Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Reading Envy 145: Things Get Dark

Bianca joins Jenny for a late-night chat about books, and we follow all tangents to the end. We cover cults, manga and comics, and middle-grade reads. Bianca talks about her monthly themed reads in 2018 and how that has inspired her focused reading in 2019. Jenny begs your forgiveness for a few coughing spells; allergies have hit early in the south. (She edited everything out that she could.)

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 145: Things Get Dark

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Books discussed:



Breaking Free by Rachel Jeffs
Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn
My Brother's Husband Vol. 1 by Gengoroh Tagame
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

Other mentions:

I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
Ghosts of the Tsunami by Richard Lloyd Parry
Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick
A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole
Big Love (tv show)
Serafina and the Black Cloak book trailer
Biltmore Estate
Willa of the Wood by Robert Beatty
Over the Rainbow Booklist final bibliographies for 2018
Heavy Vinyl (comic series)
Backstagers (comic series)
Boom Studios
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Phoenix ComiCon (formerly known as)
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

Related Episodes:

Episode 051 - Dreaming in Books with Karen
Episode 127 - The Sadness Between Books with Bianca Escalante

Stalk us online:
Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy
Bianca is @bianca on Litsy

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Review: Bottled Goods (Fairlight Moderns): Longlisted for Women's Prize for Fiction 2019

Bottled Goods (Fairlight Moderns): Longlisted for Women's Prize for Fiction 2019 Bottled Goods (Fairlight Moderns): Longlisted for Women's Prize for Fiction 2019 by Sophie van Llewyn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had not heard of this book before it was announced as one of the Women's Prize long list. It is a short read told in flash style, like lists and little vignettes, set in Romania during the Ceaușescu era (1970s.)

Alina married a man in a lower class and really starts to regret it when his brother leaves the country without permission, making them a new target for the secret police. Mix that kind of oppression and intrigue with a folksy fantasy element and you end up with a unique read! I loved the ending, at least how I interpret it. If you read it, let me know so we can confer.

View all my reviews

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Review: Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir

Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you have followed Ruth Reichl through her memoirs, this takes place between Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise and My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life, telling the story of her experience as the editor for Gourmet Magazine up until its shocking closure. I feel this memoir is for foodies first, but will also be of interest for anyone in publishing or the arts. The people working for Gourmet cultivated an environment of creative exploration and perfection that made the magazine what it is, and I loved reading about each person's contributions and how the magazine reflected the changing culture of food in the United States. There's an entire chapter, for instance, about the publication of "Consider the Lobster" by David Foster Wallace, which I had no idea was first published in Gourmet!

In a different voice, I can see how this story could be obnoxious. So many famous people, so many fancy meals and expensive restaurants, so many trends in food and fashion. But Ruth Reichl is so direct, honest, and open that the story transforms into something more heartwarming than it feels it has the right to be.

Unlike My Kitchen Year which is sometimes referred to as a cookbook (although I personally still feel it is more memoir than recipe), this memoir only has 3-4 recipes. I have my eye on that chocolate cake that helped her establish kitchen credibility with her staff. If I make it, I'll come back to post a link here.

This book comes out April 2. I received an early copy from Random House through NetGalley.

View all my reviews

Thoughts on the Women's Prize for Fiction Longlist

I can't help myself, I pay attention to award lists, especially longlists. Tonight, the Women's Prize for Fiction longlist was announced, and I thought I'd write a short response. I've actually read 6 of these already!

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
I haven't read this one yet but I remember seeing it in the reshelving area at work so I might snag it. Myth retellings are not often a hit with me, but I am still interested in this one.

Remembered by Yvonne Battle-Felton
I had not heard of this book or author, but it doesn't even come out until August, so I'm not surprised. A historical novel set in Philadelphia.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
This is one book that's on the Tournament of Books shortlist that I haven't read yet. I've heard it's pulpy, comic, and short, but I can't find a copy in all my library options to save my life.

The Pisces by Melissa Broder
Gah, I can't believe I haven't read this one yet. Completely mean to, for sure.

Milkman by Anna Burns
Winner of the Man Booker Prize, this was not a five-star read for me. I've heard the audio really helps, but I always was left feeling like I'd missed the humor that others had seen. My longer review is here if you are interested.

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
This is a stand-out, unusual novel that I really loved. The author has said they do not identify as one gender, so I was taken back a little, but I'm not the only one. The Guardian picked up on that story immediately. It would align with feminist theory to be more inclusive, but I expect there will be discussion about this decision.

Ordinary People by Diana Evans
This one isn't on my radar although I see it came out in October, about marital strife in two South London couples. It sounds like my kind of thing, but perhaps too stereotypically "domestic" to be the winner of the Women's Prize?

Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott
This doesn't come out until June, but looks to be about the six women surrounding Truman Capote. Hmm.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
I read this before it was an Oprah Book Club pick, but I'm happy to see it on this list. The storytelling technique of rotating narratives, the setting of Atlanta, the issue of black male incarceration - it leaves a lot to discuss.  My review discusses it a little more in depth and can be found here.

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lilian Li
I could have sword I read this book! Maybe I've just seen the cover a bunch.

Bottled Goods by Sophie van Llewyn
Ooh, a small-press book about spies. I might have to read this one next. Oh look I just bought the Kindle version.

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
I've swirled around this one - a road trip plus a border story should be good, but I didn't like her teeth novel so I've been dragging my feet.

Praise Songs for the Butterflies by Bernice L McFadden
Set in West Africa, about ritual sacrifice/slavery. It didn't immediately peak my interest when it came out but maybe more people will read it now.

Circe by Madeline Miller
This is one of two five-star reads on this list for me, and I also included it in my best reads of 2018. It's the story of Circe, a character in the Odyssey, from her perspective, and it is genius. A powerful woman, a compelling narrative, beautiful writing.  My review is here.

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
This is the only book I've read by this author despite meaning to read her work for a while, and it was one in a number of books with domineering father figures, too much for me. My review is here.

Normal People by Sally Rooney
I have been waiting forever for this book to come out in the United States and it still has a month and a half to go. I don't usually talk about books that aren't out yet on my podcast but when Anna Baillee-Karas was on, we talked around it because I had just finished it and knew she'd liked it too. It's mostly a relationship with tons of conversation and I loved it. I was so bummed it didn't make the Man Booker shortlist! My review is here, and the podcast episode where I kind of talked about it a bit is here

Friday, March 1, 2019

Books Read February 2019: 23-50


Pictured are 5-star reads for February

23. Outline by Rachel Cusk ***** (library book; my review)
24. The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara ***** (print galley; my review)
25. Fired Up by Andrew Johnston ***** (library book; my review)
26. Sugar Run by Mesha Maren **** (print galley; my review)
27. The Enchanted Hour by Meghan Cox Gurdon **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
28. My Brother's Husband Vol. 1 by Gengoroh Tagame ***** (interlibrary loan; my review)
29. The Cloud Atlas by Liam Callanan *** (interlibrary loan; my review)
30. The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray **** (print galley; my review)
31. My Brother's Husband Vol. 2 by Gengoroh Tagame **** (print galley; my review)
32. After Dark by Haruki Murakami **** (personal copy; my review)
33. The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal **** (Audible audiobook; my review)
34. The Cassandra by Sharma Shields *** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
35. Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty **** (Prime Reads; my review)
36. Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire **** (print galley; my review)
37. The Lie and How We Told It by Tommi Parrish **** (print galley; my review)
38. Last Night in Nuuk by Niviaq Korneliussen **** (Hoopla eBook; my review)
39. Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader by Marc Lesser *** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
40. Nothing but the Night by John Williams **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
41. A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole **** (Hoopla audiobook; my review)
42. Small Beauty by jia qing wilson-yang **** (personal copy; my review)
43. More than Words by Jill Santopolo **** (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
44. Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras **** (interlibrary loan; my review)
45. The Twenty-Ninth Year by Hala Alyan **** (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
46. Roots Grew Wild by Erica Hoffmeister *** (eARC from publisher; my review)
47. Double Awesome Chinese Food by Margaret, Irene, and Andrew Li ***** (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
48. Little Fish by Casey Plett **** (print galley; my review)
49. America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo **** (Audible audiobook; my review)
50. In at the Deep End by Kate Davies **** (eARC from publisher; my review)

Books Finished in February: 28

Audiobooks: 3
eBooks: 12
Print: 13

Library: 7
Personal: 5
Review: 16


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Review: America Is Not the Heart

America Is Not the Heart America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a great read about several Filipino women - one who supports her family as a nurse, returning to the Philippines at one point before marrying and moving to the United States. The focus eventually turns to Hero, who is a refugee after living as a political prisoner for ten years. She finds home and family in a Filipino community in California and even finds love. The end of the novel, in fact turns into a bit of a romance novel, and possibly the most realistic portrayal of a bisexual woman I have seen in fiction.

I learned a lot about Filipino languages, culture, and history that I didn't know before.

There are a lot of pop culture references inside the novel itself, much of them for Filipino movies, tv shows, and music. If you felt left out or uneducated, you can at least listen to the author's Spotify playlist for the novel.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Reading Envy 144: For the Fans with Thomas of Hogglestock

Thomas, who many know from his former stint on The Readers podcast, joins Jenny in the pub to chat books. The number of books both of us have read makes the discussion deep and well-considered, although Jenny never admits to reading the postman-haiku book. Jenny also shares a little about her experience on the ALA Over the Rainbow Booklist Committee. This episode is a little longer than many of the Reading Envy episodes, but as Thomas says, this is for the fans.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 144: For the Fans

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
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Books discussed:



Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
The Debut by Anita Brookner
The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Thériault
Outline by Rachel Cusk
The Road Home by Rose Tremain
The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara


Other mentions:

Anita Brookner's London (still in process)
What's Gaby Cooking by Gaby Dalkin
Smitten Kitchen
Becoming by Michelle Obama
The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson
Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson
Free Air by Sinclair Lewis
The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye
Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner
Eugénie Grandet by Honoré de Balzac
Providence by Anita Brookner
Look at Me by Anita Brookner
Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
E.M. Forster
Kudos by Rachel Cusk
The Tournament of Books
Andorra by James Cameron
The Infatuations by Javier Marias
The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain
ALA Over the Rainbow Booklist Committee
The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith (later known as Carol)
Paris is Burning (film)
Helen McGuinness
Sourdough by Robin Sloan
Anthony Trolloppe
Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
Jeff VanderMeer's review of Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
Colm Toibin


Related Episodes:

Episode 085 - An Acquired Taste with Thomas Otto
Episode 139 - Stocking Stuffer (Best Reads of 2018)


Stalk us online:
Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy
Thomas on Twitter
Thomas at his blog, hogglestock

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Review: The Twenty-Ninth Year

The Twenty-Ninth Year The Twenty-Ninth Year by Hala Alyan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the publisher blurb: "In Islamic and Western tradition, age twenty-nine is a milestone, a year of transformation and upheaval."

It's fitting that these poems all deal with the feeling of place and belonging, examining whether or not the poet is happy or where she wants to be, and who she wants to be with. Memories and dreams intertwine with the emotions of the moment, and a struggle with sobriety, and I really took my time to read and reread these poems.

Some of my highlights:

Armadillo
"...The Doha villa still makes me cry and it takes a decade to understand what my parents always knew: all the love in the world won't buy you what you wanted in the first place...."

You're Not a Girl in a Movie
"...there's always a dark darker than the dark you know."

Step Eight: Make Amends
"...Scream that he is an asshole, that there are girls you'd
be kissing if it weren't for him, that you are trying to
Pottery Barn your way to quiet...."

The Honest Wife
"...I lied and said I loved Philadelphia, but really I just loved the idea of a place so old it only knew how to tell the truth."

I received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The book came out January 29, 2019. I had previously read and really liked the novel Salt Houses, so I was very interested in the poems.

View all my reviews

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Review: Nothing But the Night

Nothing But the Night Nothing But the Night by John Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This cover, man, I don't know.

This is the author's debut novel, which he wrote after dropping out of college. The novel starts with a disturbing but memorable dream sequence. The main character, Arthur, is a college dropout and seems to be suffering from PTSD, but from unknown circumstances. He struggles to connect with others, and then his father comes to town.

Stoner by John Williams remains one of my favorite novels, and is not in danger of being replaced by this one. This reads more like psychological drama/horror (with some violence towards women) and/or commentary on loneliness.

This edition (NYRB Classics) has an interview with the author's wife, and that might have been my favorite thing.

I received a copy of this from the publisher through Edelweiss. It came out 12 February 2019.

View all my reviews

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Review: The Cassandra

The Cassandra The Cassandra by Sharma Shields
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Cassandra by Sharma Shields is a retelling of the classic Cassandra myth, set at the Hanford nuclear facility during World War II. Full disclosure, I once again missed that it was a myth retelling until after I read it.

Mildred gets a job at Hanford as a secretary, and happily leaves home in Omak, Washington, where she had been her mother's caregiver. There is also a sense that she tried to kill her mother, but this isn't immediately explained.

Once at Hanford, the other women discover that Mildred has a penchant for sleepwalking, but with visions. She often wakes in the middle of the night in a river or a lake! She has visions of great violence at work as well.

Except. There is this feeling of Patricia Highsmith level of sociopath in Mildred that makes her completely unsympathetic as a character ... And it gets darker and darker up to the end of the novel. I don't know if this is a match to the myth, or if it the author's brilliant way of turning the reader into one more person who refuses to listen....

I had a copy from the publisher through Edelweiss. It came out February 12, 2019.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Review: The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction

The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I went into this expecting a lighter read about the love of books and instead found a deep scholarly work examining several topics connected to reading aloud. It spans brain development, bonding, and even looks at some studies of parents who were incarcerated or serving in the military recording themselves reading to their children and how that lessened anxiety.

I always make the students in my reading class read out loud, but I think this book will add some scholarly depth to that practice.

Personal connection wise, I smiled over the section on the Iliad and Odyssey, because when I was in T.A.G. English in 9th grade, we were divided into groups and told to "do something creative" and my group made a radio play, which in its own way is a form of reading aloud!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Reading Envy 143: Reading the Pain

Spoiler alert - it's not all pain. Kala visits with Jenny in the Reading Envy Pub for the first time, and talks about how she likes books that put her in her feelings best. Near the end of this episode, Kala performs a book identification feat that rivals most librarians - figuring out a book from Jenny's desperate plea - "It's pink!"

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 143: Reading the Pain

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
NEW! Listen through Spotify


Books discussed:



I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem by Maryse Conde
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle
Lucky You by Erika Carter
The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib
The Best American Food Writing 2018 edited by Ruth Reichl


Other mentions:

3 Book Girls podcast
Segu by Maryse Conde
Children of Segu by Maryse Conde
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson
Educated by Tara Westover
Heavy by Kiese Laymon
Hunger by Roxane Gay
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
The Hundred Wells of Salaga by Ayesha Harruna Attah
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Severance by Ling Ma

 
Stalk us online:
Jenny at Goodreads
Kala on Twitter
Jenny on Twitter
Kala on Facebook
Kala's blog, Reader then Blogger
Kala is @ReaderthenBlogger on Instagram
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy