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Monday, October 2, 2017

***The Boat Runner by Devin Murphy

●Published 2017
●American Literature
●LibraryThing.com Early Reviewer


This coming of age war story is a powerful page turner. While it successfully deals with Holland’s invasion and occupation by Nazi Germany and the loyalty struggles the Dutch were faced with, it also addresses the unspeakable human savagery that takes place during war. As I read this book, I was reminded of a statement I heard on Ken Burns' ongoing Vietnam documentary (paraphrased): Tigers kill, but only to eat, where humans kill simply to murder. No one wins during war, as this novel aptly reveals. A worthwhile read.

*****Chronicles of a Blood Merchant by Yu Hua

●1995 original publication date
●Chinese Literature 
●Translated from the Chinese by Andrew F. Jones


*****Death in Spring by Merce Rodoreda


  • Merce Rodoreda: 1908-1983
  • Catalonian Literature
  • Translated from the Catalan by Martha Tennent
  • First published in Catalonia 1986; in English 2009


****Sweet Bean Paste, by Durian Sukegawa

● Translated from the Japanese by Alison Watts
● First published in English 2017
● Japanese Literature 
●LibraryThing.com Early Reviewer

Sweet Bean Paste is an unassuming and passionate novel that successfully attempts to inform all the senses while telling a dark cultural tale and a story - philosophy -  about life and human nature.  With its straightforward narrative, one must look deeper to find the subtle complexities that make this book a flavorful gem. A poignant and artful read. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

****Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship, by Michelle Kuo

An American Memoir, 2017
LibraryThing.com Early Reviewer


In Reading with Patrick the author speaks of a hard-learned lesson - that one cannot change the world, or even one person, permanently. Change, or the answer to change - from poverty, violence, drug-addiction and familial dysfunction to inept schools, etc. - is a multifaceted problem with no single solution. Helping to effect change is imperative, it is our expectations that can throw us off balance. Kuo, as a young adult, finds this out and shares her experiences along the way. A thought-provoking relevant read.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Books Read January 1 - June 31, 2017

***** Little Life,  by Hanya Yanagihara, 2016, American Literature 

*****Rock, Paper, Scissors by Naja Marie Aidt, 2015, translated from the Danish by K.E. Semmel, Danish Literature


***Miller's Valley, by Anna Quinlan, 2016, American Fiction


*****The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman, by Denis Thériault, 2017, translated from the French by Liedewy Hawke, LibraryThing.com Early Reviewer, French Canadian Literature 


***And The Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini, 2013, audiobook,  South Asian Literature

**Fever Dream: A Novelby Samantha Schweblin, 2017, translated from the Spanish by Liedewy Hawke,  2017, Argentine Literature

***The Boat Rocker, by Ha Jin (pen name of Jin Xuefei), 2016, Chinese American Literature 


****The Patriots by Sana Krasikov, 2017, LibraryThing.com Early Reviewer, Ukrainian Literature 


**A Free Life, by Ha Jin (pen name of Jin Xuefei)2007, digital audio book, Chinese American Literature

****The Postman's Fiancé, by Denis Thériault, to be published 06/2017, translated from the French by John Cullen, LibraryThing.com Early Reviewer, French Canadian Literature


****Last Bus to Wisdom: A Novel, by Ivan Doig, 2015, American Literature


***The Color of Our Sky: A Novel, by Amita Trasi, 2017, LibraryThing.com Early Reviewer, Indian Fiction


****Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance, 2017, American Memoir


***Rosemary, The Hidden Kennedy Daughter,  by Kate Clifford Larson,  2015, American Biography 


*****A Strangeness In My Mind, by Orhan Pamuk, Translated from the Turkish by Ekin Oklap, 2015, Turkish Literature 


***The Leavers, A Novel, by Lisa Ko, 2017, LibraryThing.com Early Reviewer, American Fiction



***Pax,  by Sara Penny packer, 2016, Children'should Literature,  American Literature 

*Today Will Be Different, by Maria Semple, 2016, American Fiction

*****Aracoeli, by Elsa Morante, 1982, Italian Literature

***News of the World, by Paulette Jiles, 2016, American Fiction


***The Windfall, by Diksha Basu, 2017, Librarything.com Early Reviewer, Indian Fiction


*****Death in Spring, a Novel, by Merce Rodoreda, 1986, Translated from the Catalan by Martha Tennent, Catalonian Literature


Currently Reading Homegoing by Yaa GyasI, 2016, American Literature 


Currently Reading Men Without Women, by Haruki Murakami, audio book, 2017, translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen, Japanese Literature


Currently Reading Clarissa, or The History of a Young Lady, by Samuel Richardson, 1748, (from 2014 Reading List), English Literature

Friday, June 23, 2017

***The Windfall by Diksha Basu

LibraryThing.como Early Reviewer

The Windfall is a lighthearted comedic satire that has some fun portraying the social absurdities and ironies that can make up neighborly life – primarily the need to keep up with the Jones’, but in India. With technology manufacturing overnight millionaires, the protagonist being one of them, financial dreams are achieved, but unexpected –self-imposed - difficulties ensue and chaos dominates the family’s newly acquired moneyed life. Expectations are key to the family’s relative problems.  In the end, the impulse to compete and put on social airs is relatively overcome, moral and psychological truths are realized and life achieves some semblance of balance. The Windfall is a humorous story wrapped up in the comfort of familial and neighborly bonds.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

*****Aracoeli by Elsa Morante

•Translation Literature - Italian
•Translated from the Italian by William Weaver
•First published in 1982; 1985 published in English
•Author's final novel (1912-1985)

Complex dreamlike imagery fills this lovely novel, as does the author's beautiful use of language. Kudos, too, to the translator for capturing Morante's breathless narrative.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

*Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

With all the great writers in this world, one must ask how a book like this winds up being published.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

***The Leavers, a novel by Lisa Ko


  • LibraryThing.com Early Reviewer's
  • American Fiction, 2017
  • Pen America Literary Award Winner

The Leavers is a timely novel that deals with immigration, deportation and the need for familial and cultural identification. It portrays the difficulties faced when children are born as American citizens, but their parents are not.  The story unfolds using alternating perspectives between the protagonist, a Chinese American, and his mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, as they try to resolve the conflict experienced when she is deported and he is adopted by a Caucasian family at the age of eleven.

The overall story is important, especially considering today’s political climate. Yet its telling is a bit underwhelming. It reads like a dry journalistic piece lacking passion and creativity. In addition, Ko focuses on the protagonist’s featureless attempt at a musical career in excess. She uses this narrative to reveal the process of a struggling youth trying to self-actualize, yet it falls flat and feels like an overplayed muse.

Ko’s writing is practiced and competent; she is not an unskilled author. However, her novel lacks depth. I never felt invested; I plowed through the book hoping for something more that it never delivered. Leavers is not a bad novel, poorly written without plot or character development, it simply lacks impact. 


Friday, May 5, 2017

*****A Strangeness In My Mind, A Novel, by Orhan Pamuk


  • Turkish Literature
  • 2015 Signed First Edition
A Strangeness in My Mind is a love letter to Istanbul. It is a beautifully composed work of art that brings to life the ever changing streets of Istanbul between 1954-2012 and the quiet, yet powerfully meditative life of its protagonist and boza seller, Mevlut.  Pamuk is a master of the written word. His writing hits all the senses and illuminates the soul. The insightful development of his characters, particularly Mevlut, is fraught with beauty, angst, depth and symbolism. His bird's-eye time-lapsed view of Istanbul, as it evolves from year to year, is played out magnificently through his cast of varied characters. They serve as distinct counterpoint to Mevlut’s stubborn and complex relationship with past and present. Pamuk’s love for his city rings out as melodiously as the boza seller’s voice on his nightly odyssey through the streets of Istanbul. A quiet, yet powerful novel. Once again, Pamuk fails to disappoint his besotted readers.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

***The Color of Our Sky: A Novel, by Amita Trasi

•LibraryThing.com Early Reviewer's Edition
•Indian author-debut novel

The Color of Our Sky is a fictionalized portrait of India’s devdasis servants of god. They are lower caste women who, from a prepubescent age, serve as prostitutes in the name of god.  Traditionally it was a revered position.  Today, these women are shunned by the culture that created them.  The plight of these women is fraught with abuse and murder, and is ripe with opportunities for child trafficking.

Trasi handles her subject matter with the care and passion it deserves and clearly has skill for her craft.  I liked her writing style, yet two things kept gnawing away at me as I read her novel.  First, she has the tendency to get carried away with her prose, rendering it overtly melodramatic.  Second, despite all thematic twists and turns, the ending was easy to predict.  How Trasi deals with this in her future work will ultimately define her writing as genre fiction or literary fiction, both valid forms of fiction.  A praiseworthy debut novel.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

****The Postman's Fiancé, by Denis Thériault

The Postman's Fiancé, by Denis Thériault, to be published 06/2017, translated from the French by John Cullen, French Canadian Literature.

LibraryThing.com Early Reviewer's book

This was a delightful and original book; one you cannot put down until fully devoured. Theriault’s writing style is elegant, his characters opulent and his descriptions enticing. His work has depth and mystery with meaning and a little verve.  Reality is skillfully suspended as one follows the protagonists on their way to love. However, before you read The Postman’s Fiancé, reading its predecessor, The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman, is a must.  They are so beautifully intertwined; I cannot imagine reading one without the other.  The Postman’s Fiancée completes the first novella and together, they are extraordinary. I highly recommend this creative Canadian-French author!

Post-note: This book and the movie, While You Were Sleeping, have nothing in common except a very basic concept. They are two very different tales. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

****The Patriots by Sana Krasikov

•Author was born in Ukraine and raised in the Soviet Republic of Georgia.  When she was eight years old, her family immigrated to the United States.

•ARC via LibraryThing.com

This story reveals a relatively unknown part of pre-WWII history, when thousands of Americans succumbed to the allure of the Soviet revolution and emigrated to Soviet Russia. By the time they understood the dangers they were facing, it was too late. Russia surreptitiously revoked their passports and made many automatic Soviet citizens, preventing them from leaving the country.  Surprisingly, Roosevelt knowingly turned a blind eye to their predicament and left thousands of US citizens without recourse.  They were forced to remain in Russia throughout WWII and beyond. Some never lived to return home, especially Jews.

In a story that spans almost eight decades, Krasikov weaves a painful saga illustrating how one decision can affect an entire lifetime. Themes of political idealism and naivete’, personal unrest and family relations fill the pages in this dark, but compelling novel.

Krasikov is a talented author. She writes seamlessly back and forth between decades. Her characters are well-developed and her story is interesting. I looked forward to reading each chapter and felt the ending was strong. I expect we will see more from this new author. Not only does she research her subject matter thoroughly, she is able to construct the elements in a creative and thoughtful manner. A powerful new novelist!



Friday, February 17, 2017

*****The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by DenisThéiault

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman depicts how loneliness can affect a person and lead to a variety of displaced - peculiar - actions. It is a lovely novella sheathed in a quiet drama of deception, apprehension, love, lust, and pain. Ironically, it renders the reader uncannily on the side of deception, such are the pathos of its protagonist, Bilodo the Postman. Add to that Haikus, philosophy and humor, and you have a delightfully dark and quirky story. Be prepared to devour this lovely, all-consuming tale in one sitting as it is impossible to put down.


Incidentally, a sequel to this novella, The Postman’s Fiancee, is due for publication this year. Will it bring a close to Bilodo‘s besotted journey, or will it add another layer to this curious and comic tale? I eagerly anticipate it's arrival!

Monday, January 30, 2017

*****Rock, Paper, Scissors by Naja Marie Aidt

Rock, Paper, Scissors reads like Ravel’s, Bolero. It slowly and evenly builds in intensity. To what end, one does not know. But it will not - it cannot - be good. With great skill Aidt creates a powerful atmosphere of impending doom. The reader watches as her protagonist carelessly spins out of control while exacting revenge against his dead father, a criminal. Yet, revenge is not as sweet as he anticipates. It comes with its own complexities, difficulties and demons. If let loose, it can lead to a storm of dysfunction, deception and violence - and it does.  Set aside a few good hours to read this novel as it is impossible to put down.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

*****A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

2015 Shortlisted for Man Booker Prize

A psychological immersion. Love, friendship and success cannot fix the trauma of a life overcome with intractable pain.  A Little Life illustrates the permanence of protracted child abuse. How that life, despite all its later gifts, is a matter of endurance and pain horribly redirected. I was profoundly moved by this remarkable work of literature. 



Tuesday, January 10, 2017

2016 Books Read From May 3, 2016 to December 31, 2016

***The Ploughmen,  by Kim Zupan, 2014, audiobook, American Literature 

**Last Night in Twisted River: A Novel, by John Irving, 2009, audiobook,  American Literature

****Little Bee: A Novel, by Chris Cleeve, 2008, audiobook,  American Literature

****Britt-Marie Was Here, by Fredrik Backman, 2016, audiobook, American Literature


*****Zafarani Files: An Egyptian Novel , by  Gamal al-Ghitani, 2015, translated from the Arabic by  Farouk Abdel Wahab, Modern Arabic Literature


****Who Will Catch Us As We Fall,  by Iman Vergee, 2016, LibraryThing.com ARC, African Literature 


***The Cauliflower,  by Nicola Barker, 2016, LibraryThing.com ARC, British Literature   


**Orchard by Larry Watson, 2003, audiobook,  American Literature (read 50% & discarded)


****Human Acts, by Han Kang, 2016, LibraryThing.com ARC, South Korean Literature 


***The Mortification, by Derek Palacio, 2016, LibraryThing.com ARC, American 


***Rogue Lawyer, by John Grisham,  audiobook,  American 


***The Secret Chord, by Geraldine Brooks, 2015, audiobook,  Australian Literature


**The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, 2016, audiobook,  American 


***Clara and Mr. Tiffany, by Kimberly Farr, 2011, audiobook,  American  

***Library of Illuminaries, Frida Kahlo, An Illustrated Biography, by Zena Alkayat, 2016, American 


***The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins, 2016, audiobook,  English


****Dance to the Music of Time,  1st Movement,  by Anthony Powell,  1962 (1962- 1st publication of 3 novels as one volume; 1st individual novel published in 1951, 2nd in 1952 & 3rd in 1955), English Literature 


****Bardo or Not Bardo, by Antoine Volo dine, 2016, translated from the French by J. T. Mahony, French Literature


****Reading Things We Lost in the Fire, by Mariana Enriquez,  2016, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell ,  Latin American Literature