Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Reading Envy 196: Miscommunication with Lindy

Lindy is back, just in time to share about her appointment to the Shadow Giller Jury. We talk about the Canadian book prize and its shadow, recent crafting projects, and recent reads. Jenny is focused on Persian lands in fantasy and a debut novel while Lindy has been reading Canadians from other places. If you would like to contribute to the 200th episode, please see the link in the show notes.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 196: Miscommunication

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Books discussed:

Polar Vortex by Shani Mootoo
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya
Daughters of Smoke and Fire by Ava Horna
How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa

Other mentions:

Contribute to the 200th episode (words, not money)
Scotiabank Giller Prize
Cereus Blooms at Night by Shani Mootoo
Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust
Helen Humphreys
Thomas King
Sorcery & Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
Vanishing Monuments by John Elizabeth Stintzi
Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford

Related episodes:

Episode 095 - Lose the Outside World with Lindy Pratch
Episode 107 - Reading Goals 2018 
Episode 124 - Mush Creatures with Lindy Pratch
Episode 159 - Reading Doorways with Lindy
Episode 191 - Stealthy yet Sparkly with Gail Carriger (Sorcery & Cecelia)
Episode 192 - Sly Milieu with Thomas (The Subtweet)

Stalk us online:

Lindy Reads and Reviews (blog)
Lindy on Twitter
Lindy is @Lindy on Litsy
Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy
Follow ShadowGiller on Twitter

Monday, July 27, 2020

Review: Sex and Vanity

Sex and Vanity Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you loved Crazy Rich Asians you'll love this too OR if you obsessed over E.M. Forster novels in your teens, this is a modern retelling of A Room with a View. Kwan starts in the days heading up to a wedding on Capri, and he knows his details are for such a small part of the population so he provides footnotes (don't skip them, they can be pretty funny.) It's the richest of the rich and their romantic dramas within the fanciest spaces in the fanciest clothes, a fluffy perfect summer read.

I haven't read all of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy but just the same, there are a few characters at least from that first novel that show up in the background here. It isn't necessary to have read those first, but it's a treat for those who have.

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Thursday, July 23, 2020

Review: Exciting Times

Exciting Times Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was really looking forward to this book because it had been compared to Normal People (please don't compare books like this, it sets the wrong expectations) but this was far from my experience. Where NP is angsty and violent, Exciting Times is reserved and full of feelings and thoughts almost expressed, but instead expressed only to the reader through drafted-but-never-sent text messages.

Obviously there is the old blessing, "May you live in exciting times." Halfway through the book I was pretty sure the title was ironic because honestly not much happens, a little more before the end of the book I guess. Ava teaches English to children in Hong Kong, which has some interesting ruminations because she speaks Irish English and teaching standard British English teaches her a lot about her language (if this does not sound exciting to you it's some of the most action that occurs) - she ends up moving in with a super rich Oxford graduated banker and they sleep together but he doesn't want people to know (also wants her to live with him, go figure.) When he goes elsewhere for a work reason, she gets involved with Edith, a lawyer born in Hong Kong. When Julian comes home, I guess this was supposed to be the exciting part as Ava is torn between two people, but it didn't really feel that dramatic. One person doesn't obviously seem to want her, and the other isn't willing to be one of three (this to me seemed a reasonable line to draw.)

Most of the steamy stuff takes place off the page, and emotions are inferred and not expressed (very British I guess.) Both Julian and Edith are workaholics and while Edith at least can express her feelings for Ava, both have different reasons to hide their relationships with her. Ava lives through Instagram stalking and imagining what she might say but doesn't.

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Saturday, July 18, 2020

Review: My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Mending of Our Bodies and Hearts

My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Mending of Our Bodies and Hearts My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Mending of Our Bodies and Hearts by Resmaa Menakem
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"A calm, settled body is the foundation for health, for healing, for helping others, and for changing the world."

I’ve been reading this book s-l-o-w-l-y because the author wants the reader to stop and actually do the practices. There is a lot here about dealing with racialized trauma, not only for individuals but within communities. Specific practices are for black people, and others for white people. There are several chapters about rethinking how police are trained to deal with trauma as well.

If you know mindfulness practices, some of the practices here will be familiar if not quite the same. The strategies for settling the body are definitely some I will be working with.

He ends the book with a challenge for transforming communities and everyday activism. I read this in Hoopla but need to buy it as it isn’t possible to absorb it all the first time.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Review: The Good Life Elsewhere

The Good Life Elsewhere The Good Life Elsewhere by Vladimir Lorchenkov
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was scanning my shelves for books set in Eastern Europe and found this gem - by a Moldovan author and set in Moldova. It's after the dissolution of the USSR and the people in a town feel like the only way to move forward is to get to Italy, but without money or opportunities it's easier said than done. Lots of funny moments, surprising darkness, and a new Crusade for modern times.

The humor is pretty slapstick in a situation that's already funny for satirical reasons so it may not be everyone's taste, especially since some of the punchlines involve domestic abuse and, well, murder. You get used to it.

Here's a tiny example of the humor:
"He ran unabashedly, like a woman who's not embarrassed to show a strange man her underarm."

I think I got a copy of this back when New Vessel Press was first promoting their books, and I'm not sure if they gave this to me or if I bought it but just in case, they may have sent it to me! Obviously I didn't read it when it came out since that was 2014, and my opinions are as ever my own. I do think someone there has a sense of humor because I remember another funny novel from them - Some Day

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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Reading Envy 195: Muchness

Nadine is back to talk about books we've read and liked recently, and we also end up thinking more about campus novels, mighty tomes, and short science fiction. If you want to contribute to the 200th episode, please see the link in the show notes.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 195: Muchness

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
Or listen via Stitcher
Or listen through Spotify 
New! Listen through Google Podcasts

Books discussed:


99 Nights in Logar by Jamil Jan Kochai
The Eighth Life by Nino Harataschvili, translated by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin
Bunny by Mona Awad
The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels
Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann

Other mentions:

Contribute to the 200th episode (words, not money)
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights by Anon
Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, translated by Sophie Hughes
Eric Karl Anderson, LonesomeReader - interview with Nino, Charlotte, and Ruth
International Booker Prize
Barkskins by Annie Proulx
13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad
The Pisces by Melissa Broder
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Moo by Jane Smiley
The Lecturer's Tale by James Hynes
Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann
The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf

The Empress of Salt & Fortune by Nghi Vo
P. Djeli Clark
Tor.com ebook club
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
2020 Locus Awards
Murderbot series by Martha Wells
Kate Baker
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
Frederick Douglass by David W. Blight
The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho

Related episodes:

Episode 118 - Reading Envy Readalong: To the Bright Edge of the World
Episode 129 - Coming Back to Books with Nadine
Episode 152 - Kill 'em and Leave with Nadine 
Episode 185 - The Loyal Swineherd (Odyssey readalong)

Stalk us online:

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

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Review: Crooked Hallelujah

Crooked Hallelujah Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Can I love anything the way that I used to love the mystery of my mother, her strength in suffering?"

This novel follows four generations of Cherokee women from the 1970s into the near future, mostly focusing on their relationships with each other. One mother, Justine, leaves the comfort of her family to try to make a better living in Texas with her daughter Reney, and those two are largely the focus.

There is a thread of Pentecostalism throughout as Justine's mother attends a Holiness church, meaning long dresses and speaking in tongues and a lot of rules. That sets the stage for quite a bit of rebellion and subterfuge.

I've seen so many reviews from readers complaining there are "not enough" native elements, so disappointed these strong women are not "being more Cherokee" and how it is "really just about poor people." I don't even know where to start with readers who punish a book for their own lack of understanding. Others were upset over having to work to figure out the narrator in new sections. Please ignore those reviews if you are interested in the lives of strong women with a lot working against them, in a bleak landscape like Oklahoma and Texas, and if you're not afraid of a little work on the reader's part.

This book comes out July 14 and I had a copy from the publisher through Netgalley.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Review: That We May Live

That We May Live That We May Live by Chen Si'an
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"The essential idea behind Calico is, let's talk to the translators... find out what's interesting, what's not being published in English, what's percolating in other parts of the world that we haven't heard about yet. THAT WE MAY LIVE is a collection of speculative Chinese fiction... of unnerving, uncanny, weird stories about urbanization and late capitalism." - Chad Felix of Two Lines Press in this interview.

I've been reading these stories very slowly, just one every few days/weeks or so, since I shelved it next to my computer where I work all the time. They definitely feel like they are in conversation with other works from Asia, particularly South Korea, but that connection may be more about what has been translated vs. what hasn't been.

Sour Meat by Dorothy Tse
A surreal story about a stinky brew, also about women's bodies... would have loved some editor or translator notes with some context as it seems intentionally sexual as if it is trying to push boundaries, but what are the boundaries in China, I don't know....

Auntie Han's Modern Life by Enoch Tam
"Every time she came home, she felt as if it were to a different house on a different street."
garden-keepers cultivating skyscrapers
houses that move, houses that are depressed

Lip Service by Zhu Hui
Oof! A punchy tale of what a naturally beautiful woman has to be willing to do to stay on top.

The Elephant by Chan Chi Wa
Clearly in conversation with "The Elephant Vanishes" by Haruki Murakami, the narrator of this story has a similar emotional experience about an elephant but it has the added layer of living in a state of surveillance.

The Mushroom Houses Proliferated in District M by Enoch Tam
Continuing the themes of the earlier story by the same author, it's about the garden keepers and their war with the mushrooms.

A Counterfeit Life by Chen Si'an
"He started roaming around every corner of the city, searching for those spots in which people being waited for might fail to show up."

Flourishing Beasts by Yan Ge
Are you a [woman] or are you a [beast]?
View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Review: Daughters of Smoke and Fire

Daughters of Smoke and Fire Daughters of Smoke and Fire by Ava Homa
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Leila and Chia are siblings in Kurdistan, technically in the Kurdish part of Iran, when their father is named an enemy of the state and not allowed to work. Their family struggles for money while both children also try to get an education, but the odds are not in Leila's favor (and she wants to be a filmmaker in a region that polices everything including books and films.) Then her brother disappears....

In my year of reading more in the Middle East, this novel came at a perfect time. The author is also from Kurdistan/Iran but had greater access to education through scholarship programs overseas (the novel was written in English.) Homa shows how governments (plural) intentionally keep the Kurdish people down through keeping their regions from developing, limiting access to education, and requiring children not to speak their childhood language.

I had a copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss; it came out May 12, 2020.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Books Read June 2020: 136-164

Pictured: 5-star reads for June

All Books Read:

136. Vera Kelly is Not a Mystery by Rosalie Knecht ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (print galley; my review)
137. Miss Iceland by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, translated by Brian FitzGibbon ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
138. The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
139. Scorpionfish by Natalie Bakopoulos ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (print galley; my review)
140. A World Between by Emily Hashimoto ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from publisher; my review)
141. Unfit to Print by KJ Charles, read by Vikas Adam ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Hoopla audiobook; my review)
142. Homie by Danez Smith ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from publisher; my review)
143. Apsara Engine by Bishakh Kumar Som ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from publisher; my review)
144. These Ghosts are Family by Maisy Card ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (print galley; my review)
145. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin, narrated by Robin Miles ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Audible audiobook; my review)
146. Countdown City by Ben H. Winters ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Kindle eBook; my review)
147. The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (print galley; my review)
148. The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann, translated by Jen Calleja ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
149. You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
150. Rage Against the Minivan by Kristen Howerton ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
151. IraqiGirl by "Hadiya" ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
152. Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
153. Things That Make White People Uncomfortable by Michael Bennett ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
154. Everything My Mother Taught Me by Alice Hoffman ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Amazon Prime ebook; my review)
155. Can You Feel This? by Julie Orringer ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Amazon Prime ebook; my review)
156. The Lion's Den by Anthony Marra ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Amazon Prime ebook; my review)
157. Zenith Man by Jennifer Haigh ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Amazon Prime ebook; my review)
158. The Weddings by Alexander Chee ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Amazon Prime ebook; my review)
159. The Eighth Life by Nino Harataschwili, translated by Charlotte Collins & Ruth Martin ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
160. The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
161. The Fire Never Goes Out by Noelle Stevenson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (print galley from publisher; my review)
162. The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (print galley from publisher; my review)
163. Home by Jenn Alexander ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from publisher; my review)
164. Catrachos by Roy G. Guzmán ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Graywolf Galley Club; my review)

Books read: 29

Audiobook: 2
eBook: 17
Print: 10

Library copy: 1 (not surprising as none of my libraries are open!)
Personal copy: 11
Review copy: 17

MiddleEast2020: 2
PrideMonth: 10
#ReadCaribbean: 1
ReadingEnvySummerReading: 1

Biography/Memoir: 2
Poetry: 2
Romance: 4
Sci-Fi/Fantasy: 2
YA: 1

Camp ToB: 1
International Booker Prize: 2