Thirty Girls by Susan Minot

Thirty GirlsWe all know that 2016 has been one hell of a year, and  reading Thirty Girls by Susan Minot will do nothing to make you feel better about it. As the title suggests, Thirty Girls is about a group of girls abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army from their boarding school in Uganda. Not happy or uplifting stuff. Continue reading

Nicotine by Nell Zink

Image result for nicotine nell zinkLast year Nell Zink blew my mind with Mislaid (review), and now she’s back with Nicotine. Just to be clear, I did prefer Mislaid, but Nicotine has that same Nell Zink WTF-ness that turns all your assumptions upside down. Continue reading

The Proof of Love by Catherine Hall

Image result for the proof of love catherine hallI should start by saying that I did not choose this book for myself. The Proof of Love by Catherine Hall wasn’t a book I was dying to read, or one I’d even heard of. Overall the writing is solid and the story is good, but it wasn’t my thing. Continue reading

The Nix by Nathan Hill

Image result for the nix nathan hillYou are going to see The Nix by Nathan Hill on a lot of Best of 2016 lists, and I’m not surprised to find it there at all. The Nix, if nothing else, is prescient. It is the perfect novel for 2016 – politicians behaving badly, American in economic, political and, dare i say, psychological despair. You get my drift. It is the perfect novel for this moment, in spite of the fact that much of it takes place in the 60s. It is an important novel in the way it shows how history repeats itself, and more impressive because all of this was written before Trump swept the nation. Continue reading

Clearing the Backlog

I’m so far behind in reviewing that I’m almost paralysed by it. So there’s only one solution: a mass review of books I’ve read over the last 3 months. Here goes:

You Are One of Them by Elliott Holt. I really liked this one. Coming of age against the backdrop of Communist Russia. So many good things about it, if only I could remember it more clearly.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. I was disappointed in this one as I am normally a fan of Ann Patchett. It gets off to a really slow start, in my opinion. It does, however, find its footing by about halfway through. If you’re an Ann Patchett fan, you’re going to read this regardless of what I say, but if you’ve not read Patchett before, I might not start here.

Peacekeeping by Mischa Berlinski. In the beginning I loved this book, but ultimately it was a little too long. Set in Haiti, it had a really interesting look at local politics and NGOs. The cover is great though, and i do plan to go back and read Feildwork, one of Berlinski’s earlier novels that I remember loving.

Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch. I really liked Koch’s two previous novels. They had a very Koch feel to them. That feel is lacking in Dear Mr M.  That doesn’t mean it’s a bad book, but if you’re looking for that distinctive Koch uncomfortableness, it isn’t so apparent here. The one thing i did like about it though, is that it’s about a writer. That always gets me.

The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah. If Orange is The New Black were set in a Zimbabwean prison, you might get this book. It is a great book and one that I highly recommend. Propulsive story, great characters, skilled writing.

So there, it’s done. Backlog cleared. Hopefully this means I can get back into the groove.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Remember when my daughter asked me to read Harry Potter? Well, that didn’t go so well. I’m still stalled on the second book.

More recently, she asked me to read Wonder by R.J. Palacio (2012). This, I am pleased to say, went much better. Wonder is the story of Auggie, a ten year old with severe facial deformaties, as he integrates into middle school. It is told from several points of view, a narrative technique I adore, and is wonderful. It is not schlocky or sappy or suffused with pity. It is full of pop culture references that the kids adore. It is pretty nearly perfect.

And in these troubled times, it has a really great message: always try to be a little kinder than necessary. This comes from J.M. Barrie’s Little White Bird, seems to me to be pretty good words to live by.

Who would like this book? Wonder is aimed at middle grade readers, but i didn’t find it too juvenille or twee. It has great anti-bully messages and is taught in a lot of schools. All the kids in my daughter’s class who I’ve talked to liked the book, so that’s a thumbs up from ten year olds. It is set to come out as a movie in April. I don’t know how it will translate to screen, but then we all know that the book is always better anyways.

The Illuminations by Andrew O’Hagan

Andrew O’Hagan was a new-to-me author. I’d heard of him before, but never read him. I’m not quite sure why, as he seems to have gathered quite the accolades over the years. He seems to have been nominated or won just about every prize there is, he’s a contributor or editor of some of the best magazine. In short, he is a big name in write, at least in the UK. So I was thrilled when Willoughby Book Club sent me The Illuminations by him. Continue reading

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

Today Will Be DifferentToday will be different. Today I’m going to do yoga, cleanse my soul, be kinder and more attentive to people, especially those who annoy me. Today I’m going to eat more than my recommended intake of vegetables. Today the laundry will get done, I will make a fun and healthy snack for my child. I will get dressed. In something nicer than jeans.  Continue reading

Girl Up by Laura Bates

Image result for girl up laura batesFor those of you who don’t know, Laura Bates is the brains behind the Everyday Sexism Project and book of the same title. It catalogs all the incidents of sexism we encounter everyday, from the seemingly most innocuous to the more violent and offensive. The Everyday Sexism Project is a wake up call that is both painful and necessary to take a look at. The book, which is now available in North America, is such a powerful and terrifying read. Continue reading

Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji

Nostalgia is not your typical Vassanji fare. Quite often his novels move back in time, not so with Nostalgia. It’s a futuristic, dystopian tale – something I never thought Vassanji would do – and it’s pretty great. In spite of it’s setting and time period, it is, in many ways, a classic Vassanji novel. He’s dealing with the same themes – immigration, identity, belonging, but in Nostalgia they are speculatively based instead of factually based.  Continue reading