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.