Saturday, September 22, 2018

Review: Normal People: A Novel

Normal People: A Novel Normal People: A Novel by Sally Rooney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The night before the Man Booker Shortlist was announced, I was approved for the eARC of this title, so I stayed up late finishing it. Sadly it was not included in the shortlist, but if you like novels about relationships, this is excellent. It traces Marianne and Connell's friendship from childhood, and also tackles class difference and family violence.

(I often find my favorite books from award lists are long but not shortlisted anyway.)

Thanks to the publisher for granting me early access; sadly this doesn't come out in the USA until April 2019. You can bide your time by reading her earlier work.

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Review: The Water Cure

The Water Cure The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The writing in this book, and the way the author is able to describe the somewhat strange setting, is stellar. In the Man Booker Prize longlist wasteland that is 2018, I found it one of the more compelling reads. I love the little backstory italic parts between chapters, the ending and questioning everything, and the sisters. I felt like the story itself, what actually happens, to be less satisfying.

The italics backstory is where the story connects most with other recent books from The Power by Naomii Alderman to Red Clocks by Leni Zumas. Here is one passage in particular:
"I didn't understand how rapidly things had changed, how all that had been needed was permission for everything to go to shit, and that permission had been granted. I didn't know that there was no longer any need for the men to hold their bodies in check or to carry on the lie that we mattered."
These sections make the reader think they know what the book is. But is that what it is?

I have no idea how to classify it now that I've reached the end. (view spoiler)

I have to admit, I kind of liked mulling over these questions, maybe the best part of my reading experience. That coupled with the writing made it more of a solid read for me.

Thanks to the publisher for providing access to this title through NetGalley. It doesn't come out in the USA until 9 January 2019, but my library bought it already so it can be found online. And I wanted to try to finish it before the shortlist was announced.

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Review: Best American Poetry 2018

Best American Poetry 2018 Best American Poetry 2018 by Dana Gioia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read a lot of poetry, a lot. But I learned a few things about the current state of poetry from this anthology of the Best American Poetry 2018, or at least I learned something about how I consume poetry differently than Dana Gioia, the editor, does.

1. Dana is a man. I have never read his work, and should.
2. There are more rhyming poems being produced in 2018 than I would have thought. Or is it that Dana Gioia is more drawn to rhyming poems? I felt like there were a lot of them in this anthology comparatively. Maybe we could ask the hero of The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker, who also loved rhyming poems (but saw them as something people no longer appreciated.)
3. Most of the poems Dana Gioia is consuming are coming from literary publications, where one poem from a poet is printed/published. Most of the poems I am consuming come from single-author collections, because I don't even try to keep up with the multiple publications and tend to pick collections based on reviews, publisher tables and deals at AWP, advanced reader copies in NetGalley and Edelweiss, award nominees, etc. These awards are for collections, not individual poems. But the poems getting anthologized are not necessarily in a collection... at least not yet. This is their infancy. As such I only had immediate recognition of two poems in this anthology, that I had probably read in actual collections and not where he got them from.
4. Instagram and Tumblr have gotten noticed. And Gioia chooses at least one poem that first came out in this format. Very 21st century of him.

My standouts include:

Against Dying by Kaveh Akbar (read on
"...I spent so long in a lover’s
quarrel with my flesh
the peace seems over-
cautious too-polite...."

Ghost Ship by Sonia Greenfield (read on Rattle)

Thanks to the publisher for giving me access to this title through Edelweiss. It's really gotten me thinking about how much an editor influences the selection in an anthology like this. It comes out 18 September 2018.

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Review: From a Low and Quiet Sea

From a Low and Quiet Sea From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really loved a previous book by Donal Ryan, The Spinning Heart, which I also read because it was on the Man Booker longlist, back in 2013. What I loved in that book, Ryan's ability to portray the inner lives of his characters, is present in this book as well, but where that novel felt like a cohesive story this never really came together for me. I struggled to understand what the author was trying to do. Why these characters? Why these stories?

In the Man Booker Prize universe, though, the first page of this book was astounding in the way it harkened almost directly to The Overstory by Richard Powers, about how trees communicate, etc. What a coincidence! And I think the author intended for it to lay the groundwork for the novel, something I was waiting for and didn't find.

I will still try another novel by this author. I do think he is trying to write Ireland in a different way, but I think he needed more space to accomplish it with these characters in this case.

Thanks to the publisher for giving me access to this title through NetGalley. It came out July 17, 2018, but I misread the info and thought it came out today!

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Reading Envy 129: Coming Back to Books

Nadine has been a listener of the podcast and in a Goodreads group with Jenny for some time. After retiring from a career of academic librarianship, Nadine is settled into a new state and ready to chat books!

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 129: Coming Back to Books.

Subscribe to the podcast via this link: Feedburner
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Books Discussed:

Smoke City
by Keith Roston
The Reservoir Tapes by Jon McGregor
Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg
Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos

Other Mentions: 

Newest Literary Fiction Group in Goodreads
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
Pegasus Books
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor
The Reservoir Tapes (BBC Radio 4)
The Beggar's Opera by John Gay
Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
August by Romina Paula
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (film)
Milkman by Anna Burns
Summerland by Hanu Rajaniemi
The Aviator by Eugene Vodolazkin
Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin

Related Episodes:

Episode 047 - Sex with Elvis: Bonus Book Speed Dating Episode
Episode 090 - Reading Envy Readalong: East of Eden with Ellie and Jeff

Stalk us online:

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

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Review: Ohio

Ohio Ohio by Stephen Markley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel is set in a small town in northeastern Ohio, where four friends return home in 2013 and find there are ongoing ripples and consequences from their schooldays. The author gets small town midwestern culture right and writes deeply about the individual characters. This could practically be a quartet of character study novels.

If I had a final copy I would put a bunch of quotes here because I found myself marking pages frequently.

Thanks to the publisher for approving my ARC request in Edelweiss. The book came out 21 August 2018.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Reading Envy 128: Poetry and Whale Guts

It's a bonus hodgepodge episode, including a wrap-up of Reading Envy Summer Reading, my fourth round of book speed-dating for 2018, and an announcement of the fall Reading Envy Readalong.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 128: Poetry and Whale Guts.

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

Summer Reading Wrap-Up:

Reading Envy Roadtrip

Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude by Stephanie Rosenbloom
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
The Last Cruise by Kate Christensen
Liquor by Poppy Z. Brite
Grey Granite by Lewis Grassic Gibbon
Lewis Grassic Gibbon Centre
Republic of Dirt by Susan Juby

Reading Envy Picnic
The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty
The Late Bloomers' Club by Louise Miller
1-2-3-4 Cake
Burnt Sugar Cake with Maple Icing

Canada and Alaska
The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant
Passage to Juneau by Jonathan Raban
Home to Woefield by Susan Juby
Alaska by James Michener
Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Light reads, funny reads
Stray City by Chelsey Johnson
Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett

Speed Dating, Round 4 of 2018 - #scienceseptember

Being Caribou: Five Months on Foot with an Arctic Herd by Karsten Heuer
The Grizzly Maze: Timothy Treadwell’s Fatal Obsession with Alaskan Bears by Nick Jans
Leaving Resurrection: Chronicles of a Whale Scientist by Eva Saulitis
The Last Light Breaking: Living Among Alaska’s Inupiat Eskimos by Nick Jans
The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone, and Sky by Ellen Meloy
The Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck
The Hidden Life of Trees: What they Feel, How They Communicate - Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben
Travels in Alaska by John Muir
Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush
Coming into the Country by John McPhee

Reading Envy Readalong for Fall 2018
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
Reading Women Challenge 2018
The Guardian - 50 Years On 
NPR - Fresh Air Remembers The Golden Notebook
LitHub - Reading The Golden Notebook During a Summer of Too Many Weddings

Related Episodes:

Episode 090 - Reading Envy Readalong: East of Eden with Ellie and Jeff 
Episode 113 - Speed Dating 2018, round 1
Episode 116 - Make Margaret Atwood Fiction Again with Jeff Koeppen
Episode 117 - Speed Dating 2018, round 2
Episode 118 - Reading Envy Readalong: To the Bright Edge of the World 
Episode 120 - Summer Reading; Speed Dating 2018, round 3 

Stalk me online:

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

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Review: The Wrong Heaven

The Wrong Heaven The Wrong Heaven by Amy Bonnaffons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The publisher sent this to me, and I read and enjoyed the first story, but then this book was swept up in a cleaning endeavor and I went looking for it today. I'm so glad I did; these are wonderful. They make me think of the feeling of the first story collection I read by Karen Russell - the wholly underappreciated St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, and also some touches of the earlier stories of Aimee Bender. The shared characteristics are touches of imagination or unreality, significant enough that it effects the characters, but small enough that the reader can choose to explain them away (insanity? hyperbole?)

The setting of these stories is a lot of fun too. I think of them as magical suburbia. The first story is about a woman bringing home inflatable lawn versions of Mary and Jesus, and they start speaking to her. Another has two female friends who are injecting each other - one to help her get pregnant and the other to transform into a horse. That one has some true sticking power. Many of the characters are unhappy in their relationships and sexuality, or at least they know that what they have isn't quite the right fit yet. There is this combination of awkwardness and yearning that really works, and it feels like it is a thread throughout the stories.

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Books Read August 2018: 192-217

Pictured: August's 5-star reads

192. The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
193. The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza **** (Hoopla eBook from library; my review)
194. Love Interrupted by Reneilwe Malatji **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
195. The Third Hotel by Laura Van Den Berg ***** (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
196. Motherhood by Sheila Heti ***** (interlibrary loan; my review)
197. Best Evidence: Poems by Mark Osaki **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
198. Twenty Things Adopted Kids... by Sherrie Eldridge *** (library book; my review)
199. The End of the End of Everything by Dale Bailey **** (Hoopla eBook from library; my review)
200. Trysting by Emmanuelle Pagano *** (personal copy; my review)
201. The Overstory by Richard Powers ***** (personal copy; my review)
202. Hutterite Diaries by Linda Maendel *** (personal copy; my review)
203. Born Hutterite by Samuel Hofer **** (personal copy; my review)
204. I Am Hutterite by Mary-Ann Kirkby ***** (personal copy; my review)
205. Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese *** (review copy; my review)
206. Collision by Merle Kroger *** (review copy; my review)
207. The Dark Interval by Rainer Maria Rilke **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
208. Cinder by Marissa Meyer **** (Hoopla audiobook from library; my review)
209. Days of Awe: Stories by A.M. Homes **** (interlibrary loan; my review)
210. In On It by Elisabeth O'Toole **** (interlibrary loan; my review)
211. You Can Adopt Without Debt by Julie Gumm *** (library book; my review)
212. Washington Black by Esi Edugyan **** (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
213. A Girl's Guide to Missiles by Karen Piper **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
214. A Working Woman by Elvira Navarro *** (personal copy; my review)
215. Sight by Jessie Greengrass **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
216. Leaving Resurrection by Eva Saulitis **** (borrowed from friend; my review)
217. Vox by Christina Dalcher ** (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
218. Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo *** (library book; my review)

Total books read: 27
Print: 15
Audio: 1
eBook: 11
Review copies: 11
Canada/Alaska 2018: 6
Women in Translation Month: 3
Man Booker Prize Longlist: 2
PoC author: 5
Male author: 6
Female author: 21