Dec 30, 2023

New Year's Eve and Favorite Books This Year: Sunday Salon

 Happy New Year's Eve to you and a Happy New Year of prosperity, good health, and fabulous friends. If you don't have any of those, then what you're looking for is in the library.

 


What You Are Looking for is in the Library
by Michiko Aoyama
Published August 10, 2023; Doubleday
Genre: literary fiction, Japan

I loved the story of how an eccentric, all knowing community center librarian directs five different people to books that will answer their life questions and even change their lives. I also learned about a handcraft new to me - making manga characters through felting. The five characters in question receive a felt mascot along with book recommendations from the librarian, who credits her acumen about people and what they need to "inspiration".

The different ways in which the characters are affected by their mascots and by the library and the recommended books are the major themes of the novel. This is a book I'd gladly read over again and again.

Here are just a few of the books I found noteworthy in 2023. They may not have been all time favorites but they sure packed a punch. 


 Memoirs/Non-fiction







Fiction

















I could add more and more books that were impressive and that I enjoyed, but I have to stop listing sometime.

Here's wishing you again a new year of good reading and super enjoyable books.


 
Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso, It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday



Dec 23, 2023

Contemporary Fiction Without Tropes: Sunday Salon

Trope free:  

I found two upcoming novels that are contemporary fiction/women's adult fiction that have none of the tropes that fuel so many modern plots. In other words, the situations created in both books can't be explained by the standard plot formulas. I'm not sure I liked the books very much, though I did give them three and four stars.




Margo's Got Money Troubles by Rufi Thorpe
Publication: June 11, 2024; William Morrow, NetGalley
Genre: contemporary fiction, adult fiction

Margo Millet, impressionable student, becomes pregnant by her junior college professor Mark, who wants nothing to do with her decision to keep the baby. The novel follows her struggles to make enough money to survive - by using social media, getting followers, and making them pay for her various online services. I was amazed at the ways Margo makes money online. In a slightly pornographic way, she gets paid to describe pictures of male private parts, and also writes brief essays, on demand, for people who give her their writing prompts. Because she is creative in her writing, she gets attention and soon is making enough money with her web activities.

This means of making income must happen a lot in real life, I came to the conclusion, and it's interesting to be reading a book about it. There is romance at the end but this book is in no way a rom com. That Margo is able to retain sole custody of her child when the father later surfaces and demands custody, is cleverly plotted.

This is a book for people who are social media fans and who interact with others online in a significant way. The book was an eye opener for me about the direction our society is going in relation to the web and social media.

Though what Margo does in the beginning was morally iffy and barely legal, she finds ways to monetize her online activity and later heads into advertising and a more acceptable way of supporting herself.


Publication in May 21, 2024; William Morrow, NetGalley

Genre: women's fiction, contemporary fiction, adult fiction

My take on this book: I admit it was difficult to spend my reading time about a group of uninteresting, uninspiring, petty and unfriendly, unfunny group of people, people that main character, Jolene, works with in her drab office for 40 hours a week. Until the new Human Resources manager, Cliff, arrives, her life was not only boring, but very pathetic. How and why she stayed in that particular job for so long was not immediately clear.

Told in the first person, the novel has Jolene eventually opening up and finding a few worthwhile things about some of her office mates that made them a little less unlikeable. Nevertheless, it was not easy to keep reading about this uninspiring group. I kept wanting things to move in another direction. Realistic people and realistic workplace, you might say.

That Jolene found her "true" self in the end helped, especially after working through guilt about a past incident in her life that could explain why she remained so long in that job. I was glad Cliff came to her rescue.

What's on your reading schedule this week and/or the rest of the month?

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso, It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday

Wishing you all happy holidays, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year's Eve!


Dec 16, 2023

Cats in Japanese Fiction: Sunday Salon

 

2023

49,550
pages read
Harvee
159
books read

My reading goal for this year was 160 books. As of today, I am up to 162 books, with a few more to come for 2023.
I know there are people who read up to 600 a year, so mine is a very modest number.  How did you do so far? 
Some of my latest reads featuring cats:
The Japanese and indeed many Asians are fascinated by cats, their lore, and their promise of good luck. Their history of influence goes back to Egyptian times. 
Adapted from Wikipedia

 

The maneki-neko (招き猫, lit.'beckoning cat') is a common Japanese figurine which is often believed to bring good luck to the owner. The figurine depicts a cat, traditionally a calico Japanese Bobtail, with a paw raised in a beckoning gesture. They  are often displayed in places of business, generally near the entrance, as well as (in) households.


Here are a few of many Japanese novels with cats as main characters.  



The Goodbye Cat by Hiro Arikawa
Published October 10, 2023 by Berkley, NetGalley

I enjoyed the stories in The Goodbye Cat, about how various kittens came into their owners' lives and into the lives of the children they grow up with. There is love, affection, and pathos in the lives of the cats and their humans, as the stories are about beginnings as well as endings.

It was interesting that the last story revisited the characters in the previous cat book by the author, The Traveling Cat Chronicles. Nana the cat and his owner Satoru are on their journey to various parts of Japan to find a new home for Nana, as Satoru is unable to continue taking care of the cat.

I loved reading about the various cat pets, their interactions and positive effects on the children in the households, and the fact that the cats are always treated as valued members of the family.

This book is definitely for cat lovers, but for those who are on the fence about which are better, cats or dogs, these stories may persuade them to consider both as equal.


 
The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa
Published October 23, 2018, Berkley, NetGalley

A moving novel about a stray cat Nana adopted by a young man, Satoru, who later takes the cat on a car tour through parts of Japan and the scenic northern island of Japan. 

The empathy of Satoru comes through in his dealing with friends and with animals, in particular his cat Nana. Satoru is unable to continue caring for Nana and is on a mission to visit those he thinks could take responsibility for the cat. 

This is a book about a cat finding a new home, a beginning as a pet and companion, and about sad but hopeful endings.Published November 22, 2022; Atria Books, NetGalley

I enjoyed these stories about the abandoned kittens and cats rescued or taken in and fed by several people, primarily women, in this series of four interrelated short stories.

Some of the cats have outdoor lives of their own and find each other on the streets, confer together regarding their respective owners or benefactors, and help their human companions go through the complications and sorrows their lives bring.

In many parts heart warming, these stories of speculative fiction show how much cats as pets can mean to humans in real life and as shown in literature.


And now for something completely different:   



Every Time I Go on Vacation, Someone Dies by Catherine Mack
Publication: April 30, 2024; Minotaur, NetGalley

I liked the setting of this humorous mystery, a book tour of Italy with a focus on the Amalfi coast. On her book tour, writer Eleanor is so fed up with exlover and her main character in her books, Connor, that she begins thinking of killing him off in her next and final book in the series. But Connor is already convinced someone wants him dead in real life.

I found it interesting that the suspects are the group tour members and I couldn't wait to see which one it was, The twists and turns in the plot kept my interest, as the variety of individuals on this trip kept me reading. I was surprised and delighted by the ending.

Great character delineation and plotting, as well as humorous writing kept me engaged in this entertaining mystery.

What's on your reading schedule this week and/or the rest of the month?

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso, It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday

Dec 9, 2023

Finlay Donovan's Antics: Suspense Series

 Thriller/suspense series


I began seeing Finlay Donovan everywhere on the web - everywhere, that is, where bloggers write about books and characters they liked. I got a copy of the first Finlay book from the library and here is my take on Finlay Donovan Is Killing It (#1)

In the beginning, I found Finlay and her problems not very unique for a suspense novel, but as I read on, I became more involved in her need for family security, for money, and for making sure her ex-husband didn't gain sole custody of their two children.

That she is pulled inadvertently into a murder for hire situation, and how she manages the puzzling and troubling problems she finds herself in becomes unique and hilarious at the same time. At the end of the book, I'm looking forward to reading more about Finlay and how she might become a contract killer without actually killing anyone, not intentionally anyway.

i figured Finlay must be popular as the latest is #4 in the series. I plan to read the 2nd and 3rd books before I tackle the 4th.


Finlay Donovan Rolls the Dice (#4) by Elle Cosimano, March 5, 2024

Publisher: Finlay Donovan and her nanny/partner-in-crime Vero are in sore need of a girls’ weekend away. They plan a trip to Atlantic City... a cover story to negotiate a deal with a dangerous loan shark, save Vero’s childhood crush Javi, and hunt down a stolen car. When Finlay’s ex-husband Steven and her mother insist on tagging along, Finlay and Vero suddenly have too many meddlesome passengers along for the ride.

If Finlay can juggle a jealous ex-husband, two precocious kids, her mother’s marital issues, a decomposing loan shark, and find Vero’s missing boyfriend, she might get out of Atlantic City in one piece. But will she fold under the pressure and come clean about the things she’s done, or be forced to double down?


The second and third books in the series:


Finlay Donovan Knocks 'Em Dead (February 2022)

Finlay Donovan is―once again―struggling to finish her next novel and keep her head above water as a single mother of two. On the bright side, she has her live-in nanny and confidant Vero to rely on, and the only dead body she's dealt with lately is that of her daughter's pet goldfish.

On the not-so-bright side, someone out there wants her ex-husband, Steven, out of the picture. Permanently. Whatever else Steven may be, he's a good father, but saving him will send her down a rabbit hole of hit-women disguised as soccer moms, and a little bit more involvement with the Russian mob than she'd like. (publisher)



Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun by Elle Cosimano (January 2023)

Author and single mom Finlay Donovan has been in messes before―after all, she's a pro at removing bloodstains for various unexpected reasons―but none quite like this. When Finlay and her nanny/partner-in-crime Vero accidentally destroyed a luxury car that they had "borrowed" in the process of saving the life of Finlay's ex-husband, the Russian mob did her a favor and bought the car for her. And now Finlay owes them.

This from the publisher: From USA Today bestseller and Edgar-Award nominee Elle Cosimano, comes Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun—the highly anticipated, hilarious, and heart-pounding next installment in the beloved Finlay Donovan series…

I'm not totally hooked on the series as I've only read the first book. Will let you know how I like the two others, both of which look like light, entertaining reading. 


What's on your reading schedule this week and/or the rest of the month?

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlsoIt's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday.

Dec 2, 2023

Guest Post by poet Fran Abrams: Arranging Words: Dec. 3

 Guest post arranged by Poetic Book Tours


Thanks to Fran Abrams for sharing her background and how and when she began to write poetry. Her poems, Arranging Words, was published by Quillkeepers Press in October 2023. 

Excerpt from a few of Fran Abrams' clever and witty poems with their word play:
 

 from "All Ears"  

 She had a reputation
 for being a good listener. 
 What her friends 
 didn’t know is that she had

ears all over her head.,,,


from "Arranging Words" 

Tell me you find solace

when you slip into a poem, find joy

 as you button a poem around you.

 

Author Post:

I began writing poetry in 2017 at the age of 73. Before that, I earned an undergraduate degree in art and architecture and a master’s degree in urban planning. After graduate school, I worked for ten years for the Montgomery County, Maryland, government in jobs related to my formal education. After rising to the position of department head, subject to appointment and dismissal by the County Executive, I left when a new Executive was elected who wanted to place his own appointee in the position. That experience played into my first book of poetry titled I Rode the Second Wave: A Feminist Memoir, although at the time, it never occurred to me I would be writing poetry later in life. 

I spent the next 31 years working in nonprofit organizations, the last 10 years at the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, Maryland, as Director of Grants responsible for making roughly $4 million in grants each year. Some of those grantees were poets. I still had no thoughts of writing poetry myself. 

Through those 41 years, I wrote reams of legislation, zoning regulations, grant guidelines, memos, and reports. I love writing and enjoy getting words on paper that were valuable to the mission of the organizations for which I worked. If readers understood what I was trying to say or, in some cases, were persuaded by what I was writing, I considered it a success. 

After I retired in 2010, I wanted a change of focus and worked as a visual artist, pursuing an earlier part of my education. I joined a cooperative, nonprofit gallery in Washington, D.C., and, in part because of my more than 30 years’ experience in managing nonprofits, became president of the organization. 

One day, a large chunk of the plaster ceiling in our gallery fell to the floor. We already realized the building was old and we might need to move, but this was a sign we could not ignore. As president, I appointed a committee to search for new space. We found it in a building under construction in a livelier part of town where new apartments were being built all around. The only catch—the landlord issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to find the best creative tenants. I wrote the 25-page response to the RFP on behalf of the gallery. And we “won” the space. 

That was the volta, the change that made me realize I missed writing. But I didn’t want to keep writing in the vein that business demands. No more memos, reports, or responses to RFPs. What form of writing, I wondered, would be different, but still satisfying. I thought it might be poetry. Happily, the gallery rented its space to earn additional income and a poetry reading was scheduled in our new space soon after we moved in. I assigned myself to be the onsite staff member that evening and, when the reading was over, I knew I wanted to try writing poetry. 

Not too far from where I live is a nonprofit, a grantee from my earlier life, called The Writer’s Center, that offered numerous classes on a wide variety of writing forms. I began taking poetry writing classes there and, over time, I took every class they offered about the craft of poetry. My instructors said I had a knack for it. I wrote. I revised. I submitted. And my work began to be published. 

Reflecting on my life growing up in the 1950s, I decided to write a memoir in poems that became the book titled I Rode the Second Wave: A Feminist Memoir. Around the time it was published, Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court and the struggle for the rights of women again came to the forefront. The book is timely as it talks about my life in the context of all that occurred during the second wave of feminism.

Since then, I’ve written two chapbooks that have been published by two different small publishers—The Poet Who Loves Pythagoras from Finishing Line Press, and this book, Arranging Words, from Quillkeepers Press. 

So how did my early interests and college studies influence the direction I took in writing poetry? As the Bard wrote, “What’s past is prologue.” All of my past interests and experiences are brought into play when I write poetry. My poems are in narrative form that tell stories. For example, I have always enjoyed math. It has a sense of certainty that few things in life do. So, when I wrote a few poems on math topics, including one about Pythagoras, an instructor encouraged me to expand the topic into a book. 

Arranging Words grew out of my desire to make letters, words, and idioms relatable and meaningful while recognizing that the English language is a slippery beast, and sometimes it’s hard to say what we mean. From my perspective, one of the ways to reveal the trickiness of words is to use humor. Many of the poems in Arranging Words are intended to be funny. Feel free to laugh. 

And that’s the bottom line. After being on this earth for almost 80 years, having experiences both good and bad, I like to write poetry that I hope makes readers think about life from an uncommon perspective, and, at times, laugh.  


About the Author:

Fran Abrams lives in Rockville, MD. Her poems have been published in literary magazines online and in print and appear in more than a dozen anthologies. In July 2022, the title poem of this book, “Arranging Words,” was a finalist in the 2022 Prime Number Magazine Award for Poetry. Her two previous books are: I Rode the Second Wave: A Feminist Memoir (2022) and The Poet Who Loves Pythagoras (2023). Learn more at www.franabramspoetry.com and Connect on Facebook at Fran Abrams, Poet

Available on Amazon, Bookshop, and Barnes & Noble.

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso, It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the Shelves.


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