bogeyandruby

Random stuff, reflections on the meaning of life and death, humour, self-deprecation, a bit of bad poetry.

2022 was a dreadful year for me and my family.

But hey, here I am intact with 110 books under my belt. Thank goodness for books. Thank heavens for friends and community.

Much love to my readers, all good things in the new year, happy reading.

Here is the complete list:

January

1. China Room — Sunjeev Sahota ❤️❤️❤️ This story is based on the author’s family history. It is set in India and England and jumps back and forth between two main characters: a teenage bride in rural Punjab, betrothed at the young age of five, and her great grandson who is dealing with issues of trauma, racism, and addiction. Women in rural India don’t have much lot in life, even today, and being brown ain’t easy when the place where you live favours white.

2. I Miss You When I Blink — Mary Laura Philpott 👍 A series of sweet but tepid essays on life as a 40-something perfectionist that I could sort of relate to but only vaguely. I think I prefer essays about deep dysfunction, impending doom and pathological imperfection (if such a thing exists). 😜

3. The Butterfly House — Katrine Engberg ❤️❤️❤️ I really enjoyed this crime thriller set in Denmark, the second book featuring Investigators Jeppe Korea and Anette Werner. Will definitely read more of this series.

4. Lemon — Kwon Yeo-sun ❤️❤️❤️ A Christmas gift from Ian, I delighted in the delicious lemon-coloured book design by sweeping my hands over its smooth, hard cover and clutching it to my chest in happiness before cracking it open. In all seriousness, this is the second book I’ve read by a South Korean author, translation by Janet Hong. The story reads as a haunting crime story but there is no real resolution to the murder of eighteen-year-old Kim Hae-on. Instead, the book is an exploration of grief as experienced by several actors in the story, meditations in the first person, spanning a mere 150 pages. “I still can’t help but wonder, do our lives truly hold no meaning? Even if you try desperately to find it, to contrive some kind of meaning, is it true that what’s not there isn’t there? Does life leave only misery behind? Could the fact that we’re alive—the fact that we’re in this life where joy and terror and peace and danger mingle—couldn’t that itself be the meaning of life?”

5. The Library Book — Susan Orleans ❤️❤️❤️❤️ “The Library Book is a book for every reader and every writer. It’s a masterful tribute to libraries, and, even better, it has a plot and a storyline. “ — The National Book Review. This book had been on my to-read list for a long time. What reader (or writer, for that matter) of my generation hasn’t experienced the thrill of taking out a stack of library books? Unlike the author, my parents didn’t frequent libraries, so my memories of them are sporadic and a little fuzzy: the one storey municipal library I used as a kid that I currently pass every day on my work commute, the high school library that we used for student council meetings, studying at the Osler Library of Medical History during my McGill years, and signing up my son to our local library when he was a small boy. The last time I had anything to do with a library was when I returned some overdue books for a home care client of mine, the same library that rejected me for book club because it was full and the wait list to join was a mile long. This well-researched and well-written book explores the cultural, social, and political importance of the public library in the United States as well as its significance in providing access to literacy, education and community to citizens who wouldn’t have so otherwise. Honestly, I couldn’t put it down and finished it in three consecutive workday evenings. I highly recommend it.

6. The Hanged Man of Conakry — Jean-Christophe Rufin ❤️❤️❤️Translation from French by Alison Anderson. The author is one of the founders of Doctors Without Borders, a former French diplomat to Senegal and president of Action Against Hunger. This little book was a delight to read. The protagonist, Aurel Timescu, is a Romanian-born, piano-playing Frenchman serving a diplomatic post in Guinea. He takes it upon himself to solve the murder of a French citizen and the way he does so reminded me very much of the methods of Hercule Poirot, except Aurel deducts best when his little grey cells are soaked in white wine. He then uses his virtuoso piano skills to build us up to a crashing crescendo of a conclusion.

7. These Precious Days, Essays — Ann Patchett ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ I loved this book of essays so much. I laughed and I cried through all of them and felt a deep sense of joy and gratitude for having read them. I highly recommend this book.

8. Fight Night — Miriam Toews ❤️❤️❤️❤️ This is the third book I’ve read by this Canadian author and I must say I am relieved that there are more books of hers that I have yet to read. The story is told from the perspective of 9 year old Swiv who lives in Toronto with her pregnant and unstable mother and her frail and very lively grandmother, Elvira. It doesn’t take long to figure out that the book is a tribute to the author’s own mother, also named Elvira; I recognized her from Toews’s memoir Swing Low and All My Puny Sorrows. It takes a while to get used to Swiv’s voice; After all, she’s only nine. But once you do, you will be delighted, as I was, with all the laugh out loud and poignant moments.

9. Fortune Favours the Dead — Stephen Spotswood ❤️❤️❤️ I enjoyed the first book in a new mystery series that reviews tout as a cross between Agatha Christie and Rex Stout. Set in the 1940s, it features two strong female characters as the private investigators. Wealthy Lillian is a smart, one-eyed feminist with multiple sclerosis and Willowjean is the scrappy circus runaway who saves her life in their first encounter. Looking forward to book #2

10. Burnout, the Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle — ❤️❤️❤️ We have a lot of friends who are health care workers and teachers and I think most if not all of us in the helping fields are pretty fried. The pandemic certainly hasn’t helped matters. This book uses science to come up with some strategies to what they refer to as completing the stress cycle. Spoiler alert, physical activity is key. Notice how it’s always a better day when you exercise?

11. A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali — Gil Courtemanche ❤️❤️❤️ I’ve been meaning to read this book since it was translated to English in 2003. Took the bull by the horn when I found out it was on my son’s reading list for his French course on the Rwandan genocide. The story is one of devastation told in graphic detail. The real horror show isn’t so much the massacre itself but rather the indifference of the rest of the world and the role that colonialism, in this case Belgian, played in racializing Rwandan ethnic groups. Throughout the story, the author sexualizes Rwandans and to a certain extent whites as well, in a way that was almost cartoonish. As the story unfolds, sexual acts become more and more brutal, a conduit for torture and mutilation. The AIDS epidemic serves as a backdrop to the story, the emphasis on the stigma attached to it, the lack of education and access to basic medical care. It was an uncomfortable and painful read but I figure the least we can do in the aftermath of our collective indifference is to bear witness to the stories that are told and in doing so, be held somewhat accountable.

12. Burntcoat — Sarah Hall ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ Exquisite writing, every word, sentence and paragraph savoured. A small book about resilience, love/lust, loyalty, art, and grief. Oh, and a pandemic happens.

* I’ve started A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. Pages yellowed from neglect, it’s been sitting on my bookshelf for 19 years, a mammoth read at 1474 pages. I plan to read it bit by bit in increments, allowing the muscles in my hands to rest in between sprints. Or I could do what the grandmother does in Fight Night and simply saw the book into 3 or 4 more manageable sections.

February

13. What Strange Paradise — Omar El Akkad ❤️❤️❤️ ❤️A Canada Reads finalist and winner of the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize. A profoundly moving story about nine-year-old Amir, a Syrian boy who is the lone survivor of a shipwreck. He manages to flee authorities and meets teenager Vänna, a native of the island he has washed ashore on, who is determined to save him.

14. One Bird’s Choice — Iain Reid ❤️❤️❤️ A charming, laugh-out-loud memoir about the year the author moved back in with parents.

15. The Maid — Nita Prose ❤️❤️ An easy read, sort of a cozy mystery. The main character does not interpret social cues well. High functioning on the autism spectrum perhaps though it is never said out loud. Not as interesting a character as Eleanor Oliphant, that’s for sure. Kind of predictable in some ways, far-fetched in others, with a little twist at the end. All the good eggs live happily ever after. Finished it in less than 24 hours.

16. No One Is Talking about This — Patricia Lockwood ❤️❤️❤️❤️ This book is divided into two parts. One article I read about the author refers to it as auto-fiction which I take to mean part autobiographical and part fiction. The writing is brilliant but the format is difficult to follow especially part one which reads like a series of social media posts by a woman whose posts have gone viral. It’s best to read them as you might read a poetry book where the poems stand alone but are connected by a common theme, a stream of consciousness. Part two is what earned my rating of four hearts. The author receives two urgent texts from her mother: “Something has gone wrong.” and “How soon can you get here?”. Online life juxtaposes with real life here and though the author maintains the style of writing: short paragraphs and stream of consciousness, there is a story of love and grief being unpacked. This paragraph got me: « I would have done it for a million years, » her sister said, tone-less. « I would have gotten up every morning and given her thirteen medicines. There is no relief. I would have done it for all time. » This book isn’t for everyone, but I’m glad I read it.

17. The Tenant — Katrine Engberg ❤️❤️❤️ This is the second book I’ve read by this author though I didn’t read them in order. See book # 3 above. I generally enjoy Scandinavian thrillers and this one was no exception. I have her third book queued up to read next.

18. The Drowning Kind — Jennifer McMahon ❤️❤️❤️ A page-turner of a suspense story sprinkled with a little horror genre.

19. Please Look After Mom — Kyung-Sook Shin ❤️❤️❤️ From Goodreads: “An international sensation and a bestseller that has sold over 1.5 million copies author’s Korea, Please Look After Mom is a stunning, deeply moving story of a family’s search for their missing mother – and their discovery of the desires, heartaches and secrets they never realized she harbored within.” Profoundly moving though the use of the second person as narrator was confusing at times especially as the narrator changes from one part of the story to the next.

20. Four Thousand Weeks (Time Management for Mortals) — Oliver Burkeman ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️This was the perfect book for me to read while on vacation, a little practice run for my upcoming retirement. It’s all about letting go of our obsession with time control, life hacks and productivity. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels guilty about leisure time. I mean, does anyone really care what I ticked off my to-do list during my week off? I didn’t think so. Loved the book. I highly recommend it.

21. 56 Days — Catherine Ryan Howard ❤️❤️❤️ Read this in a day (on vacation). Couldn’t put it down. Thriller with an interesting timeline that jumps back and forth.

22. Pure Colour — Sheila Heti ❤️❤️❤️ I have been wanting to read Motherhood by the same author for a while but settled on reading her new book instead. I must say I was a wee bit disappointed when I caught a whiff of magic realism. The premise of the story is that the world as we know it is but a first draft with a second draft on its way. I found a little too much of the storyline handed over to providence, God and the universe. When the main character Mira’s father dies, the universe somehow ejaculates (her choice of words, not mine) his spirit into her father and together they become a leaf. Soon afterwards, a woman Mira loves named Anna spends a lot of time hanging out under the leaf. There is a scene with strange chocolate that is dove grey in colour, cut into facets. Don’t get me wrong, the writing is beautiful. I guess I’m just too pragmatic for this type of spirituality. Some of the themes of this book are art, love, grief and creation. I just wish the chocolate was more appetizing-sounding. I still want to read Motherhood.

23. The Harbor — Katrine Engberg ❤️❤️❤️ Another good thriller in this Danish detective series. I am hooked.

24. The Essential Emily Dickinson — Poems ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ A birthday gift from Ian. Reading these poems is like being wrapped in pure brilliance.

On page 825. I am almost 2/3rds of the way through A Suitable Boy. I figure I may as well keep going at this point and finish it for next month’s tally.

March

25. A Suitable Boy — Vikram Seth ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ I started this book at the end of January with the intention of reading a couple of hundred pages per month, however, when I picked it up again the last week of February, I had lost track of the story. It really is best to suck it up and read it in a continuous fashion, all 1474 pages. My main criticism is that it is way too long (duh) and at times unnecessarily detailed, particularly the sections that described the politics of post-partition India. That being said, India, and by extension, Pakistan, are complex countries. What I loved most about this book were the sections that expounded Indian family life, friendship, traditions and culture. The story is set in the early 1950s, around the time my Punjabi father was headed to England. Members of his clan, Jat Sikh pheasants, had land in Northern Pakistan and Utter Pradesh and were directly affected by the abolition of the Zamindari system, the first agrarian reform that allowed tenants and share-croppers to acquire land ownership rights. The book refers to this abolition of this system in many layers.

26. Bless this Daughter, Raised by a Voice in her Head — poems by Warsan Shire ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ Heartbreaking, gorgeous and raw. Deeply affecting poetry.

27. The Great Glorious Goddam of It All — Josh Ritter ❤️❤️ A coming of age, epic lumberjack story. The author is a favourite singer-songwriter of ours. The story was well-written but honestly, I prefer his music and would rate that with 5 hearts.

28. The Anomaly — Herve Le Tellier ❤️❤️❤️ Have you seen the Netflix series Manifest? If so, this book will remind you of it. Part thriller, part science fiction, my only beef with it is that I wanted more of a resolution to the story by the end, an explanation for what occurred, a better denouement. That being said, I do recommend it.

29. All Systems Red — Martha Wells ❤️❤️❤️❤️ Recommended by a friend. The first novella in a sci-fi series. I am hooked and will be reading all six books. Brought me back to my teen days when I was a huge Star Trek fan and read loads of sci-fi.

30. Scarborough — Catherine Hernandez ❤️❤️❤️❤️ A worthy Canada Reads book even if it came second place. A story told by multiple voices, all marginalized characters in low-income Scarborough. Written with great skill and sensitivity.

31. Alone in the Wind — Kelly Armstrong ❤️❤️ An interesting crime-thriller-adventure set in an off-the-grid town in the Yukon called Rockton. That being said, I am not interested in reading more books in this series.

32. The Promise — Damon Galgut. ❤️❤️❤️❤️ The 2021 Booker prize winner. A gift from about the only person in the universe who can be trusted to get me a book that I haven’t read yet and that I will enjoy. The story is about a dysfunctional family and is set in South Africa both during and after apartheid. It covers 4 family funerals over a 30 year period. Initially, apartheid is the excuse for the broken promise but after its demise there is still no resolution. An excellent read. I will be reading this author again.

33. Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen: The Dead Man in the Garden — Marthe Jocelyn ❤️❤️❤️ I needed a break from adulting and this did the trick. « For young detective Aggie Morton and her friend Hector, a spa stay becomes a lot more thrilling when TWO dead bodies are found in this third book in the Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen series, inspired by the life of Agatha Christie as a child and her most popular creation, Hercule Poirot. For fans of Enola Holmes. Aspiring writer Aggie Morton is ready to enjoy an invigorating trip to a Yorkshire spa, where her widowed mother can take the waters and recover from a long mourning period. Having solved yet another murder and faced extreme peril with her best friend Hector over Christmas, Aggie’s Morbid Preoccupation is on alert when rumors abound about the spa”s recently deceased former patient . . . and then another body appears under mysterious circumstances. Together with Grannie Jane, and often in the company of George, a young patient at the spa, Aggie and Hector take a closer look at the guests and staff of the Wellspring Hotel, and venture into the intriguing world of the local undertaker. Has there been a murder—or even two? As Aggie and Hector ignite their deductive skills, their restful trip takes a sudden, dangerous turn. »

34.  The Last Thing He Told Me — Laura Dave ❤️❤️❤️❤️ Loved this thriller. Grabbed me from page one. Great writing, story line and characters. Read it in 24 hours.

April

35. The Verifiers — Jane Pek ❤️❤️❤️ A clever and original mystery starring a Chinese-American, gay protagonist who works for an online dating detective agency. From the New York Times book review: “Pek’s engrossing debut novel gives us a thoroughly modern twist on classic detective fiction. When the unlikely gumshoe Claudia Lin begins working to expose online dating fraud at a shady company, she stumbles instead on a murder mystery. But an even bigger one looms. “Are we surrendering to algorithms that know us better than we know ourselves?” David Gordon asks in his review. “Are we trading our freedom of choice, thought, even desire, for convenience and fantasy? Are we becoming unable to tell, or even care, what’s real?””

36. Anatomy, a Love Story — Dana Schwartz ❤️❤️❤️ Young Adult fiction genre. A gothic tale set in Edinburgh in 1817, the protagonist is a young woman determined to become a surgeon rather than marry. She befriends a young resurrection man who provides her with the corpses she needs to study anatomy. Having taken gross anatomy and dissected bodies during my university training, this was a bit of a trip down memory lane. Thankfully they had formaldehyde in my day.

37. Quake — Audur Jónsdóttir (translated from Icelandic by Meg Matich) ❤️❤️❤️ A woman named Saga has an epileptic seizure on the sidewalk and when she comes to she has lost much of her memory and her subsequent recovery leaves her full of doubts as to what is real and what isn’t. An interesting story about the unreliability of memory and how it can be easily manipulated or suppressed by trauma.

38. How to Kill Your Family — Bella Mackie ❤️ An okay read about revenge killing. It was well-written enough but deeply disturbing. Looking forward to lighter reading next book.

39. Beneath the Stairs — Jennifer Fawcett ❤️ Horror genre about a creepy house with a basement staircase that all the young ladies seem to be drawn to. Okay. Kind of meh.

40. In Praise of Good Bookstores — Jeff Deutsch ❤️❤️❤️❤️. This was the perfect book to read on the plane ride home from Vancouver. A vacation spent exploring local good bookstores with my BFF is my idea of a splendid time. From Goodreads: « Do we need bookstores in the twenty-first century? If so, what makes a good one? In this beautifully written book, Jeff Deutsch–the director of Chicago’s Seminary Co-op Bookstores, one of the finest bookstores in the world–pays loving tribute to one of our most important and endangered civic institutions. He considers how qualities like space, time, abundance, and community find expression in a good bookstore. Along the way, he also predicts–perhaps audaciously–a future in which the bookstore not only endures, but realizes its highest aspirations. In exploring why good bookstores matter, Deutsch draws on his lifelong experience as a bookseller, but also his upbringing as an Orthodox Jew. This spiritual and cultural heritage instilled in him a reverence for reading, not as a means to a living, but as an essential part of a meaningful life. Central among Deutsch’s arguments for the necessity of bookstores is the incalculable value of browsing–since, when we are deep in the act of looking at the shelves, we move through space as though we are inside the mind itself, immersed in self-reflection. In the age of one-click shopping, this is no ordinary defense of bookstores, but rather an urgent account of why they are essential places of discovery, refuge, and fulfillment that enrich the communities that are lucky enough to have them. »

41. The Little Brothers of Miséricorde — David M. Wallace ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ Full disclosure: I know the author but even if I didn’t, I would give this book a great review. Set alternately in Vancouver and Montreal, main protagonist Spence travels back and forth along a timeline of past events and circumstances, some excruciatingly painful, to present day retirement in a new city where he is trying to establish/find himself, reconnect with his daughter and learn a new language all at once. While in Montreal, he befriends a francophone mouse, Thierry, living in his apartment and the two share a few rollicking adventures before a surprise twist at the end. The writing was thoroughly entertaining, running through a gamut of emotions, with vivid scenes and characters that stay with the reader and carry the story to a satisfying denouement. We attended the book launch at our local Mariposa Cafe last week-end and were further entertained by several readings from the book performed by the author and local talent Jean-François d’Entremont playing the part of Thierry. In conclusion, I highly recommend this book! I am hoping to organize a book club event at the Mariposa later on this summer with the author. Stay tuned!

42. Shadow Life — Hiromi Goto & Ann Xu (illustrations) ❤️❤️❤️❤️ I put this book on my to-read list after hearing the author interviewed on CBC. Not my usual genre, this is a graphic novel that effectively uses illustrations to depict the story of Kumiko, a seventy-six year old widow who runs away from the assisted-living facility she has been living in to rent an apartment on her own. The novel succeeds beautifully in breaking away from the stereotypical representation of older women in society and suggests an alternate model that is complex with rich life-experiences and a capacity for autonomy and self direction. The theme hit close to home because of the work I do and also because of my own trajectory towards senior status.

43. Everyone in the Room Will Someday Be Dead — Emily Austin ❤️❤️❤️❤️ I loved this book which reminded me a little of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. An out of work atheist Lesbian named Gilda somehow lands a job as an administrative assistant at a Catholic church. Filled with humour and poignant moments with an underlying theme of mental health and loneliness.

44. Deaf Republic — Ilya Kaminsky (poems) ❤️ ❤️❤️❤️ ❤️Brilliant and powerful collection of poems. Set in an unidentified, occupied country during a time of unrest, the poems are all connected, beautiful yet devastating. They could easily represent the current conflict in the Ukraine.

May

45. 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl — Mona Awad ❤️❤️❤️ 13 interconnected short stories featuring main character, Lizzie, who struggles with her weight. Each story features a rather caustic perspective on Lizzie’s weight and her relationship with her peers, a fat friend, her parents, food, clothes, thinness, partners, self-esteem, society, etc. A good read if rather depressing.

46. Lessons in Chemistry — Bonnie Garmus ❤️❤️❤️ A fun and easy read about a really smart chemist in the 1950s who does things her way and who also happens to be beautiful but oblivious about the latter fact. Somehow I may have related better to the protagonist if she were described as short and squat with frizzy hair and the faint shadow of a mustache above chapped lips. Not that women in science can’t be drop-dead gorgeous, it’s just … well, you know what I mean. 🤓

47. The Murder of Mr. Wickham — Claudia Gray ❤️❤️ Jane Austen’s literary characters gather for a house party only to have it crashed by the villainous Mr. Wickham. The story soon develops into a literary version of my favourite board game Clue when Mr. Wickham turns up dead. Pretty much all the guests are suspects which leaves young Jonathon Darcy, the eldest son of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam, and his new acquaintance, Juliet Tilney, to solve the murder. Mostly murder mystery with a teeny hint of regency romance, I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting the characters of my youth.

48. First Time for Everything — Henry Fry ❤️❤️❤️ The delightful, angsty story of a late 20s gay man named Danny who breaks up with his boyfriend after finding out the latter has been sleeping around and who gets kicked out of his flat when his roommates announce they need to convert his bedroom into a nursery. A wannabe serious journalist, Danny works as a creative editor for a culture app.

49. Pyre — Perumal Murugan ❤️❤️❤️❤️ A deeply moving and doomed love story. Translated from Tamil to English. Here is the Goodreads synopsis: “Saroja and Kumaresan are in love. After a hasty wedding, they arrive in Kumaresan’s village, harbouring the dangerous secret that their marriage is an inter-caste one, likely to anger the villagers should they learn of it. Kumaresan is confident that all will be well. He naively believes that after the initial round of curious questions, the inquiries will die down and the couple will be left alone. But nothing is further from the truth. The villagers strongly suspect that Saroja must belong to a different caste. It is only a matter of time before their suspicions harden into certainty and, outraged, they set about exacting their revenge. With spare, powerful prose, Murugan masterfully conjures a terrifying vision of intolerance in this devastating tale of innocent young love pitted against chilling savagery. ‘

50. The Heights — Louise Candlish ❤️❤️❤️ A thriller that manages to twist devastating grief into revenge and leaves the reader with feelings oscillating wildly from empathy to dislike for the main characters.

51. Life Without Children — Roddy Doyle ❤️❤️❤️ A collection of short stories set in Ireland during lockdown. Ordinary people living ordinary lives, something we can all relate to.

52. A Psalm for the Wild-Built — Becky Chambers ❤️❤️❤️❤️ Reading this sci-fi book was like drinking a cup of tea in a special mug that a friend prepared with love. A robot asks, « What do humans need? » A human asks, « What am I supposed to do, if not this? What am I, if not this? ». A beautifully descriptive book of hope.

June

53. The Peanutbutter Sisters and other American Stories — Rumi Hara 👍👍 I follow author Heather O’Neill and her daughter Arizona on their instagram page @oneillreads that features an eclectic collection of recommended books. This graphic book was recommended by Arizona. I can’t say I loved it but I did enjoy it enough to want to read more of this genre of book.

54. Winter Recipes from the Collective (poems) — Louise Glück ❤️❤️❤️❤️ A gorgeous collection of poems from a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. The thing about poetry and me is I cannot focus on it if I am distracted, anxious or stressed. Whereas poetry does not ground me, I must be grounded and mindful in order to fully appreciate it.

55. Together We Will Go — J. Michael Straczynski ❤️❤️❤️ A fictional story about mental health and suicide written with compassion and empathy for the subject matter and the characters. I suspect the book was inspired by losses in the author’s own life.

56. We Are All Perfectly Fine — Jillian Horton, M.D. A beautiful memoir that addresses grief, burnout and our failing/failed medical system beginning with the inhumane way our society trains young doctors and the unrealistically high expectations we have of them that lead to mental health issues and suicide. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

57. Quand je ne dit rien, je pense encore — Camille Readman Prud’homme ❤️❤️❤️Accomplished my goal of reading a French book. Credit to my friend Nathalie Beauregard for the recommendation. Each page was a paragraph, part poem, part reflection, part meditation. Expecting a slog through my second language, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy this was to read. Beautifully written, words flowing like a stream of consciousness, I had to concentrate quite a bit so as not to be too lulled by the passages.

58. Gabor Szilasi 1954-1996 Photographs ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ Hungarian-born Quebec photographer. Do see the documentary Gabor. It will leave you wanting more of his art.

59. Talking About Death Won’t Kill You — Dr. Kathy Kortes-Miller ❤️❤️❤️ Some may find the topic morbid but it will happen to all of us and to everyone we care about. Partly I read these books because I like to be prepared. But I also don’t want to burden my son when my time comes with stuff and more importantly, things unsaid.

60. The Push — Ashley Audrain ❤️❤️❤️ I am rating this book highly because it was a good read; i zipped through it in less than 24 hours. But it was deeply disturbing making me think of the shame we sometimes feel as mothers, that maybe we could have tried harder, done better, etc. And how we reckon with the kids who don’t fit in and those who tragically, end up harming others.

61. The Messy Lives of Book People — Phaedra Patrick ❤️ A cosy book, easy reading with a nice, pat resolution. Didn’t grab me but was pleasant to read. May have been loosely inspired by the book Maid though this book is about a woman who cleans houses for a living, including the penthouse of famous author, and who ends up ghost writing/editing/completing the author’s last manuscript after the latter dies.

July

62. The Dawnhounds — Sascha Stronach ❤️❤️❤️ A well-written fantasy, book that succeeded in transporting me to another world. Confusing at times as new worlds can be but enjoyable nonetheless. Made for a great escape from this world for a while.

63. Flung Out of Space: Inspired by the Indecent Adventures of Patricia Highsmith — Grace Ellis, Hannah Templer (Illustrator) ❤️❤️❤️ I read a review about this graphic novel and was intrigued, as I had been reading a review on the recently published Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks: 1941-1995, the latter duly noted on my ever growing to-read list. I’m not sure why I have a sudden interest in this author. After all, the only book of hers I’ve read is The Talented Mr. Ripley. Amazing the difference a well-written review can make on whether or not we choose a book to read. I enjoyed the graphic novel format of this book. It did a great job depicting Highsmith as both an interesting and oftentimes unlikable character. Her controversial book, The Price of Salt, is also on my to-read list.

64. Nosy Parker — Lesley Crewe ❤️❤️❤️ A funny, charming book set in Montreal, NDG to be specific, during Expo 67. When I first started reading it I thought the story must have been mistakenly categorized as an adult story when it should have been for tweens as the main character, Audrey, is 12 years old.

65. Dark August — Katie Tallo ❤️❤️❤️ I flew through this mystery thriller set in Ottawa. Intense, riveting story with interesting characters and a great plot that unravels the mystery over 400 plus pages. Would definitely read more books by this author.

66. Slip — Marika McCoola and Aatmaja Pandya ❤️ A graphic novel for teens explores communicating through art and art’s healing nature.

67. The It Girl — Ruth Ware ❤️❤️❤️ Fantastic thriller. Ruth Ware is one of the few authors of this genre that makes me want to read everything she has ever written. The worst part upon finishing is that I now have to wait for her next book!

68. The Light We Give (How Sikh Wisdom Can Transform Your Life) — Simran Jeet Singh — ❤️❤️❤️❤️ I read this in honour of my father and to ease my grief.

69. Ballet is Not for Muslim Girls — Mariam S. Pal ❤️ A memoir about a mixed race Polish-Pakistani woman. Ian heard her interviewed on CBC and thought I could relate to her story being a mix of Welsh-Indian and I did except that my father was so much more liberal and tolerant.

August

70. Thirteen Storeys — Jonathon Sims ❤️A chilling story about an apartment building where a dozen of its inhabitants/staff are witness to supernatural events that are on their own unique yet interconnected. Each chapter presents the experiences of a different character and the final chapter ties them all together. It was well-written but I grew impatient with the format and had to keep flipping back to review previous chapters. As well. I found the pat ending rather lacking after investing in all the stories/storeys.

71. Borders — illustrations by Natasha Donovan, story by Thomas King ❤️❤️❤️ This graphic novel, based on a short story by Thomas King, explores the themes of identity and belonging and asks the question, what does it mean to cross the Canada-US border as an indigenous person? Quick and easy to read in this format, the story will nonetheless leave you marked.

72. Mothercare — Lynne Tillman ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ I loved this book so much. For anyone who has ever been or is or who will be a caregiver to aging parents. Explores a gamut of emotions. The author has an unusual style of writing but I soon got used to it. I would like to read some of her fiction.

73. The House Across the Lake — Riley Sager ❤️❤️❤️ Very good thriller with a twist of the supernatural, featuring flawed but likeable characters.

74. Are You Sara? — S.C. Lalli ❤️ Another thriller but this time with thoroughly unlikeable characters, apart from Zo, the elderly landlady, and the protagonist’s Bengali parents, who are referred to more than they are featured. I looked forward to the ending mainly so I could move on to another book.

75. The Stories We Leave Behind ( A Legacy-Based Approach to Dealing with Stuff) — Laura H. Gilbert. ❤️❤️❤️ I ordered this handy little book a while ago thinking it would help me deal with sorting out my parents’ houseful of stuff but having just lost my dad plus having to deal with funeral planning, estate affairs and caregiving for my mother, it proved to be too overwhelming. As much as I love my parents, I resent that this wasn’t sorted out by the two people who amassed it in the first place. 1-800-Junk is the banner in my head right now. I vow not to burden my son in the same way. He has already informed me that there is nothing I own that he wants after I die. I gave it the rating it deserves and hope to return to it at a later date when clearing my own mess.

76. The Hurting Kind — Ada Limón ❤️❤️❤️❤️ (Poetry) The author’s poems are wholly accessible, meaning regardless if you can relate to their subject matter or not, you will be unexpectedly moved by them.

77. What the Body Remembers — Shauna Singh Baldwin ❤️❤️❤️ Another unread book on my bookshelf, this one for more than twenty years, now ticked off my read list. Finishing it feels like an accomplishment. It is set before and during the Partition of India. A friend suggested I read it as homage to my father. It is also an acknowledgement of the 75th anniversary of Partition.

78. All the Flowers Kneeling — Paul Tran ❤️❤️❤️❤️ (Poetry) The poet transforms trauma, violence and grief into truth (and beauty)through the artful arrangement of words into poems.

September

79. Mindful of Murder — Susan Juby ❤️ A cozy mystery featuring three Butlers and an odd assortment of other, more unruly characters, set at a fictional retreat on a fictional island in BC. I bought it because hearing the author being interviewed on CBC made me feel cozy and I wanted more of that feeling but in the end it got too cozy with a few too many zzzz’s.

80. Unwinding Anxiety — Judson Brewer ❤️❤️❤️ Strategies on coping with anxiety. Questions asked are: What is the trigger? What is the behaviour? What is the result/reward? Strategies include: mindfulness meditation, curiosity (about the anxiety), RAIN (anagram for Recognize/Relax, Accept/Allow, Investigate, Note). I picked up this book to better understand the source of my own anxiety, which almost always manifests as a knot and/or butterflies in the pit of my stomach and an inability to focus on anything other than the source of my distress. I am also concerned about the pervasiveness of anxiety in our youth: my students, my son and his peers.

81. em — Kim Thúy ❤️❤️❤️❤️ Written in my favourite format: small, lyrical chapters that read as prose but pack a punch, like poetry. This moving book is devastating in the history it reveals of the Vietnam war and the suffering of its people.

82. They Left Us Everything — Plum Johnson ❤️❤️❤️❤️ A memoir on parental relationhips, grief and the clutter the latter leaves behind in its wake. For the author, going through a house filled with memories is cathartic and healing. It helps that she has such a close and collaborative relationship with her siblings. All in all, a very good, rollicking read.

83. The Palllbearers Club — Paul Tremblay ❤️❤️❤️❤️ Loved this book, written in manuscript format, about an unusual friendship that begins between an awkward teenage boy and a slightly older girl who may or may not be a vampire, and continues on and off through the decades. The ending is poignant but the author does a good job of preparing us.

84. Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight — Riku Onda ❤️❤️❤️ A very good psychological thriller translated from Japanese. Hooked me from the start and kept me intrigued until the last page.

85. Survive the Night — Riley Sager ❤️❤️❤️ My second thriller by this author and like the first one I read, I could not put this one down once I got into it. Perfect vacation, airport/airplane read.

86. Funny Girl — poems by Ethel Meilleur ❤️❤️❤️❤️ ❤️ Ethel is a local poet and acquaintance of ours who we met through mutual friends. In person she is warm and vibrant with a sense of humour that is apparent and her poems reflect that. Her word play is entertaining and richly textured and fun to read out loud. I am looking forward to her second book.

87. Ducks, Two Years in the Oil Sands — Kate Beaton ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ A brilliant graphic novel that was insightful and surprisingly touching. Honestly, I would never have picked up this book based on the title but I was intrigued after hearing the author interviewed on CBC radio. I am quickly becoming a fan of this format in story telling.

88. Dark Music — David Lagercrantz ❤️❤️❤️ I enjoyed this thriller set in Sweden by the writer who had the honour of continueing Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. I have a feeling this may be the first book in a new series featuring the unlikely but believable pairing of a young, street-smart police officer, Micaela Vargas, the daughter of Chilean refugees, and the eccentric but brilliant professor Hans Rekke, expert on interrogation techniques.

October

89. The Devil House — John Darnielle 👍👍 I honestly don’t know what to make of this book. I was expecting a horror story and it was horrifying in some respects because it deals with true crime, or at least fictionalized true crime, and body parts, but that isn’t really the crux of the story, though it provides context and mood. It seems to be more about the protagonist’s, or true crime writer’s, process in writing these stories and his growing conscience about the consequences for the surviving players in his books, with the true crimes as a backdrop. There was one long chapter that I skipped; it was either written in satanic verse or some kind of medieval script. Well-written book (i try to be kind in my reviews) but weird.

90. How to Do Nothing — Jenny Odell ❤️❤️❤️ I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while. Admittedly, it was not what I expected: a self-help manual on how to switch off the online world and feel more zen. Rather, it was a thoughtful, well-researched argument on how to live a more meaningful life by not giving in to the attention economy from a variety of different perspectives that address labour movements, environmental issues, race, class, etc. I highly recommend this book.

91. Return of the Trickster — Eden Robinson ❤️❤️❤️ The final book of the Trickster trilogy, I made the mistake of reading each instalment too long after the previous book, forgetting important details between reads. Retention has never been my forte. All in all, a very good read though I do recommend reading all three books back to back for the best experience.

92. Elena Knows — Claudia Piñeiro (Translated by Frances Riddle)❤️❤️❤️❤️ This book was short-listed for the International Booker Prize. It comes across as a crime novel but it is do much more than that. Protagonist, Elena, who has advanced Parkinson’s disease, investigates the death of her daughter, Rita, found hanging in the bell tower of the church she frequented in order to prove that it was not suicide but rather murder. In a short 200 pages, the author explores themes of disability, caregiver burnout, religion, abortion, freedom of choice, and hypocrisy. Working with physically handicapped clients and being caregiver to my aging mother, this book touched a chord. A profoundly moving read.

93. The Debt to Pleasure — John Lanchester ❤️ A good friend lent me this book, a selection from his exclusive men’s bookclub (man, would I love to be a fly on the wall at those meetings, pun intended). The Boston Globe describes it as witty, frequently hilarious and wicked, but I’m afraid I resorted to skimming passages, missing much of the story as its long, descriptive paragraphs left me glassy-eyed and lulled rather than stimulated. To be fair, it is a brilliant read, and if you happen to be a foodie and not a person such as myself who is quite happy to dine on toasted bagels day after day, you will appreciate the detailed culinary references/snobbery/descriptions not to mention the wicked ending.

November

94. Motherthing: a Novel — Ainsley Hogarth ❤️❤️ A horror book like no other. Can be read as a verb: to mother or as a creature: Motherthing. Both descriptions work. A creepy, gripping read.

95. Foster — Claire Keegan ❤️❤️❤️❤️ Just gorgeous writing, all 90 pages. I wept at the end, heartfelt, heartbroken tears. Why can’t we humans simply love, love simply? Why are so many of us broken? I highly recommend this book.

96. Wrong Place, Wrong Time — Gillian McAllister ❤️❤️❤️ Loved this book. A great thriller, original format. Finished it waiting for the call to go in for a retina tear and likely caused more tears in the process, six to be exact. Oops.

December

97. The Light We Carry — Michelle Obama (Audiobook) ❤️❤️❤️ A friend sent me the audiobook version after my eye surgery when I couldn’t see much of anything. Honestly, it was a godsend, getting me through those first few days of discomfort: post-op pain and joint and muscle stiffness from prolonged positing prone and then supine. I could listen to Michelle Obama’s voice forever, so soothing and filled with practicalities and hope. Loved it.

98. My October — Claire Holden Rothman (Audiobook) ❤️❤️❤️ I listened to this book with my husband in preparation for our next Bookclub meeting in a month. As I am facilitating the meeting, I will have to read it again and take notes. The author is a local Montrealer and writes about a couple struggling in their relationship. Luc is a celebrated novelist and separatist whereas Hannah is his translator, the daughter of a man who served as special prosecutor during the October Crisis of 1970. The story is set in 2001 but backdrop of the story is the October Crisis. Their fourteen year old son, Hugo, caught in the middle of his parents’ conflict, begins to act out, in search of his own identity. There are lots of recognizable landmarks in the book, not to mention cultural issues. Despite the professions of the two protagonists, there are lots of communication problems that go beyond the two solitudes.

99. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow — Gabrielle Zevin ❤️ I gave it one heart because I cannot relate to the gaming world and there was a lot of gaming talk throughout the book. Other than that, it was a sweet , oddball story about enduring friendship, love and work ethic. This book made a lot of top ten lists for 2022 but not so for me,

100. Galatea — Madeline Miller ❤️❤️❤️❤️ I decided to tackle this short story to see if I was able to read regular print with my non-operated eye and happily, I was. The story, like Miller’s other works: Circe and the Song of Achilles, is based on Greek mythology. The author writes in an afterword, that Galatea is a response to Ovid’s version of the Pygmalion myth in the Metamorphoses. The author does an excellent job of retelling an ancient story that is still relevant today.

101. Hark! A Vagrant — Kate Beaton ❤️❤️❤️❤️ Brilliantly funny comics based on historical and literary references. Laughed out loud throughout. Loved it.

102. The Beauty of Dusk — Frank Bruni ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ The timing for reading this book was perfect, having just gone through a repair for a retinal detachment. It is the memoir of a man who wakes up one morning functionally blind in one eye from a rare type of stroke he suffered overnight that cut off the blood to his optic nerve. The vision loss is permanent and the book is about the author’s coming to terms with not only the loss of sight in one eye but the very real risk that it could happen in the other eye. The author writes beautifully, a poignant testament to loss while at the same time celebrating a shifting perspective that brings him new appreciation for what he has gained: gratitude for the senses that remain and deep empathy and acknowledgement for the suffering of others.

103. The Cloisters — Katy Hays ❤️❤️❤️❤️ The perfect thriller set against a background of the competitive world of academia and medieval art history. Loved it and hope to read more by this author.

104. O’Caledonia — Elspeth Barker ❤️❤️❤️❤️ A dark, gothic coming of age story set in Northern Scotland, post World War Two. A wayward, bookish, misunderstood girl of sixteen, Janet, is found murdered in the introductory chapter. The story then rewinds to the very beginning with Janet’s birth to distracted parents who never really manage to understand her, nor do they embrace her fierce intelligence or gifted way with language. Beautifully written, each passage to be savoured. Too bad this is the only book every written by this author, now deceased.

105. Things to Look Forward to — Sophie Blackall ❤️❤️❤️❤️ A gift to myself to ward off all those instigators of the blues. It worked. A picture book of hope, a reminder of all the small pleasures we have access to that we may take for granted. Gift it to yourself or to a friend. It will feel like a warm hug, a chaudoudoux.

106. Saint Sebastian’s Abyss — Mark Haber ❤️❤️❤️❤️ This short book, a dark comedy, was a delight to read but may not appeal to all. It is the story about two art critics, once friends and now rivals, who devote their careers, and to a certain extent their lives, on a fictional work of art by an unlikely Dutch master. It was written in my favourite format: short, one to two page chapters.

107. Two Nurses, Smoking — David Means ❤️❤️❤️ Short stories by a master short story writer. A few are connected. Best read slowly. If you rush through them, you will completely miss the point.

108. Cold-Blooded Myrtle — Elizabeth C. Bunce ❤️❤️❤️ If you loved reading Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden and Sherlock Holmes mysteries as a youngster, you’ll love this Edgar award-winning series. Perfect for preteens and the middle-aged/senior set.

109. Stay True — Hua Hsu ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ I found myself so deeply affected by this memoir, I was unable to write about it upon completion. I am still struggling to find words. I read a description of it somewhere that says it is a story about what it means to be a good friend and I would agree to that. It is a coming of age story, a search for belonging as the child of immigrants, a sometimes elegiac account of the tragic loss of a friend. It was a deeply moving book and that feeling will stay with me for a long time. I highly recommend it.

110. Lost & Found — Kathryn Schulz ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ This is a book about grief, love and beyond. I find it immensely comforting to read about other people’s grief process having lost my father 6 months ago. The other side of the coin is finding love and solace and new community. The writing is lush and gorgeous. I couldn’t get enough of it. Here are a few of my favourite passages : « Thus our strange relationship with the pain of grief. In the early days, we wish only for it to end; later on, we fear that it will. And when it finally does begin to ease, it also does not, because, at first, feeling better can feel like loss, too. » « This type of circular mourning, the grieving of grief itself, is perfectly normal and possibly inevitable yet also misguided and useless. There is no honor in feeling awful and no betrayal in feeling better, and no matter how dark and salted and bitter cold your grief may be, it will never preserve anything about the person you mourn. Despite how it sometimes feels, it has never kept anyone alive, not even in memory. If anything, it keeps them dead: eventually, if you cannot stop mourning, the person you love will come to be made only of grief. » « How fortunate I have been—and yet I wanted it to last longer. »

8 thoughts on “January 1st, 2022: Book Tally 2021

  1. Frances Dalton says:

    WOW! I’m impressed. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2023! Much Love, Jean

    Liked by 1 person

    1. bogeyandruby says:

      Thanks, Jean! All good things to you xo

      Like

  2. Kiki says:

    I do hope that my earlier comment I made on my smartphone will surface before I continue here (I’m now for a moment on my laptop…. Are all comments first screened?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. bogeyandruby says:

      Hi Kiki, this is the only comment I see on this post. Nice to see you and hear from you! Happy New Year! 😘

      Like

  3. Kiki says:

    oh no!!!! I typed a long comment on my smartphone – all with one finger…. and promised you to come back later on – so I’m deeply unhappy that my first comment went awol…. Can’t understand that, it usually works a treat. And it was a really long one, sent before I had to leave. So: heck and double heck! 😉
    Still hope to come back to you later on – just give me some time, I have several other duties to fulfill first.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. bogeyandruby says:

      I completely understand! It has happened to me too, so much thought and investment made in a comment only to lose it with the wrong click. No worries, I will wait for it. Take your time. 😊

      Like

  4. Kiki says:

    When I checked out a few of the titles you mentioned and which caught my interest, I realised that reading matters are very different in Canada/America. I’m more focused on British or European writers. Many of the titles you listed are not even known here. I was interested in
    The promise, Damon Galgut – forgotten why it spoke to me (through your comment)
    In praise of good bookstores, Jeff Deutsch – just because we DO NEED good bookstores!
    The little brudders of Miséricorde, David M. Wallace – tickled me because of its
    The It Girl, Ruth Ware – saw interviews, read features of her, a highly interesting person. Must read her!
    The beauty of dusk, Frank Bruni – of interest for my own ‘visual’ history
    The library book – Susan Orleans – again, this speaks to me in so many ways. I am no longer going to our library, they have hardly ever a book in its original language, and it’s also not inviting irregular readers as you must subscribe to it in a yearly (quite expensive) sub. DVDs are always dubbed which I hate. I therefore buy all my books and this is a costly hobby.
    Now, let me close this LONG (too long?) contribution – thank you for sharing your love for books. Long may it continue.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. bogeyandruby says:

      Thanks, Kiki! I regularly verify British literary reviews for recommendations. Quite often books are published on that side of the Atlantic before they are released here. I am currently reading an English translation of the book The Unseen by the Norwegian author, Roy Jacobsen. It is beautifully written. David Wallace is a dear friend of ours. I highly recommend his book The Little Brudders of Miséricorde and would be happy to send you a copy if you are keen on reading it. Let me know. Amassing books is my main vice, if you can call it that. My husband and I are keep to rediscover the local library before we run out of space completely!

      Liked by 1 person

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