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2018 50 Book Challenge

California Dreamer

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69. Village of the Lost Girls, by Agustin Martinez

Set in a village in the Pyrenees, Village of the Lost Girls is a police procedural about the disappearance of two young girls. Five years after they went missing there is a car crash and one of the missing girls, Ana, is found to be a survivor of the crash.

Inspector Sara Campos comes to Monteperdido with her boss Santiago to investigate the disappearance and lead the search for the other girl, Lucia. The two are quickly confronted by a kind of village omerta as well as with Lucia's father getting impatient with the investigation and trying to take matters into his own hands.

Sara is a damaged individual herself and finds that the case of the missing girls strikes her close to the bone, a matter which deteriorates as the book goes on. As she encounters multiple dead ends she seems to be coming apart, but manages to pull herself together each time. Sara is the kind of protagonist you can really get behind.

Martinez's plot kept me guessing and his description of the Pyrenees countryside and lifestyle was evocative and compelling. It's an unusual setting for a crime novel and I thought it added a great deal to the book.
 

noob in 89

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66. Run, Rabbit


Not sure whether it's of its time, etc, seemed kind of sexist and obnoxious.
Both. Have you read his short story A&P? It’s considered a classic here, and is a staple of English classes and writing programs. It’s funny because it’s taught as some expose or critique of sexism [the young narrator: “You never know for sure how girls' minds work (do you really think it's a mind in there or just a little buzz like a bee in a glass jar?)”] when Updike has said the character was simply a proxy for young Updike. Which is weird, because the teachers who push that view are the same ones who love to make sport of his novels, for the reasons you mention.

I don’t really care what Updike thinks; I just love the beauty he can muster when describing something as humdrum as a basketball.
 
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LonerMatt

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1. Kangaroo
2. South of the Border, West of the Sun
3. 19Q4
4. An Elegant Young Man
5. Throne of the Crescent Moon
6. When Gravity Fails
7. The Choke
8. Heat and Light
9. Who Owns the Future
10 Waking Gods
11. Wimmera
12. Artemis
13. Fire in the Sun
14. Exile Kiss
15. A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
16 Prisoners of Geography
17. Nevermoor
18 La Bell Sauvage
19. Red Sister
20. Jade City
21. We Are Who We Pretend To Be
22. First Person
23. Too Like Lightning
24. Sea of Rust
25. Don't Skip Out on Me
26. Autonomous
27. Grey Sister
28. The Free
29. Lean on Pete
30. Clade
31. The Shepard's Hut
32. The Soul of an Octopus
33. The Dog Stars
34. At the mouth of River Bees
35. Dragon's Teeth
36. Designing Your Life
37. Deep Work
38. So Good They Can't Ignore You
39. Low Town
40. The Girl with all the Gifts
41. The Dismissal Dossier
42. The Last Garden
43. Storyland
44. Wolfblade
45. Warrior
46. Home Fire
47. Warlord
48. The Lyre Thief
49. Down to the River
50. Retribution
51. Me, Early and the Dying Girl
52. 84k
53. Snap
54. The Haters
55. Codename Villanelle
56. Those Above
57. Those Below
58. Of a Boy
59. Publish your Photography Book
60. Spinning Silver
61. Record of a Spaceborn Few
62. Dayzone
63. The Silent Empire
64. Rosewater
65. Eggshell Skull
66. Run, Rabbit
67. 100,000 kingdoms

67. 100,000 kingdoms

The first novel written by N.K Jemesin who is an absolute powerhouse of fantasy/spec fiction. She is every bit as good as expected. Didn't want to put down.

Great read :)
 

California Dreamer

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70. Last Night in Nuuk, by Niviaq Korneliussen

Last Night in Nuuk is a novel about five young Greenlanders who encounter one another on a night out. These chance encounters prove life-changing for all of them, in different ways.

Each character's story leading up to and after these events is told in a separate chapter. As the chapters progress, the characters are fleshed out and the overall picture becomes clearer. Korneliussen delivers a couple of surprises along the way, shifting the reader's perspective considerably.

This is a very interesting look at youth and queer culture in a stultifyingly conservative society.

71. Sabrina, by Nick Drnaso

There have been many great graphic novels over the years, but Sabrina is the first to have been long-listed for the Man Booker prize. That raises expectations that, sadly, this book doesn't live up to.

A young woman is murdered and, unable to deal with his grief, her boyfriend Teddy departs the scene and seeks shelter with his childhood friend, Calvin, who is a technician in the Air Force. Teddy's frail state is made worse when a video of the murder goes viral and conspiracy theories start to swirl around the internet. Teddy gets drawn into this maelstrom and begins to listen compulsively to a radio commentator obsessed with dystopia.

Meanwhile Calvin has his own troubles, having been abandoned by his wife and separated from his child. He is faced with a career decision that would force him to give up his chances of a reconciliation, all while he is trying to look after Teddy and keep the fact of his presence secret. Eventually, the conspiracy theorists track Teddy down, and Calvin becomes the target of some unwelcome attention.

This is an affecting story mostly, but it feels incomplete and the resolution seems vague and unsatisfactory. The key measure of any graphic novel has to be the artwork, and the art in this novel is mostly flat and bland. The characters are often expressionless and it is sometimes hard to tell them apart. It's hard to believe, for example, that Teddy could be so dull and unemotional given what he is supposed to be going through. Overall, the book feels like an early draft of something that could have been great.
 

Geoffrey Firmin

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64 How To Change Your Mind;The New Science of Psychedelics by Michael Pollan

Tune in Turn On and Drop Out..hardly. Pollan combines a historical account of impact of a particular mind altering substances.

Then continues on in search of the are you experienced moment with an account of his journey into the beyond.

The book is partly a cultural historical journey of the impact of psychedelics and the current resurgence of scientific interest in them as a potential tool for improving the quality of life for both those in physical and mental distress.
 

California Dreamer

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72. Tales of the Inner City, by Shaun Tan.

This book from renowned illustrator Shaun Tan is a collection of surreal fantasy stories about unlikely interactions between animals and humans in the city. Crocodiles living in a penthouse, children angling for moon fish in the night sky and a corporate board turning into frogs are just some of the scenarios that Tan conjures up from his imagination.

The illustrations are beautiful, as is much of the prose, but I have to confess that this book did not connect with me. I thought Tan's stories were a bit too overdone and precious and few of them had sufficient plot or character development to involve an adult reader. Which would be fine, except that I think the flowery language of this book would not appeal much to most children either. It is, in the end, a beautiful collection of stories that falls between the cracks.

73. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

This is a YA novel for the Black Lives Matter movement. Starr Carter is present when her friend is shot by a cop. Her initial reaction is to keep quiet about the fact that she is the witness known to be present. She does not trust the police and is worried about protecting her reputation at the WASP high school that she attends; she does not want to be "that girl from the ghetto".

As anger in the community seethes and the authorities close ranks around the cop, Starr is faced with a hard choice. Does she keep up her pretence, or identify herself and speak up for her community?

This is an excellent book. Nearly all of the main characters are drawn with nuance and depth; there are only a couple that you would consider stock characters. Thomas writes convincingly about the community that Starr lives in and the codes by which they live. (Tupac's "Thug Life" code is what gives the book its title). It did leave me scrambling for a dictionary occasionally to acquaint myself with the odd bit of slang, but that's to be expected when reading a book about a totally different culture to your own. My only real critique of this book is that I thought the climactic scenes were dragged out a bit too long.
 
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California Dreamer

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74. The Girl Without Skin, by Mads Peter Nordbo

I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to review this book.

A frozen man is discovered in the ice near Nuuk in Greenland. There is a great stir when scientists opine that it could be a mummified Viking, and local journalist Matthew Cave is despatched by his editor to cover the story. Things change very quickly however when the eviscerated corpse disappears and the cop that was guarding it is found dead, with the same eviscerations. Soon there is a third such killing.

Cave, a newcomer to Nuuk, is asked to look into similar killings that happened in the 1970s, to see if there is a connection. In the process he runs into Tupaarnaq, a recently-released prisoner who was convicted of such a killing and is an immediate suspect.

The plot, which shifts between Matthew's contemporary investigation and the investigation of 70s policeman Jacob, is nicely paced and there are a few surprises. I have to say that I felt that the 1970s setting worked better. I'm afraid that the contemporary plot elements of an investigating Scandinavian journalist assisted by a non-conformist tattooed woman into crimes involving abuse was just a little, dare I say, too familiar.
 

archibaldleach

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Happy New Year, all. I would like to have had the chance to comment on these, but barely made it to 70 books under the wire (finishing Anna Karenina and thus completing my rereading goals for the year) before watching Northwestern complete an epic comeback against Utah. Total page count of 32,808 for 70 books, or 469 pages per book.

65 Barker, Eric Barking Up the Wrong Tree
66 Steiner, George Tolstoy or Dostoevsky
67 Mukunda, Gautam Indispensable
68 Vincent, Lynn Indianapolis
69 Locke, John Two Treatises of Government (Peter Laslett)
70 Tolstoy, Leo Anna Karenina
 

California Dreamer

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Apropos of nothing, here are the books I read in 2018 that I gave five stars to:

Storyland, Catherine McKinnon
The Dismissal Dossier, Jenny Hocking
On the Java Ridge, Jock Serong
A Superior Spectre, Angela Meyer
Munmun, Jesse Andrews
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman
The Overstory, Richard Powers
Two Sisters, Asne Seierstad
The Displaced, Viet Thanh Nguyen
Speaking Up, Gillian Triggs
The Photographer, Emmanuel Guibert

Bit of Australian bias there, with 5 of 11, but that's to be expected. Hocking and Triggs may not have much interest for people not acquainted with Australian politics, but the other three are good novels no matter where you are from. Hard to name an absolute #1 from such a diverse list; I can't do any better than a top 3: Storyland, The Overstory and Munmun.
 

LA Guy

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@LA Guy Fok, can you please create a 2019 version of this thread? Thanks.
I don't do things like that, typically, but if you do, I can lock this and put a link in to the new thread from the end of this one!

Cheers,

Fok.
 

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