Sunday, August 14, 2016

August afternoons

Giant days, vol. I, by John Allison, Lissa Treiman, Whitney Cogar, and assorted others who are not listed on the front cover, only the title page.  What... is this?  Why is this "critically acclaimed?"  The art is nice enough, and the characters are distinct and likeable, but it doesn't really do anything.  It is mostly a random assortment of non-connected events in the lives of a small group of college friends.  The book refers so heavily to events that took place before the start of this GN that I kept eyeing the "volume one" notation dubiously.  The events the girls experience are run-of-the-mill sorts of things, and the ones that have the potential to be life-changing or character-building aren't examined in enough detail or given quite that much weight.  Why bother with the story?  It adds nothing to my life as a reader.

Lost on a mountain in Maine by Donn Fendler; read by Amon Purinton.  The cover image specifies "by Donn Fendler, as told to Joseph B. Egan," and I'm not sure what that means.  The Wikipedia article makes it sound like a co-author, like for a celebrity or something.

I downloaded a couple of  audiobooks for a long drive, just the boy and I, were taking today and this was the first one I played on the way out of town.  I had picked it out of what showed up among OverDrive's currently-available Juvenile audiobooks because the boy has been somewhat fixated on survival stories this summer, since he got into Gordon Korman's "Island" survival series-- he picked the first one as his SRP prize, and gobbled up the others.  The "Everest" books were also well-liked.  (I have been trying to get him into survival books in general, as they were a particular favorite of mine when I was young, for the last year or more, and Gordon Korman in particular over the last six months.  This cannot be pointed out, because the idea that Mom, a librarian and avid reader, could be right on this matter is blasphemous.)

I enjoyed this on the drive, and my son *loves* it.  He wanted to leave the beach earlier than anticipated in order to get back into the car to listen to it, and we are all now listening to it, sitting in the living room.  A second read-- it's true love.

The writing is approachable for kids, but has a nice older style-- simple enough sentence structure, frequent use of things like "fellow" and "queer" and "fool," and regional terms, too-- sounding like an old neighbor or uncle's storytelling style.  I was pretty impressed with the young reader; he's a natural.  The overlay of sound effects underneath the narration is a very nice touch, especially, I think, for the intended age group (grades 4-8); it is used not too frequently so it's a nice addition instead of being a constant.

The boy's opinion is that it is "great."  His favorite part was the leeches, or, for a direct quote, "when the bloodsuckers suck him."  The news that there is a graphic novel adaptation created quite a stir.

I would have like to know some more information to round out the story, like how far he went while he was lost, or more specifically when and where everything happened instead of "generic northeastern woods," but, with only general prompting, the boy states nothing was lacking from story.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

an assortment of H labels

Inside out with Amy Poehler.  I had heard this was excellent, but I hear a lot of good things about a lot of movies and books and, on those occassions I read/watch, I usually wonder what the reviewer was on.  But this movie demanded to be watched recently: someone used a scene as an example in conversation and included a recommendation.  Later that same day, I was shelving and this appeared in my hand, so I checked it out and took it home.  Within 48 hours, before I could watch it (because of busy outdoor summer plans), my brother-in-law, who goes through movies the way I go through books, said he watched it for the first time recently and said it was excellent.  And this is a guy who usually likes silent '50s Italian films.  So I finally watched it.


It is excellent.  I laughed.  I cried.  I recommend it.

I do wonder what it signifies that Sadness is in charge of the mom's console, and that all the emotions inside the dad have Anger's body shape.

All the things we never knew by Sheila Hamilton.  I read this in preparation for an author visit which was unfortunately cancelled due to family illness.  I saw this author at the PNBA last year and I'm excited to host her whenever she can make it out to the Peninsula.

The book is approachable and understandable.  Relatable.  The author writes about her family experience, and between each chapter is a short section-- a page or two, three at the very most-- that is more researchy: it has statistics or support group resources or some other information.  The format works very well, because it allows her to tell her story without trying to weave in facts which she wants to include but didn't know at the time.

This book can be highly recommended to just about everyone.

Rosalie Lightning: A graphic memoir by Tom Hart.  This is why lists are dangerous.  "20 best graphic novels you need to read."  OK!  I'll place my hold!  Maybe more like "20 highly reviewed graphic novels which get your right in the feels."  This kind of thing is also where my typical pull-stuff-off-the-shelves based on its cover or the author name or other completely random reason *without knowing a blasted thing about it* turns out to be a bad policy.

This is dramatic and moving and sad.  There were a few problems with the flow of the story-- it alternates between a before-time and the after-time, but it isn't always clearly labelled, which can be confusing.  It is hard to recommend, since that means suggesting one thinks the prospective reader might enjoy spending an hour choked up and clutching a tissue, but it is a very good book.

Hot dog taste test by Lisa Hanawalt.  What is this?  What am I looking at?  What fully-functional adult is so obsessed with toilet activities?

I have no idea what this is.  People with bird heads and half-dressed people as food.  If the author is trying to make some statement, I am not receiving.  The drawings aren't pleasant or funny or insightful.  Pass.

Stiff upper lip, Jeeves, with Michael Hordern and Richard Briers, from BBC Radio 4.  These radio dramatizations are generally fun to listen to, but this one in particular substituted quite a bit of the narration with sound effect and such, so I felt like I missed out a bit.  There were also a few problems where characters talked over each other, or over other sound effects, and it was not possible to hear what everyone was saying.  Still, quick and good for when I have to drive across the Peninsula alone.

When a child is born by Jodi Taylor.  This is labelled "a seasonal short story;" short is right.  I should probably say it's my fault for not checking the item's metadata before purchasing; I'm used to between-the-numbers installments being in the novella, 50-75 page range.  This is 19, four of which are cover page, also-by, etc., leaving 15 pages of story.  15.  Without exaggeration, it took me longer to input my new bank card into my Nook than it took me to read this.  I have heap big buyer's remorse.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

final thoughts

I had a couple pictures from my reading challenge that I didn't stick in anywhere yet.  Here ya go!

I had been reading by firelight the first night, but it got too dark to keep on.  
Lunch, day 2: the benches and chairs were still too wet, so I reprised the eating-breakfast-in-the-car plan for lunch.  It was a good plan.
Free bonus camping tip: peeps.  For the first time ever this year, I managed to keep a box of Easter peeps completely safe from predation and took it camping. They have a nice little extra specialness over regular marshmallows: the outer sugar got nice and crunchy.  They're even nice if they get accidentally set on fire.  We brought chickies; I would prefer one of the flat shapes (bunnies, trees, or stars).  Chicks are available online year-round-- I just bought some more for later summer camping-- but I can't seem to get other shapes from www.marshmallowpeeps.com

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Camp-tastic

I read these on our family camp trip earlier this week (before the 48 Hour Reading Challenge) and wanted to post about them on their own.  Let's see what I can remember from that long ago.

Time thief by Katie MacAlister.  I had completely forgotten but I have absolutely read this one before, although I do not have a note to that effect anywhere in the blog as best as I can tell.  It didn't seem familiar but as soon as I cracked the cover the first night, rolled up in my sleeping bag, there was definite deja vu.  I read a few pages, skipped ahead, didn't recognize the new part, skipped back, became more convinced, skipped farther ahead, and finally said out loud, "I'm pretty sure I've read this before."  My husband helpfully responded, "yeah, you did; I recognized the cover."


As I remember, the main female character is annoyingly chipper, the main male character is annoyingly secretive and dark, and the story wasn't great-- it didn't feel like these two were fated or destined, or even a particularly good fit.  

Having refreshed my memory about this, I'm happy to delete the sequel from my TBR list.

Flight of the sparrow by Amy Belding Brown.  I came across this while making a read-alike list for a patron and it caught my eye.  I actually would have most likely put it down within the first few pages-- there were a few things that annoyed me just enough-- but I was waiting for a doctor's appointment and had nothing else with me.  By the time I was out, I was kind of hooked on the character.

Annoyances:  present tense (gah).  The inclusion of details/ history was not seamless and had some repetitiveness.  The story could have gone deeper, and I'm not sure how completely historically accurate the main character's ideas and reactions are (or if she was made more modern so the reader would be able to identify with her more).  Most of the supporting characters were pretty thin, including the main character's husband.  Depth from his character would have added quite a bit to the story.

The family camping trip, by the way, was at the Dosewalips State Park outside Brinnon.  I highly recommend this park.

Re(ad)treat: Final

The backup waiting for the bridge closure allowed me to finish my audiobook and seemed a good time to officially tie up the project.  Official time: 10:54 am Thursday to 1:16 pm Saturday, or about 50 hours and 20 minutes.  Total count: 8 books.

(When we did finally cross the bridge, we could see the top bit of a submarine sticking out of the water as it moved down the Canal, so that was cool.)

Jeeves and the tie that binds by P.G. Wodehouse, read by Frederick Davidson.  These are pleasant for drives and such: nice, and I had something to listen to while trying to wrestle the tent back into its case.  This narrator was alright; not my favorite, but ok.  I was unfamiliar with the story for this one, so hurrah there as well.

Belfair State Park, of the Washington State Park System.  I chose this park for one reason exclusively: it was the closest campsite to where I was stashing my child.  It was a very short drive to my in-laws, and conveniently three and half miles from a grocery story in case of food emergency.  If you are looking for anything else, as we usually are, when choosing a campground (such as views, site spaciousness, site privacy, hiking opportunities inside the campground, other recreation outlets inside the campground, or proximity to hiking/recreation nearby outside the campground), Belfair SP would severely disappoint.  The campsites are much smaller than other state parks we've camped in and there is nothing except a few ferns between each site, affording zero privacy.  A few sites on the edge have a nice view and easy access to the water and beach, but most are back under the trees (where it is humid).  The frequently-placed water spouts in my loop were all out of order.  There is a token-operated shower, but the shower room has only one bench (dirty) with no hooks, and it had a bug problem.  I cannot recommend this park.  Fortunately, it met my limited criteria, which pretty much involved being a place where I could toss up a tent and build a fire. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Re(ad)treat: Hour, um, 39

Sleep donation by Karen Russell.  Technically a novella, I think.  The short format works surprisingly well.  There obviously isn't space to get into the nitty-gritty of the sci-fi-esque problem, so it feels completely natural to totally accept it and get on with the story.


The main character's voice is authentic, relatable, empathetic.  The writing has areas that are nearly poetic and are beautiful and add to the narration.

After finishing Sleep donation and letting the fire go out, I circumambulated the campground for a bit of movement.  My spot is back under the trees, on the far side of a loop, but if one is lucky-- or plans far enough ahead-- many spots are right on the water.

A symphony of echoes by Jodi Taylor.  There is a small problem with this book, as there was in the first installment: namely, if the timeline will protect itself by killing the good guys if they so much as step on a snail by accident, why does it let the bad guys do whatever they want? Ignoring that flaw, this is a better bit of storytelling than book one: less (poorly-handled) messy personal stuff, sticking tighter to the book-specific adventures and the series-long narrative arc conspiracy story.

The head lamp still is working beautifully. I heartily recommend one, even for regular home in-bed reading.

Forgive any sentences that make no sense: it's 3 minutes to 2 and my 5 cups of coffee have worn off.  See you in the morning!

Re(ad)treat: Hour 30.

I had some audiobook time this afternoon while spending more time drying things out.  We now have one thin ray of sunshine, and I managed to get the fire going a while ago despite the dampness.  The afternoon was warm, at least, and I've been able to sit by the fire, although my plan to sit on the beach in the sun has yet to be implemented.

Paper girls: 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang.  This is kind of weird.  It's not at all clear what is actually going on-- there are several possibilities based on the little information given-- although the young teen girl characters are very likable.  It would perhaps be best to wait until several volumes are available and read them together.

Re(ad)treat: Hour 26.

Well, that was a startling turn events.  The Pacific Northwest does not experience many thunderstorms, as a rule.  It turns out the activity around dinner time last night was only a prelude. Thunderstorms rolled through at 11:30, shortly after 2, and then the granddaddy with accompanying buckets of rain at 4:15.  We get a lot of rain out this way, but it usually takes all day to amount to any accumulation.  There was a bothersome amount of water in the corners of the tent.


After last night's noisy interludes, I slept in until shortly after nine.  I then continued to hide in my sleeping bag reading until a caffeine headache started to threaten.  It took a while to set the campsite to rights, and I had my breakfast sitting in the car, it being the driest place.  

I just checked the forecast again, hoping for enough sun to dry things out a little.  I don't know why I bothered: I checked at 11:30-ish pm-- while it was actively raining!-- and no rain was predicted for the whole night.  Talk about an epic fail.

I did finish a book while eating cereal in my back seat:

Someone to love by Mary Balogh.  Netgalley grab.  I had to look this up several times last night because I could have sworn I read this before.  Everything I've seen though does make it look like a new 2016 title and not a rerelease.  Maybe it's a recycled storyline or something like that.  There are only so many possible romance novel scenarios, after all.

This was fair.  My main complaint is that there are far too many unnecessary characters; fewer could have done the job more clearly and with more personality.  The book also starts by introducing a number of these side characters in turn, so it isn't clear for a while who the main characters will turn out to be.

It's clear that this is the first in a new series, with future books focusing on these various family members, but that doesn't really excuse it.

The ending is also a bit of a let-down: the hero is suddenly super-self-enlightened, whereas before he wasn't really in touch with how his feelings were developing.  It is a bit jarring and feels rushed, sloppy.

Romance readers looking for erotic content will also be disappointed.  

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Re(ad)treat: the 11th hour

No new books finished, although I'm making steady progress on a romance novel.  My steam kind of petered out for a little while around 9: I came out of the tent after the thundershowers passed and managed to get a fire going.  I read by the fire but once it got too dark, I ended up sitting by the fire doing absolutely nothing for a little while. It was very pleasant. 


One of the nice things about these state parks is that you can have a hot shower: three minutes for $.50. It's nice to get the bug spray off before going to bed.

Back in the tent once again and ready to read into the night.  The head-mounted flashlight my husband bought for last summer's light spelunking trip is finding new uses.

Re(ad)treat: Hour 7

I had just sat down to dinner (one-pot Mac n cheese made over the one-burner propane stove, turned out quite well) when I heard rain drops patter on the canopy.  So this

quickly became this
It's raining a bit more earnestly now, drumming on the tent. A breeze would be very nice at this point.

Archetype by M.D. Waters.  I started this yesterday but was only 50 pages in.  Done now!  

This takes place in a futuristic/alternate-present dystopian world that is unfortunately not fully explored.  For the first two thirds of the book, it's very unclear what is going on and how the characters are connected. This is probably supposed to be because the main character herself is unclear on these points, so the reader can make the journey with her.  However, giving the reader more information would have allowed more focus on the character's development. The story would've been less a mystery and more about her self-discovery.  The ending was a bit rushed, but ok.  Three and a half stars.

Fry's English delight, series 4, with Stephen Fry.  This was my audiobook for today's drive and camp set up. I have definitely listen to at least part of this before, although I don't think I finished.  Short and interesting, always good for a solo drive.

Re(ad)treat: Hour 3

Saga, volume 6, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.  This is so much better than the previous volume-- not so much purposeful gore, and the story feels exciting and hopeful again.  If you've made it this far in the series, it's worth continuing.


It was a bit muggy in here under the trees, but now that it is officially afternoon, there's a nice breeze off the water.

Re(ad)treat: Start

I am half-way through a week's vacation at this moment.  My husband had a few days off, so Sunday through Wednesday, the family camped along the Dosewalips River.  (The state campground there is wonderful, by the way: very big, private campsites, and plenty of full-hook-up camper sites, if that's your thing.)


I didn't want the last couple of my days off to be a stay-cation that accidentally devolves into nothing but chores.  So after years of watching other bloggers take part in the annual 48-hour reading challenge, I set up my own.

This morning, I dropped my son off with his grandparents and, at 10:54 am, I began 2 days of reading in the forest.  I listened to my audiobook on the last part of the drive and while setting up my campsite (see below).
I intend to eat snacks, drink wine, sit by the fire, and maybe take a nap in the sun.  Reception seems good so I'll post regularly, or until my battery runs out.  Now a quick exploratory amble, and then it's time to hit the books.  

Sounds like vacation to me.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

7/17

Just one damned thing after another by Jodi Taylor.  There were a few flaws with this that made me sad.  First, the perception of the passing of time was poorly shared: the character would mention a few things happened, but the writing makes it feel like we're talking a year at the most and, whoops, now she specifies it has been fully five years.  It would have been better not to specify-- everything made sense within the 12-18 month perceived time frame and wouldn't have felt funny to the reader at all.  Specifying draws attention to the way the years were glossed over.  Secondly, there were quite a few times where there were exclamation points that stood out to me.  They seemed juvenile, made the writing feel less polished.  The sentences they were attached to would have stood fine on their own.  Rookie mistake?

Aside from those two caveats, what a fantastic book!  I read it cover-to-cover in one day-- not non-stop, there were a few breaks, but still.  It will definitely appeal most to a certain subset of readers who would. given the chance, jump in to that world with both feet themselves.  The personal-issues section about three-quarters through felt a bit rushed, and the blatant set-up for a(n unnecessary) follow-up installment was poorly handled, but again, early author mistakes.  It looks like I missed the boat a bit on this one-- a long series of books and related stories is already out.  I'll have to see how they are.

Finding Dory, with Ellen DeGeneres.  My husband was actually the one really excited to see this.  I had heard a ton of good things about this movie, but it was pretty meh.  We saw it in regular old 2-D (because trying to coordinate 3-D glasses and regular glasses gives me a headache) and it was nice, but just nice.  I wouldn't go see it again, and I don't need to have it on DVD, but it was fun.


The x-files with Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny.  Amazon has removed The x-files from Prime, and I was barely into season 5.  I was so mad I submitted feedback.  You can't take it away without mentioning to people first.

The long way to a small, angry planet by Becky Chambers.  This is a fantastic book, most appropriate for readers who already enjoy sci-fi: there are tons of terms and ideas that are tossed in with no intro, or only mentioned ever so briefly; long-term genre readers will go with it, but it would make new readers feel a bit lost.

I thought this would be a space-opera-type-sci-fi, where we're really in it for the setting and created world, but it turned out to be super about the characters.  They all had enough depth to make them realistic and relatable, and the awesome universe was a bonus.  I really loved how all the different alien races have very different family and social structures, but none of them (and not the author) get all preachy about the "right" way for society to behave.

The tailgater's cookbook by David Joachim.  Grilling and coolers: I figured many of these would translate well for camping.  Correct!  I wrote down a handful of recipes and some good helpful notes about grilling technique.  It is organized in a useful way and is easy to understand.  Recommended.

Live and capes: 1: Do you want to know a secret by Thomas F. Zahler.  This was a nice grown-up graphic novel about a couple, one of whom happens to be a super hero.  I liked how the chapters were strung out over more than a year, and characters would allude to events that occurred between chapters-- it gave the story some depth: things happen even when we can't see, like it does for real people.  I did find the characters not quite as deep as I would have liked, although the author did a good job with the length of book and the medium-- more character depth would have required a longer book (which would have also been fine; this is pretty skinny), and this story line would probably have been a hard sell as a novel.  A good graphic novel to transition people who think GNs are all "comic books."

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Program glance-throughs 2

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: This is on my list because one of the wine descriptions struck me as being a good match for a non-book medium.  But this probably isn’t a good fit: selling a graphic novel to some of these folks would be a job of work by itself, much less a very …graphic… novel in such a far-out fantasy world.  I haven’t read any happy graphic novels lately, so I don’t have any ideas to sub in.

The second chances of Priam Wood by Alexander Rigby: Gaa, I had such high hopes for this, but the review is better-written than the book.  The writing has a pedantic feeling, all telling, with little sentence variation.  The first two chapters read like the set-up for a moralizing story, not exactly something to draw most readers in.  Leafing through, there’s so little dialogue throughout how will we hear from anyone except the narrator?  Sadly, this book really isn’t worth picking up.

Simone by Eduardo Lalo, translated by David Frye: Pretentious?  It’s hard to get into and is difficult to follow, but carries that quality of, if one were to suggest edits to the author, the author would respond along the lines of “you can’t critique my art; it’s ART!”  (as if there is no such thing as bad art or incomplete art.)  It is likely to not be accessible/enjoyable to the majority of readers.

Seeing red did not come in on hold in time to be reviewed.

Touch by Claire North: Just enough information is given out at just the right intervals.  I’ll run the blurb past my no-sci-fi reader at a branch.  I'm hopeful.

Treachery in Bordeaux by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen: Oh, so much telling.  After a dozen pages, I’m not sure why I should invest in the characters and with the book being so short (and the margins so generous) I’m not sure there’s space enough to make me do so.  Also noticed a few proofreading errors even in that short space.

Untouchable by Ava Marsh: The pacing in the beginning of the story is very good, I can feel the suspense already.  But the writing is all short sentences, too clipped, with a bunch of fragments that would work better anchored.  Not quite.

The wake by Paul Kingsnorth: Ugh!  How could the reviewer have failed to mention the non-standardized spelling and the lack of punctuation!  A sentence at random: “it was the efen when he cum deorcness was gathered in and we was in the hus around the fyr with was a crocc of broth of lamb and baerlic and we was all eten this with the good baerlic loaf what odelyn macd well and we was eten with micel lust for the daeg had been long”  (p.59).  Library Journal lets me down again.

The winter people by Jennifer McMahon: Very nice sentence variation and other writing conventions.  A few characters, all with enough depth to be engaging, and touching on a few genres to appeal to a wide audience.  A strong possibility, although I’m not sure about a match. 

The winter war by Philip Teir: I cannot tell what this is trying to be.  The blurb on the back says it’s “funny, sharp, and brilliantly truthful,” but no matter where I jump to in the book, it reads like an exposition.  There’s little dialogue and we don’t seem to be following any particular person, and certainly not getting inside anyone’s head; we just sort of bobble along the ceiling, watching.

I was still waiting for a third of the books to come in, so I went out to the New shelves and swiped some titles I remembered as having good reviews.

If I fall, if I die by Michael Christie: Excellent first scene.  The writing is very engrossing, sweeping the reader along.  It fills several needs—family issues, coming-of-age-type story, and book-group-type book.  Lots to talk about, about how everyone is messed up in a different way and how one’s issues affect the people around one.  This is a very strong book, but if I use Piece of Mind, that’s two books out of six hinging upon non-neurotypical storylines, which is too much.  I could have flipped a coin between these two, honestly.

In another life by Julie Christine Johnson: readily accessible style.  Appropriate for the quasi-fantasy/sci-fi I usually try to sneak in—with the success of The Time Traveler’s Wife and the Outlander series, time travel isn’t as “out there,” nor as hard a sell, as it used to be. 

Since I was still most desperately missing a suspense-type novel, I also made read-alikes lists for the two suspenseful novels from previous programs still successfully circ'ing: The devil's detective by Simon K. Unsworth and Spring tide by Cilla and Rolf Borjlind.
Almost everything listed as a read-alike for The devil's detective was similarly hell-centric; none were dark paranormal or suspense with another background.  (Suggestions were Sandman SlimThe scarlet gospels, etc.)  With one exception, all readalikes for Spring Tide have circulated very well, some more than 150 times, and don’t need a boost from being presented in a program—and would likely be a repeat for a number of attendees.

Inherit the dead, edited by Jonathan Santlofer: “Novel-by-committee,” what a wonderful description.  The writing (I sampled several chapters, each by a different author) fits pretty well into the typical hard-boiled genre: terse, dark.  A definite possibility.  70 lifetime checkouts, though, which is more than I like.

The dead run by Adam Mansbach: The writing is very appealing, has a very unique voice, but is also very rough and might not have a wide appeal.  Useful for sure in another setting.

Between summer’s longing and winter’s end by Leif G.W. Persson, translated by Paul Norlen: The writing seems too dry, kind of clinical.  I think the author was going for a police-report sort of feel (?) but it just feels clipped.  Just the facts.

Devil’s Garden by Ace Atkins: It reads like a suspense but the setting (time period) gives it something different from most.  Unfortunately, I can’t find a reason to care about any of the major characters presented: they are all flimsy, shallow, generic “bad guys” without apparent redeeming features.  

The final pull is The Bollywood affair, Inherit the dead, Touch, Piece of mind, The daughters, and The long road to the deep north (which, for some reason, I didn't write anything down for.  I think I picked it, becoming desperate for an historical novel by a male author.  The international setting is also a plus.).

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Program glance-throughs 1

I was recently preparing for a program that includes book talking six books to adults.  I keep a list throughout the year as I order and then try to narrow down a short list of books that 1) will largely appeal to a wide range of readers, 2) represent several genres, 3) include a nice balance of male and female authors,  4) include a nice balance of male and female main characters, 5) are well-reviewed, and 6) have not yet circulated too many times.  It is certainly a challenge, but if the books aren't perfect it doesn't matter too-too much, because the program involves wine.  After the first or second book, I'm not sure how much people even notice.  Below is the batch of contenders and my impressions from speed-reading a limited number of paragraphs. 

The books are organized alphabetically, because surely some organization is needed, but that isn't necessarily the order they were reviewed in, so I apologize for any continuity breaks.

I have to break this post into parts because blogger is complaining about the number of applied tags.  


The 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Philippe Blondel:  It’s 26 pages before there is any dialogue from anyone else.  That's plenty of time for the main character’s voice to get established and her emotional state is strongly conveyed.  But it would be hard to maintain.  Paging ahead, there are whole chapters without dialogue or any other input from other characters.  It would be hard to be inside someone else’s head that long.  It tastes like teenage angst.

All the birds in the sky did not come in in time to be reviewed.  Maybe next time.

The beautiful bureaucrat by Helen Phillips: This starts off good but then—and this might be more the fault of the skipping and speed reading—it gets weird, in an uncomfortable way.  I kepy it on the table as a wild-card option but did not have to use it. 

A Bollywood affair by Sonali Dev: I’ve taken The Bollywood Bride home at least three times without ever actually reading it.  This is interesting and could be a good match (international cultural information, romantic storyline).  It's a toss-up between this and The decent proposal.

The core of the sun by Johanna Sinisalo: There is a lot in here to wade through: chapters from different points of view, transcripts of interviews, chapters from in-story books, text from pamphlets, letters, etc..  This fantasy world is a rather bigger jump than the more paranormal Touch.  Not a good choice for this kind of program.

Darkness the color of snow by Thomas Cobb: The writing is quick-- short sentences and fast-moving paragraphs, but it fits with the storytelling.  There is some strong language.  The book description makes it sounds like a suspense read, typical of the genre, but leafing through it I’m not getting any of that.  It reads more like a problem novel with a cast of male characters.  It has some nice elements, but nothing grabbing, nothing out of this world. 

The daughters by Adrienne Celt: A little mythology, or may magical realism, like Sarah Addison Allen.  The sentences flow and pool like water, not choppy or clipped.  A better pairing, I think for the Malbec (“intense,” “sultry,” with “depth”) than the Tempranillo (“spicy,” “flashy,” “full”), although either would do.

The decent proposal by Kemper Donovan: A lot of character set-up in the first few pages, more telling than usually preferred, but it hooks.  I’m personally interested, and it will do a good job fitting the general romantic/women’s fiction—What Alice forgot was hugely popular last summer.

The good liar did not come in in time to be reviewed.

The heart by Maylis de Kerangal, translated by Sam Taylor: Present-tense writing, never my fave, but the book gets off to a great start with complex, artsy but accessible, understandable language.  No quotation marks, which makes it read differently, makes one read differently.  Certainly a novel with potential, but not a good fit for the wine I had it pegged for, which is described as spicy, flashy, full, and sharp.  This book is more compelling, powerful, dark and deep.  A good book, but not a good match.

The last witness by K.J. Parker.  I’m not sure how I felt about the last of Parker’s books I read, but they both were well-reviewed.  I think the writing makes it not widely appealing—vague, no exact place or time period, not very many names (some people never named, sometimes just an overabundance of pronouns).

Love, love by Sung J. Woo: An appropriate family-saga-centric novel, accessible, enough characters, each deep enough to appeal to a wide range of fiction readers, but I think The decent proposal will fit the bill better this go-round.

Man tiger by Eka Kurniawan: More magical realism?  Did I write down anything else on my list?  In my quick perusal, it feels like it’s all telling, and the sentences feel pretty uniformly short; not an engrossing read.

Minnow by James E. McTeer II: This is wonderful; it’s magical realism and an engrossing read—the language is captivating.  It also fits into the coming-of-age/self-discovery spot.  I ended up not using it this time because non-real universes can be a hard sell, and I picked a different one.  Still a great choice!

Morning and evening by Jon Fosse: My, this is a tiny book.  The premise from the back of the book is intriguing; unfortunately, it’s not a good thing in a small package.  There are no quotation marks but a fair amount of dialogue, making it difficult to read.  There are commas, but no periods.  Sentences bridge paragraphs, leaving off mid-thought and starting on the next line without capitalization.  The characters have no voices.  Accessible only to a narrow group of readers.

My name is Memory by Ann Brashares: I’ve had this one on lists for over a year and never quite work it into a program, although I couldn’t recall why.  The sentences are jerky and short, which strikes me as extremely odd for a story about an overarching, ancient life.  It’s hard to fall in to. 

Nakamura reality by Alex Austin: Plenty of people, including some of my coworkers, seem to enjoy novels that are supremely depressing.  This has so much angst and depression.  It’s like reading a Lifetime Original Movie.

November 9 by Colleen Hoover: An interesting start, but the New-Adult angst is strong with this one, and unappealing in general.  It’s more of a YA-feel.

Our endless numbered days by Claire Fuller: the synopsis makes it sound interesting, but it starts very slowly, too slowly.

Piece of mind by Michelle Adelman:  This is excellent.  It hits the high-notes people are looking for in books about the differently-abled—which is actually the same thing as what we’re looking for in most other problem novels: what is going on inside someone else’s head?  This is good like Border Songs, avoids the pitfalls of A Desperate Fortune.  The main character is shown in a realistic (or at least believable), understandable way, without being whiny.  She’s relatable: we all have trouble prioritizing sometimes, we forget direction, we understand these struggles, but how scary would it be to have to deal with that all the time?  Family issues, self-discovery, wonderful.