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review 2018-11-18 00:44
The Fires of Autumn
The Fires of Autumn - Irène Némirovsky

THE NEGOTIATIONS FOR the aeroplane parts that had begun in 1936 were only concluded two years later: the engineers had stated that the American parts were not suitable for French planes. The question was discussed in Parliament. ‘I’ll deal with Parliament,’ Raymond Détang had said. ‘We’ll sort it out one morning when the benches are empty. We won’t allow those troublemakers to prevent us from making a pretty packet. Why should I worry about the engineers? They’re specialists, and specialists only ever see their side of a problem. This is much greater, on a much bigger scale than they could imagine.

I have not read Nermirovsky's Suite Francaise. To be honest, the hype around the book put me off. However, I did watch the movie (because, erm, Kristin Scott Thomas...) and have been intrigued by Nemirovsky's writing ever since. Just not about Suite Francaise, which by now would be rather pointless because the plot no longer holds any interest for me.


Anyway. I picked up The Fires of Autumn from the library and once I started reading, I was drawn deeply into the world of Nemirovsky's Paris of the early part of the 20th century. The book started out as a family saga and a portrait of Paris society but then the plot turned into the war years (WWI) and we saw the characters develop by having to deal with the war and the emergence of the inter-war society with its decadence and thrills, and yet, the undercurrent of doom. 

Eventually, the characters are thrown into the next war. And this is where I found the book utterly gripping. 

The book was written in 1940 and, as we know, Nemirovsky never saw the end of the war. So, her descriptions of the life in France during the war, her descriptions of the war from the perspective of the soldiers are written by someone who didn't know which way the war was going to end. There is no all-knowing perspective and no hindsight, and this makes the writing very, very tense in the final chapters. Tense but not hopeless.


While I love a book that thrives on plot, this is not the case with The Fires of Autumn. The book thrives on the characters and the description of the changing times that the characters act within, and still, it was a fascinating read.

THE ARMY WAS beaten in Flanders, beaten at Dunkirk, beaten on the banks of the Aisne. There were no supplies left. It was only the civilians who clung to insurmountable hope in their hearts; in the cafés in the Lot-et-Garonne, they even tried to establish an imaginary line of defence south of the Loire, but the soldiers no longer had any illusions. The soldiers knew that the army had lost; they could even see the day approaching when there would be no more army, when amid the mass of an entire population in flight, soldiers would disappear, just as the debris of a ship sinks to the bottom of the sea during a storm.

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review 2018-01-31 00:48
Accessories to Die For: A Mystery (Irene's Closet) - Paula Paul

This was my first book by this author and I truly enjoyed it.

A nice little cozy mystery that is sent in one of my favorite places . . . Santa Fe. The scenes on the plaza brought back great memories for me of the five Mother's Days in a row that I spent there for business.

A tale of murder, mystery together with an insight into Pueblo customs. I sped right through this enjoyable read!

Thanks to Random House/Alibi and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

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text 2018-01-04 19:43
My 2018 Reading Plan
The Tsar of Love and Techno: Stories - Anthony Marra
Not Without Laughter - Langston Hughes,Maya Angelou
The Bone People - Keri Hulme
Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight - Margaret Lazarus Dean
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration - Isabel Wilkerson
This Side of Brightness - Colum McCann
The Grass is Singing - Doris Lessing
Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman - Cathy Wilkerson
The Sky Unwashed - Irene Zabytko
Hiroshima Nagasaki: The Real Story of the Atomic Bombings and Their Aftermath - Paul Ham


Every year, I like to set a few reading goals for myself: number of books, specific titles, and so forth. Because my whims change with the days and new books always catch my attention, I have yet to have one year where I complete my intended goals. So, I've decided that this year I'm going to keep it simple. I intend to read less, to slow down and really focus on and enjoy what I'm reading.


...But I love lists too much. And I cannot resist the urge to make a list of books I “will” complete this year. It's a practice I began in 2012—to identify ten books that will be read by the end of the year. Guess what? I've never read all ten in a year. I still have four holdouts from 2017, plus two others from farther back. So my only concrete goal this year is to complete my 2018 list in its entirety and to read the books from prior years. Other than that, my only goal is to enjoy what I'm reading. I'll set a reading challenge of so many books like I always do, but I'll keep it low so I don't become consumed with it.


So what will I be reading in 2018? These are the ten books that I am committing to. I think I'll be able to complete my challenge this year, assuming the world doesn't go up in smoke first. This year's list has more non-fiction than any prior list because I've had a desire to read more non-fiction lately. I mostly read fiction and I'd like to branch out some.


The Bone People cover


The Bone People by Keri Hulme

My interest in New Zealand and its literature goes back many years. I've made it a point to read more works by New Zealanders, but despite good intentions, I have avoided this Man Booker winner. I'm expecting good things from this one.


Flying Close to the Sun coverFlying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman by Cathy Wilkerson

In undergrad, I watched the documentary about The Weatherman Organization and was very intrigued. I told myself I'd learn more about them and would possibly write a novel focused on them. I've been saving these Weatherman memoirs until I began researching for that novel, but now I'm not sure I'll ever tackle that project. Project or no project, I've decided to stop putting it off.


The Grass Is Singing cover


The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing

I really want to like Doris Lessing, but my first and only experience with her so far (The Cleft) was so off-putting that I've avoided her for more than a decade. I never want to judge any author by one book, so I'm making a point to read her debut novel in 2018. I'm hoping for better results.



Hiroshima Nagasaki coverHiroshima Nagasaki: The Real Story of the Atomic Bombings and Their Aftermath by Paul Ham

I have a strong interest in the WWII destruction of Japan, particularly the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I've read some of these historical accounts before and will likely come across much of the same information in this large volume, but it's time to brush up on the subject.


Leaving Orbit coverLeaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight by Margaret Lazarus Dean

Dean's previous work was a novel about a girl's obsession with spaceflight during the days surrounding the Challenger disaster. Her second book is this exploration of the rise and fall of NASA. I've had this one on the top of my to-read pile since its publication in 2015, but haven't made time for it.


Not Without LaughterNot Without Laughter by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes is one of the more notable authors to have resided in my part of the world. I've always had the best intentions of reading local authors, especially those who were pioneers and helped shape the way for others, but I've never read more than the occasional poem by Hughes.


The Sky Unwashed coverThe Sky Unwashed by Irene Zabytko

When I first started working at the library more than ten years ago, I saw this book on the shelf and was attracted to its sepia cover, its gorgeous title, and its intriguing description. It was one of the very first books to be added to my to-read list at my new job. Ten years later I still work at the library and I still haven't read this short novel about the Chernobyl accident.



The Tsar of Love and Techno coverThe Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

We loved A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, didn't we? Yet I, like many readers apparently, did not transition well to Marra's follow up two years later, this collection of short stories. Even though I absolutely loved his debut novel, I just wasn't interested in this volume. Adding it to my list will force my hand, I figure.


The Warmth of Other SunsThe Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

There's been so much praise heaped on this book. It's time I give this historical gem a try.


This Side of Brightness coverThis Side of Brightness by Colum McCann

Last year, I read and absolutely loved McCann's Letters to a Young Writer. I'd spent some time with the author previously, but it was this slim volume about writing that made a big fan out of me. I told myself I'd make it a point to return to the author as soon as possible. And I figured I might as well start with the novel that launched his career.


And my unfinished books from prior years:

The Counterfeiters by Andre Gide

The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies

Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Mama Day by Gloria Naylor

Union Dues by John Sayles

Weeds by Edith Summers Kelley


Seeing all sixteen of these listed, I'm already feeling overwhelmed. I've learned the key to completing my list is to not put off the list to the middle of the year. I really need to be checking off one or two of these titles every month. Intention set.


While I'm making an already long post longer, here are some of the top titles, old and new, I hope to get around to in 2018: The Temple of the Dawn by Yukio Mishima, The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton, Erasure by Percival Everett, The Road Through the Wall by Shirley Jackson, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro, Winter by Ali Smith, Parnucklian for Chocolate by B.H. James, 1996 by Gloria Naylor, Hot Pink by Adam Levin, and... I can keep going forever. See how I get myself in trouble?


Do you set reading goals for your year? Do you find it helpful to do so, or imposing? What do you look forward to reading in 2018?


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review 2017-12-22 20:58
Doctor Doom talks it out
Gwenpool, The Unbelievable (2016-) #23 - Christopher Hastings,Irene Strychalski,Gurihiru

No, really, the new, good Doctor Doom sits Gwenpool down and talks it out - and somehow, it's just as badass as his evil-self beating the crap out of Gwenpool.  


I'm not sure what's going to happen, or if this series has been canceled, but it's getting really good, really a commentary on how readers engage with comics, and I hope it doesn't get axed.   

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review 2017-12-22 20:38
Gwen versus Doom continues
Gwenpool, The Unbelievable (2016-) #22 - Christopher Hastings,Irene Strychalski,Gurihiru

She's still convinced she can join the Avengers if she kills Doom.   I read these all at once, so the storylines from issue 21 are bleeding into this.   So you get this short, crappy review, but I love it, and it's a five star read, for me at least. 

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