Laytonwoman3rd Challenges 2013
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My favorite husband and wife mystery-writing team, Richard and Frances Lockridge, with one of their Siamese companions.
2013 READING LISTS
JUNE How is it JUNE already????
37. Trousering Your Weasel by Murr Brewster
36. Airframe by Michael Crichton
35. The Teahouse of the August Moon by Vern Sneider
34. Deadly Nightshade by Cynthia Riggs
33. The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
32. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin.
31. Apple of My Eye by Helene Hanff
30. The Yard by Alex Grecian
29. A Glass of Blessings by Barbara Pym
28. Fool Me Twice by Michael Brandman
27. Rounding the Mark by Andrea Camilleri
26. Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough
25. Robert B. Parker's Wonderland by Ace Atkins
24. The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies
23. Kate's Klassics by Kate Camp
22. Less Than Angels by Barbara Pym
21. If Rocks Could Sing by Leslie McGuirk
20. A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks
19. Creole Belle by Jame Lee Burke
MARCH Mystery March, although not exclusively
18. Disco for the Departed by Colin Cotterill
17. Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot
16. Murder Out of Turn by Frances & Richard Lockridge
15. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
14. The Smell of the Night by Andrea Camilleri
13. Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym
12. Darkness Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane
11. The Cat Behind the Hat by Caroline Smith
10. Bodies of Water by Rosanne Cash
My daughter and I will be reading Pride and Prejudice together in February. It will be the first time I've tucked into it. I won't read the second Barbara Pym for the centenary reads, Excellent Women as I read it a couple years ago. I hope to concentrate on getting a few more "off my shelves" books under my belt this month.
9. Twenty Thousand Roads by David N. Meyer
8. Madame Zee by Pearl Luke
7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Tenth Man by Paddy Chayefsky Not giving it a number, as one play does not a "book" make, in my scheme.
6. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
In January I had hoped to read a collection of short stories for the Story Collections Read-Along; at least one Orange prize winner or contender for Orange January (it's the Women's Prize now, but orange is still its color in my mind); and the first of Barbara Pym's novels (publication order) in connection with her centennial. I managed the story collection but not until February had well begun; failed the Orange read completely, but did finish the first Pym. Reading goals and I have a very uneasy relationship!
5. Up Jumps the Devil by Margaret Maron
4. Show Red for Danger by Richard and Frances Lockridge
3. Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym
2. Think of Death by Richard & Frances Lockridge
1. The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout ER copy; Publication date March 2013
I've been perusing my 2012 reading, and garnering a few statistics for my own amusement. In 2012, I read 88 books, of which 43.5 were written by women (that half represents Frances Lockridge, collaborator with her husband Richard, above on so many books); 21.5 were from the public library (of which 6.5 were audio books--that half results from a defective audio copy of Shiloh, which I supplemented with my own print copy of the book); 21 were non-fiction; 2 were poetry collections; and 9 were from LT's Early Reviewer program. I put aside, with no intent to return, 2 books and 2 audio books.
Top Fiction Reads of 2012
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx
Shiloh by Shelby Foote
Salvage the Bones by Jessamyn Ward
Top Non-Fiction Reads of 2012
It wasn't a red-letter year for non-fiction, but I give high marks to:
The High Path by Ted Walker
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
Dinner with Lenny by Jonathan Cott
The Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum
Sentimental Favorite Re-read for 2012 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Favorite New Discovery This one is a three-way tie: the Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camillieri; the Deborah Knott series by Margaret Maron; and the "Dublin" series by Tana French.
The "Am I Glad I Finally Got Around to This Author" Award goes to Ivan Doig.
The Pleasant Surprise of 2012----Robert B. Parker's Lullaby Ace Atkins has done a very credible job of carrying on with Parker's Spenser series.
My intentions for the new reading year
I will track all of my reading in the first post above, with links to the later posts where I discuss each book.
I don't plan my reading overly much. But at the start of each new year I generally have some good intentions about what I will do "better". It almost always includes reading more of the books that are already on my shelves or (lately) stored in boxes due to lack of shelf space. It's gotten critical recently, so this year, I simply MUST weed out some of those long-suffering unread novels that I probably won't want to keep after reading, if I find I really want to read them at all. I expect the Pearl Rule to be invoked mercilessly. I've joined the ROOTS group challenge hoping that the support of like-minded addicts will work for me. I'll keep track of how that's going on my ROOT Challenge thread.
I have joined the Short Story Challenge and the Barbara Pym centennial reading group. So I will try to keep up with those on a monthly basis (but will likely opt out of a month here and there). I also want to do more Faulkner reading this year, as I neglected my main man dreadfully in 2012. I understand it's Robertson Davies' centennial year too. There's another author I need to read more of. But several of his are on my shelves, so would fit into the ROOT challenge... (This is beginning to sound a lot like a PLAN...isn't it?)
Thanks, RD. Welcome to my world. I'm lucky you got here before I posted the picture up top, as it might have scared you away.
I liked the Lockridge mysteries long ago. Haven't read one since the 80s. I don't recall ever seeing a photo of them before...not so purty, were they?
I seem to recall seeing a picture of him in uniform when he was in the Navy---not bad. And she was what used to be called a "handsome woman", I believe. Sort of reminds me of Patricia Neal somehow. I have nearly all of their books, and a good many duplicates, since I've collected them obsessively. I'd be happy to send you a dupe or two if you get a hankerin'.
Thanks Linda3rd! How dear of you to offer. I'll call upon you when the hankerin' hits. *smooch*
I wish you the best year yet, Linda - and that includes a lot of reading!
Stopping by to star you so I can keep track of how life is treating you. Hope the New Year is starting out to be a good one.
Happy New Year, Linda. Congrats on the new thread - I don't know your fave mystery-writing team, so I'll have to check them out.
Thanks for the wishes everyone. Joe, I make you the same offer I made Richard. If you'd like to sample the Lockridges' stuff, I'd be happy to send you one or two of my duplicates. I have a copy paper carton full of those.
I have that one as an ER book and have it at the top of the print TBR pile. I'm sure I'll enjoy it. I'll probably pass on reading your review until I've finished it myself.
I'm like that too, Tina. Unless I'm totally stumped and looking for a jumping-off place to write a review, I don't want to read anyone else's until mine is composed.
2. Think of Death by Richard & Frances Lockridge This is the first of the Lockridge's mysteries that does not feature Mr. and Mrs. North, and it marks the first appearance of Captain (later Inspector) Heimrich of the New York State Police, although he isn't the featured character nor is the story told from his point of view, as with later entries in his series. (In fact, a point of trivia that makes me heart sing to have discovered it, his name in this is thrown out as "P. T. Heimrich"; he becomes Merton L. Heimrich later on.) Much as I love most of the Lockridge ouevre, this one, frankly, is a dud. There is none of the cosy companionship of friends, lovers, married couples and pets that prevails in most of the North and Heimrich mysteries, which are fun and entertaining, but never twee. Not a moment of comic relief anywhere in this one, and nary a four-footed animal. Everyone is deadly serious about everything, all the time, and the main character is a crashing bore who spends most of the book wallowing around inside his own head. Richard Lockridge had a tendency to that kind of thing after Frances died and he wrote by himself; I've never noticed it in one of their joint efforts before. This was one of the last missing titles in my collection, and I certainly wanted to know how Heimrich was introduced to the world. Wouldn't have bothered to finish it otherwise. So, for those of you I have encouraged to try the Lockridges, don't go with this one. Probably won't be hard, since it's unlikely to be the one you can put your hands on.
I think you have a Patricia Neal lookalike up there also - and I think the term handsome woman is a good one. I still use it on occasion.
My daughter (22) read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn a couple months ago and loved it. I don't think I've ever read it and I suppose I must. Shelby Foote's Shiloh is an old favorite of mine. I sought it out when he appeared in Ken Burn's Civil War series and I was really taken by his writing.
good luck with your reading this year.
Welcome, Ron. I hope you'll stop by frequently. Do you have a reading thread of your own?
I do. I've just moved from the 50's to the 75's. Here I am: http://www.librarything.com/topic/147345
I just starred you to remind me to check in.
#17: Donna liked that one too and since I enjoyed Strout's Olive Kitteridge, I am going to have to read The Burgess Boys - assuming my local library ever gets a copy.
#22: I never realized that the Lockridges ever wrote any books other than the North ones. Good to know - but I will take your advice and give Think of Death a pass.
Stasia...Burgess Boys is scheduled for a pub date of Mar 26, 2013 so libraries should have copies by end of March.
3. Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym I've enjoyed Barbara Pym in the past. She kind of sneaks up on you with her brilliant, understated characterizations of ordinary people whose uneventful lives, when scrutinized her way, become fascinating, amusing, enlightening, and often absolutely hilarious. Some Tame Gazelle was her first novel, and she was already on her game with spinster sisters Harriet and Belinda Bede, who some indeterminate while ago "decided to spend their old age together", and who engage themselves with affairs of the parish. Harriet, who had a good university education, has long ago given up all intellectual pursuits to adopt a series of thin pale curates as they come and go, plying them with handknit items, cakes and boiled chicken suppers. Belinda, on the other hand, still takes pleasure in the greater and lesser English poets, and nurtures a long-standing love for the Archdeacon, who luckily for Belinda, married someone else 30 years ago. There seems to be nothing loveable left in the Archdeacon, who isn't at all happy in either his marriage or his calling, but Belinda loyally continues to look on him fondly and defend his rather shiftless performance of his clerical duties from her sister's sharp criticisms, while occasionally indulging in daydreams about how she might have been a more sympathetic helpmeet than his wife has turned out to be. There isn't anything demanding about reading Pym, but it would be a mistake to dismiss her novels as insignificant or "cosy" just because they're comfortable. It's sort of like spending an afternoon making cookies with a wise old aunt....you're richer for it.
It's sort of like spending an afternoon making cookies with a wise old aunt....you're richer for it.
What a wonderful way to put it! Brava, liked the review quite a lot.
Tina, there's a year-long informal group read of Pym's work going on over in the Virago Group. It's her centennial year. You can check out the schedule here. You're more than welcome to join in!
#28: libraries should have copies by end of March
Which means my local library will have it about 2015 or so. . .
4. Show Red for Danger by Richard and Frances Lockridge No. 13 in the Captain Heimrich series, this is a good one, with lots of action, and critical developments in the Captain's personal life. Not strictly necessary to have read others in the series before getting into this one, but the relationship between Heimrich and his Susan will make more sense if you've met them before. "Movie people" descend on Putnam County, bringing their complicated rivalries and vengeances into the bailwick of the New York State Police. Heimrich gets to the bottom of it all, as usual, despite misunderstandings, misdirection, Trooper Crowley's inexperience and the interference of a sad galoot of a dog named Colonel. Also, love triumphs, unsentimentally--this is not a spoiler, it's the way things work in Lockridge novels, and one of the reasons I like them.
See, the title says I challenge 2013, not t'other way 'round. My husband is in the hospital with an acute gall bladder...there's nothing quite like the challenge of a sick man who can't do anything but lay around and be done to. My reading will be light and non-challenging for a bit, that's for sure.
Stolen from various places, the following meme: Answer the questions about yourself using titles from books you read last year. (Links to your own thread appreciated if you do this.)
Describe yourself: Red Bird
Describe how you feel: Brother, I'm Dying
Describe where you currently live: In the Woods
If you could go anywhere, where would you go? By a Slow River
Your favorite form of transportation: Half Broke Horses
Your best friend is: The Kitchen Boy
You and your friends are: Speaking in Tongues
What's the Weather Like: The Whistling Season
You fear: Dissolution
What is the best advice you have to give? Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves!
Thought for the Day: When Will There Be Good News?
How I would like to die: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
My Soul's Present Condition: Southern Discomfort
hahahahaha I do like the stiff upper lip, Jeeves! Yes, I can completely relate about the challenges of a kicked flat man. Hang in there, red bird!
Hi Linda, love your answers to the reading meme. Sorry about your husband's gall bladder attack. I suppose that means you'll still be thinking about your review of The Burgess Boys for a bit as you play nurse. Good look with the nurse part, and I'm glad to know that you liked TBB.
Ew on gall bladder. Had mine out in 2007 and have never, ever been happier to see a body part go.
As you requested -- here are my answers to the meme. Hoping your husband feels better soon!
Sorry to hear about your hubby's distress. Are they planning on going in after it? (Sounds like a military thing, doesn't it?). It's so much less dangerous now than it used to be, now that they can operate laparoscopically. Hope he's well soon.
Gall bladder attack...ouch, painful. I had them before the removal of my gall bladder. The surgery was done as an out patient procedure. I was out of the office for about three weeks.
Richard, I agree, you never miss the gall bladder, especially when the wicked thing acts up.
Chiming in as another happy gall bladderless soul. I was lucky enough to have it out before the attacks got too bad. We were planning on starting to try for a Charlie that summer and so the doc said I should just have the thing out before I got pregnant. Charlie came along that next fall...
Healing vibes to The Husband and patience vibes to you...
5. Up Jumps the Devil by Margaret Maron Another whodunit set in rural/small town North Carolina. Good distractionary reading. Love the main character, Judge Deborah Knott, and her enormous extended family. Found the plot in this one a bit slap-happy, but that might be my circumstances.
Husband still waiting for gall bladder surgery. He was transferred on Tuesday night to a hospital 80 miles from home---big medical center, better equipment, better doctors. They have to get his system cleaned up and calmed down from the attack (gall bladder very inflamed caused some complications). He's getting great care, but the logistics are a bit tough. On the plus side, I discovered a very unusual bookstore yesterday. It shares space with a medical equipment and uniform supply store! I think it may represent unsold stock of an indie that went out of business, but I managed to fill a sack with good trade paperbacks at 25% off.
Gall bladder attack sounds tough indeed, Linda. I'm sure you're looking forward to his having the surgery at this point. Good to hear from Amber and others that gall bladderless is a-okay. What an LTer you are! Impressive that you could find a good book haul among all the duress.
Gall bladders can make you incredibly sick. I know people have "chronic" ones, and many have theirs nipped out without much fuss, but I've now seen and nursed two cases of the vicious acute kind, and let me tell you, it's no small thing. Monday morning is the target for the surgery, as all necessary functions are steadily improving.
Yes, Joe, how about that bookshop ... it's that silver lining they're always on about, I guess!
I had gall bladder attacks prior to having mine removed, so I can empathize with your hubby. I hope the surgery goes well and that both of you are back to your normal routines soon!
I am sending best wishes for your husband's recovery. Serious health problems can make your life miserable like nothing else.
Love the phrase "distractionary reading" = Margaret Maron is one of my favorites and Up Jumped the devil I remember as being lots of fun.
Surgery went well, and he's now recovering nicely. Even had real food for breakfast. We'd love to get him out of here and home tomorrow, but not sure they'll agree to that. It mostly depends on how his pain levels run.
As I recall, I had a cheeseburger the next day on the way home from the hospital. Not smart, I know, but I have no will power. Sigh.
Glad to hear things went well. He will be fixed up and free from pain.
This is a great page! I love these threads, they're sort of like little thematic blogs.
Thanks for visiting Ron, Bill, Amber and Moira. We have the patient home and resting, at last. No cheeseburgers for him on the way home--they weren't on his diet before this happened anyway! But I could use one...
5.5 DNF Carrion Death by Michael Stanley This book suffered, I think, from the circumstances I tried to read it under. It's physically too large (not a chunkster, exactly, just a large library-style hardback and difficult for me to hold for long). I took it from the library before life went crazy on me, and hadn't started it through its first borrowing period, so I renewed it once, but still didn't get to start it, and then LWCOM. I renewed it again, and started reading it, but I knew I couldn't finish it before the end of its final renewal, and I found I just wasn't interested enough in the story to incur fines, so I returned it having read about 1/3 of it. Maybe I'll give it another go one day. The character of Detective David Bengu, known as "Kubu" (which means hippo), has promise and I like the Botswana setting. A few scenes (predictably involving sex and violence) were overwritten, imo.
6. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri This book has been in my TBR piles for a long time. In fact, I think it is one of the first LT recommended books I acquired, along with Lahiri's The Namesake, which I read several years ago. Larihi's people and settings are brilliantly presented, as real as can be, and her writing is a joy to read. As with any collection of short stories, some work better than others as stories. The two that stand out for me in this collection are "Sexy" and "The Third and Final Continent". In each of these stories a main character gains wisdom from a brief and casual acquaintance with another human being whose presence inspires compassion and insight.
Aaah ... Loved that book. I'd say it indirectly inspired the short story project I'm doing this year, because reading it made me go off and acquire short stories by several different authors.
I have Unaccustomed Earth too, Pat, and may get to it before long, as I'm trying to read one collection every couple months this year.
Hi Linda3rd, running through...Lahiri and me, we go way back, so not dodging book bullets for once.
How's your husband's recovery coming?
My husband is progressing satisfactorily, according to everyone but him. He had his staples removed yesterday, and was pronounced to be doing very well. He took his first solo outing today, driving himself downtown to do an errand. He's impatient with himself for having minimal energy and stamina, and needs constant reinforcement of the notion that this is normal and he just has to suck it up. Does not care for inactivity unless it's of his own choosing. On the positive side, he's reading a lot more than usual, and even he admits that's kind of cool. Thanks for asking.
I hate inactivity not of my own choosing, too, so I relate to his grumpiness. But after all, an organ has been removed from his body. It stands to reason there will be an adjustment period!
The Tenth Man by Paddy Chayefsky A friend of mine is taking drama courses at the local university, and put out a request for copies of various plays she needs to read. So I found a couple of her selections in collections and brought the books to work so she can easily pick them up at her convenience. Naturally, in the meantime, I was compelled to read from those books over my lunch break. So I consumed The Tenth Man, which i had not read previously, from Four Contemporary American Plays. The title refers to the need to assemble 10 Jewish men at the synagogue to have a quorum (or minyan) for prayers and other religious services. It also refers, in this play, to a specific "10th man" drawn into a dramatic situation by accepting a plea from a stranger to complete a minyan for morning prayer at an Orthodox synagogue in New York City. The play alternates between hilarious fatalistic conversations and fervent atavistic prayers for the soul of a schizophrenic ("possessed") young woman, whose future hangs in the balance. Reading a play is never a particularly satisfying experience for me, but I am glad I familiarized myself with the content of this one, and I will hope to have an opportunity to see it staged some day.
#69 My friend had a good laugh---she was supposed to pick the books up one day, and found she couldn't do it 'til two days later. And I said "Good, that will give me time to finish reading the selection that snared my attention just sitting there!"
I'm glad your husband is doing well. Gall Bladder surgery knocks the stuffing out of you for a few weeks.
7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen Well, if there is still anyone out there who hasn't read Jane Austen, I'll ask you the same question I'm asking myself----what have you been waiting for? Maybe you'll have a better answer than I do. Ignorance is no excuse, but it's all I've got. Despite hearing Austen's praises sung repeatedly over the years by people whose discernment in such matters I trust, I did not expect to enjoy her so much. I didn't expect the brilliance of characterization, the wry wit, the laugh-out-loud moments, the perfection of Elizabeth Bennett's response to every challenge placed before her by her erstwhile suitors, her spoiled little sister, imperious Ladies and her foolish single-minded mother. It took me a little time to get into the flow of the prose, and shame on me for that. It's really a rather simple story, and the outcome is scarcely ever in doubt, but I couldn't put it down, because the telling it the whole thing, as it always should be. I confess I've never seen a dramatisation of it, either, to the best of my recollection. And I've resolved not to watch any film versions of Austen's other works before reading the books either. I don't want actors in my head...I want the characters all to form themselves for me as they did so splendidly here.
I liked Network and the movie Hospital by Chayefsky. I think Chayefsky wrote Hospital. He had quite an ironic sense of humor.
I'm one of the few who hasn't read Pride and Prejuidice I vow to read this book before the end of 2013.
I hope you had a lovely weekend and that your husband is feeling better. Richard is correct. An organ was removed from his body and it takes time to heal.
I've had many surgeries and post op from gall bladder surgery, I awoke shaking as though in shock from the pain. That never occurred before and it did bring home the fact that even though the removal was laproscopic, it was invasive non the less.
I am SO GLAD that you both read and loved it! Once you see the Colin Firth version of P&P, he kind of gets stuck in there as the visual for Mr Darcy but I really did enjoy the more recent version with Keira Knightly and Matthew Macfadyen as well. It's like Shakespeare for me: as long as the actors portraying the characters do them honour, I don't care who plays them, as it's the wonderful story that sweeps me along.
#75 I'm glad not to have seen the Colin Firth version, because much as I like him, he isn't my idea of Mr. Darcy. Of course, I've never seen him in anything that wasn't set in the 20th century, and he was much younger when he made that movie, so as you say, I will probably find him quite fitting to the part.
#74 Thanks for saying that about the post-surgery pain, Linda. My husband had the same experience...he said he woke up shouting for them to give him something for it.
@ 72, 75, 76
Yay! for the P&P love. *does little dance* I have, after all, been saying.
I like the Colin Firth P&P, especially for the way it dramatizes pretty much the whole book. But I have to confess myself a much bigger fan of the Knightley/Macfadyen version. I think Keira Knightley brings the right energy to Elizabeth, Macfadyen fits better my mental picture of what Darcy should look like, and the production has a lightness to it that seems more in keeping with the book, despite leaving a lot out. The Firth version, dare I say, sometimes seems to drag (I never think this about the book). And, I cannot stand the portrayal of Mrs. Bennet in the Firth version. I think it's absolutely a valid interpretation, but I like Brenda Blethyn's equally ridiculous but less over-the-top interpretation so much better.
"Me, too!" for liking the P&P version. I actually kind of actively dislike the Keira Knightley version--Jennifer Ehle is much more to my liking for the character of Elizabeth.
Gosh, I might be up for a rewatch of that series! I have a similar fondness for the Masterpiece Theater version of Jane Eyre, with Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens. Wonderful acting!
I know the Ehle/Firth P&P is considered the "definitive" dramatization, but I have a soft spot for Knightly/MacFadyen film because it turned a certain 12-yo into an Austen fan and that made me happy! She still plays the soundtrack as "music to study by".
I go in the other direction - I prefer the earlier BBC adaptation with Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul, which seems to me truer to the novel.
Wow...all these varying assessments of the film versions...where shall I start? I didn't know about the Garvie/Rintoul BBC production. But Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennett in the 2005 version? Really? That strikes an odd note, although I know he can do that subtle wit. That may just move me to watch that one first.
Yes, unfortunately since the release of the Ehle/Firth version, the earlier one has been "buried" and is hard to see. They did the same with the two versions of Vanity Fair, where again I preferred the earlier one to the more lavish re-make.
Liz, the Elizabeth Garvie one is a favorite of mine, although I will confess I haven't seen the more recent versions. I just found that one so delicious and well-paced - and everyone looked just as I'd pictured them, for some reason.
I don't doubt the Ehle and Firth did a great job - two thoroughly professional and quite talented actors.
I'm definitely going to try to track down the Garvie/Rintoul version of Pride and Prejudice. Thanks for the recommendations!
8. Madame Zee by Pearl Luke I've had this book around for a long time, and picked it up recently thinking it would probably be a "Pearl Rule" casualty, and I could get it off my shelves in short order. As it turned out, it wasn't a bad read at all. It is a highly fictionalized account of the life of "Madame Zee", the mistress of and some would say enforcer for, a cult leader known as the Brother, XII. The author freely admits that very little is known about her subject's life. Accounts of her involvement with the Brother, XII, are sparse as well as contradictory. So, she made it all up. Or almost all of it. And she did a pretty good job of creating a life and backstory for Zee, who was born Mabel Rowbotham in 1890 in England, the child of a fairly prosperous businessman. Very early in her life, Mabel begins to have strange dreams, visions, and clairvoyant episodes. Although she quickly learns that she cannot discuss these experiences with anyone, she does her best to educate herself about psychic phenomenon, Theosophy and reincarnation, seeking some understanding of the mystifying things she "sees". Eventually, after a failed teaching career, a disastrous marriage and several re-locations, Mabel changes her name and realizes her long-held dream of meeting the Brother, XII, and joining his Utopian colony off the coast of British Columbia. The narrative flows well, and Mabel is an intelligent, interesting and sympathetic character who avoids a good many stereotypical pitfalls only to stumble into others even though she sees them looming. It's a decent story of a strong but flawed woman who ultimately finds that she is her own best friend. Occasionally I found her a tad too modern in her speech and thinking for her time and place, and sometimes I felt the author failed to provide us with sufficient motivation for Zee's actions. I can't give it more than 3 stars, but I'm glad I read it.
#72 One of things I did in 2010-11 was to read all the 6 Austen novels and the 1 novella, the fact that we had an Austenathon organised here in 2011 helped. But to be honest, I wasn't overly impressed. My problem was more with the stereotypical female characters, rather than her way of writing, which was like you mentioned, quite brilliant!
You have the advantage of me, Piyush, as I've only read Pride & Prejudice so far. But those characters were contemporary with the writing, and I don't think they were stereotypical at the time. In fact, I think Lizzie Bennett was struck from quite a new mold.
9. Twenty Thousand Roads by David N. Meyer Remember 1968? (Yeah...I know...if you can remember it you weren't really there...baloney.) Among other things, that's the year The Byrds released their album "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" and pissed off everybody--the "real" country artists who thought those long-haired freaky people were trying to subvert country music, and the band's fan base who thought they'd lost their minds with this redneck shit. Well, there were a few music critics back then who got what was really happening, and now it's pretty well accepted that this album was the mother of country-rock. The father, often unidentified, was a 22-year-old phenomenon named Gram Parsons, who hardly anybody had heard of then, and a lot of people even now know only vaguely as that guy whose body got burned up in some weird ceremony in the desert. And wasn't he shacking up with Emmylou Harris back in the day? (Kinda wrong, on both counts.) Well, he's a legend in certain circles, and like most legends his truth has become a bit obscured. David Meyer seems to have done a lot of homework trying very hard to track down the truth about Parsons' short, chemically enhanced and shattered life, and it makes fascinating reading. It's about a rich southern boy with big ideas, too much loose change and not enough guidance or maturity to handle either well, who nevertheless left his mark on American popular music in uncounted ways. And it's about so much more---a valuable reference of influences, crossed paths, coincidences and lost chances. If you can't imagine a connection between Keith Richards and Buck Owens, let Meyer show you not only that it exists, but how essential it is in music history. His list of recommended listening and his encyclopedia of performers, songwriters, producers and followers make the book worth owning if you have any interest in country music, rock & roll, or their holy matrimony. Fascinating, sad and thought-provoking. I left more book darts in the pages of Twenty Thousand Roads than I've used in a long time.
I do remember Gram Parsons....and the wonderful music he made, with Emmylou Harris.....sadly, i can't play my LPs (no turntable)
I love your book review, and gave you a well earned Thumb..
Thanks so much, Jude. His GP and Grievous Angel albums were re-issued on CD together; Sweetheart of the Rodeo was also re-released about 10 years ago, with a lot of Parson's lead vocals (which had been deleted from the original) restored. His stuff is out there, and it still deserves to be heard. YouTube is your friend too.
Thumbs-upped the Parsons book's review, and thanks for the reminder about book darts. I ordered another batch.
Ditto the thumb thang! Went right over there and by the time I got back, I saw that Jude and St. Richard had already been. Really nice and thought provoking review Linda. I am going to see if my library has this one. I really want to read it.
Gram Parsons brought so much to the scene and didn't everyone need to get pissed off in those days? Really? Pissed off and the rest of us laid back.
Now you are going to have me up thinking all night again. Why Do you do that? Hmmmm?
My answers to your meme yonks ago. :-)
Wow, what a good review, Linda. Thumb from me, too. I like listening to the music, but not so much reading about it for some reason, so I'll probably take a pass, but you do make it sound tempting.
10. Bodies of Water by Rosanne Cash A very fine collection of short pieces (fiction, although a couple of them have more of a personal essay feel to them) about life from a distinctly womanly perspective. Roseanne Cash's creativity, originality and intelligence are brilliantly displayed here, effectively overcoming my usual reluctance to read so-called "women's fiction". This is neither chick-lit nor feminist manifesto; it's simply good writing about the female experience, and despite the fact that I have never really subscribed to the idea that there is such a thing as "The Female Experience", I enjoyed these stories very much. Most of them involve a woman who has left a man behind, temporarily or permanently, sometimes with children for company, yet there is no male-bashing, and rarely an explanation of why. There is introspection and soul-searching, but all in aid of facing the future with hope and reason. In "Part Girl", a woman determined to reinvent herself drags a heavy suitcase (loaded with her favorite shoes) off the train in Paris: "It was the summer that would begin the second half of her life; she had seen it coming as early as a year ago. There was nothing to do but get away from all things familiar, and look at a lot of art while she was giving birth to her middle-aged self. And take along a lot of choices in footwear, given the unpredictability of the new path." This is the only one of the stories not told in the first person, and it ends on a deliciously optimistic note. At the tomb of Ste. Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris, Elsa offers "not a prayer but a declaration..."I am a woman, which is to say, part girl and part suffering. The first half of my life has been utterly absorbed by other people and by my own demons. The second half I will spend laughing." In "Shelly's Voices" we meet a woman who experiences visions and seemingly prophetic dreams in which the Deity is a five-year-old girl with an infinite capacity for pain...and for joy. Shelly tells us "I have always heard voices. I have always answered them, in whispers and sighs...I do not court insanity, but I flirt outrageously..." She has psychokinetic experiences, but she tells no one about them. "I know what is acceptable...the world is my asylum...I am the priestess and the committee, the prison and the garden, and the patients are all me." The structure of this particular story is so amazing it's hard to imagine that the author had not been devoting herself to the study and practice of Form over a long writing career. Perhaps Cash's songwriting counts, and there is music theory underlying this composition as well; as little as I know about that subject, I am not equipped to recognize it. As far as I can tell, this is the only fiction Rosanne Cash has published. I wish there were more.
Linda, I've read Bodies of Water more than once, although not recently. I think many of the stories must be autobiographical or close to it. Rose was pretty active on the AOL music boards back at the time it came out. It was a lot of fun. She writes very well and she takes it very seriously. I suspect this collection would resonate more with women than men. Still, I'd rate it 4 stars as well. I'm surprised that yours is the first review posted. Very well done.
I noticed that you were one of the members who owned this book, Ron. I think I discovered it at second hand shop or library sale---it has a remainder mark on it, and multiple price stickers. I think it deserves wider exposure than it probably got when it came out. And I'm sure I'll read at least some of the selections over and over.
11. The Cat Behind the Hat by Caroline Smith Delightful big beautiful coffee table book featuring the art of Theodore Geisel from his advertising days through his last "Dr. Seuss" book, with many full color plates of pictures never seen in any of his published works. He was a quirky, imaginative fellow who never had children of his own, but figured out how to reach young minds, even though he claimed to be rather uncomfortable with kids in person. There's a fair bit of biography here, too, but the text really takes a back seat to the art---from his "secret" paintings to his Unorthodox Taxidermy, not leaving out his amazing illustrations for his many children's books, no one did it like Dr. Seuss, and as the author points out, no one has ever attempted to imitate his style. This book was lots of fun.
The Cat Behind the Hat looks great, Linda. Our son loves Dr. S., and has a birthday coming up, but right now the book is unbelievably pricey!
12. Darkness Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane. This is the second in his Kenzie/Gennaro series. I read the first, A Drink Before the War some time ago, and remember liking the characters and the setting. But that's about all I remembered about it. This second installment is quite possibly the darkest and most brutal book I've ever read. The writing is excellent, and I was drawn into the story so far by the time it got seriously ugly that I was committed---it's like entering the Mines of Moria--the only way out is through. I couldn't leave things unresolved in the middle of the horror, so I barreled on. But I can't recommend the trip to anyone. I like 'em gritty, and I can take violence in crime thrillers (James Lee Burke can be pretty rough going, and I love his stuff), but apparently I have a limit. I think I've read enough of Lehane now.
#106 Laura, I've immediately picked up a Pym to clear my head and banish the grim images.
I did say this about Lehane to you just the other day. *makes you tea to go with your Pym*
#108 I do see what you're saying---he doesn't let anyone rise very far above the surface of the swamp. (Thanks for the tea.)
#109 Hi, Carrie. Nice to see you here.
#110 Mmmm....had some of that, too.
13. Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym About as far away from Dennis Lehane as it is possible to get and still deal with the written word. Barbara Pym continues to entertain and amuse as I proceed through the group reads for her centennial year. Endless cups of tea, and jumble sales, and speculations about eligible bachelors and in-fighting among the members of the church council (with the odd defection to the High side, or even *gasp* to ROME) all making for a delightful glimpse of parish life, this time from the perspective of poor Jane Cleveland, who tries with very little success to be a proper vicar's wife though her talents are terribly unequal to the job. Once or twice she sent me into a complete fit of giggles. Pym can seem so mild and harmless at first, and then she sticks the dagger in.
14. The Smell of the Night by Andrea Camilleri Montalbano solves another one, with a little help from William Faulkner! I had this one figured out myself before the killer was revealed. It was fun to read, as they all are...but not quite enough food was featured!
15. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
The basic premise of this novel is that Vlad Tepes, the historical figure upon whom Dracula is supposedly based, has remained undead well into the 20th century, and continues to walk the earth. Several historians have been mysteriously recruited over the generations to try to track him down and destroy him in the time-honored way by shooting him with a silver bullet, or driving a stake through his heart while he's immobile in his sarcophagus. All they need to do is find the sarcophagus. He demonstrably is not buried in the tomb that tradition has assigned to him, but the quest to discover where he rests has led only to deaths, disappearances and unholy transformations.
I found this premise intriguing, and hoped to get caught up in the quest myself. Unfortunately, the execution (sorry) of the story line was overwrought, the characters (with a couple exceptions) unsympathetic and the ending abrupt and unsatisfying. (And that epilogue?? Just. Bad.)
Most of the narrative is told in the form of letters or journals, in an obvious homage to Bram Stoker's classic. But this style becomes very ponderous, as there are several narrators, all using the first person, all telling similar tales at various points in time. In the first half of the book, the shifts between narrators come fast and furiously, often several times in a single chapter. I really found it hard to keep my place. Then, one narrator just becomes silent for long stretches, and the story flows uninterrupted for while. The reader travels to ancient castles, medieval monasteries, tiny forgotten villages in Romania and Bulgaria; the research involves translators and official guides who must not learn the true nature of the mission; the adventures lead to breathtaking views and heart-stopping frights. There were times when I did get quite engaged with the story, despite what I consider its terribly awkward construction. But overall, I consider this book a failure, and really wish someone else had taken the same idea and written it more simply. Kostova just has too many story elements working here -- -a vampire hunt, a love story, political intrigue, a historical saga based in several centuries, a bildungsroman in which a young woman learns a disturbing truth about her parents, another love story, a mystery, another mystery, another love story--- they get in each other's way. A weak 3 stars.
I have, and I'm in the Loved It camp, but I understand the arguments of those who don't.
I'm with Amber except I'm in the Dislike Camp, but I can see why some readers loved this book. I tried and failed, though I can't say that I hated it. It got 2.5 stars from me which is my "Fair, but not for me" rating.
I've added my comments to No. 116 above. I fall into the "Loved Parts of it--Hated its Construction" camp. (There is one of those, right?)
16. Murder Out of Turn by Frances & Richard Lockridge Well, with that picture at the top of my thread, and Mystery March nearly over, I thought it incumbent upon me to read at least one Lockridge favorite this month. Murder Out of Turn is an early Mr. & Mrs. North title, and the one where we first meet Lieutenant (as he was then) Heimrich of the New York State Police. In this one, he had no first name yet. This is also the one where Bill Weigand of NYPD's Homicide Bureau meets his lady love, Dorian Hunt. It is surely one of the Lockridges' best stories, set at a "camp"--a cabin colony around "Lone Lake" about sixty miles north of the City. Great fun to tramp through the woods with the Norths and their friends, to race around the twisty country roads with Bill at the wheel of his barrellin' Buick (or with Pam scaring the daylights out of Jerry while driving as fast as she's always wanted to do) and to try to puzzle out the mystery of who murdered two young women, and why, and in what order. The clues are all in there, honest.
17. Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot As much fun as ever to visit with RumTum Tugger, Mr. Mefistofelees, Mungojerrie, the Pugs and Pollicles. Drawings in this edition by Edward Gorey just double the delight.
I love the Practical Cats! I just finished A Family of Poems today, and Mr. Mephistopheles was included, and it made my day! (Well, I loved the whole collection.)
The Rum Tum Tugger was in a book of poems I had (still have) when I was a kid, and I knew it by heart once. I'll never forget how startled I was to go back years later after studying English lit in college, to realize that it had been written by T.S. Eliot!
Oh my, Eliot and Gorey sounds like the perfect literary/artistic marriage. Putting that one on The List.
It's a great read-out-loud book, though it might take some prep and practice. Here's a nifty sample from The Naming of Cats:
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable, effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.
Ohmygoodness, I just *must* get this book now. Charlie would *love* having it read to him, I think. I sense some giggling in my future...
I'm giggling now, imagining Charlie calling something "effanineffable" in front of your MIL!
I have two copies of Old Possum, as it was a favorite of my parents, neither (alas) with the Gorey illustrations. Thanks for reminding me about it!
Two things I must do. First put my Dr. Seuss compilation on my tbr list and second find a use for effanineffable. Thank you Linda for reminding me that I was once a child and part of me still is.
scaifea, I bet Charlie and you will love Old Possum!
Have any of you seen the play ("Cats") that was built from the book? I've only seen a video of it, but I really loved it.
#138 Hang on to that child-part, Bill; it's much too important to lose track of!
18. Disco for the Departed by Colin Cotterill It is 1977, and Dr. Siri Paiboun, the reluctant national coroner of the People's Democratic Republic of Laos, with the aid of his attendant spirits and his indefatigable nurse Dtui, has been sent into the mountains to supervise the disinternment of a body buried in cement. Only one arm protrudes from the slab; who was this man, who killed him, and why? Meanwhile, in Siri's absence from his own lab, the ever problematic Judge Haeng has ordered poor Gueng, Siri's lab assistant, be removed and "sent north". Gueng has Down syndrome, and there are a lot of things he does not understand, but he is invaluable to Siri, and he knows how to keep a promise. I love these characters, even the asinine bureaucratic ones. Cotterill also gives us good story in an exotic setting, with glimpses into the culture of the gentle, generous Laotian people. The last chapter of this book was priceless---someone should film it.
I'm delighted to anticipate the arrival of Ace Atkins' latest Spenser novel, Robert B. Parker's Wonderland from the ER program. I wonder how long Parker's name will continue to be an essential part of the titles in this series. As noted before, i think Atkins is doing a good job carrying on the Spenser franchise, but wisdom dictates that it can't continue indefinitely. I hope he and the family and the publisher know when to stop.
I am in the middle of reading Disco for the Departed. It is my fourth Dr. Siri mystery and I am enjoying the series. I second your feelings about the characters.
19. Creole Belle by James Lee Burke It took me much too long to get through this one, and I can't say it was really worth the time I spent. Burke's mastery of language is still very evident here, in his exquisite descriptions of landscape, wildlife, weather phenomenon, and all sorts of natural beauty. Unfortunately he is just as skillful at describing what knives, bullets and weighted saps do to the human body, and there is just too much of that kind of thing in Creole Belle. Burke has always used violence to illustrate the evil side of human nature; even his protagonists could never be described as peace-loving. But since Hurricane Katrina and more recently the oil rig blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico, Burke has given us less and less of the beauty and more of the ugliness. I assume he is representing what he sees happening to his beloved Louisiana lowlands, but he has lost his feel for story and humanity, although he continues to pay lip service to the latter. There is damned little actual story here---the evildoers are evil indeed, but what they are up to (beyond killing and maiming) is awfully vague. It's something to do with why that oil rig blew up and poisoned the Gulf waters, ruined the oyster beds and crippled the shrimping industry, but Burke never bothers to explain it much beyond that. I'm tired of hearing about what a "good man" Clete Purcel is. You know better than that, Mr. Burke---you can't ask us to believe it just because his best friend says so, you have to show us that it's true. After 19 books, I'm still trying to "get" Purcel. A good man can have bad impulses, but he finds the strength to resist them, at least some of the time. Clete never does. I'm tired of Burke treating his female characters as dispensable, unless it suits him to have Robicheaux rescue them from dire circumstances. I'm tired of finding no one to admire in his books. Maybe I'm getting old and cranky. Maybe I've just read too much. Or maybe Burke should have let Dave and Clete die in that mythic moment at the end of The Glass Rainbow. It's almost impossible to suspend my disbelief any more about just how much brutal insult their aging bodies can take and recover from, let alone the superhuman feats they perform with bullets in their backs. Lycomayflower has suggested that I go back and read one of Burke's earlier novels in the series, one that I particularly enjoyed, to get the bad taste out of my mouth. That may be a good idea. But I'll have to wait a while.
You have summed up to perfection what I feel about these kinds of books. We know that humanity is a dismal mess. What we want to know is are we worth saving, is there anyone or anything who can restore our faith in the whole miasma? It isn't that I want to read tra la la Pollyana tripping through the fields kind of stuff but I do want to spend whatever precious reading time I have left reading about people for whom I can feel a bit of respect, who don't destroy all my hope--and as you say, admire.
#145 Precisely. Dave Robicheaux used to provide that hope of redemption, but not any more. And I lived in New Orleans; I know Louisiana politics is and has always been corrupt. But I also know there are decent worthwhile people there, people whose lives proceed through generations without the intrusion of a single mob hit or psychopathic rampage, let alone several of each. I need a little positive contrast, and for the love of pete, a laugh or two mixed in.
Great capsule review of Disco for the Departed, Linda. I love these characters, even the asinine bureaucratic ones. Cotterill also gives us good story in an exotic setting, with glimpses into the culture of the gentle, generous Laotian people. Well said! I have the same reaction.
Thank you, Joe. Dr. Siri and Dave Robicheaux share a connection to the spirit world, but I think Burke did that best way back In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead, and these days I prefer Dr. Siri's world.
I read Creole Belle right after it came out and had a similar negative reaction. I don't think that any of the Robicheaux books since Glass Rainbow have showed much originality and the over the top violence is almost pornographic at times. I also noticed the absence of his wife Molly in the book. I thought she was one of his best characters and I see no good reason for her disappearance from the story. I feel that Burke ran his course in this series and is just turning out books without anything new to say. I don't have the enthusiasm for a new book by James Lee Burke that I once had.
I avoided using the word "pornographic", Bill, but it was in my mind. It may be that Burke isn't done with the series, but I think I am.
20. A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks An LT ER selection. I'll try to find something to say about it soonish. (Original post on April 16)
EDIT (April 27): This book has made a very slight impression on me. It consists of 5 different stories, and if they are interconnected in any way it was lost on me. Oh, they all more or less deal with the fragility of human relationships, the awkwardness of trying to get it right, and the apparent randomness of how our lives turn out. The writing is top notch; each of the stories caught me up and propelled me along nicely (even those that I found distasteful or disturbing were so well-written that I didn't feel compelled to set them aside). But the whole is just not a sum here, and less than two weeks after finishing the book I'm struggling to recall details of any of the component parts.
21. If Rocks Could Sing; a Discovered Alphabet by Leslie McGuirk A brilliant concept, very nicely realized. The author collected bits of fossiliferous sandstone from the Florida coastline, over a period of ten years, until she had one shaped like each letter of the alphabet, and many that could represent objects beginning with those letters. Then she designed this beautiful book with illustrations combining the rocks with simple props to make a very unusual alphabet book. It will appeal best to young children who already know their letters, I think, and to crazy rock-lovers like me. (I held back the fifth star simply because, as an alphabet book, I don't think it would work very well to teach children their letters.)
>150 laytonwoman3rd: I saw an ad for Burke's new Robicheaux book. It comes out in July and they are already taking pre-orders.
#153 Well, I won't bite this time. Once again, I thought the ending of this last one was designed to make us think the series could finish there. I wonder if Burke is feeling his age, and doesn't want to leave things up in the air in case he doesn't manage to complete another book. So, quit already!
That looks like the perfect book for certain young lass next door who is very fond of rocks.
22. Less Than Angels by Barbara Pym Another deceptively ordinary story of women and their "little" lives. So engrossing, so amusing, sometimes so profound. In this novel Pym gives us the academic world of anthropologists home from their field work, or preparing to go back to it, or hoping to get a grant to begin it....and the family/staff/girlfriends around the edges who seem to have a very foggy notion of what it's all about. As in every other Pym I've read, there were one or two scenes that crept up on me and hit me in the funny bone, making me laugh out loud when I least expected it. Pym also has a trick of making me sympathize in the end with a character she seemed to be setting up as the villain of the piece earlier on. And it's all so subtle.
23. Kate's Klassics by Kate Camp I've been dipping into this borrowed copy of a BOOK THAT'S BEEN ON MY WISHLIST FOREVER!!!! for a couple months now. It deserves to be called a Classic itself. I've read all the selections now except the one on Middlemarch, because I know next to nothing about that novel other than that it has a lot of devoted readers, and I didn't want to spoil anything for myself in case I ever get around to it. WHEN I DO, I'LL WANT MY OWN COPY OF THIS BOOK ON HAND. The author's approach to Moby Dick, The Old Testament, Jane Eyre and other acknowledged classics is just the right blend of scholarship, personality, common sense and irreverence. I suppose it might be called "Criticism Lite", but there's nothing frivolous about it. Camp reads like I read, not like Harold Bloom reads. They each have their place, and that place is side-by-side on my shelves. IF ONLY I HAD MY OWN COPY OF THE CAMP.
#158 Perhaps someone will take note now. There is Mother's Day coming, and Juneteenth, and all...
Speaking of funny price differences, there are often differences in the prices between the British Book Depository site and their US one, even though all the books are shipped from the UK. Can't figure that one out!
24. The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies Well. So. I finished it. My daughter and I have been reading this together, and discussing it as we go. There will be more discussion in the next couple days, I'm sure. After that, perhaps I'll have something cogent to say about this novel. Meanwhile, I would refer you to reviews by rebeccanyc, chocolatemuse and VivienneR who all seem to have "gotten" it much better than I did. For now I will observe that the word "erudite" appears in nearly every review, and what that means to me is this: if you're not familiar with Rabelais and Paracelsus you're not going to get the most out of this novel. Oh...and one more review, which consisted of a single line and which kind of sums up my reaction: "For some reason, I felt a little dirty after I finished this one." I have a feeling that some of the distasteful bits are the parts where other readers have found humor, but since no one gave examples of what they considered funny, I can't be sure of that. I've never understood scatalogical humor, although I realize its appeal is wide and ancient in human culture generally, and in literature specifically. I feel a little like that kid watching the Emperor's parade...I see that the Emperor has clothes, but I just don't like them very much.
Sooo, since this is pretty much how I feel about it with 80 pages to go, can I quit? >:-/
I don't think I made it through this one either, although it was so long ago I can't quite remember. Sometimes these ginormous minds are out on the periphery where the madmen dance, where the rest of us can't hear the music and would rather clog dance in the kitchen anyway.
25. Robert B. Parker's Wonderland by Ace Atkins
Atkins's first Spenser novel, Lullaby, impressed me. He clearly knew and loved the character and his world, and brought them both to life in a way I thought Parker would have found satisfactory, in the way Nero Wolfe meant when he said "satisfactory". Allowing for the fact that I didn't expect Atkins to be a hack and write copy-cat books, I have to say that in this one he seems to have lost a little something. Parker was a master of minimalist dialog, and often he moved his story forward with a few pithy exchanges between characters. Atkins can do that in spurts, although he doesn't rely on it. But that's not the problem. Spenser, for me, has always had a mythic quality about him. He's very real, very human, certainly not bullet-proof; and yet he is a modern Hero who deserves the upper case "H", because he has a moral compass that can't be thrown off by any of the magnetic fields of corruption or temptation he passes through. His love for Susan has become, over time, unassailable. He may grow old, he will even die, but he will never weaken. I'm afraid Atkins has let that image slip a little in Wonderland. It's almost imperceptible, but Spenser doesn't feel quite right to me here. Atkins asks the reader to believe that Spenser might be tempted to lose himself in drink (although granted, he doesn't), or to take advantage of a drunken half-naked woman throwing herself at him (although, of course, he doesn't) .... even the suggestion that he might do either of those things is out of place in Spenserland. I also have a big issue with the prevalence of what we euphemistically refer to as "the F word". If a Parker character used "fuck" as an adjective, it fit the character and made an impact. Atkins has multiple characters, in fact nearly all of the characters, including Henry Cimoli, using the word freely; this often strikes a sour note in context, hints at a lack of originality, and underlines for me the fact that Parker has left us.
Edit: I have just read a few of the other reviews of this novel, which I purposely did not do before reading or reviewing it myself, and I seem to be in the minority. C'est la vie.
Looking forward to hearing what you think of Robert Parker's Wonderland, Linda.
26. Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough
McCullough turned his considerable talent for telling the stories of history to the first 27 years of Theodore Roosevelt's life...his sickly childhood, his loving family, his brief first marriage, his "ranching" days, his growth into a man of substance. It's fascinating. Politics generally bores me silly, but I even found myself engrossed in the chapter about the 1884 Chicago Republican convention, which McCullough describes as "crucial" in T.R.'s political life. Just goes to prove what a compelling writer McCullough is.
27. Rounding the Mark by Andrea Camilleri
While contemplating handing in his resignation, Inspector Montalbano gets involved with two unofficial investigations that don't seem to interest the Powers That Be in Montelusa. He puts himself in considerable emotional and physical peril, especially once he determines that there is a connection between the drifting dead body he discovered while swimming in the sea, and the unfortunate young "non-European" boy he encountered briefly in the port of Vigata. This one is a bit grim and portentous, I think. But since I know there are several more entries in the series, I must presume that our Inspector survives the physical ordeal, as well as the likely official uproar that one would expect to follow if there had been one more chapter here.
I've been tempted to try this series. I was looking at The Shape of Water at the library the other day. There are so many other series that I need to work on that I've held off. Maybe in a year or two I'll give it a try.
Linda, I've been reading your thread this morning. You have prompted me to add a few to my list. I keep lurking on the Virago threads, and haven't tried a Barbara Pym, but I really should. She sounds like my cup of tea. Do you have a suggestion as to which I should read first? I have enjoyed any David McCullough books I've read, but Mornings on Horseback has been on my list for a while. Maybe soon.... This month, I was planning on reading At Swim, Two Boys, which you recommended to me after I read A Star Called Henry. It is up next after I finish Life After Life.
#175 It's a good series, Ron...not strictly a procedural, because procedure doesn't seem to count for much in Sicilian police work. There's a lot of humor in it, and good food. I'm very impressed with the translation, because so much of the humor comes from word play---always tough to carry that kind of thing from one language to another.
#176 So nice to see you here, Nana. At Swim, Two Boys is one of those books that will grip you and stick with you...I keep meaning to re-read it, and one day I certainly will. As for Pym, I think I have enjoyed Jane and Prudence the best of those I've read so far. I'm just starting A Glass of Blessings, hoping to keep up with the monthly reads by finishing it before the end of May.
Hi Linda3rd! A passing Montalbanoista and Rooseveltian sends wafture.
28. Fool Me Twice by Michael Brandman
After being slightly disappointed in Ace Atkins's sophomore entry in Robert B. Parker's Spenser series (see No. 25 above), I am very pleased to say that Brandman's second Jesse Stone novel was a pure one-sitting delight to read. Movie people have come to Paradise again; Jesse has a new love interest, and the cat has settled in. An old lady calls shenanigans on her water bill, and, as usual, there's a troubled teen that Jesse simply can't leave to drown in her parents' slough of money and privilege. It's plain that Brandman has lived with Jesse Stone for a long time; he gets it all right.
29. A Glass of Blessings by Barbara Pym
Wilmet Forsyth is the bored, self-centered, childless wife of a boring, uninspired civil servant. Ten years ago, they were both young and gay in the service of their country, in Italy. Wilmet often finds herself reflecting on those good times as she goes about the occupations of a gentlewoman with which she fills her days. It would be easy to find Wilmet a bit unlikeable at first, but her self-absorption is never heartless, or demanding. I feel rather sorry for her, as it seems she doesn't quite get what it is that's missing in her life while she's out hunting for a romantic interest (rather half-heartedly), and seeking something from the Church (without much passion there, either), and looking for good worthwhile things to do (like any excellent woman should). All the spark has gone out of her life, and she needs something to ignite it again; she just has no idea what that something could be. There's her mother-in-law, Sybil, quietly showing by her example the way to live fully, and none of it penetrates. Of course, there's some spiky humor throughout, vividly drawn characters, and a lot of parish monkey business as the story line follows the liturgical year, and naturally, as this is Pym, everything eventually turns out just a it should, and our hapless heroine learns a thing or two about life, and about herself. This is my favorite Pym novel of any I've read so far.
I've never read any Barbara Pym, Linda, but you've really tempted me with that review of A Glass of Blessings. Thumber from me.
Sybil is all there, Richard...I would let her live with me if she was my mother-in-law. That's saying something, beleeeeeeeve me. (There's also a very nice looking male model in this one, believe it or not. He cooks, and tidies up, and I suppose other things could be negotiated. He doesn't show up til very late in the book, though.)
Joe, go read it. It's delightful.
Oh you've made me want to read it again...perhaps I will for the June 1st Pym tea.
30. The Yard by Alex Grecian An excellent Victorian suspense novel, featuring the very early days of forensic detection at Scotland Yard. It's a page turner, with great characters and fine period detail, although at times it felt just a bit too "modern" in a way I can't quite put my finger on. Very enjoyable, nonetheless. And thanks to Joe over at the cafe for putting me onto this one. His review gives you a fine view of The Yard
Yay! Glad you enjoyed The Yard, Linda. Appreciate the tip of the hat with that link, too. I've got his second one with these characters on my radar.
31. Apple of My Eye by Helene Hanff
In 1976 Hanff (who we know and love from 84, Charing Cross Road) was asked to write the copy for a book of photographs of New York City. That's "New York, New York", not Brooklyn or the Bronx. She was pretty confident she would have an easy time of it, because she had lived all her adult life in Manhattan. But as she settled into her research, she realized that she, like so many New Yorkers, hadn't taken in a lot of the sights that all tourists absolutely "must see". She had never been to the Statute of Liberty, Grant's Tomb or Wall Street. She hadn't visited the new World Trade Center or taken a tour of Rockefeller Center. So for the next two months, she and her friend Patsy, another New Yorker, spent many days on foot, tour buses and subways, overcoming their fear of heights and filling in the gaps in their knowledge and experience of the Big Apple. It's a treat to follow them around, even though 35 years later so much has changed. Hanff updated the book in 1988, and even then she noted that "conditions (bankruptcy), places (Gimbel's and Brentano's) and one amenity (the Culture Bus) ...no longer exist; and ...new sights ... have sprung up during the past decade." She hated the fact that the Metropolitan Museum of Art had been created at the expense of 37 acres of Central Park, wouldn't take cabs, and didn't want to eat in any restaurant that anyone had ever heard of. Her book is a great mix of crankiness and admiration for that marvelous city so unlike any other, and is filled with historical tidbits and insider information that is no less delightful for being outdated.
Many thanks to the apple of MY eye for lending her copy of this one to me!
Sounds like a fun read, Linda, especially for a confirmed New Yorker like me. And I do remember Gimbels and Brentano's from my childhood . . .
Apple of My Eye may be a trip down memory lane. I will have to ask my library to find it through their interlibrary loan. I love living in a rural community, but the library is not a city library, so I often need to wait for them to find books from another library. But they are very accommodating, and can almost always find something I want.
By the way, this is not the book of photographs itself. It's merely Hanff's memoir of the adventures she had preparing to write that copy. If that book was ever published, I can not find a title for it.
I'm currently reading another book by Hanff, Letter from New York. They are little vignettes/essays from and about New York. I've only just started the book, but it is a tasty little treasure trove featuring New York. I'll have to look for Apple of My Eye--it looks just as charming.
32. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
Tough to say anything about this one that hasn't been covered by some of the fine reviews already posted. I can't imagine the reaction it must have caused when it was published in 1956. In fact I'm astonished that it was published in 1956. Doomed characters, tragic tale, brilliant writing... my words are inadequate to describe his.
>196 laytonwoman3rd: I think you did a right good job, there.
What used to be Gimbel's on Herald Square, 33rd Street, is now a mall.
A mall, as in a pedestrian mall, or like a stoopie suburban shopping mall?
33. The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. Well, I didn't have high hopes for this one, and it exceeded them somewhat. I gave this book to my MIL a couple years ago, thinking it sounded like her kind of story, and that it might be a gentle antidote to her West Coast childhood prejudices against Chinese immigrants. I'm not sure how well that last part worked, but she did bring the book back to me, saying it was "a cute story" ("cute" is high praise from her) and that I should read it. I have to say, it is a decent story, fairly well told, and by gum the last few chapters squeezed a few tears out of my jaded ducts. It has some first novel issues, and one glaring anachronism that should never have been overlooked. It's a bit lightweight for quite a while, given the subject matter, and I almost Pearl-ruled it at page 50, and again at 100. I persisted because I really liked the premise, and wanted to give the author a chance to develop it, which eventually, he did. It's fundamentally a Romeo & Juliet set-up, involving Henry Lee, an American teenager of Chinese descent, and Keiko Okabe, an American teenager of Japanese descent, set in the troubling circumstances of WWII on the US West Coast. The difference is that Keiko's family is accepting and supportive of both friendship and romance. We experience their poignant story from two perspectives; the contemporary 1942/1945 one and the retrospective 1986 one. There are elements of generational conflict (Henry's very traditional parents, who want him to "be an American" but cannot accept all of what that entails), as well as cultural conflict (the internment of Japanese American citizens, the ignorance of white American kids to whom all non-whites are "Japs" or "niggers", the Chinese hatred of Japanese imperialism). The writing is a bit unsophisticated in places, there's a lack of "feel" to the time and setting, and there's too much telling when showing would have made better reading, but I admire the way Ford (a descendant of Chinese immigrants himself) pulls it all together, avoiding that anti-climactic collapse that so often happens at the end of first novels, and as I said, I surprised myself by being a bit more caught up in the characters by the end than I had realized. Still, it's no Snow Falling on Cedars, and if you haven't read either one, give your time to Guterson.
A box-stock common-or-garden mall on 33rd Street. I was vexed at first, but honestly no one makes me shop in those places so why should I care, in the end, if they exist or not?
I knew you were going to ask that! He had a character using "his computer" in 1986 to find someone who had moved who-knows-where from Idaho in 1945; it was a throw-away line, sounding as if the kind of google-searching stuff that is so common now was equally ordinary in the mid-80's. Having done some exciting searching myself in the early days of such things being possible, I'm pretty sure that's a few years too soon. You remember when I made contact with our Slovak relatives after a lot of faffing about on genealogy forums...when was that?
>203 laytonwoman3rd: Linda, I remember wondering about that when I read it. I am pretty sure I didn't own a computer yet in 1986, but I think some of us had started using them at work. I remember being given one because I was writing documentation for a new system. But I think that was even later than 1986.
I don't remember for sure. A lot later than '86. I want to say I was in my teens.
#205 You were definitely coming home from school and staying by yourself til one of us got home, because I remember you got the mail and called me to tell me there was a letter from Slovakia.
Ha! I'd forgotten that part. At least twelve, then. Surely you still have the letter, envelope and all, and could thusly look at the postmark and solve this minor mystery?
I remember using a computer at work in 1986 or 1987 or so but it was very elementary: you had to put a disk in to install the operating system, take it out, put another disk in with the program, and then finally save whatever you worked on to another disk. But by the time I went to a new job in 1989, I requested a desktop computer as part of my job requirements, and I got one so I could work at home too. I don't remember using the internet at all for at least another year or so, and I definitely used some other search engine pre-google.
Dusting off my geek badge ...
The IBM PC was launched in 1981, Apple was earlier with the IIe (my Dad had one in the late 1970s). I graduated from college in 1984 with a BS in Computer Science. My first job involved the introduction of PCs in a large multinational company. Their primary use was for spreadsheets and word processing, and connection to internal computer systems. Email was a very big deal but again, only for internal communications until a few years later.
So yeah, that was an anachronism Linda!!
#209 Thank you, Laura! See, if only book editors put a few LT'ers on staff, they could avoid this kind of thing.
#210 I remember our first office computers, Rebecca. They were huge clunky things, strictly word processing units. And yes, there was a boot disc. We had two drives, though, so we could save things in two different places, or access documents (office forms, etc.) from one disc and save to another. I also remember that someone was always forgetting to remove their filing discs at the end of the day, and when they started up the computer in the morning the poor thing would try to boot from a data disc and go into a tailspin.
#205-208 The correspondence with the relatives in Slovakia began sometime in 2000. I can't read the precise date on the first letter; it's all smudgy. But I was searching for several years before that, and had been in contact with at least two shirttail relations here in the US before one of them got her hands on a phone book from the old country and gave me an address for my great-grandfather's living descendants in his original home town.
34. Deadly Nightshade by Cynthia Riggs. This is the first entry in a mystery series begun by the author in her 60's. It has some storyline weaknesses and big flaws in the telling, mostly that we seldom see anything significant happening, but only hear about it second or third hand afterward. But having said that, I found it enjoyable to read, and when I woke up the morning after I finished it, I was sorry not to have the world created in the novel waiting for me to step into. The characters are well presented, and I think they will wear well. The protagonist here is a 92 year old woman whose thinking is crisp, whose New England attitude is crusty, and whose baked beans are legendary. She knows her physical limitations, but doesn't give in to all of them all the time. The series is set on Martha's Vineyard, with the main character's granddaughter working as assistant harbormaster. Riggs knows whereof she speaks, as she is descended from many generations of islanders; she has been a sailing instructor, run a ferry boat company and a B&B, and holds a U.S. Coast Guard Master's license (100 ton) as well as an MFA in creative writing. Her biography is pretty remarkable reading, itself. She was also kind enough to respond promptly to my e-mail request for a photo for her author page on LT. I like this woman, and will definitely give the next book in the series a chance. There are 11 of them so far, all with local plants featured in the titles. She has said she plans to write 20, and then retire. Slacker.
My responses to the 25 Most Hated Book list being circulated here and there. I'm glad to see Ulysses barely made it, and there isn't a single Faulkner title on there.
DNR means Did Not Read
WNR means Will Not Read
1. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (102 votes) DNR WNR
2. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (90) Dislike
3. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (90) DNR WNR
4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (53) ****
5. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (41) ***
6. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (41) ***
7. Lord of the Flies by William Golding (35) Hate
8. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (33) ***
9. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (31) ***
10. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (30) No one should read it after the age of 19
11. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (28) DNR (but my mother hated it and quit) WNR
12. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (26) DNR
13. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (26) ****
14. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (25) Dislike
15. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (24) ****
16. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (23) Dislike
17. Life of Pi by Yann Martel (21) DNR
18. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (18) ***
19. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (17) DNR
20. On the Road by Jack Kerouac (14) DNR WNR
21. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (14) DNR
22. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (14) ***
23. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (14) Hate
24. The Pearl by John Steinbeck (14) ***
25. Ulysses by James Joyce (14) DNR but mean to, one day
Ein Minuten, bitte. What are these measly three-star ratings for works by the beloved Brontë sisters?
Your description of Deadly Nightshade is wonderful, and now, the book is on my tbr pile.
After a bit of contemplation, I have changed my definition of the *** rating in No. 213 above. What it really means, I've decided, is that I acknowledge the worth of this book, but it's been so long since I read it that I don't really know what I would think of it now. I believe I need to re-read several of those.
I agree. Several of these were read in high school when I could read anything. Now I can't: finite amount of reading time left and I'm not going to spend it reading grim, ghastly stuff. If I want that I can listen to the news.
I don't particularly like Hemingway either but I think the Old Man is one of his better ones, better being a relative term. I like your comment about Ayn Rand. Even in my teens, she reminded me of those paintings from the Communist regime in Russia of those carved and chiselled people striding purposefully ahead to grab the future by the throat, only the capitalist version of it. I found her quite terrifying.
>213 laytonwoman3rd:: Oooh, I love lists. Must copy this one to my thread and add my responses!
Excellent description of Rand, Tui. I was taken with Atlas when I discovered it (and I did discover it totally on my own), but then I thought about it for five minutes, and realized that No. 1, her world view was impossible to realize, and No. 2, it would be a horrifying place to live for almost everyone, as you say....just like Communism with a different idealogy. But what scared me most about it was, I was almost ready to drink the kool-aid. Thank goodness for that liberal arts environment I was in at the time...
Interesting list. I wonder why those books are so hated? They look like ones that are often assigned in high school English. Could it be readers are less receptive to literature they have to read, vs. what they choose to read?
"Could it be readers are less receptive to literature they have to read, vs. what they choose to read?"
Laura, I think this is absolutely true. My 14 year old granddaughter was reading something for school a couple of weeks ago. I can't remember what it was, but a classic. Her words were something to the effect that she would enjoy it much more if she didn't have to read it for school.
In fact, it would be interesting to see the age group of the folks who took the survey. If it wasn't for "Twighlight" being number 1, I would expect it to be a younger group.
>221 lauralkeet: I suspect that's a lot of it, Laura. Hi Linda3rd! *smooch*
I do think you're on to something there, Laura. In spite of the fact that the two books I go so far as to "hate" on that list are not things I read in school. But then, I was one of those students who loved most of my reading assignments. I am surprised that neither 1984, Brave New World, nor Animal Farm made the list. I hated all of those.
Hey, there, RD. Had any good chili fries lately?
>224 laytonwoman3rd: Linda, I can't think which thread I first read it on, but there was a link to the article that had the full list of 100. They were on there. So was Anna Karenina which for me was 5 star book. The list was quite puzzling.
I think a reason there are so many classics on the most hated list is because they ARE classics -- that is, more people have read them, so more people hate them as well as (possibly) love them. Almost none of my most disliked books are classics, but they also probably aren't books that enough people have read to make it to a "most hated" list. It's statistics.
Thinking about this, I find that when I hate a book (depending on why I hate it), I engage with it quite as much as with a book I love - I find myself debating what it is that I hate and trying to articulate that, rather than just dismissing it. So the experience is often worthwhile to me even if the book isn't...if that makes sense? Anyway, often the result is a lack of lingering rancour, because I've enjoyed the intellectual exercise.
But perhaps that just me. :)
That's a very positive way of looking at a "bad read", Liz. I am reading one now that I almost gave up on after 50 pages, but I noticed it only has 2 short reviews on LT, and I think it deserves to be discussed, so I'm going to finish it and try to write a decent review. It's The Teahouse of the August Moon, and the reviews posted don't really say anything beyond referencing the movie made from the play made from the book.
Oh, I've seen the movie. Brando, right? I never knew it was based on a book so I'm looking forward to your comments.
35. The Teahouse of the August Moon by Vern Sneider. This is a mildly diverting, gently satiric novel set during the American occupation of Okinawa following World War II. Hapless Captain Fisby is in charge of rebuilding the village of Tobiki, in compliance with "Plan B", the brainchild of by-the-book Colonel Wainright Purdy III (and, to be truthful, his wife back in the States). Purdy and Fisby are both clueless about the culture, nature and inclinations of the native population, officially referred to as "enemy civilians". What ensues is an endless sitcom of the Sgt. Bilko/McHale's Navy/M.A.S.H variety, with less creativity and hilarity than the latter, but more wisdom and insight than either of the former. At first there was a suggestion of paternalism that made me very uncomfortable, and I nearly Pearl-ruled the book. (I decided to finish reading it because there was not a single substantive review of it here on LT, and I thought there ought to be.) As I continued reading, however, it became clear that the objectionable attitudes were those of the ignorant or superior-feeling characters, not of the author. Captain Fisby comes to rely on his interpreter, Sakini, not only to communicate with the villagers, but to understand them culturally and individually. The end result is a new village, influenced by Western thinking to be sure, but addressing the needs and desires of the local people in ways both traditional and innovative. This novel is neither profound nor particularly subtle, but I think it's better than its light tone suggests.
*ducking and running* while shouting "good review" over my shoulder
36. Airframe by Michael Crichton The kind of well-paced, thoroughly researched technical thriller Crichton did so well, this time involving the investigation of a fatal in-air incident on a wide-body jet. Crichton takes us inside the corporate world of commercial aviation, and of TV "journalism", deftly showing us how things work while spinning an engrossing story with a classy heroine, and lots of clues to whatdunit. It's a real shame a movie wasn't made with Jodie Foster playing the lead.
Teahouse of the August Moon! Good gracious me. I thoroughly enjoyed that book when I read it in the 1970s. Thanks for summoning a happy memory.
#235 My husband and I have been casting the hypothetical Airframe movie. There would have to be time-jiggery to get all these actors at the right age at the same time. Still...we can dream. We like Tom Skerrit for the test pilot, Jodie Foster for Casey, Alec Baldwin for the rotten scheming executive, whos-the-guy from Ghost as the smarmy nephew assistant. (That actor's name is Tony Goldwyn, I've discovered, and yes it's that Goldwyn family, so extra points there, and a touch of irony as well, because I did not know that when I came up with him for the part.) Still thinking about the TV talent and the up-and-coming producer... And Norma, the knows-where-the-bodies-are-buried secretary...Whoopi Goldberg, maybe. Realize this means nothing to anyone who hasn't read the book, but it's fun.
37. Trousering Your Weasel by Murr Brewster.
A self-published collection of often hilarious blog posts written and illustrated by Murr Brewster, former mail carrier who avoided going "postal" by seeing the humor in almost everything from poop to death. Murr is a seriously funny person who makes you think hard about ordinary things while you wipe your coffee off the computer screen where you just sporfled it reading her observations on nature, human and otherwise. If you want to know whether you'd enjoy this book, just drop in to her Murrmurrs blog any Wednesday or Saturday for the latest installment. But don't stuff no ferrets down yer pants, and don't put no beans up yer nose. And better swallow whatever you're chewing or slurping before you start to read.
nottemptednottemptednottempted *lalalalalala* no no no no no no no
Hey! You conflated two funny people! "Don't put no beans up yer nose" ain't Murr. *scowls*
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