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Jennifer's (japaul22) 2016 Reading

This topic was continued by Jennifer's (japaul22) 2016 Reading, Part 2.

Club Read 2016

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Edited: Dec 29, 2015, 6:43pm Top

Hi everyone! I'm Jennifer, a classical musician living and working in the Washington, D.C. area. I have two little boys who are 6 and almost 3 and all that keeps me busy, but I find plenty of time for reading. I tend to read classics, current literary fiction mainly by women, books off of the 1001 books to read before you die list, and mysteries and historical fiction for pure fun. Oh, and nonfiction, I prefer historical biographies. I started listening to audiobooks on my commute and listened to 17 last year with varying results. Definitely still a work in progress to decide what kind of books work for me in that format.

Favorites of 2015:

Favorite fiction
The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt
Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
Independent People by Halldor Laxness
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas
A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr
Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Margaret George
Plainsong by Kent Haruf
Transit by Anna Seghers
Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner

Favorite nonfiction
The Nine: Inside the Secret Life of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin
Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England by Thomas Penn
The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
Love and Louis XIV by Antonia Fraser
George, Nicholas, and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to WWI by Miranda Carter

Edited: Jun 30, 2016, 4:43pm Top

Planned Reads:
finish Trollope's Palliser series, only 2 to go :-(
Dead Souls by Gogol
1 or 2 Virginia Woolf books

Group Reads:
War and Peace Jan-March
The Voyage Out February 1001 books group read
Harriet Hume March 1001 books group read
The Prime Minister whenever it happens!
Robertson Davies?? April-June
Camilla may/June/july
The Round House by Louise Erdrich July
Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett September
Barbara Pym month in November

Books I'd like to reader sooner rather than later:
Zora Neale Hurston biography
The Royal Physician's Visit
Queen Christina of Sweden
The Heart is a lonely Hunter
Revolutionary Road
The Light Years Cazalet Chronicles
The Sound and the Fury reread
song of the Lark
Idea of Perfection
autobiography of henry VIII

1001 books to read?:
Love in Excess
The Charterhouse of Parma
Dead Souls
The Ambassadors
Summer (Wharton)
Jacob's Room
To the North
Summer Will Show
The Radiant Way
Tipping the Velvet
The Master

Books for tour:
Idea of Perfection
Edith Wharton
Tipping the velvet
Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Queen Christina
Royal physicians visit
more Patricia Highsmith?

Edited: Jul 2, 2016, 9:24am Top

Last year, keeping track of books I acquired and books I read off the shelf was very helpful for me. I purchased/acquired 53 books and read 64 off of my shelves. I include any book that comes into my home as "off the shelf" - doesn't matter to me if it was purchased years ago or yesterday since once it's here it's "TBR". Again, I'll set a goal of reading 10% more books off the shelf than I acquire. I have about 120 books on the shelf unread currently. That's a number I'm pretty comfortable with, but this project will help me keep the books on the shelf under control. I get stressed out if I have too many books around that I feel like I don't have time to read.

Acquired books:
1. Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback
2. Ashes and Diamonds
3. Wolf Winter
4. Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner
5. Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf
6. Remembrance of Things Past by Proust - counting this 7 volume set as one book :-)
7. Paintings in Proust
8-12 The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard
13. Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas
14. The Duchess of Bloomsbury
15. Q's Legacy
16. To the North
17. Butcher's Crossing
18-21 gifts from Paris from my mom and sister
18. The Merchant of Venice
19. Tales of the Jazz Age
20. The Travels by Marco Polo
21. Seven Ages of Paris
22. The Edwardians
23. Engineering Eden (ER book)
Mother's Day gifts (24-26):
24. Angle of Repose
25. Augustus
26. Fashion Victims
Library Sale (27-42)
27. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
28. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
29. Helen of Troy by Margaret George
30. The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer
31. The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat
32. A Friend from England by Anita Brookner
33. The Road Home by Rose Tremain
34. The Golden Child by Penelope Fitzgerald
35. The Virginia Woolf Reader
36. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
37. Officers and Gentlemen by Evelyn Waugh
38. Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey
39. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
40. The Way to Paradise by Mario Vargas Llosa
41. Scandinavian Folk and Fairy Tales

Books Read Off the Shelf:
1. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
2. Fludd by Hilary Mantel
3. Wolf Winter by Cecilia Eckback
4. The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf
5. Ashes and Diamonds by Jerzy Andrzejewski
6. Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
7. Trouble for Lucia by E.F. Benson
8. Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph by Jan Swafford
9. Harriet Hume by Rebecca West
10. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
11. The Parson's Widow by Marja-Liisa Vartio
12. The Giver by Lois Lowry
13. Where Monsters Dwell by Jorgen Brekke
14. The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard
15. Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder
16. Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas
17. The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West
18. The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope
19. The Vet's Daughter by Barbara Comyns
20. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
21. The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing
22. Engineering Eden
23. A Friend from England by Anita Brookner
24. The Known World by Edward P. Jones
25. Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf
26. Words on the Move by John McWhorter
27. Marking Time by Elizabeth Jane Howard
28. The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat
29. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Edited: Jul 2, 2016, 9:25am Top

Books Read in 2016:

January 2099 pages read, 16h35m listened to
1. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
2. Outliers by Malcom Gladwell, audiobook read by Malcolm Gladwell, 7h17m
3. Fludd by Hilary Mantel
4. Gut: the inside story of our body's most underrated organ by Guilia Enders
5. An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear, audiobook read by Orlagh Cassidy, 9h18m
6. The Good Gut by Justin Sonnenburg and Erica Sonnenburg
7. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

February 1921 pages read, 7h17m listened to
8. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
9. Wolf Winter by Cecilia Eckback
10.The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf
11. The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
12. Ashes and Diamonds by Jerzy Andrzejewski
13. Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
14. Trouble for Lucia by E.F. Benson

March 2902 pages read, 26h7m listened to
15. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, read by Holter Graham, 15h56m
16. Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph by Jan Swafford
17. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, audiobook read by the author, 10h11m
18. Harriet Hume by Rebecca West
19. Stoner by John Williams
20. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
21. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
22. The Parson's Widow by Marja-Liisa Vartio
23. Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
24. O, Pioneers by Willa Cather

25. The Giver by Lois Lowry, audiobook read by Ron Rifkin, 4h47m
26. Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
27. Out of Africa by Isak Denison
28. Where Monsters Dwell by Jorgen Brekke
29. The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard
30. The Story of America: Essays on Origins by Jill Lepore
31. Dreamless by Jorgen Brekke

32. Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder
33. The Manticore by Robertson Davies
34. Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas
35. Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon, audiobook read by Irin Carmon, 5h9m
36. The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West
37. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
38. The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope
39. The Vet's Daughter by Barbara Comyns
40. Lady Susan by Jane Austen

41. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
42. The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing
43. Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser
44. Engineering Eden by Jordan Fisher Smith abandoned after 149/336 pages
45. A Friend from England by Anita Brookner
46. The Known World by Edward P. Jones
47. Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf
48. Words on the Move by John McWhorter
49. Marking Time by Elizabeth Jane Howard
50. The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat

Dec 20, 2015, 7:52am Top

I'll be updating the above posts as we get closer to actually starting 2016. Just wanted to say here that this is my 5th year in Club Read and I follow every thread in this group religiously, but since I'm often doing it from my phone while I'm waiting for jobs at work or taking my kids to sports/lessons/etc I don't always comment. I'll try to be better about that this year!

Welcome to my thread! Looking forward to getting to know each other through our reading this year!

Dec 20, 2015, 9:25pm Top

Good luck! I'll be interested in seeing which Virginia Woolf books you read. I haven't decided on any LibraryThing group reads yet, though War and Peace would be a lot of fun. It's probably a little to long given my current reading goals for that month, though!

Dec 24, 2015, 1:33pm Top

Found and starred you:).

Dec 24, 2015, 1:35pm Top

>6 The_Hibernator: The War and Peace group read is over 3 months - Jan-Mar - if you feel like jumping in at some point!

>7 karspeak: Great!

Jan 1, 2016, 9:57am Top

Looking forward to your 2016 reviews. Some great goals set there!

Jan 1, 2016, 12:39pm Top

I see some overlap in our favorites lists. Which means I'm really looking foward to some of the ones on your list that I have on my TBR. :)

Happy New Year!

Jan 1, 2016, 5:31pm Top

Looking forward to reading your reviews again!

Jan 2, 2016, 2:56pm Top

>9 AlisonY:, >10 NanaCC:, >11 mabith: Welcome! It may be a while before I have a review to post as I'm reading two books right now that are over a thousand pages. I'll probably read a couple shorter books as a breather though.

Jan 2, 2016, 2:59pm Top

One other thing I'm planning to do this year is spend a little time each month reviewing my previous years' reading. I've cleaned up and printed out all of my LT threads (I've been here since 2009) and I've put them in binders. Each month I'm planning to look through all of that month's reviews for the previous years (in January look at Jan 2009, Jan 2010, Jan 2011, etc.). I think it will be interesting to see how my impressions of the books have changed or stayed the same and to see what I remember and what I've completely forgotten. I'm also excited to see how my writing and reviewing has morphed over the years. I think it will be a fun project.

Jan 2, 2016, 5:18pm Top

That sounds like a fun project! I did that sort of as a calendar last year (and am doing it again this year). January 2015's calendar page showed the covers of all the books I'd read the previous January. It was neat too look at it and reflect on the books.

Jan 2, 2016, 6:25pm Top

>13 japaul22: >14 mabith: love both those ideas! Especially when you've read a good book you don't want to let it slip from your mind.

Jan 3, 2016, 10:54am Top

>12 japaul22: what are those two 1000 page books?

>13 japaul22: fun plan. I used do that privately before I joined LT. But then it was only one or two books a year(!) and I would go over each one and write some thoughts down. Now there are too many to do it that. But an overview would be interesting.

Jan 3, 2016, 11:52am Top

>16 dchaikin: Dan, I'm reading a biography of Beethoven that just came out last year called Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph. I'm really enjoying it as it uses the historical and cultural context of the time to reveal Beethoven's character and importance.

I'm also doing a reread of War and Peace. I remember really liking it the first time (about 10 years ago) but I don't remember much of it. There is a group read going on in the category challenge so I thought it would be a good opportunity to pick it up again.

Jan 3, 2016, 2:16pm Top

Looking forward to following your thread since we like lots of the same books. I print out my LT reviews too and collect them in a binder. It's fun to go back and read them.

Jan 3, 2016, 5:20pm Top

>13 japaul22: I started to print out my reviews last year and have wanted to preserve my own threads for posterity (haha) but have not yet been able to figure out an aesthetic way to present them, so I have not yet done it. But kudos to you for following through!

Looking forward to following along this year!

Jan 3, 2016, 8:03pm Top

>18 Nickelini: Oh good, I felt a little crazy, so glad to know I'm not the only one!

>19 Poquette: Hi Suzanne, good to see you here! My print outs are not at all pretty, but the binders I bought are.

Jan 4, 2016, 12:16am Top

>13 japaul22: What a fantastic idea! If only I had the dedication to do that! :) It will be interesting for you to see how your writing has changed and developed. I know mine has a lot since I started reviewing books more and more.

Happy New Year!

Jan 4, 2016, 1:06am Top

>19 Poquette: have not yet been able to figure out an aesthetic way to present them

I copy and paste them into a Word document, and then play around (mostly I'm making it smaller so it prints out on fewer pages). If I wanted to get fancy, I'd copy it into Adobe InDesign and then options are many.

Jan 5, 2016, 1:19am Top

I keep my reviews in a word processing document with each title indexed. Haven't printed it but it's interesting as a reference for an author or book that I've mostly forgotten.

Jan 5, 2016, 1:31pm Top

>22 Nickelini: That seems like the way to go, but my hangup has more to do with style than anything else. I have an idea but it will be very time-consuming and so nothing gets done!

Jan 5, 2016, 9:13pm Top

>1 japaul22: Happy New Year, Jennifer! I love your plan to review your reading, it sounds like a great way to reflect on where you are each year!

Jan 7, 2016, 9:21pm Top

Looking forward to following your reading again this year Jennifer.

Interesting idea to print out all your reviews and compare them over the years. I've been on LT since 2009 too, and I might just have to figure out how to do this.

Jan 8, 2016, 3:30am Top

I quite often go back to my old threads and reread through them. It's quite interesting to do and brings back good memories and often gives me a huge burst of motivation as I feel like I can read more than I did. It's also fun to see how my interaction with you guys has increased over the year. There are practically no comments on my first thread!

In any case, looking forward to following you again in the new year.

Jan 8, 2016, 8:39am Top

Happy new year! Your thread and reading looks really interesting, I'll definitely be following along!

Jan 8, 2016, 1:39pm Top

Welcome, everyone! I love this time of year on LT!

And now for my first book of 2016 . . .

Jan 8, 2016, 1:53pm Top

#1 Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
This is an interesting and readable book that opens a window to Nigerian culture. The story follows Okonkwo, a member of the Umuofia clan who has brought himself up from a poor start to be one of the successful men of his community. This book has many layers. On one hand, it's Okonkwo's story, a universal one of a man trying to make a success of himself and what he has to do to get there. Okonkwo makes some, to say the least, questionable decisions in his quest to not be his father who he viewed as weak and lazy.

In another way, this is a look at what happens to a Nigerian community when white missionaries come and interfere with their way of life. I loved finally reading a book from this point of view instead of the books written by white men. Achebe is able to "tell it like it is" without lecturing or complaining, just showing what happens. What happens is damning enough.

And then this is also a book that incorporates the traditional myths and ways of life of a people that I really know nothing about. I loved the stories that were woven in to the narrative and found myself learning a lot about the customs and ways that the community interacted through Okonkwo's experiences.

All in all, I found this a pretty fascinating look into another culture. It was a bit out of my comfort zone since I have so little background on Nigeria to fall back on, but it was a great building block to more African reading as it comes along.

Original Publication Date: 1959
Author’s nationality: Nigerian
Original language: English
Length: 209 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback at library sale
Why I read this: 1001 books list and off the shelf

Jan 8, 2016, 2:18pm Top

I loved Things Fall Apart; glad you enjoyed it too.

Jan 8, 2016, 2:27pm Top

Fabulous influential book.

Jan 8, 2016, 2:50pm Top

Nice review of Things Fall Apart, Jennifer. I loved it as well.

Jan 8, 2016, 4:00pm Top

Enjoyed your review - have been skirting around this author for a while now. Sounds like a good read.

Jan 9, 2016, 7:51pm Top

>31 rebeccanyc:, >32 janeajones:, >33 kidzdoc: It really is a great book. So glad I finally made time for it.

>34 AlisonY: I think it's worth a try, Alison.

Jan 9, 2016, 7:57pm Top

>30 japaul22: Your description of the novel is the most elucidating that I have read to date and puts it right on my wishlist.

Jan 9, 2016, 8:13pm Top

#2 Outliers by Malcom Gladwell, audiobook read by Malcolm Gladwell, 7h17m
After seeing all of Dan's positive reviews of the Gladwell audiobooks, I thought I'd give this a try when I saw it was available through my library. I'm glad I did as I found the book very interesting and Gladwell's reading enjoyable.

The premise of Outliers is that those highly successful people that we think of as being special humans, "outliers", actually are the products of a series of lucky breaks, cultural inheritances, and being in the right place at the right time. Gladwell discusses how birthdays greatly influence the chance of making it in a early tracked sport like hockey or soccer. He looks at Bill Gates and how he was born in the right year, right place, and had the right community to allow for his success. He also shows that some people who we think of as being born with innate talent, like prominent musicians, actually work very hard to achieve their success.

All of his theories seemed anecdotal to me, so I'm not sure that they would all hold true across the board, but I think his point is valid. One thing I kept thinking, though, is that even though these highly successful people undoubtedly had a lot of help and luck along the way, it isn't as though every person who has that set of circumstances will succeed. He didn't convince that there isn't also something a little special or different about the people who achieve the greatest success. The easiest example for me to critique is the one about musicians who succeed by putting in 10,000 hours of practice. I think this is probably about right. I'm a professional musician and consider myself a "success" in that I did get a full time job playing french horn, something that isn't all that common. Looking back, I think I'd easily practiced 10,000 when I won the audition that got me my job. But, I can compare myself to other horn players whose practice habits I know intimately (often spending hours daily practicing next door to each other in college music buildings) and I know many people who put the same or more amount of hours as I did in to practicing the horn that did not end up getting a job playing horn. This is to point out that the formula may work backward, in that all professional musicians may have put in 10,000 hours of practice, but it isn't necessarily a prescription for success. Not every musician who puts in 10,000 hours of practice will also become a success.

Overall, I liked this book. It was well-read and gave me a lot to think about. I was engaged the whole time I was listening.

Original Publication Date: 2008
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 7h17m
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: audiobook from the library
Why I read this: available at the library

Jan 9, 2016, 8:22pm Top

It sounds like your theory is that it takes luck, circumstance, and innate talent and ability to be successful. I think that makes a lot of sense. It sounds like the author fell for the fallacy that the world is black and white where everything is either one thing or its opposite, when the truth is that the truth of most things falls somewhere in between.

Jan 10, 2016, 12:55pm Top

Yes anecdotal, but fun and thought-provoking. I'm glad you enjoyed Gladwell. (but...of course you did.)

Jan 10, 2016, 2:07pm Top

10,000 hours of practice - I am curious. How many hours a day on average?

Jan 10, 2016, 8:53pm Top

Jan 10, 2016, 8:55pm Top

Jan 10, 2016, 10:00pm Top

>41 lesmel:, >42 lesmel: very interesting. (I could pick apart Gladwell's response, but I don't think it would be fair out of context. I mean, what he describes is not that complicated a concept. He could have been clearer on his meaning. But then it wouldn't have been Gladwell...)

Jan 10, 2016, 10:28pm Top

>43 dchaikin: Gladwell is...well, Gladwell. His books are condensed from science and turned popular science. I enjoy his works, but I work in a medical library. I have learned to question almost everything I read.

Interestingly, I never got the impression that the 10k hours was something etched in stone. I got the impression that Gladwell can point to evidence that shows 10k hours of dedicated, purposeful practice can be (not "is") the difference between being good and being exceptional.

I also got the impression that being exceptional was a confluence of many parts.

Jan 10, 2016, 11:29pm Top

>30 japaul22: I loved Things Fall Apart and hope to read the rest of the trilogy someday. I'll probably re-read the first before doing so.

>37 japaul22: I wasn't a huge fan of Outliers. I found his misuse of statistics and his arrogance to be annoying. I hate it when authors say "now that I've proved this point..." You haven't proven anything. You've *provided evidence supporting...* There were other parts of the book that rubbed me the wrong way, too, but I don't remember anymore. It was too long ago. But he certainly made some interesting points. :)

Hope you had a great weekend!

Jan 11, 2016, 9:11am Top

>38 fuzzy_patters: Agreed!

>39 dchaikin: Barry, my most intense years of practice were during college and my Masters. This was an 8 year stretch where I practiced about 3 hours a day. Every day - Christmas, summers, vacations, etc. Some days a little less but many days a lot more. Additionally, I was playing about 10-15 hours a week in ensembles and small chamber groups.

>41 lesmel: interesting articles and replies. I wouldn't say I'm surprised. One of the things that bothered me was that there weren't really any studies that backed up Gladwell's claims. Seemed mainly anecdotal, as I said in my review. Since I listened on audio, I thought I might have missed some footnotes.

>45 The_Hibernator: Yes, but as you said he is entertaining!

And I think that sums it up for me. Gladwell is engaging and entertaining (at least to me) and provides some food for thought.

Jan 11, 2016, 2:46pm Top

>30 japaul22: I loved Things Fall Apart, lovely review.
>37 japaul22: This is one of those books everyone says you must read and I keep dodging...I think I've read enough reviews of the book to constitute a whole separate book by itself. Do you still play professionally?

Jan 11, 2016, 3:03pm Top

>37 japaul22: It's always such a delight to listen to Gladwell. While the general concept of 10,000 can certainly be picked apart, I use it as motivation for many things that I think I should be able to do the first time and then realize that's crazy. Most of these would be in the realm of needle arts, but it also extends to more mind challenging things like math problems or other languages. Think how many hours we have to spend on calculus or translation problems before the pattern of how to do it is set. So, 10,000 stitches is sort of a mantra when I'm working, no matter what I'm working on.

Jan 11, 2016, 8:41pm Top

>47 reva8: Yes, I play horn in the US Marine Band in Washington, DC. I know what you mean about having heard so much about Outliers. Especially in the first half of the book, I felt like I had heard most of his theories by now.

>48 SassyLassy: that is a great use of the 10,000 hours theory, regardless of whether it's right or not!

Jan 11, 2016, 8:56pm Top

I play horn in the US Marine Band


Jan 12, 2016, 1:58pm Top

>49 japaul22: Wow - what an accomplishment. That's an amazing position to hold. Did you join as a civilian player or do you need to take up a military commission to play? Not that my 3-tunes piano playing is likely to open that door for me, but it's interesting!

Jan 12, 2016, 6:39pm Top

>51 AlisonY: the Marine Band is unique within the Marine Corps in that we audition for a position that comes open (usually upon a retirement) and if we win that audition we then enlist in the Marine Corps and report to the band for training (no boot camp). The vast majority of us hold undergraduate, Masters, or even Doctorates in music performance. We are enlisted Marines and our main mission is to provide music for the President. Washington, DC is our permanent duty station.

Jan 12, 2016, 6:57pm Top

>52 japaul22: OMG Club Read has such interesting people!!!! That's so amazing - well done you. Now there's a story to use on my kids when they're refusing to do their instrument practice.

Jan 12, 2016, 6:58pm Top

>49 japaul22: That is amazing! And yes, I do feel like I know his general approach now (although I usually try not to come to such conclusions without reading the books first).

Jan 12, 2016, 11:23pm Top

>52 japaul22: That is so interesting. I had no idea. I'm impressed!

Jan 16, 2016, 7:42pm Top

#3 Fludd by Hilary Mantel
I wasn't quite sure what to make of this book, except that I know I really enjoyed it. The book has a Barbara Pym flavor - set in 1950s England and focused on clergy, the church, and an unsatisfied woman. But then, of course, it has Mantel's own stamp. A man, Fludd, appears on the parsonage steps and Father Angwin, a priest trying to hide his lack of faith from his congregants, assumes he is the curate that the Bishop recently told him he'd be sending. As we get to know Fludd better, though, things are not as they seem. There's just a hint of the supernatural about him. Things and people seem to be shifting with his presence. His effect on one of the local nuns, Sister Philomena, is extreme, but others change in smaller ways.

In a note before the book begins, Mantel says the "the real Fludd (1574-1637) was a physician, scholar, and alchemist. In alchemy, everything has a literal and factual description, and in addition a description that is symbolic and fantastical." Mantel has incorporated these ideas of alchemy into her interesting and satisfying book.

Original Publication Date: 1989
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 181 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, off the shelf
Why I read this: looking for something short and different than War and Peace

And now back to my War and Peace reading . . .

Jan 16, 2016, 8:51pm Top

Fludd sounds interesting. I first read of him in Frances Yates' The Art of Memory, which talks about his memory system. Is that mentioned at all in Mantel's book?

Jan 17, 2016, 6:48am Top

>57 Poquette: I didn't notice anything about memory in the book. I definitely felt that Mantel used Fludd more as a way to introduce the idea of alchemy than as an exploration of the man. It is certainly not a historical fiction about Fludd. She uses the idea of him in a very subtle way.

Jan 17, 2016, 9:24pm Top

Mantel exploring the occult sounds interesting and fun. I remember she touched it in Wolf Hall with the fake witch/seer. How deeply does she get into alchemy?

Jan 18, 2016, 7:15am Top

>59 dchaikin: she doesn't commit too deeply to exploring alchemy - she mainly suggests that people in this small, dark, town she's created are transformed by Fludd's presence. I think she committed more whole-heartedly to exploring the occult in Beyond Black, which I read last year.

In the end, I liked that she kept the mysterious side of Fludd sort of hinted at instead of really forcing an explanation. I could see some readers wanting more, though. It is a brief book.

Jan 18, 2016, 5:49pm Top

>56 japaul22: interested to read your review of Fludd and the hints of supernatural. Mantel explored this also in Beyond Black

Jan 21, 2016, 3:04pm Top

I live in the Washington, DC region and we are hunkering down for a winter snowstorm that could bring 1-2 feet of snow between Friday and Sunday. Everything is being preemptively shut down tomorrow (DC has a tendency to panic about these things!) and I expect to be at home through Monday at least. Fingers crossed that we don't lose power!

Now to the important update - what I'll be reading. :-)
I'm half way through War and Peace so I'd like to make some progress on that. I'm almost done with Gut: The Inside STory of OUr Body's most underrated organ. I'm about a quarter in to Fates and Furies a new book by Lauren Groff. I also have the Beethoven biography that I set aside when Gut became available at the library. And then there are my shelves of TBR reads just waiting . . .

Of course, this all depends on whether my 6 and 3 year old boys can entertain themselves occasionally so I can get some reading time in! Wish me luck!

Jan 21, 2016, 4:19pm Top

A snow-day makes for a good reading-day. Enjoy!

Jan 21, 2016, 4:35pm Top

>62 japaul22: I am jealous! NYC may panic and shut things down, but then they actually do a decent job of keeping things clear, so I'll likely be stuck at home on Sat instead of going out for brunch/museum/drinks and still have to show up at work on Monday.

Jan 21, 2016, 5:04pm Top

>64 ELiz_M: DC is absolutely pathetic in a snow storm. Even last night we got a dusting of snow (less than an inch) but it came at evening rush hour and it was absolute gridlock all over the metro area. I will be shocked if my kids go to school Monday and not surprised if they are home through Wednesday. They had a snow day today because of that dusting of snow last night and even though it was completely melted off the highway, my 17 mile commute took over two hours. They've already cancelled school tomorrow because the snow is supposed to start between 3-6 pm.

Jan 21, 2016, 6:40pm Top

>65 japaul22: That is indeed pathetic! Do you not get snow every winter? 1-2 ft doesn't sound that much for the eastern US. Weren't you part of snowmagedon that happened a couple of years ago?

You're still not as bad as California-- my sister-in-law's university class got cancelled due to *rain*. That's the height of being pathetic (for someone from Vancouver, anyway).

Jan 21, 2016, 7:44pm Top

>66 Nickelini: Yes! We get snow just about every winter and yes we had "snowmageddon" in 2010 (I had a 6 week old baby!). I'm originally from the Chicago area so it all just makes me laugh. This upcoming storm is supposed to include blizzard conditions so it's serious, but the dusting of snow we got last night should not have been a big deal at all. I don't know why every winter it's like reinventing the wheel when it inevitably snows.

Closing for rain?? That is funny.

Jan 21, 2016, 8:54pm Top

Just saw this and thought of you:

Jan 21, 2016, 8:56pm Top

Well, I'm from Vancouver, so I didn't even know there was a difference between snow and blizzard. Here, as soon as it starts snowing, it's automatically a blizzard. Everyone freaks out, except the people who moved here from the Prairies or back east, and they just watch and laugh at the rest of us.

Jan 21, 2016, 9:16pm Top

Yep - in that 3+ book zone. A blizzard has more to do with the intensity and duration of winds than with the amount of snow. Apparently we're supposed to get dangerous winds Friday in to Saturday.

Edited: Jan 22, 2016, 3:59am Top

I wish you well. My daughter is in Baltimore and she's hunkering down. The snow is not supposed to so bad here in NJ, but they're warning us about the winds.

>68 Nickelini: That's great! And so true!

Edited: Jan 22, 2016, 12:15am Top

>70 japaul22: Okay, if that's the definition, I don't think I've ever seen a blizzard, except maybe on the top of a ski mountain. We have had lots of snow here, but it just softly falls straight down.

eta: my 15 yr old daughter says I'm wrong and she remembers a snow day when she was little and it was blowing crazy snow. But most of my memory was wiped out after she was born, so what do I know.

Jan 22, 2016, 10:51am Top

>70 japaul22: is right. The defining characteristic is not the amount of snow, but the accompanying winds and concomitant loss of visibility. The US defines them at >35mph with visibility less than 0.25 miles. In Canada, it is >40kph with visibility less than 1km and lasting longer than 4-6 hours.

>69 Nickelini: I was amused to discover that in terms of snowfall warnings (which differ from blizzards as they don't have the winds), it is 5cm in 24 hours for the Lower Mainland in 24 hours, while it is 25 cm in other parts of the country. Here the BC definition would be called ambient precipitation and is a daily factor for three months of the year. Yesterday we had 20 - 25 cm of snow, which didn't even show on radar as it was so localized.

The ones that bother me the most are Blowing Snow Advisories and Freezing Rain.

>68 Nickelini: I love that! The best forecasting tool ever.

What did surprise me was closing the subways in Washington for the weekend. Do they have above ground stretches? That's the only reason I could think of for it.

Edited: Jan 22, 2016, 11:05am Top

>73 SassyLassy: yes, quite a bit of the various metro tracks are above ground. I think every line has a few stretches that are above ground.

Edited: Jan 22, 2016, 12:00pm Top

#4 Gut: the inside story of our body's most underrated organ by Giulia Enders
This was a fun (yes, fun) and interesting look at the most current research about what goes on in our gut. Enders goes through all this information with humor and clarity, even when the subject could be confusing.

The most interesting parts to me were the speculation that the gut is a center that sort of runs the body, much like the brain, and that it probably is a contributor to anxiety and depression. It's not all "in our minds". Also, I'm of course interested in the new research about the role of our gut flora and probiotics and prebiotics.

The only thing I wish is that there had been more actual answers in this book, but the research needs to be done first. It seems to be a very new field of study. I think you can find more detail about probiotics and prebiotics in other books, but it is all so new that I think it's probably based on untested hypotheses. I also have The Good Gut, another book published in 2015, and I'll be interested to compare the two. It looks more like a plan to make use of the current research to influence your diet and health. I'm hoping the two books complement each other.

Original Publication Date: 2015
Author’s nationality: German
Original language: German
Length: 259 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, library
Why I read this: interested in the topic

Jan 22, 2016, 11:32am Top

>75 japaul22: I really liked Gut too. I think most people would benefit from it.

Jan 22, 2016, 1:36pm Top

You've reminded me to pick up a copy of Gut for my husband. I think he'd like it.

Jan 23, 2016, 12:26pm Top

I'm hunkered down for the storm as well with a pile of books, basketball games, and leftover gumbo. Hope you enjoy your snow day!

Jan 23, 2016, 1:40pm Top

>76 Nickelini: I'm sure I read it because of your review!

>77 RidgewayGirl: I'm trying to get my husband to read this, but he isn't much of a book reader these days.

>78 janemarieprice: I hadn't quite calculated how long it would take to shovel 18 inches of snow from the driveway and sidewalks. It's taken my husband and I about 3 hours but we just finished. I'm sure we'll have to do at least one more round since it's still snowing (and for when the plow comes through), but we've hopefully removed the bulk of it. The rest of the day I'll be sitting around reading or playing games with the kids.

Jan 23, 2016, 2:46pm Top

Well if that's not cosy up with a good book weather I don't know what is. Hope things aren't too drastic weather-wise.

Edited: Jan 23, 2016, 3:52pm Top

>79 japaul22: Impressive that it only took 3 hours! Growing up in MN, one storm dumped 28 inches of snow on us in 36 hours. It actually shut down the Twin Cities for a day or two and it took us 4 days to dig out the driveway, thanks to plows piling up snow drifts nearly 8' tall. I'm sure you had similar experience in Chicago.

I am so grateful to live in a city where I don't have to shovel the walk or drive anywhere and am happily ensconced with the laptop, leftovers, and plenty of books, tea and coffee!

Jan 23, 2016, 6:13pm Top

>79 japaul22: I can only imagine the shoveling. My landlord has been out at least 4 times now and it just keeps coming down.

Jan 23, 2016, 8:04pm Top

>80 AlisonY: We never got blizzard conditions here and haven't lost power so things are good!

>81 ELiz_M: We have another 6 inches or so to shovel that accumulated this afternoon/evening tomorrow morning. I think I also underestimated in the other post - it was probably closer to 4 hours of solid shoveling. We haven't had a plow through on our street since about 4 am. We got an email from our local state representative saying they aren't even going to get to our town's main roads until Monday morning and not to expect plows til Monday evening or even Tuesday. But when they finally come through we'll have to shovel the end of the driveway again!

>82 janemarieprice: It's been crazy! I think we have almost 2 feet of snow out there. My kids are loving it, though!

Jan 24, 2016, 9:18am Top

My experience, admittedly only gleaned in the past few winters here in Munich, is to shovel early and often. A few inches is a fun exercise, and much more than that is hard labor. We're in a row of three houses on a corner and we're responsible for the public sidewalk, too, but we've hired a guy who drives a mini-snowplow along the sidewalk very early in the morning on snowy days to do that, so we only have the walkway to the gate to take care of.

Jan 24, 2016, 10:51am Top


Jan 24, 2016, 10:59am Top

Your sons are in heaven, aren't they?

Jan 24, 2016, 11:46am Top

That's a lot of snow! My kids would be very jealous if I showed them this. We had no snow at all last year, and just a light dusting for a few hours this winter so far.

Jan 24, 2016, 11:48am Top

The kids are having so much fun! Plus it isn't that cold out so they are pretty comfortable out there.

Jan 24, 2016, 10:57pm Top

>75 japaul22: That book looks really interesting. I've done some reading of scientific journal articles about how the gut communicates with the brain. It's pretty fascinating.

>85 japaul22: Wow! Look at all that snow. How many days did you get off due to this storm? Hopefully at least one or two.

Hope you have a great week ahead!

Jan 25, 2016, 7:47am Top

>89 The_Hibernator: It doesn't go in to extreme depth, but it's a great overview of where the research is and where it is headed.

My husband and I have been off Friday-Monday. The schools were additionally closed on Thursday (because we had an inch of snow Wednesday night that they weren't prepared for - ridiculous) and they are also closed Tuesday. I'm hoping he'll be back to school on Wednesday, but I won't be shocked if they don't go back til Thursday. Luckily my mom lives a half mile away and is retired and likes babysitting because my husband and I both work and can't always take vacation days to cover school closings.

I've gotten a lot of reading done, but I'm not really close to finishing any of my print books. My audiobook is close, though.

Jan 25, 2016, 7:55am Top

Just catching up, Jennifer. I've only read the two books in the Wolf Hall series by Mantel. I do mean to get to more. Gut sounds really interesting.

The snow looks beautiful. We got somewhere between 15 and 18 inches, and I'm glad that we live in a townhouse where someone else does the cleanup. I was happy that it occurred on the weekend, so that I didn't have to worry about anyone being out and about for work. Although I think there was a travel ban anyway. I'm sure most kids around here are disappointed because the roads look pretty good. They probably won't miss much, if any, school.

Jan 25, 2016, 11:42pm Top

Nice snow photos, Jennifer!

I liked your review of Gut. I bought it in London last year, started reading it there, and put it down in favor of something else. I'll probably get back to it very soon.

Jan 26, 2016, 4:24pm Top

>56 japaul22: I loved Fludd too -- and didn't expect to.

>68 Nickelini: Love it!

Jan 26, 2016, 9:19pm Top

#5 An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear, audiobook read by Orlagh Cassidy, 9h18m

I really like the Maisie Dobbs mystery series. This was a good entry, the fifth in the series. It focuses on the hop-picking season and the gypsies. The mystery was good and I love the time period, post-WWI. It's about a decade after the end of the war now, but the country is still dealing with the ramifications of the war and so is Maisie. Maisie has laid many of her ghosts to rest now and isn't as much of a mess as she was in the last book. I liked this better. As always, I also enjoy the clothes descriptions.

I find these work very well on audio and like the reader, Orlagh Cassidy.

Original Publication Date: 2008
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 9h18m
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: audiobook, library
Why I read this: next in series, something light

Jan 26, 2016, 9:26pm Top

>91 NanaCC: I read Wolf Hall and Place of Greater Safety first of Mantel's works and absolutely love them. Her other books are very different, but I love them too. I always find something to think about in her writing and like that she isn't afraid to try different genres.

And my kids are on day number FIVE of snow days tomorrow. There are rumors that they'll be off all week. Kind of a pain since I have to work this week. Luckily my mom is available to help out.

>92 kidzdoc: I'll be curious to hear what you think of Gut, Darryl. I'd imagine you're already informed about a lot of the info in that book.

>93 rebeccanyc: Fludd was very different than I expected, but it was really well done. Glad you liked it too!

Jan 27, 2016, 10:04am Top

What lovely photos! We had a dusting of snow last week (probably not enough for you to call it snow, but we were impressed) - it was the first time my daughter's been old enough to appreciate it, and she was fascinated.

Great review of Things Fall Apart, a book I loved. Glad you enjoyed it.

Jan 29, 2016, 4:15pm Top

Love your snow pictures! It looks like our usual amount of snow but we don't see those beautiful blue skies often enough in winter.

Jan 29, 2016, 8:00pm Top

#6 The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your weight, your mood, and your long-term health by Justin Sonnenburg and Erica Sonnenburg

As I was checking out Gut by Guilia Enders from the library, I happened upon this book as well. I can't review this book without comparing the two.

In The Good Gut, the Sonnenburgs take the existing research on the microbiota of the gut to try to create a lifestyle. They recommend feeding the gut with foods containing probiotics (mainly kefir, yogurt, or various fermented foods) and with high fiber foods like legumes, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. They also recommend avoiding antibiotic overuse and not using harsh cleaners in the home. They spend a lot of the book also going through the current research.

To me, I much preferred Guilia Enders's book. The books cover a lot of the same research on the gut biome, but Enders covers more about the whole digestive system. Her advice is much more tempered, though she is ultimately recommending the same things. The Sonnenburgs feel the need to take the research and make a whole lifestyle out of it, though, and it just seemed to take things a bit farther than the actual research allows for at this point. And felt a little preachy. Also, their advice seemed common sense to me and not very new. I think most people know that current research suggests that the healthiest diet consists of lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans (therefore a high fiber diet) and limited red meat and processed foods. It seems that that sort of eating also supports a healthy gut. Great, but I didn't really learn much new information.

I still think the area of research surrounding the gut and its influence on the body as a whole and the potential of probiotics to cure illness and disease is exciting and fascinating, but its a relatively new field and this book takes the minimal current research and runs away with it.

Original Publication Date: 2015
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 301 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library, hardback
Why I read this: interested in the topic

Jan 30, 2016, 9:57pm Top

Interesting comparison. Noting Enders' gut. I'll skip The Good Gut.

Jan 31, 2016, 8:18am Top

Nice review of The Good Gut, Jennifer. I'll skip it as well, but I'll get back to Gut soon.

Jan 31, 2016, 7:31pm Top

Thanks for reading The Good Gut. I'm following what I learned in Gut, but I'm not sure it's helping. Eating high fibre, high fruit & veg, low meat, low dairy, is not new to me. I have started more yoghurt to get probiotics, and have added natural sauerkraut for the same reason (it's expensive but yummy). Even if it turns out to be an overrated fad, I like this food.

Jan 31, 2016, 7:38pm Top

>101 Nickelini: The Good Gut has more of an eating plan laid out than Gut did, so it might be worth looking through. It even has some recipes. They are big on kefir which I'm not sure I could stomach. Overall though, it's mainly about increasing fiber and adding fermented foods which it sounds like you already do.

Jan 31, 2016, 7:46pm Top

#7 War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

How do you review one of the greatest books ever written? I don’t even know what to call this book. Is it a family drama, historical fiction, an analysis of war, a philosophical discussion? I guess it’s all of these things. I’ll say that I enjoyed it most as a family drama but also as an analysis of war and war’s ramifications for both the countries involved and the individuals both fighting and at home. I couldn’t engage with most of the philosophical discussion, especially the ending, because I just didn’t have enough background to understand it and found it sort of irrelevant to my experience. I found that the last part of the Epilogue was sort of a downer as it ended with a philosophical essay that I just couldn't interest myself in. It's hard to end a book that you've loved that way - especially when you've committed to over 1000 pages of reading time!

However, I really loved watching the main characters grow and change throughout this work. I think Tolstoy successfully creates characters that morph according to their experiences and I appreciated that. His characters, though, are not easy to identify with or like though by the end of this long book I found myself invested in them. The characters in this book sometimes get dwarfed by the surrounding times they live in, but in pondering the book as I write this review, it starts to become clear that I did end up knowing them as people. Tolstoy changes the tone of the book as the times get more serious and the characters grow up. When I think about the beginning of the book – all the shenanigans of the boys drinking too much and causing trouble, and innocent, fun-loving, and naïve Natasha and Sonya – it’s just such a stark contrast from where the book ends. It makes me realize how organically the characters grow and change throughout the book. There are some very memorable death scenes and thoughts about death that I found moving and profound.

I found the look at the war interesting and thought that it was pretty fascinating to actually use Napoleon as a character in the book, not just a figurehead. I do think the whole thing would have meant more to me if I lived in the country just 50 years after the events had taken place, as those reading War and Peace when it was published were. Thinking about reading a book like this with that sort of closeness and perspective really changes the magnitude of it. As it is, though, it is still a meaningful look at war and a few specific battles.

This was a reread for me, but except for the first 200 pages or so, I felt like I was reading it for the first time. I expect that I just wasn’t ready for it when I read it the first time in my 20s. Overall this is not quite a 5 star read for me, but is close. I think the extended sections on philosophy and my lack of knowledge of Napoleon and this battle for Moscow didn’t allow me to fully connect with the entire book. This doesn’t mean I didn’t love the book, though, just that I can’t call a book a five star favorite that had my eyes glazed over quite this much. However, reading a book this long and complex is an amazing experience. I’ve read it pretty much every day over the month of January and it feels odd to say goodbye to these characters and this time period. I actually could stand a few more hundred pages to explore a bit more of the characters and times. I suppose that says more than anything else – that I wish one of the longest books written was actually longer.

** I read the Constance Garnett translation, done in the early 1904. I very much enjoyed it and found the writing smooth and flowing.

Original Publication Date: 1869
Author’s nationality: Russian
Original language: Russian
Length: 1149 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: owned, paperback
Why I read this: reread with the category challenge

Feb 1, 2016, 12:46am Top

>103 japaul22: I read this book in the 8th grade. I understood its basic idea and even enjoyed it quite a bit, but I realize that I didn't understand (or even recognize) the philosophy. I have the Norton Critical Edition of it waiting around to be read sometime - I really should try getting to it at some point. Probably not this year, though, because I'm trying to read more classics by women this year.

Feb 1, 2016, 2:47am Top

Great review of War and Peace. It's the only book I ever read while skipping whole parts (I'm sure you can guess which ones) and I must really give it another try now that I'm older.

Feb 1, 2016, 2:52am Top

Excellent review of War and Peace! It made me want to dive right into it. I'm watching the series now and loving it.

Feb 1, 2016, 6:55am Top

I loved your review of War and Peace. I am recording the series now, and may hang onto it to use as an incentive to read the book at some point. I loved Anna Karenina, and I think I would like this one too. My younger daughter is reading it, and then watching the series up to the point she has read. She said that is working for her. I am reading and loving the very long Forsyte Chronicles right now. I then plan to read Trollope's Pallisers series, which is also long. I don't think I could manage another this year.

Feb 1, 2016, 9:45am Top

Great review of War and Peace! I've read it three times, as I've said before. When I read it as a teenager, I skipped the war parts. When I read it in my 40s, I loved the war parts best. And when I reread it in my 50s, I loved all of it.

Feb 1, 2016, 11:39am Top

Excellent review of War and Peace, Jennifer! Yours is the first review that makes me want to grab it from my bookshelf and read it straight away. I'll put it considerably higher on my TBR list, and hopefully get to it in the next year or two.

Feb 1, 2016, 2:24pm Top

Great review of War and Peace. I think I'll do a little more Napoleon reading before I tackle that one.

Feb 1, 2016, 2:26pm Top

>103 japaul22: great review - one to get to (eventually...!).

Feb 1, 2016, 4:49pm Top

>104 The_Hibernator: Wow, 8th grade! Although, the story itself isn't that complicated. It's mainly the philosophical diversions that slow the book down.

>105 FlorenceArt: Yes, I'm sure I skimmed large sections when I first read it years ago. This time I can say I read all of it, though didn't necessarily take the time to comprehend all of the philosophical sections.

>106 RidgewayGirl: I've just started the miniseries. I'm liking it so far, but it's jarring to see the casting which doesn't all fit with my impressions from reading the book.

>107 NanaCC: Definitely a good idea to wait for War and Peace til it can have your full attention!

>108 rebeccanyc: Thanks, Rebecca. I guess I'll have to read it a third time to love every bit of it!

>109 kidzdoc: I'd love to hear what you think whenever you get to it, Darryl. It's a time commitment but it's such a great experience to read a book like this.

>110 mabith: Yes, I wished I'd read a Napoleon biography first. I did a little wikipedia research as I read.

>111 AlisonY: Thanks, Alison!

Feb 1, 2016, 5:56pm Top

I've read about specific battles and Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier, which is largely the retreat from Russia. Really interesting, quick read.

Feb 2, 2016, 7:18am Top

Interesting that you read and enjoyed the Constance Garnett translation
Excellent review

Feb 2, 2016, 10:38am Top

Jennifer, I read the first 200 pages or so of War and Peace several years ago, but then put it aside. I don't remember why now, though it certainly wasn't because I wasn't enjoying it. Your review makes me want to go straight back to it.

Feb 2, 2016, 9:22pm Top

Great review of War and Peace. It's been a while since I read it (and I skipped the essay at the end). Perhaps it's time for a reread soon. I like the idea of reading up on Napoleon first.

Feb 3, 2016, 8:22pm Top

>113 mabith: That looks interesting, Meredith.

>114 baswood: Barry, I owned the Constance Garnett translation and checked out the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation from the library. I read a large section of both towards the beginning of the book and just really preferred the flow and word choice of the Garnett. Since I don't speak Russian, I can't know which mimics Tolstoy most faithfully, but I was having to think and reread a lot of the P&V sentences to get the meaning and that didn't happen at all in the Garnett. I think there are about 12 different English translations of War and Peace, and I think, in the end, choosing the one that works best for your reading style is the best idea. Garnett suited me and made a long book that could be very difficult pretty readable.

>115 rachbxl: I hope you decide to get back to it some day. It is hard to carve out that much time for a single book, but it's a great reading experience.

>116 cabegley: It stood up to a reread very well for me. And yes, that essay at the end was brutal. I didn't read it very carefully.

Edited: Feb 3, 2016, 8:42pm Top

#8 Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Fates and Furies is a look at two people, Lotto and Mathilde, who marry at the young age of 22 after knowing each other for about 2 weeks. The first half of the book is told from Lotto's point of view (though not in first person and with an interjecting omniscient narrator) and the second half give Mathilde's version of many of the same events.

It's clear in Lotto's half that this marriage and Mathilde herself are not being fully revealed. Lotto, as much as he reveres/loves Mathilde, is too blinded by himself to really know anyone else. So I was prepared for Mathilde's portion to have some big reveals but it went farther than I thought. I found her half of the book sometimes brilliant and sometimes just a bit too much to be believable.

I've seen this book described as a portrait of a marriage many places. In one sense it is that, especially as a look at how well even two people closely married to each other actually know each other. But to me the book was really about Mathilde. Even all through Lotto's narcissistic section, I was thinking and wondering about Mathilde. In that sense I think it was more about how a traumatic past can affect a person's life and interactions and how it effects others whether they know about it or not. It's also about truth and memory. I didn't find this book convincing as a study of marriage because it was so far outside of a normal marriage.

Overall I really liked this book. It is intriguing and layered and Groff writes with a lot of intensity and good flow. There were a few plot twists though, that really bothered me and felt over-worked or unnecessary. I think that Groff is definitely an author worth reading and I would recommend the book overall, but I have a few reservations. I'm curious to see at the end of the year if this end up on my "best of" list or moves to the "forgettable" column. Time will tell.

Original Publication Date: 2015
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 400 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle, library book
Why I read this: getting a lot of buzz and I was curious

Feb 5, 2016, 10:12pm Top

>103 japaul22: that was just a lovely, very sincere and personal review of War and Peace. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts. Some day I'll get there...

>118 japaul22: Those last two sentences on Fates and Furies cover my feelings after finishing a lot of newer novels. It's a big part of why I don't read many these days. With too many the experience just seems to drift away. Having said that, I have requested this book on audio from my library. There is a bit of a waiting list.

Edited: Feb 13, 2016, 8:04am Top

I just finished Fates and Furies and I have mixed feelings. I did like how Groff slowly revealed Lotto's carelessness and how he had spent his life so charmed by himself that he never really saw Mathilde at all. The scene at the symposium felt like watching a car crash.

Feb 6, 2016, 11:06am Top

Fates and Furies seems to be all over these days. Just the other day, someone mentioned to me that she was reading it and loving it. But, like Dan, I don't read too many new novels.

Feb 12, 2016, 8:37pm Top

>119 dchaikin:, >121 rebeccanyc: I try to read a mix of old and new books, but I definitely read a much smaller percentage of new books. I find that LT really helps me weed out the books that are worth reading.

>120 RidgewayGirl: I'm still having mixed feeling about it too.

Feb 12, 2016, 9:24pm Top

#9 Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback
This book completely suited my reading need right now. It is a historical fiction/mystery set in 1700s Swedish Lapland. The setting is key here. Ekback creates the time period and way of life so convincingly that I was sucked in right away. The mystery is entangled with myth and magic. There's a bit of the conflict between natives, the Lapps, and the settlers. Also some conflict between the prevailing Lutheran church and the old beliefs.

The book has some weaknesses - a few of the story lines weren't tied up sufficiently for my taste and I thought some of the topics, especially the magic and mysticism, needed to be explored more deeply to be convincing. But, in the end, this book was just what I wanted it to be - a page turner with a great setting and some good historical detail.

I'm sure this won't make the list of "best books" I read this year, but it could definitely make the list of "most fun to read".

Original Publication Date: 2015
Author’s nationality: Swedish
Original language: English
Length: 368 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: needed something engaging and fast to read and I suspected this would fit

Feb 13, 2016, 4:46am Top

>123 japaul22: glad you enjoyed it - I found it to be perfect winter comfort reading!

Feb 13, 2016, 7:17am Top

>124 AlisonY: Thanks for bringing it to my attention! I thought the setting really made the book. Did you feel that the author left too many threads hanging, though, especially regarding Maija's relationship with Frederika and with Paavo? I was a little disappointed that she didn't at least try to find some way for them all to move forward even if seh didn't necessarily take the time to resolve all of their issues.

Feb 13, 2016, 2:01pm Top

Wolf Winter does sound fun, and like a perfect book gift for my dad so I'm happy to have learned of it.

Feb 13, 2016, 4:25pm Top

>125 japaul22: no - I was OK with some things being left unresolved. I quite like being left with some questions in my mind at the end of a book.

I agree that I don't think it will be one of my favourites of the year, but I did really enjoy it.

Feb 15, 2016, 12:04am Top

Happy Valentine's Day!

Feb 15, 2016, 1:40pm Top

>126 mabith: Hope your dad likes it!

>127 AlisonY: I don't mind when authors intentionally leave some unresolved threads, but I felt like this ending was a bit lazy. I still loved it overall, though.

>128 The_Hibernator: Thanks!

Feb 15, 2016, 1:52pm Top

#10 The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf
This is Woolf's first novel and wow does it show. After being blown away by To the Lighthouse and The Waves and enjoying Mrs. Dalloway and Orlando, I was completely bored by this novel.

The Voyage Out is the story of Rachel Vinrace, a young woman taking a trip from London to somewhere in South America. The boat is her father's, but her Aunt and Uncle, Helen and Ridley, are also traveling with them and she joins them on their vacation in South America. It's sort of a coming of age story, with Rachel starting out a lonely, sheltered girl.

Unfortunately there are a few big problems with this book. First of all, there are too many characters and they don't capture the attention enough to keep them all straight. I would never have guessed that Rachel was the main character until about 2/3 of the way into the book. That's a problem. The best part of the book was the brief appearance of the Dalloways who join the ship for a part of the journey. I can see why Woolf wrote a book about Mrs. Dalloway, because she stands out as the most memorable character even though she is in the book very briefly. Another large problem is the setting. Most of the book is set in an undisclosed location in South America and it just never felt convincing. It was distractingly "off".

There are certainly seeds of the voice that Woolf would later find present in this book, but overall I found it mundane and boring.

Original Publication Date: 1915
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 445 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: group read with 1001 books and I have a plan to read all of Woolf's novels

Feb 15, 2016, 2:18pm Top

>130 japaul22: I agree. There are passages that are fabulous, but they are buried in thousands of other boring passages.

Feb 15, 2016, 2:21pm Top

>130 japaul22:, >131 Nickelini: thank you both for saving me from bothering with that one!

Feb 15, 2016, 5:26pm Top

The Voyage Out sounds like one for the completests

Feb 16, 2016, 4:24pm Top

#11 The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith audiobook read by David Thorn, 7h14m

This mid-18th century novel was one of the most popular of its day. It started out promising for me. It's narrated by Dr. Primrose, a rather self-satisfied well-off clergyman with a lovely family. His views are sort of smug but funny at the same time. Then things start to go downhill for him and his family. It's sort of a Job story, where almost everything is taken from him - his money, his home, his daughter's virtue, etc. And then there's an improbably ending where everything turns out right.

I could see how it might have been popular when it was written. There are a lot of plot twists and Dr. Primrose stays true to his faith throughout all his trials. For me, though, a lot of it was just too silly and too allegorical.

Also, as an audiobook, I'm not sure it worked very well. I thought the main narrator, David Thorn, who was the voice of Dr. Primrose was excellent, but the other readers (it's an ensemble cast) all over-acted their parts to my taste.

Original Publication Date: 1766
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 7h14m
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library audiobook
Why I read this: 1001 books list and available at the library

Feb 16, 2016, 5:48pm Top

Just catching up on your reviews, Jennifer. You've added to my list, as well as adding a push to a couple that were already there.

Feb 16, 2016, 8:58pm Top

Enjoyed your review of The Vicar of Wakefield. My dad's been prodding me to read that one, and I'll probably accede to it (though he seems more a fan of 18th century lit whereas I tend to like Victorian novels). I'm rarely a fan of multi-cast recordings so I've got the Patrick Tull narration bookmarked.

Feb 19, 2016, 2:42pm Top

>130 japaul22: >134 japaul22: interesting and difficult pairs of books you've been reading. I might one day get to Virginia Woolf and I might then just read everything. Not saying it will happen, but it might. I'll keep your review of The Voyage Out in mind...as something of a warning.

Feb 19, 2016, 3:27pm Top

>136 mabith: I think The Vicar of Wakefield could be fun if you're in the right mood, but I just couldn't buy into it.

>137 dchaikin: Dan, The Voyage Out really paled in comparison to Virginia Woolf's other books. In many ways it was easier to read, but it just didn't have any of the innovation that I've come to expect and enjoy in her novels.

Feb 21, 2016, 9:15pm Top

#12 Ashes and Diamonds by Jerzy Andrzejewski
This was a very interesting look at Poland in the last days of WWII. Present are people to represent many of the different factions that have emerged from the war. There are those who want an independent Poland, those who are Communist and don't fear the Russian model (and perhaps occupation), those who are young nihilists who only know terror, and those too damaged by the war to care anymore.

The book deals with the nonsensical killing that is still happening. There is an accidental murder of the wrong people, the murder of a young man by his friends when he refuses to give them money towards their terrorist causes, and the assassination of a prominent Communist. All this murder in the last days of a war that already killed so many - it's dark and horrifying. Some of the characters realize it and some just don't know any other way to live anymore. I think the group of young people who grew into young adulthood during the war are the most hopeless case. It's sad to see them not knowing how to act besides as terrorists, but I think Andrzejewski's point is that it's a side effect of growing up during a war full of atrocities. Another important character was the man who was in a concentration camp and survives by becoming an orderly and beating the other prisoners. He justifies his actions by saying that acting one way in war to survive does not mean you'll still be a bad person when circumstances are different. It's a disturbing thing to think about.

The book has a lot of characters and is somewhat chaotic, reflecting the times, but I found it a great read. It opened up a lot of thoughts about what happens in a country that has been ravaged by war in the end days of the war. There wasn't any relief or happiness here as you might expect. It was all confusion and more killing and people so damaged they don't even know how to move on and don't trust that there is anything to move on to. For all that, it isn't a relentlessly depressing book to read. Andrzejewski tells his story in a matter-of-fact way and has some beautifully phrased sentiments - I found it thoughtful and enlightening.

Original Publication Date: 1948
Author’s nationality: Polish
Original language: Polish
Length: 239 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased second hand
Why I read this: 1001 books list random pick

Feb 22, 2016, 9:37am Top

I loved Ashes and Diamonds too; I found it very thought-provoking.

Feb 22, 2016, 12:04pm Top

>130 japaul22: That's too bad that The Voyage Out wasn't up to Woolf's par. I've only read Mrs. Dalloway, and made the mistake of listening to it by audiobook, so I'm not that experienced. But I recognized what a fantastic author she was.

Feb 23, 2016, 9:36am Top

>139 japaul22: Interesting. I would like to read this as I'm interested in the Poland at that time. It seems to leave a lot to think about.

Feb 27, 2016, 8:42pm Top

#13 Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson

This is a quiet but deep book about an older man who leaves his life and family behind to retire to a cabin in the country in Norway. A chance encounter with a neighbor who he knows from his childhood brings up all sorts of memories, mainly of his father and a summer they spent together in the country during 1948 when he was a teenager.

The book meanders through Trond's memories and his current thoughts about aging and craving solitude. I thought the writing was beautifully paced and a good mix of introspective and intriguing. In this book, I liked the things that the author left unexplained or only hinted at. I think it's a book I'll be thinking about for quite a while.

Original Publication Date: 2003
Author’s nationality: Norwegian
Original language: Norwegian
Length: 238 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: off the shelf, Scandinavian authors

Feb 27, 2016, 11:03pm Top

>143 japaul22: This was an early discoveries for me via LT, and one of my favorite ones too. I still think about it.

Feb 28, 2016, 12:47pm Top

i loved Out Stealing Horses, which I read pre-LT.

Feb 28, 2016, 1:51pm Top

>143 japaul22: great to see another great review of this book - I'll have to move it up my wish list. Also very much enjoyed your Ashes and Diamonds review - not a book I'd heard of, but something I think I would enjoy.

Feb 28, 2016, 7:20pm Top

143> This was a stellar one for me too.

Feb 29, 2016, 4:36pm Top

#14 Trouble for Lucia by E.F. Benson
The last in the Mapp and Lucia series (right - there aren't any more?) and I've really enjoyed these. They are a bit ridiculous but the characters are so much fun. This one has plenty of Georgie, who I love best. I'll miss this series. Maybe I'll reread them someday.

Original Publication Date: 1939
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 231 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle
Why I read this: off the shelf, comfort read, complete the series

Feb 29, 2016, 8:47pm Top

>148 japaul22:

Not by Benson. A few different authors did continue the series though :)

Mar 2, 2016, 6:36pm Top

#15 The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, read by Holter Graham, 15h56m

I listened to this audiobook in 3 spurts over the last 9 months. The checkout from the library kept expiring and I wouldn't feel like renewing it. But then I'd still be thinking about it and check it out again. In the end, I ended up thinking this was a really good book.

The story revolves around the baseball team at a small upper midwestern college called Westish College. Henry Skrimshander is recruited by the baseball team leader, Mike Schwarz, to play shortstop for the team. Mike sees potential in Henry and he is right. Henry ends up being a once in a lifetime find and seems destined to be a Major League shortstop of the highest caliber. Towards the end of the season, things start to go wrong. Is it the pressure? Fear of success? Fear of failure?

Baseball is the backdrop for the relationships in this book. There is the obvious team dynamic. There is also the college roommate dynamic. Also, these characters are trying to figure out what they'll do next as they near the end of their college careers. Another element is the President of Westish College, Guert Affenlight. His 20-something daughter, Pella, has recently come back from a failed marriage and they try to rebuild their father/daughter relationship. Affenlight is also experiencing a sort of second youth, having a relationship with one of the students. There is a lot going on, but Harbach manages to keep it all tied together. In addition to the baseball backdrop, there is a constant thread of Melville, who supposedly lectured at Westish College. Affenlight is a Melville scholar and there are some subtle (very subtle) references to themes in Moby Dick throughout the book.

The book relies on some sort of unlikely plot turns which made me not love it, but I think it's going to end up being a really memorable book for me, surprisingly enough. Part of this may be that I loved the audio book reader, Holter Graham. I think he really increased my enjoyment of the book. This was Chad Harbach's first book and I will be interested to read what he writes next.

Original Publication Date: 2011
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 15h56m
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: audiobook
Why I read this: available at library, 1001 books

Mar 2, 2016, 10:02pm Top

>150 japaul22: Sounds interesting, I'll have to keep this in mind particularly now that baseball season is starting.

Mar 3, 2016, 7:15am Top

>151 janemarieprice: I picked it up towards the end of the regular season last year. It definitely scratches the baseball itch, but I don't think it's necessary to be a sports fan to enjoy the book. I think it's more about the college experience and male friendships/relationships.

Mar 3, 2016, 8:36am Top

For those of you with kids, my son's school had author Adam Rubin visit yesterday. He's written some great books for kids - our favorites are Dragons Love Tacos and Those Darn Squirrels. My 6 year old, William, was really excited about the visit. Rubin read his new book to them and told them a little about his career. William told me about the collaboration between the writer and illustrator which I thought was a neat thing for a kindergartener to learn about. The kids also helped Rubin create a new book during the assembly. Fun!

Mar 3, 2016, 9:35am Top

>153 japaul22: I just got Dragons Love Tacos last time I picked up library books. I have a thing for dragons and that one is good. I'll have to add the Squirrel one to the list for next time.

Edited: Mar 12, 2016, 12:43pm Top

#16 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, audiobook read by the author, 10h11m

This was excellent. The honest, brutal, but somehow hopeful and occasionally humorous memoir of Angelou's childhood up to about age 17 is made even better by her reading. Anybody who likes memoirs or is interested in the experience of a black girl growing up in America in the 1940s should read (or listen) to this book. Angelou is great at being able to find the humor in her life, even during troubled moments, and I think hearing her read this brings that out. There isn't much levity here, but it isn't a gloomy book. I think that even non-audio book people would enjoy this on audio.

Original Publication Date: 1969
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 10h11m
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: audiobook from the library
Why I read this: 1001 books list

Edited: Mar 12, 2016, 12:44pm Top

#17 Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph by Jan Swafford

I've been reading this 1077 page biography of one of the most famous composers for the past 3 months. I barely know where to begin in reviewing this book.

As a professional classical musician, I knew a lot about Beethoven going in to this. I've played almost all of his symphonies (and extensively studied and listened to the few I haven't performed) and I've played all of his chamber music that uses the horn. He's also such a big name that I've picked up a lot of the facts of his life in various classes. I guess I wasn't sure how much I was going to learn that was new out of this book. In the end, I think it was beneficial to have everything gathered in to one book and it really clarified Beethoven's influence for me. I also enjoyed that Swafford placed Beethoven in his times. There is enough discussion of the Napoleonic wars and the impact on Vienna, where Beethoven lived, to solidly ground the book historically without losing focus on Beethoven. I also thought the portrait of Beethoven's character was well within the known facts and didn't over-romanticize his life, something that has often been done.

Some highlights of what I took away from this book:

- that Beethoven was grounded in the Aufklarung (Enlightenment) philosophy. Though he was adopted by the Romantics and his music definitely pushes out of the bounds of classical music, he didn't think of himself as a Romantic. ETA Hoffmann was a music critic who really embraced Beethoven's music and sort of adopted him into the Romantic trend. Beethoven's eccentric character and habits lent themselves well to the image of the tortured artist.

- There was a ton of censorship of all the arts in Vienna, but Beethoven largely escaped scrutiny because instrumental music was too hard to pin down to a philosophy. He had freedom to pursue his composition however he liked.

- As a performer Beethoven was an amazing improviser his improvisation skills greatly influenced his compositional technique, especially in his piano music. His other over-riding compositional style was to come up with a whole idea and create the entire multi-movements works to serve the whole.

- The main genres he influenced (has been virtually unsurpassed in even to this day) are the symphonies, string quartets, and piano sonatas.

- He used instruments in new ways, stretching the capabilities particularly of the string bass, horn, and vocalists. Also the string quartet as a whole.

- I knew, of course, that he lost his hearing, but I didn't realize how much of his life he was plagued with chronic stomach pain. He was basically never healthy as an adult.

- Interesting sections on the tuning of pianos and the perceived character of different keys. Also the different pianos available at the time.

- fascinating information on publishing and how impossible it was for a composer to ensure both quality of publication and get compensation for his compositions

Overall, I wouldn't say this is a book for a non-musician. There is a lot of technical language in the description of Beethoven's major works (Swafford details all of Beethoven's major works). Swafford does a good job of explaining himself and has a good appendix that gives a little music theory refresher and discussion of forms but I still think it would be confusing to anyone without at least a little music knowledge or at least a good grasp on listening to Beethoven's music. It would be fairly easy to skip the musical analysis (or skim) and read the rest as a biography. That would make it closer to 600 or 700 pages.

I'm glad a took the time to read this even though it was a big commitment.

Original Publication Date: 2015
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 1077 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased hard cover
Why I read this: interested in the topic

Edited: Mar 12, 2016, 3:50am Top

>155 japaul22: I love I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as well. Glad you enjoyed listening to it.

Edited: Mar 12, 2016, 12:44pm Top

#18 Harriet Hume by Rebecca West
This was an odd book. It is subtitled "A London Fantasy" and has a weird element of the supernatural in it and I really couldn't figure out the point. Or maybe a more accurate way to say it is I didn't like the way West got to the point.

Harriet Hume is a beautiful young musician living on her own in London. Arthur Condorex is a rising star in London politics. He loves Harriet's beauty and quirky ways until Harriet takes things too far and reveals that she can read minds and knows what Condorex is thinking. They meet each other in 4 or 5 different instances over a matter of about a decade. Each time the power gradually shifts from Condorex to Harriet. Condorex is a jerk - demeaning Harriet and full of himself so it's good to see him get what's coming to him, but I never really saw Harriet come into her own the way I think I was intended to.

In the end, the fantasy element was just too odd for me to connect to this book. I'm left thinking that the wonderful Return of the Soldier is where I should have stopped in reading Rebecca West's books. I've also read her The Thinking Reed which I found pretentious.

Original Publication Date: 1929
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 288 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased Virago edition
Why I read this: 1001 books list, virago on the shelf

Mar 13, 2016, 9:16pm Top

Thoroughly enjoyed your review of Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph I envy you with all your first hand knowledge of that wonderful music.

Mar 14, 2016, 11:19am Top

158> I felt much the same way about Harriet Hume as you did. I really grew to dislike Condorex by the end of the book.

Mar 14, 2016, 5:47pm Top

Also enjoyed your Beethoven review. I doubt it's something I'll read, but enjoyed your snippets from his life.

Mar 15, 2016, 7:57pm Top

>159 baswood:, >161 AlisonY: glad to hear people read that long review!

>160 janeajones: I thought at first that Condorex and Harriet were evenly likable, but by the middle that shifted for me and by the end I really detested Condorex. That's ok - I don't need to like every character in a book - but his character combined with the odd fantasy element left me cold.

Mar 15, 2016, 8:04pm Top

#19 Stoner by John Williams
I loved this book by American author John Williams. It's a book about the rather ordinary life of William Stoner. Stoner grew up on a poor farm in Missouri and his parents scrape together enough funds to send him to the University of Missouri. There he develops a love for learning and a Professor sets him on the road to teaching at the University. He has an unhappy marriage and a sometimes satisfying teaching career. Though his life is unremarkable, I found his character immensely interesting and satisfyingly written. The writing in this book is clean and straightforward, quiet but captivating. I loved it and will read more of Williams's works.

Original Publication Date: 1965
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 288 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased NYRB edition
Why I read this: good LT reviews

Mar 15, 2016, 8:33pm Top

#20 Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
I'm hesitating on how to write this review. It's an important topic. Coates is writing a letter to his teenage son about his experience living as a black man in America. It's a topic I legitimately do care about and want to understand more deeply. This book, though, just didn't work for me. To be honest, I didn't really understand the core of what he was getting at. The prose is beautiful and and the emotions are raw and honest, but the beautiful prose seemed to mask the message.

Original Publication Date: 2015
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 176 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle book
Why I read this: lots of buzz

Mar 16, 2016, 4:08am Top

I agree with your thoughts about Stoner. After I read it I also put his other books on my wishlist.

Mar 16, 2016, 12:52pm Top

We're all part of a big Stoner love affair, it seems!

Mar 18, 2016, 4:14pm Top

>163 japaul22: For all those who loved Stoner, The Professor's House is a great pairing.

Mar 22, 2016, 7:03pm Top

#21 The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
This was a very popular book around here a few years ago and I can see why. It tells the story of the men and women who lived through the Dust Bowl in 1930s. This era is one of the most shocking eras of human destruction of the world we live in. Settlers were encouraged to move to this land that had previously only been inhabited by nomadic Indian tribes, bison, and a few ranchers. The settlers moved in, tore up all the grasses, and planted wheat. For a few years there was a boom. Lots of rain and soaring grain prices made it seem like a great idea, but then the inevitable dry years came and grain prices bottomed out with the Great Depression. The combination of grasses that had held the soil in place for centuries was no longer there and the wheat fields that replaced them lay fallow. The relentless wind moved millions of tons of topsoil all around the country in horrific dust storms.

The book is written in narrative nonfiction style, following the lives of several families in Texas and the the Oklahoma panhandle. It was effective to explore the people who stayed through the decade of dust storms since most people are more familiar with the "Okies" who fled west. Overall, I wished that the book had focused a bit more on the science and ecology of the situation rather than the human interest stories, but it did make for engaging reading.

I was pretty horrified, but not surprised, by the the disaster that humans caused. Much of the area was replanted with grasses, a process that is still being worked on. The discouraging thing is that Egan mentions briefly that the main solution, though, has been to tap into the vast underground aquifer known as Lake Ogallala. It is the nation's largest source of fresh water and it's being drawn down 8 times faster than nature can refill it to irrigate these grasslands and the remaining farms. Seems like we could be creating an ecological disaster just as bad as the dust storms in the 30s if we aren't careful.

Original Publication Date: 2006
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 330 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library book sale, paperback
Why I read this: off the shelf

Mar 22, 2016, 10:34pm Top

>156 japaul22: Great review of the Beethoven biography. I can recommend Swafford's biography of Brahms as well, especially for insight into the younger Brahms of his teens and twenties.

Mar 25, 2016, 11:29am Top

>169 ChocolateMuse: Oh good, I was interested in the Brahms biography as well. Although, I'd be most tempted to read his Charles Ives biography next.

Mar 25, 2016, 11:40am Top

#22 The Parson's Widow by Marja-Liisa Vartio
This book by Finnish author Marja-Liisa Vartio was not easy to love, but in the end I think it's a solid contribution to Scandinavian literature. The novel explores a few people in a rural area of Finland and is probably set somewhere in the first half of the 20th century. The narrative centers around the parson's widow, Adele, and her maid, Alma. The other main characters are Adele's sisters' in law - Elsa and Teodolinda - and their husbands. Adele and Alma are both hard to like. Adele is whining and a bit mentally unhinged; Alma thinks everyone is out to get her and feels under-appreciated. The two women replay the same conversations over and over, fussing about the details, but actually revealing some important events. There is a lot going on under the surface of this quiet town: family inheritance squabbles, drug abuse, infidelity, and rape. It's all told in the quiet-on-the-surface manner that I've come to expect from Scandinavian literature.

I appreciated this book and may try reading it again some day, but I had a hard time connecting to it. The characters are intentionally hard people to like and the book dwells in dialogue so the reader only gets the characters' perspectives which makes it hard to escape their annoying habits and perceptions. I'm glad I read it though and think it deserves to be more widely read. There are interesting themes and it has a creative way of exploring the characters.

Original Publication Date: 1967
Author’s nationality: Finnish
Original language: Finnish
Length: 256 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: off the shelf, interest in scandinavian literature

Mar 26, 2016, 11:36am Top

Catching up from about a month back. Lots a great reviews i'm just catching including your take on Beethoven. That review is a gem for us less musically inclined (which is all of us here).

But wonderful review on Egan (does is take place in tx? For some reason I thought it did) and just lots of great reading. I appreciated your struggle to respond to Between the World and Me. I struggled with that too. Also enjoyed your comments on Vartio, Williams, the art of Fielding and West.

Mar 26, 2016, 12:26pm Top

I'm catching up after a Florida vacation. You've been reading several books that I have on my shelf or wishlist. I loved the Mapp and Lucia series. I also may reread it some day. I was sorry to read that you didn't like Harriet Hume, because I have it unread on my kindle. Your review of the biography of Beethoven was very informative.

Mar 26, 2016, 6:54pm Top

Interesting review of The Parson's widow which will be new to many of us.

Mar 26, 2016, 8:31pm Top

>172 dchaikin: Hi Dan - glad you read my lengthy Beethoven review! It was fun to write. The Worst Hard Time does take place partially in Texas, also Oklahoma, Colorado, Nebraska, etc., but mainly Texas and Oklahoma. Though I didn't listen to it this way, I'm pretty sure it's available as an audiobook - you might enjoy it that way.

>173 NanaCC: The good news is that several people who read Harriet Hume with the group read over in the "1001 books to read before you die" group liked the book quite a bit. It just wasn't for me.

>174 baswood: Thanks, Barry. I believe I got the idea to read it from arubabookwoman or DieF. I think it's worth checking out.

Mar 27, 2016, 12:54pm Top

#23 Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
Circling the Sun is historical fiction about Beryl Markham. Markham led a fascinating life which I read about first in her autobiography, West With the Night (highly recommended, by the way). Markham grew up with her father in Kenya. She led a free childhood, mixing with the environment and the natives that lived near/on her father's farm. She was the first certified woman horse trainer and had great success racing horses. She also was one of the first aviators, and was the first person to cross the Atlantic from west to east. Markham was a trail-blazer and as such her life was never easy, especially socially. McLain's book dwells often in her suppositions of what it must have been like for Markham to be an outsider, even in Kenya - a place full of outsiders.

What I liked about this book was that it was just what I was expecting - a fun, adventurous, romp through a great setting. McLain does a good job invoking the spirit of Africa most of the time. The book reads so easily, just propelling you along. It isn't particularly deep and I'm not sure it does perfect credit to Markham. I felt too much time was devoted to her various illicit romances and that took away from the spirit of Beryl Markham's achievements. I think, though, that I needed to keep reminding myself that this book covered Beryl's life from childhood through age 28. She was so young and I think it is possible that discovering romance (and making mistakes) was a large part of her life in this stage as it is for many people.

Karen Blixen (Isak Denison) and Denys Finch Hatton of Out of Africa fame are of course also central to the book as they were central to Beryl Markham's life during this period. I'll read Out of Africa next. All in all, I thought this was a fun book. Not high art, but entertainment, pure and simple.

Original Publication Date: 2015
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 359 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: borrowed
Why I read this: for fun

Mar 28, 2016, 7:50pm Top

#24 O Pioneers by Willa Cather

I loved this book that invokes the pioneer spirit of the American midwest. It has a fantastic lead woman, Alexandra Bergson. In the first section of the book, Alexandra's father dies and he leaves the family farm to his capable daughter instead of his sons. To their credit, they see the reason for this and the strength of Alexandra and follow her lead on how to run the farm with great success. As they succeed in farming the land, though, their personal lives begin to suffer. The book delves in to the family dynamics and also the community. Alexandra also has to decide if her farming success is enough for her to feel she's led a full life.

The best part of this book is how it describes the setting. The Nebraska plains come to life with Cather's beautiful writing. She also describes the various immigrant groups settling the plains with humor and insight. I loved it.

Original Publication Date: 1919
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 128 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle freebie
Why I read this: remembered I wanted to read it after reading The Worst Hard Time

Mar 28, 2016, 8:53pm Top

I really enjoyed O Pioneers, too! My dad says there's a really good audio edition, so I should re-read it via audio soon.

Mar 28, 2016, 10:51pm Top

>177 japaul22: nice review J.

Mar 29, 2016, 6:19am Top

>177 japaul22: sounds great - you've sold me on O Pioneers.

Mar 29, 2016, 8:39am Top

Willa Cather's writing is wonderful. Her descriptions are so vivid. I haven't read O Pioneers but I really enjoyed the ones I have read.

Apr 2, 2016, 6:48pm Top

Glad to have sparked some interest in O Pioneers!. I really enjoy Willa Cather and I put Song of the Lark on hold for an upcoming audio book selection.

Edited: Apr 2, 2016, 7:33pm Top

#25 The Giver by Lois Lowry, audiobook read by Ron Rifkin, 4h47m

*spoilers abound in this review*
I really loved this YA dystopian novel until the end. Jonas is part of a community that seems sort of perfect at first but is slowly revealed to be stifling in its insistence on "sameness". Jonas is chosen to receive and hold the memories of the community so that they are there to be drawn on in emergency by the ruling council, but so that the average citizen doesn't remember color, emotion, etc.

I liked all of the book quite a bit, but I thought the ending was very weak. It ended at what could have been the most interesting part. So I'd give this book 4 stars for 80% of the book but only 2 stars for the last 20%.

Original Publication Date: 1993
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 4h47m
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library audiobook
Why I read this: had heard good things

Apr 7, 2016, 9:36pm Top

>177 japaul22: I loved O Pioneers! as well. It's few books I've read where the emotional heart of the book is centered on place rather than people - not that I didn't love the characters and relationships in it as well.

>183 japaul22: I really liked this when I read it as a kid but can't remember much of the plot. Perhaps it deserves a re-read.

Apr 8, 2016, 7:02am Top

>184 janemarieprice: yes, I love a book where the setting and even the actual terrain is key. I was hoping I'd get the same experience in Out of Africa which I started right after O Pioneers, but no such luck.

I enjoy rereading childhood favorites. There's something comforting and exciting about it at the same time. Comforting because of the familiarity and exciting because of the feeling you had while discovering that book the first time.

Apr 8, 2016, 2:11pm Top

Willa Cather is a fantastic writer. We visited her childhood home in Red Cloud, Nebraska a few years ago. Well worth a side trip if you're anywhere nearby.

Apr 8, 2016, 2:44pm Top

>186 janeajones: I'd love to see it! I'll mentally file that away.

Apr 10, 2016, 8:08am Top

#26 Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
This was my first foray into Robertson Davies's writing and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I chose the Deptford Trilogy because it happened to be sitting on my shelf but if I'd done a little more research I might have tried a different trilogy first simply because I have an aversion to magic/magicians and a large part of this book is set in a magic show. Luckily, despite my irrational aversion to books involving magic, I still thought this was a fantastic book. And actually, the magic ends up being a rather small part of the plot overall.

This is the first person account of Dunstan Ramsay and his interactions with people in his small town in Canada as they grow up and grow out of their humble beginnings. Ramsay is a small-time intellectual, at least at first, and has an interest in saints, writing several books on the topic. He also has an interest in the Dempster family that he develops as a child. He ends up caring for the mentally challenged Mrs. Dempster and happening upon her son, Paul, who ran away as a child and joined a magic show.

Ramsay is central to all of these lives, at least in his own mind. As a first person account, of course, you never really know what everyone else thinks of him.

This is the first book in a trilogy and I'm definitely looking forward to reading the next two.

Original Publication Date: 1970
Author’s nationality: Canadian
Original language: English
Length: 259 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: used paperback
Why I read this: group read in the category challenge and off the shelf

Apr 10, 2016, 10:45am Top

>188 japaul22: I don't know anything about Robertson Davies, but your review has piqued my interest.

Apr 10, 2016, 11:17am Top

He is on my list to read .

Apr 10, 2016, 11:41am Top

Apr 14, 2016, 6:46pm Top

#27 Out of Africa by Isak Denison
Meh. This is a perfect example of a book that just wasn't what I wanted it to be. I knew that the book did not get personal as the movie does and that Denison's interesting love life was not part of this book, but I didn't expect that all of the author's personality would be stripped from this "memoir". Instead, this is Denison's musings on Africa. As such, I suppose it is interesting as a capsule of European views of Africa at the time, but I didn't like the tone that the Africans were described in (very belittling) or all the hunting and killing of the wildlife so that the Europeans could have their farms and livestock. It just put a bad taste in my mouth.

I will admit that some of the writing is beautiful and it is interesting from a historical perspective, but, overall, I was just bored and sort of annoyed. I would have just set this aside after the first chapter but I wanted to complete it since it's on the 1001 books to read before you die list.

Original Publication Date: 1937
Author’s nationality: Danish
Original language: English (she then rewrote it in Danish)
Length: 416 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle library book
Why I read this: 1001 books list

Apr 18, 2016, 4:02pm Top

#28 Where Monsters Dwell by Jorgen Brekke
Yes! I loved this mystery - only downside is that there is only one more in the series that has been translated. It was a great mix of time periods and countries (takes place in Norway and the US) and it sounded like it would be too much but ended up being great and tying together nicely. I'll definitely keep on with this series.

Original Publication Date: 2011 (2015 for the translation)
Author’s nationality: Norwegian
Original language: Norwegian
Length: 357 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: gift
Why I read this: off the shelf, needed a mystery

Apr 24, 2016, 9:13am Top

#29 The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard
This is the first in a series of five books referred to as the Cazalet Chronicles. It introduces the large Cazalet family - three brothers and their wives and children and a sister - and takes places right on the brink of WWII.

I'm excited to have started this series and can tell I'm going to love it. I love a family epic with a historical background. The characters are interesting and memorable; different enough to be interesting but similar enough to understand that they are all a family. The children are great and I can't wait to see how they grow up.

I will say that the writing and ideas aren't as complex as, say, Trollope's series or The Forsyte Saga. I thought that this writing could best be compared to really good TV (not an insult). It's very straightforward and nothing shocking happened, but I immediately cared about the characters and compulsively read the book. I imagine things get more complex in later books but hope that the writing stays as clear and elegant as it has begun.

I'll take a break before starting the next one, but I'm excited to continue on with the series over the next year or two.

Original Publication Date: 1990
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 554 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased set of paperbacks
Why I read this: intrigued by LT reviews (sibyx and I think pamalad from a few years ago)

Apr 25, 2016, 6:20pm Top

#30 The Story of America: Essays on Origins by Jill Lepore

Well, despite liking Jill Lepore's writing in the past, I didn't really like this collection of essays all that much. There were a few interesting essays - I liked the one on Inaugural addresses, Thomas Paine, Edgar Allen Poe, and Longfellow - and I do like generally how Lepore writes. However, one thing that turned me off in several different essays was how she made fun of fellow current writers for shoddy research. I found the tone of these moments sort of petty and unprofessional. I think she could have made her point in these sections without calling out fellow authors by name. It just left a bad taste in my mouth. Also, with quite a few of them, I didn't get the point she was going for until too late in the essay. This could easily have been my fault as a reader since I don't read a lot of essays or magazine articles, but several didn't grab me or left me feeling a little confused as to the intent. I'll keep reading Lepore's work, but this collection left me cold.

Original Publication Date: published as a collection in 2012
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 432 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library
Why I read this: usually like Lepore's writing

Apr 26, 2016, 10:00am Top

Interesting about calling out fellow authors. You have me thinking on that. It didn't bother me when I was listening. I really liked the Paine essay and the Poe too. I had kind of forgotten about the Longfellow essay - which I also found very interesting.

>192 japaul22: Bummer about Out of Africa. I had the movie in mind when I thought of wanting to read it. Sounds like the book is totally different.

Intrigued by your other reading too, including the two series you are starting.

Apr 26, 2016, 10:17am Top

>196 dchaikin: Bummer about Out of Africa. I had the movie in mind when I thought of wanting to read it. Sounds like the book is totally different.

Indeed, Out of Africa is very different from the book of the same name. They used a slew of source material to come up with the film. I read it a few years before they made the movie and absolutely loved it. When the film was announced I was baffled at how they could turn it into any sort of coherent narrative. My favourite chapter was "The Giraffes Go to Hamburg."

Yeah, so if you expect it to be like the movie you're sure to be disappointed. But if you go in knowing it's not, you might like it. I did.

Apr 26, 2016, 10:54am Top

>195 japaul22: Sorry you didn't enjoy this Lepore book; I did.

Apr 26, 2016, 12:46pm Top

>196 dchaikin:, >197 Nickelini:, >199 japaul22:

Negative reviews always seem to spark more comments than positive, don't they? In the case of Out of Africa and The Story of America: Essays on Origins, I honestly felt guilty that I didn't like them more. Isn't that crazy? But I decided to just go ahead and honestly say they didn't work for me instead of equivocating. In the case of Jill Lepore, I will continue reading her work, just didn't really enjoy this collection. And I'd like to see the movie of Out of Africa sometime.

Apr 26, 2016, 1:55pm Top

>199 japaul22: I know what you mean by that guilty feeling (had it recently upon abandoning Grapes of Wrath). Try to walk away from it though -- Out of Africa has a frustrating lack of plot, or even cohesion, if I remember it correctly (it was a very long time ago that I read it). I've tried to read Isak Dinesen short stories lately and I find her to be a rather dry writer. I think OOA for me was just one of those right time and place books. I can see it completely failing for others.

Apr 26, 2016, 8:30pm Top

>200 Nickelini: yes, both lack of plot and lack of cohesion. You have to be ready for meandering musings to enjoy Out of Africa. I don't think I'll make the effort to read any of Dinesen's other writings. Now, Steinbeck, on the other hand, I've loved some of his books (and I remember you have too) but I really didn't like Grapes of Wrath. So I'll keep reading him, but give you total permission to not feel guilty about skipping G of W!

Apr 27, 2016, 12:04am Top

It's such an odd thing, getting disappointed in ourselves that we don't enjoy a book enough. And it's puzzling to me that we don't have more say in our own responses.

Apr 28, 2016, 9:06am Top

#31 Dreamless by Jorgen Brekke
This is the second in a new detective series by Norwegian author Jorgen Brekke. Like his first in the series, Brekke parallels a current mystery with a historical mystery that is connected. I love this idea and I think it works very well. In this one, the historical aspect involves a Norwegian folk ballad that promises to make the listener fall asleep soundly enough to dream.

While I love the parallel mysteries and will continue with this series as they are written and translated, I didn't love this one as much as the first. The author is still finding his way with characterization, and the personal story of the main detective, Odd Singsaker, is a bit weak still. Also, I hate books where a dog dies and this one had that. That's just a personal issue that always turns me off.

Anyway, still looking forward to continuing the series as it becomes available.

Original Publication Date: 2012, 2015 translation
Author’s nationality: Norwegian
Original language: Norwegian
Length: 311 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library
Why I read this: for fun

Apr 28, 2016, 10:58am Top

Jennifer, you've had a great year of reading so far! Thanks for all of the recommendations - I have definitely added to my pile!

Fates and Furies has gotten so much attention these last few months and I've been hesitant to try it. Your review just gave me permission to pick up other books that I've been wanting to get to without feeling too much guilt about passing up F&F!

Apr 30, 2016, 12:37pm Top

>204 neverlistless: Thanks! I'm still unsure about Fates and Furies. I remember parts of it as being very well done, but overall I wouldn't say it is necessary reading. (I had to look up who you were with the name change!)

Apr 30, 2016, 12:39pm Top

Here is an interesting interview with my boss about the White House Correspondents' Dinner that I'll be playing at tonight. It's a good look at one aspect of my unique job if you're interested.


Apr 30, 2016, 1:50pm Top

>206 japaul22: What do you play? Quite a sensation, I guess, to be able to join the Correspondents' Dinner. Last time Obama, unfortunately.

May 1, 2016, 11:25am Top

That's so cool! My daughter was playing Obama's jokes while I read your message. Funny timing.

May 1, 2016, 8:00pm Top

>207 Simone2: I play french horn. The job itself is a lot like other ones we do, but there are always a lot of famous people and fancy dresses to see!

>208 Nickelini: Yes, odd timing! I actually haven't seen much of the coverage from the speeches yet and we leave before they start so I didn't hear them there.

May 1, 2016, 8:07pm Top

My mom and sister just got back from a 2 week trip to Paris. Their hotel was close to an English language bookstore named Shakespeare and Co and they brought me back several books. I'm impressed with their selections - two of the small Collector's Library books that I collect (and didn't have!) Tales of the Jazz Age by Fitzgerald and The Merchant of Venice, a clothbound Penguin Classics edition of The Travels by Marco Polo, and a paperback of the Seven Ages of Paris that looks very interesting.

May 2, 2016, 5:17pm Top

#32 Pioneer Girl: the Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Pioneer Girl is the previously unpublished autobiography that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote first, before her famous Little House on the Prairie series. It was intended for an adult audience. She wrote it in her 60s and her adult daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who was an established writer edited in for her and sent it around to publishers. The book was not accepted by any publishers, though it was suggested that the childhood material was strong and she might turn it into a children's book. The rejected manuscript became the source material for Wilder to create her seven book children's series. This book is heavily annotated with information about the people she mentions, additional information about prairie life, corrections to dates or chronology that she misremembered, and lots of comparisons to the series she created - pointing out where she fictionalized and where she stuck to hard facts.

I loved the Little House on the Prairie books as a child and read them multiple times so I knew this book would be right up my alley. It's so interesting to see how Wilder grew as a writer. This book is choppy; the sentences are short and there are no transitions between scenes. However, the stories are still fascinating and the characterization fairly strong, especially of Laura herself. Her personality shines through her writing even though you can sense that she's trying to make it less a memoir about herself and more a retelling of her family's experience in blazing a trail west and their pioneer spirit. Also already present is her palpable love of the land. Some of her setting descriptions are beautiful and capture the setting perfectly.

I absolutely loved reading this and highly recommend it to Laura Ingalls Wilder fans.

Original Publication Date: 2011
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 427 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: gift
Why I read this: interested in the topic

May 5, 2016, 9:52am Top

#33 The Manticore by Robertson Davies

This is the second book in Davies's Deptford Trilogy. Again, there is a first person narrator, this time David Staunton, the son of Boy Staunton, a prominent character in the first book. While I still liked the writing and the story, I didn't like this narrator as much as I liked Dunstan Ramsey's voice in Fifth Business. David is attending therapy in Switzerland to come to terms with his family life, his father's death, and his drinking. He sees a Jungian therapist and there's a bit too much dream interpretation and personality analysis for my taste. Plus David is not an easy person to like which can be an issue in a first person narration. Overall, though, it was a good and well-written book and I'll continue by reading the next book in the series in the next month or so. I'm curious to see if it is another first person narration and who the narrator will be.

Original Publication Date: 1972
Author’s nationality: Canadian
Original language: English
Length: 253 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased used
Why I read this: continue the series

May 11, 2016, 8:56pm Top

#34 Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas
I very much enjoyed this highly readable biography of Louisa Adams. Louisa Adams was the wife of John Quincy Adams. The two met in London where Louisa's American father had settled and started a family with a British woman. John Quincy Adams was moving around to various European diplomatic positions. His parents were not excited about the match, thinking Louisa not "american" enough with her British mother and upbringing. Also, Louisa's life was viewed as too easy to prepare her for the realities of being an American wife and mother with expectations of hard work and running the family. John and Louisa got married anyway and began married life at the Prussian Court. John Quincy Adams' work would also take them to Russia during the Napoleonic wars and Louisa had a dramatic lone journey from St. Petersburg to Paris during Napoleon's escape from exile and return to France (this was my favorite part of the book). Later, Louisa would navigate Washington society and help pave her husband's way to the White House.

Throughout the book, Louisa is portrayed by herself and others as weak and ill and needing to be taken care of, but time after time when push comes to shove she rises to the occasion and handles danger and tragedy with skill and grace. Louisa didn't have a remarkable life on her own, she mainly followed in her husband's footsteps, but the book is interesting nonetheless for its portrayal of this woman's varied life experience, an intimate look at a marriage, and for its discovery of historical events through Louisa's life experience. And Louisa was certainly an intelligent accomplished woman who did a lot of writing on her own (journals, letters, and memoirs).

Thomas succeeds in keeping the focus unvaryingly on Louisa Adams, no small feat with a husband who was President and in-laws like John and Abigail Adams. I was really impressed that the book was so interesting and kept my attention despite the fact that Louisa wasn't a radical thinker or trailblazer.

I think this is a biography that both people who have an interest in early American history and people who enjoy biographies about women would enjoy. I would give this 5 stars for readability and 4 for content, so 4.5 it is!

Original Publication Date: 2016
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 459 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased hardcover on sale
Why I read this: grabbed my eye

May 12, 2016, 9:33am Top

#35 Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon, audiobook read by Irin Carmon, 5h9m

I loved this unapologetically adulatory audiobook about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, my favorite Supreme Court justice. Ginsburg has arguably done more than anyone to advance women's rights in the US and her story is admirable and inspiring.

This book works very well in audio format - I really enjoyed listening to it.

Original Publication Date: 2015
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 5h9m
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: audiobook from library
Why I read this: happened upon it at the library

May 14, 2016, 3:05pm Top

#36 The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West
This was just as good as I had hoped. Set in the era between the death of Queen Victoria and the start of WWI, The Edwardians is about Sebastian, a 19 year old English Duke and heir of Chevron, a large estate. Sebastian loves Chevron, his home, and many of the traditions that go along with it, but at the same time he's hesitant to settle down and follow all the rules and conventions of his upper class set. He bristles at the reality that misbehavior can go on, as long as it isn't admitted or seen. He discovers himself through five different lovers: and older society woman, a middle class bourgeois woman, a servant's daughter, a bohemian free-spirit, and the traditional society boring woman. In the end it is more the influence of an older male friend who helps him choose his path. All of his struggles are contrasted with his sister Viola, who bucks tradition and strikes out on her own without all the personal drama.

I'd say this book lacks a little in the way of development, but it captures the struggles of the youthful upper class in this era very well and I really enjoyed reading it and I think it deserves to be more widely read.

Original Publication Date: 1930
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 259 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: for fun

May 14, 2016, 5:34pm Top

>215 japaul22: I loved The Edwardians too, and had a bit of a literary crush on Sebastian.

May 20, 2016, 7:49pm Top

>216 Nickelini: Yes! Sebastian has that appealing mix of naivete and honesty.

May 20, 2016, 8:03pm Top

#37 Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
I liked this debut novel by Australian author Hannah Kent. The book is historical fiction about the last person executed in Iceland in the 1800s. Her name was Agnes Magnusdottir. She was abandoned by her mother early in her childhood and grew up working on various farms in the northern settlements of Iceland. As an adult she lands at the farm of Natan Ketilsson, a hard man who emotionally abuses Agnes and another servant, Sigga, living on the farm. Agnes, Sigga, and Frederik, a nearby farmer who wants to marry Sigga, conspire to murder Natan and a friend of his who happens to be staying in the croft and then burn the home down. Or so the official story goes. When Agnes is placed with the family of a low-level district official while awaiting her execution, her version of events comes out. Agnes is allowed to choose a priest to aid her in preparing for death. She tells the priest much of her story and slowly gains the trust of the family she is living with, sharing the rest of the story with them.

There are many things I really liked about this book. The story is compelling and the writing was good. I thought it captured the Icelandic atmosphere well and had a lot of interesting historical details about the way of life in Iceland in the 1800s. The narration switches between first person from Agnes's point of view and third person, which worked well. There were a few things that could have been better, though. I wish the author had come up with a more clever way of revealing Agnes's life story than having her just tell it to the priest and family. I also couldn't help comparing this to the brilliant Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood and wishing that Hannah Kent had worked some ambiguity into the story. But, that being said, I still very much enjoyed this debut novel and would like to read more by Hannah Kent.

Original Publication Date: 2014
Author’s nationality: Australian
Original language: English
Length: 352 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle book
Why I read this: for fun

Edited: May 28, 2016, 8:31pm Top

#38 The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope
Ahhhh. I love Trollope. Every time I start one of his books I wonder why I waited so long. This is the fifth in the Palliser series and spends a lot of time with my favorite, Lady Glencora Palliser (now Duchess) and Plantegenet Palliser (Duke of Omnium). The Duke of Omnium is made Prime Minister and the political part of the book revolves around this appointment and what he and Glencora can make of it.

The other story going on is of Emily Wharton, a young, wealthy woman who marries the man of her choice against her family's wishes. She chooses Ferdinand Lopez over the childhood friend who has been courting her his whole life, Arthur Fletcher. This choice leads to a disastrous and unhappy marriage. Emily's father has a good head on his shoulder and refuses to hand over his daughter's fortune to Lopez, who would certainly have lost it to gambling on the stock market. After Emily's husband dies, she is faced with another choice, whether to embrace happiness with Arthur who is still waiting patiently for her, or to wallow in her bad choices and punish herself for life.

I loved this installment in the series, though the story surrounding Emily's second chance at marriage dragged on a bit too long for my taste. I love Lady Glencora, though, so I was happy to read a book that she featured in so strongly. As always in Trollope, characters from previous novels appear - I was thrilled with Lady Eustace's appearance and with the slight reference to Frank and Mary Gresham who I loved in Doctor Thorne.

Original Publication Date: 1876
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 704 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased oxford classics seriens
Why I read this: reading the series

May 29, 2016, 3:29pm Top

#39 The Vet's Daughter by Barbara Comyns

This is an odd little book that I loved. It's about Alice, the 17 year old daughter of a mean, abusive, drunk veterinarian. At the beginning of the book her mother is dying. There are odd animals all over the house, adding to the dark and weird vibe in the house. After her death her father takes up with a woman of loose morals and questionable merit. She moves into the house, relegating Alice to an even lower and more precarious position in her father's house. Fortunately (???), Alice meets a veterinary assistant working with her father, who takes and interest in her and seems to want to marry her. He arranges a way for her to get out of the house by going to be a companion for his solitary and deranged mother.

On top of all of this, Alice seems to have some special powers to make herself levitate. At first, of course, the reader will assume this is just a dream she is having, but later in the book it becomes clear that this is actually happening. This power has major consequences for Alice and those around her.

I thought this book was extremely clever and well written. I'd like to read more of Comyns's work if it's all as odd and interesting as this was.

Original Publication Date: 1959
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 133 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased nyrb edition
Why I read this: for fun

May 29, 2016, 4:34pm Top

The Vet's daughter sounds a bit odd. I was surprised to see it dated from 1959

May 29, 2016, 8:12pm Top

>It was strange, because I was sort of expecting it to go the way of Barbara Pym (who I love) and be about ordinary people finding their way in life. Instead it was much more off-beat and unexpected. I really liked it.

May 30, 2016, 11:46am Top

May 30, 2016, 12:12pm Top

>223 rebeccanyc: I'm sure the book was on my radar after your review and others around here. I also love to buy NYRB books which is the edition of this I have.

May 30, 2016, 1:19pm Top

>220 japaul22: I haven't read anything by Barbara Comyns, but have several of her books in my wishlist. I could borrow The Vet's Daughter from my daughter, and you've pushed me in that direction.

May 30, 2016, 1:57pm Top

>225 NanaCC: It's short - only took me a day and a half to read it. (nudge, nudge)

Edited: Dec 26, 2016, 8:07pm Top

#40 Lady Susan by Jane Austen
I'm hoping to see the new movie, Love and Friendship, based on Austen's juvenile work, Lady Susan, so I thought I'd give it a reread. It's an epistolary novel and it's not particularly complete, ending sort of abruptly, but still great fun. Lady Susan is much more scheming and loose with her morals than the typical Austen character and it's fun to see this side of Austen.

Even in this early work, you can see the beginnings of Austen's genius. I imagine the movie could be lots of fun.

Original Publication Date: 1794
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 110 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased Collector's Library edition
Why I read this: to reacquaint before seeing the movie

May 30, 2016, 5:22pm Top

>224 japaul22: I love NYRB too. I'm on their mailing list too.

May 30, 2016, 5:41pm Top

>227 japaul22: I just saw a preview for that, and it did look very fun.

Jun 4, 2016, 12:48pm Top

#41 Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
I'm too busy to want to write reviews right now, but I loved this book. Robinson's prose is always beautiful but also meaningful. This is a story of sisters and family, drifting apart and coming together. Fantastic.

Original Publication Date: 1980
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 219 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased at library sale
Why I read this: last work of fiction that I hadn't read by Robinson

Jun 4, 2016, 1:17pm Top

>230 japaul22: What excellent authors to find at a library sale. Buying them was a good thing to do.

Jun 4, 2016, 5:06pm Top

>230 japaul22: Sounds like a good book haul! I'll be curious to see how you find The Way to Paradise. I read it last year and found it a mixed bag (loved Llosa's writing style though).

I also really liked Housekeeping. I was told many times Gilead was the better novel, but after reading that Housekeeping was still my favorite.

Jun 4, 2016, 8:16pm Top

>233 mabith: I'm not sure which I'd pick between Gilead and Housekeeping. They were both fantastic. I think that because I read Gilead first it made a bigger impression on me since I'd never read writing like Robinson's. But I think I preferred the story in Housekeeping and the characters.

Jun 5, 2016, 8:56am Top

I too really enjoyed The Edwardians and Burial Rites. Intriguing review of The Vet's Daughter. Must get to that one.

Jun 5, 2016, 10:45am Top

>234 japaul22: yes, Gilead was just such a quiet book, which I can enjoy and appreciate but I'm not sure I'll ever LOVE it. Definitely one to re-read though, and I really loved her writing in both.

Edited: Jun 7, 2016, 11:39am Top

#42 The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing
An exciting and interesting plot, vividly described setting, and a depth of understanding about severe culture clash without a hint of know-it-all attitude - what more could I want?

I loved this book. Lessing has written a novel that reads like a page turner but has the depth of a slow, studied book. The story of Mary Turner is revealed after we read of her murder on the first page of the book. Her childhood, her marriage, her experience of isolated farm life, and her complete ignorance of the native people of Southern Rhodesia, all combine to lead to her death in a complex and compelling way.

This book manages to be a look at marriage, a look at a white woman's available paths in Rhodesia, and a study of the interactions of the various races and socio-economic levels in Rhodesia all at the same time. And it remains readable and memorable while doing it.

I particularly loved that Lessing doesn't pretend to know more about the native Africans in her book than she actually does. Their emotions and lives are not at all described from their own point of view, only through the lens of the white people around them and a bit through their actions. I appreciated that she didn't try to enlighten those reading her book on "what Africans are like" - something that drove me crazy and seemed so demeaning to African culture in a book I read recently, Out of Africa.

I highly recommend this.

Original Publication Date: 1950
Author’s nationality: British raised in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)
Original language: English
Length: 238 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased
Why I read this: caught my eye, 1001 books

Jun 6, 2016, 2:55pm Top

>237 japaul22: you totally sell the Lessing book - sounds like a great read.

Jun 7, 2016, 8:17pm Top

#43 Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser, audio book read by Donata Peters

Having loved several of Antonia Fraser's other biographies, I snapped up this audiobook when I saw it available at my library. It did not disappoint. I'm finding it hard to review, though. Even after 20 hours and 31 minutes of listening, I don't feel like I really know who Marie Antoinette was. I think because she has been so popularized and dramatized and caricatured, it's hard to look past all of that. This book covers everything, though, and dispels many of the myths. I now think of her first as a mother and then about her Austrian family and connections. This book is a complete history and goes into great detail about the politics of the time and the factors leading up to her trial and execution. I thought the earlier parts about her childhood, early marriage, and early motherhood were the best parts. I think the focus got a little lost from specifically Marie Antoinette's life after the royal family tried to escape and then was taken prisoner. I think this book does show, though, that Marie Antoinette was not the vapid party girl that popular media sometimes portrays her as.

As with all of Antonia Fraser's work, recommended.

Original Publication Date: 2006
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 20h31m
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: audiobook, library
Why I read this: for fun

Jun 10, 2016, 5:46pm Top

Glad you enjoyed The Grass is Singing. It was Lessing's first novel and some people think it her best. I don't agree with that, but it is a very good first novel. Very readable.

Jun 12, 2016, 7:52pm Top

#44 Engineering Eden by Jordan Fisher Smith
This book has some promise in that it is about an interesting topic, but I'm abandoning it after reading 149 of its 336 pages.

It's about the differing opinions about how much human intervention is useful/needed/beneficial when running our National Parks. I'm interested in this topic and think the book has something useful to say, but it feels completely unorganized. The problem in reviewing this is that it's an uncorrected proof that I got from the Early Reviewers program, and I'm hoping that some of this may be fixed in the final draft. There are LOTS of typos, incorrect word choices, etc, many more than I've seen in any other uncorrected proof. But the bigger issue is that I think it still needs a good editor to organize the book. There are way too many scientists, ecologists, and lawyers introduced without advancing the discussion. Half way through the book there are still new people being introduced without any clear position being framed. And ostensibly a trial about a bear attack at Yellowstone is the catalyst for the discussion over our role in running the National Parks, but after a brief introduction to the case, it has been completely lost sight of.

I'm just bored and not willing to put more time into a book that is so convoluted.

Original Publication Date: 2016
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 336 pages
Rating: 2 stars (because the topic has redeeming qualities despite the writing)
Format/Where I acquired the book: ER
Why I read this:

Jun 15, 2016, 1:36pm Top

#45 A Friend from England by Anita Brookner
This is the second book I've read by Anita Brookner and I've loved them both. Brookner is fantastic at writing a character's inner life. This book is about Rachel, a single, independent, working, woman who takes up with the Livingstone family. Oscar and Dorrie are an older couple and their grown daughter, Heather, is sort of matched up with Rachel as a friend, though neither seems to care about the other much at all. When Heather gets married, Rachel becomes more and more critical of Heather's choices and adamant about Heather's duties as a daughter. Rachel's criticisms of Heather reveal more and more about her own personality and desires as this first person narrative unfolds.

I really loved the writing, the subtlety, and the insight present in this novel. I will pick up any Brookner novel I see from now on.

Original Publication Date: 1987
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 203 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback/library sale
Why I read this: off the shelf, caught my eye

Jun 16, 2016, 4:49am Top

>242 japaul22: sounds terrific. I need to read some more by Anita Brookner as well - loved Hotel du Lac.

Jun 16, 2016, 8:56am Top

>243 AlisonY: I love her introspective style.

Jun 17, 2016, 8:11am Top

#46 The Known World by Edward P. Jones

The Known World is a complex look at slavery, set in a fictional county in Virginia in the 1830s. Jones's book goes deeper than the typical Southern white wealthy family owning hundreds of black slaves longing for freedom. In fact, several of the main characters here are free blacks who own slaves. Throughout the book, there is gray area on race - expectations of character, behavior, and wealth are turned on its head. There were lots of times, especially as I was settling into the characters, that I couldn't remember if the characters were black or white without thinking about it - not necessarily typical for a book set in this time period and location, where race meant everything. In addition to the moral complexities, Jones plays with time in a way I really enjoyed. The novel is basically linear, except that he'll insert quick glimpses into a character's future and even the future of his/her descendants.

So, what is the book about? Henry Townsend is a former slave whose father worked to free himself, his wife, and then his son from the wealthiest man in Manchester County, William Robbins. Robbins sees some promise in Henry and mentors him. Robbins has a complex relationship with his slaves, taking a mistress from his slaves and freeing her and their mixed race (considered black at the time) children. Henry marries Caldonia, another free black woman, who studied with the same black (though she could pass for white) teacher, Fern Elston. Henry dies young after amassing a fairly large farm and large number of slaves, to his parents' dismay. Caldonia is left to run the farm with Henry's first slave and overseer, Moses. There are many other stories being explored simultaneously and they all weave together to create a rich texture and complex novel.

I thought this book was fantastic and important both for the craft of the writing and the topic. I can see it becoming part of the southern American canon with Toni Morrison and Faulkner.

Original Publication Date: 2003
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 388 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback/library sale
Why I read this: off the shelf

Jun 17, 2016, 12:48pm Top

>245 japaul22: I've had The Known World on my shelf for years. I'm not sure why I have yet to pick it up. Thank you for the reminder, and the push with your review.

Jun 19, 2016, 1:02am Top

>245 japaul22: Wonderful review of a wonderful book.

Jun 20, 2016, 4:46pm Top

#47 Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf
Jacob's Room is Virginia Woolf's third novel and her first experimental novel. I didn't connect to it the same way I did to her later novels, but in the end I find myself intrigued by it.

Woolf chooses Jacob as her central character, a young man who you expect from the beginning will be the perfect age to die in WWI. Instead of letting the reader into his growth from childhood to young adulthood, Woolf holds the reader at arms length in favor of showing brief exterior experiences. Characters flit in and out of the book and Jacob goes through a string of women love interests. He starts the book as a young child, goes to school, and travels, but everything is shown in brief vignettes. There isn't much interior development of Jacob's feelings.

But Woolf's beautiful writing is expressive enough to carry the book. I love how she can capture the most mundane moment and make it seem unique. This book in particular is very visual. It does however, lack the structure that her later books have that keep things moving forward.

This is definitely a book to ponder and reread. Despite not having a satisfying connection to it the whole time I was reading it, I'm interested enough to count it as an enjoyable reading experience.

Original Publication Date: 1922
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 247 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, purchased
Why I read this: 1001 books, Virginia Woolf project

Jun 20, 2016, 5:01pm Top

Glad to hear your experience was favorable; I'm planning on reading that one in a few mos! xD

Jun 20, 2016, 7:26pm Top

>249 .Monkey.: I'd consider reading the introduction if your copy comes with one. It isn't a book that really has spoilers, it's more about the reading experience than plot. I usually skip introductions or read them at the end but when I read the intro after finishing the book, I sort of wished I'd read it first this time. I think I would have noticed more if I knew what Woolf was trying to do.

Jun 20, 2016, 7:29pm Top

>245 japaul22:

Lovely review.

Jun 21, 2016, 2:15am Top

Hm, interesting. I'm not sure if it does but I will keep that in mind. :)

Jun 22, 2016, 9:07pm Top

#48 Words on the Move by John McWhorter

Columbia University English professor and linguist John McWhorter has written an amusing and educational book about the English language. He explores how it has changed and is changing to bring comfort to those of us (like me) who tend to get bent out of shape about bad speaking or writing habits. The book is both entertaining and intellectual. It really made me think and had a philosophical tone in some sections. At the same time, it was funny. McWhorter has written sixteen books and I'll definitely be willing to pick any of them up when I come across them.

Recommended for English language nerds.

This was an Early Reviewers book.

Original Publication Date: 2016
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 244 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, Early Reviewers program
Why I read this: off the shelf, ER book

Jun 23, 2016, 10:41am Top

Glad to hear good things about another McWhorter book! I read his Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue and found it really well done and interesting. Language is fascinating in general, but I don't think the casual popular non-fiction writer can do it justice.

Jun 23, 2016, 11:47am Top

He's definitely an expert! I thought the mix of humor and knowledge was great.

Jun 27, 2016, 3:15pm Top

#49 Marking Time by Elizabeth Jane Howard
This is the second book in the Cazalet Chronicles and I enjoyed it even more than the first. The series is getting more interesting as the characters grow up and develop. The series focuses on one extended family, the Cazalets, and their life on the homefront during WWII. I liked how this one used the three teenage girls, Louise, Polly, and Clary to dig in to the emotions of living through WWII on the homefront. I also liked that Howard alternates their limited knowledge with omniscient sections about the entire family.

The writing is less intense than other war books because of the homefront perspective (there are no fighting scenes) and because a lot is told from the perspective of children. I like it though. I'm definitely hooked.

Original Publication Date: 1991
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 591 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, purchased
Why I read this: fun

Edited: Jun 29, 2016, 9:08pm Top

#50 The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat
This is a fabulous book about the 1937 Parsley Massacre on the border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. It happened close to the beginning of Trujillo's reign and was a massacre of Haitians living and working in the Dominican Republic. It's called the Parsley Massacre because parsley is a word that is pronounced differently between the Spanish and the Kreyol languages and was used to tell who belonged to what country.

That is the historical background, but what makes this book great is the fantastic characters and the voice of Amabelle, the Haitian worker who escapes the massacre with her body but leaves her happiness behind. I thought the whole book was done so well - the writing, the characters, the setting, the pace - everything. I was afraid that a book with such a dark topic would be overwhelmingly sad to read, but Danticat has a way of making the sadness not seem dreary. I'll definitely read more of her books.

Original Publication Date: 1998
Author’s nationality: Haitian-American
Original language: English
Length: 321 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, purchased at library sale
Why I read this: off the shelf

Jun 29, 2016, 9:15pm Top

You're doing a lot of fascinating reading. Noting several, including The farming of bones. I really liked your review of Jacob's Room. And I'm really happy you enjoyed The Known World. If you can, check out an interview of Edward P. Jones (i was thinking written, not video, but either should work), he's quite a character.

Jun 30, 2016, 9:08am Top

I should read The Farming of Bones because I read Massacre River which was also about the Parley Massacre.

Jun 30, 2016, 9:42am Top

>260 rebeccanyc: Massacre River looks good. I didn't know anything about the Parsley Massacre and did a little google searching to help me with Danticat's book. I think I remember hearing of Danticat from you, Rebecca. Are there other books of hers that you recommend?

Jun 30, 2016, 9:49am Top

>261 japaul22: I never read any Canticat despite the fact that I own three books by her. Possibly you heard me mention her on the first quarter Reading Globally theme read thread because that was on authors from the Caribbean.

Jun 30, 2016, 4:44pm Top

>262 rebeccanyc: Yes, the Reading Globally connection might have me confused. I do seem to remember some favorable Club Read reviews of Danticat's work, though.

Jun 30, 2016, 7:24pm Top

I didn't like The Farming of Bones at all, but I am still glad I read it.

Jun 30, 2016, 8:26pm Top

>264 Nickelini: Interesting! Do you remember what you didn't like about it?

Jul 1, 2016, 9:29am Top

Glad to hear about The Farming of Bones. I really liked the two books I've read by Danticat, Breath, Eyes, Memory and Brother, I'm Dying.

Jul 1, 2016, 12:01pm Top

>265 japaul22: Do you remember what you didn't like about it?

It was about 10 years ago so I don't remember details. Just a vague memory that it was a bit of a slog and I had to make myself pick it up. I think I liked the plot and story but probably didn't like the writing.

Jul 1, 2016, 7:56pm Top

>266 mabith: Ah, you must be the one whose reviews I'm remembering!

>267 Nickelini: Well, it will just be a book we disagree on! I loved the writing.

Jul 2, 2016, 12:28am Top

>268 japaul22: Well, yes, maybe, or perhaps I don't remember much except I didn't like it. But important history! So that's good.

This topic was continued by Jennifer's (japaul22) 2016 Reading, Part 2.

Group: Club Read 2016

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