Thursday, December 2, 2021

Books Read November 2021: 237-256

I sadly left four books partly read by the time November turned into December so this might be my briefest month yet. It's been a busy one, but it also aligned with an attempt to finish as many holiday reads as I could (see previous post) and start in on the Tournament of Books longlist. Add 3/4 weeks feeling under the weather (thank you, all the germs from all the children in public schools) and this is what you get.

A gentle reminder that all reviews can still be seen on my Goodreads profile (the review will be with the book; the format will be specified unless it's in print.) And the books with green outlines are my 5-star reads for the month!

237. Strange Beasts of China by Yan Ge, translated by Jeremy Tiang  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
238. Sex Cult Nun by Faith Jones  ⭐️⭐️⭐️
239. Mistletoe Christmas by Eloisa James et al  ⭐️⭐️⭐️
240. The Legend of the Christmas Witch by Aubrey Plaza and Dan Harmon; read by Aubrey Plaza ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
241. When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut; translated by Adrian West; read by Adam Barr  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
242. Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
243. The Naughty List by Ellie Mae MacGregor   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
244.  Matrix by Lauren Groff; read by Adjoa Andoh  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
245.  Love, Lists, & Fancy Ships by Sarah Grunder Ruiz  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
246.  Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
247.  Against Silence by Frank Bidart  ⭐️⭐️⭐️
248.  The Holiday Switch by Tif Marcelo; read by Leiana Bertrand   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
249.  Meet Me in London by George Toffolo  ⭐️⭐️⭐️
250.  Embers by Sandor Marai; translated by Carol Brown Janeway  ⭐️
251.  The FSG Poetry Anthology edited by Jonathan Galassi ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
252.  100 Boyfriends by Brontez Purnell  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
253.  Always in December by Emily Stone  ⭐️⭐️
254.  The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
255.  Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
256.  Beautiful World, Where Are You? by Sally Rooney  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Total Books Read: 20

audio: 4
eBook: 13
print: 3

Library: 4
TBR: 1
Purchased 2021: 1
Review copy: 14

Around the World: 2
Booker Prize Long or shortlist: 1
Europe 2021: 1
National Book Award finalist (long or short): 2
Read the World 21 (Greater China): 1
Tournament of Books: 5

Memoir: 1
Poetry: 1
Romance: 5
Sci-fi/fantasy: 1
Translated: 3
Women in Translation: 0

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Holiday Reading Recommendations 2021

I read a handful of 2021 holiday releases so you don't have to, and now will share my thoughts. While I realize Hanukkah is not "Jewish Christmas," there is one Hanukkah-themed romance of note that will be included below. There is something for everyone - romance, cozy mystery, cookbooks, and writings from the past!

After the new release list, I'll include a few more recommendations!

 

Amor, Actually: A Holiday Romance Anthology
by Adriana Herrera, Alexis Daria, Diana Muñoz Stewart, Mia Sosa, Priscilla Oliveras, Sabrina Sol, Zoey Castile

This doesn't come out until December 7th, so I haven't had a chance to try it yet, but there are some authors I like on this list! 

Baking for the Holidays: 50+ Treats for a Festive Season
by Sarah Kieffer

I am so excited for this cookbook! This is my first year having kids in my home and I have a long list of treats I want to make for and with them. The full-color illustrated step-by-step instructions really make this cookbook stellar, and I like the creativity in the recipes. I look at a lot of holiday cookbooks and could still find ideas to try in this one. The Rainy Day Bites Cookbook Challenge group in Instagram has been baking through this cookbook in Instagram for November and December so you can find a lot to look at there.

Christmas Past: An Anthology of Seasonal Stories from Nineteenth-Century America edited by Thomas Ruys Smith

This is for the scholars or those interested in historical readings from the era that Christmas really became popularized in English-speaking places, the Victorian era.

The Legend of the Christmas Witch
by Aubrey Plaza and Dan Murphy, read by Aubrey Plaza

Move over Kris Kringle, his sister has her own story to tell. I loved that this is Aubrey Plaza (aka The Office) and loved to have a witchy narrative for this season!

The Matzah Ball
by Jean Meltzer

A Jewish romance writer has always had Christmas as her secret obsession, and has made a comfortable life based on the sales of her Christmas romance novels. But times are changing and her publisher wants something "more Jewish." It's SO meta in that the actual author is struggling through a lot of cultural assumptions while also making it work, and I thought it was cute, and all well intentioned. Please see aforementioned disclaimer that I now Hanukkah is not the same as Christmas.

Mistletoe Christmas
by Eloisa James, Christi Caldwell, Janna MacGregror, and Erica Ridley

These four interlocking stories all take place during the same holiday revelry, in 1815, at the Duke of Greystone's palatial home. I got a little confused because I Googled him in case he was a character in one of these four romance writers' worlds but it's Tarzan? Bizarre.

One woman has been told she's unattractive her whole life and has accepted it (but maybe her father just wanted to control her?); one woman got tired of waiting for a fiance and ended an engagement, only to reconnect during the revelry; one woman rediscovers her husband of one year; one woman is 23 and destined to be an old maid forever.

Maybe it's the time period and I'm not used to it; maybe these characters have more fleshed out stories in other books, but for me, it's not enough for a man to want to kiss me for me to believe anything! These women jump to love/belief so quickly it's amazing it's not four stories of betrayal and cons. (I suppose we especially want to believe under the mistletoe...) 

Murder Most Festive: A Cozy Christmas Mystery
by Ada Moncrieff 

If you combined my two favorite British shows - Downton Abbey and Grantchester (until James Norton left) - you would have this rompy novel about a murder at a grand house. It is set later than those shows but still had those feelings, so I'd recommend it. And it looks like there may be previous books by this author with similar tone. 

The Naughty List
by Ellie Mae MacGregor

I keep referring to this book as "The Santa Smut" in my head and can never find it when I search for it because of this. If you've ever wanted a sexy Santa, this is the novella for you. Only in Kindle. And technically it isn't a new release but I read it this year and only discovered the author this year.

The Santa Suit
by Mary Kay Andrews

This is a traditional romance with the storyline trope of a woman, freshly single, moving to a small (NC) town to restart her life. And as with most small town romances, there are quirky townspeople, blue-collar love interests, and a bit of holiday magic.

That's my shortlist. I read a few more romance and/or contemporary/women's fiction novels but can't really recommend them so I'll leave it here.

A few recommendations from previous years:

2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino
I only ever read this because of a mystery postal book swap, but it's very cute and takes place over the 24 hours of Christmas Eve to Christmas.

American Christmas and Mangos and Mistletoe by Adriana Herrera - full disclosure I haven't read either of these but I've read other novellas by this author and love her characters!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Can't think of a better classic.

Dash and Lily series
The books and the tv series are super feel-good, YA but family-friendly, about two friends in a light romance involving bookishness and a variety of cultural backgrounds.

Home Made Christmas by Yvette van Boven
I made so many great dishes from this cookbook in 2018 and 2019!

If the Fates Allow by various
I found this collection of short stories, all very sweet and happy and featuring LGBTQ+ characters, in Hoopla. My favorites included a woman volunteering at an animal shelter and one featuring a matchmaker librarian!
 

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Review: Beautiful World, Where Are You

Beautiful World, Where Are You Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I started this book, I was so confused, I had to go back once I had a better handle on the characters. Chapters alternate between narration of events and emails about the same events, but it always takes a while to figure out which female character is writing, because, I'll say it, they sound so much the same. Probably not so much different from the author's own voice.

I liked the idea of friends staying connected with long, philosophical emails, like back in early email days or when everyone had a Livejournal. But in this case their forms of communication almost serve to isolate them from one another, to excuse their introversion, and this does lead to some pretty significant misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

There are two male characters as well, and while they are present on practically every page, they aren't the point of the novel, even if the women are always adjusting in relation to them.

I'm one of the people who loved Normal People and didn't care about all the people who hated it. Still I waited a good bit of time before reading this one so I could enjoy it in my own corner. But then I didn't really enjoy it that much. There are a lot of pieces here but not really a structured plot. Events happen but they aren't the central events of their lives, although we do get a hint of those. I also feel like Eileen reads like a variation of Marianne from Normal People. Marianne is actually more social!

Still, it's not often I find a book about friendship between people in their 30s and 40s and at least that's part of it. There is also an epilogue of sorts that places the characters during the pandemic. As with most epilogues, was that needed?

I will not speculate on how I think this will do in the Tournament or Books (it's on the long list.)

View all my reviews

Reading Envy 234: Punctuation Marks with Nadine

Jenny and Nadine reconvene to talk about reasons not to set reading goals, look back on the year, and discuss which books we've read and enjoyed lately.

Download or listen via this link:
Reading Envy 234: Punctuation Marks

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Books discussed:

book covers of the five books discussed plus reading envy logo

Mr. Eternity by Aaron Their
Mud Sweeter than Honey: Voices of Communist Albania by Margo Rejner; translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
History in Pieces (short story) by Beth Goder
Em by Kim Thuy
Three Apples Fell from the Sky by Narine Abgaryan, translated by Lisa C. Hayden

Other mentions:

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
The Actual Star by Monica Byrne
Svetlana Alexievich
bethgoder.com
The Punctuation Factory by Beth Goder (short story. behind paywalll)
How to Say I Love You w/ Wikipedia by Beth Goder (short story)
Ru by Kim Thuy
The Space between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
Unfollow Me: Essays on Complicity by Jill Louise Busby
The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Related episodes: 

Episode 008 - Gone Rogue with guests Steve Richardson, Libby Young, and Mike Winiski
Episode 038 - Monica Byrne Wants to Make People (Want to) Scream with guest Monica Byrne
Episode 129 - Coming Back to Books with Nadine
Episode 152 - Kill 'em and Leave with Nadine
Episode 195 - Muchness with Nadine
Episode 229 - Second Contact with Tom
Episode 232 - Barkskins Readalong

Stalk us online:

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


All links to books are through Bookshop.org, where I am an affiliate. I wanted more money to go to the actual publishers and authors. I link to Amazon when a book is not listed with Bookshop.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Review: Damnation Spring

Damnation Spring

Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel took me a long time to read..I first started it while I was reading Barkskins and the subject matter was too similar. And then the emphasis on miscarriage was a lot. I finally pushed through and felt like it was worth it, and overall it has a strong ending.

It takes place along the Klamath River, a river that ends at the Pacific Ocean, and the forests that were so heavily logged in the 1960s and 1970s on both sides, so southern Oregon and northern California..the novel looks at the effects of overloading and herbicides before those things were better regulated. The two central characters - Rich and Colleen - have had hard lives, but it's what they know, and they come to it through several generations.
 

Thanks to the publisher for providing access through NetGalley. I was a bit delayed in reading it, only because there are so many tree books and I didn't want them confused in my head.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Reading Envy 233: Get Into Trouble with Ruth

Jenny starts off the episode by announcing a big project for 2022! Ruth teaches her a new word and we discuss a recent Tournament of Favorites, plus as always, books we've read and liked lately.

Download or listen via this link:
Reading Envy 233: Get Into Trouble

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 
Or listen through Google Podcasts


Books discussed: 

book covers from list of books discussed

 

Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
Bewilderment by Richard Powers
Dissolution by C.J. Sansom
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

Other mentions:

Tournament of Books' Tournament of Favorites
Booker Prize
National Book Award
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Version Control by Dexter Caldwell
Amelia Peabody series
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
The Overstory by Richard Powers
Orfeo by Richard Powers
Hillary Mantel
Dissolution (play)
Patricia Cornwell
The Heartbreaker by Susan Howatch
The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer

Related episodes: 

Episode 012 - Some Bookers and Some Madness
Episode 033 - An Undulating Thrum with guests Ruth and Elizabeth
Episode 067 - Rain and Readability with Ruth(iella)
Episode 130 - All the Jennifers with Fern Ronay
Episode 134 - A Pastiche Romp with Ruth(iella)
Episode 169 - Simulacrum with Jon Sealy
Episode 178
- Precarious Pile with Ruth(iella)

Stalk us online:

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




All links to books are through Bookshop.org, where I am an affiliate. I wanted more money to go to the actual publishers and authors. I link to Amazon when a book is not listed with Bookshop.

Monday, November 15, 2021

2022 is Russian Reading Envy

Announcing a theme with four quarters and multiple readalongs in 2022, with enough warning to get you into the spirit and maybe collect a few books. Please consider joining the Reading Envy Readers in Goodreads for the deepest dives and shared ideas for titles.

Quarter One - January-March - The Novels

In 2022, we will focus on Russia. The first quarter of the year, January-March, will focus on the novel. We will have two synchronous discussions (that will become episodes) - one will be a group read of The Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them. Then everyone gets to pick their own Russian novel to read and we will have a low-key sharing episode.

I'm also hoping to do an episode with Kevin Birmingham who is putting out The Sinner and the Saint: Dostoevsky and the Gentleman Murderer Who Inspired a Masterpiece.

So if you picked one Russian novel that you haven't read to read, what would it be? (Or will you wait to read the Batuman to decide?)

It might be the time I finish War and Peace but...

Quarter Two - April-June - Non-Fiction

Lauren (@end.notes in Instagram) will be co-hosting this quarter. I haven't decided if we will have a shared read, but perhaps if that is desired I can pick one.

There are so many great books you could read for this quarter; one I'm hoping to finally get to is Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov in the bio/memoir category.

Another book I'm interested in is The Border: A Journey Around Russia Through North Korea, China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Norway and the Northeast Passage by Erika Fatland.

One memoir I'd recommend is Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea by the very entertaining Teffi.

We will have one synchronous discussion for this quarter!

Quarter Three - July-September - Short Stories

This will have a shared read - A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life by George Saunders.

Then everyone can choose a book of short stories by a single Russian author or some kind of compilation.

Quarter Four - October-December - Genre

This can be any genre, fiction or non-fiction (you could even go back to the non-fiction of quarter 2 if that is more your speed.)

Other ideas could be cookbooks or sci-fi or dystopia or poetry or whatever!!

Lauren will co-host this quarter and we will have recommendations closer to that time. 

 

Will you be participating? What are you excited to read?

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Review: When We Cease to Understand the World

When We Cease to Understand the World When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn't catch this book when it was on the International Booker list, but when it was named a finalist for the translated lit category of the National Book Award, I finally decided to give it a go, especially once I found the audio in Hoopla and it was under 6 hours.

At first, it feels like non-fiction, well researched information about science and math, death and destruction, the usual. It slowly morphs to include details about the characters that might be true, I guess, but would he unlikely to be known without a detailed journal or analysis records. And as it nears the end, the stories start linking and it feels more like a fictional experience.

I always enjoy books that take me on a journey. The characters do not have to be on a journey, but I like the author to have a clear goal in mind even if I don't know what it is... It's one of those undefinable things that I like and is present here. I also am a sucker for books about math and mathematicians and boy did this qualify. I wish it had won the International Booker and I hope it wins the National Book Award for translation.

View all my reviews

Friday, November 5, 2021

Books Read October 2021: 215-236

Ah, October, finishing up award lists and trying to blaze through my eARC backlist, while hosting a readalong. I made some progress!

A gentle reminder that all reviews can still be seen on my Goodreads profile (the review will be with the book; the format will be specified unless it's in print.) And the books with green outlines are my 5-star reads for the month!

Book covers in the order books are listed below. Those with five stars have green borders.

215. The Lighthouse Witches by C.J. Cooke ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
216. Maybe Esther by Katja Petrowskaja, translated by Shelley Frisch ⭐️⭐️⭐️
217. Bewilderment by Richard Powers, read by Edoardo Ballerini ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
218. The Sunflower by Jackie Wang ⭐️⭐️⭐️
219. Velvet was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, read by Gisela Chipe ⭐️⭐️⭐️
220. Paris is a Party, Paris is a Ghost by David Hoon Kim ⭐️⭐️
221. The Paris Connection by Lorraine Brown ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
222. Every Minute is a Day by Robert Meyer and Dan Koeppel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
223. Ghosts by Dolly Alderton ⭐️⭐️⭐️
224. Barkskins by Annie Proulx ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
225. The Wild Fox of Yemen by Threa Almontaser ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
226. Meridian by Alice Walker ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
227. Red Crosses by Sasha Filipenko, translated by Elln Vayner ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
228. Intimacies by Katie Kitamura, read by Traci Kato-Kiriyama ⭐️⭐️⭐️
229. The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
230. Em by Kim Thúy, translated by Sheila Fischman ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
231. Comfort Me with Apples by Catherynne M. Valente ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
232. Mud Sweeter than Honey by Margo Rejmer, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
233. The Witch's Wolves by Ellie Mae MacGregor ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
234. Sovietistan by Erika Fatland, translated by Kari Dickson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
235. Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
236. The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Total Books Read: 22

audio: 3
eBook: 15
print: 4

Library: 4
TBR: 1
Purchased 2021: 3
Review copy: 14

Around the World: 10
Booker Prize Long or shortlist: 1
Erin & Dani's Book Club: 0
Europe 2021: 2
National Book Award finalist (long or short): 3
Read the World 21 (Western Europe): 1
Tournament of Books: 0
Upstate International Book Club: 0
Work book club: 0

Graphic Novel/Comic: 0
Memoir: 2
Music: 0
Nature: 0
Poetry: 2
Romance: 3
Sci-fi/fantasy: 3
Translated: 6
Women in Translation: 4

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Reading Envy 232: Barkskins Readalong

I am joined by Nadine, Vinny, Laurie, and Bryn to discuss Barkskins by Annie Proulx. We bring in some of the discussion in Goodreads as well as some fresh eyes on this text.

Download or listen via this link:
Reading Envy 232: Barkskins Readalong

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



Barkskins
by Annie Proulx

Other mentions:

Love Medicine series by Louise Erdrich
Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd
London by Edward Rutherfurd
The Overstory by Richard Powers
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
First Americans Museum
Thirty Nine Restaurant
Meridian by Alice Walker
Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker
The Actual Star by Monica Byrne
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya, translated by Jamey Gambrell

Related episodes: 

Episode 090 - Reading Envy Readalong: East of Eden
Episode 099 - Readalong: The Secret History
Episode 118
- Reading Envy Readalong: To the Bright Edge of the World
Episode 137 - Reading Envy Readalong: The Golden Notebook
Episode 157
- Joint Readalong of Gone with the Wind with Book Cougars
Episode 185 - The Loyal Swineherd (Odyssey readalong)
Episode 193 - And I Feel Fine (Ducks, Newburyport READALONG)
Episode 221 - Joint Poetry Readalong with the Book Cougars
Book Cougars - Joint Readalong of Sapphira and the Slave Girl
Book Cougars - Joint Readalong of Braiding Sweetgrass
Books on the Go - Ep. 121 - American Sunrise with Jenny Colvin 

Stalk us online:

Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy
Reading Envy Readers in Goodreads


All links to books are through Bookshop.org, where I am an affiliate. I wanted more money to go to the actual publishers and authors. I link to Amazon when a book is not listed with Bookshop.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Review: Mud Sweeter than Honey: Voices of Communist Albania

Mud Sweeter than Honey: Voices of Communist Albania Mud Sweeter than Honey: Voices of Communist Albania by Margo Rejmer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This upcoming translation from Restless Books is so absorbing that I could not put it down. Albania doesn't get a lot of attention and I didn't know much about it - it turns out that was intentional as the country was cut off from the rest of the world for so long. Scholars consider it the harshest Communist regime. The author conducted years of oral history interviews and used them to tell a larger story of a country under the heaviest heel. She includes a wide range of experiences, but of course interviews can only share the experience of survivors.

The writing and translation are stellar, making a very readable work, apart of course from the violence that is depicted. I've been talking about it to everyone around me since I finished reading it.

I had a copy from the publisher through Edelweiss; it comes out November 2.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Reading Envy 231: Psychological Terrorism with Reggie

Reggie is back for a horror-specific episode, just in time for the second half of October. We discuss what works for us in horror (and what doesn't) and share a few books that have gotten under our skin.

Download or listen via this link:
Reading Envy 231: Psychological Terrorism

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 
Or listen through Google Podcasts


Books discussed: 

book covers from books discussed in this episode, listed below

Infested by Carol Gore
Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo
Sing Your Sadness Deep by Laura Mauro
The Lighthouse Witches by C.J. Cooke
The Good House by Tananarive Due

Other mentions:

The Missing by Sarah Langan
Nos4A2 by Joe Hill
Bonkers Romance Podcast
Cackle by Rachel Harrison
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books Podcast
Professional Book Nerds Podcast
Books in the Freezer Podcast
Earth Fathers are Weird by Lyn Gala
Rewind or Die Series, Unnerving Press (Reggie recommends volumes 2-6, 12-14, 16)
The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones
@SincerelyWinona in Litsy
The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson
Kindred by Octavia Butler
The Shining by Stephen King
Under the Dome by Stephen King
North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud
Silence for the Dead by Simone St. James
Hild by Nicola Griffith
A Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson
The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian
Velvet was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Related episodes: 

Episode 041 - Grotesque Beauty with Nathan Ballingrud
Episode 045 - Worlds Collide with Ross O'Brien
Episode 070 - Words Like Weapons with Yanira Ramirez
Episode 167 - Book Pendulum with Reggie
Episode 191 - Stealthy yet Sparkly with Gail Carriger

Stalk us online:

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


All links to books are through Bookshop.org, where I am an affiliate. I wanted more money to go to the actual publishers and authors. I link to Amazon when a book is not listed with Bookshop.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

#1976Club and Review: Meridian

Meridian Meridian by Alice Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this for the #1976club challenge in the blogosphere hosted by Simon and Karen - this aligned with the goal to read more books by Black women, although I've read Alice Walker before, both novels and poetry.

Meridian is a woman who feels a calling to not live a normal life but to centralize her body in protest and defiance. It's the 1970s and she lives two hours from Atlanta (some of the novel is at a college in Atlanta, but the timetable of all of it is a bit chaotic) - the south is seeing the fallout of desegregation (communities taking revenge by filling in pools, firing black teachers, etc) and Meridian also spends a lot of time trying to convince people to vote. She's a pretty memorable character, in one of those in between time periods I always feel I don't know enough about.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Review: Maybe Esther: A Family Story

Maybe Esther: A Family Story Maybe Esther: A Family Story by Katja Petrowskaja
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

KATJA PETROWSKAJA was born in Kiev, Ukraine; studied literature at the University of Tartu, Estonia; and conducted her PhD research at Columbia and Stanford Universities. She completed her PhD at the Russian University for the Humanities in Moscow. Since 1999, she has lived and worked as a journalist and columnist in Berlin. Maybe Esther is her first book, which was awarded seven international prizes and translated into nineteen languages.

I enjoy a good research narrative and that's really what this is - more than a memoir, as the author is only barely present in the book, it's the story of Katja's family members, as she traces them through the historical events that forced relocation. Most of her family members were Jewish and lived in Poland, Ukraine, and Russia, with forced moves into Austria and Germany for some. The research takes her to Soviet archives, concentration camp historians, an old rabbi who knew a family member, a former student of the "deaf-mute" schools her family members were known for establishing, and even a former landlord.

There is some reflection by the author on places that do not seem to acknowledge the atrocities that occured where they are. Kiev really stood out this way, where 13k+ Jewish people were killed in two days but the statues of commemoration of that period are about local war heroes instead.

While I found the contents and approach unique, the book took a while to get through, largely due to its fragmentary nature and problematic formatting in the Kindle eBook version (which I paid for, not an ARC.)

My book club read this for September and I missed the discussion but it sounded like it had an overall positive response. I am also counting it for my Europe2021 project.

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Reading Envy 230: Iron Bubble with Ross O'Brien

Living in Hong Kong has given Ross a different pandemic perspective, and has shifted his reading life in ways we discuss during this episode, as well as discussing books we've read recently. I'm just a bot, though.

Download or listen via this link:
Reading Envy 230: Iron Bubble

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 
Or listen through Google Podcasts


Books discussed: 

book covers from list following

Imperial Twilight by Stephen Platt
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
Several People are Typing by Calvin Kasulke
The Betrayals by Bridget Collins

Other mentions:

Robert Burns Night in Hong Kong
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
by David Mitchell
Travels with a Tangerine by Tim Mackintosh-Smith
Booker Award
Camp ToB
Kazuo Ishiguro - Nobel Prize
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Wall-E (film)
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse
The Glass Room by Simon Mawer
Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
Maybe Esther: A Family Story by Katja Petrowskaja

Related episodes: 

Episode 028 - The Room of Requirement with David Galloway
Episode 045 - Worlds Collide with Ross O'Brien

Stalk us online:

Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy
Ross on Twitter
Ross can also be heard on the Sugar My Bones podcast


All links to books are through Bookshop.org, where I am an affiliate. I wanted more money to go to the actual publishers and authors. I link to Amazon when a book is not listed with Bookshop.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Review: The Lighthouse Witches

The Lighthouse Witches The Lighthouse Witches by C.J. Cooke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second witchy book I've read recently based on a mention on another book podcast (this was on the October most anticipated books episode from Professional Book Nerds even though they had a witchy books episode two prior; I read Cackle after the mention on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.)

The Lighthouse Witches takes place on an island off the west coast of Scotland (for some reason it's never called the Hebrides in this book.) A mother moves there to paint a mural inside a lighthouse and uproots her daughters to do so, but then they disappear. The island has a long sordid history including witchhunts and missing children, and the author has used a lot from Scottish folklore and history.

Most people know I'm a sucker for a novel set on a cold weather island and what is better for spooktober than a witchy dreary read? This comes out Tuesday, October 5, 2021.

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Thursday, September 30, 2021

Books Read September 2021: 202-214

If only I could count the books I'm in the middle of! But September went quickly. I never even got to a Science September read.  Maybe next year.

A gentle reminder that all reviews can still be seen on my Goodreads profile (the review will be with the book; the format will be specified unless it's in print.) And the books with green outlines are my 5-star reads for the month!

cover images of books listed below

202. The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
203. A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
204. Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel ⭐️⭐️⭐️
205. Several People are Typing by Calvin Kasulke, performed by MacLeod Andrews, Neil Shah, Dani Martineck, Sophie Amoss, Neil Hellegers, Cary Hite, Sean Patrick Hopkins, Joshua Kane, Amy Landon, Nicole Lewis, Brittany Pressley, Jonathan Todd Ross ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
206. The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
207. Martita, I Remember You by Sandra Cisneros, et al; read by Sandra Cisneros, et al ⭐️⭐️⭐️
208. Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Shua Dusapin, translated by Aneesa Higgins ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
209. Real Estate by Deborah Levy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
210. Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
211. Cackle by Rachel Harrison ⭐️⭐️⭐️
212. Church of Spies by Mark Riebling ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
213. Voices in the Evening by Natalia Ginzburg, translated by D.M. Low ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
214. Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

Total Books Read:13

Reread: 0

audio: 2
eBook: 6
print: 5

borrowed: 0
library: 3
personal copy:  1
review copy: 8
subscription: 1

Around the World: 4
Booker Prize Long or shortlist: 1
Erin & Dani's Book Club: 0
Europe 2021: 2
National Book Award finalist: 1
Read the World 21 (Western Europe): 2
Tournament of Books: 0
Upstate International Book Club: 0
Work book club: 0

Graphic Novel/Comic: 0
Memoir: 1
Music: 1
Nature: 0
Poetry: 0
Translated: 2
Women in Translation: 2

Review: Great Circle

Great Circle Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This could not be renewed at the library so it was now or never. The story is 90% a female pilot in the 20th century with enough dips into other storylines to want to go back to Marian. Do I think it will win the Booker? I'd be surprised, but I enjoyed the read.

Additional thoughts after recording about it and responding to comments...

I feel like by the time the author got to the actual great circle trip, I didn't need to read it, it almost felt redundant. I was all in on the side characters during Marian's time period but didn't need the contemporary time period except for what that allows us to learn about Marian (this could have been included a different way, perhaps.

The characters are all individually contemplating their sexuality which sometimes felt forced. I'm not a prude but I'm not sure it always fit? It stood out a bit awkwardly.

I did fall into the trap of f0orgetting Marian wasn't real. I like the historical fiction approach where the place and events are real but the people are made up.

View all my reviews

Review: Voices in the Evening

Voices in the Evening Voices in the Evening by Natalia Ginzburg, translated by D.M, Low
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those novels where you have to get into the routine of it, to read between the lines, to really understand everything going on. It takes place in a small Italian town after World War II, with everyone dealing with losing family members, wondering who to trust, and still needing to move forward. I liked the examination of happiness in relationships vs societal expectations as well. Ginzburg comes from an Italian Jewish family and her husband was tortured to death by Nazis before the end of the war, so surely those experiences were formative to this post-war novel, even though it's not about those events per se.

This came in from my New Directions Classics Club subscription, but I picked it off my shelf to read for Western Europe and the Read the World 21 challenge in Instagram.

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Review: Church of Spies: The Pope's Secret War Against Hitler

Church of Spies: The Pope's Secret War Against Hitler Church of Spies: The Pope's Secret War Against Hitler by Mark Riebling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My focus on reading Europe this year and finishing my checklist sent me looking for a specific read for Vatican City, and what could be better than a deep look into (many) archives to examine what the Catholic church and Pope Pius XII were really up to regarding Hitler. The author clearly did a lot of research - his list of citations is 100 pages - and the perspective is very much in defense of what appeared outwardly to be not enough of a response. I know even more Vatican archives have been opened to the public since this book came out, so it would be interesting to know how many of those details align.

I was interested in reading the historical views of the Church on espionage and tyrannicide, to learn more about how it functions inside wider communities of diplomacy, and why it can be useful to separate the Vatican from the Pope.

This also will fit the Western Europe focus for this month's #Readtheworld21 - not just the location of Vatican City geographically but the countries over which it has significant influence.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Review: Summer Sons

Summer Sons Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Lee Mandelo's debut Summer Sons is a sweltering, queer Southern Gothic that crosses Appalachian street racing with academic intrigue, all haunted by a hungry ghost." (Publisher summary)

I found out about this book on an August Tor.com article, "The Hills are Haunted; the Mountains are Hungry: Digging Into Appalachian SFF," and went looking for it immediately. It comes out September 28, 2021.

Andrew and Eddie were inseparable from childhood until Eddie decided to go to grad school early and kept making up excuses for Andrew to wait, then Eddie died by apparent suicide. Eddie is left to clean up the pieces and try to figure out the truth, but from when he first arrives in Nashville and picks up Eddie's car, he finds Eddie isn't *completely* gone.

There is some fun juxtaposition here between south and north, rich and not, academics and country (and some who seem to bridge the gaps - I've been in a Folklore PhD program and it's hard to picture those students racing cars and doing drugs but that is the world of this novel.) It also has a found family element that is pleasing! A great read for October if you're spooky.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Reading Envy 229: Second Contact with Tom Merritt

Author and podcaster Tom Merritt joins Jenny to talk about books, mostly science fiction and fantasy, and Tom shares about his newest book, Project V.E.R.A. Jenny knows Tom from the Sword and Laser Book Club and Podcast, but it's not his only project!

Download or listen via this link:
Reading Envy 229: Second Contact

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 
Or listen through Google Podcasts


Books discussed:

Cover images from the five books listed below.

Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells
The Actual Star by Monica Byrne
The Ruthless Lady's Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner
The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker
Kyreen by Nikki Moore

Other mentions:

Daily Tech News
Know a Little More
Cord Killers
Sword and Laser Podcast
East Meets West
Tech Republic Top 5
Current Geek
Let's Talk About Star Wars
It's a Thing
The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune
The Expanse (series by S.A. Corey)
NaNoWriMo
Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells
Exit Strategy by Martha Wells
Wayfarers (series by Becky Chambers)
Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd
Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman
Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel

Related episodes: 

Episode 008 - Gone Rogue with guests Steve Richardson, Libby Young, and Mike Winiski
Episode 013
- The Secret Central Force with Josh Lawrence and terpkristin
Episode 038 - Monica Byrne Wants to Make People (Want to) Scream with guest Monica Byrne
Episode 055 - Too Late for an Autopsy with Julie Davis
Episode 087 - Going Native with Bookclub Social with Amanda and Grace
Episode 126 - Bernice Bobs her Hair with Jon Laubinger
Episode 154
- Is If If with Paula
Episode 191 - Stealthy yet Sparkly with Gail Carriger
Sword and Laser guest host - Episode 408
Sword and Laser guest host - Episode 409 

Stalk me online:

Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy
Tom is @acedetect on Twitter and Instagram
Project V.E.R.A. can be found on Audible or Tomsnewbook.com
Tom's other books can be found on TomMerrittbooks.com


All links to books are through Bookshop.org, where I am an affiliate. I wanted more money to go to the actual publishers and authors. I link to Amazon when a book is not listed with Bookshop.









Monday, September 13, 2021

Review: The Love Hypothesis

The Love Hypothesis

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars 

I've talked on the podcast a few times about the number of books featuring grad students in the sciences, well here is one more and it is a delightful fake relationship trope between a grad student and a professor (but at Stanford he's not her direct advisor so it's fine.) I'm not sure if it was deliberate but I pictured a young Snape as the professor.

And then Erin in Instagram said,

"Apparently this book is re-packaged Rey/Ben Solo fan fiction and the dude is Adam Driver…so Young Snape isn’t too far off IMO"
I had no idea but it does really work now that I know. It didn't feel shoehorned or suffer from the awkwardness of similar attempts in my opinion, so kudos to the author.

And I know this isn't the intent of #scienceseptember but it might be as close as I get this year.

I had a copy from the publisher through NetGalley and it comes out September 14, 2021.


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Review: Several People Are Typing

Several People Are Typing Several People Are Typing by Calvin Kasulke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book had me chortling in the car in under ten minutes. I don't know what the experience is in print, but the audio - narrated by MacLeod Andrews, Neil Shah, Dani Martineck, Sophie Amoss, Neil Hellegers, Cary Hite, Sean Patrick Hopkins, Joshua Kane, Amy Landon, Nicole Lewis, Brittany Pressley, Jonathan Todd Ross - is like sketch comedy if sketch comedy recited Slack channel conversations from a marketing firm where everyone finds reasons to WFH.

I have only used Slack a few times but that didn't interfere with my understanding of what was happening. Emojis are read as the item but I could :eyes: what they were doing. Different Slack channels are used to help the reader know who is privy to the information. Oh and I just spent 15 minutes reading about :dustystick:

If you had to move to a shared online space because of Covid - Slack, Teams, etc - I think this will be particularly amusing. There are some surprises in there I will leave for the reader.

I received a copy of this from the publisher through the Volumes app. It came out 8/31/21.

View all my reviews

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Review: The Hidden Palace

The Hidden Palace

The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Golem and the Jinni (2013) was arguably a perfect novel with compelling characters and setting, leaving a lot of readers wanting more. And the author gave us more..is that really what we wanted?

The rest of this post could be spoilers for the first novel.

The golem and the jinni have been friends and more for some time, but their relationship has started to change..the golem has really come in to herself as a career woman while the jinni has struggled to be honest about his dreams and desires. A few other characters factor into the story but the supernatural ones are even more held back by the humanity around them as they head into the first world war.

This came out June 8th, I had a copy from the publisher but of course that date has passed

 
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Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Reading Envy 228: Full of Secrets with Audrey Morris

Audrey Morris, one of the people I chat with most in Instagram about books and baking, joins me to talk books. She also shares about some award lists that have her looking forward to the next few months.

Download or listen via this link:
Reading Envy 228: Full of Secrets

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 
Or listen through Google Podcasts


Books discussed:

 

Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland
A Spare Life by Lidija Dimkovska, translated by Christina E. Kramer
In the Lateness of the World by Carolyn Forché
The Woman from Uruguay by Pedro Mairal, translated by Jennifer Croft
That Time of Year by Marie Ndiaye, translated by Jordan Stump

Other mentions:

Barkskins by Annie Proulx
Readalong information
The Eighth Life by Nino Haratischvili
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Wretchedness by Andrzej Tichy
The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom
Dishoom by Shamil Thakrar
The Employees by Olga Ravn, translated by Martin Aitken
When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut, translated by Adrian Nathan West
In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova
Consent by Annabel Lyon
Summer Brother by Jaap Robben
Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
Catch the Rabbit by Lana Bastasic
What You Have Heard is True by Carolyn Forché
Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky
The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra by Pedro Mairal
Census
by Jesse Ball
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Varghese
Beyond Babylon by Igiaba Scego
Adua by Igiaba Scego
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Sorrow by Claribel Alegria
Homesick by Jennifer Croft
Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford

Related episodes: 

Episode 088 - Author Head Space with Sara Moore
Episode 112 - Reset Button with Eleanor Thoele
Episode 195 - Muchness with Nadine
Episode 207 - Innocent and Ruthless with Tricia Deegan
Episode 212 - Subtly Fascinating with Vinny

Stalk me online:

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


All links to books are through Bookshop.org, where I am an affiliate. I wanted more money to go to the actual publishers and authors. I link to Amazon when a book is not listed with Bookshop.