Tangledthread is taking a second run at the 75 Books Challenge!
Join LibraryThing to post.
I came up short in 2011, so I'm going to try it against this year.
1. Invisible by Paul Auster (2nd time)
2. The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Hellen Grant
3. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
4. The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam
5. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
6. I Shall Not Hate by Isseldin Abuelaish
7. The River of Doubt:Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard
8. The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt
9. The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
10. Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
11. Essence of the Bhagavad Gita by Eknath Easwaran
12. The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obrecht (re-reading)
13. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
14. When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson
15. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan^
16. The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa (re-reading)
17. The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
18. Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie
19. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain^
20. Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen
21. Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa
22. There but For the by Ali Smith^
23. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
24. The Mindful Brain by Daniel J. Siegel^
25. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel*
26. Death of a Dustman M. C. Beaton
27. The Cat Who Went Bananas by Lillian Jackson Braun
28. Gillespie and I by Jane Harris
29. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
30. Friends, Lovers, Chocolate by Alexander McCall Smith
31. The Paris Wife by Paula McClain
32. Serena by Ron Rash
33. Ignorance: How It Drives Science by Stuart Firestein
34. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
35. Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
36. Remembering the Bones by Frances Itani
37. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
38. The Long-Shining Waters by Danielle Sosin*
39. The Truth about Statins by Barbara H. Roberts*
40. Raven Black by Ann Cleeves
41. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
42. In the Garden of the Beasts by Erik Larson
43. Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz*
44. Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
45. The Submission by Amy Waldman
45. Rooted in the Earth, Rooted in the Sky by Victoria Sweet
46. The White Lie by Andrea Gillies
47. The Cove by Ron Rash
48. God's Hotel by Victoria Sweet
49. Death of an Artist by Kate Wilhelm
50. Sarum: The Novel of England by Edward Rutherford^
51. The Memory of all That by Katharine Weber
52. Midnight in Peking by Paul French
53. Broken Harbor by Tana French
54. The Devil in Silver by Victor Lavalle
55. Silence by Shusako Endo*
56. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
57. The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro
58. Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino
59. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng*
60. Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding
61. Still Life by Louise Penny
62. Death of a Witch by M.C. Beaton
63. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
64. After Dark by Wilkie Collins
65. Doc by Mary Doria Russell
66. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles*
67. Custom Woven Interiors by Kelly Marshall
68. Illuminations; A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen by Mary Sharratt
69. The Stone Cutter by Camilla Lackberg
70. The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
71. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
72. Clay: a Novel by Melissa Harrison
73. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
74. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
75. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
76. Home by Toni Morrison
77. The Lighthouse by Alison Moore
78. A Dedicated Man by Peter Robinson
79. Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks*
80. The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith
81. The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout*
82. Between the Corn Rows by Robert Seltz
83. The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Yay!! I did it!!
* in process
^read most of the book and lost interest
Thanks Jim and Stasia...
Here is my January "to read" stack:
Fascination With Fiber--hmm? I do fiber art when I'm not reading. How about you?
#5....Uhm...it's more like I read when I'm not doing fiberwork. That is, Unless I'm listening to an audiobook :^)
#4: Nice reading line up there! The only one in the stack that I have already read is The God of Small Things and I did not care for it, so I hope you enjoy it more than I did.
Auster was my last year's first book, and I loved it! Hope you enjoy the re-read.
And I'm curious what you'll think about State of Wonder - I read it last autumn and honestly I was a little bit disappointed. In my opinion the topic would have had such a potential but that wasn't fully used. I'll come back to look for your opinon!
OH, I love the idea of posting an actual picture of your TBR stack! V. cool.
#9: Stasia, I read it before and really felt I had to re-read it before discussing in a book group. This particular book strikes a chord because the main character is close to my generation, taking place in 1967. His writing is definitely post modern and I'm trying to understand why the main character, Adam Walker changes voices three times as he tells his story.
At least in this book, Auster uses no dialogue punctuation marks (I don't remember if that was true in Timbuktu (which I liked very much). And the oddest thing: I've heard Paul Auster on NPR when he was the judge for the Three Minute Fiction contest. So as I'm reading the book, I hear his voice narrating it.....kind of creepy to have the author get in your head.
#10: Kathy...which Auster was it?...was in Invisible or another one? I'm thinking I should take a look at the New York Trilogy this year. I'll let you know about State of Wonder..the book has gotten so much press that I fear there will be no surprises.
#11: Amber...just looked at your thread, your stack of TBR would be a lot bigger than mine!! I have a banned book for you, but will post it on your thread.
Yes, it was Invisible. I have several unread books by Auster at home (but not "The New York Trilogy", not yet at least) - I hope that I can read the one or the other this year. As far as State of Wonder is concerned I could read it without any influence. I haven't known the author before, and the German translation of the book won't be published in Austria until February. I hope that you'll like it despite of all the media attention!
#12: Interesting as far as the main character changing voice so often. Let me know what you figure out about that.
Sorry to have been AWOL....I've been battling a virus/sinus infection.
#14 Stasia...the only thing we came up with in book group was that Auster started the story in first person narrative then the main character began to fade and distance himself from the story. Not many authors can pull that off. Auster can.
Our next book group selection is The Summer Without Men written by Auser's wife, Siri Hustvedt. On a quick scan, it looks like an entertaining read.
All my good intentions and I've finished two books that are not on the stack in the photo:
The Vanishing of Katharina Linden is a mystery told by a pre-adolescent girl living in Germany with a German father and British mother. The first line draws you in:
"My life might have been so different, had I not been known as the girl whose grandmother exploded."
I gave it 3.5 stars....you could compare it to The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie except it is not as fey.
The other one is The Man in the Wooden Hat which I wanted to read now, having read Old Filth last month. If you read one of these books, you must read both. One is about the husband, the other about the wife. Both enjoyable Jane Gardam reads.
Yikes...guess I better start an official 2012 list!
BTW..Stasia...I haven't been able to find your thread?
I have had God of Small Things on my TBR pile for so long now - but for some reason every time I pick it up I see something else I would rather read. Be interested to know what you think of it.... might help me work up the motivation I need to get it into the read pile!!
#16 Hi Christina...Like you, I've procrastinated on that book for a long time. I probably won't get to it for another month or so. It gets really mixed reviews.
Currently reading Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. This is the second...maybe third, Gladwell book I've read. It's interesting to hear his perspective on things.
Finished Outliers today...especially liked the author interview at the end of the book and the personal revelations of the last chapter.
Hope to finish The Man in the Wooden Hat tonight then will work on The Summer Without Men for Feb. book discussion group. The author, Siri Hustvedt is Paul Auster's wife and we read his book Invisible for January. Interesting book ends.
I am well into Sarah's Key which I'm listening to while weaving for a deadline. It's okay, although I am sick to death of WWII fiction.
I got Sarah's Key as a thank you present recently from my cousin. She and her husband raved about the book .... but it sounded a bit depressing to me. I'll be interested to hear what you think.
finished Sarah's Key and posted a review on the book page. I do not understand all the hype this book recieved....IMO, not very good chick-lit.
Thanks for posting your review. It doesn't make me very anxious to read it.
Here's hoping your next book is better!
Started The River of Doubt on Saturday evening....so far interesting. I'm not very familiar with US politics over that time period, though it is getting more coverage in the media as the 100 year mark approaches.
Whoops! Must start reading The Summer Without Men for book discussion group on Friday. It's shouldn't take too long to read.
Hope I didn't sound too negative about Sarah's Key. Your review was great--it just sounds very sad to me.
It is funny how it's suddenly February! Hope your book discussion group is fun.
Finished The Summer Without Men in one sitting. I give it 4 stars....it's not for everybody, but I liked it and the perspectives wrapped up in the the narrative.
Oh, it's gooood. I heard Candace Millard talk about Destiny at the National Book Fest in September. She was very good!
>31..Thanks, Jim. I'm on the wait list for it at the library.
Meanwhile I have started Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry.
I listened to Ethan Frome yesterday and this morning while weaving. It's the third time I've read the book: as a teen, in my 30's, now in my late 50's. It's like a different book everytime. Guess I should read it again in my 80's...should I be so lucky.
Have also downloaded House of Mirth which I've never read. Guess I'm on an Edith Wharton roll since the article in the New Yorker.
Wrote review for The Secret Scripture which is up on the book page.
#36: I like your review for The Secret Scripture - and I think that I might like the book itself, too. On my list it goes!
>36...Thanks Kathy. Hope you like it!
Just finished reading When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson and posted my review on the book page. We read one of her previous books, Case Histories in my book discussion group and it was pretty good. All I can say is the one I just finished was named appropriately.....
posted a review of The Tiger's Wife.....since I've now read it twice and listened to it once, I finally felt like I could pull of a reasonable review. Love that book. In addition to being on the book page, I'll post it below:
The Tiger's Wife: A Novel by Tea Obreht
The essence of this book is an elegy, narrated by Natalia Stefanovic to her grandfather. As a young doctor, Natalia is on a trip across the border to provide immunizations to an orphanage. While on this journey she learns from her grandmother that her grandfather has died somewhere near Natalia's destination. The family thinks that the grandfather was on his way to meet Natalia, but to Natalia this makes no sense.
While trying to provide care to the orphans, Natalia tries to make sense of and some peace with the loss. She tells us that "everything necessary to understand my grandfather lies between two stories: the story of the tiger's wife and the story of the deathless man." From there the narrator takes us through her life with her grandfather and the importance of these two stories in his life.
However, these two stories are only borders of her grandfather's essence and like Russian nesting dolls, there are stories within the stories which open up to us as the narrative progresses. Many of these stories are folkloric with hints of animism and magical realism. War is the back drop for many of these stories and there are often parent-less children at the heart of the stories
I have read this book twice and listened to it as an audiobook once. The narrative is complex in it's structure, but it is complete as the author explores the territory of loss and mourning. Just as geographical boundaries and borders shift as a result of the wars that have scarred the Balkans, the boundaries between life and death as well as hope and despair move in the heart of the narrator as she comes to term with the loss of a grandfather who has been a pillar of strength in her life.
Finished Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake which was my Early Reviewers selection. My review is posted on the book page.
Wrote reviews for Hotel Iris and Essence of the Bhagavad Gita: A Contemporary Guide to Yoga, Meditation, and Indian Philosophy and posted them on LT today.
Whoops...I had the link for Essence typed wrong. It works now. Thanks for pointing that out, Daryl.
Just posted my review of The Buddha in the Attic which should be on the book page.
Can't believe that I acquired two new books today after hauling a car trunk full of books off to new homes this week.
The new acquisitions: Wolf Hall and In the Garden of the Beasts
Still reading The Mindful Brain and There but For the. Oh, and Catherine the Great: just ascended to the throne.
Also must finish The Girl Who Fell from the Sky for May 4 book group.
What...don't you all read 4 different books at one time?
Good review of The Buddha in the Attic. I'm like you in that I need to get interested in characters before I enjoy a book so I think this doesn't sound like one for me, even though the subject sounds interesting.
Thanks, SandDune. There are other books on the same subject that might be a more interesting read for you.
Finished reading The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow. The review should be up on the book page.
I liked the book in a lot of ways, but I'm becoming impatient with the current zeitgeist of chopping a story up by writing from different points of view and jumping back and forth in time.
I think the author makes some very good and important points in this story about the importance of personal identity, especially in adolescence. And she makes the point that all of us are more than our external appearance.
In someways, this would be an excellent young adult selection.
Still reading The Mindful Brain but am becoming a bit impatient with the author's love of creating acronyms.
How'd you go on that stack of books up top? Did you read them all? A quick scroll didnt give up any clues about The God of Small Things. I have mixed feelings on it but generally liked the journey.
I wont read your review of The Tigers Wife as I want to read it and hate to go in with preconceived ideas. Looks like you liked it though if you read it that many times!
I think it took a second reading of The Tiger's Wife for all the pieces to fall into place for me. If you like The Brother's Grimm and Eastern European folk tales, then you'll get it. Also, I've come to think of that book as an elegy.
I'm embarrassed to say that I've only read one from the stack in the photo: Sebastian Barry's Secret Scripture, which I liked alot.
Will be starting Ann Patchett's book for our upcoming book group discussion in June.
Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
Finished Gillespie and I this afternoon. I really enjoyed the writing and the plot devices in this book, gave it 4 stars.
- I've finished Catherine the Great:Portrait of a Woman and Friends, Lovers, Chocolate but haven't done reviews yet.
- Decided to mark the books that failed to hold my interest until the end in my book list with an ^
- Still working on State of Wonder for next week's book group.
- Am listening to The Paris Wife while gardening and setting up the moved weaving studio.
- Picked up Ignorance: How It Drives Science from the library and am reading it in between things...it's a very short book.
- Downloaded Serena as an audiobook. It will follow The Paris Wife
Woot!! Stopped at the library to pick up videos for the weekend and found a copy of The Sense of an Ending on the "Your Lucky Day" shelf. There's been a long waiting list for the book on the regular checkouts....so it is my lucky day!
>55 Thanks, Daryl. I'm surprised that it is such a short book...novella really.
Finished State of Wonder for book group. Will write a review after the discussion. Ann Patchett is not a particular favorite of mine, but it's interesting to hear what others extract from the book. Our book group has also done Bel Canto and The Magician's Assistantn the past and my reaction was lukewarm, tho' the other ladies loved them.
I'd have to say my favorite Ann Patchett book was Truth & Beauty: A Friendship which was nonfiction
My review of State of Wonder :
Marina Singh is a 42 year old research scientist for a drug company in Minnesota who is sent by her boss/secret paramour to the Amazon to find out what happened to a colleague who has gone ahead of her and been reported dead. The scientist leading the Amazon research happens to be a former medical school teacher of Marina and there are unresolved issues, to say the least. That is the essence of the story arc in this novel.
There are sub-themes in the book that deal with the motivations, morality, and politics of research scientists and their employers, most specifically pharmaceutical companies. And the plot device of extending women's fertility well into old age has been a major marketing tool for this book. But these sub-themes are dealt with superficially and do not present the tension nor the depth that we see in the works of authors like Barbara Kingsolver.
The author does take some license with scientific facts and logic in the story as they are necessary to advance the story arc. So be prepared to suspend belief at times.
Im looking forward to reading Sense of an Ending too, novellas are that much more manageable for me lately.
Brief review written for The Paris Wife and posted on the book page.
Finished Train Dreams within two hours. What a beautifully written story. Short review is posted on the book page.
We listened to Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country on a long road trip this weekend.
Family lives about 7-10 hours away by car, so over the years I have been the one to pick audio books for the family to enjoy as we while away the hours in the car. This one was a good selection for us.
I've read Bill Bryson's magazine articles in the past. This is the first book of his that I've read. We will probably listen to more of his books.
Review for Ignorance by Stuart Firestein:
An interesting treatise that focuses on the fact that it's what we don't know (ignorance) that propels the engine of science. The secondary premise is that we often don't know what we don't know, hence the need for basic scientific research. Too often the research that is focused on discovering something specific can be skewed by the bias of the researcher.
The book is tightly written, concise, and chock full of ideas which could be expanded on much further. One of the most fascinating topics that was entirely new to me is the field of computational biology. Fortunately, the author provides a list of suggested reading at the end of the book.
Discussed Remembering the Bones by Frances Itani in yesterday's book group. I waited til after the book group to write the review:
Georgie Danforth Whitley is soon to turn 80, on the same day as Queen Elizabeth. As a member of the Commonwealth, and sharing the Queen's birthdate, she has been invited to England to a birthday celebration. As Georgie leaves her home in eastern Ontario, a moment of inattention leads to her car toppling over into a ravine less than 1.5 miles from her home. Because of her fiercely independent spirit, no one (save for the Queen?) knows that she is missing.
She has been thrown from her car with some pretty significant injuries. While she determines to cope with the situation, we are treated to the story of her life in flash backs. The bones in the title refer to her childhood fascination with Gray's Anatomy from her deceased grandfather's study. And the bones provide the supporting framework (skeleton?) for her story.
In that story we learn much about the strong women of the Danforth family, which is quite matriarchal over the three generations. There are snippets of childhood memorization exercises sprinkled through out the book and will be familiar with readers of a certain era. There is much love, much happiness, and some devastating heartbreak in the story. But if my book group is any indicator, many readers will find the suspense of Georgie's predicament too much to allow them to take in the essence of the life story.
The writing is strong and clearly written with decent, loving, and very humanly flawed characters. Frances Itani knows well the bones of good writing.
I second Darryl's opinion. Some people just have the talent to give a brief but detailed impression dealing with many aspects of a book. I ususally feel like I am blabbering... :)
My review of Raven Black
A murder mystery set in the Shetland Islands drew my interest because I've been as far north as Orkney and hope to get to the Shetland Islands one day. The story starts in the cottage and in the mind of Magnus Tait, an elderly crofter with cognitive limitations on Hogmanay (New Year's Eve in Scotland). He is visited by two local highschool girls on their way home from the celebration.
As the story progresses we learn about the disappearance of a 10 year old girl eight years earlier, whom everyone suspects that Magnus had something to do with and is thus isolated from the community. We are introduced to Jimmy Perez, a detective who was raised on Fair Isle and traces back his unlikely surname to the lore of the ship of the Spanish Armada that ran aground on Fair Isle, inspiring the stranded patterned knitting named after the island.
Cleeves introduces us to other characters on the island with just enough background that we recognize the archetypes of a small community and seasons them with a Shetland flavor. A second murder occurs not far from Magnus' croft and the village assumes that he's done it again. But Perez, along with Fran Hunter, believe there's more to the murder than that.
The author takes us through the twists and turns of a cold, dark, murderous January on Shetland Island with some red herrings and little clues along the way. I had a suspicion, but had not really guessed whodunit before the reveal.
As a fan of P.D. James' Adam Dalgleish, and Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse, I'm ready to move them over on the shelf and make room for Jimmy Perez and the remaining 3 books of this series.
Review for In the Garden of the Beasts
If you are new to reading Erik Larson, this is not the one to pick for starters. I'd recommend Devil in the White City or Thunderstruck over Garden. That said, this non-fiction piece is an account of the US Ambassador-ship of William Dodd to Germany during the 1930's of the Roosevelt presidency. There is almost equal focus on his daughter, Martha, who was in her twenties during this time period.
The source material for this work is primarily journals, memoirs, and personal correspondence which makes for some choppy narrative and purple prose along the way. The story is a glimpse of the rise of the Third Reich from a different viewpoint than much of the historical writing of this period.
Young Martha was certainly an indiscreet guest in the host country. Though Dodd's son of similar age also accompanied the family to Berlin and appears to have perpetrated no indiscretions? I did find myself wondering about the role or sexism in this part of the story.
The story is an interesting read with just about equal amounts of suspense and yawns. Even though I am a fan of Larson's previous books, I would not have read this one if we weren't discussing it in book group.
I gave it 3 stars.
Finished The Song of Achilles last night and gave it 4 stars. I liked the book, though the writing seemed a bit uneven to me. The beginning was engaging, I loved the ending, but through the middle it sometimes seemed to drag with excessive description and metaphor.
Will likely finish The Submission today.
Oh my....I finished The Submission at least a week ago, if not longer. I haven't written a review because I'm not completely done thinking about the book. That fact alone suggests that it is a thought provoking novel. It is our October book group selection, so I will probably read it (or at least skim it) again before then and will write a review later.
Am working on finishing The White Lie and listening to Death of an Artist while weaving.
I see that The White Lie is written by Andrea Gillies, who also wrote Keeper: One House, Three Generations, and a Journey into Alzheimer's, which Rachael (FlossieT) and others have highly recommended, although I haven't read it yet.
>80 Hi Daryl
I haven't read Keeper yet, though I intend to get to it this fall. That title is nonfiction, while White Lie is fiction. So it will be interesting to compare/contrast the author's writing in those two genre's.
Hi Stasia....hope you can get a hold of a copy. My library acquired a soft cover copy which usually means they don't expect it to circulate much.
Received my Early Reviewers copy of The Memory of All That by Katharine Weber.
Just finished God's Hotel by Victoria Sweet. I'll write a review once I've had a chance to digest it better. I do hope that she will continue to write. Having read Rooted in the Earth; Rooted in the Sky first, her growth as a writer is very evident. But the books did serve two different purposes, Rooted being in large part her doctoral thesis.
The review for God's Hotel:
Dr. Sweet came to the historic almshouse hospital searching for a way to work part time in internal medicine while pursuing an advanced degree in medieval medicine. The intersection is one of time, where Laguna Honda is being drawn into 21st century modern medicine, while Dr. S. is moving back in time to study the lost roots of that same medical system.
The narrative chronicles her 20+ years of work at the hospital through sketches of particular patients of the hospital at various times. These are not clinical case studies, but narrative case studies including not only the medical condition(s) of the person, but their personalities, relationships, social and economic situations. And each study demonstrates an aspect of medicine that goes beyond clinical absolutism and shows us a little of the various aspects of the heart of medicine that produces healing.
Dr. Sweet's desire to study medieval medicine has come about because of her awareness of the current mechanistic approach which has been evolving since the late 19th century and has obliterated all of the thinking about medical care and healing which preceded it. Her quest is to study, especially through the medical writings of Hildegarde of Bingen to see how these early healers viewed patients and their presenting conditions in order to develop treatments. What she learned is that medical practitioners in that time period approached patients much as one would approach tending a garden.
Through the arc of the story we see the US Dept. of Justice enter the hospital on behalf of patients' rights. There are stories of the implementations of efficiencies imposed by outside consultants that failed to recognize the hidden efficiencies of the system they dismantled. Dr. Sweet travels to Switzerland to study Hildegard's original manuscripts as part of her doctoral program. At the completion of her studies she embarks on a pilgrimage tracing the path of St. James from France through Spain. She broke the journey into 3 separate trips over three years time. each time returning to Laguna Honda with new insights and more challenges wrought by the modernization of the hospital under financial duress.
My personal experiences in providing care to the indigent lead me to suspect that Dr. Sweet may romanticize Laguna Honda a bit. However, this is a physician who loves humanity and the patients entrusted to her care. The lesson: it's not the destination, but the journey. She presents the foundation for her thinking about slow medicine: closely assessing the patient, watching the patient's response to treatment and then responding accordingly. This approach may not only be more efficient and effective for patients, but for the management of our systems of delivery of healthcare as well.
Excellent review of God's Hotel, tangledthread, and I completely agree with your assessment of it. I would hope that this book becomes widely read by medical, nursing and other health profession students and professors, and that her lessons on the benefits of "slow medicine" and a holistic approach to the patient, rather than a solely mechanistic and organ based one, can result in more effective care and treatment. I found your comment about her probable romanticization of the old Laguna Honda to be very interesting, and I suspect that you're right.
Hmm, that gives me an idea. I think I'll write an article about recommended books for students in the health professions sometime next year, and see if I can get it published in a general medical journal such as JAMA or NEJM. I'll certainly include God's Hotel in that list.
Review: Midnight in Peking
Midnight in Peking is a true-crime story based in Peking in 1937-38 during the impending Japanese occupation. A young British woman is brutally murdered and found at the base of the fox tower in Peking on the morning after Russian Christmas, 1937. Pamela Werner, the victim, is the adopted daughter of a former British consul who lives outside the gates of the British legation and is a noted sinologist, university lecturer.
The murder investigation is carried out by Han, a Chinese police detective, and the British liason Inspector Dennis of Scotland Yard. The two detectives are unable to establish a motive for the murder and both are severely constrained by their superiors. Rumors, lies and obfuscation thwart the investigation and the case is abandoned as prewar tensions mount.
Her father, E. T. C. Werner, hires his own investigators and uncovers what the detectives could not, or would not. He makes repeated attempts to obtain justice through the English bureaucratic hierarchy and is repeatedly thwarted. Following a lead from a footnote about Pamela's death in Edgar Snow's book Red Star Over China, the Paul French tracks down E. T. C. Warner's investigative reports and provides the belated justice to the memory of Pamela that the British bureaucracy denied her and her father.
The author does a thorough job of laying out the expatriate community in Peking including white Russians who fled the Bolshevik Revolution twenty years earlier, the European community, and some North Americans. The tensions between Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist party and Mao Tse Tung's Communist party are also covered. Though some may find this information tedious, it is information not well covered in general western education and is important to understanding the time and place of the murder.
Review: The Memory of All That by Katharine Weber (Earlier Reviewers)
The title of this book is in reverse. It should read: "The Memory of All That: My Father, Kay Swift, George Gershwin, and My Family Legacy".
There are two parts to the book. The first half is devoted to the authors memories of growing up with an unreliable, unfaithful father and her research into his life before she was born and during his absences from the family. The second half of the book is devoted to her grandmother, Kay Swift, who was married to James Warburg (author's grandfather) while having an affair and working with George Gershwin during the 1920's. The two halves of the story are laced together by intersecting social sets in the decades before the author's birth.
It is an interesting story of the social lives of the privileged between the two world wars in the U.S. However, the book is poorly edited. Frequently the author starts to relate an anecdotal story, then interjects an aside from a different time or place, only to circle back to the original anecdote. This could happen within one very long, run on sentence or sometimes within a paragraph. Given the closeness of the author to her subjects, she often projected opinions or feelings onto her parents or grandparents where she could not possibly have known what they were thinking at the time. A good editor would have helped tighten up the writing and help the author get a little more perspective on her subjects even though they are family.
This book was received as an Early Reviewers selection from the publisher through Library Thing. My copy does not have "Advanced Copy" markings on it and appears to be the released version.
Finished Broken Harbor but I'm not likely to write a review. I do like Tana French's Dublin series. They are murder mysteries that get into the heads of the team working on the case. Each book focuses on a different main character, which is different than many other series where a single detective is featured through the series: think Inspector Morse, Inspector Lynley, Adam Dalgleish...etc.
Am reading Ron Rash's The Cove as an e-book, the first since I bought my 7" tablet. I really like the book, except a reference that he made that is within the wrong time period. Will wait to finish the novel to write a review and expand upon that.
Finished Gone Girl and gave it one star. I had it figured out in the first 45 pages.
Just got back from a road trip and listened to two audiobook mysteries in the car. Still Life by Louise Penny and Death of a Witch by M.C. Beaton. Still Life was my first Louise Penny mystery and will likely be my last. The author's lack of information about bow hunting which was the means of murder in the mystery was just the beginning of the poor research that went into the book. Death of a Witch was another Hamish MacBeth story, which we always enjoy on a road trip
Thanks. Lori. I'll give her a second chance. But first I think we'll try to finish Ann Cleeve's Shetland Island mysteries before going back to Louise Penny.
I've also been trying to get hold of more of Camilla Lackberg's mysteries. Obviously, we like audio book mysteries on car trips.
Ann Cleeves' series is really good too. My favorites in the Penny series are books 4 and onwards, but there's some back story about politics in the Surete in 2 and 3, you may need for future installments.
Added Custom Woven Interiors by Kelly Marshall to the list. I read a lot of weaving and knitting books, but never include them in The Challenge. That's because I rarely sit and read them from start to finish like I did this one.
If you are a weaver I highly recommend this book.
My review for The Night Circus
"The circus arrives without warning...." a great opening line to a magical book. Other reviewers have revealed the complete story line of a young woman and man are apprenticed in magic and are set into a competition by their mentors in order to prove which has the better teaching method. There is a circus, an enigmatic cast of characters that are drawn by the spell of the circus, and a romance.
Erin Morganstern is equally adept at weaving a story and developing characters. The narrative is engaging. My only complaint is keeping track of the dates at the beginning of chapters. The conclusion is somewhat predictable, though very well written with a bit of philosophy of life thrown in.
This is a very well done first novel.
Finished Painter of Silence last night. Will write the review once I've had a chance to mull it over. I give it 4 stars.
Finshed The Devil in Silver last night. My response to this novel is kind of mixed.
The story and themes are reminiscent of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The departure is the addition of a mythical half man, half beast character that terrorizes the psychiatric ward.
It's a good story. The writing is a little bit choppy and the point of view bounces around a bit like a hand held video camera. Some might say that style supports the setting of the novel. But it may also reflect the circumstances of the author as he was writing the novel. (see authors endnote.)
Occasionally the narrative voice throws an aside to the reader as if including them in an inside joke...these should have been edited out. IMO.
Finished Doc by Mary Doria Russell today and gave it 5 stars. I found it to be a really engaging piece of historical fiction.
Finished The Stonecutter by Camilla Lackberg last night. I really enjoy the Patrick Hedstrom mystery series by this author.
Just finished reading The Language of Flowers by Vanesaa Diffenbaugh. I really liked this story about a young woman who grew up as a ward of the court in the foster care system and transitions into adulthood, and motherhood. I gave it 4 stars.
Review for The Language of Flowers
Victoria is a young woman who at 18 is aging out of California's foster care system which she has been a part of since infancy. As she leaves the group home for the last time, she is reflecting on the year she was 10 and came closer to adoption than at any other time in her life. It was in that placement that she learned the "language of flowers" and how it was used to communicate during Victorian times.
Having grown up in a chaotic and sometimes hostile world, communication and relationships do not come easily to Victoria. This has hampered her education and her prospects for life outside the foster care system. She uses the one thing she knows, flowers, to find meager employment at a flowershop called Bloom. Although the employment is meager, the support and love she finds through Renata is a lifeline as she negotiates her past and tries to establish a future.
It turns out that her future is connected to that past, particularly that time when she was 10 years old, and gives her a brighter future than she had dared to dream.
Finished The Art Forger, an Early Reviewers selection
Claire Roth is a struggling Boston artist, whose career is clouded by a disastrous relationship with Isaac, one of the instructors in her MFA program. When the novel opens she is making her living making reproductions of great painters with the work of Degas being one of her specialties. Soon she is approached by a gallery owner associated with her past paramour to create a Degas reproduction, but not just any Degas. This is one is one of the paintings stolen from the Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990 in a heist that remains unsolved.
The author braids the fabric of this novel from three forged strands: One from the distant past of Isabella Gardner, one from the recent past of Claire Booth and Isaac , and one in the present. The first two thirds of the novel winds through these three time periods. The last third is firmly grounded in Claire's present day predicament over that Faustian bargain.
The author uses blends both fact and fiction about the museum, Isabella Stewart Gardner, and historical artworks to portray the fickle fortunes of artists and their work. As the main character, Claire does some wrong things for the right reasons and some right things for the wrong reasons which makes her a believable character.
There is suspense with plot twists and turns which hold the reader's interest and keeps the story moving to the surprising ending.
Note: This review is base on an Advanced Readers Copy received through Library Thing
Just finished Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin and gave it a 4 star rating. I doubt that I will see Spielberg's movie, but thoroughly enjoyed the audio version of this historical perspective. One of the odd effects the book had on me was to give me a perspective on our current political state which is just as dysfunctional as it was back then, and yet the country survived. So, perhaps there is more hope than I sometimes credit.
While speaking of hope....it looks as though I just may complete the year having read 75 books! Yay!
Finished The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce last night and gave it four stars. The writing in the story reminds me a little of Penelope Lively and Barbara Pym, with just a little more fantasy in the story line. As the title states, this is a novel of pilgrimage and we see Harold and his wife Maureen grow and come to terms with grief and loss through the journey.
#111: I heard so many different opinions about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - positive and negative. So, now I'm really curious and I hope that I'll soon find the time to read it.
Hi Kathy, I hope you like Harold. I said "fantasy" in my summary...perhaps "fantastic" would be the better word...as in: beyond belief, or unlikely to have happened.
Thanks for stopping by.
Am just starting The Lighthouse by Alison Moore which is shaping up to be another pilgrimage story, but a bit darker.
Finished Home by Toni Morrison this afternoon. I don't think I can write a better review than Wendy at http://www.librarything.com/work/11989747/reviews/88799042 has done.
I'll give the book 5 stars.
The Lighthouse Review:
Futh, a recently divorced middle aged man sets out on a walking holiday along the Rhine in Germany. When the book opens he is aboard a ferry crossing the North Sea while reflecting on a similar previous trip. That trip was with his father, who was making a pilgrimage after Futh's mother abandoned the small family of three, a pivotal event which henceforth defined Futh's life. It is a mystery why he thinks this is a good idea because we learn from his reflections that the earlier trip with his father was not particularly successful nor enjoyable.
Futh is socially awkward, with some obsessive compulsive behaviors and depressive thinking. He carries a small, silver lighthouse with him at all times which he took from his mother's purse before she left. His first and last lodgings on the walking tour are at a hotel called Hellhaus. It's meaning in German is "bright house" (lighthouse?), but its English meaning, hell house, is no accident.
At Hellhaus, Ester is introduced into the narrative, and from there the chapters alternate between Futh's and Ester's actions and memories. Futh's reflections on the past are circular with some of the same incidents revisited several times, each time giving the reader a bit more information.
This is one of those subtly ominous stories, where one senses darkness ahead even when the author is describing hot, sunny days. There is a lot of metaphor, mostly unlikable characters, and not much happiness in the story.
In visual arts, there is a technique of filling in the negative spaces to bring out a picture. Alison Moore has effectively used the writing parallel to this technique in the story.....What is not said is as important as what is included. But the narrative fleshes out the negative spaces for the reader to fill in the positive ones.
So, I was wrong.....the next book I picked up is Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen. It seems to fit with the Victoria Sweet books that I read earlier this year. It seems like a quick read, then I will get to Clay: A Novel.
Looking at my tally at the top, it appears that I will make the 75 books challenge this year. It has included both audio books and e-books this year. I didn't specifically keep track of book format this year, though I could probably search it out if I cared to. Perhaps that's a challenge for next year...keep track of formats to see how they are distributed through the reading list.
Sometimes audio books feel a bit like cheating on the challenge, but they are a good way to get in some reading on long road trips and when spending time at the loom. So it's not a format that I will abandon anytime soon. Tho, IMO not all audiobooks are equal.
Hard to believe that it's December already.
Finished Illuminations by Mary Sharratt this afternoon. This review covers it very well: http://www.librarything.com/work/12330073/reviews/91503497
I will probably read more of Mary Sharratt's writing.
Finished reading The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith. It's the second I've read of the Isabel Dalhousie series, the other one being Friends, Lovers, Chocolate. I can't say I'm in love with the series. The author has constructed the character of Isabel as an ethicist, but the narrative reveals her to be a moralist. That gets a bit tiresome after awhile. Then again how often do you get to read books of fiction that include the word "akrasia" in the narrative?
Finished A Dedicated Man by Peter Robinson last week. It was my first Alan Banks mystery. It is the second of the Alan Banks mystery series. We like to listen to mysteries, especially British mysteries on car trips. Having exhausted some of our other favorite titles, this series seems like it will do well for that purpose.
Just did a tally of books completed this year and I am within 3 completed books for the 75 books challenge. Since I am almost through with at least 3 books, I'm sure I will make the challenge for 2012. Woot!
Just finished Clay: a novel by Melissa Harrison which was ER selection. Am collecting my thoughts for a review.
Review for Clay: a Novel by Melissa Harrison
This story takes place over a 12 month period with each chapter titled for an event on the Christian calendar, which also tend to mark the passing of the seasons. The setting for the book is an area of open land in inner city London: a run down park established in the Victorian era, a commons area bounded by road and railway, and an old oak woods that run along the embankment of the commons.
Bordering this open land is Plestor Estate, a housing development which has seen better days. It is the home of Sophia, a grandmother who raised her family on the estate and is mourning the loss of her husband who died shortly after his retirement. Her granddaughter, Daisy lives with her parents in a more gentrified area of the neighborhood. Plestor is also the home of TC, a nine-going-on-ten year old boy who has recently witnessed the breakup of his family and his father's departure which feels more like a disappearance. Completing the quartet of main characters is Jozef, a polish immigrant whose farm, handed down through generations, was lost due to EU development .
TC, Sophia, and Jozef share the experiences of recent loss, a sense of dislocation, and an innate love of the natural world. Through each chapter the author describes the happenings in the natural world, while the characters struggle with modern city life and find solace in the flora and fauna of the park and commons area. They form a loosely linked kinship, especially between TC and Jozef and his dog, Znadja (Polish for foundling). Sophia introduces Daisy into this world, through gardening and observation of nature, as well encouraging her to play with TC. Alas, Daisy is not of their world (spoiler alert) and it is her grounding in the life of the modern world that brings the idyll down.
I use the term idyll deliberately because the author's writing has a sense of pastoral poetry buried within. During descriptions of events in the park and the woods, I kept thinking of T.S. Eliot's 'The Wasteland'. Then the phrase from which the novel derives its name appeared on p. 185 (advance reader's copy) "We are the clay that grew tall.." This phrase is paraphrased from Wifred Owen's WWI poem 'Futility": "Was it for this the clay grew tall?" If you look up the poem, you'll find that many of the other phrases of the poem feel familiar after reading this novel.
This is a small but ambitious first novel which I feel privileged to have read in advance of it's release.
Finding myself with the annual Christmas virus, there has been plenty of couch time with a good book, and naps in between.
Today I started and finished Between the Corn Rows written by our former pastor whom we knew for about 18 years before his retirement. Though written in the story telling tradition, he used remembered events from growing up on an Iowa farm during the Depression and WWII. Having read the book, it is easy to see why he was so good at facilitating community life in our church. Subsequent pastors have been challenged by that, but for Pastor Bob, it was bred in the bone (with a nod to Robertson Davies).
With the completion of that book, I am now one short for the 75 books challenge. Yay!! With 11 days left to the year, and at least one more day of suffering this cold, I will complete at least one more book for the year.
Finished The Light Between Oceans last night. I give it 4 stars....the writing is very well done, especially for a first novel. I'll write a review after digesting it a bit more.
Also, did a recount on my list and find that I was wrong in the previous post. Now I am still one short of the 75 completed books for the year. There's still more than two days left, so I may just meet my goal. Stay tuned.....
Woot!! I did it!! Finished The Round House by Louise Erdrich this evening before the clock struck midnight.
So....the 75 books challenge is met!
Thanks for your encouragement, Genny and Lori. And Happy New Year!!
I'll start the 2013 challenge thread tomorrow with a list of books to be read.
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