VivianS Reading in 2015

Converses75 Books Challenge for 2015

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VivianS Reading in 2015

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1vivians
gen. 2, 2015, 12:50pm

Year 3 of my LT threads...glad to be back.

2vivians
gen. 2, 2015, 12:51pm

2013 favorites:

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
TransAtlantic
Life After Life
The Goldfinch
The Cuckoo's Calling
The Big Rock Candy Mountain
Dog Stars
Flight Behavior
A Land More Kind Than Home
The Hired Man
How the Light Gets In

Going Clear
The Black Count
The Swerve

3vivians
Editat: gen. 5, 2015, 11:16am

2014 favorites:

Eventide Kent Haruf
Longbourn Jo Baker
The Martian Andy Weir
Burial Rites Hannah Kent
The Silkworm Robert Galbraith
The Painter Peter Heller
The Rise and Fall of Great Powers Tom Rachman
All The Light We Cannot See Anthony Doerr
History of the Rain Niall Williams
The Bone Clocks David Mitchell
Every Man Dies Alone Hans Fallada
Euphoria Lily King
An Officer and A Spy Robert Harris

Top rereads:

Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver
Gilead Marilynne Robinson

Top nonfiction:

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant Roz Chast
Last Days of the Incas Kim MacQuarrie
The Boys in the Boat Daniel James Brown

4vivians
Editat: gen. 11, 2015, 6:46pm

#1 Lila Marilynne Robinson
Perfect first book of the year and a fitting companion for Gilead. (I liked both of those better than Home, although I did enjoy hearing about the Boughton family.)

5drneutron
gen. 2, 2015, 1:35pm

Welcome back!

6katiekrug
Editat: gen. 2, 2015, 9:15pm

Hi Vivian! Good to see you back!

ETA: Isn't An Officer and a Spy historical fiction?

7lkernagh
gen. 3, 2015, 1:03pm

Welcome back!

8Donna828
gen. 3, 2015, 1:27pm

Vivian, our reading tastes are very similar. I will be following you closely to see what I should be adding to my wishlist! A few of your favorites I haven't read yet are already there!

9Chatterbox
gen. 3, 2015, 3:29pm

Hello!! And yes, An Officer and a Spy is fiction, albeit closely based on history. And a fabulous book. I think it was one of my top three books of 2013.

10vivians
Editat: gen. 5, 2015, 11:16am

Visitors!
Hi Jim - thanks as always for organizing the threads!
Katie and Suzanne - thanks for the correction. I mistakenly placed An Officer and a Spy on my non-fiction list - I'll fix it!
Hi again Donna - all the best for a happy and healthy 2015 to all.
And hello to Lori too - thanks for the visit.

11vivians
gen. 5, 2015, 1:45pm

#2 The Blazing World Siri Hustvedt.
A great premise: contemporary artist Harriet Burden feels overlooked and ignored by the male-dominated art world, and creates three masterpiece exhibitions crediting the creation to three young men. The story is told through excerpts from her notebooks, recollections by family and friends, discussions by art critics, and this structure was interesting and worked well for me. Harriet's anger reminded me of The Woman Upstairs and all that rage and ranting. There were continuous references to philosophical works and strange digressions with no bearing on the story that were incredibly pretentious and boring. The author is described as having a PhD in neuropsychoanalysis, neuroethics and neurophysiology and she seemed too eager to demonstrate those credentials to the detriment of the story.

12Chatterbox
gen. 5, 2015, 5:56pm

Siri Hustvedt has a seizure disorder of some kind, and that prompted her to do a lot of research -- I had thought mostly in the psychoanalytic end of it, but I may be wrong about that. She is very, very into psychoanalysis and ethics, as well as philosophy, including hermaneutics -- I think this is her most ambitious and most difficult novel because she is assuming a lot of knowledge on the part of the reader. Oh, and FWIW, she is married to Paul Auster, whose very streamlined style (if not his underlying literary goals) couldn't be further removed from hers...) I think I liked this a lot more than you did, with the exception of the dreadful preface, although it still will be two re-reads before I feel I have fully grasped what she is trying to do with it. There's a point to the rage.

13porch_reader
gen. 7, 2015, 9:10pm

Hi Vivian! Lila was one of my favorites in 2014. Did you like it?

14brenzi
gen. 8, 2015, 8:06am

Hi Vivian. And Happy New Year. You've convinced me to add Euphoria to my teetering tower. It sounds really good.

15vivians
Editat: gen. 11, 2015, 8:32pm

Hi Amy - yes I loved Lila too, and find that it's really sticking with me.
Hi Bonnie - I haven't read too much about Euphoria on LT so I hope you can help me spread the word. It was one of the NY Times 5 best fiction titles of 2014, and I often don't agree with their picks, but this one is truly worthwhile.

#3 Brown Girl Dreaming Jacqueline Woodson
I listened to this on audio and I think I got a lot more out of it that way than I would have in print. It's the story of the author's youth in South Carolina and in New York in the 1960s. Written for middle schoolers, this free verse memoir is filled with the author's love of family.

#4 Fourth of July Creek Smith Henderson
Read for my book group. Peter Snow is a social worker in rural Montana, deeply caring but flawed as well. His family life is a mess, and one thread of the book concerns his runaway teenage daughter. He devotes great care and energy in dealing with one of his most interesting cases: a feral boy living on the edge with his fanatical, survivalist father. A few complaints, such as the horrendous portrayal of virtually all the women in the book, but otherwise a book I'd recommend.

#5 Some Luck Jane Smiley
I'm hesitant to write this review because so many people whose opinions I respect have loved this book....but I just can't say the same. I found the multiple points-of-view distracting and choppy, and although it certainly presented a view of Iowa farm life throughout the 30s and 40s, I think I would have preferred a historical narrative to give me that understanding.

16Donna828
gen. 12, 2015, 10:39am

>15 vivians: I appreciate your comments on Some Luck, Vivian. I will read it with your view in mind bit it won't change my opinion of it. I am a little suspicious of books that get nothing but love!

17porch_reader
gen. 12, 2015, 9:24pm

#15 - Vivian - I loved Some Luck, but haven't felt the same about all of Jane Smiley's books. I was OK with the multiple points of view in this book, but I'm wondering if she will be able to make it work through the whole trilogy. It seems that it may get more difficult to pull off as more generations are introduced. I have Fourth of July Creek on my Kindle, so I'm glad you recommend that one.

18vivians
Editat: gen. 22, 2015, 3:44pm

#6 The Miniaturist Jessie Burton
A disappointment because of the high expectations from the BoTN podcast. It wasn't bad, I just found it boring (surprising since I love HF) and undeveloped. The central mystery is never explained, and I found it hard to believe 18 year Nella's acceptance, devotion and love for her in-laws after just four months of an extremely difficult marriage.

#7 Neverhome Laird Hunt
Great subject matter (heroine is one of the more than 500 women who fought in the Civil War in male disguise) but a little disappointing. It was never explained why Connie/Ash left her home in the first place, other than noting that she was stronger than her husband (emotionally? physically?). Some great characters, especially the Colonel, but it lacked depth.

#8 The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds Alexander McCall Smith
Someone make me stop reading this series. I sincerely hope this was the last one as I seem to be unable to ignore them. This one was just mildly entertaining, and that's being generous. There was no resolution to the central "mystery", the characters and their personalities were completely lifted from the other books, and the "philosophical" wonderings of the main character were just annoying.

19katiekrug
gen. 20, 2015, 1:10pm

I just bought The Miniaturist for my Kindle, despite some mixed reviews. And I've been vacillating on Neverhome. Look forward to your thoughts on both!

20porch_reader
gen. 21, 2015, 4:24pm

I'm reading Neverhome right now. So far, I'm fascinated, but not completely committed.

21vivians
gen. 22, 2015, 3:47pm

Hi Katie & Amy - just added some quick thoughts -neither was a great success unfortunately. I think I'm in a bit of a slump.

Current dilemma - just started A Place of Greater Safety on audio - 32 hours - and two audiobook holds from the library just came in.....

22vivians
gen. 30, 2015, 12:31pm

...reading a few things while I listen to A Place of Greater Safety

#9 Nothing to Lose Lee Child
I'm plowing through this series because of a client obligation but found this one to be pretty good. Still same formula but it seems to work. This one involves a mysterious town in Colorado, and end-of-days evangelist, the requisite strong female involvement, and lots of skippable detail. Perfect for iPhone reading while waiting in the freezing car for play practice pickups!

#10 Last Night at the Lobster Steward O'Nan
I continue to be a fan of O'Nan and marvel at his range. I really enjoyed this novella about the staff of a closing restaurant on their last (snowy) day.

23vivians
Editat: feb. 12, 2015, 4:47pm

#11 Nora Webster Colm Toibin
I really loved this, despite there not being a fast-moving plot. Widowed at a young age with four children, Nora has to navigate a new existence without the husband who had transformed her from a dour, provincial girl into a capable and interesting person. Without him, she fears sliding back to her previous self. At times her instincts, particularly her maternal ones, are off-kilter, and she often can't connect with her children. But she is completely aware of this and her constant efforts are heartbreaking and memorable.

#12 A Place of Greater Safety Hilary Mantel
This has been on my list forever. Thanks to a few snow days I listened to the whole thing in just over two weeks. I studied the French revolution in college so there were no surprises; even so, I listened with anticipation and dread. Mantel chose three towering figures (Robespierre, Desmoulins and D'Anton) and tells the story through their eyes and many others, including wives, followers, and enemies. The technique is not off-putting at all. She tells the story through people rather than through events (some of which are down-played almost to the point of being ignored, including the death of the King) and is incredibly successful in doing so.

and one I forgot for 2014:

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin

#13 Paper Towns John Green
My 13 year old liked this but I didn't - I spent too much time being furious at the parents of a rebellious, run-away teenager.

#14 The Snow Queen Michael Cunningham
Blech. Not worth it. Pretentious style, uninteresting story of two brothers in '90s Brooklyn...drugs, cancer, way too many internal monologues...if it hadn't been short I never would have finished it.

24porch_reader
feb. 6, 2015, 6:27pm

I've got Nora Webster on my TBR. What did you think of it? I liked The Master when I read it last year.

25vivians
feb. 12, 2015, 5:05pm

Hi Amy - just updated my comments! I really liked Nora Webster and highly recommend it. I liked The Master too, and I also read Brooklyn, which has some poor reviews (with which I disagreed). I think he has a tremendous ability to inhabit characters, even women, in a very genuine way.

26brenzi
feb. 12, 2015, 6:00pm

Oh I have the Mantel book and have for awhile so you've made me anxious to get to it Vivian.

27vivians
feb. 13, 2015, 10:29am

#15 We Are Not Ourselves Matthew Thomas
Very moving story about an Irish Catholic family in NYC through the last decades of the 20th century. Difficult childhoods result in a marriage full of frustration and unmet aspirations, but also times of great tenderness and comfort. The gradual and devastating onset of early Alzheimer's, with which I am unfortunately familiar, was poignantly written. Rather long in sections but ultimately a very good read.

Hi Bonnie - yes the Mantel is great. I spent a lot of time on Wikipedia and other sources, trying to find the line between fact and fiction. I always think that's a great indication of a successful piece of historical fiction.

28vivians
Editat: feb. 24, 2015, 3:34pm

#16 The Woman Who Wouldn't Die Colin Cotterill
Still love this series although I read this one and missed the sardonic voice of Clive Chafer, the brilliant narrator of the audiobooks. This addition goes into the personal history of Mme. Daeng, a character that has been developed over the last few books.

#17 The Personal History of Rachel Dupree Ann Weisgarber
This was on my TBR for ages, not sure of the source. A quick read, highly recommended, about a black family homesteading in the South Dakota badlands. Filled with Rachel's triumphs and sorrows and beautifully written.

#18 Missing Person Patrick Modiano
Not sure why he won the Nobel. I understand that in all his works he is struggling with the issue of memory and identity. This short novel is about an amnesiac's search for his self. As I was reading I could picture this as a black-and-white film noir. A familiarity with Paris streets would be an asset as there were lots of references to specific places.

NF Hild Nicola Griffith
Seemed like my kind of historical fiction (7th century Britain) but I got completely bogged down in names and obviously meticulously researched historical detail. Will try again at some point.

#19 The Orenda Joseph Boyden
This worked well on audio as the three narrators were distinct and memorable. The backdrop is the early 19th century struggle between the Iroquois and the Huron tribes, the latter aided by the French Jesuits. Snow Falls, a young Iroquois girl is captured and adopted by Bird, a Huron warrior who has brutally killed her entire family. She slowly is integrated into Bird's village, where Jesuit priests are desperately trying to make inroads. Other than the extremely graphic descriptions of torture, I enjoyed every minute.

29vivians
Editat: març 6, 2015, 2:37pm

#20 A Trail Through Time Jodi Taylor
Still entertaining although I'm often confused about the time chronology. Love the narrator, Zara Ramm.

#21 The Pleasing Hour Lily King
I loved Euphoria so I thought I would check out Lily King's back list. This first novel was ok, the story of a fairly provincial American girl in Paris. Characters were either undeveloped or unlikable. Disappointing after Euphoria.

#22 The Paying Guests Sarah Waters
Also slightly disappointing, mostly because of its length and repetitiveness. I loved the gender and class issues, the relationship between Frances and her mother, the post-WWI realities of loss, both emotional and financial.

30vivians
març 9, 2015, 1:59pm

#23 The Daughters of Mars Thomas Keneally
Just brilliant. So far superior to both the Bess Crawford series and the Maisie Dobbs, both of which also deal with young women who serve as nurses in WWI. The two Australian sisters and their wartime experiences and relationships will stay with me for a long time. The events cover Gallipoli to the casualty stations in France, with a particular emphasis on the Australian experience. The ending seems to distress many readers but I thought it was perfectly handled. This is my first Keneally - must remedy that.

31vivians
Editat: març 23, 2015, 1:54pm

#24 Wait for Signs Craig Johnson
Short stories which worked very well.

#25 Toby's Room Pat Barker
This was shortlisted for the Sir Walter Scott prize but I found it less powerful than the Regeneration trilogy. Elinor is an artist, her beloved brother Toby is a medical officer who is serving as a medical officer on the front lines in France. A mystery surrounds his disappearance and Elinor struggles to find the answers. Once again Barker weaves historical events an figures into her story. There was a lot of focus on the medical traumas faced by soldiers, particularly those with severe and disfiguring facial injuries.

#26 Gone Tomorrow Lee Child
A suicide on the IRT subway leads into the most political novel yet - a nice change in this series. Lots of Afghanistan-USSR- US politics intrigue but still an annoying amount of "logical" deductions that lead Reacher to the solution.

#27 Life After Life Kate Atkinson (reread)
Just as fantastic the second time around. Reread in anticipation of sequel.

#28 Merivel Rose Tremain
I enjoyed this even more than Restoration, as Merivel's life spins from the British court of Charles II to the French court at Versailles and back again to Bidnold Manor. A great tale of the 17th century.

#29 An Unmarked Grave Charles Todd
I think this marks the end of the Bess Crawford series for me. Writing is uneven, plot is ridiculously convoluted, and there are way too many coincidences throughout (Bess happens to run into the serial killer in a deserted barn in the middle of battle-ravaged French countryside....) She flits back and forth between England and France too many times. After reading the brilliant Daughters of Mars I really felt this was a waste of time.

32vivians
Editat: abr. 24, 2015, 10:28am

#30 The Dovekeepers Alice Hoffman
Fictional account of events on Masada, which themselves are in doubt by archeologists. Way too long with too much desert crossing, thirst and dust. Still, a very interesting depiction of 1st century Judaism, with lots of mysticism and pagan elements mixed in.

#31 Doc Mary Doria Russell (reread)
Wonderful on audio, revisited in anticipation of the sequel, Epitaph. I was in Phoenix for a work conference, a great location to be in for this classic Western story.

#32 The Rosie Effect Graeme Simsion
Pleasant and entertaining and an ok sequel, but it lost the charm of the first one. Don has to handle marriage, impending fatherhood, and living in NY. He accumulates a bizarre set of friends and ultimately everything works out.

#33 The Book of Unknown Americans Cristina Henriquez
the story of multiple immigrants living in a small town in Delaware, attempting to adjust to the US, to learn the language, navigate the bureaucracy all the while feeling homesick and a deep sense of being outsiders. The story focuses on the Rivera family, who travel from Mexico to provide their brain-injured only daughter with targeted schooling.

#34 Children of the Storm Elizabeth Peters
I just keep plugging away at this series....not sure why. Now there are three generations of Emersons solving mysteries in Egypt. Growing Egyptian nationalism plays a part in this one, as does, once again, a mystery of stolen gems and old enemies.

#35 O Jerusalem Laurie R. King
Holmes and Russell thwart a murderous plot to blow up the Old City, Allenby and incite the populace against British rule. Very so-so.

#36 Annihilation Jeff VanderMeer
By far the most bizarre and over-rated book of the year for me. I completely didn't get it. Four unnamed women mount an expedition to the mysterious Area X, after numerous previous forays have ended in a variety of disastrous ways. I found it boring, not suspenseful at all, and will not be reading the sequels.

#37 Dead Wake Erik Larson
A little too much hype but still very worthwhile narrative of the sinking of the Lusitania and its impact on the rest of the world.

#38 The City and the City China Mieville
On the surface a police procedural, this world-building novel blew me away. Employing not a bit of the supernatural, Mieville creates a fictional Eastern European country in which two separate cultures cohabitate, each completely ignoring the other. Completely original, great dialogue, characters and prose. The audiobook was narrated by John Lee - I would listen to him reading a telephone book.

#39 The Last Flight of Poxl West Daniel Torday
Meh. AUthor sounded interesting on an NPR interview but the book was so-so.

#40 No Time Like the Past Jodi Taylor
Another time travel episode. Still very humorous and captivating.

33vivians
Editat: abr. 28, 2015, 4:08pm

#41 Out Stealing Horses Per Petterson
Loved this, the first of my Scandinavian reading in anticipation of our summer trip. It is the story of 67 year old Trond and his recollections of the summer of his 15th year, when he spends two months with his father at a remote cabin. He is not a particularly expressive man, and he himself seems surprised at the depth of his feelings that summer and how they impacted the rest of his life.

34vivians
abr. 28, 2015, 3:59pm

NF The Bees Laline Paull
Shortlisted for the Bailey PRize. Got through two discs and gave it up. Life in a hive....all I could think of was Woody Allen in "A Bug's Life." Not for me.

35vivians
Editat: maig 29, 2015, 3:08pm

#42 A Dangerous Place Jacqueline Winspear
Poor Maisie - a second personal tragedy inflicted on her so that she will be free to remain the independent and deeply scarred investigator from the early books. This one takes place in Gibraltar at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Convoluted mystery involving a photographer and German submarines.

#43 Everything I Never Told You Celeste Ng
A long library wait list perhaps unreasonable raised my expectations. So many people loved this but all I could see was horrific parenting, initially leading to family dysfunction and eventually to tragedy. A bi-racial couple marry in the 60's, believeing themselves to have overcome their own unhappy childhoods, only to inflict pain and suffering on their children.

#44 Hunger Knut Hamsun
Nobel prize winner, read in anticipation of upcoming Scandinavia trip. A very personal, harrowing, stream of consciousness account about the struggles of a starving author. Sometimes delirious, sometimes insightful, the young man's mood gyrates dramatically as his circumstnaces shift.

#45 Lamentation C. J. Sansom
Fantastic addition to the Matthew Shardlake series, the hunch-backed lawyer who in this episode works for Queen Catherine Parr, Henry VIII's sixth wife. Great insight into the religious struggles of the time and into the gradual demise of the king. Also enjoyable is the secondary plot about one of Matthew's cases involving a dueling brother and sister and their inheritance.

#46 H is for Hawk Helen MacDonald
Slightly disappointed after the rave reviews. I found so many curious holes in this story of the training of a goshawk, particularly the author's apparent long history of similar undertakings. Beautiful and evocative prose. MacDonald is clearly an experienced naturalist and was at her strongest in descriptions of animals and the countryside. I thoroughly enjoyed the TH White biography that was sprinkled throughout.

#47 A Man Called Ove Fredrik Backman
More Scandinavian lit. Very light and entertaining story of a bereaved and curmudgeonly widower who reluctantly finds reasons to continue to live. Lovely story.

#48 The People in the Trees Hanya Yanagihara
Too long! Pages and pages of forest treks by a young and extremely unlikable medical researcher who eventually wins a Nobel prize for his discoveries of the cause of longevity in a Micronesian tribe. Norton Perina is an insufferable child, a cruel and unfeeling researcher, and is eventually revealed as an abusive and morally repugnant foster parent. Extremely uncomfortable to read but compelling.

#49 A Spool of Blue Thread Anne Tyler
Similar to many of her other novels. Lovely story-telling of family dynamics focusing on an aging couple, their four children (one adopted, one a rebellious and selfish heartache). A sudden shift towards the end to the previous generation was disconcerting.

36vivians
Editat: juny 24, 2015, 4:21pm

#50 Being Mortal Atul Gawande
Excellent and worthwhile commentary on end-of-life medicine.

#51 Sweetland Michael Crummey
I loved this novel about a fictional Newfoundland island and the government scheme to relocate its inhabitants. One lone hold-out remains on the island, and his life is retold in a series of flashbacks. Really an excellent read.

#52 Every Day David Levithan
Very mediocre YA about a being who awakes every day in a new body. Some intriguing thoughts, lots of diversity, probably a great read for a teenager.

#53 Epitaph Mary Doria Russell
I wish the audio had been read by Mark Bramhall, who did such an excellent job reading Doc. This narrator (Hillary Huber) just didn't do it for me. This sequel focuses more on Wyatt Earp and Sadie Marcus, an incredibly interesting pair especially as they aged and remained together, essentially reinventing themselves multiple times after the OK Corral incident. I missed the voice of Doc Holliday but this was still a very worthwhile book.

#54 A God in Ruins Kate Atkinson
Simply no words for this, the best read of the year so far and maybe among my all time favorites. A worthy successor to the amazing Life After Life, this novel follows Ursula Todd's brother Teddy from his childhood through his seminal WWII experiences a bomber pilot. The impact of the war lasts for generations, and once again decisions that appear to be minor have tremendous and long-lasting effects. Despite a very fluid timeline, I never felt lost or uncertain about events. A mind blowing ending as well.

#55 Our Souls at Night Kent Haruf
Too much hype for this last book by Haruf, published posthumously. I loved the Holt, Colorado novels and this one had a great premise but just seemed slight.

#56 61 Hours Lee Child
More of the same. A countdown during a savage snowstorm in South Dakota, countless descriptions of the biting cold, the usual body count, weapons and prison descriptions as well as a nod to Cold War preparations. The first novel without a romantic interest for Jack Reacher, the substitute is a cultured old lady who, predictable, bites the dust.

#57 All I love and Know Judith Frank
The story was ok, the one-sided political point-of-view drove me crazy. A gay couple becomes the legal guardians of two small children, orphaned by a terrorist bombing in Jerusalem.

#58 Wolf Winter Cecilia Ekback
18th century Swedish Lapland, a cruel winter, a murdered settler, a little withcraft, and eventually the uncovering of true evil. A slow moving mystery, a great sense of place.

#59 As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust Alan Bradley
Another mediocre installment as the precocious Flavia De Luce is sent to a boarding school in Canada. The mysterious organization "Nide" is never explained (perhaps to remain as fodder for #8 in the series) na din general I found this unsatisfying and vaguely annoying.

#60 Six and a Half Deadly Sins Colin Cotterill
The intrepid Dr. Siri and his wife and best friend travel to the northern provinces to investigate a possible murder, just as the Chinese are preparing to invade Vietnam. Drug lords, the decline of old traditions, the intrepid police officer...all elements of this excellent addition to the series.

#61 Academy Street Mary Costello
So so so sad..my heart really broke for Tess and her loneliness and losses. Beautifully written.

37vivians
juny 24, 2015, 6:00pm

#62 Guardian of the Horizon Elizabeth Peters
The 15th in this series steps back into time and revisits the mysterious oasis in Sudan. Since I'm more interested in the characters than in the mysteries, this was a bit of a plod.

38katiekrug
juny 24, 2015, 9:07pm

Hi Vivian! I love reading your roundup of recent books. I also *loved* Academy Street and am getting tired of the mediocre Flavia novels. I so enjoyed the first few but they are getting a little tiresome. I'm not sure I"ll continue with the series.

39vivians
Editat: juny 29, 2015, 1:37pm

Hi Katie! I'm a little bogged down with series and I think I'll have to give myself permission to just stop some of them (Flavia De Luce, Bess Crawford are two that come to mind).

#63 A Spy Among Friends Ben Macintyre
Completely gripping narrative of Kim Philby and his espionage for the Soviet Union during WWII and the Cold War. Brilliantly read by John Lee, totally absorbing.

#64 The Sculptor Scott McCloud

#65 The Buried Giant Kazuo Ishiguro

40vivians
Editat: jul. 21, 2015, 2:26pm

NF How to Be Both Ali Smith
I listened to an interview with Ali Smith after I put down the book and am now thinking of revisiting it at some. The first story is about a 15th century Renaissance artist who disguises herself as a man, and the second is about a contemporary teenager facing the sudden loss of her mother. The style is stream of consciousness; perhaps this would have worked better for me on audio.

#66 Hell's Bottom, Colorado Laura Pritchett
Terrific linked short stories, unique characters.

#67 Storm Front Jim Butcher
Why did I begin another series? Not sure where this recommendation came from. Chicago wizard, grisly double murder - not great but I read somewhere that the series gets better.

#68 The Professor's House Willa Cather
Heard about this one on "The Readers" podcast. Not as great as My Antonia and Death Comes For the Archbishop but still excellent and very worthwhile. An old man in his 50s (!!!), the Professor holds on to his shabby former residence as his family upgrades to a new home. He and his whole family are troubled by the legacy of a former student who died during WWI.

#69 The Lie Helen Dunmore
Another powerful WWI story, shortlisted for the Walter Scott historical fiction prize. Daniel returns to England trying to survive the shattering death of his best friend and blood brother. The war traumas, hallucinations, abject poverty and lack of a place in society all conspire to make his life unbearable.

#70 Kafka on the Shore Haruki Murakami
Compelling to the end but too bizarre for me: talking cats, Colonel Sanders, Oedipal prophecies, etc. I did enjoy the depictions of Kafka Tamura, a 15 year old runaway who escapes a horrific childhood and finds some measure of safety in a small-town private library, Hoshino the compassionate truck driver and Nakata, the humble old man who suffers from some mysterious childhood wartime event.

#71 Lumberjanes Noelle Stevenson
I've enjoyed a number of graphic novels but this one was not for me. Very confusing panels and I couldn't keep the characters straight.

#72 A God in Every Stone Kamila Shamsie
Extremely complicated lead-in to a street riot and massacre in Peshawar in 1915. The two main protagonists are a young British archeologist (whose independence seemed a little unbelievable given her time) and a former Indian soldier who was wounded in France fighting for the British. His ambivalence about the British Empire and the appalling treatment he was subjected to were the most interesting parts to me.

#73 Morality Play Barry Unsworth
Short and extremely worthwhile - a 14th century troupe of actors enters a small town on a frigid day (very evocative) and becomes ensnared in a murder investigation. They choose to depart from custom and act out a play concerning the current events, and in this way stumble upon the perpetrator and cover-up.

#74 I Saw a Man Owen Sheers
Couldn't put this novel down, although in the end there was something vaguely dissatisfying about it. Michael Turner moves to London after his journalist wife is killed in Pakistan. His sudden and deep friendship with a neighboring family results in a tragic accident, in which all are culpable but none is blamed. Wonderfully written exploration of guilt, grief and solace.

#75 Therese Raquin Emile Zola
Adultery, murder and guilt, hopelessness, poverty and despair. Beautifully read by Kate Winslet.

41katiekrug
juny 30, 2015, 12:02pm

Can't wait to hear what you thought of HB,CO. I loved it!

42porch_reader
jul. 6, 2015, 7:25pm

And I'm curious what you thought of The Professor's House. I heard it recommended on The Readers podcast today. I've read several other Willa Cather books, but not that one.

43vivians
jul. 12, 2015, 11:42am

Hi Katie and Amy - I'm behind on writing my comments, mostly because I'm taking every spare moment while my daughter is at camp to READ! It's been lovely, only work getting in the way. Amy I chose The Professor's House because of that podcast and thought it was a really good read, although not as powerful as My Antonia or Death Comes to the Archbishop. Katie I'm pretty sure I read Hell's Bottom, Colorado because of your strong recommendation, despite my disinclination towards short stories. I really enjoyed it so thanks!

44vivians
Editat: set. 4, 2015, 12:09pm

#76 The Serpent on the Crown Elizabeth Peters
A continuation of the series - nothing special. Post-war (1922) and seemed like a bit of a set-up for the Tut tomb discovery which I imagine will be coming up soon in the series.

#77 The Ten Thousand Things John Spurling
Won the 2015 Walter Scott prize for historical fiction. 14th century China - the story of Wang Meng, an official living during the Mongol dynasty. He is an accomplished artist who is caught up in the various rebellions against the foreign conquerors. Definitely sparked my interest in Chinese painting - very vivid descriptions of art.

#78 The Snowman Jo Nesbo
Not quite my style (too graphic) but great characters. Read just prior to our Scandinavia trip and I thought of it many times as I walked around Oslo. I think I'll start at the beginning of the series with The Bat.

#79 Go Set a Watchman Harper Lee
Very glad I read this, despite all the negative hype. If viewed as an early, essentially unedited work by a talented author it is worthwhile. And probably a very honest depiction of an aging Southern lawyer in the late 1950s.

#80 Norwegian by Night Derek Miller
Recommended by one of the librarians when I asked for recent Scandinavian lit that wasn't Scandi-crime. 82 year old widowed New Yorker reluctantly moves to Oslo to be with his granddaughter. He is mourning his wife, his son (killed in Vietnam, a death for which he carries massive guilt) and his old life, and gets caught up in a neighbor's murder. Although possibly suffering from dementia, he is brave and virtuous and saves the life of a child. Humor throughout, but sometimes dark as well. Very enjoyable read.

45vivians
Editat: set. 4, 2015, 1:43pm

#81 The Stranger Albert Camus
Reread in anticipation of The Meursault Investigation. Same reaction - the detachment of Mersault is baffling and his indifference to everything in his life is beyond my understanding.

#82 The Illuminations Andrew O'Hagan
Booker Prize longlist. The story of Ann, an elderly and failing woman whose brilliant photographic career has largely been forgotten, and her grandson Luke, who serves in the British army and is deployed in Afghanistan. A neighbor helps Ann hide her dementia to prevent her removal to a nursing home. Ann's daughter struggles with her relationships with both mother and son. Beautifully written.

#83 The Moor's Account Laila Lalami
Another Booker longlist. The fictional account of a Moroccan slave's experiences during a failed 16th century expedition to Florida. The flashbacks to Mustafa/Estebanico's childhood and pre-slavery life were the best. Much was hard to swallow, such as his moral superiority to all the others (he's the only one who doesn't rape or murder) and his eventual marriage to a woman with very 21st century qualities. It was also way too long, and it was difficult to distinguish the various tribes with whom he lived. Nothing unusual about the writing either.

#84 The Song of the Lark Willa Cather
The story of Thea Kronborg, a talented musician from a small town in Colorado, who leaves her family and home to pursue a career. Supposedly very autobiographical, the story examines Thea's doggedness, her reliance on a few very caring and generous supporters (all men), and the sacrifices both she and her family make. Loved this.

#85 Fifth Business Robertson Davies
A reread, mostly because I couldn't remember a single thing about it. Very enjoyable read. Dunstable Ramsay's story from childhood through her service in WWI, his wartime injury and finally a career as a master at a boy's private school and an author specializing in the lives of saints. Throughout his life his most notable connection is with a preacher's wife and her son, who grows up to become a world-renowned magician. A mystery at the end is supposedly solved in the next book.

#86 The Fishermen Chigozie Obioma
Another Booker. The tragic tale of four brothers in 1990s civil-war torn Nigeria. The youngest of the four narrates. The chilling prophecy of a madman destroys the family, assisted by absentee parents. Dark and heartbreaking.

46vivians
Editat: set. 25, 2015, 10:13am

#87 The Bat Jo Nesbo
#1 in Harry Hole series. Not bad - Harry is sent to Australia to assist in the investigation of the death of a Norwegian celebrity. Lots of culture clashes, the expected graphic descriptions, the slow unraveling of a serial killer. Overall an ok read but nowhere near as good as The Snowman.

#88 The Green Road Anne Enright
Booker longlist. Very bleak but some beautiful prose. A passive-aggressive aging Irish mother with four adult children gathers the family together at Christmas to inform them she will be selling the ancestral home. There is a section devoted to each child, none of them very likable unfortunately. I'm not a big fan of Enright but this was better than the others.

#89 The Nature of the Beast Louise Penny
Another great installment about the Three Pines crew. Love Gamache, love Beauvoir even more (identified as "that jeans guy" by my daughter after looking over my shoulder). The mystery seemed far-fetched until reading Penny's afterword, which describes the real-life history of Gerald Bull (whom I had assumed to be a fabrication), a Canadian artillery engineer who was in fact assassinated.

#90 What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Jodi Taylor
Fast paced with nice Richard III anecdotes, this latest installment again worked well on audio. Ridiculous segment about a baby mammoth and a better one about Joan of Arc.

#91 Tomb of the Golden Bird Elizabeth Peters
Finally King Tut's tomb! The Emersons are responsible for the find, of course, but take a back stage role to Howard Carter. A fairly good side plot involves Egyptian nationalism of the time. Somehow another disappointing one; perhaps the author has finally run out of steam with #18. I understand this is the last, at least chronologically, and I'm sorry to say goodbye to the Emerson clan.

#92 The Fix Natasha Sinel
Written by a friend, a YA novel about a teenager who struggles with a new relationship, ending an old one, and a repressed history of sexual abuse.

#93 You: A Novel Caroline Kepnes
Stalker. Scary. Har to put down. But really awful.

#94 Worth Dying For Lee Child
Human trafficking by a family of the most blatantly evil villains I've ever encountered. Set in desolate Nebraska, an entire town is victimized and complicit.

#95 Signs Preceding the End of the World Yuri Herrera
Wonderful and short novel about a young woman's search for her brother across the US-Mexican border.

#96 The Ghost Robert Harris
SO good! A Tony Blair-esque former prime minister faces allegations of war crimes. A little too transparently anti-U.S. throughout. A ghostwriter is hired to spruce up the pm's memoirs and as he digs deeper he finds conspiracies upon conspiracies. Great twists.

#97 Ship Fever Andrea Barrett
Still struggling with short stories because I seem to immediately forget what I've read. These have similar themes: scientific learning, the frustration of intelligent and curious women in earlier days. The title story, more a novella, deals with the shocking plight of Irish emigrants arriving in Canada during the potato famine of the 1840s, bringing with them an epidemic of typhoid. A heroic doctor rises to the occasion during this public health crisis. Another story reminded me greatly of the Gilbert book about the woman botanist, The Signature of All Things. The most memorable was called "Littoral Zone." Two married scientists meet at a research retreat on an island off New Hampshire. They embark on an affair which eventually breaks up both marriages. Stunning account of the extent of their loss and of their guilt and ultimate uncertainty if it all had been worth it.

NF A Brief History of Seven Killings Marlon James
About 1/3 read. Will have to attempt it another time. I had it on audio and although the dialect was understandable (probably more so than in a print version) I just kept getting lost.

47vivians
Editat: oct. 9, 2015, 12:03pm

#98 Nimona Noelle Stevenson
I was disappointed in the last Noelle Stevenson graphic novel, about which so many LTers raved. Just my fault. I loved the idea (young shapeshifter becomes the sidekick of an archvillain who turns out to be not so villainous after all) but the illustrations did not do it for me.

#99 reread Year of Wonders Geraldine Brooks
Brilliant the second time around with two quibbles. The author read the book and I found her voice to be too monotonous and expressionless. I had completely forgotten the ending (this always happens to me) and it wasn't convincing. Otherwise great.

#100 The Masqueraders Georgette Heyer
Perfect for a series of long drives (NY-Boston x 4).

#101 Did You ever Have A Family Bill Clegg
A slow start but better as it gained steam. Four connected people die tragically in a mysterious fire the night before two of them planned to be married. Various narratives relate both the initial fallout as well as the changes the tragedy wreaks on relatives, acquaintances, local townspeople and strangers. I found it curious that Clegg gave voice to the women much more than the men, and even completely ignored one of the victims. The writing is good but not great so I was surprised at the Booker nomination.

#102 Fortune Smiles Adam Johnson
Mostly devastating stories, but not without some hope. Publisher's summary:In post-Katrina Louisiana, a young man and his new girlfriend search for the mother of his son. In Palo Alto, a computer programmer whose wife has a rare disease finds solace in a digital copy of the recently assassinated President. In contemporary Berlin a former Stasi agent ponders his past. Two recent defectors from North Korea, DJ and Sun-ho, are struggling to assimilate in the opulence of Seoul. And in the stunning title story, a woman with cancer rages against the idea of her family without her.

#102 The Turner House Angela Flournoy
National Book award nominee. Thirteen middle-aged siblings must decide what to do with their childhood home in a crumbling Detroit neighborhood. Lots of demons: gambling & drug addictions, failed relationships, even an actual ghost, but also a close and caring family. The flashbacks to the parents' early relationship and separation were excellent.

48thornton37814
oct. 12, 2015, 10:46am

Congrats on making it past 100!

49Donna828
oct. 12, 2015, 4:21pm

Vivian, you are a reading machine! I love all your short reviews…you can say so much about a book in just a few sentences. So, do we get to hear about your Scandinavian trip? I'm assuming it was fantastic. You got me with a book bullet: Norwegian by Night sounds like a good combo of dark humor and an old man who saves a child. I can't resist!

50vivians
oct. 13, 2015, 12:17pm

>48 thornton37814: thornton37814 : thanks! I keep chugging along but my TBR list never gets any shorter!

>49 Donna828: Donna828: Hi Donna - thanks for asking! The trip was fantastic, a great combination of city/cultural stops and outdoor adventure activities. The kids were all very tolerant of my museum requirements because they knew we'd be kayaking or bicycling or hiking the next day! We spent a little more than a week in Norway (Oslo, Bergen, the fjords, Lillehammer) and another week in Sweden and Finland. I would definitely go back.

51vivians
Editat: oct. 30, 2015, 4:35pm

#103 Mislaid Nell Zink
Not great at all. I guess the title is meant to be tongue-in-cheek but I found very little humor in what was supposed to be a comedic masterpiece. 1960s college girl who is just realizing she is a lesbian is seduced by her gay professor and is forced into an unhappy marriage. After two kids and years of unhappiness, she runs away with one child whom she raises as African-American. The siblings meet in early adulthood after a series of ridiculous coincidences and the ending is even more bizarre. National Book Award longlist - huh???

#104 Feynman Jim Ottaviani
Trying more GNs - this one about the physicist and Nobel Prize winner. Great family stuff. I still don't understand quantum physics though.

#105 Preparation for the Next Life Atticus Lish
This got a lot of press (NY Times, NPR) because the author's father is a famous literary agent who supposedly had nothing to do with the publication. It was very long but I don't agree with the criticisms about the plethora of details...descriptions of storefronts, streets, neighborhoods. It all added up to a powerful but painful look at a population of marginalized people, mostly immigrants, mostly illegal, mostly not speaking English. The main character is Zhou Lei, who leaves her Muslim Chinese mother after her Chinese soldier father dies. Her search for financial and physical security is heartbreaking, as is the parallel story of a PTS-suffering tormented vet who tries but can't sustain a relationship with her. Very very tragic.

#106 Ship Breaker Paolo Bacigalupi
Great and realistic future world of an uneducated teenage boy living on the Gulf Coast, making a living from salvage. An abusive father, a compassionate but tough best friend and her competent and warm-hearted mother, a mysterious ship-wrecked girl from a wealthy and well-placed family - all are great characters. Lots of action although often repetitive. I will definitely look for the sequel.

#107 Undermajordomo Minor Patrick deWitt
Loved this! Very funny at times but also dark. A protagonist with no moral compass, who seeks his fortune by working in a mysterious castle. A number of very bizarre scenes which kind of pop out from nowhere.
A very fairy tale setting with no specific reference to place or time.

#108 The Sixth Extinction Elizabeth Kolbert
Very interesting and not as dry as I expected. Dismal, of course, to read what our species has done, but hopeful as well to realize how many smart and engaged people there are who are studying and working to repair at least some of the damage we've wrought.

52msf59
oct. 13, 2015, 9:32pm

Hi, Vivian! Finally made it over here. You are killing it, on your reading choices and I love it.

Looking forward to Fortune Smiles. I found it on audio and I have a print copy coming from E.R.

I have a copy of Seven Killings but I think I am going to find it on audio too and do both. It looks like it will work better that way.

How was Mislaid? I also snagged that on audio.

53vivians
oct. 21, 2015, 9:34am

Hi Mark - I didn't like Mislaid very much - I'll write a few lines about it when I can catch up. Hard to see why it was on the National Book awards list. Thanks for your visit!

54vivians
Editat: nov. 24, 2015, 11:11am

#109 A Little Life Hanya Yanagihara
Excellent...long...gripping...bleak. A number of minor complaints: Jude had too many spectacular qualities to be believable (baker, cook, pianist, genius mathematician, brilliant litigator). No mention of any outside events, either political or cultural...this was hard to accept in 1990s-2000s NYC. Otherwise this was a memorable novel of deep friendship, true love, jealousy, the meaning of success, wealth, the legacy of abuse and deprivation. It consumed me for days and I'm very glad to have read it.

#110 Slade House David Mitchell
A great antidote to the above. Short, lots of humor amid the hauntedness, lots of references to earlier novels. Typical of Mitchell & filled with great characters, back stories and dialogue. 5 distinct chapters, each taking place in October, nine years apart. Each narrator enters Slade House under false pretenses and meets the telepathic Grayer twins. Very much a sequel to Bone Clocks.

#111 The Secret Chord Geraldine Brooks
I attended her book lecture prior to reading this and so was way too psyched up...it was bound to be a disappointment. I felt the same way I had about The People of the Book...although the material was meticulously researched and completely believable the whole thing had a plodding feeling. I loved the authenticity (Hebrew names, accuracy of the texts) but overall it didn't work for me.

#112 Career of Evil Robert Galbraith
Avoid if graphic descriptions are upsetting! A mutilated victim, a serial killer and Cormoran Strike in severe financial difficulties. JKR did it again and I will continue to follow this series and the relationship between Cormoran and Robin.

#113 Cockroaches Jo Nesbo
On the other hand...not sure if I'll continue this one. In the first book, Norwegian detective Harry Hole investigates a murder in Sydney. This time he is in Bangkok. Take me to Oslo!!!! This one is about the murder of the Norwegian ambassador. I was frequently confused about names and just didn't get drawn in.

#114 Fates and Furies Lauren Groff
High hopes, some disappointment. Two completely different stories of the same marriage. Lots of surprises in the second part, some very jarring, most quite hard to believe. Lotto (Lancelot) is the husband, and the entire first section is devoted to his ups and downs: difficult childhood, success and promiscuity in college, failed acting career, celebrity status as a playwright. His sudden marriage and subsequent fidelity are hard to believe, as is his estrangement from his wealthy and manipulative mother. The surprises keep rolling in during the second half of the novel, when we hear Mathilde's story. It definitely kept me reading but just gave me a nasty feeling overall.

#115 Last Night in Montreal Emily St. John Mandel
Another story about secrets and the damages they cause. Lillia was abducted as a child and has continued a life of running away from all relationships and permanence. A boyfriend finally follows her to exceptionally cold (often repeated) Montreal, where Lillia returns after years of traveling. Interesting thoughts about the French-English culture war, as well as good subplot about Eli's study of dead and dying languages. Unsatisfying ending.

#116 Honor Girl Maggie Thrash
Great great great graphic novel about a 15 year old at summer camp and her first love.

#117 The Summer Book Tove Jansson
Short, beautifully written book of vignettes about a young girl, her grandmother and her father, and the summers they spend on a Finnish island. The father is a peripheral character, rather the relationship between Sophia (whose mother has recently died) and her crotchety but caring grandmother provides the center.

55vivians
Editat: des. 28, 2015, 2:17pm

#118 How to Train Your Dragon Cressida Cowell
Amusing and short!

#119 The Illusion of Separateness Simon Van Booy
Not sure where I got this recommendation from (possibly a Book Riot podcast) but it was very worthwhile. It reads like a number of short stories but then connections are made among all of them. I would like to reread this one and will take notes next time.

#120 The Affair Lee Child
More of the same, except this was a "prequel" and takes place towards the end of Reacher's service in the military. He investigates an army base and murders in the town nearby. I've already forgotten the end, as I always do.

#121 Unfamiliar Fishes Sarah Vowell
Vowell has a very engaging voice and I loved this history of the "Americanization" of Hawaii, from the missionaries to the whalers and on to the traders and sugar barons. The author narrated in a very wry, distinctive and engaging manner.

#122 Ruins Peter Kuper
Great GN about an American couple taking a sabbatical in Oaxaca. Personal and relationship issues mix with the uneasy political situation.

#123 No Wind of Blame Georgette Heyer
A new series - Inspector Hemingway. The murder takes place in a country manor that houses a great cast of characters. Witty dialogue and lots of potential suspects and motives but a ridiculous romance that seems to have been tacked on at the very end.

56Chatterbox
nov. 30, 2015, 1:28am

Before you give up on the Jo Nesbo books, try Redbreast. I'm not a massive fan of the series, but it's the first that was released in English, and I think the third in publication/chronological order. I've read that and the one following, as well as the first book overall, set in Sydney. Still not a massive fan, but I'll try one or two more.

You are doing far better at reading some of this year's substantive books than I am. Have Ten Thousand Things on my Kindle thanks to advance buzz by my HF friends, but unread thus far. The Green Road also is unread. Sigh. Did you know that Toby's Room is essentially a sequel to another Pat Barker novel, Life Class, and may work better in the context of that book? I don't know; I've just finished Life Class and will move on to Toby's Room and then Noonday next month. And I must try Life After Life again...

57vivians
des. 7, 2015, 4:48pm

Thanks Suzanne - I'll try Redbreast next!
I loved Pat Barker's regeneration trilogy but was not as enthused about Toby's Room. Not sure if I'll read the others.
Thanks for your message - hope to see you soon!

58vivians
Editat: des. 28, 2015, 2:55pm

#124 A River in the Sky Elizabeth Peters
The last in the series and somewhat disappointing. It takes place in 1910 Palestine, and both the author and the characters seem disappointed that they are not excavating in Egypt. There really is no archaeology going on, the mystery is lame and the banter between husband and wife protagonists was more like sniping. The audio narrator (Barbara Rosenblatt) again gave an excellent performance, with very distinct voices which have been engaging through all 18 books.

#125 The Shore Sara Taylor
Really enjoyed these linked stories about islands in Virginia. Many focus on poverty, addiction, poor parenting, but others go back in time to show extremely resilient women facing a variety of problems. Highly recommend it.

#126 Voices from Chernobyl Svetlana Alexievich
Pretty devastating - personal accounts of the nuclear disaster in 1986. Told completely in the original voices.

#127 Justice Hall Laurie R. King
I'm so glad I continued this series, which up until now had seemed very "meh." This was a terrific addition with an absorbing and entirely novel plot involving the two Arab guides from an earlier book. Suddenly these two are transformed into English gentlemen, and the case to be solved involves the title to a dukedom and a battlefield execution of the heir.

#128 When a Crocodile Eats the Sun Peter Godwin
A memoir of the author's British parents and their gradual decline during the collapse of Zimbabwe under the reign of Mugabe. Although elderly and vulnerable, they insist on staying, considering Africa their home. Godwin travels back and forth from his home in the US, attempting to care for them as well as reporting on the horrendous in the country where he grew up. He is also stunned to learn that his father was a Jewish WWII refugee from Poland.

#129 A Spell of Winter Helen Dunmore
A lot of LTers raved about this one but I just didn't enjoy it. Multi-generational misery, mental illness, parental abandonment, incest, and an unsatisfying ending. Just didn't resonate with me.

#130 Envious Casca Georgette Heyer
I should have spaced the Hemingway novels more widely as the setting seemed too reminiscent of No Wind of Blame. Another manor house, another unsympathetic victim, another initially incomprehensible set of circumstances.

59katiekrug
des. 13, 2015, 8:08pm

Oh, I loved The Shore. What did you think?

60vivians
des. 14, 2015, 4:37pm

Hi Katie - I think I read The Shore after hearing what you thought - and I completely agree. In a way it reminded me of David Mitchell the way she wove all the stories together (and the apocalyptic ending too). I almost want to reread it to make sure I picked up all the connections.

61porch_reader
des. 15, 2015, 10:48pm

I got The Shore for my mom for Christmas. So glad to see the positive responses to it!

62vivians
des. 30, 2015, 3:22pm

On to 2016 thread!