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.

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

The Japanese Lover by Isabel AllendeDon’t judge a book by its cover. Seriously, are we back to that old adage? But so, so true. I picked up The Japanese Lover for two reasons: I haven’t read anything by Isabel Allende in years and based on the cover I assumed it was a war time novel set in Japan. I was close. The Japanese Lover is a novel partially set during WWII in San Francisco.  Continue reading

Hilltop by Assaf Gavron

The Hilltop by Assaf GavronThe Hilltop by Assaf Gavron was one of those books I was saving for the right moment. I wanted to love it and savor it; read it at a leisurely pace and take it all in. Gavron is a highly acclaimed Israeli writer, he’s won tons of prizes and I truly believed that this was going to be the book to bring Israeli literature to the fore in North America. Continue reading

The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango

The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha ArangoI was on a bit of a reading slump when I came to The Truth and Other Lies by German screenwriter Sascha Arango, and it fed my slump to the dogs. That means it was good. The story was crazy, but crazy good. Continue reading

Bonita Avenue by Peter Buwalda

bonita-avenueWhat is it about Dutch-Scando-wegian literature that makes me so uncomfortable? Admittedly, I have not read much, but what I have read always takes me to an uncomfortable place. It takes rather black and white issues and blurs them all together into innumerable shades of gray. Continue reading

The Goddess of Small Victories by Yannink Grannec

goddess-of-small-victoriesLike many book bloggers and avid readers I am always on a quest to read more. Whether it is more books, more diversely, in more detail, life long readers want more. In reading more diversely one of my goals was to read more in translation. I think English readers are hesitant to read in translation because we have so much great literature to choose from already, but we may be missing out on something. So of late, I’ve been picking up books that should appeal to me and that are translations. Things have not been going well. Continue reading

Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch

summerhouse-with-swimming-poolThe Dinner by Herman Koch (review) was one of my favorite books of 2013. It was controversial and had me on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading it. I was recommending it to everyone and anyone who would listen. So it should come as no surprise that I went into Summer House with Swimming Pool with pretty high expectations. It was good. It wasn’t great, but it was a solid good. Continue reading