Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Reading Envy 119: Bread and Butter Writing

Paula, known as Centique in Litsy, joins me from New Zealand to talk books. Paula tends to read backlisted titles, because she is devoted to her TBR list. We talk translations, gloomy books, and cuteness.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 119: Bread and Butter Writing.

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Books Discussed:



Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
Land of Love and Ruins by Oddny Eir
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz

Other Mentions: 

Blackout by Connie Willis
All Clear by Connie Willis
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Hugo Awards
Nebula Awards
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Top Chef (tv show)
The Mind of a Chef (tv show)
Smoke and Pickles by Edward Lee
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin
Tournament of Books
The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
The Eight Mountains by Paolo Cognetti
The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan

Stalk us online:

Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy
Paula is @centique on Litsy

Friday, May 18, 2018

Reading Envy Summer Reading

Ahoy! I have posted the official rules for Reading Envy Summer Reading in Goodreads, but wanted to post it elsewhere on the internet to allow for more participation. This isn't the same as a Readalong but there will be another one of those in the fall.

Instead, we are going to have a summer road trip and a summer picnic, only in the books we read!



Reading Envy Roadtrip Rules

1. Read a book about a place that isn't where you are. And yes, you may interpret this however you want. It can be any genre.
2. Bonus points for reading it in that actual place, like on vacation or a business trip.
3. Bonus points for a book about a trip.
4. Go to the Goodreads group (optional) and share your roadtrip read, and Jenny will create a map at the end of the summer.
5. If you post about it in Instagram or Litsy, please also add #readingenvyroadtrip


Reading Envy Picnic Rules

1. Read a foodie book. It can be a memoir, a mystery (or other genre) with recipes, a cookbook, etc.
2. Bonus points for making a recipe from that book.
3. Go to the Goodreads group (optional) and share your picnic read, and Jenny will create a menu at the end of the summer.
4. If you post about it in Instagram or Litsy, please also add #readingenvypicnic

Happy reading!

(When does summer start/end? Well, I'm on an academic calendar that rushes the lunar/solar calendar, so I'm calling summer June through August.)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Review: Tin Man

Tin Man Tin Man by Sarah Winman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book I've noticed for almost a year as my UK bookish friends got to read it way before it came out in the United States. I was so glad to finally get a copy!

The story is about two men who were childhood friends and lovers, without putting labels on it really, and the painful/bittersweet/nostalgic realizations they make as adults. Ellis does so after losing his wife and is trying to navigate life alone, Michael does so in his childhood writings that we see in the second half of the book.

But this description does nothing to capture the feeling of connection the author is able to make between the characters and the reader, the love and loss you feel alongside them. I think I read it without breathing.

Thanks to the publisher for providing access to this title through Edelweiss. It came out May 15, 2018.

View all my reviews

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Review: So Lucky

So Lucky So Lucky by Nicola Griffith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book reads so much like a memoir I had to keep reminding myself it isn't. The murder plots and shadow creatures are not real.

But everything else probably is, and based on the author's experience. Mara is working as the Executive Director for an HIV non-profit, very successful, and has just parted ways with her wife of 14 years, when she has a fall. It is revealed to be Multiple Sclerosis.

The writing is punchy and I found myself reading it cover to cover. I had always meant to go back and read Hild by the same author, a completely different genre from this one, so I was interested in this, not even knowing what it was. I didn't expect what I found, because I hadn't read anything about it. I think readers who have liked Lisa Genova's books on disease (Still Alice, Inside the O'Briens, Every Note Played, etc.) would devour this, but it has a different kind of intensity: it feels personal.

It feels personal, because it is. The author posts openly on her blog about coming out as queer, and then having to come out with MS later on. The character she writes in So Lucky knows how to mobilize, how to build community, and how to advocate, and it feels like the world beyond this novel has more hope because of it.

I supervise someone with MS, and I also want to say that this book helped me in my understanding of the daily life of this disease.

The author has even created a Spotify playlist to accompany it, which I always love.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me early access to this title through Edelweiss. It comes out May 15, 2018.

View all my reviews

Review: Three Sides Water

Three Sides Water Three Sides Water by Peter Donahue
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a collection of three novellas, all set at different times on the Olympic Peninsula. Overall they are slow burns, so I read one at a time between other readers. Since I'm going to Washington in June, and since I'm from the northwest (and have spent time a few summers on the OP), I enjoyed the particular placeness of all three.

"On Rialto Beach"
Rialto Beach is near Quillayute River, now protected as part of the Olympic National Park, right on the Pacific Ocean. A bunch of circus performers come here for a vacation from their lives of performing, and there is a disappearance. Or is it a murder?

"At Fort Worden"
Set in the early 1970s during the Vietnamese-American War, a boy lives (and escapes from) a juvenile detention center.

"Out of Shelton"
Very 21st century based on all the social media, the grandson of a lumber company owner wants to be Bing Crosby.

Thanks to the publisher for providing early access to the title through Edelweiss. The collection came out May 1, 2018.

View all my reviews

Review: Mating in Captivity: A Memoir

Mating in Captivity: A Memoir Mating in Captivity: A Memoir by Helen Zuman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Zendik is a communal organization, you might use the word cult, that I'm surprised I hadn't heard of before, particularly since it was housed in Hendersonville, NC, just 30-40 minutes from where I live, up until 2003. At that point it moved to West Virginia, to a large homestead. It got some press a few years back when that farm went up for sale, after the remaining founder of Zendik, Arol, passed away. It seems like Zendik more or less finished dissolving at that point, although you can still find their Facebook page.

The author of this memoir went looking for a communal society to join after graduating from Harvard, and landed on Zendik. She was funded by some kind of grant where she had agree to do research on this kind of society, but that was kind of a lie, as she really wanted to embrace it for herself. I found myself asking on a somewhat frequent basis if Harvard teaches anything like ethics or critical thinking, because the author does not seem to employ either in her decision making. Using grant money, over $10k, for something other than what you received it for, is surely against all terms of service! (She outright donates the entire sum to Zendik very soon after moving in as an apprentice, when they weren't even asking her for anything yet.) She also doesn't seem to be able to see the organization from the outside, which even if she was pretending to be the scholar receiving the grant, it seems like some baseline level of an understanding of fieldwork practices would have been employed.

Instead, she just... jumps in. Eager to have a different kind of life and to lose her virginity, a communal society where sex is arranged between multiple partners as long as both consent, and no property or body belongs to everyone seems kind of perfect to Helen. She embraces it but it does not take long before she finds out that actually, a lot of people pair off, and actually, she's going to have to sell stuff on street corners, and actually, there is a well-developed hierachy, and actually, the remaining leader employs a lot of crazy tactics that are common in fundamentalism and cults. It feels like she entered Zendik after its peak, after the founder Wulf, with his esoteric philosophies and rules, passes away. The group has picked up and relocated several times, but she didn't see this as a warning sign. From the memoir, I did get a sense that she has some trauma in her past, so perhaps that made her more susceptible, but I definitely found myself asking why! I think the author wanted to know why as well, and that's why she wrote this.

I know I sound critical, but a lot of people who get stuck in cults enter them as babies or after severe trauma or complete helplessness (drug addiction, homelessness)... Zuman is an educated person who just seems to make bad decisions. But I suppose it can be an interesting, if frustrating, read in that regard. (It's almost worse on the occasions where she leaves, hitchhiking without any awareness of personal safety.)

But I almost want to bump up the star rating because I enjoyed deep diving into this story on the internet. To that end, I bring you:

-The author's LiveJournal, where she had been writing her experiences and connecting with others from the same and similar backgrounds. This entry has a lot of the lingo and timeline associated with her time at Zendik.

-A Huffington Post article about the 2013 sale of the WV farm, with pictures of the space. The author was still a part of Zendik when they made the move to this location, but it almost felt like it was part of the reason she finally had to leave.

-Zendik Farm Arts Foundation on Facebook, not active in the last few years, but great photos of the founders, Wulf and Carol. They led the group from the 1960s on.

Thanks to the publisher for giving me early access through Edelweiss. They also published another leaving-religion title that I read last month, Shunned: How I Lost My Religion and Found Myself. This title came out May 8, 2018.

View all my reviews

Review: Only Human

Only Human Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is possibly my favorite of the Themis Files books. I ended up listening to the audio, which was a great experience. The author is even one of the voices!

Since so much of this book will spoil the previous books, I'll put my comments behind a spoiler tag. (view spoiler)

View all my reviews

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Reading Envy 118: Readalong - To the Bright Edge of the World

Vinny, Jeff, Nadine, AmyB, and Carol join Jenny at the table in the corner of the Reading Envy pub to discuss our latest readalong. There are a few sounds from the resident pets but what can you expect?

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 118: Readalong 3.

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



To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

Other Mentions:

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
American Army History Museum - Colonel Allen expedition (historical basis of novel)
Interview with author and her editors 
Two Old Women by Velma Wallis
Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat
Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock

Related Episodes:

Episode 090 - Reading Envy Readalong: East of Eden with Ellie and Jeff 
Episode 099 - Readalong: The Secret History
Episode 104 - Uppity Lives and Jelly Melons with Jason Roland  

Stalk us online:

Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy
Jeff at Goodreads
Jeff on Twitter
Jeff is @jeffkoeppen on Litsy
Carol Ann is @thebookandbeyond on Instagram
Vinny is @billypar on Litsy
Nadine is @nadine on Litsy
Amy is @bookchipmunk on Litsy

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Books Read April 2018: 74-122

5 star reads


74. Inauguration by Idris Goodwin and Nico Wilkinson **** (eBook personal copy; my review)
75. Elsewhere by Eliot Weinberger **** (library book; my review)
76. The PowerBook by Jeanette Winterson ***** (personal copy; my review)
77. Finding the Space to Lead by Janice Marturano *** (interlibrary loan; my review)
78. When My Brother Was An Aztec by Natalie Diaz ***** (interlibrary loan; my review)
79. Dirt Riddles by Michael Walsh ***** (borrowed from friend; my review)
80. American by Day by Derek B. Miller **** (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
81. New-Generation African Poets edited by Kwami Dawes ***** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
82. The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths **** (whodunitbymail bookswap; my review)
83. Borrowed Wave by Rachel Moritz *** (interlibrary loan; my review)
84. What I Found in a Thousand Towns by Dar Williams **** (library book; my review)
85. Family and Other Catastrophes by Alexandria Borowitz **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
86. My Dinner with Ron Jeremy by Kendra DeColo **** (interlibrary loan; my review)
87. There are More Beautiful Things than Beyonce by Morgan Parker **** (interlibrary loan; my review)
88. The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston *** (Audible download; my review)
89. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss ***** (Audible download; my review)
90. Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
91. This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison *** (Kindle eBook; my review)
92. This Accident of Being Lost by Leanne Simpson **** (personal copy; my review)
93. The Little Clan by Iris Martin Cohen **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
94. Erosion's Pull by Maureen Owen *** (personal copy; my review)
95. Brown: Poems by Kevin Young ***** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
96. Register of Illuminated Villages by Tarfia Faizullah ***** (personal copy; my review)
97. Ariel: The Restored Edition by Sylvia Plath **** (library book; my review)
98. The Quiet by Anne-Marie Turza **** (personal copy; my review)
99. The Smoke of Distant Fires by Eduardo Chirinos *** (library book; my review)
100. Thieves in the Afterlife by Kendra DeColo ***** (interlibrary loan; my review)
101. Negative Space by Luljeta Lleshanaku *** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
102. A Distant Center by Ha Jin **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
103. Eventide by Therese Bohman **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
104. The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan **** (borrowed from friend; my review)
105. Land of Love and Ruins by Oddny Eir ***** (personal copy; my review)
106. We are Legion (We are Bob) by Dennis Taylor ** (Audible download; my review)
107. Pearls on a Branch by Najla Khoury **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
108. Acid West: Essays by Joshua Wheeler *** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
109. Shunned by Linda A. Curtis **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
110. Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao ***** (library book; my review)
111. The Changeling by Joy Williams **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
112. Weight by Jeanette Winterson *** (personal copy; my review)
113. Beautiful Zero by Jennifer Willoughby **** (interlibrary loan; my review)
114. Don't Call Us Dead by Danez Smith ***** (personal copy; my review)
115. West by Carys Davies **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
116. A Tree Whose Name I Don't Know by Haji Golan **** (personal copy; my review)
117. Banthology edited by Sarah Cleave **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
118. The Linden Tree by Cesar Aira *** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
119. Flying Too High by Kerry Greenwood **** (whodunitbymail book swap; my review)
120. The View from Flyover Country by Sarah Kendzior **** (eARC from Edelweiss/NetGalley; my review)
121. The Connected Child by Karen Purvis **** (personal copy; my review)
122. The Jaws of Life: Stories by Laura Leigh Morris ***** (personal copy; my review)

Reading Envy 117: Bonus Episode, Book Speed Dating Round 2

As promised, I am back with another round of book speed dating, and all of them are galleys. Most came out in April so you can read them right away if they are up your alley but one will wait until June. I think even the books I didn't love might be perfect for someone else. I also have an announcement about summer reading.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 117: Bonus Speed Dating 2018-2

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

Click here to read about Reading Envy Summer Reading



Books Discussed:

Eventide by Therese Bohman, translated by Marlaine Delargy
Acid West: Essays by Joshua Wheeler
The Linden Tree by César Aira, translated by Chris Andrews
West by Carys Davies
Rough Animals by Rae DelBianco
Godforsaken Grapes: A Slightly Tipsy Journey through the World of Strange, Obscure, and Underappreciated Wine by Jason Wilson
The Changeling by Joy Williams
Screwnomics: How Our Economy Works Against Women and Real Ways to Make Lasting Change by Rickey Gard Diamond
Pearls on a Branch: Oral Tales by Najla Jraissaty Khoury, translated by Inea Bushnaq
The View from Flyover Country: Dispatches from the Forgotten America by Sarah Kendzior
Shunned: How I Lost My Religion and Found Myself by Carol A. Curtis



Other Mentions: 

Ema, the Captive by César Aira
JennyBakes
The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It by Tilar Mazzeo
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
The Original Reading Envy Speed Dating Project (with rules)
Speed Dating Round Two
Speed Dating Round Three
Speed Dating Round Four


Related Episodes:

Episode 035 - Speed Dating Books
Episode 047 - Sex with Elvis: Bonus Book Speed Dating Episode
Episode 059 - Are you Inspired Yet? bonus book speed dating 
Episode 063 - Desolation Road (book speed dating and books on grief) 
Episode 076 - Borderlands (Reading Goals 2017) - includes speed dating rounds 5-6 of 2016
Episode 113 - Speed Dating 2018, round 1

Stalk us online:

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

Monday, April 30, 2018

Review: Jaws of Life: Stories

Jaws of Life: Stories Jaws of Life: Stories by Laura Leigh Morris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If Scott McClanahan has a corner on certain areas of rural Appalachian West Virginia, then Laura Leigh Morris might have her own territory marked out in a neighboring small town. Here is the place an old woman starts a revolution against the company she sold her land to after they keep her up at night. Here is where a man has a relationship with the woman who drove through the window of his auto parts store. Children take on new responsibilities and inmates live on in legends.

The characters are the most memorable part, but I also found myself interested in the basic economic landscape that forms the major conflict for most of the stories. The transition from mining jobs to the shiny new promise of fracking jobs has not occurred and people are even less employed than they were before. Central West Virginia even has its own Aging Cervices employment office, which is relevant to a few of the stories in this collection. What does the future hold? Hopefully another collection of stories.

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Review: Banthology: Stories from Unwanted Nations

Banthology: Stories from Unwanted Nations Banthology: Stories from Unwanted Nations by Sarah Cleave
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This short anthology contains one contemporary story from each country on the Trump administration banned list. These stories are neither comprehensive nor fully representative, and don't set out to be, they are merely 7 captures of 7 small stories that happen to come from an author from each country and possibly about that situation. One takes place entirely in an airport (probably my favorite) where the rules keep changing and the woman literally has no way of winning. Very 21st century, very of the now, just normal people from countries deserving of respect. Thanks to Deep Vellum for pulling this together and getting it all translated into English.

I received a review copy of this through Edelweiss; it came out 24 April 2018.

View all my reviews