Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September 2014 Reads

Almost everything I read this month was in the four or five star ratings.  I'll get the bummer out of the way first: 

The Bone Clock by
 Library book. This was a huge disappointment. It just didn't work. The old "willing suspension of disbelief" never kicked in. I liked Cloud Atlas and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet so much but this one was a real let-down. I gave it two stars on Goodreads which is harsh but...

From the worst so the best. Five stars to three superior reads:  

The Polish Boxer by Eduardo Halfon, Thomas Bunstead (Translator), Lisa Dillman (Translator), Daniel Hahn (Translator), Anne McLean (Translator)
 Finished free copy from the publisher as an extra with LibraryThing givaway win of Monastery by the same author. Review posted on Goodreads and LibraryThing. 

Traveler of the Century by Andrés Neuman, Nick Caistor (Translator), Lorenza García (Translator)
 Library Book. See my post Reading Backwards, Sort Of 

Land of Love and Drowning; Yanique, Tiphanie
 Library book. Set in US Virgin Islands. Family saga from about 1916 through approximately the 1970s. I was totally charmed by this.

And four stars to five very good reads: 

F: A Novel by Daniel Kehlmann, Carol Janeway (Translator)
 Library book. Three brothers--Martin, a priest who is a non-believer; Ivan, a painter who can't paint; Eric, a businessman who is over-extended--and their emotionally distant father. Most of the action takes place on 8/8/2008. 

The Hidden Child (Fjällbacka #5); Läckberg, Camilla; Marlaine Delargy (Translator)
 Library book.  This is the first book I've read by this author. I liked it, but not sure I want to read more in the series. Still, it's a good mystery. 

Evergreen; Rasmussen, Rebecca
 Library book. Set in Minnesota wilderness. Story of half siblings separated when one is left on orphanage steps. Told in four sections: 1938, 1952, 1961, 1972. 

Hart's Grove; McFadden, Dennis
 Finished copy from author from Goodreads First Reads program. Excellent interlinked short stories set in a small Pennsylvania town. Covers several decades beginning in 1950s. Review posted on Goodreads and LibraryThing.

Battle Royale; by Koushun Takami, Yuji Oniki (Translator)
 Library book. What can I say?  A survival game involving 42 fifteen-year olds. Not my usual taste but it drew me in and I liked it. First published back in 1999.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Reading Backwards, Sort Of

It was a real struggle for me to get into Traveler of the Century by

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Two Days of Surfing

I can't believe that I've spent the last couple of days not picking up a book.  Well, I have picked up a couple of books, I just haven't read any.

What I have been doing is wandering around the Internet reading blogs, tweets, email, zines, and other stuff.  Of course visiting blogs and reading reviews does add to my growing list of things I want to read and that has gotten out of hand. I spent a lot of time housekeeping at Goodreads.

So what's coming up? Here are a few things.

On October 18 Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-Thon.  I've signed up as Martha G. Last time I read five books. Best to pick ones that have a strong narrative, not to much philosophy and deep thinking. Make sure final book is something light--I made a mistake with this last time.

In November Lizzy's Literary Life is sponsoring German Literature Month IV I'll set aside some things for this. Can't pass this by--Germany is one of my former places of residence.

JacquiWine's Journal can always be counted on for good reviews particularly of literature in translation. She frequently reviews things that I have under consideration. That was the case this morning with her review Pascal Garnier's Moon in a Dead Eye. For some reason I've never read any Garnier so I placed some holds on what is available locally (three titles, including this one).  All three are currently in use so I'll have a wait of at least a week.

Winstonsdad's Blog is another great source for reviews of lit in translation. The Sermon on the Fall of Rome by Jérôme Ferrar is today's review. This one goes on my wish list. Not available at local libraries.

Waiting at the library. I just got a notice that The complete cosmicomics by Italo Calvino (Translated by Martin McLaughlin, Tim Parks, and William Weaver) is waiting for me on the holds shelf. But the library is closing at 2pm and won't open again until Monday (a local fair takes over the whole town this weekend) so I won't have it for a few days.

BookRiot's An African Reading List has over seventy titles from thirty countries. It's a good resource, I've read a few from the list and all were worthwhile reads:
   The Cairo Trilogy – Naguib Mahfouz
   Say You’re One of Them – Uwem Akpan
   In a Strange Room – Damon Galgut
   The Three – Sarah Lotz
   We Need New Names – NoViolet Bulawayo
Another is scheduled as my next read, I have it out from the library:
   All Our Names – Dinaw Mengestu

Over on Storify David Hebblethwaite has put together a list : Twitter recommends essay collections with some overflow on his blog Follow the Thread. I do love a good essay collection--especially when I travel.

In the kitchen
Tuesday I picked up something from the new book shelf at the community college library.
   Better bean cookbook: more than 160 modern recipes for beans, chickpeas, and lentils to tempt meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. We haven't tried any of the recipes yet, but the pictures are delicious.
 I just had cheese ravioli and broccoli for lunch. Scored lots of points with housemate as I finished up two leftovers. So now the fridge is leftover free which means we can cook up a batch of beans.

 An ARC of Us by David Nicholls came in yesterday's mail.  And I got an email notice that I won a copy of Madame Picasso by Anne Girard (along with some DVD's) thanks to Beth Fish Reads. I hope it gets here in time for the Read-a-Thon, it sounds perfect for that.

There's a lot more going on in my reading this fall but my housemate just wandered in and shook her head at the stacks of books which are overpowering the lovely bouquet she put on my desk yesterday.  Guess it's time for a little organizing.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Some Online Reading September 2014

Read Russia!: An Anthology of New Voices full text (PDF) available online free "...a new gift to American and English-speaking readers: thirty short works from Russia’s leading contemporary writers. This 448-page collection is weighty and substantial, yet is also just a taste of the stunning writing coming out of Russia today."
 I haven't started reading this, but it looks  promising.

Headache by Julio Cortázar; Translated by Michael Cisco; Tor.com, Sept 3, 2014. Short story.  
     Note on Tor.com: The late Julio Cortázar was a sickly child and spent many hours in bed. Perhaps those  memories inspired “Cefalea,” the feverish story of the care and feeding of fantastical creatures called the mancuspias, which debuted in his 1951 collection Bestiario. Tor.com is proud to share with you “Headache,” the first ever English translation of “Cefalea.”
 A strange story that had my head reeling. Wow!

The Horoscope Says by Antonio Ortuño; Translated by Eduardo Padilla; Mexico City Lit. Short story.
 A woman faces danger in her nightly walk home from the factory where she works.

There is not a lot of content on the site, what is there is interesting. No dates; contact, ownership, nor editorial staff information is given so it's hard to tell if it is an active site. The total "about" is:
  "Mexico City Lit is an English-language forum for writing related to Mexico City. Here you will find work by emerging and established Mexican and foreign writers, as well as features on leading Mexico City publishing houses and literary magazines."

The Bones by Henning Koch.  Serialized (9 parts) on The Quivering Pen blog. 
 I just started reading this novella. According to David Abrams of The Quivering Pen  "The Bones" is a funny, frightening vision of an unspecified future in which America is a wasteland society whose currency is oil.  Some would argue it's not much different from the current state of the nation.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

September Plan Smashed

For a short week (no mail delivery on Monday, Labor Day) I ended up with a tall stack.
It started with my Tuesday trip to a meeting. Why, oh why, did we ever choose to meet in a library?
Well I resisted browsing the new book shelf, but right by the exit there was this rack of discards. At 25 cents each how could I walk on by?  (Dates in parentheses are dates rec'd, not publication dates.)

Community College used books:   (Sep 02)
The Story of Lucy Gault; William Trevor
Crimes in Southern Indiana: Stories; Frank Bill (love the cover)
The New York Trilogy; Paul Auster 
But when I got home there was mail...
and...there was more mail on Wednesday & Friday...

From LibaryThing win(Sep 02)
Monastery; Eduardo Halfon, Lisa Dillman (Translation)    
The Polish Boxer; Eduardo Halfon, Thomas Bunstead (Translation)

(Monastary was the actual win, publisher tossed in the other as an extra.) 

Shelf Awareness wins:
Ajax Penumbra 1969; Robin Sloan     (Sep 02)
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore; Robin Sloan     (Sep 02)
How To Be a Good Wife; Emma Chapman     (Sep 03) 

From Subscriptions:   
An Amorous Discourse in the Suburbs of Hell; Deborah Levy (Sep 03) And Other Stories
Baboon; Naja Marie Aidt, Denise Newman (Translation)     (Sep 05) Two Lines Press
The Last Days of My Mother; Solvi Bjorn Sigurdsson; Helga Soffia Einarsdottir (Translator);  (Sep 05)  Open Letter   
So I said I'd read some of my backlog...and they sent me more. But I love these guys. And these covers!
From Blog wins:  
After I Do; Taylor Jenkins Reid    (Sep 03)
Survival Colony Nine; Joshua David Bellin     (Sep 05)

Then there was an Email from the library so I went there to pick up a hold (The Bone Clocks). I just took a glance at the new book shelf--I should have known better.
Public Library (Sep 05): 
The Hidden Child (Patrik Hedström, #5); Läckberg, Camilla
All Our Names; Mengestu, Dinaw
Evergreen; Rasmussen, Rebecca 
The Bone Clocks; Mitchell, David
The Pearl that Broke Its Shell; Hashimi, Nadia
Land of Love and Drowning; Yanique, Tiphanie

There is also another hold "in transit" which may mean "in limbo" since it's had that status for several days.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Third Quarter Review and Setting up September

According to Goodreads, so far in 2014 I've averaged about 20 books a month. That's 160. My public library account history shows that I've checked out about 100 books this year.  The community college library doesn't keep my history, but I estimate I checked out about 30 books there.  Through various giveaways and gifts I've acquired about 70 and I've purchased about 60. This means that about 100 books that I haven't read have passed through my hands and/or ended up on my shelves.

All this is approximate and not necessarily accurate. Take the library books: a few are ones I checked out for someone else and weren't anything I intended to read. Some landed in the did not finish pile--this often happens when I am pressed for time on my library visit and don't properly vet them whilst still in the library.

The books I own (whether from wins, gifts, or purchases) tend to get set aside for library books, unless they are ARCs or other giveaways that I feel need a timely review. After those, I've been reading things for various challenges and spotlights (Women in Translation Month, Japanese Lit Challenge, Spanish Lit Month, various lit prize long and short lists, and book discussion groups). This has meant a lot of reading somewhat scheduled by outside forces. In all fairness I should point out that much of this "directed" reading includes things I would have read anyway.  However, I might not have read it during this eight month period.

So where do I go from here?  Do I stop requesting ARCs? Do I stop entering blog contests? Do I avoid new and used book sales? Do I stop going to libraries? Do I cancel my subscriptions with five indie publishers?  No, No, No, No, and No! Should I ignore the challenges and spotlights? No.

Why "no" to all of these? Because I've found so many great reads through all of these sources.

Should I be more selective (especially with the ARC and contests)? Actually, I've been pretty selective--only 26 books got less than 3 Goodreads stars or didn't finish and more than half got three or four stars. Of course that's books finished, not tbr shelves.
Should I make more effort to tackle the to be read shelves? Yes.
Should I continue with serendipity? Luck? Whatever? Yes, this is lots of fun. And I read for pleasure.

When I started this post I was thinking I would set up a specific September reading list with ten books from my owned shelves, five slots for library holds, and five for what comes along.

So....I can't do specific titles.  I'll do a more general list:
  From my shelves (8+ 3 to be finished):
      one Open Letter Press Book
      one from other indie press subscriptions
      one from the Dalkey Korean Literature purchase
      one book from the Friends of the Library May sale
      one from the bolg wins
      three ARCs from Goodreads & LibraryThing wins
      three holdovers from August: I Am Istanbul, All My Friends, Hart's Grove (a Goodreads win)

  From the library:
      one my daughter suggested- Battle Royale; by Koushun Takami, Yuji Oniki (Translator) 
(checked out on her card, due late next week) 600= pages, but she says it goes quickly, we'll see
      The Kalevala -- due 9/16, renewable; I don't plan to read the whole thing.
      any hold that comes in (5 on hold, but none are in transit)

And that is enough to plan on since the two library ones are both long and I need some room for browsing.