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SylviaC Reads and Eats Through 2015

The Green Dragon

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1SylviaC
Edited: Jan 3, 2015, 6:44pm Top

I read roughly equal amounts of fiction and nonfiction. I read for pleasure, and am quite willing to abandon any book that I'm not enjoying. I only write a proper review if I really have something to say about a book, but I'll always give at least a brief reaction. The majority of my reading is done with good old-fashioned print on paper, but I'm starting the year off with a shiny new Kindle Paperwhite, so I expect to be reading more ebooks this year. I'm trying to convert some of the TBR pile from paper to electronic. I read audio books when I walk the dog, or when I'm working alone in the barn. In audio books, I prefer nonfiction, because I want to set my own pace when reading fiction.

This year I'm going to try adding something new to my thread. I have a huge collection of recipes and love reading food science and history, but due to issues of belonging to a family of very picky eaters, scheduling variables, and plain old lack of motivation, I hardly ever cook anything new. So I will try to cook something new every week, and will report back here on how it turned out, and the family response. I actually started to do this back in September, but harvest season played havoc with my cooking opportunities. I'll start fresh now, during slow season on the farm. Anyone can feel free to nudge me if I haven't reported anything new in a while.




These are the books I'm currently reading:

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton - one of my SantaThing books
Writing on the Wall : Social Media, the first two thousand years by Tom Standage - ebook
Delight by J.B. Priestley - bedside table
Forgotten Voices of the Great War by Max Arthur - for when I have to wait in truck
The Assassin's Cloak : an anthology of the world's greatest diarists edited by Irene Taylor and Alan Taylor - It's massive. May take forever.
Gay from China at the Chalet School by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer




I'm also continuing to reread all of the Chalet School books. I got kind of slowed down in the last six months, but I'm planning to keep going. For anyone who is interested in the Chalet School series, we have a group here: LibraryThing Goes to the Chalet School

Useful:
The New How To Do Fancy Things In Your Posts Thread

2pgmcc
Jan 1, 2015, 3:55pm Top

Good luck with your 2015 reading, Sylvia. I have starred you thread and this post guarantees your comments will pop up for me. :-)

3imyril
Jan 1, 2015, 5:58pm Top

Good luck with your reading and cooking. I shall be following with interest again.

4Marissa_Doyle
Jan 1, 2015, 6:04pm Top

Starred! I also have a couple of picky eaters, so I will read your reports with interest.

5Meredy
Jan 1, 2015, 7:24pm Top

Keeping you starred again this year. Your comments interest me even when we're reading very different things.

6jillmwo
Jan 2, 2015, 9:06am Top

You are my go-to source for soothing reads. I have you starred and will be paying attention.

7catzteach
Jan 2, 2015, 8:45pm Top

I love reading about the books you read! And I can't wait to hear how the cooking goes. I love trying new recipes. If you haven't found it yet, foodgawker.com has tons of recipes. It's like Pinterest but only food. I've tried lots and have really liked all the ones I've done. The most recent were some Hot Chocolate Banana Bread, a Christmas cookie recipe I used for cookies for yesterday's Rose Bowl, and the dessert I made for yesterday, White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake. It was a hit!

8SylviaC
Jan 2, 2015, 9:38pm Top

Welcome, all! It's so nice of you to join me!

>7 catzteach: Hot Chocolate Banana Bread!!!!!

9SylviaC
Jan 3, 2015, 7:31pm Top

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton. One of my SantaThing books. A 98 year old woman looks back over a few years of turmoil in the aristocratic family that employed her as a housemaid, and the personal and societal changes that were brought about by the First World War. Although the outcome is clear from the start, the story is revealed bit by bit as she relives the past. The author does a good job of maintaining the suspense, and I always wanted to know what was going to happen next, even though I knew where it was going to end up. I even had a couple of surprises, which doesn't happen very often anymore. I will definitely read more by Kate Morton (I have 2 others on my TBR shelf), but not right away. That would get too depressing.

10Bookmarque
Jan 4, 2015, 8:44am Top

I'm torn about Kate Morton. I read The Forgotten Garden a couple of years ago and while enjoyable on the whole, it was a bit too soft and fluffy. I did like the old secrets coming to life thing and the connection between generations, but there was no grit if you know what I mean.

11SylviaC
Jan 4, 2015, 9:55am Top

>10 Bookmarque: For me, that's a plus. I'm not fond of grit. But I know what you mean. I only noticed one swear word in the whole book, which seems unlikely. But, given the narrative voice, it is unlikely that she would have been cussing like a sailor.

12SylviaC
Edited: Jan 4, 2015, 10:06pm Top

Writing on the Wall: Social Media, the First 2000 Years by Tom Standage. Mostly interesting, except in the boring spots. There was more detail about the history of newspapers than I really wanted to know. The author's premise is that the era of traditional mass media (i.e. widely distributed, one-way communication, controlled by a few centralized sources) was only temporary, extending from the invention of the steam printing press through the rise of radio and television. Prior to that, and now in the Internet era, information transferral has been a much more social concept, with more interaction between giver and receiver. A recurring theme is the role of social media, in its various formats, in fuelling revolutions, from the Reformation to the French Revolution, to the American Revolution, to the Arab Spring uprisings.

13katylit
Jan 4, 2015, 8:33pm Top

You're starred and I'll be very interested to read about your food creations.

I enjoy Kate Morton, I find her books and Susanna Kearsley's similar in not-quite fluff. They're authors I turn to for simple, relaxing reading pleasure.

14SylviaC
Jan 4, 2015, 8:40pm Top

Tonight's cooking experiment turned out well. I made balsamic chicken breasts, and baked cauliflower and broccoli. Both were easy to make, and used ingredients I had on hand. The chicken had a simple sauce of balsamic vinegar, broth, honey, lime juice, and garlic. (It was supposed to be lemon juice, but I had lime.) The vegetables were baked in a casserole with a little bit of broth, garlic, and margarine. All four of us liked the chicken, which hardly ever happens! My husband and I both liked the vegetables. The kids aren't fond of cooked vegetables, so it was no surprise that they weren't impressed. But at least they tried them. I'll cook both of these recipes again.

15SylviaC
Jan 4, 2015, 8:43pm Top

>13 katylit: I have a Susanna Kearsley waiting to be read sometime. It was one of last year's SantaThing books, actually.

16Sakerfalcon
Jan 5, 2015, 10:45am Top

Happy new year! I'm looking forward to following your reading journeys this year, and will be interested in how your culinary experiments turn out!

17Jim53
Jan 5, 2015, 10:53am Top

>14 SylviaC: Do your kids like raw veggies? I developed a preference for them early on (possibly because of my mother's overcooking of many things) and still prefer many veggies, including broccoli and cauliflower, raw.

18hfglen
Jan 5, 2015, 11:17am Top

>17 Jim53: Hmmmmz. Cauliflower, certainly. And applying any form of heat to a fresh young pea or a carrot is surely to be regarded as torture under the Geneva Convention.

19imyril
Jan 5, 2015, 11:18am Top

>14 SylviaC: oooh I like the sound of the balsamic chicken. Mr B is a HUGE fan of vinegar (I do wonder about him sometimes, I really do), and I can see this combination being a big hit. When you say you included broth in the sauce I suspect I'm having a CA/US/UK mistranslation - to me, broth is a thick soup full of vegetables, barley (and sometimes chunks of chicken). Would I be right in thinking that here it is the chicken juices derived from boiling the carcass?

20hfglen
Jan 5, 2015, 11:23am Top

>19 imyril: I'm sure I've seen somewhere that when a US recipe says broth, UK/ZA/AUS readers should read stock.

21SylviaC
Jan 5, 2015, 11:57am Top

>19 imyril: >20 hfglen: Yes, stock and broth are very similar here. Broth may have had more ingredients included in it's preparation, but both are generally thin, clear liquids with no chunks at all. In recipes, they are almost always interchangeable. I tend to go the easy way, with the kind that comes in a one-litre box (lower salt type).

>17 Jim53: My husband had the same reaction to his mother's vegetables, so he also prefers his raw. My daughter likes many kinds of raw vegetables, but my son wil only eat a few—and only if I'm right there, handing them to him. I seldom cook vegetables for the three of them, just put a tray of raw vegetables on the table and let them graze.

22MDGentleReader
Jan 5, 2015, 1:09pm Top

>9 SylviaC:, >10 Bookmarque:, >11 SylviaC: Lack of grit is a plus for me, too. Depressing is why I decided to take Forgotten Garden and other Kate Morton's off my TBR list.

>18 hfglen: Grin.

23MDGentleReader
Jan 5, 2015, 1:14pm Top

>13 katylit:, >15 SylviaC: Apparently I have Winter Sea in ebook format (I checked my catalog). I am pretty sure I have a muli-author book in my bedroom with her name on it.

24SylviaC
Jan 5, 2015, 11:10pm Top

The Grand Tour: The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery by Agatha Christie, edited by Mathew Prichard. An album of Agatha and Archie Christie's trip around the world with the British Empire Exhibition Mission in 1922. Their grandson put this book together from photo albums, letters home, and excerpts from Agatha's autobiography. Since I recently read the autobiography, I was already familiar with most of the events, but the pictures and letters added another dimension to the narrative. An enjoyable look at a different era.

25SylviaC
Jan 6, 2015, 3:55pm Top

Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley. A short but delightful book. I don't know why I never heard of it until it showed up as an LT recommendation a couple of years ago. It would make a good filler book between reading weightier tomes.

26Meredy
Jan 6, 2015, 3:59pm Top

>25 SylviaC: I liked that one a lot too (and read it for the same reason). Small and mild and exceeding pleasant--and not forgotten.

27jillmwo
Jan 6, 2015, 5:28pm Top

By the same author, The Haunted Bookshop is also nice. As Meredy says, mild and pleasant (although it does feature anarchists as I recall...)

28SylviaC
Jan 6, 2015, 7:07pm Top

>26 Meredy: I like that description!

>27 jillmwo: Finding a gorgeous hardcover copy of The Haunted Bookshop was what finally pushed me to download a copy of Parnassus on Wheels.

29catzteach
Jan 6, 2015, 11:32pm Top

The Grand Tour sounds fabulous! I think I'll put that one on my list.

30imyril
Jan 7, 2015, 4:02am Top

>25 SylviaC: >27 jillmwo: They sound charming - I'd never heard of Christopher Morley, but I shall keep an eye open for these.

31katylit
Jan 7, 2015, 6:23am Top

I enjoyed Christopher Morley's books. I'd been getting recommendations for The Haunted Bookshop from various places so got the ebook only to have a friend send me a lovely hardcover shortly afterwards. Fun story.

I hope you enjoy The Winter Sea gentlereader, it's one of my favourites of Kearsley's.

32Jim53
Jan 7, 2015, 8:52am Top

>25 SylviaC: another day, another bullet...

33SylviaC
Jan 7, 2015, 3:59pm Top

34SylviaC
Jan 7, 2015, 4:18pm Top

A Fistful of Sky by Nina Kiriki Hoffman. For Morphy's Monthly Read. I was completely absorbed by the the story, and thought the family relationships were portrayed realistically. Gypsum's character was very well written. Until the last five pages, everything was excellent. Then the ending just left me thinking "Huh?"

I was very strongly reminded of Margaret Mahy's books.

35ronincats
Jan 8, 2015, 9:15pm Top

While I love most of Hoffman's works, she does go off on odd tangents sometimes: the ending of A Fistful of Sky, Catalyst and Fall of Light are all definitely weird!

36SylviaC
Jan 8, 2015, 9:31pm Top

I love what MrsLee said in her her review: "suddenly it seemed that the author had taken a psychedelic drug to finish it." Perfect description.

37SylviaC
Jan 9, 2015, 9:26pm Top

My daughter and I made a new Double Chocolate Cookie recipe today. I don't bake a whole lot of sweets, but this was a special snow day treat. (It was actually the third snow day in a row for the kids, and they also had one on Monday.) They taste like brownies with crunchy edges. Needless to say, they were a big hit with the kids.

38catzteach
Jan 9, 2015, 9:31pm Top

Oh my, that sounds like a yummy cookie! I love baking on snow days!

39MDGentleReader
Jan 9, 2015, 11:09pm Top

Yum. A sandwich chain I like sells brownie cookies that I love.

That's a lot of snow days for one week - and you are in Canada! I'm not sure I want to know what the roads are like.

40SylviaC
Jan 9, 2015, 11:26pm Top

The cookies are quite yummy!

The main roads have been mostly closed. Even though not much more snow fell today, there is so much blowing snow that they can't keep the highways clear.

41jillmwo
Jan 10, 2015, 3:08pm Top

Yup, resorting to baking on a snowy day is about the best coping mechanism possible. I have a loaf cake in the oven today under the same rationale.

42MDGentleReader
Jan 12, 2015, 2:57pm Top

>40 SylviaC: blowing snow is tough to deal with. Are the raods open today?

>37 SylviaC: & >41 jillmwo: Yes indeed.

43SylviaC
Jan 12, 2015, 4:32pm Top

>42 MDGentleReader: Yes, everything was open and cleared by Sunday, so we all got to go out and do stuff. It's been snowing today, but it's just falling straight down, so that's all right.

The kids went back to school today, after having four snow days last week, but I don't think much learning happened at my son's school. At about 1:00 I read on Facebook (from other parents) that the school was under lockdown, and there were lots of police there. Then the media and police started reporting it on social media. Fortunately, it turned out to be a false alarm, but the lockdown lasted 90 minutes. The school finally got around to making a public statement about it two hours after it was over. I was definitely more stressed about it than my son was.

44catzteach
Jan 13, 2015, 12:22am Top

Scary! I'm glad it turned out ok in the end. I haven't been in a lockdown yet, but we got close last year when a nearby bank was robbed and they didn't know where the guy went. And we were on alert when there was a shooting (suicide) at the nearby high school.

45SylviaC
Jan 15, 2015, 6:20pm Top

Necropolis: London and Its Dead by Catharine Arnold. The question of what heavily populated communities that have been inhabited for hundreds or thousands of years do with their dead is something that I've always wondered about. So I was intrigued when this came up as an Amazon daily deal a few months ago. A lot of my questions were answered, though the book could have been more comprehensive. Not surprisingly, the bulk of the book was devoted to the Victorian era, since not only was that when the city reached a burial crisis, but it was also an era of intense fascination with death and mourning. There is very little about modern times, since one short chapter covers the last century, which included two World Wars and the influenza epidemic. I liked it, though I did end up skipping a couple of Victorian chapters that just didn't interest me.

46SylviaC
Jan 15, 2015, 7:55pm Top

Today's recipe was Cheesy Baked Beef Ziti. Basically, all the ingredients for lasagna, only in a different layout (and penne instead of lasagna noodles). Turned out to be more labour intensive than I expected, but nothing extreme. The volumes in the recipe were a little off, so there's a lot of it. Could have used a little more tomato sauce, too. One child loved it, the other wouldn't touch it. Husband tried it, but wasn't impressed. I liked it well enough that I won't mind eating the leftovers for the next few days.

47pgmcc
Jan 15, 2015, 11:12pm Top

>45 SylviaC: Fascinating topic. I found it used in at least two novels I have read: Quincunx and Drood.

Having visited an old graveyard in Dublin that was overcrowd as a result of penal laws and famine as part of a ghost bus tour I would find the topic of interest in Dublin too. Apparently in France graves are only "owned" for a fixed period after which bodies are exhumed and disposed of unless the family extends the lease. The period is about 18 years. A friend of mine has to decide what to do with his mother's grave as the lease is ending soon.

48SylviaC
Jan 16, 2015, 12:04am Top

>47 pgmcc: Having just accepted all my life the concept of the grave as "the final resting place", it was rather startling to discover that it very often is not so.

49SylviaC
Jan 16, 2015, 9:59pm Top

An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks. Reread for December group read. I alternated between the audio and print versions. The narrator was excellent, but the audio version lacks the footnotes and illustrations. Since his footnotes are usually very interesting, and there were photographs of art and diagrams by four of the seven people Sacks wrote about, they make a significant contribution to the print book. I still like Oliver Sacks' writing, but it is starting to show its age with some of the terminology and attitudes.

50Meredy
Jan 16, 2015, 10:12pm Top

>49 SylviaC: I was fascinated by that when I read it, quite a few years ago now. I've enjoyed some half a dozen of Sacks's books. Sorry to hear they're not aging well.

51SylviaC
Jan 16, 2015, 10:40pm Top

The Day of the Storm by Rosamunde Pilcher. Short, fairly standard romance. Not one of her best.

52SylviaC
Jan 16, 2015, 10:46pm Top

>50 Meredy: I still find them well worth reading, though there are some things that might not sound quite right to a younger reader. Oliver Sacks still counts among my favourite authors.

53SylviaC
Jan 20, 2015, 2:12pm Top

Dr. Seuss Goes to War : the World War II editorial cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel by Richard H. Minear. From January 1941 to January 1943, Dr. Seuss drew hundreds of cartoons for PM, a left-wing New York daily paper. The style is familiar Dr. Seuss, but the subject is the war, and the content highly political. The book is divided into a few themes, with commentary at the beginning of each chapter, followed by a series of cartoons. Margin notes indicate which cartoons are referenced in the commentary. The format requires a lot of flipping back and forth between the words and the cartoons, but allows for greater visual impact by giving each cartoon its own page. Minear provides a good historical background for each cartoon, and ties them together in a continuous narrative. He explains all the elements in the cartoons, often pointing out details that I might have missed. Of course, that attention to detail sometimes leads to over-analysis, but overall the commentary is well balanced. I like this book both as WWII history and as an art collection.

54pgmcc
Jan 20, 2015, 2:29pm Top

> That looks very interesting. Your description of it is intriguing.

55Meredy
Jan 20, 2015, 2:30pm Top

I think so too.

56MrsLee
Jan 20, 2015, 7:04pm Top

I think so three.

57SylviaC
Jan 21, 2015, 12:57pm Top

It's like two books in one: a different side of Dr. Seuss, plus history.

58SylviaC
Edited: Jan 21, 2015, 1:34pm Top

The Two Mrs Abbotts by D. E. Stevenson. The third Miss Buncle book. It's the next group read for the D. E. Stevenson Yahoo group. This time I read the whole book before the group started picking it to pieces. A good thing, too, because there certainly isn't much there to analyze. But that's okay—it's light and pleasant, and about all my cold befuddled head can handle right now. Barbara Buncle's role in this one is pretty minor. The story sort of goes off in all different directions, with a couple of storylines reaching conclusions, and others just fizzling away. The real star is Markie, a former governess, who is the most sensible character in the book, and the only one who really does anything exciting.

59Marissa_Doyle
Jan 21, 2015, 1:19pm Top

>58 SylviaC: Ah, thank you. I'll save it for when I'm needing something that doesn't require any heavy lifting.

60MDGentleReader
Jan 22, 2015, 4:34pm Top

>58 SylviaC: SOrry to hear that you have a cold. I hope that it leaves soon. Good idea to read the whole thing first before the questions come out. I loved that a whole group of people knew the books well enough to pick out connections to other books and learning how folks feel about issues raised in the books, but it is certaily easy to overenalyze and lose the joy of spending time with the folks in DES books.

61SylviaC
Jan 22, 2015, 7:13pm Top

>60 MDGentleReader: At least it's only a cold and will eventually pass, even if it doesn't feel like it now.

D. E. Stevenson is one of my very favourite authors, but I admit that her books are pretty lightweight. There simply isn't that much there to analyze. Some of them, like the Buncle books, loose their continuity if you stretch them out too far.

62SylviaC
Jan 22, 2015, 10:00pm Top

The Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith and Weedon Grossmith. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this. Another book that doesn't require a great deal of brainpower. I found myself (figuratively) cheering for pompous, socially clueless Mr. Pooter and his loving wife.

63nhlsecord
Jan 23, 2015, 11:48am Top

Oh, Sylvia, I read that book too. I liked it. Thanks for reminding me, I can add it to my library now. :)

64nhlsecord
Jan 23, 2015, 11:51am Top

I liked Diary of a Nobody too. I kept thinking I wouldn't finish it but I couldn't find a spot where I didn't want to read further :)

65pgmcc
Jan 23, 2015, 12:28pm Top

I started Diary of a Nobody but had other pressing matters to attend to and did not finish it. What I read struck me as a very real depiction of suburban life at that time.

66Peace2
Jan 23, 2015, 2:05pm Top

Ohh, just realised that I've got that on the TBR shelf of audios somewhere.

67SylviaC
Jan 26, 2015, 8:37pm Top

Too Much Information by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum. Very funny, as are all the Unshelved collections.

68SylviaC
Edited: Jan 31, 2015, 2:22pm Top

A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit. Another reminder that I don't like sociology, even though I think I should. I expected this book to be more informational, and less theoretical and opinion driven. While each section does begin by describing the disaster and the aftermath, it then shifts to theoretical analysis of the response process. While Solnit doesn't wish disasters on anyone, she believes that they are good for communities, leading to greater cooperation and social interaction, until the government and relief agencies step in and ruin it all. She has some points that I hope are true, such as that far more people are altruistic than selfish, and others that I'm afraid are true, such as the government placing its own interests over the interests of victims. I didn't finish the book, not only because I disagreed with a lot of what she had to say, but because she kept saying it over and over again.

69SylviaC
Jan 31, 2015, 9:49pm Top

The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough. I haven't decided what I think of it yet. I liked most of the story, and enjoyed the fairytale-like quality of it. But I couldn't help thinking about the whole plagiarism thing all the time that I was reading it. There were unquestionable similarities between this and The Blue Castle, although McCullough did take the story in some different directions. For instance: the supernatural element; the outright criminal behaviour of Missy's family; and more emphasis on the theme of women's powerlessness. And there was the rather disturbing point of Missy's basing her marriage on an outright lie. I wish I could have judged the book on its own merits, instead of weighing everything against the original.

70jillmwo
Feb 1, 2015, 12:26pm Top

Honestly, SylviaC, I've just had to add Diary of a Nobody to my TBR list because it sounds well-suited to my less-brainy moods. I also haven't yet read The Two Mrs Abbotts so that's been added as well on the very same grounds. It was a relief to see that you didn't much care for A Paradise Built in Hell!

Postscript: I liked and kept The Ladies of Missalonghi on my shelves where others of her works were passed along to others. But what was the plagiarism thing? I don't remember it.

71SylviaC
Feb 1, 2015, 2:55pm Top

It may have been a bigger deal here in Canada, home of L. M. Montgomery, but I remember the uproar about it in the eighties. The similarities, both major and minor, between The Ladies of Missalonghi and The Blue Castle (published 1926) seem too frequent to be coincidence. I don't know if this link will work for you, but it leads to an excerpt on the subject, starting on page 142:

https://books.google.ca/books?id=R5tt3Id3yzgC&pg=PA143&lpg=PA143&dq=...

72SylviaC
Feb 2, 2015, 7:26pm Top

Strawberry Acres by Grace S. Richmond. Published in 1911, with all the traditional elements of a good, old-fashioned family story: serious illness, flocks of cheerful young men, home-loving young ladies, a minister, a train trip, an affable uncle, lots of fresh air, and an over-abundance of virtue. Reminiscent of Louisa May Alcott's books. I enjoyed it, and the characters were likeable—even the paragons.

73MDGentleReader
Feb 6, 2015, 2:19pm Top

>72 SylviaC: "the characters were likeable—even the paragons" I also enjoyed Strawberry Acres. BTW, I got it for free on Kindle.

>71 SylviaC: Regarding the plagiarism controversy, I didn't hear about until I'd read both books several times. I do remember being terribly confused when I read whichever on I read second and I felt that a couple of things were a bit different than I remembered and then a completely new character showed up! Very, very similar books. I was actually quite relieved to find out that I had read two different books - was beginning to question my memory of what I had read. The Blue Castle is very strongly L. M. Montgomery, I just wasn't as aware of her style when I read the books, I recognize it now. I think that I am glad I didn't know of the controversy before I read them. Yes, I was very disturbed by the marriage being based on a lie

>67 SylviaC: Unshelved is awesome.

74SylviaC
Edited: Nov 24, 2015, 10:38pm Top

>73 MDGentleReader: I had the Free Kindle version of Strawberry Acres, too. I'll have to look for more of her books.

I don't know yet whether the matter of Missy's lie will prove to be a deal breaker for me in The Ladies of Missalonghi. I liked the rest of the story a lot, but that was such a fundamental issue. I guess that is one of the differences between Montgomery and McCullough—L. M. Montgomery wanted to leave her readers happy, but McCullough didn't mind leaving them with a touch of uneasiness.

75SylviaC
Feb 9, 2015, 9:32pm Top

After a few weeks without any culinary experimentation, I've started searching the cookbooks again. Tonight I made Pad Thai. I didn't expect anyone else to want to eat this, so I was pleasantly surprised when my daughter tried it and liked it. It tasted good, but was a bit dry. The recipe came from a "light" cookbook, and I think it just needs a little more oil.

76SylviaC
Feb 9, 2015, 10:03pm Top

Gay from China at the Chalet School by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. This one took me ages to get through, because I dislike one character so much that I just didn't want to get to the parts where she does what she does. So I ended up reading it straight, to get it over with, and not comparing it with the abridged version. I'll have to come back later when I've completed the comparison.

Despite my reluctance to read it, I think this is one of the best written books in the series. There is more of a cohesive storyline than many of the others have, and most of the events are relevant to that storyline. It seems more pulled-together than some of them. So, a very good book, that I didn't enjoy reading.

77MDGentleReader
Feb 9, 2015, 11:59pm Top

>76 SylviaC: I agree with you about Gay From China being more cohesive and put together than many in the series. Miss Bubb just didn't get to me the way she did to you. I can completely understand how you would react that way to her, though. I wonder a little about me ;-). As I've said before I was very much taken up with Jacynth's story. The way her friends helped her and, in particular, the cello lessons and how Jacynth got her cello really interested me more than many story lines. I smile every time I think about Cerita. I smile and am sad when I think about the letter Auntie left for Jacynth.

78SylviaC
Feb 10, 2015, 7:52am Top

>77 MDGentleReader: I liked the way she blended Jacynth and Gay's stories together. Often it seems like there are two or more different stories going on that don't really connect, but this time she kept both girls integral to the plot all the way through, while still giving them each a fully rounded story.

79SylviaC
Feb 14, 2015, 8:15pm Top

Venetia by Georgette Heyer. I haven't read this in years, and had forgotten some of the details. Most of it is fun to read, although it never quite makes it into my favourites list. I'm not really a big fan of the reformed rake romance theme, but I think Venetia herself is a wonderful character.

80SylviaC
Feb 14, 2015, 9:26pm Top

Incidentally, my reading of Venetia marks a milestone. This was the first time that, with a paper copy of a book on hand, I chose to read It electronically. I opened up my old paperback, and the pages were so browned, and the print so crowded, that I just thought, ”I can't," and immediately went to Amazon and bought the e-book.

81SylviaC
Feb 15, 2015, 7:48pm Top

I made some seafood chowder today. This one was just for me, as no one else will even try it. I'm enjoying it very much. The recipe called for a little bit of whipping cream and a larger amount of sour cream, which gives it an odd tanginess. It's a flavour I like, but it isn't quite right in chowder. But it's still good.

82pgmcc
Edited: Feb 15, 2015, 11:58pm Top

>81 SylviaC: I love chowder. Enjoy.

83Marissa_Doyle
Feb 16, 2015, 8:48am Top

>81 SylviaC: I made a pot of leek, spinach, and ham soup this weekend which calls for a lot of plain yogurt (I used Greek, which really enhanced the silky texture) and love the tanginess it lends...but I can see it jarring a bit with seafood.

84SylviaC
Edited: Feb 16, 2015, 10:21am Top

>82 pgmcc: You'll have to hurry if you want to get here before it's all gone. Dress for cold weather.

>83 Marissa_Doyle: That sounds good!

85MrsLee
Feb 16, 2015, 12:01pm Top

>81 SylviaC: It helps inspiration and enthusiasm to make something just the way you want it, and not worry about the family. A rare treat, enjoy!

86SylviaC
Feb 16, 2015, 3:05pm Top

>85 MrsLee: It is kind of nice when I don't have to consider anybody's preferences but my own. Easier to do now that the kids are older, and every now and then I can say, "If you don't like it, get your own."

I finished eating the chowder today, and the tanginess mellowed overnight. perfect!

87SylviaC
Feb 16, 2015, 3:38pm Top

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa. Such a nice book. Very quiet and low key. It is the story of the friendship of a housekeeper and her son with a former math professor who has a memory span of only 80 minutes. A lot of the book is like number poetry. I have always wished that my brain had the same ability to feel numbers the way that it feels words. The ability to see patterns and equations in my mind, and manipulate and juggle with numbers, and not have to struggle through digit by digit. This book gives me a glimpse of the beauty that I know exists in numbers, but can never quite grasp. And the human story is good, too.

88pgmcc
Feb 16, 2015, 5:09pm Top

>86 SylviaC: I finished eating the chowder today,

Awwww! I am just changing flights at Ottawa.

I will just have to turn around and go home.

89SylviaC
Feb 16, 2015, 6:26pm Top

>88 pgmcc: I'll whip up another batch! Pick up a couple of cans of clams before you get here.

90Jim53
Feb 17, 2015, 11:07am Top

>87 SylviaC: I may have taken a very gentle, mild-mannered bullet here. I'm one of those people who does see patterns and shapes in numbers, and I'm not sure I've seen it well described in a book. I'll definitely check this one out when I've gotten through my current pile.

91SylviaC
Feb 17, 2015, 12:32pm Top

>90 Jim53: I would like to know what a number person thinks of it. It looks good to me, but I'm an onlooker, not one of the cognoscenti.

92Meredy
Feb 17, 2015, 1:47pm Top

>90 Jim53: Jim, are you talking about synesthesia?

93Jim53
Feb 19, 2015, 3:38pm Top

>92 Meredy: No, nothing medically identifiable, just a deep familiarity with numbers and a tendency to notice patterns.

94SylviaC
Edited: Feb 20, 2015, 4:51pm Top

The Attacking Ocean by Brian Fagan. It told me what I wanted to know, although I will admit, I dozed off more than once while reading the first half of the book. I had no problem staying awake through the second half, though. My super-short synopsis is: Sea levels have risen before, but there have never been so many millions of people living in permanent communities so close to the water, and the outlook is not good.

95SylviaC
Feb 21, 2015, 9:11pm Top

Tried a new recipe for Macaroni and cheese in the slow cooker. I was doubtful about it from the start, but couldn't be sure until I made it. The flavour was alright, but the texture and appearance were kind of revolting. A waste of good cheese.

96Meredy
Feb 21, 2015, 10:36pm Top

>95 SylviaC: There may be things that are sadder than wasting good cheese, but the list won't be a long one.

97SylviaC
Feb 21, 2015, 11:59pm Top

>96 Meredy: True. Good thing I bought extra cheese, so there is still some left to console myself with.

98SylviaC
Mar 2, 2015, 11:12pm Top

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. Reread. I first read this three or four years ago, and it has stayed with me ever since. It looks at the changes humans have made to the world, and how long those changes would persist if we all vanished from the Earth. Our cities and most other man-made surface structures are surprisingly ephemeral, but our nuclear and chemical legacies will persist into geologic time. The subject still fascinates me, and I've ordered the DVDs of the Life After People series.

99Meredy
Mar 3, 2015, 1:15am Top

>98 SylviaC: Good book. I thought it was grim, fascinating, important, and surprisingly comforting.

100SylviaC
Mar 3, 2015, 1:38pm Top

>99 Meredy: I think it's good to be reminded occasionally that we haven't actually been around for all that long, and that nothing lasts forever. Although, unfortunately, some things will last far too long.

101pgmcc
Mar 3, 2015, 2:42pm Top

>100 SylviaC: What goes on the Internet stays on the Internet...forever!

102SylviaC
Mar 3, 2015, 10:48pm Top

>101 pgmcc: The white/gold/blue/black dress preserved for eternity.

103SylviaC
Mar 5, 2015, 7:14pm Top

The Briefcase (Strange Weather in Tokyo) by Hiromi Kawakami. A lovely, quiet book. I read it in about three hours. About a socially awkward 37 year old woman who encounters and becomes friends with one of her former highschool teachers. The whole book is very much focussed on their relationship. And food and drink. A lot of drink. The descriptions of food are mouthwatering. The only two things I didn't care much for were a rather long dream sequence, and weirdness with quotation marks. I borrowed it through interlibrary loan, and now I'm going to have to find a print copy to keep.

Thank you for the recommendation, Sakerfalcon!

104SylviaC
Mar 6, 2015, 1:15pm Top

The Viral Storm by Nathan Wolfe. Audio. Ratings aren't very high for this book, but I found it worked very well as an audiobook. It is not very technical, and, unsurprisingly, tends to focus on the author's own areas of research. He does a fair bit of name dropping, and promotion of his own organization and research, but it is all relevant to the subject.

105SylviaC
Mar 7, 2015, 12:00am Top

The Motor Maid by C.N. & A.M. Williamson. I enjoyed the underlying plot well enough, but there was far more scenery than really interested me. Also a vein of snobbery that was hard to swallow. But I liked it enough to keep going until the end, with some skimming.

106SylviaC
Mar 7, 2015, 12:18am Top

Not Quite the Classics by Colin Mochrie. I find Colin Mochrie's improv work on "Whose Line is it Anyway?" hilarious, so I had high hopes about this book, and bought it in audio format so I could listen to him read it himself. Although his reading was good, the book was a disappointment. The idea was: he would take the first and last lines from a classic book, and make up his own story in between them. Some of the short ones were fun, but most of the longer ones were...well...too long. The gimmick simply didn't have enough substance to support 30 to 45 minute stories.

107SylviaC
Mar 7, 2015, 10:10pm Top

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. Fun to read. Drew me right in. Don't think I'll keep it, but I'm glad I read it.

108SylviaC
Mar 9, 2015, 10:58pm Top

The Nothing Girl by Jodi Taylor. Full of humour, with dashes of suspense and tragedy. MDGentleReader very aptly described it as a cross between Mary Stewart and Sarah Addison Allen. I have the first of the author's St. Mary's books on my kindle, waiting to be read.

109MDGentleReader
Mar 10, 2015, 8:13am Top

So, Nothing Girl, a cohesive painting building up a portrait of the Nothing Girl. Set in the late 20th, early 21st century, shows some folks related to one another, some friends choosing to spend time together, Impressionistic in style (magical realism). Now you've turned the corner in the gallery and have come across a larger canvas with groupings of figures from history. There is action and movement everywhere. A few of the figures appear in more than one scene from history. You'll recognize the brushstrokes she uses to describe characters, the humor, they way situations build up around a character's dominant pattern of living or personality trait. The fierce loyalty is to co-workers, but it is there. Magic realism, not so much, unless you include history herself or, well, someone I won't mention here.

Completely different books. Historians "observing in contemporary time" and getting into trouble where ever (and whenever) they might be. I do hope you enjoy them - I do ( I have books 4 & 5 to look forward to). I did think that Nothing Girl was better written in so many ways.

110SylviaC
Mar 10, 2015, 12:03pm Top

>109 MDGentleReader: As long as the humour is there, I should be happy.😀

111MDGentleReader
Mar 10, 2015, 12:32pm Top

>110 SylviaC: Oh, yes. (I'm grinning at the thought of St Marys.)

112SylviaC
Mar 12, 2015, 6:25pm Top

Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden. Young adult book about two 17-year-old girls falling in love. First published in 1982, it was groundbreaking at the time. I only discovered it recently, although I was a big fan of Garden's fantasy, Fours Crossing, published just the year before—indicating that Annie must not have been available in the libraries I frequented. A nice book, and definitely tame by present standards. The 25th anniversary commemorative edition that I borrowed from the library contained an interesting interview with the author.

113SylviaC
Edited: Mar 12, 2015, 10:05pm Top

Candle's Christmas Chair by Jude Knight. A free Amazon novella. Historical romance without a lot of conflict. Good for someone looking for a brief distraction.

114SylviaC
Mar 18, 2015, 9:02pm Top

How the Heather Looks: A Joyous Journey to the British Sources of Children's Books by Joan Bodger. Recommended by katylit. A lovely, restful sort of book, as the author describes her family's travels around England in 1958, searching for the locations of their favourite stories. I was amazed at how much they did find, and wonder what would be left of that today.

I intend to look for the author's autobiography, The Crack In The Teacup, but anyone who wants to stay in their happy place after reading How the Heather Looks should probably not delve too deeply into biographical material.

115SylviaC
Mar 22, 2015, 8:07pm Top

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Excellent. I like apocalyptic fiction, but I hate reading about violence, which leaves a fairly narrow field. This book was perfect for me, as the violence was minimal, and not at all graphic. The story bounces back and forth over a fifty year period, from about thirty years before the pandemic to twenty years after, while following the lives of several different characters. Despite the frequently changing timeframes and characters, I had no problem at all keeping track. The lives of the main characters touch, diverge, then are pulled back together again, like a complex braid. This will probably be one of my favourite books for this year.

116catzteach
Mar 22, 2015, 9:19pm Top

Sounds like one to put on the list.

117Peace2
Mar 23, 2015, 2:52am Top

>115 SylviaC: Great to hear that this is a good one as I recently added a copy to the TBR pile.

118imyril
Mar 23, 2015, 7:17am Top

>115 SylviaC: I'm really looking forward to this. It's sat on the Wishlist rather than TBR, but I have every intention of reading it this year :)

119Sakerfalcon
Mar 23, 2015, 9:37am Top

>115 SylviaC: I loved Station eleven too. It was so satisfying once you start being able to work out how the different strands fit together.

120SylviaC
Mar 23, 2015, 3:36pm Top

I would certainly recommend it, unless, of course, you prefer your apocalypses dark and gritty. Well there is some darkness...you can't exactly kill off most of the human race without it. And people do get kind of gritty, without running water and all... But you know what I mean. Right?

>119 Sakerfalcon: "Satisfying" is the perfect word. It was like little lights would go on in my mind when I realized the connections.

121MDGentleReader
Mar 23, 2015, 4:42pm Top

>113 SylviaC:, >114 SylviaC: more book bullets. I am always amazed at how many children's books had such strong ties to actual places. I guess it makes sense, children really claim a place physically. To write about a place the way a child would see would mean you would have to know it down to the last rock and tree. This would be hard to do if the place were imaginary. And there are times when I really, really want a brief distraction without much conflict. I think our libraries are growing more and more similar.

>115 SylviaC:, >119 Sakerfalcon:, >120 SylviaC: - you can stop now, it was already on my TBR before this discussion even started.

>115 SylviaC: I admit, I've been a little puzzled trying to reconcile your liking of post-apocalypic novels with your liking of DES. Leaving out the violence and adding in your somewhat greater enthusiam for reading about disasters and catastrophic what-ifs than I have - it all fits. From everything I've read, Station Eleven is one of those books that is so outstanding that it transcends genre. I did get it for my Sweetie for Christmas post-apocalypic is right up his alley. He is in the middle of a rather long non-reading streak, though.

>120 SylviaC: Do you have any idea what the phrase "little lights would go on in my mind when I realized the connections" does to me? >119 Sakerfalcon: and "so satisfying once you start being able to work out how the different strands fit together"? I already have 3 books out of the library and I need to childproof my house for a small cousin's upcoming visit and all these other non-reading responsibilities...

122Jim53
Mar 23, 2015, 9:05pm Top

OK, you can silently carve one more notch in the butt of your gold-handled cane. Bullet taken.

123SylviaC
Mar 24, 2015, 9:27pm Top

>121 MDGentleReader: I think you would be fine with Station Eleven. There weren't even any bits that I had to skim. And if it's right there in the house . . .
You would probably be alright with The Empty World, too, if you ever come across it. It doesn't have the literary quality of Station Eleven, but it is interesting as an early example of the genre, and because, well, D. E. Stevenson! I was so excited when I read it -- DES + apocalypse. What more could I ask?

>122 Jim53: When you're good...

124katylit
Mar 25, 2015, 11:27am Top

I'm glad to hear about Station Eleven. I was just looking at it yesterday at Chapters and thought it sounded good. I'm so glad you enjoyed How The Heather Looks. That one is indeed a treasure.

Now I have to see if I can find The Empty World, sounds too good to miss. Another post-apocalyptic tale that's not really violent is The Hopkins Manuscript by R. C. Sherriff. Persephone publishes it and it's very good.

125SylviaC
Mar 25, 2015, 12:37pm Top

>124 katylit: The Hopkins Manuscript does look good. I'll look for it. Thank you! The Empty World is available through interlibrary loan in Ontario. That was how I read it.

126katylit
Mar 26, 2015, 1:34pm Top

Good to hear about The Empty World at the library - I'll go tomorrow. It's a tad pricey on the second-hand market - $60+!

127SylviaC
Apr 8, 2015, 10:02pm Top

Stuff Matters: exploring the marvelous materials that shape our man-made world by Mark Miodownik. Another one that works well on audio, although some diagrams would have been a nice addition. A look at the composition and characteristics of several commonly used materials. Nicely paced, informative, but not overwhelmingly technical.

128SylviaC
Apr 8, 2015, 10:08pm Top

The Four Graces by D. E. Stevenson. One of my all-time favourite books, which I've probably read dozens of times. This time it was for a group read on the D. E. Stevenson mailing list. As usual, once started, I couldn't stop reading it, even though I was very, very tired last night. Very light and summery and happy.

129SylviaC
Apr 8, 2015, 10:12pm Top

Last week I tried a new macaroni and cheese recipe, which used bottled Alfredo sauce. Very easy to make, tasted much better the second day, when the Alfredo flavour had time to mellow. Sheer hell to clean up after.

130SylviaC
Apr 19, 2015, 8:19pm Top

Frederica by Georgette Heyer. Reread. I listened to the first half, then switched to print so I could go faster. Still excellent. The dialogue between Frederica and Alverstoke is always fun to read, and the boys are well developed characters. It has one of Heyer's funniest chaotic climaxes, even if it is told second-hand. This is the book that I always recommend as a good starting point for anyone who wants to try out Georgette Heyer's books.

131Meredy
Apr 19, 2015, 8:26pm Top

>129 SylviaC: Sounds good. What might have aided the cleanup? greasing the oven dish?

132SylviaC
Apr 19, 2015, 8:58pm Top

I did grease it, and it would probably have been even worse if I hadn't. The bowls that we ate out of had to be scrubbed thoroughly as soon as we finished, as they had a thick coating of sauce/cheese firmly adhering to their insides. Maybe I shouldn't have used 3-cheese alfredo sauce, since that extra cheese probably contributed to the glueyness. But it tasted good.

133Meredy
Apr 19, 2015, 9:17pm Top

Thick coating...firmly adhering...3-cheese...glueyness...sounds wonderful, in fact. Recipe?

134SylviaC
Apr 19, 2015, 10:24pm Top

I got the recipe from a lady on the D. E. Stevenson Yahoo group. I didn't use the French fried onions, because my daughter would have objected, but I think they would have added a nice crunch. The Alfredo flavour was quite strong the first night, but by the next day, the flavours had blended nicely.

MACARONI AND CHEESE -- ALFREDO STYLE
3 cups medium shell pasta, uncooked
14 oz. jar Alfredo sauce
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup water
2.8 oz. can French Fried Onions

Preheat oven to 350˚. PAM a 9 x 13 baking dish.
Cook pasta until al dente; drain and return to pot.
Add Alfredo sauce and grated cheese. Rinse out jar with the water and add to mixture. Stir until cheese is absorbed into the sauce.
Place mixture in prepared baking dish. Bake 20 minutes. Sprinkle top with FF Onions and bake additional 5 to 10 minutes.

135Meredy
Apr 19, 2015, 11:04pm Top

Thanks. Sounds easy enough, apart from the hell aspect. I'll let you know what happens if I try it.

I wonder if the brand of Alfredo sauce makes a difference. And as for the cheddar, did you use mild or medium or sharp?

136SylviaC
Apr 19, 2015, 11:32pm Top

I used sharp (or "old") cheddar, because I always do. Cleaning the pot in which the pasta was cooked and everything was mixed was also part of the hell, but it is important to use that pot for the mixing, because you need the residual heat from both pot and pasta to melt the cheese into the sauce. Other than the cleaning, the preparation was very easy.

I think different brands and types of Alfredo sauce would produce quite different flavours. I had been concerned about it being too bland, but that wasn't a problem with the kind I used. The lady who posted the recipe noted that she liked using a 4-cheese kind.

137SylviaC
Apr 21, 2015, 3:04pm Top

Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown. A slow, very gentle romance between two introverted, socially awkward, middle-aged people. I should have loved it. Instead, I only made it through the first two thirds of the book by sheer determination. By then I had picked up enough momentum to keep going. I liked the three main characters, and really cared about what would happen to them, and I loved the ending. Unfortunately, the writing style got in the way of my enjoyment. The first hurdle was the use of present tense, which always makes me too aware of the author's voice. The other problem was the almost stream of consciousness narrative, in third person, but switching back and forth between the thoughts of two characters, with very little dialogue. That narrative form suited the characters, who were thinkers more than doers, but came across as rather monotonous. But, as I said, I loved the ending, so I don't feel that I wasted my time.

138SylviaC
Apr 23, 2015, 7:47pm Top

A Night to Remember by Walter Lord. An account of the sinking of the Titanic, based mainly on the recollections of the survivors. I really liked it that Lord didn't try to fictionalize or embellish the story. He did a good job of tying together the memories of survivors and families with newspaper and magazine articles, other books, and official documents. It focuses fairly tightly on the night of the disaster and the rescue, with only a few references to official inquiries and the later lives of some survivors. Even though I've always been aware of the facts (I went to school with a kid who was obsessed with the Titanic and the Hindenburg, and I have visited the Titanic display in Halifax), this account really made me aware of the appalling lack of preparedness. There were only enough lifeboats for about half the number of people on board, and even those were grossly underfilled when they were launched. The book provided me with plenty of tidbits of information to inflict upon my family.

139SylviaC
Apr 25, 2015, 1:42pm Top

Auld Acquaintance by Ruth Hay. By my elementary school librarian. A gentle book about a Canadian woman who inherits a farmhouse in Scotland, and her group of friends. Although the writing is unpolished, I did like the characters and the plot, and I'm looking forward to reading more of the series.

140SylviaC
Apr 30, 2015, 4:23pm Top

Time Out of Mind
Now or Never
Sand in the Wind
With This Ring
The Seas Between Us
All by Ruth Hay. The rest of the series that began with Auld Acquaintance. I found the series surprisingly addictive. The writing improved, although the dialogue still tended to be somewhat stilted. The second last book was my least favourite, as it featured some characters that I didn't really care for, and got kind of strange in places. I think Time Out of Mind had the most interesting narrative structure. The series was a pleasant diversion for a few days.

141SylviaC
May 5, 2015, 5:38pm Top

Future Evolution by Peter Ward. The author's premise is that humans will survive as long as the earth does, but in an extremely unpleasant environment. My feelings are mixed. The writing is engaging and thought-provoking, although I don't agree with everything the author says. I like that the author also presented opposing views, without tearing them to shreds. One of my complaints about the book is that it is far more about extinction (past, present, and future) than about evolution. Yes, the two subjects are closely related, but the evolution aspect seems almost a sideline, rather than the main subject as indicated by the title and introduction. One other thing bothered me, way out of proportion to its significance to the book. There is one paragraph in which the author states that the bacteria causing smallpox, rabies, typhoid, rubella, and cholera have all been wiped out by antibiotics in the 20th century. There are two glaring errors in this: 1) three of those diseases are viral, therefore not affected by antibiotics; and 2) smallpox is the the only one of those diseases that has been eradicated (and by vaccination, not antibiotics). It was only a very minor point, but it is the sort of thing that makes you start to question the accuracy of the rest of the book.

142SylviaC
May 6, 2015, 11:26pm Top

Red River Deep by Carolyn Brown. Romance. Liked characters better than I expected, but nothing special.

143SylviaC
May 13, 2015, 12:09pm Top

Bayfield : Steps to the Sunset by Gordon Strathdee. A book of photographs of a local village. Not a lot to it.

144SylviaC
May 13, 2015, 2:11pm Top

The Earth Moved: On the remarkable achievements of earthworms by Amy Stewart. The author is fascinated by worms, and her enthusiasm is contagious. She describes their bodies, life cycles, and behaviour, as well as their environmental impacts, and how worms can help us on both the large and the small scales. My favourite sentence in the book was: "I am left with the troubling conclusion that the worm's survival may, in the grand scheme of things, be more important than my own." Recommended for anyone with an interest in gardening, natural history, or the environment, and worm fans everywhere. But I'm still creeped out at the thought of touching a worm.

145Meredy
May 13, 2015, 9:07pm Top

>144 SylviaC: I like that quote. Touching worms doesn't bother me (I learned not to cringe at or react to a number of things growing up because there were several older boys the neighborhood), but I can't say that I think I'd enjoy thinking a lot about their bodies and behavior. However, I might be curious to look at the book, and so I guess you can at least count that as a ricochet.

It does, however, sound like a great example of turning your passion into a writing project.

146MrsLee
May 13, 2015, 10:48pm Top

Love Amy Stewart's books. I have three, but not that one.

147SylviaC
May 14, 2015, 2:24pm Top

>145 Meredy: I know how beneficial worms are, and that they can't hurt me, but I simply cannot bring myself to touch one. I can handle crawly things, but not slithery ones.

>146 MrsLee: I've read Wicked Plants, and have two others on the TBR pile. Wicked Plants was a SantaThing gift, and Wicked Bugs was a prize from the LT Talk Like a Pirate Day, so I guess I can thank LIbraryThing for introducing me to Amy Stewart. Unlike the Wicked books, the worm book is not formatted like an encyclopedia or catalogue, but tells the story of worms and worm research, as well as her own gardening and composting experiences.

148catzteach
May 14, 2015, 8:57pm Top

Sylvia, you read the most interesting sounding books! I have been wanting to read Stewart's Wicked things series. I just haven't gotten around to it. The worm one sounds interesting as well.

149SylviaC
May 17, 2015, 8:04pm Top

Straight and True by Justice Joy. Short Regency novel. I really need to stop buying these things just because they are on sale at Amazon.

150SylviaC
Edited: May 19, 2015, 9:11pm Top

Medical School for Everyone: Grand Rounds Cases by Roy Benaroch. Audio from Great Courses (The Teaching Company). Excellent! Twenty-four case studies, focusing on diagnosis. The course is aimed at both patients and medical students. Dr. Benaroch talks about the questions doctors should ask patients, and emphasizes the importance of listening, and also tells patients what information they should be prepared to share with their doctors. The case studies cover a wide range of medical problems, mostly relatively common ones. I especially liked what he had to say about the interaction between physical and psychological factors.

151SylviaC
Edited: May 20, 2015, 8:20am Top

Miss Mole by E. H. Young. A LibraryThing recommendation that I wish I had discovered years ago. Hannah Mole is one of the many single women struggling to support themselves in respectable careers between the two World Wars. By the age of 40, she has spent many years looking after other people's children and houses, and as companion to disagreeable old ladies. Outwardly, she is a rather plain, drab woman, but we soon discover that she has a rich inner life, full of imagination and optimism. She also has a quick wit, an unruly tongue, and a deep love of beauty and nature. She is what Anne Shirley would have become, had she been left to fend for herself. The bleakness of Hannah's situation is balanced by her buoyant personality and her outrageous comments. We gradually learn Hannah's history as she settles into her new job as housekeeper to a minister's family. Although things get darker as the story progresses, there is a happy ending.

As an aside, I just want to complain about the difficulty of reading this book. I have a Virago paperback, but the print is so dense on browning pages, that I looked for a ebook copy. The kindle edition was much easier on the eyes, but was full of scanning and formatting errors. I was stopping every few pages to report the typos to Amazon. So I would switch back to the paperback for as long as my eyes could stand it, then back again to my kindle. It didn't do much for the continuity.

*Edited to correct the publisher.*

152Sakerfalcon
May 20, 2015, 4:36am Top

>151 SylviaC: Miss Mole is on my tbr pile. I must move it up as it always seems to be praised so highly. I have a Virago paperback, which I hope has an easier-to-read typeface than your copy.

153SylviaC
May 20, 2015, 8:19am Top

>152 Sakerfalcon: Oops... Mine is Virago, too. I always mix those up. So, yeah, dense type. But your eyes are younger than mine, so it should be alright. And definitely move it up!

154SylviaC
Edited: May 22, 2015, 11:29pm Top

The Pigeon Pie Mystery by Julia Stuart. After the scandalous death of her father, the Maharaja of Prindur, Princess Alexandrina (or "Mink") is offered a grace-and-favour residence at Hampton Court Palace. She and her maid, Pooki, move into their new home, meet the other palace residents, and soon need to investigate a suspicious death. The names of a few of the characters should give a pretty good indication of the tone of the book: William Sheepshanks, Mrs. Nettleship, Silas Sparrowgrass (the homeopath), Horace Pollywog, Barnabas Popejoy, and Mr. Blood (the undertaker). It is a good book for anyone who would enjoy a farcical Victorian mystery. Twenty years ago, I would have loved it, but I'm just not as drawn to that kind of silliness anymore. As it was, I enjoyed the book, but wasn't deeply engaged. I also had trouble keeping the three widows straight. But it is well done, and deserves a chance from more appreciative readers.

155MDGentleReader
May 25, 2015, 11:31am Top

>154 SylviaC:. I tried that one twice and never finished. For what it is, it is well done. Just not for me.

156SylviaC
May 25, 2015, 11:51am Top

>155 MDGentleReader: I think Miss Mole would be more to your taste.

157SylviaC
Jun 7, 2015, 11:15pm Top

Rudyard Kipling: A Poetry Selection {Audio}. Disappointing. Kipling is probably my favourite poet, but the first half of this selection almost seemed like the compiler was looking for all of his most imperialistic and racist poems. The selection eventually improved, but not many of my favourites were included. Kipling's verse is particularly well-suited to reading aloud, but three of the four narrators read with very little enthusiasm. The fourth wasn't bad.

158SylviaC
Jun 12, 2015, 11:25pm Top

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards. The story of a really bad decision made at the birth of twins, one of whom has Down Syndrome, and the repercussions of that decision over the next twenty-five years. Usually I avoid books with titles in the format of: The __________'s Wife/Daughter/Mistress/etc., but this was recommended by a friend who said that the book was very special for her. A look at the LT reviews indicates that readers tend to have strong feelings one way or the other about this book. Despite some rather overblown imagery, I thought it was very good. The pacing was just right, and the threads were woven together nicely. I just wish there had been more chapters focused on Phoebe and Caroline. Although there is a lot of sadness and anger in the book, it never became too dark for me, and I was left with positive feelings.

159Meredy
Jun 13, 2015, 1:29am Top

>158 SylviaC: Usually I avoid books with titles in the format of: The __________'s Wife/Daughter/Mistress/etc.

So do I. It's interesting to know that this aversion is shared. I don't know exactly why I find that formula so irritating, unless it's the implication that a focal character's identity (usually a woman) hinges on her relationship to somebody else (usually a man). If a main character appears to be someone else's appendage, how is he or she going to warrant book-length attention?

I did read and rate highly The Orphan Master's Son, but ordinarily if a title or even an author's name puts me off, I just won't go near the book.

160SylviaC
Jun 14, 2015, 10:24pm Top

>159 Meredy: I think that part of what bothers me, just as you suggest, is that impression of a woman's identity being based on her relationship to a man. Another thing that annoys me is that the authors or publishers seem to be jumping on a bandwagon. After one such title was successful (The Time Traveler's Wife, maybe?) it became the popular way to title "literary fiction".

161Meredy
Edited: Jun 15, 2015, 1:14am Top

>160 SylviaC: I think you're right, it has become a fad formula. I was thinking of The Time Traveler's Wife too, but The Bonesetter's Daughter preceded it. Probably there've been others before that, but it's lately been a distinct trend. Just give me an Anna Karenina or an Oliver Twist, a Hamlet or a Cinderella. I don't need to know ahead of time who their relatives are.

162SylviaC
Jun 18, 2015, 10:30pm Top

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. I was inspired to reread this after taking my daughter to see the Anne of Green Gables musical. It has been many years since I last read it, but the whole story was still as familiar and cozy as my favourite fuzzy blanket. I am greatly relieved to report that the suck fairy has stayed far away from Anne. In fact, I was newly impressed with just how well-written the book is. Now I'll have to go on to reread a few more Anne books.

163Meredy
Jun 19, 2015, 1:13am Top

>162 SylviaC: the suck fairy has stayed far away from Anne

I'm very glad to hear that. As a rule I'm not tempted to go back to childhood reads, but it is so nice to know that if I did revisit Avonlea I would find things as they ought to be.

164jillmwo
Jun 20, 2015, 3:53pm Top

>151 SylviaC: That book is sitting on my shelf upstairs. I am sure I got hold of it on the basis of some one recommending it here on LT. It's reassuring to know that you give it a thumbs-up as well!

165SylviaC
Jun 20, 2015, 4:27pm Top

>164 jillmwo: I would like to know what you think of it. You generally pick up on more than I do, and I think Miss Mole has a lot of hidden depth.

166imyril
Jun 21, 2015, 10:09am Top

>162 SylviaC: I revisited with Anne a couple of years ago, and she's every bit as charming as when we first met - I ended up reading the first three books in a row because it was all such a lovely trip down memory lane!

167SylviaC
Jun 22, 2015, 11:58am Top

Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery. Reread. Still a nice book, but doesn't quite have the charm of Anne of Green Gables.

168SylviaC
Jun 24, 2015, 12:56pm Top

Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery. Liked it just as much as ever.

169SylviaC
Jun 28, 2015, 5:01pm Top

Anne of Windy Poplars by L. M. Montgomery. I still liked it, but not as much as I used to. The random love affairs and recitations of tragedies were too repetitive, but everything else was very good.

170SylviaC
Jun 30, 2015, 8:37pm Top

Anne's House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery. I'm glad I reread this. I was kind of reluctant to, because I mostly remembered the sadness. Fortunately, I now recall that there is plenty of humour and joy in this book, too. It also has a fair dose of melodrama and purple prose, but L. M. Montgomery does tend to lapse into those at times.

171SylviaC
Jul 3, 2015, 4:32pm Top

Anne of Ingleside and Rainbow Valley. I remembered these two as being the most boring in the series.Anne of Ingleside proved to be even worse than I recalled, to the point that it was barely readable. I ended up skimming, in the hope that something interesting would happen. It didn't. Happily, Rainbow Valley was much better than I remembered, and not at all boring. I wonder if L. M. Montgomery had to introduce the Merediths and Mary Vance because Anne's children were too well-behaved to have interesting adventures.

I wasn't planning to reread Rilla of Ingleside now, because I last read it just a few years ago, but I don't think I can resist.

172imyril
Jul 3, 2015, 5:43pm Top

>171 SylviaC: Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside are the 2 I've never read (I didn't even know they existed until I looked up Montgomery on Gutenberg). I don't recall much about Anne of Ingleside other than the throwaway image that makes it clear one of her sons will die in World War I, which has haunted me ever since I first read it.

173SylviaC
Jul 3, 2015, 7:31pm Top

>172 imyril: Yes, that is a memorable bit in Anne of Ingleside. Rilla of Ingleside is very much about WWI. Although it takes place entirely on Prince Edward Island, the war is more than just a backdrop to the story. So there is significant loss and sadness, but it is still ultimately a positive book. Rilla (Anne's youngest child) shows huge character development, and there is plenty of humour and love. Next to Anne of Green Gables, it is my favourite book by L. M. Montgomery.

174imyril
Jul 4, 2015, 4:38am Top

>173 SylviaC: I have downloaded it from Gutenberg, so I'll follow your footsteps back to Ingleside this year :)

175SylviaC
Jul 4, 2015, 10:12am Top

I'll be happy to see you there!

176MrsLee
Jul 5, 2015, 5:18pm Top

I was not so smitten with all the follow up books, although I loved Anne of Green Gables. Was discussing with my daughter which books she wants me to keep for her and which she wants to get rid of, since she will be moving soon and doesn't want to take all her books there. I asked her about these, thinking that with her new modern woman college sensibilities she would say let them go. No, instead she said, "I LOVED those!" I guess I will be booksitting them a bit longer.

177SylviaC
Jul 5, 2015, 5:49pm Top

>176 MrsLee: I'm glad you raised her properly!

178Sakerfalcon
Jul 6, 2015, 7:09am Top

>172 imyril: For some reason Rainbow Valley and Rilla have never been as easy to find in the UK as the rest of the series. IMO Rilla is almost as good a book as Anne of Green Gables. Hmm, maybe it's time for a reread ...

179SylviaC
Jul 9, 2015, 12:16pm Top

Rilla of Ingleside. As I said above, this is a favourite of mine. Now that I've finished rereading the series, I can get back to the the books I was reading before this little distraction.

180SylviaC
Jul 13, 2015, 12:01am Top

The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity by Steven Strogatz. According to the preface, this book is "a guided tour through the elements of math, from preschool to grad school, for anyone out there who'd like to have a second chance at the subject." The author also indicates that he he is trying to teach everything "starting with 1+1=2 and going as far as we can." Well, he doesn't quite meet that lofty goal. In reality, the book is a collection of very short essays, each highlighting a different mathematical concept or formula. The essays are fun, accessible and interesting, and illustrated with helpful diagrams. There were a few instances where I wasn't able to understand the nuts and bolts of a formula, but I could still understand his explanation of the concept. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about the mysteries of math, served up in bite-sized pieces. Best of all, he references The Housekeeper and the Professor in chapter 2.

181Jim53
Aug 8, 2015, 5:56pm Top

>180 SylviaC: when I saw the beginning of your description, I thought immediately of The Housekeeper and the Professor ;-) "Joy of x" is a clever title, although it reminds me of the entry that one often sees in lists of cute student papers, where a geometry teacher draws a triangle, gives the length of two sides, marks the third side x, and instructs the student to find x, and the student draws an arrow pointing to the x and writes "here it is!" I might be doing some math tutoring next year, so this might be a useful refresher.

182SylviaC
Aug 8, 2015, 7:47pm Top

>181 Jim53: I thought of you when I was reading it!

183SylviaC
Aug 13, 2015, 4:04pm Top

Hopefully things are slowing down now, and I can finish a few of the books that I started then lost track of.

On Immunity by Eula Biss. Audio. I liked this very much, probably because it reinforced my own opinions. Through a blend of opinion, science, and philosopy, the author provides a well thought out defence of immunization and meditations on the nature of immunity. Overall, the book is more philosophical than scientific, but she does back her statements up with science. I was intrigued by her thoughts on the distinction between "self" and "other", and on the language that we use to talk about disease and our immune systems. (A warning: This book is unlikely to be appreciated by anyone who disagrees with immunization.)

184SylviaC
Aug 16, 2015, 5:45pm Top

Celia's House by D. E. Stevenson. I read this many, many years ago, probably as a teenager, and could only remember one event from the entire book. More recently, I thought that I would likely appreciate it more as a (relatively) mature adult, so joined in on a group read on the D. E. Stevenson Yahoo list. After completing my assigned chapters, I zoomed on to the end of the book, and definitely got more out of it than I did in my youth. It is the story of the Dunne family, and their home, Dunnian, in Scotland, between 1905 and 1942. The story begins with old Celia, and ends when young Celia is 32. The two Celia's don't have all that much page time, serving more as anchors for the rest of the story. I enjoyed watching the the family as the children grew up and fit into the changing world around them. I just had a couple of quibbles with the book: one confusing character arc; and an unsettling touch of the supernatural. There was also one character who was horribly unpleasant, but she does have her place in the plot. It is not as funny as many of Stevenson's books, but still has some humorous touches. While essentially a serious book, it is not at all dark.

185jillmwo
Aug 18, 2015, 5:28pm Top

Oh, my goodness! You keep introducing me to new works by D.E. Stevenson. It's a book bullet and now I've got to go add it to my TBR.

(The publisher should be paying you a sales commission, my dear.)

186SylviaC
Aug 18, 2015, 7:29pm Top

>185 jillmwo: One of the things the group has been discussing is similarities between Celia's House and Mansfield Park. I haven't read MP myself, so I can't contribute to that part of the conversation.

187jillmwo
Aug 18, 2015, 8:00pm Top

Oh, jeez. Now I want to read it sooner rather than later. An updated version of MP -- I love it.

188Marissa_Doyle
Aug 18, 2015, 8:27pm Top

>186 SylviaC:, >187 jillmwo: Yeah, she got me with that one too...

189SylviaC
Aug 18, 2015, 10:03pm Top

>187 jillmwo: >188 Marissa_Doyle: I am particularly proud of that shot.

190SylviaC
Aug 18, 2015, 10:22pm Top

The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Audio. A short (3-hour) Teaching Company course. My son and I had fun listening to this while driving. I'll admit some of it was beyond me, but Neil deGrasse Tyson was so enthusiastic and engaging that it really didn't matter. We had fun guessing how many times he used words like "creepy", "spooky", "freaky", "weird", and "bizarre".

191nhlsecord
Aug 19, 2015, 8:57pm Top

I love NDT, especially his show called Startalk. You can get it online. He did a wonderful interview with Norman Lear, and with George Takei, as well as many others.

192SylviaC
Aug 19, 2015, 9:21pm Top

>191 nhlsecord: Thank you! I looked for it, and am listening to him discuss GMOs with Bill Nye right now.

193SylviaC
Aug 21, 2015, 9:18pm Top

Beyond Heaving Bosoms by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan. The creators of the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books website do what they do so well. They look at the good and the bad of the romance genre; the silly, the serious, and the ludicrous. Some of the subjects are light, like bad romance covers, and "cringe-worthy plot devices", while others are serious, like rape, diversity, and plagiarism in romances. Recommended for people who read romances, or hate romances, or just don't get what it's all about. But not for anyone who is offended by obscene (but amazingly creative) language, or by explicit (and weird) sex. It was a little bit surprising to discover that the kind of romance that I enjoy reading is so old that it doesn't even qualify as what they refer to as "Old Skool". I had almost as much fun reading this as the authors seem to have had writing it.

194Marissa_Doyle
Aug 21, 2015, 9:20pm Top

I saw Sarah Wendell speak on a panel at the RWA National Conference last month; she's almost as funny in person as she is in Beyond Heaving Bosoms.

195SylviaC
Aug 22, 2015, 12:13am Top

>194 Marissa_Doyle: I imagine that would be quite entertaining!

196jillmwo
Aug 22, 2015, 9:36am Top

A few years back, I was demonstrating a web service to some colleagues and it included a list of blogs that I was following at the time. I hadn't realized that I'd included Smart Bitches on my list, but the audience (all women) insisted that I pause the demo and take them over to that blog. They were tickled no end by the content, and I think at least one of them is still reading her work.

197SylviaC
Aug 24, 2015, 11:53am Top

The Other Mitford by Diana Alexander. Disappointing. This is the biography of Pamela Mitford, the sister who stayed out of the spotlight. The author is a journalist who was Pamela's cleaning lady for 12 years, and the only new information that she has introduced are a few housekeeping anecdotes, and comments by neighbours. She had so little information that she had to pad it out with stories about the rest of the family. The chapters alternate between focusing on all of the Mitfords and focusing on Pam, very frequently repeating the same information two or three times. The repetition is probably the the thing that I found most annoying. The entire book is only 186 pages, so there really isn't much space dedicated to the subject. Most of the time, the writing isn't bad, except for some convoluted sentences, but it never really grabs you. Perhaps if this had been the first book I read about the Mitfords, I would have found it more interesting.

198Marissa_Doyle
Aug 24, 2015, 12:32pm Top

>197 SylviaC: Sounds like one of those books that wold have been better as a long article...sometimes, there just isn't enough interesting material about someone for a book, no matter how famous their family was. And yes, especially because there are so many fascinating books about the other sisters.

199Meredy
Aug 24, 2015, 2:58pm Top

>197 SylviaC: Somebody trying to cash in on insider knowledge. Even if you're not one of the principals yourself, you're taking advantage of a role of domestic intimacy when you spill all. Don't you think that's a betrayal of trust? Or are celebrities and near-celebrities fair game? It would seem to me that the one who stayed out of the spotlight is not a public figure in any case.

200SylviaC
Aug 24, 2015, 4:24pm Top

>198 Marissa_Doyle: I don't know if there was even enough original material for an article.

>199 Meredy: I try hard to avoid the type of books where "Queen's Butler Tells All!" I am not comfortable with that sort of invasion of privacy, and betrayal of trust. Often I get the impression that the author is trying to inflate their own importance through their connection with the celebrity. On the other hand, not many biographies would get written if no one shared any information.

In this book, it seems like the author is trying to profit from her connection with the Mitford family, and also trying to fill a gap in the family history. She will probably succeed in the first goal, because the public interest is still there. She didn't do well in the second case, because she didn't seem to have much to tell that wasn't already easily accessible public knowledge. She avoided any hint of controversy about Pam, which at least was refreshing in that I don't like seeing anyone dragged through the mud. But if the most exciting thing that you can find to say about a person is that they didn't change the sheets between the guests, then you probably don't have enough information to write a book.

201SylviaC
Aug 26, 2015, 10:34am Top

The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart. Like her "Wicked" books, this is more of a reference book to be dipped into than a book to read all in one chunk. It is a mixture of science, history, folklore, horticulture, and mixology, which is both entertaining and educational to read. I probably would have enjoyed it even more if I actually liked liquor.

202nhlsecord
Aug 26, 2015, 8:29pm Top

>192 SylviaC: I'm glad you found him. I'd be interested to learn what you think of Norman Lear, when you get to him. An extraordinary outlook!

203SylviaC
Aug 28, 2015, 2:06pm Top

Delight by J. B. Priestley. A nice little book that has been living on my bedside table for the last year or two. It just contains short little essays about the things that make the author happy.

204SylviaC
Aug 29, 2015, 11:06am Top

Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold. I put off reading this for as long as I could, because I really don't want to get involved in another long series. I have too many other books to read! Too many people who share my tastes have recommended this series, though, so I finally bit the bullet and read Shards of Honor on my kindle. So now I have to start collecting another series. Thanks, guys.

205MrsLee
Aug 29, 2015, 11:16am Top

>204 SylviaC: Silly girl, denying yourself the pleasure of this series! I'm glad you are finally on board.

I do the same thing though. Resist, resist, because I try to be careful how many fantasy worlds I am pulled into. But when I see a great variety of my reading friends all loving the same series, I succumb. This happened with Terry Pratchett, Brandon Sanderson, Jasper Fforde, Jim Butcher and Bujold. I can avoid depressing series like the Game of Thrones stuff though.

206AHS-Wolfy
Aug 29, 2015, 6:44pm Top

>204 SylviaC: At least they come in handy omnibus editions though.

207SylviaC
Aug 31, 2015, 12:00am Top

>205 MrsLee: >206 AHS-Wolfy: I hold both of you responsible for this situation. And some other people, too. They know who they are.

208Karlstar
Aug 31, 2015, 4:26am Top

So what did you think of Shards of Honor? I read that a long time ago, though I recently picked up some of the books later in that series.

209SylviaC
Aug 31, 2015, 6:03pm Top

I liked it a lot, and since the general consensus seems to be that the series gets better from there, I'm looking forward to reading the next few books. I'm not usually fond of books that are heavy on politics or warfare, but this worked for me because it was so character driven. With a few exceptions, the characters are neither all good nor all bad. I did find it difficult to keep track of the names of all the characters, especially all those Vor____ names. I found the interactions between the characters intriguing, and often wondered where a situation was going to go. There was one scene which started to set off my violence alarm, but it resolved quickly, and nothing else in the book exceeded my ick factor. While I didn't enjoy the section involving the psychologist and Cordelia, I thought it did an excellent job of revealing the truth behind the Betan utopia. It was a hard book to put down at bedtime.

210nhlsecord
Aug 31, 2015, 7:22pm Top

The Vorkosigan series is one of my very favourites because of the great characters, the humour, and the fact that the main character reminds me so much of the fellow with whom I share my life, right down to the bad bones.

211SylviaC
Sep 12, 2015, 10:46pm Top

I read the short story The Avenging Chance by Anthony Berkeley for jillmwo's assignment. A fairly standard British detective story, not long enough to get deeply involved in--a puzzle set, then solved. I guessed right away who the murderer was, so read the rest of the story with that in mind. There weren't many characters to choose from, and when you know the who, the how and why are pretty obvious.

212jillmwo
Sep 13, 2015, 8:49am Top

The thing is that the short story is just a single view of the proposed puzzle provided. It's just one of several possible solutions as Berkeley explores in the full length book, The Poisoned Chocolates Case. Same case, but far more "what if's" presented as possible solutions. One sees the various directions that *might* have been adopted by the mystery writer in creating the narrative. (I think it's cool to see the working through of the intellectual exercise involved.)

(And in my own defense, I was offering it as a " reading project", not an academic task. PGMCC insists on presenting me as something of a school marm...I prefer to see myself as being more like one of those great French courtesans during the age of the great Louis, sitting in the salons of great thinkers. If I could just get the right clothes for it!)

213SylviaC
Sep 13, 2015, 10:03am Top

>212 jillmwo: Yes, I'm looking forward to The Poisoned Chocolates Case. I can see three other potential solutions, so I would like to see how they play out, and also what else he came up with. I'm at Part II of Who Killed Roger Ackroyd now. I'm finding the exercise fascinating, because I generally just think, "That is the way the book was written, and that is what the author intended, therefore that is the way it is. The End." (Probably one reason why I don't like spinoffs or continuations by another author.) So the exploration of "what ifs" is a nice little mental stretch for me.

214SylviaC
Sep 13, 2015, 11:43pm Top

Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? by Pierre Bayard. The second text for Jill's assignment. Three quarters of it was fascinating, and the other quarter was Freudian. Not being a fan of Freud, I could have lived without that part. I wonder if Agatha Christie put anywhere near the amount of thought into writing as Bayard did into analyzing. I know that I'll never read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd the same way again. Bayard had a lot of interesting ideas about how the mystery author and reader interact, and methods of misleading us while still providing all the relevant information. It would be interesting to see a similar exercise done with some of Sayers' books.

An intriguing point to ponder was that although any literary work appears to be a closed world, bound by the statements of the author, it really just consists of fragments of a world, "made up of parts of characters and dialogues, in which entire swaths of reality are missing." Therefore, "the text is not legible if the reader does not give it its ultimate shape--for example, by consciously or unconsciously imagining a multitude of details that are not directly provided." So we really do read between the lines, and every reading is different.

For the record, I made the same choice for an alternative murderer as Bayard did, but we took different routes to get there.

For anyone who intends to read this: There are HUGE spoilers for Endless Night, Curtain, and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, as well as briefer ones for numerous other Christie books.

215SylviaC
Sep 15, 2015, 12:51pm Top

The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony Berkeley. The final book from Jill's list. An intriguing puzzle, in which a group of six people with an interest in crime attempt to solve the same murder that was presented in The Avenging Chance. Each of the detective characters approaches the case from a different perspective, using different techniques, then presents a plausible, and often very convincing, solution to the rest of the group. The group then attempts to pick holes in that theory. This time, the final solution came as a surprise to me. (If it is, in fact, the true solution—it was not definitive, and the rest of the book and Bayard's book taught me to disbelieve anything that cannot be proven to be an absolute, solid, rock-hard fact.)

Stylistically, the detectives suffered from excessive verbosity. It was in character for most of them, but a bit of a drag to read.

Thank you, @jillwmo, for this entertaining and informative project. I enjoyed it immensely.

216jillmwo
Sep 15, 2015, 7:06pm Top

I am SO glad you enjoyed the three books, SylviaC! Even more, I'm glad you found it worthwhile. I agree that the full length novel The Poisoned Chocolate Case tended to the "detectives" talking rather than showing, but when you've got the Club gathered around a dinner table in order to challenge or dissect each finding, I suppose it's a bit unavoidable.

217SylviaC
Sep 20, 2015, 10:45pm Top

Panicology by Simon Briscoe and Hugh Aldersley-Williams. Did not finish—skimmed the first 80 pages, then gave up. Rates the validity of various things people worry about. Many of the worries are expected ones (disease, natural disasters), but some are odd (being crushed by a giant art installation?). It is a subject that interests me, but this book just didn't work. I found it boring and confusing. The rating system is vague and undefined.

218SylviaC
Sep 28, 2015, 11:14pm Top

Sex Variant Woman: The Life of Jeanette Howard Foster by Joanne Passet. Jeanette Howard Foster was an academic and librarian, born in 1895, who published a groundbreaking book, Sex Variant Women in Literature, in 1956. I found this biography interesting and engaging most of the time. Passet researched her subject thoroughly (there are 68 pages of notes and references), and Foster's personality comes through clearly. One weakness in the writing was that there was a lot of "may have", "must have", and "would have", and some speculation into the motivations of people about whom there is minimal information. Overall, it is a good documentation of the life of a lesbian woman in the early and mid-twentieth century, and explains of the importance of Foster's book in the social context of the 1950s-70s.

219SylviaC
Oct 6, 2015, 11:10pm Top

The Martian by Andy Weir. I reread this after seeing the movie. Still excellent! I thought that this time I might want to skim the detailed sciency bits, but I ended up reading every bit of it. It was nice to fill in the parts that were left out of the movie.

It is very, very rare for me to go to a movie—I can't remember the last time I chose to go to one (if I ever have). I don't enjoy anything about the experience. Heck, I don't even like most TV shows. But this time I was really curious about how the book would adapt to the screen. Obviously, a lot had to be left out, but what remained was surprisingly true to the book. There were a few bits added, but they weren't major. Many of the actors were compatible with my mental images. The kids and I, who all read the book, and my husband who didn't, all enjoyed it. My husband had some questions for us later, about why and how certain things happened.

220nhlsecord
Oct 7, 2015, 7:47pm Top

I'm really glad you liked it, Sylvia. We hope it's still on in some town near us in a couple of weeks when we'll be able to go. We haven't been to a movie in years!

221SylviaC
Oct 7, 2015, 10:27pm Top

>220 nhlsecord: It's successful enough that it should stay around for a while, but you never know what will happen in areas where the theatres are few and far between!

222SylviaC
Oct 11, 2015, 10:00pm Top

Smallpox, Syphilis and Salvation: Medical breakthroughs that changed the world by Sheryl Persson. Couldn't get into this at all. The writing seemed awkward and amateurish, and at times I felt like I was reading a student essay. Some Google research tells me that the author is a poet, but that certainly didn't come through in this book. The use of the word "salvation" in the title, while technically correct, was odd in the context.

223SylviaC
Oct 18, 2015, 10:44pm Top

Four-Foot Cucumbers, Juvenile Delinquents & Frogs from the Sky! : snippets of life in Victorian Canada by Crystal Fulton and Glen C. Phillips. Just odd little snippets from Canadian newspapers from the late 1800s. I like this kind of thing.

224SylviaC
Oct 24, 2015, 1:11pm Top

Masterpieces of the Imaginative Mind: Literature's Most Fantastic Works by Eric S. Rabkin. Audio from The Great Courses. An interesting overview of fantasy and science fiction literature. The first half of the course looks at the development of imaginative fiction since the Grimms and Mary Shelley, and refers back to their literary antecedents. The second half focuses on science fiction. I think a lot of Green Dragon members would really enjoy this.

225Jim53
Oct 24, 2015, 1:36pm Top

>224 SylviaC: That sounds really interesting. Were there any recent books that it helped you see in a new light?

226Meredy
Oct 24, 2015, 2:36pm Top

>224 SylviaC: It sounds attractive to me too. Looks like it doesn't exist in traditional book form, though. I'm not likely to approach it in any other medium.

Also I see an alert in your choice of the word "overview." No time to dig a little deep, then?

Does it go back to the Icelandic sagas and trace the roots of "gothic" literature?

227SylviaC
Oct 24, 2015, 10:47pm Top

>225 Jim53: He doesn't cover a lot of books that I would call really recent, although he does get into cyberpunk at the end. I think I have a better appreciation of Stranger in a Strange Land, which I wasn't crazy about when I read it years ago. I'm also wondering whether I should reread Rendezvous with Rama to see whether there really is more to it than I found.

>226 Meredy: As far as I know, these courses are only available in audio and video, although I did just discover that a 137 page PDF of course materials is included with the course. Wish I had noticed that before. I do think this would interest you--you wouldn't necessarily agree with everything he said, but you would certainly follow his reasoning. As the format doesn't appeal to you, you could check out the other works on Eric S. Rabkin's author page. I can't attest to the quality of his writing, but his lecture presentation was lucid and well organized.

I don't think he mentioned the Icelandic sagas, but he did go back to Beowulf, The Odyssey, Oedipus, and Plato. The format was 24 half-hour lectures, each dealing with a different subject, but all tied together. He was able to get a reasonable amount of depth within each lecture. This is the list:

1. The Brothers Grimm & Fairy Tale Psychology
2. Propp, Structure, and Cultural Identity
3. Hoffmann and the Theory of the Fantastic
4. Poe—Genres and Degrees of the Fantastic
5. Lewis Carroll—Puzzles, Language, & Audience
6. H. G. Wells—We Are All Talking Animals
7. Franz Kafka—Dashed Fantasies
8. Woolf—Fantastic Feminism & Periods of Art
9. Robbe-Grillet—Experimental Fiction & Myth
10. Tolkien & Mass Production of the Fantastic
11. Children’s Literature and the Fantastic
12. Postmodernism and the Fantastic
13. Defining Science Fiction
14. Mary Shelley—Grandmother of Science Fiction
15. Hawthorne, Poe, and the Eden Complex
16. Jules Verne and the Robinsonade
17. Wells—Industrialization of the Fantastic
18. The History of Utopia
19. Science Fiction and Religion
20. Pulp Fiction, Bradbury, & the American Myth
21. Robert A. Heinlein—He Mapped the Future
22. Asimov and Clarke—Cousins in Utopia
23. Ursula K. Le Guin—Transhuman Anthropologist
24. Cyberpunk, Postmodernism, and Beyond

228Meredy
Oct 24, 2015, 11:33pm Top

>227 SylviaC: That sounds so interesting. Have you listened to the whole series?

Does the PDF include a bibliography?

Checking out his paper titles.

229pgmcc
Oct 25, 2015, 12:24am Top

>227 SylviaC: That course does sound interesting.

230SylviaC
Oct 25, 2015, 2:21pm Top

>228 Meredy: I listened to all of the lectures while packing eggs, walking the dog, or driving. I don't necessarily retain the bulk of it, but it does help to occupy my mind. Some of the lectures interested me less than others (I'm not a big fan of post-modernism), but I had no problem following along. The PDF has both an essential and a supplemental bibliography.

>229 pgmcc: It is!

231imyril
Oct 25, 2015, 2:55pm Top

>224 SylviaC: that sounds fascinating. Like meredy I'm not a fan of the format, but... I might have to explore anyway.

232SylviaC
Oct 25, 2015, 9:31pm Top

An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments by Ali Almossawi and Alejandro Giraldo. A little book about logical fallacies, illustrated with cute cartoon examples. There are undoubtedly other books that do a better job of explaining logical fallacies, but I guess this one was worth the $1.99 I paid for the Kindle version.

233SylviaC
Oct 26, 2015, 11:20pm Top

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach. Audio. I think this was even more medically graphic than Gulp. There are some surgical descriptions that men in particular would probably want to avoid reading. The book as a whole is Mary Roach's usual combination of science and breeziness.

234SylviaC
Edited: Oct 26, 2015, 11:39pm Top

Voices of Poetry - Volume 1. A 20-minute audio compilation of poets reading their own poems. The highlights for me were J. R. R. Tolkien reading "The Hoard”, because I like the poem, and Edith Sitwell reading "An Old Woman", because her performance is so spectacular.

235jillmwo
Oct 27, 2015, 6:58am Top

There was an old dragon under grey stone;
his red eyes blinked as he lay alone.
His joy was dead ad his youth spent,
He was knobbed and wrinkled, and his limbs bent


Yes, I can imagine that Tolkien reading that aloud might resonate most satisfactorily. How did you come across the audio publication?

236SylviaC
Oct 27, 2015, 8:00am Top

>235 jillmwo: I found it a year or two ago when I had some Audible credits, and was browsing the site looking for poetry. The sound quality varies, as you would expect for ancient recordings.

237SylviaC
Oct 28, 2015, 7:05pm Top

Tomorrowland: Our Journey from Science Fiction to Science Fact by Steven Kotler. A look at some of the scientific developments that will make our future wonderful. Some of it seems promising, and some of it is fringe stuff. I found the first half interesting, but he lost me when he got into psychedelic drugs. I ground to a halt when he accepted an LSD induced medical ”miracle" as fact, and I wasn't able to read the rest of the book (beyond a glance at the next chapter, about how steroids would help us live to be 120).

238SylviaC
Oct 28, 2015, 11:56pm Top

My Left Foot by Christy Brown. Very good. Brown was young when he wrote his autobiography, and had led an extremely restricted life with minimal education, but his writing is clear, expressive, and engaging.

239SylviaC
Nov 2, 2015, 8:14pm Top

The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer. Audio. One of my favourite books, and this is the first time that I've read it in audio. The reader, Daniel Philpott is excellent, so I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. But my preference is still for the print version.

240jillmwo
Nov 3, 2015, 6:32am Top

Which causes me to ask a question, SylviaC -- why exactly do you prefer the print to the audio experience of the book? Has it to do with the speed with which you can move through print -- which may be faster than the speed with which you can listen to the book? Or is there some other explanation?

241SylviaC
Nov 3, 2015, 9:23am Top

>240 jillmwo: I think that speed is the biggest factor. Not so much the overall speed, but pacing. In print, I can choose which parts to rush through, and which parts to savour. In audio, all parts of the book are given equal emphasis—which does have the advantage that I might notice bits that I didn't pay much attention to before. Most of my audio book reading is nonfiction, because pacing doesn't matter as much.

242SylviaC
Nov 3, 2015, 9:34am Top

Incidentally, my parents were both blind, so I grew up in a home where there were talking books playing every day. My mother played hers at warp speed, and only she could follow them. Dad played his at normal speed, or only very slightly sped up. I learned from an early age to tune talking books out. It is only in the last three or four years that I've started listening to audiobooks myself, mainly because I spend more time working alone than I used to.

243MrsLee
Nov 3, 2015, 9:44am Top

>242 SylviaC: I didn't even know you could change the speed of an audio book!? Wouldn't the narrator sound like a chipmunk? Surely that would ruin the experience?

244SylviaC
Nov 3, 2015, 10:26am Top

>243 MrsLee: The talking book machines that my parents used had a sliding speed control. (Those books were on cassettes, although I can remember back to when they came on records.) And yes, they did sound like chipmunks. I think my mum's brain worked so fast that listening at regular speed was like dragging through molasses. In later years she set the voice on her computer to speak superfast, too. She was a very fast Braille reader, too. Her hand used to make a swishing sound moving back and forth across the page.

In the Audible app, you can change the speed in the bottom left corner of the screen. I often speed up slow speakers on nonfiction books, but not to the degree that my mother used to. When listening to a book as a performance piece, as I did with The Unknown Ajax, I listen at normal speed, but when listening for information, or to a narrator who isn't particularly appealing, I prefer to go a little faster.

245jillmwo
Nov 3, 2015, 1:24pm Top

Actually, >242 SylviaC: that came up in a discussion with my son -- that is, the adjustable speed for accessing content for those dealing with issues of sight. One of his students is blind and has a functionality on his computer that reads aloud the content needed for his college classes. The other students in my son's course were really amazed, because as you note with your mother, the blind student could play and understand the material listening at a "warp speed". My son said that he himself could keep up "some what" because he was already familiar with the material, but the students in the class room who need to understand how to build/code appropriately for a variety of disabilities were just truly taken aback.

Coping mechanisms, for the win!

246hfglen
Nov 3, 2015, 1:34pm Top

>242 SylviaC: This discussion takes me back to when I was a postgrad in Cape Town. The Prof (South African, got his Ph.D. at Oxford) had an old-fashioned dictating machine that recorded on red plastic belts, and had variable speed. One day the secretary showed me a strange phenomenon -- when she played the belt at top speed (not much faster than recording), the Prof's voice developed a broad Australian accent. I still don't know why.

247nhlsecord
Nov 6, 2015, 8:10pm Top

I wish I could listen to books, but because of a very busy job full of constant interruptions that I had for many years, I have great difficulty concentrating now. I forget to listen and so have to continuously go back. But I think I would like to listen to a Georgette Heyer book since I have read them all many times. Who is the best narrator, do you think?

248SylviaC
Edited: Nov 6, 2015, 10:08pm Top

I've only read three Georgette Heyer books in audio so far. The Grand Sophy, read by Sarah Woodward, was good, though her male voices all sounded middle-aged. Frederica, read by Clifford Norgate, was also good. (I ended up switching to the paper book, though, just because I was impatient.) The Unknown Ajax, read by Daniel Philpott is excellent, and also seems to be a favourite of many people in the Heyer Facebook group. One to avoid is These Old Shades, read by Cornelius Garrett. He makes Avon sound like a country squire—just so totally wrong! I gather he is generally quite good, but I haven't listened to anything else read by him. Be sure to check whether any Heyer audiobook you find is unabridged. There are quite a few abridged ones out there.

249SylviaC
Nov 6, 2015, 10:35pm Top

I tried to read The Hobbit in audio, but didn't make it past the first chapter. I don't think it was any problem with the narration, it was just something that didn't work in audio for me. Perhaps I have my own interpretations of the voices and songs too firmly embedded in my head to accept someone else's rendition.

250SylviaC
Nov 10, 2015, 10:37pm Top

"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" by Richard Feynman. My son and I listened to this in the car, for about 15 minutes at a time. It was quite entertaining, except when Feynman talked about women. There were a few times when I felt a moral obligation to remind my teenaged son NOT to follow Feynman's advice on how to treat women. All of his other stories were good, though. The man certainly had no lack of self-confidence.

My son wants to listen to The Hobbit next, so I'll be giving it another chance.

251SylviaC
Edited: Nov 12, 2015, 11:45pm Top

A handful of cheap Kindle romances, mostly better than I expected:

Premiere: A Romance Writers of America Collection - short stories in a variety of sub-genres by established writers, featuring wrong numbers. I might read a few of them again.

Special Delivery by J. A. Armstrong - f/f, doctor and mother of twins - nice, low stress.

Let it Snow by Heidi Cullinan - m/m, lumberjack and stylist - nice.

Jurassic Jane Eyre by Carrie Sessarego - short story, lesbian dinosaur erotica parody(!!!). I got it because it is a product of smartbitchestrashybooks.com, and I'll read anything they write.

Lighting the Flames: A Hanukkah Story by Sarah Wendell (also of SBTB) - A young man and woman who have grown up attending camp together. It is not promoted as YA, but it feels like it. This is the best one of the lot. A sweet and humorous love story, with a serious side. The only romance I've ever read that features a funeral director.

252Sakerfalcon
Nov 13, 2015, 4:27am Top

253SylviaC
Nov 13, 2015, 8:06am Top

>252 Sakerfalcon: There's not a lot to it, being only 12 pages long, but really, who needs more than that? Just a little slip of silliness. The surprising thing is that dinosaur erotica exists as a genre to parody.

254LibraryPerilous
Nov 13, 2015, 11:39am Top

>253 SylviaC: There also is shapeshifting cuttlefish erotica. The parody would write itself, one suspects, or one could just browse the reviews on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Someone-Cuttle-Cuttlefish-Shapeshifter-Erotica-ebook/dp/B0....

Lighting the Flames sounds sweet.

255SylviaC
Nov 13, 2015, 12:23pm Top

>254 LibraryPerilous: Those reviews are priceless! There's no way the book could ever live up to them (not that I intend to find out). I can't help wondering where an author gets the inspiration to say, "You know what the world needs? The world needs more gay shapeshifting cuttlefish porn. That's what the world needs!"

Lighting the Flames is quite good. The author put her background in romance criticism to good use by avoiding romantic stereotypes and clichés. It isn't very long or complicated, and the characters are cute and they have fun, but they also deal with serious issues.

256imyril
Nov 14, 2015, 8:24am Top

>253 SylviaC: *splutter* *giggle* *stagger* I'm not going to regret being hit by a 12-page book bullet ;)

>254 LibraryPerilous: the world of erotica is both broader and far more specific than I ever imagined!

257jillmwo
Nov 14, 2015, 3:48pm Top

>251 SylviaC: The breadth of your reading never ceases to astonish. I for one would never have known that there was such a thing as Jurassic Jane Eyre much less been aware of the existence of cuttlefish and/or dinosaur erotica. (It sounds like the kind of thing writers come up with late at night in the bar.) And it would take some one like you to persuade me that it might be a worthwhile use of my leisure time...

258SylviaC
Nov 14, 2015, 4:45pm Top

It's amazing what you can find if you start browsing Amazon. I was actually looking for Lighting the Flames after it was mentioned on SBTB, and that led to Jurassic Jane Eyre, as well as two other romances I mentioned in that post. @diana.n gets the blame for the cuttlefish!

I find reading romances relaxing, because I like the guaranteed happy endings. I'm not a big fan of lots of sex scenes though, because I would rather focus on the relationship building than on cheap thrills. I think there is a place for erotica, but don't have the patience to read a book full of sex scenes strung together with a wisp of a plot. I do have an inquiring mind, though, and am interested in all the great diversity of human behaviour. But maybe not so much with the dinosaurs and cuttlefish.

259LibraryPerilous
Nov 14, 2015, 7:52pm Top

>255 SylviaC:, >256 imyril:, >257 jillmwo: Since we're speaking of the 'breadth' of erotica and Smart Bitches Trashy Books, I went in search of these hilarious reviews: The Orca King and The Orca King II. What's especially great is that the author shows up in the comments to poke fun of herself.

Of course, that led me to another (this one [NSFW]) review which name drops this thread's very own cuttlefish erotica in the opening paragraph: "Here at the Bitchery, we’re dedicated to finding you the best tentacle butt sex book available, and I’m sad to say we haven’t been doing a great job of it. What we’ve found is that there are a wealth of covers that imply “t in b” action (I’m looking at you, Someone to Cuttle) but so far none have really followed through with the money shot."

And now, apologies SylviaC for derailing your thread with my weird sense of humor. I promise I shan't keep this digression going, but I did think these reviews were too good not to share. ;)

260LibraryPerilous
Nov 14, 2015, 7:59pm Top

>258 SylviaC: I find reading romances relaxing, because I like the guaranteed happy endings. I'm not a big fan of lots of sex scenes though, because I would rather focus on the relationship building than on cheap thrills.

I agree. I also dislike the way the sex scenes always use ridiculous metaphors for both sex and genitalia.

I'm picky about the heroes as well. If there's any forced seduction or other emotional/verbal/physical abuse, I quit on the book, even if other aspects are enjoyable. So far, in exploring the romance genre, I've discovered that books with 'beta' heroes usually pass muster because 'beta' apparently means 'not a jerk'.

261Marissa_Doyle
Nov 14, 2015, 10:14pm Top

>259 LibraryPerilous: Oh, my. I needed a laugh--thanks for those SBTB review links!

262LibraryPerilous
Edited: Nov 14, 2015, 10:58pm Top

>261 Marissa_Doyle: You're welcome; always happy to contribute goofy humor.

Also, I lied. I'm going to continue the theme for a smidge longer, because I just found this whilst reading the 2015 Bulwer-Lytton winners:

"As he caressed her hair, cheek, forehead, chin, collarbone, shoulder, upper arm, and stomach, she knew that her decision to take Octoman as a lover was the correct one."—Lynda Clark, Nottingham, UK

ETA link

263SylviaC
Nov 15, 2015, 12:35am Top

>259 LibraryPerilous: And that's why I get the SBTB newsletter every day in my email, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter. I don't swear or use "obscene" words at all (though I do have a way with innuendo), but I truly admire the creativity and exuberance of their vocabulary, and their willingness to discuss ANYTHING.

If I see the term "alpha male" in a book description or review, I immediately move on to something else. And forced seduction=rape, and there is nothing seductive about that.

Have you read Beyond Heaving Bosoms? (Reviewed in >193 SylviaC:). I'm sure you would appreciate it.

264nhlsecord
Nov 15, 2015, 1:18pm Top

Apparently you can't have a heaving bosom without a throbbing member somewhere nearby.

265SylviaC
Nov 15, 2015, 8:52pm Top

>264 nhlsecord: Too true! And all so very uncomfortable.

266SylviaC
Nov 15, 2015, 10:21pm Top

With SantaThing approaching, I've decided to try to catch up on my leftover unread books that I've received as SantaThing gifts over the last six years. I try to read them right after every Christmas, but sometimes they get drowned in the rising TBR tide.

It Takes a Witch by Heather Blake. The first Wishcraft mystery. I probably put this off because I no longer read many mysteries or fantasies, especially ones that are part of a series--and this one falls into all three categories. The heroine of this light and airy mystery is a woman who recently learned that she has the ability to grant other people's wishes. I found the first half of this very hard to get into, because there were far too many characters, plot threads, and infodumping. The author seemed to be overdoing the world-building by throwing everything out there all at once, and over-explaining everything. But by the time I hit the halfway point, I was drawn in to the story. As a mystery it didn't have much substance, and some of the magic rules didn't make a lot of sense, but the characters were interesting, and very likeable. Even the people who did bad things were given some good traits. I was given the second book in the series, too, so I'll read it next.

267MrsLee
Nov 16, 2015, 9:53am Top

>266 SylviaC: Oh, what a good idea! Looks like I have 3 out of 13 left to read, so after I finish my current read, I will embark on them. :)

268SylviaC
Nov 16, 2015, 10:38pm Top

A Witch Before Dying by Heather Blake. The second Wishcraft mystery. The first few chapters were a little infodumpy, giving too many details from the previous book, including some that were spoilerish. After that the book smoothed out, and was fun to read. I'll probably look for more books in the series.

269SylviaC
Nov 17, 2015, 8:21am Top

Ghost of a Chance by Yasmine Galenorn. I read the first few chapters, then skipped to the end. Definitely not my thing. It looked promising, since the main character is a psychic single mother who runs a tearoom called Chinz 'n China, and the cover has a cat next to a teapot full of roses. Seems like it would be cozy, right? Nope. Semi-hard-boiled narration, demon possession, brutality. I really, really disliked the the main character's narrative voice. Probably fine if you like that sort of thing, but it's not for me.

270imyril
Nov 18, 2015, 3:12am Top

>266 SylviaC: I should join you in this endeavor. I'm a little intimidated by the chunkiness of the volumes this entails :)

271SylviaC
Nov 18, 2015, 8:21am Top

>270 imyril:. I'm saving the chunkiest for last. If I try to read it sooner, I doubt if I would get to the others.

272MrsLee
Nov 18, 2015, 9:39am Top

>271 SylviaC: Me too, it is Rosamund Pilcher's Coming Home. Something in my brain niggles at me that SylviaC is the Santa that sent it to me? Wish I had marked out who my past Santas have been on the books they sent. I am looking forward to the read.

273SylviaC
Nov 18, 2015, 10:24am Top

>272 MrsLee: Yes it was, and yes, it is big. I hope you like it. I enjoyed it much, much more than The Shell Seekers, which is about the same length.

274SylviaC
Nov 18, 2015, 11:47am Top

The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott. I had to keep two things in mind while I read this. The first was that Alcott wrote this when she was only 17, with no apparent intention to publish it. The second was that sentimental novels were very popular at the time. Even with those facts in mind, I couldn't help laughing at some of the overblown melodrama. Edith, the heroine, is purest of the pure, a paragon of all the virtues (and talents, too). We are presented with such priceless lines as this, from Edith to the villainess of the story: "How one so poor and humble as myself can injure you I cannot tell, but if it is so, do not hate me for the wrong I may have innocently done you, but tell me how I can escape it for the future, and I gladly will obey you." I wish I had read it in ebook format, just so I could search for the phrase "poor and humble", and find out how often it is used. It is practically a catchphrase in the book.

I won't be rereading this , but I'm glad that I read it once. It was easy to trace the roots of Alcott's writing talent. Edith is a far cry from the very human and prickly Jo March, but she is not that far removed from Polly in An Old-Fashioned Girl. Polly has a more developed personality, and a sunny spirit, while Edith really only exists as a compilation of virtues. The florid moralizations were toned down later novels, but by no means disappeared. For a novel written by a 17-year-old in 1849, The Inheritance shows signs of great things to come.

275LibraryPerilous
Nov 18, 2015, 11:59am Top

>266 SylviaC: Good idea. I'm planning on two entries this year, so I really need to clear out my 'gifts from Santas past' pile.

>274 SylviaC: I love Little Women (Team Laurie* forever!), but one can't help but commiserate with Alcott over the publishers and bored housewives who demanded moral pap. Still, she was as subversive as she could get away with. Meg's jelly not jelling never fails to send me into howls of laughter. I've not read The Inheritance, but I've a fondness for juvenilia, so onto Mount TBR it is slung.

*I know, I know: It's not what Alcott wanted. "Jo should have remained a literary spinster, but so many enthusiastic young ladies wrote to me clamorously demanding that she marry Laurie or somebody, that I didn't dare refuse, but out of perversity went and made a funny match for her."

276SylviaC
Nov 18, 2015, 12:17pm Top

>275 LibraryPerilous: Team Bhaer for me!

277Meredy
Nov 18, 2015, 2:28pm Top

>274 SylviaC: I would suppose that, as much as anything, it must have been a reflection of what she'd been reading. Do you happen to know what that was?

Even in the 1920s, my mother as a little girl was swamped with prissy, saccharine little morality tales masquerading as children's fiction. Later she tried to inflict on me such once-popular series as Dorothy Darling and Little Prudy. When she died, I inherited a great many of her books, but I said I never wanted to see those again in my life.

278Sakerfalcon
Nov 19, 2015, 10:16am Top

>274 SylviaC: I remember reading The inheritance and A long fatal love chase some years ago and being quite disappointed by both. I can't remember much about Inheritance, but Chase seemed to be squarely in the tradition of Gothic novels by Ann Radcliffe et al.

279SylviaC
Nov 19, 2015, 1:16pm Top

>277 Meredy: >278 Sakerfalcon: There is an introduction in my book that looks at the influences of the sentimental novel, the Gothic romance, and theatrical melodrama on The Inheritance. Alcott was very familiar with the popular fiction of the time, as well as the classics. The book is very much of its time, without the strong characterizations, humour, and sense of the ordinary that give some of her later works their lasting appeal.

280LibraryPerilous
Nov 19, 2015, 7:34pm Top

>278 Sakerfalcon: I remember liking A Long Fatal Love Chase when I read it. My impression at the time was that it was a satire of Gothic romances and similar to Northanger Abbey. I wonder if that opinion would hold up after a reread.

281MrsLee
Nov 20, 2015, 9:41am Top

>278 Sakerfalcon: Two cups of coffee and I still read that as "A long fatal love of cheese" It's going to be a long day.

282SylviaC
Nov 20, 2015, 10:16am Top

The Reluctant Heiress by Eva Ibbotson. (This was also published as Magic Flutes.) I really liked the Prologue and the last two chapters but everything in between dra-a-a-a-gged. Disappointing, because I expected to like it all—a light romance set in Austria in 1922, with a castle. I think it is supposed to be YA, but the characters are adults. I like the author's children's books, which are full of fun and fantasy, but this one seems to take itself too seriously for the little substance it has. The hero's foster mother is a wonderful character, though.

283Marissa_Doyle
Nov 20, 2015, 7:35pm Top

I don't think they were written as YAs, but some bright laddie somewhere thought that they could get away with repackaging them as YA because there isn't any on-page hanky panky. I don't find them particularly YA-ish.

My favorite one of hers in this same vein is A Countess Below Stairs, despite the inclusion of the dreaded simple-misunderstanding-that-could-have-been-cleared-up-by-three-minutes-of-conversation plot device near the end. The rest of the story is pretty darned funny.

284SylviaC
Nov 20, 2015, 9:55pm Top

>283 Marissa_Doyle: I'll keep that one in mind as another one to try. I'd still like to read more of her books, even though The Reluctant Heiress didn't really work for me. And I agree that it didn't seem YA-ish, even though my copy is a teen imprint.

285SylviaC
Edited: Nov 21, 2015, 11:42am Top

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley. This one was really good. It reminded me of Barbara Michaels' books, both in style and content. After buying an Elizabethan farmhouse, a woman starts to relive the memories of a previous occupant. I preferred the modern part of the story to the historical part, but they blended together well. I will definitely look for more by this author.

286SylviaC
Nov 22, 2015, 2:00pm Top

Paper Towns by John Green. Typical John Green nerds and road trips. My problem is that the first of his books I read was The Fault in our Stars, and nothing else can come close to that. This one was good, but took awhile to get going. As usual, the characters were smart and likable, and there was plenty of humour. There is also some deep thinking about how we perceive others, and the nature of human connections.

287catzteach
Nov 25, 2015, 8:49am Top

I've heard Paper Towns was really good. I've only read Looking for Alaska. It was really good. I would like to read more of his.

288SylviaC
Nov 25, 2015, 10:38pm Top

>287 catzteach: John Green is good at creating characters that you can really care about. His teens are smart, funny, and nice, but can also be totally clueless. Just like the real teenagers I know.

289catzteach
Nov 29, 2015, 12:32am Top

That's how I felt about the characters in Looking for Alaska.

290SylviaC
Dec 1, 2015, 12:41am Top

Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson. My copy is the first book of the first volume of the apparently massive Baroque Cycle. I thought Stephenson did a fantastic job of conveying the exuberance of the scientific revolution as scientists went shooting off in all directions, trying to learn everything about everything. Other things I liked were the humour, the sense of place and history, and the main character. My main reservation about the book was that I just don't like real people being given fictionalized lives. So, overall, I liked it (except for a certain incident), but I don't feel inclined to read the rest of the series—life is too short for that.

This was the last of my SantaThing books from previous years, so now I can start fresh for this Christmas! Of the 18 books that I've received, there was only one that I didn't like at all, while several of them were very good. I think those are pretty good results.

291Sakerfalcon
Dec 1, 2015, 5:11am Top

>290 SylviaC: I did read all of the Baroque Cycle and enjoyed it, but it took me a couple of years of reading on and off, and I did wonder if I'd make it to the end! I'd like to reread it one day, but I can't see when I'll have time.

292imyril
Edited: Dec 6, 2015, 6:32am Top

I'm letting the side down and chickening out of reading my outstanding SantaThing items before Christmas. As this is in favour of rereading The Dark is Rising Sequence I'm... actually not guilty at all, because I'm loving those far too much to put them down. Life After Life and The Unconsoled will be waiting for me in the new year.

Very impressed that you have polished yours off, especially given how chunky some of those are!

293SylviaC
Dec 6, 2015, 11:27am Top

>292 imyril: The Dark is Rising sequence is a perfectly acceptable detour from your outstanding SantaThing project.

294LibraryPerilous
Dec 6, 2015, 1:00pm Top

>292 imyril:, >293 SylviaC: I didn't even start a SantaThing reading project because a raft of my ILL requests came in. Oh well. Maybe I'll get to them before SantaThing 2016. Life goals and all that.

I've never read Cooper's series. It does sound interesting.

295SylviaC
Dec 6, 2015, 4:15pm Top

>294 LibraryPerilous: The Dark is Rising series is excellent. If you do decide to read it, don't judge the whole series based on the first book, Over Sea, Under Stone. It was written much earlier than the others, and is less well developed than the rest of them. Things really get going in The Dark is Rising.

296SylviaC
Dec 7, 2015, 12:12am Top

Read This Next: 500 of the Best Books You'll Ever Read by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark. Because I don't already have enough books to read. This book was hilarious, irreverent, and informative. One hundred and twenty book descriptions are each followed by lists of book group questions. The questions range from profound to ridiculous, sometimes changing from one to the other within the same question. Then there are hundreds of other brief recommendations. My copy is is now bristling with sticky notes marking the most interesting titles. My daughter called me a nerd.

297Jim53
Dec 7, 2015, 8:11am Top

>296 SylviaC: And she was astonished, right?

Seeing another reference to Susan Cooper's series has finally gotten to me--I started Over Sea, Under Stone last night.

298Sakerfalcon
Dec 7, 2015, 9:45am Top

>296 SylviaC: I have that book and have been enjoying dipping into it every now and then. I'll probably never read many of the books, but I love their commentary and the book group questions.

299SylviaC
Dec 7, 2015, 10:00am Top

>297 Jim53: I believe she may have called me that once or twice before. Children today...no respect for their elders...harrumph.

300SylviaC
Dec 7, 2015, 10:08am Top

>298 Sakerfalcon: When I picked it up at a library book sale, I thought it would just be a flip-through-and-discard book, but I actually liked it better than Nancy Pearl's books.

301LibraryPerilous
Dec 7, 2015, 10:11am Top

>295 SylviaC: Thanks for that tip. I think I'll give the series a bump up the TBR list: maybe after the next round of ILL books.

302SylviaC
Dec 7, 2015, 9:33pm Top

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I've been listening to different audio versions of this every year. This one was narrated by Tim Curry, and was mostly excellent. The only weakness was his rendition of female voices. Fortunately, there aren't many women who speak in the story.

303SylviaC
Dec 7, 2015, 9:41pm Top

And just an update on the audio version of The Hobbit — I'm enjoying it much more now that my son and I are listening to it together in the car, even though it's only 15 minutes at a time.

304KeshavLpo
Dec 8, 2015, 4:11am Top

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305SylviaC
Dec 8, 2015, 3:44pm Top

Trading Christmas (When Christmas Comes) by Debbie Macomber. Audio. I often read this in December, not because it is the greatest book in the world, but because it is short, light-hearted fluff that helps to stir up my Christmas spirit. I seem to need a lot of that this year, with our decidedly unChristmassy weather (not that I have any complaints about the weather). I usually read it in print, but it was on sale at Audible, so I decided to try listening to it. The reader was very good.

306SylviaC
Dec 8, 2015, 3:51pm Top

The Egg by Andy Weir. A very, very short audio story. Rather odd, but interesting.

307Karlstar
Dec 10, 2015, 4:36am Top

I just could not get through Quicksilver yet. I tried, I just found it too drawn out. I've gotten to where he's on the boat headed back to England. I agree with you, the overly fictionalized lives of the scientists was just boring to me.

308SylviaC
Dec 10, 2015, 10:59pm Top

>307 Karlstar: It was rather daunting, considering that my book was only the first book of the first volume of the series, so was basically just setting the scene for the rest. That boat trip provides most of the STTM index in the book. (Probably a 6 overall, but 10 for the portions that take place in 1713.)

309SylviaC
Dec 10, 2015, 11:22pm Top

Carla Kelly's Christmas Collection. Contains four novellas: The Christmas Ornament; Make a Joyful Noise; An Object of Charity; The Three Kings. "The Christmas Ornament" was new to me, but the others are old favourites. They are all lovely stories, with a few little quirks that make them stand out from the average Christmas romance fare. Unusually, three of them are told entirely from the male perspective--and what sweet, thoughtful men they are! @diana.n bears the responsibility for setting my feet on the path to buying this e-book.

310Karlstar
Dec 11, 2015, 12:42pm Top

307 Since you got through it, I'm somewhat encouraged to pick it up again. We'll see, it was tough slogging.

311LibraryPerilous
Dec 14, 2015, 10:40am Top

>309 SylviaC: Ha! Glad you enjoyed the reread. That one went on my 'to own' list. I think I'll make reading the stories an annual holiday tradition.

Carla Kelly really is a cut above in the genre.

312SylviaC
Dec 22, 2015, 2:51pm Top

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher. Reread. My favourite Christmastime book.

313Meredy
Dec 22, 2015, 3:10pm Top

>312 SylviaC: Bang. You got me, Sylvia.

314SylviaC
Dec 23, 2015, 12:14am Top

It's a lovely, peaceful book, Meredy. A bit unrealistic, maybe, but I don't read it for realism. The main character is one of my favourite fictional people ever.

315nhlsecord
Dec 23, 2015, 8:46pm Top

I liked that one too. Your description fits her books very well. Lovely holidays in small packages.

316Meredy
Dec 25, 2015, 2:36pm Top

>314 SylviaC: It arrived yesterday amid other people's parcels, and I started it last night. It feels just right. Thank you.

317SylviaC
Dec 26, 2015, 10:27am Top

>316 Meredy: Wow, you move quickly once you get hit! I hope you're enjoying it.

318Meredy
Dec 26, 2015, 2:30pm Top

>317 SylviaC: In an emergency, I don't fool around.

319SylviaC
Dec 26, 2015, 5:17pm Top

A Brief History of Holiday Music by Robert Greenberg. A free gift from Audible. 40-minute lecture, with a very enthusiastic professor. I enjoyed this, even though it was so short, and dealt mostly with classical music, which I have never really appreciated. The best thing about it was that it reminded me of my mother, who had classical Christmas music deeply ingrained in her soul. Listening to the segments that were included in the lecture brought back all those years of Christmas music playing in the background of my life. I will probably look for some other courses by this professor, and maybe I can develop some appreciation of classical music.

320SylviaC
Dec 26, 2015, 5:34pm Top

Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy. By Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke Allen. YA graphic novel—contains the first four installments. Appealing characters, monsters, mystery, friendship. Fun to read.

321MrsLee
Dec 26, 2015, 7:59pm Top

>318 Meredy: I think you have picked the right medicine. I read that with extreme prejudice, both for the person who recommended it to me, and for the type of story it is. Loved it in spite of that.

322Meredy
Dec 27, 2015, 2:52pm Top

>314 SylviaC:, >321 MrsLee: I'm about halfway through Winter Solstice and enjoying it very much. At this point I see it as Mystery in White meets Miss Buncle's Book, only much deeper, warmer, and without the diversion of a murder.

323SylviaC
Dec 28, 2015, 8:04pm Top

My Dog: The Paradox, and How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You by Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal). I bought a bunch of The Oatmeal e-books the other day as Kindle daily deals. Always funny, often crude, and oh, so accurate.

324SylviaC
Jan 1, 2016, 12:30pm Top

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