The 2022 AW Reading Challenge! Turning the page on a new year.

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MAK4Him

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Hello again.

I enjoyed How To Stop Time immensely. Matt Haig is a good writer, not an enlightening statement considering this forum ....but I had to say it.

The character Tom goes through many lifetimes, as he suffers a condition that prevents him from aging like rest of us. Remarkably he's not one of a kind as he learns when a "recruiter" of sorts insists that he join their secret society or suffer the consequence of refusing.

Like the other members he becomes subjected to the will of the head of the society which forces him to live a somewhat isolated and stressful existence going from "life to life" for his and their protection.

Prior to being inducted into the society he married and lost a wife and fathered a daughter. She also inherited the same condition and went into hiding so her whereabouts are unknown.

This book had so many layers of contemplation. I won't go into all of them but will share one or two of the most significant for me.

While Tom is forced to struggle with a specific philosophy and/or existence of isolation he physically suffers severe chronic headaches associated with memories of former lives. When his lifestyle changes the headaches diminish. I wonder whether the conflict within of overwhelming joy, love and guilt of the events that took had taken place was too much and the "outlet/release" resulted in the headaches.

Would he have suffered the pain and headaches had he been able to enjoy the memories and life rather than being oppressed and constrained to live in isolation? Probably the point, because he ends up living a life of his choosing and the headaches are lessened considerably.

Additionally, the contradictory viewpoints of living between Hendrich and Omai are wonderful. I loved the complete opposite definitions of "living". They each displayed definitions of what it really means to love oneself.

Hendrich's was to satisfy his own selfish existence whereas Omai's desires were satisfied by living and loving those around him to the full. O's outlook was hopeful, optimistic. H's way of forcing others to his process of thinking and living was just plain toxic and he got his in the end.

I did have one question about a character I thought for sure would have showed up with H at the end. Agnes. She seemed to admire and respect H so much, why wasn't she with him on the final climatic journey? I understand traveling together wasn't wise however was H so paranoid and secretive that he didn't inform her of his plans? And what about other members, when Tom chooses to reveal, is there a danger of retribution?

Regardless, I absolutely LOVED LOVED LOVED the final 'moral lesson", if you will, that the future is something that should be seen as good, bright and hopeful. Not something to be dreaded no matter how much time given.

Even in our current state of history repeating itself again, one can find good if one searches hard and long enough for it.

Call me naive but that's what I want to believe and hope for.

3. Just the facts, Ma’am: The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz. Currently Reading
9. Coming to a theater near you: Wonder by R.J. Palacio
12. What everyone else was reading: Any book from a significant year in your life on the New York Times Best Seller List The Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy
13. Out of Time: How To Stop Time by Matt Haig. DONE
15. Halcyon days: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams DONE
16. Lol random: The Black Dwarf by Sir Walter Scott
24. Continuing on: Shadow Knights by Jennifer Anne Davis DONE
28. Alma mater matters: I DO I DO by Ellie Cahill. DONE
30. Succinct: Hyperspace by Michio Kaku.
35. Namesakes: Silas Marner by George Elliot Currently Reading
37. I spy: Any Means Necessary by Jack Mars.
41. Armchair voyages: Don Quixote by Cervantes.
 

oneblindmouse

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I finished The Viceroy of Ouidah by Bruce Chatwin, (Out of Africa). It was very short! The more I read by Chatwin, the more I like him.
In little more than a hundred pages, Chatwin weaves together fact and fiction to evoke the last sordid days of the slave trade, in a tale reminiscent of García Márquez or Conrad. In 1812, the impoverished Francisco Manoel da Silva sails from Brazil to Dahomey, now Benin, in West Africa, where he befriends the mad dictatorial king, is named viceroy of Ouidah, and makes his fortune in the slave trade. Foiled from returning to Brazil a rich man, his legacy is a host of descendants revering him as the founder of a dynasty, whilst pining for their lost glory.
This is a grim, but memorable story about the slave trade and moral corruption, where the rot and decay of the tropics is mirrored in the rot and decay of the people portrayed: the Europeans and African tribal leaders enriching themselves with the slave trade to the Americas (an estimated 5 million slaves were shipped to Brazil, compared with half a million to the British colonies of North America), the colonists enriching themselves with slave labour, and even the former slaves who return to Africa only to participate in the slave trade, themselves.
Yet the book isn’t about slavery, so much as about specific people in a specific time and place, whose world is brought to life by Chatwin’s masterly prose and vivid imagery. Apparently, his plan was to write a non-fiction work, but his research trip to Benin was so unpleasant that he decided not to return, and to convert the story into a short piece of fiction.

1. Armchair voyages: The Yangtse Valley and beyond by Isabella Bird Bishop FINISHED
2. By its cover: The King David report
by Stefan Heym FINISHED
3. Old world charm: A Traitor’s Kiss
by Fintan O’Toole FINISHED
4. Dearly departed: Inés and joy
by Almudena Grandes
5. Just the facts, Ma’am: Doves of war; four women of Spain by Paul Preston FINISHED
6. Getting started: Bone rattler
(Duncan McCallum series, No 1) by Eliot Pattison FINISHED
7. Continuing on: The Prisoner of Heaven
(The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, book Nº 3) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
8. I Spy: The thirty-nine steps by John Buchan FINISHED
9. Succinct: Burr
by Gore Vidal IN PROGRESS
10. Still time for more chapters: Cuadernos de Lanzarote
by Antonio Lobo Antunes
11. Out of Africa: The Viceroy of Ouidah by Bruce Chatwin FINISHED
12. Read it again, Sam: Down the Snow Stairs
by Alice Corkran FINISHED
 

Cobalt Jade

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Finished my Three-color mythology pick, Locke & Key. This was Vol. 1 of the series, but I don't think I'll be going on. I was eager to read it because of the Netflix series and its H. P. Lovecraft associations, but aside from the name of the town it's set in, there wasn't much of Lovecraft in there. It's more of a supernatural thriller.

A high school guidance counselor is murdered by two of his former students and his wife and children are traumatized by the aftermath, having had to hide from the killers and then attack them on their own. They move cross country to a old Edwardian house in Massachusetts on its own private island which was in the late father's family. The house has special keys that unlock special doors, which, when you go through them, you become someone or something else, or are transported somewhere else. A demonic woman living in the wellhouse wants one or more of the keys so she can get out of her supernatural prison and so cajoles the youngest child into befriending her. Meanwhile, the crazy youth who planned the father's murder escapes from jail and travels cross-country to seek the same keys from the family. And -- surprise! -- he had been cajoled by the demon lady in the wellhouse as well (sorry for the pun) because she had communicated with him out of a picture of it in the murdered teacher's house!

The artwork was OK, if not as expressionistic as I wanted, and more bloodier than I wanted, but the story was lacking. It sounds like a good story in synopsis, but just wasn't written well, and too much of it like sounded two guys were joking around as they wrote it, trying to sound edgy and flip, even as the things they were writing about -- grief, PTSD, guilt, the fear of being a victim -- were serious ones. Like, one of the guys who killed the father mentions twice that the mother used to bend over while she was packing groceries in her car to show him her panties. I guess it was to show he's a gross guy who makes things up, but as far as grossness goes, it's a cheap shot and serves no purpose except to make the writers sound flip. The story isn't about this yucky dude who dies early. It's about the family and the mysterious house. There's another cheap shot later when the demon lady, who has escaped the well, uses the key to change her gender to male and quips, "Time to have clothing to fit balls again." Like...what?

I don't recommend.


1. Read it again, Sam: Reread a book you have already read. *DONE*
At The Mountains of Madness, H.P. Lovecraft


2. Still time for more chapters: A memoir/biography by/about someone who’s still alive (as of January 1).
Wonderful Tonight, Patti Boyd


3. Just the facts, Ma’am: Nonfiction on any subject.
You Look Like a Thing and I Love You, Janelle Shane


6. Out of Africa: A book taking place in Africa (including North Africa).
We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, Philip Gourevitch


9. Coming to a theater near you: A book made into a major motion picture.
Blood of Elves, Andrzej Sapkowski


21. Three-color mythology: A graphic novel or comic book. *DONE*
Locke & Key, Vol. I, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez


23. Getting started: Read the first book of a series.
The Book of Three, Lloyd Alexander


24. Continuing on: A book from any point in a series that is NOT the first or the final.
Kushiel’s Avatar, Jacqueline Carey


32. Old world charm: A book taking place in or about Europe.
The World of the Castrati, Patrick Barbier


34. Tag team: A book by more than one author. WORKING ON
Roadside Picnic,
Arkady and Boris Strugatsky


36. Ye olde booke shoppe: A book written before 1800.
Saga of the Volsungs


50. Loose ends: A book you started last year and haven’t yet finished.
The Dragon Quartet, ed. Marvin Kaye

edited because Lovestock is not the same as Lovecraft
 
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Chris P

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Like CobaltJade, I also finished a Three-Color Mythology graphic novel: Home After Dark by David Small. Also like CobaltJade, I wasn't overly thrilled.

It starts with one of the best opening lines I've read in a while: "That night, when the screaming and shouting began, it was like hearing my parents' real voices for the first time." At thirteen, Russell's parents split, and Russell and his dad move to California to stay with family that rejects them. The new kid and not the toughest of the kids in his school, Russell is bullied and enters into reluctant friendship with either an outcast coming to terms with his sexuality, or a duo of boys, one of whom is a toxic ring leader and the other his sycophant sidekick. Russell runs away once his father vanishes, and a subplot around an animal killer surfaces. Not much more than that really happens, nor goes much of anywhere. The afterward acknowledges this is based on the childhood experiences of someone the author knows, but I didn't think he really developed it in as strong a story as he could have.

I'm a few pages into American Dirt, which so far reads like a genre thriller but aspiring to be a more literary work on living in fear of a powerful and violent cartel. It's struggling to get going, and I might replace it if it doesn't come together in the next few dozen pages.

1. Just the facts, Ma’am: Nonfiction on any subject. The Pioneers – David McCullough
2. Just the (alternative) facts, Ma’am: An alternate history. A Nation Interrupted – Kevin McDonald
3. Girls chase boys chase girls (or any combination thereof): A book with a love triangle. An American Marriage – Tayari Jones
4. Out of Africa: A book taking place in Africa (including North Africa). Weep Not, Child – Ngugi wa Thiong’o DONE
5. Let’s go clubbing!:
A book in a celebrity’s book club. Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides (Oprah’s Book Club)
6. Three-color mythology: A graphic novel or comic book. Home After Dark – David Small DONE
7. Face your fears:
A book that intimidates you, for any reason. Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco DONE
8. Namesakes: A book by an author who shares your first or last name (maiden name counts). Hour of the Witch – Chris Bojhalian
9. Holiday cheer: A book focusing on a holiday. In Five Years – Rebecca Serle (New Years) DONE
10. Pages on pages:
Any book where books play a significant role in the plot. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek – Kim Michele Richardson DONE
11. Howdy, stranger:
A book about immigrants or immigration, or with an immigrant main character. American Dirt – Jeanine Cummins
12. Dearly Departed: A book by an author who died within the past four years. Tales from the Ant World – E.O. Wilson DONE
 
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Cobalt Jade

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Chris P you have read about the controversy surrounding the book?
 

Chris P

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Chris P you have read about the controversy surrounding the book?
American Dirt or Home After Dark?

I know American Dirt got a lot of buzz a year or so ago, but I wasn't sure of the details. I have some Googling to do, apparently.
 

Chris P

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American Dirt.
This article brought it back; I do recall it now and related discussions we've had here at AW. I wonder if the brownface accusation is related to my observation of "thriller aspiring to be more literary," since it seems to be aimed at the author's demographic. Like an attempt at a more socially conscious Dean Koontz or similar type thing. That will probably tip me toward swapping this one out.
 

Siri Kirpal

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Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Another one down:

Get On With It, Already!; Backlist Delights: The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich: I liked this book much better than I thought I would. Also-ran books by well-known authors can be mixed: there's one I got at a deep discount when Borders folded that I disposed of before I'd finished a third of it; there's another I got on clearance that was tolerable but memorably humdrum. So, I had some reservations about this book I got on clearance sometime in 2006/2007.

But this book is wonderful. Beautifully written. The multi-layers were handled in a much more coherent and comprehensible way than the other (more famous) Erdrich book I've read.

The Painted Drum is, yes, the story of an Ojibwe drum, told as a frame story. The frame is told in first person present by Faye Travers, a woman of part Ojibwe heritage, who runs an estate business with her mother, and as part of that business discovers the drum in the attic of the deceased descendent of a former Indian agent. She steals (or maybe rescues) and eventually repatriates the drum. This section is written in slightly ornamented and contemplative language; some of it was a bit slow. I didn't mind it, but I imagine a good many other people would.

The main story concerns the events that led up to the making of the drum, how the drum was made, and what happened when it was used. Most of this section is told by Bernard Shaawano, the grandson of the drum's maker, in first person past, and it's told the same way you'd tell a story to a group who know some of the language who are eager to hear you tell this tale. Which is to say: at first there's some confusion, because he takes a lot for granted and uses a fair amount of Ojibwe vocabulary. He uses circumlocutions I've seen in other Native American writing also. But once I got into it, this section sped along the same way it would if I were the guy's grandkid hearing a story I'd longed to hear for the first time. The ending of this section is told in omniscient (or maybe multiple third) past and tells the story of how the drum was put back into use once it was repatriated. An interesting and fast paced story in its own right.

To the confusing bits of the main story and the slow bits of the frame story, add a premise that doesn't sound all that promising: Faye finds drum and we learn drum's history. Twirl fingers for a big whoop-di-do. So, I can see how this book would end up on the also-ran list. But it was much more interesting than it sounded like. Glad I picked it up.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

Siri Kirpal

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Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Well, two of the books I selected as suitably interesting and suitably easy on the eyes for the days before my first cataract surgery turned out to be less than suitable.

I was sure The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George would be a treat, but the MC, who's supposed to be sympathetic, is the sort of control freak who would tell someone not to read the book they're reading. And then there's a sort of appendix with books to read under certain circumstances; unfortunately, this book is set in France, but few if any of the books were originally written in French, and many of them are books originally written in German (like Nina George's books are), but they haven't been translated, yet. Uh...a book set in France has a Frenchman insisting people read books that were written in, and only available in, German? Nope.

Then there's Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis, which sounded right up my alley. Ha! It's not even in my city, and reeks with misery. Thanks, but no thanks.

So, I've made some changes to the list:

Here we go:

Pages on Pages:

Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher De Hamel (also Just the Facts, Ma'am)

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer (also Out of Africa)

Paris by the Book by Liam Callahan (also Old World Charm)

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Crossings by Alex Landragin (also Succinct)



Thy Titles Are Numbered (Books with Numbers in the Title):

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne (also Face Your Fears, Gramma Would Have Loved This) Done

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott

The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung (also Namesakes—my given name is a K variant of Catherine)

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis (also Let's Go Clubbing!—Oprah)



Get On With It Already!:

The Discourtesy of Death by William Brodrick (also Loose Ends) Done

The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich (also Backlist Delights) Done

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (also What Everyone Else Was Reading)

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleeve

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

The Annotated Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, annotated and edited by David M. Shapard (also Learn the Quadrille)

Blessings by Anna Quindlen (also Succinct)

Blandings by P.G. Wodehouse (also Succinct)



Authors Corner (Two or More Books by and/or about the Same Author):

Tony Hillerman:


Talking God (Gramma Would Have Loved This)

Listening Woman (Gramma Would Have Loved This)

Paul Adam:

The Rainaldi Quartet (also Armchair Voyages—Italy: Getting Started; Gramma Would Have Loved This; Old World Charm) Done

Paganini's Ghost (Armchair Voyages (Italy): Continuing On; Gramma Would Have Loved This; Old World Charm)



Be the Narrator: Loose Ends:

The Gift, Poems by Hafiz, the Great Sufi Master, Translated by Daniel Ladinsky Ongoing

Extra Credit: By Its Cover:


The Maze at Windermere by Gregory Blake Smith

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

Cobalt Jade

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I was sure The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George would be a treat, but the MC, who's supposed to be sympathetic, is the sort of control freak who would tell someone not to read the book they're reading. And then there's a sort of appendix with books to read under certain circumstances; unfortunately, this book is set in France, but few if any of the books were originally written in French, and many of them are books originally written in German (like Nina George's books are), but they haven't been translated, yet. Uh...a book set in France has a Frenchman insisting people read books that were written in, and only available in, German? Nope.

Wow, I'm confused just reading that.

I had a friend that would read Dostoyevsky novels in French, just because she liked that translation better. I was so impressed.

I'm worked on Roadside Picnic right now, by the Strugatsky brothers. It's a new translation from the original Russian, which was written and published during the Cold War (1971.) I like it. Four alien ships have visited Earth briefly and left behind a bunch of trash and strange effects in the areas they've visited, some of which are harmful to humans so the areas have been closed off for study. But people still sneak in and steal alien technology, and sell it on the black market. Actually I think the book IS a parody of the Russian black market for Western goods as it existed in the 1970s. The characters you meet could have been selling radios and blue jeans. But there's an SF aspect too, the idea that even if aliens visited the Earth, we would never understand them, or they, us. Enjoying this one.
 

Siri Kirpal

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Wow, I'm confused just reading that.

I had a friend that would read Dostoyevsky novels in French, just because she liked that translation better. I was so impressed.
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Yeah, I thought it was weird.

And I'd be impressed with a native English speaker reading Dostoyevsky in French too. For what it's worth: I'm a huge fan of The Brothers Karamazov but found Crime and Punishment highly implausible and not enjoyable.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

oneblindmouse

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I finished Burr by Gore Vidal (Succinct). After watching the film Hamilton a few months ago, I realized how ignorant I was – as a European - of American history, and was seized by curiosity to know Aaron Burr’s side of the story, so it’s been a real pleasure to now read Vidal’s version of Burr’s “memoirs”. Though written as a historical novel, the book is thoroughly researched and, I believe, quite factual. What I found fascinating was Vidal’s daring to criticize back in 1973 such iconic figures as Jefferson and Washington, and his painting a very different picture of the American Revolution and its aftermath to the one that is nowadays hyped in history books and the media. I was also amused to realize that way back, as a teenager, I’d read the story of Burr’s daughter in Anya Seton’s novel, My Theodosia, which I shall now probably reread. I shall probably also read the remaining books in Vidal’s historical series. I always have ideas for more reading challenges!

1. Armchair voyages: The Yangtse Valley and beyond by Isabella Bird Bishop FINISHED
2. By its cover: The King David report
by Stefan Heym FINISHED
3. Old world charm: A Traitor’s Kiss
by Fintan O’Toole FINISHED
4. Dearly departed: Inés and joy
by Almudena Grandes
5. Just the facts, Ma’am: Doves of war; four women of Spain by Paul Preston FINISHED
6. Getting started: Bone rattler
(Duncan McCallum series, No 1) by Eliot Pattison FINISHED
7. Continuing on: The Prisoner of Heaven
(The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, book Nº 3) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
8. I Spy: The thirty-nine steps by John Buchan FINISHED
9. Succinct: Burr
by Gore Vidal FINISHED
10. Still time for more chapters: Cuadernos de Lanzarote
by Antonio Lobo Antunes
11. Out of Africa: The Viceroy of Ouidah by Bruce Chatwin FINISHED
12. Read it again, Sam: Down the Snow Stairs
by Alice Corkran FINISHED
 

Chris P

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Oh, wow, that was good! Let’s go clubbing!: A book in a celebrity’s book club. Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides (Oprah’s Book Club). I can see why it won the Pulitzer.

Cal Stephanides, born intersex and misidentified as female at birth in 1960, recounts the journey of his recessive genes conferring intersexuality beginning with his brother-and-sister Greek grandparents' flight from Turkey at the burning of Smyrna in 1922. Making their way to Detroit, their child Milton courts his cousin Tessie, eventually giving rise to Cal, the narrator, with his unique genes and body parts. This is really two stories, the first of Desdemona and Lefty's Turkish village life and flight, getting married aboard the ship to the U.S. to hide their relationship (I can't remember why they had to hide it, actually), and their adjustment to life in Detroit. The second story is of Cal's pre-pubescent life as a girl in the 1960s and early 70s, and his coming to understand who he really is, before running away when a noted sexologist prescribes surgically reassigning Cal as a girl. I thought the Desdemona narrative was the more unique and better told with the tough choices of that generation, with much of Cal's story a fairly typical "oddball at school" tale. It was still very well done, and one of the top novels I've read in the last few years.

I have a tenuous personal connection to part of this story. My grandmother arrived in Detroit from Sweden in 1929, therefore Desdemona's 1920s/1930s Detroit shows the city as my grandmother would have seen it, before leaving for other parts of Michigan in the early 1930s. Of course we have family stories about how they lived (in a garage) and what they did while there (worked for Packard and construction, but mostly they went hungry), but they didn't talk about the city and what it was like. Eugenides's description of Desdemona's trolley ride across town was a part of family history I didn't get to hear about. Pretty cool.


1. Just the facts, Ma’am: Nonfiction on any subject. The Pioneers – David McCullough
2. Just the (alternative) facts, Ma’am: An alternate history. A Nation Interrupted – Kevin McDonald
3. Girls chase boys chase girls (or any combination thereof): A book with a love triangle. An American Marriage – Tayari Jones
4. Out of Africa: A book taking place in Africa (including North Africa). Weep Not, Child – Ngugi wa Thiong’o DONE
5. Let’s go clubbing!:
A book in a celebrity’s book club. Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides (Oprah’s Book Club) DONE
6. Three-color mythology:
A graphic novel or comic book. Home After Dark – David Small DONE
7. Face your fears:
A book that intimidates you, for any reason. Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco DONE
8. Namesakes: A book by an author who shares your first or last name (maiden name counts). Hour of the Witch – Chris Bojhalian
9. Holiday cheer: A book focusing on a holiday. In Five Years – Rebecca Serle (New Years) DONE
10. Pages on pages:
Any book where books play a significant role in the plot. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek – Kim Michele Richardson DONE
11. Howdy, stranger:
A book about immigrants or immigration, or with an immigrant main character. American Dirt – Jeanine Cummins
12. Dearly Departed: A book by an author who died within the past four years. Tales from the Ant World – E.O. Wilson DONE
 

Siri Kirpal

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Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Well, now that my avatar is back to normal, I'll post this:

Authors Corner; Gramma Would Have Loved This (Mom introduced me to the Leaphorn and Chee books): Talking God by Tony Hillerman: A complicated number that spends a lot of time in Washington, DC, which isn't exactly the location Hillerman's Leaphorn and Chee books are noted for. I found that disappointing, but not enough to toss the book. I found some of the complications confusing early on, but maybe they're meant to be; after all, Leaphorn and Chee are confused too.

There's one really implausible item: A part-Navaho conservator at the Smithsonian sends to a bigwig lady (who's subbing at the Smithsonian) the skeletons of two of her prominent ancestors in retaliation for all the skeletons of Native Peoples the Smithsonian has collected (18,000 of them). You'd think he'd be fired, but he isn't. I didn't click to it until about a third of the way through or I'd have dumped the book.

But if I could get past that -- and I found I could -- the book works really well. It's part thriller, since one of the POV characters is a murder-for-hire assassin. The whole revolves around the problems involved with retaliation. And in keeping with such a theme, the body count is high. Much higher than most mysteries.

Further caveat: The N word appears several times when we're in the assassin's head, because he's remembering the things his mama told him: to always get even, because if he didn't, he'd be treated like an N word. In this one case, I found the usage justified, since it gave some depth to how the guy became so screwed up. No other person uses the word or thinks anything even like this.

And so, my evaluation of this book is mixed. I don't think it's Hilllerman's best, but I don't regret having read it.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 
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I finished Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. This is book one of a trilogy. I was looking forward to this one mainly because the description was "necromancer lesbians in space." I had a hard time with the characters in this one, mainly because there were so many. There was A LOT of snark in this book, which was enjoyable, but it was hard to tell who was a skeleton and who was a human most of the time. Gideon's necromancer called her "Griddle" which I thought was hilarious. I wanted to like this one, but there was a lot going on and I only feel like I got half of what I was actually reading. Maybe I'll pick it up again sometime.

1. Halcyon days: A book published the year you turned 21 (or age 12 if you aren’t yet 21) - The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich - IN PROCESS
bo weather, or with a weather-themed title. - Weather by Jenny Offill - DONE
3. Howdy, stranger: A book about immigrants or immigration, or with an immigrant main character. - Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli - DONE
4. Let’s go clubbing!: A book in a celebrity’s book club. - Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Reese Witherspoon's Book Club) - DONE
5. Tag team: A book by more than one author. - Cemetery Dance by Preston & Child
6. Armchair voyages: A book taking place somewhere you have always wanted to go, but have never been. - Silent House by Orhan Pamuk
7. Continuing on: A book from any point in a series that is NOT the first or the final. - Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind - IN PROCESS
8. Holiday cheer: A book focusing on a holiday. - Yule Log Murder by Leslie Meier - DONE
9. What everyone else was reading: Any book from a significant year in your life on the New York Times Best Seller List - Intensity by Dean Koontz - DONE
10. Out of this world: A book taking place in space or on another planet. - Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir - DONE
11. Pages on pages: Any book where books play a significant role in the plot. - The Midnight Library by Matt Haig - DONE
12. Getting started: Read the first book of a series. - The Poppy War" by R.F. Kuang - DONE
 

Cobalt Jade

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Finished up Roadside Picnic. Wow, a five-star book! Despite the awkward language I was really into it by the end, which describes a tension-filled trip through a bizarre, alien-damaged quarry in search of a "Golden Sphere" -- a legendary alien artifact -- that has the power to grant wishes. This is one of those books where the horrors aren't described outright, only through the close POV of the characters. Though only one section was in first person present POV (the book had five) the others felt like first person POV. It was very different from anything I've ever read.

On the downside, the roles of women were stereotypical: Wife / mother vs. Spoiled whore. It was written in the early 1970s after all. There's a mention of the boss man chasing stenographers around which punctured the fantasy of otherworldliness by an atom.

About the language. Because it was translated from Russian, and the original Russian had many colloquialisms, they were translated to their nearest English equivalents, which wasn't always the hippest and newest of slang. Like "mug" for a criminal-seeming face, for example. But that the novel shines in spite of it testifies to the skill of the authors.

Onto the World of Prydain!



1. Read it again, Sam: Reread a book you have already read. *DONE*
At The Mountains of Madness,
H.P. Lovecraft

2. Still time for more chapters: A memoir/biography by/about someone who’s still alive (as of January 1).
Wonderful Tonight, Patti Boyd

3. Just the facts, Ma’am: Nonfiction on any subject.
You Look Like a Thing and I Love You, Janelle Shane

6. Out of Africa: A book taking place in Africa (including North Africa).
We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, Philip Gourevitch

9. Coming to a theater near you: A book made into a major motion picture.
Blood of Elves, Andrzej Sapkowski

21. Three-color mythology: A graphic novel or comic book. *DONE*
Locke & Key, Vol. I,
Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

23. Getting started: Read the first book of a series. * W o r k i n g o n *
The Book of Three, Lloyd Alexander

24. Continuing on: A book from any point in a series that is NOT the first or the final.
Kushiel’s Avatar, Jacqueline Carey

32. Old world charm: A book taking place in or about Europe.
The World of the Castrati, Patrick Barbier

34. Tag team: A book by more than one author. *DONE*
Roadside Picnic,
Arkady and Boris Strugatsk

36. Ye olde booke shoppe: A book written before 1800.
Saga of the Volsungs

50. Loose ends: A book you started last year and haven’t yet finished.
The Dragon Quartet, ed. Marvin Kaye
 

oneblindmouse

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I finished The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Enjoyable but too short. More like a short story or extra chapter, than a full novel, as if Zafón was just trying to tie up some loose ends in readiness for the very long fourth book of the series. Jumping between the mid-1950s and the early 1940s, Fermín tells Daniel about his harrowing past as one “returned from the dead”, and sharing a cell in a notorious Barcelona prison with the mysterious half-mad author David Martín – the “prisoner of heaven” – , leaving him (Daniel) with more questions than answers. Had his mother been murdered? If so, should he avenge her? Was Martín his father? And, even more disturbing, was he still alive?

I’ve just realized I’ve been a real literary ignoramus, and that I included under Still more chapters (a memoir by someone still alive) Cuadernos de Lanzarote (1993-1995), saying it was by Antonio Lobo Antunes. I’ve just realised that I muddled up my two favourite Portuguese authors, and the memoirs are, in fact, by José Saramago, who died in 2010. So, I’ve decided to replace it with a book that was recommended earlier this year in this challenge: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.

Revised challenge:

1. Armchair voyages: The Yangtse Valley and beyond
by Isabella Bird Bishop FINISHED
2. By its cover: The King David report
by Stefan Heym FINISHED
3. Old world charm: A Traitor’s Kiss
by Fintan O’Toole FINISHED
4. Dearly departed: Inés and joy
by Almudena Grandes
5. Just the facts, Ma’am: Doves of war; four women of Spain by Paul Preston FINISHED
6. Getting started: Bone rattler
(Duncan McCallum series, No 1) by Eliot Pattison FINISHED
7. Continuing on: The Prisoner of Heaven
by Carlos Ruiz Zafón FINISHED
8. I Spy: The thirty-nine steps
by John Buchan FINISHED
9. Succinct: Burr
by Gore Vidal FINISHED
10. Pages on pages: The Midnight Library
by Matt Haig
11. Out of Africa: The Viceroy of Ouidah
by Bruce Chatwin FINISHED
12. Read it again, Sam: Down the Snow Stairs by Alice Corkran FINISHED
 

Cobalt Jade

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I am halfway through The Book of Three, by Lloyd Alexander. I know it's a much-beloved and recommended tween book, and fantasy book in general, but I am finding it merely OK. Engaging, but nothing that knocks me out of the park. probably because I'm a grown-up. It's sort of Tolkien lite, set in an imaginary Wales, and to the author's credit, not as twee as Narnia or The Hobbit got in places. There's a Gollum analog named Gurgi and a Sauron one, Arawn, the Lord of the Dead. Taran is a foundling that lives on a homestead with a retired wizard and former hero, and when the wizard's magic pig goes missing, he sets off to find it and becomes embroiled in a plot by an evil (we know he's EVIL because he wears a mask made of a human skull, with deer antlers) warlord to out Prydain's ruling family, the Don. It's based on Welsh myth and parts of the Mabinogian, and I admit that when I read the Mabinogian after college, it didn't exactly knock me out of the park either.

I was more surprised by the author. I'd assumed all these years he was English, and a scholar, ala Tolkien, but he was born in Philadelphia, PA! And developed a love for Wales while stationed there in the military.
 

Sophia

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I am halfway through The Book of Three, by Lloyd Alexander

The Prydain Chronicles were a major part of my childhood. I have such strong memories associated with finding out about them (a school book order catalogue), reading them (out of order), and looking back on them. I absolutely love the books. I started rereading The Book of Three a few months ago and still find it absorbing, although obviously it's a different experience reading it as an adult. I do hope you enjoy the series, if you end up reading more.

I, too, had assumed the author was Welsh!
 
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Cobalt Jade

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Sophia, I finished the book, and I have to admit it grew on me! I will move on to The Black Cauldron at some point.

1. Read it again, Sam: Reread a book you have already read. *DONE*
At The Mountains of Madness,
H.P. Lovecraft

2. Still time for more chapters: A memoir/biography by/about someone who’s still alive (as of January 1).
Wonderful Tonight, Patti Boyd

3. Just the facts, Ma’am: Nonfiction on any subject.
You Look Like a Thing and I Love You, Janelle Shane

6. Out of Africa: A book taking place in Africa (including North Africa).
We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, Philip Gourevitch

9. Coming to a theater near you: A book made into a major motion picture.
Blood of Elves, Andrzej Sapkowski

21. Three-color mythology: A graphic novel or comic book. *DONE*
Locke & Key, Vol. I,
Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

23. Getting started: Read the first book of a series. *DONE*
The Book of Three,
Lloyd Alexander

24. Continuing on: A book from any point in a series that is NOT the first or the final.
Kushiel’s Avatar, Jacqueline Carey

32. Old world charm: A book taking place in or about Europe.
The World of the Castrati, Patrick Barbier

34. Tag team: A book by more than one author. *DONE*
Roadside Picnic,
Arkady and Boris Strugatsk

36. Ye olde booke shoppe: A book written before 1800.
Saga of the Volsungs

50. Loose ends: A book you started last year and haven’t yet finished.
The Dragon Quartet, ed. Marvin Kaye
 

oneblindmouse

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I finished and really enjoyed The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. Thank you, Verboten, for having recommended it earlier in this challenge. The plot concerns 35-year-old Nora, who feels a failure and decides to commit suicide, but before she actually dies, she experiences entering a library in which each of the books tell the tale of one of her infinite number of alternative lives. A gentle story about regret, hope, forgiveness, acceptance, and philosophy. And I agree with Verboten that this book should be recommended reading to anyone feeling suicidal, suffering depression, or just generally at a loss as to what to do in their lives.

Only one book left, but it’s a biggy.

1. Armchair voyages: The Yangtse Valley and beyond by Isabella Bird Bishop FINISHED
2. By its cover: The King David report
by Stefan Heym FINISHED
3. Old world charm: A Traitor’s Kiss
by Fintan O’Toole FINISHED
4. Dearly departed: Inés and joy
by Almudena Grandes
5. Just the facts, Ma’am: Doves of war; four women of Spain by Paul Preston FINISHED
6. Getting started: Bone rattler
(Duncan McCallum series, No 1) by Eliot Pattison FINISHED
7. Continuing on: The Prisoner of Heaven
by Carlos Ruiz Zafón FINISHED
8. I Spy: The thirty-nine steps
by John Buchan FINISHED
9. Succinct: Burr
by Gore Vidal FINISHED
10. Pages on pages: The Midnight Library
by Matt Haig FINISHED
11. Out of Africa: The Viceroy of Ouidah
by Bruce Chatwin FINISHED
12. Read it again, Sam: Down the Snow Stairs
by Alice Corkran FINISHED