Friday, May 18, 2018

Weekend reads, May 18

My weekend read is In the Distance with You by Carla Guelfenbein, a literary thriller set in Chile inspired by Clarice Lispector. It has a delicious opening line -- "Somewhere on the planet, there was someone responsible for your death." -- and I can't wait to settle in tonight for a good long read.

 What are you reading this weekend?

Monday, May 14, 2018

Top Ten Reads of 2017

In 2017 I read 40 books, and while it's on the leaner side (compared to the years I was aiming for 200+!), it felt like the first year I was really back into reading in a way I hadn't been since I was pregnant in 2014.

I got much closer to my goal of being a free-range reader in 2017, but I still struggled with balancing reading with other activities, and more importantly with regards to this blog, writing about my reads. (Here I am, almost halfway through 2018, and I'm seriously behind on reviews. Ugh!)

In 2017, thirty-four of all the authors I read were women. Seven were authors of color. Four of my reads were audiobooks, which is a first for me! I managed two non-fiction reads: one a memoir, the other a food/how-to guide. Twenty-four of my reads were 2017 releases.

As always, my top ten reads for the year were books that delighted me upon reading and have lingered with me after. All are books I've recommended multiple times and/or won't shut up about. Only one is missing a review, and all I can say is this: it was a sexy fun romance that completely won me over, and I read it three times (!!) in 2017, I loved it that much.

Damon Galgut, Arctic Summer

Christina Henry, Lost Boy

Crystal King, Feast of Sorrow

Joan Lindsay, Picnic at Hanging Rock

Sarah Lotz, The White Road

Sarah Perry, The Essex Serpent

Kate Quinn, The Alice Network

Marissa A. Ross, Wine. All the Time

Nell Stevens, Bleaker House

Sally Thorne, The Hating Game

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Wordless Wednesday, May 9

My Wordless Wednesday: a snapshot of my morning.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Book Review: Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel

First line: --Central, this is Lapetus. Target in sight.

This is the final novel in the Themis Files trilogy (I reviewed the previous two novels, Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods.) 

I'm not going to summarize the plot because I don't want to end up spoiling anything. As a concluding novel, it did everything I needed a final book to do: wrapped up plot threads, answered the mysteries, and provided some final flash bang.

As with his previous novels, I think some of Neuvel's characterizations are thin -- no doubt because the story is told through transcripts and journal entries -- and it left me a little impatient with the story.

These were fast reads, so if you want a Michael Bay-esque summer action flick in a book, this trilogy will do it.

Title: Only Human
Author: Sylvain Neuvel
Genre: Fiction (Sci Fi / Speculative / Mecha / Aliens / Parenthood / Social Commentary / Warfare)
Publisher/Publication Date: Del Rey (5/1/2018)
Source: Edelweiss

Monday, May 7, 2018

Book Review: Eventide by Therese Bohman

First line: The subway car was packed and she had to stand from Slussen to Ɩstermalmstorg, crammed between people who all seemed to be sweating.

I didn't think I'd so enjoy a book that details the angst of being 40ish and uneasy about one's life. But Bohman's slender novel and her cerebral, melancholy heroine Karolina, are touching, familiar, and wryly funny.

This is a familiar story, but still feels fresh and vibrant. Karolina is 40-ish and newly separated, a decision that she agonizes over. Living alone, she relishes the freedom even as she doubts her own decisions. When her charming graduate student's research reveals an exciting, forgotten female artist, there is the promise of something more.

Bohman's narrative style, as translated by Marlaine Delargy, is both grounded and ethereal: we experience Karolina's grimy commutes through the city as well as float with her during her lofty, meandering ruminations. It's a think-y kind of novel that doesn't waste page space on long-winded meditations; instead, Bohman -- and Karolina -- are trying to ascertain if this moment in her life is fulfilling or not. It's a poignant question I often ask myself, and I found myself empathizing with Karolina throughout this book. Our lives are different, but the questions are the same.

What had actually made her happy about the life she had made for herself? Self-realization might seem desirable in comparison to its opposite, but as the only alternative it wasn't especially attractive. Suddenly it seemed as if the nameplate on her door was mocking her, that "Karolina Andersson, Professor of Art" was nothing more than a sad indictment. That was her life, summarized in just a few words. A life should contain more than there is space for on a nameplate.

Title: Eventide
Author: Therese Bohman
Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Sweden / Translation / Academia / Art / Research / Relationships / Single Life / Aging)
Publisher/Publication Date: Other Press (4/10/2018)
Source: The publisher

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Book Review: The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

First line: The new doctor took her by surprise.

This book is my catnip: Victorian, gothic, haunted house slash ghost story maybe slash unreliable narrator, plus mysterious deaths and creepy countrysides and, well, this read did not disappoint.

I loved it.

Elsie is a young widow, mere months into her marriage. Her husband died under mysterious circumstances at his family's decrepit country estate and Elsie must go there for his burial, accompanied by a mousy cousin-in-law, Sarah. She finds The Bridge, as the house is called, in shambles, with an clumsy, unprofessional staff surrounded by hostile villagers. She also finds a home, and family, steeped in tragedy.

I don't want to say too much more lest I giveaway a small but meaningful detail, but needless to say, Purcell creates a story with all the shiver-inducing details one wants in a creepy gothic-y horror. Nothing can be trusted: not people, not one's senses, not history, not place.

The title's silent companions are detailed wooden figures also known as dummy boards; Elsie and Sarah discover one in the garret. Purchased by the family in the 17th century, the figure is realistic, disconcerting, and, well, possibly evil. So add that to the creepy story goodness checklist.

This is a fast read but I lingered over it -- I didn't read it at night because I'm a wuss -- and I just adored it. I spent a little time trying to imagine how Purcell would resolve the various threads, and she still surprised me at the end. Delightfully.

Title: The Silent Companions
Author: Laura Purcell
Genre: Fiction (Victorian / Gothic / Haunted House / Marriage / Siblings / Motherhood / Multi-narrative / Murder Mystery)
Publisher/Publication Date: Penguin Books (3/6/2018)
Source: The publisher