Monday, May 31, 2021

Books Read May 2021: 114-141

This month I focused on the two books for the joint readalong with the Book Cougars, and also found a new audiobook listening pattern that increased my consumption of that format (and lessened that of other formats.) Hardly any speculative fiction, a lot more non-fiction, even a few thrillers! And a heck of a lot of 5-star reads.

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!

114. Onion Skin by Edgar Camacho ⭐️⭐️⭐️
115. Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
116. Meaty by Samantha Irby, read by Samantha Irby ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
117. Four Hundred Souls edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blaine ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
118. The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano by Donna Freitas, narrated by Kristen Sieh ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
119. Love in Case of Emergency by Daniela Krien ⭐️⭐️⭐️
120. When the Light of the World was Subdued... edited by Joy Harjo et al ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
121. True Story by Kate Reed Petty ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
122. The Doll by Ismail Kadare, translated by John Hodgson ⭐️⭐️⭐️
123. Northern Spy by Flynn Berry ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
124. My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell, narrated by Grace Gummer ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
125. Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
126. The Guncle by Steven Rowley ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
127. The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez, translated by Megan McDowell ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
128. Margreete's Harbor by Eleanor Morse ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
129. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, read by Ruth Ozeki ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
130. Tomb Song by Juli├ín Herbert, translated by Christina MacSweeney ⭐️⭐️⭐️
131. Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile, read by Brandi Carlile ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
132. The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
133. Sparrow Envy by J. Drew Lanham ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
134. While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams, narrated by Adenrele Ojo ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
135. Second Place by Rachel Cusk ⭐️⭐️⭐️
136. The Butterfly Effect by Rachel Mans McKenny, narrated by Carly Robins ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
137. The Invisible Husband of Frick Island by  Colleen Oakley ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
138. Untamed Shore by  Silvia Moreno-Garcia, read by Maria Liatis ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
139. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
140. Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli, translated by Christina MacSweeney ⭐️⭐️⭐️
141. Sanditon by Jane Austen (incomplete) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 


Total Books Read: 28

Reread: 1

audio: 9
eBook: 10
print: 9

library: 9
personal copy: 5
review copy: 13
subscription: 1

Around the World: 8
Europe 2021: 3
Read the World 21 (Mexico): 4

Crime/Mystery/Thriller: 5
Graphic Novel/Comic: 1
Memoir: 2
Music: 2
Nature: 2
Poetry: 2
Translated: 6
Women in Translation: 3


Thursday, May 27, 2021

Review: Second Place

Second Place

Second Place by Rachel Cusk
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**This entire review might be a spoiler** 

I read some of this, I put it aside. I'm used to this initial response to Cusk, and usually feel gratified I've gone back to it. I'm not sure I'm feeling that yet about this one, but my feelings could change.

I went to Instagram first and pleaded for people who had already read it to discuss it with me. Before I even finished, I listened to the interview with the reviewer for the New York Times Book Review on the NYTBR Podcast talk about her approach and she let slide that this is all based on Cusk reading this memoir and then imagining that author's experience and then reimagining it into a different landscape and slightly different details and writing it from that perspective... but the reviewer also said that she saw all other reviews mentioning that detail up front, and feeling that the author kept it until the end for a reason. I listened to the author's interview with Michael Silverblatt on the KCRW Bookworm Podcast, where he started with the "spoiler." That's why this whole review is listed as a spoiler - it's hard to talk about with the book without knowing that the author read this obscure memoir about the time D.H. Lawrence came to stay with this artist in Taos. Once you know that, you can really see the author's wheels turning, and this book is the grain or the chaff. Maybe both.

If it's a spoiler, though, it's also the thing that helped me think it through and understand it, even if I still don't really know if I think it worked. It's interesting that she relocated it too. Cusk is someone who was born in Canada, grew up different places, lives in the UK... I think I thought she was American but she might as well be anything. The book is set in a marsh but we don't know which country, so few details are really there. Some read apocalypse narrative into the background but I wasn't sure that was there or if the people have just separated themselves from a sense of daily life. And she writes! with a lot of exclamation points! to someone named Jeffers! who is never explained.

Part of me felt it was the Barefoot Contessa who always is making everything "for Jeffrey" which might come across a bit loony if you didn't know better.

And all along she is dealing with a poor self image, or maybe just aging as a woman when your former power, if you ever had it, starts to wear thing, especially in comparison to the woman the artist brought with him when he came to visit. And her daughter is young 20s, a difficult age for mothers, I think.

I will keep mulling it over. Five-star mulling success, three-star success as a book... for now.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me access through Edelweiss. This came out May 4th, 2021.

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Review: While Justice Sleeps

While Justice Sleeps While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every time I teach my Reading class, I ask my students to read a book from a genre they don't usually read, and then I try to do the same, although I've done this enough I'm now turning to subgenres. I've read thrillers, but never a legal thriller!

Avery Keene is the law clerk for one of the Supreme Court justices, and when he falls into a coma, she finds herself named his legal guardian. She is thrown into international intrigue and a string of hidden documents that only she can solve.

The audiobook includes an intro by Abrams, where she talks about the publishing journey that began in 1995, where publishers felt some of the characters were too unrealistic - a president out for his own financial gain, justices of questionable character, etc.

If you don't know who Stacey Abrams is, you should. She's a major political player, and I like this somewhat more distant profile of her at the BBC. She also writes romance novels under a pen name, Selena Montgomery.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me eBook access through NetGalley, even if I ultimately went for this in audio. It's out and ready for a listen/read.

View all my reviews

Friday, May 21, 2021

Review: Broken Horses

Broken Horses Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a must-listen memoir with songs between chapters and at the end. Brandi Carlile is one of my favorite singers but there is so much I didn't know, and she has experienced some incredible moments of fate or destiny or something that really make for an incredible story. I also liked the discovery of the stories behind so many of these songs and albums. The story goes all the way up through covid times.

Her connections to other musicians are life-long love stories, and people like Tanya Tucker, Elton John, and Joni Mitchell come back into her life as real people. Amazing.

Do you have a favorite song by her? I think mine is still Shadows on the Wall.

Copied from the publisher website:

Carlile recorded new stripped-down, solo renditions of more than 30 of the songs featured in the book, including her own and songs from artists who’ve inspired her, from Dolly Parton to Elton John, Leonard Cohen and more, available exclusively on the audiobook:

“I Don’t Hurt Anymore” by Hank Snow
“Coat of Many Colors” by Dolly Parton
“Ride on Out” by Brandi Carlile
“Honky Cat” by Elton John and Bernie Taupin
“Philadelphia” by Neil Young
“Happy” by Brandi Carlile
“That Year” by Brandi Carlile
“Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen
“Eye of the Needle” by Brandi Carlile
“Turpentine” by Brandi Carlile
“Wasted” by Brandi Carlile
“The Story” by Brandi Carlile
“Closer to You” by Brandi Carlile
“Caroline” by Brandi Carlile
“Josephine” by Brandi Carlile
“Sugartooth” by Brandi Carlile
“Looking Out” by Brandi Carlile
“Beginning to Feel the Years” by Brandi Carlile
“Love Songs” by Brandi Carlile
“I Will” by Brandi Carlile
“I Belong to You” by Brandi Carlile

I had a review copy of the audio from Random House Audio that I listened to through the Volumes app. The book came out April 20, 2021.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Reading Envy 220: Pronunciations with Scott

Scott returns from a coastal vacation and three recent reads. We also discuss group reads via BookTube, the appeal of series, and more.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 220: Pronunciations

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

Cover images of books featured in this episode, listed below.
Njal's Saga by Anonymous
True Story by Kate Reed Perry
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson, translated by Thomas Teal
Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha Blaine
Every Dead Thing by John Connolly

Other mentions:

The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany
The Thrall's Tale by Judith Lindbergh
The Sagas of the Icelanders by Various
Sagalong on Youtube, episode 1
Tournament of Books - Yu
Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin
How to Be An Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
Freedom is a Constant Struggle  by Angela Y. Davis
The Galaxy and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers
Children of Ash & Elm: A History of the Vikings by Neil Price
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross
Even as we Breathe by Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle
Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin

Related episodes:

Episode 055 - Too Late for an Autopsy with Julie Davis
Episode 087 - Going Native with Bookclub Social with Amanda and Grace
Episode 088 - Author Head Space with Sara Moore
Episode 126 - Bernice Bobs her Hair with Jon Laubinger
Episode 157
- Joint Readalong of Gone with the Wind with Book Cougars
Episode 198 - Mood Reading with Robin

Stalk us online:

Scott on A Good Story is Hard to Find (podcast)
Scott on Shelf Wear (blog and podcast)
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.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Review: Margreete's Harbor

Margreete's Harbor Margreete's Harbor by Eleanor Morse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel unfolds slowly and not a lot happens but I took my time and enjoyed it. In Maine, Margreete almost burns her house down so her adult daughter decides to move her family in to help. Liddie, a cellist, has to abandon her string ensemble, and her husband Henry has to find a new teaching job. They have several kids who grow up somewhat through the novel, which spans from 1955-1968, and touches on the political events of the time in small ways.

The book came out April 20th, and I had a copy from St. Martin's Press through Edelweiss.

I wanted to add a few examples of the writing but this is not from final copy:

"On his way out, he said, 'You know, you don't have to do what you're doing?'
'And what do you think I'm doing?'
'Making a habit of discontent.'"

"She felt sad for him, felt he deserved someone who loved him all the way. She did her best that night, but she was watching herself, the way people who return from the dead describe seeing their bodies laid out below."

"She said that Eva probably wouldn't understand one other thing until she was older but she would say it anyway. 'Some people think that playing is all about themselves. They roar through a piece thinking, Look at me! Look how fast my fingers are going, listen to how much noise I'm making! If you're thinking like that, you're not making music. You have to make yourself small enough to disappear inside it. Then you can make music that makes other people feel something."

"Music, for him, was entertainment, relaxation. For her, as she'd told him the other day, it was beyond necessary. How do you describe that feeling to someone who can't feel it for himself? It was like explaining the smell of the ocean."

"Eva found her teacher's playing accurate and pinched and sad. Why would you be a musician if it didn't make you happy?"

"It seemed Brahms had preferred longing to marriage. The state of longing is not something often celebrated, he thought, but look at the music it created."

"It's not safe to love. There's no way to make love safe. Every time you love someone, you risk losing them. But living in safety is no way to live."

View all my reviews

Friday, May 7, 2021

Review: Northern Spy

Northern Spy Northern Spy by Flynn Berry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was confused at first because I thought this book was set during the Troubles but at some point the cell phones and technology drove me to the internet where I discovered the IRA has rebranded itself and continues to fight. (The USA still calls it the IRA; other places it's referred to as The New IRA.) The novel is sent twenty years after the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which the internet says ended "most" of the violence. Well this is the other part. Well this is the other part. One article even links it to Brexit.

It starts with Tessa, a single mother who works for the BBC from Belfast. The police think her sister Marian is working for the IRA, which is unfathomable, and the more she knows, the more she gets pulled in.

I love a good spy novel but also feel I should say the writing is stellar, and the author captures the complexity of the lives of women and female relationships amidst a very tense plot, very impressive.

Here are a few examples, not final copy so wording may vary slightly:

"At home, I take off my dress and drop it in the hamper...Once the dress is washed, maybe it won't seem tainted by today, though I already know I'll never wear it again, like the jumper I had on that day on Elgin Street, and the necklace I took off my throat while walking away from the collapsed building, like having it on was disrespectful, frivolous."

"There's always someone, for a mother, to tell you to pull your socks up." (so many opinions from strangers and neighbors about every little child rearing thing)

"We keep talking, and something settles in me, like silt falling to the bottom of a river. I feel more calm than I have in weeks. This isn't so difficult. I'm a woman, after all, so I've had a lifetime of practice guessing what a man wants me to say, or be. Seamus wants me to be brisk and capable, and he wants me to be angry, which I am, only not in the direction he thinks. Seamus asks me questions, and as I answer them, directly and mostly honestly, I think: I'm going to destroy you."

"Damian has some scotch, and I watch him carefully note down each of his drinks in the ledger. He's planning to murder someone tomorrow, but he won't steal drinks from an honesty bar."

"On air, the students are thoughtful and wry and tough... They painted extra letters onto one mural, changing it from Join the IRA to Join the Library."

(I found this was a real thing that happened!)

I had an eARC from the publisher through NetGalley; it came out April 6th. Reese picked it for her book club so it should be everywhere soon.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Reading Envy 219: These Chickens with Carol Ann

Carol Ann and I discuss the reading adventures she discovered during quarantine, and we both bring books to talk about that we've read and liked lately, from music to paradise to lesser known presidents.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 219: These Chickens

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 listed as featured for this episode

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner
Brood by Jackie Polzin
Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand
The Ensemble by Aja Gabel
The Unexpected President by Scott S. Greenberger

Other mentions:

Hidden Brain podcast
Adventures by the Book
Novel Network
Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan
American Hookup by Lisa Wade
New York Times review of Brood
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating
by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
What Happens in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand
Troubles in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand
An Equal Music by Vikram Seth
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky, translated by Jackie Smith
Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky, translated by Christine Lo

Related episodes:

Episode 103 - Duchess Potatoes with Carol Ann Ellison
Episode 164 - Character Driven with Carol Ann
Episode 187 - Sentient Snails and Spaceships with Paula

Stalk us online:

Carol Ann at Goodreads
Carol Ann is @thebookandbeyond on Instagram 
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.