What are you reading the week of January 13, 2018?
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I had just enough free time available this week to read Pyramid of Mud, and that was it. I hope everyone else had a more relaxing week. :-)
I'm rereading It by Stephen King with a friend. We are reading about 100 pages a week.
After I finish my 100 pages I read The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway. My grandmother gave me this book in high school after her trip to Australia. For one reason or another it's taken me this long to start it, but I am loving it.
I wouldn't say I had a relaxing week, but I did have a pretty good one, as in I am finally just about over my flu, which only hit me hard for a day or two. I am about a third of the way through The Conscience of the Rich by C.P. Snow. This is the third novel in Snow's "Strangers and Brothers" series. Published over a 30-year period (1940-1970).
As per Wikipedia: "All eleven novels in the series are narrated by the character Lewis Eliot. The series follows his life and career from humble beginnings in an English provincial town, to reasonably successful London lawyer, to Cambridge don, to wartime service in Whitehall, to senior civil servant and finally retirement." In this third novel, we are between the two World Wars. Eliot, just past his law school days, has befriended a contemporary in London who turns out to be Jewish. Snow, via Eliot, provides a look into the tensions and concerns of a rich Jewish-Anglo banking family. Snow's perspective is quite sympathetic. This is refreshing to me, as I have rarely found Jewish characters in the British literature of the time presented other than obliquely and with at least a certain level of distaste. Also, the storytelling is good.
I'm listening to the psych-thriller A Woman in the Window: a novel by A.J. Finn
Slowly wending my way through the colorful chapters of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell. Really admire the different styles he applies to the chapters, some detailed in long paragraphs, others staccato and quick tempoed with sentence-long paragraphs following one another like stanzas in a poem. Mitchell does an excellent job of putting the reader into his hero's mind so that I am experiencing the same disorientation to an exotic time and place that he does. Plus, the Dutch and other European merchantmen, sailors, and clerks are well drawn and distinctive as are the Japanese translators, courtiers, and samurai. A very sensuous and rich read.
Over a weekend that included ignoring both a long list of household chores and a couple of days of beautiful weather, I binge read The Conscience of the Rich, the third book in C.P. Snow's "Strangers and Brothers" series, eleven novels that "deal with – among other things – questions of political and personal integrity, and the mechanics of exercising power." (Thank you, Wikipedia.) The Conscience of the Rich deals with, in quite excellent fashion, the pressures that changing times bring to bear upon a wealthy Jewish banking family in London between the World Wars. I was actually a bit surprised to find myself so thoroughly engaged.
I've now begun a classic of Australian literature, Patrick White's historical novel, Voss.
I am very late to the party, but am reading and very much enjoying The Boys in the Boat (trying to whittle own Mt. TBR this year).
> 16 I like it that people read various books over time so that by looking at LT I get reminded of excellent books I've read. The Boys in the Boat is a very pleasurable memory.
>18 aussieh: Thanks! I still have around 399 pages to go in Voss, so it may be a while. :)
Finished Fortress in the Eye of Time by C. J. Cherryh and added The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction July/August 2017 into my reading rotation.
Killers of the Flower Moon – David Grann
Book on CD narrated by Will Patton, Ann Marie Lee and Danny Campbell.
Subtitle: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
From the book jacket: In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe. Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under suspicious circumstances.
Wow. I am ashamed to say that I knew nothing of this shameful episode of American history. Grann did a marvelous job researching and reporting his findings. He brings these people to life and makes the reader care about each and every one of them. He did more than simply report what the FBI managed to uncover, and that only emphasizes how institutionalized the racist attitudes were.
He begins with the disappearance of one woman, and slowly uncovers the evidence of a vast conspiracy to eliminate the Osage and steal their riches. It is nothing short of appalling. Local officials were, at best, ill equipped to investigate. They lacked the forensic training of modern-day police forces, and more importantly, they lacked the will to really DO anything about “a bunch of Indians.” As the FBI began investigating, they were faced with uncooperative local leaders, and conflicting stories. Key witnesses were killed, or otherwise “convinced” to change their stories. Evidence went missing. That they were able to bring anyone to trial was a testament to their tenacity and insistence on pursuing the perpetrators.
And yet …. As the last section of the book shows, even the FBI failed to fully comprehend the extent of the problem. I found this section the most distressing.
The audio book is very well done, using three narrators: Will Patton, Ann Marie Lee and Danny Campbell. They are talented voice artists and they keep the pace moving.
>16 CarolynSchroeder: There is a PBS special on that book which you can stream online. I think I got the DVD from my library. Loved the book.
I've just finished Love Story With Murders by Harry Bingham. If any of you are keen on crime fiction, may I recommend Mr. Bingham's excellent Fiona Griffiths series? They are both inventive about crimes and their solving, and very skilled in the portrayal of characters. His first in the series, Talking to the Dead was very good, and this one excellent.
I am going to read The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld next, and my at-work book is The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. I am also reading a little of The Warden each day, as I've never read any Anthony Trollope before, and thought I'd give him a try.
>22 BookConcierge: A deeply distressing subject, but a very well-made read.
I finished Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House and was annoyed by its gossipy and insubstantial factoids. I wanted DIRT.
I was foolish enough to read The Stainless Steel Rat, forgetting how much time has passed. Loved the capers, didn't love the sexism.
JulieLill ~ That is great! Thank you so much! After I finish the book (I'm about half way), I'm going to enjoy those videos!
I finished a book I found in the library and picked up on a whim. Lincoln's Smile and Other Enigmas was an examination in the style of literary criticism of photography and literature as it searches for American culture, particularly American city culture. The literature and collections of photography examined were created between 1830 and 1950.
At the moment, I'm reading The Doll's Eye in between my classes (I'm a library clerk). BUT, if I may plug myself here, I uploaded a YouTube video of me reading one of my own picture books, if anyone cares to watch it! The kids at my school love Jimmy!
I don't work on Wednesdays (or Thursdays) and today I didn't get dressed and gave myself over to reading. Rene Denfeld's The Child Finder is an extremely well-written book, and is difficult to put down, but I must give fair warning: if you are triggered by child sexual abuse, no matter how tastefully handled, this book will be too much for you. It was a lot to handle, and it has left me feeling very claustrophobic and full of sadness.
I'm going to read Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson next, although the first thing I'm going to do is open Netflix and find a romantic comedy to buoy my mood.
I finished Fools Crow by James Welch, which was a beautifully written, albeit gritty, story of a young Blackfeet Indian and his band, struggling with the changing world of 1870s Montana.
Now I’m back to P.D. James, with A Mind to Murder.
>31 ahef1963: I just picked up Snowblind at the bookstore last week, knowing nothing about it, only that it seemed interesting. I’ll look for your thoughts.
It's taking me a long time to get through Artemis, the second novel by Andy Weir. It's well-written and full of interesting scientific info (which I assume is correct or at least could be plausible as his first novel The Martian was so well-researched), but I guess it's just not as gripping. I will devote more time to it in the coming days.
by Ian McEwan
Briony, a young English girl in pre-WWII, sets into motion a tragedy affecting a young man and her sister when she implicates the young man in a crime. I love McEwan's writing because he is not one to shy away from difficult subjects and doesn't rely on a happy ending to satisfy his readers.
>32 Copperskye: I'm halfway through Snowblind, and I'm enjoying it. You can tell it's a first novel. The writing isn't as tight as I'd like, and the characters are roughly sketched, but I think that Jonasson has potential. Certainly I will read more of his books. The story is a good one, the setting is original, and it's quite atmospheric.
I made a resolution on Monday to buy no more books until I have the necessary money for the manifold costs of my son's wedding in May. (He's getting married 2,000 miles away.) That resolution lasted until ten minutes ago, when I ordered six books. The resolution starts again right this minute.
It's been ages since I posted here, but I wanted to tell you all about the Early Review book I just read: From the Heart of Africa: a Book of Wisdom by Eric Walters. It's a hardcover children's book full of aphorisms from Africa and beautiful illustrations. If any of you have kids, I highly recommend this book; it is a really fun. My review is here:
Commonwealth – Ann Patchett
Digital audiobook narrated by Hope Davis
Two families – the Cousins and the Keatings – are intertwined after a chance encounter at the christening party for Franny Keating. The couples divorce, and intermarry. The novel follows the four parents and six children over five decades. The children form a bond over their shared summers in Virginia. But in her twenties, Franny meets a famous author and begins an affair with him. He uses the stories she tells of her siblings and their childhood as the basis for his best-selling novel. With all their secrets in plain view, the siblings have to come to terms with their family dynamic.
As children, the six kids are frequently left to their own devices, the adults in their lives too busy with their own drama to focus on the children. And what could possibly happen? How the adult siblings each interpret and remember what has happened, and how they manage the burden of guilt or shame is the main focus of the novel. Everyone self-medicates with alcohol – gin and orange juice being a particular favorite, a “cure” passed down from parents to their adult children.
If I’ve made this sound bleak, well, it isn’t. As in real life, there are scenes that humorous to balance those that are distressing.
Patchett really shines when exploring human relationships. She slowly reveals secrets, desires, hopes, and fears until the reader feels she truly knows these people. Little by little events are revealed, and characters are fully realized. Like her other works, this would be a great choice for a book club discussion!
Hope Davis does a fine job narrating the audiobook. She has great pacing and really brought the novel to life for me.
Cotton – Christopher Wilson
Originally published in the United Kingdom as The Ballad Of Lee Cotton
Leifur Nils Kristjansson Saint Marie du Cotton (called Lee) is born to a mixed-race mother and an Icelandic fisherman father. From his father he gets his white complexion, blond-white hair and startling blue eyes. From his mother he gets his identity as black. Born in segregated Mississippi in 1950, it’s the “black” that counts, not his white skin. Lee also inherits a gift for “seeing” from his Grandmother Celeste. He can hear other people’s thoughts and while this sometimes helps him it mostly confuses him.
I was intrigued by this idea of a “white-skinned black boy” in the segregated South of the mid-20th century. I wanted to see how his special gifts would help him as he moved through life. But the novel took a decided turn for the weird.
After he is nearly beaten to death, Lee awakens in a Missouri hospital. He’s without identification and his head injury makes him rather incoherent. Going along with the assumptions of the hospital staff, Lee begins life as a white man. Until another accident …. Let’s just say that Lee changes skin color and/or gender like some women change hair color. Oh, wait ... he does that, too.
Wilson is a British man, living in London. I’m not sure how – or why – he chose to write about America’s segregated South. While the premise was intriguing, for me, the execution failed to deliver. I will say this about the writing. Wilson gives Lee a unique voice – with an odd mixture of local dialect and educated English. Lee’s a great reader and student of literature, sprinkling his observations of life with references to a variety of works from Huckleberry Finn to Madame Bovary.
On the whole, however, I found this just too fantastically absurd to be believed. I never warmed up to Lee or any of the other characters, and I found it a chore to finish.
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