Thursday, July 31, 2014

July 2014 Reads

Considering that I was intending to read for both Paris In July and Spanish Lit Month, I fell a bit short on my goals. The only books in translation are from Japanese and German. And only one set in Paris (though four others take place partly in Paris). Six very promising debut novels here. More by and about Americans than my usual reading. No non-fiction, which is unusual for me. Only one book of short stories (and I didn't like it).

Best of the Bunch (5 stars):
Bedrock Faith; by Eric Charles May
 Library book. Wonderful novel. Gossip and mayhem in a Chicago South Side neighborhood. Akashic books is publishing some good things. Debut novel.

The Quick; Owen, Lauren
 ARC won in blog raffle.This took over my reading for a couple of days. Everything else got put aside. Excellent, even though it's vampires. A brief bit in Paris. I reviewed on Goodreads & LibraryThing. Debut novel 

The Man Who Walked Away: A Novel; Casey, Mau
Library book. A couple of bumps, but over all a poetic, satisfying read. And a little bit of Paris.

The Farm; Smith, Tom Rob
 Library book. A young man in London receives and alarming phone call from his father in Sweden telling him his mother is mentally ill. Then his mother calls. She has checked herself out of the hospital and is on her way to London. When she arrives, she tell an incredible story. Is she ill, or does she have information about a crime? Hard to tell just what is going on. This is a real page turner.

We Are Called to Rise; McBride, Laura
 Library book. A woman coping with her past and the breakup of her marriage, an immigrant family facing adjustment, and veterans coping with PTSD all converge in Las Vegas. A difficult story well told. Debut novel.

Next Best (4 stars):
The two in translation fit here in Next Best. Both good reads, of historical interest.

The Journey; Osaragi, Jirō; Ivan Morris (Translator)
  My copy. First published in 1960. Life in Japan in the period of transition from US occupation.

Rheinsberg. a Story Book for Lovers; Tucholsky, Kurt; Cindy Opitz (Translation), Peter Boethig (Afterword)
 Finished copy from publisher via LibraryThing giveaway. Historic piece, written in 1912, I reviewed on Goodreads & LibraryThing.

Good, but not quite as good as above (4 stars, all are debuts):
2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas; Bertino, Marie-Helene  
 ARC from LibraryThing. A lot a fun as we follow a nine year old and her neighbors through a strange Christmas Eve eve. review to come on Goodreads & LibraryThing. 

The French Girl's War; Williams-Dalgart, Herb
 Autographed copy from author via Goodreads giveaway. I liked this story about a Jewish girl; set in the early stages of WW2. A bit of Paris in this one. I reviewed on Goodreads & LibraryThing.

Home Leave; Sonnenberg, Brittani
 ARC from LibraryThing. Although it has some flaws, it is good at conveying the life of an ex-pat family, something I could really relate to having lived that life for a dozen years. I reviewed on Goodreads & LibraryThing.

Good, but a little less so (3 stars):
I Always Loved You; Oliveira, Robin
 Library book. Bio-novel of Mary Cassatt's Paris years. Interesting read.

The Secret Life of Violet Grant; Williams, Beatriz
 ARC from publisher via Shelf Awareness giveaway. An OK book for non-demanding summer reading. And Paris plays a part. I reviewed on Goodreads & LibraryThing.

Love & Treasure; Waldman, Ayelet
 Library book. Three sections: (1)WW2 officer in charge of off-loading and protecting treasure from train; (2)Officer's grandaughter's search for owner of stolen pendant; (3) story of owner of pendant.  Section 1 was quite good, 2 was bearable, 3 was tedious. 3 stars is a bit generous.

Disappointing (2 stars-barely):
Marine Park: Stories; Chiusano, Mark
  Electronic ARC from Penguin First to Read program. I found it boring, couldn't engage with this at all. Posted brief comment on First to Read site, did not review elsewhere.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Quick and the read

I've done nothing on my blog all month. Also, my reading plan is all askew.  Blame it on The Quick, by Lauren Owen.  I won an ARC in a blog raffle. (Thank you, Unabridged Chick .) I put it in the black hole that is my TBR stack. That was sometime in June.  It would still be there but then I saw that someone I know had it on a wish list.  I decided to read it and pass it on. I started it Tuesday (the 15th) morning, right after I finished The Man Who Walked Away (library book due on the 15th).

It took over.

I usually have two or three books going at a time, alternating among them as my mood changes. I finished the Quick with no other books intervening. In this case my current read for the Japanese Lit Challenge The Journey, by Osaragi was put aside, S.E. Grove's The Glass Sentence  was put down (perhaps never to be picked up again), and 2 A.M. At The Cat's Pajamas (a really fun book) was barely started.  When I finished The Quick Wednesday night, I just didn't want to read anything for a while. Some books will do that to you.

And then there's this stack of books under consideration for Spanish Lit Month . I haven't even managed to select one.

Then there is Paris in July . At least I've read a couple set in Paris, but I really wanted to read something translated from the French.  Neither of these was:
The French Girl's War; Williams-Dalgart, Herb
 Autographed copy from author via Goodreads giveaway. I liked this story about a Jewish girl; set in the early stages of WW2. Not totally set in Paris, but her stay in Paris is important.
I Always Loved You; Oliveira, Robin
 Library book. Bio-novel of Mary Cassatt's Paris years. Interesting read.

And I wanted to write something about my trip to Paris--the one that was in July 198?.

 Last night (Friday) I finally read a bit of the Cat's Pajamas and am getting back on track. I've also been watching Le Tour, so maybe I'll make it to Paris before the month and Le Tour end.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

June 2014 Reads

Another eclectic batch. No real duds here.
All from my favorite libraries unless otherwise noted.

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932: A Novel; Prose, Francine
 Paris between the wars has generated a lot of literature recently. This one is very good. I never read anything by Francine Prose before and now she shows up twice on my June list (here and in the preface to Piano Stories below).
The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden; Jonasson, Jonas;  Rachel Willson-Broyles (Translator)
  This was so much fun. Remember The Mouse that Roared?
Harlequin's Millions; Bohumil Hrabal; Stacey Knecht (translator)
 I carried on with this thanks to encouragement from Tony Messenger and ended up liking it.
Autobiography of a Corpse; Krzhizhanovsky, Sigizmund; Joanne Turnbull (Translation); Nikolai Formozov (Translation)
Piano Stories; Hernández, Felisberto;  Francine Prose (preface); by Italo Calvino (introduction); Luis Harss (translator) 
 See my post of June 26, 2014
Summer House with Swimming Pool; Koch, Herman; Sam Garrett (translator)
 This was creepy, I didn't like it as much a Koch's The Dinner and Arnon Grunberg's Tirza was better.

The following three were electronic review copies provided by Penguin Books First to Read program. I liked all three, in the order listed.  I posted brief reviews on Goodreads.
The Invention of Exile: A Novel; Manko, Vanessa
Conversion; Howe, Katherine
The Major's Daughter; Francis, J.P.

Selected Shorts: Even More Laughs; Space, Symphony (various authors & readers)
 A nice relief from the (mostly) heavy June list.  How can you go wrong with readers that include  Alec Baldwin and Stephen Colbert? I must admit that I did not listen to Christine Baranski reading Thomas Meehan’s Yma Dream. I saw this on TV when Anne Bancroft originally did it (with Lee J. Cobb as the silent, dead-pan therapist) and I just couldn't bear to intrude on my memory of it.

Bright Bazaar: Embracing Color for Make-You-Smile Style; Taylor, Will
  Copy courtesy of publisher - Posted brief review on Goodreads
Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War; Vaill, Amanda
 Correspondents, loyalists, insurgents, spies, adventurers, tourists, and even a few genuine patriots; war stories and love stories; true stories and damned lies--it's hard to tell which is which. Excellent!
A Drifting Life; Tatsumi, Yoshihir;  Adrian Tomine (Design); Taro Nettleton(translator)
 See my post of June 22, 2014.