November Update

Recently, I’ve been a bit quiet on this blog. I’m still reading quite a bit, but not blogging about it. I thought it’s time for a little update.

What I’ve been reading:

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The Sudden Disappearance of Hope by Claire North. Claire North’s protagonists all have some impossible characteristic which make the stories fantasy, while still touching on salient aspects of normal life. In this case, it’s Hope, a woman that people forget. After not having seen her for a few minutes, people don’t know that they’ve ever met her. The result is a lonely life for Hope.

Red Notice by Bill Browder. Non-fiction about the author’s adventures as an investment banker in Russia just after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. And about how things turn sour. He shows how the leading people in Russia are corrupter than ever and don’t mind a few dead bodies to cover up the worst of their actions. Not the sort of story I’m usually interested in but this was great reading!

The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray. I’ve only just started this book, but it seems good fun. About a French banker in Dublin who is being followed around by an author called Paul (!) who wants to write his story.

Last man in Tower by Aravind Adiga. I picked this book up almost exactly a year ago from a hotel book swap shelf in Paris, where I was on holiday with Suzanne. At first, the book was quirky and fun, but it lost its charm at around page 50. I read a bit more but gave up (for now) at page 90. It’s about an apartment building in Mumbai and its inhabitants (fun) and about a developer who wants to buy the building to take it down and build something more profitable (not so fun).

What I’ve been doing:

My book editing business, Book Helpline, is doing well. We’ve helped a lot of writers with their book and a few of them were published this month. We’re proud!

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The Secret Billionaire by Teymour Shahabi (YA novel)
The Black Raincoat by Brian Clarke (Short stories)
Week 42 by Emma McClane (Novel)
Behind the Glass by M. Van (Thriller)
A Bleat on a Bleak Winter’s Night by Rosie Button (children’s picture book)

And last, but not least, Book Helpline was chosen as one of the best book editors by Kindle Preneur! kindlepreneur

See you next month!

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Read: News of the World by Paulette Jiles

newsI received an e-copy of this book from the publisher for review.

I previously read Lighthouse Island by the same author, which I loved. That is a very different story. Whereas News of the World is set in the 19th century, Lighthouse Island is a dystopian novel set in a near future. I loved both novels equally. Jiles is a great writer who knows how to tell a good story.

A seventy-year-old man, Captain Kidd, a reader of news who travels around the country to earn a living, is asked to deliver a ten-year-old girl with her aunt and uncle, 400 miles away, after she had been stolen, and then rescued, from the indians. The girl, Johanna, feels indian, after having spent four years there, and will not comply to the rules of civilized society. Their journey is full of adventure and dangers.

The story is totally captivating. I enjoyed reading this so much! The slowly evolving relationship between the captain and Johanna is interesting to follow. We are told the story through the eyes of Captain Kidd and so we have no first-person knowledge of what is going on inside Johanna, but from the way she acts it becomes clear that she becomes attached to the old man. And the old man, who initially thought of her as a burden, becomes attached to her as well, and starts to doubt whether Johanna is really better off with her uncle and aunt.

A beautiful story about an old man and a young girl, traveling in a hostile world.

The publisher says: “It is 1870 and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.

In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.

Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forging a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.”

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Read: Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

commonwealthI got an e-copy of this book from the publishers for review (via Edelweiss).

My opinion: Written as well as always, but not half as good as State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (which I loved). The story follows two families who intermarry (i.e., the mother of one family marries the father of the other family) and out of necessity need to deal with each other. We follow some of the family members in the next five decades. There’s also a secret that involves the children of both families. This is slowly revealed during the story.

This novel reminded me a lot of Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread which also follows a family throughout the years – and there’s a secret too. Because of the jumps through time and the different characters that were followed – rather than sticking with one or two – this story felt a little disjointed. I read it with interest but I was never hooked.

The publisher says: “One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.

Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.

When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.

Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.”

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Read: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

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The publisher says: “Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader’s wife. The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow. Taking us from the Gold Coast of Africa to the cotton-picking plantations of Mississippi; from the missionary schools of Ghana to the dive bars of Harlem, spanning three continents and seven generations, Yaa Gyasi has written a miraculous novel – the intimate, gripping story of a brilliantly vivid cast of characters and through their lives the very story of America itself.”

I thought: Beautifully written story of two sisters and their descendants, spanning two centuries. Because every chapter is about a new generation, it’s more a collection of short stories than a novel. Of course, the stories of each line of descendants does continue over the generations, but it did feel a bit disjointed.

The descendants of one of the sisters stays in Africa while the other line is sold into slavery and ends up in America. The stories seem very realistic. Interestingly, the descendants who stayed in Africa are not necessarily better off than those sold into slavery.

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