Category Archives: First Novels

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 10-16-17 #IMWAYR #RIPXII

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Readers Imbibing Peril XII Challenge

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Slade House Readalong

Since my last update, I came to the end of Slade House by David Mitchell on audio. I hope the next book is already written, because Slade House must be the second of a planned trilogy or more (starting with The Bone Clocks). Discussion questions for the readalong were posted on Monday, so I hope eventually to do a discussion post!

audiobook cover imageBy the way, for anyone who’s worried about reading Slade House before The Bone Clocks, here’s a recommendation for reading them out of order.

On audio, I’m listening to two books that fit into the Readers Imbibing Peril challenge. On my iPod: The Likeness by Tana French, read by Grainne Gillis – the second book in her Dublin Murder Squad crime fiction novels. (This one is from the point of view of Cassie, instead of Rob, who was the narrator of In the Woods.) On CD, I just started listening to Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and son Owen King. I’m waiting for the downloadable version to come in from the library, but sometimes it’s more comforting to listen aloud to a scary story instead of having it go directly, privately, into your ear with no one else hearing what you’re hearing!

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This week I finally finished reading The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder. I almost didn’t, because I felt so sorry for the insecure characters – snarky as they mostly were – and their self-destructive behavior leading up to the wedding made me anxious.

If you liked The Nest by Cynthia d’Aprix Sweeney, Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford, or (going way back) Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney, you will probably like The People We Hate at the Wedding. I sympathized most with the weed-addicted, well-meaning mother, but her adult children,  half-siblings – one successful and getting married, two floundering, career-wise, and in unhealthy relationships – are the main characters.

Recommended for anyone who likes to read about dysfunctional families and is prepared for some truly loathsome and regrettable behavior by people who can’t seem to stop themselves. If you prefer main characters to be not completely self-absorbed and have redeeming qualities that are somewhat obvious, best to go for something else!

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This past week, I started and put aside –for the second time – George & Lizzie, by retired librarian and reader’s advisory guru Nancy Pearl. It’s the author’s first novel and it struck me as a lot of “telling” and not enough “showing”, which would be a common writing mistake for a first-time novelist, but Nancy Pearl is an experienced book reviewer and writer of nonfiction, so I thought it must be a stylistic choice, a way to bring out the quirky, off-beat nature of the characters – young Lizzie and George. The narrative style didn’t work for me, however, and I got bored being told everything all at once.

Has anyone read it and can tell me to keep going with it? I’m a big Nancy Pearl fan and expected to love George & Lizzie. Maybe I should try it on audio?

Currently Reading

Something from the Nightside by Simon Green is a genre-blend of dark urban fantasy and noir crime fiction, which makes it ideal for October reading and the RIPXII challenge; it’s the first in a series I’ve been meaning to try for a while. (The series is up to eleven books now, I believe. Damn!)

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Taylor is the name, John Taylor. My card says I’m a detective, but what I really am is an expert on finding lost things. It’s part of the gift I was born with as a child of the Nightside.

I left there a long time ago, with my skin and sanity barely intact. Now I make my living in the sunlit streets of London. But business has been slow lately, so when Joanna Barrett showed up at my door, reeking of wealth, asking me to find her runaway teenage daughter, I didn’t say no.

Then I found out exactly where the girl had gone.

The Nightside. That square mile of Hell in the middle of the city, where it’s always three A.M. Where you can walk beside myths and drink with monsters. Where nothing is what it seems and everything is possible.

I swore I’d never return. But there’s a kid in danger and a woman depending on me. So I have no choice—I’m going home.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (#IMWAYR) is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It’s a place to meet up and share what you have been, are, and about to be reading over the week. It’s a great post to organize yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment, and er… add to that ever-growing TBR pile!
This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at Book Date.






It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2-20-17 #IMWAYR

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It’s a beautiful, sunny day here in Massachusetts. It’s also Presidents’ Day, which is a holiday for me, so I’m looking forward to spending the day at home except for morning yoga class (my new exercise obsession) and a quick run to the supermarket this afternoon.

cover imageI’m currently reading Crosstalk by Connie Willis, and This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel (which I started when I couldn’t find my copy of Crosstalk.)

cover imageThey are favorite authors of mine, and I own both of these books. So I can read without worrying about the books expiring, which happened with the downloaded library audiobook I was listening to last week (The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close.)

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While I wait to come to the top of the list to get The Hopefuls again to listen to the second half of it, two more audiobook holds came through from the library, including The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly, which I’ve been waiting a long time for and hope to get to listen to before it expires!

I audiobook cover imagestarted The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson, narrated by Cassandra Campbell first, to see what it was like; I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about this debut novel set in a private high school in an upscale suburb of San Francisco.

At first I thought I might not listen to it all the way through because the school bullying described in detail from an eighth-grade girl’s perspective, at the start of the book, made me so sad and angry. When the perspective switched to a new high school teacher’s three years later, I decided I’d give it a few more chapters to see if I could stomach the subject matter. By the time the perspective switched back to a student’s again –about a third of the way in – I was hooked.

Game of Thrones character "Brace Yourself, the President memes are coming.

Happy Presidents’ Day! What are you reading this week?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (#IMWAYR) is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It’s a great post to organize yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment, and er… add to that ever-growing TBR pile! So welcome in, everyone. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at Book Date.

Surreal Comedy of Manners: Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles

cover image of Two Serious LadiesImagine two women of independent means – one unmarried, one married – going through the motions, more or less, of belonging to conventional (bourgeois) society and doing what’s expected of them, until suddenly they stop. The surrealness of Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles (first published in 1943) comes from other people’s continuing to interact with them as if they were the same ladies they were before – a little eccentric, maybe, but basically normal upper-class ladies. Their old friends and the strange new acquaintances they make – separately, and independently of each other – are puzzled and intrigued  by them, but don’t seem able to acknowledge the changes they are going through in the process of trying to become their true selves.

It may be more accurate to say that Miss Goering and Mrs. Copperfield (as they are called throughout the book) are on a quest to behave – and be – the women they actually already are by ceasing to behave like the ladies that most of society (except for a few other odd ducks) is expecting them to be (and insists on seeing them as).

As the book opens, Miss Goering is already considered odd, and weirdly religious; she has few friends other than Mrs. Copperfield, but she does like to get invited to parties and be out among people. She and Mrs. Copperfield talk together at a party given by their mutual friend Anna, and that’s the last they see of each other until the very end of the short book.

Miss Goering is compelled to leave the party early with Arnold, whom she has just met, because he has asked her to come to his home:

“After leaving Anna’s party, Arnold walked awhile with Miss Goering and then hailed a cab. The road to his home led through many dark and deserted streets. Miss Goering was so nervous and hysterical about this that Arnold was alarmed.
‘I always think,’ said Miss Goering, ‘that the driver is only waiting for the passengers to become absorbed in conversation in order to shoot down some street, to an inaccessible and lonely place where he will either torture or murder them. I am certain that most people feel the same way about it that I do, but they have the good taste not to mention it.'”

Mrs. Copperfield, on the other hand, seems conventional and timid at first, not as neurotic and odd as Miss Goering, and doesn’t seem to stand out as being different, right at first. At Anna’s party, she tries to tell Miss Goering how extremely nervous she is about an upcoming trip to the tropics with her husband and then goes off to cry in a room by herself for a while.

We learn later that Miss Goering gives Mrs. Copperfield a gift before the Panama. trip. This gift of a manicure set from Miss Goering seems imbued with some special meaning, for Panama is where Mrs. Copperfield begins to act as she pleases instead of as she is expected to. This passage describes Mrs. Copperfield’s thoughts on her first worried night in the low-rent district of Panama City, before she embraces this new, loud, and colorful world:

“Mrs. Copperfield’s sole object in life was to be happy, although people who had observed her behavior over a period of years would have been surprised to discover that this was all.
She rose from her bed and pulled Miss Goering’s present, a manicuring set, from her grip. “Memory,” she whispered. “Memory of the things I have loved since I was a child. My husband is a man without memory.” She felt intense pain at the thought of this man whom she liked above all other people, this man for whom each thing he had not yet known was a joy. For her, all that which was not already an old dream was an outrage. She got back on her bed and fell sound asleep.”

I marked a lot of passages throughout the book, but since I can’t quote them all here, I will sum up by saying that the characters in the book are strange and puzzling, for the most part, and their behavior seems to exist in a different moral universe. Censure and disapproval are mentioned from random onlookers, but there is none forthcoming from the author, who seems to be observing what everyone does and commenting on it, without forming judgments.

The edition I read has an introduction by Claire Messud which says that the author was the wife of Paul Bowles who started out as a composer before turning to writing and achieving greater success as a writer than she did. This was a marriage of friendship, for both were gay, as (it is strongly implied) the Copperfields were in Two Serious Ladies, which was the author’s only published novel. An alcoholic, the author suffered a stroke at age 40 that left her unable to write and she died in her 50s.

I read Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles for a January Read-Along with Dolce Bellezza and other book bloggers. Visit Dolce Bellezza’s discussion post for more about Two Serious Ladies.

Given the introduction from Claire Messud, Two Serious Ladies might appeal to readers of The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud, and also any readers who want to become familiar with female writers from a previous generation, when women were overlooked by literary critics even more than they are today.