It’s nearing the end of the year, and I’ve only read 83 books, so I’m looking for slim volumes that I can read in one sitting and thoroughly enjoy to try to up my count to 90. Nuclear Family by Susanna Fogel certainly fits the bill. As the subtitle reveals, it is a ‘Tragicomic Novel in Letters’ and that’s about all I needed to hear. Continue reading
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
My experience of reading The Animators was a very odd one. I simultanesouly didn’t like and couldn’t put it down. How does that even happen? Continue reading
Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend
Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend has been on my TBR list for a couple of month, but it’s inclusion in the Tournament of Books longlist for 2017 pushed me into reading it now. (As an aside, I’ve only read 13 of the 120 books on the longlist this year. Eek! How about you?) Continue reading
The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson
Holy-doodle, if The Most Dangerous Place on Earth isn’t a wake up call, I don’t know what is. Set in an affluent community in sunny California, this novel explores the facades of teen life on social media and the truth that lies behind those facades, and that is what makes it so compelling and horrifying. Continue reading
Thirty Girls by Susan Minot
We 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
Last 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 Nix by Nathan Hill
You 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.
Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
Today 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