Happy third month of the year everyone! I hope the first two months of the year have been kind to all of you. To close February, let me share my book haul. I have been meaning to read more and buy less but then again, I think I have failed. But still, it is still too early to accept defeat. Who knows what the rest of the year holds right? In February, I managed to read eight books while my total purchase for the month was eleven books. I have received four of the five books in transit last January but I have another four added to my in-transit list. Here are the books I have received in February 2022; I have excluded one preordered book and the four books in transit.
Title: Hell of a Book
Author: Jason Mott
Publishing Date: 2021
No. of Pages: 321
Synopsis: In Jason Mott’s Hell of a Book, an African-American author sets out on a cross-country publicity tour to promote his bestselling novel. That story line drives Hell of a Book and is the scaffolding of something much larger and more urgent: Mott’s novel also tells the story of Soot, a young Black boy living in a rural town in the recent past, and The Kid, a possibly imaginary child who appears to the author on his tour.
As these characters’ stories build and converge, they astonish. For while this heart-breaking and magical book entertains and is at once about family, love of parents and children, art, and money, it’s also about the nation’s reckoning with a tragic police shooting playing over and over again on the news. And with what it can mean to be Black in America.
Who has been killed? Who is The Kid? Will the author finish his book tour, and what kind of world will he leave behind? Unforgettably told, with characters who burn into your mind and an electrifying plot ideal for book club discussion, Hell of a Book is the novel Mott has been writing in his head for the past ten years. And in its final twists, it truly becomes its title.
Title: Malibu Rising
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publishing Date: 2021
No. of Pages: 365
Synopsis: Malibu: August 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over – especially as the offspring of the legendary singer Mick Riva.
The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud – because it is long past time for him to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.
Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.
And Kit has a couple secrets of her own – including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.
By midnight, the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come rising to the surface.
Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them… and what they will leave behind.
Author: Aleksandar Tišma
Translator: Richard Williams
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publishing Date: 2021
No. of Pages: 294
Synopsis: The Book of Blam, The Use of Man, Kapo: In these three unsparing novels the Yugoslav author Aleksandar Tišma anatomized the plight of those who survived the Second World War and the death camps, only to live in a death-haunted world. Blam simply lucked out – and can hardly face himself in the mirror. By contrast, the teenage friends in The Use of Man are condemned to live on and on while enduring every affliction. Kapo is about Lamian, who made it through Auschwitz by serving his German masters, knowing that at any moment and for any reason his “special status” might be revoked.
But the war is over now. Auschwitz is in the past. Lamian has settled down in the Bosnian town of Banja Luka, where he has a respectable job as a superintendent in the railyard. Everything is normal enough. Then one day in the paper he comes on the name of Helena Lifka, a woman – like him a Yugoslav and a Jew – he raped in the camp. Not long after he sees her, aged and ungainly, Lamian is flooded with guilt and terror.
Kapo, like Tišma’s other great novels, is not simply a document or an act of witness. Tišma’s terrible gift is to see with an artist’s dispassionate clarity how fear, violence, guilt, and desire – whether for life, love, or simple understanding – are inextricably knotted together in the human breast.
Title: The Silence of the Girls
Author: Pat Barker
Publisher: Anchor Books
Publishing Date: 2018
No. of Pages: 291
Synopsis: Here is the story of The Illiad as we’ve never heard it before: in the words of Briseis, Trojan queen and captive of Achilles. Given only a few words in Homer’s epic and largely erased by history, she is nonetheless a pivotal figure in the Trojan War. In these pages she comes fully to life: wry, watchful, forging connections among her fellow female prisoners even as she is caught between Greece’s two most powerful warriors. Her story pulls back the veil on the thousands to women who lived behind the scenes of the Greek army camp – concubines, nurses, prostitutes, the women who lay out the dead – as gods and mortals spar, and as a legendary war hurtles toward its inevitable conclusion. Brilliantly written, filled with moments of terror and beauty, The Silence of the Girls gives voice to an extraordinary woman – and makes an ancient story new again.
Title: Miss Chopsticks
Translator: Esther Tyldesley
Publisher: Vintage Books
Publishing Date: 2007
No. of Pages: 243
Synopsis: Sisters Three, Five and Six don’t have much education, but they know two things for certain: their mother is a failure because she hasn’t produced a son, and they only merit a number as a name. Women, their father tells them, are like chopsticks: utilitarian and easily broken. But when they leave their home in the countryside to seek their fortune in the big city, their eyes are suddenly and shockingly opened. Together they find jobs, make new friends, and learn more than a few lessons about life…
Title: The Noodle Maker
Author: Ma Jian
Translator: Flora Drew
Publishing Date: 2004
No. of Pages: 181
Synopsis: Two men meet for dinner each week. Over the course of these drunken evenings, one man, a writer, recounts the stories he would write, had he the courage: a young man buys an old kiln and opens a private crematorium, delighting in his ability to harass the corpses of police officers and Party secretaries, while swooning to banned Western music; a heartbroken actress performs a public suicide by stepping into the jaws of a wild tiger, watched nonchalantly by her ex-lover. Extraordinary characters inspire him, their lives pulled and pummeled by fate and politics, as of they were balls of dough in the hands of an all-powerful noodle maker.
Ma Jian’s satirical masterpiece allows us a humorous yet profound glimpse of those struggling to survive under a system that dictates their every move.
Title: Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer
Author: Steven Millhauser
Publisher: Vintage Contemporaries
Publishing Date: April 1997
No. of Pages: 293
Synopsis: Steven Millhauser’s eagerly awaited new novel is set in late-nineteenth-century New York City, when new buildings were bursting from the bedrock of Manhattan every day and you might have met an inventor or entrepreneur on any street corner. One such entrepreneur is Martin Dressler, a cigar maker’s son, a young man who has the audacity to make his dreams come true and the ability to do so on such a grand scale that other people will want to dream them too – for a little while.
We watch as the young Martin makes the ascent from a hotel bellhop to a builder of hotels of his own. We witness his strange enchantment by two sisters, one of whom becomes his companion and business partner, the other his ghostly, elusive bride. And when Martin sets out to build the Grand Cosmo, a creation so vast that it will rival the world itself, this mesmerizing novel brings us face to face with the ambiguity beneath the optimism of the American dream with a swiftness and intensity that are in themselves magnificently dreamlike.
Author: W Somerset Maugham
Publisher: Vintage International
Publishing Date: March 2001
No. of Pages: 292
Synopsis: She’d not been gracious when her husband invited the accountant to lunch, so now, to make up for it, she bestowed an affectionate smile on the young man. It took her no effort to feign a friendly tenderness – after all, she was the greatest actress in England.
Theatre tells the tantalizing story of Julia Lambert, a woman of breathtaking poise and talent, a woman comfortably surrounded by servants, Chippendale armchairs, and admirers galore. At the zenith of her career, it’s clear that Julia is no ordinary actress. She is so good, in fact, that she never stops acting. And it seems that nothing can ruffle her satin feathers until the quiet stranger who had come to balance the books challenges Julia’s very sense of self, and in the process, her ability to put on whatever face she desires for her public. In Theatre, Maugham subtly exposes the tensions and triumphs that occur when acting and reality blend together, and – for Julia ultimately reverse.
Title: Oscar and Lucinda
Author: Peter Carey
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Publishing Date: 1989
No. of Pages: 515
Synopsis: Peter Carey’s Booker Prize winning novel imagines Australia’s youth, before its dynamic passions became dangerous habits. It is also a startling and unusual love story. Oscar is a young English clergyman who has broken with his past and developed a disturbing talent for gambling. A country girl of singular ambition, Lucinda moves to Sydney, driven by dreams of self-reliance and the building of an industrial Utopia. Together this unlikely pair create and are created by the spectacle of mid-nineteenth century Australia. Peter Carey’s visionary brilliance, and his capacity to delight and surprise, propel this story to its stunning conclusion. (Source: Goodreads)
Title: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
Author: Oscar Hijuelos
Publisher: Perennial Classics
Publishing Date: 2000
No. of Pages: 448
Synopsis: It’s 1949. It’s the era of the mambo, and two young Cuban musicians make their way up from Havana to the grand stage of New York. The Castillo brothers, workers by day, become by night stars of the dance halls, where their orchestra plays the lush, sensuous, pulsing music that earns them the title of the Mambo Kings. This is their moment of young – a golden time that thirty years later will be remembered with nostalgia and deep affection. In The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, Oscar Hijuelos has created a rich and enthralling novel about passion and loss, memory and desire.
Title: Where the Air is Clear
Author: Carlos Fuentes
Translator: Sam Hileman
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Publishing Date: 1985
No. of Pages: 376
Synopsis: My name is Ixca Cienfuegos. I was born and I live in Mexico City. Which is not so grave: in Mexico City there is never tragedy but only outrage. Thus begins Carlos Fuentes’s first novel, unfolding a panorama in which many people’s lives depend on the fact that they live in today’s Mexico City, where the air is clear and yet filled with the old gods and devils still struggling to overcome the new, where a long and bloody revolution is still being fought and paid for in flesh. The vividness of Fuentes’s characters and the country that is theirs has made critics claim this as his best novel. It is unquestionably among the finest works of literature to be produced in the Western Hemisphere.