Even though I have been reading with my bingo categories in mind, most of them have been books I had planned to read anyway. It was just a matter of slotting them into a relevant square, sometimes juggling placement for stragegic coverage when one book fit more than one category. But, in the spirit of the game, there are other squares that present more of a challenge. The following list of books are from the two lines that I've completed so far. (Pink X's, left.)
I've linked to my reviews, where applicable, although I haven't felt much like reviewing lately. Too much gardening - while listening to audiobooks, naturally. In fact, seven out of the following nine are titles that I've read with my ears.
BORROWED FROM THE LIBRARY: Republic of Dirt by Susan Juby
Sequel to The Woefield Poultry Collective (called Home to Woefield in the USA). You don't need to have read the first to enjoy this hilarious tale of misfits making a go at farming on an unpromising bit of land on Vancouver Island, told in shifting points of view with adept characterization. Kaitlyn Vincent, a marketing representative at HarperCollins Canada, offered me a review copy of Republic of Dirt, but I turned it down because I prefer to read library copies whenever possible. There is just no space in my house for all the books I read. (Every one of the titles in this list is from the public library.)
PART OF A SERIES: The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein [Blackstone audiobook: 19 hr: read by Hillary Huber]
I liked this even better than My Brilliant Friend, which was the first in the series about a complicated friendship between two girls from a poor neighbourhood in Naples whose lives take different paths. The voice and characterization are so strong that I was totally immersed in southern Italy of the 1960s, where violence was inextricable from intimacy. As with the first book, this one ends on a precipice.
FREE SQUARE: Single, Carefree, Mellow by Katherine Heiny
The free square in the centre can be used for any category, so I chose this entertaining collection of short stories about women falling in love at the wrong time with the wrong men.
TRAVEL WRITING: Phenomenal: A Hesitant Adventurer's Search for Wonder in the Natural World by Leigh Ann Henion [Books on Tape audiobook: 10 hr 40 min: read by Nicol Zanzarella]
This title was chosen especially for the bingo category. I read a lot of travel writing, so I scanned my TBR for something immediately available in downloadable audio. Phenomenal has been compared to Cheryl Strayed's Wild and Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love - but I didn't like it as well as either. The travel part was interesting, and I felt a vicarious awe as Henion witnessed various natural phenomena, but there was a little too much woo-woo and a self-congratulatory tone when she described personal insights.
HAS WATER ON THE COVER: Panic in a Suitcase by Yelena Akhtiorskaya [Blackstone audiobook: 9 hr 36 min: read by Stefan Rudnicki]
An engaging novel composed of episodes in the lives of members of a contemporary extended Russian family. Some have immigrated to Brooklyn, some remain in Odessa, and they occasionally visit each other. Akhtiorskaya's warm, satirical style and ear for dialogue grabbed my attention from the opening lines: "The morning was ideal, a crime to waste it cooped up. They were off to the shore. That means you, too, Pasha - you need some colour, a dunk would do you good, so would a stroll. Aren't you curious to see Coney Island? Freud had been. Don't deliberate till it's too late. Strokes are known to make surprise appearances in the family. Who knows how long...? Now, get up off that couch!"
BY OR ABOUT A CELEBRITY: Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words in conversation with Malka Marom [Tantor audiobook: 7 hr 50 min: read by Carrington MacDuffie]
These interviews, which took place over four decades, are fascinating. Mitchell faced a lot of hardships in her early years, and in later years struggled with her mental health. One memorable anecdote (among many) credits a toy hurdy-gurdy that played 'London Bridge Is Falling Down' as her first musical influence: "I used to always play it backwards because backwards it rocked. It had a different rhythm. The melodic intervals were quite surprising. It was really entirely a different piece of music - almost African in its rhythm. Once I played it backwards, playing it forward was kind of corny."
AN AUDIOBOOK: Kindred by Octavia Butler [Recorded Books audiobook: 11 hr: read by Kim Staunton]
One of my colleagues started a feminist book club (yay! I work with cool people!) and this was Amanda's inaugural selection. I thought that I had read it years ago, but when there weren't any spaceships in this one, I realized I was remembering an entirely different Butler novel. In Kindred, a Black woman time travels between 1976 and 19th-century Maryland. It's an exploration of the dynamics of power, gender and race that remains relevant, even though it was first published in 1979. Our next book club selection is my choice: Artful by Ali Smith. In addition to being a huge fan of Ali Smith, I'm pleased that I'll be able to count that one for the essay collection bingo category.
SET BEFORE 1800: My Guardian Angel by Sylvie Weil, translated by Gillian Rosner [Blackstone audiobook: 4.5 hr: read by Vanessa Benjamin]
Some parts of Kindred are set in the early 1800s, but that's not quite early enough for this category. I looked through my TBR and found one set in the 11th century. 12-year-old Elvina describes the threat Crusaders bring to the Jewish inhabitants of Troyes, in northeastern France, in the spring of 1096.
ROMANCE OR LOVE STORY: The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
At first, I thought I was going to have trouble finding a book to fit this square. The plot of a traditional romance has two people who initially dislike each other, and then get together at the end. It isn't a plot that appeals to me, whether the protagonists are gay or straight. Rebecca Schinsky over at Book Riot recommends Sarah MacLean to fans of literary fiction who want to give the romance genre a try. So I read A Rogue by Any Other Name. Nope, not for me. My mom recommended one of her favourites, Blue Dahlia by Nora Roberts. Nope. But never mind all that, because this bingo category is more broad. There are plenty of love stories in the books I read and this one by Nancy Mitford even has the word in the title!
Louis L'Amour three months ago. I don't feel up to facing another one like that. I can think of two nontraditional westerns I've loved: True Grit and The Sisters Brothers. Aside from rereading one of those, the only appealing book I can think of for this category is Lonesome Dove, which is on my TBR, but I already feel like whining about the page count (850+). A graphic novel might be what I need, come to think of it. I've already read Cow Boy by Nate Cosby, Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick et al, Bloody Chester by JT Petty, Daisy Kutter by Kazu Kibuishi, and lots of Lucky Luke comics. Does anyone have other suggestions?