Sunday, June 30, 2024

June 2024

June had plenty of hot days in which I didn't do much but read and eat!  Good news for my various TBR lists. Especially since one of my few trips to the library involved just picking up some holds and no browsing, I ended up with some that I actually didn't want to read. 

Books listed here are from the public libraries unless otherwise noted.

For July? I hope I can keep chipping away at the TBRs but there is, perhaps, too much good stuff on my holds list!

A Northern Light in Provence by Birkelund, Elizabeth 
Greenland woman goes to France to translate a poet's work from Provençal to English. Enjoyable read.

Why I Killed My Best Friend by Michalopoulou, Amanda; translated from the Greek by Emmerich, Karen
Good one from my "owned but unread cart."

Everyone Leaves by Guerra, Wendy; translated from the Spanish by Obejas, Achy
Coming of age in Castro's Cuba. From my "unread on Kindle" TBR list.

October Light by Gardner, John 
Elderly Vermont siblings get into a stubborn standoff.  Another good one from my Kindle backlog

One of Us Is Sleeping by Klougart, Josefine; translated from the Danish by Aitken, Martin
Grieving the end of a relationship. Plus mother/daughter issues. From my TBR cart.

Under a Neon Sun by Gale, Kate
Covid-19 in Los Angeles. Gen Z domestic workers who can't afford to stay home. I really liked this ARC (via Librarything). I've read several Covid related novels but this was different because of the "I don't have the choice to quarantine" pov.

You Are Here by Nicholls, David 
Five people set out on England's  Coast to Coast Walk, One of them nearly completes it. 

The Safekeep by Wouden, Yael van der 
This novel is set in The Netherlands in 1961.  A post WW2 novel.  The cover depicts two pears but it's not a cookbook nor a "foodie" book. The cover is appropriate because two pears are eaten and they become symbolic. 
This Strange Eventful History by Messud, Claire 
A family saga (three generations from 1940-2010) about pieds-noirs displaced from Algeria and roaming about the world.

The Turtle House by Churchill, Amanda 
Two points of view:  that of a Japanese war bride from Osaka now in Texas and that of her  grandaughter. The parts about the grandmother in WW2 are interesting. The Texas parts aren't. An ARC (via Goodreads).

Bear by Phillips, Julia
Two sisters struggling to make end meet and care for their dying mother encounter a bear, Set on San Juan Island, Washington. These women are supposed to be in their late twenties but seem more like teenagers. Not good.

Regarding Anna by Osmund, Florence
Young woman becomes a private investigator in order to learn the skills to find her birth mother. A very complicated plot with lots of twists and interesting characters. From my Kindle backlog.

Fresh Water for Flowers by Perrin, Valérie; translated from the French by Serle, Hildegarde
Another complicated plot. This takes place in France. Lots of back and forth in time and pov and this one also has lots of twists and odd characters.  An enjoyable read.

The Flower Sisters by Anderson, Michelle Collins
Family secrets and town secrets are revealed when teen is dumped (by her mother) on her grandmother in a small Missouri town. An OK read.

The Werewolf at Dusk: And Other Stories illustrated by Small, David
Three dark stories in graphic novel format.
Contents: Introduction: The beast within -- The werewolf at dusk by Michel, Lincoln -- A walk in the old city by Small, David -- The tiger in vogue by Jean Ferry, Jean.

St. Petersburg Noir edited by Goumen, Julia and Smirnova, Natalia; various contributors and translators
Not my favorite of the series but ther were a few good stories in this. From ny Kindle backlog.
Contents: Introduction -- Part I: Gangsters, Soldiers & Patriots "Training Day" by Andrei Kivinov (Kupchino) -- "The Sixth of June" by Sergei Nosov (Moskovsky Prospect) -- Wake Up, You’re a Dead Man Now by Vadim Levental (New Holland) -- “The Witching Hour” by Alexander Kudriavtsev (Dostoevsky Museum)
Part II: A Watery Grave “Peau de Chagrin” by Natalia Kurchatova & Ksenia Venglinskaya (Rybatskoye) -- “Drunk Harbor” by Lena Eltang (Drunk Harbor) -- “Barely a Drop” by Andrei Rubanov (Liteyny Avenue) -- “Swift Current” by Anna Solovey (Kolomna) -- “The Phantom of the Opera Forever” by Julia Belomllinsky (Arts Square)
Part III: Chasing Ghosts “The Nutcracker” by Anton Chizh (Haymarket Square) -- “Paranoia” by Mikhail Lialin (Lake Dolgoe) -- “The Hairy Sutra” by Pavel Krusanov (Moika Embankment, 48) -- “A Cabinet of Curiosities” by Eugene Kogan (Kunstkamera) -- “Hotel Angleterre” by Vladimir Berezin (Hotel Angleterre).
The Jumblies, and Other Nonsense Verses by Lear, Edward; Illustrations by Brooke,  L. Leslie
I had a reading prompt to read "something frivolous" so if frivolous=silly, this fits the bill. From Project Gutenberg

Have You Eaten Yet: Stories from Chinese Restaurants Around the World by Kwan, Cheuk 
An interesting tour. This was a birthday gift and that meant I could savor it in small bites. Nice.

Bite by Bite: Nourishments and Jamborees by Nezhukumatathil, Aimee 
Essays on food (mostly fruit) and personal memories of food.  One reviewer wanted more personal stuff butI at first I wanted less. But then it kind of grew on me and I ended up learning from it. 

The Mystery Guest by Bouillier, Grégoire; translated from the French by Stein, Lorin
Delightful! and I learned a lot too. One of my favorite reads this month.

1974: A Personal History by Prose, Francine
Gives a partial answer to "Whatever happened to Tony Russo?" As for Francine? Well, she is very good at looking back to a time when she was very young. 

The Garden Against Time: In Search of a Common Paradise by Laing, Olivia
A delightful account of the restoration of an English garden. This was an ARC (via Goodreads) and I'm glad because I can keep it.

Ghost Town Living: Mining for Purpose and Chasing Dreams at the Edge of Death Valley by Underwood, Brent

The Spice Must Flow: The Story of Dune, from Cult Novels to Visionary Sci-Fi Movies by Britt, Ryan
This was fun to read. It's been many years since I read the first three Dune books and I haven't seen any of the various film or TV adaptations but that didn't affect my enjoyment or interest in this book.

Secrets of the Sun: A Memoir by Yoshikawa, Mako 
Apparently I liked this well enough to give it three Goodreads stars. However, after three weeks, I can barely remember it even when I reread the blurb.

How to Kill an Earworm: And 500+ Other Psychology Facts You Need to Know by Smit, Jana Louise 
Mostly "facts" I already knew.

Friday, May 31, 2024

May 2024

What a good reading month! Lots of social, genre, gender, mood, geographical, and historical variety. There was even a wide variety in length from the numerous short stories to a 700 page history.

Of the over 30 books read  most got three or more stars. Four got only two stars. There were none with only one star but two or three I didn't finish.  (They weren't terrible they just weren't to my taste.) I also had to return a few to the libraries because I didn't have time to get to them. Those went on my TBR lists (which never seem to get shorter).

Change: A Novel by Louis, Édouard; translated from the French by Lambert, John
Gay coming of age in Amiens and Paris.

The Waiter by Faldbakken, Matias; translated from the Norwegian by Menzies, Alice
A traditional waiter, a traditional Oslo restaurant, traditional are pretty much set in their ways until they aren't.

Wives Like Us by Sykes, Plum 
A fun farce among a trendy Cotswold set.

A House for Alice by Evans, Diana
After living most of her adult life and raising a family in London, Alice wants to return to her homeland.

Pete and Alice in Maine by Shetterly, Caitlin
New York couple flees to Maine during Lockdown. It doesn't go well.

Blue Ruin by Kunzru, Hari
More folks from NYC fleeing Covid. In this one it's an artist, his wife (another Alice), a gallerist and his girlfriend on a large property in Upstate New York. Alice's long ago lover Jay (an artist ) accidently stumbles into their retreat. Twenty years ago it was not a happy breakup and it's not a happy reunion.

Women and Children First by Grabowski, Alina
A small New England town copes with the death of a high school girl. Told from several women's points of view.

Miss Morgan's Book Brigade by Charles, Janet Skeslien 
Women war volunteers working among French civilians on the edge of the Zone Rouge during World War I.

The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club by Simonson, Helen
Post World War I British women dealing with the loss of men and jobs.

The House of Broken Bricks by Williams, Fiona 
A mixed race family strugles with loss and hardships in the UK marshes.

The Good Deed  byBenedict, Helen
An American woman seeking a retreat from her poblems is staying on the Greek island Samos. Seh rescues a drowing child and becomes involved in the world of a nearby refugee camp.

The Titanic Survivors' Book Club by Schaffert, Timothy 
A group of people who "survived" the Titanic disaster by having had tickets but never actually having boarded the ship form a reading group based in a rather unsuccessful book shop in Paris.

Library for the War-Wounded by Helfer, Monika; translated from the German by Davidson, Gillian
Post WW2 Austria.

Daughters of Shandong by Chung, Eve J.
Historical novel set in mainland China and Taiwan during the late 1940s 

The Cursed Friend by Salvioni, Beatrice; translated from the Italian by Pala, Elena
Coming of age in 1936 Italy.

Again and Again by Evison, Jonathan 
Is the old man delusional or did he really live several lives?

The Paris Novel by Reichl, Ruth 
Coming of age in Paris in the 1980s, surrounded by fashion, food, and family secrets. 

Infinite Country by Engel, Patricia
A Columbian family is separated by US immigration policies. 

The Spoiled Heart by Sahota, Sunjeev 

All Fours by July, Miranda
The premise was good--a woman set out from LA on a solo ceoss country road trip and makes it as far as  Monrovia. Goofy choices follow as she spends her entire trip there. The writing was good EXCEPT: too much graphic sex. Yuch!

Indian Burial Ground by Medina, Nick 
Strange things happen on the Rez. Paranormal? Imagination? Hallunication? Whatever, it was a good read and makes me wonder whaat good books I may be missing because I shy away from things tagged as "horror."

The Twilight Garden by Adams, Sara Nisha 
A shared garden in London comes back to life.

So Late in the Day: Stories of Women and Men by Keegan, Claire 
Contents: So late in the day -- Long and painful death -- Antarctica.

The Faraway World: Stories by Engel, Patricia
Contents: Aida -- Fausto -- The book of saints -- Campoamor -- Guapa -- La ruta -- Ramiro -- The bones of Cristóbal Colón -- Libélula -- Aguacero.

Soul Food: Life-Affirming Stories Served with Side Dishes and Just Desserts by Gibbs, Beth 
Fifteen inter-related stories.

Green frog : stories by Chung, Gina
Contents: How to eat your own heart -- Green frog -- After the party -- Rabbit heart -- Presence -- Human hearts -- Mantis -- The sound of water -- Attachment process -- The arrow -- Names for fireflies -- Honey and sun -- You'll never know how much I loved you -- The fruits of sin -- The love song of the Mexican free-tailed bat. 

The 2023 Larry Brown Short Story Award Issue (Pithead Chapel; Volume 13, Issue 1; January 1, 2024)
Award Winner: Orange by Siamak Vossoughi
Second Prize: Cosmic Acceleration by Bec Bell-Gurwitz
Third Prize: Lady Luck by T.E. Wilderson
Finalist: The Wall at the Back Garden by Mary Hannah Terzino
Finalist: Full Tour with Death House by Mark Doyle

Native Nations: A Millennium in North America by DuVal, Kathleen

An Unfinished Love Story: A Personal History of the 1960s by Goodwin, Doris Kearns 

The Sister: North Korea's Kim Yo Jong, the Most Dangerous Woman in the World by Lee, Sung-Yoon 

A Wealth of Pigeons: A Cartoon Collection by Bliss, Harry and Martin, Steve

Fine: A Comic About Gender by Ewing, Rhea 

Stranger on a Train: Daydreaming and Smoking Around America with Interruptions by Diski, Jen

The Secret Life of the Savoy: Glamour and Intrigue at the World's Most Famous Hotel by Williams, Olivia 

The Light Eaters: How the Unseen World of Plant Intelligence Offers a New Understanding of Life on Earth by Schlanger, Zoë 

The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age by Wolraich, Michael 

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

April 2024

So....I decided to try an experiment this month. I just listed the books as I read, making no comments, Now at the end of the month I'm going through the list to see what I remember (if anything) about each book. 

It was also a month to visit various Connecticut libraries with the promotional "Passport to Connecticut Libraries" program. We got off to a slow start as we were having repairwork done in the house.  Once we got started with our visits I was able to track down some really good reading. But I only got to about ten of the 150 participating libraries. Most of my May reading will be from this haul.

Clear by Davies, Carys
Set in 1843. A minister accepts a side job to evict the last resident from a remote Scottish isle during the Highland Clearances. One of the best books I've read this year.

The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson by Baker, Ellen
In the 1920s an orphanage sells a seven-year-old child to a circus. She becomes a bareback rider and later ends up pregnant in a juvinile facility. She manages to run away and live a fairley normal life. When she is 94 a family member buys a DNA test and the past comes tumbling out. 3+stars.

The Morningside by Obreht, Téa
The Morningside is a decaying high rise apartment on an island that has seen better days. The people are mostly refugees trying to cope and make the place better. A mother and daughter aree sort of supers of the building. Nicely told 3+ star read.

Wild and Distant Seas by Roberts, Tara Karr
A Nantucket story set in the Moby-Dick era. What if Ishmael made a stop at a widow's Inn before he signed on with Ahab? I really liked this debut novel. I must confess to have never made it all the way through Melville's novel but that didn't spoil my enjoyment of this novel, A solid 4 star read.

You Dreamed of Empires by Enrigue, Álvaro; translated from the Spanish by Wimmer, Natasha
Tenochtitlan, 1519, Hernán Cortés and company settle in. Another solid read.

Good Night, Irene by Urrea, Luis Alberto 
Irene is part of a Red Cross donut crew in WW2. This novel is based on the actual experience of the author's mother. It was a quick read and reminded me a bit of the Cherry Ames Series altho Irene's romantic adventures are a bit mor sexy than Nurse Ames'.  The Ames books were pretty tame.

The Husbands by Gramazio, Holly 
This was delightful! Lauren has a magic attic that keeps providing husbands for her. Fives stars for this fun romp.

The Curse of Penryth Hall by Armstrong, Jess 
A so-so gothic set in Cornwall. Not a bad read but I gave it only 2 stars. 

Ilium by Carpenter, Lea 
Lea is a sort of reluctant spy whos doesn't exactly comprend the nature of her mission which takes her from London to Paris to Cap Ferret. She's not totally clueless but there is a sort of dream like quality to this. 3+

Perris, California by Stark, Rachel 
Another 3+ read. This one is set in rural California (yes, there really is a Perris, CA). An abused woman makes a fairly successful marriage but has mother-in-law problems. A former high school friend returns to town and things get complicated.

Bottled by Gooch, Chris
Only 2 stars for this graphic novel. Set in Melbourne, it's a tale of millennial alienation and bad choices. So-so art work.

The Plains by Murnane, Gerald 
I've been wanting to read something by Murnane for the longest while. This was a good place to start. Wonderful sense of place. A 4+ read. and another Murnane book on my pile of books for next month!

Welcome to the Hyunam-Dong Bookshop by Bo-reum, Hwang: translated from the Korean by Tan, Shanna
This was a feel-good story of a group of South Koreans trying to establish a work/life balance. A found-family story that I couldn't manage to justify giving more than two stars. 

River East, River West by Lescure, Aube Rey 
American/Chinese teenage girl in Shanghai. Her mother is American, her unknown father was Chinese as is her step-father.  An ok read.

Chasing Beauty: The Life of Isabella Stewart Gardner by Dykstra, Natalie 
When I was in grad school I would myself for a completed project by treating myself to lunch at the Gardner Museum cafe. I also enjoyed the art work and recitals and concerts at the Museum. It was such a special place but I had a heavy workload and I never had time to find out much about the museum's founder. So now, after 30 years, I finally know.  4+ stars.

The Secret Life of Hidden Places: Concealed Rooms, Clandestine Passageways, and the Curious Minds That Made Them by Bachmann, Stefan 
Some places I knew about, some new (to me) ones. A fun armchair travel book. 

Inventing the It Girl: How Elinor Glyn Created the Modern Romance and Conquered Early Hollywood by Hallett, Hilary A. 
Loved this! 4+

Zodiac: A Graphic Memoir by Weiwei, Ai; Stamboulis, Elettra (Contributor), Costantini,Gianluca (Illustrator)
Another 4+ hit! 

Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon by McGurl, Mark 
Ah well, you can't win them all. 

Sunday, March 31, 2024

March 2024

Some good stuff this month and some disappointments.


Float Up, Sing Down by Hunt, Laird
Nice collection of linked short stories set in small town Indiana. Fun to meet up again with some characters from Hunt's earlier books.

Extinction of Irena Rey by Croft, Jennifer 
Eight translators go to a retreat at their author's home by a forest on the border of Poland and Belarus. The author disappears and confusion reigns. Really good.

Strega by Holm, Johanne Lykke; tramslated from the Swedish by Vogel, Saskia
Atmospheric and boring tale about a maid in a hotel with no guests. Not very good.

In Case We're Separated : Connected Stories by Mattison, Alice
Stroies of a Jewish family in America. Good

The Underground Library by Ryan, Jennifer 
Good. but not as good as Ryan's earlier books. Things wrapped up a little too neatly.

The Newton Letter by Banville, John 

River Mumma by Reid-Benta, Zalika
Jamacians in Toronto. Very good

How to Find Your Way in the Dark by Miller, Derek B. 
Jewish boy set on avenging his father's death comes of age.  Set mostly in Hartford, CT and the Catskills.  Very good

The Uncharted Flight of Olivia West by Ackerman, Sara
A female pilot in a 1927 air race from Oakland California to Hawaii. Not bad

A Fire So Wild by Grossman, Sarah Ruiz
Wild fire in the Berkeley Hills. A fine debut novel.

Piglet by Hazell, Lottie
A mess of a wedding, the groom to be has a terrible secret, and the bride likes to cook and eat.  Another good debut novel.

Green Dot by Gray, Madeline
Millennial has affair with older, married man. Coming of age in Sidney. Another well written first novel.

She Started It by Gilbert, Sian
Four stupid twenty something women accept an invitation to a hen party on a remote island. Their hostess ia someone they bullied ten years ago in school. Dumb, dumber, dumbest.

Nonfiction (all good):

Legacy: A Black Physician Reckons with Racism in Medicine by Blackstock, Uché

Whiskey Tender: a memoir by Taffa, Deborah Jackson

2020: One City, Seven People, and the Year Everything Changed by Klinenberg, Eric 

Singled Out: How Two Million Women Survived Without Men After the First World War by Nicholson, Virginia 

Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets by Dittrich, Luke 


The Manor by Cox, Tom
The writer explores the abandoned house of a book collector.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

February 2024

Lots of bodies in my February fiction reading--I lost count. 
Everything this month was from public libraries.  No Gutenberg, no online reading to speak of, and I didn't get to the two ARC on my nightstand. Maybe next month....


The Storm We Made by Chan, Vanessa
Life of a family in Japanese occupied Malaysia. A decent read.

The The Excitements by Wray, C.J. 
A fun romp to Paris with two ninety year old sisters and their nephew.

Dead in Long Beach, California by Blackburn, Venita 
A woman finds her brother dead by suicide in his apartment and she does some strange things.

The Framed Women of Ardemore House by Schillace, Brandy
An enjoyable village mystery. I think it's going to be a series. If so, I will read the next one.

Who to Believe by Hill, Edwin
Several murders, several suspects, several narrators....  Once I got into it I liked it.

The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Hallett, Janice 
Murders, more murders, and a very convuluted conspiracy. Also, a very good read

The Adversary by Crummey, Michael
I didn't like it as much as others by Crummey, but it is very good.

Interesting Facts about Space by Austin, Emily
The blurb calls this ", hilarious, and ultimately hopeful...." Uh, the first and last might be true--it was nicely paced and ended on an optimistic note. However, "hilarious" just doesn't fit. This is not laugh-a-minute funny. There are some amusing monents and it's not too dark and dreary but there is a lot of unhappiness.

The Swallows of Kabul by Khadra, Yasmina ; translated from the French by Cullen, John
Good but a difficult read.

The Ghosts of Rose Hill by Romero, R.M.
Y.A.  A nice coming of age story. With ghosts.

The Phoenix Crown by Quinn, Kate and Chang, Janie
An earthquake (1906), a couple of murders, a grand ball, an abduction, a rescue, and more.... How did they manage to make it all so boring?

Fourteen Days edited by Atwood, Margaret
A collaborative novel where the tennants of a rundown NYC apartment bulding gather on the roof each evening for fourteen days of the early Covid lockdown. Each has a story to tell. I enjoyed it.
Contributors: Charlie Jane Anders, Margaret Atwood, Joseph Cassara, Jennine Capó Crucet, Angie Cruz, Pat Cummings, Sylvia Day, Emma Donoghue, Dave Eggers, Diana Gabaldon, Tess Gerritsen, John Grisham, Maria Hinojosa, Mira Jacob, Erica Jong, CJ Lyons, Celeste Ng, Tommy Orange, Mary Pope Osborne, Douglas Preston, Alice Randall, Ishmael Reed, Roxana Robinson, Nelly Rosario, James Shapiro, Hampton Sides, R.L. Stine, Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Monique Truong, Scott Turow, Luis Alberto Urrea, Rachel Vail, Weike Wang, Caroline Randall Williams, De’Shawn Charles Winslow, and Meg Wolitzer.


Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts: Stories and Recipes from Five Generations of Black Country Cooks by Wilkinson, Crystal
I really enjoyed this memoir. 

Hollywood: The Oral History by Basinger, Jeanine and Wassan, Sam
Many, many clips from a series of interviews with representatives of all facets of production (producers, executives, directors, actors, set and costume designers, cinematographers, editors, etc.) for the American Film Institute. Nicely arranged in a thematic/chronological order. Interesting but they soft pedal a lot of stuff and I think they (the interviewees) make it look better than it was.

Inside Qatar: Hidden Stories from One of the Richest Nations on Earth by McManus, John 
The writing annoyed me, I'm not sure why, but the book is informative.

Islands of Abandonment by Flyn, Cal 
Lots of lovely descriptions, lots of viewing with alarm, lots of sad stories, and a bit of optimism. An ok read.
Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Kolker, Robert
I don't know what to say about this other than it was confusing to have the experience of one family mixed in with a summary of research into the causes of schizophrenia.