Tag: tournament of books 2016


Sunday Salon: Working Edition

Posted 28 February, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in blogging, musings

sundaysalon-200-pixshark

Time // 12:20 PM EDT

Or it could be named: “It’s Sunday so why not work, edition.” Just got off the phone with a victim who said to me,”I can’t believe your working today.” Yeah. Well. At least I’m working from home. Then I took a phone call from a defense lawyer. The fun never ends.

Hubs is refinishing the doors to the fireplace so it looks less eighties-fabulous. We’ll see how that turns out.

Reading // my way through the Tournament of Books Shortlist. Let’s look at how it’s going. Watch your Instagram.

Tournament of Books 2016 Short-List

  • The New World by Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz – review
  • The Sellout by Paul Beatty – Currently in DNF status. Trying to revive.
  • Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson – Read
  • The Turner House by Angela Flournoy – review
  • Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff – review
  • Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf – review
  • Ban en Banlieue by Bhanu Kapil – I’m worried about the availability of this one.
  • The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli – Owned and on the list to read.
  • The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra – Read
  • The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen – Read
  • The Whites by Richard Price – review
  • Oreo by Fran Ross – Semi-DNFed
  • The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard – Read
  • The Invaders by Karolina Waclawiak – review
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – review

Play-In Round

  • Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving – Just bought the audio, let’s face it… I was going to read this anyway.
  • A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler – Zero interest. Might read it if it actually gets in.

I’m pretty amped at my progress, but also a little disappointed with the selections this year. I haven’t found nearly as many that have blown me away the way they did last year.

I also started The Man in the High Castle after finishing the first season on Amazon Prime. The series appears to be only related to the book in the loosest sense. We’ll see.

Ruffled Feathers // yesterday with my coloring post. I didn’t mean to and in retrospect I wrote it because I really felt alone in not getting the coloring fad. Now I know I’m not. 🙂 Still, good for the colorists! Just not for me.

Edit // Oh! I almost forgot! We went to the circus yesterday (husband’s idea). We all know that among my causes animals and the environment rank pretty low on things that concern me, but I had to stop and think about the absolute hubris of man, of (hu)man(s) in the 21st century that we train wild and majestic animals like tigers and elephants to entertain us by doing parlor tricks. It’s disconcerting to me. Perhaps I think too much. The dogs, horses, and camels don’t bother me… why not? My only guess is that they’re domesticated. I knew there was something else I wanted to put out there. Okay, more working.

I thought I had more to say, but I have a pile of cases that have to be reviewed before arraignment on Wednesday not to mention motions to prepare for tomorrow. What are you doing with your Sunday, Reader?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Three for One Thursday: Tournament of Books Reviewlettes

Posted 25 February, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Tournament of Books Reviewlettes

Reviewlettes!

With seventeen books on the short list of Tournament of Books, it’s always unlikely that I’m going to get around to writing full reviews for all of them. That’s when I turn to my teeny-tiny reviewlettes! Enjoy!

Our Souls at Night by: Kent Haruf

One Sentence Synopsis: Two widowed octogenarians start a relationship based on sleeping in the same bed at night.

Itty bitty reviewlette: This was a gorgeous little book. Addie and Louis start their relationship merely by sleeping in the same bed and having someone to talk to in the dark, after years of being lonely because of the deaths of their spouses. This is a gorgeous book about the simple things that can be found in life, even at the most unexpected times. This is a book for those of us that love character studies. Not recommended if you need a great deal of action.

Rating: 4.5/5

The Whites by: Richard Price

One sentence synopsis: New York City police detective grapples with unsolved crime, corruption, conscience.

Itty bitty reviewlette: Meh. This is a crime novel that will probably be described as ‘gritty’. It really wasn’t for me. The ending had a certain appeal but overall I couldn’t bring myself to care about most of the characters, which of course, is way worse than hating them. Recommend for people who like ‘gritty’ crime fiction. Not for me.

Rating: 2.5/5

The Turner House by: Angela Flournoy

One sentence synopsis: A house in the rough part of Detroit that has seen the lives of a family of thirteen children and their parents may have to be sold.

Itty bitty reviewlette: I was really pleasantly surprised by this book. I felt Flournoy was smart not to break into the lives of all thirteen of the children, but to focus on a select few. I found an interesting juxtaposition between the older children, the parents, and the younger siblings. Still, there was a really ingrained sense of family in this book which I enjoyed. A great character novel where the characters are well written and fleshed out. Recommended.

Rating: 4/5

Whatcha think, Reader? Any of these appeal to you? How do you think they’ll fare in Tournament of Books 2016?

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Magnificent Monday: The Invaders (A Tournament of Books Selection)

Posted 8 February, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Magnificent Monday: The Invaders (A Tournament of Books Selection)The Invaders by Karolina Waclawiak
Published by Simon and Schuster on July 7th 2015
Genres: Fiction, General, Literary
Pages: 240
Format: Kindle Paperwhite
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Over the course of a summer in a wealthy Connecticut community, a forty-something woman and her college-age stepson’s lives fall apart in a series of violent shocks.
Cheryl has never been the right kind of country-club wife. She's always felt like an outsider, and now, in her mid-forties—facing the harsh realities of aging while her marriage disintegrates and her troubled stepson, Teddy, is kicked out of college—she feels cast adrift by the sparkling seaside community of Little Neck Cove, Connecticut. So when Teddy shows up at home just as a storm brewing off the coast threatens to destroy the precarious safe haven of the cove, she joins him in an epic downward spiral.

The Invaders, in a word, is magnificent. It’s a modern day rendering (I suspect intentionally…) of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.

I love the parallels that it brings out in modern society (and U.S. politics) Lori, the neighbor in the upper-upper middle class neighborhood with more money than sense erecting a fence the keep ‘the Mexicans’ out. The idea that being poor is equivocal with being dangerous and the upsetting idea of people pooping in the ocean. Despite touching on points of white privilege, isolationism, and class politics it’s also a story about family and marriage.

Told through the voices of Cheryl, the second wife of a man who has lived his life behind the walls of white country club money and privilege, and Teddy, the son from his first marriage. Both voices are equally heartbreaking and at times, equally unlikable.

Despite having been married to Jeffery for ten years, Cheryl is still an outsider and wonders how these people who seemingly have nothing to be unhappy about — as they have everything — are.

I wanted to know which of these women were still having sex with their husbands. I wanted to know if I was pathetic of if this was just how it turned out for everybody.

As Cheryl’s isolation becomes more palpable, a hurricane moves in.

At the same time we have Teddy, who should be an ‘insider’ being born and raised in the country club enclave, but still somehow ends up as an ‘invader’. He has his own demons to conquer and ways of battling them that drag out in the open the idea that we can literally give our kids everything and despite that (or perhaps because of it) they will still have their problems and there’s nothing that we as parents can do to help.

For sure, The Invaders is a dark book, but it’s highly readable, with fully fleshed out, complex characters. What I don’t understand is the poor ratings that The Invaders has on Goodreads and Amazon. My only guess is that it was badly marketed as ‘women’s lit’, which I think that if you pick it up with that mindset, of course, you’re going to hate it.

What do you think, Readers? Has anyone out there read this one? I obviously think that it’s highly underrated… what about you? How do you think it will fare in the Tournament of Books?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Whatever Wednesday: The New World (A Tournament of Books Selection)

Posted 27 January, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Whatever Wednesday: The New World (A Tournament of Books Selection)The New World by Chris Adrian, Eli Horowitz
Published by Atavist Books on August 12th 2014
Genres: Fiction, Psychological, Technological, Thrillers
Pages: 158
Goodreads
two-half-stars

What is the purpose of life? If you could send a message to the future what would it be? Why do you deserve, not desire, to live forever?

Acclaimed author Chris Adrian (The Children’s Hospital, The Great Night) joins the award-winning creators of The Silent History – Eli Horowitz and Russell Quinn to create an innovative digital novel about memory, grief and love. The New World is the story of a marriage. Dr. Jane Cotton is a pediatric surgeon: her husband, Jim, is a humanist chaplain. They are about to celebrate their eighth wedding anniversary when Jim suddenly collapses and dies. When Jane arrives at the hospital she is horrified to find that her husband’s head has been removed from his body. Only then does she discover that he has secretly enrolled with a shadowy cryogenics company called Polaris.Furious and grieving, Jane fights to reclaim Jim from Polaris. Revived, in the future, Jim learns he must sacrifice every memory of Jane if he wants to stay alive in the new world. Separated by centuries, each of them is challenged to choose between love and fear, intimacy and solitude, life and grief, and each will find an answer to the challenge that is surprising, harrowing, and ultimately beautiful.

I wanted The New World to be so much better than it was. For the first half I was absolutely entranced by the idea. It was complex and beautifully written. I liked the alternating viewpoints between Jim in the future and Jane grieving in the past. The world building was done well and the idea of cryogenics as something real and sustainable – eventually to the point where people are able to be ‘resurrected’ was even believable to a point.

The anger that Jane felt towards the Polaris Corporation was palpable and extraordinarily well done. I loved the attempt she made at suing the company and the subsequent consequences. I enjoyed Jim as a ‘humanist chaplain’, this naturally appealed to my atheist side – seeing how Jim handled people grieving with faith as an atheist and how he handled grieving in the future in the same way.

About …. ‘eh … 60 to 70 percent of the way through the novel it seems like something gets lost. All the interesting and compelling plot points kind of fall to the floor and the authors of The New World just seem to lose interest. It meanders for awhile before ultimately taking a nosedive and leaving me wondering what the hell just happened to what was such a gorgeous little novel to begin with.

I felt the way that many Goodreads reviewers seemed to feel that this novel(la) would have been better off as a short story because it was only towards the end that things got bad. Sometimes a quick and mysterious ending is better for me.

Anyone out there read this one? It’s a contender for Tournament of Books 2016, how do you think it’s going to do?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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It’s Monday… Tournament of Books 2016 is ON!

Posted 25 January, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in blogging, books and publishing, Reading

tournament of books 2016 rooster

I don’t often participate in the ‘It’s Monday…’ posts, but it’s the most wonderful time of the year! I have the Tournament of Books 2016 short-list in hand and am readying myself for battle. Unfortunately all the books I decided to read from the long-list failed to make the cut, but I enjoyed most of them heartily so really there’s nothing to complain about.

So let’s take a look at the work ahead of us:

Tournament of Books 2016 Short-List

  • The New World by Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz – review
  • The Sellout by Paul Beatty – Currently in DNF status. Will be revived.
  • Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson – Read
  • The Turner House by Angela Flournoy – review
  • Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff – review
  • Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf – review
  • Ban en Banlieue by Bhanu Kapil – I’m worried about the availability of this one.
  • The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli – Owned and on the list to read.
  • The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra – Read
  • The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen – Read
  • The Whites by Richard Price – review
  • Oreo by Fran Ross – Probably the next one I’ll read.
  • The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard – Read
  • The Invaders by Karolina Waclawiak – review
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – review

Play-In Round

  • Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving – Just bought the audio, let’s face it… I was going to read this anyway.
  • A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler – Zero interest. Might read it if it actually gets in.

Updated 28 February 16

Taking Stock…

Out of the fifteen definite books I’ve read three, I own twelve, plus the John Irving in the play-in round. To make any of it count I need to get to reading! A little sad that Look Who’s Back from the long-list didn’t make it but, c’est la vie, this gives me more books to read! I also may still review Mort(e) from the long-list because, man, that book was weird.

Anyway, Reader… are you taking part in the fun? What books from the Tournament of Books 2016 short list look like they appeal to you? 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Must Read Monday: Look Who’s Back

Posted 14 December, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Must Read Monday: Look Who’s BackLook Who's Back by Timur Vermes
Published by MacLehose Press on April 3rd 2014
Genres: Germany, Literary, Satire, Social Issues
Pages: 352
five-stars

Berlin, Summer 2011. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of open ground, alive and well. Things have changed – no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman.

People certainly recognise him, albeit as a flawless impersonator who refuses to break character. The unthinkable, the inevitable happens, and the ranting Hitler goes viral, becomes a YouTube star, gets his own T.V. show, and people begin to listen. But the Führer has another programme with even greater ambition – to set the country he finds a shambles back to rights.

Guys, stick with me. I know you’ve just read the synopsis for Look Who’s Back and are thinking, ‘What in the ever-loving hell…’. Let us begin at… the beginning. I didn’t know this little gem of a book existed until The Morning News put out their longlist for the 2016 Tournament of Books. I read the synopsis there and became really intrigued and Oh. Em. Gee… you guys.

Look Who’s Back might be the best satire that I’ve seen since Catch-22… and I mean that since Catch-22 was published. After reading the first quarter of the book I started to describe it to a co-worker, he asked me if it was a treacly  book about Hitler learning how wrong he was about his views. I can assure you mein Reader, it is not. Vermes packs so much punch into a relatively short book. Since it was originally published in German, one can assume that Look Who’s Back was intended as a commentary on modern Germany, but let me assure you, the commentary fits just as well for modern America and probably modern western culture.

I found it especially astute and chilling in the wake of Donald Trump’s seemingly never-ending successes within the national polls… and some of the commentary he’s made. As chilling and on point as the satire is, the book is also hysterical in its execution (as all good satire should be). The use of the first person narrative (from Hitler’s point of view) is often a source of giggles, this device, oft used in many a tale about displaced time travelers, seems all the more potent because… well… it’s Hitler.

There is very little world building (how did Hitler just wake up in a field in 2011? Why not the rest of his retinue? Why doesn’t he remember his suicide?) and as much as a fan of world building that I am – I think it was a stroke of genius for Vermes to omit that and have Hitler himself gloss over it – for more important matters.

I don’t believe that any blogs that I read on the regular have reviewed this book. In fact it wasn’t even in Creative Whim’s Ultimate Book Blogger Plugin. Regardless. I found a much more eloquent review over at 1streading’s blog.

This should change now. I know it sounds a little off, maybe a little distasteful, but just trust me on this one.

Readers! Who has read this one? Has anyone read it in the original German? Do I sound insane? 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Fantastic Friday: Fates and Furies (A Tournament of Books Selection)

Posted 20 November, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Fantastic Friday: Fates and Furies (A Tournament of Books Selection)Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Published by Random House on September 15th 2015
Genres: Fiction, General
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed. With stunning revelations and multiple threads, and in prose that is vibrantly alive and original, Groff delivers a deeply satisfying novel about love, art, creativity and power that is unlike anything that has come before it. Profound, surprising, propulsive and emotionally riveting, it stirs both the mind and the heart.

So, Fates and Furies is a book that broke one of the slumpiest slumps that I’ve had in a long time. I read it because I’d already told the gals at The Socratic Salon that I would. I steeled myself to be bored out of my mind during Lotto’s section, as I had been forewarned by so many people. But I actually found myself enjoying it.

Sure, as a character Lotto is self absorbed, one dimensional, and really grows… not at all. But he does some charming things and I must admit that I was especially intrigued by his obsession with the opera composer towards the end of the section. However, Mathilde’s section was absolutely stunning and I don’t think that the reveal would have worked the other way around. Unbeknownst to poor Lotto, Mathilde is ‘the fury’.

Mathilde is amazing and dynamic, honestly Groff has produced some of the best writing I’ve seen in a long time in the second half of this novel. I found it to be literary but not inaccessible. I think that if one so desired, this book could be read at strictly a surface level and still be very enjoyable. But the real enjoyment for me came with delving a little deeper and looking underneath the surface of Groff’s prose to find such amazing depth and breadth of characters.

What about you, Reader? Read any excellent literary fiction lately? Have you read Fates and Furies? Don’t be shy, join us over at The Socratic Salon to discuss it! 

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Woeful Wednesday: A Little Life (A Tournament of Books Selection)

Posted 6 May, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Woeful Wednesday: A Little Life (A Tournament of Books Selection)A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on March 10th 2015
Genres: Asian American, Coming of Age, Fiction, Literary, Sagas
Pages: 736
Goodreads
three-half-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he'll not only be unable to overcome--but that will define his life forever.

It’s inarguable that A Little Life is beautifully written and takes the reader to dark places that most of us would rather not go, which is normally a plus for me, but unlike many readers I wasn’t totally swept away by the this tale.

Not only was A Little Life an incredibly slow start for me (mostly because I didn’t care about most of the early details the characters experienced) but even as I went on I found the book to be increasingly unbelievable. Not so much the horrors that Jude went through, but the incredible good fortune that he kept finding in spite of his past. I’ll save most of that type of discussion for The Socratic Salon.

A Little Life could have probably benefited from some extreme editing, I think it’s about 200 pages too long and has at least three characters that could have been combined into other characters or cut. I love long cradle to grave character study sagas most of the time, but this one just felt… I don’t know, forced? I don’t have a proper adjective.

Have you read this A Little Life, Reader? What did you think? How do you think it will fare in Tournament of Books 2016?

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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