Arubabookwoman's 2023 Reading Journey

DiscussãoClub Read 2023

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Arubabookwoman's 2023 Reading Journey

Editado: Jan 1, 12:38 pm

Hi--I'm Deborah, a retired attorney and mom of 5 grown kids. I joined LT on 1-1-2009, and joined CR a couple of years later. It has become my New Year's Day "tradition" to spend the day on LT setting up my threads and visiting for most of the day.
I read broadly. The fiction I read is mostly "literary" (whatever that means), and I love reading translated authors from around the world. I am not a completist regarding lists, but I like choosing books from the 1001 list, and hope to read more of those this year. I am also taking part in Lisa's Nobelist group. I don't just read "serious" fiction, however, and I love good crime novels as well as a smattering of science fiction. I have noticed lately that a lot of contemporary fiction is not working for me (Does anyone else think that the quality of contemporary fiction has been declining, or am I just becoming an old fogey?), so I hope to read more older fiction this year. For the past several years my nonfiction reading concentrated on the current political situation (i.e. how and why Trump happened), but that has tapered off in the past year. About 25% of my reading is nonfiction.
Two years ago we moved to Florida after 35 years in Seattle, and I am still adjusting. My husband is a bone marrow transplant patient, and we spend a lot of time on medical things. That gives me time to read, since there is a lot of waiting around. My other interest is fiber art. I started as a quilt maker (and I still make quilts for the grandkids), but have mostly moved on to things for the wall.
I''m looking forward to talking to you all this year!

ETA--LT lost the first intro I wrote. It was much better than this one.

Editado: Jun 28, 5:23 pm

1st Q


1. Broken River by J. Robert Lennon (2017) 289 pp 3 1/2 stars
2. Chess Story by Stefan Zweig (19442?) 104 pp 3 stars 1001 List
3. Even the Darkest Night by Javier Cercas (2019) 353 pp 3 1/2 stars
4. Upgrade by Blake Crouch (2022) 341 pp 3 stars
5. In Love a Memoir by Amy Bloom (2022) 241 pp 3 stars
6. The Night Shift by Alex Finlay (2022) 312 pp 3 stars
7. Birding Without Borders by Noah Strycker (2017) 351 pp 3 stars
8. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Silitoe (1958) 258 pp 3 1/2 stars 1001 List
9. Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark (1963) 146 pp 4 stars 1001 List
10. The Marne by Edith Wharton (1918) 136 pp 1 star
11. Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah (1994) 251 pp Nobelist 3 stars
12. Pillar of Salt by Albert Memmi (1953) 352 pp 3 stars
13. News of the World by Paulette Jiles (2016) 209 pp 2 1/2 stars
14. Sugar Street by Jonathan Dee (2022) 224 pp 3 stars
15. Airframe by Michael Crichton (2011) 488 pp 2 1/2 stars


16. Haven by Emma Donoghue (2022) 231 pp 2 stars
17. The Privileges by Jonathan Dee (2010) 354 pp 3 stars
18. Elizabeth Finch by Julian Barnes (2022) 193 pp 3 stars
19. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (2009) 283 pp Nobelist 4 stars
20. Drifts by Kate Zambreno (2020) 336 pp 4 stars
21. The Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal (2015) 326 pp 2 1/2 stars


22. The Expats by Chris Pavone (2012) 336 pp 3 stars
23. Lockdown by Peter May (2020) 416 pp 1 1/2 stars
24. The Hopkins Manuscript by R. C. Sheriff (1939) 396 pp 3 stars
25. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton 1001 List 5 stars
26. Two Nights in Lisbon by Chris Pavone (2022) 450 pp 2 stars
27. Brainiac by Ken Jennings (2006) 288 pp 3 stars
28. Exiles by Jane Harper 1 1/2 stars
29. Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro (1971) 290 pp 4 stars 1001 List; Nobelist
30. A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee (2013) 224 pp 3 stars
Volumes I-III Clarissa

Editado: Set 15, 5:55 pm

2nd Q


31. The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett (1955) 204 pp 2 1/2 stars
32. Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro (2022) 240 pp 2 1/2 stars
33. The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst (2004) 498 pp 1001 List 4 1/2 stars
34. The Radiant Way by Margaret Drabble (1987) 407 pp 1001 List 4 stars
35. Babel by R. F. Kuang (2022) 560 pp 3 stars
36. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (2022) 392 pp 2 stars
37. The Sea by John Banville (2005) 195 pp 3 stars 1001 List
38. Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard (1990) 3 1/2 stars 1001 List
Volumes IV-V Clarissa


39. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman 3 stars
40. Invisible by Paul Auster (2009) 332 pp 4 stars 1001 List
41. Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton 4 stars 1001 List
42. Mind's Eye by Hakan Nesser (1992) 332 pp 2 1/2 stars
43. Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay (2021) 363 pp 3 stars
44. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (Reread) (2013) 544 pp 4 1/2 stars
45. Left on Tenth by Delia Ephron (2022) 305 pp 3 stars
46. Three by Valerie Perrin (2021) 630 pp 3 1/2 stars
47. Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng (2022) 347 pp (2022) 1 1/2 stars
48. Dying of Whiteness by Jonathan M. Metzl (2019) 370 pp 3 stars
49. The Ferryman by Justin Cronin 560 pp 2 stars
50. Nemesis by Phillip Roth 2010) 309 pp 1001 List 4 stars
51. 48 Clues in the Disappearance of My Sister by Joyce Carol Oates (2023) 304 pp 3 1/2 stars
52. In the Heart of the Country by J. M. Coetzee (1977) 160 pp 1001 List 4 stars
53. The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe (2015) 352 pp 3 stars
54. The Switch by Elmore Leonard (1978) 304 pp 2 stars
55. The Quiet Game by Greg Iles (1999) 436 pp 1 1/2 stars
56. The Prestige by Christopher Priest (1995) 372 pp 3 stars
57. Slow Motion by Dani Shapiro () 256 pp 3 stars
58. Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy 453 pp 1001 List 3 1/2 stars
59. Just a Mother by Roy Jacobsen (2020) 318 pp 3 stars


60. The Glass Pearls by Emeric Pressburger (1965) 228 pp 3 stars
61. We Were Once a Family by Roxanna Asgarian (2023) 294 pp 4 stars
62. A Death In Tokyo by Keigo Higashino (2011) 368 pp 3 stars
63. Apollo 13 by James Lovell (1994) 558 pp 4 stars
64. Nothing Holds Back the Night by Delphine De Vigan (2011) 353 pp 3 1/2 stars
65. Falling by T.J. Newman (2021)303 pp 1 star
66. Deep Shelter by Oliver Harris (2014) 340 pp 2 stars
67. Seven Empty Houses by Samanta Schweblin (2015) 205 pp 3 stars
68. Kickback by Garry Disher (1991) 184 pp 3 1/2 stars
69. Paydirt by Garry Disher (1992) 163 pp 3 stars
70. A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson (2015) 475 pp reread 5 stars
71. The Victim by Saul Bellow (1947) 250 pp 3 stars
72. They by Kay Dick (1971) 3 1/2 stars
73. Such Kindness by Andre Dubus (2023) 312 pp 3 stars
74. The Missing File by D.A.Mishani (2011) 204 pp 3 stars
75. The Hamlet by William Faulkner 4 stars 1001
Volumes VI and VII Clarissa

Editado: Nov 20, 6:08 am

3rd Q


76. Still the Same Man by Jon Bilbao (2011) 186 pp 3 stars
77. A Possibility of Violence by D.A. Mishani (2013) 293 pp 3 stars
78. The Woman Inside by M.T. Edvardsson (2023) 384 pp 3 stars
79. Nine Black Robes by Joan Biskupic (2023) 411 pp 4 stars
80. The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold (1972) 146 pp 2 stars
81. The Housekeeper by Joy Fielding (2022) 353 pp 3 stars
82. At Dusk by Hwang Sok-yong (2018) 121 pp 3 1/2 stars
83. The Art Thief by Michael Finkel (2023) 234 pp 4 stars
84. This Is What Happened by Mick Herron (2018) 273 pp 2 stars
85. Purgatory Mount by Adam Roberts (2021) 265 pp 2 stars
86. A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell (1977) 226 pp 2 stars
87. A Natural Curiosity by Margaret Drabble (1989) 320 pp 2 1/2 stars
88. The Torso by Helene Tursten (2000) 389 pp 3 stars
89. True Story by Michael Finkel (2005) 312 pp 2 1/2 stars

90. Killing Moon by Jo Nesbo (2022) 503 pp 3 stars
91. Ocean State by Stewart O'Nan (2022) 2 stars
92. The Memory of Animals by Claire Fuller (2023) 322 pp 2 1/2 stars
93. Poverty by America by Matthew Desmond (2023) 287 pp 3 stars
94. Mild Vertigo by Mieko Kanai (2002) 3 stars
95. The Town by William Faulkner
96. Salka Valka by Haldor Laxness
97. How Can I Help You by Laura Sims (2023) 252 pp
98. Barbara Isn't Dying by Alina Bronsky (2021) 183 pp
99. Universal Harvester by John Darnielle
100. Zoo Story by Thomas French
101. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry


102. Things We Set on Fire by Deborah Reed
103. Miracle In the Andes by Nando Parrado
104. Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White
105. Children of Paradise by Fred D'aguiar
106. The Postcard by Anne Berest
107. Termush by Sven Holm
108. The Road to Roswell by Connie Willis
109. The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
110. Deathdeal by Garry Disher (1993)
111. Michael Kohlhaas by Heinrich von Kleist 1001
112. Red Sorghum by Mo Yan Nobelist
113. Black Out by Connie Willis
114. All Clear by Connie Willis
115. The Hook by Donald Westlake
116. We Know You Remember by Tove Alsterdal (2020) 359 pp
117. You Will Never Be Found by Tove Alsterdal (2021) 278 pp
118. Alive by Piers Paul Read
119. The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell
120. The Mansion by William Faulkner

Editado: Dez 7, 1:49 pm

4th Q


121. Pieces For the Left Hand by J. Robert Lennon (2005) 229 pp
122. Old New York by Edith Wharton
123. The Wager by David Grann (2023) 327 pp
124. Tyranny of the Minority by Steven Levitsky (2023)
125. Wolves of Eternity by Karl Ove Knausgaard (2023) 820 pp
126. The Man With the Getaway Face by Richard Stark
127. The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango
128. Cul-de-Sac by Joy Fielding
129. I Remain in Darkness by Annie Ernaux
130. A Little Luck by Claudia Piniero
131. The Last Word by Taylor Adams
132. Allmen and the Dragonflies by Martin Suter (2018)
133. Nobody Walks by Mick Herron
134. The Feast by Margaret Kennedy (1949) 335 pp
135. The House of Doors by Tan Twan Eng (2023) 320 pp
136. The Secret Hours by Mick Herron (2023) 385 pp
137. Fire Weather by John Vaillant (2023)


138. The In-Between by Hadley Vlahos (2023)
139. The Bee Sting by Paul Murray (2023) 736 pp
140. For Blood and Money by Nathan Vardi
141. The Sun Walks Down by Fiona McFarlane (2023) 353 pp
142. The Long-Legged Fly by James Sallis
143. Moth by James Sallis
144. The Guest by Emma Cline (2023) 294 pp
145. Normal Rules Don't Apply by Kate Atkinson
146. A Day in the Life of Abed Salamas by Nathan Thrall
147. The Infatuations by Javier Marias
148. Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
149. Loved and Missed by Susie Boyt
150. The Better Angels by Charles McCarry
151. Call For the Dead by John LeCarre


152. In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
153. All Our Yesterdays by Natalia Ginzburg
154. The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
155. After Midnight by Irmgard Keun

Editado: Jan 1, 12:51 pm

Report on my 2022 Reading

My best reads of 2022 were:

5 Stars: The Way We Live Now by Trollope
The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen
The Years by Annie Ernaux
The Door by Magda Szabo

4 1/2 Stars: The Winter of Our Discontent by Steinbeck
Phineas Redux by Trollope
The Man With the Golden Arm by Nelson Algren
Desperate Characters by Paula Fox
How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu

4 Stars: The Nice and the Good by Iris Murdoch
The Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Foregone by Russell Banks
White Shadow by Roy Jacobsen
The Morning Star by Karl Ove Knausgaard
The Big Cheat by David Cay Johnson
Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
Everyman by Philip Roth
Dog Park by Sofi Oksanen
Watergate: A New History by Garrett M. Graff
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
Atoms and Ashes by Serhii Plokhy
Ethan Frome by Wharton
Fruit of the Tree by Wharton
Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe
Summer by Edith Wharton
Katalin Street by Magda Szabo

I think that in 2022 I read fewer translated authors than I usually do, and I think I read a slightly lower percentage of female authors than usual. I also read a slightly smaller percentage of nonfiction. I was able to review/comment on all of the books I read in 2022 on my 2022 thread.

Editado: Jan 1, 1:12 pm

Every year my plans for the new year are the same: reduce the TBR pile. (TBR refers to books I own that are unread). I failed miserably at that in 2022, as roughly 80+% of the books I read in 2022 were from the library, rather than books I owned. For reference, at the beginning of 2022, my TBR was listed in my LT library as 2240 books (fairly accurate) and at the end of 2022 my TBR was 2420 books (again fairly accurate), an increase in my TBR of 180 books. (From 2021 to 2022, the increase was "only" 76). So my plan for 2023 once again has to be REDUCE the TBR.

How to accomplish this? A fairly large number of library books are placed on hold and checked out by me on a whim--I'll see a reference to the book, think it sounds interesting, and, so I don't forget, it ends up checked out or on hold. Then, since it's a library book and has a Due Date, I read it in preference to the books I own. Most of the library books tend toward newer fiction, and though I've occasionally found a gem or two, at the end of the year I look at many of the books I've read and ask myself "Did I really need to read that?" I use the word "need" not in the sense that there are certain books that one is required or expected to read, or books on a list somewhere, but in the sense of was it a book that fed my soul, that gave me a sense of satisfaction. Frequently the answer is no.

So what I'm going to try to do this year is to check fewer books out of the library. I'll keep a running list of books that sound interesting, and at the end of the year, I'll look at the list and see how many of them I still want to read.

I should note that I've already failed at this plan, but my excuse is that it happened in 2022, before I started this new plan, because it was a book I saw in sassylassy's 2022 thread this morning, Rizzio, which I ended up placing a hold on at the library.

For more specific 2023 plans:

Participate in the Nobelist group
Read more 1001 Books
Continue Litsy Wharton buddy read
75 Group monthly African read--January North Africa
Litsy South America read
Victorian Quarterly Read--The Bostonians and Roughing It in the Bush
Litsy--year long read of Clarissa (since I failed at the year long read of Anniversaries might as well try again with a different book.
Maybe finally finish Zola's Rougon Macquart (have 3 or 4 left)

Jan 1, 11:28 am

2023 Purchases

Jan 1, 11:30 am

Starred! Happy New Year, Deborah. I hope 2023 is a good year for you. Good luck with the move.

Jan 1, 1:13 pm

Hi Beth--And wishes for a wonderful year for you too!

Jan 1, 1:37 pm

Happy New Year, Deborah, and Welcome to Club Read 2023! Almost half the books I checked out this year were from the library, but I would guess half of those were from Asian authors for the Asian Reading Challenge. That is a huge increase in library books for me. Now that I have a Kindle, my librarian is heaving a sigh of relief that she won't need to ILL so many books, but it won't help my physical TBR. Ah well, the important thing is to read good books, right?

I don't envy you having to pack, stage, move, and unpack again. Any leads on a house yet? In other news, it looks unlikely that I'll be coming to Florida. My stepmother isn't doing well, so she and my dad will stay in NE where there is more reliable healthcare.

Jan 1, 1:49 pm

Happy new year, Deborah! Interesting question about contemporary fiction... that's my least-read category and I'd like to think that at least in part that's due to it being, as you suggest, not that great... but then I "discover" (long after they've been read by everyone else) writers like, say, Ali Smith and regret not paying more attention to contemporaries.

I think there are also different values to classics tested and proven a gajillion times over, and contemporary fiction. The latter, no matter how skillfully written or not, speaks directly to our times. That's valuable and necessary to society, quite apart from any question about "lasting" value.

Editado: Jan 1, 3:12 pm

>1 arubabookwoman: I have noticed lately that a lot of contemporary fiction is not working for me (Does anyone else think that the quality of contemporary fiction has been declining, or am I just becoming an old fogey?),

Absolutely in agreement with that (being an old fogey as well) I rarely read contemporary fiction now that I am no longer a member of a book club. The following books were prime examples of contemporary fiction that I found difficult to be positive about.

Room: A Novel Emma Donague
The elegance of the Hedgehog Muriel barber
never Let me Go Kazuo Ishiguro
Shantaram: A Novel Gregory David Roberts

Jan 1, 2:09 pm

Looking forward to your reading again this year, Deborah. Happy New Year.

Jan 1, 2:18 pm

I also failed with Anniversaries (and I set the group up!!) and I think I will also try with the Litsy group read of Clarissa.

I actually think contemporary literature is in a good place. I think there are more books than ever available and mainstream that are written by "others" than white men. And I love that. I also feel like there are more books available in English translations as well, and by a wider variety of authors and countries. But I always have to balance my contemporary literature reading with classics or I do admit to getting tired of them.

Editado: Jan 1, 3:14 pm

>13 baswood: Perhaps I was a bit over the top. The books were certainly well written, but they seemed to be written to sell books, rather than have something meaningful to say.

Jan 2, 4:51 am

Happy New Year, Deborah. I'm looking forward to following your thread.

I also sometimes feel that contemporary fiction is declining in quality. But then I come across a recent book that fascinates me. Perhaps there are simply too many books and the quality of them is not always in proportion to the quantity. Or have I just read too much? You can only read so many coming of age stories, right? I've been thinking about it a lot lately and I actually think a lot depends on the situation and the stage in your life you're in. You just have to find the right book. Or consult your thread, in my case :-)

Jan 2, 9:36 am

>17 Trifolia: Sturgeon's Law: Ninety percent of everything is crap.

There was just as much crap in contemporary fiction ten years ago (or 20, or 50, or 100...); it's just that the only books we ever see from those eras now are the ones that have survived the critical test of time. Our grandparents had to slog through just as many lumps of coal in search of diamonds as we do.

It's never fun to slog through the coal, of course, but I like to think of it as playing my small part in the critical apparatus that will winnow down today's books for later generations. Our grandparents found their diamonds for us; we'll find ours for our grandkids; they'll find new diamonds for their descendants.

Jan 2, 10:06 am

>7 arubabookwoman: does your TBR only include books that you own? Mine is all of the books I'm interested in reading, whether I own them or not. I use it to order from the library. That said, I have the same issue as you when it comes to reading library books vs the unread books I already own, and I do want to work on that this year.

Jan 2, 11:31 am

>11 labfs39: Hi Lisa-Sorry you won't get to Florida, but the weather's to the great.

>12 LolaWalser: Hi Lola--I think that's why I keep reading newer fiction--every once in a blue moon I find a gem.

>13 baswood: Hi Barry. I agree with you about Never Let Me Go (and a couple of others by Ishiguro, but I really loved Remains of the Day, so I keep reading his new books if the subject interests. I did kind of like Room, but it wasn't amazing. Haven't read the other two you mention.

>14 AlisonY: Thanks Alison, and Happy New Year to you too.

>15 japaul22: Hi Jennifer, I too do like that there are so many more books by others than white men nowadays. In general I do not find the problem of lack of quality in contemporary fiction in the translated fiction I read. Maybe the fact that it has to be chosen to be translated weeds out some of the more problematic works of lesser quality.

>16 baswood: Good point. As I said above, I liked Room, but it was more in the category of a good TV show--good entertainment value.

>17 Trifolia: Hi Monica. It's true that every once in a while, as I said to Lola, I find a gem (this year it was How High We Go in the Dark. I guess I'm going to have to choose more carefully. I do like a good coming of age story (from a child's point of view--don't like reading about twenty-somethings trying to find themselves(.

>18 KeithChaffee: Hi Keith--I'm pretty old, and a life-long reader, so I was reading a lot of current fiction as it was published in the 60's, 70's, 80's etc., and this seems a more recent issue for me. It may simply be that as an older person, I don't enjoy books by a younger person about a young person's problems. It could also be that I've read so much over my life, it's hard to come across something new, or something written in an original way. I do screen what I choose to read, so I'm not picking things that are obviously crap. Usually the subject of the book seems like it would be of interest to me, and it's been well-reviewed. As I said, I'm just going to have to try to choose more wisely.

>19 Julie_in_the_Library: Hi Julie--I'm ashamed to admit that my TBR does only include books I own (though probably close to half are on my Kindle, not physical books). I also usually have 25 books (my library's maximum) checked out of the library at any one time, with more on hold, and on my wishlist.

Still haven't finished a book yet. I'm almost through with Broken River by J. Robert Lennon (library book), and I started 3 books for the African challenge, The Barbary Figs, A Savage War of Peace, and The Pillar of Salt.

Jan 2, 12:23 pm

So after all the discussion after my question of whether contemporary fiction is in decline, I decided to go back over my contemporary fiction reading from 2022. I omitted crime fiction and SF, concentrating on books that aspire to be "literary." I also omitted translated fiction. In addition, there are authors whose books I've read before, and who I in general really like, so I am omitting them, even though they are technically contemporary. These include, with books by them I read in 2022 in parentheses):

Russell Banks (Foregone- 4*)
Karl Ove Knausgaard (The Morning Star-4*)
Roddy Doyle )Love-2 1/2*-good writing/didn't like story)
Emily St. John Mandel (Sea of Tranquility 4*)
Elizabeth Strout (My Name Is Lucy Barton--3*)
Dan Chaon (Sleepwalk-3*)
Monica Ali (Love Marriage-3 1/2*; Untold Story-2*)
Kent Haruf

Here in reverse order are the contemporary ficiton books I was referring to in my complaint:

The Couple Next Door-1* Very poorly written--maybe just a crime novel, but a very poor crime novel.
The Maid-1* Very poorly written and researched; illogical.
A Flicker in the Dark-1 1/2* Another poorly written, maybe just intended as a crime novel, but a very bad crime novel.
The High House-2* Illogical, poorly researched. World created is not real.
November Road-2* Going along fine until about 2/3 of the way through one of the main characters does a totally unrealistic, uncharacteristic 180 degree change.
The Weekend-2 1/2* Unrealistic depiction of aging.
2 A.M. in Little America-2 1/2* Maybe I should have given this 3 stars. It was well-written, but I didn't like it--too surrealish. My review said it was probably the book the author wanted to write, it just wasn't the book I wanted to read.

The following were decent books, books I wouldn't hesitate recommending in certain circumstances, books I'm not necessarily sorry I read, but still books that weren't special for me, or that I think have something enduring to say:

The Latecomer-3*
This Time Tomorrow-3* (Time travel so maybe SF?)
Subdivision-3* I somehow liked this despite it being surrealish.
The Last Neanderthal-3* Really liked the first book I read by this author. This one was good but had issues.

Then there were two that I really liked, but they were very short and were more like short stories than a novel:

Small Things Like These-3 1/2*
The English Understand Wool-3 1/2*

And these are the only two that I think I "needed" to read:

Nightcrawling-3 1/2*
How High We Go in the Dark-4*

Jan 2, 1:19 pm

Happy New Year, Deborah. I'll look forward to following along with your reading, whatever era you choose your reading material from. I find that I read a lot of older books because I enjoy buying older books. That's to say, beautiful old (not necessarily antiquarian, but sometimes) editions of novels. But I've read a lot of good contemporary fiction, too. On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, Conjure Women by Afia Atakora and The Sellout by Paul Beatty were three recently published novels that I very much enjoyed this past year. I don't know if I'd agree that quality is declining. One factor to consider is that the older books that are still in print and/or relatively widely read are the best of those eras, more or less. I would conjecture that there were plenty of mediocre novels published in every era but which, deservedly, you won't find sitting around on bookstore shelves or recommended on your favorite online venues.

Anyway, to each his/her/their own! Cheers!

Jan 2, 2:44 pm

Glad you're journeying into 2023 Deborah. I enjoy checking out your reviews and adding to my reading list.

Jan 2, 6:17 pm

I don't read a lot of contemporary lit, with the exception of translated lit, but I have found it hit or miss. I wonder if the reason the quality seems to be declining is that publishers are competing with so many sources of print now (digital and analog), especially with all the self-published stuff now (just look at LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program). More than ever it seems like the noise level keeps rising in order to get the reader's attention. Publishers have always had to balance quality with salability, but now it feels like a feeding frenzy.

Jan 2, 6:32 pm

>21 arubabookwoman: And now that you've sorted out which contemporary books you liked/didn't like, I can't help but wonder where you heard of them, what made you interested in reading them....(but please don't do the research just for my sake!)

>24 labfs39: I'm actually wondering if the "noise" is actually more of a problem of marketing/social media? With the rise of facebook/goodreads/instagram/tiktok? Perhaps it is a matter of re-learning which reviewers' judgements align with one's own. Personally, I have realized I enjoy "weird fiction" and literary novels that push boundaries. For some reason the Tournament of Books and the International Booker Prize are more likely to surface the types of books I want to read. Luckily, due to long library wait lists, I often also have a better sense from LT and Litsy reviews which of the long-listed book I actually want to read.

Editado: Jan 3, 10:48 am

I have noticed lately that a lot of contemporary fiction is not working for me (Does anyone else think that the quality of contemporary fiction has been declining, or am I just becoming an old fogey?)

Enjoyed the conversation. I thought literature was declining, and it became an avid reader question, and the conversation actually made me feel much better about new literature. Also I really enjoyed some of the Booker longlist books last year. So i need to rethink it a bit.

Personally, my main problem with new books is trying to figure out which are worth trying out. There is a whole lot of junk, and a lot of hype and a lot of excitement when we read a new book. I think new books just seem better than they really are.

But I wonder about the “noise” - which can mean the hype or just the vast amount of bad stuff. And i wonder about standards of readers.

And i wonder about the changes since the smartphone. Music today is different than 20 years ago. Film is different. Books should be too. There is a distinct irreverence today for the haughty-taughty writing. So authors need to either cleverly manage this or cleverly manipulate this. And I’m clearly not the only one struggling to adjust to all that.

Anyway, that’s why i read the Booker longlists. Not because they’re perfect, but because they seem to do a better weeding of new books than other things I can find. And it’s only 13 books.

Jan 3, 11:44 am

Happy new year, Deborah. Dropped a star. I wish you a fabulous reading year.

Jan 3, 10:39 pm

I think I'm much more of an old fogey when it comes to music, less so when it comes to literature. Then again I don't have time to read all the titles I think I want to, so maybe that works in my favor... I have to be pickier about what I pick up? Anyway, interested to see where your reading takes you this year.

Jan 5, 8:00 am

>20 arubabookwoman: Hi Julie--I'm ashamed to admit that my TBR does only include books I own (though probably close to half are on my Kindle, not physical books). I also usually have 25 books (my library's maximum) checked out of the library at any one time, with more on hold, and on my wishlist.

Don't be ashamed! I didn't mean to criticize; I was just curious. I think we just use the lists/collections in different ways. For me, TBR is everything I have an interest in reading, and Wishlist is specifically books I want to own. I think I'm actually in the minority here in Club Read with that usage, in fact.

Everyone should use their lists however works best for them. It's just interesting to note the different ways we use the lists.

Does anyone else think that the quality of contemporary fiction has been declining, or am I just becoming an old fogey?

I think that's a false binary, actually. I think that the quality of contemporary fiction is not declining, but you are also not becoming an old fogey. :)

There's a lot of fiction published, and no individual reader could possibly read enough of it to get a real representative sample to determine that contemporary fiction is declining in quality, especially over the course of a single year. It's just too large and broad a category.

I think you've just had bad luck with book selection. Contemporary books that you'd love are out there somewhere; you just haven't read them yet.

Too much of determining the quality of a book is subjective to definitively make a judgment like that, anyway.

I've read some amazing novels written in the last few years (and the last 5, and the last 10, for that matter, not sure exactly how we're defining "contemporary"). Many were genre fiction, rather than so-called "literary," but were still beautifully written and full of depth and meaning and important observations on our society.

>21 arubabookwoman: I omitted crime fiction and SF, concentrating on books that aspire to be "literary."

I'm also not sure why you're drawing that line. As I said above, genre fiction can and often is of great quality and literary value. And plenty of attempts at Great Literature stink.

>22 rocketjk: I don't know if I'd agree that quality is declining. One factor to consider is that the older books that are still in print and/or relatively widely read are the best of those eras, more or less.

Also that. That's a big factor, too.

This has been an interesting discussion. It would probably make a good topic for the Questions thread, too, if someone wants to suggest it.

Jan 5, 8:24 am

>29 Julie_in_the_Library: I doubt you are alone in that use of LT collections. For me "Your Library" is physically owned books, "To Read" is everything I may want to read, owned and unowned, and "Wishlist" is books I want to buy, both read and unread. :) I also have a tag "own" so I can select the "To Read" collection and click on the "own" tag to discover I own 418 books that I haven't read yet. Ooops.

Jan 5, 10:15 am

>21 arubabookwoman: This is an interesting question/conversation, Deborah. I read quite a bit of contemporary fiction and feel that there are some stellar authors - Jennifer Egan, Jessmyn Ward, Emily St. John Mandel, Margaret Atwood, Louise Erdrich, to mention a few, but I think some of the "bestsellers," books that are heavily marketed maybe are less worthwhile.

Jan 9, 7:12 am

I'm finally starting to settle in Club Read 2023 and I'm happy I found your thread, so will follow your reading again this year, even if I'm mainly lurking.

Interesting discussion regarding contemporary fiction. I have had the same feeling with French lit for probably 10 years or more now: lots of books that I did not need (with the same caveat about the use of "need" as yours in >7 arubabookwoman:).
I do not know if the quality is declining, I hope not. But I think most of the books deal with themes I am not particularly interested in and/or are written in a way that I dislike (I might be a young old fogey...).
It turns out I have read very few French contemporary books last year, and none is included in my "memorable 2022 reads".

I think my attitude towards this is two fold. First, partly in order to avoid the noise and the hype sourrounding new books, I rarely buy hardcover books and will wait for it to be published in paperback. If I still want to read it, then it might be worth a try. (Or I borrow it from the library, and will skim through if not as good as I expected).
Second, I know that I'm happier with translated fiction (mainly non-European/non-North American), including contemporary translated fiction. This provides me with more than enough to read, so no need to bother about some literature that do not bring me what I would expect from a book. So that's right that I am less and less aware of what is new in French lit. I might miss some gems, but hey, there is not enough time to read all the good books, so if I miss a French gem, I hope I'll find translated gem instead!

Jan 9, 7:55 am

>32 raton-liseur: so if I miss a French gem, I hope I'll find translated gem instead

Substitute American for French and that is my sentiment too.

Jan 9, 12:05 pm

I’m late getting to everyone’s threads, Deborah, but I’ve finally starred yours. I’m sure I’ll pick up more than a few book suggestions throughout the year.

Editado: Jan 11, 6:24 pm

Well time to answer all my lovely visitors and post a few reviews. We have been busy packing away stuff, making minor repairs, cleaning, and staging the condo for sale. The photographer came yesterday, and it hits the market tomorrow. We can go back to a certain extent to just living in the condo. Yesterday late afternoon when the photographer left, as we were wondering what to do for dinner, we found at the door a large package from Gold Belly. Our son had sent us a Gold Belly order from Mother's restaurant in New Orleans. It contained the fixings for po'boys (with Mother's famous ham, roast beef, and "debris," as well as wonderful French bread. There was also 4 servings of Mothers jambalaya, red beans and rice, and bread pudding. My office in NO was across the street from Mothers and I would each lunch there about once a week, so this was a real treat. We had the po'boys last night, so either Jambalya or red beans tonight.

>22 rocketjk: Hi Jerry. (another devotee of Mothers Restaurant I'm sure). Thanks for visiting. I actually like buying older (used) books more than new books. I was always finding and adding gems and surprises to my library in the used books stores I frequented in Seattle. Unfortunately, I've not been to many bookstores since covid (and the only bookstores I know about near where I live in Florida are Barnes and Noble's), so most of my book-buying the last couple of years has been of the Kindle variety. Of the three books you mention, I do have The Sellout (a PB edition) on my shelf, but it's currently packed away.
It is perhaps true that there were as many lower quality books in the past. However, I was a voracious reader in the 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's and onward, and I read many, many newly published books in those years, and I can't remember feeling the way I do about books published nowadays. Maybe because I was younger, not as experienced a reader, so more things were new to me, or maybe because the subject matter/themes of newer writers resonated with a younger me.

>23 markon: Thanks Ardene.

>24 labfs39: I read a fair amount of translated lit too Lisa, and I haven't found this to be an issue with the translated works I read. Maybe this is because only the best of the best is chosen for translation, and there's a lot of poor quality in the original language. Anyway, an additional level of winnowing is imposed with translation.

>25 ELiz_M: Liz I mostly choose my books from books I hear about on various lists, LT recommendations, and reviews I read.What usually influences me most in choosing a book is the subject matter/theme--is this a story/character I want to read about? I also will be interested in whether there is something special about the writing, i.e. prose style, literary techniques, anything that sounds original or unusual about the manner of telling, etc. Sometimes just a statement about the setting makes me want to read the book. If mention of "surreal" is made, that usually turns me off, though I have read "surreal" books I like.
I used to read all or almost all the shortlisted Bookers, and most of the long list as well. I stopped several years ago, and now usually only pick up those with a subject matter that interests me. I always look at The Best of the Year lists from the NYT and the WaPo and other such lists, and keep an eye out for those books. I'm not on any social media other than LT, so I get nothing from Facebook, TikTok, Instagram etc.
I think one of my problems is that when I come across a book that interests me, I check it at my library and Amazon. If my library has it, I will usually check it out or put it on hold. If the library doesn't have it, and it's a cheap Kindle deal on Amazon (more frequently than you'd think), I buy it. My eyes have always been bigger than my stomach, so far as books/reading are concerned, so to speak, and I've really got to reinforce to myself that I'm not going to be able to read EVERYTHING--so, speaking to myself, choose more wisely. What I'm going to try to do is when I hear of a book that sounds good/interesting--put it on a list somewhere and don't think about it for a year. Then see if I'm still interested.
To that end I just saw the Millions came out with its list of the most anticipated new books for 2023, so I went there and started reading the list, then told myself, no I'll just wait. Of course if a new book comes out by an author I love, I probably won't wait.

Well I thought I was going to have more time, but I forgot about my Zoom Art History meeting, so I have to go to that. Hopefully I will be back in a few hours to complete this and add a few reviews.

Jan 11, 8:28 pm

>35 arubabookwoman: I agree, Deborah. The translated lit has already been winnowed once or more before it gets to me. I reread my post and should have clarified that American contemporary lit is hit or miss, not translated lit.

Glad you can relax in your condo a bit now that the photos are done. Do you have any leads on where you will go next?

Jan 12, 12:29 pm

Well after the Zoom call the r.e. agent called and I spent the rest of the afternoon with her editing and revising the property description. She's a real bull dog in representing us, but is not a very good writer. To continue:

>26 dchaikin: See my note to Liz in >35 arubabookwoman: Dan. My problem is that I want to and am trying to read EVERYTHING that sounds of the slightest interest to me. I'm just going to have to constantly remind myself I can't do that, and be more selective. I'm going to try to resist new things I hear about for at least a year, and revisit at the end of the year if I still am interested. Of course, if a particular favorite author comes out with something new, I probably will still get to it right away.
I used to read all the Booker Short List nominees, as well as many from the Long List, but somewhere around 5-10 years ago I started to be more selective, and only choose to read those that sound especially appealing to me personally. I find the 1001 List more reliable in finding gems I haven't heard of/read, but of course only a very small portion of those books are contemporary.

>27 Ameise1: Hi Barbara. Happy New Year to you too.

>28 lisapeet: Hi Lisa. I think I've always underestimated the magnitude of any task I've undertaken. I need to be more like you, recognize I can't read EVERYTHING, and become much pickier.

>29 Julie_in_the_Library: Hi Julie. My use of the word "ashamed" was tongue-in-cheek--Who could be ashamed of having too many books? So I did not in any way think you were criticizing me. On the quality issue, I think I've just had some bad luck in selection, and I should be more discerning in what I choose and learn to ignore some of the "bright and shiny" new books that come my way. I think the reason I keep reading new books is that every once in a while a real gem comes my way, so I am in no way saying there are no good books being written nowadays.
I agree that crime and SF can have great quality and literary value. I read a fair amount of each and enjoy those genres very much. The reason I omitted them from my complaint is that I haven't found the decline in quality in my reading of those genres.

>30 ELiz_M: Hi Liz. On my LT library, the "My Library" collection is the books I own. At the moment it is probably overstated because I haven't taken the time to remove the books I got rid of when we left Seattle. I don't have a collection for "To Read," but I tag every unread book in "My Library" as TBR. That way I can search TBR in my library and pull up all the unread books. The "Wishlist" collections is books I want to read, or at least investigate further, regardless of whether I intend to buy them or get them from the library.

>31 BLBera: Some interesting authors Beth. Here's my take on them, for what it's worth. Many years ago my book club read a book by Jennifer Egan (her first I believe). I didn't particularly care for it so I've never sought anything else out by her. Lately I've been hearing a lot of good things about A Visit From the Goon Squad, so I was going to try that at some point soon. Re Jessmyn West, I loved Salvage the Bones, but didn't care for Sing Unburied, Sing. I would read more by her though. I've read all of Emily St. John Mandel's books so far, and she is an author I'd pick up any new books of hers that came out. Years ago I read most of Margaret Atwood's novels published to date. I loved The Handmaid's Tale, but disliked The Testaments. Her more recent fiction (last 10-15 years) has been hit or miss for me. Louise Erdrich is another author who I read several of her books years and years ago. I didn't dislike her, but she didn't really get her hooks in me. Perhaps I should revisit her work. The most recent of her books I have read is The Master Butcher's Singing Club.

>32 raton-liseur: Hi Raton--You are correct--it may be as simple as that the themes/subject matter of many of today's books are no longer of interest to me. I am going to try to be more selective and let newer books "percolate" a while before I try them.

>33 labfs39: Hi Lisa again.

>34 NanaCC: Welcome Colleen. I will be following you too.

>36 labfs39: Lisa You are everywhere! We don't have any specific leads, but it will be a SF house (not a condo) with a nice garden (for us and Dulci our dog). We are focusing on a couple of areas of Tampa closer to the Moffitt Center (15-20 minutes away), or a subdivision in the suburb our son lives in (20-30 minutes from Moffitt). There seems to be a fair amount of inventory in our price range so we have not done much serious looking because we have to sell this place first.

I have completed a few books, so I will try to review them now, so as to be able to say I'm caught up.

Editado: Jan 12, 12:52 pm

Library Book. Started this in December (last year), and finished shortly after the 1st. I had checked it out of the library because I (somewhat surprisingly) enjoyed his newest book Subdivision.

1. Broken River by J. Robert Lennon (2017) 289 pp

The opening pages of this book are narrated from the pov of a ghostly "observer" watching over a house in the middle of the woods in upstate New York. It is the middle of the night and suddenly chaos ensues: a man, woman and small child are grabbing a few things and rushing out the door to their car. They don't make it to the end of the driveway before the man and woman are shot and killed. The child escapes. There passes a period of 12 years as the Observer notes the decay of the house, and its occasional occupation by vagrants and teenage lovers.

Then the house is purchased and renovated and a new family moves in. Karl is a sculptor. His wife Eleanor is a successful writer of "chick-lit"--she "recognizes the essential frivolity of her work, but insists on approaching it with intelligence and a dedication to craft." Their daughter Irina is 12. They have moved to this rural setting from Brooklyn in an attempt to save their marriage which has suffered from Karl's multiple infidelities. Most of the rest of the book is told from the alternating viewpoints of one of these three main characters, with occasional interjections from the Observer, who functions as a kind of Greek chorus.

The focus is on family dynamics, but there is also an underlying crime/thriller element. The double homicide has never been solved. Unbeknownst to her parents, Irina becomes obsessed with the crime and participates in an online forum discussing the crime, Cyber Sleuths. And unknown to Irina, her mother Eleanor is also participating on the forum. Irina is focused on finding out what happened to the child who escaped, and when she meets a teenage girl in town, she convinces herself that this is that child. Through it all the ghostly observer "observes" and comments, and we see things from multiple points of view, and from a bird's eye view.

While it's mostly a quiet novel of a family disintegrating, it is also a psychological thriller, and the last third of the novel, as the crimes from the past begin to invade the present, were as exciting as any thriller I've read recently. It's extremely well-paced and I was compelled to keep turning the pages through-out. Amazon describes it as an "intelligent literary psychological thriller," and one reviewer compared it to a Coen Brothers film. I agree.

3 1/2 stars

First line: "It is a few minutes past one in the morning when the front door slams shut."

Las line: "She chants faster and faster, until she can't take it anymore, and then she laughs until she can barely breathe."

Jan 12, 1:12 pm

From my Kindle. Austrian author. 1001 List.
I chose to read this because it's the January group read of the 1001 Group. Also I read The Post Office Girl at the end of last year and I loved it.

2. Chess Story by Stefan Zweig (1942?) 104 pp

"Anyone who has suffered from a mania remains at risk forever, and with chess sickness (even if cured) it would be better not to go near a chess board."

World chess champion Mirko Czentovic has "the vacant look of a sheep at pasture," but as a monomaniac with no peer at chess, he considers himself the most important person in the world. After all, "isn't it damn easy to think you're a great man if you aren't troubled by the slightest notion that a Rembrandt, Beethoven, Dante, or Napoleon ever existed?"

Czentovic is embarking on a voyage from New York to Buenos Aires to engage in some chess games. One of his fellow passengers is McConnor, a wealthy Scottish engineer, a "self-obsessed big wheel." When McConnor learns that a chess champion is on board, he wants to play, and Czentovic agrees to play McConnor for $250 per game. Our narrator knows that "regardless of the stakes, this fanatically proud man would go on playing Czentovic until he won at least once, even if it cost him his entire fortune."

During the game a third man we know only as Dr. B appears, pale and strange, and very knowledgeable about chess. The heart of the book relates the story of the circumstances under which Dr. B became such an expert in chess.

I'm not a chess player, but there was nothing too technical about chess in this book. Nevertheless, despite the excellent quality of the writing, it was not a book that grabbed me and compelled me to keep reading, which was disappointing since I so loved The Post Office Girl. This is the only book by Zweig in which he directly confronts Nazism (in response to which he and his wife committed suicide in 1942).

3 stars

First line: "On the great passenger liner due to depart New York for Buenos Aires at midnight, there was the usual last minute bustle and commotion."

Last line: "For an amateur, this gentleman is really extraordinarily talented."

Editado: Jan 12, 1:42 pm

>37 arubabookwoman: ” I'm going to try to resist new things I hear about for at least a year, and revisit at the end of the year if I still am interested.”

I have a note on my iPhone called “2023 ideas for reading”. I note books down impulsively, and sometimes the person who inspired the impulse. I usually get to only one or two (or less). Come January 1st I create a new note for the new year and go through my old note to select out the ones I’m still _really_ interested in. 🙂

Editado: Jan 22, 1:53 am

From the Library. Author from Spain

3. Even the Darkest Night by Javier Cercas (2019) 353 pp

"It's true that he took justice into his own hands, but also that there was no other way to get it; it's true that he did not respect the forms of justice, but also true that would have been impossible to get justice by respecting them....Should his crime go unpunished for that reason?"

Described as a crime novel (Cercas's first attempt at writing a pure crime novel, and the first of a series), this book is that, but it is also more. As the book opens, Melchor Marin is coming to the end of his night shift as a detective in the police department of small town Terra Alta when he is notified of a horrific double murder. The victims are an elderly couple, the wealthiest in town and owners of the business that employs many of the town's residents. Over the course of the novel, as Melchor works on solving the crime we get his backstory, which is interesting indeed. The novel is full of literary references, and Melchor is influenced in particular by Les Miserables. There is a lot of pondering of big questions of justice and revenge, and whether Inspector Javert is a "good" guy or a "bad" guy in his pursuit of Jean Valjean. The location is important too, as Terra Alta is where the Battle of the Ebro took place in 1938 during the Spanish Civil War.

As I was reading it, I found that it moved very slowly, at least for a crime novel. But it really is much more, and as I thought about it afterwards, it has really resonated with me. It won the prestigious Spanish literary award Premio Planeta for 2019.

3 1/2 stars

First Line: "Melchor is still in his office simmering on the low flame of his own impatience waiting for the night shift to end when the phone rings."

Last Line: "'Home,' Melchor says, 'To Terra Alta.'"

Jan 12, 1:51 pm

>40 dchaikin: That's a good idea--to have them all in one place. Right now I'm noting things all over the place, and usually end up losing half of them (which may be why I tend to just go ahead and borrow or buy the book). Now I will have to figure out how to make a note on my iphone. Not that I'm technologically challenged or anything.

Jan 12, 1:59 pm

>37 arubabookwoman: "My problem is that I want to and am trying to read EVERYTHING that sounds of the slightest interest to me."

I like to read all kinds of eclectic books across many eras. Sometimes when people ask, "Why are you reading that?" I'll say, "It was on the list." And if they ask, "What list?" I'll say, "I'm trying to read every interesting book ever written." And they usually laugh, as they should. I just don't worry about how many new books or old books or novels or histories I read. Anyway, that's just how I do it. To each his/her/their own!

Jan 12, 2:07 pm

Library book. SF thriller read for pure entertainment and distraction. It worked--devoured this in one day.

4. Upgrade by Blake Crouch (2022) 341 pp

"We were a bunch of primates who had gotten together and, against all odds, built a wondrous civilization. But, paradoxically--tragically--our creation's complexity had now far outstripped our brains' ability to manage it."

Our protagonist is Logan Ramsey, son of infamous scientist Miriam Ramsey, whose genetically altered insects caused a worldwide famine that killed millions twenty or so years prior to the novel's opening. The world still suffers from chronic food shortages. All scientific research into gene editing is now illegal in most countries, and Logan works for a new federal law enforcement agency searching out and arresting scientists illegally doing genetics research, the GPA (Gene Protection Agency). When as a result of a raid gone bad it appears that Logan's own genome has been hacked and he is being genetically altered, this thriller takes off.

This was a quick fun read, I kept turning the pages, and finished it in one day. There was a tad bit too much fighting and killing for my taste, and a tad too little of the actual science, but it did the trick of entertaining and distracting, and if that's what you're looking for I recommend it.

3 stars

First line: "We found Henryk Soren at a wine bar in the international terminal, thirty minutes from boarding a hyperjet to Tokyo."

Last line: "What do you call a heart that is simultaneously full and breaking? Maybe there's no word for it, but for some reason, it makes me think of rain falling through sunlight."

Jan 12, 2:37 pm

>43 rocketjk: Since I don't start a book unless it "interests" me I think I'm going to have to come up with degrees of interest: very, very interested, very interested, interested, slightly interested, etc. and choose accordingly. Knowing me, everything might still end up in the very, very interested category.

Editado: Jan 12, 3:09 pm

That concludes reviews of books I have completed to date. My reading has been very scattered for the past week or so and I think I am in the middle of too many books for too many projects. Here is what I am currently reading:

The Pillar of Salt by Albert Memmi 30% complete--for Africa challenge
The Barbary Figs by Rachid Boudjedra--20% complete--for Africa challenge
A Savage War of Peace by Alistair Horne--started--for Africa challenge
The Marne by Edith Wharton-for Litsy Wharton buddy read 50% read
Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro-40% complete--Library Book--1001 List and Nobelist
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe 55% complete-1001 List-I will finish this altho' I'm not enjoying it (subject matter) in order to check one off the list

These are library books I've read a fair amount of but am considering abandoning:
Days in the History of Silence by Merethe Lindstrom-read 42%, renewed twice, hard to make myself pick it up
LaDivine by Marie NDiaye read 20%-have never read her before and feel I should. It's okay so far, but I have many others I think I should get to first

The other library books I have out and would like to get to (but probably can't get to them all):

"Important Books"
Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah Nobel
Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark 1001
What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt 1001 (but I've tried to read this twice before and failed)

NF Library Books
Birding Without Borders by Noah Strycker--not a birder but my daughter is, and I like reading about them
In Love a Memoir by Amy Bloom-memoir of death of her husband
Careless People by Sarah Churchwell (and the invention of The Great Gatsby)

Crime Library Books
Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey--a classic
The Fifth Woman by Henning Mankell--like his books
The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith--never tried this series
Bedelia by Vera Caspary--classic crime
The Night Shift by Alex Finlay--this is probably a candidate to return unread
Small Game by Blair Braverman ditto

Bright and Shiny new fiction Library Books
Lessons by Ian McEwan--have liked most of what I've read by him
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin--there are rave reviews of this everywhere

In January I would also like to read for Litsy Latin America challenge The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey (Trinidad). I also need to read News of the World by Paulette Jiles for the Litsy Monthly Postal Book Club.

And, I would like to read The Bostonians by Henry James and Roughing It by Susanna Moodie for the first quarter Victorian reads

What do you think--any of the possibilities I should definitely read, or definitely not read?

Jan 12, 3:17 pm

I feel that "must read everything that interests me" 100%. I must say that, first, I have long decided not to analyze, excuse, justify or otherwise spend inordinate amount of time meta-ing about that--I decided that's just how I am. Some people play chess incessantly, some people obsess over climbing mountains, some people collect stamps, and I'm of the some people who need books almost like we need water.

So then there are consequences to this, which means I acquire books as fast and furiously as I can, which means I currently have far more books than I can reasonably expect to read in my projected remaining lifetime--but this is actually an advantage without price, the real luxury of the thing--because it means CHOICE.

Jan 12, 3:25 pm

>46 arubabookwoman:

Fwiw, I didn't care much for the NDiaye I read, "Three strong women". Some parts were better than others but overall not a writer I feel compelled to take up again.

Bedelia I think is average at best as a crime pulp, but if you get the Feminist Press edition, the intro and the afterword place it in an interesting light (to me more interesting than the story was).

Jan 12, 3:34 pm

The only one I've read is Paradise, and I thought it good not great. I plan to read his Afterlives for the African Challenge.

Jan 12, 6:01 pm

I loved both Girls of Slender Means and What I Loved, but if the Hustvedt has never grabbed you, maybe you can skip it?

Jan 12, 10:48 pm

>47 LolaWalser: fun post. You're reading a lot of cool stuff, and that's a really nice library selection.

Jan 13, 1:04 am

>39 arubabookwoman: I liked that one very much. It was a five star for me.

Jan 13, 8:30 am

Oh, me too on "My problem is that I want to and am trying to read EVERYTHING that sounds of the slightest interest to me."

One way I am trying to deal with this is to get less caught up in the buzzy books of the moment. I think that professional book reviewers can get jaded and so they end up liking/recommending things which are a little bit different from the norm, but which probably are not books which will stand the test of time.

I have also read a few recent books which take science fiction elements and put them into a more "literary" story and have been well-reviewed, but actually they aren't that special if you are used to science fiction. One example of this is The Wall by John Lanchester where the world-building was really poor.

I am trying to only add to my wishlist books where the recommender says enough about them for me to judge whether our tastes are likely to coincide. That said of course there is always the serendipity of starting something that you don’t think is for you, and it turning out to be great! What a dilemma....

Jan 13, 8:46 am

>53 wandering_star: I imagine professional book reviewers need a heroic sense of continual optimism. (I liked the first half of The Wall a lot)

Jan 13, 11:49 am

>53 wandering_star: I have also read a few recent books which take science fiction elements and put them into a more "literary" story and have been well-reviewed, but actually they aren't that special if you are used to science fiction.

You said it better than I could think it.

My TBR is much larger than I could read and I keep adding to it. It gives me options when I can't think what to read next. I do try not to buy something if I'm not planning to read it right away, but a sale sometimes sneaks something by me.

Jan 14, 8:05 pm

>37 arubabookwoman: I need to be more like you, recognize I can't read EVERYTHING, and become much pickier.
Well... I talk a good game. I think I'm OK on the first part of that, but I'm seduced on the regular by glowing reviews, and end up plowing through my share of "meh"s. But it's a good aspiration!

Jan 14, 8:31 pm

>54 dchaikin: I imagine professional book reviewers need a heroic sense of continual optimism. Very true!

Fev 1, 3:04 pm

Well I was supposed to be on my way to Austin to see my mother today, but I rescheduled to next week due to the ice storms and bad weather there. So I will try to catch up on LT instead.

>47 LolaWalser: I love this attitude about the many books on my shelf that I am interested in but that in reality, given my age, I will not be able to read each and every one--they give me CHOICES. They are not obligations--they are choices. (Now if only I could be more selective in making my choices so that I am not constantly starting a book, then getting distracted by some other book that looks more interesting. I'm not abandoning those books exactly, but sometimes when I pick them up again, it's been so long I have to start all over again.)

>48 LolaWalser: And LaDivine by Marie NDiaye was returned to the library unfinished. It never really grabbed me. And I ended up not even starting Bedelia--there were too many other books that were more appealing.

>49 labfs39: I finished Paradise, and like you I thought it was good, but not great. I have Afterlives out of the library now. Did you end up reading it? I'm not sure if I'll get to it before it's due back. Of the books by Gurnah I've read, I think By the Sea is the one I've liked the best.

>50 BLBera: I did read and loved Girls of Slender Means, so now I've ended up checking another Muriel Spark out of the library to read in February. I returned What I Loved unopened, deciding that I didn't want to try to force myself (a 3d or 4th time) to read it. I may end up trying again in the future since I think it's on the 1001 list.

>51 dchaikin: Hi Dan--I was surprised at how many of the books Ilisted in>46 arubabookwoman: I ended up reading, though I still had to return a lot of them to the library unread. Report to follow.

>52 Ameise1: Hi Barbara--It wasn't quite a 5 star read for me--probably 5 star in how well it was written, just not 5 star in how much I enjoyed it. I've now read 3 books by Zweig, and I think my favorite so far is The Post Office Girl.

>53 wandering_star: That's very good advice--try to get less caught up with the buzzy books of the moment--and that's what I'm trying to do, although not always successfully. I agree with you about The Wall by John Lanchester. But I chose to read The Wall not for the SF elements, but because I had previously read 2 books by him that I loved: Mr. Phillips and Capital. I liked both of those books enough that I will probably pick up anything new he comes out with.

>54 dchaikin: Dan if you liked The Wall lot, as I said above I've read two other books by that author that I loved and would recommend them. Nothing like The Wall though. (Mr. Phillips and Capital

>55 markon: Hi Ardene--as Lola said above I need to begin thinking of my TBR shelves not as obligations but as choices.

>56 lisapeet:--Yes it's true. No matter how picky I try to be, or how much I think I'm going to like a book based on its description, review or recommendation, I'm still hitting my fair share of "meh" books.

Report on JANUARY reading (see >46 arubabookwoman:) I was surprised at how much of these "plans" got accomplished:
Re "currently reading":
Finished Pillar of Salt, The Marne, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
Still Reading: The Barbary Figs, Lives of Girls and Women, Days in the History of Silence
Put aside: A Savage War of Peace
Abandoned: LaDivine

Re "important books":
Finished Paradise, Girls of Slender Means
Returned What I Loved

Re NF:
Finished Birding Without Borders, In Love
Returned Careless People

Re Crime Books:
Finished The Night Shift
Returned the rest, but I bought as cheap Kindle deals to read later The Cuckoo's Calling and The Fifth Woman

Re "bright and shiny" books:
Bought Lessons with Audible credit
Returned Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Other January plans: Didn't get to a Latin American read (White Woman on a Green Bicycle), Read News of the World

I started The Bostonians for the Victorian read, and also randomly stated Clarissa.

Overall January was a good reading month. I read 15 books, 13 fiction and only 2 nonfiction. I read one Nobelist (Gurnah, who I've read before), and 3 books on the 1001 list. I read one book from North Africa, kept up with the Litsy Wharton Buddy read, and read my Litsy Postal Book Club Book.

Editado: Fev 1, 3:17 pm

February Plans:

Lusitone Africa
My choices are limited to what's on my Kindle, so I plan to read a book by Agualusa, A General Theory of Oblivion. I plan to read The Age of Innocence for the Litsy Wharton read. I hope to get to a new (to me) Nobelist, Olga Tokarczuk, as I have 3 of her books on my Kindle. I will try once again to read a book from Latin America, probably White Woman on a Green Bicycle.

The books I have out of the library now to choose from are:
Haven by Emma Donoghue
Life Without Children by Roddy Doyle
The Bachelors by Muriel Spark
Drifts by Kate Zambreno
Afterlives by Gurnah
Days in the History of Silence
Compartment No. 6 by Rosa Liksom
Story of a Brief Marriage by Arudpragasam
The Privileges by Jonathan Dee
Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro

Also, I need to get back to Rougon-Macquart. Next up for me is The Dream. And I want to start Faulkner's Snopes Trilogy. And continue The Bostonians and Clarissa.

These are also a few 1001 books lined up on my Kindle:

Love in the Time of Cholera
Waiting for the Barbarians
Red Cavalry
Billy Liar
Promise at Dawn
Forest of the Hanged
Hangover Square
He Knew He Was Right
Prime of MIss Jean Brodie

Choices, choices!

Fev 1, 3:32 pm

>59 arubabookwoman: I thought my plans were ambitious, but I love yours! And you have such a great list to choose from!

Editado: Fev 1, 3:50 pm

Now a few reviews:

Library Book:

5. In Love by Amy Bloom (2022) 241 pp
Subtitle: A Memoir of Love and Loss

In 2019, writer Amy Bloom's husband Brian was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. With hindsight, it was obvious that he had been dealing with Alzheimer's for several years prior to the diagnosis. Within a few days after being diagnosed, Brian decided he did not want "the long goodbye" of Alzheimer's and began to plan to end his life on his terms. In the US, there are 9 "right to die" states which permit assisted suicide. However, in none of these states would the right to die be available for an Alzheimer's patient: The prerequisites require certification that the individual has only a short time to live (usually less than 6 months; Alzheimer's patients usually have years left). In addition, the individual must be certified competent to make the decision to die, and by the time the Alzheimer's patient has only a short time to live, they are no longer competent to make the decision to die.***

Amy found a Swiss organization, Dignitas, which helps people in such circumstances through an "accompanied" suicide. There is a lengthy and in-depth screening process, and many opportunities to change your mind and withdraw during the process.

This book details Amy and Brian's journey to Brian's ultimate death in the Zurich apartment of Dignitas. It also gives flashbacks to their life together prior to Alzheimer's, and then how Alzheimer's began to affect them. It was poignant and touching to read, but it was not emotionally manipulative. My one criticism would be that it was not particularly in-depth either in its discussion as to how and why Brian came to this decision, nor as to any of the medical aspects of Alzheimer's. Instead, it was more of a relationship story.

3 stars

First line: "This trip to Zurich is a new, not quite normal version of something Brian and I love: traveling."
Last line: "I whisper to him, Everyday of my life, and he whispers to me, Everyday of my life."

***Coincidentally shortly after I read this my husband was watching the movie Still Alice starring Julianne Moore, also about Alzheimer's. I was struck by the scene in which she wrote herself a note on her computer about where to find some pills to commit suicide with once she could not longer function. Her later self, now not able to function well, finds the note, finds the pills, but is interrupted before she can take them. It was such a poignant scene.

Editado: Abr 21, 12:10 pm

>60 raton-liseur: I would hesitate to call them plans, since I will probably accomplish less than half of them. So it's really just to set out some of my "choices" for the month.

Another library book. A crime novel, "cotton candy" read:

6. The Night Shift by Alex Finlay (2022) 312 pp

This is a psychological thriller with two sets of crimes taking place years apart. On New Year's Eve in 1999, several teenage employees at a Blockbuster Video store are brutally murdered at closing time. One teenage employee, Ella, survives. Vince, a young man is suspected of the murders, and arrested. After he is released on bail, however, he disappears, and is never heard from again.

Fifteen years later, a similar horrific crime takes place. Several teenage employees of an ice cream parlor are murdered at closing time. One teenage girl, Jessie, survives, but she will talk only to Ella, survivor of the first crime, now a psychotherapist.

The book focuses on Ella, Jessie, and Chris, an attorney, who is the younger brother of Vince, suspect in the first crime. Has Vince returned, and has he committed another crime? Chris wants to prove Vince's innocence of both crimes. Also investigating the crime is FBI Agent Sarah Keller, who is looking into whether there has been police miscondcut.

This was a well-constructed page-turner with a complex plot and lots of twists and turns. There were a many victims and potential perpetrators to keep track of, and all play an important part. While the prose is pretty straight-forward (even simple), it does the job, and kept me reading. I especially liked that there were no inconsistencies or illogical occurrences in the plot. So this one is recommended.

3 stars

First line: "The night was expected to bring tragedy."
Last line: "The camera turns off, then back on, showing a sea of young kids chasing after the sound of a rattling motor scooter."

Fev 1, 4:17 pm

Another library book. I'm not a birder, but one of my daughters is, and I enjoy reading books about birders, especially obsessive birders.

7. Birding Without Borders by Noah Strycker (2017) 351 pp
Subtitle: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World

Noah Strycker decided to undertake what is known as a Big Year in Birder parlance, in this case a Big World Year. He would travel the world for a year and attempt to see 5000 different bird species, about half of the world's total bird species. He mapped out a rigorous itenerary starting on New Year's Day in Antarctica, spending a few months traversing South and Central America, some time in North America, then across the Atlantic to Europe (with a quick stop in Iceland), from Europe to Africa (with a stop in Dubai) before heading to India and other parts of Asia, and ending the year in Australia. The book is a travelogue of sorts, as well as a birding memoir. It's not a spoiler to say that he more than met his goal, and the appendix lists, for those who are interested, every one of the bird species he saw.

He does a decent job of not turning the book into a monotonous check list of birds he saw (though it does kind of devolve into that towards the end). There's a bit of birding history thrown in--it's a surprisingly hazardous occupation with a disproportionate number of birders dying in car accidents or plane crashes, or being kidnapped or murdered by hostile groups in the wilds of foreign countries. Strycker ended up visiting 41 countries on all 7 continents during his big year on a fairly cheap budget. I think the book would interest non-birders for a glimpse at what traveling the world off the beaten path can look like.


3 stars

First line: "On New Year's Day, superstitious bird watchers like to say, the very first bird you see is an omen for the future."
Last line: "In the morning the New Year would bring a fresh dawn chorus to one of Earth's most diverse forests, and I would be out there, looking for birds."

Fev 1, 4:32 pm

Library Book 1001 List

8. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Silitoe (1958) 258 pp

"I'm me and nobody else; and whatever people think I am or say I am, that's what I'm not, because they can't know a bloody thing about me."

It's shortly after the end of World War II; Arthur is a worker at a Nottingham factory, still living at home, biding his time until the weekends. He spends his evenings at the pub, and is having sex with Brenda, the wife of one of his friends at the factory who works the night shift. He chooses married women because he knows they will make no demands on him. As I was reading this, I was struck by how much Arthur reminded me of Michael Caine's Alfie. Of course, the good times can't last forever.

And despite Arthur's perception of "good times," Silitoe does a masterful job of showing us the limitations of the dead end lives of the working class in Great Britain after the war. This was his debut novel (made into a well-regarded movie starring Albert Finley), and we are made to see the disillusionment and lack of opportunities facing the young working class, even if, like Arthur, they don't recognize it themselves. Recommended.

3 1/2 stars

Fev 1, 4:46 pm

Another library book, Another 1001 book

9. The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark (1963) 146 pp

This short novel presents us with a slice of life in bombed out London shortly after the end of World War II for a group of young women living at the May of Teck Club, a sort of boarding home for "Ladies of Slender Means below the age of Thirty Years, who are obliged to reside apart from their families in order to follow an Occupation in London." We follow the lives of Jane Wright, who is fat, but does "brainwork," Anne Baberton, owner of the Schiaparelli gown shared among the girls, Joanna Childe, teacher of elocution, Selena Redwood, "the only woman present who could afford to loll, the three spinsters, Collie, Greggie, and Jarvis's, and several others. There is a "before and after" in this book, and the story alternates between the two. Spark's writing is witty and precise--the bombed out houses were like "giant teeth in which decay had been drilled out, leaving only the cavity," and the book conveys a great sense of time and place. I liked this book very much.

4 stars

First line: "Long ago in 1945 all the nice people in England were poor, allowing for exceptions."
Last line: "Nicholas marveled at her stamina, recalling her in this image years later in the country of his death--how she stood, sturdy and bare-legged on the dark grass, occupied with her hair--as if this was an image of all the May of Teck establishment in its meek, unselfconscious attitudes of poverty, long ago in 1945.

Fev 1, 4:50 pm

Off my Kindle. For Litsy Wharton Buddy Read

10. The Marne by Edith Wharton (1918) 136 pp

Sometimes being a completist is not good. This is the first book I've read by Wharton, one of my favorite authors, about which I can honestly say no one needs bother reading. This story of a young american boy/man and his experiences during WW I was apparently written as war propaganda, and it shows. Please avoid.

1 star

Fev 1, 6:20 pm

>66 arubabookwoman: You and Dan both disliked it so much that I'm curious, but not enough to read it.

>59 arubabookwoman: I loved One Hundred Years of Solitude and went through a phase where I read several other books by GGM. I hated Love in the Time of Cholera. I read it pre-LT, so I can't give details unfortunately, but I will be curious to see if my youthful self was off the mark or not, if you get to it.

Editado: Fev 1, 8:01 pm

>59 arubabookwoman: I don't think Red Calvary is on the 1001 list.

Out of the four Auster novels I've read, I liked Invisible the best, but I don't remember a thing about it nine years later. Forest of the Hanged was a bit uneven, but it did provide a representation of a front of WWI that I didn't know anything about. Billy Liar sounds similar to SN&SM, but probably more fun.

Fev 1, 11:10 pm

>59 arubabookwoman:

If you haven't read Patrick Hamilton before, you have a treat coming.

And I would definitely read Red Cavalry regardless of list status, Babel is one of the greatest among the greats.

Editado: Fev 1, 11:50 pm

>13 baswood: >1 arubabookwoman: I >15 japaul22: don’t agree that the quality of contemporary fiction is declining; I think we are exposed to more fiction because of advances in technology and the embracing of diversity. I agree with japaul22 that we are exposed to more novels from non-English speaking countries.I also think that it’s a lot more competitive for writers out there now, and so some try different structural techniques, some work and some manage to attract attention that they don’t merit.

>13 baswood: I really liked Emma Donague’s Room and Ishiguro’s Never Let Go. Both of these are about unpleasant and evil events so I understand your lack of positivity.

Fev 3, 1:21 pm

>59 arubabookwoman: of those 1001 books, i’ve read the and last and really enjoyed both. (But not everyone does! Love in the Time of Cholera seems a divider 🙂)

>65 arubabookwoman: oh, terrific. Spark…she was special novelist.

>66 arubabookwoman: yep…

Fev 3, 3:02 pm

>62 arubabookwoman: Got a BB with this thriller! However, your link is pointing to Stephen King's Nightshift rather than the book you reviewed.

Fev 5, 4:05 pm

>65 arubabookwoman: Our book club read The Girls of Slender Means last summer—great book and a really fun discussion.

Mar 17, 10:43 pm

Hi Deborah! I slipped over to Club Read just to see what was going on, and found your thread. I love my friends on 75 books, but the chatter is getting to me, so it was really lovely to read a thread about BOOKS.

I've read quite a few of the books you and others here discuss, many of them in what I call 'the before times' - before LT, that is. Concerning contemporary novels, I hold with the idea that we are too close to the noise to necessarily pick out the best of the bunch, and too along in our lives to put up with the dross.

As for reading everything, yeah, I've tried that, and it doesn't work. I'm in the process of weeding my bookshelves of the books I won't read, the books I've read and have no intention of rereading, the books I can get on Kindle (no space issues, hurrah!) and those I can find at the library. I finally got up some steam for the effort by thinking of what else I might do with my limited space. So I will read what nourishes, entertains, and (I hope) enlightens me, and try not to worry about what I might miss.

I don't have a thread here in this group, but I'll visit from time to time. Good luck with your relocation in Florida.

Mar 18, 4:41 pm

>74 ffortsa: Hope you do more than visit - it looks as if you'd fit right in!

Abr 21, 12:52 pm

Well I've been away from my own thread 2 1/2 months (though I've actually been keeping up with everyone else's threads), so time to jump back in, rather than waiting until October or so and then trying to write reviews for the whole year in a couple of months.

Instead of being on LT, I've been doing a LOT of hand sewing over the past couple of months (English Paper Piecing a hexagon quilt), and several weeks ago I started noticing some symptoms in my hand that have gotten progressively worse, and which according to Google track perfectly with carpal tunnel syndrome. So I am taking a bit of a break from sewing (which is killing me), wearing a brace, at least at night, and if things don't improve I will have to check with a doctor.

>67 labfs39: The problem with The Marne is that Wharton is ordinarily such a wonderful writer, and I would recommend almost anything by her, but this one is sheer propaganda.
I've read many of Marquez's books, and my favorite is (One Hundred Years of Solitude), but I still haven't gotten to Love in the Time of Cholera.

>68 ELiz_M: I still haven't gotten to Red Calvary, but it will work for the Nobelist group even if it's not on the 1001 list. I also still haven't gotten to the other three you mention (Forest of the Hanged, Invisible, or Billy Liar). They're still waiting patiently on my Kindle while I dally around around with less worthy library books.

>69 LolaWalser: I have read one book by Patrick Hamilton, Slaves of Solitude, which I loved and which is why two other of his books are waiting on my shelf. I'm still trying to get to Babel too.

>70 kjuliff: Hi and thanks for visiting. The question of whether there's a decline in contemporary literature continues. I agree there's still a lot of good stuff out there, but I'm also finding some pretty poor stuff--maybe just my poor choices. I've loved several of Ishiguro's books, but didn't care for Never Let Me Go. But that was a personal preference, and it wasn't one I would include as an example of a decline in quality.

>71 dchaikin: Good to know Dan. I still haven't gotten to them, but hope springs eternal....I agree with you re Spark. My favorite of hers is Momento Mori, which I read years ago, but which might resonate with me more now that I'm so ancient (the ages of the characters in that book).

>72 nancyewhite: Thanks, I fixed the link. I usually try to be aware of the quirks of LT in which books it links to because that's something that really annoys me (a link to the wrong book). I actually have another thriller by Finlay out of the library now.

>73 lisapeet: Hi LIsa. I think it would be a fun book to discuss.

>74 ffortsa: Hi Judy. I agree with you about all the chatter in the 75 group. It's so difficult to keep up. I'm still following the threads of a number of people there (including yours) even if I'm not posting on my thread. But I sometimes find it annoying to go on a thread finding myself behind 52 messages to find that 50 of the messages say "happy new thread."
I'm actually coming to NYC soon to visit new granddaughter Flora Jane. I will PM you about a possible meet up.
And I agree with >75 SassyLassy:--You might consider a thread over here. You'd be a great addition to the group.

>75 SassyLassy: Hi Sassy. Agreed! (see above).

Editado: Abr 21, 3:07 pm

Before trying to catch up on reviews, I thought I'd first report on my purchases so far in 2023. Most, but unfortunately not all, were cheap Kindle deals:

1. The Belton Estate by Trollope
2. The Golden Ass by Apuleius 1001
3. Laidlaw by William McIlvanney Scottish noir
4. The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting LT rec.
5. Nights of Plague by Orhan Pamuk
6. Mosquitos by Faulkner
7. The Plotters by Un-su Kim
8. In Dubious Battle by Steinbeck
9. The She-Devil in the Mirror by Horacio Castellanos Moya
10. Love's Shadow by Ada Leverson
11. Lessons by Ian McEwan
12. The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
13. The Last Million by David Nasaw NF
14. Promise at Dawn by Romain Gary 1001
15. The Prime Minister by Trollope Palliser series
16. To Calais, In Ordinary Time by James Meek
17. The Doctor's Wife by M.E. Braddon
18. Une Vie: A Woman's Life by Guy de Maupassant 1001
19. Familiar: A Novel by J. Robert Lennon
20. Embroidering Her Truth by Clare Hunter
21. To Paradise by Yanagihara
22. Ida Brandt by Herman Bang
23. The Mother's Recompense by Wharton
24. Letters of Note: Music by Shaun Usher
25. Beyond this Point Are Monsters by Margaret Millar
26. Hospital by Han Song
27. Don Quixote by Cervantes
28. One Pot Cooking For Two
29. Mozart in the Jungle by Blair Tindall
30. The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West
31. All the Beauty in the World by Patrick Bringley NF
32. O Fallen Angel by Kate Zambreno
33. Screen Test: Stories by Kate Zambreno
34. A Heart So White by Javier Marias
35. The Coming by Joe Haldeman
36. An Island by Karen Jennings
37. The Return by Cardoso
38. The Philosopher's Pupil by Iris Murdoch
39. Women: Our Story by DK}
40. The Island of the Day Before by Eco
41. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
42. Flags in the Dust by Faulkner
43. An American Tragedy by Dreiser for reread
44. Palladio by Jonathan Dee
45. The Corn King and the Spring Queen by Mitchison
46. Thus Bad Begins by Javier Marias
47. Sweet Dreams by Michael Frayn
48. The Inside of the Cup by Winston Churchhill (not THAT WC)
49. Just A Mother by Roy Jacobsen Vol. 4 of the Baroy Trilogy, now Baroy Quartet
50. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
51. The Checquer Board by Nevil Shute
52. The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War by Jeff Sharlet NF
53. The Man in the Iron Mask by Dumas
54. Keys to the Kitchen by Mollenkamp
55. Once a Month Cooking
56. Loop Tracks by Sue Orr
57. Art That Changed the World
58. The Coral Bones by E.J. Swift
59. Dracula by Bram Stoker
60. Kaffe Fassett's Timeless Themes
61. Faulkner: A Biography by Joseph Blotner
62. Lucky Per by Henrik Pontoppidan Nobel
63. The Peasants: Autumn by Reymont Nobel

Unfortunately, I haven't read any of these so far, except for:
Lessons in Chemistry which was barely ok, and which I had to read for a book club in my building which I just joined, but since it consists of mostly snowbirds, the book club will end next month.
The Prime Minister by Trollope which I got from Audible is the next to last in the Palliser series, and I had been listening to it while sewing. I am about half way through.

Editado: Abr 21, 1:41 pm

Now for a few reviews. Next is a Library Book. The author is a Nobelist, and I have read other books by him. This one was not my favorite of those I've read by him.

11. Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah (1994) 251 pp

This is Gurnah's second novel, but the first to be published in the U.S. At the age of 12, Yusuf is taken by the man he knows as Uncle Aziz to work as a sort of indentured servant to secure his father's debts. He never sees his family again. Over the years he interacts and observes many people of the various cultures and factions vying for control in the colonial east Africa of the time, including Muslims, Indian merchants, European settlers, and even German soldiers as WW I approaches. He also accompanies "Uncle Aziz" on a trading safari into the deepest interior wilderness. Interspersed with Yusuf's story, we learn a lot about the superstitions of the various cultures, and of many of the folktales prevalent in the area.
I have read a couple of other books by Gurnah, and this is not his best. As basically a coming of age story, I expected to feel more empathy for Yusuf, yet I felt distanced from him. I found parts interesting, but this was not a book that particularly moved me.

First Line: "The boy first. His name was Yusuf, and he left his home suddenly during his twelfth year."

Last line: "He glanced around quickly and then ran after the column with smarting eyes.

3 stars

Editado: Abr 21, 1:41 pm

I am still reviewing books I read in January, and this next book is one I read in January for the year-long Africa challenge (January--North Africa). This one is from Tunisia:

12. Pillar of Salt by Albert Memmi (1953) 352 pp

"I am dying through having turned back to look at my own self. It is forbidden to see oneself, and I have reached the end of discovering myself. God turned Lot's wife into a pillar of salt--is it possible for me to survive my contemplation of myself.?"

I had originally thought this was a memoir, but it is actually an autobiographical novel, the coming of age story of a Tunisian Jew. The story of Alexandre Mordekhai Benillouche starts in a poverty-stricken ghetto alley. His father is a leather-worker and his mother is an illiterate Berber. He is the oldest of many children. He does excel at school however, and he wins a scholarship to the French high school. At high school he is ashamed of both his poverty and his Jewishness. He sees himself as a combinations of Jewish, Arabic, African and European, but not accepted anywhere. He becomes one who feels at home nowhere, with no one. "I was doomed forever to be an outsider in my own native city." He is conflicted, and, "...saw clearly that my cutting myself off entirely from my own original background did not necessarily allow me to enter any other group." He viewed himself as on the fence "between two civilizations," as well as feeling caught between two classes. He thinks, "Faced with the impossible problem of joining the two parts of myself, I made up my mind to choose one of them. Between the East and the West, between the African superstitions and philosophy, between our dialect and the French language, I now had to choose."
The book moves us from Alexandre's somewhat idyllic (though poverty-stricken) childhood, through his conflicted years of schooling, and ends shortly after the end of WW II, during which he spent time in German work camps with other Tunisian Jews. This was an interesting and moving look into a culture I knew little about.

3 stars

Editado: Abr 21, 1:47 pm

I read this for the Litsy Monthly Postal Book Club. It wasn't chosen by me.

13. News of the World by Paulette Jiles (2016) 209 pp

Captain Kidd is a news reader who travels around Texas reading the news to a paying audience shortly after the end of the Civil War. After one such reading he is approached by some fellow itinerants who have rescued a 10 year old settler girl who had been living with the Kiowa who had killed her family and kidnapped her. Captain Kidd is engaged to deliver the young girl, Johanna, back to her relatives near San Antonio. Johanna is at first hostile, since she has been with the Kiowa for 4 years, and views them as her family. This is the story of the journey of Johanna and Captain Kidd, who has tragedies in his past as well, and of the dangers they have to contend with on the journey.

The historical setting is interesting and well-done. The years succeeding the end of the Civil War, were unsettled, particularly in states like Texas that were still largely undeveloped. Although the war is over, there is still a lot of conflict and wildly divergent political views on the path forward (maybe somewhat like our own times). I was also interested in the depiction of Captain Kidd's profession as a news reader, particularly as he analyzes, contemplates, and chooses what news would best suit the particular audience he is reading to (again maybe like some of our current day news sources). It was interesting to read, as Captain Kidd narrates to his audience, some of the news of the day--the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, the first professional baseball team, the Franco-Prussian war.

What I didn't like about the book was the ending. If felt like the author had the need to tie everything up in a happily-ever-after neat ending, like a made for TV movie. I'm not sure what would have been a more honest or realistic ending. I mostly enjoyed reading the book, but the ending made me feel like I'd been cheated, and that the rest of the book was as unreal and "made-up" as the ending.

2 1/2 stars

Abr 21, 1:52 pm

Library Book. I'm becoming a convert to books written by Jonathan Dee.

14. Sugar Street by Jonathan Dee (1922) 224 pp

The unnamed narrator arrives in an unnamed city, having ditched everything that might identify him or make him traceable--his phone, his car, his driver's license. All he has is an envelope full of cash, $165,000 more or less, which he calculates is enough to last him until he is no more. He rents an apartment. on the second floor above his landlord, and begins living a modest life. He continues to be careful to avoid places and transactions which might lead to his being identified--no shopping at chain stores, or walking on streets where there might be cameras. His only activity is watching the kids, many of them immigrants, pass by on their way to and from school. We the readers are left wondering: Why is he hiding? What did he do? Will he ever go back to his old life?

These questions, and the excellent quality of the writing, were enough to keep me engaged and reading. This is a character study in which the main character is not just escaping something, he wants to totally disappear, as if he never existed. There is a healthy dose of social commentary here, about the ills of our current society, but also a bit of dark humor. (Two examples: "Nothing escapes the world's attention like a poor person." and "If white people had a tombstone, it would read, 'They Stopped At Nothing.'") I really enjoyed reading this (enough that I've gone on to read two more books by this author), though I do feel the "big reveal" implicitly promised by the underlying premise was a bit of a letdown.

First Line: "The American Interstate Highway system. Wonder of the twentieth century world."

Last Line: "From up close he looks nothing like me at all."

3 stars

Editado: Abr 21, 2:07 pm

A Library Book:

15. Airframe by Michael Crichton (2011) 448 pp

This was a suspenseful, fast-paced page-turner. I haven't read anything by Michael Crichton for many years, but I really enjoyed this. There is lots of information and technical details about airplanes--how they're built, tested and maintained--and although this is about the investigation of a mid-air "incident" it made me a little less fearful of flying.

In the book, there is an incident of midair "turbulence" which results in several deaths and many injuries, as well as extensive damage to the plane. The plane's manufacturer must quickly investigate if it wants to save a large potential sale of its planes to China. There is also a subplot involving corporate intrigue and back-stabbing (not as interesting as main plot). And our main protagonist (who solves the whole thing and saves the company) is a female Quality Assurance executive.

The one jarring part for me was the subplot involving union unrest. The union is fearful that some of the manufacturing for the potential large sale would be sent overseas. This may be a reasonable fear, but would that lead the union to seen goons to brutally attack (in a way that could be charged as attempted murder) company management personnel, including our protagonist, and on top of that face little to no consequences for these actions? I don't think so, but maybe I'm naive.
With that caveat, this is a good read.

First line: "Emily Janson sighed in relief."

2 1/2 stars

Editado: Abr 21, 2:04 pm

That completes January, now on to February reviews. This one is also a Library Book:

16. Haven by Emma Donohue (2022) 231 pp

"The dream is an instruction to withdraw from the world to set out on a pilgrimage with two companions, find this island, and found a monastic retreat."

This historical fiction novel is set in 7th century Ireland. Artt, a visiting "monk-celebrity" dreams that he must set to sea in search of a remote island and found a monastic retreat. The monastery assigns two monks to accompany Artt, Trian a young red-headed fairly new monk, and Cormac, a former farmer and older monk. They set forth in a small boat with only a minimum of supplies for survival.

When they arrive at a barren island, rising from the sea and inhabited only by birds, Artt declares this to be the place he saw in his dream. They begin to establish a settlement, somehow needing to provide sustenance (food) in a place where there is not soil to grow crops, shelter where there in no wood, only a lone stunted rowan tree. But there are plenty of stones (and birds) and Artt's constant refrain is that God will provide. Instead of the practicalities of life, like food and shelter, Artt is more concerned with copying scripture and building a chapel. And Artt is unwilling to let Trian or Cormac, who are more practical about their needs, visit the mainland to trade. And for a while, Trian and Cormac, who are bound by their vow of obedience to Artt, are compliant.

Donohue is a wonderful writer, and for most of the book I loved it. I loved the descriptions of the hostile setting, which is based on a real place (Skellig Michael, which you can google). But then as the book is nearing its crisis point (i.e. will Cormac and Train remain obedient to Artt's command to let God provide, and probably die, or will they disobey and survive?), there is a revelation about Trian relating to why his family placed him in the monastery. SPOILER: It's about Trian's gender ambiguity, and I felt that this issue did not need to be in this book. For me, it caused the intrusion of 20th/21st century sensibilities to a Medieval setting and time. There was plenty enough to provide conflict with Artt's religious obsession and probably insanity without this additional issue to set Artt off. Artt was unsympathetic and irrational enough without having him turn on Trian for this. It took me off the island, out of the story, and back to the present. I don't know if the intrusion of sexual/gender issues was an attempt to draw in more contemporary readers, but it didn't work for me.

First line: "Trian's stomach growls."

Last line: "No one and nothing to bar his way to heaven."

2 stars

Editado: Abr 21, 3:26 pm

Having liked Sugar Street, I checked this next one by the same author out of the library:

17. The Privileges by Jonathan Dee (2010) 354 pp

About this book, Jonathan Dee stated, "I wanted to write a book about a perfect marriage...a marriage so perfect it throws off the couple's perspective on the world outside of it." The novel opens with a long chapter on the wedding of Adam and Cynthia, as their family and friends gather to celebrate. Each succeeding chapter advances their lives a few (or in some cases a lot) of years. For example, in the second chapter Cynthia is a stay-at-home mom with two small children ("she had fallen into the underworld of women with nothing special to do,"), and Adam an up-and-coming analyst at a hedge fund. While their lives are not without problems, they are a "golden" couple, and they become fabulously wealthy, but remain deeply in love and devoted to their family. But as the author notes, they do lack perspective. Adam for example amasses a huge part of his fortune from illegal trading, rationalizing that it hurts no one (this also involves hiding assets overseas). When Cynthia finds out, she's not particularly concerned whether he may get caught; her only question to him was "Were you unfaithful to me?" And over the years we follow their children as well. April becomes a "party girl"/social dilettante, someone her parents frequently have to intervene with to save her from herself. Younger brother Jonas, in contrast, doesn't want anyone to know how wealthy he is, and is a serious art scholar.

I enjoyed this "family saga." It was fun to read a well-written novel about how the other half lives. Jonathan Dee is starting to fall into the category "Authors I Follow."

First Line: "A wedding! The first of a generation; the bride and groom are just 22, young to be married these days."

Last Line: "Let's go out and get new ones. My treat."

3 stars

Abr 21, 6:38 pm

>76 arubabookwoman: Thanks for the invitation, Deborah. I'm not sure I can support two threads, and I'm reluctant to leave the 75 group because of the friends I still like to keep track of. But this group feels more serious about books, so I continue to go back and forth, and not feel so bad about the people in the 75 book I can't possibly keep up with!

Abr 22, 3:32 pm

I switched, but I still follow...I think more threads in 75 than in CR, though it's pretty close. For me it was less about the content of the books (I'll read what I read, wherever I am) and more about - CR is less about the goal of getting to a certain number of books* and more about the books themselves. Which may be what you were saying.

*I read a lot more than 75 books per year - few of them are particularly dense, but I read a _lot_. So 75 didn't feel right to me.

Abr 22, 5:27 pm

>86 jjmcgaffey: Oh, the supposed goal of 75 doesn't bother me - I get there or I don't, who cares? But I'd like a bit more serious discussion of books lately. I've just read The Sacred and Profane Love Machine by Iris Murdoch, and hunted around the internet for some serious analysis. Something popped up in an academic journal, which I was lucky to get for free from the public library, but it's a little deeper than my philosophy training (almost nil) can support. Some books don't merit or justify such close reading, but Murdoch's might. I'm mainly past merely clicking off what I've read, and more interested in discussion.

Abr 23, 11:15 am

>78 arubabookwoman: Great to see your reviews, Deborah. I've only read Afterlives by Gurnah, which I didn't think was great, but I will look for others by him. Do you have a favorite?

I liked Haven more than you did. I thought the setting was brilliant. Having only three characters must be difficult; I did struggle to keep interested in them.

Abr 23, 2:52 pm

>78 arubabookwoman: I've only read Paradise by Gurnah, and I thought it good but not great. Nice to know that I may enjoy his others even more. I have Afterlives waiting for next month's African challenge.

>83 arubabookwoman: I've only read Room by Donoghue, but have two others on my shelves, not unfortunately, Haven, as I would like to try it.

Abr 23, 4:11 pm

Great reviews. (I enjoyed Gurnah's Paradise quite a bit. :) )

Abr 23, 11:48 pm

I realized I hadn't seen your thread in forever and had to look you up. I see you're more comfortable over here in the CR group. I get what you are saying about the chatter over in the 75ers, but I love so many people over there. I could do without the daily Wordle updates though. LOL. Haven was a tough one for me -- I read it for a book group or I might not have finished it. Now that I've found you, I'll try and keep up.

Editado: Maio 13, 3:38 pm

I'll skip my usual refrain of "sorry to be so behind, I'll try to catch up, etc.," and just get right to it. But first I have a question: has anyone here had carpal tunnel syndrome surgery, and if so, what was your experience?

I'm still pretty much unable to sew without a lot of pain, so that's a downer for me. I just got back from a week in NYC to visit new granddaughter Flora in Queens (as well as 4 year old Milo in Brooklyn). Most of my time was spent hanging out with them, but I did fit a trip to the Met in (and was disappointed that the Italian Renaissance room was closed), and a visit to the Folk Art Museum, where there was a quilt exhibit (mostly antique quilts).

>85 ffortsa: Hi Judy. I do still follow a number of thread in the 75 group, just don't comment much and I haven't been very good about cross-posting on my thread there, but life.....BTW, I'm sorry I wasn't able to arrange a meetup with you during my recent NYC excursion. As I said I mostly just hung out with the grands and babysat for my kids. It was cool and very rainy while I was there--reminded me of Seattle weather.

>86 jjmcgaffey: Hi Jennifer--there are few enough people in CR, and the threads move slowly enough that I'm usually able to read everyone's thread (at least eventually), though I don't comment often enough. I agree it's not about the numbers.

>87 ffortsa: I would be interested in your thoughts on The Sacred and Profane Love Machine. I always feel I should be reading more by Iris Murdoch, which was reinforced when I recently read The Nice and the Good. Over on Litsy we've been reading the novels of Edith Wharton in chronological order, and as we're nearing the end there has been some discussion of who to tackle next and Iris Murdoch's name has been mentioned (also Virginia Wolf). The group previously read the novels of Willa Cather, and is led by Dan Chaikin of Club Read, so you might want to check out his thread.

>88 BLBera: The Gurnah books I've liked best were Admiring Silence and By the Sea. I liked but had problems with Desertion.
I agree that the setting in Haven was brilliant. I do have a tendency to love "survival in the wilderness" stories. I also thought that the three characters were very well done, and there was plenty of conflict and tension to keep the plot interesting and moving along. I just didn't care for the intrusion of the gender identity issue into a medieval setting.

>89 labfs39: I think you might like Haven. I really liked Room, which I found kind of a psychological thriller. I found it very different from her other books though.

>90 dchaikin: Hi Dan. Have you read any other books by Gurnah?

>91 Berly: Kim I'm so glad you visited. I miss the PNW so much, and the runs down to Portland for a Powell's visit and an LT meetup. I still get over to the 75 Group, but I have been very derelict about updating my thread over there this year. I'm going to try to remedy that though. (Famous last words).

On to some reviews. Still back in February, and some of this might be quite empty.

Maio 13, 3:52 pm

>92 arubabookwoman: Hm. Carpal Tunnel stuff. I was thought to have it years ago, but the EMG found the problem way up at my neck, so no experience with surgery. I know at least one friend who was not pleased with the results of her surgery, but that was years ago. My advice is to find a REALLY well-thought-of hand surgeon, if you go that way, and check out his success rates and what success means. Sorry about the sewing, by the way. I'm getting some upper arm pain that might be associated with knitting, which bums me out.

No fault in not meeting up with us here in Manhattan during your trip. Grandkids always take precedence. If you get back here and can save a brunch or evening, we might hit the theater together.

I found The Sacred and Profane Love Machine very interesting, although not the quality of The Sea, The Sea}. Just a different story. But Murdoch does interest me because she writes meaty books that are not just about surface themes or dramatic mysteries. I looked up some comments about her work, and tend to agree with the notes I found that this is a very schematic book, where every character has an opposing character who makes different choices or has different things happen to them. My fellow readers complained that they couldn't 'like' any of the characters - that doesn't matter to me. And of the seemingly facile ending, where the romantic problem of choice is solved by random drama. That was a little shocking. But contingency is one of Murdoch's themes, I think, and the act was mentioned previously in the book.

I've never explored Litsy. A reading of all of Murdoch might be a little ambitious for me, but I'm game. I'll check in with Dan about it. It might be a discussion I would like to join.

Never read any Gurnah. What would you suggest as a starting point?

Editado: Maio 13, 3:59 pm

Library Book:

18. Elizabeth Finch by Julian Barnes (2022) 193 pp

"I sometimes wonder how biographers do it: Make a life, a living life, a glowing life, a coherent life out of all that circumstantial, contradictory and missing evidence."

Neil, the narrator of this short novel, is taking an adult-education class on "Culture and Civilization" taught by the eponymous Elizabeth Finch. Neil is fascinated and intrigued by her, and even develops a sort of crush on the much older Elizabeth. After the class ends, he continues a friendship of sorts with her, meeting monthly or so for lunch, although her personal life remains very much a mystery to him. After she dies, he learns that she has left him her papers, and he tasks himself with finding out her secrets.

The book is structured in three parts. The first consists of Neil's recollections about the class and Elizabeth. The second part consists of a dry academic essay on Julian the Apostate, a historical figure referenced by Elizabeth in the class and who seemed to be of some significance to Elizabeth. The essay is factual and purportedly written by Neil. The third part consist of what Neil is able to find out about Elizabeth.

Overall this appears to be a character study, as there is very little plot. Many reviewers felt that the middle section, the essay on Julian the Apostate, bogs the book down. I tend to agree. I found it interesting, but I'm not sure what Barnes was attempting to accomplish by its inclusion, or what exactly its purpose was.

I found this to be a pleasant read, but I've liked the other books I've read by Barnes (A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters; Flaubert's Parrot) much more. I never felt compelled to pick it up, and for the most part found it rather aimless. But it was short.

3 stars

First line: "She stood before us, without notes, books or nerves."
Last line: "And any ironic laughter you hear will be mine."

Maio 13, 4:24 pm

Off my Kindle. Nobelist.

19. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (2009) 283 pp

"The familiar cold, wet air that reminds us every winter that the world was not created for Mankind, and for at least half the year, it shows us how very hostile it is to us."

This book is a combination of a weird and fable-like fairy tale with a murder mystery. It is also very message-driven, as the author explores the ways in which some living creatures are privileged above others. Finally, it is an examination of how we stigmatize those who are "different."

Sixty-something Janina (she hates her name) lives in the mountains as the winter caretaker of vacation cottages. She has a reputation as a crank and obsessive animal-lover. She is interested in horoscopes, translating the poetry of William Blake, and nature. She gives everyone a name based on the characteristics she sees in them, so we have her neighbors Oddball and Big Foot, Dizzy, with whom she is collaborating in the Blake translation, Good News, a friend, and so on. When the novel opens, Oddball has discovered the body of Big Foot. Although Big Foot apparently choked on a bone, Janina begins to think he may have been murdered. There follow in quick succession a number of other deaths which clearly were homicides. One thing that connects the victims is that they were all hunters, so Janina tries to convince the police that they were all murdered by animals who are taking their revenge for the mistreatment of animals by hunters.

From this description, I think you can see that this book is original, inventive, and unusual. I enjoyed it very much. There were many sentences and phrases I highlighted, and Tokarczuk has created a unique and memorable character in Janina. I won't soon forget this book, and will definitely be reading more by this author.

4 stars

First line: "I am already at an age and additionally in a state where I must always wash my feet thoroughly before bed in the event of having to be removed by an ambulance in the night."

Maio 13, 5:58 pm

Library Book.
Not a review. More like some musings on what I'm not sure I just read.

20. Drifts by Kate Zambreno (2020) 336 pp

Most of the reviewers on Amazon called this book Fiction. The term "auto fiction" was used. It was blurbed by Annie Ernaux, whose book The Years I recently read, and of which Drifts is reminescent.
Ernaux stated that the book is "a kind of absolute present."

As I read the book, I viewed it as an experimental memoir, and extended essay, about Kate Zambreno's life over a year (or two), during which she is supposed to be writing a novel and ending up with this, whether it be fiction, auto fiction, or a memoir.

In the book, she describes herself as constantly writing in a notebook/journal in which she records things like keeping track of a feral cat, and the walks a neighboring woman takes and her daily activities. There is much musing on and discussion of works of art, photographs, writers and their writings. There are dozens and dozens and pages and pages of references to people, things, events, ranging for the well-known to the esoteric, from the iconic to the mundane. The book includes photos of things like the feral cats, her dog Genet (and other famous dog photos), people committing suicide by jumping off a building, bark that looks like Munch's scream, and so on. As I read (and it is compelling reading), I engaged in a continual orgy of googling. Maybe that's the point???

She occasionally drops some hints or clues as to what she intends: "Drifts is my fantasy of a memoir about nothing." "I have been interested in the writing one is doing when one is not writing." "What prevents a book from being written becomes the book itself." She further states that she wants to write a book the "records time."

Whatever this is, I found it fascinating reading, although I will admit that it does occasionally seem a bit self-indulgent, a bit pretentious at times, although never boring. I will be on the look out for more by this author.

4 stars

First Line: "In the summer of 1907, in a letter to his wife from Paris, the poet Rainier Maria Rilke meditates on three branches of heather placed in a blue velvet-lined pencil box before him on his desk."

Last Line: "Still, what the beautiful is, I know not, although it adheres to many things."

And that ends my February reading, although in February I also read 2 1/2 volumes of the 9 volume Clarissa, which I will review when I finish all 9 volumes.

Maio 13, 6:12 pm

Now into March. Something a bit lighter after that last one.
Library Book

21. The Expats by Chris Pavone (2012) 336 pp

Kate and Dexter, married with two kids, have boring jobs as bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. Then Dexter receives a job offer from an overseas bank that is so lucrative they can't turn it down. Kate quits her job and they are off to Luxembourg and a taste of the expatriate life.

But all is not as it seems. Kate and Dexter have kept secrets from each other over the years, and are still keeping secrets. Kate wasn't a boring bureaucrat, she was a CIA agent. Now in Luxembourg strange things are happening and Kate begins to wonder what Dexter is keeping from her. Why won't he tell her what bank he works for, or where his office is located? And soon Kate begins to think some of their new-found friends are not so friendly after all. Suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of a fast-moving thriller.

It's all a little bit implausible, but nevertheless a good escapist read.

3 stars

Maio 24, 11:40 am

Re: carpal tunnel surgery

My mother just had her left wrist operated on for carpal tunnel, and the results a month out are mixed. First, her surgeon says she waited far too long to have it done, resulting in more damage over time and thus a less exalted result. Second, she had broken that wrist previously, which complicated things. Third, the surgeon said that full-recovery for her (see above) may take up to two years, as a lot of reconnections have to happen. That said, she is happy with it. Prior to the surgery her hand would go numb, she would drop her book or phone, etc. Now she has some lingering pain and weakness and slight numbness in her fingertips, but overall functioning is much improved.

Maio 26, 3:41 pm

>98 labfs39: Thanks Lisa. I am hesitant about surgery (due to less than stellar results from my knee replacement 3 years ago), but I also don't want to wait too long because I have so many projects underway and in my mind that I want to accomplish, and not an infinite amount of time left. I actually wasn't even thinking that it would also progress and make surgery more difficult, but it is definitely becoming more painful. (And it is killing me not to be able to sew). I see the orthopedist next week, and I am hoping there is some sort of PT or exercises I can try first.

Well time for a few more reviews. Still back in March:

Maio 26, 3:52 pm

I read this for the Litsy Monthly Postal Book Club. Choice of another participant.

22. Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal (2015) 326 pp

This is the story of Eva Thorvald who becomes a famous, almost mythical chef. The first few chapters are told with Eva as the central character, bringing her up to teen/early adulthood. After that, we learn the rest of her life through the intersection of her life with other, (mainly) unrelated characters. In this respect, there are some similarities between this book and Olive Kitteridge--the book consists of a series of short stories, each almost discrete and complete in itself, with a particular main character, in which Eva passes through, sometimes as one of the main characters, sometimes almost entirely in the background. It is in this way that the trajectory of Eva's career as a world-famous chef is told. Though the stories overall tell the story of Eva's life, she's not always the main character in the story of her life.

While I really liked Olive Kitteridge and its method of narrating Olive's life, in this case, I really wanted to know more about Eva, and to get more into the nitty gritty of her mind and her career. Instead, after her childhood and early teens we only get exterior glimpses of her. So for me, the book wasn't really successful. It wasn't an unpleasant read though.

First line: "Lars Thorvald loved two women."

2 1/2 stars

Maio 26, 5:29 pm

Off my Kindle

23. Lockdown by Peter May (2020) 416 pp

I bought this as a cheap Kindle deal because I loved the author's Lewis Trilogy. This book is set during a pandemic, and it was written many years ago, long before the covid pandemic. However, apparently no one would publish it then because it was considered too "far-fetched." Apparently, after covid, it was decided to go ahead and publish the book.

Here, London is the epicenter and ground zero of the pandemic, and civilized society there is collapsing as the deaths mount and public services decline. Despite the prevalence of the pandemic and many pandemic deaths, this is nevertheless a murder mystery. The police become involved when the bones of a child are found during the excavation of the building site of a temporary hospital facility. As the investigation proceeds, it becomes apparent that there may be some connection between the victim, the murderer, and the pandemic itself.

It may be true that years ago when this was written there was not a publisher willing to publish this, but I don't think it was because a pandemic and its consequences was too far-fetched. The book is just not very good. May has written much, much better books. I think it was brought back out of the closet to publish it post-covid to capitalize on both May's name and on its topicality, which would lead to sales despite its poor quality. Although May apparently had done a lot of research on pandemics, and I think that the aspects of the book relating to the pandemic were decently done, the murder mystery itself is implausible and far-fetched. Not recommended.

1 1/2 stars

Editado: Jul 4, 7:36 am

Library Book

24. The Hopkins Manuscript by R.C. Sheriff (1939) 396 pp

This is an early science fiction novel. Its premise is that a manuscript has been found in the ruins of what was once London, a manuscript hundreds of years old from before the collapse of Western Civilization after the "cataclysm," which occurred when the moon collided with Earth. After a forward, the bulk of the book consists of this manuscript, which consists of a narrative written by one Edgar Hopkins, a poultry breeder, as he describes how he learned of the impending collision with the moon and what happened thereafter.

I enjoyed the book. There is actually a fair amount of humor in the book (for a book about an apocalyptic doom), although I sometimes couldn't decide whether the humor was intentional or not. The humor frequently arose from the inability to grasp the enormity of what was about to happen, to view it on a merely personal level. Edgar for example decides to invest in a pottery company because he believes that a lot of dishes are going to be broken during the collision and people will be sure to need new dishes afterwards. Edgar also worries about whether the impending collision will interfere with the poultry show at which he intends to exhibit his prize hens. Edgar's housekeeper remarks that she hopes the collision "wouldn't land upon th earth when it was a new moon, because in that case the sharp points might cut somebody."

Of course it does get a bit more serious after the collision, and does raise some questions about the ability of humans and individual nations to deal with a calamity affecting the entire world. I found this to be an interesting and enjoyable read.

First Line: "I am writing by the light of a piece of string which I have pushed through a fragment of bacon fat and arranged in an egg cup."

Last Line: " I wonder who it is?"

3 stars

Maio 26, 5:59 pm

This was a reread. From my Kindle. On the 1001 list, and winner of the 1921 Pulitzer (first for a female writer). For Litsy Wharton Buddy Read

25. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (1920) 374 pp

Wharton's most well-known book invokes the typical Wharton theme of the strictures of society that the wealthy live under: Does one really have any free choice to live one's life as one pleases? Newland Archer thinks he can escape, to ignore the rules of the New York wealthy society in which he lives. He is engaged to be married to May, a girl deeply embedded in New York society, with the correct and proper breeding and education to fit the requirements for a wife. But then Archer meets Countess Ellen Olenska, a woman who has recently returned from Europe after leaving her husband under scandalous circumstances. He believes he has fallen in love with Ellen, and wants to give everything up, his place in New York society, his fiancée May, and run away with Ellen.

In Archer's mind, May is an innocent, unaware of how bound up in society's rules she is. But who is the real innocent here--is it Archer who thinks he is brave enough and strong enough to give up everything he has ever known? He can't even recognize that behind the scenes May is manipulating people and events so that her life goes exactly the way she wants it to. In the end, innocent May, may have been the most successful at living life exactly as she chose to.

This is a book everyone should read.

5 stars

First line: "On a January evening of the early seventies Christine Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of Music in New York."

Last line: "Newland Archer got up and walked back alone to the hotel."

Maio 26, 6:06 pm

Library Book. I took this out because I sort of liked The Expats. This one wasn't as good. I actually don't remember much about it now, other than that I found a lot of it ridiculous and implausible, and I didn't take many notes on it. So the following isn't really a review. Just a note that I didn't like it.

26. Two Nights in Lisbon by Chris Pavone (2022) 450 pp

Ariel and her new husband John are in Lisbon on a business trip for John when John is apparently kidnapped. Ariel has a hard time convincing the police and the US Embassy that her husband has been kidnapped. While this was a quick read and a page-turner, since I wanted to find out what was going to happen, I did not like the book. It's a rather gimmicky, "people are not who you think they are," in an implausible way book. Basically an unreliable narrator telling an unbelievable story.

First line: "Ariel awakens, alone."

2 stars

Editado: Jul 4, 7:31 am

Off my Kindle.

27. Brainiac by Ken Jennings (2006) 288 pp
Subtitle: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs

"Curiosity, memory, and a love for exhaustive and exhausting detail--that's the trivia trifecta right there."

This is Ken Jennings memoir of his months' long run in 2003 as Jeopardy champion during which he won more than $2 million. Interspersed is a history of trivia fads and games over the years, as well as interviews and stories about famous and not-so-famous trivia celebrities, such as the inventor of the Trivial Pursuit game, or people associated with the various College Bowl games.

The book is well-written and quite entertaining. As a bonus, in each chapter Jennings embeds 10 trivia questions. I was quite pleased with myself at usually being able to answer at least 5 of them--Alas not quite Jeopardy champ material.

3 stars

Maio 26, 6:16 pm

>79 arubabookwoman:

If you think you might read more Memmi, I recommend Agar (I see it's "Strangers" in the English translation), about a Jewish-Christian marriage in multicultural Tunis before the exodus of the early sixties. I love it for how strongly it shows the common Mediterranean features of all three major groups. (Not a spoiler: a ferocious hatred of women being the first and foremost characteristic).

>96 arubabookwoman:

Great to see sympathy for Zambreno, she's not exactly poised for mainstream popularity.

>103 arubabookwoman:

I hear such good things about this (and I've read other work of Wharton's) but I can't get the images of that movie from my head. I had no interest in it but went to keep a friend company and the whole thing is reduced to a boring melodramatic hetero romance, with special antipathy for Michelle Pfeiffer's incredibly tiny tight permed curls. It's silly, and it's stronger than me...

Editado: Maio 26, 6:39 pm

Library Book

28. Exiles by Jane Harper

I thought the first in the the Aaron Falk Series was okay, and I liked one of Jane Harper's stand-alones. But I haven't cared for the other two books I've read by her, and with this one, I think I'm done reading her novels, despite my love of books with Australian settings.

Maybe I didn't like this one because there was not sense of an Australian setting--it could have been anywhere. But I don't think so. It was actually just a boring book with not much happening. It's set at a wine and food festival. At the previous year's festival Kim, mother of a teenage daughter and a newborn disappeared. This year, they all sit around mostly wondering what happened to Kim. Finally near the end, someone figures out what happened. This is one of those mysteries where there don't seem to be any clues or discoveries--just finally the mystery is solved by intuition. Not for me, and not recommended.

1 1/2 stars

Maio 26, 8:13 pm

>101 arubabookwoman: Great comments on the May book - I thought it was poorly written.

Good luck with the carpal tunnel.

I agree that everyone should read The Age of Innocence. Wharton rules.

Maio 26, 8:40 pm

From the Library. 1001 List. Nobelist.

29. Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro (1971) 290 pp

Alice Munro is known as a master of the short story, but in a note at the beginning of this book she called it a novel, "autobiographical in form but not in fact." Structurally, it consists of what appear to be short stories, roughly in chronologically order, narrated by Del, telling the story of her life, her family, and her town.

Briefly, as follows, the stories are:

THE FLATS ROAD--Del and family are living out of town on a fox farm This story focuses on Uncle Benny's disastrous marriage.
HEIRS OF THE LIVING BODY--Del's mother's failure to be accepted by her father's family: "My mother went along straight lines. Aunt Elspeth and Auntie Grace wove in and out around her, retreating and disappearing, and coming back...."
PRINCESS IDA--Again the focus is on Del's mother, who becomes an encyclopedia salesperson. "I felt the weight of my mother's eccentricities as something absurd and embarrassing about her--the aunties would just show me a little at a time." Del, her mother, and her brother are now living in town while her father is out at the fox farm.
AGE OF FAITH--Del wants to know if there is a god. "Sometimes I thought of the population of Jubilee as nothing but a large audience for me...."
CHANGES AND CEREMONIES--Del and her friend Naomi are becoming interested in boys and the mysteries of sex. In Jubilee, "reading books was something like chewing gum, a habit to be abandoned when the seriousness and satisfactions of adult life took over. It persisted mostly in unmarried ladies, would have been shameful in a man."
LIVES OF GIRLS AND WOMEN--As a teenager Del is sexually molested by the boyfriend of her mother's boarder.
BAPTIZING--In high school, Del has boyfriends; loses her virginity.
EPILOGUE: THE PHOTOGRAPHER--A story imagined by Del, who has failed her college scholarship exams, but who wants to be a writer. "And no list could hold what I wanted, for what I wanted was every last thing, every layer of speech and thought, stroke of light on bark or walls, every smell, pothole, pain, crack, delusion, held still and held together--radiant, everlasting."

4 stars

Maio 27, 9:41 am

>99 arubabookwoman: Good luck with your visit to the orthopedist. I hope you can avoid surgery, and that other treatments help.

>103 arubabookwoman: I too loved The Age of Innocence. It was the first or second Wharton novel that I read. But then I have loved everything that I've read by her (4 novels), so it's hard to say if it is my favorite.

>104 arubabookwoman: I read Pavone's first three books, and The Expats (his first) was my favorite too. I find it odd that his writing seemed to get worse over time, rather than better, as my star ratings dropped with each successive work, and I have not sought out his last couple, including the one you mention.

Maio 27, 9:57 am

I'm heartened by the fact that you're just now catching up on reviews for the year... I could do that too! And may, since it's a long weekend and I don't have any big plans other than doing whatever I want (within reason).

Jun 6, 3:16 pm

>106 LolaWalser: Agar looks interesting, and I'll keep my eye out for it. Not sure if it's actually been translated yet (at least Amazon doesn't seem to have it).
After reading Drifts I purchased two other of Zambreno's books as cheap Kindle deals. She has a new one coming out in July The Light Room that takes up where Drifts left off that I am particularly interested in. If my library doesn't obtain it, I will probably have to wait awhile to read it though.
I think I might have seen the movie of The Age of Innocence, but I have no particular memory of it one way or the other. I don't think the book is a "romance" of any sort thought. If you can bring yourself to try it, you might be surprised.

>108 BLBera: I think it only got published because it was so topical to covid Beth.

>110 labfs39: I think it was on your thread (or in a discussion on a different thread in which you were involved) that I first saw The Expats mentioned Lisa. I seem to recall you also said that the novels got progressively worse, which was borne out by my experience.

>111 lisapeet: I'm still plugging away Lisa.

Editado: Jun 6, 3:32 pm

After enjoying The Privileges I checked another book by Jonathan Dee out of the library:

30. A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee (2013) 224 pp

After her husband Ben commits and illegal and scandalous act, stay-at-home mom Helen divorces him and finds she must support herself and their adopted Chinese daughter Sara, age 12. Without any particular education or experience, Helen looks into a job at a decrepit PR firm, and discovers she has a talent for crisis management, or, more particularly, for helping people to apologize in a way that seems sincere.

In an interview the author states, "To me, A Thousand Pardons is a book not about spin or scandal or PR or even forgiveness, but about religious heritage." He further states, "It would be going way too far to say I wanted the novel to be a parable, but I wanted it to have some formal aspects of a parable....Parables are short and sweet; they move only forward from event to event, as you say; they don't contain flashbacks or other devices for reordering time; there's no pause in them for re-election or commentary or explorations of meaning."

And that is as good a description of this book as any. We follow Helen and Sara as she moves forward with her life, as she deals with others who also have scandal and/or crisis in their lives, and as she decides how to move forward with or without Ben. Another interesting and well-written book by Jonathan Dee with richly portrayed characters.

3 stars.

Editado: Jun 6, 3:44 pm

With that, I am through March, the first quarter of 2023. I think I had a pretty good reading quarter. I read 30 books, plus the first 3 volumes of the 9 volume tome Clarissa.

I read 5 books from the 1001 list (Chess Story, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, The Girls of Slender Means, The Age of Innocence (a reread), and The Lives of Girls and Women.

I read 4 Nobelists (will try to post my comments over in that group): 2 previously read, Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah and Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro, and 2 new to me: Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, and some poetry by Wislawa Szymborska, which is not included in the 30 books read because I have not completed the book yet.

I read 3 nonfiction Brainiac, In Love, and Birding Without Borders

Besides books from the US, Canada, and Great Britain, I read books from Austria, Spain, Tunisia, Poland and Australia.

Most importantly for me of the 30 books 10 were books off my shelf, so I'm doing better than I have in past years where 85%-95% of my reading was from the library.

Jun 6, 4:34 pm

Now into April, a library book:

31. The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett (1955) 204 pp

Written fewer than ten years after Hiroshima, this classic SF novel depicts a post-apocalyptic society rebuilding itself after a nuclear war. No horrors of war are shown, and people live in mostly rural and agrarian groups. Technology is frowned upon, even banned, and no town is permitted to have more than 200 buildings. The society has a very 19th century feel, and religion is an important part of most people's lives.

Len and Esau are cousins living on adjoining farms. They have heard rumors of a big city where technology has been preserved, and become obsessed with someday finding that city. When they become teenagers, they run away in search of that city.

There are themes of the conflicts between knowledge and progress vs. ignorance and the status quo. There is a good depiction of the many different religious sects and how they divide people.

There is not a lot of action in the book, and while it is a quick and easy ready, I found it a bit slow-moving. It also has a rather YA feel, not my favorite genre. So while I'm not sorry I read it, it is not one I would whole-heartedly recommend.

2 1/2 stars

Editado: Jun 6, 5:15 pm

Another Library book:

32. Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro (2022) 240 pp

This is the story of two families who lived across the street from each other for many years. Benjamin, a doctor, and his wife Mimi, are older. In 1985, their teenage children Sarah and Theo are involved in a life-changing event which results in the death of another teenager. Some years later, the Shankmans move in across the street, and in 1999 their son Waldo is born.

The novel is told non-chronologically, and focuses on certain years in which pivotal events affecting one or both of the families occur. The novel opens in 2010, on the night before Ben is moving away. On that same night, Waldo runs away. Over the years, there is a strange interconnection between what is happening in the lives of the members of the two families. We watch Sarah and Theo develop from teenagers to older middle-aged adults, Ben and Mimi age, and even Waldo grow up to adulthood over the course of the novel.

I actually liked the way the story is told non-chronologically, so that sometimes we are mystified and later entries clarify things. The author does a good job of peeling away layers as she tells the story. However, there were several things that just did not ring true for me. For example, after Sarah and Theo cause the death of another teenager, there are no consequences for them. Even beyond this, their parents, who are intelligent and responsible decide that the incident will never be spoken of again. The teens are not afforded counseling or therapy to deal with issues that may arise from guilt or grief. (The incident clearly involved at least potential criminal negligence). Another example that didn't ring true is that despite Ben's having saved Waldo's mother's life ( he rushed across the street in 1999 to deliver Waldo who was being born in an emergency sort of way), the families seem to thereafter ignore each other for the most part. Waldo didn't even know the story of his birth. How could this be? When I learned later in the book of this connection between Waldo and Ben, I had to go back and reread the opening (the night in 2010 when Ben is moving away and Waldo runs away), when the two meet on the street, and it is written as if neither knows anything at all about the other.

Shapiro is a somewhat prolific author, and this is a very recent book, so although this is the first book by her I have read, and to an extent I enjoyed it, I would have expected more inherent logic in her plot. I liked this enough that I went on to read another book by her, but I did have problems with it.

2 1/2 stars

Jun 6, 5:48 pm

>96 arubabookwoman: I'm impressed that you found this a compelling read, since it seems so - well - drifting. I'll look for it.

Jun 6, 7:13 pm

Well, you are certainly catching up on your write-ups!! Nice. : )

Jun 10, 1:24 pm

You had an impressive first quarter, Deborah!

Jul 3, 2:41 pm

>117 ffortsa: Yes Judy, it was "drifting," but it went in all sorts of interesting places, places that were new to me (a few boring I guess), but you never knew where it was going, and that's what made it compelling. I first heard of the book (and the author) on Bonnie's thread (Brenzi in the 75 group).

>118 Berly: Hi Kim. Thank you. Of course I'm much further behind now, so maybe the compliment is not deserved.

>119 labfs39: Thanks, Lisa.

Well I've had an up and down June. We've had our condo for sale for a while for various reasons, and were about to pull it off the market and just live through the next couple of years of construction uncertainty and difficult commutes to the Moffitt center, when we got a buyer. Negotiations went on, and we came to an agreement in mid-June. The sale will close 8/3. Which meant we had to find a place to live, or move back to the Residence Inn or an Air BnB again. We first found a house that came on the market only 6 houses away from our son's, but unfortunately we were outbid on that. Then we found another house only about 5 minutes away from our son's, which is a house I like a lot better than the closer one, and the sellers accepted our offer on that house. That one will close also on August 3. So now we have to pack up and move again. Fortunately, there's not a lot to pack, since we are selling the condo furnished (as we bought it). But it's still a big hassle. And we are moving with very little furniture, i.e. no bed, no table to eat on, no chair to sit in. My husband has his recliner though, and I have lots of bookcases and a sewing machine table and chair. So we will make do for a while.

Then I had to go to Texas to Austin to check on my mother. On the way back I stopped in Houston to see my daughter and grandkids. Flying back last Monday, I had a tickle in my throat. It was still a tickle in my throat when I tested positive for covid on Wednesday, and on Friday my husband tested positive for covid. We are both on the mend now but both of us had a few pretty lousy days. I took paxlovid which turned me around pretty quickly. He couldn't take paxlovid because it would interact with one of the immunosuppressives he is taking. So I've had to drive him to the Moffitt Center for the past 3 days for him to get an infusion of remdisivir. Would rather have been resting at home.

The worst part was that we are supposed to leave Thursday for NY where all of our kids and grandkids are gathering for the big family reunion to celebrate our 50th anniversary (at this point actually 52nd, due to delays caused by covid). We are going to a resort in the Hudson Valley/Catskills (near Woodstock), and this has been in the works for a year. As of Saturday, it appeared the chances were good that we weren't going to be able to make it. But don't underestimate the wonders of modern medicine. This morning the doctor gave my husband the OK to fly to NY Thursday. Both of us are still tired, and probably won't participate in many of the activities, and instead just rest and relax and let the kids do their thing. But at least we'll be there.

Now some reviews.

Editado: Jul 4, 7:57 am

These next two books are similar thematically, but very different:
Library Book 1001 List

33. The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst (2004) 448 pp

This novel begins in 1983 when middle-class Nick Guest has just graduated from Oxford. He comes down to London and is given a room in the prosperous home of one of his classmates. The father, Gerald Fedden, is a conservative MP, and the mother, Rachel, comes from a wealthy banking family. Nick makes himself useful to the family in one way or another over the next several years. He becomes an inside observer of the workings of the upper classes, the wealthy and the politically connected during the Thatcher years. As an observer, Nick basically remains an outsider (though he doesn't always recognize this himself), and never really becomes a full participant in the goings-on. And since Nick is gay, the book is also the story of gay life in London during the onset of the AIDS epidemic.

The novel is divided into three parts. The first part takes place in 1983 when Nick has just come down to London and has his first love affair with Leo, a young but more experienced civil servant. The second part takes place in 1986 when Nick is both working for and having an affair with Wani, a former Oxford classmate. In the last part, in 1987, AIDS is ravaging Nick's social group, and disasters of other sorts are befalling one after another of the other characters.

Hollinghurst writes beautifully, and I was always fully engaged in this book. The book is full of insightful and perceptive observations about the time, the place, culture, and the society in which these characters move. (One reviewer compared the book and its social observations to Proust). The book serves both as a very personal story of one man and his friends, and as a political and societal history of the Thatcher years. I highly recommend it.

4 1/2 stars

Jul 3, 3:28 pm

>120 arubabookwoman: Wow, that's a lot. I've had Covid once and hope to avoid a repeat. No fun, although I was able to get a bit of a break via the paxlovid. I'm glad you're going to be able to make your family gathering.

I read The Line of Beauty several years ago and thought it was quite good.

Jul 3, 4:12 pm

>120 arubabookwoman: OMG that is a lot of upheaval and worry to pack into a month, even with things eventually working out well.

Jul 3, 4:26 pm

>120 arubabookwoman: Oh, moving is such an upheaval, but I'm glad you'll be in a better location. More importantly, I'm glad you are able to attend your own anniversary party!

Jul 3, 7:12 pm

>122 rocketjk: Thanks Jerry. I've now added my review of The Line of Beauty >121 arubabookwoman:, and I loved it as well.

>123 qebo: Thanks Katherine. I'm really looking forward to getting away Thursday, and seeing all my kids.

>124 RidgewayGirl: Thanks Kay. I had hoped when we moved 3 years ago into this condo that we weren't going to have to move again. Unfortunately, we discovered condo living is really not for us, and we also hadn't been aware of how frequently we would have to go to the Moffitt Center or the intensity of the drive there.

I'm finding it difficult to get through my reviews because I am so far behind (still back in April). I take lots of notes, but I think I really need to get into writing the reviews closer to when I read the book. Also in the last few months I've read a larger number of books than I normally do because with the carpal tunnel I haven't been able to sew. So I have many more books to review.

Jul 3, 7:32 pm

This next book is also a novel of the Thatcher years, and also on the 1001 list.

34. The Radiant Way by Margaret Drabble (1987) 487 pp

"These signs of age, the aging process, she greeted and greets with curiosity, with a resolute welcome. One might as well welcome them, after all: there is not much point in rejecting them. It is all intended, it is all part of the plan. There is a goal to this journey, there will be an arrival, Liz Headland believes."

This book is similar to The Line of Beauty in that it is a novel about life in London during the Thatcher years. It opens on New Year's eve 1979 at a large party at which dozens of characters are introduced, but ultimately the focus is on three friends, former Cambridge classmates who are now in their 40's. Liz is the hostess of the party, and she is a successful psychiatrist married to media mogul Charles (who advises Liz at the New Year's party that he is divorcing her). Alix is married to Brian, and both of them have retained their social consciences. They continue to live in genteel poverty. Alix works at various "gigs," including teaching English literature at a woman's prison. The third friend, Esther, is an art historian, dilettante, and she has never married, though she has a serious lover. Sometimes popping in and out of the story is Shirley, Liz's sister who never went to university, married young, and who remains in the northern manufacturing town where she and Liz grew up.

Like The Line of Beauty, the book is a treasure of political and social commentary about the times, while also being a compelling study of the friendship and the lives and loves of these interesting women. It also paints a pretty grim picture of the havoc wreaked by Thatcher's policies over the 1980's on working class and struggling people.

I really loved this book as well, and over the past few years I have been "rediscovering" Margaret Drabble as an excellent and favorite author. I read many of her earlier books when I was in my 20's, then somehow lost track of her. I learned that this is the first of a series involving the lives of Liz, Alix and Esther, and I will be seeking the others to read in the future.

4 stars

Jul 4, 1:06 am

I love reading your reviews because they are so thoughtful but you don't want to feel under pressure, especially as you have so much going on in your non-reading life.

Maybe only write reviews for the books you really liked? Or only for books you read from now on? Or only for books you read from now on that you really liked? (I'm not sure I'm helping.)

Jul 4, 9:45 am

>120 arubabookwoman: I am so glad you both recovered from COVID and will be able to attend your anniversary celebration. And congrats on finding a house. Fingers crossed that this will be the last time you have to move. How is the carpal tunnel?

I have loved all of the books by Margaret Drabble that I have read; I don't know why I haven't picked up more by her. I have The Radiant Way on my shelves, so I'll move it up to the top of my TBR pile. Hollinghurst is so poetic; I love his writing. He is another author I want to read more of.

Jul 4, 11:03 am

>127 rhian_of_oz: Hi Rhian. I actually do the reviews mostly for myself because they help me remember the books so much better and because they crystallize my thoughts. It's more that I'm sometimes worried about making them sound good enough for other people to read them. I'm not always careful when posting them, don't proof enough, and make typos and grammar errors that I never would have made in my professional life. So it was very nice to hear you say that you like reading them, so thanks. I will keep writing them and posting when I can.

>128 BLBera: Hi Beth. It was funny how I almost didn't notice the carpal when I was suffering covid, but now that covid is just about done, I'm feeling the carpal again. It seems to have cooled down a bit, though, and I have periods where it doesn't bother me. I am having a nerve study done, but I will be very cautious about undertaking any surgery. If I continue to have periods of relief, I may experiment with sewing a bit again.
I have the sequel to The Radiant Way, A Natural Curiosity on my shelf and hope to read it soon. I want to read more about Liz, Alix, and Esther.

Editado: Jul 4, 1:14 pm

Not so long ago, there was a lot of buzz about the following book, so I checked it out of the library. I liked it a lot at first, but ultimately it didn't work for me. What follows is not really a review, just a bit about the book. But I'm also including a lot a quotations about the art of translation, which to a certain extent is what the book was about. As an avid reader of translated literature I was interested in these thoughts on translation.

35. Babel by R. F. Kuang (2022) 560 pp
Subtitle: The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution

"We're here to make magic with words."

This is a science fiction/fantasy novel set in mid-19th century England. In the book, England controls the British Empire through magic which is wrought with silver bars on which two words in different languages are paired. The words have similar but not identical meanings, and somehow the differences between them cause the magic.

The magic is created and controlled by a group of translators training and working at the tower of Babel at Oxford University. Translators begin their training in childhood, and young translators are brought to Oxford from the far reaches of the British Empire and from all over the world. The story follows Robin Swift, who comes from Canton, China, and three of his cohorts, Victoire from the Indies, Ramy from Pakistan, and Letty. As time passes and they become more proficient, they begin to recognize the evils of empire, and soon become involved with an underground revolutionary group.

For me, this began as an okay read (I'm not usually a fantasy reader), but I soon found it to feel too much like a YA novel, which I am also not usually a fan of. I did continue to read through the book, however, even though I felt that it really deteriorated as the "revolution" took center stage. What kept me reading was that there was a lot of interesting discussion about the art and science of translation. So I will guardedly recommend the book for that reason. And following this review, I will post a few of the quotations about translation that I highlighted.

3 stars (may be generous)

"Do we take words as our unit of translation, or do we subordinate accuracy of the individual words to the overall spirit of the text?"

"Translators do not so much deliver a message as they rewrite the original."

"'First that the translation conveys a complete and accurate idea of the original,' said Victoire. 'Second, that the translation mirror the style and manner of writing of the original. And third, that the translation should read with all the ease of the original composition.'"

"So the translator needs to be translator, literary critic, and poet all at once--he must read the original well enough to understand all the machinery at play, to convey its meaning with as much accuracy as possible, then rearrange the translated meaning into an aesthetically pleasing structure in the target language that by his judgment matches the original. The poet runs untrammeled across the meadow. The translator dances in shackles."

"Do we try our hardest, as translators, to render ourselves invisible? Or do we remind our reader that what they are reading was not written in their native language?"

"How can we conclude except by acknowledging that an act of translation is then necessarily always an act of betrayal?"

Jul 4, 1:36 pm

Off my Kindle. Read for Book Club in my building.

36. Lessons in Chemistry (2022) 392 pp

I'll admit that I'm not the target audience for this book. I'm too old, and I lived through the workforce sex discrimination that women experienced in the 1950's and 60"s (for me the early 70"s). So for me the book, which at times becomes a bit of a polemic, was not particularly realistic in its depiction of the time, and a bit over-the-top in the actions of some of the characters. Elizabeth, the chemist, in the 1950's and 1960's has too much of a 21st century mindset for the time in which she is living.

Forgetting the books feminist agenda, and approaching its as a rom/com, chick lit, quirky female character, feel-good book, there was a lot of good and clever stuff going on here, though I do have to say that I've liked the two other books of this ilk that I've read better. (The Cactus and Eleanor Oliphant). But despite the good, imaginative and clever stuff, the author frequently ruined it for me by going over-the-top time after time. For example, Elizabeth has a young daughter who is extremely intelligent. Fine, but then the author has the daughter reading Norman Mailer and Nabokov's Lolita before entering kindergarten. The author creates a wonderful dog character, but then has Elizabeth teaching the dog word by showing it pictures in a book. And it is true that many men back then made outrageous and sexist comments to women in the workplace, and were oblivious about it. But I don't think 99% of them were rapists. Here, a lot of the men Elizabeth encounters are at the least attempted rapists.

And there is one other thing that bothered me about the book. Why can't there be a book about a scientist with the scientist being on the spectrum, or at least being extremely nerdy? Why can't there be a scientist who is completely "normal" socially? Because clearly Elizabeth is on the spectrum and totally lacking in social skills. I guess it was thought to make the book funnier.

I'm not regretting I read this book. But it could have been so much better.

2 stars

Jul 4, 1:46 pm

Good to see you reviews again and hope you completely recover from Covid.

perhaps Lessons in Chemistry secretly wanted to be a fantasy book. I have noted the two novels set in the Thatcher years.

Editado: Jul 4, 1:59 pm

This was a library book, and is on the 1001 list:

37. The Sea by John Banville (2005) 195 pp

"Perhaps all life is no more than a long preparation for the leaving of it."

After the death of his wife Anna, Max returns to the seaside where he spent childhood summers fifty years ago. He is staying at the Cedars, where one memorable summer he befriended Chloe and Myles Grace and their parents Connie and Carlo who were living at the Cedars. As Max remembers and explores childhood haunts, we feel an impending tragedy will strike the children, something that will affect Max for the rest of his life.

I can't say that this is one of the better books on the 1001 List that I have read. It was well-written, but not one I deeply felt. One thing that really bothered me was the author's use of vocabulary. I think I have a better than average vocabulary, and I love learning new words, but the author seemed to bandy obscure words about just for the heck of it, and this bothered me and frequently took me out of the story. A few I Had to look up: flocculent; mihatory; greet; scurf; velutinous; anaglypta.

3 stars

First line: "They departed, the gods, on the day of the strange tide."

Last line: "A nurse came out then to fetch me, and I turned and followed her inside, and it was as if I were walking into the sea."

Jul 4, 2:10 pm

>132 baswood: Thanks, Barry. I think you would like the 2 books set in the Thatcher era. I had long heard of The Line of Beauty but for some reason avoided it, and I'm sorry I waited so long to read it.

Another Library book, and another from the 1001 list

38. Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard (2005)

After reading City Primeval several years ago (also for the 1001 list), I told myself I had to read more Elmore Leonard, he is such a good writer. But somehow he fell by the wayside--until I recently checked Get Shorty out of the library, and had a similar reaction: Elmore Leonard is such a good writer--read more by him.

Here, the plot revolves around a dry cleaner who has cheated the airlines out of $300,000 and taken off for Las Vegas leaving his wife behind. He's also left behind a mountain of debt to a loan shark, and Chili Palmer, debt collector for the loan shark takes off after the dry cleaner. Chili ends up in Hollywood where he comes across Harry Zimm, producer of sleazeball movies, and Chili decides it would be more fun to be a movie producer than a loan collector. What a ride it is.

And apparently there is a sequel to this gem.

3 1/2 stars

After reading this book, I watched the movie made from the book which stars John Travolta. I don't think I ever watched the movie before because I wasn't a John Travolta fan. The movie was okay, but really doesn't capture the full genius of the book, and what a great character Chili Palmer is.

Jul 4, 2:20 pm

With that, I am through with my April reviews, and ready to start with May.

Library Book

39. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

I don't really have a review for this because I barely took notes, and don't really remember too much about it. Four residents of a senior living facility, Joyce, Elizabeth, Ibrahim, and Roy, meet weekly to discuss and try to solve "cold cases." Then, a murder actually occurs at the facility, and shortly after, there is a second murder, the victim of the second murder being their prime suspect for the first murder. And shortly after that, 50 year old bones are discovered buried on the premises. Was there a murder 50 years ago? Are the bones and the two current murders connect?

This is the first of an ongoing series. I remember enjoying it, but I'm not sure I will continue on with the series.

3 stars

Ago 6, 4:12 pm

>133 arubabookwoman: This is the one and only Banville I've read. There was something overwhelmingly depressing about it so I've not been tempted to him again.

Some of the words you mention that you had to look up I think come down to cultural / geographical differences. Scurf would be a known word in Ireland (a word found in the country more than the towns), and pretty much everyone had some form of anaglypta wallpaper in their house here in the 1970s (shudder). Greet is more of a Scottish word, but a lot of Celtic and Gaelic words get carried across the Irish Sea in both directions. The others I'd have struggled with too, though.

Ago 6, 5:33 pm

Greet as mourning or as, well, greeting (like Hi, hello)? I have no idea how those relate - hmm, apparently they don't, two different (though very similar) Old English roots (says the OED).

Ago 15, 5:38 pm

>136 AlisonY: Hi Alison--I think I've read one other book by Banville (The Book of Evidence), which I also read because it is on the 1001 list, and I was also underwhelmed by it. Interesting about the words that were unfamiliar to me, but would be fairly familiar in Ireland. There were many other words I noted, and I wonder whether they would also be familiar to those in Ireland.

>137 jjmcgaffey: Thanks for the info Jennifer--you were more diligent than me checking the OED.

Well a lot has been happening and I've been totally stressed out, but things are clearing up now. We had simultaneous sale of our condo on the beach and the purchase of a new home on August 3, so there was a lot of nail-biting as to whether that could be pulled off. We did not return from our family reunion/50th (52nd) anniversary celebration, which was great, until July 13, and had to immediately begin packing up. The movers came August 1 to move us out, and we moved into our new house last Friday August 4. My youngest sister came from Texas for several days at the end of July to help me with packing. Otherwise I don't think I could have done it all. I've now been unpacking and setting up the new house. We came without furniture basically since we sold the condo furnished (except for bookcases), so we are eating at a card table, and had been sleeping on a blowup bed until our new bed arrived yesterday. Since the blowup bed was extremely uncomfortable I'm excited to finally have a bed. Anyway I need to take a break from constant unpacking and organizing, so I think I'll get to a few books.

Ago 15, 5:55 pm

>138 arubabookwoman: While you still have a lot to do, isn't it wonderful to be on the downhill part where there are no hard deadlines? Good luck with your unpacking and may this house be the one that you will be happy in for many years.

Ago 15, 7:53 pm

>139 RidgewayGirl: Thanks Kay. I definitely do not intend to move again, at least until I have to go to assisted living. The house suits us, we have a lovely view of an alligator pond with lots of water birds, and our son and his family (2 grandkids) are only 5 minutes away.

Getting into my May reading now, the next book is from my Kindle and is on the 1001 list:

40. Invisible by Paul Auster (2009) 332 pp

This is a complex novel, both structurally and plot-wise. It consists of 4 parts, the first three of which take place in 1967, and the fourth taking place 40 years later.

Part I is narrated in the first person by Adam Walker. It is the spring of 1967 and he is a student at Columbia when he meets Rudolf Born, a visiting professor from France. Born and his girlfriend Margot befriend Adam, and Born offers to finance a literary magazine for Adam to develop and edit, something Adam considers a dream come true. He fully intends to accept the challenge, until he witnesses a shocking act of violence that changes his life forever.

In Part II, we learn that Adam has sent the first-person narrative set forth in Part I to his former college roommate Jim, who is now a successful writer. As the novel continues, the framing device for the remainder of the book becomes one in which Jim pieces together in various ways the remainder of Adam's story. Adam wrote Jim that he wanted to continue with his story, but feels blocked and seeks advice. Jim advises that Adam consider telling the story in something other than the first person. We then read the continuation of Adam's story, ostensibly, as with Part I, written by Adam. The story narrated in Part II takes place over the summer of 1967 and is narrated in the second person ("You"). In this section, Adam bides time in New York sharing an apartment (and possibly more) with his sister Gwynn, as he awaits traveling to Paris in the fall for his junior year abroad.

Part III details what happened while Adam was in Paris in the fall of 1967. This section is narrated in the third person, and is ostensibly written by Jim from detailed notes Adam left for him.

The final part takes place forty years after the events which occurred in 1967. Jim has travelled to Paris, and while there seeks out some of the people with whom Adam had interacted in the fall of 1967. Adam's story (and Born's) is finally completed by the diary entries of one of those people, originally written in French and translated.

Throughout, beyond the story Adam wanted to tell about the life-changing events of 1967, questions are being raised about whether a story in a novel can be "true," what makes it true, does it make a difference who tells the story or how it is told? All sorts of issues are raised about the art of writing. I suppose this can be considered meta fiction, which I usually like.

In fact, I liked this one a lot (but then, I've liked most books by Auster that I've read), and I definitely think it deserves a place on the 1001 list. I realize that maybe I haven't made it sound that interesting in that I've kept the plot details rather vague, but I've always found Auster's plots to be imaginative and engaging, and this one was no exception.


4 stars

Ago 15, 7:59 pm

I read this next one for the Litsy Wharton buddy read. This was a reread for me, and I had most recently read it only a few years ago. I'm not going to write a new review of it, but simply repost my review from then. At the time I gave it 3 1/2 stars, but I think I would raise it to 4 stars.

41. Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton

Review from 2019:

"Nick Landis and Suzy have good pedigrees, but no money. Nevertheless, they travel effortlessly through high society, moving from one pleasure place to the next, Venice to Versaille, Newport to New York City, as society dictates. Attracted to each other, they decide to marry, live on their friends for a year or two, with the understanding that if something better (i.e. a rich person) comes along either is free to leave. But what happens if they fall in love with each other? Or what if one of them begins having moral qualms about what they are doing?
I enjoyed this."

4 stars

Ago 15, 8:11 pm

This mystery was from the library:

42. Mind's Eye by Hakan Nesser (1993) 332 pp

This is the first in the Inspectory Van Veeteren Swedish crime series. It won the 1993 Swedish Crime Writers Academy Prize for new authors.

Janek awakens deeply hungover and unable to remember much from the night before to fin that his wife of a few months is dead in the bathtub. He calls the police and then proceeds to tidy up a bit. Not surprisingly he is arrested for the murder of his wife, convicted, and sent, at least initially, to a psychiatric hospital.

From the beginning Inspector Van Veeteren found aspects of the case puzzling and was not entirely sure Janek was the culprit. When Janek himself is murdered in the psychiatric hospital shortly after his conviction, the inspector must find Janek's murderer who presumably also murdered Janek's wife.

I was not particularly taken with this, and have like other Scandi-crime novels I've read better. This is one in which the detective puzzles things out mostly in his head and uses intuition rather than physical clues or evidence, so it sometimes felt to me like things were just pulled out of the blue.

However, I often find that the first in a crime series to be not very compelling, and have liked later entries more, so it's possible that I will read at least the second in the series.

2 1/2 stars

Ago 15, 9:10 pm

Congratulations on your new house -- and on your new bed! Now you have the fun of furnishing it.

I need to read more Auster. I've liked the books by him that I've read.

Ago 16, 12:54 pm

Congratulations on finishing the move! Packing is hell, but unpacking (books especially) can be fun...

If you like Auster's "games", you might like his collaboration with Sophie Calle, Sophie Calle : Double game. It's a bit involved to explain--first Auster published a story with a character based on Calle (he had her permission), and then Calle, after reading it, decided to perform the actions of the character (which were Auster's inventions). It took her years of weird stuff--giving colour-themed birthday parties, being a chambermaid in Venice, following strangers etc.

Ago 16, 1:03 pm

Both the Auster and the Wharton sound quite interesting! Thanks for the careful reviews.

And congratulations on your new home! It will be very satisfying to have a home so close to your family, I'm sure.

Ago 20, 2:24 pm

Glad to see you back, Deborah. Add my congrats on your new home!

Ago 22, 10:09 am

>143 BLBera: I hope you do read more Auster Beth. I have a few more lingering on my shelf I need to get to. I find him amazingly inventive.

>144 LolaWalser: I do like Auster's "games," Lola, and Sophie Calle: Double Game looks intriguing. I will look for it. Thanks for pointing it out.

>145 ffortsa: Thanks Judy. We are definitely enjoying seeing more of the grandkids, and our son is proving to be a big help.

>146 avaland: Thanks Lois. In addition to all my books, I'm so happy to have all my quilt stuff again, though I'm still unpacking and organizing. How's your quilting going?

Not sure how much time I have right now, but my back was killing me so I decided to take a break from putting stuff away for awhile. We are going to look at furniture this afternoon, but maybe I can fit in a few reviews:

This was a library book, a crime novel/psychological thriller, which I read like some people watch TV shows: to be entertained without having to put too much effort in. I had read another book by this author a few months prior to this, so I checked this one out:

43. Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay (2021) 363 pp

First Line: "They found the bodies on Tuesday."

Matt Pine is a college student at NYU. He mostly avoids contact with his family. A few years previously his older brother Danny was convicted of murdering his girlfriend. After the conviction, his family obtained notoriety when a documentary was made about the case which purported to establish that Danny was innocent and was wrongly convicted. While all appeals have been exhausted, Matt's family (his father, mother, and younger brother and sister) are continuing to fight for Danny's exoneration.

As the novel opens, the FBI contacts Matt to tell him that his family has been found dead under suspicious circumstances in Mexico. Matt and Danny are the only surviving family members, and it shortly becomes apparent that someone may be trying to kill Matt as well.

This was a page turner, and held my interest throughout, but it is ultimately forgettable, in the same way a TV show might be forgettable. It entertained me, diverted me, but didn't enlighten me or educate me, and neither was it something innovative or "new" to read. But I enjoyed it, so it did its job.

3 stars

Editado: Ago 22, 11:35 am

This next one was off my Kindle, and was a reread for the newly formed book club in my condo building (which ended in June after most of the group, "snowbirds," headed back up north for the summer). As it turned out, only one other person read the book (and there were only 4 people, including me at the meeting) so no great discussion was had. Since that person and I were going to be the only people left for the final meeting in June, we agreed to read A God In Ruins for June.
In the interest of expediency, I'm just going to post my review from the first time I read it in 2015:

44. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (2012) pp

(written in 2015)

I must be the last person on LT to read this book, even though I purchased it shortly after it was published. I'm kicking myself for putting it off so long. I loved it and wanted it to never end.

Briefly, it's the story of Ursula Todd, born on a snowy night in February 1910. And dying. And being born again on a snowy night in February 1910, and dying, and living her life over and over again, and dying over and over again, until, as she comes to believe, she finally gets it right. (Although, to be sure, she doesn't fully comprehend or remember what she is going through--just occasional feelings of deja vu, or precognition).

Much of the book--many, many of Ursula's lives--are so very dark, since much of her life is lived in the shadow of the rise of Hitler, and during the Blitz in London, but Atkinson is such a good writer I loved reading them all. (Although much of her life, especially her earlier years contrariwise seemed very idyllic, lounging in the Edwardian garden at the family home.) The plots, characters, settings were all so real and convincing, I was totally immersed and living the lives along with Ursula. (I do have to say the one life I didn't care for was the one where she passed WW II in Germany, the wife of a German, and in a position of acquaintanceship with Eva Braun such that she on occasion came into contact with Hitler.)

I loved Atkinson's first several books, especially her first, Behind the Scenes At the Museum, but didn't care for the first Jackson Brodie book and so did not continue to read the series. I'm glad that she has dropped that series for the moment, and I will go on to read A God in Ruins, which I don't yet own. (Note: I did). But I'm wondering whether I should give her detective series another chance.

BTW I heard a podcast (either on the BBC or the Guardian) in which Atkinson was requested to bring to the interview three objects related to the book (in this case A God in Ruins). One of the objects was the silver rabbit/hare that dangled above the pram when used by both Ursula and Teddy. It is mentioned in both books, although it plays a much bigger part in A God in Ruins, and is an actual trinket highly prized by Atkinson in her own life.

Highly Recommended 4 1/2 stars

Note, my rating on this reread stays at 4 1/2 stars

Ago 22, 10:55 am

This next one, a "celebrity" memoir is a library book. I've noted more than once that I don't usually like celebrity memoirs, but I picked this one up because the author, sister of Nora Ephron, had a bone marrow transplant and I wanted to read about her experience.

45. Left on Tenth by Delia Ephron (2022) 305 pp
Subtitle: A Second Chance at Life

About a year after the death of her beloved husband, Delia, then in her early 70's, meets and falls madly in love again with a man named Peter, which she calls a late life second chance. As she and Peter were making plans for their life together, Delia was diagnosed with a rabid form of leukemia, the same disease that had killed her sister Nora several years previously. Harsh chemo treatments brought Delia only six months remission, an Delia was told that the only thing that could save her life was a bone marrow transplant. This was an option that her sister Nora had decided against, but Delia decided to go for it, even though the chances of success were only 20%-40%.

As I said I was mostly interested in the transplant aspects of this memoir, and it was interesting for me to read about her different but the same experience to what we went through. (She even has a Havanese dog, like we do). Unlike me, who wanted to know everything that was going on in great detail, she didn't want to be kept too informed. (She was like my husband in that regard). But her new husband Peter is/was a doctor, so he was able to closely monitor what was happening. She lived under the same strictures we did for many months: no going out, limited visitors (no young children, possibly sick people),no pets, no houseplants, no fresh flowers, no deli food, no sushi, no fruit without skin, etc etc.) One big difference is that because of her celebrity status she had access to her doctors (and their resources) that ordinary patients never have. She had their personal phone numbers and could call/text any hour of the day or night with concerns big and small. (I'm not saying the care we got was substandard--it was excellent, but we were just one patient among many).

A few of the quotes that resonated with me:

"I am officially a cancer patient now....My life is not mine anymore."

"I am living on what many cancers patients live on: the promise of science."

3 stars

Ago 22, 11:02 am

Another library book:

46. Three by Valerie Perrin (2021) 630 pp

Nina, Etienne, and Adrien meet on the first day of school when they are 10. From that day forward, they are inseparable, and plan to go to Paris together when they receive their bac degrees....But circumstances intervene, and in the "present" of this book, 2017, the three are estranged and have not spoken in years.

The book skips around in time and varies the pov character, as we learn the story of their intense friendship and what torpedoed it. I found this an engaging tale of growing up, young adulthood, and even early middle-age. It has an intricate plot, an appealing setting (small French country town and Paris), and is a well-written page-turner.

Recommended. 3 1/2 stars

First line: "This morning Nina looked at me without seeing me."

Pertinent quote: "In every life there are some before and afters."

Ago 22, 11:18 am

Another library book. With this one, I think I've decided Celeste Ng is not an author for me, although I know there are many on LT who regard her very highly.

47. Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng (2022) 347 pp

Set in a near future dystopian America, this novel opens with a focus on 12 year old Bird. Three years previously, his mother had left, and although he and his father love each other, his father insists that Bird must forget his mother, who was considered a political subversive. Under the PACT act (Like our own Patriot Act??), the government can remove any child from a home in which the parents are politically suspect ("crisis children"). Bird's father believes that only by totally renouncing Bird's mother will Bird escape removal from his father's custody.

Then one day Bird receives a letter--actually a page of drawings of cats, which he knows is a message from his mother. He feels compelled to run away in search of his mother.

While the first part of the novel was narrated from Bird's pov, most of the second part consists of Bird's mother telling Bird what she has experienced since she left him. As such, it is a lot of "telling," not "showing," and I never felt I was getting into the story. It was rather distancing, as if we were getting the story from some far off third party who might have heard about it, but didn't really experience it. I found it excruciatingly boring. Many of the reviews on Amazon agree with this opinion: "Ng fails to sustain the mother's voice," and point out that it reads like an essay, not a mother talking to her son.

In addition, Ng failed to create a cohesive and "real" future dystopian world. For example, if anything untoward happens, dozens of police are there instantly, yet it seems relatively easy to yarn bomb a bunch of trees and paint a street, and no one notices.

So, overall, very disappointing.

1 1/2 stars

Editado: Ago 23, 8:58 am

Another library book, this time Nonfiction:

48. Dying of Whiteness by Jonathan Metzl (2019) 370 pp
Subtitle: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America's Heartland

I mostly skimmed this, not because it is bad or poorly written, but because I already "knew" the book's thesis and the conclusions the book details. Most of the book is the research and supporting data for its conclusions (basically that many of the policies Republicans/Trumpies propound are "bad" for their supporters, who fail to recognize this). I didn't feel the need to go into all this (again) that deeply at this point. However, from what I read, as well as what I skimmed, it is well-written and well-researched, with lots of anecdotal evidence and interviews as well.

In its opening pages, the book gives us the example of Trevor in Tennessee, who is dying of severe liver disease. Trevor states he would "rather die than sign up for Obamacare," because "no way I want my tax dollars paying for Mexicans or welfare queens." (And in fact Trevor died shortly after the interview). Trevor is an example of how the politics of Trump is actually killing his supports--physically, not just economically.

The book supports its thesis by taking a deep dive in three areas:

1. Missouri and the loosening of gun laws there. Since the gun laws were relaxed more white males have died from guns (often through suicide) than any so-called protection they provide.

2. The Tragedy of Tennessee. Tennessee's rejection of the expansion of Medicaid and Obamacare has had severe consequences on healthcare there.

3. Brownback's massive tax cuts in Kansas. These tax cuts have backfired, and led to substantial deficits (rather than prosperity), with resulting cost-cutting with severe declines in things such as educational quality.

Recommended if you want to know more about this issue.

3 stars

Ago 23, 2:12 am

>151 arubabookwoman: The premise looked interesting. It's a shame the novel didn't deliver, although I am not surprised: I read Little Fires Everywhere by the same author and did not like it much - it felt manipulative.

>152 arubabookwoman: That is scary and heartbreaking at the same time.

Editado: Ago 23, 10:59 am

>152 arubabookwoman: Heather McGee's recent book, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together also covers this topic very well, but from the direct point of view of how these attitudes are so often driven by racism. Her operating symbol is the closing of municipal swimming pools across the South when the order to integrate them came down from the Supreme Court. Location after location preferred to eliminate these pools for everyone rather than having to share them with their black neighbors. Many more whites than blacks benefit from food stamp programs, but the MAGA crowd would rather go without themselves (or see their white neighbors go without) as long as they can keep food stamps out of the hands of those "takers" across the tracks. (In the meantime, the point is made in another book I recently read that for years "they keep telling us we're lazy while they keep us out of labor unions.") Etc.

The McGhee book and the Metzl book seem like excellent complementary reads. Thanks for your in-depth review of the latter.

Ago 30, 4:21 pm

>153 Dilara86: Although my review didn't say so, I think Our Missing Hearts was manipulative as well. She seemed to drag a lot of hot-button issues in and use them in not so subtle ways. My daughter had recommended Little Fires Everywhere to me, but the description didn't appeal, and (obviously) my daughter is a lot younger than me and different things appeal to us.

>154 rocketjk: Thanks Jerry. I've seen Heather McGee on TV and have found her commentary thoughtful, so I will look for her book. I recently read Poverty by America (and someday may get up to reviews for the books I've read in July and August). I sometimes found it a bit simplistic, but its broad thesis is that we need to stop blaming the poor people and do something about the systemic issues at the root of poverty (and racism).

Now I may have some time to do a few reviews, after having survived a night and part of the day of the heavy rains of Hurricane Idalia. We actually got off quite easy here.

Ago 30, 4:33 pm

>155 arubabookwoman: "We actually got off quite easy here."

I'm happy to read this. Glad you didn't suffer too badly.

Editado: Ago 30, 5:06 pm

I loved Justin Cronin's earlier works (Mary and O'Neil for example), but had some issues with his post-apocalyptic series. This next one sounded intriguing though, so I checked it out of the library. The following review has lots of SPOILERS so don't read it if you plan to read the book and care about spoilers:

49. The Ferryman by Justin Cronin (2023) 560 pp


Procter is a "ferryman" on the island of Prospera. Residents of Prospera are well-to-do, most with engaging jobs that leave them with plenty of time for leisure activities. All Prosperans have an inserted monitor that measures their overall well-being, both mental and physical. Most live until they are well over 100. When their well-being monitor goes too low, they are retired to The Nursery, an island offshore from Prospera. In the Nursery, they are "reiterated": They are given new bodies (teenage) and their memories are erased. They are then returned to Prospera to be adopted, grow up, and to live a whole new life. As a ferryman, Proctor's job is to ensure that retirements go smoothly. He accompanies those Prosperans who are retiring to the ferry that brings them across to the Nursery.

Another island is attached to Prospera by a causeway, the Annex. The Annex is where those who serve the Prosperans in menial positions live--the house servants, street cleaners, gardeners, garbage men etc. Those who live on the Annex are born and die in the normal way. They have much shorter lives, they don't get to live over and over, and most of them live in poverty. As the novel opens, there are signs of unrest and dissatisfaction on the Annex which is starting to affect the comfortable lives of the Prosperans.

Proctor seems to have a charmed and comfortable life, and then life changes in a big way for Proctor. He is called upon to accompany his father Malcolm to his retirement. There is an incident and Proctor hears something that perhaps he should not have. Thereafter, things begin to go haywire, and for me the book began to fall apart. Proctor loses his job, and soon he is being chased by/hiding from various factions, we don't always know what they represent. At one point he is ferried over to the Nursery, but manages to escape before he is reiterated. He ends up on the Annex, becomes involved in the revolution, kills people, and narrowly escapes being killed numerous times. It all becomes one big hot mess, and it reads like someone relating a long and tedious nightmare to you, where there is no logic, and nothing makes sense. So while I somewhat enjoyed the first part of the book about life on Prospera, I hated this middle part. It made no sense, and I only kept reading because I wondered if we would ever learn what was going on, what would be the explanation for all the crazy things that were happening.

And there was an explanation--but one which is such a cop out. Yes, I mean--IT WAS ALL A DREAM! (Which is why I guess it made no sense).

That being said, the third part became mildly interesting again. We are on Earth in the year 2132 with many of the Prosperan characters during a time of cataclysmic climate change. And there is even an explanation of sorts about the dream sequence, or at least an explanation of why a long dream was necessary. (Still not sure why we had to read about it ad nauseam though).

This is not a book I'd recommend, but since I somewhat enjoyed 2 of the 3 parts, I'll give it 2 stars.

Ago 30, 5:26 pm

From the 1001 List. Won the 2011 International Booker. Library Book

50. Nemesis by Phillip Roth (2010) 309 pp

World War II is not quite over, but in the summer of 1944 there is a war of a different sort on the home front. A deadly polio epidemic is sweeping the playgrounds and streets, attacking randomly, and children, teens and adults are in iron lungs and left paralyzed or dead. No one is quite sure how polio is transmitted, and everyone is frightened:

"We were warned not to use public toilets or public drinking fountains or to swig a drink out of someone else's soda-pop bottle or to get a chill or to play with strangers or to borrow books from the public library or to talk on a public pay phone or to buy food from a street vendor or to eat until we had cleaned our hands thoroughly with soap and water."

Bucky Cantor, a young school teacher, is the playground director for the summer in a Jewish Newark neighborhood. After several of his playground charges get polio, Bucky wonders whether he could be doing more to protect them. He has already been feeling guilty because he was unable to enlist in the army due to his poor eyesight. Now he feels he is failing in the battle on the home front. It gets worse when his girlfriend tries to convince him to give up his job at the inner city playground and join her in the "safe" countryside as a camp counselor.

Particularly having recently experienced the covid epidemic, I found the evocation of the fear and paranoia to be very real and convincing. (I don't know when the polio vaccine became widespread, but I don't think it was available until I was a few years into elementary school. I do know there were at least two kids at my very small school in leg braces from having had polio.) It is also a very good depiction of Bucky's doubts and feelings of helplessness, and self-blame:

"He was struck by how lives diverged and by how powerless each of us is up against the force of circumstances. And where does God figure in this?"

Highly recommended

4 stars

First line: "The first case of polio came early in June, right after Memorial Day, in a poor Italian neighborhood, crosstown from where we lived."

Ago 30, 5:50 pm

JCO is amazingly prolific. Even though this book came out in 2023, I think she also has had another book published in 2023. Library book:

51. 48 Clues in the Disappearance of My Sister by Joyce Carol Oates (2023) 304 pp

I've read a lot of JCO's books over the years, and I've liked most of them, loved more than a few and I've always admired her writing. I'm not sure how she keeps plugging away (she's well into her 80's) I think, and though I'm not far behind her in age and I read her works regularly, I'm sure I have not read even half of her output. (Wiki tells me she's written more than 70 books).

This one was her latest, at least I think it was at the time I read it, and it is very gothic. It reminded me very much of Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived In The Castle. Set in a small town in upstate New York, we have a younger sister, Georgene, clearly an unreliable narrator, telling the story of her family, and what happened some 15 years previously when her beautiful and talented older sister Marguerite disappeared on her way to a local college where she was a professor of art.

Interesting characters are created, and there is an involving plot as well as things to puzzle out, all the while trying to figure out what games, conscious or unconscious, our narrator Georgene (and behind her author Oates) is playing with us.

3 1/2 stars

First Line: "Silky white fabric. Bodiless."
Last Line: "Dear Sister, Wait! I am almost there."

Factoid: In the afterword (or maybe I read it on Wiki?) it is stated that 600,000 people disappear annually in the US, and of these 90,000 are never found. This doesn't mean they are all murdered, but there is this quote: "The earth is bloody with the bodies of raped, murdered, cast-aside women and girls."

Editado: Set 8, 5:55 pm

This next one is off my shelf. It is on the 1001 List, and also fits in with my attempt to read more by Nobel Prize winners (although Coetzee is one of whom I've read several books by:

52. In the Heart of the Country by J.M. Coetzee (1977) 160 pp

"The land is full of melancholy spinsters like me, lost to history, blue as roaches in our ancestral homes...."

"I do not think it was ever intended that people should live here. This is a land made for insects who eat sand and lay eggs in each others corpses and have no voices with which to scream when they die."

This short novel is one of Coetzee's early works. It consists of 206 numbered passages, which are generally short, some merely a short paragraph long. Coetzee has said that in structuring the novel he was influenced by film and photographic methods. And despite being short, the chapters and the prose are frequently dense and require (at least for me) much concentration to read.

The narrator, Magda, lives on a sheep farm deep in the veldt with her widowed father. The story she tells is disturbing, and we sense from the beginning that Magda is/will be an unreliable narrator. We can never be sure whether Magda is telling the truth, or whether the events she described even actually happened. What we can be sure of is that the novel follows the descent and decline of Magda as she (probably) kills her father, and is slowly starving herself, as all around her the farm deteriorates.

Not an easy read, but very powerful.

4 stars

Ago 30, 6:46 pm

>159 arubabookwoman: JCO's output is remarkable. I liked this one, too.

Ago 30, 8:52 pm

Just catching up on your thread and chiming in to say I'm glad you did OK with Idalia, and the move before that. Everyone I've ever known who's bought and sold a place at the same time has been incredibly, nail-bitingly stressed out by it. Enjoy settling in and—especially—sleeping on a real bed.

Ago 31, 7:36 am

I got woefully behind on your thread this summer, Deborah, and the longer it got the more I thought, "I need to set aside time to catch up," and got even further behind. I'm glad I decided to just pop in for a few minutes this morning though, as I read >120 arubabookwoman: and heard about your stressful early summer. I'm so sorry you guys got Covid, but relieved you recovered quickly and were able to go to NY (I assume, I haven't actually caught up to the trip yet). I'm also very glad you were able to sell your condo and get a nice house. It was a lot of stress upfront, but now you are out of the condo and won't have that to deal with moving forward.

>121 arubabookwoman: >126 arubabookwoman: Hollinghurst and Drabble are two authors that I have never read, despite having been given several of Drabble's books a couple of years ago. Noting them for the "someday" list.

>127 rhian_of_oz: I will echo Rhian in saying that I too love reading your reviews, I consider them some of the best on CR. They do wonders for my TBR too!

>130 arubabookwoman: I have always been interested in translation and, as you know, read as many books in translation as I can. It's a fascinating topic, and questions like "accuracy to the word or to the tone/style" have always intrigued me. A good translation seems rather like magic, so the fantasy element in Babel seems somewhat appropriate. I loved the quotes, thanks for typing them out, but I'm still not sure I want to undertake reading the whole book.

>138 arubabookwoman: Ugh, the joys (not) of moving. When my daughter and I moved to Florida, the moving van was three weeks late and they "lost" my car for a while. Like you, we had to sleep on blowup beds and scurry to buy some furniture. There are some things I enjoy about moving (unpacking my books, for one), but I am VERY glad to be settled in my house for the long haul.

>140 arubabookwoman: I have only read Travels in the Scriptorium by Auster. I enjoyed it, and it has stayed with me, but haven't read anything else by him. Do you have a favorite?

Ago 31, 9:52 am

Ah, I don't think I realized you had moved to the Tampa Bay area. Glad you didn't get really whacked by Idalia. My cousins are somewhere along the Big Bend, and about 20 minutes by car from the cays that got just about washed away. After scoffing about hurricanes, they were very grateful they weren't any closer.

Editado: Set 3, 10:23 am

>161 RidgewayGirl: Hi Kay. I always seem to find time for reading a book or two by JCO each year. But I'll never catch up with her output.

>162 lisapeet: Hi Lisa. Thanks for visiting. It was extremely stressful, especially because although we had an accepted offer on the sale of our condo, we did not make the purchase of our new house contingent on that going through. The condo market in Florida is in transition now, as the legislature has passed/proposed many new bills regulating condos and their maintenance, etc. after the Surfside collapse in Miami a couple of years ago. And then there are the hurricanes. Idalia happened just a few weeks after we sold. Our old condo building came out fine, but there is apparently a lot of beach erosion.

>163 labfs39: Hi Lisa. I welcome your visits whenever you can stop by. You always have such thoughtful comments. I definitely feel you would like both Drabble and Hollinghurst. That's the only book I've read by (it was a Booker winner), but I've read several by Drabble and remember liking them all.
I'm blushing about your compliment on my reviews. Thank you! Since spoilers have never bothered me (except in the sense of revealing the murderer in a murder mystery), I'm always concerned about wandering into spoilerish territory. I personally like to know a little about the plot, characters, style, etc. before venturing into a book.
Auster's books are all very different at least plot wise, but somehow they all have an "Austerish" tone--a plain style but having a sound of its own. In many of his books, he plays games with the reader. One of my favorites is Timbuktu, which is narrated from the point of view of Mr. Bones, the dog of a homeless man. As a dog person, I think you would like it too, though I don't recall it as one in which he is playing games. The New York Trilogy, three interrelated short novels, is one in which he plays games that I liked a lot. I also really liked The Book of Illusions.

>164 ffortsa: Hi Judy. You have cousins everywhere!--At least in Portland and in Florida. Hope your Florida cousins did ok in the storm. It's hard to believe we've been in Tampa 3 years. I'm still not adjusted (and not just climate-wise).

Maybe I can get through May in my reviews for the day. I wasn't kidding when I said my inability to sew because of the carpal tunnel has ramped up my reading--I read 21 books in May, probably a record for me.

Set 3, 10:33 am

Another Scandi-crime from the library. A new author to me:

53. The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe (2013) 352 pp

"As usual I feel a kind of sadness, but also a fascination with the irrepressible urge of human beings to kill each other."

There are three alternating narrators in the Scandi-crime novel from Sweden, including two of the investigators, Peter and Hanne, who have a complicated history. They haven't worked together in a while, and Hanne has learned that she is in the early stages of Alzheimer's, a fact that she is keeping from Peter. The third narrator is a young woman named Emma describing events taking place during the weeks before the crime. We are uncertain of her role, and don't know whether she is a victim or a perpetrator. And although she seems honest, we are not quite sure whether she's living in reality, and whether to trust her version of events.

As the book opens, the body of a beautiful woman lying in a pool of blood has been discovered in the home of Jesper Ore, the wealthy CEO of a fashionable retail chain. She has been decapitated, and police must first determine her identity. Jesper himself is missing.

I enjoyed this psychological thriller/police procedural. I tend to prefer my crime novels to have an emphasis on character, and not on shoot-outs.

3 stars

Editado: Set 3, 10:51 am

Library Book, because I was reminded to read more Elmore Leonard:

54. The Switch by Elmore Leonard (1978) 304 pp

Louis and Ordell met in prison. Now that Louis is out, he's rooming with Ordell. Ordell has a plan he's been saving for Louis and he to make some quick easy money. He knows of a real estate developer who's been stashing millions offshore. They'll kidnap his wife for a million in ransom, and he'll pay up to avoid the IRS finding out about the offshore accounts.

Not without a few glitches, Louis and Ordell, with the help of the neo-Nazi pal Richard, grab Mickey, wife of real estate developer Frank. The big glitch comes when Frank refuses to pay--he was in the process of divorcing Mickey anyway.

I'm not sure whether this book was the basis for the movie starring Bette Midler and Danny Devito in the Mickey/Frank roles (probably was). In the movie the wife was nasty and belligerent, who over time with the kidnappers mellows out.

Here, Mickey was "nice," but rather insipid and passive. Although a bit of implausibility is to be expected with Leonard, there's usually more than enough humor and wit to offset that. It just didn't work here, maybe because of the weakness of Mickey's character. And after the Mickey is released, the plot meanders on pointlessly. I've read three or four other books by Leonard, and loved them all, but this one didn't work for me, despite the fact that I had been really looking forward to it.

(A lot of Amazon reviewers agreed-one said this is a book that fizzles, not sizzles.)

2 stars

Set 3, 11:10 am

I've long seen references of the Penn Cage crime series set in Natchez and wanted to see what it was about:

55. The Quiet Game by Greg Iles (1999) 436 pp

"Natchez is unlike anyplace in America existing almost outside time, which is exactly what Annie and I need."

It's shortly after his wife died of cancer and attorney and best-selling author Penn Cage's young daughter Annie is grieving. He decides to return to his hometown Natchez where his mother and father might help his daughter through the process. Days after he arrives back in town, he's embroiled in a Civil Rights Era murder mystery, not to mention helping his father who's being blackmailed.

There are a lot of things that annoyed/angered me about this book. First of all, Penn moved back to Natchez for Annie, then immediately abandons her to his parents. He's chasing around town solving crimes (and having plenty of time for flirtation with a pretty reporter), moaning about wanting to protect his daughter, but basically ignoring her. And he has way too many close calls.

Then there's the legal stuff. Not that I was any great shakes as an attorney, and I will admit that the inaccurate way in which trials/legal issues are presented in novels is a pet peeve of mine, but the legal matters as described in this novel are so far out there, so removed from reality that I couldn't stand it. Almost nothing in the way the legal matters are described in this book could have occurred in real life.

Worst of all there is the paternalistic attitude against Blacks that permeates this book. I understand that it's set in a small Southern town, and maybe it could be said that this is the attitude that many of white denizens would have. But it also seems to be the attitude of those in the book who are supposed to be the "good guys," (i.e. Penn and his parents). Beyond that, the characters are all pretty much cliches.

This is not a series I will continue.

1 1/2 stars

Set 3, 11:25 am

Another one from the library. This one won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and World Fantasy Award:

56. The Prestige by Christopher Priest (1995) 372 pp

This is a tale of dueling magicians (Ruper Angier, "The Great Danton" vs. Alfred Borden, "Le Professeur de la Magic) mostly set during the Victorian era, but bookended by an opening and a closing section during which descendants of the two magicians meet. This is not my usual fare, and I have no particular interest in magic, magicians or fantasy, so I don't even know why I checked it out of the library, probably a random complimentary reference on LT. But I have to say, that I really enjoyed this book. Beyond have a good and engaging plot, the book has lot of background information on magic and magicians, which was interesting to learn. Here's a couple:

An illusion has three stages: 1. The setup; 2. The performance, where the magician's lifetime of practice and his skill as a performer join to create the magical display; and 3. The effect, or "the prestige," which is the product of the magic, i.e. the rabbit is the prestige when it is pulled out of the seemingly empty hat.


There are only 6 categories of illusions: 1. Production--producing something out of nothing; 2. Disappearance--the vanishing of something into nothing; 3. Transformation--changing one thing into another; 4. Transposition--changing of place of 2 or more things; 5. Defiance of natural laws (i.e. gravity); and 6. Secret motive power--causing objects to move.

So if this sounds like your thing, recommended.

3 stars

Set 3, 11:39 am

I checked this out of the library after reading another book by this author earlier in the year:

57. Slow Motion by Dani Shapiro (1998) 185 pp
Subtitle: A True Story

The earlier book I read by Dani Shapiro was a novel, but this turned out to be a memoir. During the course of reading this I discovered that she has written another, more recent memoir (Inheritance, in which she learned through routine DNA testing that the man she thought was her father was not actually her biological father). This memoir relates to a much earlier time, although her father plays an important role here, too.

Dani is in her early 20's. She had dropped out of college after a couple of years, ostensibly to pursue an acting/modeling career, but she also became the kept mistress of a much older fabulously wealthy married man, who also happened to be the stepfather of one of her best college friends. There is much cocaine and drinking involved in her life, meals at expensive restaurants (with purging afterwards), travel around the world, jewelry, furs etc. You get the picture--a charmed life indeed.

As the memoir opens, Dani is at a health and beauty spa on the West Coast when she receives a phone call notifying her that her parents have been in a serious car accident and may not survive. She must return to New Jersey at once. As she heads home, and in the days afterwards, she begins to rethink the course her life is taking. "I want to start my life over again, but I don't know how."

The book does a good job of portraying a life gone off the tracks, a self-destructive life, and what it took to turn that life around. Again, although this sort of thing is not my usual fare, it was a decent read.

3 stars

Set 3, 1:11 pm

I also loved Nemesis, Deborah. I think it's one of my favorite Roth novels. I have never been able to warm to JCO's novels. I have a few on my shelf and will give her another try, but she may not be for me.

The Coetzee sounds great as well. Another one to add to my WL.

On a totally unrelated topic, I think you recommended Oh Pure and Radiant Heart to me? I love Millet and this one has been on my shelves for a while. I was talking about another of her novels with some friends, and I thought I remembered that you really liked this one. Her latest, Dinosaurs is REALLY good.

Set 3, 6:04 pm

>166 arubabookwoman: Thanks for taking this bullet for us! I will make sure to avoid it.

Set 4, 12:04 am

>169 arubabookwoman: There's a very good film version with Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as the two magicians. One of Christopher Nolan's best, and most underrated, movies.

Set 4, 9:44 am

>171 BLBera: Hi Beth. It was probably me who recommended Oh Pure and Radiant Heart to you--at least I've recommended it to many people. I still have her Mermaids in Paradise on my Kindle to read, and Dinosaurs is on the WL.

>172 ffortsa: Hi Judy. Well I liked the book at >166 arubabookwoman:, the Ice Beneath Her, so I think you're probably referring to >168 arubabookwoman: the Natchez Burning book.

>173 KeithChaffee: Thanks for the info about the movie Keith. I will look for it.

Well, yesterday I had more time and was continuing to write reviews, and had written a review of the next book. When I tried to post it LT crashed or something and it was lost. So I had to write it all over again. Grrrr.

Set 4, 10:07 am

On the 1001 List. Off my Kindle:

58. The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy (1887) 433 pp

"He wondered if her father's ambition which had purchased for her the means of intellectual light and culture far beyond those of any other native of the village, would conduce to the flight of her future interests above and away from the local life which was once to her the movement of the world."

This is considered one of the six masterpieces of Hardy's Wessex novels. The other five are The Mayor of Casterbridge, Far From the Madding Crows, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, and The Return of the Native. This is the only one of those novels that I had not yet read (though to be fair other than Jude which I have read multiple times, I read them all many years ago, so perhaps they are due a reread). Of the group, this is my least favorite, though it is still a good read, and Hardy himself described it as his favorite of his novels.

Grace Melbury, daughter of a rural timber dealer from the village of Little Hintlock, was sent away to school by her father to be educated as a "lady." Before she left, she had a loose understanding with local apple farmer Giles Winterbourne. Now that she has returned, her father believes that marrying Giles would be beneath Grace and he wants her to marry someone of a higher social status. There is a new doctor in the area, Edred Fitzpiers, and this is who Grace ends up marrying. Although she suspects before the marriage that Edred is a philanderer and of low moral character (and knows that Giles is true-hearted and honest), Grace marries Edred anyway to please her father. The marriage rapidly deteriorates, and Edred becomes infatuated with a wealthy local widow who owns most of the land in the area, Felice Charmond. And always hanging in the background observing is another true-hearted villager, Marty South, who is secretly in love with Giles.

Hardy considered this one of his Novels of Character and Environment, and the message he is seeking to get across is loud and clear: Valuing social status over good character can only lead to tragedy. Unlike some of his other novels, we have characters dealing with the consequences of the wrong choices they have made in life, rather than characters being constantly downtrodden by fate. It's a novel about the conflicts wrought in society by class privilege and wealth, and Hardy comes down on the side of the honest and hard-working villagers rather than the gentry.

I mostly enjoyed this, although as I said it's not my favorite Hardy. One thing people have really liked about the book is its many lyrical descriptions of Nature, which I was not particularly interested in. But I'm glad I read it.

3 1/2 stars

Editado: Set 4, 12:49 pm

Imagine my surprise earlier this year when I discovered that the Barroy Trilogy is now actually the Barroy Quartet. I had to immediately buy the newest entry. Off my Kindle:

59. Just a Mother by Roy Jacobsen (2020) 263 pp

"{B}eing a mother really turned her into a wreck."

The saga of Ingrid Barroy and her family continues when Ingrid and her daughter Kaja return to the island after their journey across Norway and beyond in an attempt to discover what happened to Alexander, the Russian POW Ingrid sheltered on the island during the war. In addition to Kaja, Ingrid becomes the adoptive mother of sorts of a young boy Matthias. Matthias's mother has disappeared and his mother's husband, who believes, as does all the town, that Matthias is actually the son of a German soldier who was stationed there during the war, abandons the boy on Ingrid's island. A large part of the story involves trying to discover Matthias's actual parentage, and Ingrid's fears that he may be taken from her. These story lines resonate with the trauma and damage still left from WW II, where some villagers collaborated with the Germans and some did not.

There is also of course the ongoing rhythm of day to day life on the island, and the lives of the fishermen who go to sea each year and the dangers they face. The island is not immune to tragedy.

I enjoyed the book, though maybe not as much as the others. I will say that I don't know how it could be read unless you have read the previous three books. The translator in a short forward briefly described what had gone before, but even with that "refresher" I had difficulty at times remembering who was who and what had happened previously. It was like stepping into the middle of a plot driven movie and trying to follow the story.

3 stars

And with that, I've completed my reviews through books read in May. On to June.

Set 4, 10:38 am

First read of June was a library book. It's a Holocaust story from a different perspective:

60. The Glass Pearls by Emeric Pressburger (1965) 228 pp

"They are after you. You are on the list. On top of the list. 'Tuning pianos,' indeed! A famous doctor like you."

Karl Braun is a piano tuner living in London approximately 20 years after WW II ended. He is an apparent refugee from Germany. We soon learn that he is biding his time, having heard that the German government had declared a 20 year statute of limitations on prosecuting Nazi war criminals. When he hears that the statute of limitations has been extended he begins to fall apart. He is suspicious of everyone, and he expects to be arrested at any moment. But are the various people Karl suspects are about to arrest him merely figments of his paranoid imagination?

The introduction to this short novel calls it a "troubling study in spiritual corruption." The author is Jewish and lost his mother and many close relatives at Auschwitz, yet he tells the story from the pov of one of the perpetrators of these evils, which is perhaps a bit puzzling. Is he pointing out that the perpetrators of the Holocaust were not necessarily inhuman aberrations, but that what Hannah Arendt called "the banality of evil" is what allowed the Holocaust to happen? I'm not sure, but this was an interesting read.

3 1/2 stars

Editado: Set 4, 12:49 pm

This next one is from the library

61. We Were Once Family by Roxanna Asgarian (2023) 294 pp
Subtitle: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America

"The Hart family story complicates popular narratives about abuse and the role of CPS in protecting children from it. The children's birth families were not beating their children or starving them; they were clearly struggling with substance use and mental illness, but instead of receiving help, the parents were punished. On the other hand, authorities consistently projected a halo of goodness onto the adoptive mothers, throughout a decade of abuse allegations, and even after the murder of their children with cops and other officials bending over backwards to interpret their actions in the kindest possible light."

Several years ago a lesbian couple, Sarah and Jennifer Hart, drove their car off the cliffs of Northern California into the ocean with their 6 adopted children. They and all 6 children died. In this book, the author investigates the foster care system and removals of children from their birth homes through the lens of this tragedy.

Not surprisingly, she found that the children removed from their homes are disproportionately black or biracial and overwhelmingly poor. The homes they go to are often white. During the process, the families they are taken from are stigmatized, given few chances and little help or assistance, whereas the families they go to are given every benefit of the doubt. For instance, in the Hart case, before the second set of three children was placed with them for adoption, Sarah had already been found to have physically abused one of the three children they already had adopted.

I found the book to be eye-opening and very sad. The first set of three children adopted by the Harts were initially taken from their mother when she failed to get medical help for one of them. However, she was in the process of trying to get transportation to the hospital and had no ride. The second set were taken from their mother who had a substance abuse problem. When she wasn't using, she was a loving mother. They were initially placed with their aunt for adoption by their aunt, and were not supposed to have unsupervised visits with their mother. However, one day when child-care fell through, and the aunt would lose her job if she didn't go to work, the mother was left in charge of the children for a short while. Unfortunately CPS showed up, found the children alone with their mother and immediately removed them. Despite desperate efforts in the courts and administratively to get the children back with their actual family, they were sent from Houston their home to the Harts in Chicago. In both these cases, so many issues, so much trauma, and probably the deaths of the children could have been avoided had CPS acted more reasonably--how about helping these desperately poor mothers/caregivers with childcare assistance, better and more accessible healthcare (a ride to the doctor?), or just let the moms know they're there to help, not to punish.

This was excellent, informative, detailed and well-written.

4 stars

Set 4, 11:25 am

>178 arubabookwoman: This sounds like a hard one to read, but an important one.

Set 4, 12:03 pm

>176 arubabookwoman: A reminder that I have had Unseen on my wishlist for ages. Probably since you first reviewed it!

>177 arubabookwoman: Interesting. I'm look into borrowing this one.

>178 arubabookwoman: As Jennifer says, hard to read but important. I don't know much about CPS, but I did read a memoir last year about a Cambodian American child who was removed from a loving white family, whom he adored, and placed in a group home with other nonwhite children after allegations of racism in the system. I don't think that's the right solution either, especially when the majority of potential foster families in Maine is overwhelmingly white. The Hart case is so sad.

Set 4, 1:34 pm

>174 arubabookwoman: I thought it was you - I am patting myself on the back for having such a great memory.

Set 7, 8:10 am

>178 arubabookwoman: This should be a candidate for my RL book group, in its usual theme of depressing social issues, except one member is an adoptive mother (of two now-adults from other countries) so I dunno.

Set 8, 5:22 pm

>178 arubabookwoman:

how about helping these desperately poor mothers/caregivers with childcare assistance, better and more accessible healthcare (a ride to the doctor?)

But that would be communism => next stop gulags. It's striking how even from just those two examples it's clear the problem is systemic AND ubiquitous (i.e. doesn't begin nor stop with the situations of the poor children and their parents). Why is the aunt--who must have been judged a solid alternative to "no good" mother morally, economically etc.--in such a precarious position at her workplace that she couldn't afford to take some time off (even a short break) or count on employer's understanding? And why would even such a small crisis lead to outright job loss? As for trying to catch a ride in America... One could have a whole course around the topic. Just a perfect storm of racism, greediest capitalism, all-American thuggery and fascism.

And the poor are ground to a meal.

Set 12, 11:19 am

>179 japaul22: Agreed Jennifer.

>180 labfs39: It was a different take on the Holocaust Lisa. The whole question of what to do with children in peril is difficult. You want to do what's best for the children, but when do you remove? Are we removing children from homes where there are difficult circumstances, when maybe there is something else to be done. It just made me aware that removal may not always be best, and that the system does seem to make difficulties for families that desperately want to keep the children.

>181 BLBera: You do have a good memory Beth.

>182 qebo: Katherine, as I said above there are good points on both sides, which makes it difficult to decide when removal is necessary, as well as when the adoptive parents are not a good thing.

>183 LolaWalser: I was particularly incensed about the total blindness of the CPS to the aunt's situation--doing the best she could for the kids, and CPS was totally obstructive to her.

Maybe I can get through the reviews for books I finished in June.

Set 12, 11:27 am

Japanese mystery by a favorite author from the library:

62. A Death in Tokyo by Keigo Higashino (2011) 368 pp

This is another excellent police procedural by a favorite Japanese crime novelist. featuring detectives Kyoichiro Kaga and his cousin Shuhei Matsumiya. In the case to be solved, a man has dropped dead just after passing the police station, half-way across a bridge in a part of Tokyo in which he has not reason to be. Who is the man? Why was he there? Is the correct man arrested?

The book has great pacing, and the clues keep arising, constantly turning the investigation (and our thoughts) in new directions. However, none of these felt like red herrings or unnecessary padding, and all led to an ultimately satisfying conclusion.


3 stars

Others I have read by ;the same author, also recommended:
The Devotion of Suspect X; Salvation of a Saint; and Journey Under the Midnight Sun. I will be seeking out more.

Editado: Set 12, 12:36 pm

From the Library:

63. Apollo 13 by James Lovell (1994) 558 pp

"'Freddy,' Lovell said, turning to Haise. 'I'm afraid this is going to be the last moon mission for a long time.'"

This is the compelling story of the Apollo 13 disaster: the blow-out that disabled the command module and life support systems for astronauts James Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert, and the ensuing rescue efforts to bring them safely back to Earth. The story is told from the points of view of the astronauts, from all the engineers and staff at NASA Mission Control working frantically, and from the families who watched helplessly. There's a lot of detail here, as one crisis follows another, but it's not too technical and not boring.

If you've seen the Ron Howard movie, you will know the outline of the story (and the importance of duct tape), but it was still interesting to me to get all the details filled in. I was constantly amazed at the skill and ingenuity of the the astronauts and the people on the ground, as especially their dedication. The families, too, were amazing in their bravery and stoicism. It was a thrilling adventure to read, but also a very feel-good book.


4 stars

Set 12, 12:55 pm

From the Library:

64. Nothing Holds Back the Night by Delphine de Vigan (2011) 353 pp

"I am writing about Lucile through the eyes of a child who grew up too fast, writing about the mystery she always was to me, simultaneously so present and so distant."

By happenstance, I appear to be reading a lot of what seems to be called "auto-fiction" (i.e. My Struggle and Kate Zambreno's Drifts. I'm not sure what the exact technical definition of auto-fiction is, but in any event this book has been described as auto-fiction, or at the least it is a very loose memoir. Delphine is a French writer I'd never heard of before, and in this book she presents a narrative about her family with a focus on her mother, who suffered from various forms of mental illness over the years and who committed suicide in her early 60's. It was nominated for 8 major literary awards in France, and won 2.

As the book opens, Delphine has discovered her mother in bed in her apartment, dead for several days, an apparent suicide barely in her 60's. She thereafter begins a quest to "know" her mother, to answer the big question "Why?", probing family and friends.

Her mother came from a large somewhat Bohemian family, happy on the surface but seemingly often touched by tragedy. (Two of her brothers died young and tragically, and there were other suicides among family and friends). Her mother, Lucile, was a beautiful child, a child model in fact, but was described as a "combination of beauty and absence," both fascinating and attracting those around her, but also distancing them. She remained this enigma most of her life, often a loving mother to her two daughters, but just as often rejecting them. There were long periods when she was institutionalized. Delphine states at one point, "From the age of 14, not being like my mother was a major preoccupation, my main objective." And in this book, she is on a quest to understand her mother.

This was a fascinating and tragic family history. I would like to read more by this author.

3 1/2 stars

First line: "My mother was blue, a pale blue mixed with the colour of ashes."

Set 12, 1:16 pm

>184 arubabookwoman: Oh yeah, I get that. It's more that for one person in the book group, it's a personal issue, entangled with decisions she made 25 years ago and may not want in the spotlight (also her adoptive daughter sometimes attends), and for others it's more abstract.

Set 12, 1:17 pm

From the library:

65. Falling by T.J. Newman (2021) 303 pp



This is a thriller about airplanes, which I probably should not have read since I'm a bit of a nervous flyer. I also probably should not have read it because it is a very bad book, in the sense that it is illogical, with stereotypical characters and totally unrealistic scenarios that would never happen in real life.

It did start off promising, although after an entirely gratuitous (and gorey) opening chapter/prologue describing a plane crash, which turns out to be only a dream (things turning out to be "only a dream" is another pet peeve of mine.).

Bill, an airline pilot, agrees to sub for another airline pilot, even though it means he will miss his son's little league game, and even though it makes his wife mad. Almost as soon as he leaves for the airport, a terrorist invades his home and takes his wife and children hostage. Once he is airborne, Bill is contacted a given a choice: he must follow instructions (ultimately to crash the plane he believes) or his wife and children will be blown up. (Although why anyone would believe that the hostages would be let go after the plane crash is beyond me). Bill is also told that there is a "mole" on board to make sure he follows through on the instructions. He must tell no one what is going on. There are canisters on board with poison gas and the first thing he is supposed to do is to poison all the passengers. A courageous flight attendant finds out what's going on, (the author is a former flight attendant), and together she and Bill work around the terrorist's demands, communicate with the FBI on the ground, and generally save the day.

Here are some of the sillier things: the FBI agent (who goes rogue and disobeys the orders of his superiors to try to single-handedly rescue Bill's wife and kids) just happens to be the flight attendant's nephew. After being in an explosion at Bill's house, which severely injures him, he steals a van and engages in a high speed chase hoping to catch the terrorist. After the van crashes in a rollover accident, injuring him more (dislocated shoulder), he steals a motorbike from the scene and takes off on the chase again. After he comes to a dead end, he continues the chase on foot in leaps and bounds. He is a true superman.

The real kicker is the mole. Remember the mole on board who was there to ensure that Bill would do as the terrorist ordered? The mole turns out to be Bill's copilot. There was no need to have Bill substituted as pilot, or to have Bill's wife and kids taken hostage, and to order Bill to do all these things. The copilot was on board, with guns, and could himself easily crashed the plane wherever the terrorists wanted it crashed. Just an abundance of implausibilities.

1 star

Set 12, 1:33 pm

>188 qebo: I can fully understand how sensitive this issue could be, and a book group might avoid books with issues that are personal to a group member or members. There are so many good books out there. May I recommend >186 arubabookwoman:--the Apollo 13 book as one good example.

Next book is from my Kindle:

66. Deep Shelter by Oliver Harris (2014) 340 pp

"Here was that law of nature that gathers up the indiscretions you've left behind and strews them in front of you."

This is the second in the Nick Belsen detective series. I read the first Hollow Man a few years ago, and really liked it. This one, not so much.

Nick Belsen is an amoral, extremely unprincipled, even corrupt London detective. He seems to get away with a lot, although he also always seems on the verge of getting caught, and is definitely on the edge financially.

In this entry, Nick discovers a series of what appear to be bomb shelters or government facilities in underground London, left over after WW II and apparently abandoned. He finds certain goods in some of them, and begins to surmise they may be in use for some sort of criminal enterprise. He decides to bring a date, a woman he barely knows, down to one of the shelters for some champagne and who knows what else. They've barely begun to sip their champagne when Nick turns around, and when he turns back his date has disappeared. Frantically searching the tunnels he's unable to find her. He's afraid to report her as missing because if something has happened to her, he fears being blamed.

I think there's a good story here, but it became more and more convoluted as more and more tunnels, facilities and locations were discovered. I had a hard time keeping track geographically of where we were in London and how things connected. The criminal enterprise(s) didn't always make sense to me either. A person more familiar with the underground facilities described (at least some of them are real), might enjoy this more than I did.

2 stars

Set 12, 1:58 pm

From the library:

67. Seven Empty Houses by Samanta Schweblin (2015) 205 pp

If you've read Samanta Schweblin, you know her work can be dream-like and surreal. While I liked the other book I've read by her (Fever Dream), I admit to difficulty understanding books that are dream-like and surreal, which this is. On top of that, this book consists of 7 short stories ("7 empty houses"?), and I also have difficulty with short stories. So no review here. Instead, I'll just briefly describe each of the 7 stories/empty houses:

"None of That": "But that is exactly what we do. Go out to look at other people's houses." The narrator's mother drives around with her looking at houses. The mother likes to "rearrange" things in or about the houses, and she often seems envious of the inhabitants of those houses, or at least covetous of their possessions. This can get her in trouble sometimes, and is definitely embarrassing for her daughter.

"My Parents and My Children": A man brings his parents to the home of his ex-wife so that they can visit his children, their grandchildren. Soon, his "parents are running naked in the backyard." The ex-wife becomes very upset, especially when the children and grandparents disappear into the woods--perhaps they are all cavorting naked and someone will see.

"It Happens All the Time in This House": The narrator's next door neighbors are grieving the loss of their son. They keep throwing their son's clothes into the narrator's yard, then retrieving them.

"Breathe From the Depths": Lolu wants to die and she is packing up all her belongings. Mentally she begins to deteriorate into paranoia and dementia. "Why when her intentions were so clear did her body wake up again everyday?" This was a longish story, and the one I liked best. It was a masterful depiction of Lolu's mental state.

"Two Square Feet": A woman is sent out in the night to buy aspirin for her mother-in-law. She has just moved back to town, and decides there is something in her storage unit she needs. She's just not sure what.

"An Unlucky Man": The sister of the 8 year old narrator has swallowed bleach, and the family rushes to the hospital. It's the narrator's birthday and she feels ignored and overlooked as she sits in the waiting room, making her the perfect target for a pedophile.

"Out": A woman walks out on her husband in the middle of a discussion. She is in her pjs, but gets in a car with a man who is worried because he has forgotten his anniversary.

Can you see how I would be confused?

3 stars

Set 12, 2:20 pm

From my Kindle

68. Kickback by Garry Disher (1991) 184 pp

I finished Garry Disher's Hal Challis series a few years ago, but for some reason I resisted starting his Wyatt series for fear I'd end up with nothing by Disher to read. In the interim I read his Paul Hishfield books and a couple of stand-alones by him. With Kickback I've now started the Wyatt series

The Hal Challis series consist primarily of police procedurals, with an ensemble cast. Maybe I should call the Wyatt series "criminal" procedurals. For Wyatt is a criminal. Most of the time he is traveling, usually abroad from Australia, or, more recently spending time on his farm in the countryside outside Melbourne, where he is believed to be a former stock broker who made it big in the market and now merely dabbles. A couple of times a year, he disappears for a while, planning and executing a "job", usually a bank robbery, to finance his lifestyle until he begins to run out of money and must do another job.

This, the first entry in the series, opens with Wyatt doing a small job, almost a favor for a mobster, with the proceeds of which he hopes to finance a more financially rewarding job. Unfortunately, the mobster has foisted on Wyatt the assistance of his incompetent younger brother, and the small, supposedly simple job goes awry. Wyatt gets paid, and the remainder of the book focuses on Wyatt's planning and execution of a much more complicated job, which is further complicated by the mobster's brother wanting revenge on Wyatt and constantly creating snafus.

I liked this a lot. Not as much as Hal Challis, but I can see treats ahead--there are 9 Wyatt books. It's intriguing to watch as Wyatt plans down to the most minute details an intricate job, hires the exactly compatible specialist accomplices, and arranges everything so it should all go off without a hitch. And then, there's always a hitch, something always goes awry, so we get to see how Wyatt will wriggle out of it and save himself.

3 1/2 stars

Set 12, 2:26 pm

From my Kindle:

69 Paydirt by Garry Disher (1992) 163 pp

This one picks up right where the prior entry left off: Wyatt has $75,000 in cash and is on the run. He's looking for something new, something BIG, to set him up for the easy life again. He thinks he's found it when he hears about a major pipeline construction project out in the boondocks, with a major cash payroll and very little protection. The planning and gathering of expert accomplices begins. What could go wrong?

I didn't find this as engaging as the first entry, but it was a good read. On to number 3!


Set 15, 11:17 am

Maybe I can finish June reviews today. Maybe not.

This was a reread. As noted at >148 arubabookwoman: the one person who read Life After Life for the condo book group and I agreed to read A God in Ruins to discuss in June. We did:

NOTE: When I reread this book, the whole underlying purpose of the book hit me in the face, which I either missed the first time I read it or which I put out of my mind because I loved Teddy so much. I discuss this in the part labeled SPOILERS, so don't read this part if that concerns you. I will say that this aspect of the book is the one I most wanted to discuss.

70. A God In Ruins by Kate Atkinson (2015) 475 pp

This is the companion book to Life After Life and tells the story of younger brother Teddy's life. The core of the book is about his time as an RAF bomber pilot during WW II, but it covers his childhood (as the inspiration for a successful children's series written by his Aunt Izzie), his marriage to his childhood sweetheart Nancy, his difficult relationship with his daughter Viola, and his love of his grandchildren Sunny and Bertie, all the way until his death as a very old man, having lived a full and rewarding life. Teddy is one of the dearest characters I have had the opportunity to meet in a book, and I loved every second of his story, even on this second reading.

HOWEVER, There was one thing about the book that came through to me loud and clear on this second reading that I either totally missed the first time around or that I put out of my mind because it is so devastating. Don't read this next part if you mind SPOILERS*******SPOILERS*****SPOILERS**********

Atkinson said she wrote the book as a tribute to the RAF pilots most of whom were still boys, and most of whom did not survive their tour of duty. And, the end of the book makes clear that Teddy actually was in the majority of pilots who did not survive the war. Atkinson was only imagining what his life might have been if he had not died. In "real life," he did not marry Nancy, he did not have a daughter or grandchildren, he did not write a nature column, all the people whose lives he affected after the war, never had the chance to know him. And in Atkinson's view, he is the stand-in for the thousands who also did not survive the war, for all the "might-have-beens."

Here are some of the quotes that struck me to the heart:

"The house of fiction falls, taking Viola, Sunny and Bertie with it. They melt into thin air and disappear. Pouf!"

"Across the world millions of lives are altered by the absence of the dead."

"All the birds who were never born, all the songs that were never sung and so can exist only in the imagination....And this is Teddy's."

As to the boys flying the planes, "They were not so much warriors as sacrifices for the greater good. Birds thrown against a wall, in the hope that eventually, if there were enough birds, they will break that wall."

And "Teddy sank to the silent seabed and joined all the tarnished treasure that lay there unseen, forty fathoms deep. He was lost forever, only a small silver hare to keep him company in the dark."


This is a wonderful book, and I highly recommend it whether you read Life After Life or not. (But they are better together. And unlike many rereads, this definitely held up second time around, maybe even better.

5 stars

Set 15, 11:30 am

This one is on the 1001 List, and is also written by a Nobelist.

71. The Victim by Saul Bellow (1947) 250 pp

This is Bellow's second novel, so a very early work for him. Asa Leventhal is alone for the summer, his wife having gone to help her mother move. Walking through the neighborhood one evening, Asa is accosted by an old acquaintance, Kirby Albee, who is drunk. Kirby accuses Asa of having caused him to be fired from his job several years previously. Over the next six weeks or so Kirby becomes increasingly more aggressive in his attacks on Asa, many of which Asa interprets as anti-semitic.

While all this is going on, Asa must also help out with his absent brother's wife and her very ill son. He also is trying to figure out, contacting others from his past, whether he really had played any part in Kirby's being fired from his job.

In the introduction, the book is described as "a parable in the guise of a middle-European realist novel." At the time he was writing it, details of the Holocaust were just becoming known to the world. Bellow has said that the theme of the book is guilt and it is somewhat about anti-semitism. There is a definite play about the ambiguity over who is the victim--Asa or Kirby? In fact they victimize each other.

I found the style of writing very distancing from the characters. I could never work myself up to sympathize with any of the characters. The writing beautifully portrayed life in post-WW II New York City--the heat of the summer, the crowds, the grittiness, and I enjoyed reading about what life was like in the city then. But it was never a book that called to me because I was enjoying it so much or because I wanted to find out what was going to happen next. So, mildly recommended.

3 stars

Set 15, 12:09 pm

A Library Book:

72. They by Kay Dick (1971)
Subtitle: A Sequence of Unease

This is clearly a work of dystopian fiction. It's less clear whether it's a novel of interrelated short stories, or just a book of short stories. It felt more like short stories to me, so I'll do what I usually do with short stories, which almost always puzzle me. Rather than a review, just a brief description of each of the stories:

"The Visitants"--We learn that "they" don't like people living alone--"The single is a menace to them." N and Sandy go to Judith's for tea. Berg is in the conservatory and Judith's mother is playing patience. Three newcomers had come by to check on who was living there.

"Pocket of Quietude"--N visits Hurst. His son Julian's paintings are there. Russell and Jane, a poet whose poetry was thrown in the fire, are coming from London. "It can't all be destroyed. Some of it will remain for those who come after us." Hurst betrays Jane and Russell to save Julian's paintings.

"Pebble of Unease"--N goes to tea with Julian at the Old Rectory. When she returns to her cottage, the old man's terrier is dead by her gate, its neck broken. Olwen tells her, "Best not to notice these things." N's neighbor Mary is taken away for the disease of being "disoriented." Julian and N go for a walk on the Downs, which is now off-limits. They receive a warning from men walking in formation.

"The Fine Valley"--Rick and N are walking in the country when they meet Adrian, Jill and their two boys, as well as Dana. They go to Ross's studio at a community center for painters, sculptors, potters, weavers and so on. Rick lives with Ross. Now, "Nonconformity is an illness. We're possible sources of contagion." They learn the center is to be vacated. Ross is taken away.

"A Light-Hearted Day"--Sebastian and N walk on the beach. Sebastian loves Fiona, who is being held in a tower somewhere far away. Fiona is released, but she has been "cured."

"The Fairing"--N is walking to Tom's, following coded directions on how to get there. She gets lost. When she finally gets there, Tom says, "Hallo,"--"They're waiting for you."

"The Garden"--Egon is visiting N. He feels compelled to paint. While out, he rescues a fox cub from children who were trying to drown it. At this time, arts and crafts were not disallowed, but were discouraged. Everything is supposed to be done as teamwork. Mike, a boat maker, comes to take Egon's work to his place to hide it. Then, three of "them" come for Egon.

"Hallo Love"--N says this every morning. Tom comes to go swimming. In the afternoon, they go to visit Tessa, who has two boys, to try to persuade her to move away. Her husband had been taken, and she wants to wait for him to come back. Then, "they" come and take Tessa away, and say they'll be back for the boys. Inscriptions are torn out of N's books. Someone swims out to sea. He had been "emptied." N twists her ankle so that it is "acceptable" to express pain. "I wondered what part of my anatomy I could next injure without too much damage when I needed the relief of utterance."

Puzzling and mysterious indeed. Most of the time, it is difficult to understand what exactly is happening, but a great sense of dread is created. Much of the threat is directed at artists and others who are considered non-conformists. The afterword states, and I agree, "Much of the novel's power lies in its various mysteries." The afterword also notes that what is interesting is that the threatening "they" do not appear to be government-sanctioned or governmental operatives, but rather independent groups who have undertaken the "cleansings" and "cures" on their own. This, for me, brought to mind the individuals and groups who are now seeking to ban books, to censor what can be taught in our schools, to impose their restrictive values on everyone. In that, the book, written in the early 1970's, is certainly prescient.

Also as noted in the afterword, the book reminds us of the value of art and culture, and it is a plea for artistic and intellectual freedom. I was frequently frustrated when reading the book, having difficulty following what was happening, but as I reflect on it, I am liking it more and more, and I'm very glad I read it.

3 1/2 stars

Editado: Set 15, 12:28 pm

From the Library:

73. Such Kindness by Andre Dubus III (2023) 312 pp

"For the thousandth time I think that I do not belong here. I do not belong here with any of these people."

Readers of Andre Dubus III will know that he often writes of America's underclass, its down-trodden victims of poverty and drugs and violence. This book is no exception. It reminded me somewhat of the books of Willy Vlautin.

For many years, Tom Lowe was a successful carpenter with his own prosperous business. He married slightly above himself, and he and his wife Ronnie had a son Drew. He owned a plot of land, and wanted to build a house on it for his family. He let himself be talked into taking out an adjustable rate mortgage, and he built a beautiful house with his own two hands, even though he knew the mortgage payments would stretch his finances to the nth degree. Unfortunately, he hadn't really fully understood the consequences of the adjustable rate feature. Still, when the rate increased, he was only a few payments behind. Then tragedy struck: a fall from a roof left him disabled and addicted to pain killers. He loses his business, the house and his family.

When the book opens, Tom has beat the addiction. He lives on meager disability checks in subsidized housing. He is trying to scrounge up enough money to go see his son on his son's birthday in a few days time. He is bitter, and wants revenge on the banker who talked him into the ARM, which he sees as the source of all his problems. He and his neighbor single Mom Trina have devised a plan to steal the banker's garbage and take advantage of credit card/cash advance offers the banker may have received in the mail (id theft/bank fraud).

The book follows Tom's life (and a sad and hard-scrabble one it is) over the next several days until and after his son's birthday. Despite its grim beginning, it ultimately turns heart-warming, maybe even Pollyanna-ish, as Tom comes across many people and random acts of kindness that begin to change his outlook on life.

Overall I liked this book, although I've liked the others I've read by him better (House of Sand and Fog, The Garden of Last Days, and Townie).

3 stars

Set 15, 12:38 pm

>194 arubabookwoman: Yes, that revelation, which I came to very late in the book, changed how I viewed it. Up til then I saw it as a lesser book than Life After Life.

Set 15, 12:46 pm

From my Kindle:

74. The Missing File by D.A. Mishani (2011) 204 pp

This is the first entry in a crime series featuring Israeli detective Avraham Avraham. While I found it somewhat slow moving, I much prefer that to crime novels that are all action and shoot-'em-up.

This case involves a school-boy teenager who left for school one morning and never came home. At first (and probably for too long) the case is treated as a simple runaway situation.

The interesting twist about this book for me is that Avraham's hobby is to read detective novels and prove to himself that the solutions the fictional detectives in these novels come up with are incorrect, with Avraham then determining what the correct solution is. Here, after the case of the missing teen is solved, Avraham's girlfriend poses an alternative solution, equally plausible. As the book ends, we cannot know whether the potential new culprit will be pursued, whether there will be further investigation, or whether the case will stand closed as is.

Which is why I have to go on to read the next volume--will there be further developments regarding this first case? And will alternate solutions be offered in all Avraham's cases?


3 stars

Set 15, 12:48 pm

>198 RidgewayGirl: Thank you for reading it Kay, because I really wanted to talk about it. I either totally missed it, or totally blocked it out after my first reading so I was stunned on this second reading. And I agree, it made the book much more admirable. I thought about it for days afterwards, did a bunch of google-research on RAF pilots, and shed a few tears.

Set 15, 1:14 pm

>200 arubabookwoman: And it affected how I saw Life After Life. It certainly made a single death more real that a dozen descriptions of death and grief. I recently read another novel where a RAF pilot was an important character and it leaned into how the men in those planes knew they were unlikely to survive. (Good Night, Irene by Luis Alberto Urrea)

Set 15, 1:55 pm

Last read of June was the first book of the Snopes Trilogy for the group read. Instead of a review, I'm just posting my comments on the book from the group read thread:

75. The Hamlet () pp

Reading this for the Snopes Trilogy group read, I had a hard time getting into The Hamlet, though I've loved most of the other works by Faulkner I've read (especially The Sound and the Fury, Absalom Absalom, Light in August and As I Lay Dying). I especially love Faulkner's prose style--the meandering sentences, the "story-telling," the southern colloquialisms. I think it was because when I started the book, I was only able to read in short snatches of time, and I wasn't finding any continuity and was having to reread, and that made the first two books in The Hamlet, "Flem" and "Eula" so much less enjoyable to me than the last two books, which I read much more quickly, over just a couple of days.

I'll just give my thoughts organized by the individual books in which they occurred:

"Flem"--The first book is about Flem, but we only see him from the outside, and to me, at least, he remained enigmatic at the end of Book I as well as at the end of The Hamlet. We know he arrives in town, the son of a poor sharecropper, and by the end of Book I he (or relatives he's placed in position) is running the store, running the gin, lending money, wheeling and dealing, and the right-hand man for Will Varner, the richest man in town. I kind of enjoyed the barn-burning stories, but have to admit, perhaps the Snopeses are smarter than me because I had difficulty following the horse trading story.

I liked the character of Ratliff. In my experience, with Ratliff, Faulkner utilizes a techniques he often uses: having one character, usually a "country folk," sometimes a minor character with no role to play other than as a storyteller, relate events about the main character or characters to advance the plot. Here I think we can say Ratliff is a fairly prominent character with a part to play other than as a storyteller. By the end of the whole book, I began to see Ratliff as a counter-ploy to Flem. He is a wheeler-dealer like Flem, but he is Nice, where Flem is downright Nasty. So in Book I, Ratliff tries to outsmart Flem in the matter of the goat farm and the notes signed in Flem's name he got from Mink, but ends up being outsmarted himself. He seems to take it all in good humor though (and even pays over some money to help feed Ike). Whereas, we have to think that had Flem gotten outsmarted, he would be seeking revenge. The maneuvering re the goat farm and the notes were again just beyond the range of my understanding of what was actually going on, but I got the gist.

Book II Eula

This for me was the most over-the-top section of the book. I found Eula on the one hand to be passive and apathetic, but on the other hand to be extremely strong-willed and opinionated, if that even makes sense. Nevertheless, to me, Faulkner thoroughly succeeded in creating such a contradictory character as Eula and making her believable. And Eula can definitely take care of herself. We don't get to see much, if any of her interaction with Flem. I have to wonder what she really felt about marrying him. I am not sure what the timeline for the succeeding books is, but I am interested to see if we are ever going to get more of an inside look at the relationship between Eula and Flem in either of the future books. (Or even of either Flem or Eula individually).

I really didn't care much for the descriptions of Eula's extreme sexuality (even back into the womb!). I kept picturing her as a pint-size Dolly Parton. And I thought the bit about the school teacher Labove went on too long. Probably my least favorite part of the book.

Book III The Long Summer

The novel really picked up for me with this section, and I began reading it compulsively. Ike falling in love with the cow is over-the-top, but I believed it. It was also interesting to get to know more about all the various Snopes relations. And although in Book II, I thought the side-story about Labove went on too long, here, I enjoyed reading Houston's side-story.

With the story of Houston's murder, we begin to see just how low these Snopes folks will stoop: once Mink learns he may have left $50 on Houston's body, he's going back after it, even if reexposing Houston's body may be what ultimately leads to his arrest. And if that's not enough, Mink takes even bigger chances because he doesn't want to share with Lump any part of the $50. And, am I correct in thinking that Mink ended up killing Houston over the $3 for pasturage he had to pay when he lost the suit regarding the cow? Mighty petty amount, even back then, to murder someone over.

There was a very Faulknerian quote I noted in this section:

"He fled to from the past but to escape the future. It took him twelve years to learn that you cannot escape either of them."

And the bit of humor in naming Eck's son "Wallstreet Panic."

Book IV The Peasants

This was my favorite part of the book. The whole long set piece about the Texan and the auction of the wild horses was so masterfully choreographed and written by Faulkner. Can't you just see the horses whizzing back and forth around the corral like a school of skittish fish? And Ratliff in his underwear jumping out the window when a wild horse appears in the doorway of his room at the boarding house?

I think it is in the section that we are introduced to the character of Henry (at least I don't remember him in any of the earlier sections). With just a few actions, his stealing his wife's money to buy a horse, his fear of getting cheated, his whining and sniveling, we get such a clear picture of his character.

And we get a little more insight into Flem's character. The Texan gives Henry's wife's $5 to Flem and tells her Flem will give her back her money tomorrow. For at least a few pages, we are left to wonder whether Flem will do the honorable thing, whether he will do at least one nice thing. We aren't left to wonder long, though.

Since I'm sure Ratliff and Bookwright were familiar with Henry's character, I'm wondering why they joined with him in the final scheme of the book to try to outwit Flem. But they did, and unfortunately it turned into another situation in which Flem outwitted Ratliff. Actually, I kind of was wondering as they began digging whether Flem had set them up. During the course of the book we've learned just enough about Flem that we should not have been surprised. You'd think Ratliff would have known better too. Greed blinds us all I guess, but Ratliff remains good natured.

And so although the book is complete, there's still a lot for us to find out. I'm looking forward to reading The Town.

I will say this is not my favorite Faulkner. There was a lot to like in many of its bits and pieces. But somehow, it didn't all come together for me. Hopefully that will come with the trilogy as a whole.

I'm wavering between 3 1/2 and 4 stars, but I'll be generous and give it

4 stars

Set 15, 1:59 pm

>201 RidgewayGirl: I will look for that book Kay. If you are interested in another book about the RAF pilots another good one is Bomber by Len Deighton. I enjoyed that one, but it is less personal, less focused on the characters, and more focused on the technical aspects of the bombing raids and the planes and equipment. It also included POVs from the civilians who were being bombed, the German fighter pilots trying to protect the airspace, and the antiaircraft guys.

Set 15, 7:00 pm

>197 arubabookwoman: Another Dubus III fan here, but didn't know of this one. Coincidentally, I found one in a box this week that someone had put out for selection. It was another one I didn't know: Bluesman, so I was quite happy with the find.

>202 arubabookwoman: Enjoyed your comments.

Set 16, 1:10 pm

>194 arubabookwoman: I read this years ago, but didn't write a review, so my memory is foggy. Perhaps, like you, I would like it more on a reread. Certainly the quotes in your review are compelling.

Set 27, 5:03 pm

>204 SassyLassy: What other Dubus III books have you read/recommend Sassy?

>205 labfs39: I liked it as much when I read it the first time Lisa. I just missed this very important aspect, which changed my whole outlook on the book, and made it even more compelling.

Well, I'll be starting to review books read in July:

From Spain. Library Book:

76. Still the Same Man by Jon Bilbao (2011) 186 pp

A hurricane is on its way to the Yucatán peninsula--the Mexican Riviera. Joanes, his wife and daughter have been vacationing there after attending the wedding of his wife's father. Now, guests at their resort are preparing to evacuate further inland. After a strange encounter with a chimpanzee while driving around, Joanes sends his family ahead with the other resort guests and says he will follow the next day.

The book begins with seemingly normal people and events, though with a great sense of foreboding, partly due to the impending hurricane, but also because of other strange events. On the road the next day, for example, Joanes comes across his former mathmatics professor from university stranded by the roadside with his wheelchair-bound wife. Many other strange encounters ensue.

Back in the late 60's/early 70's, movies directed by Sam Peckinpaugh (?spelling) were very popular. They were extremely violent, for the time anyway--perhaps they'd be quite tame nowadays. This book reminded me of one of those movies. There's a lot of violence, and all of a reader's forebodings and fears are played out. The book almost strays into the realm of horror. One reviewer on Amazon described it as an "anxious" read.

Nevertheless I quite liked the book. I was never quite sure where the author was going, but it is well-written, and I quite enjoyed the ride.

3 stars

Set 27, 5:13 pm

Library Book

77. A Possibility of Violence by D.A. Mishani (2013) 293 pp

This second entry in the Israeli crime series continues where the first left off (see >199 arubabookwoman:). In this one, Avi is having self-doubts about the mistakes he made or may have made during the investigation into the missing teen that was the subject of the first book. His self-doubt may affect how he is handling the new investigation.

In the present case, what appears to be a bomb has been left outside of a daycare center. It does not explode, but the police fear that it may have been a warning--to whom and about what is unknown. Avi begins to suspect that one of the fathers whose son goes to the daycare may be involved in some way, but his superiors think he's on the wrong track.

I like this Israeli series. There are excellent characterizations. It's not a "chase" book or a "shoot-'em-up". It's a more cerebral crime-solving book. And the Israeli setting and culture are interesting. I also like that the detective is not always right, and that he has doubts and is regularly second guessing himself. Amazon describes the series as "more-thoughtful than action-packed," which I quite liked.

3 stars

Set 27, 5:28 pm

I seem to be reading a lot of Scandi-crime (though maybe that's what I've been reading in August and September, so this will be the first Scandi-crime review. There will be more to come. Library book:

78. The Woman Inside by M.T. Edvardsson (2023) 384 pp

This murder mystery is told through multiple points of view, primarily through three alternating narrators, as well as police reports and news articles. The first narrator is Bill, who has been recently widowed and who is caring for his 8 year old daughter Sally. He has lost his job and is having difficulty making ends meet on the odd-jobs he is able to get. He decides to take in a boarder. Enter Karla, the second narrator.

Karla is a student. She works as a housecleaner to pay her expenses. Her clients are a wealthy couple, Dr. Steven Rytter and his wife Regina. Steven, with whom Karla has most of her dealings, is harsh and controlling. He tells Karla that Regina is very ill, and mostly stays in bed, and has not left the house in months. After a while, however, Karla begins to wonder whether Steven might be drugging Regina to keep her housebound.

The third narrator, Jennica, has connections to both Bill and the Rytters. She was friends with Bill and his deceased wife until they had a falling out. She also has been having an affair with Steven, although she has no idea that he is married.

As the novel opens, both the Rytters are found inside their home, murdered. The police soon bring Karla and Bill in for questioning. All the characters in the book are harboring secrets, and as the story evolves and we learn more about their pasts, we begin to wonder. They have secrets, but are they killers? The story unwinds slowly but surely, logically to a surprising conclusion.

3 stars

Editado: Set 27, 6:09 pm

Library Book:

79. Nine Black Robes by Joan Biskupic (2023) 411 pp
Subtitle: Inside the Supreme Court's Drive to the Right and Its Historic Consequences

This is a history of the Supreme Court from 2016, shortly before Trump was elected, until shortly before the book was published in 2023, a time of great consequence for the country and the court. The history is told chronologically, primarily though a discussion of the court's many consequential decisions during this period. Through the decisions, we can see during the earlier years an incremental move to the right, but more recent decisions illustrate the court's move by leaps and bounds to the right, as it abandoned many of its earlier decisions with barely a nod to the doctrine of stare decisis. Along the way, the author includes a lot of anecdotal information about the various justices and the inner workings of the court.

As we all remember, Trump was able to appoint a justice almost immediately after he was elected due to Mitch McConnell's unprecedented actions in blocking Obama from appointing a successor to Justice Scalia after his death nearly a year before Obama's term ended. While Trump's first appointee, Neil Gorsusch, was a far-right ideologue, so was Scalia, and his appointment did not much shift the direction of the court. And, at that time, Chief Justice Roberts seemed very conscious of his role in history, and behind the scenes was working hard to prevent the Court from issuing radical decisions, seeking ways to decide cases on the most narrow grounds, constantly stressing stare decisis, and himself casting a deciding vote preventing the radical right-wingers on the court from going too far. This trend continued even after Trump was able to appoint a second right-wing ideologue, Brett Kavenaugh, after the retirement of the more moderate Justice Kennedy.

It was the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg that emboldened the radicals on the court to refuse to compromise, to refuse to rule narrowly, to throw out stare decisis, all in favor of an extreme political agenda. The 5 right-wing conservatives on the court seemed to rally around Clarence Thomas, who is one of the most radical of the group, and Chief Justice Roberts seemed no longer in control of the group.

The book takes us up through the Dobbs decision (striking down Roe v. Wade) and to the appointment of Kitanji Brown to the court. As I was reading this book in early July, the court ended its term with decisions striking down affirmative action in education (a policy first upheld by the court when I was in law school in the early 1970's), overruling Biden's program to forgive student loans (a decision that many legal scholars see as overreaching and an entirely erroneous interpretation of the law on which Biden's forgiveness program was based), and expanding the ability of a business to discriminate against gays. I said to my husband that it's highly likely that over the next 25 years this Supreme Court will go a long way to destroying this country. As the dissent in Dobbs stated, " No one should be confident that this majority is done with its work." I'm dreading to see what they come up with next term. This was a compelling and highly readable book, even if you are not a recovering attorney, like me.

And I will note that this book ended before the revelations about the ethics violations and conflicts of interests of several of these justices (and in particular Clarence Thomas and his wife Ginni). In case you are unaware all lawyers and every federal judge is bound by a code of ethics, EXCEPT for Supreme Court justices. They have no code of ethics, just whatever they decide. And Chief Justice Roberts has indicated he has no interest in pursuing anything along these lines.

I currently have out of the library The Shadow Docket by Stephen Vladeki. Use of the shadow docket was one the issues briefly addressed in this book, and I am interested in learning more.

4 stars

Editado: Set 28, 4:24 pm

Continuing on with reviews of books read in July. From my Kindle:

80. The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold (1972) 146 pp

This is a novel of classic science fiction, and I gather it is considered very influential in the time travel genre of science fiction. It is not one in which a character travels to the past or the future, and a whole and cohesive world is created in that past or future for the character to act in. Instead, there's constant travel to and from various times, as the novel explores some of the paradoxes and anomalies created by the concept of time travel.

As he comes of age Daniel inherits from his uncle, a "time belt", which allows him to time travel. Rather than coming into a fortune, Daniel has discovered that he is penniless, so his first act of time travel is to go one day in the future to the race track to get results so that he can strike it rich when he returns to the past. When he arrives in the future, he meets himself, one day older than when he left. And so Daniel learns the first of many consequences of time travel. Each time he travels, he creates a new "time stream," and in each time stream a version of Daniel exists and continues to exist. As he time travels, Daniel is constantly coming across himself, sometimes multiples of himself. And sometimes they don't get along, or are jealous of each other.

The thing I didn't like about this book is that there is a lot of emphasis on sex in the book. I'm not a prude, but I feel like when I chose to read a time travel book, I didn't sign up for a lot of sex scenes. The book was very controversial at the time it was published because Daniel is homosexual (as is the author), and things weren't so open at the time. To complicate matters, it turns out that Daniel is somewhat narcissistic, and "loves" himself and wants to have sex with himself, which he does (including with a female version of himself in one of the time streams).

Overall, I would not recommend this book unless you are a serious science fiction reader, and perhaps could recognize how this book may have influenced later books. I'm just a casual science fiction reader, usually just in it for the story, so it didn't work for me.

2 stars

Set 28, 2:42 pm

From my Kindle:

81. The Housekeeper by Joy Fielding (2022) 353 pp

Jodi is a successful real estate agent with two kids and an unsupportive husband. She has never been able to live up to the standards of her father, a former real estate agent who is now retired. Her father, Vic, who is now caring for Jodi's mother who has advanced Parkinson's disease, is overwhelmed and increasingly relying on Jodi for help. In turn Jodi is feeling worn down as well, so she is thrilled when she is able to convince her father to hire a live-in housekeeper.

Enter Elyse, a 60-something woman who seems too good to be true. She is a wonderful cook, an efficient housekeeper, and a gentle caregiver to Jodi's mother. She even babysits Jodi's kids in a pinch. For a short while at least. Then Jodi starts noticing a few odd things: Why is Elyse wearing her mother's Cartier watch? Why is her mother's green silk blouse hanging in Elyse's closet? Things all happen in a subtle but insidious progression as Elyse begins to take control of her father's household. Jodi discovers her key to the house no longer works, and Elyse seems to strictly control when she can and can't see her parents. Then, even more sinister things begin to happen.

This was a well-paced and very believable domestic psychological thriller. It's the type of book I like to read in lieu of watching TV. It's something to read quickly, doesn't require you to pay a lot of attention as you're reading, and there's not a lot of depth. Nevertheless, the plot keeps moving relentlessly and you keep reading effortlessly, and when it's over you're satisfied, but of course you're hungry for more after a couple of hours (like Chinese food).

3 stars

Set 28, 2:48 pm

>207 arubabookwoman: You've got me - my library has the first three of these, so I'm requesting one to see what I think. Character driven books are usually good for me.

Set 28, 2:52 pm

>209 arubabookwoman: I don't know if I have the emotional constitution to read these. Makes me shake in my shoes.

Set 28, 2:59 pm

Korean author. From the library:

82. At Dusk by Hwang Sok-Yong (2018) 121 pp

"The days of our youth are probably now nothing but photographs in some treasured album, yellowing and fading like memories over time."

Park Minwoo is a successful Seoul architect in his 60's, though he grew up in one of the shantytowns on the hills surrounding the city. As he ages, he begins to look back on his past, and how he got to where he is today. He thinks frequently of his first love, the daughter of the noodle-maker in the shantytown. As teenagers, they bonded over a mutual love of reading and the desire for an education. They have been out of touch for years, when he receives a cryptic message from her.

In sections that alternate with Minwoo's story, we get the story of a young woman struggling to get by in present day Seoul (both sections are in the first person). She works days as a playwright/director/jack-of-all-trades at fringe urban theater (generally unpaid), and then rushes to her all-night job as a convenience store clerk before heading home for a few hours of sleep in a mold-infested basement.

As the sections progress, we wonder how this two lives will intersect.

I liked this quiet introspective novel quite a lot. It seems to give a realistic and detailed look at what life is like for many in present day Seoul. I would like to read more by this author.

3 1/2 stars

Set 28, 3:31 pm

>212 markon: Let me know what you think Ardene. I do think you should read them in order though because they seem to build on each other.

>213 markon: If you read the news, you probably know or sort of know what's reported in this book. However, the author who is the reporter who covers the Supreme Court for (I forget which) major news organization, lays the progression of what has been happening on the court so logically and clearly that it's chilling. It gave me such a clear picture of what has been going on, and, more frighteningly what is yet to come.

The next one is a library book. I had a lot of issues with the previous book I read by this author (Stranger in the Woods, but the subject matter of this one really interested me:

83. The Art Thief by Michael Finkel (2023) 234 pp
Subtitle: A True Story of Love, Crime, and A Dangerous Obsession

Stephane Breitwieser was an art thief. He stole art, often very valuable art, not to sell it or to make money, but because he loved the pieces he stole. He kept the art he stole in the attic bedroom and sitting room he occupied at his mother's house so he could view it and fondle it whenever he wanted.

And he stole the art usually without any elaborate preplanning, while the museums were open, when guards and other visitors were around. If he saw a piece in a museum he loved (sometimes he went to a museum already knowing there was a piece he wanted there), he would just take it and walk out. He did have an accomplice, his girlfriend, Anne-Catherine, and she was helpful in creating diversions, when he needed a little time, for example to unscrew the cover of a cabinet to remove an item. He was usually limited in what he could take by size--it had to fit under his coat without being too bulky, or in Anne-Catherine's bag. He and Anne-Catherine hit museums all over Europe--usually smaller museums which didn't always have the best security and which were sometimes understaffed, but which still had exquisite and valuable art.

He was successful for nearly 8 years, from 1994 to 2001, during which time he conducted at least 200 thefts and took at least 300 pieces. After it was all over, it was estimated by art journalists that the "loot" Breitwieser accumulated was worth up to $2 Billion.

This was a crazy but true crime story, but much more. We read in detail about many of the crimes and how they were done, but we also learn a lot about art history, and the history of the particular pieces Breitwieser stole. It took a long time for authorities to recognize that there was a serial art thief at work, but once they did, we also get to follow along as they investigate the thefts. The book even dives into the psychology, and what made Breitwieser do what he did, and take such risks. And we also learn what happened after he was caught, which without being too spoilerish I will say is very sad. I also wanted to know what is going on with him nowadays, so I googled him and was surprised to learn that he is soon to go on trial for new similar new crimes, so I guess he didn't learn his lesson.

I loved the book, and highly recommend it.

4 stars

Set 28, 3:45 pm

This one is also off my Kindle:

84. This is What Happened by Mick Herron (2018) 273 pp

This is a stand-alone from Mick Herron of Slow Horses fame.

Maggie lives alone in London with no friends. Her only family is a sister she hasn't seen in years. She's in a dead-end job in the mailroom of a large corporation, going nowhere fast. Then she meets a mysterious stranger, who within a few meetings tells her he is with MI5, and he has chosen her specifically for a job for her country, Maggie is told that the multi-national company she works for is actually owned by the Chinese, and since as a mailroom clerk she has access to all floors, she would be perfect in placing "bugs" etc. The next thing we know, Maggie is a spy! .....She thinks.

This actually isn't a spy novel however. It's more of a psychological thriller book, although it's not much of a thriller. I would not have minded that very much, but what bothered me is the suspension of disbelief required to accept that anyone could be as stupid as Maggie appears to be after her "spy" foray goes wrong. It just did not make sense to be that Maggie would remain so clueless for so long and just accept what she was told about the restricted life she had to lead.

That being said, I kept reading, because the book is after all written by Mick Herron, and the writing is very good. The witticisms did abound, despite my nagging annoyance at the unbelievable setup.

I don't particularly recommend the book though. There are much better books by Mick Herron out there. If you haven't read the Slow Horses book, get going!

2 stars

Set 29, 1:04 am

>209 arubabookwoman: Excellent comments on Nine Black Robes; I am a bit of a court groupie and have been appalled by some of the decisions. I think most people would be surprised at how much power the court has. I will definitely give this one a try even though it may raise my blood pressure.

Set 29, 7:52 am

>214 arubabookwoman: I'm always on the lookout for new Korean authors, and since you liked this one, I'll be on the lookout for it.

>215 arubabookwoman: I recently acquired, but have not read, Stranger in the Woods. Was it the writing or treatment of the story that you disliked? The Art Thief sounds interesting.

>216 arubabookwoman: If you haven't read the Slow Horses book, get going!

I tried! I got halfway through the first book, and it just didn't keep my attention. I gave it back to the library unfinished. Knowing what I like, do you think I should try again? Was it wrong book at wrong time?

Out 13, 5:15 pm

>192 arubabookwoman: I have never read the Wyatt series either. Great review. I'd be tempted except I seem to be off all mysteries (not sure why...maybe over-reading?)

All caught up now :-)

Out 18, 2:25 pm

>217 BLBera: If you're a court groupie Beth you will probably already know most of what this book covers, but it's chilling to see it laid out so logically and explained so well. It seems that the court's restraint and "good behavior" was just hanging by a thread for many years, and after RBG's death, their full radicalism was unleashed.

>218 labfs39: Here's my review of The Stranger in the Woods which shows my problems with it:

"This is the true story of Christopher Knight, who disappeared into the woods of Maine in 1986 and lived there alone for 27 years, speaking to another person only once during that time. He built a campsite for himself in a secluded glen that was surprisingly close to "civilization"--it was near a pond with many summer cabins and a summer camp surrounding it. He survived by stealing whatever he needed, from food to batteries to bedding, from the cabins and the camp. As Finkel tells Christopher's story, he weaves in research on solitude and hermits.

This book has gotten pretty good reviews on LT, but it did not engage me. First, I was bothered by how intrusive the author was. Christopher and his family made it explicitly clear that they did not want to be contacted or to discuss this, yet Finkel persisted, and manipulated his way into a few interviews with Christopher. Finkel's own story, of how he contacted Christopher and developed the story takes up at least as much of this narrative as does Christopher's experiences in the woods. I had no interest in Finkel's investigative techniques, and wanted to know more about Christopher's actions and motivations.

I found there was little or no insight into why Christopher did what he did, or into the psychological effects his solitude had on him. While the author includes his research into solitude and hermits, Finkel does not connect this general research to the particular case of Christopher. Rather than Christopher having intellectual or spiritual reasons for his actions in seeking solitude, it seems more likely that Christopher was merely a mentally unbalanced man who wanted to be left alone. I found much of this aspect of the book to be random and rambling, and it had the feel of the padding necessary to fill a story the length of a newspaper article to book length.

A more minor point is that if the reader is expecting a story of survival in the woods--hunting, fishing, chopping down trees to build a shelter, etc.--this is not that story. Christopher did not really survive by his wits--he stole everything he needed to subsist (including, by the way, reading materials). The owners of the cabins and the summer camp lived for 27 years with the specter of a mysterious burglar targeting their possessions, as well as their peace of mind.

Maybe I wasn't in the right mood for this, but I'm very glad it was only a library book.

2 stars"

I liked The Art Thief enough though to read the author's first book shortly afterwards. I should get to a review of that soon.

Re the Slow Horses--the books are pretty difficult to get into, and they are very British. I love the dry British humor and wit. They all have fairly complex, maybe even convoluted, plots, so close reading is required (and even so I didn't always fully understand everything, but not enough to mind). It's an ensemble cast, so there are a lot of characters thrown at you right away, and you're. not sure who is important and who is not. But they quickly become familiar and grow on you over the course of the series (and Herron is not afraid to kill off one or two in each of the books). If you have Apple TV you might want to watch the first season of the Slow Horses series, which is basically a slimmed down version of the first book. I love the books not so much for the plots as for the wit, humor, and characters.

>219 avaland: At this point Lois I feel I am reading mostly mysteries (with a bit of SF thrown in), as my brain doesn't seem to be able to handle anything heavy.

Maybe I can finish July reviews today.

Editado: Out 18, 2:46 pm

Off my Kindle:

85. Purgatory Mount by Adam Roberts (2021) 265 pp

There may be two good books in here, but somehow they didn't seem to come together for me. There is an opening and closing section relating one story, which is set on a spaceship in the far future, enveloping a middle section taking place in near-future America.

As the novel opens, the interstellar spacecraft Forward is de accelerating as it approaches a far distant planet. Its purpose is the exploration of the planet, which contains a mountain-like structure which extends into space and which could only have been built by sentient beings. The crew wants to learn the purpose of this structure--who built it and why?

There are two varieties of inhabitants of the spacecraft. In charge of the craft are 5 humanistic beings who live thousands of years, and who can control how the passing of time is perceived. They are named after Greek and Roman gods: Pan, Zeus, Dionysus etc. The remaining beings, much more numerous, are much smaller and have life spans of only 40 or so years. They are humanistic, but much, much smaller than than the gods, who refer to them as pygmies, or "pigs," and who serve as a food source for the gods.

After the brief opening on the spacecraft, we move to dystopian near-future America. An epidemic or chemical neuro-toxin has interfered with the memory function of large swathes of the population, and society is disintegrating. The more fortunate are able to have an "interface" with their phones--"a kind of colostomy bag for your long-term memories," as well as instant "google ability" for general knowledge. The government is spying on everyone, and extremely authoritarian. The focus is on a group of 5 teenagers, "The Famous Five," consisting of Otty, Pitt, Gomery, Kathry, and Allie. Together they have created a private communications network that the government wants and will stop at nothing to get. Otty and her friends soon find themselves in grave danger.

As I said, I never found the two parts came together, though my interest was maintained as I was reading each. I couldn't figure out how they meshed, so this was not a successful book for me.

2 stars

Out 18, 2:59 pm

From my Kindle:

86. A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell (1977) 226 pp

The Coverdale family hires Eunice Parchman as their housekeeper and find her perfect in almost every way. But Eunice is harboring what she considers a deep dark secret--she cannot read or write. She is constantly dreading being left written instructions or a written list of groceries to purchase, and comes up with a variety of artifices to hide her illiteracy. Things come to a head on Valentine's Day when Eunice murders the entire Coverdale family. (This is not a spoiler--the first sentence of the book is, "Eunice Parchman killed the Cloverdale family because she could not read or write.") The police are mystified, however, and must figure out what happened and why.

This is a fairly typical Ruth Rendell psychological domestic thriller. I enjoyed it, but I sometimes had difficulty understanding the extent to which Eunice feared the discovery of her illiteracy. In my logical mind I was wondering why she didn't just sign up for a class to learn to read. For the most part, however, Rendell did a good job of conveying Eunice's obsession with her illiteracy, and how she viewed and experienced her entire life and all her relationships through the lens of her inability to read. I just sometimes had trouble believing this could be a motive for murder. So maybe not one of Rendell's better ones.

2 stars

Editado: Out 19, 2:48 pm

Earlier this year I read Margaret Drabble's The Radiant Way and loved it. I learned that it was the first of a trilogy. This is the second volume of the trilogy. Off my Kindle:

87. A Natural Curiosity by Margaret Drabble (1989) 320 pp

The story of Liz, Alix and Esther continues. Alix has moved north, to the town where Liz was raised. She is interested in understanding the motivations of the serial killer Paul Whitmore, who we met in the first book, and she is visiting him in prison. Liz, a public intellectual, finds herself mired in controversy after some comments she makes on child sexuality. Esther is still living in Italy with her female lover, but is trying to decide whether to break that off, return to England, and possibly marry a man. Liz's sister Shirley, has a prominent role as she takes off on a lark after the death of her husband.

While the novel continues the saga of life in Britain in the 1980's, I did not find it as engaging as the first novel. For one thing, there are seemingly dozens of peripheral characters who make briefs appearances, one or two, but really don't seem to serve any purpose other than to pontificate. To me, the book really seemed to lack focus, and even a narrative arc. Drabble seems to experiment a bit with metafiction, as well, which also didn't work for me. She randomly speaks directly to the reader, for example, asking where the book should go? Here's some of that text as she's trying to resolve the Shirley plot:

"What do you think will happen to her? Do you think our end is known in our beginning, that we are predetermined, that we endlessly repeat?"


"(And anyway, what is her age? I must say I have lost track of this a little myself. Is she 48 or 49 now, as I had thought, or 50, as others tell me? And if she is 50, does that make her behaviour more or less implausible?)"
(Note this is not a first person narrative book, or a character saying this--it's the author butting in).

and then,

"Shall she resume her non-existence? Is that what you seriously expect?"

and then,

"What possible future could there be for him and Shirley? I have made him as plausible as I can, I have offered him motivation, but I have to admit that it doesn't seem possible that he and Shirley can continue to go on seeing one another."


The final book in the trilogy, The Gates of Ivory is on my Kindle, and I have read very good things about it. I'll be reading it soon, and I hope it is better than this one was.

2 1/2 stars.

Out 18, 9:17 pm

>222 arubabookwoman: I know I haven't read the book, but the plot sounded so familiar! Turns out there's a very good French film version, La Ceremonie, that I haven't seen since it came out nearly 30 years ago, but it's stuck with me enough that I recognized the plot summary. I probably wouldn't have noticed back then, or remembered until now if I did, that it was based on a novel.

Editado: Out 19, 5:51 pm

>224 KeithChaffee: Thanks for pointing that out Keith. I was going to mention it in the review, but forgot. I saw the movie many years ago (don't remember illiteracy being so prominent, just the housekeeper murdering her employees). I think the movie is available on the Criterion channel, which we have, so I plan to watch it again soon.

My iPad lost power in the middle of the review at >223 arubabookwoman: yesterday, but I've now finished that review and hope to do a few more today.

Next up: I checked Michael Finkel's first book out of the library after liking The Art Thief so much.

88. True Story by Michael Finkel (2005) 312 pp
Subtitle: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa

Michael Finkel was a respected and up and coming staff writer for the New York Times when he violated one of the major rules of journalism: He made something up. While reporting on a story about child warriors in Africa, he created a "composite" character as the focal point of the story. When the malfeasance was discovered, he was fired "for passing off as true a story that was, instead, a deceptive blend of fact and fiction."

He was out west licking his wounds, humiliated and wondering what to do next when he was contacted by a reporter. He thought he was being contacted about his firing, but the reporter wanted to know what he thought about Chris Longo. He learned that a man named Chris Longo had just been arrested in Mexico, where he had fled after murdering his wife and three young children. While in Mexico, Longo had adopted the identity of and passed himself off as New York Times writer Michael Finkel. Intrigued by this connection, Finkel contacted Longo, and began a correspondence with him, and a friendship of sorts developed. Over the next several years, Finkel interviewed Longo on a number of occasions, and when Longo was tried for the murders, Finkel followed the trial. This book resulted.

It consists of alternating chapters describing his relationship with Longo (as well as the story of how he, Finkel, came to falsify his reporting) and the story of Longo's life and how he came to murder his wife and children.

I mostly enjoyed this, but in undercurrents I occasionally got the feeling that Finkel doesn't really believe that what he did was really so bad that he deserved to be fired. Of course, he was fairly young, and also somewhat arrogant, with a dream job, and maybe a little bit power-mad. To me, he occasionally seems to try to justify himself, with quotes like this:

"I'd cheated on the quotes, but I had captured the correct story. My article was true in spirit--it was a higher truth than that bound by mere facts and figures--and I was able to delude myself that this was all that mattered."

And again, "I knew what I had done was against the rules. I hid my actions from my editor of the Times, though I believed I could wheedle my way out of it in the unlikely chance I was caught."

So while he admits that he knew he was doing wrong, he nevertheless deluded himself into thinking it was really not that bad, and if he got caught he could wheedle his way out of it. So I'm not really sure we can believe he has learned his lesson, and that we can trust that in the future his reporting will always be faithfully true, including this book. So I found myself sometimes taking what he writes with a grain of salt. Maybe it's a case of the man doth protest too much: the opening line of the book is: "This is a true story." And the last line is: "He won't be pleased, he said, unless everything in this book is absolutely, unassailable true."

2 1/2 stars.

Editado: Out 19, 5:52 pm

Scandicrime from the library:

89. The Torso by Helene Tursten (2000) 368 pp

What's different about this Scandi-crime novel (first in a series I believe) is that the main detective, Irene Huss, is pretty normal. She's not depressed, not alcoholic, not a loner. Irene is married with two teenage daughters, and juggles her career, family, and personal life--she even has a dog, Sammie, with a big personality.

That being said, the crime she's faced with in this book is as gorey and heinous as anything I've read. She's faced with not a run-of-the-mill murder for financial gain, or a crime of passion. Instead, she's dealing with good old sexual perversion, of the necrophiliac variety.

The novel opens with the discovery of a decapitated, dismembered torso in a plastic bag on a deserted beach. Discovering the identity of the victim is only the beginning.

3 stars

And with that I begin reviews for books read in August.

Out 19, 6:01 pm

From the library. Another Scandi-crime, the latest entry in the Harry Hole series:

90. Killing Moon by Jo Nesbo (2022) 503 pp

Harry Hole is back in Book 13 of the series.

We find Harry in LA trying to drink himself to death. In Oslo, an apparent serial killer is on the loose, but Harry has refused to return to assist in the investigation. This changes when Harry feels the need to come to the aid of a little out lady whose life is in danger over the matter of a $900,000 debt to the Mexican cartel. A wealthy Oslo businessman who is the prime suspect in the serial killer case has offered to pay any amount for Harry to return and find the "real" killer, and prove him innocent. So Harry returns to Oslo to solve the case, and the businessman transfers $900,000 to the Mexican cartel.

I'm used to the gore and violence in the Harry Hole novels, but this one was particularly gruesome. There is also a lot of perversity--necrophilia for beginners and cannibalism for starters. The book is also a little on the long side. I read the book because it's been a while since I had a Harry Hole fix, but I find myself once again wondering whether I should read on if Nesbo comes out with another entry. Perhaps I will because there is reason to believe at the end of this one that Harry will be showing a softer side in the future.

3 stars

Out 19, 6:14 pm

Library Book:

91. Ocean State by Steward O'Nan (2022)

Stewart O'Nan is an author I usually enjoy, but I didn't find this to be one of his better books. There are several narrators and/or pov characters who tell the story of a murdered teenage girl. The primary narrator is Marie, the younger sister of Angel, the teenage girl who with her boyfriend Myles murdered Birdie, another teenage girl. Most of the story is told from the perspective of teenage girls, although Marie and Angel's mother Carol also plays a part. The motive for the murder was ostensibly jealousy: Angel was jealous of Birdie and possessive of Myles, who was fooling around with Birdie on the side. However, we never get much of a glimpse into the mind of Angel. She was a good student, held down a part time job, and while her mother Carol was overworked and sometimes neglectful, she was never abusive and was doing the best she could. So I had a hard time being convinced that Angel had the personality and motivation to turn murderous.

The book was interesting for its depiction of life among working class families of Portuguese descent in Rhodesia Island. There's a lot about the lives and habits of teenagers on the cusp of adulthood in this milieu, which I was less interested in, although this was enough to keep me reading. Nevertheless I don't consider it a particularly successful book due to my failure to be convinced that Angel would actually murder someone.

2 stars

Out 19, 6:26 pm

Seems like you had a run of so-so books there, Deborah. Hope things have picked up.

Out 19, 6:29 pm

Another Library Book:

92. The Memory of Animals by Claire Fuller (2023) 322 pp

Neffy is a marine biologist with a particular fondness for octopi. She has recently lost her job, however, and is in bad financial shape. In order to earn some money, she volunteers for a clinical trial for a vaccine for a new virus sweeping the world, despite the fact that her mother and her boyfriend Justin (who is also her stepbrother) both strongly urge her not to do so.

As the novel opens, she enters the hospital where the trial is taking place and is placed into isolation. Shortly after she is purposely infected with the virus, and given the vaccine, she becomes very ill. She is delirious and out of it for an unknown period of time. When she recovers, she discovers a world that has been drastically transformed--the outside world has been decimated. She meets the other volunteers for the vaccine trial, Leon, Rachel, Piper, and Yahiko, but discovers that none of them had been given the vaccine before the staff abandoned them and the world changed. The other volunteers believe that Neffy must be immune to the virus, and should be sent out to explore the world and to look for food.

Interspersed with the ongoing pandemic tale, Neffy revisits her past, with particular emphasis on her childhood in Greece with her father, as well as her more recent past with her boyfriend. She's distrustful of the other volunteers, and feels something may have happened while she was out of it that they are keeping from her.

The book kept me interested and kept me reading, but there was nothing special about it. I loved the previous book I read by this author, Unsettled Ground, which featured unique and complex characters who always kept me guessing. Here, the characters seem to be pretty standard twenty-somethings, not stereotypes or caricatures exactly, but not very interesting or surprising. So I found this a pretty run of the mill book.

2 1/2 stars

Out 19, 6:45 pm

>226 arubabookwoman: I think Detective Inspector Huss is the first in the series.

Out 19, 7:06 pm

>229 labfs39: That's true Lisa. Did you see my response to your question about why I didn't like The Stranger in the Woods? (>220 arubabookwoman:)

Another library book. Checked out because I loved Evicted by this author.

93. Poverty by America by Matthew Desmond (2023) 287 pp

I loved Matthew Desmond's Evicted when I read it a few years ago. It was an eye-opening expose of the precarious housing situation faced by the less fortunate among us. In this one, Desmond asks, Why is there so much poverty in America?, and states that he wrote this book to answer that question. The book definitely proves that there is a lot of poverty in America; it goes a long way to show why that poverty exists, and why the situation does not seem to be improving. I'm not sure it comes up with any good answers about what to do about this problem, however.

The first part of the book is replete with facts that show Yes, Indeed, there is a lot of poverty in America. I took lots of notes on these factoids in my reading journal, but won't include them here. The facts are the facts, and the examples he uses to establish that there is an epidemic of poverty that is only growing worse is both infuriating and heart-breaking.

I will note that one important thing that he consistently points out is that we need to stop blaming the poor for being poor. The entire system is rigged against them. For example, due to their inability to access reasonable banking services they must rely on things like usurious payday loans, and if they manage to have a bank account they are continuously subjected to outrageous overdraft fees, and if they have no bank account they are subject to outrageous check-cashing fees on their wage checks. The conclusion is that frequently poverty is not simply the lack of money, but also the lack of choices and being taken advantage of every which way you turn. And he consistently reinforces the message, that in general we, the more fortunate, benefit from the poverty of others. We are less willing to invest in public goods, want to maintain our nice neighborhoods with restrictive zoning laws, and want the benefit of cheap goods and labor.

He does come up with some recommendations/solutions, which to a certain extent may be simplistic and/or impossible to implement (particularly in the current political situation). Here in bullet point are some of the suggestions he makes:

--Make sure low income Americans get connected to available aid, and don't make it so hard to get (One example, every year over $1 billion in social security funds are spent not on paying benefits to those with disabilities, but on paying lawyers to argue that they deserve the benefits, and appealing when the benefits are denied).

--Collect taxes that are due, but unpaid/uncollected.

--End tax-avoidance schemes by multi-nationals and the wealthy.

--Raise tax rates on the wealthy and on corporations.

--Stop subsidizing the wealthy

--Raise the minimum wage, and make increases in the minimum wage somewhat automatic, or at least easier to implement.

--Increase collective bargaining powers.

--More public housing. Make it possible for the poor to become homeowners with government subsidized financing.

--Ensure fair access to capital. Regulate banks and lending to the poor.

--End restrictive zoning laws.

This is just a sampling--there is more.

It's a pretty informative book, but I'm not sure it has any good answers, and I am sure there are no easy answers.


Editado: Out 19, 7:28 pm

>231 ELiz_M: I noticed after I posted my review and was checking on Amazon to see when it was published that it wasn't the first in the series, but the third. I was just too lazy to change that, but thanks for pointing it out. In reading the book, I didn't feel like I was jumping into the middle of something ongoing with the book, and don't feel the urge to go back and read from the beginning.

Next one is another library book:

94. Mild Vertigo by Mieko Kanai (2002)

In this stream of conciousness novel, a 40-something housewife living an ordinary somewhat mundane life goes through her daily activities--planning, shopping for and making meals, taking care of her kids, going shopping with her mother, helping with her elderly father, and so on. It reminded me very much of Ducks, Newburyport (which, true confession, I didn't finish yet, but still intend day).

The novel was originally published in installments correlating to 8 sections, each roughly correlating to a particular subject. There are two anomalies: About three-quarters through the book there is printed verbatim for several pages a review/essay that the housewife, Natsumi, read, about a photography exhibit at an art museum. This led me down the google-hole, as this was a real exhibition by real photographers. So I learned about Kineo Kuwabana, who documented Tokyo life from the 1930's through the 1980's/90's, and Nobuyoshi Araki who took avant-garde photographs, some of which were said to verge on the pornographic.

The other unusual thing was the Afterwood, which I initially thought was a separate story, but part of the book. Instead of being in the mind of a Tokyo housewife, we are in Brooklyn with two female writers, Sophie and K. K has been engaged to write an essay about a recently translated Japanese novel, and she has taken on the job because she need the money, because her daughter needs dental work---and so on. We get to the end and I find that this was written by Kate Zambreno, whose work I discovered earlier this year, so that was nice. (See >96 arubabookwoman:).

This is all a bit convoluted, but I liked the book.

3 stars

Out 19, 7:58 pm

>232 arubabookwoman: I did see your post and meant to comment. Thank you for taking the time to find and copy your review. I dislike when journalists get meta. It's my one complaint about Killers of the Flower Moon. In that case, it seemed like Grann wanted to be the hero who retroactively solves the remaining mysteries. It gave a weird vibe to the end of the book. Makes me think I wouldn't like Stranger in the Woods very much. Also, I gave it to my mother to read, and she didn't think much of it either.

Out 20, 6:57 pm

Enjoying your reviews and I have not heard the term google-hole before.

Out 20, 10:00 pm

>232 arubabookwoman: Thanks for reviewing this.

Out 21, 1:27 am

It seems very rare that you actually like any of the books you read. It makes me wonder why you finish them.

Editado: Nov 20, 1:32 pm

>235 baswood: and >236 RidgewayGirl: Waving hello!

>237 dianeham: I thought long and hard about this comment Diane, since I am older and I don't have much reading time left, and there are so many great books out there I haven't read.
First, I think compared to many other LTer's, my rating system is a little stricter. For me, 3 stars is a good book that I enjoyed, a solid B+. I would recommend these to anyone to whom they sound interesting. So, even though that may be low by some people's standards, when you look at my ratings stats, they run along a very traditional bell curve, with the vast majority at 3 or 3 1/2 stars. Relatively few are 1 star, and more, though still relatively few, are at 5 stars (which would be books I consider books for all time that everyone should read). In rating the books I read, I also try to consider both my own personal like/dislike of the book, as well as what I think the objective merit of the book is. Thus, a book that is objectively well-written, but I absolutely hated, might end up with 2 1/2 stars. I think reading what I say about my reading, and why I liked or disliked a particular book is more helpful, since my reasons for the rating might not matter to other people.
I do abandon a lot of books, but I don't usually mention them on this thread. If I want to remember why I DNF'd a book, I usually write a few comments about my reasons in My Books in my LT Library. I've probably abandoned 6 or 7 books this month, after reading substantial portions of them, including some that have been very popular on LT. These include Penance by Eliza Clark (50% read); The Lost Cause by Cory Doctorow (50% read); A Study For Obedience by Sarah Bernstein (40% read). I've also had the very popular THe Covenant of Water out of the library 3 times and have abandoned it at the same point each time when there is an episode of what I consider atrocious and cringe-worthy writing I just could not get past. Since so many LTer's have raved about it, I have it on my holds list again, and may try again.
As to why I keep reading books that I end up rating low, the answer probably varies with each book. Taking the most recently reviewed books:
Frequently it's because the book is shortish (less than 250 pages), easy to read, plot-driven, and since I'm so nosy I keep reading to find out what happens. These would include >220 arubabookwoman: Judgement in Stone; >221 arubabookwoman: Purgatory Mount; >225 arubabookwoman: True Story. Sometimes, there is the additional factor that the book is by an author I really like: I kept reading Ocean State >228 arubabookwoman: both to find out what happened, but also because O'Nan is an author I admire and usually like. On the other hand, I found The Memory of Animals >230 arubabookwoman: so lacking in comparison to the other book I read by that author, I ended up rating it fairly low, even though I kept reading to find out what happened. And then there is A Natural History >223 arubabookwoman: which was a bit of a slog for me, though I've loved other books I've read by Drabble. It wasn't engaging me enough that I wanted to find out what happened, but I forced myself to keep reading because it's the second volume in a trilogy, and I intend to get to the highly regarded third volume soon.
This is all probably way more info than you wanted, but it helped me clarify why I end up finishing books when I know they're going to be rated 2 stars or lower. I should probably just curb my curiosity and not waste my time, but I think I'd need a personality change or something.

Nov 20, 1:31 pm

>238 arubabookwoman: Thank you. It did seem your ratings were stricter than mine and 3 stars for you is good. 3 stars for me is usually - it’s not a bad book but wish I had read something else. I appreciate your comments.

Editado: Nov 20, 3:04 pm

>239 dianeham: Thanks for visiting Diane. I think I added some more comments to >238 arubabookwoman: while you were commenting.

Well despite my best efforts, which were not so good, we are approaching the end of the year with 94 of the books I've read this year reviewed, while I am currently reading book 150 of the year. This is more books than I have read in many years. I was thinking of throwing my hands up in despair and ignoring all the books I've read, good and bad, since August, and just starting up again in January (or not), but I'm feeling ambitious today, and I'm going to aim to post ALL of my 2023 reading on this thread. I will try to review many of the remaining books (maybe most), but there will be a number that I'll just briefly state what it was about and move on, as there are some that I didn't take good notes on and about which my memory is lacking at this point. In addition, I don't think I need to review every police procedural and/or Scandicrime I've read.

One reason I've read so much is that I've been sick, pretty much since we moved to the new house in August. I've spent a lot of time in bed, with nothing to do. I am gradually feeling better, but it's a slow process, and I am very antsy. So maybe that's why I'm feeling so ambitious.

So these first two books, read in August and in September were for the Snopes Trilogy group read, and I won't really be reviewing them. Beyond the fact that I read them so long ago, I have always felt inadequate to review Faulkner, or even to say anything reasonably intelligent about him, although he is one of my favorite authors and reading him is a force to b reckoned with. For The Town, I will just copy my comments from the group read thread. I didn't really comment on The Mansion, and have hardly any notes, so I probably won't say much about it.

95. The Town by William Faulkner

I should finish The Town today or tomorrow. I have to say I like it more than either of you seem to have (Diane and Dan). Definitely more than The Hamlet, although I believe reading The Hamlet was essential to reading the Town. I agree that The Town is not one of the "masterpieces" though, which to my mind include The Sound and the Fury and Absalom, Absalom, both of which I've read multiple times. I've also loved/liked As I Lay Dying, Light in August, and Intruder in the Dust. The only Faulkner I've read that I actively disliked was Sanctuary.

I find Gavin a familiar character--the small town southern boy from a family with history sent to an Ivy and/or abroad to be educated, then returning to take his place as small town royalty. Here I like that Faulkner has given him a twin sister, and she gets to keep us advised of the unspoken rules and regulations of the small town that Gavin is constantly on the verge of flaunting, but never quite going far enough to accomplish anything. I do like that he tries though, and I like that he recognizes that the Snopes, particularly Flem, are not good for anyone, and he wants to do something about it. (Or is that just something he tells himself to justify his interest in Linda?)

I come down on the side of Flem being evil. While in The Town, most of what he does is mainly money-grubbing, he did enough in The Hamlet for me to believe he is an evil character. Interested to see what else he might do in The Mansion.

One thing I've been wondering is why Will Varner married Eula off to Flem when she became pregnant, rather than to the father of the baby, McCarron. That would have been the more usual way. We know Flem got other advantages from Varner--but was Flem the one who manipulated Varner to marry Eula (for financial advantages, present and future), rather than the other way around?

One of my favorite things about Faulkner is the way he manages narrators and narrative techniques. I love that sometimes he tells his stories with narrators who weren't there and have no personal knowledge, but have had the story told to them, sometimes even passed down through multiple levels and/or generations. Here Charlie tells of events that happened even before he was born. And having a child narrate, Faulkner gets the story across even though the child may not fully understand what is actually going on, what the undercurrents are. I think Faulkner is a master at this. Although Ratliff is a grown man, he is another narrator who's mostly just passing on stories he's heard,

And of course there is the southern oral story-telling tradition--the old men sitting on rockers on the porch of a country store telling yarns, lots of digressions, but eventually you get the gist. I've listened to a couple of the books on tape, and there was a rhythm and a flow to hearing the book that doesn't always come through when you're reading it. So I'm glad the audible version of The Mansion is working for you Diane.

I may have some additional comments on The Town when I finish later today or tomorrow. I should start The Mansion shortly.

120. The Mansion by William Faulkner

One thing I will say about the trilogy is that there is a lot of repetition among the three volumes. So a lot of what happened in the first two volumes is reiterated in this final volume. And the interesting narrative techniques continue. Chick who began narrating parts of The Hamlet describing events that took place before he was even born is now grown up and an actor himself in the ongoing events. Ratliff also continues as a narrator, and provides a measure of comic relief. I loved the stories of his time in NYC with the expensive ties, and the avant- garde sculpture bequeathed to him. Some "Ratliffisms":

"'Like any good optimist, I dont expect the worst to happen. Only, like any optimist worth his salt, I like to go and look as soon as possible afterward jest in case it did.'"
"If I've heard Ratliff one time I've heard him a hundred, 'Men aren't really evil, he jest ain't got any sense.''

Faulkner does bring the matter of the Snopes reign to a close in this volume, however, with the consummation of Mink's plot to obtain revenge against Flem. And we do get to see a grown-up Linda, although poor Gavin stays locked in his small-town ways (despite his eventually marrying).

As I stated initially, I'm glad I read the trilogy, but to me it is not one of the Must-Read Faulkners.

Nov 20, 2:55 pm

Great reviews, Deborah, whether they were winners or not. We have the latest Adam Roberts waiting for at least one of us to read (apparently we are not in a big hurry)

Editado: Nov 20, 3:59 pm

>241 avaland: Thanks, Lois.

I read a review of this next book on Jennifer's (jpaul) thread, and was intrigued. I was surprised to find when I checked that my library had it. I checked it out, but since it is rather long, I thought that if I ended up liking it, I would probably buy it to read rather than reading the library copy. I was really surprised that it drew me right in, and I couldn't put it down.

96. Salka Valka by Halldor Laxness (1932) 630 pp

Many years ago I read and loved this Nobelist's most well-known book, Independent People, so I was intrigued to read this novel after reading jpaul's review. As the novel opens, Salka and her mother Sigurlina are debarking at the fishing village of Oseyri. Sigurlina is seeking work, and they've come from up north, intending to go to Reykjavik, but this was as far as their meager funds would take them. They arrive penniless, with few possessions and few prospects for work. After spending the night at the Salvation Army, they gradually begin making a life for themselves in the village. Salka is about 10 years old when they arrive, and even as a young girl she is independent and strong-willed. The whole first part of the novel depicting Salka's young girlhood is a delight.

The second part features Salka as a young woman who has begun to have some financial success. She is instrumental in a newly formed fisherman's union, wears trousers and mostly doesn't care what she looks like. This part dragged for me at times because there was a lot of political maneuvering and discussion. Communist organizers are moving in, elections, rigged or otherwise, are being held. Some of the villagers want to get rid of Johan Bogeson who has controlled the fishing industry in the village for years and who pays those who work for him not in cash, but in credit at the company store, which he also owns. ( "And although the villagers toiled incessantly in competition with the whims of the weather, the fruits of their labor were nowhere to be seen; everything disappeared down the same hole, whether people fished for a share of the catch or a fixed wage: their accounts with Johan Bogeson swallowed everything. Here no one ever saw money.") Other villagers see Bogeson as kind and benevolent, keeping them fed and housed in the lean years. The politicking in this section went on a bit long for me. This second part, as well as the final section, also contains snippets of romance and sexual awakening for Salka, raising issues as to whether she can maintain her strong sense of self as she comes into womanhood.

Amazon describes this as a "feminist coming of age" story, and it is that. Salka was a fascinating character, the descriptions of the village, the villagers and their day to day life, hard and poverty-stricken as it was, is engaging and interesting. Even the political shenigans interested me to an extent, just going on a tad too long. I'm glad I read this book.

Some quotes:

"There never seemed to be good weather in this village because the Creator was always experimenting with His sky. After frost and snow, He brought wind which whipped the snow into drifts. After whipping the snow into drifts, He would send a thaw, and melt all the drifts that He had swept together with great effort. All in all, it might be said that the Creator's favorite weather for this village was rain, which stirred up all sorts of stenches: sea and seaweed, fish, fish heads and fish guts, train oil, tar, manure, and refuse."

"Well, as I've always said, the depravity of the rich is like the sea; if you knew what dwelt in it, you would never dare dip your hand into it."

3 1/2 stars

Nov 20, 3:57 pm

From the library:

97. How Can I Help You? by Laura Sims (2023) 253 pp

Margo works in a small town library. We know from the beginning that her name is not really Margo, that she used to be a nurse, and that she is running from her past and does not want to be found. Her life is going fine until one day a new research librarian, Patricia, is hired. From the beginning Margo feels Patricia is not really who she says she is, and she also fears that Patricia may be able to expose her secrets. And, in fact, Patricia views herself as a writer, not a research librarian. She has taken the library job only because she has failed to find a publisher for her book. As she sits in the library, Patricia begins to sense that there is more to Margo than meets the eye, and she begins studying Margo and doing research.

The novel is narrated from the alternating povs of Margo and Patricia, as we find out what Margo is hiding, and what Patricia is going to do about it.

I found it interesting reading about the daily work lives and duties of librarians, and I think the author did a good job of conveying how disturbed Margo is despite her outward appearance of normalcy. But there were instances of characters acting in ways that were utterly implausible, and the ending was contrived and lazy. So, not recommended.

2 stars

Nov 20, 4:14 pm

From the library:

98. Barbara Isn't Dying by Alina Bronsky (2021) 183 pp

Walter Schmidt wakes up one morning to find that his wife Barbara isn't in bed, and strangely he does not smell coffee brewing. He finds Barbara on the floor unable to get up. He helps her back to bed, and then he is stymied. Because Walter does not know how to boil water, much less make coffee. Over the course of the book we observe the humorous ways in which Walter must learn to run the household, while, poignantly it becomes apparent that something serious must be going on with Barbara, a fact that Walter refuses to recognize.

The book is comic, touching and sad, all at the same time. Walter is a curmudgeon--he's alienated the children, has few friends, and for much of their 50+ years of marriage has treated Barbara as pretty much a slave. But now, in her illness, he's trying really hard to do better (without ever admitting he did anything wrong in the first place). Bronsky is able to make us sympathize and root for this mostly unlikeable man. It's a very real portrait of a type of man of a certain age, not macho exactly, but one who has been catered to and waited on his whole life suddenly having to do the waiting on. And discovering how difficult it is to care--really care--for another person.

I loved this bittersweet book.

4 stars

Nov 20, 5:30 pm

I'm glad you enjoyed Salka Valka too!

Nov 20, 10:45 pm

I'm glad you're starting to feel better. You chose some great books to recuperate with and I look forward to seeing what else you read.

Editado: Nov 21, 6:00 pm

>245 japaul22: It was a good one Jennifer. Thanks for pointing me to it.
>246 RidgewayGirl: Thanks Kay.

I bought this next book for my Kindle several years ago after reading Juniper: The Girl Who Was Born Too Soon which I loved. He wrote it with his wife, detailing the struggles of their premature daughter who was born at 23 weeks, and spent six months in the NICU. He and his wife told the story in alternating chapters, and they are both excellent writers. I also loved this next book, which, however, is very different.

99. Zoo Story by Thomas French (2010) 309 pp

The author, formerly a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times, describes this book, which grew out of his reporting and which he was inspired to write after reading Life of Pi, as a chronicle of daily life inside a zoo. The book opens with the story of 11 South African elephants ("the Swazi 11") being transported from South Africa to US zoos after years of legal battles to prevent the move. Had they not gone to zoos, the elephants would have been killed, since their habitats on game preserves were overcrowded and culling was desperately needed. However, animal activists took the position that "it was better to die free than to live in captivity."

Four of the Swazi 11 were destined for the Tampa Zoo, and the CEO of that zoo, Lex Salisbury, was instrumental in the battle to bring the elephants to the US. He also features prominently in the book, and not always in a good way. The details of transporting the elephants thousands of miles, including the involvement of the FBI in Tampa to make sure animal activists did not disrupt the transport of the elephants from the airport to the zoo itself, to all the details that went into acclimating the elephants to their new home, were fascinating. And that was just the beginning of this engrossing book.

We meet all sorts of interesting, both rare and common, animals, and learn of their likes and dislikes, their eccentricities and their personalities. Some of the more memorable are the elephants, Herman the chimp, and Enshala the tiger. There's also a section on the ways in which zoos, including the Tampa Zoo, participate in breeding programs and the zoo's attempts to breed the elephants and Enshalla, as well as a section about programs to return injured animals the zoo has rehabilitated to the wild, manatees in the case of the Tampa Zoo.

We also come to know many of the dedicated zookeepers and animal tenders, who were usually poorly compensated and worked long hours, often in understaffed conditions. But always loving the animals and loving what they do. Just so you know, zookeepers are divided into "bunnyhuggers" and "nonbunnyhuggers." Bunnyhuggers talk baby talk to their animals, celebrate their birthdays, give them special names. Nonbunnyhuggers "revel in the otherness" of their animals.

And prevailing over it all is Lex Salisbury. As far as I can tell one of the major functions of the CEO of a zoo is to be a fundraiser for the zoo, and Lex apparently excelled at this. But it soon became apparent that he was a tyrannical manager, frequently at odds with his zookeepers about the best and safest methods to care for the animals. This led to a lot of firings and resignations, with the resultant staff shortages, and at times safety was compromised. There was even a recent incident where the tiger, Enshalla, escaped and had to be shot. (All zoos have codes for various incidents, so this was a "Code One. Tiger").

Lex was extremely well-compensated as CEO of the Tampa Zoo, being paid more than even the mayor of Tampa. But he overstepped bounds when as an entrepreneur, he began to develop a tourist attraction, "Safari Wild" near Tampa which would be in direct competition with the nonprofit zoo. Beyond this blatant conflict of interest, it was later discovered that his leadership of both entities led to some very cozy situations in terms of exchanges of animals and uses of public funds. It was rather satisfying to read of his downfall after reading about the self-dealing and corruption. And as an aside, there's the various humorous story of the monkeys he thought didn't know how to swim and could be contained on an island at Safari Wild. The monkeys escaped the island, and months later many were still on the loose, taunting those attempting to capture them.

The book was even more interesting to me, since all of this took place where I now live, although the events depicted took place c.2003-2010, well before I arrived. When our kids were young we were almost weekly visitors to the zoo, both in New Orleans and in Seattle, and though my zoo-going days are behind me, I was fascinated with this inside look at zoo operations. As you can tell, I really liked this book, and heartily recommend it.

3 1/2 stars

Nov 21, 2:30 pm

This next one was a reread. I first read it at about the time of its publication in 1995, and have always remembered it as one of my favorite books ever. I was interested to see if it would hold up.

100. A Fine Balance (1995) 628 pp

I won't keep you in suspense: I still love this book, although on this reread I noticed more than a few blatant coincidences that should have bothered me, but didn't. It is an epic tale of India during the 1970's. It is set primarily in Mumbai during the so-called "Emergency" when Indira Ghandi's government imposed a series of harsh and repressive measures, and there was much unrest and violence. Along the way we experience many of the horrifying events in India: the Partition, the violence against Muslims, the violence against the untouchables, beggars, the massive slums, forced sterilization, con men, thugs, official corruption, and much, much more.

Two tailors, Ishvar and Om, uncle and nephew, of the untouchable caste, have come to Mumbai from their small village to make their fortune. Although Ishvar and his brother Narayan trained as tailors in order to escape their caste, they were still violently abused in their small village, which led to the death of Narayan. Ishvar brings Narayan's son Om to the city to overcome that past.

In the city, they obtain work producing garments with Dina, a widow desperately trying to maintain her independence. They also develop a friendship with Dina's young boarder, a student. Through these four marvelous characters we come to view the panorama of Indian life. Of vastly different backgrounds, and initially suspicious of each other, over time, the four form a family of sorts.

One of the things I remembered from my first read of this book was how Dickensian it was. One horror after another overtakes these characters, but they, especially Ishvar and Om, just keep coming up for air, and keep on keeping on. Despite the seemingly constant tragedies, there is much rejoicing in the book, and the book at several points references life as "a fine balance" between despair and hope. I will say, however, the has one of the most devastating endings I have ever read, though even then there is hope in what the characters make of it.

The book begins with the epitaph: "This story is not fiction. All is true."

I guess I would still put this book in the category of books I think everyone should read.

5 stars

Editado: Nov 21, 2:41 pm

This next one is from my Kindle. I'm not sure why I bought it (probably a cheap deal). I also don't remember much about it.

101. Universal Harvester by John Darnielle (2017) 226 pp

Jeremy works at a video store in small town Iowa when customers begin returning videos complaining that strange footage has been spliced into the standard Hollywood movie they had rented. The inserted footage is different in each video, and is bizarre, dark and vaguely sinister. The scenes appear to be local, and Jeremy decides to investigate--who could have done this, and why?

And then, the narrative goes off in a few different unexpected directions. I remember vaguely liking this book, but also, vaguely, having problems with it. It seems to be a sort of literary thriller, and then it seems it's not. It was strange, but very readable. Some reviewers, including Oprah magazine, found it similar to David Lynch ("Twin Peaks"). I was in the end vaguely dissatisfied, because there doesn't seem to be much of a resolution of any of the issues raised, and I usually like my books neatly tied up by the end. But if this seems like something you would enjoy, it's well-written, and by all means go for it.

3 stars

ETA I see I've used iterations of the word "vague" a fair number of times in this review. Not sure if that means anything.

And guess what. I've now reviewed my reading through August. Next up are September reads.

Nov 21, 2:54 pm

>248 arubabookwoman: Thanks for that review. I am now inspired to re-read A Fine Balance. Yes, everyone should read it.

I read it when I could still read print, so how it feels in audio.

Nov 21, 4:48 pm

>250 kjuliff: I haven't always remained as impressed when I reread books that I loved the first time around. There's always something magical about the discovery of a new great book. But this one held up.

From my Kindle. You can skip this one:

102. Things We Set On Fire by Deborah Reed (20??)

This one had a good premise, and it started well, with a good hook. In the prologue, which consists of a few opening pages, Vivvie shoots and kills her husband Jackson, making it look like a hunting accident. What we don't know is why? The bulk of the book takes place in the present, about 30 years after the prologue. Vivvie is estranged from her two daughters, Elin and Kate, who were young girls at the time of Jackson's death, and hasn't had contact with either one of them for a long time. Then, the police come to her door to tell her that Kate is hospitalized from an overdose, and someone needs to take custody of Kate's two young daughters, Averlee and Quincy. Elin, who is having marital difficulties of her own, comes back to town to help with the care of the two girls. Ah, I think, a novel of family reconciliation. Lovely.

Only it wasn't so lovely. The characters are shallow and act in ways that are implausible and make no sense. Why did Kate, on learning she was ill, send her husband away (he seemed a good guy), isolate herself and insist on no further contact with him? Why did she totally cut him off from his two daughters, who he clearly loved? Why did the husband allow himself to be isolated from his family? These are just a few of the things that made no sense. And where actions are given reasons, they seem to be manufactured or artificial and also make no sense. I liked the Florida setting in this one, and the prologue grabbed me, but the rest of it--Ugh.

1 1/2 stars

Editado: Nov 21, 5:32 pm

I read the first book below, which I own, early in September, and the second one late in September after checking it out from the library. They cover similar ground, and there really was no need to read both, but I went a little overboard. I even went on to watch the movie "Alive" (based on the second book) starring Ethan Hawk.

103. Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado (2006) 304 pp
Subtitle: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home


118. Alive by Piers Paul Read (1974) 318 pp
Subtitle: The Story of the Andes Survivors

These two books cover the experiences of the Uruguayan rugby team who were on their way to a match in Chile when their chartered plane crashed high in the Andes. There were a fair number of survivors of the initial crash, although there were also a fair number of deaths in the days that followed, from injuries sustained in the initial crash, starvation, or from an avalanche that occurred weeks after the crash which buried many of the survivors.

At the time the final survivors were rescued, there was a great deal of sensationalist press about the fact that the survivors were ultimately able to stay alive because they ate the meat from the bodies of those who died. Without the cannibalism, there would have been no survivors. I remember hearing about all of this at the time. The book Alive was published only a few years after the crash, which occurred in 1972, but I had no interest in reading it at that time. Miracle was published more recently, and I purchased it as a cheap Kindle deal.

I read the Miracle book first. It is a first person account by one of the rugby players, whose mother and sister were also on the plane, but did not survive. He was one of the leaders among the survivors (and this is confirmed by the Alive book,for which all survivors were interviewed by the author). From almost the beginning, Nando was an advocate for trying to hike their way out of the mountains rather than waiting for rescuers to find them. He was also one of the first to suggest that if they were survive, they would have to eat the meat of the dead. However, he relates the cannibalism aspect of this in a matter of fact way, and then lets it go. It is not a focus of the book. What was important is that most of the survivors viewed it as almost a religious choice: God wants you to survive, and the only way you can survive is by eating the meat of the dead.

Since it is written in the first person, we are in Nando's mind most of the time. There is a lot of religious and philosophical pondering. But it's also a great adventure story of survival under extreme circumstances. Nando was one of the two survivors who ultimately made the trek out of the mountains, climbing incredibly high peaks with little to no mountain climbing experience and no equipment. The book also fills us in on Nando's life after the rescue, as well as letting us know how the other survivors have fared over the years.

Alive follows the same basic scenario, but we are in no one's mind, although the author keeps us advised of what most of the survivors were doing and thinking at any particular time as conveyed to him in the extensive interviews. From the very beginning, most of the survivors were resourceful, working together, utilizing what they could, and keeping up each other's spirits. There does seem to be a bit more emphasis on the cannibalism aspect, but again it is noted that most of the survivors had clear consciences about it. Many of them discussed the matter with their priests after their rescue. As in Nando's book, the religious faith of almost all of these survivors is readily apparent and very important to most of them. One difference between the two books is that Alive included a lot of information about rescue efforts and the effects that the crash had on the families of the missing team during the 72 days before they were found.

As I said, this was an amazing adventure/true survival story. I recommend either of the books.

3 stars

Editado: Nov 21, 5:37 pm

From my kindle:

104. Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White (2009) 352 pp

Nov 21, 5:43 pm

Great reviews, and several BBs for me. I like Faulkner, but haven't read much of his work, so I think I should read the trilogy you talked about, The Hamlet, The Town, and The Mansion. Maybe I can suggest the first to one of my f2f book groups.

Nov 21, 6:21 pm

>248 arubabookwoman: Agree completely about A Fine Balance.

Enjoying your reviews and admire your discipline.

Editado: Nov 22, 10:40 am

>252 arubabookwoman: I see both are available on audio so have put them on my tbr list. Thanks for the reviews.

Nov 21, 7:10 pm

Hmm. I haven't read A Fine Balance, but it's been on my list for a long time. Maybe in 2024!

Nov 22, 8:24 am

>238 arubabookwoman: Thanks for sharing details of your rating system philosophy. I had figured most of it out after years of following your reading, but it was nice to get the details as I get so many recommendations from you.

>242 arubabookwoman: Unlike you, I did not like Independent People. I thoroughly disliked the main character and could not get passed the incest. Sometimes I end up liking books even when I don't like the protagonist, but couldn't make that leap with this one. I have Salka Valka on my Kindle.

>244 arubabookwoman: Ooh, a Bronsky book I haven't read yet! I love her unlikeable characters, so go figure...

>247 arubabookwoman: I used to enjoy reading nonfiction/memoirs about animal-human relationships. This one sounds like one I would enjoy. Onto the teetering pile it goes.

>248 arubabookwoman: >257 japaul22: I haven't read A Fine Balance, but obviously need to. Like Jennifer, perhaps 2024 will be the year!

>252 arubabookwoman: I read Alive in the 70s, shortly after it was published. Perhaps because I was young at the time, it made a strong impression. Huh, I just looked up and saw the ratty copy, which I still own, from my reading chair.

I'm glad you are feeling better, Deborah. How is the new house?

Nov 22, 3:02 pm

Deborah: I have a copy of Alive in Spanish, given to me by one of the survivors.

Nov 23, 10:22 am

Nov 23, 2:21 pm

>248 arubabookwoman: I guess I would still put this book in the category of books I think everyone should read. Yes I have read it and for me a 5 star book.

Editado: Nov 23, 4:07 pm

>261 baswood: >248 arubabookwoman: For me it’s definitely a five star book that everyone should read. I read it over 20 years ago and remember rushing of to my library to get my hands on every Rohinton Mistry book I could find.

Nov 24, 11:13 am

Hope everyone had a good Turkey Day yesterday. Our son and family took us out to a restaurant for a feast, which was lovely. I do enjoy the smell of roasting turkey all day, but I just wasn't up to cooking this year. I have nothing on the schedule for today, so I should be able to fill in with a few reviews.

>254 ffortsa: Judy even though I think you have to read The Hamlet before you read the other two, it wasn't my favorite of the bunch, so not sure it's the one to recommend to your book group. Light in August is one of his more accessible ones (I think) and my favorites are The Sound and the Fury and Absalom, Absalom.

>255 SassyLassy:, >257 japaul22:, >261 baswood:, >262 kjuliff: Lots of love here for A Fine Balance. Jennifer I really hope you get to it in 2024. It's a bit long, but doesn't
drag at all, and I think you'll find it well worth it.

>256 kjuliff: I don't think you need to read both to get the full picture, but let me know what you think when you get to them.

>258 labfs39: I did love both the new Bronsky book and Zoo Story so I hope you get to read them Lisa. I also urge you to read A Fine Balance, even if you never read any of my recommendations again. :) I'm feeling a bit better, but not back up to 100%. I really like our new house, and I like the location, even though I miss the beach. It's nice having our son just 5 minutes away. And since we're closer to the Moffitt Center, I no longer have to drive Gil there and spend the day hanging out.

>259 BLBera: That's interesting Beth. Which survivor was it, and how did you meet him? Did you read the book?

>260 FlorenceArt: Thank you Florence. I bought the book more for the author than for the subject matter, but I got entirely engrossed in the subject as I was reading.

This next book is off my Kindle. I bought it because I wanted to learn more about Carville, the only leprosarium (is that a word) in the US. I was aware of this because after my husband graduated from architecture school in the early 1970's and went to work for an architectural firm in New Orleans, one of his first jobs was a project, some sort of small renovation I think, at the leperosy colony at Carville.

104. In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White. (2009) 352 pp

In the early 20th century, the federal government established a leper colony at Carville, Louisiana to house patients suffering from Hansen's Disease (which term they prefer to the more stigmatizing term "leperosy"). By the early 1990's, only about 130 patients remained at the facility, and the government started using part of the facility as a federal prison, particularly for prisoners with health issues, since there was an on-site hospital.

The author was convicted of a federal white collar crime relating to check kiting/bank fraud and was sentenced to one year which he spent at Carville. When he arrived he knew little about leperosy other than references to it in the Bible, and that those suffering from the disease were frequently ostracized. At the facility, the powers that be generally tried to keep the patients and the prisoners separate, but because of his job in the cafeteria, the author was able to interact with many of the patients, and came to know the stories of many of them. Some of these stories are sad indeed. Most of the patients were fairly old, and many were taken from their homes when they were only children. Sometimes they were taken forcibly, sometimes their families turned them in. Some never saw their families again, while others had frequent visits.

We also learn a lot about some of the federal prisoners who were incarcerated there, and their stories, including for example that of Jimmy Hoffa's attorney, are very interesting. When they author first arrived, the reader is given the impression that he didn't really think he had done anything too bad to receive his punishment. As time progresses, however, he does come to recognize his crimes, and ponder on ways to turn his life around when he is released. He makes some interesting comparisons between the patients, many of whom are innocent souls but who nevertheless have received a life imprisonment of sorts at Carville, with the actual prisoners, many of who are there for fairly short terms, but who are by no means "innocent."

This was a quick read, and it is not particularly an in depth history of Carville or of Hansen's Disease. I would like to read more on the subject, but this was a good introduction.

3 stars

Nov 24, 11:42 am

This was from my Kindle. Several years ago, I read a nonfiction account of the Jonestown mass suicide, A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres so I was interested in this fictionalized account:

105. Children of Paradise by Fred D'Agular (2014) 389 pp

This is a novelization of life in Jim Jones's religious colony in Guyana with a particular focus on the lives of the children whose parents brought them there. If you are not familiar with the Jonestown Massacre, under the leadership of Jim Jones, close to 1000 members of the cult which he brought with him to the jungles of Guyana committed suicide by drinking cyanide-laced KoolAid after a Congressional delegation threatened to expose that many members were being kept in the commune against their will and to free them. More than 300 of the deaths were of children. The author has stated that one of the reasons behind the book is, "The kids in the fact of their dying never had a say."

The story is told from multiple povs, even including from the pov of Adam, a captive gorilla. The focus is on Trina, a young girl who has received special attention from the leader, here referred to only as "Father" or "the Reverend," and on Joyce Trina's mother. Joyce has come to realize that there is a real danger to staying in the compound and is plotting ways for her and Trina to escape. The commune members, including Joyce, are basically performing slave labor and receiving starvation rations, while the Reverend lives in luxury, with gourmet meals, any sex partner he desires, and recreational drugs. Guyanan officials are corruptly involved in returning to the compound any members who have tried to escape and ensuring that mail does not always get through to relatives back in the US.

As the story progresses, the author excellently portrays the myriad of ways in which the Reverend controls the lives of the residents, and the subtle ways in which he is preparing them for a mass suicide. A mood of paranoia has been consistently instilled, and any disagreement or dissent is harshly and immediately punished. There are spies everywhere, and children are encouraged to report any grumbling words they may hear from their parents or any other adult. And the children themselves do not escape harsh punishment, and so for the most part they are fearful and obedient. The book made me entirely understand why 1000 people would "drink the KoolAid."

When I started the book, it quickly became apparent that the first section is being narrated by Adam, the gorilla, and I wasn't entirely sure this would work as a narrative device. In the end, I was satisfied with this little bit of I guess could be called magical realism, though there are some reviewers for whom this did not work. From this opening section, the book slowly builds the world of this strict religious compound, all the while ratcheting up the mood of dread and tension towards the horrific event we know is coming.

Recommended. 3 1/2 stars

Editado: Nov 24, 3:03 pm

From the library. Saw this referred to favorably several places on LT:

106. The Postcard by Anne Berest (2021) 489 pp

"What does it mean to be Jewish?"


"I carry it within me, inscribed in the very cells of my body, the memory of an experience of danger so violent that sometimes I think I really lived it myself, or that I'll be forced to relive it one day. To me, death always feels near. I have a sense of being hunted. I often feel subjected to a kind of self-obliteration."

This is an example of what seems to be an increasingly popular form (genre?) of book described as "autofiction." At least it seems to be the type of book I am reading more frequently than I have encountered in the past.

In 2003 Anne Berest's mother Leila received an anonymous postcard on which the only inscription was four names, Ephraim and Emma (Leila's grandparents), and their children Noemie and Jacques (Leila's aunt and uncle). All four of these people died at Auschwitz. Of the family, only the third child, Myriam, the mother of Leila and grandmother of Anne, survived.

Anne was always aware that she was Jewish, but she was raised nonobservant. When Leila received the postcard, she and Anne puzzled over it, but did nothing for several years. Then, an anti-semitic incident involving Anne's young daughter as well as an incident at a seder attended by Anne caused her to want to explore her heritage and to discover more about the history of her family and what actually happened to them, as well as to find out who sent the postcard in 2003 and why. The book describes Anne's family history as well as a step by step detailing of her search for answers to the mystery of the postcard.

At the time I read this in September, I noted that it was one of the best books I have read this year, and that is still the case. It is a deep dive into what it means to be Jewish, and a reinforcement of the message that the world can never be allowed to forget what happened in the Holocaust. I was amazed by how long it took France to recognize the the damages done to its Jewish population during WW II by the Nazis and their French collaborators. It wasn't until 1997 with the Matteoli Commission that an investigation began to study the conditions under which the property belonging to Jews in France was confiscated or otherwise taken from the Jews. This was in addition to the failure of France to acknowledge the responsibility of the French government for the deportation of thousands of Jews to the death camps during WW II until 2009.

Highly recommended, 4 1/2 stars

Nov 24, 3:23 pm

From the library:

107. Termush by Sven Holm (1967) 150 pp

According to the forward of this short novel, it is both a realistic chronicle of society's collapse and a surreal journey of a man confronted by crisis. Set in the aftermath of a nuclear war, it delves into the psychology of the holed up survivors as they face the hazards of societal breakdown.

As the novel opens, the first person narrator is living in a hotel with other guests, all of whom have paid dearly to be taken care of at this isolated facility in the event of a nuclear war and its aftermath. Management takes care of them, and gourmet meals and all creature comforts are provided. If radiation levels get too high, the guests are conveyed to basement shelters to remain until safer radiation levels return. If possible, outings are sometimes arranged, so the guests don't get too bored.

Then, the outside world begins intruding. "The day we came up from the shelter, four people were found dead on the steps of the hotel." Soon, people from the outside world begin arriving at the hotel in larger numbers, many of them suffering from radiation sickness. Management and some of the guests want to help them, but many guests do not. Chaos and confusion reign.

I used to read a lot of nuclear war/post-apocalyptic novels back in my teens, early 20's, a kind of guilty reading pleasure, if you will. This is one I missed back then. (It's Danish, I believe, so maybe it wasn't even translated). Many of the books I used to read back then focused on the nitty-gritty details of survival. This one was a bit more philosophical. I can remember back in the day the drills in schools in the US to shelter under your desk in the event of a nuclear attack, which seems so quaint and naive now, and to a certain extent I guess I view these types of books the same way as I now view the shelter-under-your-desk exercise: I don't think surviving a nuclear war is possible, and why would anyone want to survive anyway?

Still, for what it is this was a good read.

3 stars

Nov 24, 3:39 pm

From the Library:

108. The Road to Roswell by Connie Willis (2023) 404 pp

Francie is on her way to Roswell New Mexico to be maid of honor at the wedding of her college roommate to a UFO/alien conspiracist. Francie has talked her roommate out of marrying "inappropriate" men before, and hopes she will be able to do so once again. To make matters more difficult, Roswell is in the midst of its annual UFO festival. Unfortunately, soon after her arrival, Francie is an alien.

In this case, the alien looks like a tumbleweed, with more tentacles than Medusa's hair has snakes. Communication is difficult at first, but the alien is able to make Francie aware that he wants her to drive him somewhere. Unfortunately, he is not sure where, and he keeps changing directions. Along the way, they pick up (or abduct) several others, including a con artist and hitchhiker, a conspiracy theorist, a little old lady gambler, and a fan of old westerns who is touring the southwest to visit the locales of all the famous cowboy movies.

What a trip this book is! There are laughs on almost every page, and I loved it. For example, the alien learns to communicate by watching old cowboy movies, so when negotiations ensue, the aliens "speak" in phrases like, "Sure 'nuff pardner," and "Hang on cowpoke," and "Mighty grateful ma'am."

Reviews on Amazon describe this as part alien-abduction, part road trip saga (there's a hilarious detour to Las Vegas, with its wedding chapels and Elvis impersonators), part romantic comedy. Just a fun read over all.

3 1/2 stars

Nov 24, 5:24 pm

>267 arubabookwoman: This sounds great, Deborah. I will look for the Berest as well.

>263 arubabookwoman: I don't remember which survivor it was anymore, Deborah. I will have to check to see if I still have the book. I met him when I was a medical interpreter at the Mayo Clinic. He was being seen there. I stopped interpreting in 1996, so my memory of it is dim.

Nov 24, 5:53 pm

>267 arubabookwoman: I love Connie Willis' humor. To Say Nothing of the Dog is one of the funniest books I've read. I haven't read this one, I'll look for it.

Nov 24, 7:23 pm

>269 labfs39: >267 arubabookwoman: For a really humorous book I highly recommend Me Talk Pretty One Day especially on audio where it is read by the author David Sedaris

Nov 24, 8:22 pm

>265 arubabookwoman: I'm glad you thought so much of The Postcard. I've been meaning to read this since I first read a review of it when it was published. I can see I'm going to have to get to it sooner rather than later.

Dez 1, 3:17 pm

You've got a lot there that I want to read. I've had A Fine Balance on my shelves forever, so maybe this is the year. Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives looks fascinating... I have such a difficult relationship with zoos as an animal lover and low-key advocate, but your strong rec makes me think I might like this one.

Dez 1, 4:44 pm