The White Castle, by Orhan Pamuk

Two stars, read in September 2018. I planned on two stars throughout the book and then was tempted to do more based on the last few pages—two and a half stars if not three—but for now, I can’t bring myself to rate it any higher. It’s only 145 pages but took forever to read, because…

Mendelssohn is on the Roof, by Jiří Weil

Four and a half stars, read in July 2018. I’m tired of World War II stories, because their popularity in our culture seems saccharine, nationalistic, almost fetishistic—an excuse to pat ourselves on the back and fawn over the “glory days” of the “Greatest Generation”—while generally managing to sideline the sickeningly-relevant lessons we should be learning from…

Accident: A Day’s News, by Christa Wolf

Four stars, read in July 2018. Second stop on my literary backpacking trip through Europe: East Germany in the 1980s, the day after the Chernobyl accident. I’ve been wanting to read Christa Wolf for a while now, more especially Cassandra and Medea, but—once again—my choice was made for me by the limited collection of my local libraries. (For…

The Storm, by Margriet de Moor

Four stars, read in July 2018. I picked up this book for my first stop on the Reader’s Room Backpacking Across Europe Summer Reading Challenge, as I flew into the Amsterdam airport. I don’t tend to read disaster stories, so I probably wouldn’t have chosen this book if Utah public libraries had a better selection…

Harmless Like You, by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Four stars, read in May 2018. Good book, well-written, poignant, frustrating, a little heartbreaking, with a pretty satisfying conclusion. Emily Woo Zeller is an excellent narrator, but I didn’t care for P.J. Ochlan, who does irritating pseudo-falsetto for female characters’ voices. (Given that I already didn’t like Jay, the character he was narrating, I think…

Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee

Two and a half stars, read in March 2018. I found this book very stressful. Given how long and sprawling it is, following so many characters throughout four generations, it often seemed strange how long we lingered on specific, not particularly meaningful conversations before jumping through time and space to continue the story. It just…

Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi

Five stars, read in February 2018. Nobody ever warned me about mirrors, so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy. Despite one of the best first lines I’ve ever read, I’m certain I wouldn’t have finished this if I hadn’t read, and been so impressed by, What is Not…

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah, read April 30 – May 1, 2014 I go back and forth between 4 and 5 stars, I think because the ending didn’t have as much of an impact as I was expecting. But then I remember how I basically devoured this book, loving every minute that I was reading, feeling completely absorbed and…

The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Four stars, read in June/July 2017. I loved the premise and the atmosphere of the post-Arthurian setting, and found the first half of this book very engaging. It follows characters who live in sort of medieval villages of Britons and Saxons, and although no one seems to remember any specifics, we know it’s been a…

The Bedlam Stacks, by Natasha Pulley

Five stars, read in September 2017. I’ve never read anyone who writes male characters the way Natasha Pulley does, and it’s irresistible to me. This book took longer to get going, but it’s also more polished than her first book; by the end, I’d fallen in love with Merrick and Raphael nearly as hard as…

The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Four stars, read in October 2017. The Remains of the Day is absolutely masterful. I was constantly impressed by the subtlety, the way the protagonist’s voice is so careful and forthcoming that it didn’t occur to me to question his accuracy, until suddenly the perspective would widen and I’d realize what he’d been leaving out. Mr….

A Murder in Time, by Julie McElwain

Two and a half stars, read in June 2017. I was a little disappointed by the execution of what was a really intriguing, exciting premise. A twenty-first-century FBI agent hunting a nineteenth-century serial killer—it’s time travel plus historical fiction plus mystery with a smart, strong female protagonist, and since I always feel like I should try…

Empress, by Shan Sa

Two and a half stars, read in December 2016. Translated from French. This was a little dry; at times it felt like reading a catalog. A thousand horses in the parade, a thousand ministers, a thousand concubines, a thousand drums, and so on, sometimes for two or three pages. It made for easy skimming, though, which…

The Girls, by Emma Cline

Four stars, read in December 2016. This book has a good plot, but the amazing thing was how much it really is about girls. Emma Cline remembers so well, so specifically, the embarrassing agony of being a teenage girl. Oh, the scene where Evie pushes over Henry’s motorcycle; I felt that scene. I’ve been in…

All-Time Favorite Historical Fiction

Historical fiction has always been one of my favorite genres. In fact, many of my favorites within the genre also make my overall list of favorites. I realized recently that I’ve been reading a lot less of it than I used to, and I think it’s because for the past couple years, I’ve been making…

Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Three stars, mostly because that’s an easy compromise when in fact I don’t know what rating to give. Read from March to August of 2013. I think the only other book I’ve ever spent so long reading (without abandoning it) was The Red Badge of Courage, required reading my freshman year in high school. This took me nearly five months…

Top Books of 2016 So Far

It’s June, so it feels like we’re halfway through the year, but also it’s only the beginning of June, so really only five months have passed. If this post is any indication, I am going to have a hard time narrowing down my “best of” lists when January 2017 rolls around. Despite my falling into…

Vanessa and Her Sister, by Priya Parmar

Five stars, read in January 2015. The fictionalized life of Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf is such an excellent premise for a historical novel. I went through some ups and downs with the Stephen sisters, and I loved the chance to experience their lives. For the first 150 pages I just loved everything and soaked it all…

Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent

Five stars, read in September 2014. It’s been almost a year and a half since I read this book, and I still think about it often, wishing I could find more media that I can feel the same way about. I still don’t know what words to use to describe it . . . Haunting, maybe. Atmospheric….

Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

Three stars, read in December 2015. I wish I had read this book ten years ago, or even five, because I know it would have meant much more to me back then. So many beautiful philosophical thoughts are expressed by the book’s narrator, especially toward the beginning, and I was enthralled for the first several…

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by David Mitchell

Four (and maybe a half) stars, read in January 2016. I don’t know how this book was written before The Bone Clocks, unless Mitchell was planning them at the same time. The connections are too small and intricate for me to imagine. I can’t say how the experience might have been different if I hadn’t…

Boxers and Saints, by Gene Luen Yang

Four stars, read in December 2015. How can I use a word like “good” to describe these books, when everything inside them is so horrifying? And when I can feel elements of sympathy for all the different viewpoints represented, but there are none that aren’t also responsible for committing terrible atrocities? I feel like the…

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, by Natasha Pulley

Five stars, read in October 2015.  The first several chapters were intriguing enough that I kept reading despite having a very hard time focusing on it, and I will say that it was a bit of a slow start. I got really into it after a while. I fell completely in love with the middle,…

The Age of Dreaming, by Nina Revoyr

Four stars, read in October 2015. This book was so different from anything I’ve read, I don’t think I could possibly have predicted anything that happened. Jun is a fascinating character: definitely a product of the 1910s with his formal, proper use of language; increasingly unreliable as you realize how self-absorbed he is/was, and how…

China Dolls, by Lisa See

One star, read in June 2014. I tried to give this two stars, but the more I thought about it, the worse it seemed, and I just don’t think it deserves the second one. I’m a devoted Lisa See fan, and the premise was so intriguing, so I don’t do this lightly. But I really did…

Alice I Have Been, by Melanie Benjamin

Two stars, read December 2011 to January 2012. Overall, this was a pretty disappointing endeavor. I loved the first several discs, the part about Alice’s childhood at Oxford. She was a bright, interesting girl with a lovely curiosity and a kind heart. I really enjoyed the image of her early life and her family’s relationship…

The Marrowbone Marble Company, by Glenn Taylor

Four stars, read March/April 2012. The Marrowbone Marble Company looks a little boring based on the title and cover, but it was a huge (and enjoyable) surprise to me. It’s about Loyal Ledford, a young man who works in a glass factory, falls in love with his boss’s daughter, and enlists pretty much the instant he hears…

Longbourn, by Jo Baker

Three stars, read in February 2014. I really don’t do Jane Austen fanfiction, or adaptations or whatever you want to call them; I love Austen’s books, but I don’t love her as a Thing (in Internetspeak), and the fanfiction has just never appealed to me. I have to admit that I roll my eyes every…

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski

Four and a half stars, read September/October 2011. This book was so surprising to me, and so very beautiful. I’m glad I didn’t know what it was about until the day I picked it up to start reading, because honestly, I’m not really into boy-and-his-dog-type stories; I probably would have been totally turned off to…

Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden

Five stars, read and reviewed in November 2010. When this movie came out, I had some random preconceived notions about it and didn’t want to see it. So don’t ask me why I chose the book for the “Adapted to Movies” category of my 10/10/10 challenge—I really don’t know. But I am thrilled that I…