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Sophronisba
To Paradise | Hanya Yanagihara
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Just finished and not really sure what my opinion is. I don't think Yanagihara is a brilliant prose stylist but something about her writing just flows for me -- I find it so hard to put her books down, even when I am baffled or put off by her plotting and characters.

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Sophronisba
Booth | Karen Joy Fowler
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It was never a feasible plan. It was no plan at all. She'll feel the thought of it, that moment of possibility becoming impossible, as it leaves her body and drifts away. What remains is cold and hard.

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Sophronisba
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How Edward IV proved his worthiness as king. So many questions: what is an “exemplary beheading“? How did they get to the beheading stage if the unfortunate grocer wasn't tried for anything? Was Walter Walker just grabbed off the streets or did he make the wrong person mad or what? Isn't executing someone when you weren't sure he'd been tried for anything the opposite of how a king should behave?

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The author just referred to the fifteenth-century Duke of Clarence as a “simmering stew of self-entitlement and personal inadequacy“ and I have to make a note of this because I feel like it will come in handy when discussing modern American politics.

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Trust | Hernan Diaz
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Because he had enjoyed almost every advantage since birth, one of the few privileges denied to Benjamin Rask was that of a heroic rise: his was not a story of resilience and perseverance or the tale of an unbreakable will forging a golden destiny for itself out of little more than dross.

#FridayReads #FirstLineFridays

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Emma | Jane Austen
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One of my children and I have surveyed the recent trend of gritty backstories and are now workshopping WOODHOUSE, in which the tale is finally told of why Emma's father was such a hypochondriac.

Ruthiella 😂😂😂 6d
20 likes1 comment
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Sophronisba
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TIL that Prince Philip got exasperated with ads on his Kindle and threw it into his bathtub, and although this is a funny image, what is even funnier is that his wife, one of the world's wealthiest women, would not spring for an extra twenty bucks to disable the ads.

The Queen of England is cheaper than my husband! Who knew?

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Sophronisba
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Tina Brown on Diana:

“I don‘t subscribe to the now pervasive narrative that Diana was a vulnerable victim of media manipulation, a mere marionette tossed about by malign forces beyond her control. While strongly sympathetic to her sons‘ pain, I find it offensive to present the canny, resourceful Diana as a woman of no agency, as either a foolish, duped child or the hapless casualty of malevolent muckrakers.“

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Sophronisba
Martin Chuzzlewit | Charles Dickens
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The unbearable and wildly hypocritical sanctimony about pro-choice protests today is enough to make me want to reread Martin Chuzzlewit. Pecksniff would fit right in with these people.

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Sophronisba
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In the light of, ah, recent events, I can recommend this as an excellent and thought-provoking, if somewhat dated, read.

batsy I've seen this show up on some lists on twitter, too. Added to the TBR! 2w
11 likes1 stack add1 comment
review
Sophronisba
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Pickpick

Is this a good book? I cannot tell you. It's not particularly well-written, and it's pretty gossipy, but it definitely held my interest and to my surprise I became pretty emotionally invested in the happiness of poor Vivien Leigh. This tawdry real-life romance turned out to be a tearjerker in disguise.

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Sophronisba
The Last King of Poland | Adam Zamoyski
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On the night of 28 December 1755 Stanislaw Poniatowski, the twenty-three-year-old secretary to the English ambassador in St. Petersburg, set off on a clandestine escapade that was to alter the course of history.

#FridayReads #FirstLineFridays

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Sophronisba
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However these boys died, it happened almost 540 years ago, and even if they'd lived they and their children and their children's children would be long-dead by now, but that didn't stop me from snarling “YOU MONSTER“ at Richard III this morning.

EvieBee That‘s a really sad part of history. It‘s disturbing. 2w
Sophronisba @EvieBee It is just so sad. (edited) 2w
7 likes1 stack add2 comments
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Sophronisba
To Paradise | Hanya Yanagihara
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It was as if he had been bewitched and, knowing it, had sought not to fight against it but to surrender, to leave behind the world he thought he knew for another, and all because he wanted to attempt to be not the person he was--but the one he dreamed of being.

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Sophronisba
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Facts are full of dreary compromises and dead ends. Stare at them long enough and you'll go insane. Charlie's solution to this was to tinker, with headlamp and toolbox, in the workshop of the American dream, and to emerge sometime later with a diamond-cut hope that might make him a killing and redeem his lost time. This wasn't easy to dismiss as child's play or a variety of magical thinking; it was the most a man could be.

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review
Sophronisba
Sea of Tranquility: A Novel | Emily St. John Mandel
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Pickpick

I found this novel, a high-concept cartwheel through history, completely captivating. And even a bit hopeful. If, as Nicholson Baker says, every novel is answer to the question, “Is life worth living?“ Mandel's answer is a resounding yes.

You don't absolutely have to have read Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel, but if you have it will enrich your experience.

(Photo by Ben White for Unsplash)

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Sophronisba
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It gave you whiplash to go from famines and terror to _The top of everyone's must-see list is of course the Forbidden City!_ and _Though the Great Wall can be seen from outer space, nothing compares to seeing it in person._ But the bamboo curtain had parted. Not all that wide, really, but wide enough for tour buses to get through.

#SundaySentence

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Sophronisba
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Steady Boy woke, showered and spritzed, skipped breakfast for the time being, and headed in to work.

Oh, what a glorious morning! Maybe.

#FirstLineFridays #FridayReads

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Sophronisba
Edward IV | Charles Derek Ross
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Edward IV would have destroyed both England and France in a bitter and ruinous war, but alas, he was just too lazy.

“What were Edward IV‘s war aims in 1475? Philippe de Commynes – writing after the event – believed that he never intended a serious invasion of France: his love of ease and pleasure made him temperamentally unsuited to the labour involved in a war of conquest.“

Sophronisba In context this reads like a criticism, but it feels more like a virtue to me. If only Vladimir Putin were temperamentally unsuited to the labour involved in a war of conquest. 3w
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Sophronisba
The Candy House | Jennifer Egan
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I just realized that this is why I was so eager to sell the home our kids grew up in: I'm not in the museum business.

“His father had died two months ago, of ALS. The complaints about climate-compromised snow were over; Sunday dinners were over; the family home in Chelsea would soon be over, his mother having already declared that she planned to sell it. 'I‘m not in the museum business,' she‘d said.“

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Sophronisba
One Last Stop | Casey McQuiston
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I've been in a bit of a reading slump of late, but I am thoroughly enjoying this cool, charming, time-hopping lesbian romance.

BarbaraBB I hope it‘ll help you get rid of that slump! 3w
Sophronisba @BarbaraBB Me too! There's nothing worse. 3w
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Sophronisba
The Candy House | Jennifer Egan
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Holding my phone, looking out at twinkling Lake Michigan, I understood with sudden clarity that doing the right thing—being right—gets you nothing in this world. It‘s the sinners everyone loves: the flailers, the scramblers, the bumblers. There was nothing sexy about getting it right the first time.

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Sophronisba
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Britain's Reading Agency and BBC Arts teamed up to create a list of books in honor of the Queen's seventieth year on the throne, and no matter how you may feel about the British monarchy, you could do worse than spend the next several months reading this excellent and admirably diverse list of books.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2Ynpj933DJ2YG5nsMS6fn8k/a-literary-cel...

Sophronisba I would've used a different Margaret Atwood (aren't we all tired of Gilead by now?) and swapped a Terry Pratchett in for the Douglas Adams but other than that I find it hard to complain about this list. 1mo
10 likes1 comment
review
Sophronisba
Conquest | Juliet Barker
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Pickpick

I wanted more Joan of Arc -- there can never be enough Joan of Arc -- and I do get tired of reading about how awful Henry VI was at kinging (although there doesn't seem to be much more to say about him), but Barker nicely lays out her thesis that “For Henry VI the greatest tragedy was that his desire for peace in France fuelled violent conflict and civil war in England and ultimately led to his losing the crowns of both kingdoms.“

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Sophronisba
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Pickpick

I liked this a lot, but man was it heartbreaking to read this book with one eye on the news. The history of Odessa is fascinating, and the writer does a good job of bringing it and its most significant (male) inhabitants to life. Its resilience over the centuries makes me hopeful it will rebuild in the coming decades.

(Photo by Alexey Savchenko on Unsplash)

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Sophronisba
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Pickpick

I thought this book was an absolute delight, witty and entertaining and insightful. I read it in preparation for an upcoming trip to Scandinavia and since I haven't been there yet, I can't really speak to the accuracy of any of his observations. But I found it a very enjoyable overview of the Scandinavian countries.

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Sophronisba
New American Haggadah | Jonathan Safran Foer
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I have officially reached the “What was I thinking when I agreed to host a seder?“ stage of Passover prep.

Chag sameach!

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Sophronisba
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“Now we will live!” This is what the hungry boy liked to say, as he walked along the quiet roadside, or through the empty fields. But the food that he saw was only in his imagination. The wheat had all been taken away, in a heartless campaign of requisitions that began Europe‘s era of mass killing.

#FirstLineFridays #FridayReads

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Sophronisba
The Plot | Jean Hanff Korelitz
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Panpan

I had heard so much buzz about this book and I was in the mood for a good thriller but this wasn't it: it was both far-fetched and completely predictable. Also, I detested almost all of the characters. I think there is a fatal flaw at the core of the book: the novel plot at the center is supposed to be genius, a guaranteed bestseller, but if it were, wouldn't the author . . . just write that book?

Addison_Reads I was a bit kinder with my review, but I agree completely with everything you wrote about this one. It was such a let down for me. 1mo
13 likes1 comment
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Sophronisba
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TFW you suddenly find a great kinship with an eighteenth-century Polish insurgent fighting in the American Revolution:

“When an expected shipment of coffee from Charleston did not arrive, [Thaddeus] Kosciuszko found “great mortification” by the bad news and wrote to Dr. Reed, “I cannot live without Coffee . . . I beg you to send me six pounds of Coffee, with Sugar in proportion.”

I see you, Thaddeus Kosciuszko.

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Sophronisba
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Not creepy at all: “Putin declared a holiday to give couples time off to make babies, & on one Valentine‘s Day he urged couples to do their patriotic duty and procreate.“ Similarly, an official “said her dream was that Russian women be required to marry & have a child by age twenty while they are healthy & fertile. Because Russia‘s minorities often do this by tradition, she was clearly speaking about increasing the ethnic Russian population.“

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Sophronisba
Sea of Tranquility: A Novel | Emily St. John Mandel
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You write a book with a fictional tattoo and then the tattoo becomes real in the world and after that almost anything seems possible. She‘d seen five of those tattoos, but that didn‘t make it less extraordinary, seeing the way fiction can bleed into the world and leave a mark on someone‘s skin.

#SundaySentence

Photo by Antonino Visalli on Unsplash

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Sophronisba
Henry VI | Bertram Wolffe
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Pickpick

I realize that Henry VI was not cut out for leadership, but I am beginning to feel perversely sorry for him. Everyone who writes about this period seems to loathe him. Wolffe is no exception, approaching his subject with thinly veiled impatience. This biography is well-researched, & I can't say that Wolffe didn't make his case, but at this point I would be interested to read a take by someone who can muster up some empathy for the poor child king.

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Sophronisba
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From 2016, why Putin still has popular support: “Most people unhappily remember what they call the “anarchy” of the 1990s, when lawlessness and declining living standards followed the collapse of the U.S.S.R. They are eager for stability and a sense of national pride, which they believe President Putin has delivered. They dream of a country worthy of their love and admiration. Many resent the West, which they accuse of hypocrisy and arrogance.“

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Sophronisba
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Pickpick

This book is academic but accessible -- the writing won't wow you but it's not filled with jargon. The most useful takeaway: although it is tempting to think of Russia as either historically addicted to autocracy or in thrall to the strong personality of Vladimir Putin, the reality on the ground is more complicated than that. Putin is more constrained than you might imagine, and the Russian present is affected by but not determined by its past.

Sophronisba I am not sure that the author's “weak strongman“ hypothesis holds up that well in light of Russia's recent invasion of Ukraine. It certainly does not seem that Putin is being particularly constrained by either the people of Russia as a whole or the oligarchs. On the other hand, until the current crisis is over, we won't really know the truth of what is going on -- and very possibly not even then. 1mo
10 likes1 comment
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Sophronisba
Sea of Tranquility: A Novel | Emily St. John Mandel
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Edwin St. John St. Andrew, eighteen years old, hauling the weight of his double-sainted name across the Atlantic by steamship, eyes narrowed against the wind on the upper deck: he holds the railing with gloved hands, impatient for a glimpse of the unknown, trying to discern something—anything!—beyond sea and sky, but all he sees are shades of endless gray. #FirstLineFridays #FridayReads

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Sophronisba
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Pickpick

This was good, and interesting, but I wish the author had made up his mind whether to focus on Milman Parry's ideas about Homer or on his brief life and odd death. Trying to do both things made for a somewhat disjointed book. Still, I enjoyed what I learned about Parry's theories about Homer.

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Sophronisba
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A Finnish acquaintance told me this story, which he said perfectly sums up the Finns‘ attitude toward the normal conventions of human interaction. He and his brother-in-law were driving in a blizzard in the countryside when their car broke down. They waited for half an hour before another car finally passed. It stopped and the driver got out to help them. He peered under the hood and managed to get their car started for them, all in silence. . .

Sophronisba There was a nod or two of acknowledgment, but my friend swears not a single word was exchanged. The man drove off. My friend said, “Wow, we were lucky there. Wonder who he was?” To which his brother-in-law answered, “Oh, that was Juha, we went to school together.” 1mo
Ruthiella 😂😂😂 1mo
12 likes2 comments
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Sophronisba
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This is how it is in Iceland: one minute you are amid heather-covered mountains kissed by heavenly shafts of chiaroscuro, the next you are crossing the Gobi. Turn a corner and you pass through the gentle, grassy undulations of the Shire, before they give way to the granite mountains of Mordor, complete with twenty-story waterfalls. Then, just as suddenly, you are on the moon (in fact, they rehearsed the Apollo 11 moon landings here).

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Sophronisba
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How the Margery Kempe book was discovered:

“Its whereabouts were unknown from around 1520 until the 1930s, when it was discovered in the cupboard of a country-house during a game of ping-pong. One of the players stepped on the ball and while searching for another, the The Book of Margery Kempe manuscript fell out of a cupboard.“

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/18/books-by-earliest-women-writers-in...

Sophronisba (I realize this is from 2016, I don't know why it just showed up in my Twitter this morning, but I love the story so here you are.) 1mo
7 likes1 comment
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Sophronisba
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How Odessa got its name:

“According to a story that is as fitting as it is unverifiable, [Catherine the Great] made one lasting change. . . . Odessos, commanded the most powerful & self-consciously modern woman in Russian history, should be changed to 'Odessa'—the feminized version of a name forever associated with the ancient Odysseus, the wily warrior & navigator.“

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Sophronisba
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On Michael Booth's list of things to love about Denmark: “I once saw the Danish prime minister on a pre-election walkabout in Copenhagen, on the equivalent of Times Square, and no one was paying him the slightest bit of attention.“

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Wuthering Heights | Emily Bront
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Early one dark April morning a few years ago I was sitting in my living room in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, wrapped in a blanket & yearning for spring, when I opened that day‘s newspaper to discover that my adopted countrymen had been anointed the happiest of their species in something called the Satisfaction with Life Index . . . . I checked the date on the newspaper: it wasn‘t April 1.

#FridayReads #FirstLineFridays

DogMomIrene That‘s a great first line! I‘ve had this one on my TBR for a while. 2mo
14 likes1 stack add1 comment
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Sophronisba
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It's the finals of the Morning News Tournament of Books! Kazuo Ishiguro's Klara and the Sun meets Patricia Lockwood's No One Is Talking About This. I loved Klara and the Sun and disliked No One Is Talking About This -- but alas, I don't get to pick the winner.

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French Braid | Anne Tyler
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All of my kids are now out of the house, and I really felt this:

“he had suffered a very serious loss in his life. Two losses, in fact. Two very dear children: Emily and Nicholas. It was true that these days there happened to be two very dear grown-ups who were also named Emily and Nicholas, but they weren‘t the same people.“

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Sophronisba
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I think of a French language teacher I met in Uzbekistan in 1988. She was a Francophile to her core, which was all the more remarkable in that she had never been to France. Even more depressing, she had little hope of ever seeing the City of Lights. In her living room, she had a three-dimensional map of Paris that she knew as well as the streets of her native Taskhent.

Sophronisba I desperately want to know if this woman ever got to see Paris. 2mo
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Sophronisba
Intimacies | Katie Kitamura
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The semifinals of the Morning News Tournament of Books begin today with a match between Intimacies and The Trees. Intimacies is my favorite book in the tournament, but I know how much people are loving The Trees so I don't have a great feeling about this one.

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Sophronisba
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The repetitive beat of typewriter keys always amplified at around one a.m., because this was the time when life on the street below stilled.

#FridayReads #FirstLineFridays

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Nervous System meets The Echo Wife in today's Morning News Tournament of Books match. Neither of these books is flawless and I don't expect either to go much further. But Nervous System is my pick: it is thought-provoking and features some exquisite writing, whereas the main merit of The Echo Wife, to my mind, is its memorable protagonist, a scientist who is maybe a shade too melodramatically evil but still exquisitely drawn.