Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Books Read March 2021: 54-81

This month was heavily influenced by one person in Instagram who ran the #tackleyourratio challenge to read as many NetGalley books as possible. That helped me get through some of my backlog, including 11 of the books from March, and I tried but DNF'd four more. 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.)

54. Home is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
55. Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better by Pema Chodron ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
56. The Disaster Tourist by Yun Ko-Eun, translated by Lizzie Buehler; narrated byNatalie Naudus ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
57. The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell et al ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
58. Elatsoe by Darcy Little Badger; narrated by Kinsale Hueston ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
59. On Fragile Waves by E. Lily Yu ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
60. Beneath the Keep by Erika Johansen ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
61. The Rain Heron by Robbie Arnott ⭐️⭐️⭐️
62. My Heart by Semezdin Mehmedinović, translated by Celia Hawkesworth ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
63. Winter's Orbit by Everina Maxwell ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
64. The Removed by Brandon Hobson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
65. The Possession by Annie Ernaux; translated by Anna Moschovakis ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
66. The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey ⭐️⭐️⭐️
67. It's Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake by Claire Christian ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
68. Nobody Ever Talks About Anything but the End by Liz Levine ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
69. Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe; narrated by Matthew Blaney ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
70. Loser Takes All by Graham Greene ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
71. If or When I Call by  Will Johnson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
72. Noopiming by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
73. Blueberries by Ellena Savage ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
74. Gilgamesh by  Joan London ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
75. The Mission House by Carys Davies ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
76. Shelter by Jung Yun; narrated by Raymond Lee ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
77. In the Quick by Kate Hope Day ⭐️⭐️⭐️
78. Winter Pasture by Li Juan; translated by Jack Hargreaves ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
79. The Tao of Raven by Ernestine Hayes ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
80. A Durable Fire May Sarton ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
81. Ice Planet Barbarians by Ruby Dixon; narrated by Hollie Jackson and Mason Lloyd ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Books Read: 28

Tournament of Books - 1


Readtheworld21 - 4

Around the World - 11
Europe 2021 - 3

Audiobook - 5
eBook - 18
Print - 5

Borrowed not from library - 0
Library - 8
Review Copy - 15
TBR - Purchased 2021 - 3
TBR - Already owned - 2
TBR - Subscriptions - 0

Apocalypse and Dystopia - 2
Fantasy - 3
Memoir - 2
Mystery - 0
Romance - 2
Science Fiction - 5
Thriller - 1

Translated - 4
Women in Translation - 3

Children’s - 1
YA - 2
Adult - 25


Friday, March 26, 2021

Review: Shelter

Shelter Shelter by Jung Yun
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A random act of criminal violence to an older Korean American couple quickly reveals cracks in the larger family system - financial and emotional, violence and secrets - I remember when this first came out and everyone insisted it was unputdownable and I have to agree! It's been sitting in my Audible library for a while.

One theme that interested me is looking at how people build community, who is there for you when bad things happen? Who are you beholden to? Whose feelings come first? Do you overlook past grievances when family is in crisis?

The Korean immigrant community is definitely an important force in this book, as well as how different generations of that community experience America.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Reading Envy 216 - Eloquent and Elegant with Kala

Kala and Jenny meet again about a year after our previous conversation to chat about books we've read lately, from presidential memoirs to romance to books that haven't had enough attention. We tackle backlogs and bookstacks along the way.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 216: Eloquent and Elegant.

Subscribe to the podcast via this link: Feedburner
Or subscribe via Apple Podcasts by clicking: Subscribe
Or listen through TuneIn
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Or listen via Stitcher
Or listen through Spotify 
Or listen through Google Podcasts

Books discussed: 


A Promised Land by Barack Obama
Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon
The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard
Telephone by Percival Everett
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Other mentions:

Becoming by Michelle Obama
Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama
Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton
We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Rafe: A Buff Male Nanny by Rebekah Weatherspoon
The Talented Ribkins by Ladee Hubbard
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw
Long Bright River by Liz Moore
Untraceable by Sergei Lebedev, translated by Antonina W. Bouis

Related episodes:

Episode 096 - Not Without Hope with Yanira Ramirez
Episode 143
- Reading the Pain with Kala
Episode 151 - The Stories They Tell with Karen
Episode 184 - Theme Night at Book Club with Kala
Episode 213 - Funicular Reads with Bianca

Stalk us online:

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

All links to books are through, 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, March 20, 2021

Review: Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies

Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was first introduced to this author at AWP a few years ago, and enjoyed her collection, This Accident of Being Lost: Songs and Stories.

From the publisher summary:
"Noopiming is Anishinaabemowin for “in the bush,” and the title is a response to English Canadian settler and author Susanna Moodie’s 1852 memoir Roughing It in the Bush. To read Simpson’s work is an act of decolonization, degentrification, and willful resistance to the perpetuation and dissemination of centuries-old colonial myth-making. It is a lived experience. It is a breaking open of the self to a world alive with people, animals, ancestors, and spirits, who are all busy with the daily labours of healing — healing not only themselves, but their individual pieces of the network, of the web that connects them all together."
I would like to invite the reader into a work that may not feel like it's for them, unless they come from the Anishinaabe tradition or something similar. You may not understand all the concepts at first. You can read it like poetry, let the words flow over you and then go back in. Try to put yourself in the place where the spirits/beings/presences of the natural world are present and play an active role in how you see yourself and your community.

I don't believe you have to have an ancestral understanding of this tradition to appreciate the beauty of the work. I probably spent as much time reading reviews and looking up terms as I did reading the work because I want to grasp it. I get closest when I think back to the Erdrich novels I've read, since she writes from a shared tradition, their patterns through the natural world and with each other. It's like another facet of that place, and was worth the journey.

This book came out last year in Canada but only in February 2021 in the USA. I had a review copy from the publisher through Edelweiss.

View all my reviews

Review: If or When I Call

If or When I Call If or When I Call by Will Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have long been a fan of novels set in rural places when they capture the people and places very well - think John Irving, Richard Russo, David Joy, Kent Haruf - and I think Will Johnson is an author who should join those ranks. Many will know him as a musician from Monsters of Folk to Centro-matic. I had some familiarity with groups adjacent to these two (Bright Eyes, She & Him) so I slid into the playlists of his bands while reading this book, a natural fit.

Knowing Will Johnson is a musician will not be a surprise for anyone reading this book - the rotating points of view of a handful of characters sometimes drifts into an inner narrative that feels more like verse. This is used judiciously and adds texture to the story. Some of the characters also stop and notice a song on the radio in the car or other places, and so I felt compelled to stop and also listen to the song as the reader. (Experience recommended.)

At times in the beginning, I felt there was too much detail about what is on the shelves at the gas station, what the characters are wearing, etc. I felt a bit bogged down. But I think the author wants you to slow down, to understand the pace of a town that might have had some industry at one point, but no longer has much to offer. And then to ask the question of what do people do all day when this is their reality? There are characters linked together by a child and nothing else, but since the town is small, still end up in the same circles. The people they used to drink or do drugs with are still there as well, which isn't always helpful.

And then suddenly, I was in this place where I knew the characters, I understood their emotions, and I was crying while Melinda eats chicken in a gas station. I felt the panic of a teenager left alone to deal with his father's illness which shows up without warning. There are family members who do the wrong thing and strangers who do the right thing, and a very satisfying ending.

I received a copy of this book in advance from the publicist, and actually am acquainted with the editor, and this is my honest review. The book came out March 15, 2021.

View all my reviews

Review: Loser Takes All

Loser Takes All Loser Takes All by Graham Greene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My ongoing quest to read a book from every country left me with very few options for Monaco, but Graham Greene wrote a novella that manages to be about a brand new marriage with a big age difference and gambling, set of course in Monte Carlo.

I always find Graham Greene to have a lot to say about relationships and life; here are a few quotations:

"It would be so terrible if we became a couple. You know what I mean. You with your paper. Me with my knitting."

"'Why bother? Our marriage was going to be unlucky - you've read the omens, haven't you?'
'I don't care,' she said. 'I'd rather be unlucky with you than lucky with anyone else.'"

"I like being somewhere without footprints."

This novel was originally published in the mid 1950s. If you Google Monte Carlo now, there are a lot of articles about if/why Monte Carlo is "so over" and the rich have found new playgrounds. But Loser Takes All shows it in its height.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Review: Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End: A Memoir

Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End: A Memoir Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End: A Memoir by Liz Levine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It might sound crazy, but I find books on grief comforting. Liz Levine is so experienced with it that people know to go to her for obituaries, memorial speeches, and more (joke, maybe.) But the two dearest losses in her life are her childhood best friend (to cancer) and her sister (to mental illness leading to suicide.) She takes an alphabetical journey through concepts surrounding grief and death that allow her to approach them in a gentle way.

For more grief book recommendations, check out the 63rd episode of the Reading Envy Podcast. I also have a "grief-and-death" shelf in Goodreads because when you know, you know!

View all my reviews

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Review: My Heart

My Heart My Heart by Semezdin Mehmedinović
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My Heart is a work of autobiographical fiction told in three sections - one about his heart attack, one in the form of an illustrated travel diary to his son, and one to his wife as she battles an illness. Themes include aging, PTSD from living through the siege in Sarajevo, displacement, memory, etc. It reminds me most of To Be a Man by Nicole Kraus and the Deborah Levy/ Rachel Cusk style of writing, and yes it's interesting to me that the authors he reminds me of are all female.

This is my first experience with this author but I understand him to be well loved across the former Yugoslavia. I will count the book for Bosnia in my Europe2021 project although all of it takes place after and away from there. It has clearly had an impact on all of them, especially in his son, who seems to have blocked memories of the war - "When I remind you of an event from the war, your memory becomes unreliable and vague. You suppress the war into oblivion."

"Books are lonelier than people."

There is a random section about the makadam (in his language), then he riffs on John Loudon McAdam, who just happens to be one of my ancestors, somewhat bizarre to encounter him here.

"Over the course of the last twenty years that I've lived here [in the USA], I've been able to monitor the way America has been closing up, screening itself from the outside world. It used not to be like this. When people heard a foreign language on the subway, at the airport, or like this, in a restaurant, it would arouse their curiosity, not aversion, certainly not fear. Twenty years is a long time, people pass on and worlds change. Foreigners are no longer welcome here."

This has recently been translated into English by Celia Hawkesworth and came out from Catapult on Tuesday, March 9th; the publisher was lovely to send me the book for my perusal.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Readalong Announcement - joint readalong with the Book Cougars

Book Cougars - Reading Envy
Joint Readalong

Reading Envy Readalong hosts:

When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry edited by Joy Harjo
Bonus read: A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver

Ongoing weekly discussion in the Reading Envy Readers group, starts April 4
Listeners discussion of When the Light of the World - hosted by Jenny/Reading Envy, 5/8/21, time TBD
Jenny/Reading Envy and Book Cougars discussion of When the Light of the World plus just poetry in general, 5/12/21
Recorded discussion with Book Cougars posted 6/1/2021
Recorded group discussion of WtLofW posted 6/8/2021, tentative

If you'd like a schedule for suggest reading to keep pace, please scroll down.

Book Cougars will host:

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

| Link to Book Cougars GoodReads group for discussion |

Listeners discussion of Braiding Sweetgrass - hosted by Book Cougars, 5/30/21
Book Cougars and Jenny/Reading Envy discussion of Braiding Sweetgrass, 6/2/21
Recorded discussion of Braiding Sweetgrass will take place on Episode 131, dropping 6/8 


Suggested Reading Schedule for When the Light....

Blessing, Intro, Northeast and Midwest
April 4-10

Plains and Mountains
April 11-17

Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and Pacific Islands
April 18-24

Southwest and West
April 25-May 1

Southeast, Outro, Acknowledgements
May 2-8

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Reading Envy 215: Lovely Pile with Lola

I hope you have been enjoying our string of new guests, four out of the last five. Lola talks about her life as a "serial book clubber" and shares books she's read and loved lately.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 215: Lovely Pile.

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: 

The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Home is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Days in the Caucasus by Banine, translated by Anne Thompson-Ahmadova
Deacon King Kong by James McBride

Other mentions:

Elizabeth Acevedo
Make Me a World imprint
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson (memoir mentioned)
Normal People by Sally Rooney
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Lisa Dillman
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
We the Animals by Justin Torres
Santino Fontana
Armie Hammer
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene; read by Colin Firth
Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Schaffer
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
The January Children by Safia Elhillo
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Bahni Turpin
Rosamund Pike
Thandi Newton
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell
Rich & Pretty by Rumaan Alam
The Need by Helen Philips
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
The Push by Ashley Audrain
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
Long Bright River by Liz Moore
Beneath the Keep by Erika Johansen

Related episodes:

Episode 051 - Dreaming in Books with Karen
Episode 067
- Rain and Readability with Ruth(iella)
Episode 147
- Bonus Poetry Recommendations with Lauren
Episode 202
- Jacket Flap with Chris and Emily

Stalk us online:

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

All links to books are through, 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.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Review: Home Is Not a Country

Home Is Not a Country Home Is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Safia Elhillo is one of my absolutely favorite poets (check out her earlier collection, The January Children, and then watch her perform her work on YouTube!)

This is a YA novel in verse about a Sudanese (pre)teen named Nima who has moved with her mother to the United States after the death of her father (and rising conflict in her country.) Themes include a tumultuous friendship with her friend Haitham, the alternate girl with the alternate name (Yasmeen) whose life she imagines (the one who she might have been if her father hadn't died,) and the difficulties of finding friendship and community in a place that doesn't feel quite like home. Safia includes themes familiar to her earlier work about language, homeland, music, and belonging.

This comes from the Make Me a World imprint from Random House, alongside Pet by Akwaeke Emezi among others. It comes out today (March 2) and I had a copy from the publisher through NetGalley. Perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo, who blurbed the book!

View all my reviews

Monday, March 1, 2021

Books Read February 2021: 33-53

This might be my smallest reading month in a long time but that's okay. 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.)

I really had a month where I read books I felt were highly anticipated, or I had been told were highly anticipated, but weren't a great fit for my reading style or mood. Anything I rated 5 stars is outlined in green in the image and listed below.

33. Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
34. Everything Lost is Found Again by Will McGrath ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
35. The Divines by Ellie Eaton ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
36. My Grandmother's Braid by Alina Bronsky; translated by Tim Mohr ⭐️⭐️⭐️
37. The Survivors by Jane Harper ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
38. Milk Fed by Melissa Broder ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
39. Telephone by Percival Everett ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
40. The Expats by Chris Pavone ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
41. Rosie's Travelling Tea Shop by Rebecca Raisin ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
42. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, read by Bahni Turpin ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
43. Trapped in a Video Game by Dustin Brady, art by Brady Jesse ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
44. The Fold by Peter Clines ⭐️⭐️⭐️
45. The Hole by Hiroko Oyamada; translated by David Boyd ⭐️⭐️⭐️
46. Laugh with the Moon by Shana Burg ⭐️⭐️⭐️
47. No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood; narrated by Kristen Sieh ⭐️⭐️⭐️
48. Untraceable by Sergei Lebedev; translated by Antonina W. Bouis ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
49. Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid ⭐️⭐️⭐️
50. Everyone's Happy by Rufi Thorpe; narrated by Lauren Fortgang ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
51. We Run the Tides by Vendela Vida ⭐️⭐️⭐️
52. Kink: Stories edited by R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell ⭐️⭐️
53. Days in the Caucasus by Banine; translated by  Anne Thompson-Ahmadova ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 

Books Read: 21

Tournament of Books - 2
(Shortlist - 1)


Readtheworld21 - 2

Around the World - 8
Europe 2021 - 2

Audiobook - 3
eBook - 11
Print - 7

Borrowed not from library - 2
Library - 3
Review Copy - 10
TBR - Purchased 2021 - 4
TBR - Already owned - 0
TBR - Subscriptions - 1

Apocalypse and Dystopia - 1
Fantasy - 0
Memoir - 2
Mystery - 1
Romance - 2
Science Fiction - 4
Thriller - 1

Translated - 4
Women in Translation - 3

Children’s - 2
YA - 0
Adult - 19

Review: Days in the Caucasus

Days in the Caucasus Days in the Caucasus by Banine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Umm-El-Banine Assadoulaeff was a French writer of Azeri descent - a granddaughter of two famous Azeri millionaire Musa Nagiyev and Shamsi Assadullaev, a daughter of Azerbaijani businessman and politician Mirza Asadullayev. This is her memoir of her childhood in Azerbaijan, in the early decades of the 20th century. Fascinating stuff, and an interesting way to look at some of the history of a region I know very little about.

I'm also interested in the translation history - Banine wrote this in French and published it in Paris in 1945. And guess who "blurbed" or reviewed it - Teffi! If you loved Teffi, you will probably enjoy this. It was only translated into the English much more recently, and was published in the UK in 2019 and only March 2021 in the United States.

From a 21st century perspective, there are some unsurprising problematic elements, from fatphobia to transphobia, anti-Christian and anti-western sentiments, jokes about the Armenian genocide (and a bit of apologist defense since the Azeri view is that the Armenians killed a bunch of Azeris....) The depiction of Islamic practice may also be seen by some to be insulting - Banine converted to Christianity before publishing this book, and she is very critical of her family's observances (or lack there of, or ways they wiggled around the rules.) Still I found it interesting to see a child's eye view of Islam in a very wealthy but not too conservative country.

View all my reviews