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Jennifer's 2018 Reading (japaul22)

This topic was continued by Jennifer's 2018 Reading (japaul22) Part 2.

Club Read 2018

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1japaul22
Dec 30, 2017, 7:24am 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.

I haven't set any specific goals except that I'd like to get to #300 for books read from the "1001 books to read before you die" list. That would mean 29 books from that list which is sort of a stretch for me, so we'll see.

Other than that I read a mix of literary fiction, nonfiction heavy in historical biographies and cultural studies, and the occasional mystery or historical fiction to lighten things up. I read lots of books by women (71% last year!).

I welcome comments and discussion and every year I tell myself I'm going to comment more on all of your threads - with varying degrees of success. I read every post in Club Read, but often on my phone which isn't conducive to typing out replies. Just wanted you all to know that I love following your reading even when I'm not commenting!

2japaul22
Edited: Jun 12, 7:59pm Top

These lists are to help me pick books when I don't have a "next book" in mind. They will also give you an idea of the kinds of books I enjoy.

Contemporary Authors that I follow (i.e. I'll probably read any new novel they put out and am reading any backlog I haven't gotten to yet):
Hilary Mantel
Kate Atkinson
Eleanor Catton
Eowyn Ivey
Amor Towles
Tana French
Marilynne Robinson
Hannah Tinti
Barbara Kingsolver
Ann Patchett
Kamila Shamsie
Chimamanda Adichie
Margaret Atwood
Madeline Miller

Series/Mysteries that I follow:
Robert Galbraith, Cormoran Strike mysteries
Tana French
Jane Harper
C.J. Sansom
Sharon Kay Penman

Classic authors I love (reading novels I haven't read yet or rereads):
Jane Austen
the Brontes
Virginia Woolf
George Eliot
Trollope
Thomas Mann
Doestoevsky
Tolstoy
Haldor Laxness
Sigrid Undset
Faulkner
Zola
Scandinavian classics

I'm going to try this year to record the chapter books that I read with my sons. I've failed miserably at recording these in years past, but hopefully I'll stick with it this year.

William (age 8):
Double Fudge by Judy Blume
The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket
The Wild Robot
The Miserable Mill
Superfudge
The Austere Academy (lemony snicket)

Isaac (almost 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 #1, 2, 3, 4
Dragon Masters #1
Dragon Masters #2

3japaul22
Edited: Jul 1, 7:40pm Top

Books Read in 2018
January:
1. The Fugitive by Marcel Proust
2. Time Regained by Marcel Proust
Which means I've finished In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust after a whole year of reading!
3. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
4. Emma by Jane Austen - audio book read by Juliet Stevenson
5. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
6. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
7. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

February
8. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, audio book read by Donada Peters
9. The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell
10. The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton
11. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
12. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre
13. A House full of Females by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

March
14. I Refuse by Per Petterson
15. Mrs. Osmond by John Banville
16. Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley
17. What Maisie Knew by Henry James
18. The Honourable Schoolboy by John Le Carre
19. Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

April
20. The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth
21. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
22. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
23. The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen
24. The Hounds of Spring by Lucy Andrews Cummin

May
25. Night and Day by Virginia Woolf
26. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, audiobook read by Juliet Stevenson
27. Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck
28. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
29. Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser
30. Circe by Madeline Miller
31. The Dry by Jane Harper
32. Varina by Charles Frazier
33. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

June
34. July's People by Nadine Gordimer
35. The Violent Bear it Away by Flannery O'Connor
36. Smiley's People by John Le Carre
37. Melmoth by Sarah Perry
38. A House Full of Daughters by Juliet Nicholson
39. Iceland's Bell by Halldor Laxness

4japaul22
Jan 1, 9:04pm Top

#1 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

5dchaikin
Jan 1, 9:53pm Top

Great way to start your new year. Funny how short 500 pages of Proust and can seem.

6arubabookwoman
Jan 2, 5:10pm Top

Hi Jennifer. Thanks for visiting my 2017 thread. My goal is to comment more on other people's threads in 2018, so here I am.

I tried to read Proust several years ago. I really enjoyed it (once I got used to his style), but for some reason I dropped off about half way through the fourth volume. I'd like to complete the read, but at this point I know I would have to go back and start at the beginning again. I will do so eventually, but in the meantime, I will follow your journey.

7ELiz_M
Edited: Jan 2, 8:56pm Top

>4 japaul22: You've made it through the comparatively awful volumes, so the last book will be a breeze -- it is excellently crafted and beautifully concludes the novel.

8NanaCC
Jan 2, 9:49pm Top

I’ve added my star and will be following along.

9MGovers
Jan 3, 3:03pm Top

>4 japaul22: - You are so brave for reading all of Proust's books. I keep thinking that if I read him, it would take up sooo much of my pretty limited reading-time. I know, it's calculated and Proust is probably worth it, but not just now. But I enjoy your travels through Proust-land.

10japaul22
Jan 3, 4:41pm Top

>5 dchaikin: considering the whole thing is about 4500, there really isn't much left!

>6 arubabookwoman: I ended up reading Proust with a group read here on LT that has really helped me keep going.

>7 ELiz_M: That is very good to hear - volumes 5 and 6 were very different than the other volumes. Glad to know that the final volume ends it all well.

>8 NanaCC: Good to see you Colleen!

>9 MGovers: I'm a fan of long books so even though I also feel sometimes like long books "take up" my reading time, I usually enjoy them so much that I feel its worth it. Proust has been no exception in that respect. I think it will be one of my most memorable reading experiences when all is said and done.

11RidgewayGirl
Jan 3, 5:13pm Top

Eight and five! Mine are also three years apart and boy, are the next few years going to be jam-packed for you in the best possible way. Now that mine are 17 and 14, things are really easy, with them able to entertain themselves or just hang out together. There are alarming noises, but not ones based on possible life-threatening situations for the most part. Have fun!

12japaul22
Jan 3, 8:33pm Top

>11 RidgewayGirl: I'm really excited for them to finally be at the same school in the fall (3rd grade and kindergarten). Life is busy, but they are so much fun and I love seeing all the things they are learning. If only they would stop wrestling all day long. Brothers . . .

13ursula
Jan 5, 10:24am Top

Hi there! We are super close to each other in the 1001 books race. I have 32 to go to hit 300. I failed miserably at reading 35 from the list last year.

I'm sorry I've been missing your Proust reading! It's an adventure for sure. At the beginning I was dreading spending my entire year with him but somewhere in there it shifted so that he became my companion for a little oasis of every day.

14japaul22
Jan 5, 3:30pm Top

>13 ursula: Ah, we can provide a little friendly competition for each other getting to 300! I've been having an "every other year" experience with 1001 books. In 2016 I only read 16 and I had to really force myself to even read those. But last year I read 25 plus the first 5 volumes of Proust and really enjoyed it. Who knows what this year will bring!

I also was sort of dreading Proust, but I've really loved it. It's been a unique reading experience for me.

15janeajones
Jan 6, 12:18pm Top

I certainly admire your reading of Proust, but I'm afraid it's not for me.

16japaul22
Jan 8, 8:30am Top

#2 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

17wandering_star
Jan 8, 8:43am Top

Congratulations! Looking forward to your overall review/conclusion.

18baswood
Jan 8, 11:25am Top

>16 japaul22: That's an achievement

19AnnieMod
Jan 8, 12:27pm Top

>16 japaul22:
I respect anyone that had read the whole thing - I tried a few times i n my teens and twenties and gave up within pages. Maybe it is time to try again.

20japaul22
Jan 8, 1:45pm 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

21japaul22
Jan 8, 5:21pm Top

>17 wandering_star: Thanks! I couldn't stop thinking about the book and posted my overall thoughts this afternoon

>18 baswood: Thanks, Bas. Finishing this definitely made me feel that I'd accomplished something!

>19 AnnieMod: I definitely think there is a "right time" to read this. I can't imagine getting through it without having a good canon of books under your belt.

22baswood
Jan 8, 5:32pm Top

>20 japaul22: Thats a great review of your reading of In search of lost time. You really seem to have got into it and it sounds like a wonderful reading experience.

23janeajones
Jan 8, 10:17pm Top

Brilliant. I'm sure it will remain with you throughout your life.

24japaul22
Jan 9, 8:06am Top

>22 baswood: It was fantastic.

>23 janeajones: Absolutely!

25AnnieMod
Jan 9, 3:19pm Top

>20 japaul22: Awesome review of the whole thing!

>21 japaul22: Yeah, I've learned a long time ago that if one of the classics does not work at a certain moment, I should try it later. I have read very little from the French classic novels (I tend to gravitate towards the English or Russian ones) and I should change that.

26japaul22
Jan 11, 1:23pm Top

#3 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

27japaul22
Jan 12, 9:20am Top

#4 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

28NanaCC
Jan 12, 12:56pm Top

>20 japaul22: congratulations on finishing your Proust journey.

>26 japaul22: I listened to Beautiful Ruins, and the narration by Edoardo Bellerini made the book for me. His lovely accent gave the early parts a delightful feel.

29Cait86
Jan 13, 1:23pm Top

>20 japaul22: Amazing post! I am in awe of your commitment to Proust, and to how much critical thought you put into your reading. Such an accomplishment!

30Rebeki
Jan 13, 1:38pm Top

Basically what Cait said in >29 Cait86: Most impressive!

Interesting about Beautiful Ruins too. Someone recommended it to me, but I think I'll hold off for now.

31dchaikin
Jan 13, 6:13pm Top

I'm a few posts behind, wanted to congratulate you on finishing Proust. Your final comments are interesting and inspiring.

32thorold
Jan 15, 6:38am Top

You might be amused by this, if you haven’t seen it already - some students trying to reconstruct the music in Proust from the way he describes it. The result just sounds like a mish-mash of generic late-19th century chamber music to me: http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/arts-blog/artistic-licence-what-does-moonlight-sound

33japaul22
Jan 15, 7:05am Top

>32 thorold: That is so interesting! Though I'd agree that the premise is more interesting than the result.

34japaul22
Jan 20, 6:33pm Top

I'm trying to keep track of the books I read out loud to my boys. Every year I say I'm going to and don't so here we go.

William (age 8):
Double Fudge by Judy Blume
The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket

Isaac (almost 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

35RidgewayGirl
Jan 20, 7:33pm Top

You've made it through the first three Series of Unfortunate Events! I read the entire series aloud to my two and they were the best books for reading aloud I've encountered.

36japaul22
Jan 21, 7:43am Top

>35 RidgewayGirl: the Lemony Snicket series is so satisfying to read out loud. I'm pretty sure I picked them up from one of your recommendations at some point. It's interesting how some books, even if we both like the plot, characters, etc., just don't feel good to read out loud. These work really well.

37japaul22
Jan 22, 1:33pm Top

#5 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

38auntmarge64
Edited: Jan 22, 2:31pm Top

>37 japaul22:. Oh, A Gentleman in Moscow sounds right up my alley!

39japaul22
Jan 22, 2:37pm Top

>38 auntmarge64: Yes! I think you'd really like it.

40japaul22
Jan 23, 6:22pm Top

#6 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

41dchaikin
Jan 23, 8:39pm Top

A lot of people really like Harari's book. I listened to the first 30 minutes of this one once and something bothered me a lot. Maybe I'm just impatient, but that was the end of Harari for me.

42chlorine
Jan 24, 1:03pm Top

>40 japaul22: Thanks for the review of the Harari.

I haven't read it and don't plan to. I read an interview of him in which he talked about how society relies on stories we collectively choose to belie in (I remember very dimly so I hope I'm not changing too much what he said).
From what I understood of what he said, he presented it as something not so good (such as how money only has value because we agree to believe it has value). At first that struck me as very deep, but then I thought he didn't address how society creates conventions so that people can willingly choose to behave in a civilised manner rather than like animals, and that put me off him.

I get the impression he's getting all the hype from readers who are not familiar with his subject matter. But that's an unfair judgment because I haven't read the book and I don't know the first thing in history!

43rachbxl
Jan 24, 3:54pm Top

Somehow I’ve only just found your thread, so I’m a bit late, but I wanted to say how much I admire your Proust reading. As you may remember, I started with you last year, and didn’t get very far at all. Maybe the time wasn’t right, or maybe it’s just not for me, who knows? Anyway, you did it, and I enjoyed reading your thoughts on having completed it.

I’ll be keeping an eye on what you’re reading with your boys, as my little girl is almost 4 and I’m starting to think about chapter books, though maybe not for right away (last time I was back in the UK I asked in a bookshop for recommendations for first chapter books, and the lady had no idea what I meant, so I’m pleased to see you use the term ‘chapter books’ here!) What were some of the first you read with your sons, and at what age? (I keep meaning to ask Rebeki this as well!)

44SassyLassy
Jan 25, 4:49pm Top

>43 rachbxl: Like this question, so I just put it on "Questions for..." somewhat modified. Moving to chapter books is such a big step, but such fun and so grown-up.

45rachbxl
Jan 25, 4:51pm Top

>45 rachbxl: excellent, thank you!

46japaul22
Jan 29, 5:18pm Top

#7 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

47chlorine
Jan 30, 12:26pm Top

>46 japaul22: Nice review of The Snow Child.
If I remember correctly somebody else here read it recently and liked it also.
I'll keep this in mind.

48japaul22
Jan 30, 5:21pm Top

>47 chlorine: Yes, I think several of us have read her books. I loved this and To the Bright Edge of the World, her second book.

49auntmarge64
Jan 30, 6:00pm Top

Me too - both of her books were enchanting.

50japaul22
Feb 2, 8:00pm Top

#8 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

51chlorine
Feb 3, 3:56am Top

This is an Austen book I haven't read. I read several of her books when I was a student, and none since. Maybe I should get back to her.

52.Monkey.
Feb 3, 4:13am Top

>51 chlorine: Oh you should! She is always a delight!

53japaul22
Feb 5, 9:48am Top

>51 chlorine: All of her books are fantastic so if you like any of them I think you'll like all of them (though everyone has their personal favorites).

54japaul22
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 . . .

55janemarieprice
Feb 6, 1:20pm Top

>54 japaul22: I do a lot of residential design work so I know how stressful and time consuming those projects can be. Best of luck!

56japaul22
Edited: Feb 13, 1:52pm Top

#9 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

57NanaCC
Feb 13, 6:56pm Top

>56 japaul22: I loved Troubles, and will probably get to this one at some point this year. I’ll reset my expectations based upon your comments.

58japaul22
Feb 13, 8:12pm Top

>57 NanaCC: I'm pretty sure I remember that many of our fellow LT-ers liked Siege of Krishnapur better, so hopefully you'll love it. I found it very different from Troubles, though, except for in general theme. Siege didn't have the same charm for me.

59japaul22
Edited: Feb 17, 2:13pm Top

#10 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: New Zealand
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

60NanaCC
Feb 16, 12:46pm Top

>59 japaul22: Oh, that is disappointing. I also enjoyed The Luminaries, but this one doesn’t sound like my cup of tea at all.

61chlorine
Feb 17, 2:07am Top

>56 japaul22: The siege of Krishnapur is on my wishlist.
I wasn't aware that it was part of a trilogy. Do you think it can be read without having read Troubles?

I'll keep your reservations in mind when/if I get to it. I usually enjoy a book better if I have lower expectations for it than if I go in expecting to love it anyway. ;)

62ELiz_M
Feb 17, 9:12am Top

>61 chlorine: Yes, it is a trilogy in theme only -- the fading of the British empire, so Troubles in Ireland, The Siege of Krishnapur in India, and The Singapore Grip.

63japaul22
Feb 17, 9:33am Top

>62 ELiz_M: And not even over-lapping characters that I noticed. You can absolutely read them in any order or alone.

64avaland
Feb 17, 12:19pm Top

>59 japaul22: Proof positive that writing a review about a book you didn't like can be as interesting as writing about one you did! :-)

65japaul22
Feb 17, 12:23pm Top

>64 avaland: Yes, I often enjoy a good rant about an unliked book as well!!

66RidgewayGirl
Feb 17, 2:01pm Top

I read The Rehearsal in 2010 and liked it as an odd, mannered book. This was before I was regularly reviewing everything I read, so I can't give you any solid reasons as to why it resonated with me. It certainly bears no resemblance to The Luminaries, which I'm reading now. I wonder if her next book will be another total departure in both style and subject matter.

Catton is a New Zealander, not Australian, by the way.

67japaul22
Feb 17, 2:16pm Top

>66 RidgewayGirl: "odd" and "mannered" are good ways to describe it. I don't mind that sometimes, but it didn't fit with the high school setting to me. I couldn't tell what she was trying to do. I will still read her next book though, if the topic appeals to me at all. I can tell she's a good writer, but The Rehearsal just didn't work for me and I have such limited reading time right now that I wasn't willing to finish it.

And thanks for the info on New Zealand rather than Australia!!

68chlorine
Feb 18, 4:18am Top

>62 ELiz_M: >63 japaul22:
Krishnapur will remain the first one on my wishlist then, but I'm making a note of Troubles.

69SassyLassy
Feb 18, 3:11pm Top

>61 chlorine: As Eliz_M says, a trilogy in theme only. The events take place over some time, for instance The Siege of Krishnapur, although fictional, takes place in 1857, while Troubles and The Singapore Grip are twentieth century event. There is one character who shows up in both of the latter. While I had reservations about these two as I read them, they have stayed with me over time, which is a sign of a good book to me.

70japaul22
Feb 24, 1:47pm Top

#11 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

#12 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

71NanaCC
Feb 24, 2:42pm Top

>70 japaul22: I wonder if someone my age, reading this as a stand-alone, would “get it” faster because of our having experienced the Cold War first hand. I’ve read The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, which I believe came before Tinker, Tailor. I read that one as a stand-alone. Of course it was so long ago, that I don’t remember too much about it.

72japaul22
Feb 24, 8:10pm Top

>71 NanaCC: Hmmm - maybe. I sort of felt like it was more a combination of not being used to the intricacies of spy novels and also that I've been pulled in a lot of directions lately and haven't been very focused reading. But my lack of familiarity with the Cold War could definitely also have contributed. I still want to read more Le Carre, so it didn't deter me!

73japaul22
Feb 26, 11:45am 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!









74NanaCC
Feb 26, 12:20pm Top

>73 japaul22: Nice! I really want to do my kitchen. I really need new cabinets. I painted them when I first moved in 28 years ago. They are far past the point where another coat of paint will do.

75RidgewayGirl
Feb 26, 1:37pm Top

Enjoy your new kitchen and floors!

76japaul22
Feb 26, 2:21pm Top

#13 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

77janemarieprice
Feb 27, 11:13pm Top

>73 japaul22: It looks great!

>76 japaul22: Hmm, I've seen a few mentions of this and at one point in my life learned a fair bit about Mormonism so was hoping for something a bit more interesting, or focused maybe is the better term.

78japaul22
Feb 28, 8:09am Top

>77 janemarieprice: I would say that Ulrich’s book is focused and detailed. She is just so careful to not pass judgement or draw unsubstantiated conclusions that it didn’t quite satisfy. And in some ways choosing not to pass judgment felt like a bias in itself. Her relatives were Mormon and some practiced plural marriage. It felt a bit like she tried so hard not to show her own biases that she drew no firm conclusions at all.

This is admirable, in a way, but also a little frustrating to read. To be fair, I’ve found this to be her style in other writing as well - presenting facts, historical docs, etc but not jumping too far to meanings - but I felt it was heightened in this book.

79janemarieprice
Feb 28, 6:42pm Top

>78 japaul22: Yeah I don't think focused was the right word, but I couldn't think of a better one at the moment. A topic like that though I want to see the writer have a stance and it sounds like she was too neutral for my taste.

80japaul22
Mar 2, 7:43am Top

#14 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

81janeajones
Mar 2, 3:59pm Top

80> Interesting review. I liked Out stealing Horses, but I don't know if I'm up for a reprise of the themes.

82avaland
Mar 6, 5:21pm Top

>73 japaul22: OH! Someone else is doing kitchen work!!! Lovely! Our kitchen is set to be demolished on Monday morning. We finally decided on the granite and flooring; which were the last things*. This is the 2nd time we have done this. The kitchen in MA we did in 2011; it was somewhat bigger than this one with a big island. The current kitchen is a galley kitchen.

*actually not. I haven't figured out the backsplash yet. Last time I designed it myself, this time....hmm, I don't know....

83avaland
Edited: Mar 6, 5:26pm Top

>76 japaul22: Excellent review of the Ulrich book. I love her books, so I'm pleased to read this fab review, because I did not have intentions to read this one (I'm more enamored of her early American ones).

I will keep the Per Petterson in mind also.

84japaul22
Mar 7, 2:10pm Top

>82 avaland: This was our first major renovation and it went so well. We are really happy with the finished product and it took less than 3 weeks!

>83 avaland: I'm hoping someone else around here reads Ulrich's latest - I'd love to hear another opinion. Her book, A Midwife's Tale, is an all-time favorite for me and one of the few nonfiction books I've read twice.

85avaland
Mar 7, 2:55pm Top

>84 japaul22: Did you see the television adaptation of A Midwife's Tale? It was very good. I'd be happy to loan the DVD to you if you can't find it anywhere (I'm a Mainer, so I had to have it).
I think Ulrich's Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750 was the first to slay me, LOL. The same local connection, of course, and I am due for a reread of that. Oh, and The Age of Homespun ....

Glad your renovation went well. Did you do it all yourselves? I will try to post before and after photos when ours is done. It will be April, probably.

86SassyLassy
Mar 8, 10:35am Top

>80 japaul22: Although I haven't read Out Stealing Horses, I did pick up a Petterson book last month based on the good reviews of the Horses book. The one I read was To Siberia. Oddly, your review would fit it just as well, especially "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."
Perhaps this is an author with a single theme. It makes me less inclined to read Out Stealing Horses.

87japaul22
Mar 8, 1:21pm Top

>85 avaland: I didn't know about the tv version of A Midwife's Tale. I'll look for it. I also loved Good Wives but haven't yet read The Age of Homespun.

We did none of the renovation ourselves! We hired a design and build company that did everything. They were awesome and fast and it worked with our busy family life - 2 working parents and 2 little kids!

>86 SassyLassy: Yes, I wonder if there are any other LTers that have read more than one of Petterson's books who also noticed a significant similarity in theme and tone. I'm not feeling like I need to read more after the two I've read.

88avaland
Mar 8, 1:47pm Top

>87 japaul22: We have a "kitchen" place doing most of it, but we are scheduling some of the other contractors. The electrician was here today to put in the 3 inch cans, (LED) recessed "task" lighting. We are busy cleaning out the cupboards and packing things up (when I'm not on the computer or we aren't dealing wit the snow)

89janemarieprice
Mar 9, 9:54pm Top

>87 japaul22: Glad it was smooth and fast!

>88 avaland: Good luck on your renovation as well!

90japaul22
Mar 10, 7:43am Top

#15 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

91fannyprice
Mar 10, 4:03pm Top

>84 japaul22:, Three weeks is crazy, especially since you hired someone. PM me the company name please, since I'm in DC too.

>90 japaul22:, I read similar things about the language in Mrs. Osmond. The reviewer didn't think it was bad, just that trying to match Henry James is basically asking to fail. The only James I've read is The Turn of the Screw, but I did love it.

92japaul22
Mar 10, 6:07pm Top

>91 fannyprice: Yes, Mrs. Osmond wasn't a bad book, just didn't quite match my expectations. I think that's common in this "continuation" style of book.

I pm'd you the kitchen company. :-)

93dchaikin
Mar 10, 7:47pm Top

catching up here. Your kitchen looks especially nice.

I was kind of fascinated by your review of A House Full of Females.

As for the Per Patterson, bummer. I've wondered whether he really had much left to say after Out Stealing Horses.

94japaul22
Mar 13, 3:29pm Top

>93 dchaikin: Thank you about the kitchen! As far as Patterson, I would be interested to hear what you think if you consider reading more by him . . .

95japaul22
Mar 13, 3:35pm Top

#16 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

96dchaikin
Edited: Mar 13, 10:02pm Top

I’ve only read P&P, but a good Austen biography interests me. Noting.

ETA 1 - my library has it on audio!
ETA 2 - Patterson - i need a good review before I try another. : )

97japaul22
Mar 21, 8:40am Top

#17 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

98baswood
Mar 21, 12:32pm Top

I share your dislike of What Maisie Knew. I found it so difficult to read.

99japaul22
Mar 27, 2:19pm Top

#18 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

100avaland
Mar 27, 5:09pm Top

>97 japaul22: That's not a James I've read. I'm glad I'm not missing anything special.

101japaul22
Mar 28, 8:59pm Top

#19 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

102japaul22
Apr 7, 12:22pm Top

#20 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

103NanaCC
Apr 9, 10:25am Top

Jane Austen at Home sounds like one I’d enjoy, and the library has it. Always a plus.

I know that I’ve read The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, and I think I’ve read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Other than those, I think the only other LeCarre that I’ve read was The Constant Gardner. His writing is complex and enjoyable. I’ll have to think about reading more.

104arubabookwoman
Apr 9, 2:23pm Top

>102 japaul22: I've had that on the shelf for years. I've got to get to it soon, so I'm glad you enjoyed it.

105thorold
Apr 10, 2:23am Top

>102 japaul22: Also glad you enjoyed Radetskymarsch — it’s an old favourite of mine which I rediscovered a couple of years ago. That scene where old Trotta takes his protest about the school reader to the Kaiser is unforgettable! The absence of women never really struck me when I was reading it, I suppose I just registered it as an inevitable part of the failing military/authoritarian culture Roth was gently sending up. But it is quite striking how they are kept in the background, now I think about it.

106japaul22
Apr 17, 8:29pm Top

#21 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

107japaul22
Apr 18, 8:10pm Top

#22 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

108janeajones
Apr 19, 10:53am Top

107> I keep meaning to read this one -- I really should get to it soon.

109japaul22
Apr 22, 2:28pm Top

#23 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

110japaul22
Apr 23, 2:14pm Top

#24 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

111japaul22
May 3, 12:30pm Top

#25 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

112avaland
Edited: May 3, 1:51pm Top

>106 japaul22: I'm reading Solnit's latest collection now and, while I have only read three of the pieces, there is one thus far that seemed sort of dated (it was about men finally speaking up in public for women. I think it might have been dated 2014 or 15). However, like you, I really love her writing, her voice -- I find it strangely exhilarating and comforting (sounds weird, I know). I think I might have said this same thing on the What Are You Reading Now thread, so apologies if this is redundant.

113janeajones
May 3, 1:33pm Top

111> This one has been sitting on my TBR table for over a year. I'm also resolved to read all of Woolf's novels, but this just looks so massive. Maybe I should put it on my Kindle where it won't seem so heavy. Have you read The Voyage Out or its earlier version Melymbrosia?

114japaul22
May 3, 1:58pm Top

>112 avaland: i think often in essay collections one or two feel dated since essays are often in response to a current event that might not be so current anymore. I was definitely influenced by Solnit's ideas and language, though, and have been reading subsequent works with her in mind. I felt strongly when I read Half of a Yellow Sun recently that Adichie must have been influenced by Solnit.

>113 janeajones: I've read all of Woolf's novels except The Years now. I did read The Voyage Out and read an article about Melymbrosia but haven't read it itself. Have you read both? Is it worth reading Melymbrosia? I didn't love The Voyage Out - felt it lacked some coherence and the characters weren't as fully developed as her later works. If it's any consolation, I found Night and Day very easy to read. It's long and parts were a little predictable, but it doesn't take the brain power that her later works require. After I finish The Years, probably sometime in 2018, I have a loose idea that I'll read Hermione Lee's massive biography of Woolf and then reread most of the novels. That would, of course, be a very long term project . . .

115japaul22
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.

116chlorine
Edited: May 5, 10:46am Top

I went and had a look at my recently read books, but I haven't read anything that was light or funny that wasn't also science-fiction or fantasy, and it seems like this doesn't fit your friend's tastes.
For Nicholas I can't recommend anything except the obvious Harry Potter, if he hasn't read it yet
My best wishes go to him and his family.

You have recently read a great number of books that seem amazing! I've read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie last year and loved it! It's about a Nigerian woman coming to the US for her studies her observations about how people react to black people, the differences between black Americans and the people born in Africa, as well as some issues about gender. I highly recommend it, even though the ending is not that great, and I'm making a note of Half of a yellow sun myself.

117RidgewayGirl
May 5, 4:06pm Top

>115 japaul22: Let me consult with my son. He's 14 now, but should remember what he liked a few years ago and he's a big fan of audiobooks.

Does your friend read in German? There's a comical series about a German guy going to Africa that my husband and BIL thought was very funny. And Three Bags Full is by German author Leonie Swann and while it's set in Ireland, it's funny as the narrator is a sheep.

118thorold
Edited: May 6, 3:05am Top

>115 japaul22: I don’t know about translations and audio availability, but a few ideas for light(ish) German:
- Tschick by Wolfgang Herrndorf - YA-ish novel about teenagers stealing a car
- Der Hals der Giraffe is a sort of Miss Jean Brodie for the Neue Bundesländer.
- Das Kind, das nicht fragte - not terribly German, as it’s set in Sicily, but a lovely escapist novel about rediscovering yourself in a new culture
- Alina Bronsky - Die schärfsten Gerichte der tatarischen Küche, etc., is a Russian who writes in German - funny-but-serious books about migration.
- My mother is a big fan of Wladimir Kaminer’s books, not novels but comical essays about the Germans as seen by a Russian living in Berlin.
- Irmgard Keun isn’t exactly contemporary, but has recently had a revival. She wrote satirical chick-littish novels in the 30s with a rise-of-the-Nazis background (and had an affair with Joseph Roth)
- Klaus-Peter Wolf - a retired radical who now writes easy-reading crime novels set in Ostfriesland
- Alex Capus - more Krimis

119japaul22
May 6, 2:47pm Top

>116 chlorine: I will definitely put Americanah on my to-read list. I was very drawn to Adichie's writing.

>117 RidgewayGirl: Thanks, Kay. She does read in German, and I'll make a note of those titles. Recommendations from your son would be much appreciated.

>118 thorold: Thank you so much! I will look into all of those.

120japaul22
May 6, 2:56pm Top

#26 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

121japaul22
May 6, 3:07pm Top

#27 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

122karspeak
May 6, 8:04pm Top

My 11 year old son’s favorite books/series are Sky Raiders (Five Kingdom Series), The Land of Stories series (Wishing Spell), Percy Jackson series (The Lightning Thief).

For lighter reading he recommends Heroes in Training series, The Terrible Two, The 13 Story Treehouse, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja, El Deafo.

123karspeak
May 6, 8:09pm Top

Of all of those books, he thinks The Terrible Two is the funniest, along with its sequels. It’s about twin boys who play outrageous pranks. He and my 8 year old both listened to those on audio.

124japaul22
May 7, 11:39am Top

>122 karspeak: >123 karspeak: This is great - thank you!!

125japaul22
May 8, 8:15pm Top

#28 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

126AlisonY
May 10, 8:43am Top

>125 japaul22: I'm so torn on whether to read The Handmaid's Tale or not. I do like some of Atwood's other books, but I'm not a lover of dystopian future type of novels. Is this book generally just great enough to draw you in even if it's not a usual genre?

127japaul22
May 10, 3:13pm Top

>126 AlisonY: Yes, I'd say so. I'm decidedly not a dystopian fan in general and I still really enjoyed this book. It's definitely a page-turner and I think wouldn't take long to read.

128rachbxl
May 12, 3:30am Top

>121 japaul22: I very nearly got Go, Went, Gone out of the library last week, but I put it back. You’ve convinced me to borrow it next time I see it.

>126 AlisonY: It’s been (20?) years, but when I read it I really wasn’t into dystopian novels (I probably didn’t even know they were a thing, back then), so it took me out of my comfort zone, but drew me right in.

129japaul22
Edited: May 17, 4:44pm Top

#29 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-the-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

130Simone2
Edited: May 18, 5:22am Top

>121 japaul22: Great review, I really want to read this book too.

>126 AlisonY: Yes Allison, you'll love it. I went in without knowing what to expect and loved every page of it1

>115 japaul22: What a sad news, Jennifer. You might suggest Ralf Rothmann, Uwe Timm, Karen Köhler, and Frank Witzel to your friend. They are popular German writers but I don't know if (al)l their books have been translated. The same goes for non-native writers who are now very popular in Germany, like Katja Petrowskaja, Ilija Trojanow en Sasa Stanišić.

131NanaCC
May 18, 10:49am Top

You are all pushing me toward The Handmaid’s Tale. I’m also not a fan of dystopian novels, but I’ll probably give it a try. I think I have it on kindle.

132japaul22
May 20, 11:22am Top

#30 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

133lisapeet
May 20, 11:47am Top

Nice review! I have this (and The Song of Achilles) and am highly looking forward to it.

134janeajones
May 20, 7:23pm Top

132> I thought Circe was quite wonderful.

135japaul22
May 22, 3:35pm Top

#31 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

136japaul22
May 27, 3:42pm Top

#32 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

137avaland
May 28, 3:48pm Top

>125 japaul22: Handmaid's Tale is one of my most read books, I read it about every 6 years or so. Each time I have read it I have responded differently to it. I read it first in '86. I'm enjoying the adaptation which is now "beyond" the original book. It's nicely updated and is keeping generally faithful to the original while exploring a bit further (probably because Atwood is a consulting producer).

138japaul22
May 28, 4:47pm Top

>137 avaland: Oh, I haven't watch it yet - interesting to know it goes beyond where the book ends!

139japaul22
May 29, 8:33pm Top

#33 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

140lilisin
May 30, 2:26am Top

>139 japaul22:

I was just as unenthused as you were. Even at such a short length it felt like a waste of my time.

141tembakjitu88
May 30, 2:33am Top

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142thorold
May 30, 6:18am Top

>139 japaul22: Yes, I’ve struggled with it too. The 1000 pages of Magic mountain were a breeze in comparison.
(Probably not a fair comparison, though — I was about 20 years older by the time I finally got on the train to Davos...)

143auntmarge64
Edited: May 30, 8:09am Top

>113 janeajones: This made me laugh out loud: Maybe I should put it on my Kindle where it won't seem so heavy. It's so true!!!

>121 japaul22: Go, Went, Gone sounds wonderful. I've put a hold on it at the library.

144japaul22
May 30, 8:51am Top

>140 lilisin: good to know it wasn’t just me!

>141 tembakjitu88: so was The Magic Mountain a good reading experience for you?

>143 auntmarge64: I think you’ll like Go, Went, Gone - I’d like to read more by the author.

145thorold
May 30, 11:18am Top

>144 japaul22: Yes, it was fun - I even cunningly made it my 1000th review on LT. But you have to choose your moment well, otherwise it could just turn into a race to get to page 1000. You go into it ready to accept that there is no obvious plot and that whenever you're expecting some sort of significant interaction between characters to happen you will instead get ten-page digressions on the art of blanket-folding or the magic of the gramophone (or more obviously relevant things like freemasonry, alchemy, revolutions, tonight's menu, or Europe's lurch into war...).

146RidgewayGirl
May 30, 11:52am Top

I've got a copy of Go, Went, Gone and I hope to get to it soon.

Varina is one of the books picked for my book club so I'm glad you enjoyed it.

147lisapeet
May 30, 6:44pm Top

>145 thorold: I also have a copy of Go, Went, Gone that I got for Christmas. Looking forward to it—there's a certain pleasure in showing that you're a good giftee by reading the books people give you and then telling them what you thought (assuming you don't hate the book to the point where you'd make the gifter feel bad).

148japaul22
May 30, 8:16pm Top

>145 thorold: Thanks for the insight into The Magic Mountain - I'll be prepared!

>146 RidgewayGirl: I predict you will really like Go, Went, Gone and kind of like Varina, Kay. :-)

>147 lisapeet: Yes, I always try to read books that I get as gifts promptly.

149AlisonY
Jun 1, 1:50pm Top

>139 japaul22: so glad to read your thoughts on Death in Venice versus Buddenbrooks, as I'd really fancied reading the latter but found Death in Venice so underwhelming it completely put me off reading anything further by Mann. You've given me hope that I shouldn't avoid it after all.

150japaul22
Jun 2, 1:11pm Top

>149 AlisonY: they are radically different. Don't count out Buddenbrooks because of Death in Venice!

151japaul22
Jun 2, 4:16pm Top

#34 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

152japaul22
Jun 6, 8:39pm Top

#35 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

153japaul22
Jun 16, 8:09pm Top

#36 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

154japaul22
Jun 19, 5:14pm Top

#37 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

155japaul22
Jun 22, 11:50am Top

#38 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

156RidgewayGirl
Jun 23, 10:41pm Top

I'm glad you liked Melmoth as I've also gotten it from the ER program and I'm looking forward to reading it.

157kac522
Jun 24, 12:06am Top

>152 japaul22: I can only take O'Connor in very small doses--a story here, a story there. Even the short stories are packed with that intensity. Powerful, but you can only take a little at a time.

158japaul22
Jun 27, 8:14pm Top

#39 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

This topic was continued by Jennifer's 2018 Reading (japaul22) Part 2.

Group: Club Read 2018

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