Thursday, February 29, 2024

February 2024

Lots of bodies in my February fiction reading--I lost count. 
Everything this month was from public libraries.  No Gutenberg, no online reading to speak of, and I didn't get to the two ARC on my nightstand. Maybe next month....


The Storm We Made by Chan, Vanessa
Life of a family in Japanese occupied Malaysia. A decent read.

The The Excitements by Wray, C.J. 
A fun romp to Paris with two ninety year old sisters and their nephew.

Dead in Long Beach, California by Blackburn, Venita 
A woman finds her brother dead by suicide in his apartment and she does some strange things.

The Framed Women of Ardemore House by Schillace, Brandy
An enjoyable village mystery. I think it's going to be a series. If so, I will read the next one.

Who to Believe by Hill, Edwin
Several murders, several suspects, several narrators....  Once I got into it I liked it.

The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Hallett, Janice 
Murders, more murders, and a very convuluted conspiracy. Also, a very good read

The Adversary by Crummey, Michael
I didn't like it as much as others by Crummey, but it is very good.

Interesting Facts about Space by Austin, Emily
The blurb calls this ", hilarious, and ultimately hopeful...." Uh, the first and last might be true--it was nicely paced and ended on an optimistic note. However, "hilarious" just doesn't fit. This is not laugh-a-minute funny. There are some amusing monents and it's not too dark and dreary but there is a lot of unhappiness.

The Swallows of Kabul by Khadra, Yasmina ; translated from the French by Cullen, John
Good but a difficult read.

The Ghosts of Rose Hill by Romero, R.M.
Y.A.  A nice coming of age story. With ghosts.

The Phoenix Crown by Quinn, Kate and Chang, Janie
An earthquake (1906), a couple of murders, a grand ball, an abduction, a rescue, and more.... How did they manage to make it all so boring?

Fourteen Days edited by Atwood, Margaret
A collaborative novel where the tennants of a rundown NYC apartment bulding gather on the roof each evening for fourteen days of the early Covid lockdown. Each has a story to tell. I enjoyed it.
Contributors: Charlie Jane Anders, Margaret Atwood, Joseph Cassara, Jennine Capó Crucet, Angie Cruz, Pat Cummings, Sylvia Day, Emma Donoghue, Dave Eggers, Diana Gabaldon, Tess Gerritsen, John Grisham, Maria Hinojosa, Mira Jacob, Erica Jong, CJ Lyons, Celeste Ng, Tommy Orange, Mary Pope Osborne, Douglas Preston, Alice Randall, Ishmael Reed, Roxana Robinson, Nelly Rosario, James Shapiro, Hampton Sides, R.L. Stine, Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Monique Truong, Scott Turow, Luis Alberto Urrea, Rachel Vail, Weike Wang, Caroline Randall Williams, De’Shawn Charles Winslow, and Meg Wolitzer.


Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts: Stories and Recipes from Five Generations of Black Country Cooks by Wilkinson, Crystal
I really enjoyed this memoir. 

Hollywood: The Oral History by Basinger, Jeanine and Wassan, Sam
Many, many clips from a series of interviews with representatives of all facets of production (producers, executives, directors, actors, set and costume designers, cinematographers, editors, etc.) for the American Film Institute. Nicely arranged in a thematic/chronological order. Interesting but they soft pedal a lot of stuff and I think they (the interviewees) make it look better than it was.

Inside Qatar: Hidden Stories from One of the Richest Nations on Earth by McManus, John 
The writing annoyed me, I'm not sure why, but the book is informative.

Islands of Abandonment by Flyn, Cal 
Lots of lovely descriptions, lots of viewing with alarm, lots of sad stories, and a bit of optimism. An ok read.
Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Kolker, Robert
I don't know what to say about this other than it was confusing to have the experience of one family mixed in with a summary of research into the causes of schizophrenia. 

Thursday, February 01, 2024

January 2024

Lots of good stuff this month plus a couple of not-so-good ones.  Fun with The Raven .

Gustave Doré (Illustrator)


The Fury by Michaelides, Alex
Twists and turns among seven people on a Greek island. A most inreliable narrator. A great read.

Vengeance Is Mine by NDiaye, Marie; translated from the French by Stump, Jordan 
Vague, meandering...just what's really going on here?

The Ascent by Hertmans, Stefan; translated from the Dutch by McKay, David
Based on a true storyof a Flemish Nazie collaborator and his family.

The Wide World: A Novel by Lemaitre, Pierre; translated from the French by Wynne, Frank
I liked this Fremch family saga set in post-war Paris, Beirut, and Saigon.

The Book of Fire by Lefteri, Christy 
Aftermath of a wild fire in Greece; it's effect on a marriage and family. A good read.

California Bear by Swierczynski, Duane
Assorted characters (The Killer, The Bear, The Girl Detective, a geneologist, an excop, and more...) unite (more or Less) to solve a couple of cold cases. There are many mishaps due to alchol and/or incompetance and some successes due to accident and/or solid reasoning. A fun read.

Call and Response: Stories by Moeng, Gothataone 
A nice debut collection of stories about women and families in Botswana.
Contents: Botalaote -- A good girl -- Small wonders -- Bodies -- Homing -- When Mrs. Kennekae dreamt of snakes -- Early life and education -- The first virginity of Gigi Kaisara.

Holiday Country by Atrek, İnci 
A Turkish/American young woman  spend each summer on the Aegean coast of  Türkiye with her Turkish mother and grandmother. But now she is nineteen, a college student in California, and she knows this may be the last year she can have a long vacation. A nice coming of age story with family secrets being reavealed. 

Half a Cup of Sand and Sky by Bjursten, Nadine
Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the country's politics afterward. Protaganist is a young university student in 1977, she marries a somewhat older man they have two children. while struggling to come to terms with the new regime.  A lot about  nuclear arms and disarmament so that part was new to me.
A review copy from publisher via LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

Horse by Brooks, Geraldine
Not a good book. All that complicated stuff about horse skeletons and horse paintings and the simplistic treatment of racism in the USA just didn't fit together. 

The Wildest Sun by Lemmie, Asha 
Seventeen year old French girl runs off to New York to try to connect with Hemingway because she thinks he's her father. An easy book to set aside. Also easy to skim. Language that didn't fit the times. Meh.


Unique Eats and Eateries of Connecticut by Urban, Mike 
Over 80 restaurants are covered and, judging from his descriptions of the ten I've eaten in, this is an excellent selection. 

Cinematic Places (Inspired Traveller's Guides, 7) by Baxter, Sarah; illustrated by Grimes, Amy
Short essays with synopses of movie and suggestions on how to visit the selected locales. Fun to read whether you've seen the movie and/or visited the place. Nice, moody illustrations. 

A White House Diary by Johnson, Lady Bird 
I admit to not reading all 858 pages. I jumped around and read the parts that most interested me or that I didn't know much about. Lady Bird is thorough making this a great historical resource.

Following Caesar: From Rome to Constantinople, the Pathways That Planted the Seeds of Empire by Keahey, John
So,so travelogue. Not sorry I read it's kinda shallow.

William Ladd Taylor (Illustrator)
Not that I haven't read this poem before (aloud, in class, in the seventh and/or eight grade). This time I was "reading" for the illustrations (and, incidently, the introductory essays).
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe (Author), Gustave Doré (Illustrator), With Comment BY Edmund C. Stedman (Published by Harper Bros. 1884)
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe, illustrator William Ladd Taylor (Published by Dutton, 1884)
The Raven, and The Philosophy of Composition by Edgar Allan Poe, illustrated by Will Jenkins, Galen J. Perrett. (Quarto Photogravure Edition, published by Paul Elder, 1907)
Will Jenkins (Illustrator)
Le Corbeau = The Raven by Poe, Edgar Allan; in English and with a French translation by Mallarmé, Stéphane; illustrated by Manet, Édouard. (Published by Richard Lesclide, Paris, 1875)

Édouard Manet (Illustrator)

Other Online Reading:
Cookie Jar by By Stephen King: Illustrations by Pat Perry

Also, the Cat by Rachel Swirsky; illustrated by Rovina Cai

River Runner by Sam Learner
I played with this for a while. You drop a raindrop anywhere in the world and this tracks it to the sea, Or not. One of my raindrops ended up in Tulare Lake.

The Appian Way: From Its Foundation to the Middle Ages edited by Ivana della Portella, photography by Franco Mammana; Authors: Ivana Della Portella, Giuseppina Pisani Sartorio, and Francesca Ventre.
Translator: Stephen Sartarelli
Much more detailed and, to me, far more satisfactory, the the Keahey book (listed above under nonfiction).

Monday, January 01, 2024

December 2023

My favorite cover from my fiction reads
(Also one of my favorite reads.)


The Love Parade by Pitol, Sergio; translated from the Spanish by Henson, G.B.
In 1973 an historian tries to investigate a murder that took place in 1942 in the building he lived in as a child. This is more about the factions in Mexico in 1942 than it is about the murder.

All the Little Bird-Hearts by Lloyd-Barlow, Viktoria 
Autistic single mother of teenage daughter.

America Fantastica by O'Brien, Tim 
Really enjoyed this.

Small World by Zigman, Laura 
To sisters, both in their fifties and both recently divorced, become roommates after about thirty years apart. 

Flight by Strong, Lynn Steger
Adult siblings and their families spend their first Christmas together after the death of their mother.

The Mystery Guest (Molly the Maid, #2) by Prose, Nita
Enjoyed it but maybe not as much as I enjoyed the first one.

A Nearby Country Called Love by Abdoh, Salar 
An Iranian man returns to Tehran after several years in NewYork City.

A Grandmother Begins the Story: A Novel by Porter, Michelle
Told from the POV of five generations of Métis women (and some bison, and the prairie grasses too) this is a jumble of inter woven narratives. Sort of like looking at the back of an embroidery and trying to figure out a pattern. 

Edith Holler by Carey, Ed
If young Edith leaves the premises of the theater she and her father live in she will die and the building will collapse. Suspend your disbelief and meet ghosts, monsters, beetles, spiders, evil stepmother, loving (and not-so-loving) aunties, and more. 

The Body by the Sea (Commissaire Dupin, #8) by Bannalec, Jean-Luc; tramslated from the French by McDonagh, Sorcha

A True Account: Hannah Masury’s Sojourn Amongst the Pyrates, Written by Herself by Howe, Kathrine
A bit disappointing as the blurb mentioned nothing about the student who was acrucial part of the story.

Straw Dogs of the Universe: A Novel by Chun, Ye 
Chinese in California building railroad, working in brothels, as servants, opium dens, etc. It was ok, good writing but by three quarters through I just wanted it to be over.

Good Taste by Scott, Caroline
Problems of a single woman in 1930s England. She's trying to write a history of British food but men (her father, her longtome best friend, and a rogue she meets whilst doing research) get in the way. It'ss an ok read but could use a little tightening up.

Thieves of Book Row: New York's Most Notorious Rare Book Ring and the Man Who Stopped It by McDade, Travis
A good read but perhaps that subtitle should read "...and the men Who Stopped...."  It took a team.

A Little Devil in America: In Praise of Black Performance by Abdurraqib, Hanif 
Not sure what happened here. I was really enjoying this and then I wasn't. It seemed like I was reading the same thing over and over. I gave up. 2/3 read.

Miss Florence and the Artists of Old Lyme by Heming, Arthur; illustrated by Stevenson, James
A  reminiscence written in 1937 (shortly after Florence Griswold's death) about events that happend in 1910, but not published until 1971

Einstein in Time and Space: A Life in 99 Particles by Graydon, Samuel 

Hollywood and the Movies of the Fifties: The Collapse of the Studio System, the Thrill of Cinerama, and the Invasion of the Ultimate Body Snatcher--Television by Hirsch, Foster 

The Secret Life of John le Carré  by Sisman, Adam

Chasing Bright Medusas: A Life of Willa Cather by Taylor, Benjamin 

The Once Upon a Time World: The Dark and Sparkling Story of the French Riviera by Miles, Jonathan 

Sovietistan: Travels in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan by Fatland, Erika; translated from the Norwegian by Dickson, Kari

Empire of Ice and Stone by Levy, Buddy
This was OK. I skipped around a bit as I was already somewhat familiar tith the material
A favorite cover from my nonfiction reads.
(But not my favorite read.)

Thursday, November 30, 2023

November 2023

It wasn't my goal to read a bunch short stories this month. It's just how my holds requests came in.

The Kate Atkinson and the Steven Millhauser collections were the best (and they also had the most interesting covers).

Everything, except the online pieces, is from the public library.

Short Stories: 

Normal Rules Don't Apply: Stories by Atkinson, Kate
These stories of life in an Alternate UK are somewhat connected but not exactly linked. They definitely should be read in order. Excellent!
Contents: The void -- Dogs in jeopardy -- Blithe spirit -- Spellbound -- The indiscreet charm of the boutgeoisie -- Shine, Pamela! Shine! -- Existential marginalization -- Classic Quest 17 -- Crime and punishment -- Puppies and rainbows -- Gene-sis

Disruptions: Stories by Millhauser, Steven 
Odd how many of these suburban  stories can be both unsettling and comforting at the same time.  How often do I like every story in a collection? Rare indeed. This month there were three collections that made it!
An added plus is they are mostly set in and around my adopted state: Connecticut.
Contents: One summer night -- After the beheading -- Guided tour -- Late -- The little people -- Theater of shadows -- The fight -- A haunted house story -- The summer of ladders -- The circle of punishment -- Green -- Thank you for your patience -- A tired town -- Kafka in high school -- A common predicament -- The change -- He takes, she takes -- The column dwellers of our town

Company: Stories by Sanders,Shannon
I liked every one of the linked multigenerational short stories.
Contents: The Good, Good Men -- Bird of Paradise -- The Gatekeepers -- Rule Number One -- RiojaLa -- Belle Hottentote -- Mote --  Dragonflies -- Amicus Curiae -- The Opal Cleft -- Three Guests -- Company -- The Everest Society

Seven Empty Houses by Schweblin, Samanta; translated from the Spanish by McDowell, Megan
Another good short story collection. Liked it, but not as much as the top two collections.
Contents: None of that -- My parents and my children -- It happens all the time in this house -- Breath from the depths -- Two square feet  -- An unlucky man -- Out

The Goodbye Cat: Seven Cat Stories by Arikawa, Hiro; translated from the Japanese by Gabriel, Philip
These were OK but maybe seven cute cat stories are a bit too many (I am not a cat person). Each stands alone but there are some connections so they are best read in order.
Contents: The goodbye cat -- Bringing up baby -- Good father/bad father -- Cat island -- The night visitor -- Finding Hachi -- Life is not always kind

Other Fiction:
Blackouts by Torres, Justin
Beyond the Door of No Return by Diop, David; translated from the French by Taylor, Sam
Disappointing tale of an Eighteenth Century French botanist in Senagal.
The Berry Pickers by Peters, Amanda
A child disappears while her family and other Mi'Kmaq migrant workers pick blueberries in Maine.
The Twilight World by Herzog, Werner; translated from the German by Hofmann, Michael
Japanese WW2 soldier on Phillipine island in 1970s doesn't know the war is over.

Hoop Muses: An Insider’s Guide to Pop Culture and the (Women’s) Game by Fagan, Kate; curated by Agustus, Seimone; illustrated by Chang, Sophia
This was a pleasant surpries that someone else picked for me.
Orphan Bachelors: A Memoir:  on being a confession baby, Chinatown daughter, baa-bai sister, caretaker of exotics, literary balloon peddler, and grand historian of a doomed American family by Ng, Fae Myenne 
How the various US immigration laws affected families.
The Times: How the Newspaper of Record Survived Scandal, Scorn, and the Transformation of Journalism by Nagourney, Adam
I was really liking this until I got tired of the infighting and repitition. Recipe for selecting an executuve editor: Current editor selects and grooms a replacement, publisher eyes a different candidate, they lockheads and select the wrong man, there is some sort of crisis (internal or external), editor steps aside, and they repeat the process making the same mistakes. Somehow a paper gets printed, a web edition suceeds, the nation is (more or less) better informed and the Times goes merrily on.
Windfall: The Prairie Woman Who Lost Her Way and the Great-Granddaughter Who Found Her by Bolstad, Erika
Too many themes here for one book: the one stated in the sub-title; the author's personal struggle with infertility; fracking and its effect on North Dakota; the more general effect of fossil fuel use and climate change; and the American dream of "We could strike it rich."  All that, but the parts i enjoyed most were her descriptions of the land.

By Matt Hickman,  The Architect’s Newspaper 8, 2020  

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

October 2023

A (reading) Tip Jar
One goal this month was to finish two ARCs that I recently won. Fortunately there was a lull in all those library holds requests and I actually had an entire week with NO checked out library books!
AND - wonder of wonders - both ARCs were great reads.

I also took advantage of the lull in library books to read some things that have been on my shelves for ages. 

AND there was an interesting birthday present from my daughters. See photo at the top of page. (The top book in the stack was also a b'day gift.)  Picasso's War was not a TBR. It was a reading in progress when I rec'd the jar. As soon as I finished it I pulled my first prompt. An easy one: "Read a book that has a one word title." So I read and enjoyed Zorrie.

I pulled another prompt: "Read a book set in a place you've been to but don't want to go back to." I pondered this a bit and then the mail came and it was an ARC the fit the prompt perfectly! But that's for next month...


The two review copies:
My Friends by Matat, Hisham
Excellent! A Lybian exile in London recalls the circumstances of his exile and his friendships with two other exiles. 
Advance Review Edition via GoodReads giveaway
Vulgarian Rhapsody by Orloff, Alvin
Aging,down-on-their-luck gays struggling to survive in 1990s San Francisco. A nice mix of fun and despair.
Advance Review Edition via LibraryThing giveaway

The library books:
Last House Before the Mountain by Helfer, Monika; ttranslated from the German by Davidson, Gillian
Maybe this simple faily story set in a small village near Bregenz lost something in the translation?
The Pole by Coetzee, J.M. 
Just ok. At least it was short.
The Second Chance Hotel by Godfrey, Sierra 
Light and fun. Author says she created the fictional Greek island from memories of Santorini in the 80s. As I read, I pictured Sifnos in the 90s. 
A Council of Dolls by Power, Mona Susan
Stories of three generations of Dakota women (and their dolls). First three sections are well told; the final section tries to tie it all together by assembling the dolls in one place. The introduction of  Prince, a pet cockatoo, spoils the mood of the narrative.
The Last Devil to Die (Thursday Murder Club, #4) Osman, Richard
After a couple of chapters I thought maybe the series was getting to me and I would be bored and ready to move on from these characters. Then I figured I would finish this one but skip the next (if there is a next). By the end I was really enjoying it so maybe I will read another if there is one. 
The House of Doors by Tan Twan Eng
I really liked this. A colonial couple in Malasia host Somerset Maughm (and his male "secretary"). But it's not just about Maughm. Sun Yat Sen makes and an appearance and there is also a famous murder trial.
Night Watch by Phillips, Jayne Anne
Post US Civil War, with wartime flashbacks. Set in West Virginia .
Zorrie by Hunt, Laird
An enjoyanle read about the country life of a "Radium Girl."
North Woods by Mason,Daniel
Loved the multi-era story and the varied format. Set in Massachusetts.

From my shelves:
xo Orpheus: Fifty New Myths by Bernheimer, Kate (editor)
I've been reading this for ages (since 2014). These retellings are best spread out in small doses. Then when you finish it, you can start all over  'cause you've forgotten what you read nine years ago. Magic.
The Transmigration of Bodies by Herrera, Yuri; translated from the Spanish by Dillman, Lisa
Feuding families seek revenge during an epidemic. (Not that epidemic, this was written in 2013, the translation published in 2016.) It's not a very good book. 
A Thousand Peaceful Cities by Pilch, Jerzy; translated from the Polish by Frick, David
The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico by Tabucchi, Antonio; translated from the Italian by Parks, Tim.
Always enjoy Tabucchi but I forgot I had this one. (It was on my computer as a pdf. I have enough problems remembering to look at my Kindle now an then, but EPUBS and pdfs? Forgettaboutit!) At any rate, it didn't disappoint. 
Contents: The flying creatures of Fra Angelico -- Past composed: three letters. I. Letter from Dom Sebastiøo de Avis, King of Portugal, to Francisco Goya, painter; II. Letter from Mademoiselle Lenormand, fortune-teller, to Dolores Ibarruri, revolutionary; III. Letter from Calypso, a nymph, to Odysseus, King of Ithaca -- The passion of Dom Pedro -- Message from the shadows -- 'The phrase that follows this is false: the phrase that precedes this is true' -- The battle of San Romano -- Story of a non-existent history -- The translation -- Happy people -- The archives of Macao -- Last invitation.
Black Forest by Mréjen, Valérie; translated from the French by Shireen Assef, Katie Shireen
A (mostly) gentle meditation on death. An oddly satisfying read.
This is the Garden by Mozzi, Giulio: translated from the Italian by Harris, Elizabeth
A collection of eight short stories. I liked most of them.
Contents: Cover letter -- The apprentice -- On the publication of my first book -- Claw -- Trains -- Glass -- Tana -- F.
Red Ants by José, Pergentino; translated from the Spanish by Bunstead, Thomas
Poetic, moving, and grim short stories. Stories are mostly very short. As good as it was it was too much of the same thing.
Contents: Red ants -- Threads of steam -- Room of worms -- Not to you -- Departure -- Heart of birds -- Prayers -- Témpano -- Dry branch -- Bamboo  races -- The priestess on the mountain -- The window -- Flower María -- Fingers moving -- Voice of the firefly .


From the library:
The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss by de Waal, Edmund 
Picasso's War: How Modern Art Came to America by Eakin, Hugh
Another good art history. book. 

From Project Gutenberg:
The retreat of the ten thousand  by Witt, Carl; translated by Younghusband, Frances from Witt's German version of the original Greek narative, Anabasis by Xenophon.  


Who’s Afraid of a Spatchcocked Chicken?  by C Pam Zhang

The 19 Most Funnest, Most Wildest, Most Unbelievably Extra Restaurants in AmericaThe most over-the-top, maximally good time you’ll have while eating by Eater Staff 
"OK", I thought, "here are 19 places I'm not likely to visit." Fooled you! I've actually eaten at one of them.  Way back in 1964. Glad to see the Madonna Inn Restaurant in San Luis Obispo CA is still going and still 'in the pink.'

Shabby Victorian Metropolis: Fifty Years of Photographing San Francisco Photographs by Dave Glass, Dave; Text by Richard, Frances