Thursday, December 31, 2015

December (second half) 2015 Reading

According to Goodreads I more than met my goal of 200 books this year (read 209). Nice, but not too difficult--I do love retirement! The other goals, the challenges, reviews, blog entries, etc. pretty much fell by the wayside. I'm not especially concerned about that. I don't feel compelled to review or otherwise blog about every book I read. But I do try to make some brief comments. When I look back at this blog for March through June of this year, I'm sorry that I didn't say something about all those books. Spring was difficult this year. Sigh.

On to my final reads of the year and a kind of New year resolution: When I really like the cover art, I will try to give the artist credit and a link (if I can find one).

25246901Paris Nocturne; Modiano, Patrick;Phoebe Weston-Evans (Translation) 
After the Circus; Modiano, Patrick; Mark Polizzotti (Translation)
Not going to attempt any mini-review or comment other than it's Modiano and Modiano's Paris, which I love.
Library books.
Left Cover Photo:  Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy/Stockbyte/Getty Images; Right Cover illustration: Paris at Twilight. Getty Images  Mel Curtis

22542595 My Documents; Zambra, Alejandro; Megan McDowell (Translation)
Short stories. I liked most of them. "I Smoked Very Well" is a gem. "Thank You" is a quirky tale about a kidnapping and theft in Mexico City.  The final story was the one I liked least, a good story but the sex element was too graphic. Library book.

Contents: Part 1. My documents -- Part 2. Camilo -- Long distance -- True or false -- Memories of a personal computer -- Part 3. National institute -- I smoked very well -- Part 4. Thank you -- The most Chilean man in the world -- Family life -- Artist's rendition.
An appropriate cover design by Sunra Thompson

 Blue Bamboo: Tales, Dazai Osamu; Dazai, Osamu; Ralph F. McCarthy (Translator)
The stories are good. Many are based on folk tales and other traditional literature--including a retelling/continuation of Rapunzel. My copy, from publisher via a win on Tony Malone's 2013 January in Japan event. It's about time I got around to reading it. Actually I started reading it in August; I often set story collections aside to intersperse with other reading.

Cover: 'Bamboo and chrysanthemum under the moon' by Hara Zaichū (1750–1837); Ota Collection, Fukuoka Art Museum.
Why does it bother me that the cover of a book with "blue" in the title is green? See note under online reading below.


Postcards from the Past; Willett, Marcia
After their respective marriages end, a brother and sister return to their childhood home to a comfortable retirement near friends. Their contentment is disrupted when postcards start arriving from a half-brother they haven't seen or heard from for 50 years. A nice story about good people facing unpleasant memories. There are also some nice dogs and maybe too much description of trivial objects and peripheral characters. Library book.

This charming cover is by Vitali Komarov, a Russian born artist who lives in the Czech republic.

Newport; Morrow, Jill
I didn't get much of a sense of place or time with this. It is set in Newport, Rhode Island during the 1920s but it could have been set in any wealthy enclave at any time. Secrets, seances, sinister siblings, and a few surprises. An OK read. Library book.

Cover has a soft gold sparkle which doesn't show up in the web image.  Photograph by Hungarian photographer Peter Zelei /Getty Images


Infinite Home; Alcott, Kathleen
I had no idea that I wanted to read this book. I picked it up from the library new book shelf the other day and devoured it! Perfect! Well developed characters and elegant writing. I am tempted to end my year with this one, but I picked up several other books that day and....Library book.

Jacket design by Alex Merto

6488280Istanbul Noir (Akashic Noir); by Ziyalan, Mustafa (Editor), Spangler, Amy (Editor)
As with many anthologies some of these stories are better than others, but they all give a sense of place. Of course, because it's noir, the place can be bleak, scary, and downright creepy. I've had this book on my Kindle for over a year, reading it in various waiting rooms. Finally finished it the other day while my car was being serviced. This series is great waiting room stuff--makes the time go quickly. 
Contents: Lust & vengeance. The tongue of the flames / İsmail Güzelosoy; Hitching in the Lodos / Feryal Tilmac; The stepson / Mehmet Bilâl; An extra body / Bariş Müstecaplioğlu; Pushing limits, crossing lines. The smell of fish / Hikmet Hükümenoğlu; All quiet / Jessica Lutz ; Around here, somewhere / Algan Sezgi̇ntüredi; The spirit of philosophical vitriol / Lydia Lunch; In the dark recesses. One among us / Yasemin Aydinoğlu; Black palace / Mustafa Ziyalan; So very familiar / Behçet Çelik; The bloody horn / Inan Çetin; A woman, any woman / Tarkan Barlas; Grief & grievances. Ordinary facts / Riza Kiraç; Burn and go / Sadik Yemni; the hand / Müge İplikçi.
Cover Photo: Deniz Oğurlu Other Daughter; Willig, Lauren
Rachel, a young Englishwoman, is trying to make ends meet as a governess in France. Called home when her mother dies, Rachael discovers that she is not who she thought she was. She takes up a disguise in order to meet the man who she believes deserted her and her mother. Everything backfires but, of course, it all works out in the end. A pleasant, undemanding diversion with some interesting twists. A little bit better than the other book I read by this author (That Summer). Library book

23341590 Day Four (The Three #2); Lotz, Sarah 
I liked this, but not as much as I liked The Three. The cruise setting was great for a horror story (almost as good as the Ikea-like setting for  Horrorstör).  This is more a paranormal/disaster story than it is horror, but the whole genre thing is a mishmash of definitions. Another novel set on a drifting, lost ship is George Barr McCutcheon's West Wind Drift (1920, available on Project Gutenberg). A very different kind of story, but there are a few parallels--enough to make me think of it whilst reading this one.

Library book. 

didn't get cover info

 Non Fiction

Schubert's Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession; Bostridge, Ian
This is an amazing discussion of a Schubert song cycle, about the meaning of the words (by Wilhelm Müller), the music, and the Romantic movement.
Library book.
25733877Jacket design is by Peter Mendelsund -my favorite cover designer.

Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank Gehry; Goldberger, Paul
Interesting, but not critical either of Gehry's life or his work. Author is a friend of Gehry.
Library book.

Cover:  Photograph by Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty; Drawings by Frank Gehry early sketch of Walt Disney Concert Hall; Cover design by Peter Mendelsund

Online reading 

The next two were read in conjunction with reading The Art of Flight by Sergio Pitol (George Henson Translator), which has a critical essay, "The Great Theater of the World," discussing the Galdós novel. The next essay is on Chekhov, it may take me a while to finish this book--one thing leads to another.

The Court of Charles IV: A Romance of the Escorial; Pérez Galdós, Benito; Clara Bell (translation).
Read online at the Internet Archive

The Young Lady's Consent  Translator/Author: Christopher O. Kidder; Publication: University of New Orleans Theses and Dissertations a translation of El sí de las niñasis a play by the Spanish playwright Leandro Fernández de Moratín.This translation is the only one I could find. It has problems, but at least it gave me an idea of what Pitol and Galdós are talking about.

From the BBC a fascinating piece on archaeology in the Orkney islands:  Were These Remote Wild Islands the Centre of Everything? Illustrated with beautiful photographs. Makes me want to go there.

My question about the cover of Blue Bamboo led me to this Wikipedia entry:  Distinction of blue and green in various languages

Arabic Literature (in English) offers links to some poetry in translation: 
A Holiday Gift: Ten Poems from Iman Mersal 

Stories from post World War II japan always interest me. Here from From The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus  is Muddy River by Miyamoto Teru; Translated and with an introduction by Andrew Murakami-Smith. This story won the Dazai Osamu (s Blue Bamboo, above) literary award in 1977. It is set in Osaka in the 1950s. The 1981 film Doro no kawa (Muddy River), directed by Oguri Kōhei, is based on it. There is a discussion of the film (illustrated with stills) on Cinema Talk. I'd like to watch this film, but it doesn't seem to be available with English sub-titles. It is on YouTube in Japanese. There are sub-titles available separately online, but coordinating them with a video is not ideal.

 New (to me) words:  
kintsuba: a regional name for a sweet treat made of a batter and filled with sweet bean past (or other sweet filling). More general term: Imagawayaki.
ragworms:  Nereididae, a family of polychaete worms, about 500 (mostly marine) species. They may be commonly called ragworms or clam worms. Used as bait.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Books Are Fun

I think these gifts from my daughters will assure a good year of reading. The bears are actually attached to  bookends with mock books titled "Books are Fun."
  Smart bears.
Mr Mac and Me; Esther Freud    
Dora Bruder; Patrick Modiano, Joanna Kilmartin (Translation)
Bound in Venice: The Serene Republic and the Dawn of the Book; Alessandro Marzo Magno    
The Tea Lords; Hella S. Haasse, Ina Rilke (Translator)    
A Meal in Winter; Hubert Mingarelli, Sam Taylor (Translator)    
Blood of the Vine: Season 1 - CD of French TV series based on the The Winemaker Detective Series 

And on Kindle

Martian Goods & Other Stories; Noelle Campbell, Laurisa Reyes (Editor)   

The Method: And Other Stories; Tom Vowler

Monday, December 14, 2015

December (first half) 2015 Reading

Variety is the theme for my early December reading:


Tram 83; Mujila, Fiston Mwanza; Roland Glasser (Translation)
Set in a made-up African city-state somewhere in the Congo region. Gritty tale of a mix of locals, ex-pats, and wanderers: the exploiters and the exploited. A great read. Personal copy. 
Providential; Channer, Colin
This book of poetry is difficult for me. I've read several books set in the Caribbean area, but none that contain so much in the Jamaican vernacular. Because it is poetry, it is a little harder to pick up meanings from context than it is with a prose narrative. But the writing has a definite rhythm and several of the poems read almost like short stories. I keep returning to it and enjoy it more with each visit.
Free advance review copy of this book from the publisher through the LibraryThing early Reviewers program.

Thirteen Ways of Looking; McCann, Colum
Short fiction. The title story is a novella (158 pages) set in New York City. Then there are three short stories, one set in Ireland, one in New York/London, and one in an author's head as he attempts to write a short story. All four have Irish roots and all were fine reading. Library book.


Snow in Amman: An Anthology of Short Stories from Jordan; translated and edited by Ibtihal Mahmood and Alexander Haddad
I like this selection of eleven stories. Some are very dark and violent. Not a lot of humor (but some irony) here. There is an interesting introductory essay, but I wish there was more information about the authors of the stories. Personal copy

Where You Once Belonged; Haruf, Kent
I don't know why I've never read any Haruf, but I really liked this. I'll try some more.
Love this cover! It really fits the story, which is set in a small town in Colorado.
Library book.


Charlie Martz and Other Stories: The Unpublished Stories; Leonard, Elmore
Some reviewers are suggesting that this is for hardcore Elmore Leonard fans, an interesting read for seeing his development as an author, blah, blah, blah. Of course it is all that but it can still stand alone as a collection of good stories, especially for those who like their westerns and crime fiction in small doses. Library book.

Days of Awe; Fox, Lauren
This book deals with serious matters: friendship, death, marriage, mother/daughter relationships. At times it's funny because the protagonist often covers up her emotions with sarcastic (sometimes witty) observations, often voicing aloud remarks that she should keep to herself. Chick Lit? Women's Fiction? I'm not sure what the distinction is. Is one more serious than the other? Is Chick Lit more frivolous? Are these categories made up by men?  Library book.


Basilica: The Splendor and the Scandal: Building St. Peter's; Scotti, R.A. 
A really great story. But it's not fiction. It's full of intrigue, scandal, quarrels (both large and petty), financial irregularities, power struggles, and amazing achievements. You can't make this stuff up. Library book.


Writing the Garden: A Literary Conversation across Two Centuries; Rogers, Elizabeth Barlow
This is a discussion of several notable books on gardens and gardening. It gives background information on the authors and an overview of the writings, with many excerpts and some illustrations. It is highly readable (more readable, I suspect, than some of the books covered). One doesn't have to be a gardener to appreciate this gem. Library book.

Christmas in Connecticut; Smith, Diane
Lots of pretty pictures and Connecticut lore from a local writer who has done a series and some specials for Connecticut Public TV. Book was published in 2001, but here in the Land of Steady Habits most of the annual displays and events are still observed. Since I'm a newcomer (only been here for fourteen years) I'm still learning the local customs. Library book.

Online Reading

My last read of the year and my first read of the new year may both be by Patrick Modiano.  I put in library requests for three of his titles. Meanwhile here is a special treat  from the Yale University Press blog: Patrick Modiano on Childhood  an excerpt from Pedigree: A Memoir by Patrick Modiano, translated from the French by Mark Polizzotti.

The website Arabic Literature (in English) has: 5 By and About Edwar El Kharrat, 1929-2015 

And here is a new online lit magazine: Litbreak "an online literary journal that publishes fiction, book reviews and essays of five hundred to five thousand words and poetry. We may also include thousand word excerpts from new novels or other material."

Two Stories by Lauren Becker from WhiskeyPaper are paired with links to related songs. The link for Exactly is Nina Simone's rendition "Exactly Like You" (Jimmy McHugh-Dorothy Fields). Victoria Williams singing "Crazy Mary" is the choice for Collecting. This is a new-to-me online magazine, one I will follow.

A short story from The Log Goblin, by Brian Staveley. With a wonderful illustration by  

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

November (second half) 2015 Reading

Still working my way through the books from the library. I actually managed to also read a couple of publisher donations to my TBR pile.

Some good stuff here (and a few disappointments, or was I just in a bad mood). Still, none were total duds. 

The best:

Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories from Around the World; Editors: James Thomas, Robert Shapard , Christopher Merrill
I did seem to be in the right mood for some flash fiction. I really like short stories, but the very short, short ones sometimes annoy me because they are often not stories at all. This collection is superb, with master writers and top-notch translators. There is also a final section about flash fiction. Library book.

The Things We Don't Do; Neuman, Andrés; Nick Caistor & Lorenza García (Translation)
These stories are sharp, a delight to read. Some are rather dark, dealing with murder, maiming, and suicide. There are two clever views of psychoanalysis (Juan, Jose and Outside no birds were singing), which interestingly are in different sections of this thematically arranged collection. The final section is a special "bonus track, " a collection of  short statements about writing short stories which works well as a guide to reading, as well as writing, short stories. Book from my personal library.

Avenue of Mysteries; Irving, John
Not a disappointment, I loved everything about this novel. Library book.

All Our Worldly Goods; Némirovsky, Irène; Sandra Smith (Translation)
With so many World War 1 & 2 books being written now, it's interesting and rewarding to read one that was actually written during the period. Written during WW2, published in French in 1947, and in English translation in 2008. Library book.

Thirteen Guests: A British Library Crime Classic; Farjeon, J. Jefferson
Another reprint of a great vintage mystery (this one from 1936) from the British Library/Poisoned Pen Press. An assorted cast of characters at a country house, a hunt, murder, clever sleuths, and a touch of romance. Free advance review copy from Poisoned Pen Press, the US publisher.

The rest:
Flambé in Armagnac (Winemaker Detective Mysteries #7) ; Alaux, Jean-Pierre, Balen, Noël; Sally Pane (Translation)
Very light reading. Fun setting and they certainly eat well (and drink well too, the detective is not a policeman, he's an insurance investigator, and has no qualms about having a nip while working). This is the only book I've read in this series. It's a stand alone, and there aren't a lot of references to prior cases. I received a free review copy from the publisher through a LibraryThing giveaway.

Along the Infinite Sea; Williams, Beatriz
Love and intrigue in wartime (WW2) France and Germany carries over to the United States in the 1960s. Some characters are related to ones in other books by Williams, but this is a stand alone. I liked this one much better than The Secret Life of Violet Grant, which is the story of one of the sisters of a main character in this book. Free review copy from publisher.

A Triple Knot; Campion, Emma
This has been sitting in my TBR pile for a while. Every so often I get in the mood for one of these historical fictions about England's past royalty--this one is about Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent. Every time I finish one I think that I won't read another because they all have started sounding too much alike: the books, the heroines, the wars, the intrigues, etc. Some are better than others and this one is one of the better ones, not great, but good enough for a diversion. Free review copy from the publisher.

Numero Zero; Eco, Umberto; Richard Dixon (Translation)
Way too convoluted unless you know Italian politics and like conspiracy theories (or spoofs thereof).  Library book. 

The Japanese Lover; Allende, Isabel; Nick Caistor and Amanda Hopkinson (translators)
A bit of a disappointment. It just never seemed to get off the ground. Library book.

Twain & Stanley Enter Paradise; Hijuelos, Oscar
Beautiful writing, but I struggled at times to stay with it. Library book.

Between Two Fires: Intimate Writings on Life, Love, Food, and Flavor; Esquivel, Laura; Stephen Lytle (Translator)
Somehow having a cockroach give instructions for one of the recipes did nothing to feed my nostalgia for preparing or eating Mexican food. (A cockroach as narrator? What a novel idea!) The book was just too folksy for me. Library book.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

November (first half) 2015 Reading

Once again I ignored my TBR stacks in favor of the public library collection. But what to do when you get notices that the latest by Albom, Allende, Eco, Hijuelos, and  Irving are waiting for you on hold shelf? And when you go to pick them up there is NeuroTribes on the new book shelf?  AND, you already have checked out Pamuk, Kundera, Thomson, Urrea, and others? You read like crazy, and NOT from your personal collection.

The month is off to a great start with two weeks of great reading (no duds here) :

A Strangeness in My Mind: A novel; Pamuk, Orhan
Wonderful! Once again Pamuk leads me through the neighborhoods of Istanbul. Library book.
Katherine Carlyle; Thomson, Rupert
Another fantastic read.  Coming of age of a girl born of IVF. Stunning, sparse, and utterly enchanting. Set in Rome Berlin and the Norwegian/Russian Arctic. Love the cover.  Library book.

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto; Albom, Mitch
There is no way I can possibly select my favorite book from the first half of this month. What a spectacular (and varied) group of books. This one is pure magic. Library book.

The Festival of Insignificance; Kundera, Milan; Linda Asher (Translator)
Well, that was fun. Library book.

The Dream of My Return; Moya, Horacio Castellanos; Katherine Silver (Translator)
A short, sometimes humorous, very intense, surrealistic novel about a Salvadorian exile in Mexico. His life is a mess. He has decided that the fighting is almost over and it will be safe to return to El Salvador. Most of the novel is a rambling narrative of his anxieties about the trip, his deteriorating love relationship, and his memories of the deaths of family and friends caught up in political struggles. Library book.
The Never-Open Desert Diner; Anderson, James
This is Anderson's debut novel although he has worked in the publishing business. He has also been a trucker and chose a trucker as the protagonist of this book. It's set in the desert in Utah and is a delight. Library book.

The Water Museum: Stories; Urrea, Luis Alberto
Super collection of short stories with great characters and settings. Must read more by this author. Library book.


NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and The Future of Neurodiversity; Silberman, Steve
Outstanding discussion of autism. Includes history, research, diagnosis, activism, social acceptance, coping, and many other aspects of the condition. Library book.

Online Reading:

From Bomb magazine
The Poet's Ghost by Carmen Boullosa

Two short stories in the November 2015 issue of The White Review
Three Days in Prague by Naja Marie Aidt, translated by Denise Newman 
Wolves by Jeon Sungtae, translated by Sora Kim-Russell

Monday, November 09, 2015

Sunday, November 01, 2015

October (second half) 2015 Reading

October turned out to be a month totally devoted to reading library books. I really didn't intend to let everything else pile up, but that's what happened. The library filled a bunch of my requests and since most were new books, they had short loan periods.  There's quite a variety here--some really great books were released recently.  I was going to start November with something from my owned book TBR stack, but I got a notice that Orham Pamuk's new book A Strangness in My Mind was waiting for me on the holds shelf. So I'm starting off the month with it. (I'm liking it.)

So here's what I read during the last couple of weeks:

The Sorrow Proper; Drager, Lindsey
I closed the book and said "Wow" or was it "Whew"? I gave it 5 stars. I can't say why I liked it so much because I can't talk about it. I need to hold it and savor it because if (or when) I re-read it, it will be a different book. Maybe I should buy the Kindle version.  This is an amazing cover, especially when viewed on a black background.
Appropriately, because it is partly about libraries, I read it as a Library book.

A House of My Own: Stories from My Life; Cisneros, Sandra
I enjoyed most of the selections in this collection of miscellaneous writings by the author of The House on Mango Street. Lots of reflections on writers and the writing process, growing up as an American of Mexican descent, living in various places, and living alone (and liking it). Library book.

Our Endless Numbered Days; Fuller, Claire
A gripping story, hard to put down. One of those books that you are sorry to see end. I'm looking forward to her second book,  Swimming Lessons, which will be released in late 2016 or early 2017. Library book.

England and Other Stories; Swift, Graham
Very good collection. The twenty-five stories are set in England. Most are less than ten pages but Swift says a lot in that space. Library book.

In the Country: Stories; Alvar, Mia
Another very good story collection. This one about the lives of  Filipinos both at home and abroad (US and Middle East). Library book.

Mrs. Engels: A Novel; McCrea, Gavin
Lizzie Burns was the companion of Frederick Engels. In this novel Lizzie tells the story of their relationship. Whether the narrator is reliable or not makes little difference; she tells a good story. This is Gavin McCrea's debut--I'm looking forward to what he does next.
Library book.

Battle of the covers: I prefer the US (left) to the UK (right)

Sweet Caress; Boyd, William
Sweeping novel about a female professional photographer. Perhaps a bit too sweeping. I liked it a lot, right up to the part about Viet Nam. Library book.

The Hollow Land; Gardam, Jane
Not short stories, but episodes in the lives of two families. It reads almost like linked short stories, and it's delightful. Library book.

The Ladies of Managua: A Novel; Gage, Eleni N.
Three women, a grandmother, her daughter, and her grand-daughter tell this story in alternating chapters. Each has a secret. I liked the book, but it could have been a bit shorter and the grand-daughter's secret really came as no surprise. Library book.

 Mislaid; Zink, Nell
The cover looks like something out of late 50s suburbia, but the story isn't suburban. It starts at a small  southern women's college known for attracting lesbians. A student gets knocked up by a poetry teacher when he momentarily forgets that he's gay (and she forgets that she's not really interested in men). So they marry, have a son and a few years later a daughter. The marriage is doomed, he threatens to have her committed, and she flees with the daughter. The plot thickens (muddles?) when she disguises herself and her blond daughter as being black. No, they don't go into blackening their skin, it's more complex than that. It's offbeat, a bit goofy, a little silly and fun with serious underlying themes. Library Book.

Orphan Train; Kline, Christina Baker
Interesting novel based on a little known bit of  US history. Library book.

Church of Marvels; Parry, Leslie
An ok read, circus performers, an undertaker, a night-soiler, a baby broker, stumble around the seedier parts of turn of the century (19th to 20th) New York. Full of strange people, weird coincidences, and grim locals;  it didn't really work for me. Library book.

Come Hell or Highball (Discreet Retrieval Agency, #1); Chance, Maia
A pleasant fluff. New York in the 1920s, the rich get poorer, actors act (badly), there are a couple of murders, a cute dog, and lots of gin and whiskey. A so, so beginning to a series I probably won't follow. Library book.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Lovin' the net

It's been a while since I've posted on my Internet searches.  See Lovin' the net  and Still Lovin' the Net 

Right now I'm reading The Hollow Land by Jane Gardam (2014 Europa edition). Here's the quote that sent me Googling:

      Mrs. Bateman had done Normandie potatoes and the lovely smell of cheese 
      and onions floated out of the windows and up the chimney and under the front 
      door and away over the fell. "You'd think it'd tempt them home," she said.

What a great sentence, especially since her husband and sons are on a fishing trip guided by the local chimney sweep.

While the delightful aroma didn't seem to lure her husband and sons from their soggy (it's raining like mad) expedition (perhaps they were too far away), it did lure me to the Net in search of a recipe. After all, I have the three ingredients listed and we were already planing to have fish for supper....

Search results: There are a lot of recipes for Normandy potatoes, with many variations but I like the one at French Women Don't Get Fat
and I have most of what it calls for: potatoes, apples, onion, garlic, walnuts.  No Pont l’Évêque cheese, but I do have a soft cheese that will work. No sour cream or crème fraîche, but there's some plain Greek yogurt in the fridge. I'm reasonably sure that Mrs. Bateman, being in Cumbria some time before 1981 when this book was first published, probably didn't have these exact ingredients either. 

Yes, I'll try this, but for now I must find out what happened with the Bateman men and Kendel (the sweep)....

Friday, October 16, 2015

October (first half) 2015 Reading

Several more of my requests came in at the library so I've been reading a lot and I'm splitting my monthly "reads" post into two parts. The month was off to a great start with a wonderful story collection, a great non-fiction, a lovely historical novel, and an amazing novel about the victim from Camus' The Stranger.
There were some disappointments too, but only one that I didn't finish.


Only the Animals; Dovey, Ceridwen
Ten short stories, told in the voices of the souls of animals caught up in human conflicts.excellent! Love the cover.
Library Book.


The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World; Wulf, Andrea
I loved this book. It's not just about Humboldt's life, travels, theories and writings; it also covers his influence on other scientists and scientific thinking from his own time to the present.
Library book.

The Distant Marvels; Acevedo, Chantel
I had not heard anything about this book until I picked it up from the new book shelf at a library I rarely visit. After I checked it out, I had a hard time putting it down. A marvelous story teller tells a tale about a marvelous story teller, Maria Sirena, whose story is set in the history of Cuba's struggle for independence. A tragic tale beautifully told. (The book is much better than the cover photo indicates.)
Library book.


The Meursault Investigation; Daoud, Kamel; John Cullen (Translator)
This novel tells the story of "The Arab," the nameless victim in Camus' The Stranger. The narrator, who claims to be the brother of Musa ("The Arab"), tells the story of his family and the aftermath of his brother's death. It's both a stunning homage to Camus and a striking commentary on colonialism and Algerian independence.
Library book.

Chaucer's Tale: 1386 and the Road to Canterbury; Strohm, Paul
How Chaucer became the "father of English literature." A crucial year in the life of the giant literary figure. Strohm knows his stuff and knows how to present it in an accessible manner--well researched, scholarly without being dull.
Library book.

Gold Fame Citrus; Watkins, Claire Vaye
Dystopian fiction is always a challenge for me--especially if involves drought in Southern California; so this was a difficult read. But it is very well written and worth the effort.
Library book.

Among the Ten Thousand Things; Pierpont, Julia
A sensitive story marriage gone wrong and the effects of a family's breakup on a couple and their two children. An impressive debut novel using multiple points of view. 
Library book. 

The Girl from the Garden; Foroutan, Parnaz
Story of the problems of a wealthy Iranian Jewish family in Kermanshah. Related as the memories of a descendant living out the end of her life in Los Angeles as an exile from the 1979 Revolution. It has a rather dreamy, mythic quality. A nice read, maybe three stars.
Library book.

One Day; Nicholls, David
Read this because I liked his recent novel Us. Enjoyed this one, but the newer one is better, he's tightened up his writing a bit. Will definitely read more by Nicholls. 
Library book.

Undermajordomo Minor; deWitt, Patrick
For me, the title was the best thing about this darkish, lightish fantasy. A disappointment because I liked his  The Sisters Brothers so much.
Library book. 

Man at the Helm; Stibbe, Nina
I was hoping for a light, amusing read (beware of the word "hilarious" in a book description), but this was only "ok"."  I wouldn't recommend.
Library book.

Did not finish 
H is for Hawk; Macdonald, Helen 
This was a holdover from September. The writing was fine, but not good enough to make me like the subject. I read about a third of it.
Library book. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Tripping with Books

For me, books and trips just go together.  They are a mutual aid combo: the books enhance the trips, the trips enhance the books.  The books fall into several classes:

1. Books acquired specifically for the trip
    Guide books
    Books to read in transit
    Rest time reading

2. Books acquired during the trip
    Local color fiction or non-fiction
3. Books acquired after the trip
    To fill in the blanks

 4. Sometimes there's the book that made me want to take this trip in the first place.

 5. And the books read long before the trip that come back to mind during the trip.

What is selected depends on the purpose of the trip: tourism, relocation, family stuff.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

September 2015 Reading

Bunches of library books this month.  A mixed bag, several really good, some so-so, and some I just couldn't get into. Other than the one at the top and the four at the bottom, they are listed in no particular order.
The ones I finished

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights; Rushdie, Salman  

Yes! this is the book I wanted to read! 

And I'll read it again.  

I much prefer the US cover (left) to the UK cover (right).

Like all the books listed below, it is from a local (Connecticut) public library.

Prodigies: a novel; Gorodischer, Angélica; Sue Burke (Translation)
A short book with long, complicated, beautiful sentences. All about a boarding house and its residents. I loved it!
Library book.

The Gods of Tango; Robertis, Carolina De
I keep changing my mind on this one: three or four Goodreads Stars? I liked it, but did I really like it? I enjoyed the story, Italian immigrants in early 20th Century Buenos Aires, with music and some LGBT elements.  Maybe there was a little too much background information on some of the minor characters. It seemed to be filler and made those characters seem like they would be more important to the the story than they turned out to be. So it's three stars on Goodreads, maybe 3 1/2 on LibraryThing.
(one week later-the more I think about this, the better I like it. upping to 4*)
Library book.

The Incarnations; Barker, Susan
Another one I'd put between three and four stars.
(one week later-the more I think about this, the less I like it. 3*)
Library book.

A Sudden Light; Stein, Garth
Gothic, ghosts, coming of age, some surprises but mostly predictable. An "OK" to "good" read.
Library book.

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs; Dicks, Matthew
Like the book above (A Sudden Light) this is an inter-generational story with a teenager being oh so much cleverer than his/her parent. Uh, sure. And the grandparent? marginalized.
Library book.

Alys, Always; Lane, Harriet
I read this, Lane's first novel, because I really liked Her.  I wasn't disappointed. This one also features a scheming woman, though Frances is not quite as venomous as Nina, the protagonist of Her.
Library book.

Did You Ever Have a Family; Clegg, Bill
four or five stars?
Library book.

Smaller and Smaller Circles; Batacan, F.H
Billed as the first Philippine crime novel, this is a procedural featuring two Jesuit priests. One is a forensic anthropologist, the other is a psychologist. I really liked this although the subject matter was disturbing--serial killer of young boys.
Library book.

Black-Eyed Susans; Heaberlin, Julia
Another serial killer, another book I couldn't put down. Told in alternate then/now chapters by a victim that survived.
Library book.

Rubbernecker; Bauer, Belinda
An offbeat crime novel with an unusual "investigator"  --Patrick Fort, a medical student with Asperger's Syndrome. Happy to see that I can get Bauer's other books from the library.
Library book.
The Debt of Tamar; Dweck, Nicole
Not sure why I'm lukewarm on this historical/present day novel. From the Spanish Inquisition, to the Ottoman Empire, to occupied Paris, to Israel, to modern day Istanbul, to a New York cancer ward. Too many notes, played unevenly?
Library book.

The Little Paris Bookshop; George, Nina; Simon Pare (Translator)
A bit predictable and sentimental but a pleasant, gentle read.
Library book.

Wind/Pinball: Two Novels; Murakami, Haruki;

The Daughters; Celt, Adrienne
Because I'm careful in selecting my reads and am not shy about not finishing a book I don't find interesting, it is rare that I give only one or two stars to a book I've finished. This one got two stars. It was pleasant reading but when I was done I shrugged my shoulders and said "So what?" By tomorrow I won't remember what it was about and by this time next week I'll have forgotten that I read it.
Library book. 

The watchmaker of Filigree Street;  Pulley, Natasha
 Debut novel. Not quite steampunk, but close. Slow going and a bit confusing at times, but interesting characters and situations.
 Library book.
Short Stories
The Woman Who Borrowed Memories: Selected Stories; Jansson, Tove;
Terrific collection!
Library book.

Swim Back to Me; Packer, Ann
Good collection of stories set in Northern California. Some are connected. 
Library book.

A Paris Affair; Rosnay, Tatiana de; Taylor, Sam (Translation)
Eleven stories about infidelity, most told from the wronged wife point of view. Some wit, some irony, a  lot of "getting even."  Toward the end of the book it became as tedious as a stale affair. Gave it two stars.
Library book.

Fortune Smiles; Johnson, Adam
I skipped and skimmed and didn't like a single one of these stories. I was about to give up on it when it was long-listed for the National Book Award. I decided to give it another try, still didn't find anything to like.
Library book.

The ones I returned to the library unfinished
 (three I will pass on and two I will get again)

The beautiful bureaucrat : a novel; Phillips, Helen
   Don't remember how far I read, maybe three chapters. Not interesting.

Girl Waits with Gun; Stewart, Amy 
   I just kept thinking "Speed it up, speed it up!" and finally I gave it up. Maybe some other time...but probably not.

 In the language of miracle; Hassib,  Rajia
   Got about a third of the way through--didn't care for the writing style. Frustrating.

Book of numbers : a novel / Joshua Cohen.
 I do want to read this, but just couldn't give it the time it deserved. Will get it again. 

A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories; Berlin, Lucia; Stephen Emerson (Editor), Lydia Davis (Foreword)
I'm really enjoying these stories. It's a large collection that I want to read in small doses so it's going back to the library (other people are waiting for it) and onto my Kindle wish list.
Library book.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

August 2015 Reading

Some really good fiction this month

It's hard to say which is best, they are all so different. Do they have anything in common? Yes: Family relationships. 

Killing Auntie; Bursa, Andrzej; Wiesiek Powaga (Translation)
Restless Polish student relates (unreliably) the the dark tale of killing his aunt and the difficulties of disposing of the body.
Personal copy.

Confession of the Lioness; Couto, Mia;

The Indian; Gnarr, Jón;  Lytton Smith (Translation)
Childhood memoir of Icelandic actor, comedian, and politician (mayor of Reykjavik).
Personal copy. 

If I Fall, If I Die; Christie, Michael
A young boy tries to break free of restraints imposed on him by his agoraphobic, over protective mother. Set in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Free advance review copy from the publisher.

The Marriage of Opposites; Hoffman, Alice
Love and family intrigue among the 19th Century Jewish population on the island of St. Thomas. The story of the family of French impressionist painter Camille Pissarro.
Library book.

No. 4 Imperial Lane: A Novel; Weisman, Jonathan
An American student in England takes a job helping with the care of an elderly paraplegic. The patient's sister tells the story of her life as a Portuguese doctor's wife in colonial Africa.
Library book. 
 Good, but not as good as the ones above

The House of Hawthorne; Robuck, Erika
A novel, told in the first person, about Sophia Peabody Hawthorne and her marriage to Nathaniel Hawthorne.  It crosses the fine line between romantic and sentimental and at times the pair seems a bit sappy. Sophie suffered from migraine, so do I and I sometimes have a difficult time reading about it. It is presented realistically here and made me empathetic toward Sophie.
Library book.

Under the Persimmon Tree; Staples, Suzanne Fisher
Dual stories of a young Afghani refugee (from the Taliban) girl and the American wife of an Afghani doctor, set in Peshawar, Pakistan. Interesting, especially the perspective of the American who is a convert to Islam.
Personal copy.

Circling the Sun; McLain, Paula
This is a novelized biography or, rather, autobiography of the early life of aviatrix Beryl Markham. A rather sanitized version as can be expected in first person narratives. The voice is non-judgmental, she just tells it and doesn't often question her own morals. Probably pretty true to the way she saw herself.
Library book.
Some short stories

In Another Country: Selected Stories; Constantine, David
Incredibly beautiful writing. Wish I owned this. It may be one of those rare occasions when I buy a book I've already read.
Library book.

Moments of an Explosion: Stories; Miéville, China
A mixed bag--I really liked some of these, bit some were a bit too weird for my taste.  
Library book.

The State We're In: Maine Stories; Beattie, Ann
I was a little disappointed at first, bit then the characters started reappearing and I really got into it. These must be read in order.
Library book. 
 Some non-fiction

King John and The Road to Magna Carta; Morris, Marc
Not much here that I didn't already know, but well told. Sort of a refresher course for me.
Library book.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

July 2015 Reading

Two from British Library Crime Classic series (published in the USA by Poisoned Pen Press):
The Notting Hill Mystery; Adams, Charles Warren
Antidote to Venom; Crofts, Freeman Wills

 I read Crofts' The Hog's Back Mystery (also from this series) last month and enjoyed it. This one had a unique presentation, a little slower read, but an interesting read. The Adams book was more traditional. Am liking this series, hope to read more.

<---- a sample of the cool cover designs.

 Free advance review copies from the publisher.

Some family stories: 
Bonita Avenue; Buwalda, Peter; translated from the Dutch by Jonathan Reeder
 Another dysfunctional Dutch family (think Tirza  by Arnon Grunberg and Herman Koch's The Dinner and Summer House with Swimming Pool).
 Library book.

A Spool of Blue Thread; Tyler, Anne
 Anne Tyler delivers again. Her families are also dysfunctional, but much less violent.
  Library book.

Love May Fail; Quick, Matthew
  Liked this, but it didn't stay with me as much as his The Good Luck of Right Now stayed with me.
  Library book.

Dystopian (sort of):
The Gracekeepers; Logan, Kirsty
 The future where there is very little land and a lot of water.  This one is magical fantasy, with a floating circus. I was reminded (in a good way) of some of the stories in  Ben Marcus' Leaving the Sea. 
 Free advance review copy from the publisher.

Find Me; Berg, Laura van den
 Sometime in the future, a mysterious illness has decimated the USA.  First half of this book, set in a questionable research  hospital, was superb, The second half, telling about the adventures of one of the patients who walks away, was a bit of a mish-mash that didn't make much sense to me. Still, I'd like to read some of Berg's short stories.
 Library book,
Speaking of short stories:
Toronto Noir; Armin, Janine (editor)
 From the Akashic Noir series. I'm getting quite a collection of these nifty anthologies. My daughter selected this one for me with the comment that she chose it because she "never thought of Toronto as a noir kind of place."  Akashic is ably demonstrating that noir knows no boundaries.
 My personal copy (Kindle edition which has been to numerous waiting rooms in the six months it took me to read it,) 

Tales from a Mountain Cave: Stories from Japan's Northeast; Inoue, Hisashi; 
 Linked short stories based on folklore. Interesting.
My personal copy

The Book of Istanbul: A City in Short Fiction; Gürsel, Nedim (editor); various authors and translators.
 A very good anthology set in an intriguing city.
My personal copy

Two So-so Historical Fictions
The Price of Blood (The Emma of Normandy Trilogy, #2) Bracewell, Patricia
 A real slog to get through this. I didn't read the first book (nor will I read the third), but this one can stand alone.
   Free advance review copy from the publisher through Goodreads First Reads Program.

The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan; Thornton, Stephanie
Less of a slog but not my favorite read. I liked it better than The Price of Blood. Could be that it held my interest because I'm less familiar with the time period of Gengis and company than I am with the era of Queen Emma. Also, Thornton is the better writer.
  Free copy from the author through a blog win.

 And one very good one:
 (Maybe I should skip this genre for a while? but the next one can be considered historical fiction and I really liked it.):

Villa America; Klaussmann, Liza
 The lost generation in the south of France--all (Hemingway, the Fitzgerald, Picasso, Dos Passos, Monty Woolley: that old crowd) behaving badly and gossiping about the ones (like the Porters) who are absent. 
  Free advance review copy from the publisher.
Did not finish, or, life is too short:
Mañana; Hjortsberg, William
  Drugs, murder, guy on the run searching for his missing wife....should be exciting, but I got bogged down by a lot of boring, unnecessary detail.
    Free advance review copy from the publisher through Goodreads First Reads Program

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

June 2015 Reading

 No comments for any of these. All good for different reasons. These past couple of months it's been all about the reading, not the writing and reviewing.

The Alphabet House; Adler-Olsen, Jussi; Steve Schein (Translation)
Free Advance review copy from publisher
The Sage of Waterloo: A Tale; Francombe, Leona
Free Advance review copy via Goodreads First Reads program
Shame and the Captives; Keneally, Thomas
Library book
Blackbird; Wright, Tom
Library book 
Alexandrian Summer; Goren, Yitzhak Gormezano;
Personal copy.
The Sunken Cathedral: A Novel; Walbert, Kate
 Free  Advance review copy via Goodreads First Reads program
The Hog's Back Mystery: A British Library Crime Classic; Crofts, Freeman Wills
 Personal copy.
All That Followed; Urza, Gabriel
Free Advance review copy via LibraryThing Early Reviewers program
The Palace of Illusions: Stories; Addonizio, Kim
Library book
Ticket to Childhood: A Novel; Ánh, Nguyễn Nhật;
Library book

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

May 2015 Reading

Once again a list with few comments. List is in reverse order of my reading

The Rocks; Nichols, Peter
Library book. Set in Mallorca. Good sense of place.

The Well; Chanter, Catherine
Library book.

Esperanza Street; Keni, Niyati
Personal copy.

Bastards: A Memoir; King, Mary Anna
Free  Advance review copy via Goodreads First Reads program

Game of Mirrors; Camilleri, Andrea;
Library book. Mystery set in Sicily. Along with the mystery there is a lot of eating. I was especially intrigued by arancini,  stuffed rice balls, which I think are available from a local deli--I must try some!

The Oysters of Locmariaquer; Clark, Eleanor
Personal copy. (Kindle ed.)

Beneath the Bonfire: Stories; Butler, Nickolas
Library book. 

Ten; Longo,Andrej;  Howard Curtis (Translator)
Personal Copy (Kindle ed.) Gritty stories, set in Naples.

The Brewer of Preston; Camilleri, Andrea;
Library book.Lots of fun. Liked it better than his mystery (see above). But I did pick up a couple of the mystery series at the library book sale.

Whisper Hollow; Cander, Chris
Library book. Liked this very much. Also her short stories (see below)

Marie Pontonnier: Montreal Pioneer; Cote, Carol Ann P.
Free from author via Goodreads First Reads program

The Red Notebook; Laurain, Antoine; Jane Aitken (Translation), Emily Boyce (Translation)
Library book

The Mapmaker's Children; McCoy, Sarah
Advance review copy from publisher. My least favorite of this month's reads.

Guys Like Me; Fabre, Dominique; Howard Curtis (Translation)
Personal Copy

Dream of Ding Village; Lianke, Yan; Cindy Carter (Translation)
Library book.

11 Stories; Cander, Chris
 Library book. Author's piece "The First Time I Saw A Stranger Reading My Book" on The Quivering Pen convinced me to read her books. I liked them both very much.

Once on a Moonless Night; Sijie, Dai; Adriana Hunter (Translation)
Library book

Waiting for Columbus; Trofimuk, Thomas
Library book

Monday, May 04, 2015

April 2015 Reading

All in all a good reading month--some really great short story collections, a couple of mysteries (both from series that I may read more from), a nice non-fic book, and a couple from favorite authors. No real duds this month. It was pretty diverse in geographic settings, subject matter, and genre.

The best:

Signs Preceding the End of the World; Herrera, Yuri;
Personal copy

Dimanche and Other Stories; Némirovsky, Irène;
Library book.

Don't Try This at Home; Readman, Angela
Personal copy

Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean; Press, Peekash
Personal copy

The Harlem Renaissance: A Brief History with Documents; Ferguson, Jeffrey Brown
Library book.

Last Night in Montreal; Mandel, Emily St. John
Library book.

The End of Days; Erpenbeck, Jenny;
Library book

Close to the best:

The Children's Crusade; Packer, Ann
Library book

Land of Careful Shadows (Jimmy Vega Mystery, #1); Chazin, Suzanne
Library book

False Tongues (A Callie Anson Mystery, #4); Charles, Kate
Free ARC from publisher

Orhan's Inheritance; Ohanesian, Aline
Free ARC from publisher (via LibraryThing)

The Shore; Taylor, Sara   
Free ARC from publisher. Nice debut.

A little less than the best (but good):

Us; Nicholls, David
Free ARC from publisher

The Dream Lover: A Novel of George Sand; Berg, Elizabeth
Library book

The Nightingale; Hannah, Kristin
Free ARC from publisher

Sunday, April 05, 2015

March 2015 Reading

Winter just wouldn't leave Connecticut this year. It's April 5th and I still have two piles of snow slowly melting. Yesterday was the first day in months that I could actually open up the house to a couple of hours of fresh air.

I continued, but haven't yet finished The Oysters of Locmariaquer by Eleanor Clark; Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean by Peekash Press; and The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino.

I started  The Art of Flight by Sergio Pitol (excellent); Dimanche and Other Stories by Irène Némirovsky (also excellent)

I haven't felt like doing reviews or comments, the March reads are somewhat in the order that I liked them (most liked to least liked), but there was such a variety that it's hard to rate them. The list shifts every time I look at it.  The only real dud was the Ishuguru. The Lawson was also a bit of a disappointment--I just didn't like it as much as her other books.

I Called Him Necktie; Flašar, Milena Michiko;
Personal copy

By Night the Mountain Burns; Laurel, Juan Tomás Ávila;
Personal copy

A God in Ruins; Atkinson, Kate
Free ARC from publisher

I Am Istanbul; Uzuner, Buket;
Personal copy

The World Before Us; Hunter, Aislinn
Free ARC from publisher

The Evening Chorus: A Novel ; Humphreys, Helen
Free ARC from publisher

The Lost Treasures of R&B; George, Nelson
Free ARC from publisher

A Reunion Of Ghosts; Mitchell, Judith Claire
Free ARC from publisher

De Potter's Grand Tour: A Novel; Scott, Joanna
Free ARC from publisher

A Touch of Stardust; Alcott, Kate
Free ARC from publisher 

I Take You;  Kennedy, Eliza
Free ARC from publisher

The Other Side of the Bridge; Lawson, Mary
Library book.

The Buried Giant; Ishiguro, Kazuo
Library book


Two short stories from Pithead Chapel, "a small, independent and volunteer-run literary journal and small press founded in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We publish gutsy narratives online every month and a couple of printed chapbooks each year." These two stories are from Volume 4, Issue 3 (March 1, 2015). Earlier issues are archived and feature fiction, essays, and interesting cover art. Sight Reading by Olivia Wolfgang-Smith
Mr. Skull and the Russian by Tasha Coryell

In the January 2015 issue of Asymptote a story from a Cuban writer:
Saxo by Alberto Guerra Naranjo; Translated from the Spanish by John Washington (also available in the original Spanish). A short story told in a single sentence. Thanks to a judicious use of commas it is not difficult to read.

The Winter 2015 issue of VQR (The Virginia Quarterly Review) a short story about family purity and the mikvah :
The Fathoms By Amanda Korman

 A Vindication of Hypnosis by Sergio Pitol; Translated by George Henson


Thursday, March 12, 2015

It's been a long winter--taking a break from blogging. Not taking a break from reading.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

February 2015 Reads (weeks 3 & 4)

Catching up with myself. I fell behind on my February register,  I've been reading but not writing much. Some of these will fit my challenges, but I haven't linked to them since I haven't yet written about them.

More non-fiction than usual for me, a delightful Canadian novel, two super short story collections, and a novel bordering on being an essay or short story collection.

A  Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined House in France by Miranda Richmond Mouillot  
Library book. Memoir and family history. (French Bingo A1)

Liberty's Torch: The Great Adventure to Build the Statue of Liberty by Elizabeth Mitchell
Library book. How the Statue of Liberty came to be. This might fit somewhere on the French Bingo card. An interesting read although it seemed padded in a few places. (maybe B1)

Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup by Andrew Zimbalist
Free ARC from publisher through Goodreads First Reads program. Should be read by anyone involved in making decisions about bidding to host these events: politicians at every level, promoters, citizens, fans, businessmen, athletic organizations, and athletes. 

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
Library book. "A meditation" on racism in Twenty-first Century America. For me it opens more questions than answers, the biggest being: Will the people who ought to read and learn from this book read it?

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper
Won this in Riffle giveaway. I loved this book! Eighty something woman walks halfway across Canada. 

Outline by Rachel Cusk
Library book.  Not exactly short stories, more like related "incidents" involving conversations. Takes place in and around Athens.

Noontide Toll: Stories by Romesh Gunesekera
Library book. Short stories of residents and tourists related by a van-for-hire driver.

Years of Red Dust: Stories of Shanghai by Qiu Xiaolong
Library book. Life in Communist China from 1949 through 2005.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

February 2015 Reads (week 2)

Skylight by José Saramago. translated by Margaret Jull Costa
Library book. An amazing first novel.

The Museum of Abandoned Secrets by Oksana Zabuzhko, Nina Shevchuk-Murray (Translator)
This is a huge, sweeping novel told in  straight narrative, dreams, and flashbacks. It is long (750 pages) and intense. It took me three month to read it. The amazing thing was that although it is complicated and covers a vast swath of Ukrainian history and contemporary politics, I never got lost in the many times I put it aside. Every time I picked it up I knew exactly where I had left off, even when I had set it aside for more than a week and read 4 or 5 other books in the interim. 

An amazing, rewarding, and essential read.

Frog by Mo Yan, Howard Goldblatt (Translation)
Free ARC from publisher through Goodreads First Reads program.
I liked this novel about a Chinese midwife who is caught up in China's population control policies. Gugu not only delivers babies, she must provide birth control information, insert IUDs, and perform abortions. The major part of the novel is told by her grand-nephew in a series of long letters. The final portion is a play based on Gugu's life. I found the play section tedious and really a slog to read.

Although the subject matter is serious and the characters struggle with difficult moral choices and tragedies, there is a warmth, humor, and sympathy in the narration. Definitely worth reading.

The Wolf of Bordeaux  by Richard Lange a short story set in a French prison in 1899. Published online in The Summerset Review and included in his Sweet Nothing: Stories published this week by
Mulholland Books. Lange has links to two more of the stories on his website.

Monday, February 09, 2015

February 2015 Reads (week 1)

Bed Rest. Four days bed rest. I hate to admit it but I seem to be getting too old to shovel snow. So, gee, what do you do if you have to spend four days in bed, resting and getting waited on?

Reading, you say, Reading! you shout.

I did read, but it was sort of restless reading. I made some progress with The Museum of Abandoned Secrets by Oksana Zabuzhko--I'm now at 89 percent and, according to Kindle I have about an hour left. I also read a few more stories in Years of Red Dust, and a couple more in Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean (a Christmas gift from my housemate/daughter).

Speaking of housemate/daughter, she did a library run between snowstorms. She was returning books for us both and getting books for herself. I didn't have any requests but, as frequently happens when she is browsing, something caught her eye that she thought I would like: Skylight by Saramago. It will have to go to the top of the pile because it's a 7-day, no renewal loan.

She also made several trips to the mailbox but that's another whole stack of books. In one of my sprier moments I went to the back door and there was a UPS package leaning against the stoop. "Stoop" was not in my orthopedic abilities, so I had to call for assistance. She rescued the package (an ARC) and sent me back to bed. So much for spry.
Light this week on the web surfing, it's a bit difficult with the sore back.

Finished this week:

A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable
Read for French Bingo My Review

Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar
ARC from publisher via Goodreads First Reads program.
Where to begin? I loved this book, but why? 

The Love Book by Nina Solomon, Kaylie Jones (Editor)
ARC from publisher via LibraryThing Early Reviewers program
Just what I needed for this week of restless reading: High quality chick women's lit.
Bed rest is working. I can now stand from a seated position without the aid of a cane, I can stoop an pick up a book that has fallen to the floor,  and I can make my own lunch. I am in bed but because I want to be, not because I have to be.

Reading Saramago. Putting off reviews for another day or so because it's still uncomfortable to spend a lot of time with laptop.