Monday 1 January 2024

First post for 2024...

It’s the first morning of January and I’m ushering in the new year with a steaming cup of chai, a bowl of fresh fruit, and a blog post.  This used to be my routine but somewhere along the way it stopped and I was forced to write my posts during snatches of time in the early evenings, or sometimes not at all.  I’d love to go back to my original posting schedule, but I’ll have to take time to consider what caused the disruption and see if I can fix it. 

I finished reading The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, and it was fabulous!  This lengthy, detailed novel follows six friends beginning one summer in the early 1970s when they are fifteen and meet at an arts camp, Spirit-of-the-Woods, until the 2000s when they are in their 50s.  Ash and Goodwin are brother and sister, not twins, but very close in age and close emotionally, too.  They are from a wealthy family and have had no struggles in life except that the parents have high hopes for hard-working younger sister Ash, not so much for older brother Goodwin, who takes his good looks and privilege for granted.  Ethan is homely, not from a wealthy family, but enormously talented and has dreams of becoming a famous animator.  Cathy is a dancer who is very talented but is destined to have her dreams crushed because of her stature and other physical attributes.  Jonah is a shy, talented musician, the son of a famous folk singer, a boy who, despite his talent, seems at odds with his surroundings.  And Julie/Jules, sent on scholarship after the death of her father, is, to her surprise, invited into this clique of sophisticated Manhattanite kids, where she discovers a hidden talent for wit and humour.  She and Ash become best friends; everyone else slips in and out of the narrative, but the constant is the state of the friendship between these two women throughout the decades.  I don’t want to give any more details, as the draw of this book is the desire to know what happens next for these characters, who, for this reader, became almost like friends from my distant past - it kind of felt like peeking at Facebook posts to find out how and what they're doing.  I don’t normally enjoy long, detailed books, but this one kept me looking for opportunities to read so I could find out how each character’s life would unfold.  Readers are given insight into all of their lives, but the main narrator is Jules, and we learn, through her interactions and conversations with Ash, what everyone else is doing.  I didn’t love the ending, but overall, I thought it was a fantastic book, one that made me simultaneously want to reach the last page and also yearn for the book to never end.  If you enjoy books about the evolution of friendships, this might be a good choice for you. 

And since it’s the new year, it’s time for my “stats” and my “Best  of…” lists.  In 2023, I read 59 books and listened to 22 audiobooks. 

My favourite Adult novels were:  What we both know - Fawn Parker Enough about love - Hervé Le Tellier  Clock dance - Anne Tyler  The winners - Fredrik Backman  Camp Zero - Michelle Min Sterling  Tom Lake - Anne Patchett  Reykjavík - Ragnar Jónasson and Katrín Jacobsottír  None of this is true - Lisa Jewell  The interestings - Meg Wollitzer  Anomaly - Hervé Le Tellier  The house we grew up in - Lisa Jewell  The foundling - Ann Leary  I have added this new category, Best Rereads, since there were so many this past year:   The dinner - Hermann Koch  The wanderers - Meg Howrey  Autumn - Ali Smith  The plot - Jean Hanff Korelitz  Mindful of murder - Susan Juby 

Best Non-fiction: 

The Buddhist Chef:  100 simple, feel-good vegan recipes - Jean Phillippe Cyr 

Best Children’s and Young Adult novels:  Apartment 713 - Kevin Sylvester  Berani  - Michelle Kadarusman  Gnome is where the heart is - Casey Lyall  Simon sort of says - Erin Bow (YA)  Sorry for your loss - Joanne Levy (YA) The fort - Gordon Korman (YA) The cat who saved books - Sōsuke Natsukawa (YA/adult crossover)  Hana Khan carries on - Uzma Jalaluddin (YA/adult crossover)  But I think my absolute favourites of the year, those special finds that I will remember and talk about and recommend to others for years to come, are: The anomaly, The Buddhist Chef, Gnome is where the heart is and Simon sort of says.  That’s all for today.  Have a Happy New Year, and may 2024 be filled with plenty of great books and many cups of delicious tea! 

Bye for now… Julie

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