Archive for April, 2020


Women

by Chloe Caldwell

#popsugarreadingchallenge prompt 12: passes the Bechdel test

What an absolutely delightful, wonderful, powerful, emotional book this is. I just loved it.

Told from the pov on the unnamed narrator, this book shares her experience of falling in love with a woman for the first time. It is also her first sexual relationship with a woman so the physical passion and emotional tumbling are interwoven.
In addition to being about the sexual confusion and realization the narrator experiences this book also looks at other relationships between women – friendships, daughterhood, motherhood – and about falling in love.
Falling in love is the same regardless of who you are and with/for whom you fall. The boundary crossing, pain, joy, sexual zip – all of these things are universal and all of them are very present in this book.
I smiled at remembering my own falling, crashing, hurting and healing.
Lovely – and certainly not my only Caldwell. I am very keen to explore what else she has written.

The Key/Tone Clusters

by Joyce Carol Oates

#popsugarreadingchallenge prompt 8: upside down image on the cover

Two short radio plays with a real punch. Both of these were very moving and also amusing and entertaining.
In the first story a couple seems to meet in a bar in a holiday resort. They way the female character skips and slides around the obnoxious, pompousness of the male character made me both smile and want to cry. The underlying racism was so appalling, in part because it was so familiar.
The reveal at the end made it all so much worse too.

In the second story the parents of a man involved in a tragedy. Their blindness to the ‘facts’ presented to them by the interviewer is so very sad and moving. The way the interviewer bullies them with complicated convoluted questions is also very moving – these two bewildered people facing a really horrible reality never stood a chance.

Very touching and disturbing plays, both of them. Worth reading, without a doubt.

by Karin Slaughter and Lee Child

#popsugarreadingchallenge prompt 31: gold in the title

This is a short story with a running character from each author. As such it probably means more to fans of both series. I no that person but I still really quite enjoyed it.
It felt like each author wrote alternating chapters because the writing style varied greatly. As a reader of some Slaughter work I am pretty sure I recognized her chapters and I am not sure I like the choppiness of Child.
However, the book did its job and I will read more books with the main characters in them. As a hook to get readers introduced to new series, this little book is successful.

The Museum of Modern Love

by Heather Rose

#readingwomenreadingchallenge prompt 5: Winner of the Stella Prize

What a book! Wow! I have just so much love for this book.
So many beautiful, harsh, painful, lonely, lovely stories weave their way around Arky Levin as he deals with the unexpected separation from his wife by immersing himself in a rather peculiar art exhibition. (This art exhibition is actually based on a real one that happened in 2010 – apparently.)

As we, the reader, travel with Arky and his awareness of his decisions and the repercussions they have on his life, we also discover the story of Marina Abromovic, the artist in the story and the actual artist of the real life exhibition.
Of course as soon as I realised she was real I went down a tangential wormhole of research about her.

That aside, I loved the way Rose looks at and talks about art – in all its forms. I love how she makes life doable, challenges surmountable, life regrasped, love refound – all without it being twee or schmultzy for even a moment.

A simply beautiful, meaningful and exquisitely written book.

by Zadie Smith

#popsugarreadingchallenge prompt 21: Published in my birth month (November)

What a ridiculous reason to have discovered this fabulous book. and dare I say it – author. I don’t think I have read Smith before but surely I have – just surely!
I thought this book was a marvelous journey along with the narrator through issues of friendship, race, poverty, thoughtless wealth, loyalty, parental expectations, social restrictions – the list goes on and on. And through, under it, over it, within it it all – dance dance dance!
Really what the readers get is the story of the narrator’s life with all its silliness and mistakes, assumptions and challenges. There are no cardboard cut out goodies and baddies – just a plethora of people doing what they can and/or what they think best.
Her friendship with Tracy is the thread that runs through the book and the trunk from which so many branches spread. This friendship is completely believably in all its complexities and messiness. They are real girls who become real women.
Smith crafts a mean story and only in the middle did I find I was a little impatient with the flow. The bits set in West Africa didn’t feel as connecting for me; it felt a bit like a mish mash of Oprah and Madonna do Africa.
The audio version I listened to was narrated by Pippa Bennett-Warner and she did an outstanding job. The accents she used were soft enough to be easy to hear but strong enough to clearly differential when necessary.
A read/listen worthy of your time – without a doubt.

 

Year of Yes

by Shonda Rhimes
#popsugareadingchallenge prompt 20: picked because of title
 
I really liked lots about this book. I liked the rather rambling narrative technique used by Rhimes – it did mean it took a while to get to the point sometimes, but it also meant that I didn’t mind. It felt like a fabulous chat with a friend over cocktails and satisfying junk food.
I really liked how Rhimes unpacked her own fame and humanises herself – as much as it is possible to do so when so extremely successful.
There is always the risk, in this kind of ‘I struggle too’ kind of book to lose the reader. Like really – it is hard to say yes to meeting the Obama’s and sharing space with them! Really??!! But Rhimes does manage to illustrate that famous rich people are people too – with complex lives and their own psychological challenges.
 
However, I am not sure how useful this book is a motivation to ordinary people. So, yeah, no a self help book but rather a quite focused memoir.
 
I experienced this an an audiobook, read by the author. She does a great job.

Oxygen

by Carol Cassella

#popsugarreadingchallenge prompt 17: medical thriller

Yeah this book was okay. I really wanted to like it but just couldn’t muster more than an ‘it’s okay’.
I was very interested in the basic premise – being the doctor facing the blame for the death of a child must be truly terrifying and awful at every single level.
I was hoping for an exploration of how a doctor might feel and deal with the situation. What I feel I got was quite a whiny Marie who lost my sympathy after a while.
I would expect more mettle from an actual doctor.

I also think this book tried to do too much – the medical thriller part, the romance, the family, the outcome – just too many threads which rather than fleshing the characters out made them seem like layers of paper.

I am also not a fan of thriller where the solution comes out of left field. This is not the only book that has done this so maybe it is the new way. But for me, there needs to be clues of what is actually happening, of the solution, throughout the book. Otherwise it can be anything and the story lack cohesion. and its not fun if, as the reader, you didn’t have a chance of working it out.

So yeah, not really my thing but lots of 5 stars from other readers so clearly its a question of match as opposed to bad writing. This book and I just didn’t match.

by Margaret Atwood

#readingwomenreadingchallenge prompt 10: a book about a woman artist

I love Atwood almost without reserve and this book simply deepens my love.

This book tells of Elaine Risley, an artist who returns to Toronto for a showing of her work. She spent time in Toronto as a young girl and this trip, together with the viewing of many of her paintings which are of people and moments from her childhood sends her down memory lane. The memory lane of teenagers, and in this instances, teenage girls, is often not a pleasant one for all participants. Bullying, danger, some dodgy decisions and some truly unpleasant moments are what Elaine has to face and make peace with.  

Elaine is all of us at the same time as unique enough to be interesting. She is such a completely rounded character I cannot believe she is not real. Atwood creates such a wonderfully complete, complex, believable characters the reader can see, smell, taste and touch them.
Some of Elaine’s experiences are trying to lodge themselves into my brain as memories.

I found Elaine’s deeply held oddly sexist ideas quite interesting within the context of her avowed feminism. These odd blind spots make her even more complex and real.

Through the parallel telling of the present and the past the effect one’s upbringing and childhood experiences have on who one becomes as an adult is drawn. Watching Elaine grow up and make some odd decisions, for the vantage point of her future, makes for some deeply emotionally connected reading.

I loved this book and even the unlikable characters garnered sympathy. People are complicated – nothing is quite as simple as we might like to think.