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What are you reading the week of December 2, 2017?

What Are You Reading Now?

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1fredbacon
Edited: Dec 2, 2017, 10:02am Top

I read the short Epics of Sumerian Kings: The Matter of Aratta which has introduced me the series Writing from the Ancient World published by the Society for Biblical Literature.

Now I'm reading The Day Will Pass Away: The Diary of a Gulag Prison Guard. Ivan Chistyakov was a well educated man drafted into the army and sent to serve as a prison guard for a year at the Baikal-Amur Mainline Railway gulag (BAMLag) in the mid 1930s. He was an unwilling participant in a system he despised and ridicules in his diary. He appears to be a deeply felt man who becomes appalled at his own behavior. He understands the prisoners' desire to escape because that's all he wants as well, but he resorts to tough behavior in an effort to keep control of the situation. Having already been purged from the Communist Party several years earlier, he lives in constant fear that he will be arrested before his year of duty is over. It turns out that his fears were well founded. He is eventually arrested and imprisoned in the gulag himself, although the diary ends abruptly before his arrest.
Do you know what it feels like to be out in the taiga at night?

Let me tell you. There are oak trees, perhaps three hundred years old, their branches bare, like giant's arms, like tentacles, paws, beaks of prehistoric monsters, and they seem to reach out to seize and crush anyone they can catch.

You sit around a campfire and the flickering shadows make all these limbs look like they're moving, breathing, animated, alive. The quiet rustling of the remaining leaves and branches tapping other branches make you think even more of the Cyclops or other monsters. You are overhearing a conversation you can't understand. There are questions being asked and answers given.

You hear melodies and rhythms. The flames of the fire pierce the darkness for five meters or so, the sparks fly like long glow-worms in the air, swirling, colliding and overtaking each other.

2richardderus
Dec 2, 2017, 11:23am Top

Wow. That is some beautiful writing, Fred. Thanks, or more accurately "thanks" because now I need to bookhorn that onto the TBR somehow.

And thank you for starting us off as always.

I finished a fast read, The Sandcastle by Iris Murdoch. I was *sure* I'd read this before and, after a short time, was so at sea that I was clearly reading it for the first time. Delightfully cruel and amusingly unsparing.

3rocketjk
Dec 2, 2017, 1:49pm Top

I'm about three quarters of the way through the very good Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven.

5frahealee
Dec 2, 2017, 3:15pm Top

Drudging my way through Don Quixote in anticipation of Terry Gilliam's upcoming directorial opus. Chapter 34 ish currently and still such a long way to go.

6maimonedes
Edited: Dec 2, 2017, 3:29pm Top

I am about to return to Bettany Hughes' A Tale of Three Cities, Istanbul after a hiatus of several months and many other books. I was about half way through and finding it less than compelling reading - probably because it feels like reading the script of the BBC series on Istanbul that you just know she is going to make. But it is history, and there is a lot about Istanbul that I don't know, so I will try and finish it this time.

7jnwelch
Dec 2, 2017, 4:00pm Top

I finished Provenance by Ann Leckie, another good sci-fi story from her. I'm now reading Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic and Untwine by Edwidge Danticat.

8NarratorLady
Edited: Dec 4, 2017, 12:35am Top

Having great fun with Girl Waits with Gun and just found out there are two more books in the series!

9CarolynSchroeder
Dec 2, 2017, 7:31pm Top

I am reading The 6:41 to Paris and loving it.

11ahef1963
Edited: Dec 3, 2017, 2:54am Top

>1 fredbacon: Thank you for starting us off, Fred. One of the best books I've ever read is One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (touchstones for it not working right now), that terrible but profoundly moving novel, and I think that I would very much like to read the words of a real gulag prison guard cum prisoner. I've added it to my Amazon wish list, and when I can buy a copy for something less than $36, I will do so. Thank you for the quotation from the diary.

At the other end of the literary spectrum, I am reading an extremely good crime novel: Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham; it's the first in the Fiona Griffiths series. I've never read a police procedural that manages so much humour before, and it's blended with gritty characters and a dark and uneasy atmosphere. I have laughed aloud at times at the dry wit Bingham employs.

12Zumbanista
Dec 3, 2017, 2:59am Top

I'm 3/4 through Angle of Repose and enjoying it. Next up is Dark Angels, another historical fiction/romance by Kathleen Koen. Trying to fit in a few more books before the end of the year.

13cdyankeefan
Dec 3, 2017, 8:55am Top

Working on Standard Deviation and The Bear and the Nightingale-so far so good on both

14richardderus
Dec 3, 2017, 11:20am Top

A truly mediocre read, Moon of the Wolf, was read, the book shuffled off this mortal coil, and all because I read the author's obituary.

An excellent read, Botanica Veneris, was read, and my goodness what a difference between the two.

15PaperbackPirate
Dec 3, 2017, 12:32pm Top

I'm reading A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley for my book club. So far it's been an engrossing memoir.

16jnwelch
Dec 3, 2017, 10:34pm Top

I'm about halfway through Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman.

17aussieh
Dec 4, 2017, 3:48am Top

Captured and will be sad to finish The Stolen Child by Lisa Carey.

18JulieLill
Dec 4, 2017, 12:14pm Top

A Touch of Stardust
Kate Alcott
3/5 stars
Julie Crawford has come to Hollywood from Fort Wayne, Indiana, trying to follow in the footsteps of Carole Lombard, also from the same town but wanting to be a writer instead of an actress. She gets a job as a publicist for MGM and actually falls into being Lombard’s assistant. While she is at the studio, she is attracted to a fellow worker, who happens to work with David Selznick and all this is going on while the film, Gone With the Wind is being filmed.

This was a fast read and interesting but I found the story line somewhat contrived. I don’t think someone who just got to Hollywood would rise so fast in such a short time and be so successful.

19aussieh
Dec 4, 2017, 3:51pm Top

>16 jnwelch:

Lot's of magic as in Alice Hoffman's books with my latest The Stolen Child by Lisa Carey.

20jnwelch
Dec 4, 2017, 3:54pm Top

>19 aussieh: Thanks, aussieh. That does look good.

21rocketjk
Edited: Dec 4, 2017, 9:19pm Top

I finished up Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven, a "coming of age" story (goodness, I've come to dread that term for some reason) about a young girl growing up in Depression era Appalachian North Carolina. I liked this book rather a lot, as it had a fine sense of place and a narrator with a believable, strong voice. You can read a bit more via my review on the book's work page or my 50-Book Challenge thread.

I've stayed in North Carolina, though moving forward in time from the 30s/40s to the 1950s, and from mostly life-affirming novel to dark comedy, as I've begun reading Where Trouble Sleeps by Clyde Edgerton.

22Copperskye
Dec 4, 2017, 10:06pm Top

I'm reading Michael Connelly's The Narrows, a Bosch book.

23elphie93
Dec 5, 2017, 1:34am Top

I finished Chernobyl Prayer by Svetlana Alexievich. It was pretty intense and harrowing, I definitely need to pick up more of her books.

Currently reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. Very informative and easy to read - I like the photos and diagrams included.

24ahef1963
Dec 5, 2017, 1:51am Top

I just finished reading Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham, which I think may be the best crime novel I've ever read, and which I heartily recommend. I will definitely be reading more of Bingham's books.

Next I'm going to read The Ice Child by Camilla Lackberg.

25nrmay
Dec 5, 2017, 10:40am Top

Finished The angry tide by Winston graham.

Now reading Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine and The man who bridged the mist by Kij Johnson.

26snash
Edited: Dec 5, 2017, 11:01am Top

>23 elphie93: and >25 nrmay:, Two of my recently read favorites there, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

I just finished Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery. While full of delicious descriptions of food and places, the book's subject is the price of living a pretentious false life. A price exacted upon oneself and all those around.

27jnwelch
Dec 5, 2017, 12:00pm Top

I've started The Twisted Sword, which I understand is the next-to-last Poldark book by Winston Graham, and I'm about to start The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash.

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman was very good, and at some point I'll be reading the prequel, Rules of Magic.

28Bibliophilus
Dec 5, 2017, 12:26pm Top

29nhlsecord
Dec 5, 2017, 1:33pm Top

I have just finished Endurance by Scott Kelly. It was chock full of detail about his life and work and his year on the space station, and it was so well done that I didn't skip over any of it, which is rare for me. I even wrote a review for it. And now I know I don't want to go to the space station!

30seitherin
Dec 5, 2017, 5:00pm Top

Finished The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson. I enjoyed the book.

Next into my reading rotation is Persepolis Rising by James S. A. Corey.

31JulieLill
Dec 6, 2017, 12:10pm Top

Now that I finished my 2017 reading challenge, I have gone back to my never ending reading list and have started two books-
Frankenstein by Mary Shelly and The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale, which I am loving so far.

32aussieh
Dec 6, 2017, 4:23pm Top

I have started on a very light style of reading for me, I think it may be a real hoot.
Mother's Day Out by Karen MacInerney

33floremolla
Edited: Dec 7, 2017, 2:57pm Top

Finished A Clockwork Orange - framboise, I can see why you admire it so much, it's very clever!

Started and finished To The Wedding - heart-rendingly sad story of facing up to an impending early death but with a fighting spirit.

Started The Devil and Miss Prym - not a fan of Paulo Coelho after reading Veronika Decides to Die but I bought it (secondhand) and will read it as it's on the 1001 BYMRBYD list.

Still enjoying David Copperfield audiobook, mainly on longer car journeys, but I'm savouring it and don't want it to end too quickly. My non-fiction The Highland Clearances will be next, then I hope to get onto some lighter, more seasonal reading! Any recommendations out there? - maybe start a thread for this? (Recognising of course that LTers don't all have winter at the same time and some don't have it at all!)

34AlbaArango
Dec 7, 2017, 6:03pm Top

I just started The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm. I read Middle Grade kids books, so my reading list may be a little different than most. But I love to see what people are reading. (I do sneak in an adult fiction book now and then) :)

35AlbaArango
Edited: Dec 7, 2017, 6:08pm Top

I'm curious JulieLill to see what you think of Frankenstein. That's one of those classics that I've always kind of wanted to read.

36Copperskye
Dec 7, 2017, 6:32pm Top

I figured it was about time to start my Christmas reading. First up, P. D. James' The Mistletoe Murder. So far, so good!

37CarolynSchroeder
Dec 7, 2017, 6:38pm Top

Reading and very much enjoying the translated Dutch novel The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker.

38Copperskye
Dec 7, 2017, 6:44pm Top

39framboise
Dec 7, 2017, 7:44pm Top

Halfway through Dragon Springs Road, a novel by Janie Chang. It's enjoyable, but I guess I haven't been in much of a reading mood like my usual self the last several months. I also downloaded Into the Water, the new novel by Paula Hawkins. Hope it's as good as The Girl on the Train.

40JulieLill
Dec 8, 2017, 3:04pm Top

The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer
Kate Summerscale
5/5 stars
This is the true crime story of Robert Coombes, who at the age of 13 in 1895 killed his mother in England while his father who was a sailor at sea. Robert and his brother Nattie (12) then went about their lives and eventually Robert convinces John Fox, a friend of the family to come and live with them. Fox does not suspect anything while in the house. When the boy’s Aunt finds out they are alone, she comes to the house and finds the mother dead. The two boys and Fox are arrested for the murder. As the trial proceeds, Fox and Nattie are found not guilty of the crime and Robert goes to an asylum instead of jail for the crime, eventually being released to live an eventful and exemplary life. So why did he kill his mother? I had a hard time putting this down. Summerscale does a great job discussing the time period, facts of the crime, the lives of the boys and the aftermath of the trial.

41aussieh
Dec 8, 2017, 3:50pm Top

I have started in on a reread of one of my favourite books by a great author The Clearing by Tim Gautreaux

42mollygrace
Dec 8, 2017, 4:27pm Top

>41 aussieh: I love that book, too. Enjoy.

43BookConcierge
Dec 8, 2017, 9:07pm Top

A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles
Audiobook performed by Nicholas Guy Smith
5***** and a ❤

From the book jacket: When, in 1922, the thirty-year-old Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, he is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. An indomitable man of erudition and wit, Rostov must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors.

My reactions:
Well this book cements Amor Towles in my list of favorite authors.

I love the Count and the way he leads his life. His accommodations may be limited, and he may be confined to the hotel, but his life is certainly *not* limited. He is a man who lives life with grace and dignity, who treats others with respect, who thinks before he speaks or acts. In short, he IS a gentleman.

This is not to say that he doesn’t suffer from his imposed confinement. He suffers boredom, loneliness and even depression. But he studies his options and moves forward with determination and spirit. He finds ways to circumvent his situation, to foil the forces that wish to take from him. They may take his possessions, they may restrict his movements, but they cannot make his less a gentleman.

Towles populates the Metropol with an assortment of interesting characters – various hotel staff members, small-minded bureaucrats, a beautiful actress, a precocious child, etc. And he paints a picture of elegance, sometimes allowed to fall into shabbiness.

All this serves the purpose of this intricate plot, involving intrigue, misdirection, suspense, luck and a lot of courage and ingenuity.

Nicholas Guy Smith does a marvelous job performing the audiobook. He is a master of different accents, and even does a credible job of the young girls’ voices. I could listen to him for hours (and did).

44BookConcierge
Dec 8, 2017, 9:09pm Top

The Good Lord Bird – James McBride
Book on CD performed by Michael Boatman.
3.5***

McBride looks at John Brown and Harpers Ferry through the lens of a “freed” slave, Henry Shackleford (known as Onion). Onion narrates the tale, taking the readers from Kansas Territory in 1856 to the events at Harpers Ferry (then in the Commonwealth of Virginia), when abolitionists led by Brown raided the armory in 1859. This was a pivotal event in the onset of the Civil War.

Onion is a fictional character, but there are many real historical figures in the book. In addition to John Brown and his sons, Harriet Tubman, Col Lewis Washington and Frederick Douglass make appearances. And while McBride may have taken liberties in describing “The Railman” and his involvement, it is true that the first casualty of the raid on the arsenal was a free black man.

What brings the history to life, though is the slave boy, Henry “Onion” Shackleford. A chance encounter with Brown in his father’s barbershop goes awry, and in the confusion, he is taken on by Brown, who mistakenly believes the child is a girl. Brown considers Onion a good luck charm, and he cares for the child. Onion continues to live as a girl for the next three years, sometimes being in the direct care of Brown, and sometimes being separated from him. Always, Henry is a marvelous observer of what is going on around him. He doesn’t always understand the ramifications of what he learns, but he does his best.

He believes that Brown is a fanatic and possibly crazy, but he also recognizes Brown’s genuine belief that slavery is wrong and that it should be abolished. He follows Brown’s rag tag “army” helping where he can, but mostly trying to stay out of the way. Related by Onion, many of the events are just plain hilarious; a surprise in a book about slavery. I’ve seen reviews that compare McBride to Mark Twain, and I guess I see that here – an adventure tale that is about a serious event / issue, but that includes room for humor.

I love McBride’s writing, but this seemed ungainly in places. I kept waiting for the “action” to happen, especially in the period when Henry was separated from Brown. And I thought some of the proselytizing that Brown engages in was unnecessary, though I admit that it helps to paint the picture of this MAN-WITH-A-CAUSE. I do not usually round up when I rate a book with a half-star, but in this case I will. There is more that is great about this book than not.

Michael Boatman does a superb job voicing the audiobook. He is able to give unique voices to the many characters, and I particularly like the way he voiced John Brown and Henry. McBride uses vernacular dialect of the time, and listening to that is (in my humble opinion) a bit easier than reading it on the page.

45fredbacon
Dec 9, 2017, 1:20am Top

The new thread is up over here.

46richardderus
Dec 9, 2017, 4:17pm Top

>44 BookConcierge: I think I liked The Good Lord Bird more than you did, but I was on a John Brown kick and was inclined to love it anyway. Cloudsplitter was really good as well, though I wonder if it was just my little obsession that says this....

47ic09
Dec 12, 2017, 7:49am Top

I am currently reading Automobile by Ruth Brandon. It is a wonderful book which describes the development of automobile industry in 19th century in America and Europe. Various chapters talk about the major influencers like Henry Ford and gives a good insight into the obstacles and advantages that were faced by such influencers.
I consider it a must read for any automobile lover. In my personal opinion, anyone who loves reading biographies will definitely enjoy the book.
I have posted various pictures of it on my Bookstagram account under the username of 'weenie_book'. Do check it out.

48BookConcierge
Dec 12, 2017, 4:48pm Top

A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles
Audiobook performed by Nicholas Guy Smith
5***** and a ❤

From the book jacket: When, in 1922, the thirty-year-old Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, he is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. An indomitable man of erudition and wit, Rostov must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors.

My reactions:
Well this book cements Amor Towles in my list of favorite authors.

I love the Count and the way he leads his life. His accommodations may be limited, and he may be confined to the hotel, but his life is certainly *not* limited. He is a man who lives life with grace and dignity, who treats others with respect, who thinks before he speaks or acts. In short, he IS a gentleman.

This is not to say that he doesn’t suffer from his imposed confinement. He suffers boredom, loneliness and even depression. But he studies his options and moves forward with determination and spirit. He finds ways to circumvent his situation, to foil the forces that wish to take from him. They may take his possessions, they may restrict his movements, but they cannot make his less a gentleman.

Towles populates the Metropol with an assortment of interesting characters – various hotel staff members, small-minded bureaucrats, a beautiful actress, a precocious child, etc. And he paints a picture of elegance, sometimes allowed to fall into shabbiness.

All this serves the purpose of this intricate plot, involving intrigue, misdirection, suspense, luck and a lot of courage and ingenuity.

Nicholas Guy Smith does a marvelous job performing the audiobook. He is a master of different accents, and even does a credible job of the young girls’ voices. I could listen to him for hours (and did).

Group: What Are You Reading Now?

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