Here’s the latest batch of books I’ve read from my To-Be-Read list, for the TBR Challenge 2017!
Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker. I think I put all of her books on my TBR list as they came out, and am only now getting to them! This story is about three women connected by long-buried secrets in a New Hampshire mill town. Atmospheric and compelling!
Aaaaand that’s it. Lots of duds this time around. So I thought I’d pad out my content here with a list of the books I’ve read for the challenge since I began in March! As in, completely read, not just begun and abandoned.
TBR Challenge 2017, Completed:
The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill
The Father of the Rain by Lily King
Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
This House is Haunted by John Boyne
She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth by Helen Castor
The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland
The Small Hand: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill
Medieval Women by Eileen Power
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor
20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz
Somebody With a Little Hammer by Mary Gaitskill
The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen
Pobby and Dingan by Ben Rice
The Gilly Salt Sisters by Tiffany Baker
Deception by Denise Mina
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Delicate Edible Birds and Other Stories by Lauren Groff
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill
You can click on the TBR Challenge tag to see all of the updates for the challenge. I’m at 753 to-read, somehow only two less than last time…
In What She Ate, Laura Shapiro offers up capsule biographies of six very different women, examining them through the lens of food–how they ate, who they cooked for, their preferences and tastes. Shapiro’s thesis is that one’s eating habits can be revealing of character, and that’s exactly how she approaches each subject.
As far as Shapiro is concerned, “Food constitutes a natural vantage point on the history of the personal….we have a relationship with food that’s launched when we’re born and lasts until we die.” Whether you’re an obsessive dieter like Helen Gurney Brown or you use food for fuel like Eleanor Roosevelt, or you enjoy a good gooseberry tart like Dorothy Wordsworth, how you eat and what you eat says a lot about you and how you navigate the world. It’s a very focused examination, and illuminates a lot of hidden corners in these women’s lives.
Those lives are various: Dorothy Wordsworth, Rosa Lewis, Eleanor Roosevelt, Eva Braun, Barbara Pym and Helen Gurney Brown. I admit I went into this book not knowing much about any of them, so I am extra happy that Shapiro included a bibliography, because each micro-biography left me curious and wanting to know more!
If you’re in the mood for biography through a very narrow, focused lens (and you love food!) do give this a try!
The first in the Simon Serrailler trilogy, The Various Haunts of Men is about mysterious disappearances on a still more mysterious hill in a small English town.
There’s very little Simon Serrailler for a Simon Serrailler book, but that’s okay–the rest of the cast is dynamic, involving, and interesting. Freya Graffam, a detective who’s just transferred to the town of Lafferton from London, is a smart and dedicated cop and a wonderful investigator to follow. You don’t even really miss Serrailler, even though you get intriguing glimpses of him (mostly through a love-struck Freya).
Hill’s writing is elegant. It’s like watching a very high-brow police procedural. Dark yet still compelling and appealing, with a building tension. The narrative switches a lot between characters, giving a sense of the scope of the town and its people, as well as their connections. It’s a nice mix of small-village story and crime.
One of the many POV’s in the book is a tape being narrated by the killer, and it’s very chilling and crazy. The killer’s sections make a nice counterpoint to Graffam’s hunt. And I have to give props to the one of the best killer motivations I’ve seen in a while, and very well-done reveal. A real sucker-punch dark ending, too.
An engaging and intricately constructed bit of crime fiction, and a promising start to a series. I’ll look forward to reading others, to see how Serrailler and his town are fleshed out.
If you’re a British mystery fan, and you like P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Kate Atkinson, and/or Elly Griffiths, you might want to give this a try!
The Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
This book is so much fun! A story within a story, with a mystery in each. I was amazed at Horowitz’s ability to click the myriad interlocking pieces into place. He unwinds his tale with wit and humor and numerous nods to classic whodunits, all the while giving the reader real mysteries to unravel. (Now I’ve got to read Moriarity and House of Silk.)
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
A group of teen detectives are all grown up, and are all very damaged. They have to go back to the scene of their last big case to solve the mystery for good. This is so clever, scary, and hilarious–it’s zany and perfect, somehow exactly like reading a cartoon! It’s a mash-up of Scooby Doo and Lovecraft, and it’s just as ridiculous and entertaining as it sounds.
Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres
Has some of the most beautiful chapters I have ever read. The book is about a village on the coast of Turkey in the dying days of the Ottoman empire; the village is idyllic, the Greek Christians and Turkish Muslims live in peace. The potter laments, after the Christians are all driven into exile, that the village is never again as happy or as lively. The epic carnage is heavily foreshadowed in the book; the players on the international stage are slaughtering each each other, and the troubles eventually reaches our sweet village on the coast. The book gives insight into the the history of the whole troubled region. Almost as good a book as de Berniere’s Corelli’s Mandolin.
Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
A good read about “big data”! The author has access to Google searches — not the answers, just the text of the searches. And the amount of data is so huge, he can draw pretty precise conclusions. He uses a lot of novel and clever methods to tease information out of the data for insights into everything from economics to ethics and to race, sex, gender, and more.
I’m back from vacation! It was incredibly restful and already feels as if it happened months ago. I even managed to get most of the books I had on my list read!
From the TBR List:
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. I really hadn’t read this! Tom is a totally amoral semi-con-man who is sent to Italy to bring back Dickie Greenleaf, at his father’s request. Eventually, Tom decides he wants to be Dickie, and will do anything he needs to do to meet this goal. The slow build is great, and there’s an undercurrent of unease to up the suspense. A nice reminder to not get into boats with weirdos! Trust your instincts!
Delicate Edible Birds and Other Stories by Lauren Groff. I really enjoyed her novel The Monsters of Templeton, so I wanted to try her short stories. Groff’s writing is lyrical and detailed. Just about every story is about troubled love, in one way or another–between married couples, between lovers, between friends. And each one has its own tone and style and feel. I especially liked Lucky Chow Fun (set in Templeton, the setting for her first novel) and The Dictator’s Wife.
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero. I skipped to the front end of the TBR list for this one. Clever, scary, and hilarious–check back at Halloween for more!
The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill. This mystery is going to get a post all to itself. Stay tuned!
I think I’ve been thoughtlessly adding titles to my GoodReads to-read list for book club and such, because now I’ve got 755 books on the list. I’ve completely lost track of how I’m doing, but that doesn’t matter! I’m reading titles I’ve been meaning to get to, and that’s what counts.
My yearly vacation is coming up next week. You know what that means!
Just sub “books” for “tv.” (eh, who am I kidding, however great the books, the fifth season of Deep Space Nine isn’t going to watch itself)
This year is a stay-cation, where I intend to read books, lounge around, and take full advantage of any beautiful weather that might come my way for trips to lakes and beaches.
Here are the books I’ll be toting along:
The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandria by Helen Rappaport. This is for my book club, and it’s an affecting read. There’s such a melancholy cast to this examination of the Romanov sisters, because it’s impossible to forget how their lives ended. But still, it’s a fascinating glimpse into the family. I’m about half-way through it right now.
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood. This is a novel about a girl whose parents are drug dealers, and her deepest connection is to her older brother. I’ve been meaning to read this for ages!
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero. A novel all about a crack team of kid detectives who grow up and have lots of issues. They have to go back and uncover exactly what happened the night they solved their last case. It looks fun and spooky and meta, and I’m looking forward to it.
The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach. This is a novel about a boy named Ivan, who’s spent his whole life in long-term care in Belarus. He falls in love with a new patient at the hospital. It sounds like it should be strange and melancholy, and maybe hopeful, which is always a good mix.
See you when I get back!
Just a short one today, for the official “It’s Fourth of July Week in Camden and I’m Exhausted” edition. I’ve managed to read three novels from my TBR list since last I updated. And here they are:
Pobby and Dingan by Ben Rice. What an odd yet touching little book. It’s about a family of opal miners in Australia. The daughter of the family has two imaginary friends, and everyone is very indulgent about them. One day the imaginary friends go missing, and the little girl becomes very ill. Her brother decides that he’s going to find them for her, and is convinced that his sister will recover as soon as he does. It’s the kind of story where you get the feeling that a lot is happening in the background.
The Gilly Salt Sisters by Tiffany Baker. A solid story of a very small Massachusetts town and the different people who live there, with a focus on the Gilly sisters, whose family has always owned a salt marsh on the edge of town. There’s just the merest hint of something magical, but mostly it’s a story about secrets and forgiveness.
Deception by Denise Mina. A compelling thriller! The husband of a psychologist arrested for murder sets out to figure out what exactly happened. It’s fast and has a great narrator, and I like the open-ended wrong-footed feeling the story inspires.
I’m not sure what I’m in the mood for next off the list. Some classic spine-tinglers? More tales of sad people in small towns? Some weird-sounding stuff that I don’t know where I heard about it?
Or, is it possible I have not actually read Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley? Goodreads says I haven’t. Seems strange, but if it’s on the internet it must be true. I’ll pick that one up next.
Happy Fourth, American readers!