si reads in 2023

Discussão2023 ROOT CHALLENGE

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si reads in 2023

Editado: Jan 19, 2:30 pm

Hello everyone. I'm Simon, returning for another year of rooting!

As last year will include most things I read here. Setting a ROOT target of 30 books.

Editado: Set 18, 10:03 am

2023 ROOTs

01. The Unexpected Guest - Charles Osbourne
02. Solaris - Stanislaw Lem
03. Impossible Vacation - Spalding Gray
04. Last Vanities - Fleur Jaeggy
05. Three Act Tragedy - Agatha Christie
06. Rainforest - Jenny Diski
07. A True Novel - Minae Mizumura
08. Anatomy of a Murder - Robert Traver
09. The Honeymoon Killers - Paul Buck
10. The Doll Who Ate His Mother - Ramsey Campbell
11. Vermillion Sands - J G Ballard
12. The Incredible Melting Man - Phil Smith
13. An Awfully Big Adventure - Beryl Bainbridge
14. A Coffin Full Of Dollars - Joe Miller
15. La Belle Sauvage - Philip Pullman
16. The Venetian Game - Philip Gwynne Jones
17. Zazie In The Metro - Raymond Queneau
18. Queenie - Candice Carty-Williams
19. Soulless - Gail Carriger
20. 31 Songs - Nick Hornby
21. Symposium - Muriel Spark
22. Solo Faces - James Salter
23. To Love And Be Wise - Josephine Tay
24. Piano - Jean Echenoz
25. The Ladies of Grace Adieu and other stories - Susanna clarke

Jan 1, 2:54 pm

Happy new year everyone!

All the best with your reading challenges in 2023.

Jan 1, 4:57 pm

Happy new year to you too, and happy reading!

Jan 1, 5:34 pm

Welcome back and have a great reading year!

Jan 2, 8:07 am

Thanks >4 Jackie_K: & >5 rabbitprincess:.

Hoping to make some progress this year with some of my more stubborn ROOTs!

Jan 2, 1:34 pm

Welcome back!

Jan 3, 7:50 am

>7 cyderry: Thanks Chèli.

ROOT 1 The Unexpected Guest

Novelisation of Agatha Christie's 1958 play by Charles Osbourne.
A quick, undemanding read to start the year. The original play was written in under a month after Christie's previous play, Verdict, flopped in London.

Jan 5, 5:50 am

Happy New Yewar and have a great reading year!

Jan 5, 10:19 am

Happy New Year, Simon. Good to see you back here. Happy ROOTing.

Jan 10, 2:38 pm


Solaris by Stanislaw Lem
Lem wrote a series of sci-fi novels around the idea of 'first contact' with alien life.
The planet Solaris survival depends on its Ocean - a living entity which stops the planet being destroyed by its two competing suns. Humans, despite decades of research, have failed to understand or make any contact with the ocean until the three remaining men on the space station are visited by beings, seemingly human, created from their thoughts and memoirs.
The story is interesting and I liked it more by the end than I expected. Some of its problems, the dialogue for example, may be down to the translation. The original was written in Polish, but this English translation is based on an earlier French translation.

Jan 16, 3:54 am

>11 si: That one is sitting on my shelves as well, so it's pretty encouraging to read your thoughts on it. The last few years I have read some of the mid-century sci-fi classics and though their ideas about alien life or technological change are still interesting, I often find their writing (dialogue and characters) and their social thinking much more dated.

Jan 16, 12:31 pm

>12 Henrik_Madsen:
Hi Henrik. Hope you like Solaris if you decide to pick it up. It has a first person narrator so is a fairly quick read despite wandering at times into 'hard science fiction' territory.

Editado: Jan 30, 10:02 am

A brief end of month update...

I finished two library books. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo & The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy.

After reading the Mackesy book I finally got around to watching the animated film version - which I have to say I prefer.

And also completed - ROOT 3
Impossible Vacation by Spalding Gray
This novel unfortunately falls to pieces after a really good opening. Similar in style to Gray's autobiographical monologues, it follows Brewster North's life from his difficult childhood, living with a mentally ill parent, through the 1960s and 70s when he tries one alternative lifestyle after another before his own mental health problems over take him. The occasional flashes of brilliance made me glad to have finally read this - had my copy since the mid 1990s. One perhaps for people who are already fans!

Editado: Fev 19, 5:56 am

>14 si: Is that book by Mackesy the extended version, Simon? I read the short one some time ago and than I found the version that is made from the animated film. It's on my soon to read pile.

Jan 31, 7:14 am

Hi Connie. I think its was the original, shorter version. Its a story I would happily revisit, so I will keep a eye out for the extended book. Will look forward to seeing what you think of it!

Editado: Fev 8, 7:15 am


Last Vanities
Seven short stories by Fleur Jaeggy. Translated Italian to English by Tim Park
Stories - No Destiny, A Wife, The Free House, The Promise, Porzia, The Twins, Last Vanities.


Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie
Poirot mystery.

Fev 13, 9:33 am


Rainforest by Jenny Diski
Jenny Diski's second novel is about a university lecturer whose carefully organized life unravels during a field study to Borneo's rainforest.
Not a perfect novel but I am a fan of Diski's writing and this is, as always, a perceptive and unsettling tale.

Fev 19, 5:57 am

>16 si: Looking forward to your thoughts as well, Simon.

Editado: Fev 24, 7:29 am

Library book -

City of Night by John Rechy
Superficially this is similar to Impossible Vacation. Both books are autobiographical, the MC in each tale leaves a difficult family situation to experience New York in the 1960s. And both men are drawn to the seedier side of Times Square at that time. Beyond that the stories diverge significantly.
In City of Night the MC make a conscious decision to reject traditional family values, jobs or relationships, and lives as a hustler and is constantly moving from one sexual encounter, one city, to the next. The book is a series of character sketches of the people he encounters and a description of the life of someone living on the streets, in cheap apartments always looking for the next score.
Their are sections set in San Francisco, Chicago and Hollywood. The last section of this fairly long book is set in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, where events come to ahead and the MC reevaluates his life.
Its a better novel than Impoosible Vacation, written in a idiosyncratic style - Rechy doesn't use apostrophes (doesnt), uses the past and present tense in the same sentence, and Capitalizes random words for emphasise. Which could have been irritating but actually fits pretty well.

Editado: Fev 26, 10:04 am

Library Book -

Elena Knows by Claudia Piňeiro
Short novel from Argentina, translated from the Spanish by Francis Riddle. First published in 2007, but not translated into English until 2021.
The book follows Elena over the course of one day as she makes a difficult journey, due to suffering with Parkinson's disease, across Buenos Aires. In addition, alternating chapters, tell us the back story leading up to the death of Elena's daughter Rita.
Difficult book to talk about. Reader's reactions to it will greatly depend on their own experiences dealing with life-limiting illnesses and also all the issues connected with women's reproductive rights. Abortion was only legalised in Argentina in 2021 and Piňeiro was involved in the movement for change.

Editado: Mar 20, 10:44 am

Still being sidetracked by library books -

Attrib. and Other Stories by Eley Williams & The Women Who Got Away by John Updike

Two short story collections, primarily about relationships but from very different perspectives.

Beauty and Sadness by Yasunari Kawabata. English translation by Howard S Hibbett. A writer's decision to visit a former lover in Kyoto opens old wounds with unforeseeable consequences. Yasunari has apparently handled similar themes better in other novels, but as my first experience of his writing I found this to be an absorbing story.

Mar 25, 3:21 pm

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths

I occasionally remember I've started a series and pick up the next book. I read The Crossing Places in 2020. Fortunately the story is still pretty clear in my mind and I sailed through this enjoyable sequel.

Editado: Abr 1, 11:26 am

Well while January felt endless, Feb & March have disappeared in the blink of an eye!

No Roots completed this month (March) so I'm falling behind...
But I am making steady progress with A True Novel, which is enjoyable but the story is extended over a very leisurely 854 pages!

Editado: Abr 14, 9:33 am

A True Novel by Minae Mizumura. Translated, Japanese into English, by Juliet Winters Carpenter

In a long prologue Minae Mizumura, a fictionalized version of the author, grows up in 1950s New York where she crosses paths with Taro Azuma as he rises from being a neighbour's chauffeur to a millionaire businessman. Later in life, as a published writer & University lecturer, she is approached by Yusuke Kato who has his own tale to tell of Taro's life both before & after the time Minae knew him.

The rest of the novel, which is a reworking of Wuthering Heights and is set in Japan from the end of WWII until 1998, can be read as Yusuke's story or as the novel Minae goes on to write.

Although the story within a story structure is complicated the plot is easy to follow and the characters are well drawn. Overall, I think, a great book.

Editado: Abr 17, 8:23 am

8. Anatomy Of A Murder by Robert Traver

1st published 1958; I've had my battered paperback since 1992.
This concerns a murder trial in 1950s Michigan and is told from the POV of lawyer Paul (Polly to his friends) Biegler who is a struggling former DA reduced to dealing with divorce cases. A big murder trial is just what his bank balance & his run at congress needs - only The People vs Frederick Manion is clearly a case of 1st degree murder.

The trial is terrific & the scenes post verdict add an extra layer, but there are a handful of ill-judged caricatures of women which are more than simply 'of the time'.

Abr 18, 11:18 am

9. The Honeymoon Killers by Paul Buck

Like 'Anatomy of a Murder', this is based on a true crime story. I bought both books back in 1992; I paid the grand sum of £0.30 for The Honeymoon Killers. I overpaid, if judged on quality - its terrible - but made a sound investment if you buy into the cult status of the film. Copies of my 1970 edition are today selling for £30!

Almost back on schedule; one book still behind!

Abr 18, 12:16 pm

>27 si: Sounds like you need to get yourself over to ebay! :D

Abr 18, 2:11 pm

>28 Jackie_K:. Hi Jackie. Not a bad idea.

Editado: Abr 25, 9:23 am

Library books -

Victoria & Abdul by Lee Hall
This is the screenplay based on the book, Victoria & Abdul by Shrabani Basu

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise - Sean Taylor & Jean Jullien. Fun picture book.

Abr 27, 12:05 pm

Library Ebook -

Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba. Translated from Spanish by Lisa Dillman; with an afterword by Edmund White.

7 year old Marina is seriously injured in a car accident which kills both her parents. After many months in hospital she's moved to an orphanage, where a strange love/hate relationship between Marina and the other girls becomes increasingly dark and dangerous as the days go by.
Unsettling novella tinged with psychological horror.
3.5 Stars.

Editado: Abr 30, 11:32 am

10. The Doll Who Ate His Mother by Ramsey Campbell

British horror story from 1976.
Campbell's first novel is set in his home city of Liverpool and deals with the search for a man who has caused a fatal accident and is suspected of the murder of a cinema owner's mother. Most of the story reads like a mystery novel with a group of amateur sleuths following clues, interviewing people and getting into scraps. Once the identity of the killer is known black magic and satanism add the horror elements.
Not as tightly written as the short stories I've read by Campbell, but certainly better written than most horror novels. And the title kind of makes sense by the end.
3 Stars.

Maio 6, 3:23 pm

11. Vermilion Sands by J G Ballard

Nine science fiction stories all set in the desert resort of Vermilion Sands. All the tales are told in the first person by a different male protagonist and are all variations on the theme of obsession. 3.5 Stars.

- The Cloud-Sculptors of Coral D
- Prima Belladonna
- The Screen Game
- The Singing Statues
- Cry Hope, Cry Fury!
- Venus Smiles
- Say Goodbye To The Wind
- Studio 5, The Stars
- The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista

Maio 7, 4:59 pm

Library Ebook -

The Hellbound Heart. Clive Barker's 1986 novella which he filmed himself as Hellraiser.
Have been in the mood for horror fiction recently. Reverting to my teenage reading habits; for better or worse!

Maio 15, 5:31 am

12. The Incredible Melting Man by Phil Smith

This is an okay novelization of the 1977 horror film; which is probably only worth remembering for Rick Baker's special effects. The plot is derivative of a hundred science fiction tales. I was mostly reminded of Nigel Kneale's Quatermass. Well if your going to steal, steal from the best.

Maio 20, 2:14 pm

13. An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge

1950 Liverpool. Drama set around a repertory theatre. A confusing number of characters at the start, which mirrors 16 year old Stella's experience of joining the company, but by the end this is an very affecting story told with a lot of liverpudian humour.

Jun 2, 9:45 am

ROOTs on the back burner at the moment.

Library Book -
The House At Sea's End by Elly Griffiths

This is a Ruth Galloway mystery set in Norfolk. Ruth's increasingly complicated private life makes for an interesting mix with the historical murder of six German soldiers during World War II.

Jun 7, 12:04 pm

14. A Coffin Full Of Dollars by Joe Miller

I think the deluge of westerns on television (films & tv shows) when I was growing up put me off the genre almost completely, including books - I've certainly read very few over the years. This short novel I've had since 1998 and is part of the continuing adventures of 'The Man With No Name'.
An okay adventure tale but no great shakes.

Editado: Jul 3, 11:00 am

June turned out to be a slow reading month. Finished a library book Hazards of Time Travel but La Belle Sauvage drifted into July, so I finished the first half of the year a little behind - 14/30.

15. La Belle Sauvage. YA fantasy, which is both a prequel and the first book in a new trilogy. A little heavy-handed I thought. Certainly needed a touch of humour once in a while.

Jul 10, 8:33 am

ROOT 16 -

The Venetian Game by Philip Gwynne Jones

First in a series of mystery novels set in modern day Venice.
Nathan Sutherland has lived for five years in Venice, working as a translator and serving as an unpaid honorary consul - helping any Brits who run into trouble while in the city. He's drawn into a game between twin brothers concerning stolen art, which slowly gets more & more serious and threatening.
This is a slow paced story, told in a humorous first person narration by Sutherland.

Jul 15, 11:23 am

ROOT 17 -

Zazie In The Metro by Raymond Queneau Franch to English translation by Barbara Wright. Introduction by Gilbert Adair

Absurdist story from 1959 concerning a girl's adventure in Paris while staying with her uncle. a mix of oddball characters and situations with Queneau's boundless wordplay.

Jul 24, 11:41 am

ROOT 18 -

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
A more recent acquisition, April last year, takes me to 18/30.

Jul 30, 11:43 am

ROOT 19 -

Soulless by Gail Carriger
After being put through the emotional ringer by 'Queenie', this was a fun, very enjoyable read. A book that actually made me laugh. Which is a fairly rare event.

Ago 3, 11:05 am

ROOT 20 -

31 Songs by Nick Hornby
Non-fiction musings about music by the author of High Fidelity. This dates from 2003, so all of the opinions should probably be viewed with that in mind. But despite that I found the book interesting and had fun watching the videos on YouTube.

Ago 5, 8:59 am

>44 si: A time-capsule book like that is quite interesting! It would also be neat if Hornby wrote a new edition of the book to reevaluate his opinions of the songs he chose, and whether he would make a different list if starting from scratch today.

Editado: Ago 5, 4:41 pm

>45 rabbitprincess: A 'time-capsule book' is a good way of looking at it.

List of 31 Songs

Ago 7, 11:24 am

ROOT 21 -

Symposium by Muriel Spark
Ten people gather for a dinner party in London. Before the outcome to the evening is revealed the story switches back in time and we are told the various stories of the people present that evening.
This short novel packs a lot into its 147 pages and Muriel Spark handles a fairly large cast of characters brilliantly.

Ago 18, 7:50 am

a couple of library books -

The Boy, the Mole, The Fox and the Horse The Animated Story by Charlie Mackesy

Back in February Connie mentioned there was a longer version of this book based on the animated film (thanks Connie). In truth I didn't expect to find it, but there it was a few days ago in my local library. So I was happy to revisit this tale. The stills from the film are beautiful.

A Room Full of Bones
A less happy read. This is the 4th book in the Ruth Galloway series. It does pick up in the last 70-80 pages, but overall it is sloppily written and reads more like a soap opera than a crime novel.

Ago 20, 5:17 am

Hi Simon. Did I not time my visit to your thread with some precision? I'm glad you liked it

Ago 24, 2:27 pm

Two more which do not count as ROOTs -

Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
Unsure if I read this growing-up or just watched a version on television. My memory hoarding tendencies kicked in later!

Exploration Team. Dipped a toe into older SF. I read this Hugo winning science fiction novelette on Project Gutterberg. Packs a lot into 30 odd pages.

Editado: Set 5, 7:52 am

ROOT 22 -

Solo Faces by James Salter
Vernon Rand's life only makes sense to him when he's mountain climbing. This story is light on plot and basically just alternates between rock climbing scenes and a series of stop-start relationships.
There's a air of tragedy over the whole novel, which is beautifully written if a little abrupt in its transitions from one location to the next. It was first written as a screenplay, which perhaps explains its uneven structure. The film was never made. Salter had written the screenplay for Downhill Racer and wrote Solo Faces with it's star, Robert Redford, in mind.

Set 5, 7:50 am

ROOT 23 -

To Love And Be Wise by Josephine Tay
Mystery story. 4th Alan Grant novel; first published 1950.
An American photographer disappears from a small English village throwing suspicion onto a enclave of writers and artists. I have loved all of Tay's books I've read so far.

Set 5, 9:46 am

>52 si: I don't know if you're familiar with the Backlisted podcast, but a couple of years ago they discussed Josephine Tey (specifically Miss Pym Disposes, although they touch on other books too). You can listen here (I love this podcast, it's always very entertaining):

Set 8, 3:58 pm

>53 Jackie_K: Thanks Jackie. The backlist of the blacklist! I'll have to check it out.

Editado: Set 12, 4:16 pm

ROOT 24 -
Piano A Novel by Jean Echenoz. French to English translation by Mark Polizzotti.

Jean Echenoz is a prize winning french author of a dozen books. Piano is a short novel, split into three sections, which follows Max Delmarc from his last days alive through purgatory and then into a bespoke hell.
I liked the opening but was less & less involved as the story progressed. The punchline ending made it feel like a long unfunny stand-up joke.

Editado: Set 19, 2:19 pm

ROOT 25 / 26 -

The Ladies of Grace Adieu and other stories by Susanna Clarke
Short story collection. Acquired earlier this year.

The Tale of Pigling Bland by Beatrix Potter