Book 2 of the Aya series (thoughts on the first one here) about four families in Yopougon, a neighborhood of Abidjan, Ivory’s Coast’s capital. It’s set in the 70s, when the country’s was going through an economic boom and it continues to be refreshing to see a side of modern Africa that’s not filled with war and AIDS. If you know of any other comics like these let me know.

Like Book 1, it’s not an action-packed story. I’m actually approaching it as a really smart and funny twist on a soap-opera: Adjoua’s new life as a young single mother, Bintou’s fashionable new love-interest from Paris (or is he?), the mystery around the girl with the wig, dramatic cliffhanger ending. Book 3 is called “The Secrets Come Out” and like another episode of an addictive soap-opera I’m really really want to know them!

If I had one less positive point to make is that, although Aya is the name on the cover, she was rather passive, basically just a shoulder for her friends to cry and lean on. She has the potential to be such an interesting character – a steady young women who wants to be a doctor – that I’d like to know her a bit more.

This book also included a “Ivorian Bonus”, including a recipe for Chicken Kedjenou, a guide on how to wrap a baby on your back and a great short “essay” on how a popular Ivorian proverb is put into practice everyday.


Other thoughts: Page 247, largehearted boy, My Favourite Books (yours?)


image (2)Read for the A More Diverse Universe Challenge


October is Sherlockian Month at Book Bloggers International and to celebrate it I listened to Benedict Cumberbatch read Sherlock Holmes: the Rediscovered Railway Mysteries and Other Stories by John Taylor using Canon Doyle’s style.

Come over and join the fun!



geek_cover_1Happy Ada Lovelace Day everyone! A time to celebrate women in science, technology, engineering and maths.

When editors Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders had the idea for this anthology of essays about women in science, technology and geekdom in general the response was beyond their expectations. They were contacted by women from different fields, social backgrounds, sexual orientation and ethnic background. The strength of “She’s Such a Geek!” lies in this variety and the fact that the challenges and barriers these women had to face were, in the end, very similar.

One common thread was the identity of a girl and woman geek in a male-dominated world. My passion is words and languages and I work in communications, so I can only imagine what it’d be like to love physics instead and at a crucial time in my upbringing have a physics professor openly tell a class that women can never be as good as men. This happened to one of the essayists and also to one of my best friends, who today is a successful marine biologist.

To overcome something like this requires a lot of resilience, self-confidence and supportive family and peers, so it’s no wonder that so many women give up along the way. I was surprised by how many women benefited from taking women studies classes in college, even when their majors were it astronomy or theoretical physics, and not so surprised how having female role-models help them overcome their self-doubt.block1Credits: Hark, a vagrant

Another common topic, also connected to identity, is sexuality. Many of the essays talk about maneuvering the fine line between being attractive and being take seriously, which apparently are inversely proportional:

During my first year of graduate school, three female classmates who frequented the clubs of Boston hit a serious snag in their search for boyfriends. Time after time, guys approached them – only to walk away the minute the women mentioned their occupation. So my friends started lying. They claimed to be flight attendants, yoga instructors, or kindergarten teachers. And the dating pool magically widened.

Some of the essays about mathematics and genetics were a bit over my head, but I still enjoyed them for the writers’ pure passion for their fields – it was fascinating to read about the joy of solving an equation or the eureka moment when maths just clicks. Still, my favorite essays were written by the gamers. They’re also incredibly varied, from the players to the programmers, from the hacker of adult sites to the leader of an all-female war game squad, from tips on how to conquer a virtual empire to the ethics of topless-girl-on-bikes games. So. Much. Fun.

The essays were written by women who mostly grew up in the 60s, 70s and 80s, so I’d be curious to read a similar book written by younger generations. Would the same barriers come up?


There’s not much I can say about this book that hasn’t been said 1.000 times before, so just some quick thoughts for posterity:

I went into One Hundred Years of Solitude with some fear, because it has happened that my re-reads turn teen favorites into just-oks. This one however, was still as amazing, as captivating and as fierce as I remembered. It’s that type of book that’s experimental and “intellectual” and yet emotionally engaging. Like a Michelin-star meal that really make you feel full.

The plot is simply summed up as the story of a family in a remote village in an unnamed South American country, but then each character is a world in itself, and the language… oh the language!

Márquez’s style is very much in the oral tradition, as if he just captured what he’d heard from someone old, wise and incredibly funny. That’s why the magic realism feels so real, why every relationship and emotion are described with such power and why the way he moves from one character to the other flows so well. The book may have the most depressing title ever and it does deal a lot with loneliness, but in fact it’s a really bright, energetic, colorful story, that feels always in motion. Hard to explain, you have to read it!

One of the biggest complains I’ve read about One Hundred Years is that the characters’ names are all the same (e.g. father José Arcadio Buendía, son Aureliano, grandson José Arcadio) and it confuses everything. Well, that might be true (as of the 4th generation I had to draw a family tree), but for me it’s a demonstration of Márquez sense of humor.

Also, surely Úrsula Buendía should belong to all the lists of “Best heroines of all time”.

I’ve read it in Portuguese but I’m aiming to pick up the original next time. I wonder how it reads in English and can see how part of the language’s richness is lost. I was debating with myself whether the “solitude” in the English title shouldn’t be “loneliness” instead. “Solitude” is almost a voluntary isolation, and the Spanish “soledad” doesn’t read like that.

Have you read this one? Any thoughts?


Other thoughts: A Striped Armchair, Jules’ Book Review, Confessions of a Bibliophile, Man of La Book, Other Sashas, of blog, Shelf Love, Fifty Book Project, The Labyrinth Library, Avid Readers’ Musings, bookhimdanno, Passion for the Page, My Library in the Making, Rivers I have Known, Old English Rose Reads, The Reading Life (thoughts?)


image (2)Read for the A More Diverse Universe Challenge




.Re-Read Challenge.. and the Re-Read Challenge

coroners-lunch1If you’re looking for your next mysteries series, you might want to give this one a trial. It’s more Alexander McCall Smith than Jo Nesbø, but I’m reluctant to call it cozy. Just as the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, it’s main attraction is the different setting, this time Laos at the beginning of the communist rule, in 1976. I knew very little about this time and place and the book got me to cruise Wikipedia, which is a good sign in itself.

The “detective” is a 72 year-old doctor who’s reluctantly nominated as the county’s only coroner. He’s a “communist for convenience” and old enough not to care much about using his biting humor to point out the often comic surrealism of the system. He’s awesome!

The other characters and the plot are also interesting, but it’s definitely the setting that steals the show. Imagine the challenge of crime-solving in a bureaucratic dictatorship with very little resources.

There’s an element of the supernatural that I’m carefully apprehensive about, as I usually like my mysteries very much based on hard-core evidence and logic. I’d be able to accept it better if it didn’t actually contribute to solving the crime. It didn’t disturb me too much, I suspect because I was just focusing on the great setting-relate details, but I wonder what’ll happen in the next books once the novelty wears off.

I’m surprised this was first published in 2004 because it has everything to make it an instant favorite and I hadn’t hear about it until very recently.


Other thoughts: Boston Bibliophile, Letters from a Hill Farm, Crime Scraps, Books and Quilts, Olduvai Reads, Book Lust, Crime Scraps Review (yours?)

read-harder-almost-finisher-2015Thank you Kim for letting me borrow your “Almost done” button!

You’ve probably heard about this challenge about the bookweb. I was really excited when it was first announced for the sheer variety of the categories.

I thought it would be a tough one to achieve, but I’m surprised by how easy it’s been. I forget about the Challenge for a couple of months and when I come back to it several categories are done. So far I think I’ve only had to force myself to pick up a romance novel, although it was already in the TBR.

I’ve 4 books to go, and although I’m not worried about the book published before 1850 (reading Austen’s Emma in December to celebrate it’s 200th anniversary), or the collection of poetry (carrying Fernando Pessoa’s Mensagem around in my bag for ages) or even the under-25 (have The Tiger Wife in the TBR), choosing a self-improvement book is a hard one: nothing on the TBR, wish-list or even the to-investigate list.

If I’m going to read a self-improvement book for the first time, let’s make it a good one, so I’d love to hear your recommendations!

To be done:

  • A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25
  • A collection of poetry
  • A book published before 1850
  • A self-improvement book


  • A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65: Providence Rag
  • A collection of short stories: Everything That Rises Must Converge
  • A book published by an indie press: The Summer Book
  • A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ: The Hours
  • A book by a person whose gender is different from your own: Chew Vol. 1
  • A book that takes place in Asia: Malice
  • A book by an author from Africa: Aya
  • A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture: The Master Butchers Singing Club
  • A microhistory:  Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
  • A YA novel: Fangirl
  • A sci-fi novel: The Martian
  • A romance novel: The Errant Earl
  • A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade: A Visit from the Good Squad
  • A book that is a retelling of a classic story: The Owl Service
  • An audiobook: The Dead will Tell
  • A book that someone else has recommended to you: Cutting for Stone
  • A book that was originally published in another language: The Snowman (Norwegian)
  • A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind: Saga Vol. 1
  • A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure: First Frost
  • A book published this year: Girl on the Train


Like all toddlers, David loves everything with a touch-screen. He climbs furniture, flashes his winning smile and any other stratagem to get just a few minutes with our phones or tablets. The Kindle isn’t his favorite but it’ll do if nothing else is available.

Over the last few month he accidental bought 6 books (thank heavens for Kindle’s return policy!). He seems to have an eclectic taste: a couple of mysteries, a romance, a sci-fi, one non-fiction that sounds really depressing and finally (my boy, sniff) a Lonely Planet!

Have your kids ever bought anything by accident?

(Blurbs from Goodreads)

obsessedObsessed (Lizzy Gardner #4) by T.R. Ragan

Desperate for better ratings, radio psychologist Madeline Blair tells her listeners she’s being stalked, unaware that her long-time listener and biggest fan, Seth Brown, will do anything to protect her. When her publicity stunt is revealed, Seth becomes enraged by her deceit and dangerously unhinged.

When her friends mysteriously begin to vanish and damning evidence points to Madeline, she turns to private investigator Lizzy Gardner for help. Lizzy knows her way around a murderer’s mind, after surviving her own horrifying ordeal at the hands of a serial killer years ago. As Lizzy closes in, Seth Brown is undeterred. Madeline wanted a stalker and now she has one. Nothing is going to stop him. He’s obsessed.


true crime

True Crime (Nathan Heller #2) by Max Allan Collins

Nate Heller survived his confrontations with Al Capone, only to find himself facing Ma Barker, Baby Face Nelson, and perhaps the biggest and most dangerous question in his life: Who was the man shot down in the alley next to the Biograph Theater, the man the FBI had confidently identified as John Dillinger?

Heller’s search for the answer leads him into a confrontation with J. Edgar Hoover, and into a much more comfortable meeting with Sally Rand…but not before the streets of Chicago run red with blood.




38 resonsI Want To Marry My Boyfriend by Lynn Enright

She has a fulfilling career, a wide friendship group, a supportive family, a lovely boyfriend and quite nice hair. So why does Lynn Enright’s life seem to be missing something? Why, she wonders, does she still care so much about getting married?

Armed with a suspicion that she is not the only one, she sets out to explore the role marriage plays for women of her generation. It’s an outdated institution, which seems to fail so very often – so why are we still in thrall to the idea of being wed?

A listicle with ambitions above its station, this is a hilarious and moving account of being a woman in love in 2015.


speakerSpeaker for the Dead (The Ender Quartet #3) by Orson Scott Card

In the aftermath of his terrible war, Ender Wiggin disappeared, and a powerful voice arose: the Speaker for the Dead, who told of the true story of the Bugger War.

Now long years later, a second alien race has been discovered, but again the aliens’ ways are strange and frightening…again, humans die. And it is only the Speaker for the Dead, who is also Ender Wiggin the Xenocide, who has the courage to confront the mystery…and the truth.



silence of the godSilence of the God by Max Gray

The other side of the story to great history is not as pretty as they teach us in grade school. ‘Silence of the God’ by Max Gray is a book filled full of live excerpts from eyewitnesses for the outrageous crimes against humans ever recorded in history.

These people had no chance of survival. There are only so many ways to describe babies getting their heads bashed in, women and children raped, men and women having their body parts chopped off and burnt to death.


europeLonely Planet Europe on a shoestring

A guide to traveling in Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland features information on galleries, museums, motoring tours, and more. Original.





It took me way too long to read this. A bit over two months, to be exact, with others in between. For a moment there I was afraid it’d be a just-ok 900-page mammoth, but it got me hooked after the first fifth or so. It’s my first Sharon Kay Penman, but I actually had this and two others by her in the TBR, just because she sounded like something I’d really enjoy (do you also do this?).

The Sunne in Splendour is an epic novel about Richard III, that most controversial of Kings, the last Plantagenet, from his early childhood to his death. His life is one of those stories that feels to dramatic to be true, just like Henry VIII. Richard didn’t have six wives, but had the War of the Roses, the Princes in the Tower, and other such delights.

Sharon Kay Penman does it all this great justice, and writes a really extraordinary book. Huge, but no word wasted, and with the perfect pacing, which is not to be taken lightly in such a complex story. Kay Penman has a great instinct for how long to spend on a battle and when to add a private scene to let us get closer to the characters. I cannot even begin to imagine how many hours she must have spent preparing for this, deciding what to focus on each chapter, what to add and leave out, not to mention the research. Good historical fiction authors are the best! By the end of the book, I felt I really understood this extremely complicated bit of English history. I’m now looking forward a War of Roses round on pub quiz :)

If not for Dorothy Dunnett, The Sunne in Splendour might have become a top-of-the-tops favorite,  but Dunnett ruined all historical fiction for me. Despite the careful characterization (except that Richard might had been a teensy-weensy idealized?), I never felt too emotionally involved with any of the characters, even with Anne Neville, that had everything to win me over completely. I cannot clearly articulate why, only that if feels different with Dunnett – yes, I know, it’s unfair, but inescapable!


Other thoughts: reading the end, Kristin King Author, Devourer of Books, Vulpes Libris, Semicolon, Pages of Julia (yours?)

fly_trap_hbEarlier this year I finally finished the Narnia series. I never read them as a kid and as I got from one book to the next I kept thinking that maybe I ought to have. By Last Battle it was clear that no, adulthood is exactly the right time to read Narnia, because at least now I’m aware of the heavy-handed indoctrination (Susan’s fate in The Last Battle, the Middle-Easterns Calormenes – urgh!) If in the future my son decides to read them, I know I’ll want us to discuss them together. (Actually, I’m curious about the general fascination with Narnia. Is it the plot or characterization? I found them rather weak. Childhood nostalgia?)

So after Narnia, I picked up another children/young adult fantasy – Fly Trap (Twilight Robbery in the UK) – and it was such a palate cleanser!

I loved Frances Hardinge’s first in the series, Fly by Night, and this one was even better. I’d also argue it can be read a stand-alone. It’s set right after Fly by Night, when the 12-year-old heroine Mosca Mye, her travel companion Eponymous Clent and Saracen, the goose, are looking for greener pastures after (accidentally) triggering a revolution. They end up in Toll, an apparently perfect town… until night falls.

Without giving too much away, in Hardinge’s world words and names have power. Each person is named according to the Saint (or Beloved) responsible for their birth day, but in Toll this has serious consequences. In Toll, all Beloveds have been divided into the bright, good ones and the villainous, dark ones. If you’re born under the right Beloved you’re allowed to live in Toll-by-Day, where life is well-organized and comfortable. Otherwise you’re banished to Toll-by-Night and for all intents and purposes you no longer exist. Mosca you see, was born under Beloved Palpitattle, He Who Keeps Flies out of Jams and Butter Churns. According to tradition, Palpitattle children are “judged to be villainous, verminous, and everywhere that they’re not wanted”.

Part of the plot is about how Toll go into such a society, and the rest is how Mosca deals with her status and her attempts to challenge it. And thus, once again our nomad trio find themselves entangled in new schemes and winding politics.

If I had just one word to describe Fly Trap it’d be “rich”. Rich in plot, that’s almost baroque in its twists, turns, leaps and layers. Rich in characterization, Mosca in particular is an amazing young female character, someone creative and independent, who’ll to survive at all costs, but also capable of great generosity and altruism. It’s rich in content and food for thought: the world building is the perfect basis to write about superstition and critical thinking. Or, if you want to go deeper, theology, crowd mentality and human nature. But, especially, the writing is rich. Hardinge continue to write her “gushy Valentine to the English language“. Here’s a taste:

“Revenge is a dish best served unexpectedly and from a distance – like a thrown trifle.”


“A couple of expressions pulled Clent’s face to a fro between them, like puppies trying to fight their way out of a bag.”


“I generally find,’ Clent murmured after a pause, ‘that it is best to treat borrowed time the same way as borrowed money. Spend it with panache, and try to be somewhere else when it runs out.’

‘And when we get found, Mr. Clent, when the creditors and bailiffs come after us and it’s payment time…’

‘…then we borrow more, madam, at a higher interest. We embark on a wilder gamble, make a bigger promise, tell a braver story, devise a more intricate lie, sell the hides of imaginary dragons to desperate men, climb to even higher and more precarious ground…and later, of course, our fall and catastrophe will be all the worse, but later will be our watchword, Mosca. We have nothing else – but we can at least make later later.”

A great read overall and I agree with Teresa 100%: it’d make the perfect Miyazaki movie!


Other thoughts: Good Books and Good Wine, things mean a lot, David’s Book World (yours?)


I’d love to remember who got me to add Fair and Tender Ladies to my wish list, so I could give her/him a heartfelt thank you. It really struck a chord and has been the best surprise of the year so far.

I think this book is not as popular as it deserves because it’s stuck in a “romance”/“women’s lit” positioning (see the covers?), which puts so many people off with its usual associations with everything soft, guilty-pleasure-y and… womanly. To break free of these constrains would do the book and us a world of good. I was reading an interview with Smith and she says that, although she’s proud to be a “Southern writer” and a “woman writer”, she’s more accurately an “Appalachian writer”. I agree – if anything, it’s the sense of place that really stands out.

Fair and Tender Ladies is an epistolary novel of letters written by Ivy Rowe, a member of a large family of mountain farmers in the Appalachians. We follow her since she’s a precocious 10 year-old in the late 19th century, until she becomes a plain-speaking, feisty old woman.

Her life is not what you’d call extraordinary, but her smart observations of heartbreak, loss, hard farm labor and child-raising, make everything incredibly meaningful and engaging. Ivy has a great sense of humor, loves telling and listening to stories and feels strongly about her heritage – it’s impossible not to love her. It was also really interesting to see Ivy’s language evolve throughout the years.

I’ve recently read a string of novels that where really well written, but didn’t manage to connect me to the characters (Cutting for Stone, The Sunne in Splendor). Ivy got me from letter one and by the end I was crying like a baby, which also hasn’t happened in a while.

One more reason to try it: it was on the books challenged, restricted, removed or banned!

I don’t know how much of my fascination with this (audio)book is due to Kate Forbes’ most excellent narration. One thing is to listen to an Appalachian accent, the other to read it, so if you can, try it on audio.


Other thoughts: The Introverted ReaderLiterati Mom, Like Me Too, It’s All Ali’s Fault, Books Under the Covers, Underground Nashville (yours?)


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