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StellaB

StellaB

Joined August 2021

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Haven by Emma Donoghue
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Demon Copperhead: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver
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Can Animals Be Persons? by Mark Rowlands
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StellaB
Limberlost | Robbie Arnott
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Pickpick

The slow moving story of Ned, a teenager in Tasmania, who lives with his taciturn father and dreams of one day buying a boat. Animals are everywhere in this story. Ned kills countless animals but finds empathy for a quoll (pic). I found the animal cruelty repulsive to the point of wanting to stop reading at one point. But I really appreciated the quiet character studies and how this author writes about suppressed emotions.

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StellaB
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Mehso-so

10 separate stories, mostly dealing with Judeo-Christian religion and/ or delusion. Other themes also keep appearing, such as art, and most stories are set on a ship. Also, woodworms make an appearance more than onceI I can‘t say I really enjoyed this. 2-3 stories are very engaging, and the author is clearly interested in how humans can make themselves believe almost anything. I‘m not quite sure that deserves the book title though.

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StellaB
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Bailedbailed

I gave up after listening for about an hour. Unfortunately the audio narration didn‘t speak to me at all, so I think I‘ll try this as a ‘normal‘ book.

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StellaB
A Pale View of Hills | Kazuo Ishiguro
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The story of Etsuko, who is remembering her past life in post-war Nagasaki while her daughter Niki is visiting her in present-day England. Etsuko‘s memories are overshadowed by the more recent suicide of her daughter Keiko. The storytelling is calm but deeply emotional. The generational conflicts over how to deal with Japan‘s past reminded me of ‘An Artist of the Floating World‘. I loved it and found it hard to put down.

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StellaB
The Line of Beauty: A Novel | Alan Hollinghurst
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Wow, I loved every sentence of this book. So many perceptions of subtle human emotions and expressions.
Nick Guest is a young gay man who through his university friends gains access to the rich and powerful, but who remains an observing outsider. There are many layers, such as class, sexuality, aesthetics, the arrival of AIDS, and (Thatcher) politics. A wonderfully crafted book with strong and credible characters. Very highly recommended.

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StellaB
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Pickpick

A collection of short stories in OM‘s unique detached, unempathetic voice. Each story opens up a completely different world, but most of them show people in poverty and emptiness who don‘t really seem to care what happens to them. But somehow you can‘t stop reading. Extraordinary, especially for a first collection.

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StellaB
The Order of Time | Carlo Rovelli
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Mehso-so

A concise exploration of time from the perspective of theoretical physics. The author elegantly weaves in references to literature and philosophy, which makes it very readable. I wouldn‘t want to claim to have understood every single concept in the book, but those I did understand I found were being treated a little repetitively. The audiobook is read with thoughtful gravity by Benedict Cumberbatch.

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StellaB
The Dance Tree | Kiran Millwood Hargrave
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I found this book quite extraordinary and very intense. In 16th century Strasbourg women are beginning to dance and won‘t stop, even as the religious authorities move brutally against them. The main story is of three women who are connected by personal suffering and love for each other. I‘m often sceptical of books that try to bring contemporary discourses into historical contexts, but here it‘s done very credibly and with great imagination.

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StellaB
The Amusements | Aingeala Flannery
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A collection of vaguely connected vignettes about people living in a small town in Ireland. It reminded me a little of Elizabeth Strout in that way. The main characters appear repeatedly and we learn ‘what happens to them‘, while others just get little snapshots. Really enjoyed it.

sarahbarnes I‘m very interested in reading this one! 4w
16 likes1 comment
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StellaB
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Pickpick

An epic story involving people from different walks of life who all end up on a big ship sailing from Calcutta to Mauritius. They all have their reasons for making the journey, with their back stories taking up about the first half of the book. I learned a lot about the British opium trade and I appreciated the intricate storytelling. The characters are a bit static so I may not continue with the trilogy, but I‘m very impressed.

13 likes1 stack add
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StellaB
Armadillo | William Boyd
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Mehso-so

William Boyd always manages to come up with rich plots, interesting characters, and well researched settings. This book has all those things, and I had some sympathy for the identity-less, rudderless Lorimer Black. I couldn‘t care very much about the world of ‘loss adjusters‘ and insurance fraud. But Lorimer‘s inner emptiness and hapless search for perfection is very well drawn.

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StellaB
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Pickpick

A thoughtful coming of age story that explores the meaning of family and belonging. The characters are very real, and the writer‘s voice is consistently powerful. Some of the philosophising felt a little teenager-ish but it fits the character.

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StellaB
Regeneration | Pat Barker
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My first book in 2023. During WWI a group of British officers are being treated for what we would now call PTSD in a psychiatric hospital in Britain. Some are historical figures, such as the poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. I‘ve read the author‘s other war trilogy and this one is similarly moving, showing the effect the war has on these individuals. Looking forward to the other two books in this series..

BarbaraBB This is such a good trilogy 1mo
StellaB @BarbaraBB 👍 Happy New Year 🙂 1mo
CarolynM One of my favourite books❤️ 1mo
BarbaraBB Happy new year 🎈 1mo
StellaB @CarolynM I can recommend her other war trilogy, Life Class / Toby‘s Room / Noonday 🙂 1mo
18 likes5 comments
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StellaB
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Mehso-so

A man and a young boy come to a mysterious socialist country where everyone is full of goodwill. Their mission is to find the boy‘s mother. I found the story itself boring and implausible, but I can appreciate it as an intellectual exercise. It‘s told in a detached, noncommittal manner and the characters‘ actions don‘t make much emotional sense. I don‘t think I‘ll be reading the rest of the trilogy.

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StellaB
Lucy by the Sea: A Novel | Elizabeth Strout
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Lucy during Covid, continuing and at times repeating story lines from earlier books. This time every one of ES‘s previous books makes an appearance. As much as I deeply love ES‘s empathetic writing, this book - like the previous Oh William - seemed a little flimsy. Maybe it‘s my own reading that‘s changed. But it did feel like this writer has found a formula and has lost some of their freshness in the process.

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StellaB
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Pickpick

A wonderful new book detailing the latest science on how horses learn and experience the world. I read it from beginning to end, which is more than I can say for my many other horsey books 🙂

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StellaB
Blanche on the lam | Barbara Neely
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A cozy-but-gritty murder mystery where domestic worker Blanche solves crimes committed by her racist employers. I loved the wit and sarcasm with which Blanche approaches every obstacle, and also the wonderful reading of the audiobook by Lisa Renee Pitts.

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StellaB
The Wall | Marlen Haushofer
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Mehso-so

A woman wakes up one morning and discovers an invisible wall that has appeared between the hunting lodge she has been staying at and the rest of the world. The book details her day to day survival. At the heart of it are her close relationships with the animals in her life. I kept hoping there would be a little more to the story, and to hear more about who the woman is. The reading by Käthe Mazur is beautifully personal, almost conspiratorial.

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StellaB
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Mehso-so

I used to love Martha Grimes when I was younger. Every Richard Jury novel has the same cast of rich, eccentric inhabitants of a quaint English village and RJ as the romantic London detective. Maybe my tastes have changed, but I found this one a little outdated with its many unlikely narrative twists and its many references to women‘s ‘beauty‘. Still I have fond memories of this book series.

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StellaB
Nightcrawling: A novel | Leila Mottley
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A devastating story of a teenage girl who is let down by everyone in her family and then forced by poverty to become a sex worker. The way she is used and abused is harrowing, and while she does experience love, too, her life as a whole is full of pain and loneliness. Like others have said, it‘s not a perfect novel but one that stays with you.

14 likes1 stack add
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StellaB
Pnin | Vladimir Nabokov
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This was the first book I read by the author and his sarcastic power of observation definitely makes me want to read more. Pnin is a Russian professor at a US university. He is awkward to the extreme but also warm, and deeply involved with people and life. I‘m not quite sure what to make of the ending, but I enjoyed spending time in Pnin‘s unique curious universe.

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StellaB
Pigs in Heaven: Novel, A | Barbara Kingsolver
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I loved this follow up to The Bean Trees. There‘s so much insight and hope for humanity, it‘s pure joy. Taylor and her adopted daughter Turtle meet Turtle‘s birth tribe, who feel she belongs with them… BK manages to make the most opposing views understandable.

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StellaB
A Thousand Splendid Suns | Khaled Hosseini
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The story follows two women, Mariam and Laila, who grow up in Afghanistan between the 1960ies and the early 2000s. Despite many tragic events, dashed hopes and male violence they both find some kind of meaningful existence. The books leaves a deep sense of sadness, for women‘s lives in that society and for Afghanistan itself.

12 likes1 stack add
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StellaB
The Rising Tide | Ann Cleeves
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Another well crafted mystery. I love Vera 💕

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StellaB
The Buried Giant: A novel | Kazuo Ishiguro
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I‘m glad I persevered with this, as I‘d bailed on it once before. Through a fantasy medieval world of knights, ogres and dragons KI tells a story of love, memory and great loss.

Dilara 👍Glad you liked it. It's such a meditative, slow-paced book... 2mo
StellaB @Dilara yes I agree, there were a lot of nuances that one could easily miss. 2mo
22 likes2 comments
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StellaB
Tokyo Express | Seicho Matsumoto
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Mehso-so

The book begins as a quaint crime novel in the traditional whodunnit style. Unfortunately, it soon becomes excessively concerned with train times and loses sight of the characters and the crime itself. I still enjoyed the calm polite tone of the writing.
I also found it entertaining how much of the story depends on every train running exactly on time every day - not a premise that would have worked for a book set in the UK 😄

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StellaB
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Pickpick

Konstantin is born in 1945 and never meets his father, who is killed in the war. As a teenager he finds out that his father was a feared Nazi and was hanged for war crimes. The book tells the story of Konstantine‘s eventful life in the emerging East Germany and of his unsuccessful lifelong attempts to escape his father‘s legacy. I found this thought provoking and very convincing.

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StellaB
Homeland and Other Stories | Barbara Kingsolver
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A lovely collection of short stories, dealing with the themes known from BK‘s novels, such as plants/ nature, strong women, migration and most importantly, relationships.

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StellaB
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Mehso-so

A birthday gift, this is not a book I would have chosen to read. Published in 2021 and written in the midst of the pandemic it already feels out of date. The author argues - I believe - for a radically collectivist politics that leaves behind the idea that society is made up of individuals. I don‘t see this happening, and I would have preferred a less moralizing tone.

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StellaB
Booth | Karen Joy Fowler
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Mehso-so

I love this author and so I‘m sad that I didn‘t get into this book at all. The writing in the present tense and the casual flicks forward in the story made the tone feel distant, and I already struggled to care about the characters. But I can see the ambitious effort in weaving American history with the story of the Booths.

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StellaB
The Good Doctor | Damon Galgut
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Laurence, a young enthusiastic doctor, joins a run down hospital in a deprived part of South Africa. He becomes unlikely friends with Frank, an established cynical doctor at the same hospital. Like other books by DG, this one centres around a complicated relationship between two men, whose lives are also entangled with South African politics. I found it hard to care much about Frank and Laurence, but the story is well crafted and unsettling.

CarolynM Nice review🙂 3mo
StellaB @CarolynM Thank you 🙂 3mo
18 likes2 comments
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StellaB
Young Mungo | Douglas Stuart
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Young Mungo grows up in a poor single parent family in Glasgow, with an alcoholic absent mother and a psychopathic brother. The only positive relationships he has are with his sister and a friend he makes in the course of the book. The premise is very similar to Shuggie Bain, but this book is bleaker and more violent. Masterful but very painful to read.

CarolynM Totally agree. Shuggie was devastating but this one was brutal! 3mo
StellaB Brutal is the right word. There were times I thought about giving up. I‘m glad I read it in full but would not want to read it again. 3mo
16 likes1 stack add2 comments
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StellaB
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Pickpick

Christopher Banks grew up in Shanghai and returns there to search for his parents, who disappeared when he was a child. As others have said, this is an unsettling read, mainly due to the unreliable perspective of the narrator. But like the other books I‘ve read by KI, the exploration of human feelings and motivations is full of empathy and tinged with sadness.

17 likes1 stack add
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StellaB
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Pickpick

A female writer in 18th century Edinburgh agrees to a dare to impersonate someone else, while an art historian in the 21st century is trying to solve the mystery surrounding a famous painting. The two stories gradually come together, raising the issue of women‘s professional recognition in both timelines. I found this clever, well crafted and entertaining.

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StellaB
JOURNEY. | ABDUL. MUSA ADAM
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The memoir of 22 year old Abdul, who flees from Sudan as a child and makes his way to the UK. Due to his affinity to horses he ends up working in horse racing. An inspiring story, but also a reminder of how much luck it takes for a refugee biography to work out broadly successfully.

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StellaB
A Burning: A novel | Megha Majumdar
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I found this really quite masterful. Jivan, a teenage girl, is accused of a terrorist attack. The book tells her story, but also that of two people in her life who face the choice to stand with her or put their own lives first.

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StellaB
The Colony | Audrey Magee
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Mehso-so

I appreciated that the writer has her own original voice, and the concept of colonisation works across different levels of the story. Individual characters are also drawn in a warm and personal way. But overall I found the tone too detached and never became really interested in what happens.

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StellaB
Auerhaus: Roman | Bov Bjerg
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A group of teenagers moves into an old farm house together, initially to help one of them recover from a suicide attempt. The story follows them as they grow up and learn about the complexities of life. This was the second book I read by the author, and both dealt with mental health in a very empathetic way. There are also great reminders of what it was like growing up in the 80ies 🙂

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StellaB
The New Confessions | William Boyd
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As with all other books I have read by WB, I‘m impressed by the scale of the story. Once again he portrays a hugely eventful life over many decades, including two world wars. The sexist perspective on women and family work with this MC but are still jarring. Not my favourite by this author but very much worth reading.

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StellaB
Dance Dance Dance | Haruki Murakami
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Bailedbailed

This is clearly an intelligent book with a great sense of unreality and sarcasm. I may come back to it, but I found the meandering mysteriousness a little tiring, and with over 9 hours still to go I‘m bailing for now…

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StellaB
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Pickpick

I came across this wonderful BBC audio adaptation this morning by chance and just couldn‘t stop listening 🙂

20 likes1 stack add
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StellaB
The Lying Life of Adults | Elena Ferrante
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Mehso-so

Giovanna is a teenager in Naples, born into a middle class family. Through her ostracised aunt she learns about sex, love and strong emotions. I didn‘t find the book very interesting, and Marisa Tomei‘s fast paced reading gave it a constant drama and urgency that I found exhausting. I‘m not immediately tempted to read more from this author.

19 likes2 stack adds
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StellaB
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Mehso-so

I appreciated how passionately the book explores the painful history of Cyprus. The writing is from an all-knowing perspective, explaining the world with great confidence, and I found that a little boring. But it was great to see animals and plants being valued so much.

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StellaB
Breasts and Eggs | Mieko Kawakami
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Natsu, the 30-something main character, is exploring her childhood, her dreams about motherhood and her relationships with her family. I loved spending time with her, even though the book is very indulgent, exploring issues from every possible angle and at times feeling a bit rudderless. But Natsu and the pleasant voice reading the audiobook made it enjoyable nonetheless.

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StellaB
I'm Not Stiller | Max Frisch
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Mehso-so

A man arrives in Switzerland and is taken to be the sculptor Stiller, who has been missing for years. Everyone around him is certain he is him, but he insists he is not. At times I found this a bit too obviously conceived in the abstract. But there are many insightful moments, and while the characters didn‘t always come to life for me, the dialogue very much did.

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StellaB
Treacle Walker | ALAN. GARNER
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A magical tale about learning to ‘see‘ and much besides. I didn‘t understand everything, but that just added to the wonderful sense of mystery. Beautifully read in different voices and accents by Robert Powell.

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StellaB
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Mehso-so

Liesl is standing in as director of the university library when a rare book goes missing. She‘s an interesting character, and the storyline is promising. But somehow this did not come together for me, and I skimmed through the second half.

MrsK I have this one in my TBR, but lately I‘ve been seeing more so-so reviews like yours. Great review…maybe I need to rethink my choices 😁. 5mo
StellaB @MrsK Thanks 😀 It has all the ingredients and the main character is someone I enjoyed reading about. It‘s just not properly developed I think. But maybe you‘ll have more luck with it 🤓 5mo
19 likes2 comments
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StellaB
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Pickpick

Two interwoven stories about young men growing up in rural Northern Canada. This was the 3rd book I‘ve read by ML, and like the others it‘s a beautiful rich exploration of relationships, growth and what it means to love and lose people.

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StellaB
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Pickpick

Another unique female creation. I found her just believable enough but not quite as interesting as Eileen, or Vesta in Death in her Hands. The unnamed main character makes it her aim to sleep for one year, with the help of as much medication as she can get her hands on. Her story is one of privileged neglect and her contempt for everyone makes sense psychologically. She is hard to feel much sympathy for, but that‘s probably the point.

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StellaB
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Mehso-so

A nameless man is running from a nameless crime and finds himself taking on another man‘s identity. I enjoyed the sensitive characterisations, but the story did feel a little abstract.