Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Reading Envy Podcast 124: Mush Creatures with Lindy Pratch

Lindy, avid reader and bookclub member, is back in the Reading Envy pub to chat poetry and more!

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 124: Mush Creatures

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Books Discussed:


Motherhood by Sheila Heti
Home to Woefield by Susan Juby
Walking Through Turquoise by Laurie MacFayden
By Light We Knew Our Names by Anne Valente
The Flower Can Always Be Changing by Shawna Lemay
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf


Other Mentions: 

Bear by Marian Engel
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Gentle Ben by Walt Morey
How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti
Women in Clothes by Sheila Heti et al
Girls (HBO show)
Woefield Poultry Collective by Susan Juby (Canadian title for Home to Woefield)
Pecking Order (documentary)
Alice, I Think by Susan Juby
You Fit Into Me by Margaret Atwood (poem)
Goldie Awards - Golden Crown Literary Awards
Lambda Literary Awards
Trouble Came to the Turnip by Caroline Bird
Dylan Thomas Prize
Watering Can by Caroline Bird (what Jenny meant when she said something about a birdcage)
A Family Outing by Ruby Remenda Swanson
Mortified Podcast
Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down by Anne Valente
Rumi and the Red Handbag by Shawna Lemay
Clarice Lispector
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard
Lysistrata by Aristophanes
My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh


Related Episodes:

Episode 095 - Lose the Outside World with Lindy Pratch
Episode 107 - Reading Goals 2018

Stalk us online:

Lindy Reads and Reviews (blog)
Lindy on Twitter
Lindy is @Lindy on Litsy
Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Review: Record of a Spaceborn Few

Record of a Spaceborn Few Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved the first two Wayfarers books, each for different reasons. This one follows several stories inside the Exodus Fleet, the people who left Earth but weren't rich enough to move places like Mars. They've continued living and building upon the ships they left in, and have slowly created a sustaining colony. The book starts with a disaster that sets a few stories in motion.

Like all Chambers books, I appreciate the focus on people and relationships, interesting aliens and their places in the universe, and seeing the "civilization" perspective of the salvage crew that shows up.

One character is an Archivist, keeping a video record of events. Another is a caretaker, welcoming those newly born to the community and aiding those who pass to contribute in other ways. One is a teenager looking for a purpose, and another is an exile from another place, looking for a home. The alternating narratives make for a quick and pleasurable read.

View all my reviews

Review: Children of Blood and Bone

Children of Blood and Bone Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I downloaded this book in Audible after hearing about it a bunch, but didn't decide to read it until it was selected as the Tonight Show Summer Reads. I love that a late-night show would get people reading, and wanted to support that idea and join in. I do think I should say that this book is not my usual thing - YA fantasy series don't typically appeal to me for multiple reasons - they tend to include too much questing and I get tired of reading this kind of story, particularly because often questing fantasy tends to wait until the end to have the exciting events. YA fantasy tends to focus a lot of time on world building and magic systems, neither of which appeal to me all that much. Those are my biases, but even so, I have read books that do these things well and books that do not. I went into the read knowing I'd probably like the diverse elements of the setting and characters, and with a familiarity of East African mythology and gods, landscape and history.

The author is clear in her note that she wrote this book as a reaction to young black bodies killed and devalued..she begs the reader, if you can see the humanity in the characters killed without reason in the novel, surely you can see it in reality too. Magic then becomes a metaphor for blackness and identity even within a story where all characters are dark skinned. Color is used as a signifier of latent magical potential in a different way (hair color) and interpreted as dangerous. The king who rid the world of magic believes he is keeping everyone safe by staying in power and killing those who threaten to return to other ways. The violence is seen as necessary by one side and senseless by the other. It doesn't matter that people are killed, because keeping magic out is priority #1. The author may have written this in response to one issue; in the current political climate I was also seeing an easy connection to the border and immigration issues that are ongoing, particularly the devaluing of the personhood of people who are given negative labels instead of names. Adeyemi is the child of immigrants, but the internet says that they shielded her from her Nigerian culture as a child, trying to help her be "more American." In some ways the cultural elements of this novel are an extension of her exploration of her own background and cultural history.

The YA nature of the novel shows in the characters having to learn skills and come into their own, form their own opinions and chart their own actions, and make mistakes they can learn from. The stakes are high but the adults aren't trustworthy. There is also attraction and romance, but not to the extended focus that many dystopian YA books end up with. In this book, the romance ties in to the stakes of what the characters are trying to do, so that worked better for me than the other way around.

Some of the fantastical elements are a bit confusing. There is a lot of world to learn, and sometimes the information is dumped on the reader rather than slowly being discovered, making it even harder to absorb. I found this readers guide of sorts on EW.com that is helpful; I only wish I'd had it as I listened. Some plot elements that are introduced don't come back around, while other world-building elements seem to be used for their cool factor rather than their importance to the storytelling, and this adds noise that doesn't need to be there. The author is young, writing takes practice, I imagine she will get better and better at pacing and detail decisions.

I would have liked less redundancy and a tighter narrative; almost 18 hours definitely felt too long in audiobook form. I've read other books with Nigerian cultural elements combined with magic, so if you like that part of it I would also recommend Nnedi Okorafor, specifically Akata Witch.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Reading Envy 123: Godlets and Forests

Lauren and Jenny discover they have both read the same book recently, and discuss it among others, including translated works and prize winners. Pull up a chair, and enjoy this very conversational episode.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 123: Godlets and Forests

Subscribe to the podcast via this link: Feedburner
Or subscribe via Apple Podcasts by clicking: Subscribe
Or listen through TuneIn
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Listen via Stitcher


Books Discussed:



Spring by Karl Ove Knausgaard
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Mad Country by Samrat Upadhyay
Circe by Madeleine Miller
And the Birds Rained Down by Jocelyne Saucier, translated by Rhonda Mullins
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson


Other Mentions: 

Autumn by Karl Ove Knausgaard
Winter by Karl Ove Knausgaard
My Struggle, Book VI by Karl Ove Knausgaard
Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Mama Day by Gloria Naylor
Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor
Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami
Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami
The Natural Order of Things by António Lobo Antunes
Alaska by James Michener


Related Episodes:

Episode 073 - Buried Under the Beets with Jason Roland
Episode 097 - Blank Spaces with Lauren Weinhold






Stalk us online:

Lauren at Goodreads
Lauren is @lw.flora on Instagram
Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Books Read June 2018: 143-173


 
Pictured: This month's five-star reads

143. By Light We Knew Our Names by Anne Valente ***** (Hoopla library eBook; my review)
144. Sisters' Entrance by Mahmoud Emtithal **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
145. American Hookup by Lisa Wade **** (library book; my review)
146. Go Home! ed. by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan *** (Hoopla library eBook; my review)
147. Sexographies by Gabriela Weiner **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
148. Home to Woefield by Susan Juby **** (personal copy; my review)
149. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf **** (Audible audiobook; my review)
150. My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh **** (book swap; my review)
151. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
152. Tonight I'm Someone Else by Chelsea Hodson *** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
153. The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant **** (library book; my review)
154. StoryCorps: Outloud ed. by Ari Shapiro **** (Hoopla library audiobook; my review)
155. Dietland by Sarai Walker **** (library ebook; my review)
156. Alone Time by Stephanie Rosenbloom **** (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
157. Many Love by Sophie Johnson Lucido **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
158. School of Velocity by Eric Beck Rubin **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
159. Brother by David Chariandy **** (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
160. The Last Cruise by Kate Christensen **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
161. The Honey Farm by Harriet Alida Lye *** (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
162. Attrib. and Other Stories by Eley Williams ***** (personal copy; my review)
163. Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett **** (personal ebook copy; my review)
164. Passage to Juneau by Jonathan Raban **** (personal copy; my review)
165. The Republic of Dirt by Susan Juby **** (personal ebook copy; my review)
166. The Writer by D.W. Ulsterman ** (personal ebook copy; my review)
167. Listen to the Marriage by Jay Osborn ** (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
168. Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles *** (personal copy; my review)
169. The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty **** (library ebook; my review)
170. The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy ***** (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
171. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey ***** (personal copy; my review)
172. The Late Bloomers' Club by Louise Miller **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
173. Running Wild by J.G. Ballard *** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Review: The Cost of Living

The Cost of Living The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn't realize this was part of an autobiographical project Deborah Levy had already started (the first being Things I Don't Want to Know) she calls "working autobiography," but after enjoying this one so much, I will definitely go back and read the others, past and future.

I can't quote from my copy because it is an advanced readers copy, but that would take forever as I believe I highlighted half of it. It's about reinventing herself at 50, of leaving a marriage that wasn't working, of forming a new relationship with her daughters, of hitting her creative stride right as life required the most attention, of creating a new space for her writing, of redefining feminism and femininity, etc. She also talks about how the illness and death of her mother informed her two most recent novels, Hot Milk and Swimming Home. She also said it was all these events that caused her to shift into writing in the first person for the first time. Has anyone noticed this? It made my understanding of her work click in place in a way it hadn't quite.

Thanks to the publisher for providing early access to this title through NetGalley. It comes out July 10, 2018. This is one to buy for reading and rereading.

View all my reviews

Review: School of Velocity

School of Velocity School of Velocity by Eric Beck Rubin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was confused at first, believing this to be a translated novel, but it is only set in the Netherlands. The author is Canadian, from Toronto, so that is why I have it listed under both in my shelves.

I'm always on the hunt for books where music is an important element. Of the two men in this novel, Jan de Vries is a classical pianist, and successful enough to be making a living at it and making records (I got the sense that in the universe of the novel he is someone with acclaim but not upper tier.) Unfortunately he has started to hear music in his head that is distracting him during practice but especially in performances and is a major threat to his livelihood (cross reference Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain and other works by Oliver Sacks, who has studies these kinds of disorders).

The book moves from there into scenes from Jan's childhood, largely having to do with his friend Dirk. What is is that they shared? Was it just friendship? Exploration? Romance? I enjoyed
this interview
with the author where he says
"Everyone has a Dirk. Almost everyone has that best friend. And I don’t know too many that survive into adulthood. I have a Dirk, a friend who left my life, and I never figured out why...."
Intriguing, I think I have one of those too, a friendship that you can try to recover in your adulthood but it can never be what it was. And you may never know all the answers to why everything fell apart.

So they do reconnect as adults and that's the basic plot of the book; I'm leaving out a lot to be discovered in your reading.

As a piano major of old, I knew most of the music referenced, but of course listened to it as I read the novel. That to me was part of the pleasure of it. I think it's a fairly strong debut and I would look forward to another one, but I think I'd prefer the author to write something set in his own country, honestly. The Dutch setting and characters really threw me off (and almost set me off of reading the novel, based on my previous negative experiences with Dutch novels in translation, something about the point of view or sensibility that I just can't connect with.)

Okay, did a little internet research and found that his next novel is historical fiction and partially set in Canada. Hurrah! I also discovered he is a book podcaster, over on Burning Books, so I'm going to have to check that out.

Thanks to the publisher for providing access to this title in Edelweiss. Although it came out in Canada last year and as such may seem like old news, it only came out in the USA on June 26, 2018. Come on Canadian publishers! We want your books faster than this!

View all my reviews

Review: Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude

Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude by Stephanie Rosenbloom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Although I did read this in egalley form, I verified quotations with the final version.)

"Alone, there's no need for an itinerary. Walk, and the day arranges itself."

Stephanie Rosenbloom takes on four cities to try to (re)discover the pleasure of solo travel - Paris, Istanbul, Florence, and New York City (where she lives.) I truly loved her ruminations and observations along the way, and feel like buying this for every friend who travels solo, whether that is a luxury of retirement or a necessity they have carved out for themselves.

Rosenbloom combines traveling alone with copious amounts of research ahead of time, and I couldn't help but think that this method might be the best for any traveler - prime the brain with history, stories, and art, and let those pieces of information form the baseline for what can be seen. Then without the interruptions of other people or technology, see what people you meet, what is unexpected, or how those pieces of knowledge come together.
"When preparing for a trip, we can read about architecture and restaurants. But what ultimately breathes life into the daydreams of anticipation are the people we encounter when we're actually there."
The Paris section seemed to be about the little secrets hidden everywhere if you notice them, while the Istanbul section seemed to be more about the people, whether or not she interacted them. Sometimes their mere presence (and noticing them) would alter her experience.

She also talks about anticipation, which I've discovered is sometimes my favorite part of a trip (she also balances this by frequently reminding the reader not to be wedded to an itinerary; to allow for discovery).
"To anticipate is to court joy, to fall in love with a place the way it is in a book or a movie or an Eartha Kitt song. But to stay open to the unexpected is to embrace anticipation - to know that it serves its purpose before the journey begins and must then be set aside for reality, for whatever beautiful, strange, unpredictable thing awaits when we step off the ferry."
Occasionally, Rosenbloom highlights terms that other cultures use to describe travel, from the Japanese wabi-sabi (seeing beauty in imperfection/impermanence) and the Turkish huzun (communal melancholy) - one more way of noticing, by putting on new eyes.

At the end, Rosenbloom includes suggestions for how to learn to be more comfortable talking with strangers, tips for safety while traveling, and other resources.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy through Edelweiss.. I first discussed the book after a round of book speed dating on Reading Envy Podcast Episode 120, and knew I'd want to finish it. It came out June 5, 2018.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Reading Envy 122: A Cylon Raider Shaped Hole in Your Heart

Sara joins me to chat books from a tropical location, where we talk about books that capture the hospitality industry, fight about space battles, agree about World War II books, and talk about translated works.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 122: A Cylon Raider Shaped Hole in Your Heart

Subscribe to the podcast via this link: Feedburner
Or subscribe via Apple Podcasts by clicking: Subscribe
Or listen through TuneIn
Or listen on Google Play
Listen via Stitcher


Books Discussed:



Don't Stop the Carnival by Herman Wouk
Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristof
Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper
The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal, translated by Sam Taylor
Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin, translated by Chi-Young Kim
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler


Other Mentions: 

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
The Themis Files by Sylvain Neuvel
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristof
Battlestar Gallactica (tv series)
Caprica (tv series)
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester
The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE)
Man Asian Literary Prize
The Vegetarian by Han Kang
The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-mi Hwang
The White Book by Han Kang
Tilted Axis Press (Deborah Smith)
Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl 
My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl
Insatiable by Gael Greene
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann 
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett


Stalk us online:

Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy
Sara is @addendumadventure on Instagram

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Review: Tonight I'm Someone Else: Essays

Tonight I'm Someone Else: Essays Tonight I'm Someone Else: Essays by Chelsea Hodson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Last week, I decided my friend, Erik, was both beautiful and impossible, and I felt it save my life in a way."

Okay friends, I'm going to say some honest things about this book, because I was given a review copy in exchange for an honest review. That quote I used up there is not from final copy so it may not appear as written exactly but I wanted to pull out something to use as an example.

How did you react to that quote? I predict that your overall feelings about this book will have a lot to do with your reaction to the quote. If you felt a resonance with it, you are probably younger than me and this book will be a great read for you and where you are in your time of life. If you rolled your eyes at it, hang on because most of the book is a lot like that, and you are likely not to warm to the navel-gazing essays of this book. I'm almost 40; I felt too old. I remember feeling similar to how she feels in some of this, in other ways I'm of a different generation that was never so willing to give up independence to feel emotionally manipulated by people who don't deserve that power. I think I learned earlier to see people from their perspective instead of only from my own.

So there are individual essays except for me they bleed together quite a bit. Throughout the pieces, the author is referencing someone who she can't let go of, to ruminate (again) about a memory or a feeling, longing for them and wondering about them. There is a lot about finding identity and a place by subverting expectations. There also seems to be a theme of the pursuit of the feeling of complete and utter freedom or abandon, which could also be seen as ultimate selfishness (nobody knows where she has gone) or ultimate recklessness (nobody knows where she is!).

So, I gave this three stars. I felt like the book wasn't for me. But I can see how others might really like it, and for those readers, I would highly recommend it.

Thanks to the publisher for providing access to this title. I discussed it on a book speed dating bonus episode of the Reading Envy Podcast, where I did say I liked it enough to finish it, which I did. This book came out June 5, 2018.

View all my reviews