Chatterbox's Adventures in Bibliomania in 2012 -- The Second 75 -- Episode Two
This is a continuation of the topic Chatterbox's Adventures in Bibliomania in 2012 -- The Second 75 -- Episode One.
This topic was continued by Chatterbox's Adventures in Bibliomania in 2012 -- The Second 75 -- Episode Three.
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As usual, I'm opening with a poem. This is from Denise Levertov, a 20th century American poet; the choice prompted by discovering that bio of her will be published shortly, and because the poem's topic deals with questions of roots and identity, which always fascinate me (and which I'm writing a story about, and if the gods are with me, a book...) Levertov died of lymphoma; she composed right up until almost the day of her death, and several dozen of her works were published posthumously.
A Map of the Western Part of the County of Essex in England
Denise Levertov -- 1923-1997
Something forgotten for twenty years: though my fathers
and mothers came from Cordova and Vitepsk and Caernarvon,
and though I am a citizen of the United States and less a
stranger here than anywhere else, perhaps,
I am Essex-born:
Cranbrook Wash called me into its dark tunnel,
the little streams of Valentines heard my resolves,
Roding held my head above water when I thought it was
drowning me; in Hainault only a haze of thin trees
stood between the red doubledecker buses and the boar-hunt,
the spirit of merciful Phillipa glimmered there.
Pergo Park knew me, and Clavering, and Havering-atte-Bower,
Stanford Rivers lost me in osier beds, Stapleford Abbots
sent me safe home on the dark road after Simeon-quiet evensong,
Wanstead drew me over and over into its basic poetry,
in its serpentine lake I saw bass-viols among the golden dead leaves,
through its trees the ghost of a great house. In
Ilford High Road I saw the multitudes passing pale under the
light of flaring sundown, seven kings
in somber starry robes gathered at Seven Kings
the place of law
where my birth and marriage are recorded
and the death of my father. Woodford Wells
where an old house was called The Naked Beauty (a white
statue forlorn in its garden)
saw the meeting and parting of two sisters,
(forgotten? and further away
the hill before Thaxted? where peace befell us? not once
but many times?).
All the Ivans dreaming of their villages
all the Marias dreaming of their walled cities,
picking up fragments of New World slowly,
not knowing how to put them together nor how to join
image with image, now I know how it was with you, an old map
made long before I was born shows ancient
rights of way where I walked when I was ten burning with desire
for the world's great splendors, a child who traced voyages
indelibly all over the atlas, who now in a far country
remembers the first river, the first
field, bricks and lumber dumped in it ready for building,
that new smell, and remembers
the walls of the garden, the first light.
And we're back -- for Volume II (aka the second batch of 75 books), Episode II....
As always, looking forward to your company and comments on the books I'm chomping through at an accelerating rate.... It's always interesting to share thoughts on these works.
Here's a running tally of the books I've read in total for 2012:
And here is the ticker for the second batch of 75 books:
I don't include books I will read for the 12 in 12 challenge toward the 75-book challenge, though I'll always report on everything that I have read in these threads: it's a "one-stop shopping" for my reading.
I like to balance my reading between non-fiction and fiction; between "serious" tomes and more frivolous fluffy books that provide great entertainment if little in the way of nutritional value. I'm a big mystery fan, I read historical fiction and chick lit and am tip-toeing into the worlds of fantasy and sci-fi, although VERY selectively. Any kind of book can be a "thumping good read"; I'd rather read a mystery that falls into that category than a much-acclaimed or buzzed-about book that I find pretentious or self-conscious (one in which the author seems more intent on telling the world how smart he or she is than on capturing the reader's full attention.) Good writing, good characters, a great plot are the keys to a good writing -- all need to be present and accounted for. When it comes to non-fiction, my expectations are a little lower -- I can cope with more clunky writing if the story being told is fabulous.
I rate my reading using fractions (eg 1.7, 3.9, etc.) and it's basically to try and capture the nuances. Some guidelines:
1.5 or less: A tree gave its life so that this book could be printed and distributed?
1.5 to 2.7: Are you really prepared to give up hours of your life for this?? I wouldn't recommend doing so...
2.8 to 3.3: Do you need something to fill in some time waiting to see the dentist? Either reasonably good within a ho-hum genre (chick lit or thrillers), something that's OK to read when you've nothing else with you, or that you'll find adequate to pass the time and forget later on.
3.4 to 3.8: Want to know what a thumping good read is like, or a book that has a fascinating premise, but doesn't quite deliver? This is where you'll find 'em.
3.9 to 4.4: So, you want a hearty endorsement? These books have what it takes to make me happy I read them.
4.5 to 5: The books that I wish I hadn't read yet, so I could experience the joy of discovering them again for the first time. Sometimes disquieting, sometimes sentimental faves, sometimes dramatic -- they are a highly personal/subjective group at the top of the pile in my judgment.
I'm still trying to get back to blogging, as those nice NetGalley folks are going to stop giving me galleys to read if I don't... As well as NetGalley books, I'll be reading a number of galleys or advance review copies here as I'm getting a steady stream of these from Early Reviewers, Amazon Vine and the publishers themselves. I also get a lot of books from England, some of which might be harder to find in North America -- apologies in advance...
Here's where I'm at in the second batch of 75 books; if you want to see what I read for the first 75 books, just click back to Episode Four...
1. The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle, ****, READ 4/8/12 (fiction)
2. The House on Willow Street by Cathy Kelly, ***1/2, STARTED 4/6/12, FINISHED 4/8/12 (fiction)
3. Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick, *** 1/2, STARTED 4/8/12, FINISHED 4/9/12 (fiction)
4. Requiem: A Hallucination by Antonio Tabucchi, ****, STARTED 4/8/12, FINISHED 4/10/12 (fiction)
5. The Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot, ***1/2, STARTED 4/6/12, FINISHED 4/10/12 (fiction)
6. *Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, ****, STARTED 4/11/12, FINISHED 4/12/12 (fiction)
7. The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott, ****, STARTED 4/11/12, FINISHED 4/12/12 (fiction)
8. Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer, ***1/2, STARTED 4/9/12, FINISHED 4/13/12 (fiction)
9. *Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, ****, STARTED 4/12/12, FINISHED 4/13/12 (fiction)
10. Going Solo by Eric Klinenberg, ****1/2, STARTED 4/12/12, FINISHED 4/14/12 (non-fiction)
11. Hit Lit by James Hall, ****, STARTED 4/8/12, FINISHED 4/16/12 (non-fiction)
12. Reading Chekhov by Janet Malcolm, ***1/2, STARTED 4/3/12, FINISHED 4/16/12 (non-fiction)
13. Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace by Kate Summerscale, ***1/2, STARTED 3/20/12, FINISHED 4/17/12 (non-fiction)
14. The Columbus Affair by Steve Berry, ***, STARTED 4/15/12, FINISHED 4/17/12 (fiction)
15. An American Chick in Saudi Arabia by Jean Sasson, *, STARTED 4/17/12, FINISHED 4/18/12 (non-fiction)
16. Mr. Kill by Martin Limon, ***1/2, STARTED 4/17/12, FINISHED 4/18/12 (fiction)
17. The People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry, ****1/2, STARTED 4/16/12, FINISHED 4/19/12 (non-fiction)
18. The Hunter by John Lescroart, ****, STARTED 3/29/12, FINISHED 4/20/12 (fiction)
19. Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett, ****, STARTED 4/19/12, FINISHED 4/21/12 (fiction)
20. Incendiary by Chris Cleave, **** STARTED 4/10/12, FINISHED 4/21/12 (fiction)
21. Another Piece of my Heart by Jane Green, **1/2, STARTED 4/20/12, FINISHED 4/22/12 (fiction)
22. Moth Smoke by Mohsin Hamid, ****1/2, STARTED 4/22/12, FINISHED 4/23/12 (fiction)
23. Frossia by E.M. Almedingen, **1/2, STARTED 4/8/12, FINISHED 4/24/12 (fiction)
24. The Luxe by Anna Godbersen, **, STARTED 4/2/12, FINISHED 4/28/12 (fiction)
25. The Fatal Touch by Conor Fitzgerald, ****, STARTED 4/24/12, FINISHED 4/29/12 (fiction)
26. A Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel Spark, ****, STARTED 4/28/12, FINISHED 4/29/12 (fiction)
27. Sacrilege by S.J. Parris, ****, STARTED 4/24/12, FINISHED 4/30/12 (fiction)
28. Private Games by James Patterson, **1/2, STARTED 4/29/12, FINISHED 4/30/12 (fiction)
29. Hood Rat by Gavin Knight, ****1/2, STARTED 4/30/12, FINISHED 5/2/12 (non-fiction)
30. Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal, ****1/2, READ 5/4/12 (fiction)
31. Midnight in Peking by Paul French, ****, STARTED 5/2/12, FINISHED 5/4/12 (non-fiction)
32. Bleed for Me by Michael Robotham, ****, STARTED 5/4/12, FINISHED 5/5/12 (fiction)
33. Our Man in Tehran by Robert Wright, ****, STARTED 5/5/12, FINISHED 5/6/12 (non-fiction)
34. The Witness by Nora Robert, ***, READ 5/6/12 (fiction)
35. Who are We and Should it Matter in the 21st Century? by Gary Younge, ****, STARTED 5/6/12, FINISHED 5/7/12 (non-fiction)
36. A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming, ****1/2, STARTED 5/7/12, FINISHED 5/8/12 (fiction)
37. The Hunt for KSM by Terry McDermott & Josh Meyer, ****, STARTED 5/8/12, FINISHED 5/12/12 (non-fiction)
38. Wish You Were Here by Graham Swift, ****1/2, STARTED 4/28/12, FINISHED 5/14/12 (fiction)
39. Copenhagen by Michael Frayn, ****1/2, STARTED 5/12/12, FINISHED 5/15/12 (drama)
40. Murder at Mansfield Park by Lynn Shepherd, ***, STARTED 5/12/12, FINISHED 5/15/12 (fiction)
41. Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman, ***1/2, STARTED 5/15/12, FINISHED 5/17/12 (non-fiction)
42. Darkmarket by Misha Glenny, ****1/2, STARTED 5/17/12, FINISHED 5/18/12 (non-fiction)
43. A Corpse at St. Andrew's Chapel by Mel Starr, ***, STARTED 5/16/12, FINISHED 5/18/12 (fiction)
44. White Gold by Giles Milton, ****1/2, STARTED 5/17/12, FINISHED 5/19/12 (non-fiction)
45. The Cost of Hope by Amanda Bennett, ****1/2, STARTED 5/22/12, FINISHED 5/23/12 (non-fiction)
46. The Yard by Alex Grecian, **1/2, STARTED 5/18/12, FINISHED 5/23/12 (fiction)
47. The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett, ***1/2, STARTED 4/21/12, FINISHED 5/23/12 (fiction)
48. Circle of Shadows by Imogen Robertson, ****1/2, STARTED 5/25/12, FINISHED 5/27/12 (fiction)
49. The Namesake by Conor Fitzgerald, ***, STARTED 5/20/12, FINISHED 5/25/12 (fiction)
50. Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre, ****1/2, STARTED 5/24/12, FINISHED 5/28/12 (non-fiction)
51. The White Russian by Tom Bradby, ****, STARTED 5/27/12, FINISHED 5/28/12 (fiction)
52. The Good Father by Noah Hawley, ***1/2, STARTED 5/28/12, FINISHED 5/29/12 (fiction)
53. The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett, ****, STARTED 5/24/12, FINISHED 5/30/12 (fiction)
54. Dorchester Terrace by Anne Perry, ***, STARTED 5/25/12, FINISHED 5/30/12 (fiction)
55. Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje, ****, STARTED 5/19/12, FINISHED 5/31/12 (fiction)
56. Prince by Rory Clements, ****, STARTED 5/28/12, FINISHED 5/31/12 (fiction)
57. The Angry Hills by Leon Uris, *** STARTED 6/1/12, FINISHED 6/3/12 (fiction)
58. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, ***, READ 6/4/12 (fiction)
59. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, ***1/2, STARTED 6/5/12, FINISHED 6/8/12 (fiction)
60. Meltwater by Michael Ridpath, ***, STARTED 6/9/12, FINISHED 6/12/12 (fiction)
61. Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues by Trisha Ashley, ***1/2, STARTED 6/13/12, FINISHED 6/15/12 (fiction)
62. What Comes Next by John Katzenbach, ***1/2, STARTED 6/14/12, FINISHED 6/17/12 (fiction)
63. Defending Jacob by William Landay ****, STARTED 6/17/12, FINISHED 6/19/12 (fiction)
64. City of Women by David Gillham, ***1/2, STARTED 6/19/12, FINISHED 6/20/12 (fiction)
65. Socrates by Paul Johnson, ****, STARTED 6/16/12, FINISHED 6/21/12 (non-fiction)
66. Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett, ***1/2, STARTED 6/5/12, FINISHED 6/22/12 (fiction)
66. Her Highness the Traitor by Susan Higginbotham, ***, STARTED 6/20/12, FINISHED 6/23/12 (fiction)
67. Istanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon, ****, STARTED 6/22/12, FINISHED 6/24/12 (fiction)
68. A Trail of Ink by Mel Starr, **1/2, STARTED 6/21/12, FINISHED 6/25/12 (fiction)
#1 I really love your poem - it's got an incredible sense of place and belonging, and always having loved maps myself it really appeals the way the map is associated with that. My husband collects antique maps and we've got one of Essex dating from about 1840 perhaps, so i got it down off the wall and had a really good look at it for the first time in years. I love the way that while some things on old maps are the same, some have changed out of all recognition. As a child I was always fascinated by the idea that whole towns and villages could disappear. We don't live in Essex (the border goes round the town where we live) but very close so several of the places mentioned are familiar to me.
I'm not much of a poetry lover, Suzanne, so I gave up after 3 lines. Just want to say hi and drool over your current reads.
Suz - congrats on the latest installment. I am an admirer of Levertov, but I love Lynda's honesty! It was a good first three lines though wasnt it?!
Yes, the phrases that really resonated most with me, on a person level, were at the beginning -- "though I am a citizen of the United States and less a stranger here than anywhere else" -- and toward the end, where she writes, "a child who traced voyages indelibly all over the atlas, who now in a far country remembers the first river, the first field". When I was young, I would take my father's spinning globe -- not a big one, but it had the mountains in a very muted 3D, so the Himalayas were a little bump on its surface -- close my eyes, spin it with my index finger outstretched, and see where it landed when the globe stopped spinning. So my curiosity about faraway places began at a very young age!!
Woke up with nascent migraine, so am trying to move slowly today. But I do have to go buy some food. Phooey.
Oh Suzanne, glad to find a short new thread I can hop onto! I do love the poem... Not only do I also identify with those themes of displacement, place, roots and identity, also I lived for 5 years in Chelmsford in Essex, not far from many of the places mentioned in the poem, and discovering something about a much maligned county full of the remnants of ancient forest, royal hunting grounds and great houses as well as all the brash new build.
And I love the line 'sent me safe home on the dark road after Simeon-quiet evensong' - very evocative.
Haven't read any of the ones you've read so far in your 2nd 75...
Hello, Suzanne. Just catching up after a busy week. Sounds like you had one yourself!
Ugh, just got an e-mail from someone I have considered a v. close friend, even though our friendship has become less close over the years, since I started writing my book about Wall St. You see, that is where she work, now at a v. senior level; she didn't like the idea of my writing the book (and implied that I wasn't quite smart enough to do it), and although I never asked her to help with it (and she never volunteered) she also never read it, never congratulated me, or did any of the things friends do. Spent Xmas with them year before last (or rather, Boxing Day): i have known her daughter, now at university, since she was learning to walk. And now I get an e-mail bec. I had posted my columns online, and for some reason she was getting notifications from Facebook. My ex-friend believed I was sending them, and sent me a stiff and unpleasant little note. It's sad. A friendship where people drift apart is sad enough, but this is really unpleasant -- she seems to be assuming that I have done things I haven't, based on our friendship. Ironically, this happened the day after I sent a message to her husband saying, I'm sure she doesn't want a message in her inbox from a journalist right now, but please tell her she is in my thoughts. So actually, I was bending over backwards to avoid doing what she has assumed I did.
OK, I'm obviously v. upset, and my head aches, so that's that for the day, I think.
Friendship..by its very nature...is a Mine Field
Yours, because of the Publishing angle, is double threatened....and triple threatened because of that damned Facebook
Friendships drift, every day...I hate to see one of yours crash because of FB
By the way.....i like your book....and my friend Seth (Toledo, Ohio)...is the one who actually made me read the damned thing!
You have friends...like it or not
Thanks, Jude -- v. thoughtful... It's just the idea that I have struggled so long to balance work and friendship, and she was so very quick to jump to the conclusion that I had done something that I have battled to avoid for at least a decade. Instead of her picking up the phone, I get a curt e-mail; very officious in tone. After this long, she should have known me better.
Yep....the SHE friends....we hope to "know better"...given our lives/situations...sometimes never register
Blindness sucks, no?
Yes, Levertov is great. This weekend isn't, alas. Major migraine, so little/no reading.
ETA: Hauled self out of bed to get to brunch place where I know they serve until 4:30. Got there 4:15, was seated, handed menu; someone came at 4:23 to take my order -- but when I placed it told me I couldn't order from brunch menu because "the computers were closed for brunch". All dinner food there is meat-based or heavy dairy, neither of which I can eat with migraine, so that was that. Walked over to another restaurant, where brunch had ended an hour earlier. They whipped me up an omelette with leftover eggs -- and refused to let me pay for it. Customer service winner? Well, you guess... :-)
Suzanne, sorry for your erstwhile friend and the migraine, but cheers for the kind folks at the last restaurant! I hope that you wake up really better Monday morning. And I love the Levertov too - for me the main attraction is the place names. ---but who was Phillipa?
I think prob Philippa of Hainault, queen of Edward III. she was known for her charitable deeds; I think the Essex Hainualt was named for her. (The real place is in what was Flanders -- Belgium today).
See that Ina R. Drew has resigned from JP Morgan Chase (NYT). Even though I don't know beans about economics, I'm going to read your article. So sorry about your head--allergies are bad up here, so have had a few "heads" myself, although I don't go into the migraine zone any more. Aw crud about the email--I wonder if a FB friend automatically gets sent these notifications and is there any way to block them? I wish people would err on the side of kindness and compassion instead of defaulting to mean-spiritededness and negativity.
Suz - sorry to hear about your turbulent and pain ridden weekend. It is amazing how many of our "friends" resent every small success that comes our way and reacts with glee at the setbacks that befall us. I have pared down so many friendships along the path of 30 years or so that mainly only the good and genuine ones remain.
I for one want only the best for all my friends and don't have a jealous bone in my body (well except for collections of books that make mine look paltry!) - part of the joy of life is in celebrating the success of those we care about isn't it. Well I wish you every success anyway especially if it would put both of us in control of a certain book shop!
I think your response to Peggy in #18 is correct by the way.
Tui, yes, I think FB sends out notifications when they think it's a story your "friend" will be interested in, and it's up to you to tell FB what notifications you do/don't want. So JP Morgan triggered an alert at FB, and they sent it to my friend (who is not Ina Drew, but at least as senior, if not more so, over there.) She flirted with Facebook, and then took most of the stuff down (I think she only put up her profile to get access to some family pics, if I recall). For some reason, however, she had not deleted her profile, though, which is why she got the notification.
Paul, I don't think it's resentment; it's that because I don't share her opinions on Wall Street, and because I wasn't writing a book about that was complex and scholarly, but aiming it at the very broad public, she disapproved. In contrast, she loved Gillian Tett's book, Fool's Gold, and called it "very smart". Mine, you see, was simply not "smart". I don't expect her to share my views/opinions of the media and how it works (which she has plenty of...), or to concede that hers might not be very smart if they don't coincide with my own insights.
Head still v. bad, but I have to write two items for the Thomson Reuters website I edit tonight so they can post tomorrow. Thankfully, they are short. Out of icepacks, rats, damn.
Loeb awards for best business book shortlist out today:
Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo for Poor Economics published by PublicAffairs
Walter Isaacson for Steve Jobs published by Simon & Schuster
Diana B. Henriques for The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust published by Times Books
Bill Vlasic for Once Upon a Car published by William Morrow
No bets taken on the eventual winner...
Just passing through and hoping your migraine has vanished. Take care of yourself.
Thanks, Judy -- doing better, with headache gone and just post-migraine exhaustion to deal with -- but that's manageable!!
Finished two more books, thankfully.
171. The Darkening Field by William Ryan is the second in a series featuring Soviet militia detective Korolev; it's 1937 and once again he's somehow found himself investigating a crime at the behest of a high Politburo member, Ezhov (whom I always think of as "Yezhov", so the alternate spelling was annoying...) In this case, Korolev is dispatched to a country house near Odessa, the site of a film project; a top Soviet director is filming the story of a young boy who betrays his family as capitalists and hoarders to the authorities, proving his devotion to the Party. Needless to say, in the aftermath of brutal collectivization, not all is peaceful in the Ukrainian countryside, and Korolev finds himself unable to figure out which he fears more: the Politburo types who could have him taken out and shot without blinking (he's just waiting for that midnight knock on the door; he even has a suitcase packed to take the Lubyanka); the prospect that counter-revolutionaries are planning insurrection in the Ukraine, or the presence of Kolya, the head of the Moscow Thieves, a nasty early version of the Russian mob, who seems intent on doing Korolev a "favor". And to make matters worse, he doesn't know if any of them really want to find out whether the young woman on the movie's production team was murdered or killed herself. A standard whodunnit, but with an interesting (to me) historical backdrop and some intriguing characters; I didn't find it quite as fresh and intriguing as book #1, but I'm glad I read it. 4 stars, for my 12 in 12 challenge.
172. Just wrote a longish review of "Wish You Were Here" by Graham Swift for Amazon, so pls forgive me if I don't rehash it all here and instead direct you to that review... Especially after I have spent the last 10 minutes hunting in vain for a touchstone for the bloody book. Which is actually very good, albeit very intense: Jack Luxton's brother, Tom, dies in Iraq and his death and burial trigger a crisis in Jack, who has been forced to abandon the Devon farm his family owned for generations after mad cow disease and hoof & mouth took their toll on their cattle operation. But as the reader discovers, nothing that Jack has experienced has ever really left him, even though he's now operating holiday caravans on the Isle of Wight, and Tom's death brings it all bubbling to the surface. The conclusion is a powerful one, and it kind of creeps up on you in an elegant and intense novel. Recommended, but not if you're feeling gloomy. 4.4 stars.
Suz, I'm really sorry to read about your friend's email. I hope she thinks about what she's said and one day changes her mind, but that's not much consolation.
I have Poor Economics here - it was my husband's birthday present to me in March - and the intro is excellent! Soon, soon, soon...
Wow, I had the single best night's sleep that I can remember having in at least a year, possibly two. A full 8 hours, uninterrupted. It's disconcerting to realize that this is now so rare that it merits quasi-public comment...
A good night's sleep puts everything into perspective. Too bad about your ex-friend, Suz. It's her loss! My husband got home from his China trip last night so I slept well, too. I'm just a little bit on edge when he's so far away. He said there was one smog-free day while he was there. He's a runner so he really notices the air quality. He couldn't get over the blue Missouri sky this morning!
Was he in Beijing, Donna? My first trip there was at about this time of year -- maybe a bit later in May -- and I remember how the sky always felt lowering, as if there were a storm looming. I also developed a sore throat, that persisted throughout my stay. My second trip to Beijing was in winter, and while it was bloody cold (I have pics on FB of me and the videographer standing on the Great Wall, perilously close to turning into blocks of ice) the skies were a beautiful pristine blue. I think they get more "clear sky days" in winter.
Being an Olympic sleeper, I congratulate you on a good night's one, Suzanne. I hope you can put another one beside it tonight.
I love reading tidbits about places I'll never go; Glad that your husband is home, Donna.
I can't locate a copy of Wish You Were Here yet, but I ordered a Waterland from PBS to tide me over and put Poor Economics on the list there too. Thanks, Suz.
I should have mentioned that the Graham Swift novel is an ARC -- I think it just came out or is just about to come out.
On to my next ARC, The Queen's Vow by CW Gortner, about Isabella of Castile.
27> Wow, I had the single best night's sleep that I can remember having in at least a year, possibly two. A full 8 hours, uninterrupted. It's disconcerting to realize that this is now so rare that it merits quasi-public comment...
This completely cracked me up! Nice new thread, Suz.
Glad to generate a laugh, Ellen! Yes, it was delightful and refreshing. Hope I manage to do it again tonight.
But before I make the effort, must update my book list!
173. Copenhagen by Michael Frayn -- When I first saw this performed in London, it blew my brain out. Well, not literally, but the sheer intellect required to follow the impeccable dialog, the way in which Frayn draws parallels between the principles of physics and human lives in the shape of Niels Bohr and Heinsenberg, and Bohr's long-suffering wife, Margarethe, is really quite extraordinary. The intensity is levied with wit, so that even when the physics raced beyond my ability to follow, Frayn still manages to make his point. Something I noticed reading this play was that Frayn didn't include stage directions. I remember it being a minimalist stage, almost theater in the round, but I still found it was up to me to pick out when one of them was speaking to the audience rather than each other. I understand why he didn't take that extra step (at least in my NT edition) but kinda wish he had as it might tempt more people to read it. As with many plays, reading it is a very different experience than seeing the performance, and gives me a chance to really appreciate the playwright's need for precision. 4.5 stars, just as good as in the theater!
174. Murder at Mansfield Park by Lynn Shepherd was kinda meh, which is unfortunate, as I have her second book sitting on my Kindle awaiting my attention. It's a riff on Austen, of course, only in this case Fanny Price is an obnoxious and manipulative heiress and Mary Crawford the quintessential heroine of Austen's novels. I enjoyed it quite well until Fanny is found dead and a "thief-taker" from London arrives -- deus ex machina! -- to identify the evil-doer. There's another unnecessary death, there's a lot of "nudge nudge, wink wink" moments (isn't it too bad we can't tell who handled the bloody hammer, one character muses; another frets that they wouldn't be able to tell that blood on her gown was her own; there are all kinds of aha, but in a century or two... moments that were very gratuitous.) Also annoying: the language. There's a difference between avoiding obvious malapropisms and going whole hot and reading everything written every thing every time became deeply, deeply annoying. So I've knocked it down to 3.2 stars. Meh. If you want to read it, go ahead, but I have to say I'm now in nor hurry to move on to her book. Happily, I have several dozen others commanding my attention!
Wish You Were Here by Graham Swift has been out in Malaysia a while as a result of its British origins. I am an admirer of his work which is deceptively simple and always readable. Waterland is in my opinion the best thing he has written by a country mile.
You are right though Suz the touchstone isn't easy to locate and it is surprising how many similarly named tiltes there are.
I had the same experience being completely knocked out by seeing Copenhagen. The production I saw was in the round, and the characters would walk out the aisles through the audience, loop around, and come back "on stage" during some of the dialogue--it was a really neat visual representation of some of the themes and physics in the play.
Heavens, Laura, and there you have just reinforced the brilliance of this play! I hadn't even thought of that, but of course -- there's even a point where Heisenberg and Bohr are discussing their relative theories, and Heisenberg suggests imagining that Copenhagen is the atom and Maragarethe the nucleus, with Bohr being the wandering electron that Heisenberg has been despatched to locate as a photon -- the idea being to illustrate uncertainty and the way the elements "bounce off" and change directions. Which is, of course, what is happening in the play as the "elemenets/characters" and their recollections bounce off each other.
It's a great reminder that this could really only have been done this effectively in a play -- and of what drama can do/be. You can tell the story in a short story or a novel or a non-fiction book, but in a play, you can enhance it, illustrate it with action -- the words and the music as the debate had it in that Strauss opera (was it Ariadne auf Naxos?).
See, this is still capable of making my brain dance around.
And my next play will be just as good, I think, if I can find where I put it. I had the same reaction to Arcadia when I saw it in NYC at the Lincoln Center in perhaps 1994. I'm still cross at myself for missing out on the chance to see it again in the recent revival, but it made me a big Stoppard fan. As Copenhagen did with Frayn. Although prior to seeing the latter, I had seen Noises Off on a theater trip in high school and adored it, funny and still smart and an antidote to the unrelieved dreariness of Coriolanus. Can't remember what our third play was, but remember envying the prior year as they had caught Equus. I do remember getting a backstage tour of the NT!
Suz, most stage directions in scripts come from the first production of a play, and not from the playwright at all (except for Shaw, of course). I saw the play in New York in a standard proscenium arch theater, and it was amazingly powerful. In the round would have been wonderful in a whole different way.
Jim just commented the other night that he had gotten a book on the same subject (Heisenberg and Bohr) - can't recall the name just now. I wonder how it stands up to the play.
Happiness consists in getting enough sleep. Just that, nothing more. ― Robert A. Heinlein
Ha, that would explain it... The only other play I've read recently, other than Shakespeare, was Sartre's Kean (which I loved), which had lots of stage directions incorporated. An old, out of print edition, alas, with very fragile paper. I would check Arcadia, except now Molly-cat is sleeping on top of it -- letting sleeping cats lie. I did notice that Rufus Sewell debuted the lead male role in the London production -- he also played the lead in "Rock and Roll", the last Stoppard I saw in London several years ago (and really liked).
Tui, LOL. Which would explain why I'm being back to being grumpy on only 4 hours of the stuff....
Just a quick update...
175. The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner is a historical novel focusing on the author's forte -- making more sympathetic and understandable to a contemporary audience a rather controversial queen -- by exploring Isabella of Castile, now known for expelling the Jews, beginning the exploitation of colonial era Latin America and putting in place the Spanish Inquisition. Gortner makes a smart choice, concentrating on the sheer improbability of her becoming queen of Castile and her battles to stay out of danger and claim her birthright. (She married Ferdinand of Aragon -- he was only ever king consort of Castile; their youngest daughter was Catherine of Aragon.) The book falters a bit in the second half, with Isabella and "Fernando" now on the throne and trying to throw the Moors out of Spain -- it feels more like a novelization of events than a novel. Still a good read for historical fiction afficionados, although unlike Wolf Hall, it's not going to make anyone a fan of the genre. I found it fascinating; the only other book I've read that I enjoyed that was as well-researched was Crown of Aloes, and that was probably 40 years ago. 3.9 stars, for my 12 in 12 challenge.
ETA book acquisitions:
Coming soon from Amazon Vine: Ben Macintyre's latest book about WW2 spies, and the upcoming memoir by Amanda Bennett, a friend and former colleague, about the battle to keep her husband from succumbing to cancer.
From NetGalley, two novels that I would never have purchased, including the upcoming Joseph Kanon book.
Another sleep quote that comes to mind: "Get some rest. If you haven't got your health, you haven't got anything." Count Rugen
Thanks for yet another addition to the historical novel pile. :)
Well, I have been reading, but failing to update. My laptop has been giving me grief and slowing down to a crawl, so I finally succumbed to the inevitable: I am the proud owner of a new Mac "Air". This is going to make commuting with laptop feasible for the first time!! Next weekend, the Macbook Pro is going in for some diagnostic tests. If there's no malware or any other nasty stuff on there, I'll have the content transferred over to this one, and keep that for a backup. I never thought I'd become a Mac aficionado, but I swear that after two years with this old laptop, the only real structural problem has been a "6" key that sticks a bit, and the slowness, which is very new. Compared to complete system meltdowns, dead motherboards, non-working power points, keys that fall off the keyboard (?!?) and so on. Incredibly robust critters.
Anyway, the books!
176. The Corpse at St. Andrew's Chapel by Mel Starr was simply OK, nothing more. I admit I became very impatient with Hugh de Singleton, the medieval physician turned bailiff, as he investigated this murder mystery -- he muses ponderously and wonders if things are connected, and I want to scream at him, d'uh, I figured that out 50 pages ago. (And I'm not the sort of reader who actively tries to outwit imaginary detectives, so...) Lots of self-evident stuff, lots of tedious description of what he sits down to eat at every meal (yes, we know you did your research, dear author...) For me, this warmed up a lot when Singleton makes his forays to Oxford, where he hangs out with a parchment vendor named Caxton (!) and John Wycliff, he professor and mentor. Since #3 in this series focuses on Wycliff and seems to take place largely in Oxford, I sighed and downloaded it, but if it's not better than the last two, it will be my last such purchase. (The series, for some odd reason, is not available in the Brooklyn library system...) 3 stars.
177. Darkmarket by Misha Glenny: Wow, though Hood Rat remains my fave from amongst the nominees for this year's Orwell Prize, this is another very very strong book, which is going to make the competition very close! (I've now read four of the six nominees; the only one I'm lukewarm about is The Beautiful and the Damned by Siddhartha Deb; I'll start reading Julia Lovell's book on the opium war in China next, but don't plan to read the final finalist, which is too UK-centric for me, and too much focused on military history.) Glenny comes to chronicling evildoing honestly: he wrote the fabulously chilling McMafia -- after reading it, you'll be grateful you live where you do, but v.v. worried about what the global wealth gap might mean for criminality and anarchy. In this case, he focuses squarely on something we all should probably be thinking about -- cybercrime, and specifically the "carding" business of cloning or "skimming" our credit cards. But he tells the story through the people engaged in doing it or battling it and in the process delivers some fascinating tales. (A fave of mine is Bilal Sen, the Turkish cop who, after being sent to his first post in darkest Anatolia, where there isn't a single computer in town, decides to learn Chinese...) Definitely recommended! I couldn't put it down; 4.6 stars.
178. Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman seems to be a very controversial book: for every five star rating on Amazon, there's a one-star rating. It's a memoir written by a former member of the Satmar Hassidic community, who walked away from her roots, full of lots of detail on everything from her father's mental illness to the difficulty in consummating her marriage. I can see where the critics are coming from -- the nature of her life among the Satmar community was not calculated to make her feel a part of the community, and so her wholesale dismissal of its mores has to be put in that context -- but also where those who love this book are coming from, as it's a picture of girl growing to womanhood aware that she will have no freedom to vary the path laid out for her without facing expulsion from the community. With no dog in this fight, I probably fall somewhere in the middle. Living in Brooklyn, I see a lot of the Hassids around (they all shop at the Target store 2 blocks from my house) and can understand how someone who is independent minded and curious would kick against the restrictions. On the other hand, while this was an interesting glimpse inside a world that I only ever see from the outside, it's a memoir written by a woman in her mid-20s -- still not terribly self-aware and prone to self-dramatization. So, interesting, especially if you're interested in issues like gender or religion and society, but not "must reading" for all. (Incidentally, the Satmars are among those who keep stopping me on the streets near my home every autumn to ask whether or not I'm Jewish -- I think it's around the time of one of the religious holidays, when it's a mitzvah to return one of the straying sheep to the fold.) 3.5 stars.
179. White Gold by Giles Milton was another "wow"! book for me. For most of the 17th & 18th centuries, up to 5,000 European and colonial Americans were hijacked on the open seas or even kidnapped from their coastal communities as far away as Iceland and sold into slavery in Morocco, Algiers and other North African kingdoms. Milton isn't trying to draw a moral equivalence between this piracy and the more systematized triangular slave trade taking Africans to the plantations of the Americas -- and he points out that many of those who ended up as white slaves were quite comfortable with black slavery, as was true of the time & place they lived -- but he spins a great story of some of those individuals and their experiences, most of which have slipped into oblivion. (I was amazed to learn how frequently these "Sally pirates" would sail into Cornish ports and simply round up hundreds of residents and abduct them!!) The boy/man through which Milton tells much of his story is Thomas Pellow, aged only 11 when he is captured aboard his uncle's boat, just off the coast of Brittany, on his way home from his first voyage. He would spend 23 years in captivity, although the fact that he was tortured into converting to Islam by one of the sultan's sons may well have saved him from the slave pens. Still, it required all the luck in the world, and a considerable degree of resilience and ingenuity, for Pellow to survive the infamous Moulay Ismail and his sons. Having been in Morocco a few years ago and visited Meknes, where much of the story is set -- the slaves were employed to build the vast palace for the megalomaniac ruler whose idea of fun was to decapitate a member of his own guard, "just because" -- this was particularly interesting. The book follows Pellow's life, but also the missions by the English and others who attempted to redeem the captives -- for all the thousands captured, only a few hundred were ever liberated. Pellow's tale of his ultimate departure would make a fabulous movie one day... A gripping look at a little known period of history -- I was amazed to ponder just how risky sea travel must have been during these decades. 4.5 stars.
Suz - looks like you have started the weekend with a real bang with your new lap-top and plenty of reading (what a surprise!) to talk about. White Gold looks leftfield and fascinating and goes onto my over-nourished hitlist.
I've got one or two Mel Starr books that I hope to get to later this year. I hope they aren't all as disappointing as yours was.
Congrats on the new laptop, mine has slowed down considerably all of a sudden too. Lots of great reads, I'll have to add a couple to my 'looks interesting' list.
With regard to 'lost Jews' have you come across The Baroness: The Search for Nica the Rebellious Rothschild.
Gosh, Bonnie, wonder how that happened???!! If I had an iPad and was able to load some version of Word onto it, that would be my new toy of choice, but this makes an excellent alternative. My laptops get a heavy workout every day, as it's rare that I spend much time on my desktop. It tends to seize up and stall, and there's a part that makes nasty whirring noises. At some point, I'll replace that, and probably go 100% Mac --- gulp. But that is more of an ordeal, as it means migrating a lot of content -- essentially 10 years' worth of interview notes for articles and the book, as well as about 150 Gigs of music on iTunes -- and connecting a lot of peripherals. Plus, the system itself won't be cheap.
I just picked up The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri Murari -- delivered on my other favorite tech toy, the Kindle -- and have whipped through the first 40 pages or so -- absolutely unputdownable. Of course, it could still disappoint, but at this point I expect I'll be up all night reading... Sigh, the sacrifices I will make for a good book!!!
43: Yay! for a new laptop, Suz. I've had my HP for over 5 years. It's slow and makes grumbly noises. I am going to try and hold out until my birthday in late summer for a new one. It will most likely be a Mac. I know there will be some "sticker shock" but it just makes sense to get a companion for my iPad and iPhone. Wishing you and your Mac Air a long and productive relationship.
I liked your review of Darkmarket, which is already on my wish list. Now that you've read four of the six Orwell Prize longlisted books, how would you rank them? And, which one do you think will come out on top? The prize will be awarded on Wednesday, BTW.
I was just trying to do a mental calculation of how long it would take me to read all of the books that you do, but I gave up in complete despair at all of those wonderful titles that I will never get to. Actually, if I applied that across the full range of tempting LT recommendations..... Too depressing to contemplate. So, back to my own plodding pace, while I add and add and add to my wishlist. Thanks for all the great reviews, Suz!
I'm with you Linda -- I like reading the summaries of these books that I know I'll never read, it gives me some idea of what I've missed and being Suz, is crisp and entertaining!
You've come over to the Mac side..... evil laughter.
#43 I've had White Gold on my wishlist for some time. We listened to a talk about the Barbary Pirates at the Maritime Museum in Greenwich last year which inspired me to research what books where available on the subject but I never got any further than that. When you say 5000 kidnapped was this the annual figure? I seem to remember from the talk that hundreds of thousands of abductees were mentioned over the overall time period.
#53, yes, that was 5,000 a year. Apparently while there are records of which ships vanished, Moulay Ismail wasn't good at keeping records! Of the men on the ship that Thomas Pellow was on, half died before they could be "redeemed", and Pellow himself, because of his apostasy, had to find a way to get out on his own.
Linda -- but you see, I'm in the same plight! However rapidly I read, I will NEVER manage to read everything I want. And I'm sure when I kick the bucket, it will be in great dudgeon, because it will be before I've had a chance to read the next volume in some series I'm addicted to, e.g. the third Hilary Mantel.
Darryl, I'm not much given to ranking, and certainly don't want to put myself in the role of judge, jury, executioner, etc. I can say that I enjoyed three of those books a great deal -- People Who Eat Darkness, Hood Rat and Darkmarket. Of those three, I'd give Hood Rat the edge, if I were called on to cast a ballot, simply because I think the story is an important one, policywise (also true of Darkmarket, but Glenny's account is less immersive/engaging than Knight's take on youth violence, if I had to split hairs.) Parry's book is very good and powerful, but at its heart has no broader story to tell, other than of the failure of crime investigators in a single country. But, with all three, I'm really splitting hairs; each of these books is a strong story, extremely well told. The Beautiful and the Damned is a different kettle of fish. When reading it last year, I felt as if I was plodding along; in contrast to the other three books, I was never completely caught up in the narrative. Some segments were more interesting than others, and while I understand what he was trying to in breaking it up into segments, this didn't always make it "click" for me as a reader. After reading Behind the Beautiful Forevers, I ended up feeling that Deb's narrative was oddly distancing, as if he was a sociologist observing, whereas Boo, like Knight, relied on classic "new journalism" techniques to make the tale more immediate and personal. It may have something to do with my own preference for that kind of storytelling, which I hadn't realized was quite as strong as it now appears to be, and certainly while Boo's work implies a lot of issues and concerns, her job isn't to spell them out. Deb's book is rich in that kind of detail. Still, not as impactful a book as the other three.
I want to move on to Lovell's book today, if I can, given that the awards are coming out this week and, more importantly, that there is this big wave of anti-foreigness erupting in Beijing. (a TV host there -- who interviews foreigners regularly -- has scathingly referred to them as parasites on Chinese society, failures at home who move to China to take wealth away from its citizens; an allegation that could well find receptive listeners given the growing wealth gap in that country.) All that dates back to the era of the opium wars, when Britain was able to take advantage of a weak Chinese state to impose trading treaties and, yes, opium.
Oh, meant to say that I did indeed stay up late (very late...) last night to finish The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri Murari.
180. The Taliban Cricket Club is the second novel (that I know of) by Timeri Murari; the first is Taj, which I'm hoping to read before the end of the month. At heart, it's a conventional kind of story (think Major Pettigrew's Last Stand), with some very conventional twists and turns that are telegraphed far in advance and some plot elements straight out of the romance genre. But -- and it's a big BUT -- Murari's heroine, Rukhsana, is a young woman in her 20s, a former journalist, living in Kabul under the rule of the Taliban. While waiting for her cousin and intended husband (a family-sponsored marriage) to send her money and documents to leave the country via a smuggling route (and for her mother to succumb to cancer) she risks her life writing stories about the Taliban's rule of terror that are smuggled out and published overseas. ("We were a small tribe of rebellious scribes in hiding.") Wahidi, one of the Taliban leaders, who had forced Rukhsana out of her job years earlier, becomes convinced that she is behind the stories, but also obsessed by her and determined to marry her. The prospect is terrifying -- but Rukhsana and her extended family have a plan. The Taliban regime has determined that cricket is a sport that can be played with modest clothing, and see it as a bridge to the rest of the world that denies the legitimacy of their rule. Afghans are encouraged to form teams and compete for the right to be the best in the country -- and the chance to travel to Pakistan to be trained by that country's top cricketers. Rukhsana, as a woman, can't play -- but maybe she can coach her cousins to victory and find an exit strategy for herself in the process? Thus begins a race against time. As I've said, it's a romance in disguise, but however banal the story is, the reality of Afghan women's lives during this era lies behind it as a sobering reminder of the deadly seriousness of the "games" that Rukhsana and her allies are playing. It ends up being a gripping and moving read, if not a work of immense literary merit. In other words, a "thumping good read." 4.1 stars; definitely recommended.
ETA: This goes into my 12 in 12 challenge, as it will fit nicely into the "glass ceiling" category!
I have had this sitting around on my computer for days now... tks to Paul for getting me thinking abt this stuff!
Hardback or paperback?
Amazon or bricks and mortar?
Ditto, wherever I can get it more rapidly.
Barnes & Noble or Borders?
Indie bookstore, or B&N. No Borders left
Bookmark or dogear?
I’ve graduated to bookmarks
Alphabetize by author or alphabetize by title or random?
Subject matter in one area, generally, but it collapses eventually.
Keep, throw away, or sell?
Keep dust jacket or toss it?
I try to keep ‘em but they end up battered when I remove them.
Read with dust jacket or remove it?
Sigh. If I’m only reading at home, I keep ‘em, because if I remove them, they get battered, attacked by cats or otherwise damaged.
Short story or novel?
Tilt toward novels.
Collection (short stories by same author) or anthology (short stories by different authors)?
Collection of short stories; if it’s essays, an anthology.
Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?
Just call me a Muggle.
Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?
I’ll try to stop at chapter breaks, but usually whenever I find myself having to re-read paragraphs a few times to remember them.
"It was a dark and stormy night" or "Once upon a time"?
Buy or Borrow?
Shelf space and budget permitting, buy
New or used?
New is nicer when it’s a just-published book in the first place
Buying choice: book reviews, recommendation or browse?
Hmm, topic or author are the first criteria. Sometimes recommendations. Rarely reviews.
Tidy ending or cliffhanger?
Sometimes cliffhangers are fab, as in Simon Mawer’s Trapeze. When used to make someone buy the next book in a series, they are tacky.
Morning reading, afternoon reading or nighttime reading?
All of the above.
Stand-alone or series?
Slight preference for stand alone. Series can develop “series fatigue”.
No such thing. Lesser known-faves include Hannah March’s 18th century mysteries and the Mountjoy novels of Elizbeth Pewsey
Favorite children's book?
Geoffrey Trease's novels -- all of 'em. Sentimental fave is the Chalet School series, even though I acknowledge that they really are dreadfully goody-goody, now.
Favorite book of which "nobody" else has heard?
No such thing, really, because I try to force everyone else to read it. Would have been In This House of Brede, but now lots of LTers have read, also China Court. Perhaps Land of Green Ghosts or the Mountjoy novels by Elizabeth Pewsey
Favorite books read last year?
Through Black Spruce, The Cat’s Table, Rondo
Favorite books of all time?.
From the Holy Mountain, The Daughter of Time, Rebecca, Watermark by Joseph Brodsky, Enigma of Arrival by Naipaul, Conducted Tour by Bernard Levin, anything by Hazlitt, A Time of Gifts, A Room of One’s Own, The Memory Chalet
Least favorite book you finished last year?
I’ve blocked it from my mind
What are you reading right now?
"The Last Hunger Season" by Roger Thurow and a bunch of novels, including The Namesake by Conor Fitzgerald and The Yard by Alex Grecian. All are galleys or publisher review copies sent to me, so I owe reviews on 'em all.
What are you reading next?
It will be back to Spies and Commissars, and hopefully a re-read of The King's General by Daphne du Maurier.
I first heard an excerpt from From the Holy Mountain being read on BBC Radio in the fall of 1998 -- I went straight out next day and bought the book! It's still my fave by Dalrymple, and I wish it was Kindle-able here.
I think the folks who liked Major Pettigrew's Last Stand would find this up their alley. The story and setting are radically different, of course, but there's a similar tone or spirit, for want of a better phrase.
My ARC of The Cost of Hope by my former colleague Amanda Bennett arrived in the mail this afternoon. As I may extend my trip to DC by yet another day -- the Monday after the LT meetup is the black tie dinner event that I'm committed to, so I'm missing her reading at Politics & Prose, but Tuesday is her book party, so I knew I had to read this before the event. It's about 225 pages -- I picked it up to glance into and here I am 152 pages later and still have not eaten dinner. It's a memoir, about the decision she and her husband took to pursue all feasible medical avenues after he is diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer, and what the "cost" was, in both financial and human terms. After his death, she goes back over it as an investigative reporter would, looking at all the costs racked up by her insurance companies -- $659 for this IL-2 treatment, $138 for a meeting to discuss a clinical trial -- to see what was spent and on what. I've got another 70 or 80 pages to read, but it's excellent.
From the Holy Mountain looks like one I'll like, Suzanne. I already read his Nine Lives: in search of the sacred in modern India and meant to read more of his work so thanks for the mention. I've requested it from the library.
NO WONDER!! I'm an entire thread behind, I wondered why I hadn't seen any activity chez Suz. Silly me.
Suz, I'm embarrassed to say how many book bullets you've hit me with, because then you'll know just how far behind I'd fallen on your thread. Let's just say I'd have to clear a good section of shelf space if I were to get them all. Almost did in fact purchase a bunch last night, some of which were already on my Amazon wishlist that I'd completely forgotten about (won't say which, for above stated reason), then forced myself away from the "buy now" button by telling myself I'd sleep on it. Phew!
Congrats on the new MacBook Air and for joining the Mac aficionado club. I've never used anything but, and would never consider going on the other side. Sure, Macs are a lot more expensive, but they're well worth it. This MacBook Pro was pretty slow, even though I've had it for less than a year, so I called the AppleCare guys and was directed to throw away a bunch of startup files that were bogging down the system. Things seem better now, but if it's still slow, I'll call them again, this time to have them walk me through a clean reinstall of the OS, which is a nightmarish prospect, but is sure to solve a lot of problems.
June is just around the corner, which means Wolf Hall is too. Several people have been asking me if they can lurk on the tutorial thread, and of course the whole point is for as many people to benefit from it as possible. This month was dedicated to Persuasion with Liz tutoring me, and I've been taking my sweet time about it, just reading 1 or 2 chapters each day, even though it's a relatively short book. I do find it works better that way, because reading in view of asking questions and taking notes requires a whole lot more time and concentration. I hope therefore you won't mind that this is likely to take quite a bit longer than a month, considering it's quite a large volume... I've been asking A LOT of questions about Persuasion and am worried that you'll find me completely dense when Wolf Hall comes 'round, considering how little I know about the period. You sure you still want to do this? I know I'm quite keen on it, hence the stage fright.
Sure, am still up for it, Ilana! I've been slow to do my planned re-read this month, so I may find myself reading along with you. And as for the time, well, it takes as long as it takes. I'll be traveling for a week or ten days in June, in DC and then Toronto, but will try to be online at least once a day then. I'll set up a thread after Memorial Day next week and lurkers can jump aboard if they want.
I actually joined the Mac club about 2 years ago when I bought the MacBook Pro that is now running slowly. I'm amazed & impressed by how robust it is.
Just catching up, after five days away from my laptop and enjoying the book discussions and Mac talk. I finally converted to Mac about three years ago after an unbelievably infuriating series of "discussions" with Dell customer "support" and have never looked back. After seeing a new Mac laptop at my cousin's this past weekend, I am trying to convince myself I need a new one with the latest OS . . . but I really don't. Mine is still fine!
It all sounds good to me Suz. I'll probably want to take a little break after I finish my tutorial of Persuasion, but I'll get started in the first week of June sometime. I feel like I should read up about Cromwell before I get started, perhaps on wikipedia or something easily accessible like that. Would you recommend it or is it not necessary to know anything about the man to appreciate the novel? Also, I'm not sure how to break it up; doing so by chapter makes the most sense, and this isn't a problem in part 1, where they're very short, but when they are 50 pages and more, I won't be able to keep up in a single day. Do you suggest we break up the longer chapters, or should I just take whatever amount of time to finish each one before asking questions? I'm leaning more toward the first option, but your opinion is welcome.
Is your MacBook Pro still under AppleCare? It shouldn't be running slowly, this is just an indication that there are probably files that need deleting, or ultimately that you should clean-install the OS, but those tech guys can take you through all the steps over the phone, so you know what files need to be deleted. I just went through that two days ago with my MacBook Pro, and there's no way I would have known what needed to be trashed on my own. So far so good and I hope I don't have to take the more drastic measure of a reinstall, but that usually solves many major issues, and it's something you CAN do on your own, as long as you remember to back up everything that's presently on there or course.
Ilana, I'm taking the MacBook Pro into the Genius Bar to see what's what. Since I want to transfer my files onto the Air, I want to be sure that I'm not transferring some sneaky malware that may have crept onto the system, and they can diagnose it. If I have another laptop to rely on for day to day use, just making sure I don't have a virus in the system and maybe stripping out some applications or files that should be deleted may be enough. At any rate, once the files are transferred this weekend, I can then take my time fixing the 2 year old version, and begin using it as a backup.
As for Wolf Hall, why don't we play it by ear on the chapters vs. pages, and see what feels more comfortable for you? I'm quite happy logging in once a day to address questions, regardless of how many pages or chapters you've read or where they have left you. Then it feels less like homework for you -- oh, i must read x pages by such and such a date. As for Cromwell, while there is no reason to avoid the Wikipedia entry (it seems solid & well researched), I think the novel starts early enough in his life to not have to do so. The key idea to grasp early on is that Cromwell is a self-made man in an era where that was uncommon, and his later association with Cardinal Wolsey, another of the same ilk, gave him an essential boost upward in the world. Many of his views and actions are shaped by that reality, and the nature of the world he inhabits.
Rebecca, I know what you mean... I confess I was coveting the Mac desktops, but while I do want to get one (my desktop is 4 years old, and has been making loud whirring sounds and undergone two major repairs already), it's not a vital purchase just yet. That will be more complex, as I'll have to migrate all my PC-based files into the Mac universe. I confess I'm in awe at how robust the Mac laptops are -- two years and no major snafus. Only this slowing down, and the fact that the "6" key likes to stick occasionally. Very minor things after a litany of major ones with nearly every laptop I've owned since my venerable ThinkPad in the late 90s.
I like your suggestion. And yes, more enjoyable reading and less homework-like sounds like a great goal. I just read the Hilary Mantel article in State of the Thing and she essentially says the same thing about Cromwell, i.e. he being a self-made man at a time when this was unheard of. I did listen to the episode of This Sceptred Isle which covers the Black Prince to Henry VIII, but my memory is like a sieve, so I may listen to the bit about Henry VIII again, if only because it's a real tread listening to Anna Massey narrating.
I don't know why I've never made use of the Genius Bar. Maybe because I hate making appointments and then having to keep them and if anything can be done from home, then that's what I opt for. But if I ever have a major problem, I'll definitely go to them.
That would be a good idea -- I mean, refreshing your knowledge of the era. The key things to know, IMO, about Henry are that he is only the second Tudor to sit on the throne, and that his own father had to fight off several actual or implicit threats to his right to rule from various Plantagenets. In many ways, some of Henry's nobles have a greater right to the throne than he does, at least when it comes to his father's side (the taint of bastardy on both his paternal grandmother's and grandfather's side....) So he feels insecure, and that's one of the reasons why an heir becomes so vital. Also important is the time period in which Henry is born -- it's the late Renaissance, and a time of relative peace, so he is able to grow up as a scholar prince, known for the agility of his mind and his talent for music as much for his physical appearance. (He was notably tall for his day, and extremely handsome as a young man; a replica of his grandfather, Edward IV.) So, by the time he is in middle age -- roughly the time Cromwell first moves into his immediate circle -- he is a vain man accustomed to adulation, yet someone who has been denied the very thing he knows he needs most -- a legitimate male heir. The religion is just the icing on the cake -- the arrival of Lutheranism -- to which Henry never subscribed -- simply makes it more possible for Henry to reject the Pope's authority. Prior monarchs had been excommunicated and their whole country put under the "interdict"; by 1533, Henry shrugs that off, and I think it's at least in part because Luther has demonstrated that the Pope isn't the only route to God.
OK, back to my books!!
Two more finished, both difficult to report on, one because it's good, the other because it was disappointing.
181. The Cost of Hope by Amanda Bennett is a book by a friend, and all the more hard to evaluate for that reason. It's the chronicle of her marriage to a fascinating and infuriating polymath, and of her efforts, after his death from a rare form of kidney cancer, to calculate and explain, even to herself, what price they paid in both financial and emotional terms for their instinctive decision to do whatever they could to save his life. What was the cost of this treatment, when in a clinical trial vs when taken as a regular patient? Why does a simple CAT scan cost as much as 3 times as much in one place over another, and why can an insurer bargain down the actual cost? There are few solid answers to many of these questions, and perhaps my only beef with the book is that it isn't quite as systematic in dealing with them as it could be -- for instance, at the end of each chapter, she could have tallied up the cost of the procedures and drugs mentioned. But her pilgrimage back to visit the doctors she and Terence consulted, to follow the samples of his tumors as they go from one lab to another in search of a firm diagnosis, are fascinating glimpses behind the curtain, and a rare example of a personal narrative authoritatively bridging the gap with a more journalistic look at the healthcare system. It's deeply moving and very personal, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who has recently lost a loved one to cancer, but it worked better than most of the "grief memoirs" I have read at giving me a real sense of the person who has died. Terence Foley may have exited, stage left, but his spirit inhabits every page of this book, and it's a moving one. I'll have to write an Amazon Vine review for this, but in the meantime, recommended unless you don't want to avoid the topic. 4.4 stars.
182. The Yard by Alex Grecian is a mess of a book -- it sprawls, it rambles, it digresses, the points of view jump madly around, and it makes Steve Berry's thrillers look like marvels of cohesiveness. Someone needs to tell this debut novelist that complicated doesn't always make for "complex", in the positive sense of the phrase. Sometimes it just means "muddled". While the book opens with the body of a Murder Squad detective found -- gasp, horrors -- murdered himself and abandoned in a trunk, there are a few other crimes that pop up and seem unconnected to the main plot line, simply there for decoration. There's a flashback in the middle, involving one of the two main detectives, that would have worked brilliantly as an introduction, but is silly where it is. There is stilted dialog. There are anachronisms: "corny" wasn't used the way he uses it here for another 40 years or so, and I don't think giving someone "closure" came around until the late 20th century. (Closure is an old word, of course, but used for the concept of enclosing land, or the closure of parliamentary debate.) When one of the characters has a medical crisis, we must wait 125 pages or so to find out whether that person is still alive and what happens. Oh yes, and by page 110 of this 400-plus page book, I had figured out who the criminal was (well, we meet him in the first pages, but he's anonymous.) By midway through the book, Grecian has told the reader who he is, so the only question is how will the Murder Squad detectives catch him? I was only mildly curious. Walter Day, the newly arrived inspector from Devon, is squeaky clean and just too good and bland to be true. In other words, this book irritated me. "Clearly, there are a great many things going on at once," Walter Day says at one point. Yes, and let's hope Grecian learns either to put his plotlines on a diet or find a way to manage them better going forward. I'm sure there are plenty of undemanding readers who will enjoy this; I'm not one of 'em. 2.3 stars.
Tui -- I just did, on Amazon! (the review isn't live...)
I can't give half stars, and it's clearly a 2.5 star book, so...
*de-lists The Yard from liberry holds*
Whew. Thanks for the heads-up! *smooch*
Hi Suz! I am suffering from a dearth of things-to-say, other than "Hi!" :^)
#68 I don't know why I've never made use of the Genius Bar.
I went to the Genius Bar once (fortunately, there's an Apple Store about a mile and three subway stops from where I live) and they were very helpful (even though I had the feeling I always have in the Apple Store that the employees look at me and think I could be their mother!).
I, too, have made an appointment with a genius at our local Apple store. Twice. Once it was very helpful, once not so much. It appears that not all geniuses are created equal.
I'm already lurking on the early stages of the tutorial for Wolf Hall and already getting something out of it. Thanks, Suz and Ilana, for sharing!
I started re-listening to the episode of This Sceptred Isle today which starts with Edward III and brings me up to the reign of Henry VIII. Now that I'm doing it for a specific goal, I'll try to be more attentive to the parts you've mentioned Suz. I almost feel like I should have waited so we could have had this whole conversation on the tutorial thread so that those who tune in can benefit from this background info too. I'll assume most already visit your thread, as Ellen just told us she'd been doing already. :-)
eta: I just found out through wikipedia that "Plantagenet" was a name popularized by Shakespeare? I feel like a kid again finally slowly working out English history. Not like it was taught at school either in Quebec nor in Israel!
LOL, well both the Quebeckers and the Israelis would have their issues with the empire on which the sun never set, which I suspect may have been reflected in their view of English history en masse...
Re Plantagenets, hmm, that's not something I'm sure of. I'll check with a friend of mine, who writes novels set in the early period and is known for her research. It's certain that Geoffrey of Anjou, father of Henry II, did adopt the broom (the bright yellow flower whose Latin moniker is "planta genesta" or some such) as one of his emblems, wearing a sprig of it in his hat. I don't think most monarchs used this as a surname, however, in contrast to the Capet kings of France. But I'm fairly sure that Richard of York, father of Edward IV, began using the surname in the mid 1440s, to emphasize his lineage.
At any rate -- I have just launched the tutored thread read, so we can move all the background/context discussion over there, making it more helpful for others to follow, too. For now, we can confine the discussion to that background and you can start posting book-related questions at the beginning of June or whenever.
Smooches to Richard & Glenn!
Rebecca, it's deeply disconcerting to be working with someone and suddenly realize that they are old enough to be established in their careers and yet still young enough that when they were born I had already established myself in MY career. Terrifying, really. Who hit the fast-forward button???
183. The Colour of Magic is, I think, the first Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett. It's amusing and punny, with my fave part being the homicidal Luggage made of sapient pearwood that follows its owner around on hundreds of little tiny feet. But less focused than the "Watch" sub-series that I have been reading, and it rambles too far afield. I do like Pratchett's wry wit and the way he develops Discworld variants of things like the camera, which is his view is powered by an imp living in a box who paints the picture and then returns to finish frying his bacon for breakfast in his living quarters inside the box slung around the neck of Twoflower, Discworld's first tourist, whose arrival in Ankh Morpork triggers all kinds of incredible adventures. Not my fave in this series as it's too convoluted, but still 3.7 stars. Ends on a cliffhanger, luckily this is an omnibus edition...
Before or after you start, RD? And are there particular books you've tried & failed with? I'm glad I started it, but am quite happy to putter along at the rate of one a month or one every six weeks or so.
Before I even get a book home. I think there's some hidden code that says "NONONONO" to me, though I can't imagine why.
Suz - and it makes Steve Berry's thrillers look like marvels of cohesiveness.
Was going to ask someone whether they would recommend Berry's work but since you mentioned!
Ilana - you are embarking on my favourite era of British history will keep an eye on any comments given my rabid Yorkist sympathies!
Suz/RD - Never read any Pratchett as his interviews often give the impression that the "chett" was only added to mislead people.
Paul -- bwahahahaha. :-)
Some of the wit is heavy handed. For instance, he has a talking sword ruminate to itself, "What I'd really like is to be a ploughshare. I don't know what that is, but it sounds like an existence with some point to it."
Or, in The Light Fantastic, the other half of the omnibus that i have just started: "It looked the sort of book described in library catalogues as "slightly foxed", although it would be more honest to admit that it looked as though it had been badgered, wolved and possibly beared as well."
Now, even as I groan at these, I also laugh, so I pretty much enjoy the books. And I don't have to watch Sir T. living up the first syllable of his surname.
I would avoid all but the first one or two of Berry's Cotton Malone books, which have serious issues involving the suspension of disbelief, three-page long chapters, all of which end on cliffhangers, and way too many dead bodies and gunshots. It's ACTION, you see... *eyes roll* Some of the earlier ones were good, for the genre, however.
Amusingly, I just looked to see which book won the Orwell Prize, and it's the only one of the finalists that I have no interest in reading!! Dead Men Risen, about a bunch of Welsh Guards in Afghanistan, sounds like exactly the same kind of story we've all read over and over again, about poorly-conceived military missions, messed up politicians, poor leadership in the military, and men fighting impossible odds. I can think of three books like it off the top of my head, and while I'd be interested in reading a broader book about Afghanistan, I have zero interest in a military history/snafu tale, however well written. Et bien, on to The Opium War by Julia Lovell, which I would still like to finish reading this month.
I am quite possibly one of the Kings of Embarrassment when it comes to confessing a liking for anything ... brrrrrr ... popular, and I find Pratchett wonderful. He makes me happy (and I think Suzanne can confirm that that takes some doing).
Glenn -- erm, yes, I would vouch for that! I have noticed the phenomenon, but infrequently. Pratchett, Paris, one or two other things... Maybe you should concentrate on things and people and places beginning with the letter P????? ;-)
Pouring with rain all day again today. I had handwashed something on Sunday -- a linen top -- and hung it up. Instead of drying, it is STILL damp and starting to smell musty. Glad I just ordered some dehumidifiers.
Ucccccccchhhhhhhhh on the linen. The dehumidifier in the basciamente here is working overtime this week, but the plus side is the garden is so green it's Soylent.
#86 I've given up handwashing. Anything that is too delicate to go through the handwashing program on the washing machine just doesn't get bought. Shame about your rain. After months of non-stop rain here the weather has very suddenly decided that it's summer and jumped about 10-12 degrees in temperature to 25 degrees. Very nice.
I also am a non-starter, well, really a non-finisher, of Pratchett. I yawn and think, "I see that that was supposed to be funny." If it were not for the Richard and Paul among us, I'd wonder what happened to my sense of humor. Thank you, gentlemen.
We need rain here desperately. It has been weeks! Forest fires in northern Ontario are serious. It's humid today so I'm hopeful. I'm a fan of LLBean linens: toss 'em in the washer.
Yes, but I don't have a washing machine chez moi, and I don't have the hours it takes to spend hovering at the laundromat. It costs me no more to take the laundry down, dump it with the people there in a bag, have them wash, dry and fold, and then go back and pick it up next day, and I don't waste half of a day doing it. The downside is that anything that needs a delicates cycle can't be done that way, because they can't cope. (I've ruined lots of cheap fleece that way -- they put it into the dryer automatically and scorch it to pieces.) My neighbors will let me use their English-style washer/dryer (one device) but as you may know, that often leaves items damp even after an hour in the "dryer", as well as leaving horrible creases, so I don't use it for anything linen. So it's either the handwash or the drycleaner -- same with cashmere, which I don't want to entrust even to a delicates cycle.
Seems that Sunday is the only day in the forecast without rain for the near future...
I want to lurk on the Wolf Hall thread! I don't know if I'll re-read as Bring Up the Bodies is next on my TBR list and I don't really want to put it off... but I want to follow.
Sorry you're getting too much rain. I am not sure we in the west (minus the PNW) know what too much rain is. It poured rain for several hours last night, but we're dry as a bone this morning. The plants just sucked it all in and it's gone. :) Rain is good for us right now too - forest fires and fire bans for camping. If you can't have a fire while camping, what's the point?
#91 Sorry, it didn't occur to me that you didn't have a washing machine. We used to have one of those washer-dryers and you're right, they're not as good as a proper tumble dryer. We've got a proper tumble dryer now, but when we moved into our current house we didn't, so we used the place it was meant to go for extra cupboard space. So now there's no room for it in the utility room - the only place it will fit is in the garage.
Sorry I've been a no-show these past couple of days. Yesterday was a real marathon of a painting class (6 intense hours doing a series of 15-minute figure paintings with a live model and revisiting colour mixing. Not for the fainthearted, I assure you!). Then today was taken up with pre-thunderstorm migraine. All this to give excuses for not having visited the Wolf Hall thread yet.
I did start (and am a third of the way through) Anya Seton's excellent Katherine, which you reminded me of on your last thread (it had been on my Amazon wishlist these last 5 years and I'd completely forgotten about it, along with Devil Water). Turns out the episode of This Sceptred Isle I'm listening to as prep for Wolf Hall is providing perfect background for Seton's novel too, beginning as it does with the Black Prince. That was completely unplanned, but very fortuitous indeed. I get to verify for myself that she has indeed done good research, however, the Plantagenets are referred to as such and seem to have taken on the name too? Unless I misunderstand? That part is confusing to me, but not a major issue.
Will visit the other thread tomorrow. Now must get to bed and read a few more pages of A Game of Hide and Seek, my first Elizabeth Taylor novel before yielding to complete exhaustion.
>91: that makes perfect sense to use the laundry that way in the city. I wish I had thought of that when we lived in Toronto. I abhorred the laundromat. A friend in Edinburgh has one of those late 1800s solid wood laundry racks that comes down from the kitchen ceiling on pulleys - just fantastic! The AGA keeps the kitchen undamp enough for the laundry to dry. So you need one of those AND an AGA, Suz.
Yes, well, when I buy my cottage in Cornwall, I will have an Aga AND a proper washer/dryer combo...
Ilana, I think the convention, esp. when Seton was writing many decades ago, was to refer to the dynasty as the Plantagenets. Honestly, that isn't one of the things that I get exercised about in historical novels. Now, had Katherine been noshing on a tomato or growing potatoes at Kettletorpe, I would be irritated enough to haunt Seton beyond the grave. If you're ever interested in reading ore about Katherine, there's a good bio about her by Alison Weir, although it ends up showing how little we can know definitively about her life; at least half the bio is about her times.
I've been battling a headache, too, although since we've had non-stop rain, virtually, it's hard to tell which headache belongs to which low pressure system!! It has cut into my reading... Plus, I spent a few hours this evening doing some of the massive spring cleaning, trying to reorganize and clean the living room upstairs. Petit a petit...
Suz, I hunted down Katherine Swynford: The Story of John of Gaunt and His Scandalous Duchess by Alison Weir, and while they didn't have it at the library, did find it on Audible.com where it mostly received dreadful reviews. Mind you, those reviews were written by listeners who expected to get more fiction and romance in the vein of Anya Seton's novel, by way of which they made their way to this book. What does transpire is that there is very little historical evidence for anyone to make any verifiable claims as to what took place exactly, or what Katherine Swynford was really like, and seems a lot of the book references what may have taken place according to best guesses, as you've said. Anya Seton certainly had quite a clean canvas from which she could create the Katherine which most suited her talent for storytelling, but knowing this doesn't take anything away from the novel she did write, imho.
I just now left a lengthy note on the Wolf Hall thread. I'm hoping to get some reading out of the way before I start on WH, so we'll see if I can get started on the 1st, but if not, I doubt it'll be a problem to start whenever I am ready, right?
Sorry to hear you've been suffering lately. I was hoping to get lots done today, but it's already late in the evening and I don't have much to show for my day, and made the mistake of drinking 3/4 of a beer and now feeling more inclined to take a nap than anything else. That'll teach me!
>96: wouldn't it be lovely if it were near to my fictional cottage in Cornwall where I too will have an AGA?
Just a quick note as I'm essentially confined to using my clunky and noisy desktop (sub optimal) until I pick up my laptops on Monday, so don't expect to hear from me until then (esp as I'm out all day tomorrow, I think.)
Happy Memorial Day weekend to all!!
Suz, I just now noticed you'd written a review on the Alison Weir book on the Amazon site. Very good, and confirms the impression I got from all the other negative reviews I read.
I just picked up The Colour of Magic today. Been on my wish list forever. This will be my 1st discworld and Pratchett....I'm looking forward to it
Suz - washing machines, laptops, Cornwall cottages, John O' Gaunt and senses of humour. A striking and remarkable combination.
We had a maid in Johor many years ago from an impoverished part of Indonesia who had not any experience of electrical appliances. SWMBO patiently coached her on use of the front loader and went upstairs to do whatever ladies do upstairs. Upon returning downstairs she found the young lady sitting transfixed before the machine in spin mode with her head moving increasingly rapidly in a clock-wise direction!
I envisage a small cluster of cottages on a knoll overlooking the ocean and smelling of wreckers and rum. Surely strategically placed can be a washroom outhouse wherein our Indonesian madam can exercise her neck muscles to her heart's content.
Peggy - I am glad to be able to make you smile but to be placed in the belly-laugh club with Mr. Derus is flattering in the extreme - I would be a mere apprentice to the prince of the chuckleometer.
Ooh. A cottage in Cornwall with an Aga! Sounds marvelous. I'd like one of those too.
Laptops safely back. Can't say much for the state of my brain, however, as I have just spent half an hour trying to reconcile the book count with the numbers of the books as I log them. Sigh. It appears I inserted the book I finished Thursday or Friday but failed to report back on it for some reason??
Anyway, here's the update of the long weekend's reading:
184. The Namesake by Conor Fitzgerald is the third in a series of books featuring Roman-based detective Alec Blume (and I could swear I have written these words before, too, so I wonder whether I wrote the mini-review and it vanished somehow??). Blume, American by birth, was living in Rome as a teenager when his parents died, and just stayed on and made his life there. The first in this series was a "meh" for me; the second, read earlier this year, was an LTER book called The Fatal Touch, which I liked very much. In this third installment, it's back to "meh", I'm afraid. It's a rather addled if not uninteresting mystery revolving around how Blume has to solve a mystery that is caught up with one branch of the Italian mob. The mystery itself rather gets lost in the author's eagerness to tell a strand of the story from the POV of inside one mob family, and I found the way that I could read this was by putting the mystery to one side and just following where the author led. It didn't help that Blume in this novel just appears to be a jerk, and a jerk with no real motivation. He's on the verge of moving into a girlfriend's home, but doesn't keep in touch, etc. etc. Now, being a jerk is fine -- but the author needs to make it convincing in the form of character development -- I need to know why/how someone is behaving this way -- and that doesn't happen. So, I'm back to wondering whether this is a series to be curious about or avoid in future. It was a NetGalley book, either due out soon or just out. 3 stars.
185. Circle of Shadows by Imogen Robertson is the fourth in another mystery series, only this time one that -- happily -- keeps getting better and more interesting. Reclusive scientist Gabriel Crowther and the now-widowed Harriet Westerman much take off in a hurry for a (fictional) duchy to rescue their friend from a false accusation of murder; the series is set in the late 18th century, and Robertson does a fab job of bringing in the themes and issues that dominated political life in the years following the American revolution and leading up to the French revolution. The political context of this one makes it particularly intriguing, as does Harriet's encounter with a former nemesis, who may prove to be more than she believed him to be. Now that the author has worked out her annoying habit of ascribing incorrect titles to English nobility, this is a very good series -- although I do hope that next time she can build a plot that doesn't revolve entirely around some member of the extended Crowther/Westerman circle being in mortal peril. There's only so much mortal peril one circle of friends can experience within two years or so before the incredulity level starts to rise to unsustainable levels. Still, this is a v. good series, 4.4 stars, a great historical mystery.
186. Double Cross by Ben Macintyre is the latest book about the spies of World War II written by the author of Agent Zigzag and Operation Mincemeat. IMO, it's the best of the three, and this author's best book so far: he tells the many and various stories of the double agents -- Garbo, Tricycle, Bronx, etc. -- whose job it was to establish their credibility in the eyes of their Nazi paymasters in order to sell them on the big lie when June 1944 rolled around, with D-Day. If the Nazis trusted their agents, they would believe the tidbits they were being fed that would mislead them -- if not, the result would be carnage. Well, we know what happened, but this is "the rest of the story." Macintyre does a very good job of keeping the various disparate strands together and weaving a coherent narrative out of them. One note: this isn't, for the most part, about spies slinking around and risking their lives on a daily basis. Most of the spies were safely in neutral territory or in England, so it's really the story of a battle of wits -- what would the Nazis believe and how much misinformation was too much? There are some absurd elements here, too, particularly the discussion of the role of pigeons as double agents -- one particularly obsessed individual "realized that Britain was falling behind Germany in the pigeon race", and was "convinced that Nazi pigeons were now pouring into Britain, by parachute, high-speed motor launch and U-boat." His idea? Contaminate Nazi pigeon coops by sending in sub-par disguised pigeons... Not a spoiler, as this is only a few pages of the book, but they made me laugh out loud on the subway. Some of these stories will be familiar to anyone who has read A Genius for Deception by Nicholas Rankin, which tells similar stories, although not in as much detail or with the same kind of focus. (Incidentally, Rankin's book is available for sale for only $2.55 for the Kindle version this month, for anyone interested.) I'd recommend this for interested readers -- this was an ARC, thanks to Amazon Vine, and the book will be out in July. 4.6 stars.
187. The White Russian by Tom Bradby was a book that I decided to read thanks to Judy's (DeltaQueen's) enthusiasm for it, and it turned out to be very much more enjoyable than I feared in the early pages, although I'd give it 4 stars rather than the 4.5 Judy generously awarded it. Set in literally the final weeks of Tsarist rule, in January 1917, this automatically appealed; I'm fascinated by times of great upheaval, uncertainty and flux. That's what Alexander "Sandro" Ruzsky finds when he returns from an unsought three-year posting to Siberia and within 24 hours finds himself investigating the brutal murders of a couple found stabbed to death on the frozen river Neva near the Winter Palace. There are some highly improbable links to Ruzsky's own life, but that made this a more interesting story, so I put a rein on my disbelief and kept reading. Of course, as he solves the murder mystery, Sandro puts himself in peril and picks up rocks under which lots of nasty secrets lie hidden. Some plot elements were simply too complex or confusing for me to give this more than 4 stars, but Bradby's novel is very atmospheric and definitely a page turner. I can't remember which of his books I stalled on years and years ago, but this was enough to make me give the others a try.
Hi Suzanne, I'm glad you enjoyed The White Russian, I'm always nervous when someone goes by my recommendation - reading is such a personal act and so very changeable according to one's mood. I've had a number of Ben Macintyre books on my wishlist for some time, sounds like I need to push them up the line a little.
Sir John Masterman's The Double Cross System was my intro to this fascinating front trying desperately to keep straight the wartime activities of agents GARBO and TRICYCLE and ARTISTE and ZIGZAG.
Judy and I are enjoying watching on DVD the original "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" - another look at the shabby offices and the messy lives of people who get involved in "stories about spies"
I enjoyed the Operation Mincemeat book too - just to hear the bare bones of the The Man Who Never Was story told in full detail.
Churchill established the SOE (Special Operations Executive) and basically told it "Now set Europe ablaze". Well the short story is that they didn't.
But the long story is a pretty interesting one.
I'll definitely look for the new Macintyre when it's available. Thanks for letting us know about it.
I'm fourth on the holds for the new Macintyre, whizzed past Robertson except I saw 4.4 stars yay!, and the Fitzgerald series holds zero appeal for me.
Wait...that drinks book...that didn't sound so hot to me, either.
There! All caught up. *smooch*
One would find it right here, Ellen: http://www.librarything.com/topic/137481
It does keep languishing a few pages back, as Ilana won't get going until the beginning of the month. Meanwhile, I'm trying to accelerate my re-read so I can stay ahead of her!
book du jour:
188. The Good Father by Noah Hawley has been getting a lot of raves, but I found myself very divided by it. The concept is absolutely fascinating -- a successful physician realizes that his son has just been arrested for assassinating the Obamaesque (but white) Democratic senator running for president. It's his son by his first marriage, whom he spent maybe 30 days a year with and suddenly he is forced to re-examine his role as father -- what should he have spotted? Could he have done anything? The expert diagnostician of other peoples' maladies struggles to diagnose his own relationship with his son. Hmmm.... As I said, potentially fascinating, but ultimately it didn't work for me. There is a lot of rambling going on, as the author looks back as past assassins or would be assassins (Hinckley, etc.) and at Daniel's past life, and his yearlong odyssey after dropping out of Vassar. Some of the "epiphanies" here also struck me as a bit banal. This tries to be a literary pageturner but it's an awkward combination for the author to manage, so while it is compelling reading, it never quite works completely. Try it if the premise intrigues you, but I'd suggest turning to the library. 3.4 stars; wish I had liked it more.
Hmm...The Good Father sounds interesting, but your review (and my ever increasing list of books I'm far more eager to read) is enough to put me off from reading it.
As I said, I wouldn't rule it out. A lot of people have liked the book, so my problems with it may well be just idiosyncratic, or relatively minor in the scope of the idea he is trying to address. Get it from the library, try the first 50 pages, and maybe you'll find more here to value than I did.
Going to try to finish two historical mysteries as well as Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje and another book by Terry Pratchett by the end of the day tomorrow. The good news is that I'm at least partway through all of them!
Well, it's more like "finish" four books! One is nearly finished; one is half-read; the other two I'm about a quarter of the way through. None of them are tremendously long, so it will depend on headache status and work flow.
Got too busy earlier today to update last night's reading. As I had hoped, I did finish two books; am now nearly finished a third and we'll see if I can squeeze in the last 150 pages of #4, although given that tomorrow is going to be a scary busy day with work, I won't be back until tomorrow evening for the final May updates. Don't even know how I'll find time to make it to the bank to deposit my rent.
189. The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett was better than its predecessor; the two books really do belong together, as the second one makes sense of apparently pointless ramblings in #1, and there's more dramatic tension involved. As ever, some of Pratchett's satire is pointed and hilarious; my grandfather would have adored the over the top puns. Some of it made my wince, however. My fave character remains the Luggage, a homicidal trunk made of sapient pearwood, which takes on a distinct character to go along with its hundreds of tiny little legs in this novel. 3.8 stars, fun and fluffy.
190. Dorchester Terrace by Anne Perry -- After 25 years of reading Perry's mysteries featuring Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, I suppose I'm too much in the habit of doing so to readily break it, but I've got to admit that finishing this one was a struggle. A very convoluted plot involving improbable doings in the Balkans and Austro-Hungary in the 1850s or so, with chickens coming home to roost in England circa 1896; Pitt must foil an assassination plot aimed at a Habsburg duke, ominous shades of Sarajevo offered up far too heavy-handedly. And the prose tilts too far toward the florid ornamentalism that increasingly characterizes Perry's writing. How many former Special Branch detectives of the 19th century can you see plausibly offering up the following description of a woman to another man: "She was dressed in gold, very soft, like an evening sky. Still, she looked like a tigress, only temporarily made friendly by warmth and good food." Pshaw. Such emotional utterances and musings take the place of really interesting plot twists so unless you've got a tin ear or a cast-iron stomach for such stuff, I'd suggest not bothering -- or going back to Perry's very earliest books, where she had to work harder to woo what must now have become an undemanding fan club. Good thing this can go back to the library! 3 stars.
#121 - Ditto, but double. Still, she looked like a tigress, only temporarily made friendly by warmth and good food. !???
Suzanne, thanks for the recommendation of The Holy Thief. I liked it. Lots of conflict, interesting setting.
Glad you liked William Ryan! I was delighted when I read that debut; I've got a bumpy track record with debut novels and worried that it would be disappointing, so I was thrilled it turned out to be a page turner in an under-explored area. I would say the sequel isn't quite as strong, but that's just sequelitis -- hard to live up to a new discovery.
Haven't had any time to post today. Had a minor accident at home, slipped falling down the stairs this morning. Didn't really bang my head, but my sleeping patterns have become so erratic that I have been groggy and tired and listless all day, not to mention bruised. So I'm now still further behind with my work, which is worrying, as the next 2 1/2 weeks are going to be very very busy. This week is BookExpo, and I'd like to spend part of Tues and Weds there. Then on Friday, I'll be off to DC for the meetup. Monday is in DC, ahead of a black tie dinner Monday night. Tuesday of that week, I come back to NYC, going to the book launch party for The Last Hunger Season, which I really must finish reading... Then Weds I'm off to Toronto to see my family and some friends. Gadzooks. Meanwhile, I have to do a better job than I have in the last 10 days with my new editing gig; find time to report a story about the NYC fashion industry (about which I know zilch) and clean up the catastrophic mess and clutter chez moi. Maybe I should clone myself? I certainly need an infusion of energy from somewhere.
It hasn't helped that the books haven't been quite as rewarding as they needed to be to jolt me out of this mood. Finished these two last night and still can't decide what to read next.
191. Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje -- I loved The Cat's Table that I wanted to go back and give this another try. This time I finished it, but while I adore Ondaatje's six-star prose, the elliptical structure, frequent digressions and opaque characters made this a hard book to relish. In contrast to The Cat's Table, this novel is oblique -- you are never sure of the real reason why Ondaatje suddenly jumps from the main story set in Sri Lanka amidst what seems to be the ongoing conflict there -- perhaps in the early 90s? -- to a flashback in which Anil, the principal character, recalls evenings spent watching videos with her close friend Leaf outdoors in Arizona, to capture the flavor of drive-in theaters. I'm sure Ondaatje had a point, as with all his other digressions, but I just didn't get a lot of it, and honestly, I don't like having to think that hard about what the author is trying to do. Admittedly, the final 20 pages, and the revelations they contain, took my breath away, but was that and the perfect writing enough to make this a five star book? Not for me, alas. At its core, it's the story of Anil Tissera, a young forensic anthropologist, returns to the country of her birth; the plot revolves around her work with Sarath, and their attempts to understand the very 20th century set of bones found alongside some earlier skeletal remains, and find out who "Sailor" was and his connection to the horrors and disappearances of the Sri Lankan civil war. But the real bonus for me was less the plot than the writing about Sri Lanka itself; or the segments from the point of view of Sarath's brother, a doctor struggling to save its victims. Gamini is a compelling and utterly convincing character, while both Anil and Sarath ended up feeling more symbolic to me. I'm not sorry I read it, but it's not as tightly-woven and compelling as a narrative as was The Cat's Table, one of my top books of 2012. Four stars, but a hard book to rate.
192. "Prince" by Rory Clements is the third book in a series of mysteries set in late Elizabethan England and one whose touchstone is unaccountably missing, despite the fact that the book has been out for more than a year. Sigh. These are billed as akin to Sansom's Shardlake mysteries, but I wouldn't say they are that good. Still, they are vivid and gritty action mysteries, featuring William Shakespeare's brother, John, as an intelligencer who once worked for Elizabeth's spymaster, Francis Walsingham, and who now toils for Robert Cecil. It's a nicely complex plot, with a great "what if" premise, however implausible, and while Clements occasionally struggles to keep the threads of the various plots together, overall it's interesting and a lively read. 3.9 stars, don't expect Shardlake, but if you liked those a lot, you're likely to find elements here you enjoy, too.
Not sure what to read now. I need some comic relief after the intensity of Anil's Ghost, which hovers over me like a kind of damp blanket. Maybe some chick lit or a more mindless mystery. My last bunch of Vine books just arrived, so I've got a lot to choose from, especially when you add in all the library books I need to read and return!!
It may just be that it is newer and less popular than the others that come up in the touchstone list. As I understand it the touchstone list is limited to a certain number of results. This is one you can force with a work number as in:
That is not a lot of fun, especially if you've been run ragged, but it works.
Thanks, Robert! I remember that trick used to work before they revamped the touchstone & the display and everything sometime last year, then it didn't -- now it seems it does again! Hurrah!
I'll be re-reading Wolf Hall to stay ahead of Ilana on our tutored read, and may finally read Thomas Hutchinson's bio of Thomas Cromwell, which I've had sitting here from the library for longer than I'd care to admit so that I can answer some of questions. So given those twin projects, I may be slower than usual to get going on my reads for June. As usual, I'm over committing... *grin*
My daughter read Anil's Ghost for an English course as a college sophomore and gave me the book to read when she was done with it. I could not get into the flow of that book at all. I was waiting to see what you thought of it Suzanne because it left me cold. That was in 2001 so I don't remember anything about it at this point.
I'm relieved you had trouble with Anil and admiring that you finished it. I love Ondaatje, but that one has eluded me. I try to read it almost every summer and never succeed....
Phew, I figured it was just me. The writing was so good that it hurt; the "narrative"?? Bonnie, "cold" is a great way to put it. For such an emotive subject, it was strangely unengaging.
Working my way through Wolf Hall and enjoying it just as much the second time around. But really spending a lot of time trying to clear up the mayhem that camouflages my apartment. Any one of those anti-clutter reality TV shows would have a great time here...
I would recommend that you read Once Upon a River this year, Suz darling, I think the loveliness of the writing will enchant and you might even like the story.
Just saying 'hi', haven't posted for a while, you sound very busy. I'm going to follow the tutored read of 'Wolf Hall' and hope to get hold of a copy of 'Bring up the Bodies' before too long.
Yes, the next few weeks are going to be very frenetic; work deadlines, Greek elections, BookExpo, Washington trip, Toronto trip... Come June 20th, I think I'll have a nervous breakdown.
193. Well, I can say that at least my first book of June was not intense. Au contraire, Leon Uris's early novel, The Angry Hills has all the complexity of one of those 1950s paperbacks with lurid covers. The plot is tissue thin, the characters even more so. Glad this was a $1.99 Kindle sale book. Michael Morrison, an American writer, ends up coming into possession of top secret information on the eve of the Nazi takeover of Greece (for various implausible reasons) and goes on the run. Much suspense and derring do follows. It reminds me a bit of "The Guns of Navarrone", complete with implausible instant love between protagonists (the woman of course has a "satiny body"; sigh). 2.9 stars.
I'll be re-reading The Gabriel Hounds by Mary Stewart shortly; also A Landscape of Lies. I'm hoping these two faves from the time that I was reading Uris's books will hold up! Meanwhile, it's time to go back for some Pratchett and some more Wolf Hall.
Richard, hmm, I'll keep an eye on that one. The tags "wilderness survival" and "coming of age" didn't motivate me a lot, but I'll keep an eye on the reviews...
Suzanne, I'm just dropping by to tell you how much I am both enjoying and learning over on the Wolf Hall tudored read.
The Angry Hills was a book that I remember reading many years ago, and brings back memories of Mary Stewart and Helen MacInnes, both authors that I loved when I was thirteen or fourteen.
My father had Aeroplan miles, and I haven't seen my family in nearly two years. They seem reluctant to come to NYC, so... Admit I am excited to see my niece and nephews. I'm going to stay part of the time with one of my closest friends from Queen's & her husband/partner and their daughter, which will be great; Freya never has time to e-mail, even. And I'll be having dinner with a friend from high school in Brussels who now lives in Toronto; I've yet to hear the full story of how he ended up there, as he's originally Dutch and went to college in the US! When in DC, I'll be staying with another high school buddy, a mutual friend of ours, who I've been lucky enough to see several times since we reconnected (again, thanks to FB.) You can diss FB stock all you want and I"ll agree with you, but FB itself has brought me back in touch with people I thought I'd never see again, who are scattered widely across the world. One example: when I was a child in Ottawa, we lived next door to the Indonesian ambassador's residence. I became friendly with all their children, who were a year or two older than I. Flash forward six years, and I bump into them again in Brussels; both of our fathers had been posted there. Flash forward 25 years, and I'm in touch with them again tks to FB; they are back in Jakarta, and I'm in NYC. Six degrees of separation? Nah, three, max.
I'm breathless trying to follow you, but it's worth the panting! I do, however, regret getting Anil's Ghost when I could maybe have gotten something more readable.
>136: aha, so pleasure, not book business. If you were going to be doing a book signing or somesuch, I would have driven down (even though I hate going in to the City these days).
Well, you could still drive down for lunch on Monday, Tui??
Anne, you can get the same fab writing with a much more solid narrative in The Cat's Table. I am going to chivvy you to read it; it was one of my fave books last year.
194. The Fault in our Stars by John Green -- I had to read this, as the author is a publishing industry phenom with billions of followers on Twitter, and a few posters here have loved the novel. I didn't. Yes, it was moving -- the story of two ill-fated teenager lovers, one diagnosed as terminal, one in remission -- who embark on a mission to meet a favorite author, fall in love, etc. etc. The problem? Yes, the writing was good -- but almost too good. I just didn't find the philosophically-inclined Augustus convincing at all. And the plot was immensely predictable. And I don't like feeling emotionally jerked around by an author -- I hate it when there's an obvious cue for me to sniffle into a hanky. It's not a bad book, just banal. It's a quick read, well written, and will probably appeal to lots of folks. I like my sentiment conveyed less heavy-handedly and in a more complex narrative. Probably YA readers will love this? 3.2 stars. Not for me, but I'm holding back from recommending against it.
Ach, sorry you didn't like TFIOS Suz!. It had a strong impact on me, although I may have been strongly influenced by my daughters who are huge John Green fans.
In the meantime, I had a whale of a time at BookExpo/BEA, scoring lots of great ARCs and galleys.
Leading the list would have to be The Beautiful Mystery, the new Louise Penny/Gamache novel, which is promised to Richard (after I read it.) He can then pass it on to whomever he wishes -- if anyone!
The lovely folks at Bloomsbury smuggled me a copy of Zoo Time, the upcoming novel from Howard Jacobson (author of The Finkler Question). I also snagged Leonardo and the Last Supper from them, Ross King's new book.
A much buzzed-about new book is The Headmaster's Wager, by Vincent Lam. He's lovely and I'm looking forward to reading this. Also from Random House -- #2 by Justin Cronin, "The Twelve, sequel to The Passage.
"Ratline" by Stuart Neville, from Soho
Death's Door by James Benn, ditto
"Try the Morgue" by Eva Maria Staal
"The Lost Prince" by Selden Edwards
The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony
The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison
The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore
"The Hot Country" by Robert Olen Butler -- first in a series of mysteries by the author!
The Prophet by Michael Koryta
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (much buzzed about)
"Little Wolves" by Thomas Maltman
"The Art Forger" by B.A. Shapiro
The Absolutist by John Boyne
The Elephant Keepers' Children by Peter Hoeg
The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets by Kathleen Alcott
My Last Empress by Da Chen -- signed, in calligraphy, with the character for longevity... The ink smeared slightly, despite my best efforts, but what a cool signin.
Foisted on me:
Does This Church Make me Look Fat? by Rhoda Janzen
Wake by Amanda Hocking
"Big Ray" by Michael Kimball, a literary novel Bloomsbury thinks will be a breakout.
I also have an extra copy of Trapeze, which I'm taking to my mother.
On the book news front!
David Downing's next novel will be titled "Maseryk Station" -- no due date yet.
And Trapeze, which I loved, will have a sequel from Simon Mawer....
Sounds like a great time at BEA, Suz. I forget where I first heard of The Absolutist but it's on my WL. I think it's being released here sometime this summer...
Katie, I'll see if I can nab a copy for you tomorrow; it's Other Press, which is pretty good about availability.
Looks to be a wonderful haul of books.
I haven't read The Fault in the Stars yet but have read all his other books and my favourite is still one of his earlier ones, Looking for Alaska. His co-authored (with David Levithan) Will Grayson Will Grayson was fun too. Anyway I'm down for the shared read of tFitS so I better pick it up and find out how I like it myself.
He started a youtube vlog brothers/nerd fighters diarything with his brother that became wildly popular.
And in a move to equally fabulous but non book-related stuff, a friend was at a one-night performance here in NYC at which Audra McDonald and Patti Lupone performed this:
If that doesn't make the hair stand up on your head, I despair. Fab. It's their riff on a classic duet, performed on TV only once by Barbara Streisand and Judy Garland.
Oh that was spectacular Suzanne. Wow! Nice haul BTW. I wonder if The Beautiful Mystery will be an ER book?
If ever I have seen a "feel-good knockout" performance, that is it. Perfect blending of voices, proving that the whole can be even greater than the sum of the parts, even when the individual parts are pretty damn good. Wow is right.
OK, updated bookhaul from BookExpo. Katie, sorry, couldn't get The Absolutist...
I did get:
The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann
Malice of Fortune by Michael Ennis
Carnival for the Dead by David Hewson
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
"Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" by Robin Sloan
and my more random selections, based on what was lying around!
Life Among Giants by Bill Roorbach
Fool by Frederic Dillen
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
Heft by Liz Moore
Breed by Chase Novak
The 500 by Matthew Quirk
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks
Truth in Advertising by John Kenney
Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital by Eric Manheimer (Darryl, if you're reading this, I snagged an extra for you.)
So, that's a total of 38 books...
Reading updates TK...
No worries - thanks for trying :)
Another good haul! I added The Dog Stars to my WL a few days ago - can't wait to hear what you think, though I realize it'll probably be a while before you get to it...
38 books - not too shabby Suz - that's a month's reading taken care of!
Well, then there are the two dozen unread Amazon Vine books; the embarrassingly large number of library books: the unread books on my Kindle; the Amazon.co.uk orders... So collectively, I figure I'm set for at least two years. If only they'd stop publishing new books that I want to read in the meantime...
>158 I know that problem, if one can call it that, well. So well.
>158 If only they'd stop publishing new books that I want to read in the meantime... Actually that sounds like the premise for a dystopian novel. I think I'm hoping that wish doesn't come true (though I recognize the sentiment.)
Fantastic book haul (and makes me feel a little better about my recent purchase history.)
Only 2 years? I really really hope they don't stop publishing new books that we all want to read, even though I have enough "tbr" to last me far longer than that.
If only they'd stop publishing new books that I want to read in the meantime...
I think I'm with Anne that, while it would indeed solve a problem shared by so many in this virtual community, it would also be hell. Maybe it could be another level of the inferno......
I have no idea how long I could last with the books I currently own, but it would be a darn long time.
I probably have enough books on my wish list to last the rest of my life. I have enough on hand that are unread to last a few years.
Ah Suzanne, in the thick of it among all the books and booksellers. Sounds like heaven to me. Congrats on the book haul. Somehow I think you'll muddle through all those books you've got sitting around.
>140: sorry Suz, just saw that post. June is shot to ribbons and so is much of July. Sorry!
OK, haven't been posting due to work, travel and the tutored read of Wolf Hall. At least, those are my excuses and I'm sticking to 'em!!
Had fun with the other LTers here in DC yesterday and for a few brief hours today at the National Gallery's Miro exhibit, before my stomach decided to misbehave (possible resurgence of irritable bowel, hopefully a one-off and I am feeling better now, thankfully.)
Quick book update, as I'm now very far behind...
195. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce is one of those heartwarming style novels, likely to appeal to anyone who enjoyed Major Pettigrew's Last Stand or who is a fan of Alexander McCall Smith. I enjoyed it while I was reading it -- Harold Fry sets out to mail a letter to a woman who was once a colleague but who has written to tell him she is dying, and then decides to walk from his home at one end of England all the way to Berwick on Tweed, by the Scottish Border, to try and save her life and see her once more. He doesn't take his mobile phone, is wearing only yachting shoes, and phones from the road at the end of the day to tell his wife what he's doing. It's only as the story unfolds that we learn about major parts of Harold's past -- his relationship with his wife, his son, with Queenie, to whom he is travelling. There are his traveling companions, as well, and the people he meets en route. This was a quirky novel that some will undoubtedly love; I found many of the situations to be a bit predictable, although the writing was done in a compelling way. (I noted the author had written radio plays, which may explain this. A "like" but not a "love" for me, however: 3.6 stars.
196. Re-read of Wolf Hall. Still think it's brilliant and insightful, giving us a window into one of the most feared men of his age and contrasting others' views of him with his own view of himself. Also tremendously vivid writing. For my 12 in 12 challenge. 5 stars.
Oh, my book accumulation report...
From this weekend's meetup... Acquired books at the Library of Congress (legally, in the bookstore...), at a friends of the library book sale near Eastern Market (at $1 per!!!) and at Capitol Books (great antiquarian/second hand place).
From the LoC:
The Lost Library by Walter Mehring -- about a man's effort to re imagine his family's library, lost to the Nazis.
Land of the Firebird by Suzanne Massie -- a great but hefty Russian cultural history, very readable. My mother has a copy she bought more than 25 years ago; now I have my own!
God on the Rocks by Jane Gardam
From the library book sale:
Dog Day by Alicia Jimenez Bartlett -- another Europa for my collection!!
Incline Our Hearts by A.N. Wilson -- Eager to read this after really liking the first novel I read by him last year.
Yemen by Tim Mackintosh Smith -- I think it was a book circle friend or her husband who mentioned this author to me; I just got his books following in the footsteps of Ibn Battuta, so for $1, what's not to like about this one??
The Wedding Group by Elizabeth Taylor -- a virago by the author everyone here seems to be liking right now
How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone by Sasa Stanisic -- because two people are reading it for my TIOLI challenge this month, so when I saw it, it was a must own!
Also was able to stock up on prezzies for my niece and nephews and some of the folks I'll be staying with in Toronto. Still must find a gift for my sis in law, however... and something for my father for father's day. Wondering whether he might like a Kindle...
It's Taylor's centenary, so she's getting special attention this year, a very good thing.
166: hopefully a one-off and I am feeling better now, thankfully
Oh, good. Checking your thread in hopes that you'd surfaced, since you were last seen hailing a taxi.
I'm wondering if it was simply something as silly as the contrast between the heat outdoors and the cold and acidic lemonade? *shrug* who knows?? I just don't want it to happen again. Certainly, I did feel better, oddly enough, in the heat outdoors and while I was moving.
Yes yes yes! Another person giving Eliz Taylor a try. Suz, in the Virago group we are reading one novel a month in order of publication. This month it's The Sleeping Beauty. You're welcome to join our read alongs!
But Laura, I would have to be, gulp, organized!!! I've got Angel at home as well. On verra...
OK, am all glammed up and ready to sally out to the Library of Congress for my black tie shindig. Then to drinks. Then a v. early morning conference call.
Sounds glamorous for sure! Enjoy! Continue to feel well!! The thing is - I know that you will eventually read your books. I'm at the point that I'm not going to live long enough to read all mine at my present rate --- and I don't care. The one I don't have is maybe the book of my life. How can I tell if I don't get it?
I'm awake now because Tigger decided to celebrate my return by jumping on my back while I was bending over to pick something up -- then dug in his claws to make sure he didn't fall. I have very very nasty scratch marks down my back. It's amazing; I'm sure that cat needs at least 18 lives.
Am hopelessly behind on work, but I did have a good weekend, hanging out with the DC meetup folks, with my high school friend Harlan (we've realized that if we met today, we'd still choose each other as close friends, perhaps more so). Got to hang with legal eagles last night, listen to Bernadette Peters sing (while sitting right behind a couple of Supreme Court justices who apparently ducked out early to write the health care opinions... gulp). Then had a drink with an ex bf who I haven't seen in 18 months or so -- fun. Back to NYC this morning, pouring rain, errands, cats, haven't yet packed the big suitcase to go to Toronto tomorrow, assuming I manage to get out of here. (Never take anything for granted...) Interviewing a fashion designer at noon (LOL! I'm the most non-fashion friendly person imaginable...) then must race home and race to airport.
Book update -- nothing major and nothing tremendously exciting.
197. Meltwater by Michael Ridpath is the third in a new series of mysteries by this author, and my least favorite, as it feels a bit too cobbled together. Icelandic-American detective Magnus Jonsson is back in his home country still, in this third book, and there's a murder near one of Iceland's volcanos of an activist in a Wikileaks-style organization preparing to release a devastating bit of news. The Wikileaks "leak" ends up being abruptly dealt with at the end of the book, which also ends on a cliffhanger -- big strikes against it. And the solution is a tad too contrived. But there's some fun stuff involving Iceland's volcano and the disruption to travel. 3.1 star. The first two are more interesting.
198. Re-read The Gabriel Hounds by Mary Stewart, which shows its age (it was written in the 1960s, I think) but still is fun albeit not up to date. Christy and her cousin Charles head off to visit their great-aunt, who is imitating Lady Hester Stanhope as an eccentric recluse in pre-civil war Lebanon, and stumble into a den of thieves, kinda. The romance isn't always convincing to me as a jaded middle-aged personage, but it's refreshing to read a book of romantic suspense that isn't a bodice ripper and is well-written. Light fare, perfect for the train today. 3.6 stars, for my 12 in 12 challenge.
Waaay behind on my reading of ARCs for Amazon and ER.
OK, am all glammed up and ready to sally out to the Library of Congress for my black tie shindig.
The orange shawl?
A busy woman you are. Cats, well, their social ways are a little strange.
The orange shawl indeed... Which saved me from displaying excessive cleavage and shocking the lawyers witless.
O.K. Somebody has to do it. The orange shawl might have saved the lawyers from shock, but it's way too late for the witless part. (Sorry)
Busy busy and travel too! I get sore feet thinking about how much runnin' around you do.
*smooch* for luck and a good trip to T-burg.
Made it safely to T.O.; have had a lovely evening catching up with my university friend, Freya, and her husband/partner, Andrew, who is originally Pakistani. We've had some interesting discussions about authors like Mohsin Hamid and Mohammed Hanif, and I already have one idea for a new book... Hopefully my small migraine will vanish by morning; I'm sure it's the stress of the last 10 days and the airplane that are responsible...
Sadly, small migraine has become big migraine... Still have a dinner slated for this evening, however, so I'm focusing on getting rid of it...
Well, it's a good thing I went to the dinner despite the big migraine. It was a reunion dinner with a Dutch friend, who moved to Canada with his family back in '96. We were at high school together in Brussels; haven't seen him in abt 30 years, but we were v.v. close back then; he was like a big brother, really. Turns out what he had not been telling me is that he is battling the same heart disease that killed his father at the age of 28; he is in stage 4 heart failure and on the transplant waiting list for 14 months now. Would all you Canadians PLEASE SIGN YOUR ORGAN DONOR CARDS. NOW! Not that I want you dead, but when R. told me about the appalling rate at which donations actually happen, and all the laws that work against it, I was stunned.
OK, my horrible head and I are off to bed.
Sad to hear about the donation rates in Canada.
Health and healing for crypto-brother.
Demigraineification whammy for Suz.
My work here is done.
Tks Richard... the demigrainefication whammy seems to have worked; let's hope the other wish produces a healthy functioning heart from someone whose absence won't be missed as much as R's will if he doesn't get a heart soon.
Brief book update:
199. Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues by Trisha Ashley is a new chick lit book by my fave author of the genre. Fave, because her heroines tend to be feisty, independent and not clothes obsessed -- and a bit older, in their late 30s and even early 40s. Sometimes -- gasp -- they have grown children. She's also VERY funny in a deadpan humor sort of way. That said, this wasn't my fave (those tend to be her earlier books) but it's still good and entertaining, as Tansy goes back to the Lancashire village where she was raised to turn her great-aunt's shoe store into a specialist emporium for wedding shoes, even as her own love live turns to dust. Needless to say... I read these mostly for the wit (there's little wisdom, although there also isn't anything that defies common sense, in contrast to most of the genre) and the feel good factor, so was quite happy with this. 3.8 stars.
Hmm, what will be my 200th book of the year?? And why am I reading so slowly this month??
Whoops, forgot to add part one of my Toronto book shopping list. From the World's Biggest Bookstore, where I once toiled as a clerk:
Absolution by Patrick Flanery, because it was praised to the skies by the friends I'm staying with.
419 by Will Ferguson, because the premise is intriguing and I like the author's non-fiction books.
Perfect People by Peter James, because I really liked another stand-alone book by the author I read early this year.
Our Lady of Alice Bhatti by Mohammed Hanif, because it looked interesting!
The King's Man by Pauline Gedge; third in a series set in ancient Egyp; have read the other two and while it's not her best work, I still want to read it.
Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam, because I met him at BookExpo and because The Headmaster's Wager is getting such great advance publicity
The Mastersinger from Minsk by Morley Torgov -- a fun looking mystery series set in the 19th century by a Canadian writer.
Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers -- intriguing historical novel...
And some random books that I would never pay to ship, but could be good or at least fun:
The Sultan's Wife by Jane Johnson -- set in Morocco in the era I've just been reading about in that book by Giles Milton.
Wallis by Rebecca Dean -- wildly uneven writer, but I'm curious about a novel featuring Mrs. Simpson.
The Lost Daughter by Lucretia Grindle -- looked amusing.
Suz - Your reading at my pace cos your buyin at my pace! Way to go.
Great haul! Just catching up after my 2 week hiatus. I haven't finished any books, but instead seem to be reading 6 at one time. I may need to just pick one...
Hope your vacation is very relaxing.
I do hope a heart comes up for your friend, but I don't like to think of a dying person not being missed by someone. Any dying person.
I know what you mean, Luci - it's just the idea of someone needing to die so that R. can live is also hard to get my mind around. Let me rephrase that and say that I hope that since someone has to die, it is with as little pain as possible and that whoever does lose them finds comfort that their heart comes to rest in R's body and that it will give him years more with his wife and three kids.
Just watched the live TV broadcast of the tightrope walker going across Niagara Falls -- amazing!!
Suz, I wonder (re the organ donor thing in CDA) if having a much smaller population than the US has anything to do with it? 34 million here, with a big aging population and a declining birth rate, compared to 313,735,000 million in the U.S., so not as much to draw from. I've got all my organs signed over except my heart: no one would want it after a couple of heart attacks, with part of it not working now. Anyway, best wishes for your friend. I hope something comes through for him and I'm glad you got to see him.
That could be part of it, Tui; R. also thinks it is down to policies which limit the extent to which docs can raise the question with relatives. And it's trickier for hearts as they need to be removed after brain death. I'm def. already a donor, and once was tested when a friend needed a new liver. But the enzymes or whatever didn't match well enough.
Bought some more books today.... *sheepish* But they are at my friend Freya's until I go back there on Monday. The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler is one, also The Cadaver Game by Kate Ellis, which is considerably cheaper than the UK edition and in paperback. Dogs at the Perimeter by Madeleine Thien. A couple of others I can't remember offhand (my brain is aging...) My mother convinced me to get Hanging Hill by Mo Hayder. My rule is no books that can be purchased readily in the US, or found in a library or bought for Kindle.
Oh, I hope your friend gets some good news on a heart donation. How sad.
(And, on an absolutely unrelated note, I am glad the orange shawl worked out well!)
Enjoy the new books
Just checking in because I've been ahead of you on the TIOLI for awhile and was wondering if everything was okay!
I'm back, I'm back.
Travel is weird. On one hand, it's nice to see people. On the other, I realize that until today, I have not had a SINGLE day in nearly two weeks in which I have not spent at least half of my waking hours in the physical company of other people I know. That is simply not my typical life. Moreover, it means I don't have time to read. I'm not complaining -- while some duty visits weren't a barrel of laughs, for the most part I had fun catching up with old friends. But it means spending money rather than making it (yes, I'm back to waiting for checks once more...) and feeling more anxious after being away about stuff like how catastrophically messy my apartment is, how skinny Jasper the cat has become, how much work I'm behind on, etc.
Anyway -- enough moaning.
200. What Comes Next by John Katzenbach: if you looked up twisted, you would find the villains of this gritty suspense thriller pictured in the dictionary alongside the definition. The author has really let his imagination run amok here: a couple kidnap a teenage girl and showcase her sufferings on a deeply twisted pay per view Internet show. Trying to save her are a female cop, whose peers are convinced that Jennifer has simply tried to run away again, and a retired psychology professor, who witnessed Jennifer's abduction but whose demons include some family history that unfolds over the narrative but also a brain disease that warps his perception of reality. Who can be believed? What odd alliances will form in an effort to rescue Jennifer? It's all been done before, but if you don't mind ultra-gritty, this is reasonably compelling. 3.7 stars.
201. Defending Jacob by William Landay: Will, this was an unexpectedly good page-turner. One of Jacob Barber's teenage classmates is found murdered; at first, his father, ADA Andy Barber, is in charge of developing a case -- until his son emerges as the prime suspect. Andy goes to great lengths never to question his son's innocence, and since Landay wisely chose to tell this via the first person, the reader, too, is seeing Jacob through a father's eyes. The final two twists left me literally breathless. Oh, and I stood in the airport reading rather than pick up my suitcase and leave, because I didn't want to stop until I knew how it ended. Not great literature, but full of astonishing twists & turns. 4.2 stars; def. recommended if you're looking for a summertime read.
202. City of Women by David Gillham: By far the biggest problem I had with this book was the unconvincing main character. On the one hand, we're supposed to believe that she's so disconnected from her life during wartime Berlin -- living with her mother in law while her husband is on the Eastern front -- that she's willing to have rough sex with a near-stranger in a movie theater. On the other, we're supposed to believe that she is able to somehow morph into a self-sacrificing heroine willing to risk her life to save others. The author just doesn't do a convincing job of telling me who Sigrid is. On the other hand, his portrayal of wartime Berlin, from its mundane privations to the creepiness of living in a police state and the banal acceptance of horrors, was beyond compelling. So I'm torn: it's not a likeable book, but in many ways the author has done a good job. So... 3.8 stars. Read it and see what you think, although this was one book in which the graphic sex and talk about sex was of a nature that I found distasteful and inappropriate for the kind of book it was, and a distraction from the main theme and plotline.
Love your review of City of Women....i haven't finished reading the damned thing...but, i see it as Soap Opera w/Political Overtones.....the Sex bit, could have been a respite, for Sigrid, if her character had..well..had more "character"
196: Travel is weird.
Isn't it though. Suspended animation away from regular life, but the non-routine is wearing, and then you're right smack back where you were. Are you home for awhile now?
I'm no stranger to catastrophic mess, somehow manage not to see it when it's always around me, but I HATE coming home to it.
Yeah, when you come home to it, it is always more striking than when you live with it...
I think I'm back for a while. Need to focus on work and other things, like organizing my life.
ETA: also need to resume reading other people's threads, not just my own and the tutored read of Wolf Hall I'm doing with Ilana. It's fun, but...
Welcome home! Catastrophic mess is kind of routine around here too - sadly I can't blame it all on the kids. I'm always called away mid-project and it seems to just sit there and wait for me to come back...
Catastrophic mess r me. Glad you're back, safe and unsound of mind as you tour the mess.
Thanks, all... I still don't like catastrophic messes. I suppose I just need a fairy godparent to keep order here. Certainly, the cats won't lift a paw...
Suz - glad to see you back safe and sound. Congratulations on passing the 200 mark already!
203. Murder on Fifth Avenue by Victoria Thompson: I have become so accustomed to this series being deeply underwhelming that I almost didn't pick up this book from the library. Which would have been too bad, as it's easily the best the author has written in several outings, even though some of the plot "twists" were VERY self evident, to the point where I felt like shouting at Sarah Brandt, the midwife whose parents are part of New York high society of more than a century ago and who investigates crimes alongside the often-reluctant policeman, Frank Malloy, "Don't you GET it??" Still, a tight narrative and intriguing plot. Not the best mystery I have read of late, but perfectly serviceable: 3.6 stars, for my 12 in 12 challenge.
204. Socrates by Paul Johnson is a solid, brief introduction to the man and his times, which I opted to read as I plan to launch into The Hemlock Cup later this year. If you think you're unlikely ever to read the dialogs or to chomp down Plato on Socrates, but want to know what all the fuss is about, this a perfectly respectable option. That said, Johnson is clear about his biases: he is a bit sniffy about Plato and his "forms", and displays a clear preference for Socrates and his prodding of issues in moral philosophy. But then that's likely to appeal to modern lay readers, anyway, who are less inclined to spend large amounts of time debating the more complex issues of the meaning of life, and who are more interested in what a "good life" is and how to achieve it -- and in Johnson's eyes, that's what Socrates can help us grasp. Perhaps a little too much of Johnson's opinions where facts are thin on the ground, and too much of those opinions presented with certainty, but overall, a very good general-purpose intro. 4 stars.
ETA: Tui, Jasper was diagnosed abt 18 months ago as diabetic, and despite the insulin, has lost a lot of weight, to the point where you can see his hip bones, etc. He's still reasonably energetic, but weak. Last time I was away for nearly a week, at the beginning of the year, when I came home I found him hiding out in the back of the closet, unwilling to eat and taking no interest in anything. Happily, that's not the case today -- we still don't know what happened, but the vet prescribed some amoxicillin, after which he began to eat again and to follow me around in search of cuddles, so perhaps it was a random infection.
Yes, he is my super-sweet cat. The downside is that he always wants to cuddle, and as he was abandoned at abt two weeks of age by his mother, he also likes to chew and suck on whatever t-shirt or sweater I'm wearing, which can be very very very annoying. But he is very lovable.
I hope Jasper continues to gain strength. Since I'm considering adding another kitty to the household, I love reading about a super-cuddly one.
So, folks, two years after publication, I got a notice yesterday that Random House/Crown is about to be "presenting the title listed below to the Remainder Marketplace". The title in question is the HARDCOVER edition of Chasing Goldman Sachs; the paperback version (revised, updated and published only last October) is still available at the various regular prices.
I am going to buy a box for myself; a friend is buying a box for his students (he teaches finance). If anyone is really interested in having one for themselves, please let me know. I have to order them, and they ship to me free for $1.62 a copy. I'll resell for that plus whatever it is in shipping and handling (the handling simply being the cost of the padded envelope to stock it in, or about $1.) There is the usual NY sales tax on the book, but that still leaves it at under $2. While I'd love it if everyone rushed out and bought the paperback (on which I'll still earn royalties!) or Kindle version, if you want the original, please let me know. I'll be filling out the form to submit to Random House in the next week or two as it has to reach them within a specified amount of time. Copies ship directly to me (that's the policy under the special offer to authors). I'm assuming that something similar will be possible with the paperbacks, although that likely won't be for another year. So if anyone is looking for autographed Xmas gifts to give...!
Well, I already have both hard cover and paperback, but I noticed the book in the recentest Edward R. Hamilton catalog at a remainder price. I do hope that your paperback continues to sell.
205. In Witches Abroad, Terry Pratchett plays around devilishly with the idea of fairy tales (especially Cinderella) and the zeitgeist of New Orleans, with horribly wince-making puns juxtaposed with smart references to theology and to Neville Chamberlain's pronouncements post-Munich. The pleasure of these books is that you don't have to get all those references to follow the action as three witches set off to rescue young Ella from a "happy" ending being scripted for her by a "good" fairy godmother, intent on her marrying a frog prince. Literally. Pratchett's brain def. works in twisty ways... 3.6 stars; I still greatly prefer the "Watch" novels to some of the others I've read of the Discworld saga.
I seem to be reading a surreal # of books simultaneously, even by my standards. Pure by Andrew Miller (very good, but reading about the hygiene of 18th century Paris and disinterring a graveyard can only go so far); Istanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon (intriguing plot but the author's staccato writing style is driving me nuts); Trail of Ink by Mel Starr (the mystery is getting lost in the author's rambling); Wallis by Rebecca Dean (the curiosity that prompted me to buy this in Toronto is satisfied and I'm losing interest) and Landscape of Lies by Peter Watson (possibly my 27th re-read of this, although the first in at least a decade.)
I want a hardcover, please! Oh, and could you personalize it? "For my darling Richard, in fondest memory of our passionate trysts and smoldering lustful nights, ever thine own little Muffins" or something similar.
Aren't inscriptions supposed to be, ahem, credible? "Muffins"?????
Suz / Richard - hahaha and I am sure that such an inscription could make RD quite a lot of dough if the re-issue goes stellar as you deserve.
Well, Muffins, I did say "...or something similar" now didn't I?
PS Imogen not disappointing at all yay yay
Glenn -- to skutch, in memory of the many occasions on which I had to defend myself with a broom from your "advances"?? :-) Phew, no wonder you can cope with Tigger-the-terror-cat...
*I* already own the hardcover - and personalized by Muffins herself
Argh, must find way to shake the "Muffins" label. Sooooo undignified. Harumph.
Both of these for my 12 in 12 challenge, on which I have fallen behind...
206. Pure by Andrew Miller is another example of the way that fiction that is set in a historical era doesn't necessarily fall into the genre of "historical fiction". Miller's characters just happen to inhabit a specific era of time, and he happens to be exploring themes that follow from that, but this has zip in common with most historical fiction. (I'm a bit bemused that some authors in this area gripe about writers who are very talented authors "invading" their space selectively; I suppose it's a case of the green-eyed monster at work...) In any event: Miller's territory is pre-Revolution France, a restless place, one filled with poverty and oppression and with characters like Jean-Baptiste Barratte, the engineer who is Miller's protagonist, who simply wants to "get on". In this case, that means accepting the assignment to clear centuries worth of bodies from the cemetary of les Innocents in Paris, a year-long task that will completely transform his life and those of others who find their fate tied to the reeking environs of the cemetery. Will he really succeed in "purifying" Paris? Or will his Enlightenment-era ideals be doomed? Miller captures the era, the ambiance of pre-Haussman, pre-Napoleonic Paris, with its narrow and twisted streets, its mud, etc. This book is not for the squeamish -- it becomes clear to the reader very early and vividly just why the authorities view les Innnocents as a health hazard, and there are some vivid examples of what digging up the dead involves -- but it's a riveting story. Not in the same camp as Hilary Mantel, but in the same vicinity, at least. If you enjoy Mantel, or Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies, this is another book you might try. Perhaps not as pristine or sharp as either of those, but still v. good. 4.3 stars.
207. Landscape of Lies by Peter Watson is an old fave of mine; an art world puzzle-based mystery. Isobel wakes up in the middle of the night to find a mysterious man in a motorcycle helmet trying to steal a 16th century painting from her old farmhouse. The painting has little merit and no inherent value -- but could it lead to a lost monastic treasure? Along with art dealer Michael Whiting, she follows the clues, but the dangerous man in the helmet seems to be ahead of them at every turn. This came out in the mid/late 80s, and it was a more interesting/fresh plot then -- Watson knows the art world (he's written a lot about it), so the iconography and ideas are on point. The mystery is a bit straightforward, the characters kinda cliche, but it's still a fun re-read. I was also amused -- since this may be the first time I've re-read it in well over a decade -- to think about how the existence of cell phones and the Internet would have dramatically changed the nature of this book. Indeed, between them, they might have put paid to much of the plot! 3.8 stars, recommended for a light read.
Oooh! Pure sounds fabOO! Thanks for the pointer, Muffins darling.
It even comes with a free cat, Ricardus!! (well, at least, there's one in the book -- called Ragout, or "stew")
I'd rather have one called "Dead thing," but that's just me.
My liberry system has one, so I'll see it in a few days. How fareth thou in The Radetzky March?
Erm, just starting it now... I have been procrastinating on this, as on so many other things in my life...
It's not short, but it's not a slow, torturous read, so you'll be fine.
Fingers crossed! I do have some overdue library books and some Amazon Vine offerings that have to be finished, so we'll see. That said, I have really enjoyed the first two chapters, so...
>223 I've often thought about how cellphones would have changed mystery stories written in or placed in pre-cellphone times. Sue Grafton's stories are a prime example. It's curious - I don't think we focus on that kind of advance when we go back several centuries for a story, but lack of what we take for granted today in more recent ones can be distracting.
Suz, I would love an original hardcover copy, and I will find a paperback out there and buy it, too!
Hey, if its not too late I'd love a hardcover! It sounds great! And I swear I'll either go out and buy the paperback too or send a donation for the writing fund. And you don't have to mention Muffins.
I'll let you all know how much it will be, but the bottom line will be $1.62 plus NY tax plus shipping plus a token amount toward a padded envelope. Just so that I'm not out any money! Accepted in the form of Amazon gift certificate, so no one has to mail checks... So, I have six orders/requests so far, plus a request for a box, so I may order three boxes. Of course, when I die, and they find an entire box of these in my possessions, people will think I'm incurably vain, right?
Book finished last night:
208. Her Highness the Traitor by Susan Higginbotham was an intriguing and rapid enough read, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you're already a die-hard historical fiction fan. She has decided that some key historical figures surrounding Lady Jane Grey weren't as bad as history painted them -- so sets out to whitewash them instead in this novel. The problem is, the whitewashing is equally unconvincing, at least to me. Added to that is the fact that although they say all the right things for the era (including faaar too extensive speeches from scaffolds and full extracts of letters in the original wording, which juxtapose oddly with the rest of the narrative and may be there just to prove how intent the author is on clinging to historical truth and how accurate her research is) the characters really sound like lovely, well-meaning middle class people of today in their motivations and priorities, if not in the issues they have to ponder, and that makes this unconvincing. She even transforms Lady Jane Grey into a petulant and spoiled teenager. It's an interesting enough theory, but not executed well enough (sorry, unintentional pun) to be effective. I wanted to like this book, as it deals with a relatively obscure point in time (the era of Edward VI, mostly, Henry VIII's cherished son) and does so via the perspective of two characters whose perspective we don't usually see-- Frances Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk, and Jane Dudley, Duchess of Northumberland, Jane Grey's mother and mother-in-law, respectively. The problem is that the latter simply isn't an interesting personality and the author can't make her one; Frances led an interesting life, but rather than opt to delve deeply into this woman and her life, the author instead is intent on making sure she has a way to touch on each and every major point in the chronology. Once again, novelizing a chronology of historical events proves to be disastrous to storytelling. 2.9 stars. I did keep reading, so I can't mark it lower than that, but I won't be reading it again.
Moving right along, to finish reading Istanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon and Trail of Ink by Mel Starr. The latter is an author I won't be reading any more of when I struggle across this finish line... I really wish he would stop describing every. single. meal. that his character consumes!
Oh dear, the Mel Starr news is a bit of a disappointment. Not unexpected, but still not what I was hoping...the series had a nice feel to it in the first one.
Suzanne, I wanted to send copies to my congresswomen but didn't feel I could afford to. My paperback is lent out to my financial advisor at the moment. Put me down for 4 copies, please.
Roni, consider it done!! Thanks, all...
Yes, I'm a bit fed up with the blathering about meals, and the blathering about God (excessive given the modern audience; being era-appropriate doesn't require pages at a clip.) The mystery kinda gets lost in the shuffle. Oh well, I'm 2/3 of the way through so will forge through to the end. I might have read another had they been available from the library, but oddly, this is one series that they have none of. Can't be a quality issue, as there's lots of Danielle Steele...
I'd love to have a copy. (But you might need to do a tutored read on it).
Sign me up for a copy Suzanne. You've made me smile, BTW. I picked up a copy of Pure just last week.
209. Istanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon. OK, up front, I hate Kanon's way of handling dialog. His characters speak. But only in short phrases. Many of which are incomplete. Like this. And no. I'm not exaggerating. Happily, the plot kept me engaged enough that when it got bad I just grit my teeth and kept reading. Kanon set his novel in Istanbul immediately after the end of WW2 -- a fascinating time and place. The city was a way station for all kinds of folks trying to flee Europe itself -- victims and perpetrators alike. And expat American businessman Leon Bauer finds his fate entangled with one who may have been a perpetrator and may yet end up as a victim -- and it's up to Leon to figure out who is triple-crossing whom and who he can really trust in what turns into a twisty and intriguing tale. Recommended. But hone your tolerance for staccato prose before cracking the cover. 4 stars, would have been higher if not for the annoying inability of Kanon's characters to use anything but sentence fragments.
210. A Trail of Ink by Mel Starr has no such redeeming qualities, I'm afraid. Endless jabber about meals, endless digressions into pedantic, banal observations about how lucky the narrator is to have met the woman of his dreams and about his hopes for their life together, excessively self-evident observations about what is happening... Wow, without all the padding, this novel might have been a novella. That said, this historical mystery might have offered up a real sense of mystery or suspense, both of which are sadly missing. I'm abandoning the series here: 2.4 stars, and I'm being generous. I only read this one because it was about the hunt for missing books, but honestly, compared to what Starr could have done with the topic, he might as well have been hunting for silver ingots.
Istanbul Passage sounds like it would affect me negatively. I am distressed by having my eyelashes tugged, and that's how such staccato sentences make me feel.
Mel Starr gets no stars (well almost). I'll skip on that series too Suz.
*catches up, more or less*
I prefer Terry Pratchett's Watch novels, too - but I know exactly what you mean about not needing to get all the references. There's a great story and a lot of comment on human nature regardless, and getting the references just adds more (and more) to that.
Landscape of Lies does sound like fun. Somehow, the little details in a setting that's almost now, but not quite really stand out in a way that huge differences in a whole other world/time/situation don't.
OK, book catchup. Again.
211. The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth is a novel that I really really liked -- which is fortunate, as this month's reading has been rather "meh" by and large with v. few books that I lurved. This one isn't always super compelling reading but it's always fascinating and just when it starts to drag, Roth rescues it with some surreally vivid prose that made my eyes grow round with amazement. It's the story of the von Trotta family, whose "founder", an army lieutenant of the infantry, saves the life of Emperor Franz Joseph at the battle of Solferino. The novel will end with another battle somewhere on the Galician front, with another lieutenant, also in the infantry, fighting for uncannily similar reasons, at the beginning of WW1. Solferino marks the last battle in which monarchs personally led their troups; WW1, of course, marks the end of the whole system of a Europe dominated by monarchs and ushers in a bleaker and even darker era, during which Roth is writing (1932). It's the period of decay and collapse in between during peacetime that Roth captures so vividly through the experiences of Franz, the son of the "hero of Solferino", who is now a district captain (a civil administrator) and aligns himself so closely with the very concept of the Habsburg empire that it provides almost the only real meaning to his life, and those of Carl Joseph, Franz's son, who joins the peacetime army and finds in it ugly undertones of things to come, from anti-Semitism and nationalism to nihilism. Carl Joseph strives to capture his early unquestioning idealism of the empire in the same way that his father does, but with the exception of a Corpus Christi procession in Vienna (one of those vividly captured scenes), does so in vain. This is a poignant tale, one in which none of the characters are terribly admirable but whose foibles and moments of very human courage and insight, are dealt with compassionately by Roth. This novel is a tremendous accomplishment and I'm eager to go on and read The Emperor's Tomb, a kind of sequel dealing with another branch of the Trotta family. Def. belongs on any list of 1,001 books and deals with what are to me fascinating issues, so 5 stars. This was a book circle read.
212. Granddad, There's a Head on the Beach by Colin Cotterill -- from the sublime to the mostly just silly. I adore the goofiness of the Dr. Siri novels, but in this, the second in the author's new series focusing on a 30-something Thai female reporter stranded with her family at a god-forsaken beach resort has too many eccentric characters and none of the same magic sauce that makes Dr. Siri work so well. There's a point to it all -- this novel deals with mysteries involving the plight of Burmese migrant workers in Thailand, and corruption in Thailand generally -- but it's drown in eccentric characters, so that it's hard to get the same level of involvement in the story. (the climax includes a bunch of karaoke-singing squid fisherman...) 3.5 stars; I hope this series gets better cuz I fear Dr. Siri is soon to draw to an end... For my 12 in 12 challenge.
213. The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian is an ARC of a book that comes out soonish -- the author is writing a narrative built around the horrors of the Armenian genocide by Turkey circa 1915 and onward. Having had Armenian friends since childhood, I knew the basic facts, and abt 18 months ago read Erevan by Gilbert Sinoue, a fabulous novel in French that does a better job than this of telling the story. I don't think Bohjalian's device of splitting the narrative up so much -- one big strand is contemporary as the granddaughter of a survivor and his American wife undertakes an investigation into their experiences in Aleppo in 1915, and the other is a narration of what happened at that time. The events described are chilling, but none of the characters were vividly realized enough to draw me into the narrative and make this as unforgettable as it should have been, given the subject matter. His characters are too obviously there to tell a story through. Read it if the topic interests you, or if you're looking for a not-too-demanding read about faraway places and events that are too distant or unknown. But beware, there are graphic and chilling details of those events. 3.7 stars, for my 12 in 12 challenge.
And yes, thread police, I promise to start a new thread, prob late tomorrow.
Glad you liked The Radetzky March; definitely one of my favorites.
Chris Bohjalian drives me nuts as a writer -- he takes on great subjects, researches them deeply, and then....... writes a book with boring characters and scenarios that play out predictably. I don't really understand how he has done as well as he has.
Sorry your reading has been meh.
This was my first encounter with Bohjalian, and I'm definitely not whelmed. I hadn't realized it was a pattern; I suppose I had been hoping that the personal topic meant that it was an anomaly. Oh well, one less author I feel driven to read.
The Radetzky March, on the other hand, is a gem. At the book circle, where Richard's review was read out, the comments were along the lines of it being a rare book that Richard didn't skewer or make faces at in some way -- that his review amounted to a rare raving endorsement...
Waiting for the healthcare decision. Jasper is chez the vet today, and I've got a scary day ahead....
He's a Vermont author, so you can't get away from him here. A very personable man as well.
The Radetzky March is another one I've had sitting on the TBR shelves for several years. One of these fine days....
Oms and white beams for Jasper.
*good Jasper vibes merging with Tui's*
So glad you liked The Radetzky March too! I very very much enjoyed it.
The Cotterill series with Jimm Juree is nothing like as much fun as Dr. Siri. He's said the ones we have of that series are all he's a-gonna do. Boo. Hiss.
Bohjalian. I use it as a cuss word. "Ah, go Bohjalian yerself." "Oh yeah? I hope you get Bohjalianed!" After some skeleton thingie he wrote in which there was a Jew-hunting scene told entirely in second person present tense, I have declined even to be polite about his books.
I never could put my finger on my problem with Bohjalian, but Lucy nailed it. The books should be so much better than they are.
I confess I'd rather bid a fond farewell to Dr. Siri while he's still going strong than have the series falter and fade, as so many do.
Tks for the Jasper vibes; this is, I hope, a routine stay to monitor the insulin. We switched to a new, vastly more expensive insulin last week. Of course, with a headache yesterday, I promptly let the vial slip from my fingers and smash on the floor... meaning I now will have to pay today's vet bill AND replace it -- 3 weeks' worth of disposable income gone like *that*.
Let's hope that the state-sponsored health insurance exchanges do what they promise. Because do what I can, so far have been unable to get anything offered in the way of health insurance for less than $2,000 a month. You know something is v.v. wrong when the proposed penalty for not doing it is vastly smaller than the cost to do it -- and when doing it (in this case, buying health insurance) is something you WANT to be able to do. Sigh.
This topic was continued by Chatterbox's Adventures in Bibliomania in 2012 -- The Second 75 -- Episode Three.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.