rosalita focuses on 75(ish) books for 2012
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Wow, here we are in 2012 already. My second year as a 75er, and I'm looking forward to a fresh year of reading, recommending, and rambling about books. And perhaps a tutored read or two along the way?
First things first:
My rating scale:
★ - hated it/possibly didn't even finish it (lousy)
★★ - it was okay, I suppose (mediocre)
★★★ - enjoyed it (good)
★★★★ - loved it! (very good)
★★★★★ - all-time favorite (amazing)
A little about me (from the intro thread):
I'm back for my second year with the 75 group. I'm 47, live in Iowa and work at the state university in the study abroad office. I'm the president of our local Friends of the Library group, and the vast majority of books I read in 2011 came from the library. However, I have actually built book-buying money into my 2012 budget, which is a dangerous, dangerous thing!
I have found good books to read in almost any genre, but most of my choices tend to come from contemporary and classic fiction, mysteries, historical nonfiction and biography. I've resolved to stretch my genre boundaries in 2012, so will be taking my first stabs at graphic novels and poetry, among other things. Wish me luck! I'm also excited about the new tutored reads feature, and hope to find someone to gently walk me through Shakespeare's Sonnets.
I read many e-books on my iPad, and unexpectedly received a Kobo Touch for Christmas, so I guess now I'm a true e-reader. I also love real books printed on paper, and hope to clear a few off my TBR pile this year.
1. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle (review)
2. Ape House, Sara Gruen
3. Pop Goes the Weasel, James Patterson
4. The Quiet Game, Greg Iles
5. The Enemy, Lee Child
6. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, Elisabeth Tova Bailey
7. The Stranger's Child, Alan Hollinghurst
8. One Shot, Lee Child
9. The Hard Way, Lee Child
10. The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes
11. Bad Luck and Trouble, Lee Child
12. Nothing to Lose, Lee Child
13. Gone Tomorrow, Lee Child
14. Death of a Dude, Rex Stout
15. 61 Hours, Lee Child
16. Worth Dying For, Lee Child
17. Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens
18. If Death Ever Slept, Rex Stout
19. Twentieth Century Drifter, Diane Diekman (no touchstone-ARC)
Abandoned Without Prejudice
1Q84, Haruki Murakami (library book; ran out of time)
A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War, Amanda Foreman (library book; ran out of time)
20. Started Early, Took My Dog, Kate Atkinson
21. 1Q84, Haruki Murakami
22. The Affair, Lee Child
23. Margarita Nights, Phyllis Smallman
24. The Tiger's Wife, Téa Obreht
25. The Big Dance: The Story of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, Barry Wilner (Early Reviewers)
26. The Whipping Club, Deborah Henry
27. Undone, Karin Slaughter
28. The Gunslinger, Stephen King
29. Broken, Karin Slaughter
30. The Drawing of the Three, Stephen King
31. Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President, Candice Millard
32. The Catch, Rick Jasper
33. The Buddha in the Attic, Julie Otsuka
34. A Single Thread, Marie Bostwick
The Sonnets, William Shakespeare (come visit my tutored read!)
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle
Grimm's Fairy Tales, Jacob Grimm
Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788, Pauline Maier (Yes, still!)
35. A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War, Amanda Foreman
36. Run, Blake Crouch
37. Blindsighted, Karin Slaughter
38. The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness
39. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
40. Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
41. Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
42. Full Dark House, Christopher Fowler
43. The Ask and the Answer, Patrick Ness
44. His Majesty's Dragon, Naomi Novik
45. A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle
46. Murder One, Robert Dugoni
47. Kisscut, Karin Slaughter
48. Throne of Jade, Naomi Novik
49. The Sign of Four, Arthur Conan Doyle
50. The Alchemyst, Michael Scott
51. A Faint Cold Fear, Karin Slaughter
52. Cop Hater, Ed McBain
53. The Gun Seller, Hugh Laurie
54. The Postman, David Brin
55. To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis
56. Angel, Elizabeth Taylor
57. Indelible, Karin Slaughter
58. Monsters of Men, Patrick Ness
59. Lincoln's Dreams, Connie Willis
60. Face of Betrayal, Lis Wiehl
61. The Man in the Woods, Scott Spencer
62. Black Powder War, Naomi Novik
63. The Woman in Black, Susan Hill
64. Faithless, Karin Slaughter
65. The Sins of the Fathers, Lawrence Block
66. Fortunes of War, Gordon Zuckerman
67. Suspicion of Innocence, Barbara Parker
68. Oregon Hill, Howard Owen
69. The Inside Ring, Mike Lawson
70. Time to Murder and Create, Lawrence Block
71. The Mugger, Ed McBain
72. Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, Anna Quindlen
73. The Con Man, Ed McBain
74. Empire of Ivory, Naomi Novik
75. Midnight Riot, Ben Aaronovitch
76. In the Midst of Death, Lawrence Block
77. Flood, Andrew Vachss
Abandoned Without Prejudice
The Surrendered, Chang-Rae Lee
Thanks, Stasia and Jim! I'm very glad to be a part of this awesome group again.
Happy New Years, I've come by to drop a star. Looking forward to 2012 and all the great books I have yet to discover!
Hi Julia, you remind me that I started on a Sherlock Holmes jag last year and then got sidetracked. Have you seen the new movie? Last year's movie inspired me to pick up the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection. Lots of good reading ahead.
Happy New Year!
Judy & Bonnie, thanks for stopping by and Happy New Year! I'm looking forward to seeing what you all come up with this year, too.
Donna, I have not seen either of the Robert Downey Sherlock movies, but I aim to fix that soon. I actually got hooked on the Sherlock miniseries on PBS last year, and that inspired me to pick up this collection of short stories. I realized that for all that I am a huge mystery fan, I have never really read any Sherlock Holmes. It's interesting to read such an early variation on detective stories, and compare it to more modern versions.
I tried to read Ratification and didn't make it through, but I love reading about the Constitution's beginnings. I'll be curious to see what you think of it and whether it's worth another shot.
Mere, I will keep you posted. It has started a little slow, for sure, but now that the Convention is over I'm hoping the action picks up once it switches to the individual state debates.
Faith, I've always loved and read mysteries, and I can't believe I've never really read any Holmes before! I'm wondering if this particular volume was the best place to start, though. I might have been better off reading whatever was the first volume to be published, in order to get the base knowledge. On the other hand, who the heck doesn't know the basics about Sherlock Holmes?!
Thanks, Stasia! It doesn't appear that our tiny local library has it, so time to try an ILL.
1. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle.
I've loved mysteries almost as long as I've known how to read. I devoured Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden stories as a youngster, and graduated to Rex Stout in high school. Reading more about that author's creation, Nero Wolfe, I learned that Stout loved the Sherlock Holmes canon, and left clues that perhaps Nero should be seen as the illegitimate child of Sherlock and Irene Adler. That intrigued me, but not enough to prompt me to pick up any Holmes stories.
Of course, it's impossible to be a sentient being on Planet Earth in the 21st century and not be familiar with the basic facts of the Holmes-verse. From 221B Baker Street to "Elementary, my dear Watson!" to the detective's obsession with detail, his fondness for cocaine, his Calabash pipe and his deerstalker cap are well known even to those of us who have never read a single Conan Doyle text. I decided late last year that it was high time I made a point of becoming acquainted with this seminal detective, and found The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes available as a free e-book download.
I didn't realize until the last story in the collection that this wasn't the best book to start with. For one thing, it falls more or less in the middle of the Holmes canon, and therefore assumes that the reader is well-acquainted with the backstory of Holmes and his sidekick, Dr. John Watson. Fortunately, as I mentioned above, it's pretty impossible not to have gleaned enough Holmesian knowledge to be able to follow the stories easily. More problematic was the fact that the book ends with "The Final Problem," which is the famous story in which Holmes meets his tragic end at Reichenbach Falls. Of course, we know now that it was not the end of Sherlock Holmes, and Conan Doyle went on to write quite a few more novels and especially short stories before finally hanging up his cape and deerstalker for good.
The most striking element of these stories, to me, was their relative lightweightness, if that's a word. Yes, yes, Sherlock pays obsessive attention to detail, and numerous examples of his detecting based on observations that have completely escaped the notice of the police are scattered throughout the stories. But in many of the stories, the solution is arrived at rather too tidily for my more modern sensibilities. (I guess I like to see my detectives sweat a little.) In other stories, the ending is wrapped up rather over-neatly, with Watson reporting that the villain escaped to Europe or some such.
I'm not sorry I read The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, and I'll go back to the well and start at the beginning this time with A Study in Scarlet. But I am a bit surprised at myself for not falling immediately in love with one of the most beloved literary characters of all time.
Oh, I devoured Nancy Drew, and especially Trixie Belden, too! Haven't read too much Sherlock Holmes, but I did listen to The Hound of the Baskervilles on audio last year:)
Anne, I adored Trixie Belden! What I wouldn't have given to live in Sleepyside.
Stasia, I just put that book on my wishlist, as it was recommended by someone else here on LT. And I have downloaded A Study in Scarlet from Gutenberg, so I can get the full Sherlock experience from the beginning.
I listened to the audio of A Study in Scarlet around Thanksgiving. It was interesting to read about Watson's first impression of Holmes.
I was also a Trixie Belden fan and I would have loved to be a Bob-White!
#24: Jeremy recommended it to me. I am sure others have recommended it as well.
Yes, Jeremy's thread was where I first saw it mentioned! Thank you for remembering for me. I am looking forward to it.
#27: Be forewarned though: the book has made me want to go and hunt up Conan Doyle's entire bibliography!
>17 rosalita:: Oh yes, I started reading them in order and I think it definitely added to my enjoyment of the later stories, as they're often self-referential. And it makes the relationship between the two men much clearer. I think you should go back and start from the beginning, but I'm biased. ;)
Hi Julia, like Faith, I'm reading the Sherlock Holmes' stories in order. Somehow I got sidetracked last year. Easy to do around here. I hope to jump back in with The Memoirs. I'd also like to get back to the Laurie R. King fictional series about Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes.
Hi Julia, I just downloaded The Complete Sherlock Holmes onto my iPad to devour in bits and pieces. I've never read any of them and am looking forward to them.
2. Ape House, Sara Gruen.
I am slow to the Sara Gruen party, but catching up quickly. I only read her 2007 bestseller Water for Elephants late last year, and enjoyed it very much. This 2010 book was also available from the library at the same time, so I snagged it as well. I'm glad I did. As with Water for Elephants, Gruen shows an instinctive empathy for the animals that feature prominently in her stories. In this case, it's a shrewdness of apes who live in a Midwestern university's language laboratory. When the lab is bombed, the university panics and sells the bonobos to an anonymous buyer who does not have the apes' best interests at heart. Isabel (a linguist who worked closely with the bonobos) is determined to rescue them.
The bonobos' distinct personalities shine throughout the book, and Gruen includes several scenes from their point of view, which makes each of them as much a character as any of the two-legged creatures in the book. Gruen's human characters are a bit more one-dimensional, in particular a cutthroat newspaper reporter, but not enough to keep the reader from rooting wholeheartedly for Isabel to be reunited with the apes she considers the closest thing to family she has ever had. Particularly sharp is Gruen's sendup of reality television shows like Big Brother. It's impossible not to contrast the ways the bonobos confound producers' attempts to introduce conflict into their group for the sake of ratings with the ways actual humans fall willingly into the same trap again and again.
In the author's note at the end of the book, Gruen talks about her own experiences meeting and talking with bonobos at the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines. Many of the vignettes in the book are directly drawn from her and other people's experiences there, and it lends a distinct air of authenticity to the book. Living in Iowa just 90 minutes from Des Moines, I was already aware of the Trust and the work they do there. If you'll pardon a blatant plug in a book review, the Trust was founded in 2002 and has been funded since largely by one man, Ted Townsend, who pledged to do so for 10 years. Ten years later, the need to find new funding sources is immediate, and the Great Ape Trust is actively seeking donations to continue their work studying and documenting the lives and abilities of these truly amazing animals. If you'd like to help, please consider making a donation.
Sorry you didn't enjoy The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes too much. I guess it all comes down to timing. I am a Mystery fan. The Complete Sherlock Holmes (Bantam Books edition) was my first mystery read. As an adolescent reader the books were a marvelous treat to me. Without Holmes, I would not have stepped into the wonderful world of mysteries. So obviously I have a soft spot for the Sherlock Holmes books. But would I have loved them as much if I had read them as an adult? I wonder.
I love the Holmes short stories the best, the novels not so much. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes are my favourites. The Return of Sherlock Holmes I liked. His Last Bow was good. I didn't care much for The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes.
33: I think I read Water for Elephants the year before last and enjoyed her writing style. It looks like her other book is well worth checking out too. Nice review!
Porua, it's an interesting question about timing. I do wonder if I had read Sherlock Holmes before I read so many other mysteries that take their inspiration from him, whether I would not have felt the bit of letdown that I did about the endings being a bit anticlimactic. After all, when Conan Doyle first wrote them, they were state of the art!
Faith, A Study in Scarlet has been downloaded to my Kobo, and will be at the top of the queue soon!
Thanks, Marie! I really enjoyed both books a lot. Let me know what you think of Ape House if you decide to tackle it.
Rosalita, I popped in from the introductions thread to say hello - I grew up in Iowa, and now live in Georgia. I loved Water for elephants, but haven't read Ape House yet. Onto the massive TBR list it goes.
Mardene, thanks for stopping by! I think you will love Ape House as well. Whereabouts in Iowa did you grow up?
Julia, I started out in the NW part of the state near Fort Dodge, and finished high school in the NE part of the state near Waterloo/Cedar Falls. My sisters live in Des Moines and my parents and my brother's family are in Cedar Rapids.
I wasn't aware of the Great Ape Trust, so thanks for mentioning it.
3. Pop Goes the Weasel, James Patterson.
There's not much to say about this book, except that it illustrates all the flaws of reading a book series for me. Series that feature compelling, interesting characters are a joy, giving the reader a chance to spend more time in the company of people they enjoy. Then there's this one ...
This is the fifth (of 18! So far!) Alex Cross mystery/thrillers, featuring a Washington, D.C., police detective/psychologist who catches bad guys by getting into their head. The books are already starting to blur together for me. In every book, Cross contemplates leaving the police force altogether and going back into private practice as a psychologist. In every book, there's some amazingly beautiful and intelligent woman whom he instantly falls in love with, and all the reader can think is, "Uh-oh." Because that never turns out well for Alex. He's like a cross between Job and Eeyore, this guy.
Every killer is the worst yet, the most heinous, the most clever and devious, the most dangerous to Cross and his preternaturally perfect children and wise old grandmother. Sometimes the killers get caught at the end of the book, and as a reader I enjoy that closure. Sometimes they don't, and I just know I'm going to have to sit through another book somewhere down the line featuring this same tired storyline without even the juice of new characters to liven it up. And yet I can't stop reading them, so really, who's the fool?
41: Ha ha, I enjoyed your review even though I'm not much of a thriller reader. (Wow, 18?!)
Thanks, Marie. I wrote that right after finishing the book, when I was still mad at myself for wasting my time with it. Given the quality of the books at No. 5, I am astonished that the series has endured to encompass 18 books. They are guaranteed best sellers, too, which just goes to show ... something.
Thankfully, the book I am reading now is better by leaps and bounds. A real palate cleanser, you might say.
4. The Quiet Game, Greg Iles.
I have to thank fellow 75er Madeline (SqueakyChu) for recommending the Penn Cage mystery series in her 2012 thread, as I had never heard of either the author or the books before. Madeline praised the author for his vivid depiction of Natchez, Mississippi, where the story takes place, and I have to agree. I would compare Iles' ability to evoke a strong sense of place with that of Pat Conroy, another Southern writer whose book South of Broad did a similar thing for Charleston, South Carolina.
The mystery — about trying to solve an old civil-rights murder from the 1960s — was several cuts above average. It had me guessing pretty much all the way. More importantly, Iles treats the issue of race with more subtlety and nuance than you'll find in most books that try to cover similar territory (I'm looking at you, Kathryn Stockett). The characters — lawyer/author Penn Cage and his parents, newspaper publisher Caitlin Masters, grieving widow Althea Payton, and the rest — were appealing and interesting. I am interested to follow the series to the next book.
5. The Enemy, Lee Child.
I've been working my way through the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child. Up to this one (Book 8 in the series), the plots dealt with Reacher as a former MP (military policeman) who now serves as sort of a roving vigilante, bumming his way around the U.S. and getting himself into trouble wherever he goes, usually in defense of innocent people. I enjoy the books, but there was starting to be a certain sameness and unironic hyperbole that was starting to wear a bit thin.
How refreshing, then, to get to The Enemy. The book is a prequel of sorts, detailing what happened to Reacher while he was still an MP to sour him on what he thought would be a lifelong Army career. The mystery was as convoluted as any of the others, but Reacher himself was quite a bit less godlike, making him a much more interesting protagonist. The bad guys' ultimate motive seemed a bit obscure to me, but probably makes sense to people who pay attention to how the world's militaries have changed since the end of the Cold War. All in all, this book was a strong corrective in a series that was threatening to become a parody of itself. Hopefully that continues going forward.
Hi Julia, The Quiet Game sounds like something I would enjoy. I haven't read anything by this author before.
Judy and Marie, it's a good read. I really liked the way Iles avoided any of the usual easy answers, either in terms of race relations or in the course of solving the mystery. I hope you'll try it out, and let me know what you think!
6. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, Elisabeth Tova Bailey.
I've lost my notes on which LT 75er's thread I first encountered this book, but I owe them my thanks. You might think you will speed through this lovely little (just 120 pages) book, but if you are like me you'll find yourself deliberately slowing down to savor Bailey's beautiful prose and gentle but keen insights into the natural world as exemplified by the common woodland snail who takes up residence alongside the author during a year of her bedridden life. Here's a sample:
Time unused and only endured still vanishes, as if time itself is starving, and each day is swallowed whole, leaving no crumbs, no memory, no trace at all.The little snail is first brought to Bailey inside a pot of wild violets by a friend. At first, she frets about being responsible for the snail, but it doesn't take her long to realize that when you are so ill that even sitting up in bed is an impossible task without help, being able to focus attention on something that lives at a similar pace can distract you from your own loneliness and isolation. Along the way, Bailey turns her attention to exploring the changes — physical, mental, emotional — her illness has wrought in her.
When the body is rendered useless, the mind still runs like a bloodhound along well-worn trails of neurons, tracking the echoing questions: the confused family of whys, whats and whens and their impossibly distant kin how. The search is exhaustive; the answers, elusive.I'll be the first to admit that I never gave much thought at all to snails beyond the "fancy restaurant" scene in the movie Pretty Woman, when Julia Roberts sends an escargot flying across the room. Bailey provides a surprising amount of factual data about snails in her little book; you might think it would be too much except that in Bailey's hands it all turns out to be quite fascinating. One of the first things I did when finishing the book was to fire up Google and check out some images of snails since I don't think I had ever really looked at one before. They really are quite interesting little creatures.
The final jewel in the book's crown are the epigrams that open each chapter. Apparently the most astonishing variety of writers have contemplated the snail far more than I ever have. Charles Darwin I expected, but Patricia Highsmith? It turns out the author of the Ripley series of psychological thrillers wrote not one but two short stories about snails! Now that's trivia you can use to wow your literary friends. I'll give you that one for free, but only if you promise to make some room on your TBR pile for this lyrical book.
I've got a new book from the library waiting (The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst), but it's going to have to wait a while as I go back and reacquaint myself with a couple of books I read last year and have neglected to submit reviews for (He Stopped Loving Her Today and Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin). Fortunately, I quite liked both of them, so the revisiting won't be painful at all!
7. The Stranger's Child, Alan Hollinghurst.
Yes, I said the library book would wait, but it turns out I have no self-control when there's an unread book burning a hole in my Kobo Touch. :)
Unfortunately, this turned out not to be worth shirking my obligations for a few more days. I think I am just not Alan Hollinghurst's audience. I have read all the rave reviews of this book and The Line of Beauty, which I read last year. It's not that I disagree with the reviewers that rave about his lyrical writing, but the books just left me cold.
The timeline of The Stranger's Child jumps all over the place, from pre-World War I to the 21st century, and each jump left the interesting characters a little farther behind. The first section was by far my favorite, as we get acquainted with the poet-aristocrat Cecil Valance and learn of his cataclysmic impact on a family of more modest means.
Each succeeding section created a disconnect in my brain, as Hollinghurst plays coyly with revealing both the time period and just who the characters are that are now the focus of the plot. The only likable character after the first section was introduced on Page 429 of a 465-page novel, and then the book was done.
Ah, well. No more excuses for picking up my neglected reviews. Back to the grindstone!
Hi Julia, wow lots of good reading going on here. You're starting the year off with a bang except for the Hollinghurst book. I tried A line of Beauty a few years back and gave up on it so I haven't had the urge to look for his newest and you certainly haven't done much to push me in that direction. But you did get me with The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating so onto the teetering tower it goes. Great review BTW.
Thanks for the compliment, Bonnie! I think you will really like "the snail book" as I've started calling it. It has been a good start to the year, except for the last. Hopefully it won't be long until I can shake it off with another good one.
#49: Hi Julia! I love the title of The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, and also the plot seems to be very intriguing. So, I guess I have to add another book to my wishlist!
Huh... I never would have thought The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating would be up my alley, but it sounds fascinating. Admittedly, mostly for the snail facts, but I might like the story too. :)
Faith, I felt the same way. Snails are way more interesting than I would have guessed. It kind of made me want to capture and study one. :)
8. One Shot, Lee Child.
I'm a bit hesitant to count this in my yearly total, as it is a re-read of a book read last year. However, I did read it again, all the way through, so I suppose it counts.
This is the ninth book in the Jack Reacher series but it was the first book in that series that I read. I liked it well enough the first time to go back and start the series at the beginning. After sweeping through the first eight in fairly short order, this one came back up again and I decided to re-read it for the sake of having read the entire series in order. It's definitely one of the better books in the series so far (in fact, looking back at my ratings from last year, I see I actually rated it a half-star higher this year). A man who got away with murder 14 years ago while a sniper in the Army is now a civilian and suspected of having committed pretty much the exact same crime. The cops have a solid-gold, open-and-shut case — or do they? Reacher figures it all out, of course.
I've been reading these as e-books checked out from the library. I usually put the next book in the series on hold when I download the current one. The only downside to that plan is that it can be hard to space them, as the lengths of the waiting lists vary so much. Just as I finished this one earlier today, I got the email notifying me that No. 10 is now available. I don't usually like to read series books back to back, but they are very quick reads, so I think I'm going to crank out that one before turning to the more "serious" books I also have waiting from the library.
9. The Hard Way, Lee Child.
The 10th book in the Jack Reacher series, and the best so far. Reacher is in New York City, helping a man who runs a band of mercenaries try to find his wife and stepdaughter, who have been kidnapped. Alarm bells start ringing when Reacher learns the man's first wife was also kidnapped, and killed. Who's lying? Who's telling the truth? What is real and what is not? There are some very satisfying twists and turns in the plot, which reaches its climax on a farm outside a tiny English village. This seems to be one of those series that gets stronger as it goes. Hope that trend continues.
I missed my Thingaversary book-buying spree in December, only because I didn't know about this homespun tradition here on LibraryThing (if you don't, either, the gist is that you are "given permission" to buy 1 book for each year you have been a member of LT, plus one extra "to grow on"). I joined LT in December 2005, so I would have earned 7 books.
Well. Last week I bought enough books to satisfy my Thingaversary for the next, oh, 4 years? Amazon had a Kindle Deal of the Day where all of the Ed McBain 87th Precinct e-books were on sale for 99 cents each (apparently they are brand-new to the e-book universe). I ended up buying (gulp) 34 of them! I am still in a bit of shock at my haul, but I have read several before and enjoyed them, and I know I will read and enjoy them very much, so there's that.
I mentioned to someone on another thread that for the first time in a long time I have actually built money into my budget for book buying. This may have been a terrible, terrible mistake!
10. The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes.
I've often wondered if my feelings about books I review are changed by the act of reviewing them. I finished this book a week or so ago, and it's taken me a while to get around to writing the review because, well, I'm not quite sure what I think of it. It is, without question, beautifully written, with passages like this one:
But time … how time first grounds us and then confounds us. We thought we were being mature when we were only being safe. We imagined we were being responsible but were only being cowardly. What we called realism turned out to be a way of avoiding things rather than facing them. Time … give us enough time and our best-supported decisions will seem wobbly, our certainties whimsical.
At its heart, The Sense of an Ending seems to be all about time, and especially memory, and how the former can distort the latter without our even being quite aware of it. The character Tony narrates the entire novel putting himself at the center of the story, as we all do when we are the one doing the telling. It is only in the closing pages that Barnes tilts the story on its side, and we along with Tony see that the real story is not his to tell, after all.
As I've thought through the book while writing this review, I've come to realize I actually liked it quite a lot. Which brings me back to the question: If I had simply rated this book straight after reading it, would it still have gotten 4½ stars? I think perhaps not. It is deceptively slender in pages, which is not to be confused with being slight in stature. Barnes does his readers the favor of not spelling out every little detail, and there are still things that I'm not sure about (why did Veronica's mum leave Tony that £500?) It may not wrap everything up neatly in a little bow, but The Sense of an Ending is a book that rewards careful reading and contemplation.
Reading The Sense of an Ending recently reminded me of one of the disconcerting things about reading e-books: The inability to tell when I am getting close to the end of the book. Some e-books have page numbers, and some are even of the "Page XX of XXX" variety, but they are tiny and don't really register in my brain the way seeing and feeling my progress through a physical book does.
With the Julian Barnes book, I was taken by surprise when the end turned out to be the end, but not disappointed. I thought the story came to a satisfactory conclusion. That wasn't the case with one of the first e-books I ever read, Run by Ann Patchett. That book seemed to be moving along nicely, with the plot coming to a climax that seemed to be a perfect transition between a Part One and a Part Two, but instead — bam! — that was The End. I was surprised and deeply annoyed. I doubt I would have rated that book so low (2 stars) if I had read it in physical form — the book still would have seemed fragmentary and unfinished, but at least I would have known when things were about to be wrapped up.
In the great e-books vs. paper books debate, I am a committed mugwump (with my "mug" on one side of the fence and my "wump" on the other), and I can't say that this particular "feature" tilts me toward either side. But it's an interesting aspect that I haven't really seen discussed much in the otherwise over-analyzed comparison of book forms. Perhaps I'm the only person too oblivious to notice the page numbers as I read?
11. Bad Luck and Trouble, Lee Child.
Good but not great entry in the Jack Reacher series. When members of Reacher's former Army MP squad start disappearing, the rest get together to find out what's going on. Along the way? Stop a terrorist attack involved shoulder-launched missiles with new technology that makes them unstoppable. Part of the letdown in this one is that there's little suspense about whether the missing comrades will be saved, making this a job of revenge instead of rescue. That, coupled with key plot points that hinge on complex math, left me relieved to get to the end of the road instead of exhilarated at the ride.
Hi Julia: I'll have to stop by occasionally. It sounds like you, too, enjoy sports-related books. I read mainly baseball books but have been known to read an occasional book about hockey, football, basketball, or sometimes even other sports.
Hi Julia, I'm pretty new to ebooks having gotten an iPad for Christmas and I am presently reading my second book on it. It will never replace the real books for me.I really like the feel and smell of paper. One real drawback for me is the inability to take notes or at least to do so easily. With the real deal I use post-It tabs to mark passages. I can jot a few words on it to remind me of why I marked the passage. With the iPad, you can highlight passages but then you have to make note of that somewhere (separate piece of paper) in order to know which page to look for with the highlighted passage. Too cumbersome. The iPad does have page numbers on the bottom of each page and the book's total page number (213/459 for example) so you can see when you're nearing the end.
I for one may, and often do, change my rating for a book after writing a review. Reviewing the book allows me to solidify my feelings about the book and develop a clearer understanding of why I liked or didn't like it.
Linda, please do come back and visit! Baseball is my first love, but college basketball and football are pretty close behind. Of course, working at a Big 10 university probably influences that a little bit.
Bonnie, which app are you using on the iPad? Some of them do allow you to add a note to a highlighted passage, which is very helpful. The problem is that almost all of the e-books I read come from the library, so once the loan expires, there go the notes! So it's not very satisfying in that way.
#62: The Sense of an Ending was one of my final books of 2011. And I couldn't decide definitely about it, too! Somehow I felt that it must be a great book while reading it, but I just couldn't really "get it". But I will definitely give it another try some day.
#63: Very interesting observation. Another reason for me not to buy an ereader, because I need to see some progress...
Kathy, I know what you mean. It would be interesting to revisit it in a year or so, and see how your (or my) reaction to it changes over time.
I find a lot to like about e-books, but there are certain aspects of the traditional reading experience that I miss. But then I read a paper book, and find myself missing certain e-book features. So what's a girl to do except just pile up lots of both!
62: Julia, I've been pondering your question about whether a delayed review changes the rating. I think you may be on to something. I tend to write reviews and/or comments shortly after finishing a book so I can jump into the next one without guilt. I've decided to reevaluate my ratings at the end of the month after a little time has gone by. I "upgraded" my rating of one book - A Gathering of Old Men - in January because I couldn't stop thinking about the quiet courage of those men.
Donna, last year I got woefully behind on writing my reviews, and ended up abandoning the effort completely about halfway through the year. All I ended up updating was my list of books read. I vowed that this year I would be more timely with my reviews and so far I have been, writing the reviews within 24 hours of finishing the book. The Sense of an Ending was the first book I didn't do that, and I do think it ended up being a better review.
Of course, some of the books I read, such as the mysteries and lighter fare, don't really require a whole lot of contemplation before rating and reviewing. But doing a monthly review of ratings/reviews is a good idea. I think I'll try doing the same.
Interesting comments on e-readers. I don't have a dedicated ereader, but do have a kindle app. on my smartphone, and another app. for reading borrrowed e-books from the local library (Overdrive). While I still love paper books best for the feel and smell of them, one of the things I do like about reading e-books is - for me - the ease of checking how far through the book I am. I have always liked to think of this in terms of fractions, so with a paper book I would look at how many pages I'd read and the total pages and calculate that I had now read one quarter or three fifths. Now with my e-readers I just click on the page and it tells me I'm 25% through or whatever. (Some also tell me how far through the particular chapter as well as the whole book).
I have never been organised enough to add post it notes in real books, so one of the other things I do like about my Kindle app (can't do this on the other app) is that I can highlight passages and make notes on them very easily.
I guess our preferences for e-readers or real books partly depend on how we like to read and to some extent on what features are available on the e-readers as they do seem to vary quite a bit.
Genny, I think you're right. Every person reads for different reasons, and in different ways, so it's unrealistic to think that any one kind of book whether it's hardcover, paperback, or e-book, could suit everyone perfectly.
I was convinced I would never, ever read e-books. I love owning my paper books and looking at them, and reading them, and I couldn't imagine anything else being so satisfying. That attitude lasted right up until last March when I got my iPad. :) Now I also have a Kobo Touch and I read more e-books than nearly anything. The main reason e-books have become a big deal for me is that I can download them from the library without leaving home. Since I am somewhat disabled and have trouble walking, it's just so much easier than having to lug books back and forth from the library.
I still am skeptical about actually buying many e-books, mainly because the best part about buying books is being able to give them away, and you can't really do that right now with e-books. I guess I am in the deaccessioning period of my life!
Hi Julia, I never thought I would like reading an ebook more than a physical book but that seems to be the way I'm heading. They are easier to hold and carry around. But I much prefer having a real book to look at and read its cover, and just hold and discover and appreciate its design. I won't pay more than a couple of dollars for an ebook, though. Having a big e-library would seem like such a waste. Thanks goodness for our public library systems!
Hi Joanne. Yes, e-books are a definite advantage for reading on my daily commute to and from work -- it's so much easier to manipulate a little e-reader than mess with a heavy book. I've been realizing that all over again this week, as I've been reading Oliver Twist for the ReadaThing, which I own in hardback. It's been a real pain (literal and figurative) to haul around with me.
And yes, thank heavens for public libraries!
Interesting discussion. I haven't thougt about not being able to lend books to others. That's a good point. But of course in cases like Oliver Twist or other chunksters it's no (literally) heavy read anymore. Hm... difficult. I have just been dreaming about a library with a comfortable wing chair and a fireplace like my whole life. I just cannot imagine that with an ereader.
Anyway... today I borrowed the new Iriver from work and I downloaded an Icelandic detective novel. - So I can try out both at once - an ereader and the Icelandic writing. :)
12. Nothing to Lose, Lee Child.
13. Gone Tomorrow, Lee Child.
Two more entries in the Jack Reacher series. Nothing to Lose was a little slow-moving and a bit convoluted, combining a secret military project, radioactive poisoning, and an underground railroad for army deserters into a locale that included side-by-side towns called Hope and Despair. Even when the plots are pedestrian, the writing chugs right along.
Gone Tomorrow was more interesting, with Reacher back in New York City once again, caught up in yet another secret military cover-up and a pair of female terrorists. Another quick read that doesn't require undivided attention, and thus moves into the finished pile long before other books started earlier.
Hi Rosalita. I'm very behind but trying to catch up. I enjoyed your review of The Sense of an Ending. It's one I hope to read soon, all the better because I can get it as a Kindle book through the library.
Linda, thanks for stopping by! Library e-books are a real moneysaver for me, too. I'm amazed at how fuss-free it is to check them out — and no overdue fines since they just expire when they're due. I think you will enjoy The Sense of an Ending when you get to it.
Ugh, I've been in a real funk this month. The only books I've managed to finish are three quickie thrillers and one of my favorite books in my favorite mystery series that I've read a million times.
I did start A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War. It was quite interesting, but I wasn't able to finish the 850-page behemoth before it had to go back to the library. It was entirely my own fault, as I chose to eat dessert (the quickies) before my vegetables.
Now I'm in a frantic (losing) battle to finish another behemoth, 1Q84, before the e-book library fairies steal it back from my Kobo when it expires tomorrow. I say losing battle, because I am only on page 462 of 1,029, and I have to work today. This is such an oddly fascinating book I find I can only read a few chapters at a sitting in order to fully absorb everything that's going on. Not a good reading schedule for a thousand-page library book!
Maybe I've completely lost the ability to read "serious" fiction and nonfiction? What a frightening thought that is!
Hi, Rosalita! I just happened across your thread and was surprised to see that I didn't have it starred already! I love Holmes, though I agree that Conan Doyle had his off-days.
I just finished 1Q84, and I kind of gave up on trying to understand every little thing. Which ended up being a good thing, because I'm not entirely certain that Murakami himself understood every quirk he threw in there by the end. Like you, I found it interesting, though.
And hey, nothing wrong with reading lighter books for a while. Eventually you'll get tired of those and be looking to read something deeper, so it all evens out, right? ;)
80/82: I'm with Mere on this one. Sometimes it's just not in the cards to want to read serious literature and reading is supposed to be fun, so read what you want! :) I've been wanting to read 1Q84 for awhile now, but haven't due to its massive size. One of these days.
I wouldn't worry, Rosalita. We all have book slumps. I bought IQ84 in hard copy, but haven't started it yet. I am careful about the length of books I attempt as library e-books, as our loan period is only 2 weeks.
Thanks for the encouragement, everyone! I'm feeling a bit better about my "slackerism" this month.
Cynara, I'm glad you found me before we start our tutored read! I hope you'll come back when I actually have some book news to report. :)
Mere, Marie, Linda, 1Q84 is an intimidating doorstopper of a book, for sure! The library loan period was 3 weeks, which would have been fine if I hadn't been procrastinating for the first 2½! It's definitely worth reading, I think, though it's not for the, shall we say, linearly inclined. Some wacky stuff goes on.
Linda (Whisper1), thanks for stopping by. Come back soon!
Judy, Joanne, thanks for the words of encouragement. Two promising signs: I have the next four days off work, and a friend just loaned me a hardcopy of the fourth Jackson Brodie mystery, Started Early, Took My Dog. That should be a nice palate cleanser from Japanese magical realism. :)
Don't worry about "slacking", I'm in the same boat! I've only finished a few and will be surprised if I finish more than one more before the end of the month.
We can catch up to all the speed readers in March! :)
Thanks, Chelle! It's nice to know I'm in good company, although you have just a bit more reason for having slacked on your reading this month, what with buying a house and all.
I ended up getting all but the last 15 chapters read in 1Q84. I definitely want to finish it, so I've put myself back on the waiting list. Surprisingly, there are only 2 people ahead of me so with any luck I'll get it back before I forget what happened in the first 700 pages. :)
Just dropping by with the link for Mystery March. If you are planning on any mysteries for March, come on by!
Oooh, thanks Judy! I'm not sure I've ever had a month without reading at least one mystery, so I'll definitely deal myself in.
I did it! I finally got 1Q84 back from the library and was able to finish the final 16 chapters. I thought it wrapped up nicely, for such a quirky book.
Now that I have that monkey off my back, I can see I am a few reviews behind, so that will be my next posts. But it feels so good to have finally finished this behemoth, I just had to share!
14. Death of a Dude, Rex Stout.
I've read all of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries over and over again, and while I may like some more than others, I don't dislike any of them. Having said that, this has always been one of my very favorites.
Death of a Dude finds Archie Goodwin on vacation in Montana with his paramour Lily Rowan. When a guest at a neighboring dude ranch is found murdered, and Lily's ranch foreman is pegged as the culprit, Archie is duty bound to investigate. His prolonged absence drags Nero Wolfe from the comfortable confines of the brownstone on West 35th Street. Wolfe knows if he wants his right-hand man back on the job, he'll have to help Archie solve the case.
One of the charms of the Wolfe mysteries is that while the characters never age, the time period stays current. Stout's plot gives a nod to the 1960s by dealing in an out-of-wedlock teen pregnancy, but the decade didn't truly come into full flower in Wolfe's world until Death of a Doxy.
There's so much going on in this little book. Wolfe is a fish out of water in Montana, and the colorful Western dialect practically requires a glossary at the back of the book. Still, the murder is solved, the innocent cleared and the guilty caught, arrogant law enforcement is given a severe comeuppance, and Nero and Archie escape thankfully back to New York City, where the wilderness is a little more to their liking.
15. 61 Hours, Lee Child.
16. Worth Dying For, Lee Child.
Two more Jack Reacher thrillers. In 61 Hours, a bus crash strands Reacher in a South Dakota hamlet, where he ends up guarding the prototypical sweet little old lady from a deadly assassin trying to keep her from testifying in a criminal case. The cliffhangar ending would no doubt have been more effective if I hadn't read the next book within a few days. In Worth Dying For, Reacher (surprise! he's alive!) has made it as far south as Nebraska before getting caught up in the drama of a group of farmers being terrorized by a local crime clan.
17. Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens.
This was the book I started during the ReadaThing back in the first week of February (in honor of Dickens' 200th birthday this month). I kept plugging away at it until I finally finished it near the end of the month. I had forgotten how slyly funny Dickens can be, and that satirical humor was on full display in this classic about a poor little orphan who falls in with the wrong crowd. I did not find it a difficult read at all, other than the challenges of slogging through the dense prose so typical (it seems to me) of the 19th century. I'm very glad to have finally read this one.
#93 Well done on finishing 1Q84. I've been tempted by it but I've had an unread Murakami on my shelves for a while and I really shouldn't buy another Murakami book before I read that one.
#96 Glad you enjoyed OT.
Congratulations on finishing IQ84, Julia. You were certainly persistent, having to wait as you did to finish it.
Heather and Linda, thanks for the congratulations. I'm still mulling over what I want to say about 1Q84, but I'm glad I stuck with it. I would certainly consider reading more Murakami, although perhaps not right away. :) Especially if all of them are so long!
I can't believe I had never read Oliver Twist before. The only Dickens we read in high school was "A Tale of Two Cities", so I really need to find time to read more. Perhaps every February I will tackle another one in honor of Dickens' birthday month.
Tomorrow I am beginning a tutored read of Shakespeare's Sonnets. (To be clear, I am the tutee and Cynara is the tutor.) More classic literature I've never tackled! Once I get the thread up tomorrow, I'll come back and post a link, in case anyone would like to follow along.
I am very interested in your tutored read, Julia. My lack of experience with Shakespeare is appalling!
Murakami gives the reader much to think about. I think 1Q84 is by far his longest work. I may need a tutor to get through it later this year.
I've started my tutored read thread for Shakespeare's sonnets. You'll find it right here.
Got it starred. I really like that you are going to post the sonnets as you go along. I think I have the collection somewhere around here, but that will make it much more convenient to follow along. Thanks!
I have also starred your Shakespeare sonnets thread. It will be an invaluable discussion, even for those of us who only lurk. Thanks so much to both of you!
Yay, so glad you will both be along for the ride! I just put up my "analysis" (har-de-har-har) of Sonnet 1 over there.
I know there are a number of people around here who are fans of the BBC/PBS 'Sherlock' series. I couldn't resist this link: Otters That Look Like Benedict Cumberbatch.
#106 Very amusing - thanks for the link! Can't believe we have to wait until 2013 before they even start filming the next series of Sherlock...
Heather, here in the US we still haven't seen the 2nd season yet! It doesn't start on TV here until May.
#108 Oops - sorry. I watched the second series on TV here (December?) at the same time as catching up on the first series on DVD and then I had massive Sherlock withdrawal symptoms.
#109 And I think he's Smaug's voice in The Hobbit film?
Wading into the shallow end of the pool, I can only say that using that man as a voice-over actor is a supreme waste of eye candy.
18. If Death Ever Slept, Nero Wolfe
This was the first Nero Wolfe mystery I ever read. I found it on my mother's bookshelves when I was around 11 or 12 years old and instantly fell truly, madly, deeply in love with Archie Goodwin, Wolfe's wisecracking, handsome legman. His description of Lois Jarrell from their first meeting hit me like a brick, and not only because I myself wore my brown hair in a ponytail and had greenish brown eyes:
I pivoted. A girl all in white with bare tanned arms and a bare tanned throat down to the start of the curves and a tanned face with dimples and greenish brown eyes and a pony tail was coming. If you are thinking that is too much to take in with a quick glance, I am a detective and a trained observer. I had time not only to take her in but also think, Good Lord, if that's Susan and she's a snake I'm going to take up herpetology, if that's the word, and I can look it up.It's a great book, is what I'm saying. I've read it at least a dozen times, and I will probably read it a dozen more before I turn my last page. You should read it at least once.
19. Twentieth Century Drifter: The Life of Marty Robbins, Diane Diekman
It's hard to believe that Diane Diekman's Twentieth Century Drifter: The Life of Marty Robbins is the first biography of country music legend Marty Robbins, who first hit the music charts in the 1950s and was still charting hit singles when he died far too young (49) in 1982. The scope of his career would seem to have lent itself to a life story before now, but regardless of timing he found an able biographer in Diekman.
Diekman used contemporary media accounts as well as personal interviews with Robbins' children, friends, and former band members to piece together a tale that could have been its own country song. He was born in Arizona and grew up poor with a father unable to hold a job and a mother who had her hands full with five kids and an alcoholic husband. After a stint in the Navy during World War II, he was aimlessly drifting through life when he stumbled into a gig playing and singing on a local radio station. The gig morphed into a television slot, and eventually led to a Nashville recording contract.
Robbins' soulful voice seemed tailor-made for country ballads, earning him the nickname "Mr. Teardrop." But one of the truly remarkable aspects of his career was how easily he was able to bend his vocal talents to sing just about any genre of music. Besides the traditional country heartbreak songs like "I Couldn't Keep From Crying" and "Singing the Blues", he scored pop hits ("Don't Worry") and a series of teeny-bopper tunes like "A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation" and "She Was Only Seventeen". He recorded entire albums of Hawaiian-influenced music, and what may be the seminal Western music album of all time, "Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs," which included the country and pop smash, "El Paso." It's an astonishing feat, and even more so when you consider Robbins wrote nearly all of his hit songs, displaying a songwriting versatility that may have been matched only by his vocal stylings.
Ultimately, the music is where Diekman's book falls short. She is upfront about the fact that she is not a musicologist, and she makes little attempt to try to analyze what made Robbins' music so memorable and so seminal. While I greatly enjoyed learning more about his personal life, including the entire side career he had as a successful NASCAR driver (no, really!), I missed an astute analysis of the music. But Diekman has laid a solid groundwork with her personal biography of this Twentieth Century Drifter, and we can only hope that someone else will take up the challenge of providing the true musical biography that Marty Robbins deserves.
20. Started Early, Took My Dog, Kate Atkinson.
The fourth Jackson Brodie might be the best yet (although I am rather fond of the first, Case Histories. As usual, Atkinson weaves together plotlines that seem to have nothing to do with each other, and tosses in several twists that I didn't see coming. Along the way, her nearly stream-of-consciousness writing had me chuckling out loud several times and marveling at her way with language.
Oh, and there's a cute little dog with a great personality! You can't go wrong with adding a cute little dog to any book.
21. 1Q84, Haruki Murakami.
Whew! I wasn't sure I'd ever finish this doorstop of a novel. My first mistake was reading a library e-book that's over 1,000 pages long on a two-week checkout. My second mistake was waiting nearly a week to start it because I was having second thoughts about whether I would like it. Once I finally started it, I loved the writing and the plot, but found I could only read short stretches at a time because there was so much to think about. The library sucked its e-book out of my Kobo when I had 16 chapters left (out of roughly, I don't know, a billion) and I had to put myself back on the hold list. A couple of weeks later I had it back, and this time I read it straight through to the end.
To say it's an unusual book is an understatement. First of all, it's translated from the Japanese, and I am not at all familiar with Japanese or even most Asian writing. But I found it surprisingly easy to read technically, even though the plot became increasingly complex. The chapters alternate between the point of view of Aomame, a young woman who works as a personal trainer but has a secret side job, and that of Tengo, a young man who tutors math at a cram school but writes fiction on the side. They knew each other as children, and the last part of the book is about them trying to reunite as grownups, but in between there are all sorts of mind-boggling elements such as Little People, air chrysalis, extra moons, immaculate conceptions and more. I have read reviewers who were disappointed at the ending, but I found it a satisfying if not completely resolved finish.
Bottom line: This is an impossible book to summarize, but if you like novels that play with reality like a cat with a ball of yarn, you will like 1Q84. Just make sure you set aside enough time to finish it.
Gail, thanks for stopping by! You won't regret picking up Stout again. It is without a doubt my all-time favorite mystery series. In fact, it's about time for a start-to-finish re-read of the whole series.
22. The Affair, Lee Child.
The most recent entry in the Jack Reacher series of thrillers, and one of the best. It's actually a flashback set six months before the events in the first Reacher book, Killing Floor, and explains how an army brat ended up mustering out while still in the prime of his career. The action is mostly set in Mississippi and features the usual twists and turns, along with the requisite inappropriate romance for Reacher and the beauty du jour.
The only bad thing about this book is that reading it means I am now caught up with this series, and have to wait along with everyone else for the next book to be released. This is why I like to discover series after they've been around a while — you can pace your reading as you like and not be dependent on the author's pace. On the other hand, I am glad that I will no longer be compulsively devouring the next book in the series to the detriment of my more "serious" reading. So I've got that going for me, which is nice.
23. Margarita Nights, Phyllis Smallman.
I had never heard of this book, apparently the first in a series, but it was offered as a free monthly selection by Kobo, so I took a chance on it. It was worth the price, anyway.
Sorry, that's an easy cheap shot. It's really not a bad book at all. There are some abrupt scene shifts where it almost seems like some paragraphs got chopped out for space, and some of the descriptions and characterizations lean a little too heavily on cliché, but the mystery is fairly satisfying if not surprising. The book reads like a poor woman's Janet Evanovich, but where Stephanie Plum is a wisecracking Jersey goil with an unfortunate tendency toward the madcap screwup, Sherri Travis just seemed a bit pathetic and the antics seemed a bit forced. Then again, maybe I just prefer Jersey to Florida.
Diana Gabaldon offers a list of recommended reads on her website for fans to fill the gaps between books in her Outlander series. I think she calls it The Methadone List. Similarly, if you are a Stephanie Plum fan looking for some methadone to fill your time between books, you could do worse than this series. For me, although I like the Plum books (at least the first dozen or so), I'll likely pass on the rest of the Sherri Travis series.
If, on the other hand, you are looking for quality mysteries with farcical humor set in Florida, you could do far worse than read any Carl Hiassen book you can get your hands on. Even if you have to (gasp!) pay for it.
Hi, just dropping by to say how much I'm enjoying the Sonnets thread - thanks for making that happen!
And I loved Started early, too. Love among other things the mix of cultural references, popular and literary. I never thought I'd be introduced to Emily Dickinson by Jackson Brodie!
# 116 Reading Murakami's books can be challenging. I read Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicle last year. That was also a mammoth book with a very strange storyline but it was a satisfying experience.
Congrats on finishing IQ84, Julia. Between that and the Sonnets, you have certainly been doing some heavy reading and thinking!
Genny, thank you for stopping by the Sonnets thread and chiming in when the spirit moves you. :) It's been a lot of fun, and we're just getting started. Jackson Brodie is an unusual man, isn't he, with his love of obscure American country music AND Emily Dickinson. Where do I find a man like that?!
Porua, 1Q84 was my first Murakami book, but I am definitely open to reading more. I'll have to put The Wind-up Bird Chronicles on my wishlist for the future. Maybe next year — I'll read one Murakami each year. :)
Linda, it's like eating your veggies so you can have dessert! I read the heavy stuff for virtue, and the (comparative) fluff like the Lee Child thrillers and the Nero Wolfe mysteries for a reward.
#124 Let me know if you find one, especially if he has an identical twin brother!
Julia, I'm glad you left a comment on my thread. I admit I missed yours which would have been a shame if it had continued. Especially since you're an Iowa person! I went to school in Iowa City and have a soft spot for all things Iowan. I even met my wife there! I totally miss the IC Public Library, especially since it got renovated. Great library for a smallish city.
That's all. Will be following in the future!
Steve, greetings from Iowa! How long ago did you live here? The renovated Iowa City Library is a jewel for sure. I just love spending time in there.
Come back anytime!
24. The Tiger's Wife, Téa Obreht.
The breakup of the former communist state Yugoslavia had a profound effect on the people of the Balkans. Individual provinces fought for independence and the result was revolution that pitted neighbor against neighbor and drew national borders between areas that previously had been part of the same country.
The history of all that happened in the Balkans is complicated and difficult for outsiders to really comprehend. Unfortunately, Téa Obreht doesn't do much to clear things up for readers of The Tiger's Wife. The causes and consequences of the revolution that lies at the heart of her novel are addressed only obliquely, if at all. Even someone who was paying attention to international news at the time, as I was, may be hard-pressed to understand the undercurrents felt by the characters as they travel from one war-torn area to another.
The book is really three stories in one: In the present-day, Natalia is a doctor who travels across one of those newly established borders to conduct an immigration clinic. The story flashes back to her childhood experiences before and during the war, in particular her interactions with her grandfather, who was also a doctor. Still another plot line traces a pair of fables/legends told to Natalia by her grandfather about a woman known as the tiger's wife in his home village, and his encounters as an adult with Gavran, a man who claimed to be unable to die.
The sections of the book dealing with the fables were quite enjoyable; the sections featuring Natalia less so. I can only imagine that if you are well-versed in Balkan history you may be able to wrestle more enjoyment from these parts than I did. Overall, I'm glad I read The Tiger's Wife. I think Obreht shows a lot of promise as an author, and I look forward to her future work.
I am super behind on your thread, but I am all up to date now. :) I'm glad you got to finish 1Q84 and write a nice little review for it. I really want to read that one.
It's great to have you back, Marie! I would definitely recommend 1Q84 if you have the time for it someday.
>128 rosalita: - I lived there for 7 years but left in 2004. I miss it. Such nice people and so surprisingly not flat! Really a lovely part of the country. And I loved IC. Used to hang out at Prairie Lights a least once a week to drink coffee and tempt myself with books. Great little, low stress town to live in.
Oh, my poor sad abandoned thread! How I've neglected you in favor of posting on my tutored Sonnets thread, and watching the NCAA basketball tournament, and spending weekend afternoons at the coffeeshop with some of my fellow knitters! I really must return to you soon, and I shall: I have finally finished my Early Reviewers book from January (The Big Dance) and will post a review soon!
March Madness has impeded my reading this month too! The same thing happened last year. But what's that saying about books being the only friends that will patiently wait for you to come back to them?
25. The Big Dance: The Story of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, Barry Wilner and Ken Rappaport.
Part of my disappointment with this book is a misreading of the subtitle: I thought it was a history of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, a chronicle of how the tournament grew from eight teams playing in untelevised obscurity to a regional event with 16 and then 32 teams, to the all-encompassing national extravanganza with 68 teams and every game televised and everyone and their dog filling out a bracket.
I still want to read that book, but that's not what The Big Dance is. What it is is a series of vignettes about particular teams, or particular players, or particular coaches who have been notable in the NCAA Tournament through the years. There is no organizing principle as far as I can tell; it is not arranged chronologically or alphabetically or in any other particular way. The vignettes themselves are fine, if a bit thin. They read like newspaper accounts in a lot of ways, and that's not surprising when you realize that the two authors are both reporters for the Associated Press wire service.
This would be a good book to give a young or new fan who is just starting to get excited about college basketball. Although it is not written specifically for a YA audience, the level of writing is perfectly suitable to that age group. There is no profanity and no off-color innuendo here. Anyone who considers themselves at all knowledgeable about NCAA hoops probably won't find much new here, except perhaps in specific vignettes. Generally speaking, what you get is a surface introduction to the various teams, players, and eras, which might inspire you to look for more in-depth information elsewhere.
As for me, I'm still looking for a great history of the NCAA basketball tournament. I know there must be one out there somewhere ...
26. The Whipping Club, Deborah Henry.
A girl who found herself pregnant and unmarried had few options in 1950s Ireland, even if the father is someone she loves and plans to marry. In The Whipping Club by Deborah Henry, Marian is determined to do just that, despite one big potential obstacle: her lover is Jewish, not Catholic. Her first meeting with her potential in-laws does not go well; so much so that she decides not to tell Ben that she is pregnant and instead allows her priest uncle to spirit her away to a convent where the nuns (barely) care of the girls until they give birth.
The baby boy being given away, Marian returns home where she does marry her Jewish Ben after all, and they have another child, a girl. Their marriage is troubled in part by the secret Marian is keeping, and eventually, when she learns that the boy was not adopted but rather sent to a notorious orphanage, she begins her quest to bring him back to the family. The horrors he has seen in his first 12 years make it difficult for him to adapt to living in a normal family, and trouble ensues.
This book showed a lot of promise in its setup and its characters, but it's not particularly well developed. The first half, in particular, suffers from a meandering point of view that makes it difficult to tell whose thoughts we are meant to be following. A paragraph might start with Marian's thoughts and end with Ben's, or so it seemed. The scene shifts from place to place with a startling abruptness at times, and things are revealed in an oblique way that makes you think you will learn more about them later but you never do.
A lot of these problems clear up in the second part of the book, when the boy gets sent to a sort of horrific reform school where he suffers a great deal under the hands of the Christian Brothers who run it, but by then the reader is exasperated both with the characters and the writing. Three-fourths of the way through, the tone suddenly shifts to suspense in a book that had little to that point, and the ending seems unsatisfying and unfinished.
The Whipping Club is difficult at times to read because of the abuse the children face, and at other times because it's simply not written well. None of the characters are particularly likable, and while we are given endless passages inside their minds and thoughts, I still had difficulty understanding why either Marian or Ben chose to ever get married or stay married. In short, not a book I'd recommend in its current form.
Can't wait for your review of The Big Dance. Love college basketball. Oh, and Tiger's Wife as well.
Like Porua, I read The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and found it (she expressed it precisely) a satisfying read, however odd. I think your one-a-year plan might be do-able.
Still lurking on the sonnets thread...
I have got to get those 3 reviews written before I forget what the books were about! Maybe I will be more inspired knowing that you are waiting for them. :)
I'm glad you're lurking on the sonnets thread (and that's a link for anyone else who hasn't stumbled on it yet). I've gotten so much about of Cynara's insights and the comments of all the "lurkers".
27. Undone, Karin Slaughter.
Well, I really stepped in it with this book, a book that I thought was the start of a series that came highly recommended from LT's own elliepotten. In my haste to check out the e-book from my local library, I noted that the description said it was Book 1 in the Georgia series. As I read the book (which was really quite good, though not recommended for the squeamish), I occasionally had the thought that it certainly didn't seem like an introductory book.
After I finished it and checked back on LT, I realized my error. Ms. Slaughter actually has three series: The Grant County/Sara Linton series, the Will Trent series, and this Georgia series, which brings the characters from the first two series together. Now, I did really enjoy Slaughter's writing, the characters and the plot, so normally I would shrug off the faux pas and just start back at the beginning. The problem is that Undone includes a great big huge gigantic enormous leviathan massive tremendous humongous titanic spoiler for the entire Grant County series. It is a spoiler so outsize that it makes me reluctant to go back and read the other books because it will be impossible to read them as they should be read, without knowing the big shocking thing.
So, to sum up: Great book, but not the place to start reading the series. Sigh.
I have been slowly working my way through the Grant Country series with plans on expanding into the Will Trent series and the Georgia series. You are right that her stuff isn't for the squeamish, but I am really enjoying the series and look forward to finding out what is going to happen to these characters.
Judy, I think you will continue to enjoy the series. Someday when I've put a little distance between me and this read, I may decide to go back to the beginning and read them all. And I'll be keeping my eye out for more books by Karin Slaughter.
Ive caught up now with your thread. Yours is the first one i have read since im back on line. I will try to catch up with eveyone. Your reviews are thoughtful and insightful. I like to think i was the LT member who helped you to discover "Snail..." It was delightful! It's great to be back!
Mary Beth, thank you for your kind words about my reviews. Like all writing, it's a struggle in the creation but I'm always glad when it's done. :)
And it very well could have been you who pointed me toward Snail .... I know I saw it in several threads over the past year or so, which prompted me to check it out myself. So thank you for that!
Too bad that The Whipping Club was a disappointment in regards to the writing as it sounds like a fascinating story.
Yes, I wanted to like it so much, but I just couldn't get past the poor writing. Honestly, it read like a book that hadn't been edited as I can't imagine an editor letting such sloppy mistakes through.
I notice a lot of books these days that could use better editing. Sorry you had to struggle through it, but you've certainly saved me from having to do so! ;)
28. The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, Book 1), Stephen King.
A friend at work has been insisting that I read The Dark Tower series for over a year, ever since he found out that I have never read any of the seven books despite being a big fan of King's other novels and short stories. I had this e-book on hold at the library for several months before my name finally popped to the top of the list. It was worth the wait.
I don't know that I can do the book or the series justice with a plot summary, so I won't try. Suffice to say that it is an intriguing mix of spaghetti western, fantasy, and horror, all delivered with King's signature style that makes me feel as though I am listening to a good friend tell me a story. I didn't always understand what the heck was going on, but it still kept me reading to the end and scrambling to download the second book in the series, The Drawing of the Three (that review is coming up).
Highly recommended for fans of westerns, fantasy, and Stephen King, not necessarily in that order.
29. Broken, Karin Slaughter.
I mentioned back in Message 140 that I had fumbled in reading Undone, thinking it to be the first book in the Grant County/Sara Linton series and finding instead it was the first book in a new series that combined characters from Slaughter's other two mystery series. What I learned in that book makes going all the way back to the beginning impossible at least for now, so I decided to move forward and pick up the next book in the new combined series.
In Broken, Sara Linton is back in her Grant County home visiting for Thanksgiving. A murder, a suicide, and her distrust of the local police force lead her to drag Georgia Bureau of Investigation detective Will Trent in to investigate. Together, they find the answer to the contemporary mystery and help Sara find some closure to a past heartache. The characters once again are the stars, though the plot is fully functional.
30. The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower, Book 2), Stephen King.
The second entry in King's "Dark Tower" series finds The Gunsllinger wandering down a beach and walking through magical doors into the heads of random people who are destined to help him on his quest to find the Dark Tower. I thoroughly enjoyed the segments when The Gunslinger was (for lack of a better term) lurking inside and occasionally stage-directing the brain of Eddie, a junkie from what I think of as Our World. The long slog down the beach from door to door got a bit tiresome — and I will never look at lobsters (Ded-a-chek? Did-a-chick?) the same way again — but I'm more than game to track down the third installment, The Wastelands.
31. Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President, Candice Millard.
Another great book recommended by multiple 75-Book Challenge readers. Millard takes an engrossing look at the 20th President of the United States, a man who neither sought the office nor lived long enough to fulfill his promise, but still managed to make his mark in presidential and medical history.
James Garfield, a long-serving Congressman from Ohio, was nominated for President only because the stubborn factions of the two leading candidates brought the 1880 Republican convention to a deadlock. Garfield was dismayed at his nomination, and startled by his election, but he set out to govern to the best of his ability.
Through the first section of the book, Millard parallels Garfield's story with that of his eventual assassin, Charles Guiteau, a mentally unstable man who repeatedly sought an audience with Garfield and wrote a series of demented letters to Garfield, his Secretary of State James Blaine, and any number of other officials, declaring his willingness to assume an ambassadorship in the Garfield administration (a duty he believed was a direct order from God). The ignoring and eventual rebuff of his demands were the catalyst for his stalking and shooting Garfield.
You might think that a book about the assassination of a President would position the crime at the climax of the book, but in Millard's history it is the starting point in an examination of the state of contemporary medicine and the long trail of malpractice that doomed the president to death. Hindsight made me cringe at the unsanitary medical practices and the unscrupulous way Garfield's main doctor schemed jealously to keep other medical men and women from stealing his "glory".
As if that weren't enough, there's a substantial subplot involving Alexander Graham Bell's desperate attempts to devise a metal detector in time to find the bullet in Garfield's body and save his life. So much of the history in Millard's book was new to me, and fascinating. Her depiction of Garfield as an honest, forthright man made me mourn the loss of his potential as President (especially in the area of Reconstruction), although it must be said that almost any President looks pretty promising during their first 200 days in office, which is all Garfield was destined to serve.
This book shouldn't be confused with a true biography of James Garfield (which I am now inspired to seek out), but it's a compulsively readable history of how medicine and politics worked at the time, and a sobering look at how far we've come, after 4 assassinations, to the permanently guarded, virtually inaccessible presidency we have today.
32. The Catch, Rick Jasper.
Rick Jasper's YA novel charts the ascension and downfall of a teenage baseball player who gains fame after an "impossible" catch and learns it's not all it's cracked up to be. The book is a little simplistic (although not excessively so for a book clearly aimed at young teens and younger), but I was impressed that it gets the baseball action just right. All in all, a refreshing change from the dystopic YA fiction I've been reading lately.
Rosalita, I thought the writing was uneven and characters poorly developed when I read it as well. I read an e-galley though so I don't know what changes were made before it hit print.
Hi, Stasia! It's been great seeing you around the threads this past week. I hope you've enjoyed your break from school. It's only been a few years since I finished by BA at an, ahem, advanced age, so I remember those luxurious breaks when I could read whatever I want for however long I wanted, and not just "Page 97-189 by Wednesday". :)
#158: An advanced age? You do realize that I am 50, right? I am not advanced - and neither are you.
#159: I like the way you think! It's a deal; we are just getting started, you and I.
I told my mother the other day that I feel better now at 50 than I did at 40 and it is the truth. She told me (she is going to be 73 at the end of May) that growing old is not for wimps :)
I like your mom. :) Looking back at my past 5 years, I'd have to agree with her. I can't say I feel better now than I did at 40, but I know I wouldn't trade who I am and what I know now for being 20 again, that's for sure!
# 149 DeltaQueen50, "I notice a lot of books these days that could use better editing."
I thought I was the only one who felt that way. I too feel that a lot of today's books have very sloppy editing. I wonder why that is.
I think it's the same reason newspapers are so full of typos these days. The bean counters at the top think copy editors don't do anything that spell-check can't do for less money and no health insurance.
>169 rosalita: Which could not be further from the truth. I realize I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but believe me, I copy-edit for a sports website, and while these sportswriters might know their stats backwards and forwards, many of them have no idea how to even punctuate a sentence with more than four words.
I'll add my harmony vocals to that one, sister! I was a newspaper reporter, copy editor, and editor for 18 years. Even very good reporters need an editor. Most of the rest need an editor and a psychologist, but that's another story. :)
Punctuation, spelling, homonyms were the banes of my copy-editing life (I lost count of how many stories I edited to correct phrases like "tough road to hoe" or "the seeds were sewn").
Oh my gosh, I know! The hilarious yet pathetic errors in idioms I see ... did they really think that you "dawn" (don) a uniform? Or "mustard" (muster) up support? Or have "deft" (deaf) ears? I mean, your ears are clearly deaf and not deft, or else you'd know how ridiculous you sound! ;)
Oh, or "take the reigns" or "reign him in" or "reining over them." Mercy.
Yes! And I edited one story where the reporter talked about the local congressman who spent the day back in his district and "road" along with a delivery driver for a few hours.
Oooh, yes, that's one of my biggest pet peeves! And also 'dominate' used as an adjective when they mean 'dominant'.
I actually could use my own copy editor. Sometimes I look back at my postings and can't believe all the spelling and typo mistakes I make. I guess my brain is going faster than my fingers or is it vice versa?
My pet peeve is "loose" and "lose"...which I see even in the refined and erudite environs of LibraryThing.
It's making me loose my mind.
I used to type fairly well until I got an iPad. The autocorrect feature taunts me! I realize I can probably disable it, but it also amuses me.
Julia, I got a kick out of the conversation on ages with Stasia. For the record, I'd love to be 50 or *gulp* even 60 again. The only good thing about turning 65 is qualifying for Medicare, although we'll probably stay with my husband's insurance plan at work as long as we can.
Donna, I have been having all kinds of autocorrect nightmares over on my Shakespeare's Sonnets tutored read thread. Every time I type 'thy' my computer auto-corrects to 'they'. 'Dost' becomes 'does', and any verb ending in 'est' makes it sputter in helpless fury. :)
As for age, it's only a number! And as Stasia's mama says, growing old is NOT for wimps. As my mama would add, it also beats the heck out of the alternative.
153: Somehow I ended up with an ARC copy of this book in my library, so I am looking forward to what you thought about it.
After too long a time, I've managed to write and post some overdue reviews:
* Stephen King's The Drawing of the Three gets 4 stars up in Message 152
* Five enthusiastic stars for Candice Millard's Destiny of the Republic in Message 153
* The YA sports novel The Catch by Rick Jasper earned 3.5 stars in Message 154
HI Julia, LOL to the edit posts...although I cringe sometimes when I look back at my own posts here!
I hate looking back at a post and seeing some glaringly obvious typo staring me in the face! I have to fix it once I see it.
33. The Buddha in the Attic, Julie Otsuka.
Julie Otsuka uses a strikingly original form to tell the story of Japanese mail-order brides summoned to California by Japanese men who have emigrated before them. Rather than delve deeply into the stories of one or a handful of these women, Otsuka chooses instead to tell the stories of a multitude of women in a way that emphasizes the uniqueness of each of their lives. The unusual format is very effective at demonstrating the impossibility of ever telling the story of Japanese women in mid-20th century America. Each of them came from a different life in Japan, and found themselves married to very different men in America.
The multiple lives are viewed in an unwavering list format:
Some of us on the boat were from Kyoto, and were delicate and fair, and had lived our entire lives in darkened rooms at the back of the house. Some of us were from Nara, and prayed to our ancestors three times a day, and swore we could still hear the temple bells ringing. Some of us were farmers' daughters from Yamaguchi with thick wrists and broad shoulders who had never gone to bed after nine. Some of us were from a small mountain hamlet in Yamanashi and had only recently seen our first train. Some of us were from Tokyo, and had seen everything, and spoke beautiful Japanese, and did not mix much with any of the others.I don't think this type of narrative could sustain itself across an extended narrative, which may explain the slim size of Otsuka's novel. Brevity in length should in no way be confused with slightness of impact, however. The Buddha in the Attic is a powerful insight into what life was like in pre- and post-World War II America for Japanese-Americans, and may haunt readers long after the final page is turned.
34. A Single Thread, Marie Bostwick.
I've read a few books centered around "crafty chicks", whether they are knitters or quilters or booksellers or whatever. While I usually enjoy the insights into the crafts themselves, I've found the plots wrapped around them to be as gossamer thin and full of holes as a fine lace shawl.
So I approached A Single Thread with trepidation, and only after I had exhausted all the library books on my Kobo and was forced to turn to the books I had gotten for free. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that this "crafty chick" story was a cut above. The protagonist had an unusual backstory, and the inevitable romance angle played out against a backdrop of interactions with other people in the town that seemed more complex than average.
I'd recommend this book to other "crafty chicks" who like a little meat with their meringue.
Nice review of The Buddha in the Attic, Julia. It's one that I have been meaning to obtain from the library.
Julia - I really liked your review of The Buddha in the Attic, and I wanted to give it a thumb. Sadly, it is not posted - would you consider posting it?
#191 That does sound interesting Julia. And I second Mamie's request to post your review to the book page.
Mamie and Heather, thank you so much for your kind words! I did go ahead and post it on the book page, so if you'd still like to thumb it, please do!
The Buddha In the Attic sounds really good, I will have to check to make sure it's on my wishlist. Great review, Julia!
35. A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War, Amanda Foreman.
Amanda Foreman has written a magnificent history of the role played by Britain (and less intensely, other European countries such as France) in the American Civil War. It's an aspect of American history not often touched on in more general histories of the Civil War era, making Foreman's book an essential addition to any Civil War or American history library.
It is only a small exaggeration to say that Britain's crucial role was to play no role at all. The British government, both in London and in the consulate in Washington, D.C., worked very hard indeed to maintain its neutrality. It had to work so hard because both North and South were desperate to claim the support of the former mother country. Confederate leaders were sure that the Union blockade keeping Southern cotton from reaching British textile mills would create an economic crisis that would force Britain to declare its support for the Confederacy.
On the other side, President Lincoln and his cabinet were sure that Britain's abhorrence of slavery would lead it to declare its support for the Union cause. Such confidence was shaken when they realized that few in Britain believed that the war was being fought to abolish slavery — a belief upheld by the reluctance of Lincoln first to enact and then to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. An overzealous naval blockade that repeatedly entangled British merchant ships in its web did little to garner Union support either in the halls of Parliament or the streets of Britain.
Although the official British position remained studiously neutral throughout the conflict, Foreman also undertakes to explore the lives of a number of British citizens who took it upon themselves to come to the United States to fight, some for the Union but many more for the Confederacy. Many of these individual soldiers found themselves taking on rather more than they bargained for in their "grand adventure", and British diplomats were often helpless to extract them from their misadventures.
A World on Fire is painstakingly researched and well written in a style accessible to more than an academic audience. Make no mistake, it is a tome of epic proportions — more than 1,000 pages. In reading, I couldn't help feeling that the book could have been significantly shortened without detriment to its main thesis by abbreviating or eliminating some of the detailed shot-by-shot battle recreations. There is a plethora of Civil War books that delve exhaustively into military strategy; the extent to which Foreman does the same seems superfluous to the main thread of the story.
Despite that minor quibble, I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in either the Civil War era or the history of British-American relations. Foreman's scholarship seems impeccable, and her narrative is engaging and thoughtful.
36. Run, Blake Crouch.
Something mysterious is causing ordinary Americans to turn savage and start murdering their neighbors. Jack is already preparing his family to make a run for it when they hear their names read out over the radio in a list of people who need to be killed. That sets them off on a desperate escape attempt, heading north from New Mexico in hopes of reaching the Canadian border, beyond which normalcy appears to reign.
Crouch's writing was compelling enough to keep me reading through to the end, despite some poor characterization and a few too many "just in the nick of time" escapes. Of course, Jack and his wife are having marital difficulties, and of course their young daughter is just at the age of being a difficult young teen-ager. And of course they would be able to swipe their credit cards in gas pumps in towns that have been turned into slaughterhouses even though the power is out, enabling them to keep moving. These things are minor, but they add up.
Ultimately, though, two things were responsible for this book not receiving a higher rating. First, Crouch did not spend enough time building the suspense at the beginning. As the book begins, the savagery has already begun, although nobody understands why, and Jack and his family are instantly on the run. I would have preferred to see more of a gradual buildup of horror as people begin to realize that something terrible has happened, and they cannot tell who will become a maddened killer and who will not. And secondly, the ending was so abrupt and lacking in explanation as to be laughable. And laughter probably should not be the lingering reaction left by a book that wants to be a supernatural thriller.
Thanks, Heather. I've not read Foreman's first book, but I'm going to look for it at the library. I think you would learn a lot about the Civil War from this book. I had never learned about the British aspect, so that was all new to me.
Julia - really liked your review of A World on Fire - gave it a thumb. I think I have to look into that one, but probably not anytime soon, as I need to make some headway on what I already have waiting. I also loved your review of Run - bad reviews are so much fun to read. I love that you pretty much said what you didn't like about it was the beginning and the ending - oh, and the middle!
Mamie, I didn't realize it but you're right about the Run review — now I'm wondering how on earth I gave it 2.5 stars! I think the stars are for the idea, which is a good one, and not so much for the execution, which left something to be desired. And after all, it did keep me reading until the end, so it couldn't have been completely terrible. I guess. :)
37. Blindsighted, Karin Slaughter.
Back in April I read what I thought was the first book in a mystery series that had been recommended by numerous LTers. That was Undone by Karin Slaughter. After reading (and enjoying) it, I realized it was not the first book in the series. Not only that, it contained a large spoiler of a huge happening in an earlier book.
I was disappointed to have accidentally stepped into a series in midstream, and doubtful that starting at the beginning would be enjoyable, given what I found out in Undone. Eventually, I decided to give it a try, anyway, and checked out Blindsighted from the library. I was surprised that despite knowing a huge spoilery event is going to happen in the 'future', I still enjoyed this book and was still surprised by some of the character setup, at least enough to find it worthwhile to continue reading the rest of the series in order.
My only caution with this book is that it does contain some extremely graphic sexual violence, which readers who know themselves to be sensitive to such material should avoid.
In case anyone might notice that my reviews are about to skip some numbers, I'm saving my review of The Knife of Never Letting Go until I can review the whole trilogy at once (which will happen just as soon as my name comes to the top of the library's hold list on the last book). I also feel no need to re-review the next three titles on my reading list, since I reviewed the Hunger Games trilogy just last year.
So, that brings us up to No. 42!
42. Full Dark House, Christopher Fowler.
The first book in the Bryant and May mystery series, recommended by fellow LTers. A pair of British detectives, who have been partners since World War II, are torn apart in modern-day London by a bomb. Investigation indicates that the answer to today's mystery lies in the archives of their first case, a serial killer stalking a theater troupe during the Blitz.
I found this one to be a slow starter. It was definitely a case where my usual method of knowing as little as possible about a book before reading it worked against me, as I spent the first several chapters trying to figure just what the heck was going on. However, the parts set back in the 1940s were engaging in a confusing sort of way, and the modern-day segments seemed a bit shoehorned in, as it were. I'm not sure I was captivated enough to seek out the rest of the series.
44. His Majesty's Dragon, Naomi Novik.
I'm not sure why I've never picked up on this series before. I am enormously fond of Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series, and I have enjoyed Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series of naval life during the Napoleonic wars. It wouldn't be the most inaccurate description to say that Novik has created the apparent love child of those two series.
As His Majesty's Dragon opens, Will Lawrence is the captain of a British warship that has just captured a French ship and is in the process of appropriating the loot. He and his crew are shocked to discover that among the bounty is a dragon egg. Dragons, you see, are key weapons in the world's armies, and Britain is going to need every one it can get to hold off the French emperor, Napoleon. For Captain Lawrence, the find is a mixed blessing, especially when the hatched dragonet, Temeraire, chooses him as its handler, a permanent bond. While he earns a large monetary reward for capturing such valuable cargo, it means Lawrence must leave his beloved navy and learn to how to fight from the back of a dragon in the Air Corps.
Amidst all the tension and drama of war, there are also gently comic episodes, as Temeraire passes through the draconic equivalences of infancy, toddlerhood, and adolescence. The bond between him and his captain is quite sweet, and makes them both very easy to root for. Other dragon/captain pairings are equally charming, as are the supporting characters.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of this book was how Novik so smoothly incorporated dragons into real history. At first, I thought it was going to be "oh my gosh what's this giant egg, holy cow it's a dragon, what are we going to do with that" situation, but instead she cleverly builds a world where dragons have always existed in the wild, and have been "tamed" for many generations. It creates a more seamless integration between fantasy and history, and it was fun to read casual references to past (real) battles and the role played by (imaginary) dragons.
I cannot end this review without tipping my cap to Sarah (beserene), whose recent reviews of each book in the series to date both introduced me to the series and whetted my appetite for tracking it down at the library. I'll definitely be continuing on to see what happens next to Capt. Lawrence and Temeraire.
You've posted some really good reviews this month. I've been out of the loop, but wanted to swing by and say hello!
Cynara, I didn't know you were also in the Temeraire fan club. And to think I might never have made his acquaintance if it weren't for LibraryThing! I've already read the second, Throne of Jade, and am on the library waiting list for the third. Of the two I've read, I definitely prefer the first.
Marie, I'm glad you stopped by! Thanks for your kind words about my reviews. I'm sort of pretending that I am not just now getting around to writing reviews of books I read last month, in hopes no one else will notice, either. :)
"I'm sort of pretending that I am not just now getting around to writing reviews of books I read last month, in hopes no one else will notice, either. :)"
I'd noticed, but I was going to keep quiet about it - it seemed only polite as I'm often in the same situation :-)
I don't know how it happens, Heather. It's so much easier to read the books than to write the reviews ... before you know it, you're 15 reviews behind!
I'm trying to post at least 2 reviews every night this week to try to get caught up, which means my reading is limited to just my daily commute (20 min. each way). This has two benefits: I get reviews written, and it's taking me longer to finish a book so hopefully I won't add to the unreviewed list faster than I can write reviews!
45. A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle.
The first book I read in 2012 was The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. I remarked back then that I was a bit disappointed in my first-ever reading of a story featuring the detective we all know so well. I also wondered if going back and starting at the beginning might make a difference, and indeed it did.
A Study in Scarlet is the first Holmes novel, and it beautifully sets the stage for everything that (we know now) is to come. Here we witness the first meeting between Holmes and his faithful assistant, Doctor Watson. We witness Holmes' scientific experiments, his amazing breadth of knowledge in some areas and equally amazing ignorance in others that he does not perceive useful.
In this first novel, Sherlock is called upon to help the police solve a seemingly impossible crime: a man's body has been found in an abandoned house, with no apparent cause of death and no clues. Wait, did I say no clues? Ha! Not with Sherlock on the case. He quickly figures out virtually the whole scenario that first night, but establishing standard protocol Conan Doyle withholds the key information from Dr. Watson who withholds it from us.
I was startled by an interlude in the mystery, which switches to third person (most of the Sherlock stories are told in the first person as a memoir by Watson) to provide some key background information about the murdered man and his killer. It was completely unexpected to me, which I guess proves that there are still surprises to be found even in an overly familiar canon.
There was one other factor that made A Study in Scarlet more enjoyable to me. The novel-length story really gave room for Sherlock's wizardry and subsequent reveal to seem more natural. In the short stories of The Memoirs, I felt the solution to the puzzle was almost tacked on as an afterthought. There was too much telling and not enough showing, I think. Thankfully, Scarlet does not suffer that fate, and it's an excellent beginning to my planned chronological read of all the Holmes stories.
Another great review, Julia! You are on a roll! And His Majesty's Dragon sounds promising so I added that to my WL.
Re. Temeraire - I am reluctant to admit it, but I think the books get a little uneven eventually. However, they still have tremendously rewarding parts! I was a bit unsatisfied by the last one, but the new one is getting better reviews, so I'm very excited.
Hi Julia, you've been giving us some great reviews. I enjoy the Temeraire series as well (the first one is also my favorite), and must get back to it one of these days. I am following so many different series that I seem to get bogged down on them. Of course that doesn't seem to stop me from continiously starting new series and trilogies!
Mamie, I predict you will be charmed by Temeraire and all the other dragons, too. I'll look forward to reading your reaction when you've read it.
Cynara, I can't say I'm surprised as I thought the first one was pretty much spot on. I'll keep reading, but lower my expectations accordingly.
Judy, glad to hear you are a Temeraire fan as well! I know what you mean about having too many series to follow. I cringe when I read a rave review from my favorite LTers, and find out it's a book in a series I've never read. And yet, I keep looking them up anyway because I haven't often been steered wrong, so what can you do? :-)
46. Murder One, Robert Dugoni.
David Sloane is a highly successful lawyer who specializes in wrongful death civil cases. But when a fellow lawyer, the beautiful Barclay Reid, is arrested for killing a known drug dealer, he agrees to take her case despite having little experience in criminal defense.
This is not the first book in this series but it's the first one I've read, thanks to a freebie offer from Kobo. It contains a pretty big spoiler to earlier books, but unlike Karin Slaughter's Grant County series, I wasn't bothered by being inadvertently spoiled because I don't have any urge to read the rest of the series. It's not that the book is bad, but in the world of legal thrillers there was nothing about it that stood out from the crowd and made it worth seeking out. The characters are nice enough, the plot was nice enough (although it owes a little too much to the Scott Turow classic Presumed Innocent), but none of it grabbed me.
And in a minor peeve to end all minor peeves, what the heck is up with giving a female main character such an ambiguous name? I could never keep track whether her name was Barclay Reid or Reid Barclay, and I'm not sure the author could, either, because he referred to her as simply "Barclay" or simply "Reid" seemingly indiscriminately, sometimes even on the same page. That would not have been enough to turn me off the series, but it was an added irritation in a book that ultimately couldn't carry the extra weight.
Only 3 stars for the Fowler book? That is disappointing. I'd still like to give that series a try though.
I've also thought about that Foreman book but the size is putting me off on that one.
Hi, Linda. I just didn't find the characters particularly engaging in Full Dark House, and the mystery was quite convoluted. However, you may well like it; many others have!
The size of A World on Fire is daunting; I actually had to check it out twice before I was able to finish it. But in the end I thought it was well worth the time investment, as I learned quite a bit I hadn't known before.
Nice review of The Buddha in the Attic. Made me want to read the book. Thumbs!
I love thumbs! Thanks, Porua, for your kind words. I hope you like the book if/when you get around to reading it.
Whew! It's a little dusty in here … ah-choo! Over a month since I last posted a review, and somehow I have fallen 24 reviews behind? I'll never manage to get caught up as long as I keep finishing books, will I? Ah, well. Perhaps it's best to simply make a quick summary of what I've been reading the past two months, and then start fresh. Yes? Then let's get started:
I have read at least one "next book" in each of the following series:
* Karin Slaughter's Grant County/Sara Linton series (Kisscut, A Faint Cold Fear, Indelible, Faithless). Solid but unspectacular; I want to like this series more than I actually do.
* Naomi Novik's Temeraire series (Throne of Jade, Black Powder War). Fabulous! Eagerly awaiting the next book in the series, on hold at the library.
* Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series (The Sign of Four, several stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes). I continue to enjoy reading for the first time this classic series.
* Ed McBain's 87th Precinct series (Cop Hater). I'm starting over at the beginning with this lengthy series after catching a great sale on Kindle editions.
* Connie Willis's Oxford Time Travel series (To Say Nothing of the Dog). I always feel amused but a little exhausted by the time I finish one of these books. I spend half the book not knowing what the heck is going on, and the other half admiring her humor and way with dialogue.
* Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking trilogy (Monsters of Men). I may review this one as I'd like to summarize my thoughts on the trilogy as a whole.
* Lis Wiehl's Triple Threat series (Face of Betrayal). A freebie from Kobo Books. Not good enough to make me want to read any more in the series.
* Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder series (The Sins of the Fathers, Time to Murder and Create). One of my favorite mystery writers, who has created two very good and very different series (the other is the Bernie Rhodenbarr 'Burglar' series). I decided to start at the beginning and read them all in order.
* Gordon Zuckerman's The Sentinels series (Fortunes of War). Another Kobo freebie. Not particularly good without being terrible enough to be interesting.
* Barbara Parker's Suspicion series (Suspicion of Innocence). Another Kobo freebie. Not awful, but not good enough to make me want to continue the series.
* Mike Lawson's Joe DeMarco series (Inside the Ring). A political thriller featuring an investigator who works undercover for a powerful Senator. Pretty good; I would consider checking further entries out of the library.
Looking at that list, it's obvious now how I've managed to reach 70 books read a full month earlier than last year. For the most part I have been reading a lot of books that don't carry a lot of intellectual heft or require an abundance of brain cells to process. In other words, perfect summer reading!
I also Abandoned Without Prejudice one book, Surrendered by Chang-Rae Lee. I read the first few chapters and sensed it was heading off into heavy territory that I was not emotionally attuned to. I am open to re-visiting it at another time in my life when the thought of reading about atrocities committed during the Korean War doesn't make my stomach heave and my brain hurt.
I did manage to read a few non-series books, and those I will post separately with brief reviews. And then I will consider my plate to be clean and I will be able to keep up easily the rest of the year (hahahahahahahaha — that's a good one, eh?)
Good to see you back Julia. " I'll never manage to get caught up as long as I keep finishing books, will I?" - I know that feeling!
Oooh, visitors! *clap clap clap*
Heather, I bet we all feel that way most of the time! And yet, I keep opening new books, so what does that tell you? I'm addicted, I guess.
Stasia, great to have you swing by! Hope your classes are going well! Come back anytime you need a quiet place to hide out — as you can see, there's not much happening in this corner of LT. :)
HI Julia! Looks like you've been on a roll with those series! I have one of the Patrick Ness books that I grabbed at a library sale and I should grab the first book and actually start the series!
Chelle, I think you will like the Ness books. I thought series was quite good.
Well, this is a heck of a thing. I've managed to reach 75 books read earlier than I ever expected! I checked my 2011 thread, and last year I didn't read my 75th book until September. And to think I told myself I was going to read at a slower pace this year.
*shaking my head*
Congrats on the 75 books!!! Very impressive! Read just a little bit faster, and you can read a second 75. :)
Fantastico! Congrats! :D Yep, now you have time for another 75... ;)
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