copies. I think it would be enlightening, especially to many men. I'm guessing your talking about Sarah Everard? I don't know if that case just made the news widely, or if I just follow a lot of UK news, but I remember it

137Nickelini
Jul. 15, 12:04am

52. 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 https://www.librarything.com/topic/184941#5050106)

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.

138Jackie_K
Jul. 15, 9:04am

>136 Nickelini: Yes, it was that case. The policeman who kidnapped her pleaded guilty recently.

>137 Nickelini: That sounds great! I didn't love love the movie, but I remember crying with laughter the first time I read the book.

139Caramellunacy
Jul. 15, 2:36pm

>137 Nickelini: I have a huge soft spot for Bridget, both in book and (first) movie form, and I remember laughing so hard when I read the interview with Colin Firth in the second novel that I couldn't even read it out loud when my mom asked what was so funny. I could only wheeze.
In short, this sounds like something I may have to pick up.

140Nickelini
Jul. 15, 6:42pm

>138 Jackie_K:, >139 Caramellunacy:
If either of you end up reading this, I'd love to hear your thoughts

141Nickelini
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.

142Nickelini
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