Monday, July 31, 2017

"Finding Nouf" by Zoe Ferraris. ****

  • Audiobook 
  • Originally published in 2008
  • Review:  I enjoyed this book on two levels.  The murder mystery was engaging and kept my interest right up to the resolution.  Even more fascinating to me was the opportunity to learn so much about the intricacies of living behind the veil in a Muslim society.  The perspectives of Muslim men and women were represented, incorporating the strictly observant as well as those who question certain aspects of the rules.  A good story and a cross-cultural experience all in one.  Looking forward to the next in this new series.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

"The Hunger Angel" by Herta Muller *****

  • Romanian author
  • Nobel Prize winner
  • Originally published in 2009
  • Review:  Profoundly disturbing, exquisitely evocative, heartrending.  I do not know how else to characterize this magnificent piece of writing. Muller uses language (and I read this in an English translation) as few writers I have ever read have been able to.  I felt as if I was inside the soul of Leo, a young man sent to a Russian work camp at the end of WWII.  I am anything but a squeamish reader, yet I repeatedly had to set this book down because of the pain evoked by the author's prose.  Just as Leo is haunted for the rest of his life by the hunger angel, I will be haunted by this powerful novel!

Friday, July 28, 2017

"Tales of A Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World" by Rita Golden Gelman ***

  • Autobiography
  • Non-Fiction
  • US author
  • Originally published in 2001
  • Review:  Ms. Gelman's travel stories are more than travel stories.  They describe the lifestyle of a person with a true zest for life and living.  I found the stories to be interesting, particularly the manner in which the author crossed over from visitor to resident in each location.  I have no yearning to wander, but I share the love of people and admire the trusting nature which allowed her to pursue her dreams. I did find myself wondering about the trusting souls who did not fare as well as she did in their journeys into the unknown.  Very good book.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

"The Balkan Trilogy" by Olivia Manning *****

  • Summer Read with Beth
  • English author
  • Originally published in 1960
  • Characters:  Yakimov, Clarence, Guy, Harriet, Charles, Lord Pinkrose, Alan
  • Review: Reading this novel was a deeply satisfying experience. I learned about WWII actions in Romania and Greece that I had not known about. The author's take on the life of government workers living abroad during a time of war came from her own experiences, so I felt that they were authentic. The characters represented types to be found everywhere, but were brought to life so that I felt connected to them. The theme of commitment, whether in marriage, in political or personal beliefs, or to community was thoroughly explored, and was thought provoking. Most of all, I felt I gained some insight into the experience of being at the mercy of the fortunes and misfortunes of war. Entire countries, not just the characters in the story, lived with moment-to-moment anxiety of which way the proverbial wind would blow, and whether their troops would prevail, and what their choices were if they did not. I certainly was reminded to be grateful for the stability of my life in the United States. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

"The Woman In The Dunes" by Kobo Abe. ****

  • Japanese author
  • Originally published in 1964
  • Review:   For me, this novel is a mix of the "Myth of Sisyphus" and "Waiting For Godot".  An entomologist becomes ensnared in a Japanese village in sand dunes.  A life of pointless repetitions drive him nearly mad as he plots many escapes.  I found myself rooting for him and then wishing he would just accept his fate.  This is a well-written, profoundly thought provoking existential tale.  Not a light, summer beach read by any stretch of the imagination.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

"The Earth Hums in B Flat" by Mari Strachan ***

  • Welsh author
  • Originally published in 2009
  • Debut novel
  • Review:  A lovely debut novel.  I imagine this book being kept on the shelf of a summer cottage for adults and youths to pick up and read.  It would be just the right tone for vacation. The perspective of a young girl who is inquisitive, intuitive, exquisitely sensitive, and who flies over her town in her sleep is a delightful one.  Gwennie is full of questions.  Some of the answers are tough to handle, but then again, so is life.  Charming and insightful.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"The Second Mrs. Hockaday" by Susan Rivers. ***

  • Audiobook
  • US author
  • Originally published in 2017
  • Debut Novel
  • Review:  This story, told in the now ubiquitous style of non-chronological narrative, was quite good.   I am weary of the style, but the characters and story were compelling.  Set during the Civil War,  and told via diaries and letters, it is the tale of a young woman on her own, trying to run her new husband's plantation while he is at war.  Events transpire in a mysterious manner which require the majority of the novel to clarify.  The mysteries of family history comprise the central theme.  Nice novel.

"Madame Zero" by Sarah Hall. *****

  • English author
  • Early Review edition for
  • Short Stories
  • Review:  Run, don't walk, and read this short story collection! Unique stories, tremendous human understanding, marvelous characters,  and just good reading! I will definitely check out more of this author's work.  i particularly liked the story of transformation, "Mrs. Fox".

Saturday, July 8, 2017

"Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon To White America " by Michael Eric Dyson ***

  • Audiobook
  • Non-Fiction
  • Book Club
  • Originally published in 2017
  • Review:  Complicated reaction to this "sermon".  I have to say that I felt challenged and interested.  I do not like the shaming that went on.  I am no more ashamed of being white than I am of being a woman, than I am of being fat.  So I will not be shamed for who I am.  But neither should anyone else be!  Clearly there are systemic issues which need to change and I am sure that I have some of the subtle bias that many people have trouble seeing in themselves.  I just have to say that I feel fear as a woman that transcends race.  It is all complexly part of who I am.  I just keep trying to speak out, do better, and embrace differences.  Tough read!

Friday, July 7, 2017

"The Thirst" by Jo Nesbo. ****

  • Audiobook 
  • Norwegian author 
  • Mystery/Suspense 
  • Originally published in 2017
  • Review:   I think this may be my favorite Harry Hole novel yet!   Excelkent pace, Harry doesn't screw up a happy relationship, and there is a significant hint of future events.  Excellent!