Sunday, July 31, 2016

August (first half) 2016 Reads

Starting off August by trying to finish several in my "currently reading" list :

Rock, Paper, Scissors ; Aidt, Naja Marie    on page 109
What If the Queen Should Die? ; Flintoff, John-Paul  on page 131
The North Water ; McGuire, Ian  on page 56

I'm enjoying all of these, can't decide which to finish first, page numbers are as of 8am EDT, Aug 1.

10pm, Aug 1
Finished  What If the Queen Should Die? I enjoyed this historical novel--The Queen in the title is Queen Anne of England, Scotland and Ireland. The main protagonist is the writer Daniel Defoe acting as a spy for the Earl of Oxford during the Court intrigue over the line of succession.
My copy. Note: I am a contributor to this crowd sourced book, published by Unbound

I also read a few more stories in St. Louis Noir, an anthology I won on Library Thing. I started reading it in mid July.

5pm, Aug 2
Finished The North Water  It's not very good. I won a this ARC on Goodreads.

3pm, Aug 5
Needed something light after the gruesome whaling adventure. What better than an informative book on what goes into making bread in France: Bread of Three Rivers: The Story of a French Loaf  by Sara Mansfield Taber. My copy (picked up for a dime at a college book sale).

Aug 6
The Best Plays of 2014 (Best Plays of Year) by Lawrence Harbison (Editor)
Library book.
I read three of the six plays:
The Country House, by Donald Margulies. This was ok, but theater pieces about theater people just don't excite me.
Dinner with the Boys, by Dan Lauria. I liked this dark comedy about a most interesting dinner party. Of the plays in this collection, this is the one I'd most like to see performed.
Our Lady of Kibeho by Katori Hall. Based on real events, this is about schoolgirls in Rawanda having visions of Mary. This one made me head to the Web to find out more about the event.

The other three plays are:
Mala Hierba by Tanya Saracho, inspired by Latin American culture. I may get the book again to read this one.
When January Feels Like Summer by Cori Thomas, set in Central Harlem. Not interested in this
Year of the Rooster by Eric Dufault. A comic play about cockfighting, connections, and clawing your way to the top. I don't think I want to ever read this.

Aug 7
Finished  St. Louis Noir  edited by
I like this series from Akashic books. This one is pretty good with a mix of people--some skin-head vigilantes along with drug dealers, whores, ex-cons, guys evening scores and the other usual suspects . A couple of the stories are a bit self-conscious in trying to make sure people familiar with St Louis know for sure that the story is really set there. Too many street names--that sort of thing. Overall the anthology is quite good with thirteen stories with an interesting "poetic interlude" in the middle. There is also a map which is helpful.
Contents (I highlighted my favorites):
Introduction / Scott Phillips -- Part I: The city. Abandoned places / S.L. Coney -- Deserted cities of the heart / Paul D. Marks -- Blues for the River City / Colleen J. McElroy -- Fool's luck / La Velle Wilkins-Chin -- Attrition / Calvin Wilson -- Tracks / Jason Makansi -- Part II: A poetic interlude. Four St. Louis poems / Michael Castro -- Part III: The county. A paler shade of death / Laura Benedict -- Have you seen me? / Jedidiah Ayres -- A St. Louis Christmas / Umar Lee -- The pillbox / Chris Barsanti -- The brick wall / Lohn Lutz -- Part IV: Across the river. Tell them your name is Barbara / L.J. Smith -- One little Goddamn thing / Scott Phillips.
Free from publisher through LibraryThing

Aug 9
Finished Umami by

Rock, Paper, Scissors by

Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy by

e Boys in the Bunkhouse: Servitude and Salvation in the Heartland
by Dan Barry. Exploitation and mistreatment of intellectually impaired men.  Library book.

Aug 15
Finished You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice by

July (second half) 2016 Reads

Second half of July started off with a winner...

Willnot by James Sallis
I read this excellent book in one day. Author is new to me and I don't know why I never heard of him before. He has a large body of work (going back to the 1970s). Will check availability at local libraries. Library Book.

And then...a loser.

The Crooked House by Christobel Kent
Yuck.   Library Book--glad I didn't pay for this.

And then...another winner

Texas: The Great Theft  by Carmen Boullosa, Samantha Schnee (Translation)
from my personal library

...and some more winners...

The Clouds
by Juan José Saer, Hilary Vaughn Dobel (Translation)
from my personal library.

A Legacy by Sybille Bedford, Brenda Wineapple (Introduction)
from my personal library

Quiet Creature on the Corner by João Gilberto Noll, Adam Morris (Translation)
Vague and poetic.  from my personal library

The Curious Case of Dassoukine’s Trousers
by Fouad Laroui, Emma Ramadan (Translation), Laila Lalami (Goodreads Author) (Introduction)
Superb satirical short stories. Some set in Europe, others in Morocco. One of the best of this batch. Happy to be a supporter of the publisher Deep Vellum (which also published Texas). from my personal library.

and a debut YA novel (which I won from

This Raging Light by Estelle Laure
High school girl has to cope with both her parents missing, a young sister to take care of, and more. A bit uneven but a promising debut.


Storytelling Series: Tom Abba on Defining Unknown Narrative Formats

Nigeria Prize for Literature Names 11 Authors to Longlist

Sunday, July 17, 2016

July (first half) 2016 Reads

July reading got off to a fine start with two great books with strong women as central characters. Then a fun Mexican novel, the Jazz age in New York City, and a monumental epic of Canada and forestry. Then some ex-pat writers. Anthony Doerr, temporarily in Rome, tells a nice story of fatherhood and personal/literary growth. The story of Ernest H & crowd in Paris is not so nice but Blume tells it well.

If it seems that I haven't read at my usual pace this month, consider that the Annie Proulx novel is over 700 pages. 

A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa, Daniel Hahn (Translation)
One of the best books I've read this year. Portuguese woman shuts herself up in an apartment in Luanda during Angola unrest. Library book.

Elemental by Amanda Curtin
A strong saga of a Shetland Island fisher girl who emigrates to Australia told in the form of notebooks  addressed to her granddaughter. (1891-1932, with final chapters set in 2011). My copy.

I'll Sell You a Dog by Juan Pablo Villalobos, Rosalind Harvey (Translation)
I may never eat tacos in Mexico again. Very funny satire. My copy

A Certain Age by

Barkskins by Annie Proulx
I liked it ...but. Too many throwaway characters and too much description of the tools of logging. Hard to tell just what was important. Library Book.

Some Non-fiction 

Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises
by Lesley M.M. Blume
Much to my surprise (because I'm not a fan of Hemingway) I really liked this. Library Book

Library Book

Friday, July 01, 2016

June (second half) 2016 Reads

No real duds on this list but nothing really, really great. My best reading this week?  The first 50 pages of  A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa, (Daniel Hahn translator). Started this last night and will finish it soon.

From the public library: 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
"Stretching from the wars of Ghana to slavery and the Civil War in America, from the coal mines in the American South to the Great Migration to twentieth-century Harlem, Yaa Gyasi's novel moves through histories and geographies." I liked this but lost some of my reading momentum during the last few chapters.

The Summer Guest by Alison Anderson
I alternated between being rather angry and being delighted by this. Ultimately, I decided that I really liked it.

June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Lots of secrets as Hollywood comes to a small Ohio town in 1955 and again in 2015. A fun read.

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
A Twenty-first Century retelling of The Taming of the Shrew.  Anne Tyler has written better books, but this was fun. Clever situation makes the plot fit modern life.

Ollie's Odyssey by William Joyce; Moonbot (Illustrations)
Middle Grade children's book. Ollie is a stuffed, uh, a stuffed one of those. A nice adventure story for those a little too old for Pooh and a bit too young for Tolkien.

You May See a Stranger: Stories by Paula Whyman
This is kind of a novel told in short stories. Each one can stand alone (and several have been published as independent stories) but put together in book format they tell a story of a woman's life. It's easy to sit and imagine what happened to Miranda before, between, and after these brief episodes in her life.

From my personal library:

The Search for the Homestead Treasure: A Mystery by Ann Treacy
Fourteen year old takes responsibility for family farm when his father is injured. Set in Minnesota in 1903. Upper Middle Grade to Teens.  Free copy from publisher.

The Tea Lords by Hella S. Haasse, Ina Rilke (Translator)
Dutch tea and quinine plantation. 1873-1918.