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Jennifer (japaul22) Reads in 2018

2018 Category Challenge

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1japaul22
Dec 23, 2017, 7:43am Top

Hi everyone! I’m back again for 2018. I’m a classical musician living in the Washington, D.C. area. I have two little boys (8 and 5) who keep me very busy. I’m also taking on a new role at work which I’m excited about EXCEPT that I expect it to cut in to my reading time quite a bit. As such, I’m setting a lower goal for books read than normal and keeping it pretty simple. I liked having some specific books picked out for my categories last year so I’ll do that again, knowing that substitutions are always allowed!

2japaul22
Edited: Sep 20, 2:22pm Top

29 1001 books to Read Before you Die (gets me to 300!)
19/29

The Years by Virginia Woolf
In Remembrance of Things Past by Proust (3 volumes to go!)
The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen
Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner
The Siege of Krishnapur by JG Farrell
The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth
Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
July’s People by Nadine Mortimer
Adam Bede by George Eliot
Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz
Nana by Emile Zola
What Maisie Knew by Henry James
Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
Bunner Sisters by Edith Wharton
Claudine’s House by Collette
Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers
The Man who Loved Children by Christina Stead
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
Momento Mori by Muriel Spark
The Violent Bear it Away by Flannery O’Connor
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carre
Smiley’s People by John Le Carre
The Diary of Jane Somers by Doris Lessing
Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes
Smila’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg
Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Castle Richmond by Anthony Trollope

alternates:
The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen
Night and Day by Virginia Woolf
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth
An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul
Shirley by Charlotte Brontë

5japaul22
Dec 23, 2017, 7:57am Top

And I'm open for business. Not sure I'll actually get all 29 books read for my 1001 books challenge, but I'll give it a try. Looking forward to following everyone's reading!

6rabbitprincess
Dec 23, 2017, 8:26am Top

Welcome back! Have a great reading year, and good luck with your new role at work!

7majkia
Dec 23, 2017, 8:34am Top

Good plan! Wishing you a wonderful year of great reading.

8dudes22
Dec 23, 2017, 8:47am Top

Glad to see you're back. I always like looking at what you're reading. I see a couple on your list that I'm hoping to get to next year also.

9VivienneR
Dec 23, 2017, 11:28am Top

Good to see you here! You have lots of good reading ahead.

10mamzel
Dec 23, 2017, 1:48pm Top

Welcome back. Another KISS theme (Keep It Simple Silly).

11DeltaQueen50
Dec 23, 2017, 2:23pm Top

Looking forward to reading your throughts on all your reading, but especially your 1001 reading. :)

12Roro8
Dec 23, 2017, 3:30pm Top

Good luck with your targets. I hope you get a good book or two for Christmas.

13lkernagh
Dec 23, 2017, 8:22pm Top

Welcome back! Looking forward to following your reading in 2018!

14thornton37814
Dec 28, 2017, 8:14pm Top

Welcome back! May 2018 be filled with good reads!

15LittleTaiko
Dec 30, 2017, 9:44pm Top

Welcome back! Good luck with your 2018 reading!

16katiekrug
Dec 31, 2017, 11:09am Top

*Following along*

17japaul22
Jan 1, 9:06pm Top

Hello everyone - great to see you here! I've finished my first book of 2018.

For my "everything else" category

The Fugitive by Marcel Proust
If you followed my 2017 reading, you know that I've been reading Proust's In Remembrance of Lost Time since January of 2017. This is volume 6 of 7 and is the shortest and most action-packed (relatively . . . it is still Proust) of the volumes.

In this volume the narrator mourns the loss of Albertine and takes a long-awaited trip to Venice with his mother. On their way back they receive letters giving them news of two marriages - Robert Saint-Loup with Gilberte Swann and Jupien's daughter with the Cambremer's son. Both of these marriages have huge class/societal implications that Proust has built up to throughout the preceding volumes.

At this point, the end is in sight. The final volume only has about 500 pages, which after 4000 or so doesn't seem like that big a deal. I will continue on until I finish.

Original publication date: 1925
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 374 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback set
Why I read this: Proust project

18pamelad
Jan 2, 12:30am Top

Congratulations on finishing the second last volume!

It was my least favourite. Marcel spent a lot of time in his room reflecting repetitively, and all the action happened in the last quarter. He's very callous about the dead people in his life!

19japaul22
Jan 8, 8:31am Top

1001 books (1/29)

Time Regained by Marcel Proust
Well, I did it. This is the final volume of Proust's In Search of Lost Time. This is a review of the final volume; I will do a summary of the entire experience later.

In Time Regained, Proust finds his way back to his initial brilliance after the weaker volumes 5 and 6. Time Regained is a beautiful summing up of this 4000 page book. The beginning of this volume takes place during WWI, though the narrator spends much of it at a sanatarium trying to recover his health. After the war, the narrator returns to Paris and attends a reception at the home of the Princesse de Guermantes. The surprise to the reader is that the title is not held by the Princesse we remember, but now by Mme Verdurin who has finally ascended to the Faubourg St. Germain set. Many of our old favorites are at this reception or remembered in detail by the narrator (even if dead or not present) at it: the Duchesse de Guermantes, Gilberte, Odette, Charlus, Robert Saint-Loup, Rachel, Albertine, grandmother, Francoise, all the artists, etc. At the reception, the narrator comes to the conclusion that he has a special talent for making connections and memory and seeing the whole picture of life and concludes that he must write a book describing it. Of course, death hangs over him and he worries that he won't have time to complete his work.

This volume was an extremely satisfying and poignant conclusion to an unforgettable reading experience. I look forward to thumbing through all of the volumes to look at my notes and highlighted passages before writing and overall conclusion of this reading experience.

Original publication date: 1927
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 532 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback set
Why I read this: Proust project

20virginiahomeschooler
Jan 8, 8:38am Top

>19 japaul22: Congratulations on finishing. That's quite an accomplishment.

21japaul22
Jan 8, 1:46pm Top

For the past year I’ve been reading Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. When I began, I expected that I would finish because I’m good at following through when I make this sort of goal for myself, but I wasn’t necessarily expecting to enjoy it. Though I can’t say I enjoyed every page and must admit to my eyes glazing over for long passages, I will say that this has been a unique reading experience for me and it’s been pretty unforgettable.

What ended up working for me regarding the logistics of reading this was to read one volume at a time, but to make it my main book. I found that if I tried to only read a little of it at a time I couldn’t immerse myself in it and immersion was what I needed to give in to the prose style. I did, however, need breaks between the volumes, even though they really do run together as one long work. They aren’t as distinct as I imagined they would be. I read with pencil in hand and made copious notes in the margins tracking themes, symbols, and character development and highlighting favorite passages.

Proust’s writing is hard for me to describe. I expected it to be stream-of-consciousness and I suppose it was kind of, but I would describe it more with words like interior, obsessive, and sensual (leaning more - but not exclusively - towards the literal meaning of involving the senses). If you give in to the writing style, letting it wash over you, I don’t think there is any way to avoid experiencing life as the narrator describes it. There is some plot in the book, but very little, and most plot serves to explore the characters (there are over 2000 characters that appear throughout the book) rather than the more common other way around. The characters here are memorable and feel real, but the characters seem designed to serve the themes that remain primary. Memorable characters abound though: Swann, Odette, Francoise, Robert Saint-Loup, the Duchesse de Guermantes, mother, grandmother, Bergotte, Elstir, Cottard, Mme Verdurin, Mme Villeparisis, Albertine, Gilberte . . . I could literally go on and on. Even more than the characters, the various settings are described so evocatively that they are also unforgettable. The opening scenes in Combray, the beach in Balbec, the Paris drawing rooms. It’s interesting that Proust is able to explore setting without necessarily describing how the landscape looks – when I picture these settings it’s more complete than that.

The themes are often revealed through writing about the senses – using taste, smell, and sound to spur memory. Memory and the passage of time and how the two are related are really what this is all about. It’s explored so effectively that the theme really is the book and everything seems to spin around you as read so that you can’t tell what the whole point is of these long diversions and repetitive passages until you step back at the end and realize that all those tedious passages have added up to something really special. There were so many times I was reading and wondering when something was going to happen but now that I’m done I don’t think I’d change the pace at all, even taking into account the frustration along the way. In fact, if anything I wish Proust had been able to completely finish his edits and revisions before dying. I am positive that the final 3 volumes would have been longer and more detailed and, in the end, a bit more complete.

Though I’m happy and satisfied to have finished, I know I will miss reading this and will be thinking about it for years to come. And I might even be crazy enough to reread all 4347 pages in the future. I’m going to include my thoughts of each volume here, but these have all been posted before so there’s nothing new if you’ve followed my thread in the past year.

Swann's Way by Marcel Proust

I've begun my journey to read all of In Remembrance of Things Past and I have to say it's off to a good start. This first volume begins with the narrator as a child visiting Combray, then shifts to Charles Swann's obsession with Odette de Crecy, and then ends with a short section where the narrator meets and begins his own obsession with Gilberte, Swann and Odette's daughter.

This isn't a real review, because this is obviously only part of the whole. As such, it sets up many themes which I'm looking forward to seeing developed. Memory is important, both how it is triggered by the senses, especially smell and taste, and how it is hard to truly recreate a moment. Love, which I gather is going to be more about obsession, begins immediately, with the narrator obsessed as a small child with receiving a kiss from his mother each night. Swann's obsession and jealousy of Odette, a woman he barely knows, is already continued in the narrator's obsession about Gilberte. One thing that bothered me, though I think it was intentional to make a point, was how little Odette is developed. She doesn't have much personality of her own, and just seems to be a reflection of Swann's obsession.

There's lots more - the set up between the aristocratic Guermantes vs. the Verdurins, the various discussions of the arts, etc. Suffice to say I'm enjoying the dreamy, reflective writing style and looking forward to starting the next volume in a month or so.

Original publication date: 1913
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 606 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased
Why I read this: 1001 books

Within a Budding Grove by Marcel Proust
In this second volume of In Search of Lost Time, the narrator is now a teenager and accordingly is obsessed with girls. That pretty much sums it up, but I guess I'll go into a little more detail. :-)

The first section is "Madame Swann at home". Here we see the narrator fall in and out of love with Gilberte, the daughter of Swann and Odette. Even though Gilberte is the object of the narrator's love and obsession, really he spends so much time describing Odette that she seems more to be the object of his obsession. I did think the narrator was sort of funny throughout this book because the language is very beautiful and mature and lyrical, but the ideas really are just of a typical teenage boy concerned with how others view him and thinking about the girls he meets. It was an odd mix.

In the second section, the narrator goes with his grandmother and Francoise (their servant and my favorite character) to Balbec, a seaside town, for his health. He meets and develops a friendship with Saint-Loup. He also sees a group of girls parading around the beach and falls in love with them. Among this group is Albertine, the next object of his affection. His descriptions of the girls and their interactions with each other and him are absolutely on point for the typical teenager experience. I really liked this section.

As in the first volume, there were large swaths of this that lost me, but I just keep reading and eventually something grabs me again. Overall it's been a really good reading experience for me so I'm excited to continue on in another month or two.

Original publication date: 1919
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 730 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: my current project

The Guermantes Way by Marcel Proust

In volume 3 of In Search of Lost Time, the narrator goes back to Paris where he finds a new woman to obsess over, the Duchesse of Guermantes. The narrator follows her on her morning walks, hoping to be noticed and invited to a dinner at her home. He does have a connection with her; his friend Robert Saint Loup is her nephew. Saint Loup is stationed at Doncieres with the army and the narrator goes down to meet up with him. There is a great section with the narrator interacting with the soldiers.

Back in Paris, there are two long set pieces at parties that sort of build on and contrast with each other. The first is at Mme Villeparisis's house and the second is at the Duchesse of Guermantes (finally!!). In the middle there is a long section on the death of the narrator's grandmother. The dinner party at Mme Villeparisis's is pretty entertaining to read - lots of familiar characters and a few new, talk of the Dreyfus affair, and an appearance by the highly intriguing Baron de Charlus at the end. The section at the Duchess's home was pretty boring, but it occurred to me that that was sort of the point - the fascinating-from-afar Duchesse of Guermantes is in reality quite boring and predictable (though still striking in her presence). I like how Proust chooses ordinary objects to create a thread through the novel. Some of these recur through all of the volumes (so far), like the hawthorn bush, and some are present in one section only (like the hats at the parties or the Elstir works of art). Some seem to have some deep significance and I think that some really are just memory triggers. It's a neat effect.

I'm really enjoying this book. This volume was very character-driven which was a little easier to read than some of the dreamier diversions in the previous two volumes and it was a nice change. I'm still very much seeing the work as a whole and not as separate volumes. I kind of want to go right on to the next volume, but as I have some other reading plans in July, I think I'll stick with my schedule and wait til August.

Original publication date: 1920
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 819 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, purchased
Why I read this: my current project

Sodom and Gomorrah, volume 4 of In Remembrance of Time Past by Marcel Proust

I've been reading this for about a month and have definitely decided it's not the best way for me to approach Proust. The other volumes I made my primary reading and loved them. This one I was distracted by travel and other books and read it slowly in chunks. I did not connect to it as well.

That being said, there is still a lot that happens in this volume that is interesting. The narrator finally gets to a party hosted by the Guermantes family, the apex of noble society in Paris. What he finds isn't really very exciting. There is more discussion of the Dreyfus case, especially surprising that the Prince de Guermantes has changed his mind and is now a Dreyfus supporter. This party is contrasted with a later party in Balbec with our old favorites, the Verdurins. Here the vibe is "lower class", but the conversation is more interesting and artistic. Well, at least by a few characters.

In this volume, the narrator's eyes are opened to homosexuality and he starts seeing it all around him. He suspects his love interest, Albertine, of harboring desire for her friend Andree and starts watching her closely, always looking for signs. His other focus is the Baron de Charlus, who he realizes is gay and then starts noticing all of his interactions with men, especially with a violinist named Morel. Some of this is pretty humorous and also rather dark.

Also running through this volume is a lot of discussion about word origins and language. This didn't work very well for me, probably because of the translation, but some of it was really brilliant - especially the Balbec hotel attendant who always uses incorrect words or pronunciations. The translation here was excellent and very amusing.

So overall, this is a good continuation of the book and ends on quite a cliff hanger, but I didn't connect with it as deeply as I have previous volumes. I've learned my lesson and will wait for the next volume until I'm ready to make it my main book.

This was the last volume that Proust oversaw in publication before his death, so I'm interested to see if I notice a difference in subsequent volumes.

Original publication date: 1922
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: English
Length: 724 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: my project this year

The Captive by Marcel Proust
I returned to volume 5 (of 7) of In search of Lost Time after a 3.5 month hiatus and found that it took me a while to get back into this, but then I ended up getting sucked back in. This volume begins the sections that were published posthumously and suffer a bit from lack of Proust's final edits. For instance, there are several characters who are discussed as dead and then very much alive later. It's definitely a completed work, though, just not as perfect as some of the early volumes.

This volume is the narrator (he sort of names himself as Marcel in this volume) at his absolute creepiest. He has convinced Albertine to come and live with him without a promise of marriage. She is the "captive" not allowed to come and go as she pleases, but supplied with beautiful clothes and amenities. Of course, there are also sexual favors involved - most disturbingly when the narrator chooses to enter Albertine's room as she sleeps. Yuck. Luckily, in the end Albertine leaves the narrator and I suppose she is The Fugitive in volume six.

There's an excellent set piece back in the Verdurin drawing room with the Baron de Charlus in top form and his relationship with Morel explored more deeply (troubling as well).

All in all, I enjoyed this volume, even though parts were pretty disturbing. Proust, or at least his narrator, has such an immature view of love. It's all based on possession, desire, and power. It makes me sad to think he died so young and may have never discovered a deep, quiet, trusting love.

I think I'll carry on with The Fugitive.

Original publication date: 1923
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 563 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback set
Why I read this: Proust project

The Fugitive by Marcel Proust
If you followed my 2017 reading, you know that I've been reading Proust's In Remembrance of Lost Time since January of 2017. This is volume 6 of 7 and is the shortest and most action-packed (relatively . . . it is still Proust) of the volumes.

In this volume the narrator mourns the loss of Albertine and takes a long-awaited trip to Venice with his mother. On their way back they receive letters giving them news of two marriages - Robert Saint-Loup with Gilberte Swann and Jupien's daughter with the Cambremer's son. Both of these marriages have huge class/societal implications that Proust has built up to throughout the preceding volumes.

At this point, the end is in sight. The final volume only has about 500 pages, which after 4000 or so doesn't seem like that big a deal. I will continue on until I finish.

Original publication date: 1925
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 374 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback set
Why I read this: Proust project

Time Regained by Marcel Proust
Well, I did it. This is the final volume of Proust's In Search of Lost Time. This is a review of the final volume; I will do a summary of the entire experience later.

In Time Regained, Proust finds his way back to his initial brilliance after the weaker volumes 5 and 6. Time Regained is a beautiful summing up of this 4000 page book. The beginning of this volume takes place during WWI, though the narrator spends much of it at a sanatarium trying to recover his health. After the war, the narrator returns to Paris and attends a reception at the home of the Princesse de Guermantes. The surprise to the reader is that the title is not held by the Princesse we remember, but now by Mme Verdurin who has finally ascended to the Faubourg St. Germain set. Many of our old favorites are at this reception or remembered in detail by the narrator (even if dead or not present) at it: the Duchesse de Guermantes, Gilberte, Odette, Charlus, Robert Saint-Loup, Rachel, Albertine, grandmother, Francoise, all the artists, etc. At the reception, the narrator comes to the conclusion that he has a special talent for making connections and memory and seeing the whole picture of life and concludes that he must write a book describing it. Of course, death hangs over him and he worries that he won't have time to complete his work.

This volume was an extremely satisfying and poignant conclusion to an unforgettable reading experience. I look forward to thumbing through all of the volumes to look at my notes and highlighted passages before writing and overall conclusion of this reading experience.

Original publication date: 1927
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 532 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback set
Why I read this: Proust project

22VivienneR
Jan 8, 2:06pm Top

Wow! Congratulations for completing your goal and writing an excellent review! Well done!

23katiekrug
Jan 8, 2:13pm Top

Very impressive, Jennifer!

24dudes22
Jan 8, 3:51pm Top

I think that's so great that you've made it through all those books, Jennifer! Your enthusiasm almost makes me want to at least try the start of the books. Although, when you say it is almost but not quite stream-of-consciousness, I hesitate. That style of writing is not something I like and I always end up abandoning books written like that. Still.. I'll consider.

25japaul22
Jan 8, 5:16pm Top

>20 virginiahomeschooler:, >22 VivienneR:, >23 katiekrug: Thank you! It helped to have a little "accountability" - knowing that people here knew I'd set the goal.

>24 dudes22: I think it's a great book to have read and I found it really satisfying, but I'm sure it's not for everyone. I think you have to be very committed to seeing it through before you start. I didn't necessary think of it as stream of consciousness - not like Woolf or Faulkner - but there isn't much plot and there's a lot of ruminating and not a lot of forward motion.

26mamzel
Jan 8, 6:48pm Top

Congratulations on you accomplishment. I find that not only setting a goal for myself helps attain the goal, but sharing it with others , for me, makes it harder to give up the challenge. That's one of the things I like about LT is setting my goals here.

27jfetting
Jan 8, 7:16pm Top

Congratulations! That's quite an achievement.

28DeltaQueen50
Jan 9, 12:08am Top

Adding my congratulations, Jennifer, I am in awe!

29Helenliz
Jan 9, 1:38am Top

Wow, that is impressive. I read the first volume last year and agree with you that is needs concentration - immersion is a good word for it. I also decided that the rest of the series was a commitment I wasn't prepared to make at the time.

30pamelad
Edited: Jan 9, 5:20am Top

Congratulations on completing all 7 volumes. I also enjoyed immersing myself in Proust's world. Have you been observing people in a Proustian way? I am hoping my friends and acquaintances don't notice.

Proust was 51 when he died, so his view of love might never have matured. The narrator seemed such a mixture: kind, generous and affectionate at times, then jealous, self-absorbed and superficial at others. He didn't trouble to hide his worst qualities.

Regarding "stream of consciousness"- I can see how it could give that impression, because it's so philosophical and the sentences are so serpentine, but I see stream of consciousness writing as unstructured, as though the author doesn't know where he's heading until he arrives, or at least wants to make it seem so. By contrast, Proust's work is tightly structured, a circle, with people appearing and reappearing and connections becoming clear, and the overarching theme of time lost and regained. The seventh volume completed the circuit and connected everyone to the grand theme.

31japaul22
Jan 9, 8:02am Top

>26 mamzel: Yes, both the public goals and the group reads really help me to keep challenging myself.

>27 jfetting: I think I remember that you were reading this right when I joined LT. I don't think I really even knew what it was but I remember thinking it didn't sound particularly fun to read. Glad I tried it.

>28 DeltaQueen50: Thanks!

>29 Helenliz: It is a big commitment, so definitely wait for the right time.

32japaul22
Jan 9, 8:02am Top

>30 pamelad: I saw all of those traits in the narrator too. I felt that it was very honest - we were inside his brain and don't we all have thoughts that wouldn't reflect well on us if they were written down! (although I can't say I've ever been as obsessive about a love interest as he constantly was!)

And, yes, Proust's work is highly structured, but there are other authors who write stream of consciousness that are also structured - in fact to do stream of consciousness well almost demands a structure. I think of Faulkner's the Sound and the Fury or Woolf's To the Lighthouse. But I do agree that Proust is different somehow - interior and intimate but not just rambling through thoughts as they would occur in the brain. Even the long passages are more developed and planned than that and closer to observation and analysis than interior monologue.

Thanks so much for reading this with me - your thoughts (and pace!!) certainly spurred me on.

33pammab
Jan 9, 11:49am Top

Congratulations on finishing! I have from time to time considered Proust, but I have always been intimidated. Your summaries and reactions are superb. Thank you for sharing this journey and for including all the reviews in this retrospective!

34christina_reads
Jan 10, 12:15pm Top

Just wanted to add my congratulations on finishing Proust -- what an impressive accomplishment!

35LittleTaiko
Jan 10, 2:28pm Top

I wanted to chime in on the congratulations as well - well done!

36cmbohn
Jan 10, 2:40pm Top

That's an impressive accomplishment! Congrats on finishing. It's hard to leave a book that you really enjoyed.

37Chrischi_HH
Jan 10, 2:41pm Top

You have picked lots of intresting books for 2018, I'll be happy to follow along. And congrats on finishing the seven Proust volumes!

39pamelad
Edited: Jan 10, 11:59pm Top

>32 japaul22: Whenever I read "stream of consciousness" I think of Jack Kerouac typing On the Road onto a continuous roll of paper. Having read your comments about Virginia Wolff and William Faulkner, I might have to remove incoherence as a necessary component.

Thank you for instigating theProust read. I couldn't have finished it without you!

40japaul22
Jan 11, 6:59am Top

>39 pamelad: ah, yes, that Kerouac stream of consciousness is probably a more "text book" definition of stream of consciousness. (and is also not at all for me!) I'm no expert on literature terms, so I'll have to do some thinking (and googling) about it as well.

41japaul22
Jan 11, 1:24pm Top

Books off the shelf (1/15)

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
I needed something totally different to cleanse the palate after Proust, so I picked this novel up off my shelf. I had very low expectations going it and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this.

The form won't be surprising to anyone who reads modern literary fiction. It consists of a shifting timeline - 1960s Italy in a remote coastal village, present day Hollywood, and several spots in between. A beautiful actress finds a bit part in the cast of Cleopatra, Richard Burton knocks her up, and an up and coming film producer "fixes" the situation by sending the girl to a remote hotel on the Italian coast where she meets a young man. The connections and consequences are far-reaching and a little complicated to explain, though not complicated to read about. In the modern- day line everything comes together in the end and secrets are revealed.

There were way too many characters, the modern day parts were annoying, and several plot points struck me as cliche, but in the end I liked it anyway. The setting was great and some of the moments in the book were really moving.

So, not a great book, but I'm glad I read it and think a lot of people would like this when in the mood for something light but still interesting.

Original publication date: 2012
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 339 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback at library sale
Why I read this: for fun, off the shelf

42cammykitty
Jan 11, 3:14pm Top

Wow! Congrats on reading all of Proust. It's fascinating to read your comments. So sensual obviously. Now I know why my poetry professor insisted I should read Proust. What I don't know is why I haven't read more than a few pages. Obviously that isn't enough to do his writing justice.

Do you have any opinion on translations available?

43virginiahomeschooler
Jan 11, 4:06pm Top

>41 japaul22: I read Beautiful Ruins last year and my feelings were pretty similar to yours. I think the cover art was my favorite thing about it.

44japaul22
Jan 11, 4:33pm Top

>42 cammykitty: I read the Modern Library set, mainly because it was one of the few publications available as one big set, surprisingly enough. It is the Kilmartin/Moncrieff translation later revised by Enright. I think Penguin Classics has published the volumes done by various translators pretty recently. I was happy with the translation.

>43 virginiahomeschooler: Yes! very appealing cover. Forgettable book, but enjoyable enough.

45japaul22
Jan 12, 9:21am Top

Everything Else (2/25)

Emma by Jane Austen audiobook read by Juliet Stevenson

Emma was my first foray into Austen. I read it as a senior in high school and fell in love with Austen immediately. As such, Emma holds a special place in my reading experience. I love the very fallible Emma, the slow reveal of her feelings for Mr. Knightly, and the various class distinctions explored. I've always been uncomfortable with Jane Fairfax. I'll admit to never really feeling that her love of Frank Churchill meshes with her personality. They seem so different.

I've been "rereading" all of Austen's novels through audiobooks and really enjoying it. I loved Juliet Stevenson's reading. Highly recommended.

Original publication date: 1815
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 16h40m
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: audible audiobook
Why I read this: reread on audio of a favorite

46kac522
Jan 12, 12:29pm Top

>45 japaul22: Doesn't Stevenson do a great Mr Woodhouse?

47cammykitty
Jan 12, 12:58pm Top

Cool, Thanks. I've got Swann's Way translated by CK Scott Moncrieff. I think it's an old translation that is in the public domain. I'll try that first, but if it seems awkward, I'll look for someone else.

48DeltaQueen50
Jan 12, 5:53pm Top

I just finished Northanger Abbey read by Juliet Stevenson - I love her reading!

49japaul22
Jan 12, 8:18pm Top

>46 kac522: Yes! Though I'll admit I didn't totally love her Miss Bates - she sounded a little too young for me. But I still loved it overall.

>47 cammykitty: I think the Moncrieff is the translation that was around first and longest. The one I read was revised by Enright but still pretty close to the Moncrieff I think. I seem to remember reading that the different translations available aren't viewed to be as different from each other as, say, the Russian classics where I think translators make a huge difference.

>48 DeltaQueen50: I've also listened to her Middlemarch which was fantastic. I don't think my library has the audio of Northanger Abbey read by Stevenson, only by someone else.

50lkernagh
Jan 12, 9:08pm Top

A bit late here but wanted to add to the congratulations above for your Proust reading!

51pamelad
Jan 12, 10:26pm Top

>47 cammykitty:, >49 japaul22: I read the new translations coordinated by Christopher Prendergast. The advantage over Moncrieff, so I've read, is that they are earthier, and closer to Proust's original. The humour came across clearly - I hadn't expected Proust to be so funny. A couple of the translators stuck so religiously to Proust's sentence structures that they were difficult to follow, and at first I did a lot of re-reading. After a while though, I stopped trying to trace each subordinate clause and trusted that I was following the meaning well enough.

52japaul22
Jan 22, 1:34pm Top

Everything Else (3/25)

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

This is one of those books that I loved but it's going to be hard to describe why. There was just something about the tone and subtle humor that I really liked. The story is of Count Rostov who is placed under house arrest for writing a subversive poem in the 1920s. He stays in the Metropol, a high-end hotel in Moscow, until the book ends in the 1950s. The friendships and relationships he makes along the way are central to the book, probably a major reason I enjoyed this so much since I love character driven novels.

Highly recommended.

Original publication date: 2016
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 480 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: heard good things

53lkernagh
Jan 22, 5:45pm Top

>52 japaul22: - There is a lot of love for the Towles book on LT, including your review. Some books just strike a chord with the reader that is hard to describe. Sounds like this is that kind of book.

54japaul22
Jan 23, 6:23pm Top

Everything else (4/25)

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Harari has attempted to do what his title implies - give a history of the human race known as homo sapiens, in other words "us". The book starts off strong. I was really interested in the various human species that existed with us in the beginning and in reading what is known of the way of life, migration, etc. from then. The agricultural revolution was interesting too, as sapiens become farmers of crops instead of hunter/gatherers. But when Harari got to the more modern time, he really lost me. I'm not sure if it was because a lot of his points didn't seem fresh to me or if I just don't care about this sort of analysis of humans when it feels so close. Talking about exploration, science, religions, money, happiness etc. just made me a little annoyed and sort of bored.

There were a lot of interesting ideas in this book, but it just didn't sit quite right with me. Maybe because the subject lends itself to being subjective and I wanted a little more objective, scientific analysis.

Anyway, this was interesting and much easier to read than I expected, but it fell short of my expectations.

Original publication date: 2015
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 464 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: friend was reading it, sounded interesting

55japaul22
Jan 29, 7:40pm Top

Everything Else (5/25)

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
This was a beautiful mix of the reality of living in the 1900s Alaska frontier and a fairy tale story of a snow child who comes to life. I absolutely loved it.

Jack and Mabel are a middle-aged childless couple when they decide to leave a comfortable life on the East Coast to escape and reconnect in Alaska. The great sadness of their life is that they have no children except for one still-born baby. As they make a new life in Alaska, they meet new friends and begin to reconnect with each other and interact with society. Then one night they make a snow child out of the first winter's snow. The next day they meet a child who seems to live in the woods and comes to visit them. Over the years they grow to regard the child as their own, half believing she's a fairy tale and half believing the grim reality of her hard life.

The mixing of harsh reality and fairy tale is done so beautifully in this book. I loved it and will read everything that Eowyn Ivey writes from now on.

Original publication date: 2012
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 389 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: loved her other book

56cmbohn
Jan 29, 8:33pm Top

Bumping up The Snow Child on my TBR pile.

57dudes22
Jan 29, 9:25pm Top

>55 japaul22: - That was one of my favorite reads last year, Jennifer.

58katiekrug
Jan 30, 9:08am Top

The Snow Child and A Gentleman in Moscow are both on my TBR. Thanks for the excellent reviews!

59LittleTaiko
Jan 30, 9:54am Top

I have both of her books on my TBR and am looking forward to reading them soon.

60clue
Edited: Jan 30, 10:06am Top

Jennifer, after reading The Snow Child I grabbed up her second book when it came out. I was not disappointed in To the Bright Edge of the World, in any way. It's very different than The Snow Child, but just as captivating. I've signed on as an Eowyn Ivey cheerleader!

61japaul22
Jan 30, 5:24pm Top

>56 cmbohn:, >59 LittleTaiko: I hope you both get to her books soon, I really love them.

>57 dudes22: I think a lot of LTers have read her books - the positive reviews here lead me to her books.

>58 katiekrug: I do think you'd like them both, Katie!

>60 clue: I read To the Bright Edge of the World first and loved it so much I wanted to read The Snow Child right away. I imagine I'll read all of her future books!

62japaul22
Feb 2, 8:01pm Top

Everything Else (6/25)

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen audio book read by Donada Peters

I've been rereading Jane Austen's books through audiobooks and really loving the format. Because I know these books so well, it doesn't matter when I inevitably zone out for a few minutes as I listen. Since this ALWAYS happens to me with audiobooks, I'm finding that rereads are working best.

Northanger Abbey always strikes me as the most youthful of Austen's works. She has fun with this book and I love it. The heroine, Catharine, is just a regular girl - a little naive, a little silly, but good-natured and sweetly in love. I also really like the side characters in this one - the Tilneys, Isabella, the annoying Mr. Thorpe. And of course the dramatic ending. All good fun.

Original publication date: 1818
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 7h 6m
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library audiobook
Why I read this: reread, for fun

63thornton37814
Feb 3, 10:03pm Top

I believe Northanger Abbey was the first Jane Austen book I read--probably somewhere around 9th grade (on my own).

64pammab
Feb 4, 11:44pm Top

>52 japaul22:, >54 japaul22:, >55 japaul22: -- it looks like you're reading your way through a 2017 highlights reel! I was just skimming through the books that folks seemed to really love, and you've read a lot of them just in the past couple weeks. I appreciate your review of Sapiens especially -- I was torn around how the premise would be carried off, and I think your observation that it isn't aiming to be objective will be enough to steer me clear for now.

65japaul22
Feb 5, 9:47am Top

>63 thornton37814: I think it's a great place to start with Austen, especially for a teenager.

>64 pammab: I often seem to get to all those books I meant to read the year before in January. At the beginning of a year I don't feel all the pressure to finish the goals I've set so I make time for newer books.

66japaul22
Feb 5, 9:50am Top

So as if the craziness at work with my new title wasn't enough, we are now starting a major kitchen and main level flooring project. Completely new kitchen and layout and converting all the flooring on our main level to hard wood. I'm excited but sort of overwhelmed! The next month is not going to exactly be relaxing . . .

67katiekrug
Edited: Feb 5, 12:52pm Top

Did I miss word of your new title? Do you still get to play? Tour? Am I nosy or what?!?

68japaul22
Feb 5, 1:33pm Top

>67 katiekrug: I cryptically said I was "taking on a new role". Basically my job as a performer stays the same (yes, still doing tour) but in addition I am the Section Leader for the french horn section. So I assign all of the jobs for our section of 10 horns plus do yearly performance reviews and generally manage the section, communicate with our organization's leader, etc. I'm excited about it, but it will definitely cut into my reading time. :-(

69katiekrug
Feb 5, 1:41pm Top

Impressive! Congrats!

70christina_reads
Feb 6, 1:50pm Top

>68 japaul22: That's amazing! Congratulations!

71jfetting
Feb 6, 8:39pm Top

>68 japaul22: congrats on what sounds like a promotion! and good luck with the house remodel.

72pamelad
Feb 7, 1:00am Top

Congratulations on the new position. I hope it doesn't cut into your reading time too much!

73DeltaQueen50
Feb 7, 12:07pm Top

Jennifer, I have lived through a renovation or two and it isn't easy, but having a new kitchen and floors at the end will be worth it! Congrats on your new position.

74rabbitprincess
Feb 7, 9:30pm Top

Echoing >72 pamelad: and hoping that your excellent new position doesn't cut into your reading time that much!

75mathgirl40
Feb 7, 10:29pm Top

>68 japaul22: Congratulations on your new position!

76japaul22
Feb 12, 8:10pm Top

Thanks everyone! The job is definitely cutting into reading (time and ability to focus) but I think it will settle down after I get used to everything.

And I'll post pictures of the new kitchen after it's done - it's a disruptive process but very exciting!

77japaul22
Feb 12, 8:10pm Top

1001 Books (2/29)

The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell
This is the second book in Farrell's trio of novels exploring the crumbling British Empire. The first was Troubles set in 1916 Ireland and I LOVED it. This book, however, didn't work for me for some reason. It is set in India during an uprising of the locals that traps many British. I liked the set up and ideas in the book but I could not connect to any of the characters and I was generally sort of bored. In fact, I dropped the bookmark out of the book about 2/3 through and could not for the life of me figure out where I had been reading.

I suspect this will upset a lot of people because I feel like I remember seeing many glowing reviews of this book, so don't give up on reading this if you were interested. It was probably just the wrong book for my crazy life right now.

Original publication date: 1973
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 376 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased NYRB edition
Why I read this: 1001 books

78japaul22
Feb 15, 3:31pm Top

Books off the shelf (2/15)

The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton

How disappointing. I really liked The Luminaries, but I had to abandon this book about half way through. The dialogue was just ridiculous - a teacher cannot and does not say the sorts of things written in this book to parents or students. And the teenagers had all these ideas that seemed way out of line for what a normal teenager would be thinking. Couple that with a story line of a teacher having an improper relationship with a student and I just couldn't stomach it with everything in the news these days.

It didn't help that it centers around music teachers and students and as a musician I find that authors never get that right.

Original publication date: 2011
Author’s nationality: Australian
Original language: English
Length: I read about 150 pages out of 336
Rating: abandoned
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: off the shelf and loved The Luminaries

79thornton37814
Feb 15, 5:44pm Top

>78 japaul22: Sorry that one didn't hit the mark.

80lkernagh
Feb 16, 6:10pm Top

>66 japaul22: - Wow, you do have a lot going on!

>67 katiekrug: - Congratulations on the "new role"!

>77 japaul22: - Good review and I will keep it in mind when I finally get around to reading my copies of the trilogy.

>78 japaul22: - I can understand how The Rehearsal would come across as rather uneven and underdeveloped after reading The Luminaries. If it helps any, The Rehearsal was her debut novel and I think I read somewhere that she was only 23 years old when it was published (no idea how old she was when she wrote it), but I agree, there is a very noticeable and polished improvement in her writing of The Luminaries!

81japaul22
Feb 24, 1:48pm Top

Everythinge Else (7/25)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Probably my favorite book, one that I've read countless times and this time experiences as an audio book. I loved it in this format read by Carolyn Seymour.

Original publication date: 1813
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 11:28
Rating: 5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library audiobook
Why I read this: audio reread

1001 books (3/29)

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre
So this was fun and I really liked the writing, but I'll admit to being a little confused through most of it. It's the first book I've read by le Carre, and I felt like I was dumped in the middle of something and had no idea what was going on. This is my fault since it isn't his first book centered around the character George Smiley, but I had researched that this is the first in a trilogy that pits Smiley against the Russian agent, Karla, and could be read without reading the others. I think that's true - I did "get it" by the middle - but it was a slow starter for me because of my lack of knowledge of the back story and world le Carre had already created. I'll probably read the other two in this trilogy this year, so hopefully each one I'll be deeper in the story and not feel lost.

Really great writing though, for a spy novel.

Original publication date: 1974
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 381 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books, for fun

82rabbitprincess
Feb 24, 2:36pm Top

>81 japaul22: For what it's worth, I was similarly a bit lost when I read Tinker Tailor for the first time. I re-read it before watching the movie with Gary Oldman, and having that second read plus the movie helped click things into place. (Spookily, a song from the movie soundtrack just came up on my iTunes.)

Of the pre-Tinker Tailor Smileys, the only one that *might* be useful as background is The Spy Who Came In from the Cold; the first two Smileys are closer to whodunnits than to spy thrillers and don't really have that much bearing on events in the Karla trilogy.

And yes, isn't le Carré's writing fantastic? He constructs such elegant phrases and pithy character descriptions.

83dudes22
Feb 24, 2:58pm Top

I decided that I’d read the Smileys in order and am hoping to get to the first one soon. I wasn’t sure if it would make a difference, but it sounds like a yes.

84japaul22
Feb 24, 8:26pm Top

>82 rabbitprincess: That's all good to know. I think I'm just not used to spy novels - similar but significantly different than mysteries that I'm more used to. Good to know that I didn't miss much background in the earlier books. I think it was just some of the terminology (the Circus, lamplighters, ferrets, housekeepers, etc.) that kept throwing me and I thought maybe if I'd read the earlier novels he would have explained those more.

His writing is really good though. I definitely want to read more.

>83 dudes22: As I said above, even if it doesn't matter to the plot, it might help if the jargon is explained more clearly in the earlier novels. Not sure that's the case, though.

85jfetting
Feb 25, 9:10pm Top

>81 japaul22: I love Tinker Tailor in general and George Smiley in particular SO MUCH. Everything Le Carre writes is so good.

86japaul22
Feb 26, 11:46am Top

I thought I remembered you liked Le Carre. I'm going to start the next one soon.

87japaul22
Feb 26, 11:46am Top

The kitchen and flooring is done! I'll post a few pics - these were taken before the fridge and dishwasher were delivered, but you get the idea. Everything is brand new from floor to ceiling. We put the wood floors you see throughout the entire main level which used to be a mish-mash of different carpeting and ceramic tile. I love it!









88LittleTaiko
Feb 26, 12:30pm Top

How pretty!! The wood floors are great and how wonderful to have a window above the sink.

89mamzel
Feb 26, 12:30pm Top

I bet you can't wait now to start cooking in your beautiful new kitchen!

90VivienneR
Feb 26, 1:57pm Top

Beautiful! I love the light fixtures.

91japaul22
Feb 26, 2:22pm Top

Off the shelf (3/15)

A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women's Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Normally I would not pick up a nonfiction work with this title. I have little interest in Mormonism, but I love Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's work and I gravitate towards books about women so I thought I'd give it a try. Ulrich sticks to her normal brand of scholarship, using diaries, meeting minutes, letters, and textiles to explore the lives of the first generation of Mormon women. These women joined a religious movement and after a full commitment, leaving families and communities behind, later experience their leader's revelation about plural marriage. Some accepted it seemingly willingly, some rejected it, and some agreed to it admitting fear and sadness.

Ulrich explores plural marriage - noting the economic benefits and drawbacks, the marriage of very young girls, the setting aside of older wives, the ability for men to have many, many children (a key tenet of the Mormon philosophy), and the confusion over who was "sealed" for eternity vs. who had a temporal marriage. She explores all this through the women's own writings but she draws few conclusions which sort of disappointed me. In the end I was still pretty confused about what the average Mormon woman experienced with plural marriage.

Another aspect she explores is Mormon women's political role. This was more impressive to me. Though they weren't considered true leaders within the church, they ran active Relief Societies that did give them a voice. These women ended up with full voting rights in Utah well before the rest of the nation received those rights. There were even women on the committee that drew up the territorial/state constitution. I believe Mormon male leaders agreed to their contributions in order to show that plural marriage was accepted by the women in their community. While insisting on their right to vote, women also voted to uphold the right to polygamy.

In the end, I was left with a good sense of what life was like for these women, which I think was the point. What I didn't get was any sort of explanation that attempted to justify plural marriage, which left me feeling sort of unimpressed with these women even considering their adventurous and political lives. It was hard to let go of my skepticism about plural marriage being a way for men to have all of their desires met while being sanctioned by the church. In the end, I still see it that way, though I guess I understand why so many women accepted it.

Original publication date: 2017
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 483 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased hardback
Why I read this: like the author

92-Eva-
Feb 26, 2:58pm Top

>21 japaul22:
A belated but HUGE congratulations on finishing Proust. The whole shebang has been sitting on my bookshelf, unread (other than for Swann's Way) but you have given me hope. :)

>52 japaul22:
A Gentleman in Moscow keeps getting recommended to me, so I should probably put it on the wishlist. I am a big fan of character-driven stories, so you've got me with that comment.

>81 japaul22:
I don't think I've ever heard anyone not say they were confused by Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. :) I have the movie on my to-watch list, so I'll start with that.

>87 japaul22:
Nice! Love the flooring.

93rabbitprincess
Feb 26, 6:00pm Top

Gorgeous kitchen!

94DeltaQueen50
Feb 27, 5:47pm Top

Your new kitchen looks fantastic. I love the warm shade of the floors.

95japaul22
Mar 2, 7:44am Top

Thanks, everyone! Now that we've been using the kitchen for a week with our new layout, we're finding it so much more functional.

96japaul22
Mar 2, 7:44am Top

Books off the shelf (3/15)

I Refuse by Per Petterson

I read and enjoyed Out Stealing Horses by the same author and so picked this up in a book store on a whim. In some ways it was similar in that the writing is sedate even through very dramatic events. There aren't any question marks (literally) used which makes for a sort of monotone reading of the book. Also, similarly to Out Stealing Horses, ramifications of traumatic childhood events are explored in the characters' adulthoods.

I liked this book, but I didn't quite know what to make of it. I was left with a lot of questions and didn't feel like things were wrapped up very well. Sometimes that works for me, but here it felt like an error. So I think fans of Out Stealing Horses, which I know several of you have read, will be interested to read this as well, but I would be curious to know if you feel as I did that its less successful.

Original publication date: 2012
Author’s nationality: Norwegian
Original language: Norwegian
Length: 282 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: like the author, off the shelf

97dudes22
Mar 2, 7:57am Top

Glad your new kitchen is a hit with you. I thought I had posted a comment about how nice it looked earlier, but the internet on vacation must have swallowed it up. I remember when we did our kitchen over in our last house how happy I was about it. Almost every day until we moved ( like 8 years later) I would say, "I love my kitchen" and my husband would roll his eyes.

98hailelib
Mar 4, 10:32am Top

Enjoy your new kitchen! Very nice.

99japaul22
Mar 10, 7:44am Top

Everything Else (8/25)

Mrs. Osmond by John Banville
John Banville's latest book continues the story of Isabel Archer, the protagonist in Henry James's book, The Portrait of a Lady. I had mixed feelings about the book, overall. It was fun to revisit the characters, but I didn't really connect to the characters in the same way as I did in the original. I think some of this had to do with the language/writing style. Banville tries to recreate James's wordy, clause-filled style and though its recognizable it just can't be the same. Also, a lot of the book seemed like a regurgitation of what happened in James's work, probably to remind the reader what had happened.

I've seen several people say they didn't like the ending, but I actually did like that part. As in the original it ends on a sort of disappointing and ambiguous note and that worked for me.

I'm glad I read this, but it wasn't quite as successful as I wanted it to be. It has led me to pick up What Maisie Knew, the shortest James novel I have left to read. :-)

Original publication date: 2017
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 384 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library book
Why I read this: sounded appealing

100clue
Mar 10, 2:55pm Top

>87 japaul22: Your kitchen looks great! I redid mine 3 years ago and I still love it, I'm sure you will be happy you did it.

101pammab
Mar 10, 9:46pm Top

Love the kitchen! It looks beautiful and like you've made enough counter space for All The Things -- I'm a bit jealous. :)

I also really appreciate the discussion of Le Carre, who after all your thoughts seems like an author that I might well want to get to know (though not by starting with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy).

102japaul22
Mar 11, 8:25am Top

>101 pammab: I had a recommendation on another thread to start with The Spy who came in from the cold. Too late for me - but you could start there!

103japaul22
Mar 13, 3:37pm Top

Books off the shelf (4/15)

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley
As most of you know by now, I'm a sucker for anything Jane Austen, and this new biography did not disappoint. Worsley explores Austen's life through the places she lived, who she lived with, and whether (or not) she wrote there. After years of hearing "it's not worth reading or writing about Austen because we just don't know anything after her family sanitized everything about her" I've found a couple really interesting and personal biographies about her. Claire Tomalin's book and this being my favorites.

I like my writings about Austen to feel personal and emotional and Worsley hits that perfectly. The book is well-researched and factual but Worsely also lets her love for Austen shine through (without bringing her voice into it too much).

After the other biographies and annotated texts I've read, this didn't present much information that was new to me, but it was very enjoyable to read and I'd recommend it to any Austen fan.

Original publication date: 2017
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 387 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased hardback
Why I read this: I'll read anything about Jane Austen

104-Eva-
Mar 13, 4:07pm Top

>103 japaul22:
Nice - this goes on my birthday list for my mum!

105rabbitprincess
Mar 13, 7:30pm Top

>103 japaul22: Excellent! We bought this for my mum for Christmas (in hardback as well) and I am glad to hear it's as good as it looks. I'll borrow it eventually :D

106christina_reads
Edited: Mar 14, 5:02pm Top

>103 japaul22: Welp, guess I'm adding that one to my TBR! I really liked Claire Tomalin's bio as well.

107Helenliz
Mar 14, 5:17pm Top

>103 japaul22: feeling slightly smug that I saw the accompanying TV programme, so don't feel obliged to read the book.
Our route to my parents used to take us within a turn of the parsonage at Chawton, only we were always on a bit of a deadline, or it was 10pm, so we never did stop for a poke about.

108lkernagh
Mar 18, 11:10pm Top

>87 japaul22: - Wonderful pictures! Beautiful kitchen!

109japaul22
Mar 21, 8:41am Top

1001 books (4/29)

What Maisie Knew by Henry James
Meh. I didn't like this very much. The story revolves around a young child whose wealthy parents get a divorce and, after using her as a bargaining chip in their divorce, basically abandon her to their respective new spouses and then again abandon Maisie to those stepparents.

The problem for me is that the entire novel revolved around these events with little attempt at side stories or character development. Maisie, a small child, is seen only in relation to her reactions to these adult events. I'm sure for its time, this was controversial and shocking, but it seemed, sadly, sort of old news at this point.

I've really loved some of James's other novels, but this one didn't work for me.

Original publication date: 1897
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 352 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle freebie
Why I read this: 1001 books

110japaul22
Edited: Mar 27, 2:21pm Top

Off the shelf: (6/15)

The Honourable Schoolboy by John Le Carre
This is the second book in the Karla trilogy featuring George Smiley. I got into it much more easily than I did Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - I think I was just more ready for the amount of detail that I was going to have to remember. This one involves an effort to get into Karla's ring through a Chinese businessman, Drake Ko. Smiley sends in Jerry Westerby, a spy with a cover as a journalist, to discover out what sort of trail he can find.

This book is complex - both in plot and morals - and nobody seems to comes out a pure "good guy". Le Carre's writing is really good. He has great character development and I like how he balances the action on the ground with the meetings at higher levels. I'll read Smiley's People, the last in this trilogy, soon.

Original publication date: 1977
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 606 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: off the shelf, for fun

111jfetting
Mar 27, 7:52pm Top

>110 japaul22: He's so great; Smiley's People is my favorite. If I remember correctly, I even cried at the end. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold is ALSO pretty wonderful.

112japaul22
Mar 28, 8:59pm Top

Everything Else (9/25)

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
This excellent new book is a retelling of Antigone set in the present day. The story revolves around two Pakistani families in London. Isma, the older sister of Aneeka and Parvaiz, raises her siblings after her mother dies suddenly. Their father had never been a part of their lives, having left the family as a jihadi. The sisters both encounter Eammon, whose father is a famous, rising politician who has taken a hard line on Pakistanis who do not fully integrate into British culture. When Parvaiz leaves his family to go to Syria, following in his father's footsteps, a crisis ensues.

I was hesitant to read this book because, honestly, I rarely enjoy reading fiction based around current, politically-charged events. It's too new and too emotional and too uncomfortable, and I generally read to escape current events. But Shamsie really does this well. I think that even though I was barely knowledgable about the Antigone story, it still really works to ground and focus the book. And she does a great job of presenting the moral complexities that all of the characters portray without beating the reader over the head with them or making the writing feel trite or obvious.

This is an excellent book and one I highly recommend. I'm interested in reading more of Shamsie's writing and glad to see she's written several other books already.

Original publication date: 2017
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 288 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: new book, heard good things

113katiekrug
Mar 28, 10:08pm Top

>112 japaul22: - I also really liked Home Fire, Jennifer. Nice review!

114japaul22
Apr 7, 12:23pm Top

1001 books (5/29)

The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth
Joseph Roth was an Austrian writer in the 1900s and The Radetzky March is his best-known novel. The novel follows 3 generations of the newly ennobled Trotta family. As a young man, the grandfather saves Emperor Franz Joseph in a battle and in gratitude, the Kaiser makes him a Baron and he becomes known as "the Hero of Solferino" (the site of the battle). The novel follows his son and his grandchild and their lives parallel the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire. At the end of the novel, the characters learn of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the nephew and potential heir of Franz Joseph. This assassination will set off the events of WWI.

Overall I really enjoyed this novel. I've not read much German/Austrian literature so it did feel a little unfamiliar, but I thought the writing was interesting and the characters well-drawn and explored. I will say that the lack of absolutely any important female characters was a major drawback for me. I did like the historical setting and use of a real person (Emperor Franz Joseph) as a character in the novel. I think this is well worth reading, but won't end up a personal favorite.

Original publication date: 1932
Author’s nationality: Austrian
Original language: German
Length: 331 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library sale, paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books

115japaul22
Apr 17, 8:31pm Top

everything else (10/25)

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

An excellent collection of Solnit's essays including the title essay, Men Explain Things to me, that relates one incident of a man explaining Solnit's own book to her and being unable to comprehend that she wrote the book he referred to. This collection of feminist essays explores the silencing of women, sometimes overt and sometimes subversive, through power structures, fear, and rape. Some of the essays are full of brutal statistics which were hard to read. Some of them, the less effective to me, were written in response to a then-current event that made it less effective removed a few years. I really enjoyed Solnit's honest, pointed writing and it gave me a lot to think about.

Original publication date: 2015
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 176 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle library
Why I read this: interested

116japaul22
Apr 18, 8:11pm Top

1001 books (6/29)

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Adichie's epic novel follows the lives of two twin sisters, Olanna and Kainene, as they navigate both "normal life" of sisterhood, love, and growing into adults and a complicated and violent civil war. The setting is in 1960s Nigeria when the Igbo people attempt to break away from Nigeria into a separate country of Biafra. Commentary on the way colonialism has affected the region runs through the book, but though the politics are present and important, Adichie manages to keep this book about the characters. The sisters and those they love are beautifully created and developed. There is also a strong element of feminism present in the book that is subtly but powerfully drawn. I think my attention was probably drawn to it because of reading Rebecca Solnit's essays concurrently.

I really enjoyed this novel. Sometimes a very unfamiliar setting, as this book certainly had for me, leaves me a little confused or distanced from the book, but Adichie has written a book that pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me a little about Nigeria while grounding her book with characters that have a universal feel. I'd love to read more by her.

Original publication date: 2007
Author’s nationality: Nigerian
Original language: English
Length: 543 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle library
Why I read this: 1001 books

117cmbohn
Apr 19, 1:33am Top

The Adichie book is on my TBR list. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it.

118japaul22
Apr 22, 2:29pm Top

1001 books (7/29)

The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen

Hmm. I really liked Bowen's To the North, but this book I just couldn't connect with. It's set in Ireland during the 1920s conflicts and the political climate influences the life of the main character, Lois, who is coming into adulthood among the societal changes. The book sets up a conflict between an older generation's opinions of how life should work and the younger generations ideas of love, marriage, and adventure.

The premise was good, but I didn't connect to any of the characters to the point where I could barely care to take the time to keep them straight in my mind.

I wouldn't start here if you're interested in reading Bowen's works.

Original publication date: 1929
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 303 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books, liked a previous book by the author

119japaul22
Apr 23, 2:14pm Top

Everything Else (11/25)

The Hounds of Spring by Lucy Andrews Cummin

This slim but substantial novel encompasses one day in the life of Poppy Starkweather, a twenty-something young woman who has abandoned PhD plans and is currently walking dogs and contemplating her next step in life. She lives with a man with whom she is considering marriage and is wondering if her current state of being really lends itself to marriage.

All of the characters are developed nicely and I found myself drawn into the story immediately. I also loved that we get to know the various dogs that Poppy walks as well. The writing feels smooth and natural and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

FYI, Lucy Andrews Cummin is our own LTer "sybix" whose reading I've followed for quite a while now. I purchased this book on amazon if anyone is interested in acquiring it.

Original publication date: 2018
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 160 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: "know" the author from LT

120japaul22
May 3, 12:32pm Top

1001 books (8/29)

Night and Day by Virginia Woolf
Night and Day is Woolf's second novel and is her most conventional in subject, form, and style. This is a love "pentagon" involving the wealthy Katharine Hilbery and her decision on whether to marry William Rodney or Ralph Denham. William would be the more traditional (wealthy) choice, but Denham also has a respectable job in the law. Then there is Mary Datchet, the independent woman who works for women's suffrage and has feelings for Denham. Katharine and Rodney get engaged and both immediately regret it - Katharine feeling claustrophobic and Rodney falling in love with Cassandra, who is much more enamored of him.

Being Woolf, there is more to this traditional marriage novel; there is definitely an exploration of what a woman gives up when she decides to marry and thoughts about where (if anywhere) a woman's power lies. Also, Katharine's rather untraditional interest in mathematics and disinterest in the arts makes for a slightly untraditional heroine. But in the end, this is a pretty conventional novel in the Victorian tradition.

As a musician, I was often taught early on in my studies that if I wanted to play something rubato (varying the tempo) or make a musical decision contrary to what was written on the page, I needed to first be able to perform the piece "correctly" as written, only then earning the right to branch out. I kept thinking about that with this novel. This struck me as Woolf proving that she could write a good novel in the tradition of other British novelists before she struck out with her highly experimental subsequent novels.

I liked this but didn't find it as interesting as her later works.

Original publication date: 1919
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 433 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books, reading all of Woolf's novels

121japaul22
May 5, 7:46am Top

Alright LT friends, I need some suggestions. A good friend at work has an 11 year old son who has been diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and they'll be doing chemo, surgery, chemo. We're helping out in other ways, but I'd also like to send an audible subscription that either my friend or her son can use. I know that choosing audiobooks can be overwhelming so I'd like to send a list of suggestions for them to start browsing.

Michelle loves all things German (she lived there for a time) and would probably prefer current fiction. I think lighter in tone and funny is better, which may not mesh well with German authors :-), so I'm also interested in anything funny or light that you've read or listened to lately. I'm thinking books like Tina Fey's Bossypants. I can't imagine having a lot of room for concentration so it needs to be something escapist that sucks you in.

And then for Nicholas, anything that an 11 year old boy might like. I don't know him very well to give much background on his reading interests.

Thanks everyone - this is a tough situation.

122rabbitprincess
May 5, 8:41am Top

>121 japaul22: That's a thoughtful idea to send them an Audible subscription!

With regard to "light or funny", the BBC audio series "Cabin Pressure" is hilarious and comes in half-hour episodes, so it would be easy to listen to in chunks. It's set at a charter airline with only one plane, and Benedict Cumberbatch plays a role in it. I'm not sure if Audible has all the episodes though. iTunes didn't end up getting the last episode, which was annoying, because I had to re-buy the whole series on CD to get it.

If your friend has a favourite actor who's done an audiobook, she could get a book narrated by them simply because they narrate it. When I had my wisdom teeth out a few years ago, I put on the audio of Morrissey's autobiography, narrated by David Morrissey -- it was comforting to listen to, even if I didn't get the content.

Not sure what to suggest for an 11-year-old... any juvenile fiction in my library is probably too young and was picked primarily because of the narrator, not because of the story! I will see if I have a friend with an 11-year-old boy in their life and try to get some ideas.

123pammab
May 5, 10:31am Top

>120 japaul22: I like the reflectiom you have on the way this fits into the Woolf canln. I read one of the experimental novels recently, and it was not at all what I had been expecting from her or from the era.

124pammab
May 5, 10:45am Top

>121 japaul22: Agree with rabbitprincess -- how thoughtful of you! It sounds like a really good idea, especially for all the waiting.

People have loved Born a Crime on audiobook, which I haven't read but do really appreciate the jokes of the author.

I tend toward more spec fic, and some recent lighter fare from me in that vein: All Systems Red (a novella about a protection bot for a group of scientists on an uninhabited planet who finds a bigger problem than expected), The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (cozy space faring with a fun cast of characters), Redshirts if she/they know Star Trek. I loved Sally Ride but that will also be an acquired taste. Hild is more historical fiction, and quite long, but immersive and I am not remembering any bad themes. I don't have any German books, unfortunately, though I could imagine something around cooking or baking might be especially fitting.

125dudes22
May 5, 12:27pm Top

>121 japaul22: - I'm not sure what an 11-year old boy might read, but check out the Mr Lemoncello series by Chris Grabenstein or maybe the Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart or maybe even the Flavia series by Alan Bradley if he likes mysteries. There's also a series I bought for our grandson based on the Minecraft computer game. (Can't remember the author) Maybe your friend could give you an idea of what he's interested in.

126DeltaQueen50
May 5, 8:59pm Top

What a wonderful idea! I have a few recommendations for 11 year old boys, although it's tricky not knowing where his interest's lie.

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen - ecological story told with humor
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (and the rest of the Brian Books in the series) - a young boy survives in the wilderness
Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper - Historical Fiction - A young native American and a colonial New England settler meet and form a friendship and have adventures
The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan - the first in a medieval fantasy series called The Ranger's Apprentice. I think there are 10 or so books in the series. Plus he has another series called The Brotherhood Chronicles of which there are a further 7 books, starting with The Outcasts
Silverfin by Charlie Higson - the first in a 5 book adventure series about a young James Bond

Of course there is always The Harry Potter books, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolken, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife & The Amber Spyglass).

I've checked and all the above are available at Audible.com. I hope both mother and son find some books to help them through this.

127japaul22
May 6, 2:58pm Top

Thank you all so much for these wonderful, detailed suggestions! I'm looking through them all and compiling a list to send with the subscription. I'll probably wait for another week or two so feel free to keep them coming. :-)

128japaul22
May 6, 2:58pm Top

Everything Else 12/25

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, audiobook read by Juliet Stevenson

I've been rereading classics through the audiobook format and I've wanted to give Madame Bovary a second try ever since I read it a few years back. I ended up feeling pretty much the same as my first read of this book - not really my cup of tea.

Flaubert writes beautifully and his characters are real to me but I just don't care enough about Emma being happy to get into this book. It has me rolling my eyes a lot with her dissatisfaction and how she goes about trying to make herself feel something. But there's no denying that there is fantastic writing here. I've never read such a beautifully gruesome death scene.

Anyway, I think it's a worthwhile book to read but will never be a favorite for me.
Juliet Stevenson's reading is wonderful as always.

Original publication date: 1856
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 14h4m
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: audible audiobook
Why I read this: reread of a classic

129japaul22
May 6, 3:08pm Top

Everything Else, 13/25

Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck

This is excellent new fiction by German author Jenny Erpenbeck. The story revolves around Richard, a recently retired professor, and his involvement with some African refugees in Berlin. The refugees are staging a hunger strike in Alexanderplatz when he hears of them. When they are transferred to housing near his home, Richard's curiosity gets the best of him and he starts interviewing them - quickly losing the pretense of interviews and befriending several of them. As he learns their stories, his world expands - he learns about Africa and why they left and the inane laws surrounding refugee status.

Another big part of this book is life in Berlin before and after the Wall came down. There were many mentions of this woven into the book that really have me interested in reading more about the time period.

I really loved this book. It is thoughtful and works on many levels and beautifully written. Highly recommended.

Original publication date: 2015, translation in 2017
Author’s nationality: German
Original language: German
Length: 283
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library paperback
Why I read this: heard good reviews

130japaul22
May 8, 8:16pm Top

Books off the shelf (7/15)

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

This was a reread of the first book I read by Margaret Atwood. I remember being blown away by this book and have read many other novels by Atwood since then.

While I still thought this book was excellent, I don't think it quite measured up to my first reading of it. This is most likely because the shock of what happens and the way she makes you believe it is plausible that we ourselves could get there sort of wears off the second time around.

But this is still a compelling, page turning book and I devoured it in two days. I've not watched the new tv series, but there is excellent material here for a tv show.

As a side note, I read a folio society edition of this book that was beautiful and had excellent illustrations.

Original publication date: 1985
Author’s nationality: Canadian
Original language: English
Length: 314
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: folio society edition
Why I read this: a reread

131VivienneR
May 11, 10:24pm Top

>121 japaul22: I enjoyed the audio version of Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz. It's the first of the Alex Rider series, and I always intended to read more. However, I don't know if it's available on Audible.

Lovely idea to give your friend an Audible subscription! I hope her son has successful treatment and soon enjoying good health again.

132japaul22
Edited: May 17, 3:40pm Top

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser

Fraser has written a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder that also explores the American experience and politics of the time. As these things (treatment of Native Americans, land exploitation, politics) all had immense influence on Wilder's life, I thought it added a lot to the book. Wilder's life encompassed an interesting shift in American history - being born when most of the West was unexplored by Americans all the way through FDR's presidency and the huge shift in culture and politics that happened then.

Her books, of course, glorify the independent spirit, self-sufficiency, and success of the supposed American spirit, but Fraser does a good job of pointing out the conflict between Wilder's themes and opinions and what actually happened. In reality, the Ingallses benefited from government programs such as land grants and actually were never successful at farming. In fact, the book makes the point that small-scale farming on land never meant to be farmed can never lead to "pull-yourself-up-by-th-bootstraps" success without significant government aid.

It's certainly not all doom and gloom, though. Wilder's love for the land she grew up on and her family comes through in this biography, just as it does in her books. I loved reading these books as a child and as an adult I've found it so interesting to explore the fact and fiction behind the stories as well as the route to publishing that led to these books becoming some of America's most beloved.

This biography also spends significant time on Rose Wilder Lane, Laura and Almanzo's only child. She has a large personality and was very involved in her mother's publishing being herself a published author first. In fact, she often overshines Laura Ingalls Wilder in this biography. This bothered me a little, but I realize that their relationship is a large part of their lives so in the end I think it worked.

I very much enjoyed this biography and would recommend it, but I would also recommend the annotated autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder that was recently published. It is called Pioneer Girl and is annotated by Pamela Smith Hill. It is a large coffee-table size book, so not very portable, but I think it told me most of the same info as this biography but by sticking to Wilder's own words, painted a better picture of her as a person.

Original publication date: 2017
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 602 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: ER program
Why I read this: interested in the person

133japaul22
May 20, 11:23am Top

Everything else (14/25)

Circe by Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller has written another excellent retelling of Greek myths, this time centered around the Goddess Circe, daughter of Helios the Sun God and a sea nymph. Circe is full of conundrums - both weak and strong, divine and human, good and deeply flawed. She is exiled from the home of her father after using witchcraft, but during her exile her paths cross with those of some of the most famous myths - Odysseus, King Minos and the Minotaur, Scylla, Penelope and Telemachus, Hermes, Athena. Miller's first book focused on the Iliad - Achilles and Patroclus' story - and her second focuses on events set forth in the Odyssey.

I loved this book. Miller makes all of these stories come to life in a way I'd never thought of them. In this book I loved how she contrasted the immortality of the gods with deaths of humans and their afterlife together in the underworld. As the book progresses she sees how isolating her immortality is and desires the ability to die and reunite with the humans she has loved and lost. She seems to have little love for her fellow gods and goddesses, preferring the humans she encounters.

I hope Madeline Miller keeps writing books like these.

Original publication date: 2018
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 400 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased for kindle
Why I read this: loved Song of Achilles

134clue
May 20, 4:33pm Top

>133 japaul22: I loved Song of Achilles too and have Circe on my shelf, I'll be reading it soon. I'm so glad you weren't disappointed, I was hoping it would be as good as Achilles and thought it would be but I've been fooled before!

135jfetting
Edited: May 20, 6:31pm Top

>133 japaul22: I've been wanting to read that - I'm so glad it is as good as Song of Achilles.

136mamzel
May 21, 1:11pm Top

>133 japaul22: Circe: a novel was definitely a "can't put down" kind of book!

137japaul22
May 22, 3:36pm Top

Everything Else (15/25)

The Dry by Jane Harper

Set in the Australian countryside during a severe drought, this novel is a well done page-turner mystery. I read several good reviews for this on LT and it did not disappoint. Definitely one of those mysteries that had me racing to the end. I will say that I didn't find anything particularly innovative here, though. The plot revolves around a current day murder mystery tied up with an unsolved case from the main detective's teenage years. This is certainly not a new idea. And honestly the ending didn't surprise me either. But I liked the setting, characters, and writing style.

I really enjoyed this and will definitely continue with the series. I think anyone who likes a good mystery will like this book.

Original publication date: 2016
Author’s nationality: Australian
Original language: English
Length: 328 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library hardback
Why I read this: like a good mystery and this had some buzz

138lkernagh
May 23, 2:21pm Top

>133 japaul22: - Great review! One of these days I will get around to reading Song of Achilles, as it has been languishing on my TBR piles for a long time.

139japaul22
May 27, 3:42pm Top

Everything Else (16/25)

Varina by Charles Frazier

Charles Frazier's new book is historical fiction about Varina Davis, the wife of Jefferson Davis who was president of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Despite an interest in the era, I really hadn't ever heard much about Varina Davis and I found this book very interesting.

Frazier sets up the book by starting toward the end of Varina's life. She is living in New York City alone and a black man named James comes to visit her. When James was a child, Varina adopted him during the war. He lived with her and her children, sort of as one of them, and also escaped Richmond with them at the end of the war. At a certain point, Varina gave him up to a boarding school/orphanage and he made his own way from there, losing touch with the Davis family.

He comes to visit Varina and she tells him her memories. The book flits around to different eras of her life: her marriage to the much older Jeff Davis when she was 17, the early years in Washington, D.C., her friendship with Mary Chesnut (the famous diarist), her life as a mother, her escape from Richmond, and her current-day experience in NYC. I thought Frazier did a great job creating her character and not letting the dramatic events overshadow the person of Varina.

I really liked this and would definitely recommend it.

Original publication date: 2018
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 368 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: interested in the topic

140thornton37814
May 27, 5:33pm Top

>139 japaul22: A lady who works a few hours a week in our archives asked me about getting that one for the library one day last week. I told her I ordered it, but it was the only one from the shipment which had not arrived. It came in that morning, so I sent her an email saying it arrived. She picked it up on her way out.

141dudes22
May 28, 10:35am Top

>139 japaul22: - Normally, Jennifer, I would say this book is not one that would appeal to me, but I found your comments interesting and have decided that I'll take a BB on this. Although I'm not much for historical fiction, I do like books that start in the present and then go back to the past and come forward again.

142japaul22
May 29, 8:35pm Top

>140 thornton37814:, >141 dudes22: I imagine Varina will get pretty much buzz, if only because of the popularity of Cold Mountain. I really liked it.

143japaul22
May 29, 8:36pm Top

1001 books (9/29)

Death in Venice by Thomas Mann.

The two words that came to mind most often as I read this brief novella were "overwrought" and "self-indulgent". OK, I guess it wasn't that bad, but pretty close.

Aschenbach, an aging writer, travels to Venice, sees a beautiful young boy who he becomes obsessed with (though never really interacts with, this is an internal obsession), and then dies.

I struggled to see the point. I loved Mann's first novel, Buddenbrooks, that he wrote in his youth, but this just seemed like it was trying to hard. I will read The Magic Mountain someday, and I hope I like it more than this.

Original publication date: 1912
Author’s nationality: German
Original language: German
Length: 80 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle freebie
Why I read this: 1001 books

144clue
May 30, 1:14pm Top

<139 I'm glad to see your good review of Varina. I brought it home from the library a few weeks ago but didn't get to it and took it back so I'll grab it again when I see it. I think we can trust Frazier's history and I like reading about the women history has ignored.

145pamelad
May 30, 6:51pm Top

The book ofDeath in Venice has faded from my memory but the Visconti film is vivid, not because it's a faithful representation of the book but because it's so beautiful, and Dirk Bogarde is so good.

146japaul22
May 30, 8:13pm Top

>144 clue: I hope you read it - I'd like to hear what you think!

>145 pamelad: I could see it being a beautifully filmed movie - the setting was probably the most appealing part of the book.

147japaul22
Jun 2, 4:17pm Top

1001 books (10/29)

July's People by Nadine Gordimer

July's People takes place in South Africa during the battles to end Apartheid in the 1980s. The white Smales family flees the city with their servant, July, escaping the violence to the relative safely of July's home village. There, the contrast between their former life as privileged whites and the life of July's family is explored. For a while, July acts the same role as in the city - the subservient servant making life comfortable for his employers. But as time goes on, the line shifts. His expertise at living in these very different conditions gives him power, as does his standing in his community. He starts using the Smales's car as though it is his own and controlling them in other ways as well. It's subtle, though. No one knows what will happen next. Certainly if they end up back in the city with things as they were, July will want his job to continue as it was and knows his status will revert so he doesn't make a big shift in attitude. At the same time the Smales's life changes and their eyes are opened to how others in their country live, but more they seem to realize the benefits of their way of life and miss some of the simple things they took for granted. Again, though, Gordimer approaches this with a subtle touch - it isn't just that they miss certain comforts, but sometimes more the ideas or meanings behind those comforts. There is also the constant unknown - should they flee South Africa, wait for things to stabilize and return home, or what? Their children, however, assimilate quickly to the way of life in the village. There are constant references to how they begin to behave like black children in how they play, eat, and speak.

This book is beautifully written and tastefully done. Unlike some other African novels that I've read by white authors, there isn't a pervasive racist tone. There is certainly comparison but it didn't feel judgmental to me. This is particularly impressive to me considering that the book was written in 1981 as the battle to end Apartheid was still occurring.

Definitely recommended for those interested in African literature.

Original publication date: 1981
Author’s nationality: South African
Original language: English
Length: 161 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library sale paperback
Why I read this:1001 books

148Chrischi_HH
Jun 2, 5:35pm Top

>129 japaul22: I had heard of Go, Went, Gone before, but didn't know what it is about. Thank you for your review, the book is now on my wishlist.

Generally you've read some great books so far! Good that I've read a few of them and others are already on the wishlist, otherwise your thread would have been a huge book bullet. :-))

149japaul22
Jun 3, 11:29am Top

>148 Chrischi_HH: Glad to have sparked some interest in Go, Went, Gone, and glad I didn't add too many books to the wish list!

150-Eva-
Jun 3, 11:01pm Top

>128 japaul22:
That one is actually my least favorite book of all time - I just never get over her making poor decisions and then endlessly complaining about how the result is always a failure.

151japaul22
Jun 6, 8:41pm Top

1001 books (11/29)

The Violent Bear it Away by Flannery O'Connor
This was intense. Sad, troubled people and religious fervor as a type of insanity. It was relentless. O'Connor is a good writer, that's for sure, but I couldn't stomach the topic of this book. Maybe her writing, usually described as Southern Gothic, just isn't for me.

Basically, in the oldest generation we meet, a man is insane and his point of focus is the Bible, God's wrath, and baptizing. All the women in his family are whores, according to him, and he kidnaps his nephew when he's seven to "save him". The parents get him back, but a generation later he kidnaps his great-nephew in infanthood and raises him until age 14. He dies and the 14-year-old, Tarwater, goes to find his uncle, the man his great-uncle kidnapped at age 7. At this point, though, Tarwater has been raised in isolation being inundated with all of the religious ideas of an insane man and he finds a streak of insanity in himself.

It's not really giving anything away to say there is no happy ending here. Though I think Flannery O'Connor is an important author, I'm not sure many will really enjoy this book.

Original publication date: 1960
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 241 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this:1001 books

152japaul22
Jun 16, 8:11pm Top

1001 books (12/29)

Smiley's People by John Le Carre
This is the third book I've read by Le Carre and they get more satisfying the more I read. I think that I'm getting used to his pacing and the spy jargon he uses. Smiley's People is the third in a trilogy of books centered around George Smiley, the anti-Bond spy, and his Russian nemesis, "Karla".

Original publication date: 1979
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 398 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books

153japaul22
Jun 19, 5:14pm Top

Everything Else (17/25)

Melmoth by Sarah Perry

I really liked this! Sarah Perry's newest novel is based around the legend of Melmoth, a woman who witnessed Jesus's empty tomb after his resurrection and denied what she saw. She was then condemned to walk the earth until Christ's second coming. In her loneliness, she seeks out those who have sinned and feel guilt and asks them to join her walking the earth. It's a creepy story and Perry creates a Gothic style novel around it.

British Helen Franklin is living an ascetic life in Prague where she meets Karel and Thea. Karel is an academic doing research on the legend of Melmoth and becomes obsessed - finding old records of encounters with Melmoth. He ends up running off and leaving the writings with Helen. These encounters in various time periods are fully presented in the book. It could be distracting, hearing all of these different voices give their accounts of Melmoth, but it works because it's obvious that Helen herself is hiding guilt about some sort of crime or misbehavior so it all ties in to the present. She begins to feel that Melmoth is haunting her as well and the tension builds to a dramatic conclusion.

I received this book through the Early Reviewers program.

Original publication date: 2018
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 244 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: ER book
Why I read this: requested because I liked the authors other work

154japaul22
Jun 22, 11:51am Top

Everything else (18/25)

A House Full of Daughters by Juliet Nicholson

This book is subtitled "a memoir of seven generations" and the author has created a multi-generational memoir of women in her family. The hook here for many readers, myself included, is that Vita Sackville-West was the author's grandmother. Nicholson has a sufficiently interesting family to make this memoir fun to read. I, as is typical for me, enjoyed the sections about the past generations much more than the current generation. There's just something about having some space that makes for better writing. Nicholson is a little over-descriptive in her writing style for my taste (lots of adjectives), but overall this was fun to read if a bit forgettable.

Original publication date: 2016
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 318 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: for fun

155VivienneR
Jun 25, 1:33pm Top

>154 japaul22: Glad you liked this one. I was tempted by Nicholson's relationship to Vita Sackville-West and read A Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm and was very disappointed. From what I remember it was more like a social diary for obscure debutantes.

156japaul22
Jun 27, 8:15pm Top

Books off the shelf (9/15)

Iceland's Bell by Halldor Laxness

This novel is set in 17th and 18th century Iceland and follows several interlocking stories. One is of Jon Hreggvidsson, a man accused of murdering the King's hangman. Through his saga we see the inaneness of the "courts" at the Althingi. His story reminded me in some ways of Don Quixote - there was a dark humor to his situation. His paths cross with Snaefridur, the most beautiful woman in Iceland, and Arnas Arnaeus, a wealthy collector of Icelandic manuscripts. Snaefridur and Arnas fall in love but Snaefridur is married to a drunkard who loses her dowry land and sometimes gets drunk and sells her to other men. Arnas, though he's infatuated with Snaefridur, seems to love his books more than anything and his quest to find original manuscripts monopolizes his life.

Among these storylines, Laxness weaves in a rich history of Iceland at the time, which was ruled by Denmark. The politics of this remote government and the hardships of living in Iceland are an essential part of the book.

Overall, I really liked this. It's certainly written impressively and thoroughly. I will admit that it was sometimes hard for me to follow the plot, though, and definitely took a lot of concentration. I would recommend this, but save it for a time when you can really focus and are ready for a bit of a challenge.

Original publication date: 1943, translated in 2003
Author’s nationality: Iceland
Original language: Icelandic
Length: 406 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased paperback
Why I read this: read and enjoyed Independent People by the same author

157japaul22
Jun 27, 8:51pm Top

>155 VivienneR: I'm not surprised to hear you didn't love Juliet Nicholson's other book. I wasn't blown away by this memoir either, but I thought it was good enough. Especially the first half.

158japaul22
Jul 1, 8:00pm Top

Off the shelf (10/15)

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

Wow, Laura Bush had a lot of sex as a young woman.

Just kidding . . . kind of.
I would never have read this novel based very loosely on the life of Laura Bush if it hadn't been for a "book friend" of mine who loves Curtis Sittenfeld. Though the book has some flaws, I'm very glad I read it and it was a perfect summer read. In fact, I found this novel compulsively readable and flew through all 555 pages in a matter of days.

The book is told in four sections and each one contains one true life event of Laura Bush and the rest is fictionalized around it. The first section is her teenage years and a car accident where she kills a friend of hers in another car after running a stop sign. The second section is based around her time as a public school librarian. The third is her marriage to "Charlie Blackwell", aka George Bush and his alcoholism. The fourth is her time in the White House.

This book works really, really well when you just stop worrying about what is true and what isn't and think of it as a woman in her 60s looking back at her life - describing her mistakes, problems, luck, friendships, etc. In fact, for most of the book, I didn't think of this as being about Laura and George Bush at all. The first three sections were really excellent. The last section gets more political and there is lots of hand-wringing about whether or not she should publicly disagree with some of her husbands policies and some of her past comes back to haunt her. This section I found the least satisfying. I wondered if Sittenfeld just had a harder time imagining this section because there was too much info out there that already created a picture. I think the author had much more freedom in the earlier sections and that worked really well. One other mistake, I thought, was that she set the action in the early sections in Wisconsin instead of Texas. Being pretty familiar with Wisconsin, a lot of the action didn't seem to fit with the setting. Several times I found something jarring and thought, yeah, that's cause that sort of thing would make more sense in Texas.

Anyway, I really liked this and found it pretty fun to read. It came out in 2008 and is probably the kind of book that you either read when it came out or you'll never read, but if it's still lingering on your shelf, give it a try. I found it a pleasant surprise.

Original publication date: 2008
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 555 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library sale paperback
Why I read this: for fun, off the shelf

159katiekrug
Jul 1, 8:15pm Top

>158 japaul22: - This one is still lingering on my shelf, Jenn. Your review encourages me. I have a love-hate relationship with Laura Bush (well, not a relationship, obviously, but I do have some good stories from when I worked at the White House ;-) )

160japaul22
Jul 1, 8:21pm Top

>159 katiekrug: Yes, I always found her to be kind and respectful of people's time, i.e. their events always started and ended on time. I really did better pretending it was not about her and her husband though. Not being able to ignore it in the White House section almost ruined it, but I still thought it was pretty good overall.

Although it does bring back a lot of bad political memories for me . . .

161japaul22
Jul 7, 8:14am Top

Everything Else (19/25)

Force of Nature by Jane Harper
I liked this second mystery in Harper's series about Australian detective Aaron Falk just as much as the first. This centers around a group of women who go on a forced team-building exercise for work where they do a 4 day hike in the Australian bushland. They have a map and compass but not much else - no phone service - and after making it to the first camp site (supplies are staged at each day's destination) they get horribly lost on day 2. They end up losing one of the women and the search for her is the mystery.

What I actually found most interesting about this book was the dynamic between the women on the team-building exercise. From the beginning, they failed miserably. The five women were from different levels of the company - from the president to a data-entry position. The whole point of these types of exercises is to level the playing field and see everyone's strengths outside the office, but the president of the company, Jill, insisted on making all final decisions and controlling everything even though she was by far the weakest link as far as outdoor knowledge and fitness was concerned. And the women couldn't leave their work drama behind them and band together. This was really odd to me - they were completely unsupportive of each other. The nature of my job leads our unit to be very close, even with those we wouldn't otherwise get along with, because we are repeatedly put in high pressure performance situations and also in physically demanding work. Basically, we do constant team-building. So in some ways I found it pretty unrealistic that these women didn't naturally become supportive of each other in the challenging environment, but it definitely made the events realistic so I guess it worked for the book.

Regardless of all that, I find Harper's mysteries interesting and very readable which is exactly what I want in a mystery.

Original publication date: 2018
Author’s nationality: Australian
Original language: English
Length: 336 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: purchased kindle
Why I read this: for fun

162rabbitprincess
Jul 7, 8:58am Top

>161 japaul22: That's an interesting premise! Also a dash of horror for me because of the team-building exercise aspect. I prefer more sedate, food-based team-building, such as potlucks, coffee breaks, sharing baked goods or going out for lunch.

163japaul22
Jul 7, 9:19am Top

>162 rabbitprincess: Yes! Those all sound much more enjoyable than going out in the wilderness and roughing it for 4 days! There was a bit of horror to it, especially because the area they were in was also the site of a series of murders about 20 years previous, but it wasn't too scary to read.

164rabbitprincess
Jul 7, 9:41am Top

>163 japaul22: Yeah, roughing it is not something I want to do even with people I like, let alone coworkers I might not get along with ;)

165japaul22
Jul 8, 9:21am Top

I've heard of three books coming out in late September/October that I'm really excited about.

Transcription by Kate Atkinson
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
The Witch Elm by Tana French

I love that time of year for new books. Any others you've heard about that you're excited about?

166rabbitprincess
Jul 8, 9:25am Top

>165 japaul22: I am REALLY excited about the new Tana French! Also Linwood Barclay's new one, A Noise Downstairs. And Ian Rankin's new one, In a House of Lies.

167VivienneR
Jul 12, 3:03pm Top

>165 japaul22: and >166 rabbitprincess: Great news! I better get a move on with the French, Rankin and Barclay series.

168japaul22
Jul 12, 4:00pm Top

Everything Else (20/25)

Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton read by Lorna Raver

This was a reread for me, this time on audio. I love the way Wharton writes and the situations she comes up with. In this, Newland Archer, on the cusp of marrying a beautiful, conventional, boring girl from New York society, becomes enthralled with Ellen Olenska, who is intriguing, foreign, and anything but conventional. I'm annoyed by Archer for the whole book because his relationship with Ellen seems to be based on nothing but infatuation and a need to get away from stifling New York society, in other words its much more about him than actually about Ellen. But, then again, that feels real to me, that often these relationships are like that. I can't imagine Newland and Ellen ever actually settling down together. And in the end I don't think May (his wife) is as clueless and dumb as he supposes.

And that is why the ending of this book (you'll have to read it to find out) is absolutely perfect.

Original publication date: 1920
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 11h45m
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library audiobook
Why I read this: for fun, reread

169japaul22
Jul 12, 4:08pm Top

1001 books (13/29)

Under the Net by Iris Murdoch

I never know what to make of Iris Murdoch's books. This is the third of her novels that I've read and I'm always left a little perplexed about whether I loved it or hated it.

This heads in a more predictable direction than the other novels I've read by her, maybe because it's her first. It follows Jake Donaghue, a young-ish man with no money who lives very comfortably by borrowing from friends as he tries (sort of) to be a writer. All sorts of unusual and unrealistic things happen to him and he never takes the conventional path out of a situation. This leads to random drinking, swimming in rivers, stealing dogs, breaking into apartments, and running across rooftops. All sort of in the pursuit of love with a woman it seems he can't make up his mind about, and a man whose intellect he's obsessed with.

So I don't know. Something about the craft of Murdoch's writing keeps bringing me back but I'm still not convinced.

Original publication date: 1954
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 253 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, library sale
Why I read this: 1001 books

170christina_reads
Jul 12, 5:54pm Top

>168 japaul22: My take on May is that she's 100% aware of what's going on and is subtly manipulating the whole situation! Nice review of the book; I remember really loving it when I read it.

171japaul22
Jul 12, 7:58pm Top

>170 christina_reads: Yes, I agree, and I especially noticed it on this second reading. I really love Wharton's writing.

172japaul22
Jul 15, 9:03pm Top

Everything Else 21/25

Tangerine by Christine Mangan

This was fun - a well-done suspense novel set in Tangier in the 1950s. It involves two young women, Alice and Lucy, who have a past together as roommates at a women's college in Vermont, Bennington. Alice is unhappily married and her husband has moved her to Tangier, where she basically hides in their apartment. One day Lucy shows up and the past is slowly revealed as the present crumbles. It's one of those books where who is telling the truth is confusing - a double unreliable narrator book.

I enjoyed this and I thought the story and setting was compelling enough to keep me interested, but the book does have some faults. It's told by alternating voices of Lucy and Alice and they weren't very easy to tell apart. I had to keep reminding myself whose voice I was hearing - a more experienced author would have done that better. And the plot, while entertaining, was familiar - a little too similar to Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley. But if you're looking for an entertaining summer read, I think this fits the bill.

Original publication date: 2018
Author’s nationality: not sure - Irish? American? bio isn't very helpful
Original language: English
Length: 320 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: for fun

173VivienneR
Jul 18, 3:13pm Top

>172 japaul22: I've got a library hold on Tangerine but it's still at the "on order" stage so it might take a while to come in. It was the locale that attracted me.

I've read that Mangan is American, originally from the Detroit area.

174japaul22
Jul 18, 7:43pm Top

>173 VivienneR: I hope you like it, I thought it was pretty entertaining. And thanks for the nationality info!

175-Eva-
Jul 21, 9:03pm Top

>172 japaul22:
I keep seeing that one on Litsy and the consensus seems to tip it toward the wishlist. Hmm, not decided yet...

176japaul22
Jul 21, 9:25pm Top

>175 -Eva-: I think it’s worth reading. Do you like Litsy? I created an account a while ago and haven’t used it at all. I think because I’m not very into the Instagram style or taking photos of my books. I’m curious though!

177-Eva-
Jul 21, 9:37pm Top

>176 japaul22:
I do like it, but I also like Instagram. It's much "briefer" than LT, but I like when people post quotes and reviews (there are a lot of memes too, but I tend to scroll by those). I'm not super active, but I'm "Swe_Eva" over there if you want to take a look.

178japaul22
Jul 29, 4:44pm Top

Everything Else (22/25)

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko is a family epic novel about a Korean family living in Japan that follows several generations through the 20th century. The book centers around Sanju who grows up in her parent's boarding house in Korea. She is seduced by an older man, Hansu, and becomes pregnant. She then finds out that he is married and has a family in Japan. He is obviously rich and offers to support her living in Korea, sort of set her up as a second wife/mistress, but her upbringing doesn't allow her to consider that. A kind Christian man boarding with them offers to marry her and raise her child as his own if they move to Japan. She agrees. They move to Japan and live with his brother and wife who are childless.

This move to Japan sets in motion a lot of what happens to the family in subsequent generations. They face unrelenting racism and obstacles as Korean immigrants but Hansu keeps track of Sanju and appears at some of the worst times to aid the family - sometimes behind the scenes and sometimes with Sanju's approval. He tries to support his son, Noa, without revealing that he's his father. Sanju has two sons, Noa and Mazuso, who take different paths but both end up as wealthy owners of multiple pachinko parlors. Pachinko is Japanese pinball where people bet on outcomes and is a huge industry.

Too much happens in this long book to describe all of the plot, but there are lots of themes explored - racism, immigration, politics, sexism, family secrets, etc. - that add a lot to the book and keep connections between the generations. I definitely preferred the first half of the book that focused more on Sanju and her sister-in-law and their climb out of extreme poverty. I liked the book as a whole, though, an definitely recommend it to anyone who likes this sort of multigenerational work set in a different culture (well, different to me).

Original publication date: 2017
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 496 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: for fun

179katiekrug
Jul 29, 4:57pm Top

>178 japaul22: - I've got this one waiting patiently on my Kindle. Some day......

180japaul22
Jul 29, 8:01pm Top

>179 katiekrug: This is one that I requested from the library, so I read it immediately when it finally became available. It's long in terms of pages, but it reads pretty quickly. I liked it.

181japaul22
Jul 30, 8:27pm Top

These are the books I've read out loud to my boys so far this year. I keep a list on my Club Read thread and thought I'd post it here as well. They have pretty different interests, so I read separately to them on alternating nights. William also somewhat reluctantly reads chapter books on his own but I'm not tracking those (he loves being read to and I'm hoping he lets me do it for a few more years!). Isaac LOVED the Ricky Ricotta series. I'm always interested in what others are reading with their kids if anyone has any recommendations.

William (age 8):
Double Fudge by Judy Blume
The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket
Superfudge by Judy Blume
The Austere Academy by lemony snicket
The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier

Isaac (5 years old):
My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Elmer and the Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Catwings by Ursula K. Le Guin
Ricky Ricotta and his Might Robot by Dav Pilkey #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Dragon Masters #1
Dragon Masters #2

182japaul22
Aug 1, 2:22pm Top

Everything Else (23/25)

Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith

This book was sort of part biology/evolution and part philosophy. Godfrey-Smith delves into the lives of octopuses to explore the evolution of the mind. Humans and cephalapods share a very distant common relative so by exploring how octopuses use their minds, we are exploring a parallel but distinct evolution of thought. It isn't like other animals with intelligence, like other mammals and birds, where our thought systems were at least partially developed before we branched off from each other.

Godfrey-Smith asks questions like what makes an octopus need the ability to have conscious thought from an evolutionary standpoint, why would an animal that only lives a couple of years develop these traits, and how did this develop in an animal that has a very limited social life? None of these questions has a firm answer, but the book's philosophical tone gives a lot to ponder.

In the end, I'm not exactly sure what I got out of this and it seems a rather obscure topic, but it was fun to read and gave me some things to think about.

Original publication date: 2016
Author’s nationality: Australian
Original language: English
Length: 272 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: sounded interesting

183japaul22
Aug 2, 8:36am Top

1001 books (14/29)

The Years by Virginia Woolf

And with that I've completed all of Virginia Woolf's novels. My next Woolf project will be to read the massive Hermione Lee biography and reread all or most of the novels. I also want to delve into some of her essays and short stories. I've only read A Room of One's Own of those.

So what about The Years? Well, I recognized Woolf's impeccable writing style and her introspective character writing, but I didn't love this one. The Years follows two branches of the Pargiter family, beginning in 1880. The first part of the book is a series of vignettes from 1880-1918 where one or two characters are developed (almost as in a short story). Then the final section is in the "present day" (probably some point in the 1930s) where many of the family members come together at a party.

The book is smart and sophisticated and has a couple of memorable characters, but I didn't find the connection that I have had with some of Woolf's novels and didn't find the message as dramatic as I hope for in her writing.

Original publication date: 1939
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 436 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, purchased
Why I read this: 1001 books, Woolf completionist

184katiekrug
Aug 2, 10:17am Top

Yowzer! Well done on reading all of Woolf's novels. I've only read To the Lighthouse which I liked, thanks to an excellent professor, but I have a few more on my shelves, and I should really get around to trying one. My book group has been talking about doing a duo-read of Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours, but some people keep balking at having to read two books in a month... *Sigh*

185dudes22
Aug 3, 8:30pm Top

>181 japaul22: - Jennifer - Chris Grabenstein has a series (3 books so far) called "Mr Lemoncello's…" which I think are a lot of fun. They all revolve around a library - there are interesting facts and puzzles and puns. Your older son might like them. (You can find them in my library if you want to take a peek)

186japaul22
Aug 3, 10:48pm Top

>185 dudes22: those look great and I hadn't heard of them. Thanks for the recommendation!

187japaul22
Aug 4, 2:53pm Top

1001 books (15/29)

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

I finally read this book because it just won the Golden Booker and it's been on my shelf for a long time. To be honest, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. I thought this book was well-written and interesting, but not all that memorable.

Most of you probably know the premise from already having read the book or seeing the movie. The "English patient" is a man who has been horribly burned in a plane crash and ends up in Italy in a small hospital. As WWII ends, the hospital is disbanded and the English patient remains with a young nurse, Hana, who has been traumatized by the war, an older man named Caravaggio who knows Hana through her father, and Kip, an Indian man who defuses bombs. The English patient doesn't remember who he is and by telling his story under the influence of morphine he discloses enough details that Caravaggio thinks he knows who he is. There are many layers to the book and the characters end up fitting together in different ways than you might expect.

I enjoyed this but I wasn't impressed enough to run out and read more by this author.

Original publication date: 1993
Author’s nationality: Sri Lanka and Canada
Original language: English
Length: 305 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library sale, paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books, Golden Booker winner, off the shelf

188dudes22
Aug 4, 7:03pm Top

>187 japaul22: - I've tried to read 2 by Michael Ondaatje and had to give up on both because they were written in that "stream-of-consciousness" style which I really don't like. I still have this book on my TBR thinking I might give it a try someday.

189rabbitprincess
Aug 4, 9:05pm Top

>187 japaul22: My favourite parts of The English Patient were the bits where they talked about defusing bombs -- the military history geek in me appreciated those details.

190japaul22
Aug 6, 6:41am Top

>188 dudes22: I'd still recommend giving it a try. I wouldn't call this book "stream-of-consciousness", but it does jump around to different stories quite a bit and doesn't end up with clear answers or endings.

>189 rabbitprincess: yes, that was fun! Kip was my favorite character.

191japaul22
Aug 6, 6:54am Top

1001 Books (16/29)

I'm realizing it's going to take some work to get my 29 books from this category in so I did a random number generator to pick this book off the list. Lucky me got a short one!

Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth

I read this brief novel by Irish author Maria Edgeworth because it was on the 1001 books to read before you die list and I'm always interested in female authors on the list. This book was published in 1800 and seems to have been written about a "typical" Irish gentry family for the English public. She certainly didn't give Ireland the best representation! This book is narrated by Thady, a servant for the Rackrent family, who witnesses three generations squander away their money and land through poor management, gambling, drink, and unwise marriages. Their land ends up in the hands of Thady's son.

This book is important historically because the English ate it up and took it as a real insight into the rise of the middle class in Ireland and the bad habits of the Irish landed gentry. But the writing, plot development, and character development are basically non-existent. Thady's voice gives some character and there are a few funny moments, but this is basically a long run-on sentence in 90 pages. Any book published in the early 1800s will be compared by me to Jane Austen and there is zero comparison here. I'm always impressed with Austen's tight plot and character development and coherence when compared to her contemporaries.

This was interesting from a historical perspective, but not really a pleasurable reading experience.

Original publication date: 1800
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 89 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle freebie
Why I read this: 1001 books

192japaul22
Aug 9, 9:21am Top

1001 books (17/29)

An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro

I really love Ishiguro's writing. He writes simply but beautifully and there are always multiple layers and interpretations of his work. This book is no different. Ono, the very unreliable first-person narrator, is musing on his life in the aftermath of WWII Japan. He slowly reveals some of his actions during the war and seems to not be able to admit to his mistakes and also not be able to understand if he or those around him should/do judge his actions harshly.

There is a ton to discuss regarding the book and luckily this was for a group read in the 1001 books group. I'm looking forward to hearing others comments.

Some may not like the ambiguity that the reader is left with, but I thought the open-ended nature made me consider the book and the time period more intensely than I would if everything had been answered.

Original publication date: 1986
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 206 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: 1001 books group read

193DeltaQueen50
Aug 9, 12:23pm Top

>192 japaul22: I am just starting An Artist of the Floating World and I certainly agree with you about the author's beautiful writing. I tend to be a fast reader, but I am trying to slow down and really savor both the story and the writing.

194japaul22
Aug 9, 1:35pm Top

>193 DeltaQueen50: I’ve read 3 books by Ishiguro now and I think he’s one of those authors where every word is considered.

195pamelad
Aug 10, 2:17am Top

Agreeing with you on both Castle Rackrent and An Artist of the Floating World. Gave up on the first - expected comedy but found tedium. Loved the second. It's ages since I read it, and the details are gone, but the atmosphere stays with me.

196dudes22
Aug 11, 8:46am Top

>192 japaul22: - I read Nerver Let Me Go last year and want to read some more as I agree the writing is great. I was wondering at the beginning of your comments if there was a resolution, but you answered that question. I may need to search out another of his books sooner.

197japaul22
Aug 11, 10:16am Top

>196 dudes22: If resolution is important to you, don't read his A Pale View of Hills! It left me with more questions than any book I can remember reading in my recent past. That being said, I really enjoyed that about it.

198japaul22
Aug 11, 10:31am Top

Everything Else (24/25)

Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively

I absolutely loved this book. Claudia is at the end of her life and decides to "write" a history of the world in her head while lying in the hospital. She muses on her life and her relationships. Among these are a brief love affair during WWII, an intimate relationship with her brother, and a tense relationship with her daughter. There are lots of insights into living along the way. I found the whole thing very well done.

Highly recommended.

Original publication date: 1987
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 208 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library paperback
Why I read this: booker prize, golden booker

199japaul22
Aug 20, 8:06am Top

Everything Else (25/25)

A Brave Vessel by Hobson Woodward
We just got back from a fabulous cruise to Bermuda with our extended family. Bermuda is a beautiful island and we had a great time - the beaches in particular are lovely. As I often do, I searched for a book based in Bermuda for the trip. The pickings were sort of slim, but I found this nonfiction account of the first colonists on Bermuda and it ended up being really interesting.

In 1609, the Sea Venture and several other smaller ships made a crossing from England to Jamestown to reinforce the settlers there. On the way they encountered a hurricane which split them up. Most of the fleet actually made it to Jamestown (where everyone was starving, by the way) and the Sea Venture ended up at Bermuda. Bermuda was a known island, the Spanish had discovered it and tried to use it as a stopping point - they even introduced wild pigs hoping to use them as food, but no one had settled there and there was no indigenous population. The main reason it was still uninhabited is that there are shallow coral reefs surrounding the island and only a few places where the shore is anywhere near approachable by a large vessel. Luckily, the Sea Venture ended up at one of these relatively deep approaches.

Once on the island, the normal issues arise - differences of opinions on how to run things, how and if to get off the island, etc. Luckily there was plenty of food and water on the island. Some end up going to Jamestown and some stay on the island.

Woodward pairs this story with Shakespeare's writing of the Tempest, which he probably used as inspiration. This part of the book was weaker for me. I was much more interested in the settlers' experience than an analysis of The Tempest, but nonetheless this was a really good book that fit my vacation very well.

Original publication date: 2010
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 304 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: on vacation in Bermuda

200japaul22
Aug 20, 4:18pm Top

Everything Else (26/25)

Those of you paying attention will notice I've finished (and then some) my "everything else" category long before my other two. Oh well!

Radical Candor by Kim Scott
This is a pretty solid leadership/management book. The main premise is to "care personally and challenge directly". Lots of good advice on how to communicate with your team.

FYI there is also a podcast that covers the info in this book and I find it even more effective than the book.

Original publication date: 2017
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 272 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: pondering leadership at work

201japaul22
Aug 21, 5:23pm Top

Everything Else (27/25)

Before I Burn by Gaute Heivoll

This is a Norwegian bestseller in which the narrator ruminates about an arsonist who terrorized his community at the time of his birth. He also thinks extensively about his relationship with his father and his father's death. This book definitely has that Scandinavian feel - it is written a bit flat and matter-of-factly - it's not as dramatic as the subject of an arsonist on the loose sounds like it would be.

I liked it, but I found myself losing interest periodically and in the end I don't think it will be very memorable for me.

Original publication date: 2014 (translation
Author’s nationality: Norwegian
Original language: Norwegian
Length: 336 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: LT reviews

202japaul22
Aug 30, 8:27am Top

1001 Books (18/29)

A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul

This book is hard for me to review as I had wildly different reactions as I read the 278 pages. It starts out when a young man of Indian descent living on the East coast of Africa buys a shop in an isolated village at "the bend in the river" of a newly forming African country. The beginning was so interesting and beautifully written. I loved the descriptions of the growing town and its inhabitants, especially the various cultures all trying to navigate life. But then, as the town grows and the politics of this newly formed country get messy, the book sort of lost me. The characters didn't feel real anymore as they did in the beginning. They all felt like simple representations of various points of view. So I started to lose interest. And then the token woman and violent/passionate love affair happens. I absolutely despise books where an author tries to portray a passionate relationship as needing violence to show how deep the emotions are. So then I wanted to just quit reading.

I persevered to the end, but I never got back to enjoying the book as I did at the beginning. So for me, it just wasn't a great reading experience.

Original publication date: 1978
Author’s nationality: British/Trinidad
Original language: English
Length: 278 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback, library book sale
Why I read this: 1001 books, Nobel prize author

203japaul22
Sep 7, 8:02pm Top

Everything Else (28/25)

The Overstory by Richard Powers

Powers has written a novel that is about trees as much as people. The first section of the book tells brief stories of eight people and their interaction with trees - largely in childhood or youth. It's absolutely beautiful. As I read this section of the book I was gasping in awe of Powers' writing and insight and feeling a deep connection with the world of trees. It was magical. A five star read for sure.

And then in the second half of the book, these people grow up and their early tree experiences lead to something that I would call eco-terrorism. Having been so moved by the first section of the book, I could see the point and felt empathy for their points of view, but I was very uncomfortable with the actions. I started not wanting to pick the book up. On the strength of the first section I continued on and started to see that part of the author's point here was probably to challenge me, the reader, as to just how much humans are interfering with the world and make me think about what the reasonable steps to take really are. So even though I still was uncomfortable, I started to appreciate the point again. I never got back to how captivated I was by the first section, but I see why the book developed the way it did.

In the end, I think this is a great book though I'm sure not everyone will connect with it. I expect it will be a memorable book for me and I'm definitely interested in reading more by Richard Powers.

Original publication date: 2018
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 502 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library hardback
Why I read this: Booker nominee

204japaul22
Sep 11, 2:29pm Top

Everything Else (29/25)

She-Wolves: The women who ruled England before Elizabeth by Helen Castor

Well, the title says it all. Very readable non-fiction about women who ruled in varying capacities in the hundreds of years before Queen Elizabeth I. While this was a good book, my excessive historical fiction reading (thank you Sharon Kay Penman) meant that there wasn't much new in this book for me. But the review was fun.

Original publication date: 2012
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 496 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library kindle
Why I read this: for fun

205Helenliz
Sep 11, 3:17pm Top

>204 japaul22: I agree, this is very readable. It also made for a very watchable 3 part documentary on BBC4, presented by the author.

206christina_reads
Sep 11, 4:13pm Top

>204 japaul22: Yay, Sharon Kay Penman! This sounds like an interesting book -- BB taken!

207japaul22
Sep 11, 5:48pm Top

>206 christina_reads: really, though, if you've read Sharon Kay Penman's Eleanor of Aquitaine series, there's not much reason read this!

208dudes22
Sep 12, 7:31am Top

>203 japaul22: - I debated for a couple of days, but I think I'll take a BB for this. Even though it's 500 pages.

209japaul22
Sep 12, 7:54am Top

>208 dudes22: people seem to either love or hate The Overstory. It's a book I'd love to hear more opinions about.

210dudes22
Sep 14, 8:54am Top

I did notice that it has a pretty high "star" rating here.

211japaul22
Edited: Sep 20, 2:23pm Top

Books off the shelf (11/15)
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

This is the story of a 1950s marriage. Both parties want to be different, but reality is they live in the suburbs, have two kids, and the husband has a boring job. Their relationship seems to be built on not much at all and they are basically coexisting. Most of the book is told from Frank's point of view, with his typical 1950s views of marriage, family, and maleness.

What I liked about this novel: well-written as in the construction was good, the dialogue was good, definitely has a good sense of time period. When I think about how Yates crafted the book, I'm impressed. He starts with a community theater scene that the wife acts in which sets up the book for the acting out of life that the Wheelers are doing. And you see April's disappointment in life and yearning for something more that she repeatedly squashes down.

What I didn't like: it's unfortunate to be stuck inside the point of view of someone you find repulsive for an entire book. Frank just drove me crazy - crafting his reactions to everyday events to make himself look good even though the reader could tell people around him weren't buying it. And the time period, with its blatant sexism, just isn't one I want to be immersed in.

Original publication date: 1961
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 355 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: paperback library sale
Why I read this: off the shelf

212japaul22
Sep 19, 2:29pm Top

1001 books (20/29)

Shirley by Charlotte Brontë

Oh, this book. How did the same author who wrote my beloved Jane Eyre also write this and Villette?

Unfortunately, I felt much the same way as I did about Villette when reading Shirley - boring, pretentious, and practically intolerable. I wanted so badly to like this but I just couldn't connect to the story or characters. Bronte throws some social commentary (owner vs. worker) in your face but doesn't make it feel integral to the story. And we get the typical woman who is disappointed in love and takes to her death bed only to recover when she finds her long lost mother has been right in front of her the whole book. I'm not sure how a book can be over-dramatic and boring at the same time.

I feel guilty not liking this, but there it is.

Original publication date: 1849
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 496 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: kindle freebie
Why I read this: 1001 books

213christina_reads
Sep 20, 9:46am Top

>211 japaul22: I remember seeing the movie Revolutionary Road when it came out...it was well acted, but just so relentlessly depressing!

214japaul22
Sep 20, 2:24pm Top

>211 japaul22: bummer, I really thought Revolutionary Road was on the 1001 books to read before you die list, but when I went to update my app I found that it is not. Oh well, I've changed it to my "off the shelf" category which I was a bit behind on anyway.

215DeltaQueen50
Sep 20, 2:53pm Top

>214 japaul22: I am glad to hear that I am not the only one who makes that kind of mistake. I read The True History of the Kelly Gang thinking it was on the list only to find out that it wasn't there. Luckily I did enjoy the story a lot.

216japaul22
Edited: Sep 20, 3:36pm Top

>215 DeltaQueen50: and I'm glad to hear it's not just me! I am disappointed though, since I'm desperately trying to get to 300!

217DeltaQueen50
Sep 22, 1:12pm Top

I see you are at 291 so you are closing in on your goal of 300. I am at 194 and I hope to reach 200 before year end. :)

218japaul22
Sep 22, 2:26pm Top

>217 DeltaQueen50: I might need to find a few short ones to get to 300. There are so many new books coming out that I want to read.

219DeltaQueen50
Yesterday, 2:10am Top

I've set a goal of three or four books from the 1001 List each month and so far that's working for me, but there are some huge tomes on the list that are very daunting as well as authors that I have spend my whole life avoiding!

Group: 2018 Category Challenge

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