WWW Wednesdays Reading – 17th May

WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. It’s open for anyone to join in and is a great way to share what you’ve been reading! All you have to do is answer three questions and share a link to your blog in the comments section of Sam’s blog.

The three Ws are:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Well, you know I usually have more than one on the go at any point in time, so it’s two each this month.

Currently:

Fernando Pessoa: The Book of Disquiet – I feel like underlining every second sentence or more!

Supposedly the diary or autobiography of Bernardo Soares, it’s really a sort of collection of aphorisms, musings, philosophising about art and life

Jane Gardam: The Stories – meticulous attention to detail, utterly graceful, with much sympathy for the neglected and marginalised

Finished:

Vivienne Tufnell: Away with the Fairies

Irrepressible artist Isobel has survived most things: miscarriages, her husband’s ordination, the birth of two small and demanding children, and finally the recent death of both her parents in a bizarre suicide pact. A sequence of domestic disasters finally signals to Isobel that perhaps things aren’t quite as rosy as she’d like. With her half of the inheritance, Isobel buys an isolated holiday cottage where she hopes to be able to catch up with some painting. The cottage is idyllic, but odd things keep happening. Doors won’t stay shut, objects go missing and reappear in the wrong places and footsteps are heard when there’s no one there. One of Isobel’s new neighbours suggests that it is the fairies who are responsible…

An easy, fun read, perfect when you are recovering from migraine, and with a lot of understanding for the plight of an artist burdened by family responsibilities.

Andrzej Stasiuk: On the Road to Babadag

Not a travelogue as such. Not enough description – it is too poetic, too lyrical and philosophical, mixing impressions, atmosphere, history, literary references. It is a very personal journey across a troubled part of Europe (Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Ukraine) which has experienced huge changes over the past century or so. One to dip into now and again, rather than to read from end-to-end. Perhaps also most meaningful to those who have lived in that part of the world.

Next:

Nelly Arcan: Folle (in English: Hysteric)

A young woman from Quebec writes to the lover who abandoned her, trying to understand how it came to this. All the wrong signals were there from the start, but still, she could not help falling passionately, stupidly, foolishly in love and is torn apart by jealousy and fury. A fierce fresh Canadian voice, silenced all too soon in 2009 by suicide.

Wolfgang Herrndorf: Sand (transl. Tim Mohr)

North Africa, 1972. While the world is reeling from the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, a series of mysterious events is playing out in the Sahara desert. Four people are murdered in a hippy commune, a suitcase full of money disappears, and a pair of unenthusiastic detectives are assigned to investigate. In the midst of it all, a man with no memory tries to evade his armed pursuers. Who are they? What do they want from him? If he could just recall his own identity he might have a chance of working it out…

Don’t you think that sounds fabulously intriguing? By another author who died far too young, of a brain tumour. (Well, he committed suicide because the brain tumour was incurable).

So, on that cheerful note, do let me know what you are reading, any highs or any lows!

#EU27Project Update in May

After four months of #EU27Project, I have to admit I have not been the hardest- working reviewer. I have only linked to six books in total (and two of those are from the same country, France, while the rest are : Germany, Czechia, Ireland and the Netherlands), so in reality only 5 of the 27 countries have been represented in 4 months. At this rate, I have little chance of finishing this project this year – but, unlike some politicians, I never thought it was going to be an easy and quick process, so I’m allowing myself time to continue this project next year.

However, I’m pleased to say that other book bloggers have been far busier than me, so, since my last update in March, we have moved from 16 reviews to 41.

France is the biggest mover, from 0 in the first batch to 6 reviews in the current one. Susan Osborne reviews two very different types of books: Marie Suzan’s poignant Her Father’s Daughter and the lighter French Rhapsody by Antoine Laurain. Kate Jackson reviews a book by Sebastian Japrisot, one of my favourite French crime writers, while Karen from Booker Talk considers a contemporary crime novel Hell’s Gate by Laurent Gaudé. I have also reviewed two French books, the not quite satisfactory Men by Marie Darrieussecq and the dark but very funny and musical Les harmoniques by Marcus Malte.

Austria is also a popular choice for us book bloggers (a trend which I heartily approve!). It already featured in the first batch and has notched up an additional five reviews, although, to be fair, three of those are for short stories or novellas by Arthur Schnitzler by Jonathan: Late Fame, The Spring Sonata and A Confirmed BachelorLike Chekhov, Schnitzler was a doctor as well as a writer, and very much concerned with the human psyche. He describes perfectly the darkness in the Viennese soul at the turn of the 20th century (and not only then). Kate reviews a book set in the same period, Leo Perutz’ The Master of the Day of JudgementSusan reviews one of my favourite recent reads, Robert Seethaler’s The Tobacconist, with a guest appearance from Sigmund Freud.

Reviews from the Netherlands continue to trickle in. Karen attempts The Evenings, but does she like it any more than Lizzy did in the first two months of the project? Meanwhile, Susan found The Boy by Wytske Versteeg deeply unsettling. Ireland also features with two new reviews, a new one for The Glorious Heresieswhich makes it the most popular book so far (3 reviews in total), and Anne Enright’s The Green Road

The last country on the list with two new reviews is Italy, with the crime fiction of Augusto de Angelis and the story of the breakdown of a marriage by Domenico Starnone.

The remaining countries featured in the selection of March and April have been: Norway, represented by Anne Holt – Norway is not in the EU, but we will leave that link there anyway; Denmark with Dorthe Nors’ Mirror Shoulder SignalPoland with Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg, Czech Republic or Czechia with Bohumil Hrabal’s Closely Observed Trains. The French might take exception with Marguerite Yourcenar representing Belgium rather than France, but that was Jonathan’s choice and that country is rather under-represented.

After a strong start in the first batch of reviews, Germany only managed one review in this round, a lesser-known Heinrich Böll oeuvre.

So what will the next two months bring? Personally, I intend to read more in this category. Perhaps two or three in May? I am currently reading the road-trip book by Andrzej Stasiuk (Poland), and will move on to poems from Malta and Pessoa’s pseudo-diary The Book of Disquiet (Portugal). But, as we all know, my plans for reading don’t always work out and I get easily side-tracked.

Special thanks and celebrations for Susan Osborne, Kate Jackson, Jonathan from Intermittencies of the Mind and Karen from Booker Talk, who have been the most prolific reviewers over these past two months, but thank you to everyone who has contributed, read, tweeted about this project.

 

Reading Summary for April 2017

This month has been quite busy with reviewing for Crime Fiction Lover, so there has been less diversity. 7 out of 11 books written by men. This certainly does not reflect the views of the website, so I wonder if it shows that there are more books by male authors being published, even in the crime genre, and that you have to deliberately seek out women authors. Additionally, I only read 4 books originally written in other languages and only 2 non-crime books, which is quite a low percentage, even for me.

Crime fiction

Marcus Malte: Les harmoniques – jazz, recent European genocides, murder and slapstick make for an unlikely but virtuoso novel – review to come

Kjell Ola Dahl: Faithless, transl. Don Bartlett – realistic police procedural, a good blend of psychology, humour and action

Chris Whitaker: Tall Oaks – Fargo with more warmth and humanity

E.O. Chirovici: The Book of Mirrors – just how reliable are our memories?

Bogdan Hrib: Patimile doamnei ministru (The Passion of Madame Minister) – political thriller taking place mainly in Copenhagen and Bucharest

James Carol: The Quiet Man – a serial killer who operates remotely with bombs – why would anybody do that? -review to come on Crime Fiction Lover

Philippe Georget: Crimes of Winter, trans;. Steven Rendall – 3rd in the Inspector Sebag series, set in beautiful Perpignan, this one is all about adultery and venial sins, review to come on Crime Fiction Lover

and finally two women writers:

Lucy Atkins: The Night Visitor – academic rivalry and personal ambitions take a murderous and chilling turn

Fiona Cummins: Rattle – bone malformations, kidnapped children, a sinister ‘Slender Man’ reference – suspenseful and highly observant of family life – review to come

 

Non-crime:

Fiona Melrose: Midwinter – or why suffering in secret is not the best solution

Heather O’Neill: The Lonely Hearts Hotel – magical storytelling to make stark reality a bit more bearable

My crime book of the month is Tall Oaks and my non-crime read is Midwinter. I haven’t done much reading for the #EU27Project this month (although the Marcus Malte book could qualify for that, when I write the review), so I want to focus on that in May.

The pictures are not of books this time, but spring landscapes out and about.

Spring Reading Tag

I saw this book tag on Eleanor Franzen’s blog and thought it sounded fun. I have no intention whatsoever of forcing you to watch me vlogging about it, but there are some great Booktube videos out there, such as Victoria’s from Eve’s Alexandria. We all need some spring-like sunshine and plenty of books to take our mind off things, don’t we?

What books are you most excited to read over the next few months?

I want to be more systematic about reading books for my #EU27Project. I really enjoy them when I get around to them, but urgent book reviews or other priorities keep getting in the way. Three books I am particularly looking forward to are:

  • Wolfgang Herrndorf: Sand (for Germany) – a thriller set in North Africa, with an international cast, written by a German writer who died far too young
  • Andrzej Stasiuk: On the Road to Babadag (for Poland) – a road trip through Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Albania, Moldova and the Ukraine after the fall of Communism
  • Miklós Bánffy: They Were Counted (for Hungary) – pre-1914 Transylvanian counts in the declining years of the Austro-Hungarian empire
The RHS Wisley garden borders are pretty much my ideal. From their site.

What book most makes you think of Spring, for whatever reason?

It must be The Secret Garden by F. H. Burnett. Anyone who knows me will tell you what a hopeless and lazy gardener I am, but I do love flowers, particularly in spring, and the abstract idea of gardening (I even have books with pictures about the perfect English country garden). When I read that book as a child, I was sure that at some point, if I ever were to live in England, I would have that marvellous garden with minimal effort on my part.

The days are getting longer – what is the longest book you’ve read?

One volume Quarto Gallimard edition of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past in French – 2401 pages before it says FIN. Well, to be honest, I read it in separate volumes a long time ago, but I couldn’t resist buying it so I have it all in one place to reread. At some point. When I have time. Hah!

What books would you recommend to brighten someone’s day?

My gallows humour would probably not appeal to most people, but I do have some favourite books which are funny and sunny. I really enjoyed The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. The thought of the Queen discussing Jean Genet with the French President just cracks me up every single time. I also admire Oscar Wilde’s plays: every line is a gem.

Spring brings new life in nature – think up a book that doesn’t exist but you wish it did. (eg by a favourite author, on a certain theme or issue etc)

I wish there could have been more books written by Jane Austen or a novel by Dorothy Parker. As for a theme, I wouldn’t mind seeing a novel about a menopausal woman having inappropriate thoughts about younger man all day long and grappling with her fading writing muse – as a counterpoint to all those middle-aged male protagonists out there facing their midlife crisis. Now that I think about it, Dorothy Parker could have written the perfect novel on this theme.

Spring is also a time of growth – how has your reading changed over the years?

I was such a good reader during my teens: constantly trying out new genres, obscure authors, quite challenging books of science and philosophy and history, which I hardly ever attempt now.

According to my diary at the time, just before my 16th birthday I was reading and pondering about Spinoza, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Rimbaud, The Cherry Orchard, Mademoiselle Julie, Meredith’s The Egoist and K. A. Porter’s Flowering Judas.

Yes, I was a bit pretentious and know-it-all, but also voracious and not as set in my ways as I am now. I am much more of a moody reader now, have to find the book to suit me at any given point in time. However, for the past 4-5 years I’ve kept better track of my reading, with Goodreads lists and with reviews.

We’re a couple of months into the new year – how’s your reading going?

I had a rather slow start to the reading year in the first two months, but things improved in March and April. I am now at 47 books read mark, 12 ahead of my schedule (target is 120 books for the year and I was somewhat behind the target in February). There’s been the usual mix of good, mediocre and memorable books, but no truly horrendous books yet. Or perhaps I’ve just got better at avoiding them.

Any plans you’re looking forward to over the next few months?

Sadly, I won’t be going to Crimefest or Harrogate or Hay-on-Wye or Bloody Scotland this year, as my personal circumstances are still quite muddy. I do love literary festivals though, find them inspirational and motivational, so I might try to attend more local ones, such as Henley or Noirwich in Norwich, where I can go there and back in a day.

The other ‘top-secret’ plan is to get more involved in bringing East European crime fiction to the attention of English-speaking audiences. I’ll be writing a feature on this topic for Crime Fiction Lover, and hope to translate Romanian crime fiction for a collaborative project very soon. Watch this space!

WWWednesday 15th March: What Are You Reading?

WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. It’s open for anyone to join in and is a great way to share what you’ve been reading! All you have to do is answer three questions and share a link to your blog in the comments section of Sam’s blog.

The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

A similar meme is run by Lipsyy Lost and Found where bloggers share This Week in Books #TWiB.

Currently reading:

Emma Flint: Little Deaths

From the blurb: It’s 1965 in a tight-knit working-class neighborhood in Queens, New York, and Ruth Malone–a single mother who works long hours as a cocktail waitress–wakes to discover her two small children, Frankie Jr. and Cindy, have gone missing. Later that day, Cindy’s body is found in a derelict lot a half mile from her home, strangled. Ten days later, Frankie Jr.’s decomposing body is found. Immediately, all fingers point to Ruth. As police investigate the murders, the detritus of Ruth’s life is exposed. Seen through the eyes of the cops, the empty bourbon bottles and provocative clothing which litter her apartment, the piles of letters from countless men and Ruth’s little black book of phone numbers, make her a drunk, a loose woman–and therefore a bad mother.

Harriet Lerner: Why Won’t You Apologize?

From the blurb: Lerner challenges the popular notion that forgiveness is the only path to peace of mind and helps those who have been injured to resist pressure to forgive too easily. She explains what drives both the non-apologizer and the over-apologizer, and why the people who do the worst things are the least able to own their misdeeds. With her trademark humour and wit, Lerner offers a joyful and sanity-saving guide to setting things right.

Just read:

Louise Penny: The Beautiful Mystery – Gamache and Beauvoir are not in Three Pines this time, but in a remote monastery awash with Gregorian chants. Comfort reading for me, as I love everything that Penny writes.

Antonin Varenne: Retribution Road – rip-roaring adventure, think Taboo with more international travelling and a serial killer. Varenne will be at Quais du Polar in Lyon this year.

Next in line:

Rachel Cusk: Transit – good timing or too close to life?

In the wake of family collapse, a writer and her two young sons move to London. The process of upheaval is the catalyst for a number of transitions—personal, moral, artistic, practical—as she endeavors to construct a new reality for herself and her children.

Thomas Enger: Cursed – now this sounds like perfect escapism, I;ve been saving it up for comfort reading.

When Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, where she has been grieving for her recently dead father, her husband discovers that his wife’s life is tangled in mystery. Hedda never left Oslo, the retreat has no record of her and, what’s more, she appears to be connected to the death of an old man, gunned down on the first day of the hunting season in the depths of the Swedish forests. Henning Juul becomes involved in the case when his ex-wife joins in the search for the missing woman, and the estranged pair find themselves enmeshed both in the murky secrets of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families, and in the painful truths surrounding the death of their own son.

So, what are your reading plans for this week? And have you read any of the above?

WWW Wednesday, 1st February

It’s the middle of an awful week: world news and personal news are conspiring to keep me down, while the weather brings additional mopey-ness. So let’s run away from reality and cheer ourselves up with reading! So I’m joining in once more with the WWW Wednesday meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

wwwednesday

What are you currently reading?

Shirley Jackson: Novels and Stories

This is the Library of America edition which contains her two great novels The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as short stories both published and unpublished. This is going to be a reading theme throughout 2017, I think, as I can only bear to read a few of her stories at a time, because she so accurately conveys the demons lurking beneath the facade of noonday respectability and polite small-talk.

clearairMechtild Bormann: To Clear the Air – for #EU27Project – Germany

Blurb: Life comes to an end, but memory is forever. A moving epitaph for a lost loved one, or the menacing taunt of a vengeful killer? When a man is found brutally murdered in the woods, those words come to haunt the small German village of Merklen. And homicide inspector Peter Böhm faces the daunting task of unraveling a mystery with deep and twisted roots—in a town where doors stay closed, people stay silent, and death may have the final word.

What did you recently finish reading?

Lisa McInerney: The Glorious Heresies

Tragi-comedy at its finest, as we see five characters trying to battle their way out of the hopelessness of their situation in down-and-out Cork post-Celtic Tiger boom. Like Trainspotting set in Ireland, you watch with horror (and occasional glee) as they make wrong choice after wrong choice. Tough, candid, occasionally shocking, yet ultimately tender.

outlineRachel Cusk: Outline

Blurb: A woman writer goes to Athens in the height of summer to teach a writing course. Though her own circumstances remain indistinct, she becomes the audience to a chain of narratives, as the people she meets tell her one after another the stories of their lives.

My verdict: Based on reviews of this, I’d been expecting something challenging, hard to read, but it was enjoyable and easy. A collection of voices, people’s stories, a bit like an anthropologist’s field notes, it was fascinating and thought-provoking. Plus, a Greek setting is always a bonus!

What do you think you’ll read next?

Kate Hamer: The Doll Funeral

Blurb: My name is Ruby. I live with Barbara and Mick. They’re not my real parents, but they tell me what to do, and what to say. I’m supposed to say that the bruises on my arms and the black eye came from falling down the stairs.
But there are things I won’t say. I won’t tell them I’m going to hunt for my real parents. I don’t say a word about Shadow, who sits on the stairs, or the Wasp Lady I saw on the way to bed.

Hamer did such an excellent job of rendering a child’s voice in The Girl in the Red Coat, that I am curious to see what she can do here.

lastsummerRicharda Huch: The Last Summer (transl. Jamie Bulloch)

Blurb: Russia at the beginning of the 20th century. To counter student unrest, the governor of St Petersburg closes the state university. Soon afterwards he arrives at his summer residence with his family and receives a death threat. His worried wife employs a young bodyguard, Lju, to protect her husband. Little does she know that Lju sides with the students – and the students are plotting an assassination.

So, although this is a German author, I am not sure this qualifies entirely for the #EU27Project in my mind, as it takes place in Russia. Still, it looks like an intriguing read as usual from Peirene Press.

So a bouquet of women writers this time round! Have you read or are you planning to read any of these? Or other books by these authors?

 

Monthly Wrap-Up: January 2017

breachJanuary felt like a slow reading month, as too much of my time was caught up with news. However, now that I’m counting, I did not fare too badly. 12 books read, of which 4 translations and 5 by women. I am far, far behind on reviews, however, so for the time being you will have to make do with a single word or phrase.

For review on Crime Fiction Lover:

BA Paris: The Breakdown – predictable

Marc Elsberg: Blackout – disaster movie type

Federico Axat: Kill the Next One – surreal

David Young: Stasi Wolf – surreal in a different way

For #EU27Project:

This is where I stumbled a little, as I have written zero reviews of any of these. I am also having second thoughts about using Arango and Hiekkapelto for Germany and Finland respectively, as there is little local ‘flavour’ in their work (they take place elsewhere). I have been sadly neglectful of adding any links to the #EU27Project page myself, but thank you to all the other book bloggers who have diligently read and reviewed and linked up. So much better than me! I will do better in February, I promise.

gloriousheresiesOlumide Popoola & Annie Holmes: Breach (Peirene Now!) – the refugee camps of Europe – more necessary reading than ever

Sascha Arango: The Truth and Other Lies (Germany) – macabre fun

Kati Hiekkapelto: The Exiled (Finland) – cross-cultural misunderstandings

Lisa McInerney: The Glorious Heresies (Ireland) – inventive delight

For fun (and to reduce TBR pile, especially on Netgalley):

outline1Ian Rankin: Rather Be the Devil – reliably entertaining

Stav Sherez: The Intrusions – slightly panic-inducing

Brian Conaghan: The Bombs that Brought Us Together – timely and fresh

Rachel Cusk: Outline – anthropological storytelling at its best

My favourite crime reads this month were The Intrusions and Rather Be the Devil, while my favourite non-crime were Outline and The Glorious Heresies.