Vivienne's reading in 2017
This topic was continued by Vivienne's reading in 2017 - Part 2.
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This is my fifth year at Club Read. And another year where I promise to reduce the TBR mountain.
As usual, I'm also doing the Category Challenge and can be found at Vivienne's Year of the Cat
1. Family Album by Penelope Lively
2. The terracotta dog by Andrea Camilleri
3. Quite honestly by John Mortimer
4. The art detective: fakes, frauds, and finds and the search for lost treasures by Philip Mould
5. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
6. My name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
7. Escape from the land of snows: The young Dalai Lama's harrowing flight to freedom and the making of a spiritual hero by Stephan Talty
8. The naming of the dead by Ian Rankin
9. The locked room by Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö
10. Ruling Passion by Reginald Hill
11. Shake hands forever by Ruth Rendell
12. Why we make mistakes by Joseph T. Hallinan
13. The journal of Hildegard of Bingen by Barbara Lachman
14. People of the book by Geraldine Brooks
15. An ordinary decent criminal by Michael Van Rooy
16. The curious case of the copper corpse by C. Alan Bradley
17. Dead ground in between by Maureen Jennings
18: Harry Potter and the sorceror's stone by J.K. Rowling
19. Unless by Carol Shields
20. A man called Ove by Fredrick Backman
21. Michelle Obama: an American story by David Colbert
22. The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison
23. Skeleton Hill by Peter Lovesey
24. Innocent heroes: stories of animals in the First World War by Sigmund Brouwer
25. Sam Sorts by Marthe Jocelyn
26. The white cat and the monk: a retelling of the poem "Pangur Bán" by Jo Ellen Bogart, Illustrated by Sydney Smith
27. Being Mortal: ageing, illness, medicine, and what matters in the end by Atul Gawande
28. Mortal Coils by Aldous Huxley
29. Three weeks with my brother by Nicholas Sparks, Micah Sparks
30. For your eyes only: Ian Fleming and James Bond by Ben Macintyre
31. The Pigeon Tunnel: stories from my life by John le Carré
32. Smiley's People by John le Carré
33. The pursuit of love by Nancy Mitford
34. On Canaan's side by Sebastian Barry
35. The lark in the clear air by Dennis T. Patrick Sears
36. The Dinner by Herman Koch
37. Roast Beef, Medium: the business adventures of Emma Chesney by Edna Ferber
38. End of Watch by Stephen King
39. Birds without wings by Louis de Bernières
40. Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
41. A Question of Blood by Ian Rankin
42. An Irish Country Girl by Patrick Taylor
43. The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny
44. Miss Peregrine's home for peculiar children by Ransom Riggs
45. Jane Austen by Carol Shields
46. Benny the biplane by Fritz Carmichael
47. Calibre by Ken Bruen
48. Classic John Buchan Stories by John Buchan
49. Last bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter
>3 The_Hibernator: Thanks Rachel. It was my aim this year too but I failed miserably and now I'm at the point where I'm moving books around trying to make room for them in other parts of the house.
Vivienne, I have starred your thread to follow your reading progress in 2017. I will be along with you in trying to reduce the TBR mountain as I have presently about 20 years reading unread on the shelves!
Good luck to both of us, Paul. It is so easy to make the collecting of books as much of a hobby as reading them. My husband and I have moved around a lot and each time we move, the collection is weeded. The next problem is what to do with the book after it's read. I always mean to pass it on to someone else but often I keep them, planning a re-read sometime, only to find that in all likelihood I will never open them again.
I've starred your thread Vivienne, and look forward to the book bullets.
Love the photo at the top Vivienne. Happy reading in 2017, I shall enjoy following your progress.
I won't be on LT much for a little while. A couple of days ago I slipped on ice, bounced my head on concrete, and suffered a concussion. I've been advised not to use my computer, iPad, phone or tv for a while, and no housework! This is just a sneaking visit. The good news is that I'm allowed to read!
>10 VivienneR: Oh, Vivienne, that's awful. Do what you are told, and mend quickly.
Ordered to ignore the housework and read instead. It's unfortunate that you had to suffer an injury to reach that state of affairs! Here's hoping for a speedy recovery and many books enjoyed.
Ouch. I'm sorry about your injury, but your enforced regime sounds wonderful. Enjoy it, and get better soon.
>10 VivienneR: Oh no! I wish you a speedy recovery re: computer use, but perhaps an extended hiatus from housework. When you've recovered, I hope to read quick reviews of all the books you read while away from LT.
I generally enjoy reading Penelope Lively but absolutely hated Family Album, started and abandoned it twice, couldn't make head or tail of it, so I will be very interested to read your review of it. Hope you enjoy it more than I did.
Wishing you a speedy recovery Vivienne. Phew, you can read at least...
I'm looking forward to following your reading in 2017, and hope to do more than just lurk. Best wishes for the New Year.
Oh no. :( I am glad that it was not something worse and I hope you get better fast!
I'm sorry to hear about your concussion, Vivienne. I fully agree with the advice you were given. We're learning more about concussions, especially repeated ones in young athletes, and it's very important to allow the brain to heal itself by limiting activities such as the one you described. I hope that you feel better soon.
Thank you all so very much for your kind thoughts. My condition has improved, but I'm having difficulty concentrating on reading anything. I find myself still on the same page for a long time yet still not able to take it in. So I will have to resort to audiobooks until things improve.
Family Album by Penelope Lively
I have enjoyed other novels by Lively but can't count this one among them. The topic was insubstantial: a family built on what the mother believed to be the ideal family, large, happy, close, with lots of traditions to maintain and keep them in touch with her stereotypical idea of a model family, which of course this family is definitely not. While most of the characters were unpleasant and without depth, the father, who had very little presence at all in the story, still managed to be the most unpleasant. While reading this I was reminded of the type of people I dislike most. But it was Lively's writing style, harsh and staccato with short abrupt sentences, that condemned this book for me.
>28 VivienneR: lovely review. I hadn't thought about how her sentence structures contribute to the effect--I'll be looking for that when I convince myself to pick it up again.
And she is usually so dependable--no, that makes her sound like a car. What do I mean?
Glad to see you on the road to recovery, Vivienne. Great thing about the tropics is the absence of ice to slip on but it is the pythons in the storm drains and the cobras waiting to accompany you for walks in the local taman that are slightly more hazardous!
>28 VivienneR: I am a fan of Penelope Lively and in fact tutored breifly under her late husband Jack Lively at Warwick University in the 1980s. I haven't read Family Album but have heard tell that it wasn't her finest hour.
>29 ipsoivan: Yes, I thought her "dependable" too! In my mind I connect her with Kate Atkinson, one of my favourite contemporary writers.
>30 PaulCranswick: Thank you Paul. I think I'll stay with ice, rather than take on pythons and cobras! Interesting that you were tutored by Jack Lively. However, I won't give up on Penelope Lively, because I've enjoyed other books of hers.
The terracotta dog by Andrea Camilleri
Another great mystery from Camilleri featuring Commissario Montalbano who comes to an agreement with mafioso Tano the Greek. Their meeting precipitates a much bigger investigation than anyone could imagine. My only complaint about Camilleri's writing is that the profanities come across as even more crude than they are generally. I wonder if this is because of the translation or if his characters are just as vulgar in Italian.
>32 VivienneR: This may be because many Italian swear words don't have the weight of their literal equivalents in English, and are used quite freely in certain circles. But I'm surprised that isn't taken into account by the translator (maybe it is - maybe the original is even worse! I keep meaning to get to some of the Montalbano books (in Italian), and when I do I'll report back),
>28 VivienneR: the only book that I've read by Lively was The Photograph. This was several years ago, when I was still working and had a long commute in my car. I can't remember who the reader was, but it was well done. I'll have to try more. Do you have a favorite?
>32 VivienneR:. I read the first of the Montalbano series, and enjoyed it. Another series that I will eventually continue.
>33 rachbxl: That's sort of what I expected. It's shocking to hear some characters - like an ordinary young woman - use particularly crude language and it struck me as unnatural. I gave up on Camilleri's work in audio format because it was even more apparent. BTW, the translator is Italian too. I'll look forward to hearing more about this.
>34 NanaCC: The two Lively books that I've enjoyed are How it all began and City of the mind. I'll watch out for The Photograph.
I'll continue with the Montalbano series too but only because I have them on the shelf. I bought several in the series at a FOL sale.
After a slow start I finished two this weekend:
Quite honestly by John Mortimer
Although a bit predictable, Mortimer has written an entertaining story that pokes fun at a number of groups including the justice system's ineffective attempts to rehabilitate released convicts. My favourite character was the bishop who is disappointed in God for supporting President Bush and Prime Minister Blair. It makes one wonder how the bishop is handling the result of the 2016 US election.
The art detective: fakes, frauds, and finds and the search for lost treasures by Philip Mould
Philip Mould, Antiques Roadshow expert, gallery owner, and authority on British portraiture shares some stories about his experience in the business. They are entertaining recollections, accurately explaining methods to discover the origin and history of a painting. My favourite story involved the research into an unusual portrait of Elizabeth I.
I watch Philip Mould's 'Fake or Fortune' (with Bendor Grosvenor and Fiona Bruce) which can be fascinating.
I didn't realize Philip Mould was on "Fake or Fortune". I will watch out for it. I only know him from "Antiques Roadshow". He certainly knows his stuff and can explain it clearly. After reading about Bendor Grosvenor I have a picture of him in my mind, so I'd like to see how close I am.
Oh, I'm far off the mark! I pictured him as a much older man, maybe slightly grouchy. I'll still watch out for the show.
A book bullet from ridgewaygirl and enjoyed a lot.
My name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
There are times we are in a position when our guard is down and we may speak of things formerly restrained in silence. Lucy Barton's lengthy stay in hospital was one of those times. Her mother's unexpected visit of several days meant old memories surfaced, old issues were faced. It did not necessarily mean things were resolved, but that they were recognized. Although her mother could not say that she loved Lucy, it was obvious. Lucy Barton's story about the human condition is melancholy yet tender, without becoming sad or harrowing.
Strout has a way of using words to paint a picture that the reader cannot but completely comprehend. When she writes about something so inconsequential as a wiggle of the fingers, it becomes part of the story, a story that would be bereft without it.
I'm glad you liked My Name is Lucy Barton. Strout has a new book out this year that apparently follows some of the characters from this book. I'm looking forward to it.
I enjoyed Olive Kitteridge, and have had this one on my wishlist. It sounds like I should get to it sooner, rather than later.
>48 Nickelini: I'm surprised too, especially when i started off the year barely able to read a page, but they were all short, or shortish books. Last year I read 18 books in January. I don't think I'll make it that far this year.
>I'll definitely keep Strout in mind, but this year I am determined to reduce the number of unread books on my shelves (I won't release numbers to anyone!) before adding any more. Of course, I'm headed for failure anyway as the Friends of the Library booksale is scheduled later this month!
>48 Nickelini: More on the amount of reading I've managed this year: I just remembered that following doctor's orders, I had to cut down computer time which meant I wasn't reading LT threads. That freed up a lot of time for books. The downside is that now I have a huge backlog of posts to read.
Escape from the land of snows: The young Dalai Lama's harrowing flight to freedom and the making of a spiritual hero by Stephan Talty
Talty begins with a brief history of Tibet and the method of selecting a Dalai Lama then the story proceeds as exciting and daring as any adventure story. My knowledge of Tibet and the Dalai Lama's exile was fairly basic so I found well-researched story to be enlightening and interesting.
The locked room by Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö
This was my first by the authors but it certainly won't be the last. I really enjoyed the view of Sweden in the 1970s, the comic humour of the characters, and the calm, methodical Martin Beck in contrast with Bulldozer Olsson. A locked room mystery is difficult to pull off but there is great reward when it works as well as this one. The irony of the ending was a very nice twist.
>53 VivienneR: I wasn't familiar with the Martin Beck series but I'm curious about that one. I love locked room mysteries and the Sweden aspect sounds interesting too.
>57 SassyLassy: I'm sure I will be too but as this was my first, I have most of them ahead.
Ruling Passion by Reginald Hill
This story describes the development of the relationship between Dalziel and Pascoe as well as with Pascoe and Ellie. The crime had a personal element for Pascoe and he struggled to remain professional. But although it begins well, the story became somewhat muddled and lost impetus. Not Hill’s best work.
Shake hands forever by Ruth Rendell
This was a page-turner that I read in one day. However, it's difficult to imagine a detective being taken off a case, and the investigation halted, just because the prime suspect complains that he's being harassed, which is what Chief Inspector Griswald did. Wexford had to carry on investigating covertly, with the help of his nephew.
Belatedly catching up, Vivienne. Too many good reads to mention - enjoyed your reviews.
Good to see you dropping by, Alison. It will take me a while to catch up with everyone because I've fallen so far behind. Most of my reading this year will be books I want off my shelves to make room for more. You may see a lot of dross.
Why we make mistakes by Joseph T. Hallinan
This is an informative and often entertaining book about the psychology of decision-making and behaviour. If you are looking for advice on how to avoid making mistakes, this probably isn't the right book. However, it does have many thought-provoking sections and I may give more thought to minor decision-making.
One segment I found interesting was on the topic of finality vs the possibility of change.
"Hope impedes adaptation, meaning if you are stuck with something, you learn to live with it. Voters, for instance, have been shown to recognize the strengths of a candidate they opposed once that candidate is elected."
Looks like this will be put to the test in the US since the 2016 election results.
Your review of Family Album proves that my feeling of that novel was quit on spot. I quite hated it, and abandoned it after two attempts at reading it.
I don't know why I continued reading it, Edwin. I hated it too. There is not a single thing that I liked about it.
>60 VivienneR: I've only read two of Ruth Rendell's stand alone novels, and loved them. I forgot that she had a series.... another for my list. :)
>66 NanaCC: I had forgotten too, Colleen. And I really enjoyed that one. I too will add them to my long, long, list.
The journal of Hildegard of Bingen by Barbara Lachman
My love of Hildegard's music attracted me to Lachman's book but this wasn't an easy read. The author describes the year 1152 in the form of a journal by Hildegard. The text was structured to imply 12th century speech and had to be read carefully although it became clearer about halfway through the book. Added to this were extensive annotations on every page that required jumping back and forward from one to the other. The main themes were Hildegard's devotion to music and her goal to have and autonomous convent free from the paternalism of the church, in which she succeeded, being the first woman to do so. The book begins with a chronology of her life from her birth in 1098 to the beginning of this journal and ends with another covering 1152 until her death in 1179.
Remembering a time past when she gathered herbs with a friend:
"I dizzy easily in its contemplation; my head and inner senses flood with insistent light. I am filled with the figure of Disibode in the responsory: He sings himself as the greening of God's finger, transforming the entire mountain from a bleached-out, barren cone into its fructification as the plantation of God from the reciting tone of the mode, as the green creative finger refuses to rest."
The people of the book by Geraldine Brooks
Australian book conservator Hanna Heath is called on to work on the immensely important, priceless Sarajevo Haggadah, rescued from the shelling of the Bosnian war. During her investigation, bit by bit she uncovers details suggesting stories of the 500 years of the book's life. Hannah's personal story, especially the relationship with her mother, did not ring true and much of it was unnecessary to the story. However, as a former archivist I found the fictionalized life of the Haggadah to be fascinating.
>70 Caroline_McElwee: It was wonderful to listen to Hildegard's music as I read.
I've noticed other books by Brooks at the library but somehow they didn't appeal. There is no doubt she is a talented writer.
Brooks seems to write on diverse topics! I always wondered about the Little Women father - when I was a child reading Alcott.
An ordinary decent criminal by Michael Van Rooy
Improbable? Yes, but highly entertaining. An ordinary, decent criminal (not the real bad kind) is determined to go straight in Winnipeg with his wife and child. Funny, fast-paced, and definitely Canadian.
Sadly the author died in 2011 at 42 years old. There are only three books in the series, but I'll be sure to read them all.
Dead ground in between by Maureen Jennings
I started with this one, the fourth in the the series, because the setting is December 1942 the month my husband was born. Ex-pat Jennings, who now lives in Canada, has recreated the English winter of 1942 with a vivid reality that transports the reader to wartime shortages, rationing, evacuees, POWs, national secrets and uncertainty about the future. This story has great characters, authentic setting, combined with a page-turner mystery and the distant memory of an earlier battle of Roundheads and Cavaliers. Jennings provides the inspiration of the story in an author's note at the end.
Another series for my must-read list!
edited to correct touchstone
Interesting review of The journal of Hildegard of Bingen. What a difficult task Lachman set herself in trying to get inside the head of Hildegard. The mindset of a very religious person from the 12th century would be almost impossible for us to understand.
>74 VivienneR: I'll be looking for a copy of that one. And if a copy can't be found, I'll be ordering a copy.
>78 VivienneR: I'm so glad that you've found Harry. I've read them all a few times, and enjoy them every time.
>79 baswood: You're right about the difficult task. It was more complex than getting inside the head of Shakespeare. And by the end of the book I didn't feel like I understood any more about her than I had before I started.
>80 RidgewayGirl: Good news! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
>81 dchaikin: and >82 NanaCC: Yes, it was time! It was all the positive comments here on LT that prompted me to try HP. And even then, I enjoyed it much more than I expected to.
>78 VivienneR: Welcome to the club :) Keep in mind that the books mature together with Harry - where the first is a straight children book, the last one is nowhere close - around the third one they shift into YA and it gets older from there. Which makes the series actually better - you can see the world growing and getting more adult while the protagonists grow up. And now I feel like I should read the series again...
>84 AnnieMod: I suspected as much from what I've heard. That was a wise decision by Rowling. I'm looking forward to the series.
>75 VivienneR: That sounds interesting and with a good period setting. I feel I haven't given Maureen Jennings books a fair chance since I've only read the first Murdoch book at a point when I was in the middle of watching all the episodes of the TV series, and I just couldn't cope with the main character being completely unlike the TV version at the time. I might be better trying something from this series instead.
I've put off reading Mankell's Wallander series because I've watched it on tv and I know I will feel like that. I haven't seen the Murdoch tv series so that won't be a problem. But first up, I'll read the Tom Tyler series.
>86 VivienneR: I felt like that about the one Shields book I read too, Vivienne. It frustrated me, as I felt like I should have connected with her characters a lot more than I did.
>89 AlisonY: & >90 SassyLassy: My husband was (is?) a fan of Shields and bought me a few of her books. Unless was not the first that left me unsatisfied, so I'm trying to devise a way of getting the others off the shelf without offending him.
I recognized the chapter titled A Scarf, that was also published as a short story. I wonder which came first. The chapter was strangely out of step with the rest of the novel.
A man called Ove by Fredrick Backman
My doctor gave me this book. She had just turned the last page and had to share it with someone. I know how she felt. And even though it might have a moral mixed in with the quirky humour, it's hardly noticeable. After his wife's death, Ove is desperately lonely and more than anything wants to join her, however, each attempt to take his own life misfires. As the story advances Ove and Sonja's story is told. One complaint: Backman has obviously never owned a cat and he got the feline characteristics all wrong. Never mind, the charming characters, including the cat and the curmudgeonly Ove, make up for all the transgressions. By the way, the old curmudgeon is fifty-nine!
Michelle Obama: an American story by David Colbert
I noticed this book in the library and thought it would be a good idea to learn a little more about the (now former) First Lady. All I know about her is what I've read in news columns. This is an excellent, short biography specifically addressed to young adults. It doesn't provide a lot of detail, but is an interesting read. Michelle Robinson, who had to stand up for herself more than other girls, is not just a good example, she is a guiding light.
Skeleton Hill by Peter Lovesey
A good police procedural set in Bath with a dash of history thrown in. When a human bone is discovered on land used by a group who re-enact Civil War battles between Roundheads and Cavaliers, the group is scrutinized. The case is soon linked to another, more recent murder case and the joint investigation becomes complex. However, Lovesey did an excellent job of keeping all the details clear and easy to follow. The tetchy Peter Diamond is his usual technophobe self, although proud to be able to make a mobile phone call, keying the number with his thumb "just like a teenager". I enjoyed this one a lot.
A couple of Early Reviewer books that arrived together:
Innocent heroes; stories of animals in the First World War by Sigmund Brouwer
Brouwer has given us stories of Canadians in The Great War, particularly of the animals who provided support to the soldiers. Although available elsewhere, the part animals played in wartime is seldom brought together in one book as it is here. The author also includes the immense contribution made by indigenous soldiers, whose enlistment statistics were outstanding. Each story is followed by the facts that inspired the story - a format in itself is a good lesson in constructing fiction from fact. This is an excellent introduction to the part Canada played in WWI for middle school students and older. It demonstrates the value of camaraderie and respect. Each story could be taken for individual lessons and discussion.
Sam Sorts by Marthe Jocelyn
A delightful picture book about a boy who plans to sort his belongings. There are so many ways to sort: by colour, pattern, texture, rhyme? This is a lovely way to learn more adjectives, or to have fun counting. The colourful illustrations from paper cut-outs are beautiful and look like they could be picked off the page. Naturally, the "sorted" possessions at the end of the book are still in a kind of muddle.
The white cat and the monk: a retelling of the poem "Pangur Bán" by Jo Ellen Bogart, Illustrated by Sydney Smith
I borrowed this book from the library but intend to order a personal copy. It is a beautiful version of Pangur Bán, a poem written over a thousand years ago. The poem has been translated many times but this illustrated version perfectly captures the solitary contemplative monk and cat. An author's note details the origin.
Being Mortal: ageing, illness, medicine, and what matters in the end by Atul Gawande
"People naturally prefer to avoid the subject of their decrepitude.” Yes, count me as one of them! Nevertheless, this was a thought-provoking book. The call for changes to end-of-life care is one that is not made often enough, or is unheard. After caring for a neighbour who died happily at home, I can attest to Gawande's opinion that the type of care matters. Our present system of containment does not meet the need. However, I was surprised that there were not any new ideas here. The reader learns more about how Gawande's knowledge and awareness developed.
I really like Gwande's book Vivienne. I get what you are saying about nothing new, but it clearly needed consolidating and repeating as it is not most people's experience of end of years, it should be.
I liked it too even though it wasn't what I thought it would be. I agree, it's time to change end-of-life care.
I also found Gawande quite thought provoking.
Enjoying your reviews, and glad you like Ove, up there a little bit. I'm interested in the Michelle Obama biography.
I loved the Michelle Obama biography, Daniel. I knew so little about her, that it was interesting to get some information. My husband just finished and enjoyed Ove too.
For your eyes only: Ian Fleming and James Bond by Ben Macintyre
Neither a biography of Fleming nor his fictional hero, James Bond, but "a personal investigation into the intersection of the two lives". A remarkable double life that went down in history - although Bond is definitely the more attractive of the pair. This well-written and entertaining book by Macintyre is a must-read for Bond fans, whether the preferred format is print or film.
>107 VivienneR: Ben Macintyre is very good at telling these true stories. I think I'll check this out.
>108 NanaCC: Glad the bullets head in the opposite direction. I'm usually hit by yours!
>107 VivienneR: I've loved the Ben Macintyre books that I've read, but I didn't even know about this one! I think I'm going to have to read it.
>110 valkyrdeath: It was Macintyre's name that drew me to the book. He did a great job.
The Pigeon Tunnel: stories from my life by John le Carré
Although I've enjoyed many of le Carré's books, I knew little about the person, aka David Cornwell - until now. This book is an autobiography of sorts, made up of stories from his life as a spy and as a writer. Each chapter is a story in itself without diversions into irrelevant details, a common fault of the genre. As in his fiction, the writing is excellent - except in this case there is the addition of humour and a friendly, affable quality when appropriate. Difficult to pick a favourite, but I particularly enjoyed "The Wrong Horse's Mouth" that includes accounts of his meetings with the President of Italy and with PM Margaret Thatcher. This book was a pleasure to read and I can heartily recommend it.
I've been wondering about this one Vivienne, sounds like I might enjoy it. I've only read a couple of his books, seen more dramatisations of them though.
Caroline, I enjoyed it more than his novels, which is saying something as I liked them. I still have a few that I'll re-read now.
Smiley's People by John le Carré
My recent read of The Pigeon Tunnel spurred me to re-read one of le Carré's spy novels. I started Smiley's People forgetting that it is the third of a trilogy. No matter, it didn't spoil the enjoyment. It's odd that when reading le Carré's books, my mind's eye sees them in black and white.
>101 VivienneR: I did like Being Mortal a little more than you did, Vivienne. I think it was more that I found it exceptionally understanding and empathetic.
>106 VivienneR: It is too long since I read any Huxley - a wordsmith supreme for sure.
>115 VivienneR: Love the comment about seeing Le Carre in black and white.
Paul, you are right about Gawande being empathetic. I guess I expected a different book.
I was offered another Huxley book a few days ago, but I'm not ready for Doors of Perception right now (maybe I won't ever be ready). Wordsmith supreme is exactly right. I can always be sure that Huxley will add to my vocabulary
It just occurred to me that maybe not everyone "saw" le Carré like that!
I've only read a couple of books by le Carre, and I'm not sure why. I've liked the ones I've read. Note to self - get a move on....
Must get the LeCarre memoir for my husband. He's a big fan. Thanks for the review.
The pursuit of love by Nancy Mitford
A splendid look at the lifestyle of the upper classes between the wars: the unschooled children allowed free rein by indulgent elders; the unwanted children abandoned to more appreciative relatives; the aristocratic eccentricities. All of these Mitford was familiar with and she portrays them with the accuracy of personal knowledge. These richly drawn characters could have no other origins but her own family. The dismal conditions and despair of the war contrasted sharply with what had been a dignified, blissful life for the Radletts. Linda Radlett, pursued love without being aware of what it meant. A beautifully written novel by one of the famed Mitford sisters.
Colleen, it must have been quite an experience to live in that family. I also have Love in a cold climate and can't wait to read it.
On Canaan's side by Sebastian Barry
At 89 years old, Lilly relates a sentimental account of escape from political upheaval in Ireland to the US, sharing memories measured by the number of days since her grandson Bill died. The hyperbolic language, surely invented by writers of the "Irish immigrant in America" genre, is annoying. Lilly is shown to be ill-educated, ignorant, yet this is not apparent in her flights of flamboyant prose "I carry in my skull a sort of molten sphere instead of a brain, and I am burning there, with horror, and misery." Although I can appreciate Barry's talent with words, they do not sit comfortably with Lily's persona. If the theatrical clichéd quality can be tuned out, Lily's story of her eighty-nine years unfolds more credibly. There is no doubt that Barry can create a colourful turn of phrase and tell a vivid story, but they are not my choice. Disappointing.
The lark in the clear air by Dennis T. Patrick Sears
This was Sears' first novel, published in 1976, the year he died. In 1931 when Danny Mulcahy was fifteen both his parents were killed and he was left to fend for himself. With no other relatives in Alberta, he set out for his uncle's home in Ontario. He found an eccentric, who was educated, understanding and could be fierce. Sears' relates the story of Danny's coming-of-age. The writing is at times coarse, shows the author's inexperience, yet can be quite tender. Sears drew on his own history as cowboy, lumberjack and policeman. It is unfortunate that he didn't live to write more.
The Dinner by Herman Koch, translated from Dutch by Sam Garrett
It's the kind of book where you can't look away - like driving slowly past a traffic accident. Every detail is important. In the early part of the book, the details may seem trivial, but then as more information comes out, it comes together. The story started in a way I thought I understood, I thought I knew where it was going. And then before my eyes it completely changed direction! By then I was utterly hooked. There are some weak spots in the plot but they are easily overlooked. This is dark, disturbing, unpleasant and shocking, but undoubtedly clever.
Enjoyed catching up on your reviews, Vivienne. Hope you're now fully back to normal.
The Dinner is quite the novel. I'm glad you enjoyed it, if that is the right word to use.
As for Being Mortal, I gave a copy to my parents when it was first released and they have been using it as a guide, especially now that my mother is frail and losing her mental agility. They are constantly reassessing the balance between safety and lifestyle. I think its importance lays in how it gets us to think about these things and plan and take action before something happens and we just react without thinking through what is really best.
>132 AlisonY: Good to see you dropping by, Alison. Thank you, yes, back to normal now after my bad start to the year!
>133 RidgewayGirl: I expected a surprise from The Dinner and didn't read any reviews in case I'd find spoilers (wise decision in this case) so the effect was quite startling. I believe it was one of your bullets that found the target!
Being Mortal really makes the reader consider realities.
Your comments on The Dinner are perfect. That's exactly what the book is like.
Joyce, it was fun - even though my eyebrows disappeared into my hairline sometimes!
In honour of International Women's Day, March 8
Roast Beef, Medium: the business adventures of Emma Chesney by Edna Ferber
Reminiscent of an old Hollywood movie, Emma McChesney is a fast-talking travelling petticoat sales"man". She is divorced and plans to put her teenage son through college with her earnings. Being mindful of the risks involved in competing with male sales reps has not made her become hardened or any less professional. Still, she knows what to expect in a restaurant pie or stew and stays with the reliable "roast beef, medium".
Written in 1913, Ferber gives the reader an idea of what life was like for business women in the early 20th century.
End of Watch by Stephen King
More than a straight crime story, but not typical King horror. It strains credibility somewhat - but this is Stephen King after all. This is the final volume of a trilogy that could be read as a standalone because King obligingly fills in much of the history, but it will be more enjoyable as a series. The characters are outstanding and their development during the course of the trilogy is excellent.
Birds without wings by Louis de Bernières
An epic novel set in Turkey depicting the history of that country in the early part of the 20th century when a peaceful life was changed by politics and war. It's a long book, in parts more like an historical document written as a novel. I needed to check Wikipedia on occasion to get more details. It was, however, beautifully-written, compassionate and understanding.
I have that somewhere Vivienne. Glad it was a hit. I've just read a volume of his poems.
Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
Maisie's role as "psychologist and investigator" makes for an interesting combination and I enjoy the historical aspect, but the instances of her psychic abilities are hard to swallow and fit awkwardly. This was an audiobook read by Orlagh Cassidy who puts on a posh English accent but retains her American pronunciation, which is annoying, although probably not to American listeners. The Maisie Dobbs stories are a bit thin to start with so this will be my last.
An Irish Country Girl by Patrick Taylor
Mrs Kincade, housekeeper to the doctors, tells young Christmas carollers the story of St Stephen's Ghost. This makes her remember life as a young woman in Cork thirty-six years ago. Luckily the group of Belfast children were uncommonly familiar with Irish folklore. Although the part set in Belfast was short, I enjoyed the visit to the town where I grew up, as well as all the familiar words and phrases.
A Question of Blood by Ian Rankin
There are multiple crimes and many characters to keep in mind, including the mystery of how Rebus scalded his hands. Rankin pulls it off, keeping up the suspense until the last page. As usual, the city of Edinburgh is a major feature. I enjoyed this one.
I have the second Malcom Fox book lined up to read next on vacation. I've only one more Rebus to go before the books are about both of them. It is the third in the Malcom Fox series where they are joined.
Over the years I've read the Rebus books out of order. Now I'm trying to fill in spaces - and trying to remember which ones I've read already - before I start on the recent series. It will be a while before I get to Malcolm Fox, but I have them on the shelf waiting.
The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny
Ill-feelings and resentments prevent them from working effectively as a team, but that doesn't stop Gamache, and there may be enough pique left simmering for the next in the series. This was my third book by Penny, the first in audio format, and I enjoyed it more than the previous two. The audio version was more appealing to me, and I give credit to the excellent reading by Ralph Cosham that provided more of a sense of place.
>146 VivienneR: I started the series in audio, and I think that's why I enjoyed it so much. Cosham died last year, so the most recent book had a different narrator, who was also pretty good. Not quite the same though. Having listened to the first three or four, once I started reading the print versions, I could still hear Cosham's voice, which was perfect for this series.
>147 NanaCC: I always felt bad that I couldn't support a Canadian author wholeheartedly but after just one audiobook, I can join the crowd now. I saw an interview with Penny and she is such a lovely person that I wanted to love her books. Sorry to hear Cosham is no longer with us, he did a fabulous job. I can understand his voice lingering in your mind as you read the print version.
I read the print versions in the middle of the series, and listened to the last three. The last is the one read by another narrator, so if you continue to do audio, you still have a lot more with Cosham as the reader. I am impatiently hoping for another in the series.
Miss Peregrine's home for peculiar children by Ransom Riggs
"I'd always known I was strange. I never dreamed I was peculiar."
Won over by the hype, I had to try this YA ghost story set in Wales that sounded irresistable with its mix of fiction and photography. Although not as creepy as expected, it had a lot of teen humour, suspense and a great ending.
Jane Austen by Carol Shields
Insightful, although at times it seems that Shields tried to find Jane Austen in the contents of her fiction, and makes some powerful assumptions based on Austen's writing. One of these assumptions, that Austen may have been atheist based on the omission of any reference to faith in her books, is absurd. Disbelief would not have occurred to a clergyman's daughter in that era - or even later times - especially without outside influence, of which there was little in Austen's world. Despite other minor quibbles, mostly regarding a lack of focus, repetition, and financial details, this is a nice little book, useful for reference, that I will keep. Now I will follow up with a recent acquisition A Memoir of Jane Austen by her Nephew by James Edward Austen-Leigh as a comparison while Shields' work is still fresh in my mind, although without giving examples, Shields claims he "got a lot wrong".
150> Ransom Riggs was a high school classmate of my son, I enjoyed this one -- not a literary classic, but fun -- so is the film.
>152 janeajones: Cool! If I know the author (or artist) I always enjoy their work even more. Yes, Riggs' book was a lot of fun.
>151 VivienneR: I read Shield's Jane Austen before I'd read much else about her and had maybe only read Emma. I've read a lot about her since then, and also about the era. I agree that it's a stretch to call her an atheist, however, deism was popular at that time and I can see her following that train of thought. I've also learned that her nephew's biography is a huge white washing of her character (society itself was moving in a more self-chastising way when he wrote--the Victorians were incredibly uptight compared to the Georgians), so I'm interested to hear your comments on that one.
>154 Nickelini: That's interesting. I was hoping you would enlighten me, given your knowledge and interest in Austen. She was still taking communion and I don't think she would have done that if she was doubting. Also, she led such a sheltered life, and as Shields says, read mostly rubbish, was not in touch with other authors, etc etc. I'm looking forward to reading more. I noticed my husband was reading the nephew's book but didn't stay with it, not a good sign. I'll have to look through Shields' book again, I think she mentioned somewhere that Edward was Austen's least favourite nephew.
>155 VivienneR: I haven't paid much attention to Austen's Christianity because I guess it doesn't much interest me, and it was such a part of society at that time. I have no doubt she believed in God. She certainly sticks to the human element in her stories though.
Calibre by Ken Bruen
Bruen's character Jack Taylor is a favourite of mine, so I decided to give the Inspector Brant series a try when I saw this one. The frequent obscenities are balanced by the story and writing being darkly funny. Recommended to those who can take it, however, it's not for everyone.
This made me smile: One character adopted an Australian accent after a short stay down under. He explained "You don't get over Oz. Ask Bill Bryson".
Classic John Buchan Stories by John Buchan
Like short stories should be, these are little jewels. I enjoyed all, but especially Divis Johnston. Excellent narration by Iain Cuthbertson.
Last bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter
It has been many years since I first read this but I had forgotten the solution so I was able to enjoy it all over again. It's a solid mystery with all the clues laid out clearly. In this, the first of the series, Morse is the arrogant, clever show-off that we hold dear, an act that covers his insecurities. I loved the way he often spouted about English grammar or spelling. Over the years, Lewis must have received quite an education.
Dexter, who died March 2017, and his unforgettable characters will be sorely missed.
This topic was continued by Vivienne's reading in 2017 - Part 2.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.