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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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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
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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.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Reading Envy 121: Love, Lust, Loss, and Longing

This is Casey's first time as a guest on the podcast, although his voice may sound familiar from the Best of the Year episodes. Our original conversation was over three hours long, so Jenny is hoping the holes aren't super obvious, but that you enjoy our chat about northern lit and what we look for in books.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 121: Love, Lust, Loss, and Longing.

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:

I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven
Two in the Far North by Margaret Murie
Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
Jaws of Life by Laura Leigh Morris
Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson
Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao

Picture of the carving Casey mentions:

Other Mentions: 

Kwakiutl, self-name Kwakwaka'wakw
Frank Muller, audiobook narrator 
The Home Front by Margaret Craven
One Man's Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey by Richard Proenneke
Waterland by Graham Swift
Iris Murdoch
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
Downton Abbey (tv series)

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Scott McClanahan
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, 2018 West Virginia episode
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector
Circe by Madeleine Miller
Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel

Related episodes:
Episode 070 - Words Like Weapons with Yanira Ramirez
Episode 105 - Best Reads of 2017 

Stalk us online:

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

Friday, June 1, 2018

Books 124-142 of 2018

Pictured: 5-star reads

124. Two from the Far North by Margaret Murie **** (borrowed copy; my review)
125. Only Human (Themis Files #3) by Sylvain Neuvel ***** (review audiobook; my review)
126. The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui **** (Hoopla eBook; my review)
127. Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson ***** (Hoopla audiobook; my review)
128. The Heart by Maylis de Kerengal **** (library book; my review)
129. Illuminae (Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff **** (personal eBook copy; my review)
130. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler **** (personal copy; my review)
131. So Lucky by Nicola Griffith ***** (review copy eBook; my review)
132. Mating in Captivity by Helen Zuman *** (review copy eBook; my review)
133. Three Sides Water by Peter Donahue **** (review copy eBook; my review)
134. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett *** (Hoopla audiobook; my review)
135. Tin Man by Sarah Winman ***** (review copy eBook; my review)
136. Trash Mountain by Bradley Bazzle **** (review copy eBook; my review)
137. This Must Be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell **** (library book; my review)
138. Circe by Madeleine Miller ***** (personal copy; my review)
139. Standing at the Edge by Joan Halifax **** (review copy eBook; my review)
140. American Hippo by Sarah Gailey ***** (review copy eBook; my review)
141. Spy of the First Person by Sam Shepard **** (library copy; my review)
142. Unlearning to Fly by Jennifer Brice **** (borrowed copy; my review)