sjmccreary reads 12 in 12 - part 1
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A brand new thread for the beginning of a brand new challenge starting 12/12.
Here are my categories as they stand right now. Of course it goes without saying that I am reserving the right to tweak, change, or alter them as needed at any time.
1/11/12 - first alteration to categories
4. Historical Settings - Set more than 100 years ago
5. Foreign Settings - Set outside current USA area
6. Non-fiction - any subject
7. Older than me - First published before I was born
9. Sequel/Series - I decided not to limit myself and will include first books. I think I'll also allow myself to list more than one book in the same series.
10. Group Reads - Books I'm reading together with others
11. Ask-a-Friend - Stealing an excellent idea being used by others in the group, I'll ask a different LT friend each month to choose a book for me from my wishlist or TBR list
12. Cover Art - Anything that I especially like. I will try to explain what it is I like about each one - but be forewarned that I'm no art critic.
I will go for 12 books in each category, but will allow
ETA - link to the old thread, FYI: http://www.librarything.com/topic/124407
Happy first day of 12 in 12 challenge, Sandy!!
I'm getting going with my first book, too.
Hi Sandy, I've moved myself and my star over here and I am looking forward to following your reading. Good luck with your 12 in 12 Challenge!
Yes, Sandy - Good luck with your list. I'll be watching your mystery titles for some suggestions.
I haven't committed to a lot of titles yet, always have to check out what's on the new book shelf at the library!
Thanks, I'm excited about the new challenge. I think this is the first time I've started early. I never commit to a list of titles in advance - I used to do as Max says and check out the new book shelf at the library. Now, I get most of my reading suggestions from LT. I've been worrying a bit about my categories. The serial killer category that I'm so excited about is (nearly) always going to overlap with the R-rated mysteries. I'm happy doing overlaps this year, but I still want the categories to have some distinction from one another. It feels like cheating to have 2 different names for the same books. Hmm. I'll be giving this more thought. Maybe combine the two into a single category "Serial killers and other R-rated mysteries" and then replace the other one with something new. What, I have no idea. Suggestions are welcome.
What I've decided to do is just go with six books per category, but not allow overlaps. So that will be 72 distinct books for the year, which seems about right for me. There's still a benefit to reading books that fit into more categories (flexibility is always good!), but I don't have to worry about just how much overlap there is. Just something to consider, though it sounds like you've already decided on a different route :)
So, in the meantime, I finished a book yesterday. And I'm pleased that it happened to be a serial killer story!
1. Devious by Lisa Jackson
Mysteries Rated R
Sequels/Series (Bentz/Montoya #7)
I'm pleased that my first 12-12 book is a serial killer, but unfortunately it's really not a very good one. I've been reading this series for years - from the very beginning. It features Detectives Rick Bentz and Rueben Montoya of the New Orleans Police Department. Like most series, there is a definite formula. There is a Romance. There is some element of the paranormal - usually fairly mild, like someone having ESP or seeing visions or hearing voices. There is nearly always a connection to an old Catholic church or school or orphanage or something. Lots of suspicious priests and nuns in disguising clothing. Lots of abandoned buildings with hidden rooms and rusty gates. The heavy heat and humidity of southern Louisiana is always present. And the mysterious bayou with its swamps and moss-hung trees is often another key element.
In this particular book, a nun is murdered before the altar of the chapel at the "medieval" convent where she lived. She is young and beautiful. And pregnant. It is quickly confirmed that she was having an affair with the handsome young priest in the parish. But he is not the baby's father. Det. Montoya dated this girl in high school, and was also friends with the priest in high school. And was still allowed to stay on the case. (strike 1) The nun's closest friend in the convent was also from the same high school - she is the one who has visions. She senses the murders as they are happening and is always the one to discover the bodies. She also used to date Montoya's brother. And still Montoya is allowed to stay on the case - in fact, it was never suggested by anyone except his partner that he probably shouldn't be on the case. (strike 2) There are some passing similarities to an earlier case (book #1 in the series, Hot Blooded) and so a lot of the details from that book are brought up and discussed. Especially when a prostitute is killed by a priest in the middle of the story - the scenario of the first book. The readers are given insights into that murder that none of the book's characters have - but that arc is left completely unresolved at the end of the book. I hate cliff-hangers. (strike 3)
The primary mystery in this story is pretty good - lots of secrets being guarded by lots of people. A pyscho who seems normal in the light of day and so is unsuspected until the very end. The details are pretty well wrapped up and accounted for. I just wish she had taken a little more care with the relationships between characters and that she had not given in to the temptation of resurrecting her best villian - who was clearly shot by Bentz in the swamp in book #1 and presumed drowned. Or eaten. Especially if she wasn't going to resolve the matter one way or the other. I think this series may have reached its natural end.
I'm glad to have a start on the new challenge, I just wish it had been with a stronger book. This one I'm giving 2-1/2 stars.
#6 Thanks, Zoe, that's a good suggestion. I hadn't considered doing away with the overlaps in favor of fewer books in each category. I'll give that some thought....
Too bad your first book wasn't that good. I've noticed that frequently in a mystery the "hero" is related to/went to school with/dated/... the suspect/deceased. Part of a formula for a mystery I think. And the cliff-hanger is only to get you to the next book. Anyway, have you starred and ready for the new year myself. But I'm not starting till 1 Jan. Too many other things on the table.
#9 I haven't run into the formula of having the hero personally connected with the suspect or deceased very often - and usually when that is the case, there is a major to-do about the conflict of interest, or else a major cover-up so that the higher-ups don't become aware of the connection. Not so here. I HAVE seen the cliff-hanger thing done far too often, and I don't like it for just the reason you say - to generate interest in the next book. But this is the first time it's happened in this series. (That I can remember, at least.)
I'll be watching for you to get started in January - this is the first time I've started early and it seems a little strange, but I'm excited about it.
I might have started this month, but I'm so busy because we went away for Thanksgiving and I lost 2 weekends towards my Christmas stuff. And I'm planning a bridal shower for the 2nd week in Jan. I haven't even had enough time to keep up with the threads I follow. I have to sneak on at work at lunch. Maybe I'm wrong about the "hero" thingy. I'm going to have to think about that.
Another member of the 75ers! I am switching to this group this year. My goal is to try and balance my reading (that's my plan anyway). I look forward to reading your reviews.
Sorry your serial killer book wasn't up to par, Sandy. I just finished an ER book about a serial child killer that just got so complicated at the end that it became implausible.
Great to see you back, sandy! Too bad the challenge started not with a bang but with a whimper for you.
2. Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre by Brett L Markham
Anyone who reads my book comments for very long will soon discover that I am a gardening book junkie. I love everything about them - the glossy color photos first of all, the simple step-by-step guidelines, and the optimistic promise that delicious fruits and vegetables can be had from my very own backyard (after weeks or months of back-breaking work, but that spoils the illusion so we won't linger on that point). My parents weren't gardeners but both my grandparents were and I loved being there among the growing things. We sometimes keep a small garden - I enjoy growing herbs especially - and I like being able to cook with something I just carried in from the backyard. My fantasy is to have the time and space to be able to put in a garden large enough to feed us. (And, of course, the strength to be able to do that, but that is part of the back-breaking work mentioned earlier which we are ignoring for now.)
This book plays right into that fantasy, and has everything about serious organic intensive gardening - enough to feed the family and have extras to sell. Including chickens - for eggs and meat. Even grain. I loved it. 4-1/2 stars.
I've put this book in my cover art category, and I've posted a larger-than-normal cover image so you can see it better. The cover really isn't very unique or special in any way. But the collection of small photos sucks me in. Except for the artichokes - I don't like artichokes. But the newly pulled carrots with bits of garden soil clinging to them, the rich black earth being planted with shiny white seeds, the giant red strawberries (yum), the bright red garden boots - they all just take me to a happy place!
How is the canning, freezing and dehydrating section? Is the information good? I'm always looking for new, good ideas for canning and freezing what I grow.
>15 Ditto on the artichokes. I read somewhere, a long time ago, that there was a gene that gave the artichokes a nasty after taste to carriers. This was one food preference I did not inherit from my mother.
>16 Betty, have you seen the updated Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving"? It has lots of new flavor combinations.
Actually yes - I did and there are some good things in there I might try next year.
ETA: But can you ever really have too many recipes?
I'll take all the artichokes that you don't want!! I love to dip them in lemon butter - yum.
You are right, Sandy, that cover makes even me wish to pick up a shovel and plant a garden - and believe me, that ain't ever gonna happen!
I haven't had an artichoke in years, but I liked them when I had them. I really like the look of that Mini-Farming book. I'm at the point that I'd love to have my own garden, but I still spend too much time away from home to really have one. One of these days, I'm going to try it anyway!
One of the best deals around here is at the recycling center. I could fill the back of our 1/2 ton truck with compost for about $4.00. Tomatoes LOVE compost.
#16 Betty, the chapter of preservation is pretty basic. It talks about the pros and cons of each method, when it would be preferable or not advised, and has a few simple charts and recipes. But, there are lots of references to other books and publications for more information. (The 4th storage method he talks about in that chapter, which isn't listed on the cover, is root cellaring. I bought 2 books at the Borders going-out-of-business sale this summer about keeping a root cellar, and a cookbook that uses root cellar produce in each recipe. You'll probably see those books show up here later.)
#17 I wouldn't say that artichokes taste nasty, just not very good. And too much trouble.
#19 I learned how to eat them when I took home ec in 8th grade. With melted butter - no lemon. You can have mine.
#20 If you're serious about that, then I'd really recommend this book - he really doesn't shy away from the hard work aspects and strongly suggests that beginners start out small and build up gradually. He says the gardening year begins in the fall and that is the best time to start.
#21 Everything loves compost! For Christmas, I asked for a compost crock to keep in the kitchen for collecting food scraps to be added to the compost pile. I rarely use the garbage disposal in the sink any more. I will also be going to the recycling center to pick up loads of compost this year. (I think ours might be free for city residents.) We did several outside improvement projects this year which will require a complete re-landscaping of the backyard next spring. All our planting beds will be moved and started over.
3. Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo
I don't know where I first heard of this book - the story of a little boy (3 years old - that's him on the cover) who had a near-death experience during surgery for a ruptured appendix. The book is written by his father, a small-town pastor in western Nebraska. It is charmingly written, using the simple, straightforward language of a small child. I'd heard snippets from it - there are no old people in heaven, no one wears glasses - stuff like that, and picked it up on impulse at the library.
Briefly, the story is that Colton underwent emergency surgery and was not expected to survive. After a long recovery, he began to say strange things to his parents. "Dad, Jesus used Dr O'Holleran to help fix me. You need to pay him." Just as his parents were fretting over the enormous bills that were coming in, and wondering how they would manage. "Yeah, I know Dad. Jesus told me I had to be nice." After he was scolded for not sharing toys. His parents began encouraging him to talk about his experience and to ask open-ended questions. They quickly became convinced that Colton HAD been to heaven - he simply knew too many things that could not be explained any other way. Later, they began to share the stories with others who began to encourage the family to write a book, which they did.
It is very short and I read it in a single sitting in less than 2 hours. It is thought-provoking, and seemed less embellished, and thus more believable, than other accounts of heaven that I've read. Todd - the father - backs up several of Colton's accounts of heaven, the angels, God and satan with relevant passages from the Bible that are remarkably similar. Colton's lessons: God hears our prayers, He LOVES the children, and you have to know Jesus or you can't get into heaven.
I saw him on the Today show earlier this week or maybe it was last week. I hadn't heard of the book before that. Maybe I'll give it a try.
4. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
historical settings (mid-late 19th C)
older than me (1927)
group reads (read together with Labwriter in the 75 books group)
Willa Cather is one of the great discoveries I've made as a result of LT. I'd heard of her before, of course, but never had any encouragement to actually read any of her books. Two or three years ago I started with O Pioneers!, then read My Antonia about a year ago. I loved them both. This book, of course, is very different from those other two. And I think I agree with the comments I've read from people claiming that it is their favorite Cather.
This book is about Bishop Latour, a young French Jesuit who is sent to Santa Fe, NM to take over the leadership of the new diocese formed after the territories of New Mexico and Arizona became part of the United States. There is no real plot, just a series of episodes from the experiences of Father Latour and Father Vaillant, his life-long friend and associate, as they spent the rest of their lives serving first the Indians and Mexicans in the desert and, later, the Americans who flooded into the region when gold was discovered in the neighboring Colorado Rockies. But they are beautifully written. In just a few scenes, we have a clear sense of these two men. Cather writes with such elegance - conveying so much information in very few words. The scenery, the people, the feelings and emotions, the joy and heartache - none could have been better described in a book twice as long.
I love it and highly recommend it.
I read DCftA this past year and also loved it. I had driven through the area with my children years ago and I liked being able to picture the landscapes.
Sandy, I've loved everything I've read by Cather including Death Comes for the Archbishop. I still have a few of hers to look forward to.
I still haven't read anything by Cather, but I keep moving her higher and higher on the priority list.
Hi Sandy, Just stopping by to see how people are structuring this challenge. I haven't yet decided if I'm going to be a formal member or not. I found having two groups to post in just got to be too much so I didn't do the 11 in 11 challenge. I'm still planning to keep my 75 thread running, and this year (2012), because of commitments with the blog and the library, I probably won't be reading anywhere near the 150 I did in 2011. I love how you've structured things tho, so I'm starring this so I can at least lurk and see how you're doing.
Happy 2012 Reading!
5. January 1905 by Katharine Boling
historical settings (1905)
I chose this book for the 12 in 12 Group's 12-month sub-challenge. It is a short chapter book, labelled "Ages 10 and Up" that I read in about an hour. It tells the story of 11-year old twin sisters who hate each other. Pauline must work in the cotton mill with the rest of the family to help pay the rent and imagines that her sister lounges about at home or the company store all day, taking naps and eating sweets. Arlene, her sister who was born with a crippled foot, isn't able to work but must stay home alone doing all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry for the family. She doesn't get to go the mill and spend the day with her friends and family, laughing and talking over lunch. Instead she must eat a cold dinner alone after the lunch buckets are delivered to the mill. Everything changes one day when each girl is forced to see that she isn't the only one whose life is hard. Once they learn to share their burdens, both are happier.
It provides an eye-opening view of the reality of child labor in the early 20th century, and includes an essay about how that practice came to be abolished. Not flawless, and rather simplistic, but good for its intended audience. 3 stars.
#26, 27, 28, 29 See, this is what I mean about the encouragement I've gotten from LT to read an amazing author that I'd only heard about before. Why weren't we expected to read Cather in school?
#30 Hey, Tina! Whatever you decide to do about posting your own books, I hope you will visit here frequently. I will be posting most of the same books as in the 75 group, but this group has its own interesting discussions that are often different from what goes on over there.
I hope to do a monthly recap of progress in the challenge this year. Since I started in December, I'll do that now.
I only read 4 books from Dec 12 to the end of the month, but allowing unlimited overlaps, I've got entries in 9 of my 12 categories: 7categories with 1 book each, and 2 categories with 2 books, an average of nearly 3 categories per book. The missing categories are PG-rated mysteries, foreign settings, and ask-a-friend. As I think I mentioned above, I'm not happy with the way the mystery categories, including serial killers, seem to be working out and I'm still trying to decide what to do about that. The ask-a-friend category is one I'm very excited about. I've got my January selection queued up and ready to go next, and have already gotten "assignments" for February and March. I hope I have 9 more friends who can get me through the rest of the year!
Best book of the month: Death Comes for the Archbishop, hands down.
Worst book of the month: Devious by Lisa Jackson
I'm confused... If you read 4 books, but have 9 entries, does that mean that some of your overlaps are in more than 2 categories?
**I thought overlaps meant that a book could be counted in two categories, not more. But I guess we all set our own rules. I have to rethink my overlaps.**
I figured overlaps were where they fit into more than one challenge!
#34 For now, I am allowing unlimited overlaps. Each book is being counted in every category it fits into. Which is how I will be able to have 12 books in each category without reading 144 books. I like the general concept of allowing overlaps, but I'm not convinced that I have the best system set up for it yet. I'm still thinking about Zoe's suggestion of having fewer than 12 books (probably 6-8) in each category, with no overlaps. Maybe your suggestion of allowing overlaps, but limiting each book to 2 categories would be a good compromise. Hmmm...
#36 Max, I've always allowed overlaps between challenges - so every book for the 12 in 12 challenge will also count for the 75-books challenge. But not necessarily the other way, since the 12-12 challenge is more restrictive. Plus I play around with a few other challenges that are even more restrictive, so whatever fits in them gets counted there, too.
My thought process was that my 75 challenge was the count of what I actually read, and my 12 in 12 Challenge with overlaps would be higher because the overlaps would count twice. Allowing 20+12 (32) overlaps I would need to read 112 books to complete the challenge. If I used my overlaps in more than two categories, I could finish with 80 or less books altogether.
That was what I was thinking, too. There is no way I'll read 144 books - 80 is more realistic in light of the fact that my book count has actually gone DOWN since I joined LT.
I *loved* Death Comes for the Archbishop. It reminded me of why I liked Willa Cather, but I think it's by far the best I've read by her.
#40 Cindy, I think it was your comments that led me to add Death Comes for the Archbishop to my wishlist in the very first place - thank you for that!
I almost read Death comes for the Archbishop. I got it out of the library in a collected novel format--that one, The Professor's House and another Cather I can't remember. I read one chapter of DCFTA and one of The Professor's House and decided to read that instead. I really enjoyed it. I'll probably get around to DCFTA someday.
Loved your comments on the gardening book. I love looking at gardening books, but I don't garden anymore. I drool over Barbara Damrosch's Theme gardens
6. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
A wonderful little book about a fictional island nation set off the South Carolina coast. Known as Nollopton, it is named for its most famous son Nevin Nollop, author of the famous pangram sentence, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." The sentence is displayed in the town center composed of individual letter tiles. When the "Z" tile comes loose and falls to the ground, shattering, the High Council meets to determine what action should be taken as a result. Their decision? Nollop is communicating from beyond the grave and letting them know that the letter "Z" is no longer necessary and should be stricken from use. So it is banned, all spoken words containing the letter Z, all written documents containing the letter Z, all are now forbidden. Those who violate the new edict will be punished.
The story is sometimes silly, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and very often too true-to-life for comfort. As more and more letters fall, and become banished from use, the Nolloptonians must become quite resourceful in order to communicate with one another. A deal is struck with the high council - if a shorter pangram sentence can be composed, all the missing letters will be restored.
Many thinks to Chelli for recommending this book to me in the first place, and then selecting it for my first ask-a-friend book in 2012. She was one of my first LT friends, more than 3 years ago now, and I am pleased that she agreed to be first for me again. I loved the book. 4 stars.
#44 Debbie, I remember being quite hesitant to add it to my wishlist in the first place because I just couldn't get a feel for what the book was. Until Cheli finally said something that overcame my hesitation.
One of my favorite lines in the book, about half way through, as more and more letters have fallen and it has become more difficult to speak or write, "Soon we may all have to learn Hawaiian." (pg 110)
I second the love for Ella Minnow Pea. Very inventive for a story and fun to read.
And I third it! It's an entertaining, thought-provoking book that doesn't require a huge investment of time. I remember being in awe of the author's creativity as more and more letters dropped out of the alphabet.
I have it on my list for sometime this year. Now I may try to get to it sooner rather than later.
Someone talked about this book during the 1010 I think. I thought it sounded interesting, but forgot to make a note. Thanks so much for the reminder!
I'm really glad that you enjoyed Ella Minnow Pea so much. I have to admit I was a bit concerned at being the first in the ask-a-friend category. Now I'm just glad that I've passed the hurdle and another friend will be on the hot seat!
I remember some talk about Ella Minnow Pea a year or so ago, how it didn't end up on my wishlist at that time I don't know, but I am adding it now!
I'm agreeing with the others - quite a clever little book about a rather serious topic.
I just checked and it's in my library so I don't even have to look for it! Lucky me!
To add a dissenting voice I really didn't get on with it and wasn't able to finish it. To me it felt like author showing off without building a story, although I didn't finish it so perhaps it was an unfair assessment? I seem to remember my biggest criticism was that it had no verisimilitude..
#54 That's a valid comment. I was unsure how to take it (the book) in the beginning. The premise IS a little far-fetched, after all. For example, despite the island's close proximity to the US mainland, the high council has managed to curtail the use of technology to the point that the only viable way for people to communicate with one another is by mail. No explanation of how that came to happen or why the people have allowed it. Why hasn't the council been replaced with others more in tune to the populace? Problems like these bothered me. But it really doesn't matter WHY, we just have to accept it. Then the story begins to work. No doubt, the author was showing off a bit - it is no small feat to write entire chapters without using certain letters. That is part of the fun of it, though. What won me over was the way he showed the different characters behaving in realistic ways in response to the tremendous stress and controversy of the new situation: The councilmen become drunk on their power. Some people are in denial and ignore the new rules. Some enthusiastically embrace the restrictions and eagerly report anyone who commits a small infraction. Some wait in expectation for the council to come to its senses and reverse their actions. Some militantly challenge the rules. Etc. That is what I think made it such a wonderful book - it shows the different ways ordinary people behave in extraordinary situations.
Of course, none of us agree on EVERY book, so you are perfectly justified in not liking it if that is how you feel. It makes the discussions much more interesting when we disagree! The nice thing about this book is that it is short and doesn't take long to read. So, even if you hate it, you don't have a lot of time and energy invested in it.
Thanks for all the other comments, too, everyone. I had forgotten what a sensation that book was around here a while back.
#50 Cheli, I didn't realize I was placing you into such a high-pressure situation! You performed your task brilliantly and have set the bar for the next 11 friends! (Who, I am sure, will measure up admirably.)
Wonderful! I am going to put the book on my list to read and will watch this category of yours carefully for more wonderful reads.
I liked Ella Minnow Pea, but I did have some issues with it: once the letter elimination led to improper spellings, I wasn't nearly as impressed with the cleverness of it; and the characters were really bad at coming up with short sentences. Looking back over my review, I mention as an example a sentence including a 6-letter adjective that contributes only one new letter.
It felt like a book that should have been absolutely amazing but turned out to be merely good. I gave it four stars too.
#56 I expect that my friends category will have the best books, since I won't be the one deciding what to read there!
#57 "Clever" is the word I couldn't come up with, but perfectly describes the book. The best thing about this clever book is that it is short. There is nothing worse than a clever idea that is allowed to drag on too long.
@55 I think I didn't get on with it in the first 20 pages or so and gave up so perhaps I missed where it improved however it was just too much to swallow
#59 Or maybe it just wasn't the right book for you. There have been plenty of books that others raved about that I just didn't get, and didn't finish.
Well, one month into the challenge and I've only read 6 books - sort of a slow start, isn't it? I've been giving a lot of thought to the problem with my categories. I've finally decided what changes to make and have altered my category list up top.
Briefly - my serial killer category gets combined with the R-rated mysteries and becomes "serial killers, mass murderers and other books with a high body count". The PG-rated mysteries reverts to a generic mystery category, all sub-genres included. There will be no overlaps permitted between these two categories.
A new category is inserted here: "odds are". I'm actually kind of excited about this one. I have a collection in my library called "odds are" where I put books that have an LT rating of 4.0 or more with 100+ ratings posted. If so many LTers liked the book, then "odds are" that I will like it too. A second collection: if after 500 people have rated the book it is still 4.0 or more, then there are "overwhelming odds" in favor of me liking it, too. This category will consist of books that fit into one or the other of those two collections.
The last category change I'm making is to flip the new-to-me authors over to "already read" authors.
The other thing I'm changing is to eliminate the unlimited overlaps, and limit each book to only 2 categories. As suggested by Cheli. I'll go back and change my category count later.
The changes sound good to me! I particularly like your "Odds Are" category.
Also, six books isn't too bad at all. If you can get every book into exactly two categories, you'll be right on track ;). And even if not, I wouldn't say you're horribly behind.
I like the idea of an "odds are" category, Sandy. Once in awhile, I dislike something everyone else likes but, you're right, if a book is widely highly regarded, chances are that I'll love it, too.
I just finished book 2 of my challenge, so 6 sounds great to me! :) I like that "oods are" category - might have to borrow that for next year.
ETA: That should have been spelled "odds," but since I'm a huge fan of the Ood, I'll leave it. :) (They're a species on Doctor Who if anyone wonders.)
Although I have 4 or 5 books in process, I've only finished 2 this year so 6 sounds good to me too.
Yes, I would say six books so far puts you right on track. The month isn't half over yet, at this rate you could do a full 144 books!
I am also very interesting in your "Odds Are" category, odds are they will be books that appeal to me as well.
Ahem.....I think I'm probably the one who recommended Ella Minnow Pea to my sister Chèli!!! So glad you both enjoyed it....I'm always happy when I see books that have staying power over a longer time span...they don't just flash and then go bye-bye. It's one of the things I love about LT--there are so many of us reading with such large TBR piles to choose from that good books never ever go out of style.
And Sandy, at 6 books, you're ahead of me. I'm really taking my time this year, reading at a slower pace because I have so many peripheral book projects going on with the library etal. But I can't wait to see what's up next for you and Chèli.
I'm pleased that my Odds Are category sounds interesting to someone besides myself! Last week I took some time to go through my library and updated the Odds Are and Overwhelming Odds collections, so I'm good to go.
I also re-worked my category spreadsheet to accommodate the new categories and the overlap restriction. The revised results for the first 6 books:
1. Devious by Lisa Jackson
categories: mysteries, SK-MM-HBC, repeat author, sequel, series
2. Mini Farming by Brett Markham
categories: non-fiction, cover art
3. Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo
4. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
categories: Odds are, historical settings (19th C), Older than me (1927), repeat author, group reads
5. January 1905 by Katharine Boling
categories: historical settings (1905)
6. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
categories: ask-a-friend (Cyderry)
#68 Tina, thank you for recommending EMP to your sister. Otherwise, she might have made me read a bad book!
#69 The phone rang and I accidentally clicked "post message" instead of "preview" on my revised list. I've listed all the categories that each book will fit into, and bolded the categories that I'm counting the book in. And I've got more books to report.
7. Iron House by John Hart
categories: Odds are, mysteries, SK-MM-HBC, group reads
I read this for a group read here in the 12 in 12 group. It is a very fast-paced thriller, and the consensus in the group seemed to be that, although there are moments when you have to look past the unrealistic bits, overall it was a very satisfying story. Michael and his brother Julian were orphaned as babies and placed in a hell-hole of an orphanage called Iron House, in the North Carolina mountains. Michael survives by being strong and as tough as any of the bullies. Julian survives by hiding within himself. On the very day that a wealthy senator's wife shows up to adopt the two brothers, Julian snaps after enduring a particularly brutal beating and kills the leader of the bully gang. Michael convinces him to lie and say that he, Michael, killed the boy. Then he takes the knife that Julian used and runs away. Julian goes to live with the senator and his wife, while Michael finds his way to New York City and survives on his own on the streets. Until the day that a powerful gangster becomes aware of him and takes him in. Michael is raised as a son and becomes one of the most feared enforcers on the streets. He is a cold-blooded and ruthless killer, but has decided that he wants out of the life after meeting a woman and falling in love. And while the old man has agreed to release Michael, the rest of the "family" is not willing for Michael to escape the bonds of the gang where he might disclose what he knows to the wrong people. They try to rein him in by threatening his woman, and his brother Julian, whom he hasn't seen since Iron House.
The rest of the book is spent with Michael tracking down the secrets of the past - his and Julian's, the senator's and his wife's, and his own adopted "father". Excellent. So many twists and turns that I had no idea where it would end. 4 stars.
8. Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI
categories: Odds are, historical setting (1st C), foreign setting (Israel), non-fiction
I had this on audio, which is not a good format for this book. Even so, it is a wonderful book - methodical, complete, serious, scholarly, yet accessible. It is detailed, with tons of references, both to biblical passages and to other works. I especially liked that he explores several interpretations of different points before explaining why he believes one to be the truth. Since it was audio, however, I wasn't able to linger over his arguments, and review the references. I know that I missed quite a few points in the process. I'm not Catholic, so I've never had any reason to pay much attention to what it is that popes actually DO. But it somehow surprised me that he is such a theologian - and a good writer, and teacher. I definitely want to do a detailed re-read of this book soon - in print. And I'm thinking of doing the sequel, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week as a Lenten read. 4-1/2 stars.
Iron Houselooks like something I'll at least pick up when I see it. I'm sitting on my hands to keep from going in active pursuit.
#71 Terri, I don't think anyone who commented on the group read thread didn't like it, did they? I'm pretty excited about this author - a new one for me - and can't wait to read another of his books.
9. The Two Faces of January by Patricia Highsmith
categories: mysteries, foreign setting (Greece, France), repeat author
I'm not posting a cover image for this one, since LT doesn't have any covers to choose from that are even close to the first edition cover on my library-bound book. Published in 1964, this is the story of 2 American men who first meet accidentally in Athens. Both are in Europe hiding from troubles in the US. Chester is a middle-aged businessman who has swindled dozens of investors by selling them shares in phony companies. Rydal is a young man who hates his father and has been spending the inheritance left to him by his grandmother on an extended tour of Europe. As the book opens, he has just refused to return to America to attend his father's funeral and his brother and sister are angry. When Chester arrives in Athens, Rydal takes special notice of him since Chester looks just like Rydal's father. Chester is suspicious of Rydal, thinking he might be an investigator sent to track him down and bring him home to answer for his crimes. The two men circle around each other. Never trusting the other, not even liking each other. But not able to forget the other, either, or leave him alone. I recognized a technique of Highsmith's from another book of hers that I read last year, Strangers on a Train. There really isn't much action in either book, but the tension comes from the internal dialogues of the two men. Both are suspicious, both feel guilty. Both spend time alone pondering their situation and options - and creating monsters that do not exist. A highly suspenseful story - 4 stars.
#73 Oh, Tina - at least log on to the library catalog to see if they have it. What can that hurt?
Sandy, all three of those most recent books sound good to me. I'll have to add them to the list.
I don't know why I haven't read any Patricia Highsmith books yet, I will have to add her to my list of authors to track down. I know my brother is also a big fan of hers.
I didn't realize until recently that Highsmith wrote The Talented Mr Ripley - we have the DVD at home, but I've never watched it, I don't think. I didn't even know it was based on a novel. Now I'll have to read the book first, before I'll watch the movie. The Two Faces of January could make a very good movie - the scenery described in the book is beautiful and the story line is simple enough to translate well to film. I'll be looking forward to it.
I really like her books, I have Strangers on a Train and another Ripley book on my shelves to be read, should really bump them up. I like the tension and manipulation of the characters.
#81 Oh I know I'll be reading more of Highsmith's books, now that I've gotten a taste of them!
10. Jaws by Peter Benchley
mysteries, cover art
I was in high school when this movie came out, but I've never seen it. It was a huge blockbuster, so of course I knew the basic story and have seen trailers and clips from it, but have never watched the movie. So, when I read the book, I really didn't know what to expect. What a surprise it was to discover that Jaws is a great book!
The story, as probably everyone but me already knew, is about a small sea-side resort town on Long Island that is being terrorized by a huge, great white shark. After a woman is discovered dead of shark attack, the police chief wants to close the beaches but the editor of the local paper, the mayor, and the board of selectmen convince him that it would be in the town's best interest to keep the incident quiet - after all, it is the wealthy "summer people" who come out from the city that keeps the town afloat. But when there is another attack, on the busy 4th of July weekend, there is no way it can be kept hidden from the public. Chief Brody endures much as he wrestles with the townspeople, the board of selectmen, the mayor and his mysterious business partners, and his own conscience, in trying to decide the best course of action in dealing with the killer shark. Fast-paced and thrilling. I'm ready to see the movie now.
This book was published in 1974, I think. I was struck over and over again by the innocent remarks that were perfectly acceptable 40 years ago that seem incredibly racist now. Still, I give it 4 stars.
I'm putting this in my cover art category. As I said, I've never seen the movie, but I did make my one and only trip to Southern California in the summer of 1975 and we spent a day at Universal Studios. They had a model of the shark on display. It was huge. I think I have a picture of my cousin and me standing in front of it - we didn't reach even half way. In the book, they say he was 20 feet long, and that is probably about the size of the thing we saw, too. Another comment in the book was that the head was 4 feet wide, and that the eyes were the size of baseballs. I love this cover - the shark is so unthinkably big that it makes the woman look like the size of a doll.
Sandy, Jaws was one of the "big" movies of my high school years; I saw it with my best friend when it was first in the theaters, and then again on a return engagement at a second-run theater with my Mom, and a few times on TV, too -- including one too-memorable time when the same best friend came over for a "Jaws party," an evening which ended with my Mom in the emergency room (no fault of ours or the shark). My friend and I had Jaws t-shirts, and a couple of running gags based on our reactions to the movie. I did read and enjoy the book, too.
Be aware that the movie does not follow the book in all respects. Not a bad thing, though -- and it leaves room for you to still get some surprises when you see it!
ETA to fix typo -- oops!
I wasn't old enough to see it when it came out, but I do remember my older brother coming home from watching it at the theater and insisting to sleep with the light on. :) It is a fantastic poster!!
Do you all remember the "Mr. Jaws" interview that used snippets of other songs that was played on the radio not too long after the movie came out?
Oh I adore the film even now, but have never read the book. Must remedy that after your great review.
One of my favorite movies! I've seen it more than 30 times and still stop on it if it's playing on t.v. And I was too young to see it when it was first released, but I guess I've made up for it. Robert Shaw should have won the Oscar.
I agree with #84 tymfos- just know that the movie has some huge differences from the book. I read the book a few years ago and was less than impressed with Benchley's writing.
89 One of the few cases where I liked the movie better than the book, actually.
85/86 They play that Mr Jaws song on the 70s station on satellite radio. The other similar song is the Ray Stevens streaker song.
There was just something about that cover that brought that song to mind!
I haven't heard the Mr. Jaws song, but I heard one about the energy crisis the other day. I had forgotten all about that one!
Do you remember the Mississippi Squirrel Revival? We had a squirrel in one of the children's classrooms at church a few years ago. The deacon who got rid of the squirrel is from Mississippi.
I managed to find the Mr. Jaws song on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CexWaeZnHvk
>83: Sandy, I've discovered where all the action is! My poor little 12 in 12 thread is sadly neglected by me.
Thanks for the good memories of Jaws and, yes, that is awesome cover art. I remember not even wanting to stick my big toe in the ocean after reading Jaws. The movie was also memorable.
94: Thanks for that link, Lori.
Sandy - Just stopping by to see what you've been up to! Lots of good reviews on here.
Sandy, I love your "suggested by a friend" category and am glad that you brought this to my attention.
I've switched a category to this and am eager to get started on it. In lieu of picking a specific time, I intend to read them in the order selected by friends.
I've really been neglecting this thread, haven't I? I knew that Jaws was a huge hit back in the 70's, but I'm a little surprised to find that people are still willing to admit to loving it 35 years later! Glad to know that the movie is better than the book. I've added it to the Netflix queue and will be looking forward to getting it. (I have to wait through three 3-Stooges movies that my husband added ahead of me, though.) I'd forgotten all about the Mr Jaws song on the radio! What memories hearing that old stuff brings back. Thanks for the link, Lori.
Cindy, I hope I add as many books to your wishlist as you have to mine!
Hi, Linda. I'm looking forward to seeing what your friends choose for you - I hope they're as good as the books my friends are choosing. Are you going to get all the picks up front and then read them throughout the year?
I'll be back a little later to post a recap of January's progress. Or lack thereof. I need to get more audio books so that I can continue "reading" while I'm doing chores around the house. Trouble is, most of the books I've been wanting to read lately haven't been available in audio.
Sandy, I think I'm going to ask 3 people quarterly and then read them in the order I hear back from them.
I've heard from 2 of my first 3 people so I'm ready to go.
I never made it back for my January recap. Well, better late than never. Here goes.
In January, I read 6 books which, allowing for overlaps, counts for 10 of the 144 total, giving me a total of 17/144 for the challenge so far.
1. Odds Are - 2/12 total
Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI (4.22 with 100+ ratings)
2. Mysteries - 2/12 total
Iron House by John Hart
Jaws by Peter Benchley
3. Serial Killers, Mass Murderers and other books with a High Body Count (AKA SK-MM-HBC) - 1/12 total
~none in January~
4. Historical Settings - 1/12 total
January 1905 by Katharine Boling (1905)
5. Foreign Settings - 2/12 total
Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI (Israel)
Two Faces of January by Patricia Highsmith (Greece, France)
6. Non-Fiction - 2/12
~none in January~
7. Older Than Me - 1/12 total
~none in January~
8. Repeat Author - 2/12 total
Two Faces of January by Patricia Highsmith
9. Sequels and series - 0/12 total
~none in January~
10. Group Reads - 1/12 total
Iron House by John Hart
11. Ask-A-Friend - 1/12 total
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn (cyderry)
12. Cover Art - 2/12 total
Jaws by Peter Benchley
There really wasn't a bad book in the bunch, but I'd have to say
best book = Jesus of Nazareth
worst book = January 1905
A slower start than I'd hoped, but I'll take it.
So, now for the February books:
11. The Darker Side by Cody McFadyen
categories: mysteries, SK-MM-HBC, repeat author, series & sequels (Smokey Barrett #3)
One of my favorite serial killer series, it is far from perfect. Gripes: Everything fits just too neatly into the "theme" of the book which, in this case, is "everyone has secrets". Every single character in the story - good guys, bad guys, and victims - all have secrets that they wanted to keep but were forced, or felt compelled, to reveal. Also, this author has a tendency to first show us a bit of evidence and then immediately tell us again about it. Sometimes more than once.
But this series also has a cast of characters that are flawed, but who manage to be effective despite those defects. The killers she writes are totally despicable, and yet totally believable. The crimes she imagines are just the kind of thing we cringe at when we see them in the news.
This book begins with 2 victims that seem completely unrelated. One, the trans-gendered child of a US senator and presidential hopeful, raised in a loving and comfortable home, and currently "disowned" by the senator only as a PR stunt to protect his career. In reality, the family loves their new daughter and she has a prosperous career of her own. The other, a former prostitute and sex and drug addict, has no one and nothing. She turned her life around, after being beaten nearly to death by a john, with the help of a local priest. For several years she has been clean and has been active in the church. One lived in Virginia, the other in California. The only thing tying these killings together was the manner of death and the identical silver crosses inserted into the fatal wound by the killer, bearing sequential numbers - well over 100. The number of victims?
Smokey and her team begin doing what they do best - searching for evidence and trying to understand the killer's motives. And it helps that, despite being very intelligent in some ways, serial killers are still insane and can't help doing or saying things that end up leading the investigators directly to them. Definitely not for everyone, but as a fan of serial killer stories, I gave it 4 stars.
12. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
categories: historical settings (19th C), foreign settings (England), older than me (1862), repeat author, group reads
My first time with this classic tale. Several of the characters I'd heard of: Pip, Miss Havisham, Estella; but I was totally unfamiliar with the story. I was encouraged to read it now as a result of the 12 in 12 group read, and by my husband who recently listened to the audio version and recommended it to me.
I haven't read a lot of Dickens, and I had an impression that all his books would be dark and depressing places, full of danger and poverty and dispair. This had some elements of that, but after finishing I realized that it is much more. It is a timeless story about a boy who hasn't learned yet that happiness comes more from within than from material wealth. I loved it. 4 stars.
13. Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh
I suspect that there may be a higher concentration on introverted people here on LT than there is in the general population. Several times I've witnessed discussions about how we introverts behave and feel differently about social situations than our extroverted friends. I saw this book being discussed on another thread (Calm's, I believe) and immediately requested it from the library and read it through. It is not a great book, and I didn't find it to be earth-shattering in any way. I've already read a few books which focus on the differences between introverted and extroverted personalities, so much of what he said was not new to me. It seemed to me that a lot of this book was the author trying to figure himself out, and there are lots of examples of his own ministry and how it was impacted by his introversion. He is not an old man and simply has not had so many different experiences - frankly, I got tired of hearing about each of his postings over and over. I would have liked it better if he'd included personal experiences of others as examples of his points in addition to his own.
But there were some chapters that I enjoyed very much. The chapter on introverted leadership has points and suggestions that can be used outside the church environment. Many effective leaders in business and government are/were introverted people who knew how to use their gifts and compensate for their weaknesses. The v. short version is "you can't be all things to all people". The chapter on introverted evangelism was another good one. I've always thought of Christian evangelists in the same vein as car salesmen. And I guess it must work to an extent - there are a lot of Christians around, and even more cars. However the thought of doing either of those things myself is abhorrent. But evangelism doesn't have to be like that for everyone, and shouldn't be like that for everyone. Not everyone will respond to such overt proselytizing. There is definitely a place for the quiet, lead-by-example style that introverted evangelists favor. But my favorite chapter was the last one, about introverts in church. Those who also read my thread in the 75 books group may remember a spirited discussion a couple of months about about different worship styles. This chapter explained to me why it is that I have such a strong preference of one style of worship versus another. "Contemplative" is the word he used over and over to describe many introverts and it resonates with me, too. Not that I'm the type to spend hours and hours in study and prayer - although some are. Still, the fact that I prefer a quiet, inward-looking, reflective worship experience may be a direct result of my overall introverted personality.
So, not a great book, but not a waste of time, either. I gave it 3 stars.
I have Great Expectations on my list for this year and I'm glad to see you liked it.
@103 - I've always considered that most people fall in the middle between extro and introverts and recently discovered that there is a name for that = ambivert, is that covered in this book?
#104 I hope you like it, too
#105 I've never heard that term before! No, it's not mentioned, but it is acknowledged that there is a continuum between the most extroverted and the most introverted and we all fall someplace along that. Not always an either-or.
14. Nightwoods by Charles Frazier
Categories: Repeat author, Ask-a-Friend (Donna828)
I loved Frazier's Cold Mountain set in North Carolina during the civil war, and was looking forward to reading him again. This one also takes place in the North Carolina mountains, but in the 1960's this time.
"... the world would be a better place if every-damned-body didn't feel some deep need to reproduce." (pg 4)
Luce lives alone as caretaker in an old wilderness lodge as a way of escaping her life in town. That quiet existence is shattered when she accepts custody of her sister's 2 young children. The sister was murdered by her husband and the children are not quite right as a result. At about the same time, the owner of the lodge dies and leaves the property to his grandson, who decides to make a visit to examine his inheritance. And then her brother-in-law comes searching for her and the children, in hopes that they will have a stash of money that Luce's sister had hidden from him before she died.
The language is wonderful. The writing reminds me of Daniel Woodrell's books - both feature people trying to survive in a culture that is oppressive and poverty stricken, where there are no hand-outs or hands up, where - if a person wants to succeed - they have only themself to rely on, where troubles are so plentiful that no one cares about them, but where neighbors stick together and help when they can. 4-1/2 stars.
Thanks, Donna - you picked a winner!
I loved the slow gentle build of suspense in Nightwoods. What interesting characters!
Jennifer & Judy, I hope you will both like this book as much as I did. It was one of those un-put-down-able books that I finished in only a couple of days.
#110 I don't think there was a single dull character in the book, although not all were very likable!
That particular Charles Frazier book (Nightwoods) was so popular that it grew its own legs and walked out of our library. We had to report it as lost to our leasing company.
#112 Eva, I thought the Cold Mountain movie stayed pretty close to the book, so you probably won't gain a lot by reading that one. Plus, I thought Nightwoods was better. Now I'm looking forward to his other book, Thirteen Moons.
#113 Does the library have to pay for the book if they lose it? Like we do when we check out a book and don't return it?
15. The Sisters of Sinai by Janet Soskice
Categories: Historical settings (1890's), foreign settings (England, Sinai, Egypt), non-fiction, ask-a-friend (Donna828)
Two middle-aged women travel to the Sinai peninsula in the late 19th century to search the archives of a desert monastery for an early manuscript of the New Testament. How the women came to have the money to afford such a trip, and how they even developed the interest in searching for such a scholarly object make a fascinating story. The preparations they made, the help they obtained, the troubles they encountered - these details are told in such an engaging manner that the book really does read like a novel. The chapters are short, and the temptation was overwhelming to read "just one more". As a result, I finished the book in only a couple of days. Very well written. Recommended. 4 stars.
When I asked Donna to chose a book for me for this challenge, she offered me two: this book and Nightwoods. Both looked great, so I reserved both of them at the library. It looked like getting Sisters of Sinai would be would be pretty easy, but Nightwoods had a long wait list and was questionable. I had just started Sisters when Nightwoods suddenly became available, so I read them both. And loved them both. Donna is a master book-picker!
Sisters of the Sinai is also headed for my wishlist, Sandy. Ever since I started a category for non-fiction last year, I have discovered so many interesting books!
The Sisters of Sinai was one of my favorite reads last year. I loved reading about them, but I think I'd find them intimidating if I met them in person!
#116 Judy, the scary truth (or happy, depending on how you look at it) is that there are nearly as many great non-fictions as there are novels.
#117 I agree - "formidable" is a word that comes to mind when describing them, especially Agnes!
I think last year I read 1 non-fiction to every 3or4 fiction books and will probably do the same this year, sometimes I read a book that's so good (or sometimes so bad) that I need a palate cleanser and NF are great for that
16. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Categories: foreign setting (England)
A wonderful little book about what happens when the Queen of England discovers reading. Of course One has always read, but never for pleasure and personal enrichment, as most of us here do. Rather, One must read merely as a means of gaining information about something or someone. To be informed. Imagine her surprise to discover how much better informed she felt once she became familiar with literature. The reactions of the staff and the Royal family are hilarious, since they are not always pleased about HRH's new hobby, but for very different reasons. A very surprising ending caps it all off nicely. I loved it. Recommended. 4-1/2 stars.
17. Jericho's Fall by Stephen L Carter
Rebecca deForde is called to the death bed of an old lover. Jericho Ainsley is the former director of CIA, the former Secretary of Defense, the "former everything" as some refer to him. Beck had an affair with him when she was 19 and he was a visiting professor at Princeton. She was one of his students. She is younger than his daughters. It lasted 18 months and ended 15 years ago. So, why did she go? That was never really explained.
After she got there, Beck found herself in the midst of a conspiracy. Jericho seems to have threatened to reveal some of the secrets he's gained over the years if anything happens either to him or any of his family - including Beck. But now Jericho is dying of cancer and people are worried. Will a death from natural causes still trigger the release of the secrets? The small Colorado town where Jericho lives is crawling with strangers, according to the deputy sheriff. Beck's cell phone doesn't work right, even though other people are able to use theirs. The house is a fortress. Helicopters buzz the place day and night. Jericho's daughters report trespassers to the county sheriff almost daily, but nothing is done. A decapitated dog is found in the drive. The hired hand has disappeared and his body is discovered days later in a ravine.
There are so many suspicious people, so many suspicious occurrences. Beck doesn't know who to trust. She seems to change her mind each time she talks to another person. And yet, a complete novice to the world of conspiracy is expected to be the one to figure everything out. Jericho repeatedly tells her that she is the smartest one of the bunch. Maybe so, but I wasn't convinced. Lots of thrillers rely on a single improbable premise in order to work. In the hands of a talented writer, I can be convinced to accept nearly anything. This wasn't one of those times. The story bogged down under its own weight. I couldn't wait for it to end. 2-1/2 stars.
Managed to miss your thread for a few weeks, so catching up now.
>105 Loved the term ambivert - works fine in Swedish too!
>107 I've never read anything nut Frazier, but this looks very interesting. I sometimes love that kind of big drama on a small scale. And I have no North Carolina book for my 50 state challenge :)
I loved the Bennett book when I read it, years ago.
I've always meant to try something by Stephen Carter. I should move him up the list, though it sounds like this shouldn't be the one I try.
I've never read anything nut Frazier... I have no idea how I even managed that. Swap "nut" for "by"...
#123 big drama on a small scale -- a perfect way of describing this book. I hope you can find it.
#124 Yes, try another book. According to some of the reviews I read, this book isn't very indicative of Carter's normal work. I'd never heard of him before and was attracted to this book by its synopsis. It could be a great thriller - he just didn't manage to pull it off.
18. February by Lisa Moore
Categories: foreign settings (Newfoundland), cover art
Briefly, this is the fictional story of a woman who was widowed when her husband was killed in the real life Ocean Ranger oil rig collapse east of Newfoundland on February 14, 1982. She had 3 young children and had just learned she was pregnant with a 4th. Her story is told non-sequentially, the past intertwined with the present, reality mixed with dreams. It is a touching tale of how brutally life goes on after a tragic loss. I gave it 4 stars.
I've included the book in my cover art category. It is an eye-catching picture, but I didn't think much of it until I was well into the book. However after getting better acquainted with Helen and her story about life without Cal, I began to consider the picture more closely. At first it looks like a what it is - the picture of a grieving widow next to the sea that took the life of her beloved. Black dress and all. But this is a strong woman. See how she is wearing a dress with an open neck - no coat or scarf - in Newfoundland, in February. Her hair is pinned up in an authoritative, no-nonsense style. Her back is turned and her head bowed in a submissive gesture, but she isn't going to stay that way for long. Her earring is swinging - either the wind is blowing or she is moving. Either way, she will be getting up and getting on with her life momentarily. Helen never forgot Cal, but she never stopped living her life, either. She raised her children & worked hard to support them. She took care of herself, she enjoyed her family, she traveled. She never stopped loving Cal, but that didn't keep her from loving anyone else, either. I like this cover because it so perfectly depicts the Helen we come to know in the book.
1. Odds are - 2/12 completed, none in February
2. Mysteries - 3/12 completed
Jericho's Fall by Stephen L Carter
3. Serial Killers, etc - 2/12 completed
The Darker Side by Cody McFadyen
4. Historical settings - 2/12 completed
The Sisters of Sinai by Janet Soskice
5. Foreign settings - 5/12 completed
The Sisters of Sinai by Janet Soskice (England, Egypt, Sinai)
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (England)
February by Lisa Moore (Newfoundland)
6. Non-fiction - 3/12 completed
Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh
7. Older than me - 2/12 completed
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1862)
8. Repeat author - 3/12 completed
Nightwoods by Charles Frazier
9. Sequels & Series - 1/12 completed
The Darker Side by Cody McFadyen (Smokey Barrett #3)
10. Group reads - 2/12 completed
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
11. Ask-a-Friend - 2/12 completed
Nightwoods by Charles Frazier (Donna828)
12. Cover art - 3/12 completed
February by Lisa Moore
Overall, including overlaps - 30/144 completed, with 18 actual books finished (8 of those in February).
Best book - Nightwoods by Charles Frazier
Worst book - Jericho's Fall by Stephen L Carter
Sandy, I loved how much you took from the cover of February. I probably wouldn't have given the cover a second look, but you put real meaning into the whole composition. Well done.
I love covers as well. I will get around to reading February sometime but I find it rare for the cover art to convey the character as this one does based on your review ..... very interesting!
Catching up after a week away:
>115 - Sisters of the Sinai sounds very interesting. Book bullet for me.
>116 & 118 - I was surprised when I looked over what I had read at the end of last year at how many non-fiction books I had read. I've even included a whole non-fiction category this year.
19. The Smell of the Night by Andrea Camilleri
Categories: mysteries, foreign setting (Sicily), repeat author, sequel or series (Inspector Montalbano # 6)
A man who appeared to be running a financial swindle has disappeared. General opinion seems to be divided as to whether the man is sunning himself on a south Pacific island with his ill-gotten gains, or serving as fish food after a mafioso has gotten his own revenge. Montalbano is called in to find him.
This was the slowest, least interesting book of the series yet. I hope he got it out of his system. 3-1/2 stars.
20. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
categories: Odds are (4.39 with >500 ratings), Ask-a-Friend (DeltaQueen50)
Junior, a resident of the Spokane Indian Reservation, decides that his only chance for success in life is to leave the reservation. Hope is white, so that is the world he must learn to live in. This is the story of his life half-in and half-out of two different cultures. Excellent. 4 stars.
It took Judy about 4 minutes to name this book after I asked her to choose a book for my ask-a-friend category. It's easy to see why. Picking this book was a no-brainer. Thanks, Judy!
21. And Hell Followed With It by Bonar Menninger
I loved this book, but maybe not everyone else will. It tells the story of a massive tornado that struck Topeka, Kansas in June 1966. We were living in Wichita at the time and my dad was one of the National Guardsmen who was called out to assist in the aftermath. I remember him coming home a week later with pictures of the damage. Much of the history and geography was familiar to me, but the best parts of the book were the personal stories of storm survivors and explanations of the science of the storm. My folks moved to Topeka in 1979 - 13 years after the tornado. I remember Dad showing us a view of an older neighborhood near downtown that had taken a direct hit. More than a dozen years later the storm's path was still visible. Looking like a single strip mowed across a shaggy lawn, the tall old trees and houses had been replaced with baby trees and modern low-slung buildings.
I also found it interesting to compare the book's account of the Topeka tornado with the reports of damage from last year's tornado in Joplin. Both storms were rated as EF5 (although the Fugita scale wasn't in use in 1966 so the Topeka storm was rated based on surviving evidence). Both seem to have been "multivortex" tornadoes - large funnels with one or more smaller vortices inside the main vortex. These obviously cause maximum damage. Both storms stayed on the ground about 45 minutes and left a damage trail more than 20 miles long. The differences are even more striking, I think. The Topeka tornado happened when tornado forecasting and public warning via sirens were not universal. In fact, Topeka served as a model for other communities in the area after 1966 because of the success of its tornado preparedness. Their use of "spotters" was unprecedented then, but has become commonplace now. The local weather service had been forced to deal with overwhelming official resistance to the very idea that the public should be notified of the possible danger in advance. The old air raid sirens were used just because they were already in place. Miraculously, only 16 people were killed in the Topeka tornado. Forty-five years later, tornado forecasting is routine in this part of the country, and the warning sirens located in every town are now referred to as "tornado sirens", and people have grown up learning how to protect themselves during a tornado, but the tornado in Joplin caused 160 deaths. Ten times as many. Joplin is definitely NOT ten times as big as Topeka - then or now. So why were the casualties so much higher in Joplin? I don't know. The Joplin tornado hit a hospital and a nursing home while the Topeka tornado missed those kinds of targets, which surely accounts for much of the large difference. But I remember reading an interesting opinion last year which speculated that the large loss of life in Joplin may be partially due to the fact that we are accustomed to being warned about tornadoes. A tornado warning is a very common thing here. So people don't always take them seriously. This person (I think it may actually have been someone affiliated with the National Weather Service) suggested that if tornado warnings were issued less casually - when the danger is really real and imminent - then perhaps people would respond less casually. I think there is some merit to that argument.
Obviously, I find tornadoes fascinating. Fortunately, I've never been directly affected by one, but it is a rare year when there isn't a tornadic storm close enough to threaten us. This is a book that I'll be remembering a very long time. Many thanks to Linda P for the recommendation. 5 stars.
22. Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson
category: sequel or series (Gods in Alabama)
Rose is a battered wife living in Texas with her husband. She ended up there after leaving her childhood home in Alabama to escape her abusive, alcoholic father. Along the way, she moved from one low paying job and abusive man to another. Deep down, she knew that Thom was no different than the rest, but she loved him anyway. And still does. She has learned to endure and ignore the pointed looks and meaningful silences of her elderly neighbor, and the nurse at the local emergency room keeps pestering her to take some kind of action. But it takes a gypsy fortune teller at the airport telling her that her husband will kill her if she doesn't do something drastic. It will either be her life or his. Rose believes that the gypsy is her mother who abandoned her with her father when she was only eight and is finally motivated to do something about her situation.
Sometimes funny, often painful, this is a fast-paced story. But however interesting Rose is, I never really cared about her. This would definitely have been a better story if it had a better writer. 3-1/2 stars.
23. Operation Napoleon by Arnaldur Indridason
categories: mysteries, foreign settings (Iceland), repeat author
Written by my favorite Scandinavian author, I thoroughly enjoyed this stand-alone story of a WWII Nazi plane that crashed on an Icelandic glacier and disappeared. In 1999, satellite photos indicate that it has reappeared and the American military immediately mounts a covert operation to recover the wreckage. Trouble is, the Reykjavik Air Ground Rescue Team is also on the glacier practicing with some new equipment and two of the members stumble upon the American camp. One man manages to phone his sister to let her know what they have seen, but the cell reception is not good and she doesn't understand what he was trying to tell her. She begins to worry when she cannot get through to him again. Then two men dressed like Jehovah Witnesses come to her house and try to kill her. She escapes and is determined to learn the truth of her brother's fate and what the Americans are trying to hide.
True, it is far-fetched and slightly unbelievable (well, maybe more than slightly). But I love Arnaldur's depictions of Icelandic people and culture. My biggest complaint about this book is its translation. Obviously done by a Brit (as all the others have been), it is full of British words, like "jumper" and "whilst". Generally, that is OK with me. But Americans never say "whilst", even when speaking formally, so when an American soldier is given the task of enforcing a bogus "US military prohibited zone" on the glacier, he would NEVER say "The zone won't be in force for long but whilst it is we insist that it is respected." Never. Aside from that jarring sentence, the story is a conspiracy theory enthusiast's delight. What was a Nazi plane, overpainted with American camouflage, doing flying west across the Atlantic before the war ended, carrying both German and American officers? Hopefully, the world will never know. I loved it. 4 stars.
24. The Venetian Betrayal by Steve Berry
categories: mysteries, Serial Killers & mass murderers, foreign settings (Copenhagen, Denmark; Venice, Italy; Samarkand, Uzbekistan), repeat author, sequel or series (Cotton Malone #3)
I don't know whether I just wasn't in the right mood for this one or what. There was almost too many details to keep track of, and the book opens right up in a fictional present reality. The Pope is African. The former Soviet "stan" provinces have united into a new nation called the Central Asian Federation, whose capital is Samarkand, which is an ally of the US. The leader of this predominately Muslim country is a woman who is obsessed with Alexander the Great and all things Greek. She is also planning to use biological warfare on her neighboring countries to bring them under her control. To that end, she has been developing a series of bacterial and viral weapons and corresponding anti-agents which will cure them. She has also resurrected an ancient formula known as "Greek fire" which will ignite instantly and burn anything. The money which is funding her research, and the infrastructural development in the former Soviet territory, is coming from an organization of European businessmen known as the Venetian League. By hiding in Asia, they hope to avoid the regulations and taxation of the west. Lets see, what else? Oh, yeah. The body in the tomb of St Mark is really Alexander the Great. And there is a cure for AIDS. Maybe. And something about elephant coins.
Cotton Malone is a retired US Justice Dept operative living in Copenhagen as a used book seller. He is the one the president calls on to try to stop the crazy Asian lady. Usually I enjoy this series, but this one was just tedious. I was only going to give it 2-1/2 stars, but he earned an extra 1/2 star at the end for including explanations about what was true and what was fiction. So, 3 stars on this one. But don't bother unless you already have been enjoying this series.
Venetian Betrayal sounds like it should have been good. Too bad. Looks like it got lost in the world building, but it sounds like an interesting world. If they were going to try to clone/resurrect Alexander though... Wow, too much!
#136 That looks like a good one, and especially interesting if you live in the area. I've mostly read disaster-at-sea books, but this one is going on my list. Thanks for the heads up.
The Venetian Betrayal sounds like such a mess! Kind of a hilarious mess, really.
#140 clone or resurrect Alexander - I don't think it will count as a spoiler if I say that is something they DIDN'T try! The Cotton Malone series always stops just short of supernatural. Are you familiar with them? They're each based on an historic riddle and someone is trying to use that to gain more power or wealth. Cotton and his friends have to come in and solve the riddle before the bad guy does, thus saving the world. Usually, they're pretty fun. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood for it this time.
#141 I hope you like it. I rarely read disaster books, but Linda (lindapanzo), who reads a lot of disaster books, told me about it. She knows that I enjoy reading about Kansas, since that is where I am from.
#142 "Mess" is right! There were so many crosses and double crosses and mistakes and outright lies that the reader never knows what is "real" and what isn't. I enjoy some of that in a mystery or thriller, but this one was just too much. "Hilarious" - maybe I should read it again, as a spoof - it might work better that way!
I've only read Indriðason's books about Erlendur, but there too I've noticed the great descriptions of Iceland as well as some strange translation issues (in both UK and US editions, unfortunately). I'm sticking to reading his books in Swedish now - it's at least related to Icelandic. :)
Is there any difference between US and UK versions? I hadn't thought there would be, not in the text at least, given that the translation was so obviously British. And I honestly don't mind the British English. But when an American character is speaking, then I think it should be in an American style. Just like a 5 year old character wouldn't sound the same as a 50 year old character.
You may be right, they might all be British translations and I just didn't notice that the vernacular was British. I do agree, however, that an American character should absolutely sound American, regardless of the country for which the book was translated.
ETA: I paged through the copy I have and it looks like you're spot-on - I found a few words that are distinctly British.
Of course, there is always the chance that it was translated exactly the way the author intended it to be. There was a comment in this last book that most Icelanders speak some English. Is their English more British than American? Does your Swedish translation read the same as the English, or is it distinctly Swedish?
Cotton Malone does sound fun. I'll have to stick one on my WL, but I think I'll start at #1.
Yes, all the Nordic countries learn British English at school (I had quite a bit of trouble in my writing classes at Uni when I first came to the US because of it), so if he had anything to do with the translation I'm sure he prefered British vernacular. The Swedish translations seem to have no oddities at all (like I've found in the English), probably because our syntax and idioms are more similar to Icelandic than the English are.
Wow! Great review of And Hell Followed With It! (I just love reviews with a personal connection!)
PS: And Sandy (@138), I have to sheepishly admit to using "whilst" frequently in my speech. I am not British, nor do I use if in a formal fashion. It's just a regular part of my vocabulary that feels like it's been there forever, and I haven't any idea at all where it came from.
#150 Cindy, that's just another bit of evidence to prove what an exceptional person you are!
25. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Recommended by my friend Labwriter (Becky) in the 75 books group, I think I would have picked this one up anyway. It has been on the best non-fiction books lists I get weekly from the library for a couple of months now. I don't know if there is anything really new for someone who's read another book about introverted vs extroverted personality styles, but it was interesting all the same. She describes some of the experiments that have been done by researchers in looking at the differences in brain activity in different types of personalities. I think one of the things that Becky took exception to was the chapter about whether/when an introverted person should intentionally act extroverted. Many of us do it automatically, and I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. But I would have liked to see her expand on her very short, almost in-passing comment that perhaps extroverted people ought to behave in an introverted fashion sometimes.
Overall, though, a worthwhile book. 4 stars.
note: Since Quiet has been getting so much positive attention, I had hopes that it would qualify for my "Odds Are" category. But while the overall LT rating is 4.07, there are only 83 people who have rated the book. Just short of the 100 required for my category. Rats.
@150 interesting to see that whilst "whilst" is mainly British it is making inroads to the States
I note I've used "whilst" a couple of times in my 12/12 thread in reviews and must confess I've never noticed that it was peculiarly British before, probably more difficult to spot its absence in US English books than to spot its addition? Whilst I understand your point on the use of a Britishism in the mouth of an American I think there are plenty of examples of Americanisms in British books etc and there is perhaps a drift towards American English generally. I work mainly with people who do not have English as a first language and find they are more likely to use "Wall Street English" (I've seen ads proposing to teach this! Although not sure it exists as a separate type of English?) than Queen's English so I suspect the days of Brits writing/saying "whilst" may be numbered....
152>> I had hopes that it would qualify for my "Odds Are" category. But while the overall LT rating is 4.07, there are only 83 people who have rated the book. Just short of the 100 required for my category. Rats.
would it qualify if 17 people read it later?
#153 I've never heard the term "Wall Street English" - does that mean American English in general, or the language of business and commerce in particular? Being American, I would probably be less likely to notice an English character in a book not speaking British English than the instant notice I took of the unlikely speech by the American soldier in Operation Napoleon. But I think it should go both ways - a careful author (or translator) should make an effort to have every character speaking in a style consistent with their heritage. I love that it is possible to tell where a person learned English by the way they speak it. I had a friend in college from Saudi Arabia. His father had sent him to London to learn better English before he came to the US for school. He spoke British English with an Arabian accent. Very distinctive! (Please don't stop using "whilst"!)
#154 I asked myself the same question. Answer? I think that would be wrong. If a book doesn't fit into a category at the time it is read, then it shouldn't be able to count for that category later.
I think the ads for "Wall Street English" were on the Paris Metro - I don't know what it is I've only seen the ad...
I love the internet. Googling "Wall Street English" yielded this: http://www.wallstreetinstitute.com/
Getting ready for a month-end recap, I still need to post the final March book.
26. Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? by Michael J Sandel
A look at the concepts of justice, fairness, and freedom. He does this by examining different philosophical schools of thought (e.g., Aristotelian, Kantian, etc) and then applying those to different hypothetical situations. Some of the particular examples I can recall:
Is it right when a low income white woman is denied access to a prestigious law school in favor of a middle class back man with lower test scores, as a result of affirmative action? Part of the arguments here dealt with the idea that the low income woman might actually be at a greater disadvantage than the middle class man, that in present society income might be a more decisive factor than race when it comes to discrimination and lack of opportunity. Offsetting this is another argument that no one has a "right" to be admitted to law school, and as long as the school makes its admissions decisions in accordance with its stated mission, then accepting lower performing students in favor of better ones who lack another desired trait is perfectly acceptable.
Is it right, or even possible, for "us" - our current government and society - to apologize to a specific group of people for the wrongs done them by previous generations? The arguments addressed the nature of apology - that it is an admission of personal guilt or wrongdoing. No one alive now owned slaves, so is it meaningful for modern whites to apologize to the descendants of slaves for the wrongs done their ancestors? On the other hand, the concept of patriotism was also examined which implies that we as individuals incur some measure of responsibility for (and the right to feel pride at) the actions of our countrymen, even when we are not personally involved.
Which is fairer - the current "volunteer" military, or the conscripted service of the draft system? Does it matter that high income individuals stay out of the military in droves when given a choice? Shouldn't the rich also take their turn? But isn't conscription just another form of involuntary servitude?
There are many other difficult issues that are examined in terms of what is fair, or right, or moral. Some of them were easy to follow, but others I found convoluted and confusing. Plus, there were no clear conclusions drawn at the end that I could base an opinion about his arguments on. In fact, for several days, I wasn't sure even what the book had really been about. Obviously, someone with more knowledge of, or interest in, these kind of conundrums would have enjoyed the book more thoroughly than I did. As it was, I gave it a neutral 3 stars.
1. Odds Are - 3/12 completed
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (4.38 with >1000 ratings)
2. Mysteries - 5/12 completed
The Smell of the Night by Andrea Camilleri
Operation Napoleon by Arnaldur Indridason
3. Serial Killers, Mass Murderers, High Body Count - 3/12 completed
The Venetian Betrayal by Steve Berry
4. Historical Settings - 2/12 completed, none in March
5. Foreign Settings - 5/12 completed, none in March
6. Non-fiction - 6/12 completed
And Hell Followed With It by Bonar Menninger
Quiet by Susan Cain
Justice by Michael J Sandel
7. Older Than Me - 2/12 completed, none in March
8. Repeat Author - 4/12 completed
Operation Napoleon by Arnaldur Indridason
9. Sequels/Series - 4/12 completed
The Smell of the Night by Andrea Camilleri (Inspector Montalbano #6)
Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson (Gods in Alabama)
Venetian Betrayal by Steve Berry (Cotton Malone #3)
10. Group Reads - 2/12 completed, none in March
11. Ask-a-Friend - 3/12 completed
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (DeltaQueen50)
12. Cover Art - 3/12 completed, none in March
Overall, including overlaps - 42/144 completed, with 26 actual books finished (8 of those in March).
Best book - Operation Napoleon by Arnaldur Indridasson (The Absolutely True Diary was really equally as enjoyable, and lost out only because it was shorter)
Worst book - The Venetian Betrayal by Steve Berry
good wrap-up...reminds me I need to look at that Andrea Camilleri series.
27. Time and Again by Jack Finney
categories: odds are (4.03 with > 500 ratings), mysteries, historical settings (1882), series/sequels (From Time to Time) Ask-a-Friend (lindapanzo)
This was a great book - the kind I barely put down once I'd started it. Si was selected to participate in a secret government program to send people back to the past. He requests NYC in 1882, with the intent of investigating an old family mystery of his girlfriend's, and so it is arranged. Like the time travel depicted in the movie "Somewhere in Time", the theory in this book is that time is like thread wound around the spool of a place. If you are in a certain place, it is only a matter of jumping to another thread to arrive at a different time. So, the important thing is to choose places that exist both in the present, and in the targeted past. The rest depends on the mental powers of the traveler to make the jump.
As expected, there were lots of descriptions of 19th century New York, and comparisons to the present (well, to 1970, when the book was published). I loved that part - and suspect I would have liked it even better if I were familiar with the place. Another aspect that I especially liked was Si's initial impression that 19th century New Yorkers were somehow more alive, more vibrant, more optimistic than their 20th century counterparts. He was so seduced by the charm and elegance of the earlier period that he couldn't see the problems in that society. On the other hand, he was so aware of the problems in his own time, that he failed to notice the joy and pleasure in the lives of his contemporaries. He explained it by saying (paraphrasing here) that when you're on vacation, the faces of the people you meet are just part of the view - and isn't it beautiful? It's only after you spend time living somewhere (or sometime, in this case) that you begin to see that those people have real lives and real worries and concerns. At that point, it becomes difficult to see any of the original beauty at all.
I love good time travel stories, and was so wrapped up in that part of the story that I found the mystery to be a little confusing. Still, it was all figured out in the end. I loved this book. 4-1/2 stars
When Linda picked this book for me, she said it was one of her all-time favorites. Evidently, she first read it when it was newly published. I wish I'd read it back then, too. I would have fallen in love with it just as Linda did. Still, I am very grateful to her for introducing me to it now.
Although I'm not a huge fan of time travel, I might have to take a book bullet on this one - sounds really good.
28. Running Scared by Lisa Jackson
categories: mysteries, repeat author
Despite the cover - which has no basis whatsoever in the story, and which alarmed my son who insisted that "I thought you didn't like horror stories" (he was skeptical when I told him that it was a romantic suspense not horror, that bad things would be happening but that the guy who would be helping her would be single and handsome) - this was actually a pretty good book.
Kate was still recovering from the sudden deaths of her husband and infant daughter when her sleazy-attorney boss offered her an opportunity: Adopt this new-born baby boy, and take him far away from here and never return. The parents, he told her, were the unmarried daughter of a prominent Boston family and a convicted killer who was already in prison. The girl's family just wanted the "problem" to go away and never bother them again.
So she took the baby, left Boston, and settled in a small town in rural Oregon. Fifteen years later, the baby's grandfather changed his mind. He is dying and has no male heirs - his only son having been killed even before the baby had been born. Now he wants his grandson to come back to the family and take his rightful place. He hires a private investigator to find the boy and return him to Boston. However, his daughter - the boy's mother - has her own reasons for not wanting her son to be found. She contacts the father, a man whose identity she has kept secret, and begs him to find their son and keep him hidden from her father.
Kate and her son, John, have been struggling in Oregon. John is not well-liked at school and is a frequent target of a notorious bully. John has a kind of second sight, which allows him to see into the minds of people he touches, and into his own future in his dreams. Lately, he has been dreaming about a bad man coming to get him and take him away. So when a strange man moves into the house next door, Kate is skeptical of his intentions - despite her growing attraction to him.
Yes, it's somewhat predictable, and the second sight thing is convenient, but I still found it to be a highly entertaining story. 4 stars.
29. Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon
categories: historical settings (10th century), foreign settings (Azerbaijan), group reads, cover art
In the after-word, the author reveals that his working title for the book was "Jews With Swords". This is the story of 2 Jewish men, one a Frank, the other an Abyssinian, who are traveling in Central Asia. The come upon a young prince whose family has been killed and agree to transport him to his grandfather. Much adventure and intrigue. A short novel, which would make a great movie, I think. 3-1/2 stars.
I've included it in my cover art category. Mostly because of the elephants. I love elephants. This goes way back to when my mother first introduced me to elephant jokes when I was only about 6 or 7. (Q- why do elephants paint their toenails pink? A - so they can hide in a cherry tree) I'm convinced that a person's opinions about elephant jokes say something important about them. I'm not sure what exactly, but it seems that people either love them or think they're stupid. I love them, so I think the ability to enjoy elephant jokes must be a very good thing. My husband thinks they are stupid. In the jokes, elephants are always fitting into unlikely places. Like that cherry tree. Or the fridge (they leave footprints in the butter - that's how you can tell they were there). And they can fit 4 inside a VW Bug. (Q - what's clear on the outside and grey on the inside? A - an elephant inside a sandwich bag.) My daughter made me an elephant joke book for Christmas one year when she was about 11 or 12 years old (she's 21 now). I still get it out and read it sometimes - and it still makes me laugh out loud. That year my parents and brothers came over here on Christmas. During the day, I watched as each of them picked up the book, read through it, and smiled-chuckled-laughed. My husband, sons, and sisters-in-law all rolled their eyes, and threw it down in condemnation. (Q - What did Tarzan say when he saw a herd of elephants coming over the hill? A - "Look, a herd of elephants coming over the hill!" Q - What did Tarzan say when he saw a herd of elephants coming over the hill wearing sunglasses? A - nothing, he didn't recognize them. Q - What did Tarzan say when he saw a herd of giraffes coming over the hill? A - "You can't fool me again with that trick!") Please feel free to share your favorite elephant jokes - and your opinion about people who love/hate elephant jokes.
Hi Sandy, I'm a big fan of elephant jokes!
Q: Why are elephants all wrinkly?
A: Have you ever tried to iron an elephant?
Q: Why do elephants have trunks?
A: Because they would look silly carrying a suitcase!
I try to tell these jokes to my grandkids but all I get are blank looks!
Q: How do you get down from an elephant?
A: You don't. You get it from a duck.
And, yes, Gentlemen of the Road is on the wishlist!
30. Woe to Live On by Daniel Woodrell
categories: serial killers-mass murderers-high body count, historical setting (1860's), repeat author, group reads (MO Readers Group)
"I watched the road and blew on my hands and stamped my feet and damn near froze, but no bad luck gained on us. It was as pleasant a night as I'd had in a while." (pg 101)
I've heard that, during the civil war, there were more battles in Missouri than any other state. But probably most people can't name even a single one. That is because much of the fighting in Missouri was in the form of guerrilla skirmishes. This book follows one such group. They call themselves the "First Kansas Irregulars" and are a rag-tag band of boys and thieves and a slave named Holt. They spend the war hunting down, and killing, Jayhawkers from Kansas and Federals. And any unfortunate union-sympathizers who cross their path.
The scene is gritty, the action is violent, the language is perfect. The climactic scene is the (real-life) burning of Lawrence, Kansas, in a raid led by William Quantrill. The carnage was amazing - homes burned, people slaughtered. But the results of Northern raids into Missouri were no less awful. As jfetting said in the discussion of the book in the Missouri Readers Group, "there were no "good guys" in this conflict".
Daniel Woodrell (a native Missourian) is one of our favorite authors, and this book did not disappoint. His topics are always grim and his settings are oppressive, but his writing is fabulous. We always joke about enjoying his books, because, really, there is nothing enjoyable about them. Except the writing. Highly recommended. 4-1/2 stars.
#167 Judy, I'm sorry to hear about your grandkids - I don't know if elephant jokes can really be explained, either you get them or you don't.
Q - Why did the big game hunter give up hunting elephants?
A - He got tired of carrying the decoys.
Q: Why should you avoid the jungle between 2 and 4 p.m?
A: That's when the elephants practice parachuting.
Q: Why do crocodiles have such flat backs?
A: They didn't avoid the jungle between 2 and 4 p.m.
#171 That's a great variation on the one I learned (and probably more "politically correct"):
Q - Why should you stay out of the jungle between 2 and 4 pm?
A - That's when elephants are jumping out of trees.
Q - Why are pygmies so short?
A - They went into the jungle between 2 and 4 pm.
Seems like there was a reason the elephants were jumping out of trees - but I've forgotten that part.
Q - Why'd the elephant cross the road?
A- Chicken's day off.
Some people just never get it. My husband looks at me like I'm nuts. And usually groans.
#176 Mine, too. But I don't normally hear him because I'm still laughing from the joke!
Q - How do you keep an elephant from going through the eye of a needle?
A - Tie a knot in its tail.
OMG - is there something wrong with me? I've never heard elephant jokes before, & you guys are totally making me laugh. I think you might need a few elephant jokes after reading Woe to Live On.
#178 I can't believe you've never heard of elephant jokes before! I'm glad you like them - there are dozens.
1. Odds Are - 3/12 completed - none in April
2. Mysteries - 6/12 completed
Running Scared by Lisa Jackson
3. Serial Killers, Mass Murderers, High Body Count - 4/12 completed
Woe to Live On by Daniel Woodrell
4. Historical Settings - 4/12 completed
Time and Again by Jack Finney (1882)
Woe to Live On by Daniel Woodrell (1860's)
5. Foreign Settings - 5/12 completed, none in April
6. Non-fiction - 6/12 completed, none in April
7. Older Than Me - 2/12 completed, none in April
8. Repeat Author - 5/12 completed
Running Scared by Lisa Jackson
9. Sequels/Series - 4/12 completed, none in April
10. Group Reads - 3/12 completed
Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon
11. Ask-a-Friend - 4/12 completed
Time and Again by Jack Finney (lindapanzo)
12. Cover Art - 4/12 completed
Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon
Overall, including overlaps - 50/144 completed, with 30 actual books finished (only 4 in April).
Best book - Woe to Live On by Daniel Woodrell
Worst book - The Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon
Life has been crazy the past few weeks, and I haven't had as much time to read as in March. I actually did read a 5th book, but it wouldn't fit into any of my categories, so it doesn't count here. May is starting out to be just as hectic as April. I hope it will end up being a better month, but I'm not holding my breath.
31. Murder With Peacocks by Donna Andrews
categories: mysteries, series/sequel (Meg Langslow #1)
"What could possibly be causing this undeniable antagonism between Samantha and her fiance's future stepfather's first wife's sister?" (pg 54)
Meg Langslow has gone back home for the summer to plan weddings for her best friend, her brother's fiance, and her mother, and to act as maid of honor for each bride. What a fun, crazy, farce of a story! Three demanding brides, murder, mayhem, peacocks, Gone-With-the-Wind hoop skirts, velvet gowns in July, crazy relatives, unwanted attention from undesirable men, and a hunky dressmaker - too bad he's gay (right?). I don't normally read cozy mysteries, but this one was wonderful. 4 stars.
I loved that one, too, Sandy, and am planning to read the second one, Murder with Puffins, very soon.
I keep hoping to get back to the Finney book soon, too. I think I built up, in my mind, how it's the greatest thing I ever read and now I'm nervous that I'll be disappointed.
Still in a semi-funk. Not reading much, and, generally speaking, not too thrilled with the books I am reading.
#182 I've added Murder with Puffins to my wishlist, but I don't know how quickly I'll get to it. My reading pace has definitely slowed down lately. I have a stack of books to read - most of them are pretty small and should be quick reading - I just haven't had much time to sit and read. I picked up my May ask-a-friend book the other day and am anxious to get started on it, but I have all these others that have been waiting so much longer. We have a vacation coming up in a couple of weeks, but I don't know whether I'll have much time for reading since we're taking all the kids with us this time, and my Mom and Dad, too. I'll for sure pack several books, though, just in case!
I don't know how you're remembering Time and Again, but I really did love it. It seems like one that would hold up pretty well to re-reading - especially if it's been a while. I hope you'll like it as much as you remember.
LOL - I always knew weddings brought out the worst in people. ;) Sounds like a fun one.
Thinking of your comments re elephant jokes I decided to poll my friends after looking over the list and deciding who I thought had liked them. Amazingly I had the list picked almost exactly.
And I got tons of jokes back as everyone seems to have their favorite.
Thanks all, for a very fun afternoon.
32. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
categories: historical settings (1890's), foreign settings (India), older than me (1901), group reads
This is the first Kipling I've read since the illustrated set of Just-So Stories that my grandmother had when I was little. Set in colonial India, Kimball O'Hara is the orphaned son of poor Irish parents who grew up "native". He wears an amulet around his neck containing papers given him by his father with the instruction that he was never to part from them. He also was given a quest by his father before he died - find the red bull in a green field. One day, he meets a lama - a Buddhist holy man - on a quest for the "River of the Arrow" which will be his path to eternal happiness. Kim travels with the lama, and is taken on by the old man as his disciple. Until, one day, Kim stumbles upon a regiment of British soldiers, whose regimental flag is a red bull on a green field - his father's regiment. The papers in his amulet identify him as his father's son, and he is taken into the custody of the colonel. From then on, Kim feels pulled in two directions - towards the English who want to train him to work for them, and towards the holy lama, whom he has come to love, who wants to teach Kim the way of Enlightenment and use him as a guide to search for the River of the Arrow.
It really is a wonderful story on the whole. But page-by-page, I often struggled to follow the intrigues and other developments. The language is antique and it was often hard to decipher. 3-1/2 stars, but that might be a little harsh.
>181 LOL - I had to read that quote over and slowly try to draw a family tree in my head.
Q. Why did the elephant stand on the marshmellow?
A. She didn't want to fall into the hot chocolate.
Enjoy your day. Doing anything special?
I am off to the Cubs game in a few minutes.
Nothing very special - but I didn't have to cook or clean up, so that is a treat. Hope the Cubs won today. We still haven't checked to see how the Royals did, or even if they got the game in - it's been storming here off and on all day today.
33. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
categories: Odds Are (4.11 with > 500 ratings), mysteries, serial killers, mass murderers, high body count
Creepy and suspenseful, this short book tells the story of Mary and her sister Constance who live in the family's old house together with their disabled uncle. They are the remnant, and only survivors, of a wealthy family who was poisoned several years earlier - 5 people being killed in a single day by arsenic in the sugar. Constance was acquitted for murder. Uncle Julian is incapacitated as a result of the poisoning and obsessed with the events of the fateful day. Mary, the narrator, is the one who leaves the grounds and goes into town twice a week for groceries, supplies, and library books. While there, she endures the stares, whispers, and rude comments of the townsfolk who are fascinated by the family and their gruesome past. Despite normally being quite dense and slow, I saw through this one from the very beginning - which took the edge off the suspense for me. Still, very good -- recommended.
34. The Outlaw Album by Daniel Woodrell
categories: repeat author, cover art
"Patience is the quality most lacking in people of my group, and impulses must be recognized and arrested and considered before taking action, or else the flicker of a bad idea unchallenged can instantly make you swing a sharp instrument of hurt into the area of someone you had ought to love but can't for a second." (pg 156)
This is a book of short stories by the author of last month's Woe to Live On (post #169 above) and the popular Winter's Bone.
It's best not to read these too quickly, or when you're having a bad day. Unlike his full-length novels, there are no reprieves of hopefulness punctuating these short, brutal stories. The setting is absolutely the Ozarks region straddling the Missouri-Arkansas state line. The scenery, the mindset, the dialect - these descriptions are what Woodrell does best.
The outlawry in these different stories is so varied, that it became a little game for me to guess who the "outlaw" was in each story and what that person had done before it was revealed. I can't remember the last time I read a volume of short stories, so I really don't know how to rate this book. The writing is excellent, as usual, but I really prefer the novels more - there is just so little time to develop anything in a short story. So, 3-1/2 stars.
I included this in my cover art category. The picture is a painting called An April Mood, 1946-55, by Charles Birchfield. I love it:
It really does look like the landscape in southern Missouri - just at the edge of the wooded hills where it opens up into farmland. It sort of reminds me of our very favorite print that is hanging in our home, Gold and Grey, 1942, by John Rogers Cox. Our print was chosen because it looks so much like southern Kansas where we come from. Well, side by side, they really don't look anything alike! (Except for the heavy grey clouds, that is.) But there is something about the style from the 1940s that I love:
Wow that art is very atmospheric I can almost hear the thunder and feel foreboding in that last picture!
Nice review too, I keep meaning to try Winter's bone, I loved the film.
Yes, I love this picture. And so true to life - the wheat is ready to harvest and here comes the rain!
That is a beautiful picture- so very foreboding. How great that it also means something more to you!
Love those pictures. Kipling is a favorite of mine, but I admit, the language is hard to read. He uses dialect so much that you really have to slow down to figure out what people are saying.
>199 It's kind of both, I guess. But even if the mystery bit isn't that mysterious (this is a book with a pretty small cast after all), it's just so elegantly done, I have no beef with it. Really, this book is mostly about eerie ambience and interesting characters, but I think it's plot is pretty brilliant too, small as it is.
#200 That's how I would have answered the question, too. It couldn't have been too much of a mystery if I was able to figure it out early on, but the family is so fascinating - as the townspeople in the story also thought.
It's funny how different people react to different books. I didn't care for We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I wasn't keen on Jackson's Haunting of Hill House, either. Odd, since I usually like weird books. It's fun to see how different people view the same things, and discuss why. I think I don't always react well to the "unreliable narrator" POV. I seem to recall that being a factor in one or both of those books.
Love the art!
We Have Always Lived in the Castle has been on my wishlist too for a while, just haven't gotten to it - time to correct, I think. :)
35. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
categories: Odds are (4.0 with nearly 1000 ratings), nonfiction, Ask-a-Friend (tymfos)
I wrestled with my reactions to this book. It was fast, easy reading about a young man who left a fundamentalist Christian church "home" to work with Christian students on a traditionally anti-religious college campus (don't recall the name of the school - someplace in Oregon, I think). Then he lived in the woods with a group of hippies for several weeks before returning to an organized church camp run by fundamentalists. Rather than feeling like he was back home, he bristled at the (to him) unnecessary rules and restrictions imposed there.
At first I questioned the benefit in listening to anything this young man had to say when he obviously enjoyed better the religious community that permitted him to drink, use drugs and have recreational sex. I thought him shallow and uncommitted to anything meaningful. I haven't totally changed my mind about that. However, he did raise some good points. When he arrived at the organized church camp near the end of the book, I think he realized that smoking pot would not be tolerated. But he was surprised to learn that neither was his long hair and shabby clothes. Only after cutting his hair, shaving, and changing clothes was he accepted by the rest of the camp staff. And why should that be? He was still the same man inside, after all.
And that is my primary take-away point from the book. God is more concerned with the person we are inside, not our outside appearances. Yes, this is exactly the same lesson I taught my kids when they were 10. But I still think this author is young and immature, so this is evidently the lesson he is still learning. But it is an important lesson and bears repeating. Does God really care which church we worship in, or what songs we sing? Probably not. Probably He cares more about how we live, how we treat others around us, and how we represent Him to unbelievers (both in words and deeds). (A more in-depth consideration of theology doesn't have a place in this book.) I understand a movie has been made from this book, which might be interesting to watch. Even though I wasn't blown away by this book as many others have been, I still found it to be thought-provoking and worthwhile.
Thank you, Terri, for choosing it for me!
36. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome
categories: Historical Settings (19th century), Foreign Settings (England), Older than Me (1901), Sequel or Series (Three Men on the Bummel)
A light-hearted and comical look at human nature when 3 young men decide to row up the Thames to escape the drudgery of everyday life. Many of the observations are still spot-on, despite being made more than a century ago.
Fun. 4 stars.
37. The March by E L Doctorow
categories: Historical Setting (1860's)
"The old planter sat with his arms resting on the arms of his chair, and from under this thick white eyebrows he was making them over into a rabble, a thieving pack of highwaymen. Pryce recognized the old man. The accent might be different, the manners unrefined, but this was a lord of the realm, one of those bred from generations of wealth, to be accorded deference from the day he was born. Pryce's father was such a one. Pryce had made himself a journalist and fled London so as not to become such a one. How many of them did not know how stupid they were beneath the manners of their class." (pg 217-218)
"But they had breached the barricade, they were coming over, and Brasil, catching one on his bayonet, couldn't shake it out of the boy, so left it and the rifle stuck there and turned and ran, finding himself not alone, the onslaught unstoppable, the shouting and scrambling screaming not from his own throat alone. And he ran and ran through the woods till he found the reserve lines, where he fell down to catch his breath, panting and gasping behind the sheer bulk of blue uniforms pressing forward to take their turn. And good luck to them, Brasil thought, for I have not known such terror since I was held back in the third grade under Sister Agnes Angelica." (pg 295-296)
"How many minutes later he didn't know, a brigade of the Twentieth Crops had moved in to stem the attack and Oakey said to no one in particular, I had a horse here somewhere." (pg 301)
This book took me a long time to finish - about 2 months. I struggle to describe it. After marching to the sea at Savannah, Sherman turned his army and marched back up through Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, onward to the end of the civil war. But Sherman himself is a minor character in this book. The story is populated by the dozens of people, northern and southern, slave and free, warrior and caregiver, victor and defeated, men and women who all found themselves swept along in Sherman's wake.
It is violent and gory. It is sad and it is hopeful. It is a story of human survival during war. A week after completing it, I find myself still thinking about the book and liking it better for its well-written descriptions of the indescribable. Highly recommended. 4 stars.
1. Odds Are - 5/12 completed
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
2. Mysteries - 7/12 completed
Murder With Peacocks by Donna Andrews
3. Serial Killers, Mass Murderers, High Body Count - 5/12 completed
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
4. Historical Settings - 5/12 completed
The March by E L Doctorow
5. Foreign Settings - 5/12 completed, none in May
6. Non-fiction - 6/12 completed, none in May
7. Older Than Me - 4/12 completed
Kim by Rudyard Kipling
Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome
8. Repeat Author - 6/12 completed
The Outlaw Album by Daniel Woodrell
9. Sequels/Series - 6/12 completed
Murder With Peacocks by Donna Andrews
Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome
10. Group Reads - 4/12 completed
Kim by Rudyard Kipling
11. Ask-a-Friend - 5/12 completed
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
12. Cover Art - 5/12 completed
The Outlaw Album by Daniel Woodrell
Overall, including overlaps - 63/144 completed, with 37 actual books finished (7 in May).
Best book - The March by E L Doctorow
Worst book (actually, this month that means the least-good book - there were no bad ones in May) - Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
You're making great progress and reading some good books, Sandy.
I'll add the Doctorow book to my list though I think I'd need to be in the right mood for that one. Also, I think I liked the Donald Miller book a whole lot more than you did.
I'm eager to get started on this month's Missouri reader book. I've been chomping at the book to read Clair de Lune.
I saw Blue Like Jazz as less about a guy who wanted to drink a beer and smoke his pipe (he didn't smoke marijuana or endorse that), and more about how the church is becoming an uncomfortable fit for many as it becomes more reactionary and conformist and how he reacted, not with anger, but to find a place to worship that fulfilled its purpose. I thought it was written with a little too much simplicity, but I'm still thinking about its content, and find it a source of hope.
On the other hand, I gave up on The March halfway through.
Maybe the reason I didn't take to the Miller book is because I missed the point. I struggled while reading to figure out what he was doing and why. However, I did feel like he was trying to justify doing whatever he wanted to do, knowing that his home church would not approve. I don't remember that he was trying to find another church group - just that he was out there on his own.
I was planning to read Blue Like Jazz last year for my "colors" category, but ran out of time. It's out on loan now, but I found your comments interesting.
I haven't read Blue Like Jazz yet. Maybe I should try it and see what my reaction is.
I know that most people have absolutely loved the book, so I expect that the problem here is mine. I will be looking forward to everyone else's comments about it.
I'm glad to see your review on Blue Like Jazz. The name and the cover art appeal to me, but I think I would've come away feeling much the same as you did.
>205 One of the things they often fail to tell you about giving birth to a baby is that it can be boring as heck a lot of the time. When me and Flea were having our first child, we spent 25 hours in the ward - the first fourteen of them with contractions that were pretty far apart. But since the water had broke we were not recommended to go home. In those hours of limbo before the real labour started, I read Three men in a boat to Flea, and we were giggling away, letting our minds rest a bit. I'll always love that book for it :)
#214 I guess that's why there are so many books - we don't all love the same ones!
#215 What a great story. And, having been the person in the bed during labor, I can say that you did more than you realized by keeping Flea entertained and distracted. No wonder she loves you. ;-)
Sandy, it's interesting to see how our reactions differed to Blue Like Jazz. It's almost like we were reading different books. I guess that's an indication of how much each of us brings to a book, especially one that involves religion.
The message about not judging from the outward appearances was important, now that I think of it. To me, as I recall, the book came across more an indictment of legalism and gracelessness among those who call themselves Christian: how so many people sweat the fine points of religious law, or even things (like whether or not to have a beer or a shave) that really aren't Biblically mandated; but seem to totally miss the true fundamentals of the Christian life -- LOVE and God's grace. Maybe it came across that way because grace vs. legalism is such a focal point of my religious tradition.
Terri, I am so glad that you picked BLJ for me to read - I'm becoming convinced that I really don't know what it was about at all! But it has inspired much thought and conversation which makes it a hit in my mind. I've got a request in for the DVD at the library as soon as it becomes available. I'm hoping that the movie version will trigger an understanding that I missed in the book.
38. On Secret Service by John Jakes
categories: historical setting (1860's), repeat author
I picked this up at the library just because I needed an audio book for the car. I didn't expect to be blown away but it, and I was not surprised. It tells a story about the development of espionage during the civil war by both sides. The Pinkerton Agency plays a prominent role, with Mr Pinkerton as a close friend of General McClellan who was hired to provide him with military intelligence - interesting because it provides a plausible explanation for McClellan's belief in the nonexistent superior forces of the Confederate army. Also included are the female spies on both sides, and the conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln.
I'm never confident of the historical accuracy of Jakes' books, but they are usually entertaining. This was no exception, but I wished it had been shorter. 3-1/2 stars.
I remember reading a lot of John Jakes, what was it, back in the 1980's? Not great literature but very entertaining.
North and South, which was then made into a miniseries, stands out.
39. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
categories: foreign setting (India, Pacific Ocean), Ask-a-friend (dudes22)
It's been a long time since I sat down and read a book straight through, cover to cover, without stopping. That's exactly what happened with this one. Nothing productive has gotten done here this morning, because I was engrossed in this book for hours.
It is the story of Piscine Patel ("Pi" for short) whose family owned and operated a zoo in their hometown of Pondicherry, in India. Due to unrest in the Indian government in the mid-1970s, Pi's father makes the decision to sell the zoo and move the family to Canada when Pi was 16 years old. Since many of the animals were sold to American zoos, the family took passage on the same Japanese cargo ship that transported the animals so that they could care for them in transit. When the ship sank just a few days out of Manila, Philippines, Pi found refuge in a lifeboat together with several of the animals. Including Richard Parker, the Bengal tiger. After Richard Parker had killed and eaten the other animals, Pi worried that he would be the next prey and decided to find a way to survive the trip. He did this by training Richard Parker the way circus trainers subdue their lions and tigers - with fear and food. The bulk of the book is the story of the ordeals of the trip. When Pi finally washed ashore in Mexico after more than 7 months adrift, he is interviewed by Japanese officials of the shipping company who find his story hard to believe.
Pi credits Richard Parker for keeping him alive - by giving him a purpose and a goal - and also his faith in God. This is truly an unforgettable book. 4 stars.
I too was very fond of Pi when I read it - or, rather, listened to the audiobook which was read beautifully by someone whose name I don't remember. I saw the teaser-preview for the movie the other day and it looks amazing - I really, really hope it turns out well!
Life of Pi, like Blue Like Jazz, is a book I'm still thinking over.
I'm with you on thinking that any book that leads to honest, open discussion is a good thing!
#220 I don't think I ever read North and South, but I did read some of the Kent Family series, starting with The Bastard, back in the 80's. And the Wagons West series which I keep thinking was written by John Jakes but was really by Dana Fuller Ross
#222 Loved it - thanks for choosing it for me!
#223 They're making a movie?
#224 The ability to inspire open discussion is one of the wonderful things about a good book.
There's a movie out called Blue Like Jazz. I think it came out a few months ago but was only in a few theaters. I need to check with the library to see if it's available yet.
The release date is November 21st of this year and I can't wait to see the meercats!! That whole episode was so incredibly tactile when I read it that I want to see if the film-makers' vision is the same as mine.
LOL! Doubtful, but the film is probably all the poorer for it. :)
#229, 230 lol! The meerkats were in Life of Pi. I'm actually looking forward to BOTH movies.
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