Sunday, May 31, 2020

Review: Walking the Nile

Walking the Nile Walking the Nile by Levison Wood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Levison Woods *almost* walked the whole Nile but had to skip most of South Sudan due to what feels like civil war eternal. No explorer has made it completely through and most don't make it through Al-Sudd, pictured in the background. He started at one (contested) origin of the White Nile, in Rwanda.

There are a few mentions of British people "discovering" parts of the region even though he mocks the "discovery" of the Rosetta Stone later in the book. He does have respect for the communities he passes through but understandably, he is treated with a wary surveillance, with frequent stallings due to bureaucracy. He can plan for some situations but loses a travel companion to heat stroke. It's not a region I will likely ever visit myself so I took my time and looked up more on the internet as I went.

I did watch the BBC miniseries that goes with this but it's better to read the book first to have more of the detail for parts they skip, and context they don't provide.

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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Review: Catherine House

Catherine House Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was the perfect book for my reading mood - a spin on a campus novel where the institution known as Catherine House manages to be elite but also questionable, cutting off the outside world (and all technology) from the students for three years. It is moody and features a MC with a past, a mysterious layer of secret deeds, an external legacy, and art!

I think all the pieces are here and the fragmentation in how the novel is told aligns with Ines and how she experiences the world, but it did create a bit of a barrier between her story and what I get as the reader. Still, I ate it up in two evenings.

I had a copy from the publisher from NetGalley; it came out May 12. While we are all cut off from the outside world, we might as well connect to Catherine House.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Review: The Story Prize: 15 Years of Great Short Fiction

The Story Prize: 15 Years of Great Short Fiction The Story Prize: 15 Years of Great Short Fiction by Larry Dark
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm trying to get to some of my books of short stories by reading one almost every morning, so I'll keep track here.

This collection features the winning story from the last 15 years of The Story Prize, from Edwidge Danticat to Elizabeth Strout. I'd read four of these stories in their own collections already, but really enjoyed every story in this book for different reasons.

"The Book of Miracles" by Edwidge Danticat
Phew, heavier when you realize how much the mother is carrying and can't share. I've always meant to read more by this author.

"The Postman's Cottage" by Patrick O'Keeffe
The village, the people, the story all reminded me of Reservoir 13.

"My Podiatrist Tells Me a Story About a Boy and a Dog" by Mary Gordon
Stories inside a story about how we build friendships through stories.

"The Zero Meter Diving Team" by Jim Shepard
"...Reason was the ability to use the powers of the surrounding world without ruining that world."
Another Chernobyl story but well-told from the perspective of an oldest brother in Pripyat.

"Bullet in the Brain" by Tobias Wolff
Well the narrator just makes me think of the author really.

"Saleema" by Daniyal Mueenuddin
A woman in Pakistan tries to find connection in her limited life situations. Not cheery!

"Memory Wall" by Anthony Doerr (from Memory Wall)
The title story of that collection, about a woman who records memories and organizes them on a wall. Yep!

"Snowmen" by Steven Millhauser (from We Others)
Gorgeous writing about snowmen that come to life.

"Ghosts, Cowboys" by Claire Vaye Watkins
I had no idea that the author was the daughter of one of Charles Manson's crew, and this is a story about that, kind of. It's also about how stories are told, who they impact, and the setting is interesting. Some of the gory details are not for the weak!

"Tenth of December" by George Saunders (from Tenth of December)
This is my third time reading this story and I can only hear it in the author's voice. I don't want to spoil it but it starts with a boy taking a walk.

"Something Amazing" by Elizabeth McCracken
Is any child safe in this neighborhood?

"Nirvana" by Adam Johnson (from Fortune Smiles)
Holograms of people to get through tough times.. I remember this one from when I first read it years ago!

"How She Remembers It" by Rick Bass
A story about a daughter and her father on a trip to Yellowstone, but the entire time you feel a foreboding... about change, about aging, about memory.

"The Sign" Elizabeth Strout
An aging man in a rural area visits a neighbor and it brings up past grievances. Strout writes so much like Kent Haruf at times - very character focused writing, with such attention to detail.

The publisher sent me a copy of this more than a year ago; my apologies for the delay but I finally read it!
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Sunday, May 24, 2020

Review: Silence of the Chagos: A Novel

Silence of the Chagos: A Novel Silence of the Chagos: A Novel by Shenaz Patel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the upsides to quarantine is the opportunity to read books from my shelves. This slim read from Restless Books has the same translator as Eve out of Her Ruins, which takes place in Mauritius, a country which ends up playing a role in this novel as well.

Did you know that the people living in the Chagos were forcibly removed in the 60s and 70s? This novel moves before and after that time in fragments of different characters, then ends with more information about the current status of ongoing attempts for descendents of the original people to return home. Surrounding the people is the usual tale of governmental intrigue, countries valuing places for proximity to conflict zones and economic merit over the people residing there.

I happened to be approved for an eARC of a cookbook that had recipes from this region too, so look forward to In Bibi's Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries That Touch the Indian Ocean! I made ambrevades au curry the same day I read this book.

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Review: Lion Cross Point

Lion Cross Point Lion Cross Point by Masatsugu Ono
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this author's newly translated novel yesterday and felt chagrined I had not yet read this one, so I remedied that last night.

I saw a review that referred to this as "post-Murakami" and it does feel like it goes along with the shorter, character-driven novels I've read from Japan in the last few years, more often by female writers. It's also post-Murakami in the sense that it's all very much about reality and perception, no bonus moons or mysterious creatures here. Just the weirdness of humanity and nature.

The entire novel is told through the perspective of ten year old Takeru, returning to his mother's home. The reader is never told directly what has happened, and some pieces fall into pieces through what Takeru observes or remembers even if he doesn't understand (some because of age, some because of trauma.)

I also learned from this novel that there is a Tokyo accent. There is an interesting town vs. rural dynamic going on here, but instead of it being people looking down on the small rural town, it's very much the small town people being a bit disdainful of those in Tokyo.

Support small presses! I subscribe to Two Lines Press and they send me books every year along the way so really we both benefit. They do important translation work and are able to bring attention to authors that we wouldn't know about otherwise. You can follow the link I already provided to just buy their books too; this is a terribly difficult time for our independent presses and we must do what we can.

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Review: Sharks in the Time of Saviors

Sharks in the Time of Saviors Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Hawaiian family is thrown into turmoil when their middle son, Nainoa, is saved from drowning by sharks. He seems to develop an ability to heal but not all gifts are gifts. The novel follows Noa and his siblings as they attempt to forge their own identities, and the parents as they try to make ends meet.
This book was selected for the Tournament of Books CampToB so I'm looking forward to more people in my circles reading it. It's a very strong debut!

I had an ARC from the publisher which I read a bit late - this came out in March.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Reading Envy 190: The Good Life with Alex

Alex Wieckowski of of Alex & Books joins me to talk about books. Alex prefers books where he can learn something that can be applied to his life, and this will come across in his selections. He also talks about a book he has coming out in June about reading habits.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 190: The Good Life

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Books discussed:

Atomic Habits by James Clear
Hex by Rebecca Dinerstein Knight
The Forgotten Highlander by Alistair Urquhart
The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

Other mentions:

The Reader's Journey by Alex Wieckowski
The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein Knight
A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
How to Write Copy that Sells by Ray Edwards
Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath
To Be Taught, if Fortunate by Becky Chambers

Related episodes:

Episode 114 - Raised by Wolves with Karen Acosta
Episode 181 - An Awkward Woman with Yanira Ramirez
Episode 186 - This is Gravity with Jeff

Stalk us online:

Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy
Alex and Books blog
Alex's book The Reader's Journey
Alex is @alexandbooks_ on Instagram

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Reading Envy 189: Surreal Superpowers with Tim Ewins

First time novelist Tim Ewins joins Jenny in the Reading Envy Pub between their mutual time zones. We discuss humor and surrealism, translated works, and indie presses.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 189: Surreal Superpowers

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
Listen through Spotify

Books discussed:

All My Friends are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman
Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo
A Right Royal Face-Off by Simon Edge
Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi, translated by Marilyn Booth
Elefant by Martin Suter, translated by Jamie Bulloch

Other mentions:

We Are Animals by Tim Ewins
Eye and Lightning Books
Roald Dahl
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe
Jeanette Winterson
The Beat of the Pendulum by Catherine Chidgey
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Brutally Honest by Melanie Brown
Good-bye Pink Pig by C.S. Adler (the only copies are worth almost $1k!)
The Codes of Love by Hannah Persaud (not out in USA as of now)
The Ticking Heart by Andrew Kaufman

Stalk us online:

Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy
Tim at Goodreads
Tim's website
Tim is @quickbooksummaries on Instagram

Friday, May 1, 2020

Books Read April 2020: 77-107

Pictured: 5-star reads (the Harry Potter should be "Philosopher's Stone" since I listened to the UK version

77. Children of War by Deborah Ellis ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Hoopla eBook; my review)
78. The Malevolent Volume by Justin Phillip Reed ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
79. Slingshot by Cyrée Jarelle Johnson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from publisher; my review)
80. They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, illustrated by Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, & Harmony Becker ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Hoopla eBook; my review)
81. Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (library eBook; my review)
82. Home is a Stranger by Parnaz Foroutan ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
83. Billie by Anna Gavalda, translated by Jennifer Rappaport ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
84. Back to September by Melissa Brayden ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from publisher; my review)
85. Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Graywolf Galley Club; my review)
86. The Fortress by S.A. Jones ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
87. The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (review copy; my review)
88. Naming the Dawn by Abdourahman Waberi, translated by Nancy Naomi Carlson ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy eBook; my review)
89. Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi, translated by Marilyn Booth ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Hoopla eBook; my review)
90. $50,000 by Andrew Weatherhead ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from publisher; my review)
91. Then the Fish Swallowed Him by Amir Ahmadi Arian ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
92. The Experiment of West Kurdistan by Zaher Baher ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
93. Hex by Lauren Dinerstein Knight ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
94. Kissing Tolstoy by Penny Reid ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Hoopla eBook; my review)
95. Lady at the Window by Robert Waldron ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
96. An American Sunrise: Poems by Joy Harjo ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
97. 13th Balloon by Mark Bibbins ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from publisher; my review)
98. Days of Distraction by Alexandra Chang ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
99. Afterlife by Julia Alvarez ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
100. Dispatch by Cameron Awkward-Rich ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from publisher; my review)
101. The Foley Artist by Ricco Villanueva Siasoco ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from publisher; my review)
102. The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (library copy; my review)
103. Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
104. The Silent Treatment by Abbie Greaves ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
105. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Stephen Fry ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Audible Stories audiobook; my review)
106. Malicroix by Henri Bosco, translated by Joyce Zonana ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
107. A Very Punchable Face by Colin Jost ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)

Total Books Read: 31

Audiobook: 1
eBook: 23
Print: 7

Library: 6 (this includes library eBooks and Hoopla)
Review copy: 18
Own: 7

American/Canadian Indigenous Writers: 3
Graphic novel/comic: 1
Memoir: 3
Middle East 2020: 6
National Poetry Month: 10 (including one poet memoir)
Romance: 2
SFF: 3
Short Stories: 1
Translated: 4