Festival America

 

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The Passenger

What would you do if the identity you’ve embraced for some time has fallen through and the passengeryour only option is to leave town precipitously and try to get another one?  This is the beginning of the newly released thriller, The Passenger by Lisa Lutz.  This story follows the chaotic journey of “Tanya DuBois” to her final truthful destination.

The story is told from Tanya’s point of view. She has a steady unsure voice, slightly naive and gladly not the bitchy deranged voice as the main character in The Girl on the Train.  Compared to The Girl on the Train, The Passenger takes a more realistic view of what can happen when one is all alone and must try to make the right decisions.  Often Tanya surprised me with her decisions but things become a lot clearer during the last thirty percent of the book.

I’d say there is quite a lot of suspense, however a few predictable parts.  I think it’s hard to event the wheel these days with thrillers.  All in all a good read. The chapters weren’t too long and a few of them are cut with emails to add to the suspense.  It was a page turner and not dragged out any longer than it really needed to be.  The only disservice to this book is to compare it to two other successful thrillers with irascible crazy lead female characters, which was done on the inside flap.  It didn’t need that comparison.  The Passenger is capable of enticing readers on its own.  Definitely check it out if you’re looking for a fast pace thriller, with a clever title.

My Copy:  The Passenger – Lisa Lutz (hardcover) 304 pages

Rating:  ***

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The Man Booker International Prize 2016

Man Booker International PrizeThe Man Booker International Prize 2016 longlist was announced earlier today.  The list is comprised of some very impressive and appealing titles.  It won’t be easy for the judges to choose the shortlist.  I’m thrilled to see a little bit of #ReadSoulLit on the list with Marie NDiyae and Fiston Mwanza Mujila.  Both of their books are on my TBR for 2016 so that works out perfectly. I’ll be bumping them up my tremendously long TBR list (2016).  The £50,000 prize will be divided between the winning author and translator.   Each shortlisted author and translator will be awarded £1,000.  The shortlist will be announced 14 April and the winners will be announced 16 May at a dinner at the V&A in London.  So let’s check out the list of the thirteen nominees:

A General Theory of Oblivion -José Eduardo Agualusa (Angola) Daniel Hahn,  (Harvill Secker)

The Story of the Lost Child – Elena Ferrante (Italy) Ann Goldstein,  (Europa Editions)

The Vegetarian  – Han Kang (South Korea) Deborah Smith, (Portobello Books)

Mend the Living – Maylis de Kerangal (France) Jessica Moore,  (Maclehose Press)

Man Tiger – Eka Kurniawan (Indonesia) Labodalih Sembiring,  (Verso Books)

The Four Books – Yan Lianke (China) Carlos Rojas,  (Chatto & Windus)

Tram 83  – Fiston Mwanza Mujila (Democratic Republic of Congo/Austria) Roland Glasser, (Jacaranda)

A Cup of Rage – Raduan Nassar (Brazil) Stefan Tobler,  (Penguin Modern Classics)

Ladivine – Marie NDiaye (France) Jordan Stump,  (Maclehose Press)

Death by Water – Kenzaburō Ōe (Japan) Deborah Boliner Boem,  (Atlantic Books)

White Hunger – Aki Ollikainen (Finland) Emily Jeremiah & Fleur Jeremiah,  (Peirene Press)

A Strangeness in My Mind – Orhan Pamuk (Turkey) Ekin Oklap,  (Faber & Faber)

A Whole Life  – Robert Seethaler (Austria) Charlotte Collins, (Picador)

So do you keep up with the Man Booker International Prize? Or just the Man Booker?  Do you think we as readers give too much attention to literary awards? Which literary awards do you enjoy keeping up with?

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Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2016

Baileys Women's Prize badgeIt’s that time of year again!  The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2016 longlist was announced earlier today.  The list is surprising and vast in subject matter.  These 20 novels were chosen from a list of 150 books which the judges read and narrowed down between themselves.  There are some oldies and some debut novels too.  On the longlist of 20 titles there are approximately 8 that I’m interested in reading and one of those 8, I already started to read last year, A Little Life.  I got to page 200 and quit.  There are actually two I’ve already read.  Now that’s a first for me:  Ruby and The Green Road.  I was happy to see three black women on the list: Ruby a debut novel by Cythinia Bond which I read in 2014 at its release, Pleasantville by Attica Locke which is the second thriller, starring the lawyer Jay Porter from her first award winning Black Water Rising, and lastly The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah, a Zimbabwean author.

Sci-fi lovers will be happy to see The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, which has been getting oodles of love everywhere since its release in 2014.  Now what I’m a little surprised at are the novels on the list that were released in 2014.  I thought the majority of the list would contain books from 2016 and January 2015 at the latest.  I’m a little disappointed that Jam on the Vine (2015) by LaShonda Katrice Barnett didn’t make it to the longlist.  So since books from 2014 can be nominated as well, let’s just hope A Little Life doesn’t cast a shadow over the newer books.  It’s obvious it will make its way onto the shortlist because of it enormous popularity.  Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.  I’ll definitely let you know if and when I finally finish it. 😉

The shortlist will be announced Monday, 11 April and there will be a shortlist reading and discussion event on the eve of the announcement of the winner, 7 June.  The winner will take home £30,000 and a limited edition bronze known as a ‘Bessie’ on 8 June 2016 in the Royal Festival Hall in London.  This year’s presiding Chair of Judges is Margaret Mountford, a lawyer and businesswoman accompanied by judges Laurie Penny, award-winning author Elif Shafak, singer-songwriter and author Tracey Thorn and broadcast journalist, Naga Munchetty.

Good luck and may the best books go on to the shortlist!

Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2016 longlist:

A God in Ruins – Kate Atkinson

Rush Oh! – Shirley Barrett

Ruby – Cynthia Bond

The Secret Chord – Geraldine Brooks

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – Becky Chambers

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding – Jackie Copleton

Whispers Through a Megaphone – Rachel Elliott

The Green Road – Anne Enright

The Book of Memory – Petina Gappah

Gorsky – Vesna Goldsworthy

The Anatomist’s Dream – Clio Gray

At Hawthorn Time – Melissa Harrison

Pleasantville – Attica Locke

The Glorious Heresies – Lisa McInerney

The Portable Veblen – Elizabeth McKenzie

Girl at War – Sara Nović

The House at the Edge of the World – Julia Rochester

The Improbability of Love – Hannah Rothschild

My Name is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

 

The Miniaturist

The Miniaturist is the story of eighteen year old Nella who’s marriage to Johannes Brandt has been arranged due to her family’s drastic money problems.  Johannes is a very wealthy IMG_2582merchant from Amsterdam and he is twice her age.  Arriving in her new home, Nella, a simple girl from the countryside, is greeted with indifference and her husband isn’t even there to welcome her.  Quickly Nella realizes the lady of the house seems to be her sister-in-law Marin, who’s in her  early thirties.  Marin is shrewish and unwelcoming.  There is also a young maid named Cornelia and Otto, Johannes’ manservant described “skin is dark, dark brown everywhere, his neck coming out from the collar, his wrists and hands from his sleeves – all unending, dark brown skin.”(The Miniaturist, p.11)

Johannes eventually appears and bestows upon Nella an exceptional cabinet-sized replica of their home.  He also leaves her quite a bit of money so that she can take the time to have pieces made for it by a miniaturist.  Nella isn’t impressed with this gift for she  anxiously wants to inhabit her role as wife and doesn’t want to be thought of as frivolous. After contracting a miniaturist to make pieces for the cabinet, Nella begins to receive pieces that she has commissioned from the miniaturist along with others she hasn’t and they replicate her actual life exactly.  From there we follow Nella’s discovery of her new home and the secrets of its inhabitants.

Now I must say I did vote for this one but once I got started reading I found it very hard to get into for the first 60 or so pages.  I realized I needed to concentrate more and that allowed me to get into the story.  I found myself sucked into the beautifully descriptive passages and the semi-dark mysterious home and life in 17th century Amsterdam.  The best thing about this novel is the writing.  However, literary fiction it is not.  For those who don’t care about that, you can still enjoy the story and development of Nella’s character.

As for the things I had problems with, the main one was the miniaturist. I thought because the novel was called The Miniaturist there would be more explanation as to who he/she was and what he/she was about.  Instead the miniaturist was, in my opinion, a sort magical realism element to connect the characters and the storylines.  Now this will work for some, but it didn’t work for me at all.  How did the miniaturist know what to make and when to leave the dolls?  Nothing of that is explained.  The second thing I had trouble with was the way Nella reacted to things and how she did things.  Her reactions and behavior seemed to be very 21st century.  In the end I had to reason myself to this and get on with the reading.  There are some twist and turns throughout which I found to be predictable but that some people at my book club hadn’t caught on to in advance.  I’m going to leave that untouched because I’m approaching spoiler territory if I continue.

Lastly what I didn’t like about the novel was the ending.  What the heck?!  I recommend jessieburtonthat you go reread the first Chapter once you’ve finished the novel, but still… What?!  That ending left me with too many unanswered questions.  This can sometimes influence to what degree I like a novel.  I have to say after much thought I’m rating this one 3 stars because it does have some very strong points that do overweigh the bad points.  So yes The Miniaturist is a good book. Is it great?  Did it merit to be so hyped up?  I’m sure everybody has an opinion on both of those questions and I’d like to read it below.

The Miniaturist is Jessie Burton’s debut novel and has been a major success selling over a million copies by 2015.  She worked on this novel for four years, while working a day job as a PA in London.  She’s currently working on her second novel, The Muse, which concentrates on four heroines set in Civil War Spain and 60s London.

My Copy: The Miniaturist, hardcover 435 pages

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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 10 – Favorite Antagonist

Day 10Favorite Antagonist   I to think a bit to decide who I would put for my favorite IMG_2458antagonist.  It has to be Dr. Kasim from Forty Acres by Dwayne Alexander Smith!  This character is introduced about one third of the way into the story and he is introduced like a slithering, silent, snake waiting to strike.  If you get a chance to read Forty Acres keep your eyes on Dr. Kasim.  I do hope Smith decides to write a part 2 to this novel because it really needs one and that’s coming from me who is really a fan of part twos and series.

What if overcoming the legacy of American slavery meant bringing back that very institution? A young black attorney is thrown headlong into controversial issues of race and power in this page-turning and provocative new novel.

“Martin Grey, a smart, talented black lawyer working out of a storefront in Queens, becomes friendly with a group of some of the most powerful, wealthy, and esteemed black men in America. He’s dazzled by what they’ve accomplished, and they seem to think he has the potential to be as successful as they are. They invite him for a weekend away from it all—no wives, no cell phones, no talk of business. But far from home and cut off from everyone he loves, he discovers a disturbing secret that challenges some of his deepest convictions…

Martin finds out that his glittering new friends are part of a secret society dedicated to the preservation of the institution of slavery—but this time around, the black men are called “Master.” Joining them seems to guarantee a future without limits; rebuking them almost certainly guarantees his death. Trapped inside a picture-perfect, make-believe world that is home to a frightening reality, Martin must find a way out that will allow him to stay dwayne-alexander-smithalive without becoming the very thing he hates.

A novel of rage and compassion, good and evil, trust and betrayal, Forty Acres is the thought-provoking story of one man’s desperate attempt to escape the clutches of a terrifying new moral order.” (Forty Acres, inside flap)

My copy:  Forty Acres, hardcover 369 pages

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