Final Rooster Update!

The Tournament goes live tomorrow with the Pre-Tournament Play-In Match which unfortunately is two books I LOVED and one book I liked and damn it, at least two books I liked are therefore getting knock out on the first day!!! The unfortunate luck of the brackets.

SO: I read 11 of the 18 books (15 in brackets + 3 play-in). I read the wrong book by one author, didn’t finish one book due to both boredom and its library due date (#12), and am in the middle of my 13th. So although I didn’t make my goal of reading ALL of them, I feel pretty thrilled with how close I came! 🙂

Here’s what I finished since my last post:

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner — it was a super easy, quick read. But I didn’t really like it. I think I just don’t jibe with this author since I didn’t like the last book of hers I tried to read either.

Call Me Zebra by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi — This was a long complicated read full of lots of philosophical ideas about heritage and literature and how we carry our world within us. And so much of it was really interesting and so much of it was whacked out weird. I finished it, but it did become a slog as the book went on. Neat ideas but I didn’t love it.

So Lucky by Nicolas Griffith — you may remember I am a huge (HUGE) fan of Griffith’s viking historical novel “Hild.” This is an entirely different thing: a contemporary novel with a bit of a mystery. I didn’t outright love it, and there was a sort of side- or sub-plot to the mystery that ultimately proves wrong and felt very distracting. But there was a lot to like here and a lot of things I’ve definitely never read in a novel before. Also so nicely coincidental to have just read this and learn of Selma Blair’s diagnosis. I do feel this book gives a strong picture of being inside a body being attacked by MS. Definitely worth reading.

I did not finish:

The Overstory by Richard Powers — a novel about people and, in some ways, a specific type of tree. Each chapter introduced a new character and some sort of family or disaster relationship to a tree. Presumably at some point the characters will interact? But some of the chapters were long and quite uneventful / not that interesting, and it’s due back at the library tomorrow, and I’m just not that bothered by not finishing it. It’s been NOT compelling enough that I didn’t even have it with me on my commutes this weekend, so… that says it all.

And I am currently reading:

There There by Tommy Orange — which is not at all what I expected and pretty good so far. Although it annoys the FRAK out of me that the GoodReads search engine is incapable of finding this book by searching for its title!!! (I thought maybe it was just a mobile / phone problem but I just tried on the desktop and nope!)

I’ve still got the three other books I didn’t get to on hold at the library so I’ll read them when they come in–although my stupid library branch by me is closing FOR A YEAR and it’s going to be SO NOT ON MY WAY ANYWHERE to go to these other branches to pick up and return books and I am Officially. Annoyed. OK, bye for now.

Rooster update #3

Speak No Evil, by Uzodinma Iweala was my fourth finish for the TOB brackets. Wow. It was stunning. There’s a big break in the narrative about three-quarters of the way through, the POV changes, and then the ending goes to a completely different place than I expected. I thought it was really, really beautifully written. The characters all seemed absolutely real. Highly recommended.

I read an earlier book of his a decade ago and liked it, but not nearly as much as this. I love seeing people grow as authors! This is worlds away, and very powerful.

Rooster update #2

Finished my third book for the TOB brackets: A Terrible Country, by Keith Gessen.

For about the first third of this book, I just could not figure out why this book made the short list. A disgruntled guy living out a disgruntled life temporarily in a disgruntled country. It just sort of ambled around. But, when his life finally got more interesting, the plot got more interesting as well (shocker! not), and the last third of the book really flew for me. I don’t know if quite that much setup was necessary. Ultimately I’d say I felt more positively about it than just “liked”–i.e., on GoodReads I gave it 4 stars versus 3. There were some really charming bits about it–even some of its repetitiveness became charming ultimately.

It was another one of those “academics on a downturn” books so if you were a fan of Richard Russo’s Straight Man, this might be something you’d enjoy.

(If you’re wondering what I’m talking about with Rooster and TOB, go read this post.)

Rooster Update #1

You may remember a few weeks ago I told you about my goal to read all the books that will be appearing on the brackets in The Morning News 2019 Tournament of Books.

So far I’ve read:

The Parking Lot Attendance, by Nafkote Tamirat. A young Ethiopian girl and her father move to the mysterious island of B— from Boston, the narratives flips back and forth in time to tell how they got there, why, etc. I thought this was certainly well written and interesting. But I would only rate it probably a 3 out of 5 stars. It’s weird, it leaves a lot of things uncertain, and I wasn’t really sure what the ultimate point was.

Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje. Two kids are mysteriously abandoned by their parents in their London home at the end of World War II. This started really slow for me, at first I wasn’t even sure who the narrator was. But as it went on, it really sucked me in. It’s a very languid novel, it moves slow, glacially, like pouring out a jar of molasses, but as the layers build it gets more, and more, and more satisfying. I really loved it in the end.

Now I’m reading:

A Terrible Country, by Keith Gessen, about a pseudo-academic who moves home to Russia to help care for his grandmother. It’s got some funny moments and some interesting ones, but so far almost nothing has really happened. It’s basically a disgruntled guy just going about his disgruntled life. At first I thought that was all setup…now I’m wondering if my expectations of a plot are too much for this book. We’ll see! 🙂

Rooster 2019 Preparation

As some of you know, I have been pretty obsessively following The Morning News’ Tournament of Books for many years now. I usually read at least some of the books on both the long and short list–some more years than others, of course–but regardless I read the reviews every day, enter the winners on my bracket and just generally adore spending March hearing about books that, for the most part, I haven’t heard about anywhere else!

I’ve learned about so many new, cool authors through this Tournament (maybe I’ll come back later and point out a few specifics) and it’s one of my favorite annual events.

They’ve released the 2019 short list what seems like shockingly early this year and tonight I made the snap decision that I will try to read as many as possible before March!  I printed out the list, starred the two that were also on the New York Times’ best of 2018 list as I think those may be two I want to buy, figured out which book is available and can be picked up at the library on my way to work tomorrow (yes, I still work Saturdays at the Salon if you’re wondering), put three more of the books on hold at the Library, AND also, most importantly, did decide which book I will for sure NOT be reading, which I will tell you is “Census” by Jesse Ball. I know he’s just all the rage in some circles (especially in Chicago as he lives and works here), but I read one book of his on my own (in a previous TOB I believe) and part of another book when my bookclub read it and no no no no thank you I am very much done putting my time into his books. 

But other than that, I’m over the moon excited. I mean, it’s been a rough year, yes for all, but this school year? I can’t even. It’s bad enough that I’ve been googling “next career for ex teacher” and things like that. Yup. Anyway, here’s something a spinster can really get excited about–trying to read 15 of the 16 books on a list before March 1. Ready, set…