[review] Idaho – Emily Ruskovich

“The revelation of kindness hurts worse than cruelty. There is no way to equal it. Nowhere to put her gratitude, and so it thrashes in her body.”

My first read of the year! Huzzah! I’m not entirely sure what I expected with this novel, but it definitely wasn’t what I thought it was. I went in pretty blind, however, I really enjoyed it. Idaho is dark and emotional, lyrical and haunting, and frankly, that’s always a winner for me.

Idaho is a novel that jumps around in time and perspective – one of my favourite kinds of narrative devices. We begin in 2004, a present time of sorts, and we learn of the catalyst through the eyes of Ann. By the end of the novel we have been into the childhood of June and May – the childhood of their parents – and the future becomes the present with the novel ending in 2025. Each chapter, so to speak, is a different point in time told by a different character’s perspective. Ruskovich achieves this effortlessly and it’s hard to believe this is only her first novel.

The characters in Idaho are so beautifully human; each with their own flaws, which, through Ruksovich’s lyrical writing style allows a sense of understanding, even in the most horrific of acts.

“How easily we come apart. How quickly someone else’s life can enter through the cracks we don’t know are there until this foreign thing is inside of us. We are more porous than we know.”

I particularly loved the storyline of Jenny and Elizabeth – a pleasant surprise to me, something I honestly didn’t see coming, and it definitely gave me pangs of nostalgia for Girl, Interrupted and The Bell Jar. (I’m always a sucker for female friendship in ‘uncommon’ places). If you know me irl, you know that I have an affinity with the elderly and any story with an elderly character at it’s core – you’ve got me there. Ruskovich’s depiction of Alzheimer’s was so accurate and heartbreaking – I couldn’t have imagined it better myself. The scene when Adam is narrowing which out of the five houses are his had me definitely tearing up. I also don’t believe I’ll ever forget May and June’s afternoon in their private garbage can swimming pools. And Ann’s composition at the end, had me almost bawling and I could just see everything on a screen, the music accompanying. This would kind of make a great film(!)

“Perhaps it’s what both their hearts have been wanting all along—to be broken. In order to know that they are whole enough to break.”

Ruskovich’s prose is elegiac; exquisite and affecting, and yet while this novel did surprise me with it’s sense of langour – I couldn’t quite bring myself to give it 5 stars.

Recommended for fans of:

  • The Essex Serpent (Sarah Perry) – minus the gothic. Ruskovich writes women who are unlike any I’ve read before and much like Perry, her writing is lyrical and full of emotion and atmosphere.
  • Girl, Interrupted (Susannah Kaysen) – minus the hospital setting. Jenny and Elizabeth’s  (and Elizabeth and Sylvia’s) friendship definitely had me thinking of Susannah and Lisa at times.

“She felt the waves of her grief collide with the waves of other griefs felt no longer by anyone alive, but carried on the breezes that smelled the same as they had to the people who suffered those griefs a century ago.”


 

Have you read and loved this one??? What do you think about my comparisons? Did this novel remind you of any others you’ve loved (or hated)?

I hope your reading year is off to a pleasant start folks,

for now,

do svidaniya xx

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2018 reading goals!

I still can’t believe it’s only the second week of twenty-eighteen! the Xmas/Nye period is such a busy (but fun) time that it felt like months ago already. Time truly is a human construct. So, last year I said I wanted to read more of my own books and buy less. Did that happen? i’ll give you one guess… I’m hoping publishing my decision on a blog – may give me the extra oomph necessary to complete the goal. HAHA, no seriously.

I love having unread books in my house, i’m definitely of the book hoarder category and the mystery of unread books is so appealing – it’s literally your own personal library. However, I’m buying faster than I can read and it’s not that I want to have 0 by 2020 TBR but I would like to have read closer to three quarters of my shelf content.

Libraries. They are great – and i love them – and i have recently discovered the magic of audio books. Some of my bigger books and hefty classics I will endeavour to get through faster with the help of borrowed audio books.  Winning already am I right?

What about the man booker you say? I’m asking myself this very question. As much as I love reading the man booker + international longlists – I’ve found it often slows down my reading (not to panic I don’t buy the whole 13, I use the library mostly!) and while I’ve found some great new authors and absolute gems – I’m not exactly reading my own shelf content am I? It’s a tough call. I’m kind of getting a sweat just thinking about it. I also want to do the Bailey’s prize this year as well – last year’s looked SO GOOD. (Except for the winner – it was the only one I wasn’t overly keen on. Am I allowed to say that? HA.)

Compromise? How about the Bailey’s shortlist instead of the Booker International – they’re almost on at the same time and quite frankly i was a little disappointed with the 2017 longlist. I almost feel that the Bailey’s is a greater investment of my time considering I am more often than not drawn to women novelists (those internalized patriarchal notions don’t work on me!) and the list seems less of a literary chore than the Booker International. (Don’t get me wrong I love translated fiction – but it’s something I can choose on my own regardless of its being Booker-listed)

Thank Goodness, the original Booker is much later in the year. Maybe I will have read some of the longlist prior (like I had done last year) or here’s a thought. MAYBE i will have zoomed through my own shelf content and feel less guilty about reading 13 more books. (MAYBE i shouldn’t let guilt dictate my reading preferences)

So enjoy this bookish rainbow of books I have been meaning to read and tell me which should I read first? One with the highest votes wins – or I’ll just pull the names out of a hat or something. THEY ALL LOOK SO GOOD i can’t choose.


WHAT are your 2018 reading goals? Do you keep a strict TBR and monthly goals? Or are you a mood reader beset by guilt? Chat to me below in the comments x

Do svidaniya my bookish pals

xx

Best books of 2017

 

Quick quick post! Too much shopping and celebrating nearly forgot to post my best books read in 2017!

78 books, not my best by far but it’s been a relatively good year. It’s been my year, I’ve come so far and next year is set to be even better for us.

14 out of 78 books I gave 5 stars. That sounds shocking right? but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the many 3 + 4 star reads.

These aren’t in any order, well, not really but here we go!

Fiction favourites:

  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Where do I start? I couldn’t even begin to write a review on this masterpiece. Not only did I learn lots about the States and the Civil War (southern hemisphere kid who had nil interest in history for all of my schooling) but I learned a heck of a lot about myself and the human condition. Mitchell’s characterization is amazing and even if you dislike Scarlett – you’ve got to admit she’s one strong woman!

  • Hera Lindsay Bird by Hera Lindsay Bird

Brilliant. Brilliant. A local, debut poetry collection. Highly recommended. You can read her poem Monica – HERE: The Friday poem: “Monica”, by Hera Lindsay Bird

  • Judas – Amos Oz

I still think about this masterpiece. I still don’t own it. Review is here. What are you waiting for.

  • Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders

How could this not make a best of 2017 list. ’nuff said. Review here.

  • Stay With Me – Ayobami Adebayo

Hands down one of the best books I have ever read. I proper sobbed my heart out. I cannot wait for more from Adebayo! Review here.

Non-Fiction favourites:

Hunger: A Memoir of (my) Body – Roxane Gay

A Field Guide to Getting Lost – Rebecca Solnit

Short Stories:

The Dark Dark – Samantha Hunt

The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea – Bandi

What’s that? Honourable mentions you say? Well I couldn’t not mention these babies either:

  • Autumn – Ali Smith -> review here.
  • Home Fire – Kamila Shamsie -> review here.
  • The Mothers – Brit Bennett -> super keen to read more of this lady!
  • Girl, Interrupted – Susanna Kaysen -> review here.

 

What were your favourite reads of 2017?? Did you achieve your reading goals??? Tell me in the comments below!

Quick, quick, my apologies! Russian NYE is upon us. Olivie is waiting for the mayonnaise and dill & I’m going to attempt to *bake* some Belyashi 😉

S Novom Godom my friends!

what to read: the *slump buster* edition

It’s that time of year again. I’m in a big ol’ reading slump and I’m gonna blame this 30 degree heatwave. It’s great that summer’s off to a flying start, but here I am kicking myself for not having got my license (again – i say this every year?!) so I could be driving to the beach and getting cool with a book – sometimes the reverse cycle air conditioner just has to do! ~ Anyway, when I’m in a slump, I tend to go for something short, relatively light and fanciful. Something that’s going to sweep me off my feet, not necessarily leave me sobbing my heart out – remember I want to get back into reading, not stop because I’m ruined :’) So here’s five that have helped me out over the years!

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”

― Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

I read this one in five days and if you’re a seasonal reader – it’s definitely for autumn/winter! I remember reading it by lamplight with a scented candle late into the night. It’s also not the type of book I would normally gravitate towards, which I think also helps in times of slumpiness, as you can be more willing to engage – if that makes any sense. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars!


  • Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Another five day winter read!! I read this for The Feminist Orchestra book club last year although I think it can be read in any season tbh. It’s a fast paced, gritty, fantasy novel by the queen of African Scifi. It’s still my first read by Nnedi but I must must read her other series. Again, another one slightly out of my comfort zone, but it’s young adult tone and protagonists kept me gripped until the very end! 4.5 stars to this one!


“The house kept its own time, like the old-fashioned grandfather clock in the living room. People who happened by raised the weights, and as long as the weights were wound, the clock continued ticking away. But with people gone and the weights unattended, whole chunks of time were left to collect in deposits of faded life on the floor.”

― Haruki Murakami, A Wild Sheep Chase

This one I read over nearly two weeks but it certainly kept me engaged! In my goodreads review I see that I’ve written “I feel like I missed the whole point of this book, if there was a point at all, though at any rate it will be a long while before the mood and images fade from memory.” This is as honest as I can be. Even though I only gave the book 3 out of 5 stars, Murakami’s dreamlike and deceptively simple writing forever burns a hole somewhere in the attic of mind. It’s definitely one of his weirder works I imagine. I’m no Murakami connoisseur my any means, I can count the works of his I’ve read on one hand, but he’s definitely fanciful enough to help me out of a reading slump. I would also recommend 1q84!


  • Novel About My Wife by Emily Perkins

I read this one in a weekend and gave it 5 stars. It’s one I had seen around bookshops all the time and I bought it knowing nothing about it. Perkins is a NZ born writer and I’m not sure how she does it but her writing is magnificent. It’s captivating, almost terrifying with hints of nostalgia. Perkin’s novel discusses themes of madness and motherhood, mental health and dislocation – plus it’s got my favourite kind of protagonist – a woman pushing forty years of age – don’t ask me why, but I just think when they are done well, they are brilliant! Definitely recommend this one!


“Light is good company, when alone; I took my comfort where I found it, and the warmest yellow bulb in the living-room lamp had become a kind of radiant babysitter all its own.”

― Aimee Bender, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

My first Bender and by no means my last. (I am still on the lookout for more of her work – I just don’t know where to start). This was magnificent! A magical realist novel with the atmosphere of a thriller – it begins to suffocate you by the end, but please go in blind – it will sweep you off your feet! Another female writer who brilliantly deals with madness and mental health, and the young protagonist is another tick for the slump buster requisites. Also it’s a good excuse to make a lemon cake and eat it – because why wouldn’t you? 5 out of 5 stars and one that I intend to reread one day!


What are your tried & true slump busters?! Let’s chat about books that have helped you when, let’s be honest, you weren’t in the mood for books at all.

Keep cool my southern hemisphere friends, and all you lucky white winter pals, remember me hiding from the sunshine :’) & maybe we can do a life swap one Christmas – is that a thing, do people want to do this??

For now my bookish fiends and foes,

do svidaniya xx

End of the Year Book Tag!

She’s back, yes she’s been a bit slack, a bit overwhelmed if you like. It’s a constant struggle with me to stand tall and get the fuck on with life. The days are so much longer now, my thyme has begun to flower tiny purple pretty things and the first raspberries of the season are upon us, so it seems about time to look back on my reading year.

After watching Simon’s video response to the End of the Year Book tag, I took it upon myself to stand tall and not let this little blog sink into oblivion.


  1. Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?

    Where do I start :’) This is why you haven’t seen many book reviews lately because I’ve managed to get myself into a slump. I started Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurnikawan for the Babbling Book Club’s September pick. (A wonderful reading group hosted by the wonderful Tamsien over on Insta. She has a great YouTube as well!) I bought it on a complete whim (read: cover buy) and I had heard wonderful things about it. It’s almost December and I’m only 47% of the way through. I was really enjoying it so I’m not sure why I put it down.
    Irkadura by Ksenia Anske This one’s a dark little beauty, I was sent for review, which I put down after an episode of panic attacks and haven’t had the courage to pick back up yet.
    4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster – Need I say more? :’) I keep not picking it up because I don’t want to read it in bite sized pieces. Currently at 40% and enjoying Auster’s writing immensely.
    The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma – A neglected buddy read with the ever glorious Eva (over on Insta). Unfortunately i’m really struggling to get into the rhythm of the book, perhaps I just need to roll up my sleeves and finish it?!
    Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach – My first Roach read (can I even say that omg) and I have only dipped into the first few chapters but I am loving her style! Very keen to read Stiff as I’m obsessed with death & dying after Caitlin’s memoir.

  2. Do you have an autumnal, *ahem* summery, book to transition into the end of the year?

    I would have an autumnal read if I lived in the northern hemisphere *sob* okay, okay a summery Christmas is all I’ve ever known, but it’s still nice to dream, besides winter is my favourite season now that I live somewhere where there are four seasons. Anyway, I am a massive seasonal reader, and I’m thinking for that spring/summer/christmas (What a mashup) transition, I’ll need a light(ish), fast paced, heartwarmer of a novel. Perhaps Katherine Heiny’s new Standard Deviation, or even Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (Gail Honeyman) which I keep seeing/hearing about everywhere and I want to jump on that train.

  3. Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?

    No… but I could list about twenty new releases I’ve been meaning to buy, I mean, couldn’t we all?! :’)

  4. What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?

    Considering it’s almost December, maybe three out of my five currently reading pile! I’ve also been super duper tempted to pick up Alias Grace (Margaret Atwood) and Her Body & Other Parties (Carmen Maria Machado).

  5. Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favourite book of the year?

    Possibly 4 3 2 1 but I doubt it… I mean I’m enjoying it but it’s a tough list to top, Ayobami Adebayo, Ali Smith, Amos Oz, to name a few! Maybe the two mentioned above *if* I do pick them up!

  6. Have you already started making reading plans for 2018?

    I’m truly thinking to read what’s on my shelves instead of buybuybuy! It will be tough though, heh. I’m also thinking of giving the Man Booker a miss next year and trying the Bailey’s longlist instead, hmm…


And there we have it!

I’m a little panicked now at my current reads pile, oops.

I would love to hear your thoughts on any of the books mentioned and tell me – how has your year of reading worked out?

To spread the bookish goodness (or panic) I tag: @annreadsthem@crazybooklady@bookspoils & anyone else who wants to give this tag a go!

For now my bookish fiends,

do svidaniya xx

 

 

Self love and getting lost

“Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go.” *

Let us not dwell on the past may be the most apt way to begin this post. I have found myself in a slump of late, the motivation dwindles with the light for me and pray mon âme it is indeed late spring here, where is the light you may ask. A tiny island in a large sea is prone to variable weather, exciting, I guess, one never gets bored. So the week of sunshine? I spring cleaned the house. The week of dull high cloud? Hayfever, migraines and panic ensured. It’s always a few months after the last panic attack before I begin to relax and think yes you are and you will be okay. To bide my time? I have found solace in colouring books, fine markers and coloured lines; my favourite high school tunes keeping any sense of panic at a distance. And here begins the perfect segue for some self love talk, who Jessica, my main mentor and best felon initiated over at her blog -> littlest lady.com (okay she’s not really a felon but t9 and auto correct are the butt of many jokes for us)

“Over time you become someone else. Only when the honey turns to dust are you free.” *

As far back as I can remember I was picked on for my appearance at school. Why? Red curly hair. It didn’t help that this was the 1990s when curls were well on their way out, and even today, I still get the feeling that curls are seen as messy and unkempt. Now? I pretty much love my hair. I’ve never changed it much, luckily, a lazy demeanor and urge to be ‘different’ has kept me from straightening it and apart from the few black home dye jobs in my teen angst phases it’s kept it’s natural colour rather well. I do find myself bored with it at times, but the constant praise of people and strangers who wish they had hair like mine as somewhat gone to my head, and you know what? It’s me, and that’s okay. I am lucky to have a full head of hair at all & a natural fuzzy scarf in winter mind you. I’m still working on the PCOS and hormonal side of my hair as it appears in places society deems unappropriate for women. & here I’m reminded of Roxane Gay’s brilliant memoir Hunger (go and read it already!) where it’s often parents and loved ones that can be the most detrimental to our process of healing and self love. 

Endometriosis? Yeah, that thing. I’m slowly coming to grips with it. Self love is a lifelong journey and  while it’s amazing to finally have a diagnosis and explanation for my body and it’s wayward charms to put it positively  – self love & acceptance is another matter.

Self love isn’t always liking your body parts but learning to know yourself and your habits; when you are in need of rest, of healing.

  • I tire easily. My body likes to produce cortisol when it’s not always needed. I am not weak. I am learning my limits which makes me strong. I have learnt to say no to extra work and social activity when my body is screaming for rest. Keeping up appearances is bullshit and if you need sleep, get your body into bed!

Fun fact? I wasn’t born late, or early, but right on time… and I came out, not screaming or crying but …. yawning. I was literally born tired!

  • The pain. Again I am not weak. The pain is caused by factors sometimes out of my control – weather, medication side effects & well within my control – food and stress and it’s undesirable physical effects. Learning to love yourself and learning to understand your limits is STRENGTH.

Anxiety is my latest struggle. Nausea and an internal tremor which sometimes manifests to a full body shake with legs like jelly and butter fingers that smash and crash. I certainly don’t love this part of myself – but understanding why is foremost to any kind of self love that is needed.

“The question then is how to get lost. Never to get lost is not to live, not to know how to get lost brings you to destruction, and somewhere in the terra incognita in between lies a life of discovery.” *

I would like to add at the end of that quote “of discovery AND SELF LOVE.” Self love occurs when we begin to pay attention to our needs and get lost in ourselves. I have recently picked up my first Rebecca Solnit and boy oh boy. I picked up A Field Guide to Getting Lost on an absolute whim last week. It was a self-care day I had given myself. A day to buy myself some nice things and to let myself breathe without a care. Solnit? She’s like Didion on steroids. I practically underlined the first 40 pages of the book and it truly felt like Solnit had reached inside my bones giving me a shake up for the better. Like a lobotomy if a lobotomy actually worked and gave you a greater grip on life and yourself.

I have begun to understand the feelings as they begin. To understand that my body needs rest, oxygen, a cup of tea or my favourite damn song to get my circadian rhythms back to their norm. Favourite things are favourite things for a reason and this my friends is what I deem to be self love. Looking after yourself with feeling, treat yourself as you would your best friend. Get lost in yourself.

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

– Albert Camus
* from, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, by Rebecca Solnit

 

#manbookerprize Elmet – Fiona Mozley

“The dawn erupted from a bud of mauve half-light and bloomed bloody as I woke.”

Elmet is told from the point of view of Danny, the youngest sibling and it revolves around his sister Cathy and their life with Daddy in rural Yorkshire. Billed as contemporary noir  & it’s easy to see why: stripped to it’s bones Elmet is a good vs evil story with an underdog who’s morals are skewed enough to have you thinking is he not the evil himself.

Mozley’s characters are three dimensional and I found myself connecting easily with our protagonist trio and itching to find out more about them. I was also much intrigued by Vivien and would have loved a further exploration of his relationship with both Daddy and Danny.

“Nerves treated people differently. Our anxieties were focussed on the same target but each from a different angle and with their own tints.”

The novel is preceded with what appears at first to be verse – but we soon learn that this is our narrator, Danny, in the present time, after the story has taken place. A clever narrative structure and one I’m always happy to endure.

“Sometimes I thought I could sleep for ever. Sometimes, pulling myself out of a dream to be awake and alive in the world was like pulling myself out of my own skin and facing the wind and the rain in my own ripped-raw flesh.”

Mozley’s prose is fresh, lyrical, vivid and gritty. Setting is key in this story (as one can imagine from the beautiful image on it’s cover) and Mozley sets her scene exquisitely. Reminiscent at times of Sarah Perry’s prose in The Essex Serpent, Mozley’s novel has  many similarities with Fridlund’s History of Wolves which are both debut novels. Both texts are similar in tone and evocation of setting and with child protagonists but somehow Elmet felt more real to me; less of a mystery and straight up grittiness. Kind of like the adult version of History of Wolves – can I say this? Well, I did :’)

“We all grow into our coffins, Danny. And I saw myself growing into mine.”

Elmet is a dark, gritty tale which doesn’t shy away from the violent side of life, that being said it’s a quiet one. Quiet and with an ending that doesn’t tie up neatly, but sort of lingers ever afterwards in your mind.

A chilling, haunting debut well worth it’s place on the shortlist. 4 out of 5 stars.