RidgewayGirl's Challenge, Categorically
Join LibraryThing to post.
This topic is currently marked as "dormant"—the last message is more than 90 days old. You can revive it by posting a reply.
I'm not beginning this thing until January first, but it's impossible not to get things set up ahead of time.
Things are, as always, subject to adjustment, or drastic change.
New, shiny books and Early Reviewer books
1. The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University by Kevin Roose
2. The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian
3. Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins
4. Mumbai Noir edited by Altaf Tyrewala
5. Long Island Noir edited by Kaylie Jones
Fear of Crowds
Group and Tandem Reads
1. Iron House by John Hart. January Group Read -- 12 in 12
2. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall. Read with my children.
3. The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall. Read with my children.
4. Who Cut the Cheese? by Jo Nesbo. Read with my children.
An excellent assortment of categories. You've certainly had a great experience,living in so many different countries! Looking forward to following you and overloading my wishlist with your book choices.
Love the categories! Looking forward to following your 3 Act, 12 Scene challenge!
What a great challenge you've set up, I love your categories. I will be keeping an eye on what you choose to read.
Found and starred. I'm sure my wishlist will grow as I follow the books you choose. It's always fun to see how different everybody's categories are.
Congratulations on a well set up challenge and, as always, I'll look forward to how you fill those categories.
You've unveiled your categories, yay!!! I too can't wait to see your choices for Scene 12!
I love your categories and look forward to keeping up with the threads in this group!
Must try something new for categories this year, or maybe not. I like your 3 Act idea. . . .
(Bruce's evil twin :-))
I'll be watching, too. I always get so many great recommendations from you.
I visited your personal page. I love the libraries bookended by your two cuties. And I look forward to your reading adventures.
>29 I love being able to read what I want, instead of having to read obscure stuff to round out my categories. I'm doing just 5 books per category this year, so I can even read books that don't fit in any categories. Last year everything I read had to count for the challenge.
@29 both of those are on my list for this year, look forward to seeing what you think
Hi RidgewayGirl! *Waves from Edmonton*
Great idea for your categories! Got you starred!
I've finished my first book of 2012! No, not Moby Dick or Gormenghast, but Iron House by John Hart. It was very good for what it was; a somewhat graphic thriller. There were a few developments that were unlikely even for the genre, but Hart writes well enough, and certainly better than the average thriller writer.
The book concerns an orphan, Michael, who spent time at an orphanage called Iron House. He leaves so that his brother, whom he has protected, will not be blamed for a crime. He ends up as an enforcer and beloved protege of a criminal overlord, but returns to North Carolina when his boss dies and he tries to leave his life in order to begin again with the woman he has fallen in love with. Things get hairy, both on his end, and with the wealthy and powerful family who adopted his brother. People are tortured or killed or are dramatically messed up.
And one minor quibble. Much of the action takes place in the western corner of NC, and there is much mention of how this is where NC, GA and TN all meet. I would have appreciated SC being included in that mountainous collection.
Titus Groan is the first book in Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy. Titus is the heir to the seventy-sixth Earl of Gormenghast and it's his birth that begins the story. Gormenghast is an enormous, decaying structure, drowning under the weight of tradition and inertia. The Earl, Sepulchrave, is depressed and his wife has retreated into a world of birds and cats. Into this leaps Steerpike, an unhappy kitchen boy dreaming of power.
The world-building in this book is amazing. Gormenghast is a bizarre place and Peake describes it in a very Gormenghastly-like way. From the fantastic character names - my favorite is Dr. Prunesquallor - to the baroque setting - the Countess's room has ivy invading from the outside - this book is an immersion into Peake's glorious imagination. Every bit as rich and wonderful as Tolkein's Middle Earth or Lewis's Narnia, Titus Groan is an astonishment.
#35 - Nice review! I have that on my TBR list. I always read such great things about it.
Glad to hear you are enjoying Gormenghast! I just picked up an omnibus edition of the trilogy at a used bookstore over the holidays.
The Gormenghast books have been on my radar for a while now, what a fantasic review! I'll need to get my hands on it one day.
gormenghast is on my list for this year - good to see that its enjoyable!
I've owned a copy of Gormenghast for an embarrassingly long time and only now gotten around to reading it. It's a very thick book and Peake's not exactly a household name. But it's fantastically good.
I picked the trilogy up in 1 volume from a 2nd hand store exactly because Mieville states its one his main influences
Don't know if you have already or not but don't read any reviews of the city and the city before reading it, it will make it all the better, and it is a very good read
The City and the City was fantastic! I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.
Nemesis is the second book by Jo Nesbo featuring Oslo policeman Harry Hole. Hole is someone who Rebus would look at and suggest he stop drinking and try to be a little more cheerful. He's a mess and is able to keep his job only because his unorthodox methods produce results and his boss is willing to put up with him.
In Nemesis, Hole is trying to solve a bank robbery turned into murder when a woman he used to date reconnects with him, only to be found dead in her apartment, an apparent suicide, although Hole is not convinced. Both plot lines are interesting, complex and difficult without straining my credibility.
Nesbo does such a good job with Harry Hole. You wouldn't want to know him and he's not above behaving like an idiot, but you can't help but like him anyway. There's a storyline continued from book to book in the series and Nesbo is doling it out slowly, but not tediously.
I lost my copy of Nemesis at one of the kid's soccer practices. It was a really nice hardcover edition, too! I never lose the ratty mass market paperbacks. So I had to request it from the library and there was quite the waiting list. Hence, the delay. I'll read The Devil's Star in a few months if you want to procrastinate further.
DS, if you read Gormenghast, you will no longer be reading a book a day. There are 975 pages in my edition!
@50 - thats only 40 odd pages an hour if you read for 24 hours straight ;-)
@37 For me it was actually the other way around. I was completely baffled with the Gormenghast books when I read them many years ago. They were unlike anything I've ever read before. And then I realised there was a strand in contemporary fantasy hailing those books as their portal works - rather than Tolkien - called New Weird, found a certain book by a certain writer that the blurb on the book described as sort of reading a painting by Hieronymus Bosch. My reading was never quite the same again. I owe a lot to Peake! :)
Glad you liked it too, Alison. I must get around to re-read one of these days. In the original language this time!
They say booze kills you, but it doesn't; otherwise, we'd all be dead. It's sadness that kills you, if that sadness is so heavy and overpowering that you simply cannot bear to be sober, or even conscious.
The Invisible Ones is Stef Penney's second book; her first, The Tenderness of Wolves, won the Costa Award. I suspect she was under pressure to have her second book live up to the promise of her first one, and not only did she knock it out of the ball park, she made it look effortless at the same time.
The Invisible Ones is told in chapters alternating between Ray Lovell, a private investigator searching for a woman who went missing six years earlier and JJ, a fourteen-year-old boy living in a trailer in a small encampment with a few relatives. Both Ray and JJ are gypsies, although Ray's father gave up the traveling life before he was born. Ray searches for Rose, who may or may not be dead, as he mourns his absent wife and regrets the way his first missing persons case ended. JJ not only has to deal with the ordinary adolescent things, but he also has the stigma of being a gypsy and living in a trailer. His uncle is raising his son alone and Christo has a mysterious disability that is passed down within that family. JJ and his Grandmother are hoping a pilgrimage to Lourdes will cure Christo.
This is a mystery novel and there is a twist at the end, but it's also an excellent novel about grief and longing and identity, beautifully told. It is slightly reminiscent of Kate Atkinson's Case Histories and I hope that Penney will follow Atkinson's lead and write more about Ray Lovell.
Such a great read, right?! I am looking forward to picking up The Tenderness of Wolves - I've heard great words about that one too!
Always good to get confirmation of a book that's already on the radar as The Invisible Ones is. Not quite so invisible after all.
Well, I am going to read The Tenderness of Wolves, and sooner rather than later. I've had a copy for ages. Also, it conveniently fits one of my categories.
I've been wanting to read both of those. I will definitely have to move them up on the TBR list!
Also, guys? I finished Moby Dick. I now understand why it's arguably one of the greatest novels ever and why it tanked when it was first released. It's a book you have to just let take you where it wants to go. There's a tremendous adventure story and then lots of chapters devoted to comparing the sperm whale and the right whale, for example, or explaining how miles of rope are effectively coiled into the whale boats.
I like that style of writing, where the suspense and excitement are built up to near unbearable levels, only to be broken off for an extended period in which the author discusses needle-point or cetology or the landscape of Dorset. It really does work and the only thing similar in modern literature is maybe Steig Larsson with his exhaustive descriptions of money-laundering or IKEA purchases set down in the middle of the action. Those Victorians knew what they were doing.
>60 Congratulations! I've started it couple of times, but haven't gotten very far.
I've given it a shot a few times as well. And have failed. I do wish to have read it, so thanks for giving me hope that it's doable. :)
Well, this was invaluable:
Now that I have kids, I'm rereading a few of my childhood favorites with them. Not many, because I'm choosing books that they might like, but it's interesting how some of those favorites hold up to adult reading and some are not how I remembered them.
I read Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery with them and they enjoyed the first half, when Anne was young and got into trouble, like when she fell off of the roof or dyed her hair green. As she got older, their interest waned and we moved on to the second book in The Penderwicks series.
I, on the other hand, loved it more as the book progressed. I ended up crying over the final chapters. Gah. And I don't have the excuse that I didn't know what was coming!
It's not what Morvern Callar did before her boyfriend lay dead on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood, it's what she did, and didn't do afterward that Alan Warner chills the reader with in his odd book.
I don't want to give anything away. Morvern Callar stretched my knowledge of Scottish slang and gave a harsh and uncomfortable look at life in a port town in the north of Scotland. It's not the usual kind of crime novel and it's unclear as to whether a crime has been committed.
I've never read Lucy Maud Montgomery but I remember seeing Ken Campbell in Edinburgh one year explaining the reason that the Japanese were obsessed with Anne of Green Gables....
I vaguely remember there being a TV adaptation when I was younger too...
#67 - I've always wanted to read this, or something else be Alan Warner. I saw the film a while back and loved it. Of course, it's horribly dreary and depressing.
Neat way to set up your categories - although I was surprised plays wasn't one of them!
Have enjoyed your reviews so far and I'm interested in Titus Groan and the rest of the series; very curious about Morven Caller and based on the comments here want to read The City and the City as well. Similar to DS, Bruce's evil twin, I have added 32 books to the wishlist, and it's only 27 January. Sigh...
I have Morvern Callar on Mt. TBR and you just made me want to start it now!! :)
I've read Anne of Green Gables a few times, both to myself and to my daughters and I can never get through it without dissolving into tears!
I loved all the Anne books and my daughter, who is almost 13, also read through the entire series of 8 books recently. I tried reading them with her when she was younger, but she wasn't so interested then. Maybe your kids will enjoy them more later on.
@68: Yes, it seems that the Japanese love Anne. We saw many Japanese tourists when we vacationed on Prince Edward Island.
Hi RidgewayGirl - I love the categories, I love your reviews and I love how eclectic your selections have been so far! A good number of them are on my own TBR.
I hope you're enjoying the challenge and I look forward to keeping track of your progress!
Great reviews! I have The Tenderness of Wolves buried in mount TBR as well, and based on your review of the author I may move it up a notches. Will also watch for The Invisible Ones.
Last year I read the first two Anne books for the first time in many years... I may read a book or two from the series each year now until I am through :p
I'm a little behind here. February and I'm behind already. Jeez. Personally, I think it's because everybody (else!) is so active at the beginning of the year. By the time I've caught up on a few threads, I'm out of time to post anything here. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
The Unlikely Disciple is Kevin Roose's turn at a stunt memoir, but instead of traveling to obscure corners of the world and learning important life lessons from the natives, Roose went to Virginia, specifically to Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, into the heart of the fundamentalist Christian world.
Roose takes a semester off from Brown and goes to Liberty, living in a dorm and participating in everything, including singing in the choir at Falwell's church. He did his best to fit in and made several friends, dated a bit and tried to view the belief system with as much sympathy as he could. He did find much of value, from the sincere concern of the people around him to their constant battle to live a pure life (Roose goes so far as to join One Man's Battle, a support group for masturbators) and realized that many of his fellow students are highly intelligent people. What he can't get past, however, is the reflexive hatred of anybody gay and that faith is presented as an all or nothing challenge. To be a Christian here is to believe that the earth is 6,000 years old, that men existed alongside the dinosaurs and that global warming is a false doctrine. He also makes a point that, as a straight white man, his Liberty experience was a far more positive one than most people would have had.
The Unlikely Disciple sounds very interesting -- and probably more of a mind-expanding semester abroad than he would have gotten going anywhere else in the world (from Brown to Liberty, wow...). I am clicking through on that one to investigate it more. Thanks for the review!
I am only halfway through Started Early, Took My Dog, but already in the back of my mind I was thinking 'how am I going to review this?' I just knew you would come out with something witty, especially about The Ambassador, and I would look the dullard in comparison. I am so glad you gave it a good report because that means the second half will be spectacular.
Oh dear, I'm definitely adding The Unlikely Disciple to my wishlist - there were a couple of sentences in your review that made me squeak "whaaaat...?!" out loud! :)
Kate Atkinson is one of my favorite authors, occupying that short list of authors whose new books are gleefully pre-ordered without any prior knowledge of subject matter. Upon receiving the book, I'll look it over and then do my best to put off reading it for as long a possible. An unread book that I'm certain to love is too valuable to squander.
So I'm an unreliable reviewer for Started Early, Took My Dog, the fourth in a series of novels featuring Jackson Brodie, an ex-private investigator specializing in missing persons. Here, Jackson is older and still alone, although he is pulled into an ex-girlfriend's orbit by their son, whom he is getting to know. He's looking for the birth parents of a woman in New Zealand and not getting very far. Meanwhile, an aging actress desperately tries to hide her increasing forgetfulness and the head of security at a shopping mall impulsively makes a purchase that will put her outside of the law.
Atkinson's novels are great tangled masses that are flipped over at the end to show an evenly woven cloth. This one seems a little more disjointed at first, a little more melancholy than usual. I don't think that they can be read out of order, you do have to begin with Case Histories.
And at first you think you will not be alone forever. You think the future is infinite. Childhood seems to have been infinite. Downstairs the saw revs and Helen hears a stick of wood fall to the floor. And so will the future be infinite, and it cannot be spent alone.
But, she has learned, it is possible: not to meet someone. The past yields, it gives way, it goes on forever. The future is unyielding. It is possible that the past has cracked off, the past has clattered to the floor, and what remains is the future and there is not very much of that. The future is the short end of the stick.
February, by Lisa Moore is about grief. Helen is a mother of three, pregnant with the fourth, when the Ocean Ranger, the oil rig her husband is working on, goes under off the coast of Newfoundland in 1982. February chronicles Helen's story, from meeting her husband to the life she manages to carve for herself from the wreckage of her earlier plans and expectations. Grief is ever present, and something that can't be shed after a suitable length of time, like an unfashionable coat. Her husband Cal is always somewhere in her mind and she is haunted by her imaginings of his final moments. But life goes on and she has four children, also marked by the loss of Cal, to care for. She doesn't get to give up or give in. The book jumps forwards and back in time to different parts of Helen's life; a good thing, because focusing too long on the intense period of sadness just after the rig went down would be unreadable.
There were long stretches in that phone call where neither of them said anything. Dave O'Mara wasn't speaking because he didn't know he wasn't speaking. He could see before him whatever he'd seen when he looked at his dead son, and he thought he was telling her all of that. But he was in his own kitchen staring silently at the floor.
Looking at his dead son must have been like watching a movie where nothing moved. It was not a photograph because it had duration. It had to be lived through. A photograph has none of that. This was a story without an ending. It would go on forever. And Helen was trying not to faint because it would scare the living daylights out of the children, and besides, she had known. She'd known the minute the bastard rig sank.
No, this is the first Lisa Moore I've read. Looking forward to reading more.
#84 - Nice review. Newfoundland? Depressing? I've added it to my wishlist!
Great review of February! I am planning to read that one later this month.
I love Helen Atkinson too. I have not read Started Early yet but will get to it soon, when I need a really good read. I've seen comments from a few people who didn't like it as much, so I'm glad to see that as an unreliable reviewer you enjoyed it.
And I'm with you on weeping through the last few chapters of Anne of Green Gables. Yes, you know it's coming, but still...
Nice review of February. I too found it very sad, but I'm glad I got to read another book set in Newfoundland. It's a place I'd love to visit one day.
>66 & 88 And I'm with you on weeping through the last few chapters of Anne of Green Gables.
A couple of years ago, when I re-read this #1 favorite from my childhood, I stopped reading it for several days just before I got there. Knowing what was coming, I just didn't want it to happen again.
My mother never did read the last book in the Anne series. She knew that something happened to one of the family during WWI - maybe from the summary on the back of the book. I guess she thought that if she didn't read the book it wouldn't happen.
A bit like refusing to watch the movie if you think it will spoil your memory/interpretation of the book. I think that is reasonable enough ;)
All caught up now and adding my voice to the comments about your great review for February.
The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert is a collection of three novellas dealing with ordinary Germans and WWII. In the first, Helmut has a crippled arm and is unable to join the army at the beginning of the war. Instead, he hides out in the photography studio he worked in before the war. In the second story, Lore and her siblings try to get to their grandmother in Hamburg at the end of the war and in the final story, set in 1997, a young man tries to come to terms with his beloved grandfather's membership in the Waffen SS.
The novellas are unconnected, but photographs play an important role in each story, which looks at how ordinary Germans regarded the war, both while it was happening and as it recedes into history. Seiffert quite wisely chose children as the protagonists of the first two tales, making clear the cost the war on Germany's citizens. The third story is the most difficult. The protagonist, Micha, manages to be both ashamed and sanctimonious, which makes him somewhat unlikeable, although I though Seiffert masterfully portrayed the many conflicting emotions he felt as he dug into his family's past.
A Place of Secrets by Rachel Hore is an old-fashioned romantic suspense novel, reminiscent of Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney. There's really not a lot of suspense, and the romance parts could safely be read by your grandmother, but it's an interesting story all the same. Hore tells two tales here, in the by now familiar device of having the protagonist of one storyline research the protagonist of the other tale.
Jude works for a London auction house. She is sent to Norfolk to prepare an astronomer's library for auction. She's glad to go as she has a grandmother, sister and niece living nearby and she's eager to repair her relationship with her sister. She meets a man, but discovers that her sister has feelings for him, and she's enthralled by the story she's piecing together from the library, that of the adoptive daughter of the astronomer, who played a large role in his discoveries and whose life before and after her time with the astronomer are shrouded in mystery.
This is a gentle book. The moments of danger are presented so as to give no real concern for the characters involved. The various plots are all carefully and completely wrapped up at the end, so as to leave no room for uncertainty. While never exciting, A Place of Secrets was a soothing read for a cold winter's evening.
It Was Gonna Be Like Paris by Emily Listfield is about a young artist, Sara, living in New York's East Village one summer. She's busy with her friends, parties, clubs and especially her unreliable boyfriend, Brett. Brett's nominally a musician, singing in a band, but mostly he's getting high, which doesn't leave a lot of room for Sara in his life. Sara knows this, but she can't help opening her door every time he knocks.
This novel is very much a product of the 1980s, in both the setting and in the way the book is structured. Written in brief segments, some only a sentence long, the novel presents itself as a series of snapshots, all from Sara's point of view. She ruminates over her life choices and her relationship with Brett, but never for long. She and her friends are reaching an age where their bohemian hand-to-mouth existence is losing its allure and they're losing faith that their art will propel them to fame.
I've had this book on my TBR for over a decade and I think I might have enjoyed it more had I read it when I first got it.
I behind by two reviews. I'll get caught up tomorrow-- if I fall behind in February, there'll be no catching up.
I'm having trouble saying anything about Gregg Hurwitz's The Crime Writer because I liked it so, so much. A modern take on old-fashioned LA noir, The Crime Writer tells the story of Drew, who lives up on Mulholland Drive and whose series of crime novels have done well -- one was even made into a very bad movie. He wakes up in the hospital with stitches in his head and no memory of the preceding 24 hours, in which he may have murdered his ex-fiance.
The Crime Writer takes all of the old worn-out plot elements and gives them a fresh new life. From the amnesia to the larger-than-life African American sidekick, Hurwitz makes them believable and the story credible, even as he throws in outrageous elements. It helps that the protagonist is so likable and believable a character; I was rooting for him every step of the way.
Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed one of my favorites. In fact, your review makes me want to re-read The Crime Writer right now, as if I even had the time...
#101 Hi Kay: I'm glad that you liked The Crime Writer too! Now I want to read something else of his soon.
Kudos to Victoria, I think she recommended it to me as well!
I think you found all the right words to describe The Crime Writer, I was going to add it to my wishlist, but I found it was already there!
The Crime Writer was an excellent book. It was so much fun to read something so original while respecting all the rules of the genre.
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street is the second of Jeanne Birdsall's books about the Penderwick sisters; Rosalind, Skye, Jane and Batty. They live on Gardam Street with their father and Hound, Batty's dog. In this installment, their Aunt Claire tries to get their father to begin dating and the girls come up with a Save-Daddy plan, spearheaded by Rosalind, who is feeling threatened by the idea of a new woman in their lives. Also, they have new neighbors, Skye and Jane do something dishonest and suffer the consequences and Batty insists that there is a strange man spying on them.
Birdsall handles this book with the same sensitivity and light touch that made The Penderwicks such a joy to read. With the four girls ranging in age from pre-school to adolescence, there is someone for every reader to relate to. I read this with my two children, and they both loved it, as did I. It reads like an old-fashioned kind of book, where the siblings are united and courageous, while being very much set in the world of today.
1222 is Anne Holt's homage to Agatha Christie's style of murder mysteries, taken to modern Norway. Hanne Wilhelmsen is an ex-cop, a paraplegic traveling by train through the Norwegian mountains to Bergen to see a specialist. The train derails near an isolated holiday resort and the passengers are taken by snowmobile to the hotel to wait out the fierce winter storm that prevents them from being rescued. Sometime during that first night, a man is murdered and Hanne finds herself unwillingly heading up a quiet investigation, helped by the red cross worker who rescued her, a doctor and the hotel manager.
Holt excels at the character study and here she has plenty to work with. She remains true to the spirit of the genre, while creating a modern collection of people, who are on edge after surviving the crash and learning that a murderer is living among them. Holt even ends the story in a particularly Christie-like way, while retaining the story's very modern setting.
I didn't look at her. Instead I met Geir Rugholmen's gaze. He was still standing on the table, his legs wide apart; he was strong, but there was an air of resignation about him. We were both thinking the same thing.
The people who were snowed in at Finse 1222 had begun to let go of their dignity. And only eighteen hours had passed since the accident.
That does sound like a good one so it's going on my list. And my A.C. group happens to be reading Murder on the Orient Express this month. Thanks!
Hi Kay, I can always count on you to add to my Nordic crime reading list lol! 1222 sound like a good one!
Very good review there, Alison! Not at all my genre, but you make it sound enticing. Thumbed!
Stewart O'Nan can write rings around almost anybody. He can take the banal (closing a Red Lobster on the outskirts of a mall) and make it interesting. His writing is never showy, even when it could be, and he tends to use as few words as he can get away with, never embellishing unnecessarily. With A Prayer for the Dying, O'Nan piles one terrible situation after another on top of despair and makes a hopeful novel out of it all.
Jacob Hansen is undertaker, sheriff and preacher to the small town of Friendship, Wisconsin. He's a veteran of the Civil War, fighting memories with a devotion to duty, faith and a deep love for his wife and infant daughter. He's asked to come remove a body found on a farmer's land and as he's hauling the body away, he finds a woman, ill, by the side of the road. He delivers both to the doctor and finds himself at the beginning point of an epidemic that will challenge everything he believes.
A Prayer for the Dying is described as a cross between Stephen Crane and Stephen King, and there is a sense of horror piling on horror in this book, despite the absence of the supernatural. Jacob is the best of protagonists; a deeply thoughtful man of action and integrity, as aware of his own weaknesses as he is compassionate of the people around him. O'Nan has chosen the second person in which to tell the story, which was the only choice for this book; the first person would have brought the suffering so close as to be unreadable, and the third person would have provided a comfortable remove.
Ooooh. A Prayer for the Dying sounds fascinating. I was a HUGE fan of Stephen King and am a fan of horror in general, but the added benefit of it being written by a great writer (haven't read him, but I'm taking your word for it) makes it really appealing.
The horror here is all in the events and how ordinary people react to them - which seems sensible enough until you think about what that person is doing. The writing is very un-King-like. It's very concise and clear.
Yeah, King is not the best stylist. He's a competent writer, one with enough ideas to keep going and going.
Everyday horror done by everyday people can make for great reading.
I love both Agatha Christie and Nordic mysteries, so Anne Holt sounds like the perfect combination!
Stewart O'Nan has been recommended to me more than a few times here on LT, perhaps this year will be the one I finally get to him. I've been told that Last Night At the Lobster is a good place to start. Do you agree?
So, my guilty reading pleasure is modern retellings of Jane Austen's novels. Not "sequels" or retellings involving vampires. As if! But I have this inexplicable fondness for Austen-based chick lit. I can't defend it, but there it is. I'd love an explanation, myself.
Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale is set on an English estate that's been done up to hold Regency era reenactments in which actors and paying guests play at being in Austen's world. Charlotte is a newly divorced American who is nice and polite and angry. And then she thinks she finds a dead body and she suspects her romantic interest of the crime. This book was a lot of fun. Hale is an adequate writer and she has an eye for the details of family life and a sense of humor. Midnight in Austenland plays with both Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park, which are two of my favorite Austens.
I spent a few months slowly reading my way through The Stories of John Cheever and am disappointed to be finished with it. After all, you can only read a story for the first time once. Not all of the stories resonated with me, some have suffered from age, but enough of them said something true. Cheever writes with humor, sometimes with sarcasm, but always with honesty, in ways that sometimes broke my heart.
I've been trying to write a review of some form or another for a while, but given that the stories encompass all of John Cheever's substantial career and given the range of the stories, I'll just say that Cheever's short stories are fantastic and well worth reading. I did read the stories in random order, and over a long stretch of time and I think this enhanced the experience.
#122 - I'm thinking about reading that one for my short-story challenge (however, it is gigantic!!) Might you share some of your favorite story titles from it?
I thought that The Enormous Radio was fantastic. The Swimmer was odd and surreal. Chimera was funny and sad at once. Clancy in the Tower of Babel is one I'm still thinking about. An Educated American Woman scared me because I think we're moving back in that direction; read this:
Intellect, he knew, was not a masculine attribute, although the bulk of tradition had put decisive powers into the hands of men for so many centuries that their ancient supremacy would take some unlearning. But why should his instincts lead him to expect that the woman in whose arms he lay each night would at least conceal her literacy? Why should there seem to be some rub between the enormous love he felt for her and her ability to understand the quantum theory?
I stuck The Stories of John Cheever out in the open and read a story or two every few days. He's best enjoyed in small doses -- other reviewers have mentioned that reading the book straight through made some of the stories sound alike. There are common themes.
#124 - Thank you for the recommendations! Yes - I would agree that we seem to be moving in that direction, especially if pop culture is any indication. I sense a lack of feminist consciousness (for lack of a better term) among many young women (certainly not all, but more than when I was in my early 20s). There's also the bizarre anti-intellectualism trend in the U.S. that seems to get stronger every day, but that's a different issue. Sigh.
I started that same book, um, maybe three years ago and still haven't finished it! But I keep meaning to as the stories are so interesting. "The Enormous Radio" has always stuck out for me too. I saw that one of the shows, maybe Tales From the Darkside, had filmed it.
mstrust, I finished The Enormous Radio hoping that the husband's reaction at the end of the story would be very different.
Dors, it does scare me that a current candidate can talk about how he'd never sit on a sofa with a woman other than his wife and be outraged that the President would want every citizen to have post-high school training of some kind. It's like there's a yearning for the good old days of the 14th century.
In Neighborhood Watch by Cammie McGovern Betsy Treading spent twelve years in jail for the murder of a neighbor. She confessed to the murder, but DNA evidence eventually exonerated her. Now, she's returning to the same neighborhood to find out the missing pieces of that night in hopes of finding out who the murderer really is. She's divorced from her husband, unsettled after so many years in prison and has only snippets of memory of the time in question.
McGovern writes a fast-paced thriller, in which the different threads all hold together. Betsy's an unreliable narrator, but she's like to be honest, mostly. The neighborhood, and especially the neighbor who takes her in on her release from prison, is very Suburgatory in its manicured lawns, proper behavior and hidden secrets.
This is the real way it happens, Isn't it? I mean in the real world there is no one moment when a relationship changes, no clear cause and effect.
Or the effect might be clear, the cause is harder to trace.
The effect walks up, many years later, when you are out to dinner with your new partner and she says, "My goodness. Would you look who it is."
Anne Enright's new novel, The Forgotten Waltz, tells the story of Gina's affair with Sean, a relationship that destroyed their marriages. It's less tawdry than it might have been and it's also far from an idealized portrait of love. Enright writes beautifully, and with enormous skill. I think I'd be happy reading a technical manual, if she wrote it.
It good to hear she's a good writer. I have her book The Gathering on the list for my awards category sometime this year.
I made a mental note to be on the lookout for Midnight in Austenland after reading your comments. Last night I had a late Christmas celebration with friends (long story) and guess what I found in my gift bag? My very own copy of Midnight in Austenland! I think I'll save it for holiday reading, maybe during spring break in a couple of weeks.
>130 I had such mixed feeling about The Gathering that I'm not sure whether I want to try another of her books. She does write beautifully, and the book has stayed with me; but the whiny self-indulgence of the main character irritated me.
You may not like The Forgotten Waltz then. I like characters who aren't entirely good and really like a good anti-hero myself.
I do plan to read The Gathering in a few months. Betty, maybe we can read that one together?
Carrie, Midnight in Austenland is a lot of fun. You'll like Charlotte! Unlike Gina (in The Forgotten Waltz), she's entirely sympathetic.
>134 - Sure Kay - I could do that. I'm planning to do one of the group reads next month (which will be my first), but maybe sometime after that?
Yes, please. June or July would be perfect for me. I'm itching to read more by Enright, but it's usually good to put a few months between books by the same author.
I look forward to see what you and Betty (dudes22) think of The Gathering. I wasn't a fan but am always intrigued to learn how other readers felt about it.
I had a hard time picking up Hans Fallada's novel of quiet resistance in Berlin during the Second World War, Every Man Dies Alone. I've read several reviews that had me eager to read it, but it's not the most cheerful of topics, so I put off reading it. But I'm trying to tackle those kinds of books this year, the long, the challenging and the important. So I gathered my resolve and began.
Every Man Dies Alone tells the story of Otto and Anna Quangel, a factory foreman and his wife, who decide that they have to resist the Nazi regime somehow. Spurred by the death of their only child, they come up with the idea of writing postcards denouncing the Reich and dropping them in busy places all over Berlin. They envision hundreds of people heartened and inspired to resist, but the reality is a bit different. Where they do not err, however, is in their expectation of eventually being caught.
The book also features a petty malingerer and gambler whose attempts to get by doing very little go badly for him, his long suffering wife, who decides to renounce her membership in the Party (necessary for most jobs) and to move to the countryside. They, in turn, come into contact with other ordinary Berliners, some willing to collude with the state and others keeping their heads down.
She drops her voice further: "But the main thing is that we remain different from them, that we never allow ourselves to be made into them, or start thinking as they do. Even if they conquer the whole world, we must refuse to become Nazis."
"And what will that accomplish, Trudel?" asks Otto Quangel softly. "I don't see the point."
The novel is filled with an overwhelming atmosphere of fear and suspicion. Otto reacts to this by cutting ties to everyone but his wife, which does not help his relatives in the slightest. Holding onto one's dignity becomes an enormous challenge. Despite the grim subject matter, Fallada allows the reader some moments of grace and choses to end his novel with a small moment of triumph.
The book is already on my list, but reading your review actually gave goosbumps. A great review, thank you!
>134 I like to think that I can enjoy a book with a less than perfect protagonist, but people whose only reality is themselves, and what they feel, really irritate me. I'll be interested in your and Betty's comments about The Gathering -- despite my complaints, I did rate the book quite high, 4* I think.
You know maybe I should try another Fallada but after reading the awful The Drinker I am not sure I can face it, even after such a great review.
Chris Bohjalian is one of those versatile authors whose books jump from genre to genre and whose books I usually read with great enjoyment. In The Night Strangers, Bohjalian tries out a horror novel and it is, for me, the least successful of the books of his I've read. I find the genre challenging; while a master like Stephen King can make the bizarre believable, the others I've read lose me somewhere along the way.
In The Night Strangers, Chip is a commercial airline pilot whose attempted water landing ends with most of his passengers and crew dead. He wasn't at fault, but his career is over and he, his wife and twin daughters leave move away from the notoriety (they hope) to a small town in New Hampshire, where they move into a fabulous Victorian that's been on the market a long time. Chip works to renovate the house, while trying to deal with the psychological impact of the crash. His wife, Emily, goes to work for a small, local law firm and the twins start school. They're befriended by a group of women, all named after plants, and while they wonder why these women are so very interested in them, they're also grateful for the friendship and support offered. Meanwhile, Chip's PTSD is getting worse and manifesting itself in odd and frightening ways, some of which are centered on the mysterious door in the crawl space, the one that's been sealed off with 39 enormous carriage nails.
I fell right into this book. Bohjalian knows how to grab a reader from the first few paragraphs and to make you want to find out what happens next. But then, as the action moved from the real and possible into the weird and scary, he lost me. I'm just not the audience for this book. I'll definitely read more by Bohjalian; I've enjoyed other books by him, but I think I now know enough to avoid the horror genre.
Interesting thoughts on the horror genre. When I was younger, I generally avoided horror novels and movies, thinking that they were not my thing. I didn't really like being scared and staying awake half the night. However, in the past couple of years, I've been delving into the horror genre a little bit. I agree with you that the best and scariest stories are the ones that truly seem believable.
I have a vivid memory of finishing The Amityville Horror late one night and being paralyzed by fear to the point where I couldn't move my arm enough to turn my light out. Good times.
While I'm not expecting that delicious level of terror (I seem to have lost that ability to feel unreasonable fear and have to remind myself to, say, lock the doors on nights when my SO is out of town) I would like a horror novel to at least chill me a little. Stephen King's short stories can sometime do that.
I am the last living American to have done so, but I have finally read The Hunger Games. I gave the trilogy to my daughter and she loved it and wanted me to read the first book. It was very, very good, which surprised me. I gave up on the last must-read YA book (Twilight) a few chapters in and heresy alert thought the Harry Potter books were just okay. I'll be reading the sequel before my daughter does if she's not quick.
Incidentally, don't read those articles reporting on young fans' reactions to the casting of black actors in some of the movie roles unless you need to raise your blood pressure or want to spend a few hours weeping softly.
I really enjoyed The Hunger Games, too, and they did a really good job with the movie, packing in a lot of information, while keeping it interesting.
I read the first one, but haven't gotten to the second one yet. I can remember being so terrified when I read The Shining by Stephen King back in the day. I would get so scared, I'd have to close the book. 'course I was a lot younger then ;)
I also recall being terrified by The Amityville Horror as a teen. What scared me even more was watching The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, a made-for-TV movie. I was way too young to watch it, but my parents were not very good about monitoring my TV viewing. I couldn't sleep well for several nights. Just recently, I decided to pick the book up from the library, and it's waiting to be read. I'll probably find that the story is not nearly as scary as the movie seemed when I was young.
Count me as another who really liked the movie adaptation of The Hunger Games!
The movie that most terrified me was one I watched with my parents, who did monitor what we were allowed to watch. It was a CBC production about the Dawson Trail and these guys who got lost in the tundra in winter and starved to death. The poignant scene where they split the last antacid is etched in my mind.
Later, I would watch ten minutes of The Exorcist while babysitting. I grew up in a church that taught if you listen to the wrong kind of rock music you will stand a good chance of becoming possessed, so it was terrifying to see what could happen if I accidentally heard some Whitesnake or Jethro Tull.
I can remember sitting on the couch with my two younger sisters watching Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds on TV. All of us scrunched into the space one person would normally fit. I think I was in my early teens and my sisters were the next 2 years younger. I still have no idea why my parents let us watch it.
149 - my husband grew up in one of those churches so his horror watching/reading experience is severely limited. I, on the other hand, heathen that I am, watched and read them all so I have been educating him a little at a time. I think Exorcist is next. :)
What a good category choice! Just discovering this now as i was browing through the member's list of this challenge. I will surely follow your readings if i may.
Yes, please. There's nothing like the possibility of being read to make review writing much more fun.
In Gone 'Til November Sara's doing the best she can. Her life isn't the easiest what with being an officer in the boy's club of a small central Florida Sheriff's office and a single mom to a son with leukemia. Things don't improve when she responds to a call one night for a roadside shooting and find her ex-boyfriend is the cop and he's shot a young man. Everything looks by-the-book, but as Sara looks at things, they don't piece together as well as they should.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, a drug lord worries when a delivery to a new supplier down south goes missing. He asks Morgan, an old school enforcer with issues of his own, to go and find out what happened.
Wallace Stroby is fantastic at creating reprehensible characters who are, if not exactly likeable, then interesting and compelling. Everything's in shades of gray, including the people; what's interesting is how they deal with what they've been dealt. Morgan isn't a good guy, but you can't help but sigh with him over how the business has changed and how his profession doesn't favor the long-lived. Sara's fantastic; tough and committed to doing a good job both as a cop and a mother, but her weakness for the feckless Billy is understandable. He may always make the wrong life choices, but he has a certain charm.
Gone 'Til November is pure modern noir, full of atmosphere, gunshots and run-down bars with gravel lots.
making a note as a possible for the TIOLI 12 months sub-challenge as a book with November in the title...
Well, that was my original plan, psutto, but I was rushing out of the house and needed a book and grabbed that one.
Jeanne Birdsall writes the most delightful children's series going. In the third installation, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, the usual patterns are upset. With Rosalind absent and their newly married father off on his honeymoon, Skye is the OAP (oldest available Penderwick), in charge for the family beach vacation with Aunt Claire. Skye's an unwilling leader and she's sure something will happen to Batty, the youngest Penderwick. Jane, meanwhile, is suffering from writer's block, but has met a most interesting boy.
If you've read any of these books, you'll know how fun and involving they are. Birdsall has created a very modern family with an old-fashioned flair. She writes about some delicate subjects, mixing them in with the funny and the adventurous threads to make books that are interesting for a wide variety of readers. I read this with an eleven year old girl and an eight year old boy who don't often agree on reading material. We all loved it. This third book had the very welcome return of Jeffrey, their great friend in the first book. I look forward to the next Penderwick adventure.
The Gormenghast trilogy is the brilliant invention of Mervyn Peake, who created a unique, imaginative, bizarre and compelling world in the form of an enormous decaying castle called Gormenghast. It's titular head is the Earl of Gormenghast, but the place is really ruled by the arcane and stringent rituals that define and dictate daily life for everyone from the Earl to the lowliest kitchen boy.
The story begins with the birth of Titus Groan, heir to the seventy-sixth Earl of Gormenghast, Lord Sepulchrave. The Earl hides in his massive library, but can't help being drawn to his only son. His wife retreated years ago into her own mind, and into her love of animals, specifically the birds that visit her room through an ivy-covered window and her hoard of white cats. And Fuchsia, the odd and temperamental daughter of the house who finds that she loves Titus, in spite of herself.
As Lord Sepulchrave descends into madness, a lowly kitchen boy seizes his chance to better himself. Steerpike may have come from nothing, but he's more than a match for the moribund members of the royal family.
Peake named two of the books, Titus Groan and Titus Alone, after the seventy-seventh Earl of Gormenghast, but the real linchpin of the story is the castle itself, even as it moulders, decays, burns and floods. It's a strange, almost indescribable place, which Peake somehow manages to make real, writing in an over-blown style that suits the place, characters and events beautifully.
I'm surprised these books aren't better known than they are. Peake's Gormenghast is an imaginative tour de force that puts places like Narnia to shame. And his characters veer wildly toward caricature, but he never loses control of them. The best of the lot are the sullen and impulsive Fuchsia, the affected and silly Doctor Prunesquallor, who is nonetheless the glue holding a fraying family together, Steerpike, the kitchen boy who will do what he has to do to get what he wants and the imposing Muzzlehatch, with his nose like a rudder and his amazing menangerie.
I've got the Gormenghast trilogy on the list for 12/12 - glad to see you enjoyed it
there was a BBC adaptation a couple of years back that I haven't seen and it is often spoke about when people talk about the history of fantasy - it was contemperaneous with Lord of the Rings iirc
It was seeing the BBC mini-series that made me buy the book. The series is excellent. Different from the books in many ways, but keeping to the spirit of Gormenghast. I've watched the first half again and will watch the second half this weekend. I'm so eager to see how they handle the events of the second book.
I silently think that it's as original and interesting (without all that hiking and camping out) as The Lord of the Rings world, but won't say it out loud because to many people comparing anything to Middle Earth is like comparing The Bible to Archie comics. Not recommended.
Every element of Gormenghast is fantastical. Even the dialog:
"You talk about my wife in a very peculiar way," said Grass, "Does she annoy you?"
"She would if I lived with her," said Acreblade. "What about you?"
"O, but my dear chap, how naive you are! Being married to her I seldom see her. What is the point of getting married if one is always bumping into one's wife? One might as well not be married. Oh no dear fellow, she does what she wants. It is quite a coincidence that we found each other here tonight. You see? And we enjoy it - it's like first love all over again without the heartache - without the heart in fact. Cold love's the loveliest love of all. So clear, so crisp, so empty. In short, so civilized."
Am planning on it being a summer read...
Really looking forward to it now I've read your comments
Great review of Gormenghast! As I'm much more into weird stuff than high fantasy, I utterly agree with you that it stands well in comparison to The lord of the rings. (I don't much miss the endless walks either:) It's rich and strange and original and mad and moving - without saving the world itself having to be an element. Sometimes I love fantastic literature that dares to be local.
I liked the series a lot too. Great casting!
I think I tried one of the Gormenghast books long ago but didn't get very far. Your review make me want to give it another go.
So I heard Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller was being made into a movie and since I've had the book on hand for quite some time, I thought I'd read it before the film was released.
Blue Like Jazz is about Miller and his spiritual life told in a series of chatty chapters. He keeps things a bit simpler than I'd like, using short sentences and building ideas slowly. I found this a bit annoying, especially since he's dealing with the some charged issues, primarily the difficulty of having lost faith, not in God or Christianity, but in the church. The American Evangelical church does have some serious issues. When the pastor of a megachurch can go on TV and declare that helping the poor is wrong and when a man in a position of leadership of a large group of churches feels comfortable making racist statements about the Trayvon Martin case, there's a problem. And the easiest solution for many is to walk away. It's how to turn around and find a sense of community and not to be angry that's difficult.
Miller managed to do this and I was very interested to find out how. He skirts the issue for much of the book, but he's too honest to avoid it. He's extremely careful with his words and his solution is to forgive, move on and find a church that doesn't look at others (gay people, feminists, liberals, etc...) with fear and loathing. Pretty easy for a guy in Portland, Oregon to say, but he's probably right.
Miller's a likable guy. Any guy who's had a crush on Emily Dickinson and who was able to successfully navigate moving from a hippie camp site to a religious summer camp job has to be. Blue Like Jazz is, despite the subject matter, entertaining and easy to read. Miller's being dumped on a bit for the mild criticisms he's written, and I'm sorry for that.
Agreeing - great review of Gormenghast! It's on Mt. TBR, but I'm realizing that I should hold off until I can really get immersed - looking forward to it, though!!
The Complaints by Ian Rankin
Hey, I really liked The Complaints, the first in Ian Rankin's new, post-Rebus detective series. I know! I was aiming to be dissatisfied and to miss Inspector Rebus, but I like the new guy.
Fox is a detective working in a small department in the Edinburgh police that investigates complaints about police conduct. He's just wrapped up an important case removing a corrupt cop from the streets when he's asked by another department to look into an officer who accessed a child porn site. Meanwhile, his sister's abusive partner has been found murdered and the investigating officer is the man Fox is investigating.
Fox is an interesting guy; as a reticent non-drinker he's very different than Rebus. He's also less of a lone wolf. I think I'm going to enjoy reading about him.
Very good! I am a huge Rebus-fan so was a little wary of the new series - good to know Rankin can still be trusted. :)
Good news about The Complaints, my brother recently picked it up so I am sure it will eventually work it's way to my TBR.
Excited to see your review of the Wallace Stroby novel. I had read his first two books and really enjoyed them. Apparently, I need to catch up and read his other books. Thanks for your great review and interesting categories!
Loved your review of Blue Like Jazz - I've got that book coming up in May, having been selected for me for my Ask-a-Friend category. I know I'm the one who put it on my wishlist, but I honestly couldn't remember anything about it. I hadn't heard about a movie, though. When will it be coming out? Thumbs up from me.
Blue Like Jazz has been sticking in my mind. It's well worth reading, with ideas that are interesting and important. Enjoy it!
The movie's not in wide release, but it's out now in some areas. It hits my area on April 20 and I do plan to go that weekend since I don't know how long it will be out.
Glad to hear you liked The Complaints. I've enjoyed the first few Rebus books and intend eventually to read to the end of the series. At one point, I started Witch Hunt, one of the the novels he has written as Jack Harvey, but couldn't get into it and abandoned it. I figured I'd just stay with Rebus.
I picked up a copy of that when Borders was closing. It seems to be much more of a standard thriller than the "regular" Rankin fare. I'm not rushing to get to it... :)
I have Blue Like Jazz in my TBR pile so skipped over your comments, but didn't know there was going to be a movie.
Based on the comments here and from some my friends, Blue Like Jazz is now going towards the top of my TBR pile. Just need to finish a couple of other books first.
I don't think Blue like jazz is for me. As a person who only in recent years have been slowly gravitating towards active belief in god, the theme interests me. But an alienating Christian fundamentalism is really not a big issue here in Sweden - even if we have our fringe cases of course. I'd say lukewarm indifference is a bigger threat to christianity in this country. But a great review nevertheless!
Continuing my uncharacteristic journey into Christian theology, I read Love Wins by Rob Bell. This is a hugely controversial book for American Evangelicals, although having read it, I think that most of the controversy was generated by people who had not actually read this very short book. Basically, the author looks at what Jesus has to say about hell and takes the merciful interpretation. It's a you may be surprised at the people you see in heaven emphasis rather than the more usual idea that heaven's inhabitants will consist only of the very few people whose theology exactly agrees with one's own. Bell also separates what's actually in the Bible on the topic from the cultural constructs that form a huge part of the traditional fundamentalist view of heaven and hell. It's very thought provoking, but not really that shocking, unless you're really, really committed to wanting everyone you ever disliked punished for eternity. The sans-serif typeface drove me nuts, but that's nit-picking.
#181 Another great review - and addition to my wishlist. Have you intentionally been seeking books about theology, or have they shown up by chance? I've also been looking at more and more books about Christianity lately - for several reasons that I'm aware of, and probably more that I'm not.
I have been looking at Christianity lately -- as you said, for reasons I'm aware of, and probably more that I'm not. There are some interesting conversations taking place on the internet and I'd run into mentions of Blue Like Jazz and Love Wins. I'm enjoying the discussion and the concept that questions and differing interpretations and viewpoints can be welcome and not heretical. It's such a charged subject here, with all the unsavory political manipulations in this election cycle that gives me a stomachache when I think about it, that I'm trying to find a way around to where I can see what it's really all about. It's not all that coherent in my own mind.
Hey there! Just stopping by to see what you're reading. Love Wins sounds interesting.
And this year, I've even read a book of poetry. I know! But Billy Collins is approachable and not at all twee, and over on Le Salon they were fond of posting his poems for a while, so when I ran into Horoscopes for the Dead at the book store I picked up a copy and I've been reading a bit now and again.
I know that the reason you placed nine white tulips
in a glass vase with water
here in this room a few days ago
was not to mark the passage of time
as a fish would have if nailed by the tail
to the wall above the bed of a guest.
But early this morning I did notice
their lowered heads
in the gray light,
two of them even touching the glass
table top near the window,
the blossoms falling open
as they lost their grip on themselves,
and my suitcase only half unpacked by the door.
That's quite an image, in that poem.... Thanks for sharing. I do like getting tastes of what people are reading.
Thanks, pammab. Collins's poems do tend to stick with me. The title poem was beautiful, but too long to post.
I like characters who have a gift for making the wrong decision. Whether it's the guy who always picks trouble or the woman who just grabbed an opportunity and is digging in deeper and deeper to make it work, I find it all fascinating. Usually, the person making the wrong life choices is the bad guy, but in Trespasser by Paul Doiron that guy is Mike Bowditch and he's a game warden in Maine, the guy trying to solve the crime and rescue the girl. Bowditch is hard work. He's insensitive and deliberately rude, self-righteous and a terrible boyfriend. He's got a chip on his shoulder that he refuses to deal with and he's prone to tunnel vision. He's dealing with some destructive off-roaders when he's called to haul a dead deer off the highway. When he arrives, the car that hit the animal is there, but both deer and woman are gone. A state trooper shows up and takes charge of the scene, sending Bowditch home. Bowditch leaves, but something about the situation bothers him and he finds himself going back to the scene and trying to find out what happened long after he's been told to leave to the officers assigned to the case. He's also increasingly bothered by the scofflaw off-roaders and his attempts to deal with them grow more extreme.
Trespasser was a good, quick read where the plot made sense and the author created a vivid setting in coastal Maine during March, the "mud season". Bowditch is a wonderfully conceived character. I'd never want to know him personally, but he's great fun to follow through a book as he alienates everyone around him. I did want to yell at him a few times - self-righteousness is never a good trait and being inside his head could be aggravating. That said, the supporting characters were a bit thin, from his mentor who likes to call him "young feller" to the people Bowditch dealt with as part of his job - the hardscrabble locals were rendered as caricatures in a political ad, there was not much more than an outline to any of them.
The beginning of The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery was a slog. It wasn't bad, but reading it was a chore, rather than a enjoyment. Around the 150th page, however, the book turned a corner and I started to like it. The story concerns two residents of a posh building in Paris; Paloma, a sullen adolescent who views everyone around her with disdain, and Renee, the concierge, a middle-aged woman who feels compelled to hide her real self behind the mask of ignorance, even as she regards those around her as stereotypes. Their narrow viewpoints change when the building gets a new resident.
It's when Ozu arrives that the book opens up and the two characters become interesting and sympathetic. It's hard to cultivate much interest in a self-righteous, judgmental character, especially when they are narrating the story. But with the new arrival, and the way he refuses to allow them to retreat, they begin to look at the world around them, and especially the people in it, as individuals.
There are some beautiful moments in this book, ones that needed a long, slow march to reach. The ending was tacked on, as though the author just wanted to be done with the book, but I'm willing to ignore the last chapters entirely and pretend they never happened.
If you're getting into Donald Miller and Rob Bell, I highly recommend Velvet Elvis by Bell. I only read a very small selection of Christian books, but Velvet Elvis is my favorite of the ones I have read. Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner explores some of the same ideas as Blue Like Jazz and Velvet Elvis, but is a bit more autobiographical. It's another of my favorites.
I've meant to read the Gormenghast trilogy for ages but haven't been in a place where I wanted to commit to it...the length and the style just seem intimidating. I didn't know there was a BBC mini-series; it's now at the top of my Netflix queue.
Billy Collins' poetry is marvelous, isn't it? So much of his work are like stories condensed into short word pictures. Totally accessible, and very lovely.
I'm going to look for more by Rob Bell, HRO, thanks for the recommendation.
Gormenghast is a challenging book, but it's worth the investment of time and energy.
191 - It was an odd book wasn't it? The first part meandered around but never really settled anywhere so I was really starting to wonder what the point of the novel was. It was enjoyable to hear the ramblings but I need my book to have a definitive purpose and that didn't show up until about the halfway point. Then I was riveted and couldn't put it down.
I agree, the ending was rather forced and abrupt. I do find that sometimes with other novels. It's like writers have a set number of words to use and after meandering on and building up the story, they realise that they need to end it and only have 100 words to do so. I suppose that was her purpose though... life is a fragile thing and we need to live it fully because it can change on a dime.
Completely agree regarding The Hedgehog, once Ozu arrived the book picked up immensely.
Nice review of The Hedgehog, I completely agree I was struggling with it a bit until Ozu's arrival, which made such a difference to the book.
Thanks for the review of Elegance of the Hedgehog. Various friends of mine have read it and seem to either love it or hate it. I haven't read it yet but am leaning toward doing so.
Akashic Books publishes a series of anthologies of noir-style short stories, each set in a different locale. I've just read Mumbai Noir, edited by Altaf Tyrewala, and what an excellent, atmospheric collection it was. Ranging from a classic hardboiled tale of a fast talking PI to a gently almost-hopeful story about the family of a convicted bomber, there was a enormous range of styles and subjects for a modestly sized book. Akashic includes a helpful map of where each of the stories take place within Mumbai. This was a good introduction to Indian authors and I've made note of several from whom I'd like to read more.
Oh, i just got a copy of that from the AR list. I'm glad to hear it's good, as I'm rather excited to read it. :)
I've collected a few in the series, but Mumbai Noir was the first I've read. I'll certainly be reading more in the series soon. I really liked the variety of stories included. It never became repetitive.
Sounds like a smart setup for a series of anthologies! Sorry for asking, but what's "the AR list"?
Oh, oops. I mixed up my acronyms. I confused "ER list" as in the Early Reviewers program here on librarything with "ARC" as in advanced readers copy. Sorry.
I'm reading a book from the Early Reviewers program that I asked for because it's set in Oxford. Oxford is a fantastic place, with gorgeous buildings, insane traffic, fun places to go and weird museums. So I picked it for the setting. And it's dreadful. It's an informational pamphlet disguised as a novel and the writing is wooden and uninspired. The main female character is described as "pretty", then in the next paragraph she's described as "pretty". Do you want to take a stab at how the author describes the main male character? I'll read it because I did this to myself, kind of like how when I was in college I would, upon occasion, go to work on a Saturday morning with a hangover.
In other news, over Christmas, my daughter broke her femur. It was pinned back together, but it isn't healing properly. (I'm skipping the long version) So she gets it pinned at a different angle on Tuesday. So I'm worried and distracted. Also, the dog was supposed to have a knee operation last week, but has been doing so well on her new lifestyle changes (no jumping or trips to the dog park, shorter walks, etc) that she doesn't have to have the surgery. So I'm blaming the dog. Which makes no sense, but does help me to remember to refuse her permission to join us on the bed or the sofa.
That's it for the complaining. I did get a new laptop to replace my six-year-old laptop which is now obsolete. My new laptop looks almost exactly like my old one, just thinner and longer and lighter. But it speeds along and does lots of new things, many of which I have not yet discovered. Also, the battery lasts longer than half an hour!
Dave Cullen's book, Columbine was ten years in the making. And the meticulous and exhaustive research shows, while not overwhelming the book. The subject matter is overwhelming all on it's own, although Cullen does much to bring clarity to the events of that day. He follows the community and the survivors through the aftermath and goes back to try to find out what drove Klebold and Harris. It's a fascinating read, without feeling at all exploitative. Cullen respects the privacy and dignity of the people involved, without skimming over anything uncomfortable. I'll be thinking about this one for a while.
Glad you enjoyed Columbine. I was quite impressed with it too.
Congrats on the new laptop!
>203 I'm really sorry about your daughter! I'll be hoping and praying that all goes well on Tuesday.
I didn't know the word femur so I had to look it up. Ouch. Sincerely hoping they get it right this time - sounds painful and limiting!
I'm guessing the main male character from your drab Oxford book is at least not described as "pretty" in every sentence? I'm going for "handsome".
Healing thoughts to your daughter--and you as well, it's always so hard to see one's child in pain.
And definitely blame the dog. In our house, the cats get the blame for almost everything. They can take it and it keeps us from blaming each other.
Thanks, guys. We've been stocking up on things she can do from the sofa this summer.
I read Columbine this year, too. It was pretty impressive, wasn't it?
No kidding. I had trouble marshaling my thoughts on Columbine, not only because of the subject matter, but also because Cullen did such a great job of pulling it all together.
The protagonist of Very Bad Men, the second book in Harry Dolan's excellent series, is the editor of a mystery magazine and so his narration is full of asides about publishing:
I have a theory about editing. You can do anything you want with a manuscript, you can rewrite it line by line, as long as your handwriting is very small and very neat. If the pages look tidy, the author'll go along.
and the sort of information one picks up by reading a lot of mysteries:
I read somewhere once that the impact of a bullet is usually not enough to knock you down. If it doesn't stop your heart or blow out your knee, or something along those lines, there's no reason for you to fall. But people do anyway, because they think they're supposed to. They've seen too many westerns and cop shows. When the guy in the cowboy hat or the fedora gets shot, he falls over.
So over they go.
I fell...In my defense, he pushed me.
In Very Bad Men, Loogan receives a manuscript telling him a story of a series of murders. But this time it isn't fiction; two of the men in the story have already been killed. Loogan sets out to make sure that the third murder doesn't happen. The plot twists and turns and grows more complicated by the chapter but, while complex, it never runs out of control. And Loogan himself is my favorite kind of hero; kind and ordinary and occasionally misled.
Sending good wishes for daughter's recovery and also to thank you for adding yet another book to my massive reading list!
I'll have to get my mitts on the first book!
Hi Kay, thinking about you and your daughter today. Hope all went well and she's now on the road to a complete recovery.
Columbine was quite a book and one that I still think about almost a year later.
I agree with everyone else that Columbine was fantastic. Best wishes to your daughter. I hope she recovers soon.
Many thanks for all the warm wishes. It's very encouraging. She had surgery on Tuesday, in which one screw was removed and a new screw put in at a different place. Her doctor spoke of this screw as a "pin", which led me to picture it as something one might do a bit of embroidery with. In actuality, it's more like something that would hold up important beams in a house. She's recovering at home now. And I'm sleeping again, which tends to make my outlook improve quite a bit.
My primary take-away from My Booky Wook is to never invite Russell Brand to any party I'm throwing. All that other stuff about how heroin is a bad idea, as well as cocaine and indiscriminate sex, I'd pretty much already figured out.
Still, if not instructional (not many people are in danger of wanting to do the things Brand gets up to on an ordinary afternoon), it is entertaining. Brand has a charming, self-effacing wit that extracts sympathy through some very extreme examples of poor impulse control. He knows he's being an enormous jerk, but still, it's all a bit funny, isn't it? And it generally is, not as it actually happened (I suspect), but in how Brand tells the story afterward. The result is a sort of odd mix of Sid Vicious and Michael Palin; debauchery written about by a guy who really loves his Mom and his cat.
#221 - Amusing review. Also, I didn't realize he was so messed up! I hope everything goes well with you daughter's femur.
...I'd pretty much figured out...
Gave me a chuckle for today. Glad your daughter's doing well. My husband had to have that done when he broke both heels at the same time and they put in multiple "pins". Not fun - but hopefully this will fix things for her. Hope she won't be laid up all summer.
ETA: Can't spell
Getting caught up here. Sorry to hear about the struggle with your ER book - it happens, but why can't it happen to someone else!?!?!? Glad to see your daughter is doing well and Yay for a new laptop!
Jo Nesbo writes this dark Scandinavian crime series featuring Harry Hole, a depressed, alcoholic cop with a self-destructive streak and poor interpersonal skills. He also writes an imaginative, funny series of books for children called Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder. The kids and I enjoyed the second book in the series, Who Cut the Cheese?, quite a bit.
In Who Cut the Cheese?, Lisa and her best friend Nilly discover strange goings-on at their school. From strange footprints in the snow and missing socks, to an arts teacher who is more than a little odd, they're trying to get to the bottom of things while the rest of the country is obsessed with a televised song contest, The NoroVision Choral Throwdown. Soon things become much more serious, with the country taken over by a Swedish despot, their fellow Norwegians hypnotized into mispronouncing words and a possible invasion of moon chameleons, an animal so deadly that no clear description exists - if you're close enough to see one, you're just about to be eaten.
This is an enormously entertaining book, but not a serious one. You're not going to emerge with a greater understanding of mythology or engineering or history. We will be beginning The Bubble in the Bathtub tonight.
A few months ago, I lost a book. Not the first time, although I try not to make a habit of it. So, today I dragged my reluctant son to the nearest Great Clips for a haircut (he could not see) and while he regarded the event as fundamentally tragic and wrong, I found that book I'd lost! There, under all the Peoples and Bride's Worlds. So glad I forgot to bring a book or I would never have gone digging through the magazines.
The Nesbo series is great fun, Lori. Although, take warning from the titles if you are uncomfortable with fart jokes.
I've heard about Who Cut the Cheese (I want to say it inspired a filmmaker I was reading about), so I'm inclined to read it.
Funny about loosing your book and then finding it again. :)
Scandinavian crime novels have a certain feel to them when read translated into English. A Paragon of Virtue by Christian von Ditfurth was translated from the German, but it has that same linguistic feeling. In it, Josef Stachelmann, a non-tenured history professor, is not doing so well. His doctoral dissertation excited many and led to his teaching position at the university in Hamburg, but he's been unable to write anything further, instead spending his time doing more and more research, until the books and photocopies form what he calls his "mountain of shame". He's contacted by an old friend, a detective working a particularly difficult case; over a long period, the wife and two children of a wealthy businessman have been murdered. The police are examining the past of this philanthropic businessman, trying to find someone who might want him to suffer.
The plot is well-crafted, with roots in Germany's uncomfortable past. Stachelmann, and his old friend Ossi, are well rounded and interesting characters, even if they aren't very cheerful. This is the first of a series of crime novels featuring the history professor and I'm unhappy to report that only this first book is available in an English translation.
A Paragon of Virtue sounds like a winner. I'm glad my library has it. Onto the library TBR list it goes.
>229 I'm glad you liked it! I do wonder when I read translated works what nuances are missing that can't be conveyed in the translation.
Long Island Noir fully fills only the first half of its title; while all of the stories are set on Long Island, quite a few are not noir. Noir is a sort of off-shoot of those pulp fiction hardboiled tales featuring disgraced private eyes encountering the seamy side of life. It focuses on the dark underbelly, and while the characters often inhabit a hard-scrabble world, noir exists equally well in the corrupt actions and pastimes of the wealthy. Long Island Noir often failed in this, with both traditional mystery stories and one that featured neither crime nor struggle. A few needed a little more time, with the slap-dash feeling of an early draft. Still, I found a few of the stories leading me to want to read more by their authors, always a good outcome. Other stories delivered in spades, telling of plans gone awry and lives squandered.
Among the stand-out stories was Anjali's America, in which a young Pakistani doctor encounters a woman whose fate she could have shared, had she not rejected an arranged marriage and completed her education, Gateway to the Stars, where a young man is prevented from finding his younger, drug-addicted brother by an unpleasant cop, and Blood Drive, in which a recently laid-off construction worker finds a new career that is both illegal and morally defensible. The protagonist of this story delivers a monolog that reminded me that appearances can be deceiving.
The disappointments were not terrible, but they didn't deliver. In Terror nothing bad happened. Instead, tragedy visited a browner-skinned, poorer acquaintance of the highly educated, white woman who could afford a summer house in the Hamptons. I found this story both offensive and well written. Past President was a traditional mystery story that could have featured Kinsey Millhone or Rina Lazarus. It was enjoyable and well-crafted, but absolutely not noir. And Semiconscious was certainly dark enough, but it was too angry to be well-written. I was reminded of John Steinbeck throwing away a rough draft and then writing The Grapes of Wrath. This was an early draft of what could eventually become something good.
Noir is something that often gets wrongly attributed to stories I think!
That's an interesting review. I am just starting on Venice Noir and I wonder how noir these stories are going to be. I also wonder if this is just a label put on the book in order to group the stories together.
I read Mumbai Noir earlier this year and all of the stories had that desperate edge. Only one had a veneer of hope about it, but since it was about the blind child of a man just convicted as a terrorist, I still think it fit the bill. In Long Island Noir, the editor's story only marginally fit the bill, so maybe she preferred to just regard it as a collection of stories about Long Island? I have a few more titles in the series and I'm eager to see how they fall on the continuum, with noir at one end and cozies at the other.
Good review! You don't often hear a story described as both "offensive and well written".
I've had the Vegas and San Francisco versions of the noir series on my list for a while, but how cool to see there's even a Mumbai version.
I've moved! And I can't remember how to do the continuation thing and I'm too lazy right now to go and look it up. So, here's the link:
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.