RidgewayGirl Reads Some Books in 2021 -- Third Quarter

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RidgewayGirl Reads Some Books in 2021 -- Third Quarter

jul 2, 9:19pm

Summer is here! Let's pour a glass of iced tea and go read out on the screen porch.

Recently, I read Hamnet, Maggie O'Farrell's excellent novel, which reminded me of a time, twenty years ago, when I lived for six months in Warwick, England in a row house (called a cottage) on Bridgend, a small road that faced onto the back of the Warwick castle gardens. The house was built in the late sixteenth century, so we'd visit the Shakespeare Trust properties in nearby Stratford-upon-Avon and find out about it. I also took a series of falconry classes at Mary Arden's farm, where a very large owl named Jessica taught me how to handle her. So my theme this year is in honor of Jessica the owl.

It really was a ridiculously beautiful place to live.

jul 2, 9:19pm

Redigerat: sep 28, 11:13am

Currently Reading

Recently Read

Books Acquired

Reading miscellany:

Owned Books Read: 33

Library Books Read: 44

Netgalley: 9

Borrowed: 1

Books Acquired: 64

Rereads: 2

Abandoned with Prejudice: 1

Redigerat: aug 9, 10:45am

Category One.

The Global Owl: Books from around the world

Create Your Own Visited Countries Map

1. Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica, translated from the Spanish by Sarah Moses (Argentina)
2. Prayer for the Living by Ben Okri (Nigeria)
3. Come On Up by Jordi Nopca, translated from the Spanish by Mara Faye Lethem (Spain)
4. The Gate by François Bizot, translated from the French by Euan Cameron (France)
5. How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones (Barbados)
6. Like This Afternoon Forever by Jaime Manrique (Colombia)
7. Compartment No. 6 by Rosa Liksom, translated from the Finnish by Lola Rogers (Finland)

Redigerat: jul 14, 9:08am

Category Three.

Expat Owls, Immigrant Owls and Owls in Translation

1. The Kingdom of This World by Alejo Carpentier, translated from the Spanish by Pablo Medina
2. Sansei and Sensibility by Karen Tei Yamashita
3. Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu
4. Nights When Nothing Happened by Simon Han
5. Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri, translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri
6. My Year Abroad by Chang-Rae Lee
7. Her Here by Amanda Dennis

Redigerat: sep 11, 9:07am

Category Five.

CATs and My Book Club

1. Figuring by Maria Popova (February HistoryCAT)
2. Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras (February RandomCAT)
3. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (April GenreCAT)
4. Ernesto: The Untold Story of Hemingway in Revolutionary Cuba by Andrew Feldman (April Book Club)
5. The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez, translated by Megan McDowell (May GenreCAT)
6. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye (June HistoryCAT and June RandomCAT)
7. Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates (August Book Club)
8. Face It by Debbie Harry (September Book Club)

Redigerat: jul 13, 9:14am

Category Six.

The Rooster: Books from the Tournament of Books (the tournament, the summer reading or the longlist)

1. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (2021 Competitor)
2. Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam (2021 Competitor)
3. Telephone by Percival Everett (2021 Competitor)
4. Red Pill by Hari Kunzru (2021 Competitor)
5. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (2021 Competitor)
6. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (2021 Competitor)
7. We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry (2021 Competitor)
8. Deacon King Kong by James McBride (2021 Competitor)
9. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (2021 Summer Camp)
10. Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch by Rivka Galchen (2021 Summer Camp)

Redigerat: sep 27, 8:13am

jul 2, 9:32pm

Category Twelve.

(by Albrecht Dürer)

Extra Owls: The Overflow

1. The Paris Hours by Alex George
2. Girl A by Abigail Dean

Redigerat: sep 23, 12:08pm

(I've modified this quite a bit because I wanted to.)

1. A book published in 2011. -- Compartment No. 6 by Rosa Liksom

2. An Afrofuturist book.

3. A book with a heart, diamond, spade or club on the cover. -- The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

4. A book with a gem, mineral or rock in the title.

5. A book where the protagonist works at your current or dream job. -- The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

6. A book that won or was shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction. -- No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

7. A book with a family tree. -- The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel

8. A book published in the 1990's. -- The Night Inspector by Frederick Busch

9. A book about forgetting. -- Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi

10. A book you've seen on someone else's thread. -- Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh

11. A crime novel in translation.

12. A genre mash-up.

13. A book set mostly or entirely outdoors. -- The River by Peter Heller

14. A book with something broken on the cover. -- Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller

15. A book by a Muslim author.

16. A book about a fresh start. -- The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

17. A book with magic realism. -- The Kingdom of This World by Alejo Carpentier

18. A book set in multiple countries. -- Memorial by Bryan Washington

19. A book set in a country you'd like to visit. -- The Gate by François Bizot (Cambodia)

20. A book starting with "Q," "X" or "Z."

21. A book about a social justice issue. -- How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones

22. A book set in a restaurant.

23. A book with a black and white cover. -- Nights When Nothing Happened by Simon Han

24. A book by an indigenous author.

25. A book with the same title as a song.

26. A book about something you are passionate about.

27. A book from a Black Lives Matter reading list.

28. A book your best friend would like. -- Nobody, Somebody, Anybody by Kelly McClorey

29. A book about art or an artist. -- Life Class by Pat Barker

30. A book over 600 pages. -- Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

31. A book you meant to read last year. -- Wish You Were Here by Stewart O'Nan

32. An ARC. -- Prayer for the Living by Ben Okri

33. A book by a Latinx author. -- Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

34. A book bought at an independent bookstore. -- Ernesto: The Untold Story of Hemingway in Revolutionary Cuba by Andrew Feldman

35. A book written in German.

jul 2, 9:36pm

Welcome to my new thread, everyone! Pull up a chair, put your feet up and get comfortable.

jul 3, 12:01am

You went with owls? Not zebra cobras? 😁 is it Wednesday yet?

jul 3, 5:17am

I loved seeing all the owls 🦉 again! Enjoy this quarter's reads, I'm looking forward to your reviews which are always a good read in themselves!

jul 3, 5:49am

I love seeing your owls too. Your Bingo card is looking good.

jul 3, 6:25am

Happy new thread. Loving the owls again.

jul 3, 8:25am

Happy new thread! A glass of iced tea and a screened-in porch sound like perfect accompaniments to reading.

jul 3, 10:54am

Happy new thread! Iced tea is very much welcome, thank you.

jul 3, 11:03am

Like your world map, but wonder how do you decide which books are global owls and which are owls in translation?

Redigerat: jul 3, 1:24pm

>19 VictoriaPL: No, ma'am! I am fine not ever hearing about that striped menace again. I'm glad we won't have to be constantly scanning out surroundings in Raleigh.

>20 Jackie_K: Thanks, Jackie. Your thread makes me want to read more non-fiction, which is hard when the novels are so much louder when I'm looking for the next book.

>21 dudes22: Betty, I've almost finished it, but I'm beginning to despair of finding books for those last spaces.

>22 Helenliz: I like the owls a lot, and am already wondering what I can possibly use for a theme next year. The natural choice is the most boring, but VictoriaPL did send me this picture, which felt like a personal attack and I love it.

>23 rabbitprincess: I can tell you from experience that they are. And the cats love the screen porch, too.

>24 MissWatson: Especially on hot weekends. When I first moved to Germany, we went to a festival on a very hot day and a booth was advertising Eis Kaffee and I ordered one, anticipating cold coffee with ice cubes. That is not what I got.

>25 ELiz_M: It's random, but if the novel is about immigration or about being in a foreign country, I use the Expat Owls category. There are a lot of books that could fit in multiple categories, I just pick one.

jul 3, 1:54pm

Third Quarter already!! Where has the time gone ...

jul 3, 2:19pm

>26 RidgewayGirl: Fabulous! I;d have a cat in every colour as well if I could.

I always think it interesting how poeple place books in categories. I take almost the reverse approach, I put a book in every applicable category I can squeeze it into!

jul 3, 5:18pm

I still can't decide which one is my favourite. Maybe by the fourth quarter!

jul 3, 6:28pm

>27 DeltaQueen50: I know! Time is speeding right along.

>28 Helenliz: I'd have liked the ones who have shown up at our door (either on their own paws or carried over by a neighbor or family member) to have been more assorted in their presentation. We have two mostly white cats, a calico and three tabbies. That said, I wouldn't change a single on of them.

And it is fun how the category challenge has evolved into being so flexible so everyone can design the perfect reading year for themselves.

>29 charl08: Why would you settle for only one owl?

jul 4, 8:28pm

When the Women's Prize for Fiction shortlist was announced, I realized that I'd already read five of the six books, so I felt I had no choice but to read this one immediately.

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller tells the story of two middle-aged siblings, Julius and Jeanie. They've lived their entire lives isolated in a small, increasingly run-down cottage in rural England. One morning, they awaken to find their mother dead and from there their lives rapidly fall apart. As Jeanie tries desperately to maintain the routines she's lived with her entire life, Julius, who is out in the world more often to pick up jobs as a casual laborer, begins to see a future different from his past. But their poverty, lack of education and lack of exposure to other people may take them down despite their best efforts.

So this isn't a cheerful book, but neither is it full of misery. Jeanie is a wonderful character, stubborn in ways that make sense to her, wary but also curious and inventive. There's some lovely character studies here, an exploration of what poverty looks like and excellent writing. I'll be reading more by this author.

jul 5, 10:33pm

Happy new one, Kay! Cats are a perfectly good theme. I did them last year. I've got birds this year. I have no idea what next year holds theme-wise. I'm sure inspiration will strike at some point.

jul 5, 11:10pm

>32 thornton37814: Lori, the best part is when you include pictures of your fine boys. And I'll do what I do every year -- spent hours coming up with various themes and then put together something entirely different just before the new year.

jul 6, 9:31pm

>33 RidgewayGirl: I've done that same thing too.

jul 7, 8:17am

>34 thornton37814: I always get the impression that everyone else has carefully thought through their theme by mid-summer of the previous year.

Well, VictoriaPL and I are off for an overnight in Raleigh, NC. So exciting to get out in the world and GO TO A MUSEUM. It's been too long. Also, there are a bunch of independent bookstores up there and along the way.

jul 7, 8:25am

We are going to have a great time!

jul 7, 12:37pm

Have fun and I can't wait until we get to see your purchases!

jul 7, 12:42pm

SO jealous!

Redigerat: jul 7, 5:53pm

>35 RidgewayGirl: Oops! I thought you all were adventuring in Greenville because Victoria didn't mention the "where" on her thread. I hit McKays in Knoxville today. Main stuff on the agenda was other shopping. For example, I tried out office chairs since I get to replace the one whose hydraulic shaft went out. I've been using a task chair without arms since last fall. Just waiting on the fiscal year to kick in. I came up with the top 3 choices (at least so far). I hope my top choice is available in August. It seemed pretty comfortable.

jul 9, 2:20pm

>39 thornton37814: We had to find new hunting grounds, Lori.

Anyway, here it is, the twelve books purchased at four bookstores. There were several other stores we could have included, but our bookstore day coincided with Elsa hitting North Carolina and so driving was often slow. I highly recommend Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, Purple Crow Books in Hillsborough and Scuppernong Books in Greensboro.

jul 9, 2:53pm

I could have scooted over so that I wasn't in your photo, LOL. I do hope you like the Scandinavian Noir that I foisted onto you. :)

jul 9, 3:04pm

All those bookstores have names that would certainly draw me in - although I suspect any bookstore would draw me in. You've picked up some interesting titles.

jul 9, 3:17pm

>41 VictoriaPL: The bookstore guy also wanted to read it!

>42 DeltaQueen50: Judy, it was so fun. If it hadn't been storming so hard, we could have added another store or two, but I was starting to lose my book-buying mojo by the last store. It was so much fun to browse and choose mostly books I was unfamiliar with.

jul 9, 5:24pm

>43 RidgewayGirl: I think he said that because he was flirting with you. He didn’t give me a sticker! LOL 😂

jul 9, 6:53pm

Sounds like a fun book hunting day even with the storm. I've been watching Elsa's progress up the coast as it approaches Massachusetts. My son says it has been raining today and he anticipates a lot more tonight.

jul 9, 8:52pm

You've got a good stack too, Kay. Most I haven't heard of so I'll look forward to your reviews.

jul 10, 8:59am

>40 RidgewayGirl: Great stack. Only one I've read is The German House.

jul 10, 9:48am

>40 RidgewayGirl: Just checking in on your thread, and I see you were in my neck of the woods! Fortunately, Elsa wasn't too too bad--but a lot of rain. I'm heading over to Flyleaf today for their annual members sale, but Purple Crow is my truly local local bookstore. You got to most of the good ones, but if you're up this way again, may I suggest McIntyre's in Fearrington Village, Pittsboro? It's a lovely drive, and you can have lunch out there as well.

jul 10, 12:02pm

>45 hailelib: Yes, it rained quite a bit, but it wasn't windy. Lot's of hesitating before throwing ourselves out of the car in the direction of the latest bookstore, though.

>46 dudes22: & >47 charl08: Yes, I purposefully tried to only choose books I'd never heard of before. It's part of the fun. I had heard of The German House and The Disaster Tourist, but the rest were new to me. The books of short stories by Jill McCorkle came from Purple Crow Books -- McCorkle lives in Hillsborough and the store had all of her titles, so I asked the owner to choose her favorite for me.

>48 sturlington: I didn't know that, Shannon! How fun to have so many independent bookstores to choose between. Here, we have two; M Judson is wonderful and I love it so much, the other is nice, but geared towards beach reads and nice books for ladies, which is great, but not my jam. I have a good used bookstore just down the street, though. And we will head back up that direction someday, Shannon! Next time is Spartanburg, for Hub City Books.

jul 10, 3:27pm

Great haul! That must have been a satisfying excursion.

jul 12, 10:07am

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye is a young woman in nineteenth century England, who reads a book called Jane Eyre and sees in it some similarities in their circumstances, inspiring her to write down an account of her own life. And there are similarities, from the cold aunt to the harsh boarding school to her later job as a governess. But while they share similar personalities -- both are loving and loyal and brave -- Steele has a decidedly different reaction to mistreatment, which results in her needing to avoid a detective named Sam Quillfeather. She's still shocked by what she finds in her employer's cellar, but her willingness to take action will be necessary to save that same employer from the man from the East India Company.

This novel is written in the style of a Victorian novel and despite the protagonist's propensity to needful murders, retains that feel through out. I enjoyed it enormously. Jane is a wonderful character and the way the novel echos and diverges from its inspiration was a lot of fun for this Jane Eyre fan. This is well-written entertainment.

jul 12, 10:47am

>51 RidgewayGirl: oh! This is the one that you were telling me about…

jul 12, 12:21pm

>51 RidgewayGirl: So glad you enjoyed this one! I have it on my shelves but haven't read it yet...looks like I need to bump it up the list!

jul 12, 1:08pm

>52 VictoriaPL: I loved it so much, Victoria!

>53 christina_reads: I think you will enjoy it. The relationship between Jane and Thornfield, the Rochester stand-in, is really lovely. Wait until you find out the shocking secret he's hiding in the cellars.

jul 12, 1:17pm

Looks like you acquired a nice modest haul too. I see the big book sale in Greenville is coming up in early August. I think I'll be too far away to try to do that one. I'm supposed to be in Richmond.

jul 12, 1:55pm

>55 thornton37814: Lori, I'm thrilled that The Really Good, Really Big, Really Cheap Book Sale is going to happen. The final day of the sale has been noted on my calendar -- that's when a paper grocery bag of books is $10.

jul 12, 3:06pm

>56 RidgewayGirl: - Drool.....

jul 12, 5:27pm

>51 RidgewayGirl: I failed to comment earlier on the Lyndsay Faye book. I've only read one book by her (The Gods of Gotham, but I enjoyed it. I need to track the rest of that series and perhaps look at that one.

Redigerat: jul 13, 3:00pm

I Couldn't Love You More by Esther Freud entwines the stories of three Irish women living in London. Aiofe leaves rural Ireland for London in the forties, and meets a pub owner who only wants to return and run a farm. They persevere and save through the war and its aftermath, sending their daughters to the safety of an Irish boarding school. Rosaleen flees to London in the sixties, falling deeply in love with a much older Jewish artist. And then there's Kate, also an artist, but forced to put her own ambitions on hold as her daughter is young and her partner prioritizes his music and his drinking over childcare.

At first, the book feels like three unconnected stories woven together, but Freud slowly reveals connections and parallels that unify the novel. The novel looks at the choices that women have been allowed to make over the years and how those choices, or lack of choice, form them. Freud is such a fine writer and has so fully developed each of her three protagonists, that I never felt frustrated when the novel switched from one to another. As each woman's story is told, it deepens the other stories as well, and in the end, all was pulled together into a single cohesive whole. I was impressed with Freud's writing and her skill in both telling a story and how well she developed her characters. I'll certainly be reading more by this author.

jul 13, 3:59pm

Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby is a noir set in small town Virginia, the kind of small town where it's not unusual to be living in a double-wide between a stretch of woods and a corn field. Beauregard, also known as Bug, has a family, that doublewide and an auto repair shop he runs with his cousin, Kelvin. But he's reaching a financial crisis; a second shop has opened in town, undercutting his prices and the bills are piling up. His son needs braces, his daughter would like to start college in the fall and his mother will be kicked out of her assisted living facility. When a last ditch effort to raise the money for the lease on his shop fails, he agrees to join a group of unreliable and inexperienced criminals for a diamond heist. What could possibly go wrong?

This is the kind of noir I love, full of desperation and bad decisions. Bug puts on a good show as a man who thinks things through, but he still somehow always relies on the wrong person, or puts himself in situations that can't possibly go right. This crime caper was both fun and heart-breaking as all good noir should be. I will admit that my love for this book is tempered by how the author added an overweight woman as comedic relief, with far too much space given to how disgusting her body was. That element alone will make me wary of picking up Cosby's next book. It was a mean-spirited touch in a novel that otherwise had heart and humanity.

jul 13, 4:35pm

>60 RidgewayGirl: aw, such a shame.

jul 13, 4:37pm

>61 VictoriaPL: It is! By the third time the author brought up this poor woman as a figure of fun I was done being willing to gloss over it. I might have given it a pass had this book been written a few decades ago, but it was published in 2020.

jul 16, 2:32pm

I try my best to like people.To expect good from them. If you see someone as a monster, it is as good as attaching a real horn to them and poking them with a hot metal poker. I really do think so. In order to avoid turning people into monsters by suspecting them of being monsters, I do my best to keep mostly to myself.

In 1618, as the Thirty Years' War gets going, plague is a constant threat and life is generally harsh, an elderly woman living in a small town in what is now Germany is accused of witchcraft. An unremarkable occurrence, but in this case the woman's son is Johannes Kepler -- astronomer, mathematician and a key player in the scientific revolution. From this historical tidbit, Rivka Galchen has written Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch.

Katharina Kepler is a woman who has survived to old age, supporting herself and quietly living her life. She loves her garden and Chamomile, her cow. When she is accused, she goes for help to her neighbor who is both a man and literate, who carefully helps her write down her defense. But the odds aren't in her favor, despite the help of her adult children.

Galchen has written a wonderful novel that is a character study of Katharina and her neighbor as well as a portrait of daily life at a time of turmoil and scarcity. She manages that difficult balance, of making her characters fully inhabit their time and place and of making them feel like real people.

jul 16, 2:38pm

>63 RidgewayGirl: Sounds tempting! I am hoping to visit several large bookshops over the weekend, perhaps they will have a copy.

jul 16, 8:13pm

>63 RidgewayGirl: I've read a nonfiction book about that, The Astronomer And The Witch. I will definitely have to look for this book.

jul 17, 1:07pm

>64 charl08: I hope you find a copy, Charlotte. And enjoy the bookstore visits!

>65 JayneCM: I first heard the outlines of the story in the first chapter of a book called Figuring by Maria Popova. It's such a great illustration of the collision of the past and the future.

jul 17, 3:59pm

Her Here by Amanda Dennis is a hard novel to describe. It's set in Paris, where Elena has been hired by a friend of her dead mother to fictionalize her missing daughter's journals. But it's really set in northern Thailand, which is where the missing woman, Ella, had been teaching English before she disappeared, but those parts of the novel, while they are far more vivid and detailed than the "real" parts, are just Elena's imagining what Ella's life was like. And while Ella's life was a mess; she'd fallen for a self-involved and self-congratulatory American, her housemate had some serious emotional issues going on and her own issues made teaching difficult, at least Ella was out there living her life. Elena was busy not living hers, using this temporary job as a way to leave her long-term boyfriend behind as well as her graduate studies. She may be living in Paris, but she's treading water, hoping that by immersing herself in Ella's story, she'll find the way back into her own.

I was wary going into this one as it felt too insubstantial given that all Elena does is wander around moodily, but her imagining of Ella's life is vivid and takes up the majority of the book. And, to give Elena credit, she chose the right place to be aimless. I wouldn't mind being aimless in a rent-free apartment in Montmartre. I liked the meta touches in this novel, too, the way the reader is reminded that Elena is making things up, that she's writing for a specific person and that she is ignorant of most of the facts. But what else is fiction, but someone making stuff up in the absence of fact, embroidering on ideas and fragments? This is an off-beat kind of book that won't appeal to everyone, but there's something interesting going on here.

jul 17, 6:00pm

>67 RidgewayGirl: was it difficult to keep Ella and Elena apart? I dislike when the character names are similar

jul 19, 1:02pm

>68 VictoriaPL: Since Elena was trying to climb into Ella's life, the alliterative names made sense. And the two settings are so different, mixing the characters up didn't happen. But I know what you mean -- I find when I'm reading a novel and the names are all bland, I have trouble keeping them straight. Who can differentiate between a Joe, a Bill and a Tom?

jul 20, 3:04pm

American Estrangement is a collection of short stories that focus on young men who are treading water in their lives, dealing with entry-level jobs, mothers dying of cancer and a general inability to have things go smoothly. But Saïd Sayrafiezadeh also fills these stories with ordinary pleasures and glimpses of hope; a man remembers when his mother buys him a shirt at Goodwill that gives him credibility at his new school or a young man stuck in a dead end job meets a girl he likes. Sayrafiezadeh doesn't mind making the reader uncomfortable or uncertain. He's writing about the working class, the marginalized and the discontented. And the stories are quietly perfect, from the clear and unobtrusive writing, to the way the author creates vivid settings within a single paragraph. This book reminded me of why I love short stories so much, that when they are well-crafted, they contain entire lives in single moments.

jul 22, 1:25pm

In the spirit of this thread, take a look at this Flammulated owlet rescued in Colorado.

jul 22, 1:48pm

>71 RidgewayGirl: so cute! I wonder what it is thinking?
“How many books will Kay and Victoria buy this weekend?” There's no telling, little owl. There's no telling….

jul 22, 1:57pm

>71 RidgewayGirl: Oh, so cute! I wondered what it is thinking too, it looks so pensive.

Redigerat: jul 22, 3:18pm

>72 VictoriaPL: I'm guessing (hoping) the answer is "a lot."

>73 Jackie_K: Owlets all look like they've been put together out of the remnants on The Muppets's dressing room floor.

jul 22, 8:07pm

>74 RidgewayGirl: Owlets all look like they've been put together out of the remnants on The Muppets's dressing room floor.
That is hilarious - so true!

jul 22, 10:58pm

>63 RidgewayGirl: Taking a BB for Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch. It sounds fascinating.

jul 23, 6:05am

>74 RidgewayGirl: that's brilliant!

jul 24, 8:37am

>71 RidgewayGirl: Awwww round fluffy borb!

jul 25, 2:58pm

>75 JayneCM: Thanks, Janyne. Owlets are so funny and adult owls are so dignified.

>76 mathgirl40: Paulina, it's fascinating. The world Galchen shows us is so different than our own, but the people in it are still people with the same motivations and emotions.

And in related news, VictoriaPL and I went to that booksale. I left with far too many books, but this was not (entirely) my fault -- the volunteers are very excited to have people in again and it shows. One volunteer pulled out boxes of books from the back room for me and another somehow got my tote bag of books before I'd gone through and removed a few, and before I knew it, I was out the door with all those books I'd just meant to look at.

jul 25, 3:57pm

I put Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch on my wishlist. While I've read a lot about Kepler his mother has just been a footnote. I made a note of The Astronomer And The Witch also.

jul 25, 4:27pm

>79 RidgewayGirl: that volunteer knew EXACTLY what she was doing! :)

jul 25, 8:25pm

>80 hailelib: I only heard about Kepler's mother being put on trial for witchcraft earlier this year, so this book jumped right out at me.

>81 VictoriaPL: She really did, but I didn't put up any opposition.

jul 25, 8:48pm

>79 RidgewayGirl: Another thing may be they have a lot of inventory they need to move since they may not have been able to have a sale as usual. My library isn't taking donations for the first time I remember but will begin to after the sales free up space.

jul 26, 9:39am

This guy is always the first one ready for dinner.

jul 26, 11:56am

Homer! Look at him sit so nice!

jul 26, 12:06pm

>84 RidgewayGirl: I relate to this cat.

jul 26, 2:53pm

>84 RidgewayGirl: Looks like he has his priorities straight!

jul 26, 3:06pm

>71 RidgewayGirl: & >84 RidgewayGirl: Two beauties! Both wondering when dinner will arrive.

jul 26, 7:34pm

What >86 christina_reads: said! :)

jul 27, 3:32am

>79 RidgewayGirl: Hoping for a stack photo. That sounds like my kind of sale!

jul 27, 6:06am

I just got an email that our local FOL is having a sale mid-Sep - YEAH!

jul 27, 7:05am

>84 RidgewayGirl: what a fabulously dapper looking cat. And with his eyes on the prize!

jul 27, 7:07am

Detta konto har stängts av för spammande.

jul 27, 11:06am

>85 VictoriaPL: When I'm preparing dinner, both he and Ivy do their very best sits as they wait for tidbits. He learned it from the dog.

>86 christina_reads:, >89 rabbitprincess: Except you don't lick the sour cream or steal bites of shredded cheese as the cook sets the food out. I have to be strategic and only put out certain foods once someone else has showed up to guard dinner. He is very well-behaved once we are all seated, and just stays in his seat, listening to the conversation but never commenting himself.

>87 DeltaQueen50: He has one priority, Judy.

>88 VivienneR: I'd mention that his dinner is always available in the kitchen, but somehow he prefers the cheese and meat that my kids and husband slip him. I get it, he's such a dignified gentleman, but he should only be eating cat food! (and the occasional treats I give him, LOL)

>90 charl08: I'll take a picture. It's not like the books have been neatly shelved away yet!

>91 dudes22: Enjoy that. It's wonderful to be browsing a booksale again. In August, the local literacy program holds a giant booksale and I'm glad it's back on this year. I will, however, mask up because it will be a crowd.

>92 Helenliz: Isn't he handsome? He always looks so alert.

jul 27, 11:10am

Cat pictures always welcome here.

jul 27, 12:50pm

>94 RidgewayGirl: - I agree that masking up looks like the way to go lately. I'm trying to be strategic about where to mask or not.

jul 27, 2:28pm

>95 hailelib: Well, I do have plenty of cats!

>96 dudes22: Betty, I won't lie and say I'm not frustrated with having to mask up again. I had been bringing a mask with me and masking if the staff was masked or if kids were present, but now it's back to being automatic, at least as long as so few people in my state have been vaccinated and infection rates are rising.

Get vaccinated! This isn't political. I just don't want any of you to die or deal with long-term disability.

jul 27, 4:52pm

>97 RidgewayGirl: And so that we don't give the disease to a vulnerable person who could die of it.

jul 27, 5:11pm

>98 pamelad: Yes, absolutely.

jul 27, 5:20pm

Otto and his partner Xavier are given a train trip as a gift from Otto's aunt as a sort of honeymoon, they find themselves in a magical world where the rules change arbitrarily. They are pulled into an odd story of a dead man and his son, and the theremin player who stands to inherit millions, while also encountering assorted ex-lovers and a pair of mongooses.

Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi is a book I struggled to read. Oyeyemi is a talented author and the novel was beautifully written, but there wasn't anything for me to hold on to. When anything can happen at any moment, there's no way to surprise the reader, at least this reader. And without any sort of narrative tension, I was left with a series of lovely vignettes, none of which I felt invested in. More sophisticated readers and those who don't need their fantasy grounded in some sort of ground rules will like this novel a lot more than I did.

jul 27, 5:24pm

>100 RidgewayGirl: how can you not like a novel that has a theremin player in it?!? LOL

jul 27, 5:35pm

>101 VictoriaPL: There was a lot in this book.

Redigerat: jul 28, 7:14pm

>94 RidgewayGirl: Ha! I *would* probably steal shredded cheese... but only at my parents' place :)

jul 29, 1:36am

>101 VictoriaPL: Not sure why but the theremin came up in conversation at our house recently. My son was fascinated when I showed him some Youtube videos of the instrument.

And then, being a 12 year old boy, he found theremin jokes on the internet.

My favourite: "I am thinking of selling my theremin - I haven't touched it in ages."

jul 29, 7:15am

>104 JayneCM: bahahahaha!

aug 3, 3:42pm

If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha follows the stories of five women living in a cheap apartment building in Seoul. Each young woman struggles to find success and contentment in a society where appearance, family and wealth matter, and each has issues from their past that define them. One has put herself into debt getting the plastic surgery that allows her to work at an exclusive "room-salon" entertaining wealthy men. Another is determined to get the plastic surgery in order to improve her job prospects, but it doesn't go the way she had anticipated. An aspiring artist has a dream boyfriend, but is he as good as he seems? A hairstylist deals with the challenges of her disability while putting all her emotions into a member of a Kpop group. And Wonna, newly married, just wants a baby.

Cha has written a fascinating story about beauty standards that make plastic surgery as routine as moisturizer, where if you are not part of a wealthy family, your life choices are restricted and where women must bend themselves to fit into a patriarchal society. Cha here is writing about Korean culture and society specifically for western readers, explaining elements of Korean culture that western readers might be unfamiliar with in a way that feels unobtrusive. I very much enjoyed each woman's story, but because there were so many main characters, each story felt a little skimpier than I would have liked. Still, this was a well-written and structured debut novel and I'll be very interested to see what Cha writes next.

aug 3, 9:08pm

>106 RidgewayGirl: I saw a documentary a while back about the Korean plastic surgery industry. It certainly is much more prevalent there. I will have to see if my library has this book.

aug 4, 11:29am

I saw this today and thought of you: https://www.facebook.com/blairdrummondSP/videos/1438785303167588

Blair Drummond Safari Park is just a few miles away from where I live. This is a video of Rick, a 10 week old spectacled owl, having a bath.

According to their facebook page, today is International Owl Awareness Day.

aug 4, 12:59pm

>107 JayneCM: A friend who has relatives living in SE Asia told me the book was a good illustration of the kinds of misogyny and materialism found in the region.

>108 Jackie_K: Aww, owlets as so cute!

Redigerat: aug 4, 6:11pm

First published twenty years ago, Wish You Were Here is the kind of timeless story that could just as easily take place fifty years ago or last week. And because it's written by Stewart O'Nan, it's beautifully written. It's an ordinary story of an extended family's last time together at the family lake house. Each family member is going through their own stuff and there's all the family dynamics that emerge when adult siblings are together again. O'Nan is unparalleled at writing about the complex and unique lives of unremarkable people and here he has a lot to work with, from the never-married aunt whose life was always full as a public school teacher, discovering loneliness in retirement, to a pre-adolescent boy full of fear of what might happen. The stand-out scene from this book is his -- finding the courage to ride an inner tube being dragged behind a boat and having it tip over -- such a routine event but written about with empathy. O'Nan had me rooting for each and every member of this family, even when they were in conflict. I'm so glad he chose to write a few more books about the Maxwell family.

aug 4, 11:42pm

>108 Jackie_K: Well, that is my cuteness quota used up for today! I love owls SOOOO much and you cannot get much cuter than baby ones.

>110 RidgewayGirl: This is on my TBR - good to hear you enjoyed it.

aug 5, 4:54pm

>111 JayneCM: Jayne, this was on my tbr for more than ten years before I finally read it. And I've enjoyed every single book by Stewart O'Nan that I've ever read. I'm making an effort this year to choose books I've had for awhile and it's been a rewarding experience.

aug 6, 12:23am

>112 RidgewayGirl: I need to do that too. I have lots of books that I bought and was excited to read and never got to. There was obviously a reason I purchased them in the first place, so I really should get to them. I tend to prioritise library books though as there is a time limit on them!

aug 6, 10:24am

>113 JayneCM: Those library books do yell, don't they?

Redigerat: aug 7, 12:19pm

Blonde is a novel about Marilyn Monroe written by Joyce Carol Oates, which tells you pretty much all you need to know about it, except it's also pretty long. And the length did something to me as I read. Oates's ability to dig into the unsavory corners and to lean into the uncomfortable, combined with the stark facts of Monroe's life became, for me, an utterly immersive reading experience, where I thought about this book even while I wasn't reading it. I raced through it, until I neared the end, where I found myself slowing down, unwilling to let go of the hope that the novel ended with Monroe living happily in a farmhouse with lots of babies, doing some community playhouse as her hobby. And of course I knew all along that that was never going to be the ending, but Oates had drawn me so deeply into this damaged woman's life that I couldn't help but hope.

The facts of Monroe's life are well-known and so Oates plays with them, changing the story in ways small and large, to show the long-term effects of unaddressed childhood trauma. But JCO is also looking at all the ways Monroe was used and victimized, and how she refused to see herself as the victim, working relentlessly to make a place for herself, until the sheer weight of it all dragged her under. There's a new sub-genre of books by women, about women who ruin their own lives and it strikes me that although this book is two decades older than that trend, it wouldn't be out of place among them.

Redigerat: aug 7, 2:57pm

>115 RidgewayGirl: Hi Kay! Your review of Blonde is making me want to get to it sooner rather than later. It’s a chunkster so I want to devote the proper amount of attention to it. I’m also going to read the Megan Abbott soonish, my library hold came in today.

aug 7, 4:11pm

>116 lsh63: It's huge! But I found that the size worked in its favor. And I'm really enjoying The Turnout so far.

aug 8, 1:23am

>115 RidgewayGirl: Yes please! This sounds fascinating.

aug 8, 12:16pm

>118 JayneCM: I'm still thinking about this book all the time.

aug 9, 4:59pm

So Saturday I went to the big booksale and this is what happened.

The big pile.

The Europa Editions.

The short story collections. May have to have a category for this next year.

aug 9, 5:04pm

>121 Jackie_K: Very nice haul - I bet that felt satisfying! :)

aug 9, 5:31pm

>121 Jackie_K: It was, but now I have to fit them onto the shelves!

aug 9, 5:55pm

Hooray for book sales!

aug 9, 5:59pm

Thank you for browsing for me, I appreciate it! 😊
The Map of the Imagination sounds interesting.

aug 9, 6:28pm

I'm anxiously awaiting ours in Sept.

aug 9, 7:12pm

>123 christina_reads: Is there anything more satisfying?

>124 VictoriaPL: I wish I'd been more successful! And that is the book I'm most intrigued by.

>125 dudes22: It will be fun. Wear comfortable shoes and just resign yourself to bringing home more books than anticipated.

aug 9, 7:41pm

You had an excellent sale!

aug 10, 6:53am

>120 RidgewayGirl: On a Facebook group I'm in, someone asked if anyone still read short stories. I assured her they did because publishers are still printing them. I also told her I participate in a group that reads a short story collection and discusses it each semester.

aug 10, 8:12am

>128 thornton37814: I don't consider myself a short story reader but I’ve read two collections in the past 30 days, LOL.

aug 10, 9:14am

>120 RidgewayGirl: Looks like there are some interesting reads there Kay. I have to get back to reading more Munro, I don’t think I’ve read everything.

>129 VictoriaPL: Hi Victoria! I’ve been reading more short stories these days. I find they are perfect for when my concentration isn’t so great and I don’t have to pay attention to a host of characters or an intricate plot.

aug 10, 9:25am

>130 lsh63: Hi Lisa! 👋 Very true.

aug 10, 12:10pm

>128 thornton37814: I usually listen to them on my commute, which I do weekly. Being separate stories, it means that I don't have to remember what happened last week when I get back in the car each time.

A good short story can pack in as much as a novel, it just does it in a different way. It needs to be pared down and efficient, there's no room for the overblown or padding.

>120 RidgewayGirl: excellent shopping!

aug 10, 12:22pm

Oh my, Stewart O'Nan and Joyce Carol Oates!! Two of my favorites and I haven't read either one of those books - yet. I have Blonde on my shelf and I can see that reading it would certainly make room to fit in more books. Hooray for book sales - looks like you made a great haul!

aug 10, 4:30pm

>127 hailelib: I could have brought more home, but I decided to quit once my bag got heavy.

>128 thornton37814: They are certainly still being published, but I think it's largely a financial loss for the publishers. New authors rarely get to start with a short story collection and then it's usually put out by a small press.

>129 VictoriaPL: I'm influencing you!

>130 lsh63: That was my thought. And looking at my catalog showed me that I'd only read a few of her collections.

>132 Helenliz: Helen, I like the analogy that compares a novel and a short story to a bottle of wine and a shot of whisky.

>133 DeltaQueen50: Judy, there were a lot of nice copies of books from authors' backlists. I looked at a few by JCO, but as I already have *a few* of her other books on my tbr, I decided to read those first. Of course, I also have some books by O'Nan on my tbr, but I have never claimed to be consistent.

Redigerat: aug 11, 8:21am

>134 RidgewayGirl: for a while now! 😊

aug 12, 7:25pm

Excellent haul! I haven't done a proper book shop in a long time; all my book shopping has been online, which is not nearly as fun.

aug 12, 9:01pm

>136 rabbitprincess: While book mail is the absolute best, there is nothing better than rooting around a booksale and bringing home a bagful.

aug 13, 5:33pm

Somebody, Anybody, Nobody is an impressive debut novel by Kelly McClorey. Amy is working as a housekeeper at a Yacht Club, but she prefers the more evocative job title of "chambermaid." She considers it good practice for her chosen career as an EMT, which is what she will be as soon as she passes the exam. Only, she's failed it twice before and this will be her last chance. To combat her anxiety, she comes up with a program to convince herself she has already passed.

So this novel fits perfectly into my favorite sub-genre, which is novels about women ruining their own lives. Amy is a mess, and for every step she takes to stabilize her life, she takes two that are self-destructive. And she's living in a world with people with their own agendas and plans, plans she can't see through the haze of her own self-involvement. McClorey does a fantastic job of revealing Amy's past and reasons for the way she is organically over the course of this novel, and as I gained enlightenment, I really rooted for Amy. But issues created over the course of a lifetime are not solved in a chapter and McClorey commits to Amy, who she is and how she relates to the world. I really liked this book and I'm still thinking about it.

Redigerat: aug 14, 7:51pm

A young Finnish woman sets out on a long train journey across the Soviet Union, from Moscow to Ulan Baator, Mongolia. The person assigned to share her compartment is an older Russian man, often drunk, usually loud, sometimes unsafe. But also expansive and somewhat friendly. As the journey progresses, he talks, the Russian landscape scrolls past the windows and the trains stops in towns further and further from Moscow.

I'm not sure how to describe Compartment No. 6 by Rosa Liksom, except that it is about a place and a style of life that doesn't exist in the same way anymore, written about vividly and without judgement. The protagonist's words are omitted from the story, leaving only the place and the people, especially her travel companion, to speak for her. This is an extraordinary novel and one I'm so pleased to have read.

aug 15, 6:51am

>139 RidgewayGirl: Sold! Sounds intriguing. And the cover is marvellous too.

aug 15, 4:39pm

>140 charl08: I loved it, Charlotte. I'm fascinated by the forgotten corners of Russia, but even without that interest, I think it would be a good read.

Redigerat: aug 20, 1:02pm

Megan Abbott began her career writing classic noir with a feminist twist like her story of a criminal working for a crime boss, where both are women and the protagonist's downfall comes at the hands of a good-looking but none too bright man in Queenpin, or her novel based on a Depression-era murderess in Bury Me Deep. Then she moved to writing twisty crime novels set in the present, in which the protagonists were teenage girls, like the cheerleaders of Dare Me. With The Turnout, Abbott has shifted her focus again, telling the story from the point of view of one of two sisters who run a ballet school.

Dara and her sister Marie teach ballet in the same school their mother founded. When an accident leaves one of their studios damaged, a contractor is hired to repair and renovate the space. But the contractor isn't there just to supervise the work. And the danger he poses is apparent only to Dara. Meanwhile, the preparations for the annual production of The Nutcracker continue, with the stress put on the teenager dancing the part of Clara is exacerbated by the jealousy of her fellow students, at least one of whom thinks the part should have gone to her.

This is a twisty one, full of old grievances and rivalries. No one is exactly as they seem and who is responsible for an escalating series of incidents is uncertain, as is the motivations of everyone, until the very end. Abbott excels at writing problematic relationships, complex situations and in taking things to the next level. She doesn't pull her punches and this is her best yet. I was left wishing that she'd go back and write entire novels from the point of view of other characters in the book, there was so much going on.

aug 23, 10:41am

William Bartholomew was a soldier in the Civil War until he was shot in the face. Now a few years past the end of the war, Billy is living in New York, wearing a mask to cover his ruined face and making a dubious living trading on futures and stocks. He meets a man who intrigues him, a failed writer working the night shift as a customs inspector and they become friends. His other friends include a Black prostitute whom he loves, a Chinese woman who makes her money taking in washing, and a man who served with him in the Union Army. When his lover asks him to help her in a daring plan to rescue children from the South, Billy gathers his friends and a few others and comes up with a plan.

This is mostly a story of what daily life was like in post-Civil War New York, from the relative comforts and financial insecurity of a family clinging to the middle class to those scraping by with nothing at all in shocking circumstances. In The Night Inspector, Frederick Busch tells a nineteenth century tale, seen through modern eyes but told in the voice of the nineteenth century. It's a difficult juggling act, but Busch manages to make it work. Here's a novel that reads like it could have been written 150 years ago, but which sees women, immigrants, the formerly enslaved and those making their livings as they can as full human beings and which looks unflinchingly at how they are preyed upon by the wealthy and white dominant class. But this isn't a lecture, but an action-packed and heart-breaking story of an morally-complex man making his way in the world and how his past, both his childhood and his experiences in the war, inform his present.

Redigerat: aug 23, 8:05pm

Raised in the third largest megachurch in Texas, younger daughter to the head pastor, Caroline has always felt comfortable there, even if she's in the shadow of her older sister, Abigail. She has decided to go all the way to Austin for college, a decision no one else agrees with, but for her final summer in her hometown, she anticipates nothing more than supporting her sister as she plans for her wedding and to continue whatever it is she has going with a boy she's known her entire life. But when her father's affair is revealed, both her and Abigail's world is turned upside down, both in the shock of discovering his actions and in the speed at which the church moves to paper everything over and move on.

This is a quiet book, about two young women making different decisions in the face of disillusionment. It's also about the sometimes fraught relationship between sisters. God Spare the Girls by Kelsey McKinney is also about faith that comes from an author who knows the Evangelical world intimately and is, more than anything, both clear-eyed and empathetic in its portrayal. McKinney allows her characters to doubt, to lose their faith and their ability to function within that world, or to invest more deeply in it despite or because of its flaws. Neither a screed nor "inspirational," this novel does a good job of embracing nuance although the heavy use of Evangelical jargon may dismay some readers.

aug 25, 4:37pm

Well, we dropped the youngest off at college yesterday and came home to an empty house. It will be an interesting adjustment.

aug 25, 4:57pm

>142 RidgewayGirl: Thank you, I've added The Turnout to my library wishlist.

>145 RidgewayGirl: It's such an emotional time and comes with long-lasting changes. My best to you.

aug 25, 7:00pm

Were your furchildren extra supportive when you arrived back?

aug 25, 8:10pm

Vivienne, you'll like The Turnout.

Victoria, they all ran outside immediately. We'd left enough food for a week away and they'd eaten it all. They've all now come back in and are behaving as though we'd never been away.

aug 25, 9:27pm

I remember that I had a lot of trouble adjusting after my girls left home, it was mostly a matter of finding myself again after years of identifying as their mother. Hope everything goes well for you and that you quickly adjust to the changes that the empty nest brings.

aug 26, 10:34am

>149 DeltaQueen50: And both kids have been home a lot more than they otherwise would have been for the last 18 months. Weird not to have noises coming from upstairs and even odder to have walked into the kitchen early this morning to find it still tidy from the night before. Luckily, there's an elderly German Shepherd and an assortment of cats to make noises and demand things.

aug 26, 1:40pm

>150 RidgewayGirl: Yep, dogs and cats will keep you on your toes!

aug 26, 2:59pm

It's been enough years ago that the main thing I remember is that it was especially hard for my husband. Life does change but there is eventually a new normal.

Redigerat: aug 27, 2:05pm

>151 DeltaQueen50: At least they provide the random noises that make a house feel lived in.

>152 hailelib: The expectation is that it will be so much fun to not have to care for the kids or even make accommodations for them, but it turns out that I got used to having them around. He did call me today to tell me about the cafeteria - he's pretty pleased at the all-you-can-eat aspect. And he likes the health center's work-out possibilities. Classes start Monday.

aug 28, 3:24am

Good luck with all the adjustments.
All you can eat must be a bit of a risky $£ strategy for the caterers with lots of high-energy young people!

aug 28, 11:08am

>154 charl08: I'm sure that they added that to the price of the meal plan. And that all-you-can-eat will not be viewed as a challenge by everyone. I'm sure Max will tire of it soon enough.

aug 28, 11:35am

When I went to university, I had a room with a kitchenette, supplemented by a medium-sized meal plan for the school cafeteria. The plan was intended to last one year -- I made mine last my entire four-year program, because I ended up cooking way more than I thought I would in that first year. And then I moved into a shared house off-campus, so having a full kitchen made cooking even easier. But it was handy to have the money on my card for a quick lunch or dinner on campus.

I hope Max has fun settling in and that his first year goes well!

Redigerat: aug 28, 3:17pm

Enjoy the freedom of no offspring. I know when my brother & I left home, my parents turned into newly weds again. Lots of romantic days out. They married and I arrived barely 10 months later, so they'd never really had time on their own. They quite enjoyed it.


aug 28, 5:29pm

>156 rabbitprincess: That's what my daughter has - a small two-bedroom on-campus apartment that she shares with a friend and they largely cook meals together. My son is far more thrilled not to cook, although he did bring a few instant pho and ramen bowls just in case.

>157 Helenliz: Helen, mostly so far we're enjoying the ability to have a wider array of vegetables for dinner. My eggplant plants are thriving and finally I can make meals around the stuff in the garden.

aug 30, 12:35pm

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz concerns a failed writer. Jacob was once a promising young author whose debut literary novel had been well-received and sold well for a literary novel. And then nothing. A book of short stories was eventually published by a small press and quickly forgotten, Jacob ends up teaching at a low-residency MFA program that accepts anyone able to pay the tuition. It's there that he meets a student who claims to have come up with a plot so new and exciting that it's a guaranteed bestseller. And for years Jacob watches for the student to publish, but when that doesn't happen, he takes the bare bones of the guy's idea and writes what is, indeed, a runaway bestseller and all of his dreams come true. And then the letter arrives.

The Plot is a fun thriller that doesn't quite hold together, but which is great fun to read. I guessed a few of the big reveals ahead of time but that didn't impact my enjoyment at all. The plot, both of this novel and of the fictional one, is suitably twisty and suspenseful and Korelitz's writing is of the kind that does not stand in the way of the action. The characters, even the villains, are well-rounded and complex by the standards of a thriller. Good thrillers are hard to find and there are so many terrible ones. This is a good one.

aug 31, 4:34pm

Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins is a thriller about an Oxford nanny whose charge is a troubled eight year old girl with selective mutism. The girl's father and her stepmother are far to busy to spend time with her and they both live in the attic of an old house, which feels haunted. There's even a small, secret room in the child's room that might be a priest's hole, but is supposed to stay locked, because the wallpaper inside contains arsenic. At the opening of the novel, the police are questioning the nanny about the girl, who disappeared during one of the nanny's rare weekend's off. At first, she's sure they just want background on the family, but as the questioning continues, she realizes that she might be a suspect and, as things are revealed about her past and her time in this position, the reader begins to think they might be right.

So this was a fun thriller. Nothing substantial, but the characters were interesting, if broadly drawn. I don't generally like when the reader has access to the narrator's thoughts and yet information the narrator knows is held back, but it was not too annoying here. I'm not sure whether the author exerted great restraint in ending the novel where she did, or if she took the easy way out, but it was different.

Redigerat: sep 8, 11:18am

Back from a week's vacation with my best friend from high school (and after). We started in Savannah, Georgia, visiting the independent bookstores there (go visit E. Shaver Books if you are ever there), the Owens-Thomas House and Flannery O'Connor's childhood home. Then we stopped in Milledgeville at her final home, Andalusia Farm, before ending up in Atlanta, where we went to three great bookstores (A Cappella Books was my favorite), the High Museum where we toured the folk art and the African art collections as well as the special exhibition on Picasso and Alexander Calder. We also went to the SCADfash, a museum devoted to fashion and film, where there was a stellar display of Ruth E. Carter's work -- did the costumes for Do the Right Thing, Roots, Amistad and Black Panther, among others. It was fascinating. And finally the National Center for Civil and Human Rights which was emotionally exhausting, but well worth the visit. Also, we ate a lot of fantastic food and talked non-stop.

This was the Little Free Library at the Flannery O'Connor House in Savannah:

sep 8, 11:22am

So glad that a few books followed you home. That little library is so pretty!

sep 8, 11:51am

>162 VictoriaPL: But now I have to find room for them!

sep 8, 1:56pm

I read The Violent Bear It Away a year or so ago and found it a very difficult book to like or understand so I will be interested in what you think of it. I have Wise Blood on my shelf waiting for me to pick it up.

sep 8, 2:11pm

>161 RidgewayGirl: I got all excited thinking ooh ooh I saw that Flann O'Brien Little Free Library on twitter a couple of days ago. And then I realised it was probably from you :D

sep 8, 2:19pm

>161 RidgewayGirl: Nice haul and great LFL!

sep 8, 2:31pm

>164 DeltaQueen50: I'm reading her final book of short stories now and they are violent and take a very cynical approach to life, but they are also brilliant. They certainly reflect her limited circumstances of being chronically ill and stuck in the bedroom of a farmhouse in rural Georgia.

>165 Jackie_K: Yes, that was definitely me!

>166 thornton37814: Thank you! I'm very happy with it.

sep 8, 3:06pm

Interesting haul of books. And cute library.

sep 9, 10:11am

>168 dudes22: Thanks, Betty. Now to read them all.

sep 9, 10:38am

The Magician by Colm Tóibín is a biographical novel about the German writer Thomas Mann, and Tóibín sticks to Mann's life, using his authorial presence to create dialog and emotion rather than to play with the established facts. The portrait he paints is of a divided man, on the one hand, a man whose sexual preferences are forbidden and who has friends and family who regularly transgress against the accepted norms of traditional German society and, on the other, who is deeply conventional himself and is often indecisive when it comes to the moments when he could use his reputation and voice to influence events.

Mann is born into a conventional, upper class northern German family at the end of the 19th century, but his world is altered when his father dies when he is a teenager. The family is no longer affluent and his mother moves them to Munich, where she tries to set him up in a career. But Thomas wants the freedom and ease he sees his brother enjoying as a writer and decides to follow the same path. Mann's life is lived during tumultuous times in German history and his own views move from support for Germany in the First World War, to bitter disillusionment at the defeat, followed by the weird days of the Munich Soviet Republic and the later rise of the Nazi Party, which has the extended Mann family separated as they flee in different directions, or hunker down and hope for it all to pass. Mann ends up first in Princeton, NJ and then in California, growing older, indecisive on the best path forward, concerned and disappointed in his children and worried that his early diaries will fall into Nazi hands.

Mann isn't the most exciting of characters, despite the times he lived through, but the novel isn't boring. It is measured, beautifully written and has a deliberate pacing that made the novel oddly soothing to read. There is something so pleasant about a book that demands the reader slow down and just take the novel as it is. I suspect that those readers who have read Mann's works will get a great deal more out of The Magician, but I enjoyed my time with this book and was sorry to have finished it.

sep 9, 11:59am

If you're in the mood for a concentrated dose of the 1970s, let me hand you this copy of The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley. The story centers on a private detective who is sent to haul a famous author home from a bender and who, along the way, gets involved in finding a woman who disappeared years ago. This is a novel filled with drinking, having sex, drinking some more, smoking some weed, driving while drinking, drinking while driving and the occasional fist fight. There was no way for me to picture the detective without a substantial mustache and he even drives an El Camino. The women are all ready to have sex with the private dick, although he does turn a few down. And while the women are usually up for some fun, they are also, for the most part, fully realized characters who are braver than the men, out of necessity.

As for the plot itself, it's not bad. It appears to spin its wheels for a while in the middle, but once you've had your third or fourth to-go cup of gin and tonic and the rest of that six-pack, the story comes together. This was a fun read, although I spent much of it wondering how on earth they got anything done between the benders and the hang-overs.

Redigerat: sep 9, 8:46pm

I'm so glad to know E Shaver is still going. I used to travel to Vidalia for business and as often as possible I wrangled a day in Savannah. I always visited E Shaver when I was there.

Sometime in my lifetime I'll read the Colm Toibin, I have in on my list but that's as far as it has gone.

sep 10, 12:52pm

>172 clue: It's such a lovely bookstore! And there's a very large cat living there, too. We spent a lot of time browsing and I could have brought home a lot more than I did. They also put a bookmark into every single book I bought, which was a nice touch.

sep 12, 12:56am

What a great haul of books! You obviously had a good time. I visited Savannah many years ago and thought it the most beautiful place, but too long ago to remember what I bought.

sep 12, 3:31am

>170 RidgewayGirl: Thanks to you posting about this, I've asked for a copy from the library. I'm a fan of Toíbín's writing. Then I saw this review from the TLS. Ouch! (I will read it regardless though.)

sep 12, 2:22pm

>174 VivienneR: It is a gorgeous city, with a very walkable historical district and I loved revisiting it. I have an aunt there, but visits have been about seeing family and not the city so it was great to just explore. We could easily have spent longer.

>175 charl08: Yikes! Well, I disagree. What an old grouch.

Redigerat: sep 13, 12:13pm

Sleepovers: Stories is a debut collection of short stories by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips all set in the rural backwaters of western North Carolina. The characters in these stories are all struggling with poverty and also often mental illness, neglectful parents, addictions and terrible boyfriends. This debut collection suffers from being uneven. The first few stories in the collection are fine enough, but nothing to get excited about, causing me to wonder why exactly Lauren Groff had blurbed it so enthusiastically. Then came Mind Craft, in which a young woman takes care of her nephew and her aging father for a few days so her sister can have a break. It is both unflinching and tender and followed by the equally brilliant The Locket, in which a mentally challenged woman enjoys the tenuous friendship she has with a lifeguard at the pool, a friendship the other woman is likely unaware of.

Weak stories are nothing unusual in any collection, with writers padding out their stellar work with less noteworthy filler, but many of the stories here feel undeveloped, as though the author had played briefly with an idea or a scenario and then lost interest. When her stories are fully realized, Phillps's writing has both heart and hard edges, the kinds of stories that burrow beneath the skin and kept me thinking about them long after I'd finished reading. But a lot of the work this collection feels unfinished, like Lorene and Jacuzzi, where a few snippets of character and idea sit juxtaposed on a page or two, without the development of her finished stories. When they are good, Phillips's stories remind me of Flannery O'Connor in her focus on the dark, squirming corners of Southern rural life. I'm not sorry to have picked up this book, despite its shortcomings and I'm eager to read what Phillips writes next.

sep 13, 5:49pm

It turns out that heroin use is not a good way to build memories. Face It, Debbie Harry's memoir, is hampered by this fact as well as her unwillingness to say anything bad about anyone, tell juicy stories or get personal. She's lead an interesting life, what with being a part of the punk/new wave music scene, hanging out and performing at CGBG, a legendary music club in the seventies and eighties, with people like Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and assorted drag queens and musicians, being part of Blondie and touring the world and acting in movies like Hairspray and Videodrome. I just wish there hadn't been so much missing from her memoir.

The book itself is a lovely object. The paper is the kind of thick, matte paper that photographs look good on and there are pictures. Mostly, there is fan art; drawings of Harry sent to her through the years and which she kept. It's a nice, surprisingly sentimental touch from a woman intent in making sure we all know how tough she is (she is very tough, and had to be). There's a lot of name-dropping, but not much in the way of stories. Harry isn't going to say anything bad about anyone and anyway she doesn't remember much of the early CGBG days, has only nice things to say about most of the members of Blondie (there's a bit about two former members behaving badly in 2006) and she's too guarded to say anything about how she felt about any of it along the way.

I'm sure that people who loved Blondie will enjoy this, but it's dull stuff.

sep 13, 7:59pm

Sounds like you had a really good trip through Georgia!

sep 13, 8:51pm

>179 hailelib: Such a good time! A large part was just being out and feeling normal (for a new different definition of normal).

Redigerat: sep 15, 2:47pm

Flannery O'Connor's final short story collection, Everything that Rises Must Converge, was compiled and published after her death. All except for one story, Parker's Back, were published previously and the final story in the collection, Judgement Day, is a reworked version of her first published story. It does help to know that O'Connor did not choose the stories or place them in the order they appear in the book.

The titular story starts things off and it's O'Connor at her biting best. A woman has her son accompany her on a bus trip in Atlanta, feeling she needs protection now that the buses are integrated. The son is resentful, both of this small task and of his mother, who raised him on her own and continues to support him. As he stews and sulks, she becomes increasingly outgoing and everything becomes more and more uncomfortable. And then it all ends very badly. It's both brilliant and immediately recognizable as being written by O'Connor.

The following stories continue in this vein, pitting hard-working yet silly mothers against idle sons who resent them. And then things always end very badly. In lesser hands, this would result in stories that feel too similar, but O'Connor's returning to the same ground results in a feeling of cohesion. And then there are the variations -- a man both resents his wife and longs to win her admiration in Parker's Back, a widower takes in a homeless young man with a club foot and soon prefers him over his own son, a lonely ten-year-old who misses his mother. But don't confuse heart-rending circumstances for authorial empathy; O'Connor eviscerates her characters, leaving them not a shred of dignity as she explores their darkest weaknesses.

My one quibble with this collection lays with the final story, Judgement Day. Even in descriptions of her given by admirers, her racism is evident. Yet her stories aren't racist -- she's equally willing to lay bare all the dirty hate and hypocrisy of a well-heeled racist in a new hat as she is to call out someone setting themselves in opposition to racism, but benefitting from it. But this final story, of an elderly man living in his daughter's New York apartment and longing for home, is the exception. Not only does the n-word appear numerous times in each paragraph, the Black characters all conform to a Southern racist's stereo-types. All the justifications, all the she-was-a-product-of-her-time excuses can't cover up what is going on in this story. Other than that, and it's a pretty big other-than-that, this collection is brilliant. Approach with caution.

sep 15, 4:41pm

I've been wondering if I should pick up Flannery again but your review has convinced me, perhaps not.
My husbands 102-yr old grandfather (who is deaf as a post and won't wear his hearing aids) often regales the family with stories about building his house, his company, his charity work, etc and sometimes he will talk about picking up a day laborer - only he says “a colored boy”. You can't really have a discussion about language because he can't hear or comprehend much and he doesn't say it in a derogatory tone, just matter of fact but you can feel tension in the room. He is a man of his time. At least the rest of the family do not perpetuate it.

sep 15, 5:01pm

>182 VictoriaPL: There's a huge difference between using the acceptable term from one's own time and using a slur though. And the Black characters were all either subhuman or irrationally violent. It was an interesting look at her early worldview, which was probably tempered more than she thought it was by her years in New York and Connecticut.

Redigerat: sep 20, 5:57pm

There are a number of novels out in the past few years in which someone returns/visits for the first time the African country of their birth/their parents/their ancestors. Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo is one of these, but stands apart from the rest both in the quality of the writing and in how it refuses to follow any expected path.

Anna is separated and her Welsh mother's death has unsettled her. She never met her father, a student who returned home to Africa before she was born. Clearing out her mother's things, she finds his diary from his time in London and decides to find him. What she finds out about him is that his life was far from ordinary and while she felt she got to know who he was from his account of being a Black man in England during Enoch Powell's heyday, who his is now is a far different person.

Traveling to a small country on the west coast of Africa, Anna is out of her element. Always made to feel like an outsider in England, she's surprised to find that she's seen as an outsider in Africa, too. Her father is elusive and placed so far outside of what she's used to, Anna behaves in ways that surprise her.

This is a novel that kept turning in directions I didn't expect and I loved how nuanced and complex Onuzo allowed the story to become. There are no easy solutions or correct choices here, just the ones made by fallible human beings. And what looks like good from one angle, is not necessarily good from the other side. I'm eager to read this author's previous novels.

sep 21, 6:09pm

>184 RidgewayGirl: Sankofa sounds VERY good. And I agree on the difference between dated-neutral language and dated-slur language, though it's also sometimes hard to project into the experiences and intentions of someone who is coming from a culture so different to that of today.

sep 22, 11:13am

>185 pammab: Yes, which words we choose depend on where we live and what that culture deems appropriate and we should all take the time to figure out whether someone is using an archaic term because they are older and haven't given it any thought or have cognitive issues, or they are deliberately choosing the word. My Dad loved going to an old barbershop but stopped going because he noticed that they were deliberately using a certain word because it upset him. Politeness still matters.

And Sankofa was very good! I'm eager to see how it is received. It's due to be released in early October.

Redigerat: sep 26, 2:08pm

False Witness by Karin Slaughter is the kind of thriller that hits all the right notes without feeling predictable. It concerns two sisters, one a trial lawyer working in a successful, upmarket law firm in Atlanta and the other an addict of no fixed address. When the lawyer is hired by a man they both babysat many years ago, to defend him against rape charges they have to work together to prevent their past from destroying their future.

Slaughter had a lot of fun creating a man so evil he often began to feel like a comic book villain, but she's skilled enough to make it feel plausible. Where this thriller shines in her portrayal of the characters and in the relationships they have with each other. She knows how to pace a novel and how to alternate scenes of grim poverty or gruesome violence with moments of tenderness or connections between the characters. It raises the stakes considerably. The book is also set in 2020, with all the masks and distancing that entailed, adding a interesting bit of grounding to a story that was, but never felt, unlikely.

sep 26, 9:58pm

>187 RidgewayGirl: i really enjoyed this one too.

sep 27, 8:11am

>188 VictoriaPL: This book made me cry! And I rarely cry because of a book.

Redigerat: sep 27, 5:14pm

So VictoriaPL and I took a few hours and drove over to Hub City Bookshop in Spartanburg, SC and had a look around. I came home with a few books. I was especially happy to finally find a copy of Secessia by Kent Wascom, which isn't readily available anywhere, including amazon. Both Likes by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum and Pasture Art by Marlin Barton are short story collections, which are catnip to me and The Parted Earth by Anjali Enjeti is a signed copy. There was a very comfortable bookstore cat, which is always a plus.

sep 27, 5:16pm

>190 RidgewayGirl: Bookstore cats are definitely a bonus!

sep 27, 5:25pm

>190 RidgewayGirl: you were so quick this time!

sep 27, 5:25pm

>190 RidgewayGirl: - Whoa - that's a good haul, even if small. You must keep a good list of books you're looking for.

Redigerat: sep 27, 8:20pm

>191 thornton37814: They are always a big asset to me. And this guy was very comfortable.

>192 VictoriaPL: As soon as I got home! And I tweeted my haul, misspelled Secessia as Sucessia and ended up posting this correction:

Argh! Secessia! It looks good! The Blood of Heaven was like if Cormac McCarthy got stuck in the mud of the Gulf and decided to do a bit of preaching and violent crime.

And then Kent Wascom replied:

That’s the best blurb ever! Secessia’s my love letter to all things Gothic, so kinda like if Sarah Waters and Angela Carter went to Mardi Gras. Hope you enjoy!

So that was a lot of fun. I was surprised to find room on my shelves for the new books.

>193 dudes22: Betty, when I visit a new bookstore, I like to find books I've never heard of, so three of the four books I brought home were entirely new to me.

sep 27, 8:30pm

>194 RidgewayGirl: oh, I know you enjoyed that!

sep 28, 12:06am

>194 RidgewayGirl: What a neat interaction!!

sep 28, 5:59am

>190 RidgewayGirl: I love the idea of a shop cat.

sep 28, 11:12am

>195 VictoriaPL: & >196 pammab: I'm still thrilled. And obviously going to read Secessia right away.

>197 Helenliz: They always seem so comfortable with their job. Which is lounging in various locations.

sep 28, 4:01pm

Evelyn makes clones, that is, she runs a lab that creates adult clones intended for temporary use. Her work has won her awards, but her marriage has failed. Then her husband's new wife contacts her and she discovers that he has used her work to create a clone of her, a version of her who is, unlike her, docile and attentive and focused on his comfort. And also pregnant. Soon after their meeting, Martine contacts her again because she has just murdered her husband and isn't sure what to do next.

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey is doing a lot in its 250-some pages, so it didn't explore every issue that crossed my mind as I read, but it did give me a lot to think about. It's primarily a caper with dead bodies (a lot of dead bodies) and a race to hide the crimes, except with clones. There's a theme running through the book about consent and agency that had me thinking, but mostly it's a will-they-get-away-with-it romp.

Redigerat: sep 28, 10:01pm

>199 RidgewayGirl: I think we had a successful book swap, me giving you The Echo Wife and you providing me with The Turnout.
Maybe we're getting better at that.

What struck me about Evelyn is how sympathetic you are to her in the beginning and then as it goes along, how much of a monster you realize that she is. Like Victor Frankenstein, in a sense. Of course, the creature (or the created) Martine, needs Evelyn to improve herself, to learn and adapt. This one really made me think too.

sep 29, 5:57am

>199 RidgewayGirl: That's mighty intriguing...

sep 29, 3:33pm

>200 VictoriaPL: Well, the Abbott was less my introducing you to a new author, than my passing along a book you already wanted to read. But I did like The Echo Wife!

>201 Helenliz: Helen, it's really interesting and fun.

sep 29, 3:55pm

My new thread is over here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/335614#