Happy first day of spring (or fall)! Last week there were signs of daffodils and tulips in my yard, but the sprouts are currently buried under snow. I'm pretty sure these kinds of bulbs can handle the cold, but I'll have to wait a little longer before I see flowers in my gardens.
I finished three books this week and started three more. I love it when I'm in a good reading groove. I also managed to watch a couple of movies: Foodies, which I reviewed on Saturday and Jackie, which I'll talk about later in the week.
I hit a new stride with my (in)famous unified database. I have all my print books cataloged and I'm through the letter O for my eBooks. I may finish this project before the end of year.
Books I Read
I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi (St. Martin's Press): Don't be put off by the publisher's summary, which mentions suicide. The novel, which is told from three points of view -- the dead mother, the teenage daughter, and the widowed husband -- is less about suicide than it is about sudden death, life after death, grief, finding a new path, unanswered questions, family, and women's choices. While I wouldn't call the book life affirming, it is not a downer, and I liked the ending. I'm recommending the unabridged audiobook (Macmillian Audio; 9 hr, 47 min). Therese Plummer, Susan Bennett, and Dan Bittner, each of whom performed a different narrating character, had age-appropriate voices, projected a range of emotions, and blended well with each other. My full audiobook review will be available from AudioFile magazine.
One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel (Scribner): I was expecting a rough story but not a book that was so emotionally gripping that I ended up reading all in one go. The story involves a man who pits his sons against their mother and then, after removing them from her life and transporting them across state lines, sets the brothers against each other. The boys, especially the twelve-year-old, find their father hard to resist, until they are trapped in his downward-spiraling life and become the target of his abuse. The older boy sees the truth of their father first, and tries to blaze a trail to safety for himself and his brother. Tough subjects, but a not-to-be-missed debut.
City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers): Confession: I started this audiobook a couple of months ago and decided it wasn't for me. Then I started it again this week and couldn't stop listening. The book takes place in Africa and explores white businessmen, the criminal underworld, the guerilla armies, and especially the hardships faced by African women, not only in war-torn Congo but in the cities as well. Tina, the sixteen-year-old daughter of a murdered maid, has lived on the streets for five years, joining a gang and becoming a thief to keep her younger sister safe in a convent school. As Tina plans her revenge on the man who killed her mother, we are shown just how hard life can be for women in dangerous places. The audiobook (Listening Library; 11 hr, 12 min) was narrated by Pascale Armand. I was impressed with her range of accents (Swahili-English, American, French), her emotional depth, and her pacing. Armand's performance transported me to Africa, and I am recommending this audiobook. According to the author's note, although the characters are fictional, the story itself is based on the true conditions and recollections of Congolese refugees.
Books I'm Reading Now
My next audiobook (starting soon after writing this post) is Sam Shepard's The One Inside (Random House Audio; 4 hr, 31 min) read mostly by Bill Pullman, though Patti Smith reads her foreword. My print book is My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry (Pamela Dorman Books), which is a psychological thriller. My ebook is Himself by Jess Kidd (Atria), which is set in Ireland, making is perfect for March.
- Attention writers: SFK Press is hosting the 2017 Southern Fried Karma Novel Contest for authors who write about the American South. Details (including the application form and prizes) can be found on the publisher's contest page.
- The National Book Critics Circle announced the winners of their 2016 awards. Louise Erdrich's LaRose won the fiction award, and the full list of award winners can be found on the NBCC website.
- Finally, the Read It Forward editors (Penguin Random House) share six recommended debut novels in the following short video. Take a look.