Wednesday, February 29, 2012

2012 challenge wrap up -- February

 total for February - 9
total for 2012 - 14

total for February - 8
total for 2012 - 13

total for February - 1
total for 2012 - 1 (oh, we really must get moving here!!)

total for February - 2
total for 2012 - 2

My poor result in the Aussie Authors is embarrassing -- someone please suggest books!!

February Reading Roundup

 Happy Leap Day! So far it's a good one, although it is only 8:30 a.m. here on the east coast -- perhaps my goal should be to leap wholeheartedly into everything I do today -- just like I did with my reading this month.

Before I get started, I'd like to mention the successful pledge drive for the  Words Without Borders Mexican Drug War Issue -- WWB was trying to raise $10,000 to get this important issue out and managed to get 165 backers to fund it.  Congratulations!  It was a nailbiter for a while, but eventually WWB's supporters came through. Now I sit and wait not so patiently for it to come out.

Here's another bit of literary info: The longlist for the Best Translated Book Award is out at Three Percent's website -- several of these are currently on my shelves but who knows when I'll get to them. I'm currently at the midway point one of them, Purgatory, by Tomás Eloy Martínez, and it's simply amazing.

Lots of reading time this month -- although I must admit, much of it was during the wee morning hours when no one else was awake, the phone wasn't ringing and it was dead quiet, very conducive to reading.  I used to be a morning person, got over it, and now I remember why I liked it so much.  So here's what I have to show for February:

fiction from the U.S.
The Last Storyteller, by Frank Delaney
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey (read, not reviewed)

fiction from Sri Lanka
Chinaman, by Shehan Karunatilaka

fiction from India
The Sly Company of People Who Care, by Rahul Bhattacharya

fiction from Australia

After the Fire, A Still Small Voice, by Evie Wyld
fiction from the UK
The Silent Oligarch, by Chris Morgan Jones

Russian Crime Fiction
The Diamond Chariot, by Boris Akunin

Italian Crime Fiction
The Potter's Field, by Andrea Camilleri
A Death in August, by Marco Vichi
Involuntary Witness, by Gianrico Carofiglio
A Walk in the Dark, by Gianrico Carofiglio
Reasonable Doubts, by Gianrico Carofiglio
Temporary Perfections, by Gianrico Carofiglio

Scandinavian Crime Fiction
Detective Inspector Huss, by Helene Tursten
Night Rounds, by Helene Tursten

other book-related stuff:
1) my book group read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey.   We all really liked it, and it's wonderful to see that a book written in the 1960s still has a great deal of relevance for today.

2) Added to the Amazon wishlist this month: (once again, some pretty obscure stuff!):
Red Lights, by Georges Simenon
A Private Affair, by Beppe Finoglio
The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness, by Kevin Young
Gender Violence at the US-Mexico Border: Media Representation and Public Response, by Hector Dominguez-Ruvalcaba

3) Books bought this month:
Pure, by Andrew Miller
Budapest Noir, by Vilmos Kondor
I Am God, by Giorgio Faletti
Night Rounds, by Helene Tursten

Obviously I'm still trying to stick to my pledge to lessen my tbr load, although this month's bought books outnumber last month's list.

4) Currently reading:

finishing up Purgatory, by Tomás Eloy Martínez
Budapest Noir, by Vilmos Kondor
The Torso, by Helene Tursten

and last but not least, during the month of February, I gave away or donated 36 books, put several on my giveaway shelf at Paperback Swap and managed to divide up the books on the floor in my office into boxes so I can walk in here again.

All in all - a good month -- I'm liking this quiet morning thing -- it's very productive!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, by Evie Wyld

Pantheon, 2009
296 pp
(hardcover ed.)

"Sometimes, people aren't all right and that's just how it is."

After the Fire, a Still Small Voice is Evie Wyld's first novel.  It won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in 2009, and a year later it was on the shortlist for the Orange Award for new writers.  In 2010 it also won a Betty Trask award, and was on the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award's shortlist for the 2011 award.  Considering it's the writer's first novel, the recognition seems to have been major. After having read this book, I can see why. 

The novel deals with the repercussions of war both on a man's soul and on the lives of those closest to him.   There have been a number of books that have dealt with this topic, but in Wyld's novel, she brings in something new as she follows not just one man's return from the war but three generations of men in the same family who have suffered either directly or indirectly from two different wars.   The story is compelling enough on its own, but what lifts it out of the range of just good fiction is the author's evocation of place, one of the strongest I've seen in a novel in a very long time.

Frank Collard has left Canberra, swapping  city life for the isolation of  his grandparents' old rustic shack along the coast where he used to go as a kid. He is estranged from his father, Leon, who also lost his father,  ultimately due to his experiences in a Korean prison camp during the Korean War.  Leon's father had escaped from the persecution of the Jews during World War II and had come to Australia; during the Korean conflict he had enlisted, leaving Leon home with his mother. Upon his return from the war, he had changed; he was no longer able to be around other people and ultimately left his family, taking off for points unknown.   Leon's mother left her son to go and find her husband, leaving Leon behind to run the family bakery shop, sending him the occasional postcard once in a while to let him know they're both okay.  Neither have returned by the time Leon is drafted into service in the Vietnam War, where his experiences leave him a changed man as well,  and neither are around when Leon returns.  They've bought the shack that after their deaths Leon will inherit, the one where Frank is living at the beginning of the story.  Not long after Leon comes back, he also looks to escape, wandering off into the outback.   Frank is now at the old shack, trying to escape his own anger-fueled demons.  The story weaves together these three strands, going back and forth through time to create an incredible story of men seeking stillness in their lives after the traumas each has suffered.  The stories of these three men echo and resonate down through the generations, as does the idea of escape.    The book is also populated by other characters  who have  had their own share of trauma and who deal with them in various ways.

From the Australia beaches to its vast outback, to the jungles of Vietnam,  the sense of place brings this book alive, as does Wyld's insightful descriptions.  For example,   Frank's first night's sleep in the shack was interrupted by

"the feeling that there had been some noise of movement in the shack, like a soundless bird had flown in one window and out the other ruffling the air as it went. He listened for feathers landing on the floor. Past the frogs and insects, the drill of night things, he heard it again. The night sounds dipped and let the noise through -- a faraway cry, something prehistoric, like the noise of a pterodactyl in an old plasticine movie. His ears became full of the sound of his own blood and he ticked in his head all the explanations. 'Bird' was what he arrived at. Some kind of bird was what the Creeping Jesus was. Owl. Jabiru. Cockatoo. He listened past his own breathing, past his own blood, then past the outside noise, banana leaves on corrugated iron, past the scrubbing of the gum trees in the little wind, .... Again like wind dropping, the nightbirds tucked their heads under their wings and the sound echoed from far away in the bush, a siren, a vowel noise that was long and thin, and when it reached its peak it broke and turned into a low howl, tailing off like a sad question."

The noise that "echoed over the tops of the cane," that sometimes "had the lightest touch of a man or woman about it," keeps Frank awake with his memories,  as the nights "drip slowly by." 

After the Fire, A Still Small Voice is not only a good novel, but a very timely and pertinent one as well, considering what's going on in the world and the problems of many returning soldiers and servicemen.  While sometimes I felt the narrative could have been a bit less rambling in spots,  I really liked it and each time I put it down I couldn't wait to get back to it.  I could sense the loneliness within each of the main characters, although I was much more intrigued by Leon's story more than anyone else's. I can't explain why exactly, but he is a character I won't soon forget. Definitely recommended.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Sly Company of People Who Care, by Rahul Bhattacharya

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011
278 pp
(hardcover ed)

The Sly Company of People Who Care is Rahul Bhattacharya's first novel,currently  shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize, and winner of the Hindu Literary Prize for Best Fiction in 2011.   It is structured in three parts, told via first-person narrative and set in the country of Guyana. It's also a  hell of a good book that will leave you thinking long after you've set it down. 

The story is told from the point of view of the narrator, who has left his home in India for Guyana to escape the "deadness" of his life.   His plan is to stay for a year, to become a "slow ramblin' stranger." He'd been in Guyana before for a week reporting on a cricket match, and during that time he sensed "moods and images, names and rhythms, contours of a mystery world one could perceive but not grasp."   This time around,  he  finds this place  to have the "feel of an accidental place," a place of "epic indolence," with a multitude of voices to be heard: "chinee, putagee, buck, coolie, and the combinations emanating from these, a separate and larger lexicon."   While  traveling into the interior with a local huckster and "porknocker" (diamond miner) named Baby, he soaks up local life along the way,  and becomes enthralled with Guyana's natural beauty. There he discovers that while he's in awe at Baby's freedom and ability to live off little more than his wits, he also finds witnesses an act of betrayal and something worse that leaves him wondering.  On his return to Georgetown, after recovering from a case of dengue fever, he realizes that
"One escapes one's life for however long, seeking adventure - I think of the Hindi word dheel. That is what kite-flyers in Bombay shouted when they wanted the spooler to let loose the thread...So one escapes one's life seeking adventure, and with enough dheel and some luck, that happens.  But the thread is anchored. You can only go so far. The impulse must change. Instead of adventure one seeks understanding."
Hooking up with a local character named Ramotar Seven Curry, a professional wedding guest, the narrator is at one such event, "where everyone is welcome," regardless of social class, but as it turns out, that blanket doesn't exactly include Africans.  Here the narrator begins to grasp what really lies beneath Guyana's beautiful exterior.  The tone of the novel begins to shift, as the author explores "the wounds left behind," and where the narrator makes a critical discovery about the country he at first thought so "accidental." While discussing India's hierarchical class rigidity and the fact that Indian nationals do not see their fellow Indians in Guyana as Indian at all, in a mix of both fiction and nonfiction, the narrator also relates how Guyana became a nation divided along the lines of race beginning with its European colonization. The narrative  goes back into Guyana's troubled past to make some sense of its troubled present. It is a story of the forced migration of slaves, the end of slavery and the introduction of indentured servants largely from India, and the social, political and economic displacement of one set of people over another via policies set by the Europeans. What's left now is a  "competition of suffering" between the two groups," with  the Afro-Guyanese seeing things from one point of view and the Indo-Guyanese having an altogther different take on the situation.   What Europeans started before leaving the country has left long-standing wounds that continue to inform most aspects of life in this country, and not just the economic and political aspects. And the pattern of movement and displacement continues today, as "there are more Guyanese living outside Guyana than in it."

In another shift of tone, the narrator's story picks up with him becoming a bit bored and restless, ready for yet another journey.   He meets a local girl named Jan, and they're off to Venezuela.  He falls head over heels; she's looking for an escape.   They're attracted to each other by the sex, but otherwise he comes to realize that they have very little in common, and the excitement begins to wear thin.  As his visa is about to expire, the two head back to Guyana, and it is then that he runs into a moral dilemma or two over "wounds left behind" for which he might be responsible.

There's a great deal more to this book, but there's too much to encapsulate in a few paragraphs.  Suffice it to say that the narrator ultimately comes to realize that in Guyana, everything is not so accidental after all -- that everything has been created, seeds have been sown that have taken  root deep within the very souls of the Guyanese people, and they all stem back to the European colonizers.

At first I wasn't so sure about this book, but after finishing it and giving it some thought, I grew to really like it as I considered all of the ironies within.  I'll leave you to figure them out for yourself. The prose is lush and  descriptive, especially in detailing the beauties of the Guyanese landscape.   Some people have criticized the book for having no real resolution, but perhaps the lack of an ending tied up neatly in a little bow is reflective of the content of the novel.  Definitely and highly recommended.  There is a lot of really good fiction coming out of South Asia right now, and this book is no exception.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

the winner of the Running the Rift giveaway....

It's Harvee! Her comment was second, and said that number 2 is the winner.  So congrats, and I'll be contacting you soon. 

Thanks to everyone for playing, and since I'm on a giveaway roll this year, stay tuned. More to follow.

The Silent Oligarch, by Chris Morgan Jones

The Penguin Press, 2012
312 pp.

The Silent Oligarch is Chris Morgan Jones' first novel, and it's a good one. While I'm generally not a huge fan of books in the thriller genre, I actually couldn't put this one down.   The author's firsthand experience in the intelligence-gathering industry lends a great deal of credence to the story he offers his readers, and he leaves behind the usual clichés found in many novels in the genre.

Former journalist Ben Webster works as investigator for Ikertu, a private firm that specializes in gathering intelligence for those who can pay for it.  The company's newest client is one Aristotle Tourna, whose goal is to bring down the corrupt Russian energy oligarch Konstantin Malin, "the power behind the throne at the energy ministry," ... "the silent oligarch" and "gray cardinal of the Kremlin."  Tourna is accusing him of global money laundering via a corporation known as Faringdon, which owns most of the assets. On paper, the owner of the corporation is Richard Lock, attorney and front man for Malin, but Tourna is alleging that Malin is the actual owner, which just happens to be true. But Lock and Malin operate in a world where there are carefully-built layers of secrets and zealously-guarded fictions, putting Lock in a tenuous spot: in this world, the two men "cannot divorce." It is Lock who will ultimately have to answer when Tourna brings his case to the courts. 

Webster realizes that Lock is the key to getting to Malin, that bringing him in and turning him will produce needed results.  But when Lock's carefully-built fictional affairs start receiving unwanted attention, and after various law-enforcement agencies start to take an interest,  Lock starts getting nervous. When a former colleague is found dead, Lock begins to unravel.   Webster tries to convince him that he and Ikertu may be Lock's only hope, but Lock doesn't know if there is anyone he can trust. Webster is not without his own battles in this particular case -- his family is being threatened, he may have discovered a link between this current case and the death of a friend ten years earlier, and people are starting to die after he asks them pertinent questions. He begins to question how much longer he can go on with the investigation, or if he is really the right man for the job.

There are a number of very good things about this novel to recommend it. First,the  author has done a good job with his characters, most notably that of Lock.  While a bit on the naive side, deep down inside he knows he's not hard enough to survive in the world he's working in. He's a credible character who finds himself in way over his head, not always making the smartest decisions, but as the story progresses, so too does Lock's desire to make a break and try to regain his own identity. Webster, on the other hand, is not as nicely filled in as Lock, which is a bit surprising, considering that the author once played a role similar to Ben's.  The prose is approachable, intelligent and never overdone, and while there's always enough suspense to keep the reader engaged, the author doesn't have to result to general thriller gimmicks to move the story along. But what really stands out in this book is the idea  that life is not actually divided into black and white, but rather that the world moves in patches of muddled grays.  As Lock notes at one point: 

  "So Malin's bent. So what? ... Everyone's bent.  Tourna's bent, Jesus. He's worse. And all those blue-chip companies, you think they haven't got someone like me to hide things, help them avoid tax? They've got legions of them. I'm just one man." ... "Ben, we both work for crooks. We play our parts, and that's it. And if we didn't someone else would. That's the world."

The Silent Oligarch
is a good read, with enough action to make thriller readers happy, while at the same time offering less "pulse-pounding"-oriented readers a glimpse into how things work behind the scenes of the world's richest players.  It's an eye-opening story as well. I never knew that organizations like the fictional Ikertu existed, but when I received the book, it came with  article from the New Yorker (you can read the abstract here ) profiling Jules Kroll, head of the real-life organization for which Chris Morgan Jones used to work.  Definitely recommended. 

My thanks to TLC Blog Tours, and to the publisher for sending me a copy of the novel. 

You can find other tour hosts and reviews for Silent Oligarch here

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Chinaman, by Shehan Karunatilaka

Jonathan Cape, 2011 (UK)
397 pp.

There is a Sinhalese expression "Konde bandapu cheena," which translates as "ponytailed Chinaman,"  and connotes someone gullible -- someone who will believe anything.   A "Chinaman" in cricket terms is (according to Wikipedia) "a left-handed bowler bowling wrist spin (left arm unorthodox). For a right-handed batsman, the ball will move from the off side to the leg side (left to right on the TV screen). "  The question asked by the narrator of this novel is this:

"Is this a story about a pony-tailed Chinaman bowler? Or a tale to tell a pony-tailed Chinaman? That is for you to decide." 

Whatever your choice may be after finishing this novel, Chinaman is one of the best novels I've read so far this year.  I know jack about cricket, which features heavily throughout the story; no surprise there, considering Americans are far more involved in football, baseball and basketball.  Strangely enough, my lack of knowledge was not a drawback in any form.  The mix of Sri Lankan history, contemporary politics, humor, the characters and the author's prose all come together to make this book an unforgettable experience.

"There is nothing more inspiring than a solid deadline," notes  retired Sri Lankan  journalist WG Karunasena,  and after a long career of both sportswriting and serious drinking, he has been given  his last one.  His doctor has given him about a year to live if he does not stop drinking;  if WG  cuts down to two drinks a day, maybe a year or two at most.  He decides that it's a good time to do a "halfway decent documentary on Sri Lankan cricket", and is obsessed with a cricket player named Pradeep Mathew, who he says, is Sri Lanka's all-time best cricketer.  Mathew was a "top spinner...," "Chinaman, googly, top spinner and that amazing arm ball that god rid of the Aussie captain."   Along with his friend and fellow cricket fanatic  Ari Byrd, WG begins to gather information on Mathew, who has long-since disappeared from the cricket scene, official records  and also from Sri Lanka, seemingly vanishing into thin air.   As they start the documentary project, which will later evolve into a book project for WG, they run into several people who claim to know something about Mathew, and they run into others who do not want WG to go any further with the project. Is there some conspiracy at work here?  As WG and Ari embark on their at times rather strange quest, WG's obsession with Mathew and his discussions about the game of cricket become a vehicle for exploring Sri Lankan politics and history, and life in contemporary Sri Lankan society.  

But there are other considerations at work in this novel as well, both on and off the cricket field  -- relationships within families;  friendships;  politics and money that get in the way of sportsmanship;  old age; the sadness and regret of wasted lives; the inescapable power plays --  all presented in a style that fits well into the story without ever getting overly preachy.   There's WG's old nemesis, once a rival for WG's wife Sheila, who may or may not have had six fingers and who  may or may not have been Mathew's school coach ; a midget who claims to have had an underground bunker and to have secretly taped damning conversations on the cricket field; a friend  of WG who may or not be a pedophile; and there's WG himself, the very center of the novel -- should anyone even believe his ramblings,  considering his alcoholic bent toward self destruction and considering the characters that populate this novel?   The story is punctuated throughout with definitions of cricket terms, diagrams of different cricket techniques, parts of the field etc, largely to help the reader and to move the story along. .  There are also fuzzy photos here and there that may or may not lend credence to WG's search for the truth about Pradeep Mathew. 

Chinaman is funny and downright sobering at the same time, which given the seriousness of the history of ongoing problems in Sri Lanka is a good juggling act, keeping the reader entertained on one hand while exploring the problems of this nation.  And then there's the sports aspect: the author clearly brings out the "magic" moments of sporting events that tie people together:  "sport can unite worlds, tear down walls and transcend race, the past, and all probability.  Unlike life, sport matters." As WG notes,

"In thirty years, the world will not care about how I lived. But in a hundred years, Bulgarians will still talk of Letchkov and how he expelled the mighty Germans from the 1994 World Cup with a simple header."
As an American who knows little to nothing about the sport of cricket, at first the book was a bit daunting, even though the author lays out the basics and then throws in bits about different throws or batting techniques.  When I realized that this could be problematic, I went to the internet for help in getting a quick rundown on how this game is played -- problem solved.  Cricket  might be a sticking point for some readers in this country, but ultimately I discovered it didn't really matter -- the overall story is so good and is so well told that my lack of cricket knowledge was only a momentary glitch that really did not distract from the narrative.   The ending may be a bit gimmicky for some readers, but  the book's good points are so numerous that they outweigh any negatives. 

Whether or not you care about cricket, I definitely and highly recommend this book -- it is that good, offering its readers a glimpse into life in another country, and into one man's journey of discovery  in his last months of life. It's a beautiful book, and I hope it finds other Americans to cheer it on.

addendum: One of my online book friends informed me yesterday that this book is going to be published by Graywolf Press under the title of The Legend of Pradeep Mathew. According to Graywolf's page (linked under the title), it will be coming out May of this year. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Last Storyteller, by Frank Delaney

Random House, 2012
400 pp.

My many thanks to Tara for offering me this book, and to Random House as well.  The Last Storyteller is the final book in Delaney's three-volume series that begins with Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show  then continues with The Matchmaker of Kenmare.  Now in Last Storyteller, Delaney offers his readers a novel of historical fiction that not only continues to highlight Ireland's 20th-century past, but also shows that the stuff of legends has a tendency to  reverberate in real life and human experience.  Most importantly, however, Delaney weaves throughout this book the idea of the transforming  power of storytelling, which for readers is undeniable.  But he adds another dimension -- that of the wandering seanchai, who travels the country sharing his stories.   For readers who are already familiar with the previous two books in the series, Last Storyteller also continues the story of Ben McCarthy, the long-estranged husband of Venetia Kelly.

McCarthy works for  Ireland's Folklore Commission, and he lives on a "staple diet" of "herbal cures, rambling ballads, family curses, jigs and reels played on fiddles and pipes, nonsense verse, riddles and recitations -- and above all stories."   Ben's travels have given him the opportunity to meet many different kinds of people, but he is most at peace with his friend John Jacob Farrell O'Neill, seanchai, a  "fireside storyteller," a "descendant of the bards who had entertained kings and chieftains long before Christ was born." But because of events from his past, and more recent happenings as well, Ben is still in a deeply-entrenched state of loss and melancholy.   The Last Storyteller is his own story, addressed to his children Ben and Louise, but it is also a tale of how the power of storytelling leads to Ben's own personal transformation.   Taking  a bit of advice given to him from his old friend James Clare, who is dying as the novel opens, Ben discovers that

"One day you have to tell the story of your own life...and perceive it as myth. when you can do that -- that's when you've finally grown up."

The events of Ben's life in this novel begin in the mid 1950s, and the book takes the reader through turbulent times in Ireland's history that have a bearing on Ireland's modern situation.

The storytelling aspects drew me in to the novel and kept me there, as did the ongoing story of Ben McCarthy and Venetia Kelly, which I first discovered in Delaney's Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show, probably my favorite of the author's three connected novels.    The image of a storyteller  being welcomed into the  homes of strangers, going  from fireside to fireside, sometimes staying into the wee hours was quite enchanting; the idea of people gladly opening their doors to this person also grabbed my attention, as did the stories Delaney incorporated into the book.  At the same time, the parallels in the stories were a bit too coincidental to Ben's adventures, and it bothered me a little that not enough distance was put between O'Neill's telling and the events unfolding around Ben and those near to him.  And sometimes the dialogue was a little too much; there were entire scenes that sometimes dragged due to wordiness, leading to the dreaded skim.

However, it is quite obvious that the author succeeded in getting his message across and aside from some of the more lengthy conversations and coincidences, I liked this book.  The Last Storyteller and the books that precede it it are much lighter in tone than my regular reading choices, but I have a fondness for Delaney's novels, a) because they're set in Ireland, and b) because  the author has a gift for storytelling.  The novels are not complicated, they are very approachable in terms of reading, and make for a good and relaxing reading experience -- exactly what I need at the moment.   My advice: although you could easily catch up with what happened in the previous two novels, start with Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show and work your way toward this one.  I think you'll get much more out of The Last Storyteller with the backstory provided by the other two books, and this book will be more meaningful in the long run.   And if anyone knows a seanchai who wants to come sit by my fireside, send him on over.

NOTE: Since I'm finished with this book (an ARC ), if anyone would like it, it's yours for the asking.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Another giveaway: Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron

As luck would have it (and this happens to me more frequently than you would believe), the current Powell's book store Indiespensable selection is a book I already have and which I've already read.  This time it's Running the Rift, by Naomi Benaron, so I now have a copy to give away.  I'll be returning once again to on Tuesday, February 14th , to select someone to take home this book -- international is very much okay. 

There is, as always, no points system to deal with, no following necessary (I didn't even start this blog in hopes of followers -- it's really just for me).  All you have to do is leave a contact with some sort of contact info (a link to your blog with contact info, or a comment followed by an email to me, whatever).  Please have your comment in by February 13th.

Good luck!

Friday, February 3, 2012

2012 challenge wrap up -- January

  1. 1/23: He Lover of Death, by Boris Akunin
  2. 1/23: She Lover of Death, by Boris Akunin
  3. 1/18: The Coronation, by Boris Akunin
  4. 1/18: The State Counsellor, by Boris Akunin
  5. 1/11: The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain
 total: 5

  1. 1/23: He Lover of Death, by Boris Akunin
  2. 1/23: She Lover of Death, by Boris Akunin
  3. 1/18: The Coronation, by Boris Akunin
  4. 1/18: The State Counsellor, by Boris Akunin
  5. 1/4: Bloodline, by Mark Billingham 
total: 5

alas, nothing yet

- sigh - nothing here yet either

I'm sure these numbers will be higher for February -- anyone else want to comment about their challenge results for January? I'd be really interested.

February: the 2012 book challenges -- let's go!

Looking for an answer to the out of control tbr pile (this is not really at my house, but it's a reflection of how I see my book stacks), I decided to  involve myself in book challenges to get through a large chunk of them this year.   This month I'll be reading a totally random selection of books from my home library to sort of kick start these challenges. I need space so I can start this all over again next year!   

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January Reading Roundup

In the first month of 2012, as usual, I didn't get quite as far as I would have liked in my reading progress.   Travel, illness and catching up on things here at home sort of took care of more reading time, as did evenings watching my new dvds bringing to life the Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri.  But all in all, it was a pretty decent month, and I'm okay with how far I actually got.

Rounding up the month, here's the summary:

translated general fiction
Scars, by Juan Jose Saers (read, not reviewed)

fiction from the U.S.
A Walk Across the Sun, by Corban Addison
The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain
The Orphan Master's Son, by Adam Johnson
Running the Rift, by Naomi Benaron 
The Last Storyteller, by Frank Delaney (review coming 02/07)

fiction from New Zealand
Hand Me Down World, by Lloyd Jones

fiction from the UK
How It All Began, by Penelope Lively (just finished, so review shortly)

Russian crime fiction

The State Counsellor, by Boris Akunin
The Coronation, by Boris Akunin
She Lover of Death, by Boris Akunin
He Lover of Death, by Boris Akunin

crime fiction from the UK
Bloodline, by Mark Billingham

other book-related stuff:
1) my book group read Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell.  All agreed on liking it; some of us found it a bit boggy (no pun intended) due to too much overdescriptiveness

2) Added to the Amazon wishlist this month: (once again, some pretty obscure stuff!):
 When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Manby Nick Dybek
Narcopolis, by Jeet Thayil

3) Books bought this month:
Marigold: The Lost Chance for Peace in Vietnam, by James Hershberg
The Stone Virgins, by Yvonne Vera

Obviously I'm trying to stick to my pledge to lessen my tbr load.

4) Currently reading:
The Silent Oligarch, by Chris Morgan Jones
Chinaman, by Shehan Karunatilaka
The Diamond Chariot, by Boris Akunin

That's  it ... hopefully February will be less other stuff and more reading!