Nickelini's Unfashionable ROOT Challenge

Diskutera2022 ROOT CHALLENGE

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Nickelini's Unfashionable ROOT Challenge

Redigerat: jan 1, 2023, 11:50 pm

I'm feeling motivated to just read the books I own. My stacks are large, so shouldn't be a problem

1. Twelve Nights, Urs Faes
2. The Gustav Sonata, Rose Tremain
3. The Testaments, Margaret Atwood
4. The Nesting, CJ Cooke
5. Comet in Moominland, Tove Jansson
6. A King Alone, Jean Giono
7. Borders, Thomas King
8. The Darkest Day, Hakan Nesser

9. How to Pronounce Knife, Souvankham Thammavongsa
10. Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere, Jan Morris
11, Two Trees Make a Forest, Jessica Lee
12. Swiss Watching, Diccon Bewes
13. Happiness, Aminatta Forna
14. One By One, Ruth Ware

15. Audrey in Rome, various
16. Rizzio, Denise Mina
17. Orkney, Amy Sackville
18. Menno-Nightcaps, SL Klassen
19. Woefield Poultry Collective, Susan Juby

20. My Oedipus Complex, Frank O'Connor
21. The Last High, Daniel Kalla

22. Autopsy of a Boring Wife, Marie-Renee Laoie

23. Summerwater, Sarah Moss
24. The Couple Next Door, Sheri Lapina

25. The Secret Lives of Colour, Kassia St Clair

26. Always Looking Up, Michael J Fox
27. Summer, Ali Smith
28. Because Venus Crossed An Alpine Violet On The Day That I Was Born, Mona Hoving

29. Fresh Water For Flowers, Valerie Perrin
30. The Prank of the Good Little Virgin of Via Ormea, Lakous

31. The Weekend, Charlotte Wood

32. Trouble With Lichen, John Wyndham

33. Piranesi, Suzanna Clarke

Other Reading:

1. How To Stay Sane In An Age Of Division, Elif Shafak
2. Last Night in Nuuk, Niviaq Korneliussen
3. The Other Bennet Sister, Janice Hadlow
4. The Other Guest, Helen Cooper
5. Taste, Stanley Tucci
6. The White Hare, Jane Johnson
7. Hex, Jenni Fagan
8. Men to Avoid in Life and Art, Nicole Tersigni
9. Four-Season Landscape, Susan Roth
10. the Home Edit
11. The Humans, Matt Haig
12. Bad Wolf, Nele Neuhaus
13. Running Down a Dream, Candy Palmater
14. Small Things Like These, Claire Keegan

I track most of my lists and challenges in my physical book journal. In 2021, I listed the nationality of the authors I read with a little flag for each book. Here is a picture of my 83 books in 2021, by flag. As you can see, I mostly read books by UK authors

jan 2, 2022, 4:00 am

Good morning Joyce. Good to see you here again. Wishing you and yours all the best for 2022.

jan 2, 2022, 7:09 am

Welcome back, and happy new year!

jan 2, 2022, 10:03 am

Welcome back, and I hope there are some great reads buried in the stacks!

jan 2, 2022, 12:43 pm

jan 2, 2022, 6:45 pm

Twelve Nights, Urs Faes, 2018; translated from German by Jamie Lee Searle, 2020

cover comments: always love a snowy forest on a book cover

Comments: After 40 years, Manfred returns to his family farm in the Black Forest where his widowed brother lives alone.

This 84 page novella is deeply literary, with religious allusions, including Jacob and Esau, and the title itself which refers to the 12 nights between Christmas and Epiphany, also called Twelfthtide, I've learned. A German language website translates this directly to "Rough Nights," which fits because Twelve Nights says during this period, demons come out at night to make trouble. I very much enjoy the slips when European culture tries to be all Christian and civilized, but the old pagan elements sneak in.

Anyway, this little book is richly atmospheric of dark wintery nights, but overall it's an old white man navel gazing, and who needs more of that?

Rating: 3 stars

Why I Read This Now: When better to read Twelve Nights than during 12 Nights?

Recommended for: other reader reviews praise this more than I do. Some reviews are almost as long as the book itself. Maybe it's just me. Of course, if you can't get enough of old white men ruminating about their lives, then definitely get this one

Where I Discovered This: somewhere on the internet looking for Swiss literature translated into English

jan 3, 2022, 1:46 am

Reading your comments I learned that Epiphany is what the Dutch call 'Drie Koningen' (Three Kings). I did not know that the period between Christmas and 'Drie Koningen' was called Epiphany, never to old....

jan 3, 2022, 12:59 pm

>7 connie53: Sorry to word things in a confusing way -- Epiphany is January 6th. The period between Christmas and Epiphany is "Twelfthtide" which is a new-to-me word. But also I come from a sect of Christianity that doesn't care about anything after Christmas Day, so maybe I just wasn't exposed to it.

jan 3, 2022, 1:02 pm

Wishing you lots of luck with your ROOTs this year!

Redigerat: jan 3, 2022, 2:08 pm

>8 Nickelini: Aha, that's a good thing to set straight.

jan 3, 2022, 5:16 pm

Welcome back! I also track author nationality, and I like the visual aspect of your journal and the flags.

jan 3, 2022, 11:23 pm

>1 Nickelini: I love the author nationality tracker!

jan 4, 2022, 5:06 am

Welcome back, Joyce. I'm looking forward to some BBs from your thread!

jan 4, 2022, 11:28 pm

The Gustav Sonata, Rose Tremain, 2016

cover comments: the photograph is great (and fitting), but the composition is meh

Comments: I whipped through this book in a couple of days. Rose Tremain's writing appears simple and effortless but is actually built on layers and echos, if that makes any sense.

In part one we meet Gustav, who is in kindergarten. He lives on the edge of poverty with his widowed mother in post WWII Switzerland, in a small town north of the Alps. He befriends the new boy, Anton, who comes from a rich family, and who is Jewish. Many interesting, disturbing and sad things happen. In part two we read about Gustav's parents just before the war and in the 1940s, and how his father helped Jewish refugees, and how this eventually led to where we find Gustav in part one. Part three skips forward to Gustav and Anton in middle age and the demise of all the WWII adults.

The novel ended up where I thought it was going. But it really meandered it's way there, with many side stories, which is more like real life than most novels, I guess.

I think what I liked about this the most was how Tremain uses the famous (notorious?) trait of Swiss neutrality as a theme that reflected in Gustav's choices. He, and others, tried to be neutral in situations, and further, he was taught that to be Swiss was to "master yourself." These choices had consequences. This novel couldn't be set anywhere other than in Switzerland and the country was a character in itself. Written by a Brit, however.

The Swiss I know would probably laugh at this, much the same way that we Canadians know the myths about us aren't entirely true either.

Note: The Gustav Sonata was nominated for a bunch of prizes including the Women's Prize (Baily's at the time) and Costa

Why I Read This Now: I've enjoyed this author in the past, and I was looking through my books with snowy covers. I usually avoid WWII fiction, but I'm glad I gave this a chance

Rating: 4 stars. This might go up or down as I think about it

Recommended for: readers of popular literary books, people who like a different view of WWII fiction

Where I Discovered This: everyone was talking about it 5 years ago or so

jan 5, 2022, 1:00 am

Trigger warning: There is a really depressing element to this post, but I have a reason to post anyway that is pertinent to those of us who want to make the best use of our reading time, or who want to read our TBR piles. Just don't get mad at me at the end. Believe me, my heart has been breaking.

Last March I heard this clip from The Next Chapter program on CBC radio and was moved. The subject is how the interviewee culled 1500 unread books out of her life. Her wife pointed out to her that she was 52, and had about 30 years of good reading ahead of her (based on the cognitive decline of the interviewee's mother after 80). She read about 50 books a year, so that meant she had about 1600 books left in her life to read.

This really struck me, and changed my reading behaviour (but maybe not my buying behaviour). I have a TBR of about 1,000 books, and that doesn't include the books yet to buy, yet to be published. I stopped and took note.

Anyway, she went on to point out that they had 3000 unread books that they were paying $350 a month to store. So she shed books, and in this 12 min clip, talks about how she did it. Two main strategies:

1. she divided the real her from the fantasy her -- some books she just wanted to have read, but didn't really want to actually read
2. realize a lot of her books were replaceable if she really needed to read them 10 years in the future (YES! I can get rid of that $2 copy of Catch 22 I've packed around since 1984 that I'm NEVER going to read). Special books she kept, and even multiples, if the copies were special.

I really enjoyed listening to this then, and again today.

Now the depressing part: Driving through a scary snow storm on Christmas day going to my brother's for dinner, we were listening to the news on CBC and they announce that the interviewee here, Candy Palmater, had died at the age of 53. I gasped from the back seat of the car, even though the others in the car didn't know her name. Apparently she died of a rare disease, EGPA (Eosinophilic Granulomatosis with Poliangitis). She was a broadcaster and comedian, who I had heard many times and enjoyed very much. I knew she was gay, but somehow it went over my head that she was also First Nations (feeling stupid now, but I guess I didn't follow her that closely and she didn't make it her whole thing, because she had SO much to say).

So I'm sad for the loss of her voice, and also really sad she didn't get to read her 1500 remaining books.

I'm going to use Candy Palmater as my reading inspiration this year: READ THE BOOKS YOU REALLY WANT TO READ! DON'T READ THE BOOKS YOU THINK YOU *SHOULD* READ.

jan 5, 2022, 3:46 am

Why should I/we be mad? It only makes me sad too. It makes sense that you got hit hard by her death. You were impressed by the clip you heard and started wondering about your own mortality and possessing your books, as I do sometimes. I think there is just one conclusion you can make and you wrote that in capitals and I completely agree.

jan 5, 2022, 9:39 am

You can look at it as her having a positive impact on your life, and she'd probably like that. I agree with Connie, no reason for anyone to be mad at you about this.

jan 5, 2022, 9:50 am

>15 Nickelini: Yes. Thank you. I've done that calculation, too. It's sobering; it's also freeing.

jan 5, 2022, 2:47 pm

I only read the books I want to read. My problem is that I want to read them all! I even want to read the books I think I should read. I'm not making light of your post. At all. I'm 66 now, and I've done the calculations, too, and they are certainly sobering. There are a lot of things in my life for which I have to keep my age and my mortality in mind on a daily basis. But when it comes to my reading, I've decided to continue on as if I had all the time in the world. That makes reading a place of refuge from the inexorable grind of time for me.

jan 5, 2022, 8:33 pm

>16 connie53:, >17 mstrust: Why should I/we be mad? and no reason for anyone to be mad at you about this

I think the voice I heard in my head was my family's. I've sometimes been talking normally and then drop in some bad news and they get very upset with me. I can be blunt, and my daughter will say "Why did you tell me that?! You know I have depression!" or "You know I have anxiety!"

jan 5, 2022, 8:56 pm

>18 detailmuse: I've done that calculation, too. It's sobering; it's also freeing. It is, isn't it!

>19 rocketjk: - Very nice philosophy!

jan 6, 2022, 4:44 pm

I understand this feeling too - I think though that I do still want to read all the books I have (because I bought them for a reason), but I do think that thinking about life/mortality/longevity/etc has played a part in my change in book-buying habits. I'm still buying books, but not bothering buying ones which previously I would have bought 'because it's a bargain', instead making sure I just buy the ones I really really want. And hopefully I will have the time, and life, to read them.

jan 6, 2022, 10:04 pm

>22 Jackie_K:
I think I mostly do something similar

jan 7, 2022, 1:53 pm

>15 Nickelini: Thanks for posting this. I enjoyed listening to the clip, in spite of knowing the subsequent sad ending.
This sort of realisation is exactly why I started ROOTing. My TBR number has never got unfeasibly high, but one of my best friends died five years ago, aged 39, and his death served as a wake-up call in various ways and had a significant impact on my approach to reading/buying books. A month later I started ROOTing (and culling) and since then have only bought books I could see myself reading in the immediate future. That doesn’t mean I always go ahead and read them right away, but they are definitely for “real me”, not “fantasy me”. I’ve also made a point to carve out time for daily reading since his death and now read a significantly higher number of books each year than before.
Sorry, I also hope this comes across as positive rather than depressing!

jan 8, 2022, 8:43 am

It sounds positive to me, Rebecca. The death of your friend at such a young age was depressing of course. But out of it came something positive.

jan 8, 2022, 4:18 pm

>24 Rebeki: Not depressing at all!

jan 9, 2022, 2:22 pm

jan 9, 2022, 2:45 pm

The Testaments, Margaret Atwood, 2019

cover comments: it's okay I guess

Comments: The Testaments is the sequel to The Handmaid's Tale, set 15 years after that story, and telling about the demise of theocracy of Gilead.

I did not expect to enjoy this one so much, but it wasn't as grim as dystopian novels can often be. Although I think The Handmaid's Tale is an important book and a must-read, I didn't particularly like it, and there are many Atwood books that I prefer. I tried to watch the TV adaptation and it was too dark for me. So this was a pleasant surprise - interesting story, interesting characters, interesting details. A compelling read. And you go into it knowing that Gilead falls.

Why I Read This Now: I bought this soon after it was published because some friends had read it and raved about it, and I meant to read it right away, but then I didn't and it disappeared into my TBR pile. I'm rarely in the mood to read dystopian fiction, so it would have remained lost in the stacks if not for my book club. We will discuss next week.

The Testaments won the Booker Prize 2019 (tied)

Recommended for: a wide range of readers

Rating: 4.5 stars

How I Discovered This: you'd have to be living off the grid to have escaped all the publicity this got when it came out

jan 11, 2022, 3:52 am

Hello Joyce. Like you I loved The testaments I even gave it
I was very enthusiastic about it and may even re-read it sometime in the future. 'm a big Atwood fan.

jan 17, 2022, 8:08 pm

The Nesting, CJ Cooke, 2020

cover comments: I LOVE this cover. I love the art style, love the use of the (relevant) animals, love the branches replacing the antlers, love the indigo with the frosty overlay. Might be my favourite cover this year

Comments: Twenty-something Lexi's life is one terrible thing after another. She fake-lucks her way into a nanny position with a British family in Norway, where the father is a renowned architect who is building his high tech eco-friendly dream house. The mother of the two girls has recently died from apparent suicide. Or was it murder?

The set up for this -- young British girl hitting bottom, faking her name and credentials to get an unusually high paying nanny job in a fabulous but isolated house . . . sounds just like Ruth Ware's Turn of the Key. But once Lexi, now Sophie, gets to Norway, it's an entirely different story.

The good: great atmosphere, interesting characters, Lexi-Sophie was well written, some lovely writing describing Norway and nature, and the strongest part, the interweaving of Norwegian folk and fairy tales was especially well handled.

The bad: overly long, plot holes and improbable events, some bad writing (eyes don't swivel!), plot points that just disappeared, and worst of all, I didn't know what it wanted to be: a psychological thriller? murder mystery? ghost story? gothic horror?

Rating: 3.5 stars. I liked it, and glad I read it, but it had a few problems. I will read this author again.

Recommended for: readers who like thrillers set in remote locations, readers who like Nordic folklore elements in a contemporary story

Why I Read This Now: it seemed like a cozy winter read

How I Discovered This: I'm pretty sure Jen Campbell introduced me. She ended up DNFing it, but I think she pulled the plug too soon.

jan 19, 2022, 1:51 am

Comet in Moominland, Tove Jansson, 1947; translated by Elizabeth Portch, 1959

cover comments: delightful, and in real life, the Moomin figures have a subtle sheen

Comments: Moomintroll and his friends discover that a comet is going to slam into Moomin Valley, but on the way to go to the observatory and find out what is going on, and traveling back to warn everyone of the imminent danger, they have twelve-thousand adventures.

Technically this is a maybe reread for me. I can see my nine year old self discovering the Moomins on the swiveling wire rack at the library, and I'm sure it was the Puffin edition. "Who are these cute but bizarre creatures?" and "A comet! That sounds fun!" I remember bringing it home and thinking that the comet was going to be some magical fabulousness . . . and then my older brother scoffed at me and told me if a comet hit the earth it would result in mass death and destruction. So I may have ended up reading the other Moomin books I brought home and only skimming this one.

What I didn't like: a bit of an exhausting read, jumping from one incident to the next. I've heard that the English translations are weak, and that the story telling of these books reads better in the original Swedish or the German translations. This was translated in 1959, maybe time for a fresh English version.

What I liked: I love the Moomin world. It's unique and charming. It's gentle, and kind, but not saccharine. The characters are annoying but real, and I don't know how to describe it, but there is something about these books that speaks to adults. One of those age 9-99 things.

Rating: I don't know how to rate the Moomin books. I love them. They stick with me in a good way. But they aren't that fun to read. 3.5 stars for this one, I guess.

Why I Read This Now: I bought the set because these editions are lovely; this one was marked "1" (I hear it's actually the second). I guess I'll read a Moomin every year or so

Recommended for: fans of whimsy

How I Discovered This: I was a child exploring a library

Redigerat: jan 23, 2022, 9:58 pm

I'm not counting this book in my yearly reads, but I want to document it all the same:

Sea Horse: The Shyest Fish in the Sea, Chris Butterworth, 2006

"Charming" isn't a word I've often used to describe children's science books, but Sea Horse: The Shyest Fish in the Sea is not only charming, it's also informative and interesting. It's aimed at kids 5-8 and any child who loves sea life will love this book. However, some children in the USA will miss out on this because some parent groups want it removed from schools and libraries due to it racy pornographic content. The offending page reads:

"Every day at sunrise, Sea Horse swims slowly off to meet his mate . . . They twist their tails together and twirl gently around, changing color until they match. (Sea horses are faithful to one mate and often pair up for life.) Today Sea Horse's mate is full of ripe eggs. . . . The two of them dance till sunset, and then she puts her eggs into his pouch. (Barbour's sea horses mate every few weeks during the breeding season. Only the male sea horse has a pouch. Only the female sea horse can grow eggs.) "

These kind of parents make me angry and insane.

From the article, the lunatic parent group thinks this book is more suitable for grade 8. Please tell me of any eighth grader you've ever met who wants to get their marine biology from a elementary school picture book?

Anyway, their foolish stunt got me to buy a copy.

jan 24, 2022, 6:43 am

>32 Nickelini: Racy pornographic *sea horses*! I love how they're upset about it depicting *positions* because elementary school kids twirling around like sea horses will lead them into... falling down because they have their feet tangled...

Redigerat: jan 24, 2022, 9:19 pm

>33 Caramellunacy: Now that's a funny image!

jan 24, 2022, 9:19 pm

A King Alone, Jean Giono, 1947; translated from French by Alyson Waters, 2019

cover comments: I was drawn to this in a bookshop from it's NYRB spine, and the cover and title said "this is something you might like" and the blurb on the back confirmed it. I read a big chunk of the novel on a foggy winter morning, which was delightfully moody. So yeah, this cover gets two enthusiastic thumbs up from me.

Comments: Set in a remote Alpine village in 1840s France, A King Alone has three main events: a serial killer terrorizes the village and officer Langlois is sent to solve the crime. A year or so later, Langlois returns to the village as commander of the Louveterie, which is a word I had to Google when I came upon it. Apparently, since the time of Charlemagne (about 1000 years earlier), France has had soldiers riding around France getting rid of the wolves. I learned something. Anyway, he leads a grand wolf hunt. And the third event is Langlois and his search for a wife, and the unexpected ending. Those are the events; the telling is strange.

This book is full of snow. And blood. Nothing is explained. There is some gorgeous, evocative, amazing writing. And then huge swathes that made me scratch my head. And from what I can tell by google searches, my take is the usual one. It's an odd book. Only 155 pages, but no breaks at all, and small print, so not a quick read despite its size. The first half is much stronger than the second, but there were some good parts there too. I'll read this again.

I'm curious why they changed the meaning of the title from the original French Roi Sans Divertissement.

Recommended for: Readers who like books that are wonderful and confusing? I have heard people say that if you like Name of the Rose then you will like A King Alone. I can see that.

Why I Read This Now: It was a moody wintery book close to the top of my physical TBR. Also, I love books set in the Alps.

Rating: it wasn't the most enjoyable read, although some parts were 5 star. In the end, 3.5 stars.

How I Discovered This: browsing at Munro Books. I always stop for NYRB (and Europe Editions and Virago)

Redigerat: feb 21, 2022, 1:54 am

Borders, Thomas King; illustrations by Natasha Donovan, 2021

cover comments: as with most graphic novels, I'm not a fan of the art style. The colours are very 2021

Comments: This is a 2021 graphic novel using the 1993 Thomas King short story "Borders." I read "Borders" in my very first university class, and it was one of my favourites from all my university reading.

A teenage boy in Alberta and his mom want to go visit the boy's older sister, who has been living in Salt Lake City. At the border, trying to enter the US, the border guard asks for their citizenship, to which the mom answers "Blackfoot." After extensive attempts to get her to answer either "Canadian" or "American", they are eventually turned around and sent back to Canada. But now they have to cross Canada customs, and the same standoff happens, and they are stuck sleeping in their car at the border.

Why I Read This Now: I've wanted to read it since I bought it and found some time. It's a very quick read

Recommended for: everyone, particularly readers who want to read more indigenous issues

Rating: 4 stars

How I Discovered This: CBC promoted this when it was published and it was an auto-buy for me

jan 26, 2022, 6:15 am

>36 Nickelini: This sounds heartbreaking but also very good - putting it on my "read with comfort" list!

Redigerat: jan 26, 2022, 6:37 pm

>37 Caramellunacy: I wouldn't describe it as heartbreaking . . . the mom never comes off as a victim and I find the story somewhat empowering

jan 31, 2022, 4:40 pm

>28 Nickelini: not a Margaret Atwood fan, plus I guess I'm off the grid!

Redigerat: feb 2, 2022, 12:20 am

The Darkest Day, Hakan Nesser, 2006; translated from Swedish by Sarah Death 2017

cover comments: well, the publisher is telling us that this is a thriller, clearly. I do love the winter forest and the title "Darkest Day" -- definitely attractive to me. The book is super wintery, and there are some forests, but mostly not. Mixed thoughts on this one I guess. I drew me in; it's not a great representation of the book though. My Pan McMillan edition has a very nice feel, and although I abused it, this >500 page book's spine did not crack.

Rating: Not sure. I wasn't expecting this to be my best read so far this year. Especially because it's so long (long books had better be GOOD. Most aren't). I have to think about this because it wasn't a 5 star book, but it was a 5 star experience. Ask me in a month, a year. I think this is a case of The Right Book At The Right Time

Comments: The Hermansson family meet every year a few days before Christmas for the patriarch Karl-Erik's birthday, which is also the birthday of his favourite daughter, Ebba. They had planned a huge party for this year (2006-ish) when dad would be 65 and just retired, and Ebba's 40th. But then in the autumn before this, younger son Robert was on a popular Swedish reality TV show where he was caught on nightvision camera . . . scandal followed and he was now known as "Wanker Rob". Celebrations are scaled back, so the focus of the first 180 pages is on the dysfunctional family . . . two sons of the fabulous Ebba, who is a doctor, and a younger sister who is married to a . . . wanker of a different sort.

This is sold as a suspense thriller type Scandi crime novel, and yes, it is all those things. And I haven't read a lot of Nordic Noir, so maybe I just don't know what I'm talking about. But I'm used to suspense and thrillers jumping right into things and taking off. And this one was all dysfunctional family dynamics and it took half the book to even know if a crime was committed. And our detective, with the uber Swedish name of Gunnar Barbarotti (it could have been Giuseppe Larsson) didn't show up until page 185. He's rather likeable, so all good, but I'm not sure how much he had to do with actually solving the crimes.

This sounds like a mess of a book, doesn't it? Yet I read over 500 pages in 5 days. I was immersed in their world and wanted to stay there. I wanted to find out the ending, but didn't want it to end either. I found all the characters interesting, especially Karl-Erik's wife, Rosemarie, who is the first person we meet, with her thoughts about murdering her husband. I was cheering for her to murder her husband, but maybe that's one of the sequels to The Darkest Day.

I especially liked the structure of this, where the first third of the novel is exploring the family. I was wondering "what is the crime?" "All these people are horrible, who is the criminal, and who is the victim?". I like how there are two crimes that must be related due to coincidence . . . but that's not actually what happened), but how could they be? It was a fun read by the "Godfather of Swedish crime"

Why I Read This Now: I was looking for a wintery novel, and I read the first page of 4, and this one called me the loudest

Recommended for : readers like BookTuber Audrey from Chapter & Converse, who likes "dark and messed up people, doing dark and messed up things" (and I always thought those Swedes were such nice people!)

How I Discovered This: pretty sure this was another Jen Campbell recommendation

feb 3, 2022, 11:26 pm

How to Pronounce Knife, Souvankham Thammavongsa, 2020

cover comments: Sure, I like this. The shade of pink has been fashionable for book covers the past few years. I think the title is great, because even native English speakers think "knife" is a super weird spelling and the humans among us feel for the English-learner who bumps up against this word

Note: How to Pronounce Knife won the Giller Prize in 2020. Ka-ching! That's $140,000 for the author

Comments: How to Pronounce Knife is a fairly short collection of fairly short short stories that cover the experiences of Lao immigrants in Canada. My favourite story was the one the book took its name from; other strong stories were "Paris", "Chick-a-chee!," and "Edge of the World." Many of the stories focus on a school aged girl, or an older woman, and many of the characters work menial jobs. There was an overarching theme of loneliness and feelings of not fitting in with their new culture, with their old culture, with their families.

The Canadian content is nuanced, so for the reader more comfortable with mentally moving the settings to the US, UK, or Australia etc., these stories would work in any western country. And the immigrant struggles and situations are those shared across cultures, and rarely specific to Lao.

Recommended for: readers who like sad but not depressing stories (I didn't find them depressing, anyway).

Rating: short stories collections are always uneven, aren't they? I took an average of the stars I gave each of the 14 stories, and it came out 3.5 stars. Using the median probably would have been more accurate. Oh well, those two 1-star stories pulled down the average. Apparently the author is working on a novel, and I'd like to see what she can do in that form.

Why I Read This Now: I've been wanting to read this since I bought it, and I like to pick up an Asian author to read around Chinese (Lunar) New Year

How I Discovered This: How to Pronounce Knife got quite a bit of attention in bookish circles in Canada after it was shortlisted for the Giller Prize.

Redigerat: feb 15, 2022, 11:41 pm

Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere, Jan Morris, 2001

cover comments: This is a style that I don't mind, but it's not a favourite. It does capture that faded old world feel.

Rating: 4 stars

Recommended for: readers who long for a romantic bygone era of a former important city, hidden in an obscure corner of Europe

How I Discovered This: Down a bookish internet rabbit hole one night . . . it stood out because Trieste was on our cancelled 2020 itinerary due to Covid .

Why I Read This Now: I need to re-title this to "Why I Finished This Now". I started this last October. It became my "read-at-work" book. But then I needed to put my attention elsewhere in November, and then December I went to Switzerland, and then came home to Christmas, and then I went back to work January 4 to find this book on my desk waiting for me . . . but Omicron, and I didn't go back to the office until yesterday. So now I've finished it.

Anyway, I picked it up last October because my Italian teacher told me about going to university in Trieste and sent me some lovely videos. Here:

Barcolana - I had never heard of this sailing regatta - the most crowded in the world. I'd love to see this in real life:

Trieste: City of Literature (the young woman in the first shot is reading Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere):
The city of James Joyce, Rainer Maria Rilke, Italo Svevo (who was born with a very non-Italian name), and others. Lovely video

Comments: I read most of this non-fiction travel-historical meandering book months ago, so I can't really make relevant comments. Trieste is a fascinating city, the former seaport of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, and a city that has always been diverse in cultures, language and religion. But when this was written in 2001, the city was definitely looking back at fading glory. I look at the map and wonder how this ended up as part of Italy, but of course it's been part of many other states as well. I love obscure places, and Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere makes me want to get there one day for sure. Although I'm not exactly sure why.

feb 18, 2022, 9:16 pm

Two Trees Make a Forest: In Search of My Family's Past Among Taiwan's Mountains and Coasts, Jessica J Lee

cover comments: oh, this cover tells me this is a book about not-white people, written around 2020. Also, I think it's lovely. Not what I'd have chosen, but very nice for the book

Comments: Jessica J Lee grew up in Ontario with her Welsh-born father and Taiwanese-born mother. She has grown up to earn a doctorate in environmental history and aesthetics, and now lives in Berlin. In Two Trees Make a Forest, she explores her grandparents' lives that led them to leave China for Taiwan, and she also explores the forests and mountains of Taiwan. After reading this, I definitely want to travel to the forests there.

The parts of this memoir about her grandfather as a US-trained fighter pilot in WWII, and her grandmother escaping the Massacre of Nanking, were fascinating. I know very little about WWII China. It also covered a lot that helped clarify the China-Taiwan issue that we are looking at today.

There were also pages and pages of her hikes in Taiwan, were nothing really happens. Lots of description of nature, which I expect I would love; alas, I didn't really get the point. Maybe I would have done better with some nice photos?

Two Trees Make a Forest won the Writers' Trust Award and was a contender for CBC's Canada Reads

Why I Read This Now: Book club -- I was happy to read this because it was on my wish list anyway

Rating: 3.5 stars

How I Discovered This: probably Canada Reads -- it was the first book knocked out in its year, but it sounded the best to me.

feb 19, 2022, 3:21 am

>43 Nickelini: I am really enjoying getting to travel vicariously in your reviews. And I laughed at the sheer truth of your cover comments.

feb 21, 2022, 2:02 am

>44 Caramellunacy: Thanks! I do like to entertain when I can

Redigerat: feb 21, 2022, 3:40 am

Swiss Watching: Inside the Land of Milk and Money, 3rd edition, Diccon Bewes

I read and commented on the 2nd edition of this book in autumn 2017:
That edition was Swiss Watching: Inside Europe's Landlocked Island. I wonder what the subtitle was on the first edition?

cover comments: This is the same cover as the 2nd edition, which I described thusly: A clever and effective cover, although when you stop and actually examine the RED photo collage, it's a bit apocalyptic looking.
Also, every time I read the author's name, Diccon Bewes, I start hearing the Steely Dan song "Deacon Blues" in my head: Learn to work the saxophone /
/ I play just what I feel / Drink Scotch whiskey all night long / And die behind the wheel / They got a name for the winners in the world / I want a name when I lose
This has nothing to do with Swiss Watching, however.

Why I Read This Now: Some lovely person on LT recommended this book when I was planning my first trip to Switzerland in 2017 and I found a copy at the library. I was looking for something more in depth than what you find in a straight travel guide, as my daughter was doing her semester abroad at the business school at St Gallen. I learned a lot, and was able to converse with the Swiss people she introduced me to with some level of knowledge and without embarrassing myself too much. When this 3rd edition came out the next year, I thought I should buy my own copy, and I read it now because I've been to Switzerland three times since my first reading (my daughter ended up moving there). How have my perceptions of the text changed?

Comments: Part history, part sociological summary, part cultural commentary, part travel guide, Bewes covers the main topics that make Switzerland unique. And it is indeed a singular country. The tone is chatty, sometimes quite funny, and sometimes more detailed than I need. I don't remember the edition I read enough to recognize the new parts, but that second edition, British-born Bewes has become a Swiss citizen, and he includes sample questions from the citizenship test*. Switzerland is one of the most difficult countries to get citizenship in, although it seems fairly easy to move there because they need workers.

Recommended for: this is not a book for the average tourist who really doesn't care all that much about the country itself or the Swiss people, but just wants to spend a week going up and down cable cars on pretty mountains and maybe see where James Bond did something fancy. And then eat fondue. But if you have an interest in Switzerland deeper than that, this is the go-to book. I've read other books of this type, and they cover other aspects and were also entertaining and enlightening, but this really is the one to start with.

Rating: 4.5 stars

How I Discovered This: will the LT friend who recommended this to me in 2017 please wave their hand?

Aside: I'm intrigued by these books about countries, written by outsiders, that cover a little travel, culture, history, anthropology, etc. On Avaland's thread, she reviewed How Iceland Changed the World: The Big History of a Small Island, which is on my wish list (and bumped up after her glowing comments). I have in my TBR: The Finnish Way, The Italians, Why The Dutch Are Different, How England Made the English, and then several more in my wishlist on other countries.

As I asked on Avaland's thread, how do we describe these books? Travel, yes, but so much more. History? Sociology? Cultural Anthropology?

I'm always looking for recommendations of books like these. SandDune has already given me Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour

Also, I've wondered how books like these are perceived by citizens of whatever country is the topic when some foreigner writes about them. I know I usually cringe at the inaccuracies I see others saying about Canada (just this weekend, the New York Times was trending on Twitter about the idiotic comments they made about Canada). Bewes says that he was surprised how Swiss Watching hit the top seller lists in Switzerland, and he said he got 99 positive comments out of 100.

* I took the test . . . 62%. There were 3 sections of "Can You Pass the Swissness Test?". Passing grade is 15/24. That's exactly my score! The first section he had was "Geography and history" and I got all 8 correct, but then struggled with "Democracy and Federalism" and "Health and Employment". Reminds me of years ago when my South African coworker became a Canadian, and read us the questions she was asked. They were difficult for us Canadian-raised people to answer!

feb 21, 2022, 1:21 pm

>43 Nickelini: I enjoyed this book a lot when I read it last year. I agree, the family history around China and Taiwan was fascinating, and not something I was really aware of before.

>46 Nickelini: The UK citizenship tests are laughable and also a bit sinister, I think - not only really difficult for UK born and bred citizens like me to answer, but also extremely reflective of the political and cultural bent of the party who introduced them.

feb 22, 2022, 12:00 am

>47 Jackie_K:

Oh, sinister! That's just great, isn't it! It seems these tests are meant to be a challenge, even without a slanted political angle.

feb 24, 2022, 2:28 am

Happiness, Aminatta Forna, 2018

cover comments: the book itself is poorly designed, but the cover art, which is "Snowy Woods" by Emma Haworth, 2016, is perfect. It drew me to the book

Comments: Happiness is a layered, complex novel that hit all sorts of high points for me. Set in February 2014 London, the city itself is a major character in the novel. Attila, a Ghanaian psychiatrist who is there to give the keynote speech at a conference, collides with Jean on the Waterloo Bridge. She's an American who is studying urban foxes in London. Their lives intertwine during the month of February and they both come out different people at the beginning of March. I loved the characters, especially Attila, a sophisticated man who loves good food, good music, and dancing, but who has spent his career traveling the war-torn areas of the world to "catalogue the extent" of the PTSD. Jean, with her urban wildlife focus was also fascinating, along with their disparate group of bartenders, care home workers, doormen, street performers and a pseudo-nephew all rounded out this novel.

I also loved all the nature-writing in this novel. I didn't realize that foxes were that prevalent in London, but also other animals, including flocks of wild budgies and seals in the Thames*. There are sections about Jean back in the US studying coyotes. And at the end of my edition, there is a 20 page essay by the author about coyotes, foxes, and deer in urban areas.

Happiness covers a lot of ground over its 309 pages, and unfortunately for me, life got in the way a couple of times and I had to put this aside for days. I think I would have taken more from it if I could have read it all in one go. At times it did lose me, but then within a page or so I was swept up again.

Big problem with my edition: There are at least 8 sections that are scenes from the past, titled "Place, date" and then followed by the entire text is ugly italic print. The longest section was 17.5 pages all in italics. This is offensive to my eyes, and shows an utter lack of respect for the reader. I had to stop reading because it was exhausting to focus on the text. They logically could have said "Greenhampton, 2009" and then continued on with the normal type. The reader would have understood. All the people at Grove Atlantic who thought this was a good idea, and anyone who signed off on this, should be immediately fired and prohibited from working in publishing again. Torturing your customers for no reason is never a good thing. Also, I don't think the title is well suited for the book.

* I found the wildlife aspect interesting because over my 50+ years living in Vancouver, I see more wildlife now than I did when I was a child living in less urban surroundings of the city. As Aminatta Forna says, they are here because we are here. I've never seen a coyote in my yard, but definitely they walk down my street, and it's just a fact that if you have a cat and let it outside, it will be coyote lunch (or hit by a car). We do have racoons in our yards, and they are aggressive, so not as cute as they look in pictures. As in Happiness, I have also seen seals in our river. We don't have foxes, so for me they are still more Fantastic Mr Fox characters than anything. My one London fox experience was sitting on a plane waiting on the runway at Heathrow, and my family watched this greyish fox on the runway and my young daughter said "Oh! A fox! And he's POLKA DOTTED!" (yes he was indeed polka dotted-- which to me seemed very British. In Canada he would have just would have had blotches).

Rating: 4 stars. It may have been higher if I'd been able to read it with more focus and no extended breaks. There is a lot going on. People who don't like Happiness say it's boring.

Recommended for: There are so many pieces to this that I can't come up with my usual quip. I loved the London characters (and not a toff to be found), I loved all the nature in the city, I loved how it made me think

How I Discovered This: Sale table at Munro's bookstore. I'd heard the author was good but I've never read her, and hadn't heard of this one. The cover sold me.

Why I Read This Now: the snowy cover put this on my winter to-read list, and then I saw it started on February 2, so I put it aside for February. Also, it's black history month, and it's always interesting to read diverse authors.

feb 24, 2022, 4:59 am

>49 Nickelini: Can confirm based on many personal encounters with urban London foxes that they are fairly prevalent. I am myself quite fond of them (except during mating season - goodness what a terrifying ruckus), but I have never had a negative encounter. Usually, we eye one another warily for a moment and then part ways.

Redigerat: feb 26, 2022, 1:46 pm

How To Stay Sane In An Age Of Division, Elif Shafak, 2020

cover comments: at first I strongly disliked this, but I looked closer and now I'm not sure

Comments: Despite the "how to" in the title, this is not a self-help book. This short book of only 90 small-sized pages, it starts with some reflections Elif Shafak has on her life before moving into the topics of "Disillusionment and Bewilderment," "Anxiety," "Anger," "Apathy," and "Information, Knowledge, Wisdom."

This little book is part of the Wellcome Collection ( )

Recommended for: People who like Ted Talks. LOL, actually, everyone should read this book, even if you don't like Ted Talks. You can read it in a couple of hours, so not a big gamble. Most people won't read it though, because it's not easily available. I had to order my copy from the UK

How I Discovered This: Simon Savidge raved about it several times on his YT channel

Rating: 4 stars. I plan to reread this again soon -- will I rate it higher next time? I know I missed things

Why I Read This Now: all through February my reading kept getting broken up and interrupted, so all I wanted was to read something I could get through without have to constantly put it aside

mar 1, 2022, 12:13 am

>50 Caramellunacy: I've heard so much about those noises. Can't even imagine.

mar 1, 2022, 1:03 am

One By One, Ruth Ware, 2020

cover comments: a nice take on the expected suspense genre

Comments: One By One is a thriller inspired by Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. A luxury ski chalet high in the French Alps, with a party of 10 from a British app company as guests along with two staff, all ready for a week of skiing and après ski fun. But then things go wrong, and people go missing, and are found dead, and somewhere in the mix there's an avalanche, blocking the survivors from outside help. The story is told in alternating sections by Erin, one of the staff, and Liz, one of the guests. The reader knows the body count from the start, so part of the mystery is not just figuring out the murderer in this locked-door mystery, but also WHO will be a victim. For me, it was: When will Topher show up dead? Or is he the (too obvious) killer?

Rating: 4 stars. It was fun and I love a book set in the Alps.

Recommended for: people looking for a breezy thriller to get lost in for a few days

Why I Read This Now: it was part 3 of my Alps Thriller Quartet

How I Discovered This: I've enjoyed the author's In a Dark Dark Wood and Turn of the Key, so in 2020 when I heard she'd written a thriller set in the Alps, I said "yes, please!"

mar 5, 2022, 2:32 am

Audrey in Rome, Luca Dotti, Ludovica Damiani & Sciascia Gambaccini, 2011 (in Italy) and 2012 (in North America)

cover comments: perfetto! (the gorgeous deep pink colour of the text is extended into the end papers, and that's the only colour in this book)

Comments: Over her career as an actress, Audrey Hepburn filmed several films in Rome. This started with her first American film, the charming "Roman Holiday," which earned her an Oscar as best actress. She later returned in the early 70s when she'd retired from acting and raised her sons and lived with her Roman husband, a psychiatrist. There are some text sections in Audrey in Rome, written by journalist Sciascia Gambaccini, but most of this book was pictures of Audrey Hepburn from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Some gala events, and many pictures of her living her life in Rome, walking her dog, or doing her shopping. All the photos are black and white.

Recommended for: Fans of the mid-century modern Euro aesthetic. Some of the later photos reminded me of the recent movie "House of Gucci"

Why I Read This Now: I've been meaning to read this for months so it was past time

Rating: A unique look at a famous person's life: 4 stars

How I Discovered This: I suppose I was googling something about Audrey Hepburn and this came up . . . Audrey + Italy = must buy for me. Also, I'd recently enjoyed the book by her older son. Her younger son, Luca Dotti, was the editor who supplied photos for this one.

mar 5, 2022, 9:29 am

>54 Nickelini: Oh, I think my best friend would love that!

mar 6, 2022, 3:41 pm

>55 MissWatson: I hope she can find a copy :-)

mar 6, 2022, 11:10 pm

Last Night in Nuuk, Niviaq Korneliussen, 2014 in Greenlandic; translation from Danish to English by Anna Halager 2018
Original Greenlandic and Danish title: Homo Sapienne; UK title: Crimson

cover comments: fits the novel well. I really like the typeface

Comments: This short novel is about 5 indigenous 20-somethings in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. Each character gets a chapter, and their stories intertwine around one specific night when they all went out partying together at a nightclub. There was a bit too much drunken bad behavior, lamenting about their crap lives, and F-bombs for me to find this entirely likeable, but I the structure was very good, and I enjoyed the setting.

When I started reading this I had to put it aside to go read the Wikipedia article on Greenland. I had so many questions after I realized I knew so little about it, even though I've flown over it at least a dozen times. I've never seen any civilization when I've looked out the window. It has a population of 56,000 people, and about 90% are indigenous. I'd love to go there one day, but there are no commercial flights from North America, even though geographically, it's obviously part of North America. Easiest way to get there from here is through Iceland.

Recommended for: Readers looking for a LGBTQ Greenlandic novel

Rating: 4 stars - one of those stars is because I've never read a book by a writer from Greenland, or anything originally written in Greenlandic

Why I Read This Now: It intrigued me

How I Discovered This: It was either Jen Campbell or going down rabbit holes on the internet

Flag of Greenland. I think this is a very cool looking flag

mar 7, 2022, 11:39 am

Very minimalist, and yes, cool! I don't think I've ever seen it before.

mar 7, 2022, 11:17 pm

Troubles, JG Farrell, 1970

cover comments: I think this is terrific

Comments: I made it to page 37 and decided I just didn't care and there was no point in continuing. I'm sure this is a lovely book, but not for me. I've owned it since 2011 and have never felt like picking it up. In the future if I need to read this, I'm sure I can find a copy of Troubles.

Troubles won the Booker Prize and is on both the 1001 Books You Must Read list and the Guardian 1000 list.

Why I Read This Now: there's a prompt for the 2022 Irish Readathon, "A book set in the 1920s or written in the 1920s"

Recommended for: not me

How I Discovered This: the above mentioned lists and prizes

Rating: not applicable

mar 10, 2022, 11:28 pm

. Rizzio, Denise Mina, 2021

comments: This is a Scottish historical novel set in March 1566. The bright yellow doesn't work for me at all. I can think of a hundred better covers, but had they just changed the colour, it would improve by 100%

Comments: David Rizzio was the secretary and friend of Mary, Queen of Scots who was murdered at one of her dinner parties. According to this novella, it was the first step in an attempted and ultimately failed coup. Rizzio shows the intrigue, double crossing, and double-double crossing that doomed this plot from the beginning. Most of the novella takes place on the day of the murder, Saturday, March 9, 1566 at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh.

Rating: 4 stars

How I Discovered This: Simon Savidge raved about this a few months ago, and I do like a Mary, Queen of Scots story. I enjoyed Simon's video of reading it on a train going to Edinburgh, and then actually visiting Holyrood Palace and the room where the murder happened. That's the kind of reading-travel that I like to do too.

Why I Read This Now: Seeing it was set on March 9, 1566, I set this aside to read now. However, March 9, 2022 is also my daughter's birthday, and she's away at university, so my husband and I travelled a few hours to spend the day with her. And it was a spectacular sunny day in Victoria, BC and we did many fun things including two fabulous meals, a Munros bookshop trip, and a lovely walk on a beach looking at driftwood sculptures. Not a lot of time to read! But at only 118 pages, I managed to finish it in 2 days

Recommended for: If you have any trips to Edinburgh in your future, read this novella on your trip. If you find that sort of thing fun. Which I do.
. Also fans of the Mary, Queen of Scots era

Note 1: This is the first book in the Darkland Tales series by Scottish publisher, Polygon. I've ordered the next one, Hex, by Jenni Fagan, which is about 16th century witch trials. Apparently there is also another by Alan Warner about Bonnie Prince Charlie & Culloden coming late in 2022.

Note 2: I've been fascinated with the Tudor era and Mary, Queen of Scots since I happened across the 1971 film "Mary, Queen of Scots" when I was 10 or 11. I took out every book about Mary and Elizabeth I from the kid's section of the library, and although it's not an interest I actively follow anymore, I'm always drawn to it (and no, I haven't read the Hilary Mantel books but I'm saving them for retirement). I stumbled across the film as an adult and still enjoyed it, and images still stick with me. Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth I and Vanessa Redgrave as Mary, Queen of Scots, of course. I just looked at who else was in this film, and yes, Timothy Dalton as Lord Danley . . . he was so slimy and effeminate. No wonder I was so confused when he played James Bond in the 1980s. It's all clear to me now. But today's big surprise: Ian Holm played Rizzio. I don't remember that at all, and can't really see him playing an Italian courtier. He's just old Bilbo Baggins to me at this point.

mar 11, 2022, 5:56 am

>60 Nickelini:
reading it on a train going to Edinburgh, and then actually visiting Holyrood Palace and the room where the murder happened. That's the kind of reading-travel that I like to do too.

That sounds utterly perfect!

mar 11, 2022, 7:49 pm

>60 Nickelini: This is on its way to me from the library! It looks good. Thanks for mentioning that it's part of a series -- will add those to my list as well.

mar 19, 2022, 2:28 pm

Orkney, Amy Sackville, 2013

cover comments: Some nice wavy sea elements but altogether doesn't work

Rating: Ugh. 2 stars

Great atmosphere, some lovely turns of phrase, but self-indulgent and over-written. I'm also disappointed that a book titled Orkney could really be set on any wintery, isolated beach.

Comments: The narrator Richard, a 60 year old literature professor, takes his 21 year old bride (former star pupil) on their honeymoon on a small island in the Orkneys in the late Autumn. She is drawn back to the islands where she was born, and he sees it as an opportunity to write his book about enchanting women of the 19th century -- mermaids, selkies, sirens, water nymphs, sprites, Undines, and Melusines. I love folklore woven into a novel, when done well. I love the sea and weather motifs. I love an obscure island. But I did not love this. I considered DNFing at page 25 because I couldn't stand Richard's insufferable voice and how he obsessed over his "little wife" who he never names. I decided to go on because I knew Richard was an unreliable narrator, and I knew something actually happened at the end. Although Richard was super creepy, it was obvious that I wasn't supposed to like him. And I got past the endless descriptions of the "young bride" being an ethereal creature with endlessly long white (sometimes silver) hair, and haunting green (sometimes grey, or blue) eyes, and her long, bony limbs, and translucent skin, and instead wondered why she had slightly webbed hands and feet.

This 253 page novel was too long by about 100 pages, probably closer to 125 pages. Unfortunately, Richard and his "young wife" have 12 days to honeymoon. The book would have improved if they'd only been able to afford four. Every day they eat toast, she walks the beach and stares at the ocean, he tries to write his book but stares out the window at her, they drink whiskey, and then she has nightmares about the ocean. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

One thing I did like about Orkney is that there are several quite different explanations for the ending that are all equally possible. I'm not going to hide my SPOILERS, here they are:

- she went out at night again and drowned
- Richard drowned her (most probable answer in my opinion)
- The housekeeper helped her escape the odious Richard
- she was a figment of his imagination all along (what I was leaning toward, but maybe not, considering how other people reacted to them)
- she was a selkie, come home to the sea

All of these are supported by the text, and that's fun.

Why I Read This Now: Orkney has been hovering at the top of my TBR for at least two years. March seemed like a good time to read a book set on a blustery island.

Recommended for: not recommended. That said, most readers liked this better than I did

How I Discovered This: Don't remember, but it was on my wish list for ages before I found a copy at a used bookstore, and the book came from the UK. I'm not sure this was ever available in Canada.

Redigerat: mar 19, 2022, 4:48 pm

Menno-Nightcaps: Cocktails Inspired by that Odd Ethno-Religious Group You Keep Mistaking for the Amish, Quakers or Mormons, by S.L. Klassen, 2021

cover coments: sure, that works

Rating : 5 stars. So much fun

Comments: This is a humorous, cheeky blend of Mennonite facts and history, and cocktail recipes. I almost never make cocktails and don't care about the recipes, but even the thought of a Mennonite cocktail book amuses me. When I grew up, drinking alcohol was one of the BIG, BIG sins, along with smoking cigarettes, swearing and thinking about evolution (common Christian sins such as drugs, sex and murder were never spoken of).

To quote from the highly entertaining yet informative introduction, "here you will find amusing commentary on Mennonite history, faith practices, and cultural forms, each with thematically appropriate cocktail recipes." And puns, lots of puns. Klassen covers a broad range of Mennonites from the uber-traditional to the progressive social justice sects, and includes Sunday school sippers non-alcohol versions, and large-quantity cocktails for your next quilting bee or barn raising.

How I Discovered This: It was prominent on my Twitter feed when it was published, and CBC Radio also talked about it

Why I Read This Now: I ordered this as soon as I learned about it last November and started reading it when it arrived. Perfect for picking up and reading a page here and there.

Recommended for: this is a great gift for the historian, cocktail mixer, or humorist in your life.

ETA: forget my post, go read this review from Country Living:

mar 30, 2022, 10:25 pm

21. The Woefield Poultry Collective, Susan Juby, 2011

cover comments: Great cover. Great typefaces, and I always love a bird on a book cover

Fun note: The Woefield Poultry Collective is the original -- Canadian -- title. For the US editions, they had to change the title to Home to Woefield. I guess "collective" is too communist? (After finishing the book, the US title also fits it very well. I just find it funny when Canadian, Australian or UK books need to be "Americanized")

Comments: Prudence is a 20-something back-to-earther who unfortunately lives in an apartment in Brooklyn, but quickly inherits a farm on Vancouver Island from a long lost uncle. Unfortunately, the farm was never actually farmed, and is mostly rocky land, and the bank is looking for money, and there's some grouchy old guy named Earl living in a trailer on the property. Soon the young alcoholic loser Seth from across the street ends up living there, and then eleven-year old Sara shows up to board her prize chickens. The novel is told in short chapters by these four alternating characters. All have their flaws (some rather nasty for such a light novel), and can be incredibly annoying (although I love Sara and want to adopt her). Prudence's goal is to make this lifestyle sustainable. Can she make it work?

Overall this is a quirky fun novel. Author Juby has a great sense of humour and gift for capturing real human situations in a not realistic novel (but it's not meant to be).

At the back of my edition, the author lists books that inspired this, including one of my all-time favourites, The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollen, and one that is perpetually on my to-read list, Cold Comfort Farm

Why I Read This Now: Great structure and mood to read on my breaks at work

Rating: 3.5 stars. Good, but needed some tightening up. However, I went back to the beginning to reread a funny scene describing a Home Depot shopping trip, and while I was skimming for it I saw that Juby was setting things up that I didn't pay attention to when I first read it . . . I bet if I reread this, I'd rate it higher

Recommended for: Readers who want a sometimes funny, quirky book, that doesn't shy away from bad behavior and the ugliness of life.

How I Discovered This: I bought this when it was published because it was the author's first adult novel. Her YA Alice books were made into a short series on the Canadian Comedy Channel called "Alice, I Think", which I found hilarious at the time. Sadly, it seems to have disappeared and I can't review it to see if it holds up, but in my decade+ memory, it was a cross between "Freaks & Geeks" and "Schitt's Creek", set in northern British Columbia.

Susan Juby has a new book just out, Mindful of Murder, that looks fresh and interesting. I'll track down a copy after I'm settled in my new house later this year

apr 1, 2022, 12:57 am

My Oedipus Complex, Frank O'Connor, 2005 (stories written between 1931 & 1969)

cover comments: I like the Penguin Modern Classic covers in general, but I guess it hangs on the photo they use. This one works with the title, but not necessarily the collection

Comments: A collection of 30 of Frank O'Connor's short stories, presented not in the order in which they were written, but instead sorted by stories about childhood, then war; peace & adults; old age and death. I found that the stories written later in his life were better than his earlier stories. The best stories were from the childhood selection. Where all the little boys wanted to marry their mothers. Hence the title story. I found the war stories unreadable.

Rating: 3 stars . . . this collection was too long. Thirty stories was a lot for me. When he's good, I love Frank O'Connor. But there was a lot of "okay" here. There were 9 stories that for various reasons I didn't finish reading.

Why I Read This Now: Irish Read-a-Thon. I started on March 1st, finished on March 31st. I just can't read through this many short stories the way I can read a 360 page novel.

Recommended for: readers who want to spend some time in that 20th century period of Ireland, and where the characters are the focus and the suffering and poverty are more of a patina (does that make any sense at all? Probably not)

How I Discovered This: Years ago I read O'Connor's story "First Confession" which was impressive and I wanted to see what else he did.

apr 1, 2022, 12:43 pm

>65 Nickelini: That sounds pretty fun, so it's going on my WL. Quirky is my jam.

apr 12, 2022, 1:12 am

23. The Other Bennet Sister, Janice Hadlow, 2020

cover comments: lovely, just lovely

Rating: 2 stars. Most readers like this much more than I did and there are many 5 star reviews

Comments: Awkward, pious Mary Bennet is the other sister here. The first third of this long novel covers Mary's childhood through the events of Pride and Prejudice, all seen through Mary's eyes. Not much P&P, seeing she wasn't in the novel all that much. The next section of the book starts two years after P&P when Mr Bennet has died, Mr Collins and Charlotte have moved into Longbourn, and everyone has married except Mary. She lives with her mother at Jane's Bingly home, which includes the always delightful Caroline Bingly. Joking. She's still a bully. So Mary moves to Pemberley, where things are fine while Darcy was away, but then he returns and his Darcyness sends Mary scurrying off to Longbourn. She's happy there for a bit and picks up some skills but then things go wrong, and she ends up at the Gardiners in Cheapside, London. Mary gets a makeover and grows up a bit and has a bit of a personality change, and lo and behold! Suitors appear.

The rest of the very long novel is relationship angst and a bad love triangle, with one side of the triangle also being pursued by Caroline Bingley. Lots of eye rolling through the last 3rd of the book. Mr Ryder defies credulity. Why is Caroline Bingley anywhere in this novel?, let alone everywhere? Really, this was quite bad. Why do so many love this novel?

The whole Scafell Pike hike was ridiculous. In particular, that Caroline Bingly would have gone along and not whined, bitched, and tantrumed her way through it.

Other things that grated: the language was well done Austen sounding, but had none of her wit, nuance, humour or double-meanings that make Austen the queen that she is. Mrs Bennet here is just plain mean, whereas that's not the Mrs Bennet of P&P. Charlotte Lucas is harsh. And Mary has quite the change. I don't entirely have a problem with this as much as the others. Afterall, in P&P she's late teens, lived in a bubble where she is disparaged constantly, and it's wonderful that she blossoms. She did seem to turn into a little Elizabeth though. Now that I think of it, sure, it could happen. Good that she grew up into a more balanced person, I guess.

Recommended for: I've seen so many comments of "we all like to think of ourselves as Elizabeth Bennet, but really we are Mary Bennet". This novel appeals to those people. Truly, I am nothing like Mary Bennet. I am also nothing like Jane Bennet. I do think I'm most like Lizzy Bennet, but if she's categorically off the table, then Kitty isn't an option as her only personality is following Lydia, and then there is Lydia. Of course I'm nothing like Lydia now, but at 15 I did like boys and fashion, so I guess that makes me Lydia.

So if you feel for Mary Bennet, this is a novel for you

Why I Read This Now: Thought it would be fun. Hmm, not so much

How I Discovered This: I notice the Jane Austen pastiche that people are talking about

apr 15, 2022, 7:11 pm

. The Last High, Daniel Kalla, 2020

cover comments: Hey, this looks like a medical thriller

Comments: Author Daniel Kalla is the head of ER at Vancouver's downtown hospital, and writes novels in his spare time. The Last High is a medical thriller where Dr Julie Rees tries to save the lives of 5 teenagers who are rushed into emergency after taking poisonous drugs at a party. Soon other bodies start showing up around Vancouver and it's clear that some very bad, very dirty drugs are circulating. Julie joins up with homicide detective Anson Chen as they race around the city, trying to find the source of the drugs before more people die.

This is a fast paced thriller, with well-drawn main characters and a cohesive plot. It looks at Vancouver's fentanyl crisis from a medical POV, as well as from the eyes of drug users, and the various levels of people involved in selling those drugs. For the past six years, British Columbia has experienced a public health emergency from substance-related harm, most usually fentanyl. The number of deaths far outnumbers the deaths from COVID during the same period. While many are the expected known-drug users and the mentally ill, this epidemic leaves no group untouched because many of the victims did not know they were taking fentanyl or carfentanil. It seems that everyone knows someone who has died from this. Some call it "overdosing," but I think an overdose is when you take too much of a drug you mean to take. If someone has been given these drugs in disguise, or fentanyl with added benzodiazepine, then I call that poisoning.

Rating: Based on entertainment value, not literary merit- 5 stars. Last year I read Kalla's previous novel We All Fall Down which was about the resurgence of plague in current day Italy. It was very good but I liked The Last High even better

Recommended for: Readers looking for a compelling, entertaining read that will also teach you things

How I Discovered This: Daniel Kalla was all the rage last year when people noticed how prescient his last novels were . . . a pandemic burning through Italy, the fentanyl epidemic, and hesitancy over a vaccine for a new disease (with cult connections)

Why I Read This Now: It's been on the top of my TBR since I brought it home last year

maj 1, 2022, 1:28 pm

Hi Joyce. After a long time I visit your thread again. Lots of reading done, I see. Good job.

maj 2, 2022, 10:15 am

>70 connie53: hi, Connie! I flew over you Sunday morning. I’m in Switzerland for 2 weeks now

maj 25, 2022, 11:50 pm

Autopsy of a Boring Wife, Marie-Renee Lavoie, 2017. Translated from French by Arielle Aaronson, 2019

cover comments: I like it! (Even if this picture doesn't represent the main character at all)

Rating: 4.5 stars. If I'm only going to read one book this month, this was a good one

Comments: Just before their 25th wedding anniversary, Diane's husband Jacques tells her their marriage is over because she bores him. Also, he has a new, younger woman. Understandably, Diane doesn't take this well. But with the help of her adult children and great friend Claudine, and a lot of humour, Diane moves forward. Kinda.

I'm at a loss to describe this, but I loved it. Heartfelt, real, and sometimes actual laugh-out-loud funny. I also really enjoyed the Quebec City setting. I'm not one to read sequels or series, but I'm definitely going to look for a copy of Boring Wife Settles the Score.

Why I Read This Now: On April 30 I needed a physically light book that I'd also want to read on my trip to Europe. Turns out I didn't really want to read anything in Europe, and only picked this up once on my two week trip. But it wasn't heavy to pack around and back home.

How I Discovered This: It was longlisted for the CBC Canada Reads competition. Honestly, I don't think absolutely everyone in Canada needs to read this, so I can see why it didn't make the shortlist. But! I still think it has wide appeal.

Recommended for: if it intrigues you even a little, give it a try. Also recommended for anyone who wants to read more littérature québécoise

maj 26, 2022, 10:51 am

I'll put that one on my list. Sounds intriguing, thanks!

jun 5, 2022, 6:45 am

How was your trip to Europe and which countries did you visit?

jun 5, 2022, 1:07 pm

>74 connie53: Hi, Connie! My husband and I went to Switzerland to visit our daughter who lives in Luzern. We were there for 2 weeks and mostly had great weather. It was a wonderful trip.

I'm planning to be back in Europe for the last week of August and first week of September. My other daughter is going to be at the U of Utrecht from September to January and so I'm going to help her (which I think just means pay for things). I'm hoping my daughter from Switzerland can come meet us, and then I'd like to take them to Friesland where my ancestors are from (alas, no connections for a family visit). I suppose I will need to rent a car for that.

We also want to do day trips by train to Rotterdam, Delft and Ghent. Maybe The Hague and Gouda too.

But I can't think about it too much now because I need to move house first.

jun 5, 2022, 2:01 pm

>75 Nickelini: Oh my goodness, sounds like you have a LOT on your plate at the moment!

jun 6, 2022, 8:12 am

>75 Nickelini: Gent is in Belgium, but that is a doable ride. Have is nice stay in the Netherlands!

jun 6, 2022, 10:55 am

>77 connie53: Oh I know, but I thought it was close enough

jun 6, 2022, 10:56 am

>76 Jackie_K: Yes, I'm pretty overwhelmed. So I've pretty much dropped reading. I don't have room in my brain to focus on a story

jun 7, 2022, 9:38 am

>79 Nickelini: That's so understandable. Although I think reading is a diversion from real live and sometimes helps to forget stuff.

jun 7, 2022, 9:50 pm

>80 connie53: I totally agree . . . I'm starting to be able to read again, but there were a couple of months there when I had too many things that my mind needed to work on that I just couldn't be bothered with anything that wasn't relevant. But now that things have calmed down a titch, I'm enjoying the diversion.

Also, for the two weeks I was in Switzerland (and the 10 days I was in Switzerland last December), I did not want to pull myself out of actually being there. So while in the past when I traveled I would read on the train or while hanging out at the hotel, after Covid stopped our movement, when I got back to Europe I just wanted to sit and be in Europe. So I'd rather look out the window of the train even if the scenery wasn't exciting. I just like to see how towns and the countryside are structured and how people live. I liked to just "be" after all those months of feeling like I'd never get to go anywhere again.

jun 8, 2022, 7:38 am

>81 Nickelini: That's so true, Joyce. Just enjoying the scenery while in a train, car or bus is very soothing, especially when you are in a foreign country. You learn much about the people and the country when you observe.

jun 8, 2022, 5:24 pm

The Couple Next Door, Shari Lapena, 2016

cover comments: Whatever. It really doesn't relate to the story very well. The title also doesn't relate all that well either

Comments: Thriller writer Shari Lapena set her first novel, The Couple Next Door, in an nicer-than-average neighbourhood of a fictional city in upstate New York. Anne and Marco have spent the evening with the couple next door while their six-month old baby sleeps at home. They have a baby monitor and check on her every half hour. Yet when they go home at 1:30 AM, the baby is missing.

Lots of twists and turns and a fun, entertaining read. I figured out most of the twists just before they were revealed, and had an idea where this was going fairly early on, but that didn't take away my enjoyment.

Recommended for: readers looking for a quick, interesting thriller

Rating: 4 stars. A great debut novel.

Why I Read This Now: it was the other lightweight book I packed along on my European vacation even though I started it after I came home

How I Discovered This: a friend recommended The End of Her, and I enjoyed it, so when I saw this at a bookstore, I snapped it up

jun 9, 2022, 11:15 am

Book Bullet!! And I found it so it's on my reader now. Thanks Joyce.

jun 9, 2022, 10:39 pm

>84 connie53: I hope you like it! I read some lousy reviews here on LT, and I see their points. But I was just looking for some fun escapism, so it fit what I needed.

jun 28, 2022, 1:08 am

. Summerwater, Sarah Moss, 2020

cover comments: I waited to buy this in paperback, and when I got this cover I was very "meh", but after reading the book, I like it a lot more. It's actually kinda clever in retrospect. But does it call me off the shelf? No. But, maybe it should. Ruth Ozeki's A Tale For the Time Being used the same arrangement, that I only loved after I read the novel. Maybe I'll look for books with this design in the future.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Comments: Told over a June 21st, at a holiday park on a Scottish loch, this short novel is comprised of 12 vignettes about various people there enduring the relentless rain on what is supposed to be their summer vacation. One they've paid way too much money for, especially since there is no cell phone or internet connection. There are a handful of families, and everyone is bored, slightly angry, and what we call in Canada, experiencing "cabin fever". Making it all worse, there is one family (who never have a character in this novel) who are Romanian, or Bulgarian, or Polish, or Ukrainian, or something, and they keep everyone awake all night with their loud music and laughter. They also seem to be the only people having any fun at all. There is tension in the different stories, and it all comes to a disturbing end. This could make an excellent movie.

Why I read this now: I had slated this to read on June 21 (summer solstice), which was also a very rainy day here in Vancouver (right after that skies cleared and temps shot up into the 30s), but I remembered two days later, and Yes! of all the books I'd packed away for my move, I'd kept this one out.

Recommended for: I'm a big fan of Sarah Moss, so I recommend this in general. If you like stream of consciousness, as I do, this is an enjoyable example.

How I Discovered This: I follow Sarah Moss, and after loving Ghost Wall, this one was high on my TBR list

jul 5, 2022, 4:58 pm

>81 Nickelini: That's a really nice paragraph about how to travel.

Redigerat: jul 19, 2022, 9:21 am

>85 Nickelini: Read it. Review is on my first thread >229

jul 20, 2022, 1:02 am

>88 connie53: Nice! I'm always impressed by how many English language books you can find translated into Dutch. I say that because I have trouble sometimes finding English versions of English books. I've certainly imported many books from the UK that aren't available here.

jul 30, 2022, 12:37 pm

Secret Lives of Colour, kassia St Clair, 2016

cover comments: Fabulous

Comments: Moving from (non-colour) white through the rainbow to brown and (non-colour) black, historian St Clair looks at the cultural and technical history of 97 colours. Utterly fascinating. I thought I knew all about "saffron," "cochineal," and "cerulean" (especially after Meryl Streep's fabulous speech about cerulean in "the Devil Wears Prada"), but these colour vignettes had me often thinking "Huh! Who knew?"

Why I Read This Now: Reading is almost impossible for me at this stage of my life, so I thought a switch to non-fiction told in short bits might be a better choice. I was right.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Recommended for: cultural and technical historians, artists, and colour aficionados like me.

How I Discovered this: pretty sure this was a Jen Campbell recommendation

aug 5, 2022, 8:37 am

>90 Nickelini: Ooh, I really like the look (and sound!) of that one!

aug 13, 2022, 2:18 pm

29. Always Looking Up, Michael J Fox, 2009

cover comments: sure, this works for a book such as this

Comments: This is Michael J Fox's follow up memoir to his first, Lucky Man. It covers the period since his Parkinson's diagnosis in the 1990s through the early 2000s when he created his foundation for Parkinson's research, and also his years with his young family. His thesis is "optimism," even when things are going terribly.

I read Lucky Man about 15 years ago and I was really impressed with how well written it was, and then in the acknowledgements at the end, I learned that he had a lot of help with the writing from his brother in law, Michael Pollen, who is one of my favourite non-fiction writers. This time, I didn't find the writing as good, especially the first half where Fox makes friends with Lance Armstrong, who inspires him to start the foundation. I expected the "Politics" part where Fox campaigns for stem cell research to be more interesting, in the most part because I remember Rush Limbaugh's stunning and malevolent mocking of Fox's Parkinson side effects. For me, this memoir really didn't get going until the second half that focuses on his family life. He continues to be intelligent, affable, and yes, optimistic.

Why I Read This Now: I've owned it for 13 years and I thought it was time to finally get to it. Kept it at my desk at work for my breaks.

Michael J Fox continues to be highly admired by Canadians in general. As a teenager, I grew up close to where Fox spent his teen years (he's 2 yrs older than me), so most people I know from those circles has some personal connection to him, which makes him feel like "our guy". For me the vague connection was that family friends sold their fancy house and Fox bought it for his parents. I thought that was nice. I also had a friend who had a friend who used to smoke pot with him before school, but I now look at that story as apocryphal. It may have been a friend of a friend of a friend now since I've forgotten the guy's name. On the other hand, it wouldn't be a stretch for it to be true in South Burnaby in the late 70s. Added only for amusement factor.

How I Discovered This: When it was published, this book was EVERYWHERE in Vancouver stores

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommended for: People interested in stories of people living with Parkinsons? I think most diehard Michael J Fox fans would have read this already and have moved on to his later memoirs, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Future and No Time Like the Future.

aug 27, 2022, 11:06 pm

Summer, Ali Smith, 2020

Cover comments: I like the covers for these editions. Lovely, and they look great together . . . But now that I look at it closer, this looks like the sky I enjoyed during my first evening in the English countryside, along a hedgerow 3 miles outside of Bath. I grew up reading novels set in the English countryside, but somehow I was in my 40s before I actually got to see it in real life. I cried, and my family looked at me like I had 3 heads.

Comments: Summer is the 4th installment in Ali Smith's Seasonal Quartet, which are novels written and published as close as possible to current events in the UK, starting with Autumn and the stupid Brexit vote. I think they are somewhat stand alone novels, but Summer does bring in characters and themes from the other novels. Sometimes.

I have tried to read these as close to the events as possible, but I just didn't get to this one last summer. This year, I think my mind is just off on other things to actually appreciate all the nuances and literary allusions here. Shakespeare, Dickens, all sorts of themes. I did enjoy some of the vignettes, particularly Grace's flashbacks to her trip to Suffolk with the actors. But it was too disjointed and stream of consciousness for my current state of mind, and I didn't much care for the WWII bits (except I did learn about internment camps on the Isle of Man, which I had never heard of so that was interesting)

Rating: Not really a fair assessment, because I think this was wrong book wrong time - 3 stars.

In order of my interest and enjoyment of this series:

1. Winter (loved this one)
2. Autumn
3. Summer
4. Spring

Why I Read This Now: a summer read, the print was large, I had meant to read it last year, I generally like this author

How I Discovered This: a series! I don't read series. I guess I do

Recommended for: Series completists, people who want to read early novels with Covid 19

aug 30, 2022, 4:40 pm

Because Venus Crossed An Alpine Violet On The Day That I Was Born, Mona Hoving, 2018; Translated from Norwegian by Kari Dickson and Rachel Rankin

cover comments: it's fine. The title intrigued me. It's not explained in the book.

Comments: Ella has a fraught relationship with her sister Martha, but agrees to accompany her to stay at a hotel high up in a Norwegian mountain village during winter. Martha has recently been released from a sanatorium after a mental break down. Ella explores her thoughts about her sister, her own sexuality, and the writings of Stefan Zweig.

This Norwegian novella won the 2021 Dobloug Prize and the Norwegian Critics' Prize For Literature.

Why I Read This Now: August is Women in Translation month, and as there was only a few days left in the month, I picked the shortest one on my shelf.

Rating: 3 stars. It was a fine quick read.

Recommended For: people who like to read about sisters

How I Discovered This: not sure -- I thinking I went down an internet rabbit hole one winter night

sep 5, 2022, 12:35 pm

The Other Guest, Helen Cooper, 2022

cover comments: big chunky sans serif font in a contrasting colour says THRILLER! Behind that, there's a sorta grainy picture of Lake Garda, with water drops on top. Lots of deep blue. For the genre, I like it. The publisher's blurb "HOW FAR WOULD YOU GO FOR THE PERFECT VACATION?" has little to do with the novel

Comments: The chapters switch between Leah and Joanna, with occasional flashbacks to Amy. Leah has gone to her sister's swanky resort on Lake Garda, Italy almost a year after her 21 year old niece Amy drowned in the lake. She is shocked to find that Amy's parents and sister have all but erased traces of her. The other storyline follows Joanna, a university counsellor in Derby, England, who gets involved with a mysterious stranger. Eventually their storylines intertwine. Of course.

I liked this, but I think thrillers or suspense novels have to take off from the beginning, and this one didn't get going until the 50% mark. Up until then, it was more a novel about family dynamics with two women who had no connection whatsoever.

Also, one of the problems with this genre in print or on film, is that for events to occur, the characters have to do stupid things or make ill advised moves ("Don't split up! Don't go in there alone!"). But in The Other Guest the author actually does a decent job of justifying most of the poor choices the characters had to take.

How I Discovered This: I was in the drug store by my office and noticed that the book rack was jammed with shiny new books. I had heard of the author and the cover jumped out at me, and then when I saw it was set in Lake Garda, it was an instant-buy for me.

Why I Read This Now: shiny new book, Lake Garda setting!

Recommended For: novels set on Lake Garda, thrillers that aren't too suspenseful

Rating: 3.5 stars

sep 19, 2022, 1:42 pm

Hi Joyce. I wonder how your daughter is doing in The Netherlands. Did she find a place to stay?

sep 19, 2022, 9:17 pm

>96 connie53: No! She never did. So she's back at university here in Victoria. So extremely disappointing. The program looked wonderful. Now she's planning on Canterbury, where they guarantee housing, and then possibly a program that goes through 8 Scandinavian and Dutch cities in early summer 2023. So I hope that can work out instead.

sep 20, 2022, 3:04 am

The Prank of the Good Little Virgin of Via Ormea, Amara Lakhous, 2014; translated from Italian by Antony Sugaar, 2016

cover comments: another ugly cover from Europa Editions

Comments: This short novel is about social bubbles colliding. Most of it is told from the viewpoint of journalist Enzo Lagana, but it's occasionally told by a cryptic woman who floats between bubbles in modern-day Turin, including the Roma community. The catalyst here is the reported rape of a young Italian girl by Roma twins. Fueled by xenophobia, the media's story spirals out of control. The journalist Enzo, who is from Southern Italy, soon learns that things are not as reported and there are forces preventing him from telling the truth. And it turns out that many of this Roma community have lived in this area of Italy for hundreds of years, and while many say they must leave, no one cares about immigrants like Lagana's Finnish girlfriend.

A sharp look at prejudice and corrupt media. I will reread this.

Why I Read This Now: It's September and I haven't read a book translated from Italian yet this year

Rating: 4 stars

How I Discovered This Book: I loved the same author's Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio

Recommended for: If it sounds interesting, find a copy

sep 21, 2022, 1:52 pm

>97 Nickelini:. I can see why that's disappointing for you all. I asked this because I heard on the radio that many foreign students can't find rooms to stay in for a year or so. And I immediately had to think of your daughter. If she had gone to Maastricht I would have been inclined to let her have a room in my house since that's only a half hour from where I live by train and she could have searched from here for a place in Maastricht.

I think the plans for Canterbury are a good plan for next year.

sep 21, 2022, 3:32 pm

>99 connie53: Ah, you're sweet :-)

I guess we will just have to holiday in the Netherlands instead

sep 21, 2022, 4:05 pm

>98 Nickelini: The ugliest cover I've seen in a long time ;-)

sep 21, 2022, 5:07 pm

>101 mstrust: Indeed! Europa Editions have some truly ugly covers, although I think generally they are getting better with newer releases

sep 30, 2022, 2:55 am

. Fresh Water For Flowers, Valerie Perrin, 2018; translated from French by Hildegarde Serle 2020

cover comments: Europe Editions have some of the ugliest covers (see my last book, for example). So for them, this cover is gorgeous, especially when you can see that the fresh green of the tulip stems repeats onto the spine. I love tulips, I love blue covers. So all good. Yet, if they had a budget and an artist who has read the book, I think it could have been wonderful.

Rating: Loved this, read it quickly, gobbled it up . . . yet it wasn't a perfect 5. So I guess that means 4.5 stars. A satisfying, engrossing book.

Comments:: This is one of those books that is difficult to describe without sounding inane. I was looking for an atmospheric, lush book, but one that had an actual story too. Fresh Water For Flowers was perfect. In a sentence: Violette has been dealt a lousy hand in life, but she takes all the manure and makes a beautiful garden.

Love, loss, etc. All set in a French village. It was delicious to get lost in this world for a week or so.

I loved the characters and the setting, and the little vignettes into various lives. In my mind, Violette was played by one my favourite actresses, Juliette Binoche. I hear there is a TV series coming up, so it will be interesting to see the casting. The storyline jumped around a lot, which kept me reading, but sometimes I was a bit lost at who knew what when. And there are two love affairs -- Violette and Julian, and Irene and Gabriel, and I confused the details of their trysts. I'm not sure that mattered though? My last negative comment is that each chapter was introduced by a short blurb of poetic introduction. Mostly these were okay, if a little banal. Easy to ignore, anyway. But some of them were just deepities. What is a "deepity," you ask? It's a phrase that sounds profound, but if you actually look at it and think about it, it says nothing. Pretty much anything said by Deepak Chopra, for example. The example I will give you from Fresh Water For Flowers is: "There's no solitude that isn't shared" (Oh please, and now I've strained my eyeballs rolling them so far back in my skull). Anyway, like I said, you can ignore these, and they aren't all silly. Maybe they're lost in translation.

Recommended for: I recommend it broadly, if it seems like you're kind of thing

Why I Read This Now: 1. It had been on the top of my TBR since it was published in English; 2. My book club chose it for later this year; 3. I was looking for an "Epic September Read." What is an "Epic September Read"? you may ask (if you haven't asked, thanks for stopping by, we will see you next time). September is often the most beautiful, magical month here in Vancouver. The blues and greens of the forests, mountains and water vibrate, and the air shimmers gold. Even if the days are still hot, it's not punishing. There are whiffs of autumn in the air, and I have a sweater close by. I've found these some of the best times to pick up a novel full of atmosphere that I can really delve into, and then have wonderful memories for years. Some Epic September Reads in the past decade or so have been The Story of Lucy Gault, Possession, The Last September, The Children's Book, and Howards End. And now, Fresh Water For Flowers.

And full disclosure: not every September in Vancouver is magical. Some years the rain starts at Labour Day and it's just meh. One recent year would have been wonderful, but smoke blew in from the Interior, or Idaho, or somewhere in the US that was on fire, and it was just smoky and nasty. But this was a gorgeous September (although really much too dry). In those years, there is no point in trying to find an Epic September Read

How I Discovered This: I get notifications from Europa Editions and they publicized this one broadly because it had been a #1 best seller in France and Italy. I like to read best selling books in translation, so it went right onto my must-read list.

okt 9, 2022, 8:26 pm

Taste: My Life Through Food, Stanley Tucci, 2021

cover comments: very nice textures in real life and Tucci's face makes me smile

Comments: Part memoir, part cookbook, and the memoir part is almost completely about the importance of food in his life. Almost nothing about his acting career, or life as a film star.

The first part of Taste was about Tucci growing up in an Italian household in upstate New York and his memories of the food they ate. I married into an Italian family almost 30 years ago, so I found this part somewhat boring. But it got better after the halfway point, and then it got great by the time he told the story of eating andouillette sausage with Meryl Streep in Normady. I too had a very similar horrific story of trying this Norman delicacy when I was there in 1992, and yes, as Meryl Streep said, "it does have a bit of the barnyard about it." Then he went on to rave about some of the restaurants in my hometown, Vancouver, and in fact, give recipes from a couple of them (the second, Joe Fortes, is a long-time favourite of ours). His tales of March 2020 Covid lock down at home in London was also most entertaining.

There are two or three recipes that I'm definitely going to try, and he introduced me to the authoritative Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, by Pellegrino Artusi, which has remained in print since it first hit the world in 1891.

Rating: Tucci's charm shines through in Taste. The first part was 3 stars, and the last 4.5.

Why I Read This Now: I recently bought it, although I've wanted to read it since it was published. I'm always telling myself I'm going to read more books about food, so I finally did

How I Discovered This: Taste was released to great fanfare last year

Recommended for: foodies. If you enjoy the TV show Stanley Tucci: Searching For Italy, this is not the book version of that show. It does have a similar balance of conversation and actual food information.

okt 10, 2022, 9:30 am

>104 Nickelini: I've just bought this (it was a kobo daily deal a couple of days ago). Looking forward to it. I don't really know Tucci the actor, or to be honest Tucci the foodie, but I caught an episode of the Searching for Italy show when we were on holiday earlier this year (entertainment in a Premier Inn being a bit limited) and really liked it. I know this isn't the book of the show, but I did like his conversation and presentation.

okt 12, 2022, 10:38 pm

The Weekend, Charlotte Wood, 2019

cover comments: Love it. Colours, swimming theme, vintage style. Not sure this scene showed up in the book, but there was swimming, so good enough

Comments: For decades, four friends vacation every year at Sylvie's beach house on the New South Wales coast. But since their meet up last year, Sylvie has died and Jude, Adele and Wendy go back to clean out the beach house to be sold. The problem is that Sylvie was the hub of this friend group, and without her there, the threads that join the others are wearing thin. I enjoyed The Weekend immensely, even if I wouldn't ever want to spend a weekend with these three women. Each character was unique and multi-faceted, and it was interesting to see them from their own and the other's viewpoints.

After loving the author's The Natural Way of Things, The Weekend was a must-buy for me. But after I bought it, I saw that the average rating for this novel was pretty low -- 3.5 stars here at LT. Considering this, I was surprised at how much fun I had reading it. The many negative reviews on this were mixed -- some I found just silly, but more than a couple said "I'm in my 70s and this 50-something author has no idea", and there were other solid criticisms. I also had two minor complaints that made no sense to me, but didn't hamper my reading experience:

1. Sylvie's partner gets to take off back to Ireland and just have the profits of the sale sent to her after the three friends do all the work. Who would agree to that?
2. This mega-task of cleaning out the house must be done over the Christmas weekend. Why? Could it have been three days in early December or January? Christmas was used in the plot, but it really seemed a bit far fetched, even though the three 70-somethings didn't have anything else going on.

Why I Read This Now: I like to read seasonally. This year it's still full-on summer here in Vancouver, and reading autumnal books would feel completely off. So I grabbed this off my summer-reads stack. It fit even better than expected, as the Australian summer-Christmas combination was as askew as my current October summer experience. (I did spend one Christmas season in Australia, and I would recommend it. I'd like to do that again).

Rating: 4 stars

How I Discovered This: Penguin-Random House Instagram when it was published

Recommended for: I think because the ratings are all over the place, I'll recommend this to my book club next year. That should make for some good conversation. Especially since most of our members have recently retired.

okt 12, 2022, 10:44 pm

>105 Jackie_K: Looking forward to it. I don't really know Tucci the actor, or to be honest Tucci the foodie

LOL - He's been in 135 filmed acting projects according to IMDb, but I mostly think of him being wonderful in Julie and Julia and The Devil Wears Prada. However, my husband likes to remind me about how many terrible nasty villains he's played. Which I have to admit, is a lot. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the book!

okt 13, 2022, 5:05 am

>107 Nickelini: I do love watching him in Julie and Julia - and as the dad in Easy A!

okt 27, 2022, 3:16 pm

>107 Nickelini: Quite possibly my favorite Stanley Tucci movie was the very sweet Big Night that he co-starred in with Tony Shaloub about two brothers, recent immigrants from Italy, trying to start a restaurant somewhere on the Jersey shore in the 1950s.

okt 27, 2022, 4:33 pm

>109 rocketjk: I just learned about Big Night recently. I'll have to get my 20-something daughter to it down so I can watch it. I've only heard raves about it

nov 5, 2022, 2:11 am

37. The White Hare, Jane Johnson, 2022

cover comments: My initial reaction is positive, and it did draw me in . . . but then when I look at it, it's absolutely awful. Upon study, every little detail is dreadful. There is a cheesy gilt overlay, the weirdly lit beach and house don't look anything like the descriptions in the book, and the very faint white rabbit in the sky is a weak attempt. Yet at first glance it drew me in with all the hallmarks of a book that might interest me. Ka-ching! They sold a book I'd never heard of, so in the end, for the publisher, this was a entirely successful cover.

Comments: Set in 1954 Cornwall, the White Hare tells a story about Mila, her precocious daughter Janey and her domineering mother Magda, who have bought a dilapidated grand house with plans of restoring it to its former glory and making it a business. But strange things happen, and young Janey seems to have an unusual way of knowing things. The separate traumas that Mila and Magda are escaping in this endeavor are slowly revealed. Shades of Celtic mythology and archaeology.

I see in the book's tags, people have tagged it "supernatural", which is vague in this novel, but probably accurate. I also saw "magical realism", which hadn't occurred to me, but sure, that works too.

I was interested in the story, but kept getting pulled out by so many details that seemed anachronistic. I can forgive a thing here or there, but this was a lot, and also the author edited best selling authors, such as RR Martin. She knows better.

Rating: On reflection, I'm not sure what to think of this. There are aspects I liked very much, but a lot seemed pedestrian and just meh. 3.5 stars.

How I Discovered This and Why I Read This Now: My office is above a drug store that has a small book rack. Mostly they have nothing I'm interested in, but occasionally I find a gem. This caught my eye and I thought it might be a good autumn read. Which it was, although maybe more Christmassy in the end.

Recommended for: I hadn't thought of it, but I see it's been recommended for readers who enjoy Alice Hoffman, and I agree. Also readers of Santa Montefiore. Pretty light read, and interesting.

nov 7, 2022, 12:39 am

Trouble With Lichen, John Wyndham, 1960

cover comments: Love this cover. Lichen raccoon masks are not a thing in this book. I guess it's symbolic. Or maybe the artist didn't read the book. See cover comment 2, below.

Comments: Two biochemists discover that a rare lichen can prolong human life to 200 or 300 years. They keep their discovery silent, but one injects the substance into himself and his two children, and the other starts a high-end beauty salon and gives a diluted version to wealthy clients. Eventually the truth comes out, and the novel looks at all sorts of issues that would arise if a substance like this was suddenly discovered. Further, this is a a 1950s white English male's view of a feminist novel.

A couple of the dated lines that made my jaw drop:

1. "It had discovered that Mrs Joseph Macmartin (or Mrs Margaret Macmartin, as it more chummily preferred to call her)" - Really? Being called by your actual, given name is chummy? I was born in the 60s and I remember my mom being called by her actual name way more often than Mrs My-Dad's-Name, although that wasn't unheard of. By the time I was working at a dentist's office in the 1980s, I was super confused when a female patient was named "John" and it turned out all her records were under Mrs Husband's Name, which to me in a dental (medical) environment, seemed utterly bonkers.

2. Talking about the Chinese government taking control of the lichen supply, a character says, "...No need to say anything but velly solly." I had to read that twice before I figured out what was going on.

Wow, casual mid-century sexism and racism are fun. :-(

Rating: Somewhat interesting as a thought experiment, but lacking in tension. 3.5 stars

How I Discovered This: Five years ago I was buying other novels by this author, and I really love the art on these Penguin editions, so I bought a pile of them.

Why I Read This Now: I usually read one of my John Wyndham novels every October. This is number 5, and I have 3 left

Recommended For: John Wyndham fans and readers interested in late 1950s English culture

Cover Comments 2: Here is another cover and it amazed me:

Even though the novel opens with Diana's funeral, I found this cover very spoilerish, as this scene happens with only 50 pages left to the book. Also, here is how her outfit is described: "... Diana, in a semi-evening dress of pale grey peau-de-soie, long white gloves, an emerald pendant at her throat, and a light, fur-collared wrap about her shoulders". The artist seems to have read the book, but chose to ignore most of the descriptio

nov 8, 2022, 5:51 pm

. Hex, Jenni Fagan, 2022

cover comments: fits well with the story. And I always like a bird on a book cover

Comments: What the novella is about, copied from the book blurb:

“IT'S THE 4TH OF DECEMBER 1591. On this, the last night of her life, in a prison cell several floors below Edinburgh's High Street, convicted witch Geillis Duncan receives a mysterious visitor - Iris, who says she comes from a future where women are still persecuted for who they are and what they believe. As the hours pass and dawn approaches, Geillis recounts the circumstances of her arrest, brutal torture, confession and trial, while Iris offers support, solace - and the tantalising prospect of escape. Hex is a visceral depiction of what happens when a society is consumed by fear and superstition, exploring how the terrible force of a king's violent crusade against ordinary women can still be felt, right up to the present day.”

This is number 2 of the 3 Darkland Tales, which are novellas by current day Scottish authors about events in Scottish history.

Rating: 3.5 stars. This was interesting enough, but mostly it just made me angry. The point of this is to show that things now aren’t as improved as we like to think. The author highlights how many men utterly enjoyed torturing others, which I found true and disturbing. People were horrible to each other back then, and some people today would also enjoy torturing others, and there are still too many horrible people today.

Why I Read This Now: Novella November, and this novella was close at hand. Also, reading about witches seemed fun for a few days after Halloween

Recommended for: readers who want to read more about witches and Scottish history

How I Discovered This: I read the first in the Darkland Tales, Rizzio last spring and was excited that the second one was about witches. The last book, published this autumn, is Nothing Left To Fear From Hell by Alan Warner

nov 9, 2022, 4:34 am

>113 Nickelini: The concept of the series sounds really interesting - I don't know enough about Scottish history, but am fascinated by it.

nov 9, 2022, 9:55 am

>114 Caramellunacy: yeah, it’s a cool concept

nov 13, 2022, 2:01 am

Men to Avoid in Art and Life, Nicole Tersigni, 2020

cover comments: perfetto!

Rating: 5 stars

Comments: Author Tersigni scoured the collections of museums such as Rijksmuseum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The National Gallery to find 96 pages worth of classic paintings of men talking to women and the women looking unamused. To each of these she added brief dialogue, sometimes of the time period, and sometimes very much 2020s. An example:

The classic: a random male stranger telling a woman to smile. (I am excellent at resting bitch face, so I used to hear this too often when I was young. Now I'm in my 50s and just ignored)

These are divided into themes (funny when combined with the art, but here are a few of my fav blurbs):

The Mansplainer: "If you just ignore your menstrual cramps, they'll go away"

The Concern Troll (my favourite category, I can't pick the best): "I only talked over you all night because I didn't want you to embarrass yourself"

The Comedian: "He's the greatest comedian of all time. You just have to separate the art from the artist"

The Sexpert: "We've been over this a million times: you can't get pregnant if you're on top. It's called gravity" and "Here's a song I wrote called 'If You Can't Orgasm from Vaginal Penetration You're Probably a Lesbian, Linda'."

The Patronizer: "I know I made the mess, but you're so much better at cleaning than I am"

Really though, it's the combination of the blurbs matched with the piece of art that makes this book funny.

The dedication: "For Rob, who is the best kind of man. For Zoe, who is already funnier than I am. And for anyone who could use a laugh."

Recommended for: Anyone who could use a laugh. Also, women. And also, every man.

Normally I think of my husband as one of the best kind of men. But when I read this and laughed, and then showed him some of my favourites, he said "I don't know why you spent money on that." I wish I had an artist to paint that scene, and I'd add it to the book as an addendum.

How I Discovered This: I come across these once in a while on the internet (I'm sure other people make them too), and somehow I started following this author on Twitter. I thought I'd support her. And I knew that my adult daughters and I would find this funny, even if my husband isn't exactly amused.

Why I Read This Now: it arrived at my doorstep and I read it right away

nov 13, 2022, 8:25 am

>116 Nickelini: This makes me very happy.

nov 13, 2022, 3:55 pm

nov 14, 2022, 4:41 pm

>116 Nickelini: This has been on my wishlist for ages. Maybe I need to start dropping some hints!

nov 17, 2022, 1:08 am

The Four-Season Landscape: Easy-Care Plants and Plans for Year-Round Color, Susan A Roth, 1994

cover comments: the font and arrangement is a bit dated, but a beautiful garden border never gets old

Rating: I first read this book in 1996 and gave it 5 stars. The Four-Season Landscape was life changing for me. On this read, it's still 5 stars.

Comments: "Wow," I imagine you're thinking. "A gardening book changed your life? Seems . . . unusual" (okay, I know you're really thinking "crazy"). But it really did. In 1996 I bought my first house, and I was excited to get into my garden, so I read every gardening book I could find. I first borrowed this from the library, but discovered I needed to highlight it extensively and take notes, so I quickly bought a copy. Gardening has continued to be one of my favourite hobbies over these 25 years, and of all the gardening books I've ever read, this is still my favourite. The principles here haven't changed, even though some plants go in and out of fashion.

The highest level take-away from The Four-Season Landscape is the idea to plant your garden to look good all year around, and so that you always have interesting things going on. In a city or suburban garden, every plant needs to earn its place and have something to show for more than a few weeks every year. Author Roth goes through each season and suggests what to consider when choosing the best plants and how to use them. Her writing is mostly informative and practical, but often lovely and evocative. The last 70 pages of the book are an "encyclopedia" of the plants she recommends most highly.

I'm delighted that for a book that is a quarter-century old, it's still so well done. The graphic arrangement of the pages is logical and helpful (lots of sidebars and tables). It's aged very well and it's a shame that it's gone out of print.

"But you still haven't said how it changed your life . . . ". I'm glad I read this early in my gardening days, and always kept the main principles in mind, even if I didn't always follow them. It changed my approach to gardening, and was the filter that I ran all other information through. Because of this, I took an existing garden that had some fine details and turned it into a garden with layers and nuance, and 12-month interest. It needed landscaping beyond my abilities, and wasn't a show-garden by any measure, but I loved it and it was highly complimented.

Why I Read This Now: I moved. New house, new garden. The plantings are all 5 years old, and were done with some expense and a definite plan. However, it's not a four-season garden! They did very well with repeating textures and colours (and plants) for pleasing continuity. But they ignored "right plant, right place" -- for example, hydrangeas and small hostas planted in full-sun areas. And they are missing so many of my favourites. All good, I have a plan, and so I reread The Four-Season Landscape to remind myself of all the wonderful knowledge I absorbed all those years ago.

Here is an example of what I've been saying: "When planning your garden, keep the lilacs (syringa spp), with their sorry fall color, to a minimum and seek out shrubs that offer color in spring and other seasons. If lilacs or similar one-season shrubs are your favorites, locate them away from center stage, where you don't have to look at them during the rest of the year." This has always stayed with me. Back in 1996 we had a massive lilac shrub at a key spot in our backyard and I hated it. I know most people love lilacs, but the scent reminds me of cheap 1970s bathroom air freshener. This gave me permission to rip it out (quite the chore -- it involved attaching a strong rope to our 1995 Mazda 626 sedan and backing up). But now I've moved into a house with a lilac next to my front porch. Oh the horror! This one has been shaped into a tree, so I'm going to give it a year and see what else happens around it. As for the 2 or 3 lilac shrubs in the backyard, they are going to be out at my first opportunity and replaced with one of my missing lovelies.

Recommended for: any gardener in a temperate climate

How I Discovered This: gardening section of the library in 1996

nov 18, 2022, 9:53 pm

The Home Edit: a Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals, Clea Shearer & Joanna Teplin, 2019

cover comments: gorgeous if you're into organization porn like I am

How I Discovered This: Three weeks ago I'd never heard of "The Home Edit", but then I watched a YouTube video by Audrey at Chapter & Converse on unhauling some of her books. She was dumping her copy of The Home Edit Life, saying "I don't think I'm this person", and from what she showed, I thought that maybe I was that person. So I ordered the first Home Edit book, and watched their show on Netflix.

Comments: This is part educational non-fiction, part coffee table book. I think it's more inspirational than instructional. If you've watched The Home Edit on Netflix, it's very similar, but without the squealing (which I fast forwarded past). It's lovely to look at, if a little light on any actual helpful information. As with the TV show, it's a sales tool for their line of organizational containers. It's easy to see this and get motivated to go out and buy many containers (which can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars), but then you still have to come home and do the work. And the real work is doing the "edit," because you can't display your stuff in pretty clear boxes until you get rid of all the piles of excess stuff. And we have various emotional attachments to all that stuff (often the emotion is simply "I spent money on that!" or "I might need that one day"). The book and TV show skim over this, the hard part.

I grew up with mother who was an organizational goddess, and as an adult I've often lived in small spaces, so I've learned to be very good at organizing. Probably I didn't need this book, which was more on the pretty displays than how to get past your emotional attachments to stuff.

Why I Read This Now: I recently moved for the first time in 26 years, to a home with different arrangements from my last house. I want to go from being functionally organized to the next level of making that function look good too.

Rating: 3.5 stars. A little light on actual instruction, at least for me. Some of their aesthetic is a bit silly, but it sure photographs wonderfully. Their signature look is to sort things into rainbow colours, which they claim is scientific (a child will remember a book is blue and find it; and also know how to put away her blue book with the other blue books). Now I can make cupboards look good, but I'm not going to the rainbow level. Also, they rely a lot on their acrylic containers, which are lovely indeed, but I'm avoiding bringing plastic into my house so that's a non-starter. They are also into labeling everything, which I think looks childish (unless you are billeting students or running an AirBnB or have a large family. A clear container holding spaghetti doesn't need a label, for example). They also don't ever talk about using containers that they don't sell. My mom was a master of re-purposing chocolate and perfume boxes, which is more environmental and can have a sentimental aspect; however, it doesn't have the obvious super-organized aesthetic.

Recommended for: people looking for a lovely distraction while avoiding organizing their stuff

nov 19, 2022, 11:11 am

>121 Nickelini: It pleases me even to imagine browsing that book.

...know how to put away her blue book with the other blue books

That reminded me of a eureka takeaway from The No-Nonsense Home Organization Plan -- "The goal in having storage is to make it as easy as possible to return items to their designated homes when not being used" -- that makes a system actually useable long-term.

nov 20, 2022, 2:27 am

>122 detailmuse: that is an excellent principle. Thank you for sharing it. I’m copying it into my notebook

nov 23, 2022, 10:51 pm

The Humans, Matt Haig, 2013

cover comments: it's fine, it makes sense . . . but it wouldn't entice me at a book shop. Also, the dog is my favourite character

Comments: Andrew Martin is a Mathematics professor at Cambridge who has solved an earth-changing mathematical problem, so a superior life force in a galaxy far, far away takes him out before humans can damage more than just their own planet. The unnamed protagonist is an alien sent down to take out the people Andrew Martin may have told about his discovery -- his wife, his son, his best friend. But the alien forces make the mistake of having the alien assume Andrew Martin's life, and that's what makes the story. After his initial repulsion of anything human, he mind-melds with the dog, experiences peanut butter sandwiches, is bewitched by Emily Dickenson, and grooves to the Talking Heads. And love. He feels love, and that is something unknown where the alien comes from.

Why I Read This Now AND How I Discovered This: Book club. I would have never known about this or picked it up otherwise

Rating: 4 stars. A light and enjoyable read. Negative reader reviews talk about how this is facile and trite, and sure, okay. But I just went along for the ride and it was fine. His long list of things to do in life near the end definitely had some deepities (see post >103 Nickelini: above for a discussion about deepity - things that sound profound but are actually meaningless), and I'm sure that list annoys some readers. Overall, though, the novel was a quick, mostly entertaining experience.

Recommended for: people who have read this far and are still interested

nov 24, 2022, 6:24 pm

>124 Nickelini: He grooves to Talking Heads? I'm definitely putting this one on my list then! (Also, I haven't read any Matt Haig yet and this seems a reasonable place to start.)

nov 24, 2022, 6:29 pm

>125 rabbitprincess: lol - as Good a reason to read as any. Hope you like it

dec 14, 2022, 10:31 am

>124 Nickelini: Hi Joyce, I read that book recently and gave it 3,5 stars.

I really loved it. It made me laugh and was sometime serious too. Glad you liked it.

dec 22, 2022, 5:49 pm

Bad Wolf, Nele Neuhaus, 2012; translated from German by Steven T Murray, 2013

cover comments: sure, this is a good cover for a suspense thriller; however, the novel takes place over three weeks in a hot, muggy summer. Also, who is this person? In the end, kinda have to call this a fail

Rating: 4 stars

Comments: Bad Wolf is a thriller that slowly pulls together a slew of separate and seemingly unrelated story lines. Initially I was a bit overwhelmed by the large cast of characters, but they repeated and were distinct enough that it soon became easy enough to follow, especially once their stories moved closer to one another. Bad Wolf is the second in the series translated into English, but sixth in German. I didn't have problems reading this as a stand alone novel. I found the book a bit long, but it was interesting throughout and never boring. I may have wanted to finish it quicker because I didn't feel like reading about a heat wave while I was living in a winter cold snap.

How I Discovered This: I'm always looking for books in translation that are best sellers in their home country. Literary translations are easy, but I'm more interested in everyday culture. I realized that I didn't have anything from Germany (which surprised me, considering what a large country it is) so I asked my LT friend Mirjam (aka Miss Brangwen) to help me out. This is one of the authors she suggested

Recommended for: readers who like thrillers and mysteries. I enjoyed the setting of Frankfurt, where I've been a handful of times, but only to the airport (so no, I didn't recognize anything). The crimes in the novel center around child abuse, but it isn't graphic or salacious. I mention this because I know any mention of child abuse whatsoever is a hard NO for some readers.

Why I Read This Now: I felt like reading something in translation, and I felt like reading a thriller. The cover looked cold and moody. The cover lied.

dec 24, 2022, 2:12 pm

>128 Nickelini: I hate it when the cover lies about the mood of book...just sets up all the wrong expectations

dec 25, 2022, 4:36 am

I did read one book by her but did not like it very much. It was Wie wind zaait and it got 3 stars.

dec 29, 2022, 8:38 pm

Running Down a Dream, Candy Palmater, 2022

cover comments: looks a bit thrown together, but I like the bright pink with the dark background

Rating: 4 stars

Comments: Candy Palmater was a Canadian comedian, who was also an avid reader, indigenous, queer, an activists, and a recovered lawyer (her term). I knew her from her comedy and from listening to her talk about books on CBC Radio. I was shocked and deeply saddened on Christmas Day 2021 to hear that she had died that day.

This memoir covers growing up in New Brunswick in relative poverty. Even though she's five years younger than me, her upbringing sounded very 1940s-1950s. Her family was generally loving and supportive, although reading between the lines I could see that relationships were often fraught. She goes out of her way to acknowledge the people who supported her and helped her along the way, which is nice but not the most interesting thing to read. The book got more interesting when she graduated from school, attempted to go to university, and partied her way across Atlantic Canada. Eventually she got over that and went on to success and achievements. She did not mention her illness in Running Down a Dream, and the internet tells me she had just recently been treated for Eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (a rare disease) before she died. A great loss to Canada. She had so much left in her.

Recommended for: her fans, obviously, but I think anyone who is interested in a person coming from a difficult beginning to go on to unexpected success.

Why I Read This Now: I started it it soon after it was delivered

How I Discovered This: CBC Facebook page, probably

dec 30, 2022, 1:33 am

Small Things Like These, Claire Keegan, 2021

cover comments: absolutely gorgeous

Rating: 4 stars

Comments: Small Things Like These is a novella set in the days leading up to Christmas 1985 in a small town in SE Ireland. Bill Furlong is a kind, hard working family man who discovers some things about his past and terrible things about the town he's always lived in. His struggle is whether to go along to get along, or to ruffle feathers, risk what he has, and do the right (noble) thing.

Small Things Like These was on the short list for the Booker Prize in 2022

Why I Read This Now: It looked like the most Christmassy book on my TBR pile.

How I Discovered This: probably Jen Campbell, and it was before it was published

Recommended for: lovers of novellas and Irish fiction; people who like to read Booker short listed books

dec 30, 2022, 2:30 am

Piranesi, Susanna Clarke, 2020

cover comments: another gorgeous cover. I'm puzzled by the figure though . . . for a good chunk of the book I was wondering if this was Piranesi. Even though Piranesi was called "human", he was clearly such an unreliable narrator that I didn't trust him. More likely it's one of the million statues in the book, but not one I remember being mentioned. And it's on most of the other editions of the book too. Hmmm. Oh well, I think it's lovely so I'm all for it.

Also, is this a faun, or a satyr? Twenty seconds with google says the difference between the two is that one is Greek and the other Roman, or another definition says one has a goat bottom and the other a deer bottom.

Rating: 3.5 stars. The first third was 2 stars but then it picked up. This was a book that I easily could have abandoned but I'm glad I didn't, because it did get interesting and fun. It just took a long time to get there. I bought this at Armchair Books in Whistler, British Columbia -- a small bookstore where they really know their stuff. They had it shelved in the Fantasy section. That should have been my first clue. I expect I would have loved this in my 20s when I enjoyed fantasy.

Comments: Piranesi lives in a vast "house" that is made up of infinite corridors and staircases that he seems to have spent a lifetime mapping. The upper floors are often in the clouds, and the lower levels are often filled with tides, which he also charts. These halls and stairwells are lined with hundreds of thousands of classical statues. Piranesi is a naive character living a primitive life, where twice a week he meets for an hour with the only other living person he knows exists, and whom he calls the Other. That's the first boring 1/3 of the story. Then a few more people are introduced, and Piranesi begins to realize there is more to his situation that he had imagined.

I actually tried to read this last year, in December 2021, when I was in Switzerland. I had heard raves about the whimsy and magic within and thought it sounded like a good match for the magic of Christmas in Switzerland. But it was so very weird, and I just couldn't pull myself out my trip and into the book. I finished the first section (page 17). This time, even though my brain had more room for weirdness, that first section was just as much of a dud as the first time.

Why I Read This Now: I thought I'd give it another try over Christmas. This book sounded interesting and there are so many rave reviews. It was a pretty fun read, overall. It's been compared to The Magician's Nephew, which is a lifelong favourite. I don't find it all that much like The Magician's Nephew, but I also heard it compared to Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, which is a strange comparison, but I see it and see the connections. I strongly disliked that book and Piranesi is better.

How I Discovered This: I think this one another one I heard of first from Jen Campbell, but then Piranesi was nominated for the Women's Prize and got a lot of hype before it won the award in 2021.

Redigerat: jan 2, 2023, 12:52 am

Year End Stats

Non-fiction: 8
Memoir: 5
Fiction: 34
Total: 47

Life really got in the way of reading this year. Not that I didn't have time to read, but there was just no room in my brain for anything other than what I was doing. (Last year I read 83 books)

Female authors: 33
Male authors: 11
Mixed, unknown, etc. : 3
As usual, I read more books by women. I follow my interests, it's not on purpose.

Different authors: 47 (did not read more than one book by any one author)
New to me authors: 30
Reread: 1

Age of books - mostly I focused on more recent books. 40% were published in 2020, 2021 and 2022. The oldest book was 1946

Author's nationality:

UK: 17 books (36%)
Canada: 11 (23%)
USA: 4 (8%) - all non-fiction
Switzerland: 2 (4%)
France: 2
Italy: 2
Ireland: 2
Finland: 1 (2%)
Sweden: 1
Norway: 1
Australia: 1
Turkey: 1
Greenland: 1
Germany: 1
This is a fairly typical number of different countries. There are always lots of UK & Canadian books. The other countries vary. I was trying to focus on books from Italian authors, but I packed them in the spring and didn't find the box until a week ago.

Books in translation:

French: 3
German: 2
Swedish: 2
Italian: 1
Norwegian: 1
Greenlandic: 1

jan 1, 2023, 11:58 pm

So I set an arbitrary goal of 50 books from my TBR pile for 2022. I didn't make that goal because life happened. I'm always amazed at people who set book goals so confidently and then met them, year after year. I never know the future, and there are years when reading is a low priority. 2022 was one of those years, and it couldn't be predicted. I really don't care that I didn't make my goal

70% of the books I did get to read were from my TBR, and that's fine number. Further, I decreased my TBR pile this year by reading more books than I brought into my house, if only in small numbers compared to the approximately 45 jillion books I own

jan 2, 2023, 7:29 am

>135 Nickelini: I'm reducing my goal for 2023 because life happened a bit in 2022 - I did hit my goal, but I'm normally over by loads (I under-predict) and this time I only exceeded it by 4. Well done for reducing the TBR pile, I massively failed on that one this year!

Happy new year!