Friday, January 31, 2020

January 2020 Reading

I kept going back and forth on the star ratings for the seven novels.... They all seem to fall in the three,  three and a half, to four star range. I enjoyed them while I read them, but they didn't stay with me. Listed loosely in the order of what I liked best to what I liked least.


The Man Who Couldn't Die: The Tale of an Authentic Human Being by Slavnikova, Olga; translated from the Russian by Schwartz, Marian; Introduction by Leiderman, Mark
Little Gods by Jin, Meng
Honey, I Killed The Cats by Masłowska, Dorota
The Playground by Shemilt, Jane
Broken Man on a Halifax Pier by Choyce, Lesley  
All the Winters After by Halverson, Seré Prince
The Stationery Shop by Kamali, Marjan

Decals: Complete Early Poems by Girondo, Oliverio; translated from the Spanish by Galvin, Rachael and Feinsod, Harris.
 This is the only January read that I gave five stars.

Not a bad bunch, but all were flawed in one way or another...
How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built by Brand, Stewart
  best of the nonfiction bunch
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Larson, Erik  
  too much stuff about President Wilson's private life

Underland by Macfarlane, Robert
  too many expeditions, too much "I"

Before and After: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children's Home Society by Christie, Judy
  to much about the authors, really not a book length story here.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

December 2019 Reading

A mixed bag for December. Sometimes it takes me a while to come down from a really great book like Dicks Newburyport (which I read in November). So perhaps some of these ratings are a little too harsh (especially the Ali Smith Seasonals). Unless otherwise noted, these were all from the public library.

The Innocents by Crummey, Michael  5 of 5 stars    
Iza's Ballad by Szabó, Magda; translated from the Hungarian by Szirtes, George 5 stars
 My copy, a nice gift from my daughter
Invented Lives by Goldsmith, Andrea 4 stars   
 Advance review copy from LibraryThing giveaway
The Revisioners by Sexton, Margaret Wilkerson  4  stars
The Z Murders by Farjeon, J. Jefferson  2+ stars
 Advance review copy from Poisened Pen Press Not as good as others I've read in the British Library Crime Classic series.
The German House by Hess, Annette; translated from the German by Lauffer, Elisabeth 3 stars

Autumn (Seasonal, #1) by  Smith, Ali 4  stars
Winter (Seasonal, #2) by Smith, Ali  3+ stars    
Spring (Seasonal #3) by Smith Ali 3+  stars

Short Story Collections:
Joytime Killbox by Wood, Brian W. 5  stars
 my personal copy purchasd from publisher
Flowers of Mold by Seong-nan, Ha; translated from the Korean by Hong, Janet 5 stars
 my copy, purchased from publisher
Public Library and Other Stories by Smith, Ali 2 stars
Sudden Traveler: Stories by Hall, Sarah 1 star
  advance review copy from LibraryThing. 

The Kindness of Strangers by Viertel, Salka 4+ stars
 Informative without being too gossipy -- amazing considering she knew everybody.
This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Levitin, Daniel J.  3+ stars
  Lots of neuroscience here and a very educational read. Interesting to read about the various approaches in research. As for the music: this neither increased nor decreased my appreciation of music. Nor did it fundamentally change the way I listen to and think about music. For me this was a brain appreciation exercise.
Salt & Straw Ice Cream Cookbook by Malek, Tyler 4 stars
 If I ever decide to make ice cream again, this is the book for me.
Wild about Weeds: Garden Design with Rebel Plants by Wallington, Jack 3 +  stars
 Nice reading, pretty pictures. However, it seems to me that when you purposely design weeds into a garden plan you're going to work as hard maintaining them as you would work trying to get rid of them. But I'm not a gardener--I just have a "lawn" of mown weeds and "flower beds" of whatever comes up--if I like it, it stays; if not, zap!

For children:
The Land of Lost Toys by Juliana Horatia Gatty Ewing;  Little, Brown, and Company, 1900. on Project Gutenberg

Partially read (on Project Gutenberg): Our National Parks by John Muir
I read only one chapter, but I enjoyed it so I may read more.
Among the Animals of the Yosemite
A Cinnamon Bear.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

November 2019 Reading

Ducks, Newburyport
Some really great reading this month! And all, except the astronomy one, were from public libraries.

Ducks, Newburyport by Ellmann, Lucy 5+ stars
This would be at the top of my "Best of 2019 List" if I made such lists. Fun discussions on the Two Month Review podcast. I had to read ahead of the group because the library wants it back.

Five Stars:
Olive, Again by Strout, Elizabeth
Olive Kitterage: do you love to hate her? or is it the other way around?
The Parisian by Hammad, Isabella
Shedding light on Palistine between the two world wars...
The Man Who Saw Everything by Levy, Deborah 

Four Stars:
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Shafak, Elif
What it's like to live on the fringe in Turkey.  (would have another star except for the slapstickish bit toward the end)
It Would Be Night in Caracas by Sainz Borgo, Karina; translated from the Spanish by Elizabeth Bryer

Three Stars:
The Confession Club (Mason, #3) by Berg, Elizabeth
I needed something like this to break the intensity of Ducks and this worked but it's just a little too sweet.

Two Stars:
Agent Running in the Field by le Carré, John
So what does a Cold War specialist do when the Cold War is gone? He creates a has been spy who is just as confused and uncertain in his loyalties. He's like an athlete who plays one match too many before retiring.
The Girl Who Reads on the Métro by Féret-Fleury, Christine; translated from the French by Roz Schwartz.
Maybe this should have been titled "The girl who pretended to read on the train and got into a mess."

The Movie Musical! by Basinger, Jeanine
Loved this film history. Give it 5*
The Yellow House by Broom, Sarah M.
Memoir of a family displacement from Hurricane Katrina. 4*
Starlight Detectives: How Astronomers, Inventors, and Eccentrics Discovered the Modern Universe by Hirshfeld, Alan W. 4*
Much of the technical detail was a bit over my head (not sorry for the pun) but I enjoyed the historical overview and the biographical information. Free finished copy from Publisher as an extra from a LibraryThing giveaway. 


The day the Crystal Lake dam breached by Jordan Fenster
A bit of local history.

The world's oldest-known recipes decoded by Ashley Winchester
 When I was reading the list of ingredients for one of the recipes I came across  "1 c rocket, chopped." I've often come across "rocket" in my reading and realized from content that it was some sort of green. I never bothered to look it up but this time I did and found out that it is Arugula, or, Eruca vesicaria.  

On Project Gutenberg...

The Book Of The Bayeux Tapestry: Presenting the Complete Work in a Series Of Colour Facsimiles; The Introduction & Narrative by Hilaire Belloc; Chatto & Windus; 1914

The Cubies' ABC by Mary Chase Mills Lyall; illustrated Earl Harvey Lyall, 1913, Putnam
This send-up of the Cubists was a response to the Armory Show which introduced the movement to the USA. Here's a sample (original spacing & size not retained):
 ’s for Kandinsky’s Kute “improvisations”—
The Kubies abound in delight for his art:
They say there’s a Klue to his Kryptic Kreations.
By means of Picabia’s deep ratiocinations
Some day we may really decipher his heart.
—K’s for Kandinsky’s Kute “improvisations.”

Thursday, October 31, 2019

October 2019 Reading

A nice mix this month. Yesterday I hurt my hand carrying an especially heavy bag (of books, of course,  what else is there?). So I couldn't do anything but read, hence I read One Day in one day.

The Women’s Courtyard by Khadija Mastoor; translated from the Urdu by Rockwell, Daisy (5 stars) The Shadow King by Mengiste, Maaza  (5 stars)
Frontier by Xue, Can; translated from the Chinese by Gernant and Chen Zeping  (5 stars)
Girl, Woman, Other by Evaristo, Bernardine  (5 stars) 
We, the Survivors by Aw, Tash  (4+ stars)
The Memory Police by Ogawa, Yōko; translated from the Japanese by Snyder, Stephen  (4+ stars) Hollywood North: A Novel in Six Reels by Libling, Michael (3+ stars) 
Grand Union: Stories by Smith, Zadie (2 stars--so disappointing because I liked Swing Time so much)
Women Within by Parrish, Anne Leigh (2- stars--the rather abrupt ending really bothered me)

Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box by Albright, Madeleine K. (4+ stars)
Saving Jemima: Life and Love with a Hard-Luck Jay by Zickefoose, Julie (4 stars)
One Day: The Extraordinary Story of an Ordinary 24 Hours in America by Weingarten, Gene 4 stars)
Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith (4 stars)
Plagued by Fire: The Dreams and Furies of Frank Lloyd Wright by Hendrickson, Paul  (3+ stars)
Scholars of Mayhem: My Father's Secret War in Nazi-Occupied France by Guiet, Daniel C. and Smith, Timothy K (3+ stars)
To Feel the Music: A Songwriter's Mission to Save High-Quality Audio by Young, Neil  (3 stars)

Reading notes:   

I love it when stuff like this happens.

While I was reading The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste, a novel set during Mussolini’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia:
   Abiy Ahmed Ali, the current prime minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
   and A new Ethiopian restaurant opened in my town

Then, while I was reading the Frank Lloyd Wright bio, I serendipitously stumbled on this cool map from Home Advisor: A map of Frank Lloyd Wright homes in (nearly) every state.

Monday, September 30, 2019

September 2019 Reading

Another good reading month, mostly from public libraries. (Ma Bole's Second Life is from my collection.) No review copies in this bunch.

5 stars 
Quichotte by Rushdie, Salman
Ma Bole's Second Life by Hong, Xiao; Goldblatt, Howard (Translator)
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Harrow, Alix E. 
The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai by Anyi, Wang; Berry, Michael and Egan, Susan Chan (Translators)

4 stars
Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Khorram, Adib 
The Body in Question by Ciment, Jill

3 stars
This Tender Land by Krueger, William Kent
Sing to It: New Stories by Hempel, Amy

A Single Thread by Chevalier, Tracy

London in Fragments: A Mudlark's Treasures by Sandling, Ted
Bagehot: The Life and Times of the Greatest Victorian by Grant, James 
Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World  by Druett, Joan 
Five Days Gone: The Mystery of My Mother's Disappearance as a Child by Cumming, Laura Freestyle Embroidered Mandalas: More than 60 Stitches and Techniques in Inspiring  Combinations by Blomkamp, Hazel

The Hooker Family of Kew by Judith M Taylor 

From Project Gutenberg:
The Sisters Rondoli and Other Stories by Maupassant, Guy de; Boyd, Ernest (Translator)

Oregon the Picturesque: A Book of Rambles in the Oregon Country and in the Wilds of Northern California; Descriptive Sketches and Pictures of Crater and Klamath Lakes, the Deschutes River Canyon, the New Columbia Highway, the Willamette and Rogue River Valleys and the Cities and Towns of Oregon; also of the little-known Lakes, Rivers, Mountains, and Vast Forests of Northern California, to which is added a trip to the Yosemite and to the Roosevelt Dam and the Petrified Forest of Arizona, by Motor Car. by Thomas D. Murphy; illustrated with paintings, photographs, and maps;  Page Company, 1917.


A Wheel Within a Wheel:  How I learned to ride the bicycle, With some reflections by the way
By Frances E. Willard;  Illustrated with photographs; Fleming H. Revell company, 1895.

Frances Willard  (1839-1898) was an educator, temperance reformer, and suffragist.