The Reader Change

I mentioned at the end of my last post that I was reading Deanna Raybourn’s A Curious Beginning and not really getting along with it. I stopped wanting to throw it across the room, and I did finish it, but I didn’t love it. The book has plenty of glowing reviews and it reminded me of Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey series, which I liked a lot. So why, I wonder, didn’t this work for me? This isn’t a review but just some thoughts about how we (or at least I) change as readers. I’d be curious to hear about how you have/have not changed over your reading life too.

Here are the things that bugged me about this book, even though in theory it’s exactly the kind of thing I like: Continue reading

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Farthest Field, by Raghu Karnad

The title of Raghu Karnad’s Farthest Field: An Indian Story of the Second World War doesn’t refer to the battles he recounts on India’s North-West and North-East frontiers, far from the European countries most people (including the author before he researched the book) think of as central to World War II. And it doesn’t refer to the deaths that await the three young men of his family who inspired the book. It refers, as he explains, to a “second death” people have

at the end of the memory of their lives, when all who remember them are gone. Then a person quits the world completely.

Farthest Field, then, is an act of reclamation, and one Karnad knows he is undertaking almost too late, at the limits of living memory. His book reclaims the memories of his grandmother’s brother, husband, and brother-in-law, and of those like them who fought on “the wrong side of history,” serving in the British Indian Army just before independence, protecting the Empire even as they protected India: Continue reading

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January Round-Up

Probably a bit of February too, because I’m late.

I haven’t had great success so far with my TBR-only reading goal. I had library books to finish and library holds come in, so I’ve only read two TBR books this year. And right now I’m reading two more library books! This week I paused several of my existing holds–library books shouldn’t feel like homework. As part of my personal TBR challenge, I’m not allowed to place any new hold, but my library wishlist is growing at a frightening pace.

January books I’ve already written about:

Other things I read,or partly read:  Continue reading

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The Sellout, by Paul Beatty

Where, even, to begin? Perhaps with what I knew about Paul Beatty’s The Sellout before I read it: it’s widely described in reviews as a scathing or searing satire on race; the semi-nameless narrator (his surname is Me, his girlfriend calls him Bonbon) is facing a Supreme Court trial because he owned a slave and tried to resegregate his town. (He’s black). The book made a number of best books of 2015 lists.

Maybe you’ve read some of the pieces by black authors on pandering to white audiences. This book doesn’t pander. Remember how I said I wanted to read books that challenged me, for which I wasn’t the audience? This book was a challenge. The question of audience is something Beatty addresses head on in both The Sellout and interviews about it. Right at the end of the novel there’s a scene at a comedy night where a white couple shows up, and the black comedian on stage yells at them:

“What the fuck are you interloping motherfuckers laughing at? . . . Do I look like I’m fucking joking with you? This shit ain’t for you. Understand? Now get the fuck out! This is our thing!”

Now if you’re a white lady reader like me, you might wonder if that’s addressed to you, who has laughed at a lot of Beatty’s witty, comic, heart-breaking book. And maybe it is. But then, so is this, from the narrator:

I didn’t agree with him when he said, “Get out. This is our thing.” I respected that he didn’t give a fuck. . . . But I wish I’d stood up to the man and asked him a question: “So what exactly is our thing?” 

Questions of identity and belonging, including, I think, the question of who belongs in the audience, are always vexed in this book. Continue reading

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TBR Challenge: Tempting Fate, by JoAnn Ross

January’s TBR Challenge theme is “We Love Short Shorts!” and I planned to pick one of the many category romances languishing on my Kobo reader. But then I knocked JoAnn Ross’s Tempting Fate off the bookshelf in my bedroom, and decided a book with a university administrator heroine might be just the thing when I felt overwhelmed by my own first-week-of-semester administrative duties.

The copy I have is a Mira re-release very kindly sent to me by Janet because of the heroine’s job. But Tempting Fate was first released as the last of a Harlequin Temptations trilogy called “Lucky Penny.” There is, in fact, a lucky penny in the book, but it features very lightly. Ross hints at a contrast between the supernatural/superstitious idea that the hero and heroine are “fated” to be together and their rational, logical natures–she’s an accountant and he’s a scientist. But this contrast isn’t really sustained or developed.  Continue reading

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