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Recently Finished

A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen -- For ToB, mentioned previously, an autobiographical novel about a 30ish man going to Russia to take care of his ailing grandmother, or possibly to be manipulated by his capitalism-embracing older brother into selling her apartment. It was very funny and fairly dark about life in the current Russia, and it stuck the landing perfectly. I have since read a little of Gessen's online essays, and the voice is very similar, so anyone who likes Why Did I Teach My Son to Speak Russian? may well like the novel. (And searching for that I found Masha and Keith Gessen on Writing About Russia, which looks all sorts of fascinating -- I had known they were siblings, I had not known Masha is a staff writer for The New Yorker, and I am curious to hear them talking to each other about their different feelings and approaches.)

The Blizzard by Vladimir Sorokin -- I am not sorry I read it, but for me as it went on it began to seem weird to no purpose. I still think it will make for good in-person discussion, but I am in no hurry to read more Sorokin.

At Amberleaf Fair by Phyllis Ann Karr -- This was one of my favourite books in junior high and rereading it I see precisely why; it is charming and soothing and cosy, my favourite sort of fantasy in which nothing happens but the world is so beautifully textured and the characters so engaging that I wish there were thousands more pages of them just going about their lives. Although come to think of it, this was not so much my speed in junior high, in which I preferred things to be dripping with emotional drama, so perhaps it was just a pointer toward my adult tastes? Regardless, I am happy [personal profile] rachelmanija read it in November, as that is what informed me that it is available as an ebook and spurred me to reread it. I am going to try to put together an entire post on it.


On the Go
America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo -- This has already washed out of the ToB, but I am enjoying it and going to finish it -- it is about Filipino immmigrants in a town very close to where I live, and the main character looks to be some variety of queer, and it is very immersive, language is not translated but allowed to be understood from context. It is not light, but it does not feel heavy for the sake of being heavy, just real and interesting.

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett -- YA romance set in San Francisco with an interesting, realistic protagonist and (thus far) romantic development which is actually engaging.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson -- This is pure middlebrow goodness, a cosy village novel that uncosies itself by dealing with racism around a Pakistani family in the village, but then cosies itself again because our middle-aged old-school protagonist is so clearly going to come down on the side of goodness and justice and probably end up falling in love. I will be shocked if this does not end with a wedding.

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse -- I am mixed about this because I just do not like this genre enough, but I am reading it anyway and trying to keep an open mind, mostly because a friend of mine enjoyed it and it would be good to talk with her about it. There are definitely parts that I like, and now that I am getting some of the protagonist's backstory she makes more sense to me.

A Gilded Vanity by Richard Dehan -- 1916, there is definitely no Great War occuring, upper class people are marrying for money, the shock of it all, and everyone is very cynical and hardbitten and the hero has gone off to be someone diplomatic in Persia and the heroine is about to make continual wrong decisions in her belief that riches is more important than happiness. It is incredibly overwritten, every noun has some adjectives, and I am enjoying it like anything.

The March North by Graydon Saunders -- I had been sort of grazing on this one for quite a while, but having finished the Karr it is my next focused speculative read, and I ended up going back to the beginning and rereading the first five chapters straight through now that I have the rhythm of the world. I enjoyed it the first time, lost as I was, but even more rereading it with some grounding, and now I feel well and truly launched.

No Longer On the Go
I gave up on both The Mars Room and The Golden State -- the former because it began to feel like misery tourism, the latter because the depiction of being an isolated mother of a toddler brought back my emotions from those days so intensely -- particularly the mix of 'I will die if I miss a second of my child's amazing life which is already passing tooo fast' clashing with 'I will die if I do not get to sit quietly for several days' -- I felt on the verge of being overwhelmed; I think I might go back to it at a different time in my life.

Upcoming
Milkman eventually, but I will wait for the Castillo novel to finish first.

What Matters in Jane Austen by John Mullan, as some lighter literary criticism is always a pleasure.

The astute reader will notice that I am, in fact, reading any number of quicker, lighter novels, as I mentioned was my plan the last time I wrote about my reading. It is a joy, and will likely continue until the amount of ambient stress in my life decreases.
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