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AuntMarge64's Club Read for 2012

Club Read 2012

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This topic is currently marked as "dormant"—the last message is more than 90 days old. You can revive it by posting a reply.

Edited: Dec 13, 2011, 8:27am Top

Again this year I'll be keeping track here of my own reading as well as that of various nieces and nephews.

Our 2011 Club Read thread
Our 2010 Club Read thread
My 12 in 12 Challenge
My 11 in 11 Challenge
My 10 in 10 Challenge

Edited: Jan 2, 2013, 11:20pm Top

Margaret (age 64, total in 2011=94, goal=100):
1. Abraham Lincoln (The American Presidents Series: The 16th President, 1861-1865) by George S. McGovern *** 1/2/12 (208 pgs)
2. The Royal Ghosts by Samrat Upadhyay **** 1/3/12 (207 pgs)
3. Death in a Strange Country by Donna Leon *** 1/6/12 (268 pgs)
4. A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos by Dava Sobel *** 1/9/12 (288 pgs)
5. The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore ***½ 1/10/12 (240 pgs)
6. Antarctica: An Encyclopedia by John Stewart ***** 1/15/12 (1771 pgs)
7. Eifelheim by Michael Flynn ***** 1/17/12 (312 pgs)
8. The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys ***½ 1/19/12 (181 pgs)
9. The Ice People by René Barjave *** 1/21/12 (182 pgs)
10. The Affair by Lee Child ***** 1/23/12 (416 pgs)
11. Sleepers of Mars by John Wyndham *** 1/27/12 (160 pgs)
12. Shock Wave by John Sandford **** 1/30/12 (400 pgs)
13. House of the Hunted by Mark Mills * 2/1/12 (320 pgs)
14. Secret Lives of the Dalai Lama ****½ 2/9/12 (388 pgs)
15. A Case of Conscience by James Blish ***½ 2/10/12 (256 pgs)
16. The Virgin Suicides by Jeeffrey Eugenides ***½ 2/13/12 (256 pgs)
17. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak ***** 2/16/12 (576 pgs)
18. Blood Men by Paul Cleave ** 2/17/12 (336 pgs)
19. Helsinki White by James Thompson ** 2/22/12 (336 pgs)
20. Cloudland by Joseph Olshan **** 2/24/12 (304 pgs)
21. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill ***½ 2/27/12 (176 pgs)
22. Sum by David Eagleman *** 2/27/12 (128 pgs)
23. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett **** 3/1/12 (353 pgs)
24. Lost Horizon by James Hilton ***½ 3/3/12 (231 pgs)
25. Fail Safe by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler ***** 3/5/12 (285 pgs)
26. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker *** 3/8/12 (288 pgs)
27. Insect Musicians and Cricket Champions of China by Berthold Laufer ** 3/12/12 (28 pgs)
28. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo ****½ 3/16/12 (550 pgs)
29. The Leopard by Jo Nesbo **** 3/21/12 (528 pgs)
30. Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys ** 3/25/12 (176 pgs)
31. Below the Convergence: Voyages Toward Antarctica 1699-1839 by Alan Gurney **** 3/28/12
32. Until Thy Wrath Be Past by Åsa Larsson **** 3/30/12
33. A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard ***** 4/2/12
34. Spineless Wonders: Strange Tales From the Invertebrate World by Richard Conniff ***½ 4/5/12
35. Stolen Prey by John Sandford **** 4/7/12 (402 pgs)
36. Down To a Sunless Sea by David Graham **** 4/8/12 (317 pgs)
37. Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky **** 4/11/12
38. The Help by Kathryn Stockett **** 4/14/12
39. Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick **** 4/16/12
40. Tibetan Prayer Flags: Send Your Blessings on the Breeze by Diane Barker ***½ 4/17/12
41. Star Wars Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse by Troy Denning ****1/2 4/18/12
42. The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth ** 4/19/12
43. The Essential Jesus by John Dominic Crossan **** 4/23/12
44. Icehenge by Kim Stanley Robinson ***½ 4/29/12
45. Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson ****½ 5/1/12
46. The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips ****½ 5/7/12
47. Very Bad Men by Harry Dolan ***½ 5/10/12
48. The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout ***½ 5/13/12
49. Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell **** 5/14/12
50. The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester *** 5/16/12
51. The Wrong Man by David Ellis ***** 5/17/12
52. Time Untamed by Isaac Asimov and others ** 5/19/12
53. True Believers by Kurt Andersen *½ 5/21/12
54. This Must Be The Place by Kate Racculia ***** 5/24/12
55. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells **** 5/26/12
56. Tales of a Dalai Lama by Pierre Delattre **** 5/27/12
57. Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry **** 5/28/12
58. Obscure Destinies by Willa Cather ***½ 5/29/12
59. A Scientific Romance by Ronald Wright **** 6/3/12
60. Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography by John Dominic Crossan **** 6/6/12
61. The Rainaldi Quartet by Paul Adam ***½ 6/8/12
62. Paganini's Ghost by Paul Adam ***½ 6/10/12
63. I Am a Pole and So Can You by Stephen Colbert ***½ 6/11/12
64. Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us by Robert D. Hare **** 6/12/12
65. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer ***** 6/14/12
66. Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo **** 6/16/12
67. The Wandering Falcom by Jamil Ahmad *** 6/19/12
68. The Wave by Christopher Hyde ***½ 6/21/12
69. The Last Policeman by Ben Winters ***** 6/27/12
70. Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger ***½ 7/7/12
71. The Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna ***½ 7/10/12
72. Epiphany by David Hewson ***** 7/15/12
73. The Vuescan Bible by Sascha Steinhoff **** 7/15/12
74. The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean **** 7/24/12
75. Antarctic Journal by Jennifer Owings Dewey ***½ 7/24/12
76. The Blasphemer by Nigel Farndale **** 7/30/12
77. The Whisperer by Donald Carrisi **** 8/12/12
78. 100 Unforgettable Dresses by Hal Rubenstein **** 8/18/12
79. The Best of John Wyndham 1932-1949 by John Wyndham **** 8/18/12
80. The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean **** 8/19/12
81. Ex Libris: The Art of Bookplates by Martin Hopkinson ***½ 8/20/12
82. Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow **** 8/22/12
83. Hippolyte's Island by Barbara Hodson **** 8/24/12
84. Kill You Twice by Chelsea Cain ****½ 8/26/12
85. The Landmark Xenophon's Hellenika **** 8/28/12
86. The Best of John Wyndham 1951-1960 by John Wyndham ***½ 8/29/12
87. Darwin's Ghosts: The Secret History of Evolution **** 9/6/12
88. Gallows View by Peter Robinson *** 9/9/12
89. The Bartender's Tale by Ivan Doig ****½ 9/25/12
90. The Jigsaw Puzzle: Piecing Together a History by Anne D. Williams *** 9/27/12
91. George Harrison: Living in the Material World by Olivia Harrison ***** 9/30/12
92. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse ***** 10/7/12
93. Say You're Sorry by Michael Robotham **** 10/9/12
94. The Lost Tribe of the Sith **** 10/15/12
95. A Wanted Man by Lee Child **** 10/21/12
96. 100 Diagrams That Changed the World: From the Earliest Cave Paintings to the Innovation of the iPod by Scott Christianson ***½ 10/24/12
97. Payment in Blood by Elizabeth George **** 10/30/12
98. Well-Schooled in Murder by Elizabeth George ***** 11/5/12
99. Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson ***** 11/7/12
100. The Frozen Deep by Wilkie Collins ***½ 11/9/12
101. Mad River by John Sandford **** 11/12/12
102. The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek by Barry Cunliffe *** 11/23/12
103. For the Sake of Elena by Elizabeth George **** 11/27/12
104. Missing Joseph by Elizabeth George **** 12/7/12
105. On the Map by Simon Garfield ***½ 12/23/12
106. The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout ****½ 12/30/12

Caitlin (age 12, total in 2011=61, goal=60):
1. Dear John by Nicholas Sparks ***** 1/4/12 (335 pgs)
2. Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick **** 1/5/12 (192 pgs)
3. In A Heartbeat by Loretta Ellsworth **** 1/9/12 (224 pgs)
4. The Help by Kathryn Stockett ***** 1/26/12 (464 pgs)
5. The Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn Part 1: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion by Mark Cotta Vaz **** 1/26/12
6-7. The Witches of Santa Anna, Books 16-17 by Lauren Barnholdt *** 2/5/12
8. Wait till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn *** 2/7/12
9. Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings by Hélène Boudreau ** 2/10/12
10. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling ***** 2/13/12
11. A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park 1/2 3/9/12
12. What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones **** 3/10/12
13. Ida B. by Katherine Hannigan **** 3/15/12
14. The Fall of Candy Corn by Debbie Viguie *** 3/18/12
15. Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard ***** 3/21/12
16. Flawless by Sara Shepard ***** 3/27/12
17. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins ***** 3/31/12
18. Perfect by Sara Shepard ***** 4/2/12
19. Unbelievable by Sara Shepard ***** 4/4/12
20. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ***** 4/24/12
21. Wicked by Sara Shepard ***** 4/30/12
22. Killer by Sara Shepard ***** 5/2/12
23. The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks ***** 5/6/12
24. I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder * 5/7/12
25. Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder * 5/12/12
26. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis ** 5/15/12
27. Heartless by Sara Shepard ***** 5/25/12
28. Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom **** 5/26/12
29. Wanted by Sara Shepard ***** 5/27/12
30. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ***** 6/1/12
31. Waiting for You by Susanne Colasanti **** 6/9/12
32. Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick **** 6/14/12
33. Twisted by Sara Shepard **** 6/18/12
34. The Witches of Santa Anna bk 18 by Lauren Barnholdt * 6/18/12
35. The Witches of Santa Anna bk 19 by Lauren Barnholdt * 6/19/12
36. Chasing Fire by Suzanne Collins ***** 6-21-12 ( I've been team Peeta from the start!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
37. Dork Diaries #4 by Rachel Renee Russell ***** 7/1/12
38. Between Shades Of Gray by Ruta Sepetys ***** 7/10/12
39. Ruthless by Sara Shepard ***** 7-11-12
40. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J K. Rowling ***** 7-23-12
41. After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick ***** 7-23-12
42. Stunning by Sara Shepard ***** 7-28-12
43. Thirst #1 by Christopher Pike **** 8/2/12
44. The Next Thing on My List by Jill Smolinski ***** 8/4/12
45. 100 Unforgettable Dresses by Hal Rubenstein ***** 8/8/12
46. Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson ***** 8/11/12
47. The Ten Best Days Of My Life by Adena Halpern **** 8/22/12
48. The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore ***** 8/24/12
49. Behind the Scenes at Boston Ballet by Christine Temin *** 9/2/12
50. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling ***** 9/11/12
51. Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths by Bernard Evslin *** 10/5/12
52. Dork Diaries #5 by Rachel Renee Russell **** 10/15/12
53. The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe ** 10/10/12
54. The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allen Poe ** 10/18/12
55. Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler ***** 10/31/12
56. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher ***** 11/2/12
57. Mocking Jay by Susan Collins 5x10000000000 stars 11/23/12
58. The Giver by Lois Lowry **** 12/10/12
59. Burned by Sara Shephard ***** 12/17/12

Tyler (age 16)
1. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien ***** 2/26/12
2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald ***½ 4/29/12
3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee **** 6/1/12
4. The Children of Hurin by J.R.R Tolkin ****1/2 8/23/12

Kristen (age 21, total in 2011=33, goal=30):
1. The Last Child by John Hart ***** 1/5/12
2. A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks **** 1/15/12
3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins ****½ 2/10/12
4. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins ***** 2/22/12
5. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins ***** 3/3/12
6. Dear John by Nicholas Sparks **** 3/8/12
7. 61 Hours by Lee Child ***** 3/9/12
8. Still Missing by Chevy Stevens ***** 3/14/12
9. The Help by Kathryn Stockett ***** 4/7/12 (464 pgs)
10. Down River by John Hart **** 4/19/12
11. How to Train Your Dragon: How to Be a Pirate by Cressida Cowell **** 4/20/12
12. The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks ***** 4/29/12
13. Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney *** 5/17/12
14. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks ***½ 5/23/12
15. Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson ***** 5/26/12
16. The Arthurian Romances by Chretien de Troyes **** 5/30/12
17. Tuesdays With Mmorrie by Mitch Albom ***** 6/2/12
18. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin ***** 6/9/12
19. Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James ***** 6/15/12
20. Fifty Shades Darker by E. L. James ***** 6/18/12
21. Fifty Shades Freed by E. L. James ***** 6/20/12
22. A Stolen Life by jaycee Dugard **** 8/20/12
23. The Only Thing Worth Dying For by Eric Blehm ***** 8/27/12
24. Kill You Twice by Chelsea Cain ***** 9/6/12
25. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin ***** 10/11/12
26. Say You're Sorry by Joe Robotham ***** 10/29/12
27. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin ***** 12/5/12

Ian (age 24, total in 2011=100):
1. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin **** 2/11/12
2. Iron Man 2.0: The Palmer Addley Infection by Nick Spencer **
3. Fear Itself: The Fearless by Cullen Bunn **1/2
4. Mass Effect: Invasion by John Jackson Miller ***1/2
5. Star Wars Knight Errant: Deluge by John Jackson Miller ***1/2
6. New Mutants: Regenesis by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning ***
7. X-Men Legacy: Regenesis by Michael Carey ***1/2
8. Uncanny X-Men: Regenesis by Kieron Gillen ***
9. Mass Effect: Revelation by Drew Karpyshyn ****1/2
10. Wolverine and the X-Men: Regenesis by Jason Aaron ****
11. Ultimate Spider-Man: Power and Responsibility by Brian Michael Bendis ****
12. Newverwinter Tales by R A Salvatore ***
13. Mass Effect: Ascension by Drew Karpyshyn ****
14. Mass Effect: Retribution by Drew Karpyshyn ****
15. Star Wars Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse by Troy Denning ****1/2
16. Ultimate Spider-Man: Learning Curve by Brian Michael Bendis ***1/2
17. Amazing Spider-Man: Big Time by Dan Slott ****1/2
18. Star Wars: Enemy Within by Jeremy Barlow **
19. True Blood: French Quarter by Maria Huehner and David Tischman **
20. Uncanny X-Men: Tabula Rasa by Kieron Gillen ***
21. Avengers X-Sanction by Jeph Loeb ***
22. Generation Hope: End of a Generation by James Asmos ***
23. Thor Volume 3 by J. Michael Straczynski ****
24. Uncanny X-Forece: Otherworld by Rick Remender **
25. Wolverine and the X-Men: Mutatis Mutandis by Jason Aaron ****
26. New Avengers: Secret Invasion book1 by Brian Michael Bendis ***
27. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness ***1/2
28. New Avengers: Secret Invasion book 2 by Brian Michael Bendis ***
29. Star Wars: Iron Eclipse by John Ostrander ****
30. Captain America: Man With No Face by Ed Brubaker ****
31. Captain America: Road to Reborn by Ed Brubaker ***1/2
32. Captain America: Reborn by Ed Brubaker ****1/2
33. Dark Avengers Assemble by Brian Michael Bendis ***
34. Invivcible Iron Man: Demon by Matt Fraction ****1/2
35. Dark Avengers: Molecule Man by Brian Michael Bendis ***
36. Dark Avengers: Siege by Brian Michael Bendis ***
37. New Avengers: Power by Brian Michael Bendis ***
38. New Avengers: Search for the Sorcerer Supreme by Brian Michael Bendis ***
39. The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness ***1/2
40. Ultimate Spider Man: Double Trouble by Brian Michael Bendis ****
41. Ultimate Spider Man: Legacy by Brian Michael Bendis ****
42. Diablo Sin War: Birthright by Richard A Knaak ***
43. Wolverine & the X Men: Alpha & Omega by Brian Wood ***
44. Uncharted by Joshua Williamson ***
45. Star Wars: Crimson Empire - Empire Lost by Mike Richardson **1/2
46. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic - War by John Jackson Miller ***1/2
47. Star Wars: Dark Times - Out of the Wilderness by Randy Stradley ***1/2
48. Iron Druid Chronicles: Tricked by Kevin Hearne *****
49. Amazing Spider-Man: Matters of Life & Death by Dan Slott ****
50. Amazing Spider-Man: Return of the Anti-Venom by Dan Slott ***1/2
51. Amazing Spider-Man: Spider Island by Dan Slott *****
52. Amazing Spider-Man: Flying Blind by Dan Slott ****
53. Amazing Spider-Man: Trouble on the Horizon Dan Slott ****
54. Ultimate Spider-Man: Public Scrutiny by Brian Michael Bendis ***1/2
55. Ultimate Spider-Man: Venom by Brian Michael Bendis ***1/2
56. Ultimate Spider-Man: Irresponsible by Brian Michael Bendis ***1/2
57. Ultimate Spider-Man: Cats & Kings by Brian Michael Bendis ***
58. Maze Runner by James Dashner *****
59. Amazing Spider-Man: Ends of the Earth by Dan Slott ****
60. Morning Glories: P.E by Nick Spencer ****
61. Scorch Trials by James Dashner *****
62. The Death Cure by James Dashner *****
63. Star Wars Dawn of the Jedi: Force Storm by John Ostrander ***
64. Invincible Iron Man: Long Way Down by Matt Fraction ****
65. New Avengers: Powerloss by Brian Michael Bendis ***
66. Thor: Latverian Prometheus by Kieron Gillen ***1/2
67. Siege by Brian Michael Bendis ****
68. Thor: Siege by Kieron Gillen ***1/2
69. Thor: Siege Aftermath by Kieron Gillen ***
70. Thor: World Eaters by Matt Fraction ***
71. Batman: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder ****1/2
72. Mighty Thor Vol 1 by Matt Fraction ***1/2
73. Mighty Thor Vol 2 by Matt Fraction ***1/2
74. Mighty Thor Vol 3 by Matt Fraction ***1/2
75. Journey Into Mystery: Fear Itself Kieron Gillen ****
76. Journey Into Mystery: Terrorism Myth by Kieron Gillen ***
77. Nightwing: Traps and Trapezes by Kyle Higgins ****
78. Neverwinter by R A Salvatore ***1/2
79. I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore *****
80. I am Number Four: The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore *****
81. Star Wars: Boba Fett is Dead by Tom Taylor *1/2
82. I am Number Four: The Lost Files by Pittacus Lore *****
83. Batman & Robin: Born to Kill by Peter Tomasi ***1/2
84. I am Number Four: The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore *****
85. Wolfheart by Richard A Knaak ****
86. Nightwing: The Republic of Tomorrow, Today by Kyle Higgins ***1/2
87. Amazing Spider-Man: No Turning Back by Dan Slott ****
88. Diablo: Sword of Justice by Arron Williams *1/2
89. Mass Effect: Homeworlds by Mac Walters ***
90. Batman: Night of the Owls by Scott Snyder ****1/2
91. Captain America: Two Americas by Ed Brubaker ***
92. Captain America: No Escape by Ed Brubaker ***
93. Captain America: The Trial of Captain America by Ed Brubaker ***
94. Captain America: Gulag by Ed Brubaker ***1/2
95. Captain America & Bucky: Life of Bucky Barnes by Ed Brubaker ***
96. Captain America & Bucky: Old Wounds by Ed Brubaker **1/2
97. Winter Soldier: Longest Winter by Ed Brubaker ***1/2
98. Winter Soldier: Broken Arrow by Ed Brubaker ****
99. Captain America: American Dreamers by Ed Brubaker ****
100. Captain America: Powerless by Ed Brubaker ***
101. Captain America: Shock to the System by Ed Brubaker ***
102. Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War by Christie Golden *****
103. How to Train Your Dragon: How to Steal a Dragon's Sword by Cressida Cowell ****
104. Spider-Men by Brian Michael Bendis ****
105. Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison by Haden Blackman ****1/2
106. Amazing Spider-Man: Alpha by Dan Slott ***1/2
107. Avengers vs. X-Men by Brian Michael Bendis and Jason Aaron ***1/2
108. AvX: Vs. by Kieron Gillen **
109. Exiled by Kieron Gillen ***1/2
110. New Mutants: Fight Future by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning **1/2
111. Journey into Mystery: Manchester Gods by Kieron Gillen ***
112. Everything Burns by Kieron Gillen and Matt Fraction ****
113. Star Wars: Scourge by Jeff Grubb ****
114. Star Wars: Knight Errant - Escape by John Jackson Miller ***
115. Uncanny X-Men: AvX by Kieron Gillen **1/2
116. Wolverine and the X-Men: AvX by Jason Aaron ***
117. Invincible Iron Man: The Future by Matt Fraction ***
118. Captain America: New World Orders by Ed Brubaker ***1/2
119. Star Wars: Sith Hunters by Henry Gilroy and Steven Melching **1/2
120. The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan ***1/2
121. The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan *****
122. The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien *****
123. The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan ****
124. AvX: Consequences by Kieron Gillen ***
125. Ultimate Spider-Man: Sinister Six by Brian Michael Bendis ***
126. Ultimate Spider-Man: Hollywood by Brian Michael Bendis ***
127. Ultimate Spider-Man: Carnage by Brian Michael Bendis ***1/2
128. Ultimate Spider-Man: Superstars by Brian Michael Bendis ***
129. Ultimate Spider-Man: Hobgoblin by Brian Michael Bendis ***1/2
130. Star Wars: Darth Maul - Death Sentence by Tom Taylor ***
131. Dragon Age: Those Who Speak by David Gaider ***
132. Amazing Spider-Man: Danger Zone by Dan Slott ***
133. Cold Days: A Dresden Files Novel by Jim Butcher *****
134. Two Ravens and One Crow by Kevin Hearne ****
135. Trapped: Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne *****

Amy (age 24, goal=35):
1. How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell ****½ 1/8/12
2. The Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin **** 1/19/12
3. Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me by Chelsea's Family, Friends, and Other Victims **** 1/23/12
4. Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock **** 1/24/12
5. How to Ride a Dragon's Storm by Cressida Cowell **** 1/28/12
6. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury *** 2/1/12
7. Sabine's Notebook by Nick Bantock ****½ 2/4/12
8. the Golden Mean by Nick Bantock ****½ 2/7/12
9. The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett ****½ 2/11/12
10. A Clash of Kings by George R. Martin **** 3/11/12
11. How to Break a Dragon's Heart by Cressida Cowell ***** 3/20/12
12. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini ****½ 3/29/12 (849 pgs)
13. Star Wars Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse by Troy Denning ***** 4/5/12
14. Hounded by Kevin Hearne ****½ 4/15/12
15. Hexed by Kevin Hearne ****½ 5/19/12 (294 pgs)
16. A Storm of Swords **** 5//19/12 (1128 pgs)
17. The Help by Kathryn Stockett ****½ 5/23/12
18. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle **** 5/24/12
19. The Diary of Young Girl by Anne Frank **** 6/8/12
20. Hammered by Kevin Hearne ****½ 6/10/12
21. I Am a Pole and So Can You by Stephen Colbert 6/11/12
22. Eye of the World by Robert Jordan ****½ 7/14/12
23. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner ****½
24. The Death Cure by James Dashner ****½
25. Fire by George R. Stewart ***
26. Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus ***
27. I Will Always Remember You edited by Susan P. Schutz
28. The Beauty of Life by Kahlil Gibran ***
29. Ariel Poems by Sylvia Plath *** 8/12/12
30. Maze Runner by James Dashner **** 8/12/12
31. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan *****
32. Tricked by Kevin Hearne ****½
33. Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan ****½ 12/18/12
34. Grimm's Fairy Tales ***
35. Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by A. C. Doyle ****

Suzanne (age 51)
1. The Color Purple by Alice Walker **** 2/25/12 (304 pgs)
2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett ***** 3/2/12 (464 pgs)
3. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks **** 3/11/12 (239 pgs)
4. Wolf Hall by Hillary Martel ***¾ 6/14/12
5. This Must Be The Place by Kate Racculia ****½ 8/20/12

Jan 2, 2012, 6:41pm Top

Abraham Lincoln (The American Presidents Series: The 16th President, 1861-1865) by George S. McGovern *** 1/2/12

A short and adulatory introduction to Lincoln and his presidency, written in an easy style which would be useful to a high school student. Hits the high points but leaves plenty to follow up on.

Jan 4, 2012, 9:15am Top

The Royal Ghosts by Samrat Upadhyay **** 1/3/12

Set in Kathmandu during the Maoist insurgency of the late 1990s, these 9 stories lovingly explore the struggles of regular people dealing with the caste system, political upheaval, and weight of cultural expectations of modern Nepal. I found myself compulsively reading one story after another, finishing the book in one day and feeling as immersed by the whole as I usually do after a good novel - a mark in my book of a well-chosen collection.

Edited: Jan 9, 2012, 5:13pm Top

A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos by Dava Sobel *** 1/9/12

An interesting look at the life of Copernicus and the early publication history of his magnum opus, On the Revolution of the Celestial Spheres, which turned the world upside down with its proofs that the Earth was not the center of the universe. Sobel uses illustrations and long quotes from letters and other documents to give an immediate sense of medieval northern Europe, the lives of its mid-level Catholic clergy, and the extent to which the Church felt threatened by and controlled new hypotheses such as the Copernican theory.

All this is absorbing, but unfortunately Sobel wrote the history just to give herself a forum to publish a play she'd written, which she has sandwiched into the middle of the history. The play imagines the means whereby the young Lutheran mathematician Rheticus convinced the elderly canon to allow publication of his long-shelved work. If the play had stuck to discussions between the two geniuses it might have been bearable, but instead it conjures up an affair between Rheticus and Copernicus's aide and imagines Copernicus's own relationship with his mistress. An unnecessary and unwelcome intrusion into a serious treatment.

Read this for the history, skip the middle 80 pages, and you'll have a rewarding experience. It might also lead you to an interest in some of the other characters - in my case, Rheticus, about whom a recent bio was written.

Jan 13, 2012, 4:02pm Top

AuntMarge, I see on Avaland's thread that you're planning to read War with the Newts. Excellent choice! I hope you enjoy it.

Jan 13, 2012, 5:14pm Top

>6 pamelad: I expect I will. I do love classic SF. Never heard of it before but just the title tickles me.

Jan 15, 2012, 9:08am Top

Margaret, I enjoyed your review of Dava Sobel's book. I heard Sobel speak last November and she spent quite a bit of time on the issue of the play imbedded in the book. The main thing I remember her saying as justification was that it was based on a conversation for which there is a thin historical record and that she thought it worked, but not as a real production. She had worked with a playwright in developing it and expressed interest in using techniques from other genres (poetry was also mentioned) in non-fiction. I have not read the book yet, but I did not find her explanation to be very convincing.

Edited: Jan 15, 2012, 9:31am Top

>8 Linda92007: Maybe I'm an old fuddy-duddy, but what about "non-fiction" is unclear to her? Although I guess she could write non-fiction in a poetic form - who'd read it, though?

Thanks for the recollections, Linda. Very interesting. Are you going to read the book?

Jan 15, 2012, 9:50am Top

I think I may start with one of her earlier works first. Have you read either Galileo's Daughter or Longitude?

Jan 15, 2012, 11:06am Top

>10 Linda92007:

I haven't read either but have Galileo's Daughter on my TBR shelf. At the moment I'm thinking my next read in the area of science will be the aforementioned bio of Rheticus, which I found on Amazon for $3. It was blurbed by Sobol, so it will be interesting to see how it treats the issue of Rheticus's sexuality and whether there is mention of a, uh, dalliance with Copernicus's servant. Rheticus's life holds some fascinating dramatic twists of its own: wealthy mother, physician father who was executed for sorcery (or theft from patients, depending on the source), ruling disallowing family to continue to use the father's last name, remarriage of mother to another wealthy man, and Rheticus's travels around European centers of learning, scandals, and work on promoting Copernican theory.

Jan 17, 2012, 1:01pm Top

I'm counting the following because I spent several hours studying it in order to review for Early Reviewers. I was pretty shocked when I received it in the mail: a brand new, final (not review) copy of this $495 2-volume reference book.

Antarctica: An Encyclopedia by John Stewart ***** 1/15/12

This is an extraordinary labor of love, a four-year effort to expand and update the 1990 first edition, which won a Library Journal Best Reference award. It is a direct-entry encyclopedia in two volumes, with 1758 pages, 30,000 entries, an extensive bibliography, and numerous cross-references. While people, expeditions, and general topics are described, the greatest percentage of the work serves as a narrative gazetteer, bringing together information from various English and non-English sources and presenting it in readable English, often for the first time. For the researcher, student, or aficionado, there is an enormous amount of information which is either unavailable online or scattered about in numerous locations. In the cases of many geological features, maps and satellite images are easily available online, but the Encyclopedia provides details not readily handy, including naming dates, lists of expedition members, and details which may correct previous data. As dry as this may sound, it can be quite amusing, and I found myself moving from entry to entry following references in the various articles. Here is an example which shows several of the points described above:

Entry searched = CREANEY NUNATAKS
Every entry I checked online, from the Australian Antarctic Data Centre (http://data.aad.gov.au/) to Wikipedia, stated that this feature was named for David B. Creaney, an aviation electrician at Ellsworth Station during the winter season of 1957, for whom they give no additional information. Here is the Encyclopedia’s entry in full (p. 369):

Creaney Nunataks. 83°14′S, 51°43′W. Rising to 1475 m, SW of the Herring Nunataks, and 9 km W of Mount Lechner, in the W portion of the Forrestal Range, in the Pensacola Mountains. Mapped from USN air photos taken in 1964, and from USGS ground surveys conducted in 1965-66. Named by US-ACAN in 1968, for a man who doesn’t exist. The real person is David Bartholomew “Dave” Greaney, Jr. sic (b. Feb. 16, 1930, Chicago), VX-6 aviation electrician who wintered-over at Ellsworth Station in 1957. One day he got beaten up by a penguin. The feature is shown with its erroneous name on a U.S. map of 1969, and the name was accepted by UK-APC on Nov. 3, 1971, which shows that they don’t check either.

There is also a cross reference from Greaney to Creaney Nunataks. If you want to find out who his coworkers were at Ellsworth Station that winter, check out the entry for the Station, where all 39 men are listed, including enlisted man Ronald D. “Brownie” Brown (the youngest man in the group, his tractor came within an ace of plunging down a 900-foot crevasse one day. There is no cross reference for Brown, but there is for the team’s leader, Finn Ronne (whose management style created problems, there can be no doubt about that), where his nine outings to Antarctica and his successes (including proof that Antarctica is a continent) are briefly described. From there, of course, one can meander along through Ronne’s expeditions, co-workers, and discoveries.

Any large, regional, or university library would find this a fine purchase, and I’m sure polar researchers, and those for whom Antarctica is a hobby, will find it endlessly informative and entertaining. I certainly will.

Jan 17, 2012, 1:08pm Top

What a lucky snag!

Jan 17, 2012, 1:11pm Top

Wow, what an amazing ER win!!

Jan 20, 2012, 10:32am Top

>13 janeajones:, 14 It really was. But as much as I'd like to keep it, I just can't justify it. As luck would have it, there's a polar researcher at a nearby university and I've offered it to her for her department or library.

Jan 20, 2012, 10:42am Top

Eifelheim by Michael Flynn ***** 1/17/12

This novel will become one of the very few I keep to savor again, along with titles such as The Eqyptologist by Arthur Phillips and The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. The multiple layers of history, science, linguistics, philosophy and plot would all benefit from a second reading.

As the plague approaches through the Black Forest of Germany in 1348/49, a group of wayfarers appears in a lightning storm near a tiny village deep in the woods. The travelers, who resemble more than anything giant grasshoppers, awaken diverse reactions among the villagers. Some decide demons have descended on them, others that these are people from an unexplored part of the world. The more thoughtful among the inhabitants, including the priest, a visiting monk, and the lord of the manor and his sergeant, take a more nuanced approach, giving the newcomers a chance to act and explain themselves before drawing conclusions. The visitors are, of course, interstellar travelers, but they have crashed into a world which thinks the stars circle the earth nearby and which has no sense of modern physics, cosmology, or time theory.

And here lies the depth of the book, because the villagers have their own cosmology to describe the world they perceive, and several members of each group attempt to understand the other, the villagers to understand what’s happening and the visitors to find a way to go home. The visitors have technology which allows them to learn the local language, but only to a point. Abstractions prove the foundering point, as with the priest’s assertion that the Lord rises to heaven (the skies) at Easter, which leads some travelers to be baptized so they can get home by going with Him. William of Ockham visits at one point, on his way to make peace with the Pope (historically, he disappeared on the way), and the priest has a past which brings up various historical events of the time.

Interspersed through this story is that of a present-day couple working through separate scientific projects (one on variable light speed and the other on population anomalies) which are destined to collide head-on and bring the village’s story into a new perspective. There is a nice building of suspense and dread throughout the story, and generally the author leaves it to the reader to decipher German, Latin and scientific terms, making the read dense and enveloping. The only complaint I had was with the priest’s choice of pointedly modern terminology to describe some of the travelers’ technology (e.g., their fotografik devices which render pictures for them) – just a bit too jarring for the reader enmeshed in the medieval.

For all the alien travelers and modern interpretations by the scientists, this did not read like science fiction but as a story of cultures and languages colliding. Most of the tale takes place in the village and is told from the priest’s learned viewpoint. Very compelling, especially coming hard on the heals of reading A More Perfect heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos.

The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys ***½ 1/19/12

A neat little collection of 40 vignettes, one for each time the Thames froze between 1142 and 1895. Some are stories about average folk, such as two lovers meeting on the river in 1363, he rushing to embrace her, she stretching out her arm to exhibit the boils of plague and warn him off. Many stories touch on famous people or events, and they had me avidly looking them up to flesh out the facts. For instance, in 1142, Queen Matilde escapes from her jailors by walking across the Thames at night, wearing white into the snowstorm. In 1795, a composer wants to create an "Ice Music" to rival Handel's "Water Music" and references Purcell's "Cold Song" which included in the music chattering teeth". Well, that one I had to look up, only to find several videos of performances by countertenors (for a truly bizarre experience, check out the films of Klaus Nomi), one by Sting (simply awful in comparison) and a ballet. Nice illustrations round out the book.

Jan 20, 2012, 7:26pm Top

I loved your review of Eifelheim and I am intrigued with the idea of the clash of cultures with people of the medieval age who had a very different view of the world to us. It's on my to buy list.

Jan 20, 2012, 8:56pm Top

Hi baswood! Given your reading interests, I'll be waiting for your own judgment!

Jan 26, 2012, 1:30pm Top

I loved Eifelheim when I read it a few years ago, and your wonderful review skillfully shows why it is such a good book. I recently gave it away, and now I regret doing so, because you're right--it merits rereading.

Jan 26, 2012, 3:00pm Top

>19 arubabookwoman: Oh dear, it wasn't me you gave it to, was it? On PaperBackSwap?

Jan 26, 2012, 3:23pm Top

No--I actually donated it to the Friends of the Library--along with 500 or so other books. I'm sure I will come to regret many of those donations, but I felt it was time for a serious cull.

Jan 26, 2012, 4:24pm Top

Well, someone will be delighted, or you might see it and buy it back :)

Jan 27, 2012, 2:11pm Top

The Ice People by René Barjavel *** 1/21/12

French science fiction from the 1960s about the discovery of a 900,000 year-old buried city and two hibernating survivors who are revived. The book was a bestseller at the time but shows its age. Recommended for fans of mid-century SF or fiction set in Antarctica.

The Affair by Lee Child ***** 1/23/12

Reacher, Reacher, Reacher! It's always a delicious treat to put down all other reading and stay glued to a new Reacher novel. Here he tells of the 1987 events which forced him from his work in the military police, and it's just as much fun as the "current" storyline.

Sleepers of Mars by John Wyndham *** 1/27/12

Minor early Wyndham from the 1930s, but still enjoyable for the committed fan. Includes the following stories: "Sleepers of Mars" (a companion piece to the novel Stowaway to Mars), "Worlds to Barter", "Invisible Monster", "The Man from Earth", and "The Third Vibrator".

Feb 3, 2012, 2:04am Top

Keep them coming, those books by John Wyndham. Nice review also of The Frozen Thames. I have read a number of very positive reviews of books by Helen Humphreys here on Club Read, notably by Cariola, so I think I should try my hands on a copy some time soon.

Feb 3, 2012, 11:13am Top

>24 edwinbcn: I do have a few more on my TBR so will have to get to them. I'm interested in reading some of the other books about the Frost Fairs which were held on the river when it froze over. Have you seen any of them?

Edited: Feb 8, 2012, 10:34am Top

It seems there are many (not that I've ever noticed them in my local book store):

The last one is especially for Cariola ;-)

It seems Europe is extremely cold, this winter. Is the Thames frozen over, yet?

Feb 9, 2012, 8:43am Top

>26 edwinbcn: It seems Europe is extremely cold, this winter. Is the Thames frozen over, yet? I was wondering the same thing.

Here are two I've been eyeing:

Frost Fairs on the Frozen Thames by Nicholas Reed

Frost, Freezes and Fairs: Chronicles of the Frozen Thames and Harsh Winters in Britain from 1000AD by Ian Currie

Edited: Feb 10, 2012, 10:15am Top

Secret Lives of the Dalai Lama: The Untold Story of the Holy Men Who Shaped Tibet, from Pre-history to the Present Day by Alexander Norman ****½ 2/9/12

Despite the title, this is a serious history of the institution of the Dalai Lama, Buddhism in Tibet, and Tibet and its neighbors: three topics inextricably connected.

Beginning with the pre-history of Tibetan myth (that is, myth to non-Tibetans), Norman spends the first half of the book explaining the concept of Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and his personal interest in Tibet and history of reincarnating in human form throughout Tibet’s history. By the second half of the book we reach the 16th century, when Chenrezig’s rebirth was formally given the name of Dalai Lama and applied for the first time to the man who became known as the 3rd Dalai Lama. (The two immediately preceding incarnations were retroactively proclaimed as the 1st and 2nd.) Each Dalai Lama is then given a chapter or more depending on his significance, along with detail on his family and background, as well as on the actions of the various Buddhist hierarchs and sects in selecting him as the incarnation, training him, and running the country during his minority. Norman examines the rise and fall of each Dalai Lama’s control of the religious and secular institutions of his day and the resulting fortunes of Tibet in relation to its neighbors, especially Mongolia and China. The final chapters bring us up-to-date with the current Dalai Lama and Tibet’s ongoing struggle to maintain a presence distinct from that of China.

Footnotes, a 22-page bibliography, and a detailed index are included. The author is a long-time acquaintance of the current Dalai Lama, with whom he has co-authored several books and who wrote the forward to this one. The reader would have been well-served with a few maps, a glossary, and charts showing the succession of Dalai Lamas and their earlier lineage, and for this reason I’ve deducted a ½-star. But even without these I highly recommend this book for anyone with an interest in the Dalai Lama and his religious background, Tibet and her woes, or Tibetan Buddhism in general. It is hugely informative and compulsively readable, honest in its appraisals (the author is quite forthcoming about the personal and professional shortcomings of the incarnations and other main characters), and gives the reader a solid basis for understanding what’s happening between Tibet and China.

Feb 10, 2012, 11:11am Top

Secret Lives of the Dalai Lama looks extremely interesting and one for the wishlist. Thanks for the great review!

Feb 11, 2012, 4:38am Top

Interesting, your excellent review of The Secret Lives of the Dalai Lama

Feb 11, 2012, 10:36am Top

This is one I think I must order for the college library. Thanks.

Edited: Mar 4, 2012, 6:35pm Top

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak ***** 2/16/12

Death is haunted by humans, especially a young girl in Nazi Germany whom he glimpses several times as he collects people she knows. Liesel has watched her brother die and mother leave forever (likely “disappeared” for being a Communist), and been assigned foster parents near Munich. As the war approaches, she and her friends attend Hitler Youth meetings, play street soccer, and steal food from nearby farms. Liesel also steals books, the first from the gravedigger at her brother’s burial. Oh, and her foster parents hide a Jew in their basement. Even the secondary characters here are priceless: the gentle, accordion-playing foster-father who teaches Liesel to read and sits with her every night through her nightmares; the grumpy foster mother who comes to love her; the Jew Max, who hides in the basement for two years and writes stories for Liesel; and the best friend who longs only for a kiss. Very highly recommended.

Edited: Feb 28, 2012, 8:07am Top

Blood Men by Paul Cleave ** 2/17/12

A heart-pumping but finally rather distasteful psychological thriller, in which a young father's world is turned upside-down after tragedy strikes his family and he finds himself tempted to follow the footsteps of his own estranged father, a convicted serial killer.

(Edited to reduce book rating after further reflection: from 3 stars to 2.)

Edited: Feb 28, 2012, 8:07am Top

Helsinki White by James Thompson ** 2/22/12

This the third in a series featuring Kari Vaara, a Finnish cop. I've read all three, given 5 stars to the first, 4 stars to the second, and 3 stars to this one. "Helsinki White" focuses on a variety of very ugly topics: racist hate groups, the illegal drug trade, and politicians and cops with no sense of moral balance. In addition, the main character, who had some decency in the first two books, looses all emotion following brain surgery and becomes as evil as the people he's pursuing. The lengthy racist monologues of several secondary characters are just disgusting, and the indiscriminately crude and sexist language used by all the characters made this one of the most unpleasant books I've ever read. I don't think I'll care to follow Vaara's further adventures.

(Edited to reduce book rating after further reflection: from 3 stars to 2.)

Edited: Feb 24, 2012, 10:11pm Top

Cloudland by Joseph Olshan **** 2/24/12

In rural Vermont, Catherine, a 41-year old ex-newswoman recovering from a haunting relationship, comes across a dead woman, apparently the most recent victim of a serial killer. She gets drawn into the investigation because one of her neighbors, a forensic psychiatrist, wants to use her and her investigative skills as a sounding board. Along the way we meet various other locals, including an elderly world-renowned artist and his adopted son, who is the town tax collector and an early suspect. Gradually, Catherine’s past lover, as well as Catherine’s Wilkie Collins expertise, get drawn into the investigation, bringing back memories she was hoping to escape and putting her in increased danger. Fans of Louise Penny will love this.

Feb 25, 2012, 3:52pm Top

You are so much kinder than I am. I thought Blood Men was a real stinker. It began well and Cleave can write, but it degenerated into a song in praise of graphic violence, leaving all plot and character development in a little bloody heap.

Feb 28, 2012, 8:04am Top

>36 RidgewayGirl: You know, you're right. And the longer I think about them, the more convinced I am that I gave both Blood Men and Helsinki White too many stars. I'm going to change both of them.

Edited: Mar 5, 2012, 8:40am Top

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett **** 3/1/12

This is only the second book I've read by Patchett (the first being Bel Canto, which I adored). While I wasn't quite as taken with this book, it's clear that Patchett's a superb storyteller. Here, the first half of the book could have been shortened, the second half is stunning, and end is too abrupt and leaves just a few too many loose ends.

Somewhere in Brazil, Dr. Annick Swenson, an irascible, elusive, and brilliant physician, is hidden away in the bush working on a fertility drug which will allow woman to continue to bear children through old age. (Why the world would need this isn’t addressed except for the puzzle to be solved, the profits to be made, and the occasional woman who has waited too long to have children). The company footing the bill has sent researcher Anders to track down the doctor and pin down just how the work is going, but after 3 months they receive a curt note from Swenson that Anders has died and been buried in the jungle. Anders’s office-mate, a 40-something scientist with her own past run-ins with Swenson and a current affair with her widowed boss, is asked by said boss to follow Anders’s trail and finish his assignment. Swenson doesn’t want to be found so this proves difficult, but eventually contact is made. That’s the first half of the book, and it does drag on a bit.

But the second half, in which Marina travels inland with Swenson to the native village she’s living with and testing, is fantastic. Herein lies a plot thick with one of my main interests: how the meeting of mutually inexplicable cultures leads to misunderstandings, disasters, and, sometimes, revelations.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of problems with the end of the story. The events themselves might make more sense if the author had taken the time to explore them as much as she did the main story, but the reader is left to reread the final few pages over and over trying to make sense, and it left a bad taste, given how the characters acted throughout the rest of the book. There is also a tiny bit of action which the careful reader will observe and understand, but its ramifications are not addressed at all, and I couldn’t tell if Patchett was leaving this as a bit of an Easter egg for the reader or just wrapped up the book too quickly to deal with it. (Sorry to be so vague, but it’s an event which would give away much too much to relate.) The reader will beg for a sequel (or even an epilogue).

Well worth the read. Patchett’s dialogue and invention of scenario are simply too wonderful to miss.

Lost Horizon by James Hilton ***½ 3/3/12

Mar 6, 2012, 12:37pm Top

Fail Safe by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler ***** 3/5/12

It’s exactly fifty years later and this book is still very powerful. I’ve seen the movie version with Henry Fonda a couple of times, knew exactly how the story ended, and I still couldn’t put it down and then cried at the end.

It’s the mid-sixties and the USA and USSR, mutually distrustful and each protected by huge stockpiles of weaponry, depend on multiple technological safeguards to ensure against accidental war. Civilian and military intellectuals from all sides engage in philosophical debates which inform national policy on armament, pre-emptive war, and nuclear policy. Swagger and the threat of annihilation are generally thought to be prohibitive of intentional war. But, of course, errors of machinery and human activity do occur, and here an unnoticed breakdown in a minor part of one machine mistakenly sends a group of bombers into the Soviet Union with orders to bomb Moscow. Unable to recall them, the President (presumably JFK) contacts Khrushchev, and the two must weigh their actions in the event the planes are successful.

Gripping, informative, and, finally, heartbreaking, and very highly recommended.

Mar 9, 2012, 5:02pm Top

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker *** 3/8/12

As this post-apocalyptic coming-of-age story begins, eleven-year old Julia is a typical kid living in suburban California, struggling with junior high school and dreaming from afar of one boy in particular. Through her eyes we see the effects of a slowing of the earth’s rotation, adding noticeably to the minutes in each day, so that within a few months each day/night period increases to 30, then 40, then 50 or more hours long. The most interesting aspect of this is the divergence between those people who attempt to maintain a day/night schedule reflecting the increasing size of light and dark periods, hoping their circadian rhythms will adjust quickly enough, and those who obey the government and revert to a strict 24-hour day/night schedule, in which each day’s pattern of daylight and darkness varies. As the rotation slows further, this results in people not seeing daylight for “days” on end. Tidal highs and lows become more extreme. Longer light and dark periods bring increasing extremes in temperatures, and planetary and atmospheric magnetic fields shift, causing die-offs of birds, marine mammals, and crops. Human psychology and physiology begin to falter, and the best the characters can hope for is to adapt, whether through quick evolution or the development of food stuffs which will grow without regular sunlight. Rightly so, these attempts are presented as ineffective in the short time available.

There are some interesting questions raised here, but as a whole I found it hard to believe the effects of this fast a change wouldn’t be much, much worse. Perhaps because the story is told from a young girl’s point of view, the extremity of the human situation here never seems really terrifying, and the story, while depressing, doesn’t have the emotional wallop it could have had.

Edited: Mar 17, 2012, 9:39am Top

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo ****½ 3/16/12

Inspector Harry Hole, of the Oslo police, is the only cop in Norway with any training and experience in tracking serial killers, but because serial killing in the country is so rare, his superiors are reluctant to agree when he thinks a new one is on the loose. The murders stretch across the country and back fourteen years, so recognition of the pattern has been hindered. Now the killing has become more frequent and more blatant, and as red herrings multiply, Harry and his team disregard official warnings and follow his instincts, even as he begins to suspect the killer is trying to draw him in.

This is suspense writing at its best – believable action, great dialogue, interesting characters, and a group of equally plausible villains. I did deduct a half star for some unnecessarily (IMO) graphic sex (enough so I felt uncomfortable handing this on to a 20-something niece), and be forewarned that the violence is very graphic. I’ve already downloaded the sequel to my Kindle and I’ve ordered some of the earlier titles from the library.

Mar 17, 2012, 10:50am Top

I like Jo Nesbo's stuff. He also has a children's series, which begins with Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder, which my kids enormously enjoyed.

Mar 17, 2012, 12:23pm Top

Thanks for the reminder to get back to Jo Nesbo's books. I read and enjoyed The Devil's Star last year.

Mar 18, 2012, 9:49am Top

I've already started on the sequel, The Leopard. It's so great to find a new series to love.

Mar 25, 2012, 11:57am Top

Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys ** 3/25/12

A short science fiction novel from 1960, but unfortunately not short enough. This would have made a terrific short story but instead in burdened by several secondary characters of no interest to the reader but with lengthy scenes with the main characters.

Mar 26, 2012, 8:48am Top

Catching up on all these entertaining reviews here, and noting several, such as the Dava Sobel, Eifelheim and State of Wonder.

Mar 28, 2012, 8:31pm Top

Below the Convergence: Voyages Toward Antarctica 1699-1839 by Alan Gurney **** 3/28/12

A dense history of early voyages to the high south latitudes to determine if there was land and, if so, inhabitants and resources to be exploited. After a chapter on ancient and medieval propositions about what might be found, and chapters covering maritime reckoning, scurvy, the Antarctic convergence and the wildlife of the southern ocean, the author proceeds with vivid histories of trips by Halley, Cook, Bellingshausen, Weddell, Biscoe, Kemp and Belleny. There are also colorful but sad descriptions of the early-19th century discovery of massive seal colonies and their subsequent devastation over only a few years.

Anyone interested in the Antarctic should enjoy this. It fills a gap usually overlooked in favor of the famous explorers of the early-20th century and provides an intriguing look at what greatness there was in those who sailed into the void and made those later explorations possible. Personally, this book has led me to want to read about Halley and Cook, especially. What courage and vision (and maybe a bit of insanity) these men had.

Mar 31, 2012, 9:18am Top

Below the Convergence sounds extremely interesting. Thanks for the review!

Apr 2, 2012, 10:47am Top

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard ***** 4/2/12

I am so impressed with Dugard! We all know her story and probably have the same questions: why didn’t she run when she finally started being given some freedom after years of captivity, how could her existence in a sex offender’s backyard go undetected for 18 years, how did she get away, and how are she and girls coping now? And for me, this book provided most of those answers, although not in a straightforward way. In fact, I doubt a straightforward telling would have answered the first question at all, because most of us will have no experiences we can use to compare with hers. Instead, she uses multiple small chapters to highlight the main events she recalls, as she remembers experiencing them, interspersed with reflections on her memories from today’s viewpoint. There are also journal entries which add to the overall sense of sharing how her inner life changed over the years. I picked the book up to read about how she’s doing since being freed, and ended up reading the whole book in a few hours. I simply couldn’t put it down.

If you read this, start on the very first page, the “author’s note”. Every single page is worthwhile, even the acknowledgements at the end. Most important of all, though, is Dugard’s warning in the introduction: My goal is to inspire people to speak out when they see that something is not quite right around them. We live in a world where we rarely speak out and when someone does, often nobody is there to listen. My hope is that society changes in regards to how we treat someone who speaks out….For many, it is so much easier to live in a self-made “backyard” that it can be tough and scary to venture out and leave that comfort zone behind. It is so worth it, though. You could be saving a person or a family who is not able to save themselves.

Apr 2, 2012, 12:10pm Top

Good review of A Stolen Life. My immediate thoughts were about how it compared to Emma Donaghue's Room.

Apr 2, 2012, 12:11pm Top

Inspiring review.

Apr 3, 2012, 8:35pm Top

>50 baswood: My immediate thoughts were about how it compared to Emma Donaghue's Room.

Yes, Room was in my thoughts also as I read this one. I think what's so moving about Dugard's book is her ability to show (not just tell) how her emotions and thoughts of the future changed over the 18 years. At one point her journal entries talk about whether she would go or stay if she was given the choice, and it's quite believable, given how young she was and how consistent the mental abuse was. I was fascinated by her portrayal of life with in insane person and how it affected her own questioning of reality.

Edited: Apr 20, 2012, 6:46pm Top

Stolen Prey by John Sandford **** 4/7/12

The Lucas Davenport suspense series is up to 22 volumes – good news for all his fans, although I found this entry a bit less interesting than usual. Bank fraud and Mexican drug gangs don’t interest me all that much, and there’s a side-plot involving Virgil Flowers that didn’t seem necessary, as much as I enjoy his adventures also. So, fun to read and essential for fans, but not the best of the best from Sandford.

Edited: Apr 20, 2012, 6:46pm Top

Down To a Sunless Sea by David Graham **** 4/9/12

Terrific apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic fiction from 1979. A bit dated, and slow for the first quarter of the book, but then edge-of-the-seat suspenseful until the very last page.

Jonah Scott, a British pilot who makes rescue flights across the Atlantic to a failed and violent post-oil America, tells of the days before and after uncontrolled nuclear war erupts. Among those on board a flight from New York to London are 150 children, several scientists, a large group of returning British soldiers, diplomats from several competing countries, and two stowaways Jonah is hoping to sneak through heavily-armed British customs. They are mid-way across the Atlantic when they hear reports of cities being bombed, and one by one their possible landing sites become unapproachable. Desperate to find somewhere, anywhere, they can land, Jonah and his crew search for a landing site or a ship to contact if they have to ditch in the water.

A keeper to read again.

Apr 16, 2012, 8:42pm Top

Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot on and Never Will by Judith Schalansky **** 4/11/12

A charming collection of short essays and scale maps of 50 small, isolated islands scattered over the planet. The maps are all in the same scale, so they really are all very small islands, some well-known (Easter Island, Iwo Jima, St. Helena), others extremely obscure. Many are lagoons, possibly the most interesting of all. Each two-page spread includes the map, geographical location, population, current geopolitical affiliation, and a few sentences which describe an event or fact about the island which encapsulates the essence of what the island has meant to humans. It’s an interesting approach and addictive to read.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett **** 4/14/12

This book is so well-known I’ll skip a summary and just make a few comments. The storytelling is mesmerizing and will hook most anyone who reads the first few pages. I don’t know how authentic the voices are, but the three main characters certainly came alive for me. Two complaints will explain the lack of a fifth star: with few exceptions, the black characters are all positive and the whites negative, and while race relations may have been this stark, there must have been a more equal representation of individual behavior within the two races. Second, the end is much too abrupt. 90% of the story leads up to the publication of the book, but then the reader is left to wonder about the effects its publication had in the long-term for the main characters. An epilogue would have rounded out the story much more satisfactorily.

Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick **** 4/16/12

Well, he’s convinced me. Philbrick, who wrote In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, seems a natural to comment on the story and meaning of Melville’s masterpiece. Melville was inspired to write Moby Dick by the events surrounding Essex’s destruction, and Philbrick, a sailor and long-time resident of Nantucket, clearly loves the book. In 28 short chapters he demystifies and makes less-threatening this leviathan of American literature, and I, for one, am enthusiastic to get going. Mission accomplished!

Apr 17, 2012, 6:49pm Top

Hope you enjoy Moby-Dick

Apr 17, 2012, 9:56pm Top

>56 baswood: Hi Baswood. I think I will, and I'll get going in earnest as soon as I'm done with the next section of Xenophon and the Star Wars book I'm reading. Thanks for the encouragement.

Apr 19, 2012, 8:42am Top

Apologies for going all the way back to January, but is The Royal Ghosts by Samrat Upadhyay a new collection of his? I've read his novels, and always meant to read the collection that came out between, but never did.

Apr 19, 2012, 7:44pm Top

>59 avaland: Avaland, it's never too late to go back! The collection is from 2006, it seems.

Apr 19, 2012, 7:45pm Top

Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse by Troy Denning ****½ 4/18/12

Final installment in the Fate of the Jedi series, left me hoping a new series will come out soon for all of us addicts.

The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth ** 4/19/12

Phans will want to read this just to see what is imagined for the main characters' future, but the writing is awful. Even the novella format is too long, so expect to skim most of it to get to the climax.

Apr 20, 2012, 11:25am Top

I thought The Help was a solid debut novel. Then it became a topic of discussion down here (I'm in South Carolina) and it has sparked some comments and feelings that surprised me. One woman even cried as she expressed how ashamed she was at how the woman who raised her was treated - which in the scope of things was quite well - but that book made her feel how difficult a life it must have been to leave her own children behind to care for someone else's white kids. Stockett was careful to present a difficult subject matter in a way that made it accessible and made it possible to raise it as a topic of discussion without people feeling defensive.

Apr 21, 2012, 6:06pm Top

I'm so intrigued by Atlas of Remote Islands. Also, hope you enjoy MD. It's not that easy of a read, but it caught the imaginations of several of us in a group read recently. It's my favorite book of the year so far.

Edited: May 2, 2012, 4:02pm Top

The Essential Jesus: Original Sayings and Earliest Images by John Dominic Crossan **** 4/23/12

This is a book to make one think very hard about what it means to be a follower of Jesus and/or a Christian, and they’re not necessarily the same thing. For instance, I would consider Gandhi a follower, although not a Christian. On the other hand, most people who tout their membership in Christian organizations fall considerably short of what one would think is the ideal, given Jesus’ example and lessons. Most egregious, to me, are public figures and institutions who shout their Christianity even as they hoard millions (or billions) which could be used to give basic needs to the hungry and dying. And many of these insist they are “pro-life”, although apparently the already-living are expendable. Anyway, about the book:

Crossan is a well-known member of the Jesus Seminar and a scholar in the historical Jesus school. In this third entry in his biographies of Jesus, he presents the sayings he considers to be authentically spoken by Jesus (mostly parables and aphorisms, designed to provoke discussion among the oppressed) alongside examples of pre-Constantinian Christian art work. Although the art is mostly 3rd c., it was produced before the religion had any governmental organization and backs up the words written down over two centuries earlier, with both reflecting the message the earliest Christians received: radical egalitarianism, open commensality (indiscriminate table fellowship and healing), and the Kingdom here NOW, wherever people are willing to follow Jesus’ example. Crossan differentiates between John the Baptist’s teaching (apocalyptic eschatology, i.e., imminent and cataclysmic divine intervention) and Jesus’ (sapiential eschatology, i.e., living here and now so that God’s power is evident to all). It’s a huge difference, with the easier path clearly being the former, where we can let God take care of changing things when he’s ready and continue as we are in our day-to-day lives. Just as clearly, Crossan sees Jesus’s way as the more difficult and the reason Jesus, out of so many wandering preachers, dissidents, and trouble makers, got the death penalty instead of a lesser sentence: he was looking for a total change in how people acted right then, and he was convincing at it.

Whatever you’re approach to Bible study or belief, this is a provocative look at early Christian thought: that is, what Jesus said and how he was perceived by the people closest to him in time and still untouched by institutional dogma.

May 2, 2012, 10:42am Top

Icehenge by Kim Stanley Robinson ***½ 4/29/12

Three connected stories spread over 400 years as humans explore the solar system from the Martian settlements and discover a Stonehenge-like monument on Pluto. Humans who can afford the treatments live 800-1000 years, so 400 isn’t too long to expect the same characters may show up from one story to another.

Published before the Mars trilogy, there are some familiar place names and developments mentioned here (e.g., the city of Burroughs, the progress towards a breathable atmosphere), so there was a sense of familiarity in reading this, although the overall future envisioned is more bleak than that explored in the later books. So while it’s a stand-alone novel, it was a welcome return to the Martian world so beautifully explored in the trilogy. It was also neat to see Robinson’s speculation on the development of self-publication on an Internet-like network (this was written in 1984) and find Pluto still described as the ninth planet.

May 2, 2012, 3:12pm Top

Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson ****½ 5/1/12

Christine, in her mid-twenties, wakes up one morning with a middle-aged married man sleeping next to her. She goes into the bathroom and sees herself in the mirror and is horrified: reflected back is the image of a middle-aged woman. There are photos taped up with notes explaining that she has amnesia and that the man in the bed is her husband. This has apparently happened every morning for years and she has no ability to make new memories, so each day is a new start. On this particular day she is contacted by a doctor who claims they have been working together for some time, without her husband’s knowledge, and that she’s been keeping a journal which he reminds her of each day so she can keep up-to-date and add each day’s events. It’s becoming clear that her husband is lying to her about some things and keeping other things secret, and the question becomes, why? Is he trying to protect her from daily hurt, or so bored by repeating things each day he’s giving her a simplified version, or is he manipulating her in some malign way? As the journal gets longer and certain events trigger flashes of memory, these questions take on new urgency.

Exactly what psychological suspense should be: edge-of-the-seat drama you can’t put down.

May 2, 2012, 8:31pm Top

>66 auntmarge64: wow! I bet your review gives the book a run for its suspense money. Onto the wishlist.

May 2, 2012, 10:34pm Top

>66 auntmarge64: & 67 .... Yep. My wishlist just got bigger too!

May 3, 2012, 2:41pm Top

Make that three wishlists. :)

May 3, 2012, 7:58pm Top

I've been checking out Watson - no new titles announced, but the book's "in development" for a film.

Edited: May 8, 2012, 4:33pm Top

The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips ****½ 5/7/12

Another tour-de-force from Phillips, who here gives his main character his own name, history, and accomplishments to explore the family history of a respected writer whose master-forger father owns what appears to be a genuine, 1597 quarto edition of an unknown Shakespearean play, “The Tragedy of Arthur”. The fictional Arthur detests Shakespeare and has fought a lifelong battle to pry his father’s approval from twin sister Dana, who shares the father’s passion for the Bard. Now the father is dying and he’s asked Arthur (not Dana) to use his reputation and literary skill to help him get the play authenticated and published. Reeling from the attention, Arthur approaches his own publisher, Random House, but as positive feedback from experts piles up, Arthur begins to doubt the play’s authenticity himself. The entire story is told as a lengthy introduction to the Random House edition of the play, which is included at the end, along with dueling footnotes by Arthur and one of the Shakespearean scholars.

Although Arthur does whine quite a bit (and freely admits it), the story works only because of who he is, and the end of the introduction makes plain why the whole story has to be told as is. It’s funny in Arthur’s own confessions and mind-blowing in the reader’s confusion over Arthur (the actual author) and Arthur (the character), not to mention Arthur (the father) and King Arthur, the subject of the play. The double meanings pile on in so many directions the reader ends up feeling empathy for poor Arthur (the character), who ends up just as unsettled at the end as at the beginning. Highly recommended.

May 10, 2012, 1:28pm Top

Very Bad Men by Harry Dolan ***½ 5/10/12

Although I loved the first in the series, Bad Things Happen, this one just didn't have the suspense level I expected. Still, I'll watch for the next in the series.

May 13, 2012, 6:18pm Top

The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout ***½ 5/13/12

If you have someone in your life who constantly does inexplicable things, things which lead you to wonder if you're overreacting or if the person is mentally ill and deserving of sympathy; who is constantly trolling for pity, lying, and has a pattern of behavior which makes people you describe it to think you must be making things up: do yourself a favor and read this book. The person in question may be among the 1 in 25 who have no conscience or remorse and for whose actions there is no "reason" recognizable to most of the people around them. People like this, often so skilled at subtle manipulation they hide in plain site, are called sociopaths or psychopaths. Trying to understand them and playing by their terms by trying to accommodate, cure, or help them, will lead to only one result: your pain and their success. The author concludes that the number one method of combating damage from a connection to a sociopath is avoidance.

The book is pop psychology and some parts may be skimmed depending on your interests, but the author definitely portrays accurately the frustrations, fear, and difficulties of having someone like this in your life. For me, the book reinforced and strengthened my own approach to someone like this in my own life: AVOID, AVOID, AVOID. It took me years to get to this point, and luckily I have someone else who is dealing with the same person and with whom I can compare notes and encouragement, but for someone floundering around thinking they are in an impossible position, this book offers hope. You may not be dealing with a psychopath, but it's worth checking out. It certainly helped me solidify my certainty in the path I've chosen.

May 14, 2012, 2:52pm Top

A hot topic in CR of late. The descriptions remind me of internet "trolls".

May 14, 2012, 9:08pm Top

There must be something in the water, Iistened to an hour long dissertation on all the various -paths in society on a local public radio, just to switch over to local rock station going on and on about sociopaths. It seems to be going around.

The Tradegy of Arthur sounds like delightfully confusing book, I'll have to find a sample of it.

Edited: May 15, 2012, 7:01am Top

Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell **** 5/14/12

On a completely different note, here's a short horror novel from 1938, in which a group of scientists exploring the magnetic South Pole discovers an alien vessel from the time Antarctica froze, and some of the alien tissue survives and can shape-shift. How they try to decide who might be a monster and whether any of them will ever be able to leave alive is quite gripping, although the end is a bit abrupt.

May 16, 2012, 8:35pm Top


The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester *** 5/16/12

This was a depressing little book built around the collaboration and friendship between the self-made scholar who shepherded the astonishing birth of the Oxford English Dictionary and one of the volunteers who regularly sent in contributions. The volunteer turned out to be a wealthy American doctor and murderer housed in an insane asylum outside London. The book expounds on a variety of topics which touch on the lives of the two men, including surgical practice in the Union Army during the Civil War, the Battle of the Wilderness, and the history of dictionaries. Much of this is quite interesting, but I didn’t find the central story all that compelling, perhaps because the actual documentation isn’t voluminous, so all the details on other subjects feel like filler.

May 17, 2012, 1:49pm Top

The Wrong Man by David Ellis ***** 5/17/12

Another winner for suspense writer and prosecutor Ellis, who successfully impeached Governor Rod Blagojevich. This is the third in the Jason Kolarich series blending suspense and courtroom drama, and Ellis sure knows how to plot and pace a thriller. Here Kolarich defends a homeless vet accused of gunning down a young woman to rob her. He's found with the gun and her belongings, and it seems to be a slam dunk win for the state. However, there a few too many inconsistencies and as the defense tries to find a way to get the vet off on insanity they begin to sense he may actually be innocent. Pick this up and you'll be sleepless before you're able to put it down.

Edited: May 19, 2012, 9:41am Top

May 19, 2012, 11:55am Top

Good finds. I love these library book sales. Funny enough I recently picked a copy a used copy of In the Heart of the Sea. I also have an e-book version of Team of Rivals which I've been meaning to get to for years...

Edited: May 19, 2012, 4:42pm Top

Time Untamed by Isaac Asimov and others ** 5/19/12

Nothing to do with time except its passing, perhaps, and only a so-so collection short stories by Asimov, Bloch, Bradbury, Simak, Sturgeon, De Camp, Leiber, and my favorite, John Wyndham. Read if you're a fan of any of these, otherwise skip.

May 19, 2012, 6:00pm Top

>80 dchaikin: I'll probably want to get the Kindle version of Team of Rivals too, and maybe of some of these others. But sometimes I like to have the print copies too, especially to get a feel for the book. Total spent on all of these, as well as one I forgot to add, A History of Private Life, Volume II: Revelations of the Medieval World, was about $25. Can't beat that.

May 21, 2012, 12:45pm Top

True Believers: A Novel by Kurt Andersen *½ 5/21/12
(Made available pre-publication via Netgalley.com)

The shame of it is, there's an interesting story here, buried under 450 pages of swollen narrative in which the author attempts to mention every important event, person, movement, philosophy, and fad to have occurred in mid-Century America.

In 2014, a 60-something attorney, judge, and professor, having recently removed herself from consideration for the Supreme Court, decides to write an autobiography to explain a tragic event from 1968 which would have been uncovered by a national security check and the reason she backed out. She goes back and forth between the present, in which she's trying to gather evidence to back up her memories of that incident, and the past, unraveling what happened to her from middle school through the turbulent 60s when she was in college.

It sounds like the basis to an interesting tale, but no. I found myself skimming whole chapters to find the few pages of real import to keep the story going and find out what terrible thing she did. When the truth does show up, and it's a tale which could have been quite dramatic, it's such an anticlimax it falls flat. The novel has no shape, the writing is overblown, and the result is boredom.

Between 1964 and 1967, the war and the antiwar countercultural fantasia grew symbiotically, centrifugally, exponentially, like a cascading nuclear reaction. I was eighteen at the very moment when American teenagers were being conscripted to kill and die in a deranged war and being encouraged to believe they could see and feel more clearly and vitally than anyone else on earth the differences between smart and stupid, authentic and fake, free and oppressed, right and wrong.

I was a fissile creature by the end of 1967 and the beginning of 1968. In the space of a year, having redefined myself as a radical, I'd started using mind-altering drugs, lost my virginity, come down with the incurable illness that occasionally addled and would someday kill me, experienced true love, lost my closest (black) adult friend to casual (white) malfeasance, left home, been beaten by a deputy U.S. Marshall on the steps of the Pentagon, gotten punished by my college for opposing the manufacture of napalm, and lost my sister in an airplane crash.

My impatient belief in my own higher sanity became so sure and fierce that it eventually moved into the suburbs of insanity. Sarah, who is the sanest person I know, always says about expensive heels that snap off the second time you wear them or people who use "literally" wrong or her husband spitting into the kitchen sick, "That make me so crazy." The Vietnam War literally made me crazy. But it didn't and doesn't make me not guilty.

This is apparently a pattern for Andersen, as witness a review for one of the author's previous books, in which the main character's adventures too often get bogged down in the minutiae of the period at the expense of storytelling (Janet Maslin deems the effect "compulsive pedantry"). Really, unless you're a fan, I'd avoid this.

Edited: May 26, 2012, 1:01pm Top

This Must Be The Place by Kate Racculia ***** 5/24/12

This is lovely novel about Arthur Rook, a bereft newly-widowed young man searching for some connection to his wife’s past. He finds an old unsent postcard he’s never seen and travels across country to her hometown, where she was raised by her now-deceased grandfather. There he finds a group of characters, especially Mona, the woman to whom the card was addressed, living at a boarding house Mona owns. Mona has a 15-year old daughter, Oneida, precocious and somewhat alienated from her classmates, and we come to know Arthur, Mona, Oneida, and Oneida’s boyfriend all very well, for there are really four main characters here, as well as Amy, the dead wife, who is ever-present.

Racculia’s handle on dialogue is superb, and even as I was tempted to read ahead to find out what happens, I was entranced by the language and stayed with the storyline. She shows, doesn’t tell, and when she refers to something from popular culture she allows the reader to follow-up if necessary and doesn’t bog down the story explaining. For instance, when Amy asks him to name one person he hates, he names Hitler (douchebag), the Cigarette-Smoking Man, and Iago. Later he describes his impression of the local vegetation when he was newly-arrived in Los Angeles as waving their triffid fronds. And recalling his childhood: He’d once even dreamed himself onto the bridge of the Starship Enterprise and had been whipped into a froth of anxiety because he was supposed to be on the Millennium Falcon; he was in the wrong universe entirely, and Spock had neck-pinched him to shut him up.

The secret Amy was hiding is not a big surprise and isn’t meant to be except to Arthur and some of the other characters. There are hints along the way, and when it’s revealed, it’s the way in which it affects these characters we’ve come to love which is the suspense. This is a wonderful book about loss, love, acceptance and new beginnings. Highly recommended.

May 26, 2012, 2:17pm Top

>84 auntmarge64:: That line about the Starship Enterprise and the Millennium Falcon made me laugh. I think that alone is enough to sell me on this book.

May 26, 2012, 3:29pm Top

>85 bragan: I loved it too. And, of course, being a Wyndham fan, I appreciated the reference to the triffids.

Edited: May 29, 2012, 11:28pm Top

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells **** 5/26/12

After seeing various film versions, it was a pleasure to read the original, which is actually quite exciting and must have been tremendously so when it was first published. It reminded me of John Wyndham, so maybe it's the British approach, but that made it even more enjoyable. I especially appreciated Wells' philosophizing over the position the invasion put the humans in: that of the rats or ants to us.

Tales of a Dalai Lama by Pierre Delattre **** 5/27/12

Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry **** 5/28/12

Obscure Destinies by Willa Cather ***½ 5/29/12

Jun 4, 2012, 4:39pm Top

A Scientific Romance by Ronald Wright **** 6/4/12

A mixture of time travel and post-apocalyptic fiction, this journal is written by David Lambert, an archaeologist who finds Wells' actual contraption 100 years after the events related in The Time Machine. Mourning his lost love Anita who has recently died at age 32 of BSE (mad cow disease), and himself diagnosed with early stages (they ate the same contaminated food while on various digs), he sets the machine for 500 years hence and takes off, hoping to find science that will allow himself to be cured and save her if he can reverse course to before she was infected. What he finds is retold in a series of letters which are part memoir of their times together and part travelogue of his adventures in 2501.

The story is dense with description and literary allusions, and a familiarity with London, England and Scotland is advised for full appreciation. David and Anita traveled around the UK together, and the time machine is found in, and subsequently arrives in, greater London. David's time in the future parallels much of the traveling they did together, and each new day brings both discoveries and memories, which entwine in the letters. It's tough going occasionally, especially for someone not familiar with the geography, and there were times I wasn't interested in his memories but just in finding out what happened next. Still, it's moving, although emotionally difficult to process, and hanging over all the proceedings is the specter of David's brain deterioration and the effect it may be having on what he is experiencing and writing.

Edited: Jun 13, 2012, 10:01pm Top

Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography by John Dominic Crossan **** 6/6/12

Reading Crossan is both enlightening and depressing. He’s well-known in the historical Jesus school and has written numerous books for both the professional and layperson on what we can really know about the life and sayings of Jesus. For those who take the Bible literally, whatever version you’ve chosen to take literally, I’d say read this only if you’re willing to be challenged. For the rest, Crossan offers a detailed exegesis that will make your hair stand on end. In short, he sees the historical person as (1) an illiterate peasant teaching a type of radical social change at a time when the entrenched political and religious elites were stamping out such troublemakers brutally and without thought, sympathy, or delay; (2) likely killed for causing a scene in the crowded temple at Passover, when Jerusalem was at its busiest and Roman authorities were primed to put down any sign of disturbance; (3) left on the cross or the ground as carrion with no chance of burial, for which a special request would have had to be made and, as he points out, no one with the chops to make such a request would have cared and anyone who cared wouldn’t have had the contacts to make the request. Non-burial was considered the ultimate insult to the deceased and a deterrent to crime.

The teachings themselves are distilled down to just a few, which are so far from the hierarchical church structure which developed that organized Christianity ends up in the same position to Jesus as all the other institutions he was trying to bring down. Crossan concludes that Jesus practiced, and taught, that the Kingdom of God can be here now only if people will 1) practice complete, open table-sharing and spiritual healing, without any care for status, class, wealth, physical condition, race, freedom, or any other division humans have invented over time; and 2) set down no roots where a hierarchy or center of power can be identified (and the reason he instructed his followers to leave anywhere after a day or two) so that the typical 1st century system of patronage (elites), brokerage (middlemen) and clients (everyone else) could not be set up. He didn’t want anyone to be the head of an organization. He wanted complete equality and sharing, which no institution can pull off by definition, let alone given the human predilection for power, status and hoarding of wealth.

One of the most fascinating points Crossan makes is about the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet. In her, Jesus found the only person, male or female, who actually listened when he talked about the death he expected and who recognized his need for burial preparation, knowing he’d never get it later. In an age when a couple of the major Christian organizations still won’t recognize women as equals in the church, isn’t it interesting to speculate on why that might be?

This book is the layperson version of Crossan’s arguments. The more scholarly version is The Historical Jesus.

The Rainaldi Quartet by Paul Adam ***½ 6/8/12

Paganini’s Ghost by Paul Adam ***½ 6/10/12

The first two in a series of mysteries set in Cremona, Italy, home of history’s greatest violin-makers, including Stradivari, Guarneri and the Amatis. The stories are told in first-person by Gianni Castiglione, a widowed luthier whose closest friends are the members of his string quartet (most especially the cellist, Antonio Guastafeste, a detective in the local police department).

In the first book, the quartet’s first violinist is murdered on his way home from a rehearsal, and Antonio calls on Gianni for his expertise on violin history, which seems relevant to the murder. In the second story, there are two plots: a young Russian violinist comes to Cremona to play a recital on Paganini’s own violin, played only once every two years by a competition winner. Gianni is able to help the boy adjust to his burgeoning international career while having a personal life. There is also a series of murders which are connected to two other Paganini artifacts, both missing: an unpublished composition and a miniature violin made of jewel-encrusted gold.

I’d consider these cozies – not much blood, no sex, clean language, and a likeable “Murder She Wrote” main character who keeps getting dragged into these cases involving violins. So, light-weight but thoroughly enjoyable, especially for music lovers. Hopefully there will be more in the future.

Jun 13, 2012, 11:12am Top

The Crossan book sounds fascinating -- does he discuss much about the construction of the books of the New Testament?

I'm always looking for books to send to my mother and Paul Adam's ones look like they'd fit the bill -- thanks for the reviews.

Jun 13, 2012, 5:30pm Top

Corrected touchstone: The Historical Jesus by John Dominic Crossan. I think I may go for this one. Thank you for bringing it up.


Jun 13, 2012, 10:02pm Top

Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us by Robert D. Hare **** 6/12/12

Little has been published for lay people regarding the sociopath/psychopath in the general population, and for most of us the word psychopath denotes only the most brutal of criminals: fascinating in a macabre way, titillating, but not someone we’re likely to actually meet. And because psychopathy is considered by professionals to be untreatable, little research or publication for the specialist is being done. Robert Hare has been working for several decades to help the public, the psychiatric profession, and the judicial system recognize the truth about psychopaths: they are all around us, millions in the U.S. alone. They aren’t all in prison or even likely to be, because many satisfy their need for manipulation and control in ways which fly under the legal radar, although the havoc they cause in the lives of those they target can be devastating. The parents of child psychopaths face a particular hell of guilt and lack of resources.

Hare is the author of the Psychopathy Checklist, now used internationally to help predict criminal recidivism and as an educational tool for prison officials, parole boards, courts, and psychiatric professionals. While most of Hare’s work has been with prison inmates, he is clear that all non-psychopaths are at risk and that most of us will have dealings with one sometime during our lives. So while most of his examples concern those who have been convicted, the information is useful to anyone who may run across someone like this. Hare is clear that a real diagnosis must be done with extensive interviews and reviews of records, but at the same time the general public must have some guidelines of what to look for and how to protect themselves. He discusses the following list of key symptoms, at the same time warning that many non-psychopaths have some of these traits and that it is the total group of symptoms (the syndrome) which guides the diagnosis:

Glib and superficial
Egocentric and grandiose
Lack of remorse or guilt
Lack of empathy
Deceitful and manipulative
Shallow emotions
Poor behavior controls
Need for excitement
Lack of responsibility
Early behavior controls
Adult antisocial behavior

The book is almost 20 years old now, but little else is available of this caliber, and further information is available at Aftermath: Surviving Psychopathy, a non-profit organization Hare helped found (http://aftermath-surviving-psychopathy.org/). If you are dealing with or have survived someone you think might be a psychopath, even a child, this book is a must-read.

Edited: Jun 13, 2012, 10:24pm Top

>90 janeajones: Crossan does talk about the development of the New Testament:

* the changing message, as different factions vied for control of the early church and Paul expanded the definition of apostle so he could be included as a leader, although he never met Jesus.

* the reworking of beliefs to accommodate Jesus' ignominious death and absence.

* the relaxed practice followed by his followers, as the institution of Christianity was allowed to develop and replace complete comensuality and equality.

Jun 13, 2012, 10:26pm Top

>91 Mr.Durick: Hi Robert - thanks for pointing out the touchstone error. I've gone back and changed my post.

Did you read Hare's book yet?

Edited: Jun 14, 2012, 5:48pm Top

I've read Without Conscience and Snakes in Suits. Both had some utility but also some shortcomings to my way of thinking. Without Conscience seemed to emphasize the criminal psychopath, and Snakes in Suits though somewhat informative was uninteresting. I would not not have read them, however. I have a book on how to deal with people like them, a novel, and an autobiography yet to read in the area. I have determined to give a copy of The Sociopath Next Door to our resident manager thinking it the best survey of the lot (which also includes The Psychopath Test) and having a couple of excellent pages on dealing with a psychopath.


Jun 16, 2012, 7:41am Top

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer ***** 6/12/12

Oskar Schell is a precocious, inquisitive, inventive boy whose father died in the towers on 9/11. He has such a strong imagination he can’t come to grips with his father’s death because he keeps inventing new ways his father might have died. Oskar finds a key hidden in a vase in his father’s closet and begins a search throughout NYC to find out what it opens and to meet someone who can tell him more about his dad. The people he meets tell him their own stories. The rest of the time Oskar daydreams about marvelous inventions, many of which would help people in disasters (which he worries about all the time); he plays the tambourine, researches foreign websites where the more graphic photos from 9/11 are published, and writes to many important people (especially Stephen Hawking), asking to be their assistant. He’s very close to his grandmother, who lives across the street where they can easily communicate by walkie-talkie and see each other from their apartment windows. As she does her own grieving, she patiently answers his questions and listens to his worries, even when he calls at 3 or 4 a.m., which he has a tendency to do.

Interspersed is the story of Oskar’s grandfather, a survivor of the Dresden bombings who lost all that he loved that day and who hasn’t spoken since, who deserted his wife before Oskar’s father was born. The two stories become intertwined in interesting ways to lead to healing and understanding for both of them.

This book is simply wonderful. Oskar is a gem of a character, and I fell in love with him from the first page. Mixed into his musings and adventures are pictures of the things he thinks about (especially a man falling from the towers) and letters he receives back from the people he writes, as well as entries from the book his grandfather uses to communicate with people and letters he’s written his son (Oskar’s father) throughout the last 40 years but has never mailed. The format can be a bit confusing but also intriguing, and in that respect it reminded me of The Book Thief, another fabulous read. (One note about reading on the Kindle: be sure you have decent eyes before you do this, because the print in some of the diary entries is not enlargeable and it is smaller than the smallest Kindle font.) Very highly recommended.

Jun 17, 2012, 9:47am Top

I didn't know what this was about. Great review.

Jun 19, 2012, 8:25pm Top

Breakfast With Buddha by Roland Merullo **** 6/16/12

A humorous spiritual-quest travelogue by Otto Ringling, a solidly middle-class and vaguely depressed cookbook editor whose plan was to drive from New York to North Dakota with his flying-phobic New Age sister to settle their parents’ estate. Instead, she sends him off with her guru, telling him she wants her share to be given to the Rinpoche as a meditation center. The first half is pretty slow, largely taken up with Otto’s confusion over what he’s supposed to do with his companion and his alternating irritation and alarm at the guru’s ability to get under his skin. After a few days’ of wandering back roads and having adventures along the way, though, Otto begins to sense a new sensibility opening to him, and he gives the teacher more of his attention. By the second half of the trip Otto is actively engaging in philosophical discussions and dreading the end of the road trip. Charming and very funny, with a spiritual edge which should appeal to anyone feeling Otto’s need for a change in their interior alignment.

The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad *** 6/19/12

These linked short stories provide glimpses of tribal life in the remote area where Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran meet. They are bleak and depressing, showing a land where life is valued lightly and everyone lives on the brink of destitution. The reality presented here is so alien I had a hard time figuring out whether the characters had the same reaction I did to the cruelty and meanness of their lives. Interesting to read but offering little emotional connection to outsiders.

Jun 20, 2012, 9:21am Top

Two interesting-sounding books. I've had a copy of Breakfast with Buddha sitting around for a couple years now, so I'm happy to read your review.

Jun 20, 2012, 12:02pm Top

>99 dchaikin: I think anyone who is drawn to Buddhism at all but who is distracted by life and full of self-doubt will relate to Otto and find his inner musings familiar and very personally funny.

Edited: Jun 21, 2012, 1:36pm Top

The Wave by Christopher Hyde ***½ 6/21/12

Terrorism, natural events and political irresponsibility result in a cascade of dam failures along the Columbia River, beginning at the Mica Dam in British Columbia, taking out the Grand Coulee, and aiming for a nuclear power reactor and waste storage facility and the electric utilities for about a third of the country, and finally Portand OR, the last stop before the Pacific. Quite exciting, really. Original pub date 1979.

Jun 28, 2012, 2:19pm Top

The Last Policeman by Ben Winters ***** 6/27/12

Hank Palace has been a patrolman for only 15 months when he is promoted to detective. Why? It's been announced that the asteroid Maia is going to hit Earth with a probability of 100%, the only question now being where it will hit, because a few humans may survive if they are in the right place. Hank is one of the few still willing to work while humanity awaits its destiny. In Concord, NH, a wave of suicides has struck, and many people are taking to drugs, religion, and any other palliatives they can find. Hank, though, loves being a cop, and when he answers a call about another hanging death, suicide doesn’t ring true to him. Despite assurances from the more experienced remaining detectives, who come in each day in varying degrees of sobriety, confusion, and irreverence, he keeps poking away at the case, and his efforts reveal to the reader all sorts of facets of what Winters imagines would occur in such an apocalyptic atmosphere.

I loved this book. The dialogue and attitudes ring true, and the various reactions from people and institutions (schools, the military, various nations) feel completely realistic. There is hilarity, depression, paranoia, hope, and even some normality in a strange mixture which is a delight to read and contemplate. This is the first in a trilogy, so stay tuned.

Jun 28, 2012, 4:41pm Top

Will you like it? says with low confidence that I probably won't like The Last Policeman, but I pre-ordered it from BN.COM anyway for shipment on July 10.



Jun 28, 2012, 9:17pm Top

I'll be awaiting your verdict :)

Jun 29, 2012, 5:32pm Top

The Last Policeman sounds really interesting. I've seen "Oh, no, it's an asteroid, we're all going to die!" often enough for it to start to feel kind of old hat, but adding a mystery story to it seems like a fresh new angle.

Edited: Jul 27, 2012, 7:55pm Top

Epiphany by David Hewson ***** 7/15/12

On Christmas Eve, 1975, twin five-year olds Miles and Florrie stand outside a record store, dressed as angels for a Christmas pageant and waiting for their absent-minded mother to finish her shopping. Florrie's a bit of a bully, and Miles runs away from her and disappears. Hours later police find a child's hand nailed to a tree next to a feather from an angel costume, but by the next morning it's confirmed that the hand is not Miles's. The rest of the book follows several characters who are involved in either the crime or the investigation. The timeline goes back and forth between 1975 and 1995, when a young woman, soon revealed to be Florrie, arrives from England to talk to the only person to have been convicted in Miles's disappearance, newly freed on a technicality and hopefully willing to talk about what really happened to him.

This is superb suspense, with many twists and turns and a haunting and very unusual crime unprecedented in my reading. The psychedelic community of 1970s San Francisco looms large, and I found this aspect compelling and realistic, along with very realistic characters and dialogue. Hewson is the author of the Nic Costa mystery series set in Rome, but this is an earlier stand alone. It's a terrific find and available for free for Amazon Prime customers and only 99 cents for other Kindle and Kindle app readers. (Be sure to search for the author and title on the Amazon site, because the link from LT leads to a listing which doesn't include the Kindle version.)

Edited: Jul 31, 2012, 9:33am Top

The Blasphemer by Nigel Farndale **** 7/30/12

Two men, three generations apart, cope with the consequences of their failure of nerve. Daniel Kennedy, an academic scientist, is taking his long-time lover and mother of his daughter on a trip to the Galapagos to propose. When their small plane ditches about 20 miles from the islands, Daniel pushes Nancy out of the way to escape the sinking craft. She survives but cannot forgive him, even though he goes back to the plane and rescues almost everyone, then swims towards land to find help. Back in England, Daniel's career is endangered by a jealous colleague who pretends to be his friend, even as he struggles to save his relationship with Nancy and cope with a vision he had at sea which led him to keep going when he was about to give up and remove his life jacket.

Interspersed with Andrew's story is that of his great-grandfather, who disappeared during the battle of Passchendaele in 1917. New evidence points to his desertion and death by firing squad, a possibility which is torturing Daniel's father, himself a decorated war hero and now quite ill, and Daniel accompanies him to the continent to unravel the mystery. A long-rumored Mahler symphony revision, stories of guardian angels leading soldiers out of danger, and a Muslim elementary school teacher who seems oddly familiar to both Daniel and his father, all lend depth as the two stories intersect.

It is easy to become absorbed in many of the plotlines here. The war scenes are particularly effective, and the machinations of the psychopathic colleague are chilling. The struggles of a confirmed atheist dealing with a possible religious vision were also interesting, although he's really, really strident about his convictions. And although Daniel and Nancy repeatedly declare their love for each other, neither is all that convincing. So it was a book I couldn't out down, but it didn't always flow successfully, although all the important questions are at least partially answered by the end.

Aug 19, 2012, 2:40pm Top

The Best of John Wyndham 1932-1949 by John Wyndham **** 8/18/12

Six very early short stories from the author of Day of the Triffids and The Chrysalids. Some SF, some horror, all quite enjoyable. I was surprised at how well these measured up, since they're from the 30s and 40s. "The Lost Machine", stranded on a Martian mission to Earth and appalled at the backwardness of both humans and their machines, becomes lonely and makes a fateful decision. "The Man From Beyond" awakens is a living museum exhibit but is able to convince the caretakers that he is sentient and tells his story. Two ASPCA types investigate claims by residents that a local scientist is abusing animals to create monsters, only to run into much more than they bargained for in the very funny "Perfect Creature". Three other stories are just as appealing.

Edited: Aug 19, 2012, 7:43pm Top

The Disappearing Spoon And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean **** 8/19/12

A loose history of the ongoing discovery of the elements and what it means to our understanding of the universe and our place in it. The first couple of chapters are somewhat technical but meant for the layperson, with additional science mixed in as the book goes on so the reader can understand how scientists build on what they know to push the limits further. Some of this is fairly unnerving: currently, work is being done on the possibility that the universal constants on which Einsteinian physics (or any other we know) is built may not hold true throughout the universe or at different times.

The book is laid out rather strangely, with a periodical table on the last two pages (after notes and index and where the reader might never notice it). And this is a case where having the lengthy narrative footnotes located with the main text would have worked better than grouped at the end. Still, lots to learn here, and told with a sense of humor.

Aug 21, 2012, 6:43pm Top

Ex Libris: The Art of Bookplates by Martin Hopkinson ***½ 8/21/12

A little art book of 100 bookplates from the British Museum collections designed by and/or for the well-known over five centuries, with a bit of discussion on the artists, book owners, and symbolism. Illustrations are in color, although most examples are sepia-toned. The most surprising fact for me was the size of early bookplates, sometimes as small as 6X4 cm or as large as 35x25 cm.

Aug 22, 2012, 11:42am Top

I love these little art books. You can go back to them again and again. Ex Libris sounds like a great one. I need more of this kind of book!

Edited: Aug 25, 2012, 5:35pm Top

Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow **** 8/22/12

Maddow, a popular commentator on MSNBC, traces the changes made in the last 50 years in how the U.S. decides to go to war; that is, who makes the decision, and who fights the war. The Founding Fathers established Congress alone with the power to make war, fearful that vesting such a decision in one person (the President) would make the choice of war too easy for reasons of vengeance, greed, pride, or just plain stupidity. But a combination of willful Executives, determined to use legal trickery to give them what they saw as their proper due to wage war as they saw fit, and weak legislators, who never knew what hit them, undid the Fathers’ careful plans. One device increasingly used by recent Presidents has been the private army, unhampered by legal niceties or oversight, and enabling the U.S. to remain in a state of constant war with the citizenry largely unaffected and unaware. A fascinating overview which is guaranteed to make the reader more informed about not only how our country operates but how inconsequential the average citizen has become in directing its future.

Hippolyte’s Island by Barbara Hodgson **** 8/24/12

Hippolyte Webb spends his life traveling, but only to out-of the-way, offbeat, and little-known places. He supports his lifestyle writing articles on his adventures, often in one of the numerous languages he’s picked up along the way. As the book begins, Hippolyte has been home in Vancouver only a short time but is being drawn to tales of lost islands, reported in the literature but no longer appearing on modern maps or even showing up on satellite imagery. Intrigued by the idea of rediscovering something lost, he decides to sail to the location reported to be the Auroras, three (more or less) islands halfway between the Falklands and South Georgia in the southern Atlantic. He spends weeks reading, going to museums, taking sailing lessons, and provisioning himself with all the necessities suggested by his treasured 1906 Royal Geographical Society Hints to Travellers, and then he flies to the Falklands and sets off alone in a rented sailboat. What Hippolyte finds, and his difficulties making his editor believe him, form the core of the book. Hippolyte is larger than life and bowls over his editor, whom he’s never met, and his unconventional way of telling his story and presenting his evidence convinces her he’s lying. How each of them approaches this dilemma makes for a charming story.

Interspersed throughout the book are Hippolyte’s photos, drawing and watercolors, along with maps, logbook entries, and journal notes. This is definitely a keeper for my small permanent library.

Aug 25, 2012, 9:37pm Top

Hippolyte's Island sounds like a novel I might buy. Thanks for your review and bringing this book to attention here.

Aug 26, 2012, 9:33am Top

#113 two intriguing books

Aug 26, 2012, 11:18am Top

Enjoyed catching up here. Interesting about Madow's book...her first book?

Aug 26, 2012, 3:47pm Top

>116 dchaikin: Apparently. And get this - she's actually Dr. Maddow.

Edited: Aug 29, 2012, 8:49am Top

Just a quick note on these:

Kill You Twice by Chelsea Cain ****½ 8/26/12

Superior but very bloody suspense. This series must be read in order, starting with Heartsick, one of the most chilling suspense novels I've come across. Each book is at least 4 stars.

The Landmark Xenophon's Hellenika **** 8/28/12

I'm so sick of Xenophon right now I don't even want to attempt a full review. The Landmark presentation is as superb here as for Herodotus and Thucydides. The 4-star rating is purely for the original work, which is not nearly as interesting as the earlier works.

The Best of John Wyndham 1951-1960 by John Wyndham ***½ 8/29/12

Aug 30, 2012, 7:42pm Top

I agree with you about Chelsea Cain's series.

Aug 30, 2012, 9:19pm Top

>119 RidgewayGirl: I wish had the first one to read again for the first time. They don't make them that good very often.

Sep 11, 2012, 7:08pm Top

Darwin's Ghosts: The Secret History of Evolution by Rebecca Stott **** 9/6/12

Upon the long-delayed publication of The Origin of Species, Darwin, to his dismay, began receiving complaints that he had neglected to mention the scientific contributions of his intellectual forebears. To his credit, Darwin was not aware of many of these people, some of whom had disappeared into history or whose work was either in languages he didn’t read or unavailable to him. Over several editions he attempted to rectify the situation with a “historical sketch” covering the work of those whose work he was able to trace, but, rightfully so, he continued to insist that his ultimate conclusion (survival of the fittest) was unique.

Here, Stott collects the stories of others who added to the general progress towards understanding species development. All of these people were, quite simply, overwhelmingly curious; at least one saw his work a means to expound on his god’s wondrous creation; some tried to challenge the prevailing belief that species were immutable and perfect as created, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

Except for intellectual satisfaction, it was a thankless effort for most of these explorers. Aristotle (ancient Greece) and Jahiz (9th century Baghdad), were encouraged and supported as long as their various patrons remained in power, but political fortunes frequently disrupted their work. For the rest, all living in Christian nations, religious intolerance inevitably led to torture, imprisonment, loss of employment and/or campaigns organized to isolate and ruin them led by those with offended religious convictions. It’s quite a depressing history of intolerance, made relevant by our own recent history, especially here in the U.S. The stories are quite interesting and show the progression of human knowledge and the spirit of discovery which, luckily, have never been completely crushed by suppression. There are detailed footnotes and a bibliography on each of the subjects which is bound to encourage general readers to follow up on some of these intriguing people.

As much as I enjoyed the book, I do have one little nit to pick with Stott: she describes Herodotus as a Roman(!) geographer.

Sep 12, 2012, 8:18am Top

You're review makes this sound so interesting, and yet another review made is sound so disappointing. Curious. I'll keep this one in mind.

Sep 12, 2012, 9:22am Top

>122 dchaikin: I think the other reviewer misunderstood the author's intention. At a cursory glance the book seems to promise a look at those who had a direct impact on Darwin, but Stott is pretty clear that he wouldn't have been aware of most of them. At any rate, it's worth a look if the subject interests you.

Sep 12, 2012, 7:47pm Top

I was one of the other reviewers who didn't really like the book, and I was interested to read your review. I basically agree with everything you wrote - that Stott is filling in Darwin's history of evolution and that some of the individual stories were interesting. I just thought that where she failed (and it was a big deal to me) was in drawing any connective thread between the naturalists/scientists and in connecting their ideas to Darwin's. Even if he didn't know the ideas specifically, I thought it would be a more interesting and deeper book if she'd done a little more comparing with how close or how far their ideas were from Darwin's. To sum up my discontent, I just saw a lot of potential in her idea and thought she only scratched the surface.

But I do agree that I lot of the information was new to me and interesting when read as a series of individual sketches. This is why there are millions of books out there - because we all have different opinions!

Dan, don't rule out the book on my account!

Sep 13, 2012, 8:12am Top

This is why there are millions of books out there - because we all have different opinions! - true, true.

Sep 13, 2012, 9:45am Top

>124 japaul22: Hi, japaul. Thanks for commenting! I think I was most surprised that there seemed to be so little direct knowledge of each other's theories - I guess there is a general direction to our communal knowledge, although, like species evolution, it takes its time.

To sum up my discontent, I just saw a lot of potential in her idea and thought she only scratched the surface. Yeah, it really is for the general reader, although the bibliography should be useful. For someone like myself, who isn't wasn't aware of the extent of historical effort put into understanding these ideas, it was quite enlightening. But 4 stars, not 5, because I agree it could have used more depth.

One side benefit of the book, and I wondered if this was an unstated purpose, was the conclusion the reader would come to that Darwin didn't just pop out of nowhere with his theory; that is, he wasn't just someone the scientific world latched onto to undermine religion. Our understanding of species evolution has been developing gradually, inexorably, over millennia, despite organized effort to thwart it.

Sep 26, 2012, 9:13am Top

The Bartender's Tale by Ivan Doig ****½ 9/25/12

A leisurely and lovingly-told story of a boy growing up in 1960 in northern Montana, entranced by his "perfect bartender" father and by just about everything else around him.

The summer Rusty turns 12 is monumental in a life already marked by 6 years of living with somewhat resentful relatives followed by six with his remarkable father Tom Harry, proprietor of the Medicine Lodge, a small-town bar with a back room full of treasures given in trade by broke sheepherders and other locals. During this summer a variety of people who will shape Rusty's future all come and go through town. Zoe, whose parents have just purchased the local diner, becomes Rusty's best friend, and they amuse themselves in the bar's back room among the accumulated hoard, playacting and watching the goings-on in the bar through a secret vent between the rooms. Del, a collector and recorder of "Lost Voices", arrives with a grant from the Library of Congress to interview survivors of a nearby dam collapse from years ago, when Tom was owner another legendary bar, the Blue Eagle. Del hopes to convince Tom to go with him to a reunion of the mudjacks and others who worked on the dam, to introduce him around and convince people to be taped for posterity. And, at the reunion, a shock: Proxy, a taxi dancer from the Blue Eagle days, shows up to announce that she and Tom have an adult daughter who's coming to the Medicine Lodge to learn the bartending business.

These are truly memorable characters who will haunt the reader and surely lead to a larger readership for Doig's earlier novels, including Bucking the Sun, in which Tom and Proxy make an appearance during their Blue Eagle days.

Sep 27, 2012, 8:59am Top

Doig seems to have won over the sometimes brutal Early Review crowd. Sounds worth a look.

Edited: Oct 7, 2012, 4:52pm Top

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse ***** 10/7/12

A well-to-do Brahman by birth, as a young man Siddhartha leaves home to pursue a spiritual satisfaction he hasn’t found in his father’s traditional teachings and practices. Throughout his life he follows his inner voice, learning from forest-dwelling ascetics, a brief stay with Gautama Buddha, friendships he forms with a courtesan and a wealthy businessman, and, finally, from an old ferryman, with whom he lives his own elder years. Slowly Siddhartha finds his own path to holiness, which he reaches only when he finally leaves teachings behind and simply recognizes the unity of all existence. What a beautiful tale this is, and one I’ll be revisiting again and again.

George Harrison: Living in the Material World by Olivia Harrison ***** 9/30/12

This lovely homage tells George Harrison’s life story through (mostly his own) photos and quotes. From his early friendship with McCartney and Lennon and the band’s first years, then the difficulties of fame and subsequent life as an ex-Beatle, to spiritual searching and parenthood, the entries shed light on the not-so-public man, putting into perspective his philosophy as he lived it. A rewarding read for anyone with an interest in the Beatles, spirituality, or both.

The Jigsaw Puzzle: Piecing Together a History by Anne D. Williams *** 9/27/12

This overview of the history and popularity of the jigsaw puzzle offers a kitchen sink approach, bombarding the reader with tidbits on just about every aspect you could imagine. While there is some worthwhile information and a nice selection of color photos, I found I skipped about half the book. Still, I’ll be keeping it on my shelves for future reference.

Oct 7, 2012, 10:50pm Top

Siddhartha is sitting in front of me on a shelf waiting...and waiting... Interesting about the book on George Harrison.

Oct 8, 2012, 10:24am Top

I read Siddhartha in my 20s, probably - so 40 years ago. I can't imagine how I related to it then, given my lack of background in spirituality, but this time around it made a huge impact. I read a free Kindle version and it was quite awful, but the story still shone through.

Oct 10, 2012, 1:16pm Top

Say You’re Sorry by Michael Robothan **** 10/9/12

Three years after 15-year-olds Piper and Natasha vanish from their village outside London, psychologist Joe O’Loughlin is asked to help with the investigation of three local deaths, and he concludes that Piper might still be alive. The reader is already aware of her survival, because the opening section is part of her own account of life in the “now” as a kidnap victim. The two story lines alternate in revealing the girls' destinies, the truth of how the kidnapping was accomplished, and the identity of the kidnapper, which is well-concealed with quite a few red herrings.

Piper’s voice was so true I felt I knew her. The story moves steadily forward and kept my interest, but this is not blood-pounding suspense, although it might have been in different hands. The fact that O’Loughlin is not a gun-toter and is more cerebral than physical probably adds to the effect. Regardless, I enjoyed it so much I’m definitely going to read the first four in the series and watch for sequels.

Oct 12, 2012, 2:17pm Top

129 - Did you see the Scorsese documentary of Living in the Material World. It was wonderful!

Oct 12, 2012, 5:39pm Top

>133 janemarieprice: Didn't see it, but will have to look it up. Harrison was such an interesting person.

Oct 16, 2012, 8:34am Top

The Lost Tribe of the Sith: The Collected Stories by John Jackson Miller **** 10/15/12

Psst! Don’t tell Palpatine, but he’s not that special. There are LOTS of Sith out there, and are they ever a nasty bunch. Imagine a whole planet of them, stranded and isolated for 5000 years, with little to conquer but each other.

In the Star Wars novels, Luke et al run into these Sith about 40 years after Palpatine’s fall. This collection of stories provides a background of the Tribe, and anyone reading the “Fate of the Jedi” series will find them essential. Quite enjoyable for this Star Wars fan.

Oct 26, 2012, 9:15am Top

100 Diagrams That Changed the World: From the Earliest Cave Paintings to the Innovation of the iPod by Scott Christianson ***½ 10/24/12

This interesting but somewhat disjointed book strings together 100 two-page spreads highlighting important ideas, inventions, and, in some cases, actual diagrams or drawings which changed human history. Each entry includes one or more illustrations and several paragraphs to put them in context.

“Diagrams” is used rather loosely and includes sketches, cave paintings, old reconstructions of even older long-lost illustrations (such as a Dante’s inferno and Ptolemy’s world map), and even a newspaper illustration from 1881 introducing, of all things, the first emoticons. Many of the topics illustrate the evolution of human perception and understanding: cave paintings, early music notation (inscribed in clay c1400 B.C.), exploded-view diagrams, early anatomy drawings. Others show the ways cultures worked with their environment – for instance, the Marshall Islands stick navigation charts, which allowed navigators to lie on the bottom of tribal boats and direct the rowers by feeling the movement of the sea as it reverberated between islands. And many scientific discoveries and inventions are included: Babylonian clay engravings of mathematical formulas, al-Biruni’s diagram of a lunar eclipse, Morse’s code, weather maps, the periodic table, Freud’s initial sketch of the id, ego, and super-ego. But there are also inclusions which seemed forced: Cuban Missile Crisis maps, a diagram of the relationships between cubism and abstract art, and simple exterior sketches of the iPod and Apple computer.

The book works as a coffee table book, albeit a small one, and reading it straight through is guaranteed to knock you out, rather like reading an encyclopedia might. But it would make a great gift for someone who likes to dabble in history and be introduced to tidbits they might like to follow up on: in other words, someone who might like to browse said encyclopedia.

Group: Club Read 2012

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