Tess-Better late than never!
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Book # 25 was The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown. This was the story of America's crew team for the Berlin Olympics of 1936. This book was several biographies, but read like a novel. One of the best I've read in 2018 417 pages 5 stars
Book # 26 was Somebody I Used to Know by David Bell. This was billed as a psychological thriller and I would agree, up to a point. The book had an interesting premise. A little more than half way through, it became tedious and I found myself hoping it would end soon. There were too many characters that were undeveloped and just thrown in as red herrings; they were easy to recognize. I have discovered as of late that a few years ago the average book was 300-350 pages.
Now it seems to be over 400 pages and most authors can't handle this. 434 pages 3 1/2 stars.
Trying to get caught up on the posting....not going to happen! My lists/numbers are correct, but writing a review here isn't going to happen for those already read! I will try to be more faithful with that.
41. The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki Shikibu
The Tale of Genji, thought by many to be the first novel in the history of world literature, was written by a woman, Murasaki Shikibu, in the eleventh century. Lady Murasaki lived during the Heian Period (794-1185). Reading a general description of this era, it is known for the writing of poetry, diaries, and fiction produced by court ladies for court ladies. Themes often included the love of nature as well as the art of love within the court.
This is the tale of “Prince” Genji, a son to a second concubine and thus his status is relegated to a glorified commoner. With no real duties or status, Genji embarks upon making the ladies happy with poetry, song, and lovemaking. His first “love” is a concubine of his father, Fujitsubo. Fujitsubo is the niece of the deceased Kiritsubo consort which she highly resembles. For the remainder of the story, Genji will pursue women who resemble his mother; Freud would have a heyday.
While this book does give us important history and cultural information,my personal take is that it reads like a soap opera; maybe a pre-cursor to Don Juan. But then, give the people what they want, eh? Because of the longevity of this book, I rated it 3 stars, but I didn’t really care for it. Read it because is was on the 1001 BYMRBYD list
42. House of 8 Orchids by James Thayer was delightful reading. This story actually begins in 1912 when William and his brother are kidnapped off the streets of Chunking by Eunuch Chang, a mastermind criminal. Fast forward to 1938 ….John and his brother are now con-men, master forgers, assassins, whatever is needed by the Eunuch. The eunuch, who carries around his severed parts in a golden urn is aided and abetted by Madame Tuon; a footbound, razors for fingernails sadist. All is well until the Eunuch kidnaps Tsingtao Lily , a beautiful young actress who bats her eyes at the boys and pleads for them to rescue her.
Thayer paints a detailed picture of the Chinese countryside and enlivens the story with Chinese legends. Contained within are feats of daring and acts of grace. Like most legends, some parts are bigger than life.
One of the most interesting parts of the book for me was the bombing of Chunking by the Japanese. They had already occupied Manchuria and were moving inland down the Yangtze. Several times Nationalist soldiers and are involved ever so slightly in the story and General Chiang Kai-Shek is mentioned half a dozen times.
Thayer’s writing is efficient and borders on graceful—pages fly by as the action moves along throughout the book. This is a historical fiction thriller that worked extremely well for me. 281 pages 5 stars
43. Gnomon by Luchia Dertien. I thought I was buying the book by the same name by Nick Harkaway. I pushed the wrong button! I didn't realize this till about 30 pages into the book; but with a title such as this, wouldn't it be an interesting read? Absolutely not! This is gay man's porn fiction. There are explicit gay sexual scenes frequently. These scenes are the focus of the book while there is a silly plot line of the these 2 men being "good" terrorists; such as the Robin Hood of terrorists. I should have stopped reading, but I have this compulsion that makes me finish almost every book I begin, bad or good. This was a plotless sex for sex sake's book. 226 pages 2 stars.
LOL--see this: https://www.google.com/search?q=gnomon+luchia+dertien&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwipjaflnc_aAhUJbawKHbMxCvIQ_AUICigB&biw=1280&bih=615#imgrc=1JW9jl0LMcgE2M:
44. The Judgment of Richard Richter is a riveting and haunting story of a man who finds that everything he thought was true about himself was not. Both plot and character are a slow build. This reminds me of some of the great reads of the 19th century. This is not a feel good book; it is depressing and fatalistic. The time period is the Bosnian War and "action" shifts between Vienna and Sarajevo. This book was translated into English from Croation. The author is originally from Bosnia from which his family fled during the Bosnian War. 300 pages 5 stars
45. Heft by Liz Moore is the story of Arthur Opp, a now 550 pound man who has not left his Brooklyn home in over 10 years. Across the city is Kel Keller from Yonkers who has a drama queen for a mother and who has pinned his hopes on a walk on tryout with the Mets. This story is about how eventually their lives will intersect; or they won't. This is a great book about obesity and dysfunctional families. Don't read this book if you need a neat, tidy ending. 368 pages 5 stars
46. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is billed as a psychological thriller. It is the story of an unnamed governess who agrees to care for two children at their uncle's estate, Bly. Her story is told through her journal entries. Her charges are "darlings" until one day while walking she meets menacing apparitions. I wanted to love this book as I do the classics. However, the writing was convoluted and this reader was very much distanced from the characters and felt like a passive bystander. It's saving grace was that is was only 131 pages. 2 1/2 stars
47. Memory Man by David Baldacci. This was my first Baldacci read. This book was the first in the Amos Decker series. I read it because my book club chose is for the June read.
Decker had a promising NFL career when he was hit on the head and almost killed. As a result of this he developed a disease, hyperthymesia; which is perfect memory of every detail. This aids him alot as a police detective later in life; but not so much when his family is brutally murdered.
This was a good book, interesting; just not my genre. I listened to the audiobook version. 405 pages 4 stars
48. The Girl Who is Getting Married by Aoka Matsuda. This book was a short novella (39 pages) and takes place within the time it takes a person to walk up five flights of stairs. An unknown narrator reminisces about their relationship with the girl that is getting married (never referred to as anything else). The further up the stairs she goes the more the story falls apart! Very clever! This novella was part of the collection of Eight New Voices of Japan. 39 pages 4 stars
49. Postcards from Nam, by Uyen Nicole Duong is a novel that begins with the evacuation of Saigon and ends with the author posing the question: can we ever all be united again? Mimi is a young Vietnamese woman living in the U.S. practicing law. She ritually receives postcards from Nam (a real person she grew up with in South Vietnam). Mimi sets out to find out the fate of Nam but has difficulty, even years later, getting people to tell the truth of the evacuation and the fate of the boat people. This book read like a memoir for the first half, but fell apart in the second half when the answers to Mimi's questions were never answered. The last 3-5 pages seem like they don't even belong in the book. 114 pages 2 1/2 stars
>15 tess_schoolmarm: That looks really interesting - and I love a good 39-page book (especially in December when Im about 30 books short of 100!
50. The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George. This 976 page tome took me months to complete. When reading historical fiction in which I am not learned, I have a compulsion to check out and research many of the claims/personages contained within. I found that this book is very historical accurate as to battles and personages. This book was written in the 1st person with Cleopatra as the narrator. The "fiction" that comes to play are the conversations she has with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. The last chapter of the book the author discusses her years of research in preparation of writing this book. 5 stars
51. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. Madame Bovary was a slog and a bore. It is the ageless, timeless story of a woman who is seeking fulfillment in "love." She has romanticized love and will never be happy. Emma tries multiple affairs and spending large amounts of money to make her happy, but no cigar. This was scandalous when it came out in 1856 but would be mild today. Since the story line was blase I looked for great prose; but found little. 384 pages 2 1/2 stars On the 1001 BYMRBYD
52. The White House An Historic Guide. The White House Historical Association was formed in 1961 at the urging of Jackie Kennedy. She thought Americans should "see" the inside of the White House. The first edition came out in 1962. Sadly, the 22nd edition in 2003 was the last edition (the one I have) due to security measures. This is a wonderful, colorful, glossy book that takes one through each of the rooms in the White House, even the stairways. The highlights of each room are explained: artwork, history, architecture, famous individuals or events that took place in each room. Now, the reading was a bit dry, but the glossy color pictures more than made up for it. 155 pages 3 stars
53. The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn is a psychological thriller which did not fail to satisfy. An author has to be really good for it to be unpredictable to me; and this author nailed it. This is the story of Ana, (Dr. Fox) an agoraphobic (amongst other things) who lives in New York (Harlem) in her apartment that she never leaves without excruciating pain. Ana spies on her neighbors with her camera lens. She thinks she has found the "perfect" family. And then.......what is real? What is imagined? Who is the "bad" guy? Great read! 427 pages 4 stars
54. The Qin Terracotta Army: Treasures of the Lintong by Zhang Wenli. This, one of the world's largest historical treasures, was unearthed by accident in 1974 when a family was drilling for a well. There had been minor "discoveries" in the past 1500 years, but the earthenware that was discovered was considered broken or evil and discounted. This large colorful book illustrates and tells in detail the findings of the excavation. It's just amazing at the detail the artisans provided as some of this material was crafted B.C. Lintong was the burial ground of the emperor qin Shi Huang, the first emperor to unit China. 700,000 convicts worked in the tomb for 38 years. The aim was to build a completed army of warriors and horses in terracotta to serve the Emperor in the underworld. Over 7,000 soldiers, horses, and bronze chariots have been found to date. Instead of posting a picture of the book, I've posted a couple of the pictures I found the most impressive. This was a non-fiction book and very very dry with its seemingly never ending size of each pit, statue, etc. I would have liked more history and less meters! 92 pages
55. I Am Livia by Phyllis Smith was the story of Octavian Caesar's (Augustus) second and final marriage to Livia Druscilla . Since I had spent over a month reading about Cleopatra/Caesar/Antony I decided to follow the story up with this historical fiction novel. The day to day life and marriage of Livia to Octavian (Tavia) is conjecture; but the history of Rome, the Roman Civil Wars, and the foreign wars were very accurate. This is the 2nd account I have read of Livia, the first being I, Claudius many years ago. This novel paints Livia in a kinder, gentler light; although certainly no door mat. I do understand the machinations that took Rome from a republic to an empire better after this read. My only complaint is that the book informs readers that Octavia (Octavian's sister) raised the 3 surviving children of Antony and Cleopatra. Most historians agree that the oldest male, Alexander Helios was killed by Octavian very soon after parading him as a trophy in Rome. 391 pages 5 stars
56. The Missing by Caroline Eriksson was billed as a psychological thriller. There is potentially something interesting in the narrative, but it is so convoluted and it gets more incredulous as the story goes on. I listened to the Audible version in which the narration was superb; too bad the story was so disjointed. 219 pages 2 stars.
57. The Silent Cry by Kenzaburo Oe. I've thought long and hard about what to say concerning this modern Japanese novel. I ought to have loved it or at least admired it because it was written by a prominent Nobel prize winner, praised by many. However, the book left me ambivalent. I cared not for the writing, which seemed to me to be a stream of consciousness with no purpose. I cared not for the story nor the characters. I probably "missed" the entire point of the novel although there are some simplistic themes: are the old days really better than modern day? can one really go home again? My question: will this book ever end? After 394 pages, it did; wrapped up in a tiny neat little package like 75% of other novels. 394 pages 2 1/2 stars
58. A re-read of Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read when I was about 10, then again and 30, and now 30 years later they are as good as ever. This particular book is one of my favorites in the series. 307 pages 5 stars
60. The Marvelous Misadventures of Ingrid Winter by J.S. Drangshot I thought I would try something light, something amusing; this was not it. I found the plots to be mundane, everyday, and anything but amusing. There might have been a slightly amusing chapter when Ingrid was in St. Petersburg and high on cough syrup, but that was the extent. I'm not sure if something was lost in the translation.....
62. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid was either a freebies or reduced to $1.99 on Kindle one day........I must have been feeling lousy to have purchased it and still feel lousy after reading the drivel and mush that it was. Typical shallow Hollywood trash. 400 pages 2 1/2 stars.
64. A History of US: War, Peace, and All That Jazz: 1918-1945 A History of US Book Nine by Joy Hakim. This is a series of books, intended for high schoolers, about U.S history. It was a very very general book and imho not suitable for any college prep courses but more for remedial students or students whose reading or reading comprehension may not be the best. I did learn a few new things though! 200 pages 3 stars
66. The Poor Man's Prepping Guide: How to Prepare for Disaster on a Shoestring Budget (Stay Alive Book 2) by M. Anderson. Only the very basics, mostly just common sense! 176 pages 3 stars
67. Vienna Nocturne was a work of historical fiction with Mozart playing a big part in the story as well as Ana Storace, an English soprano for whom the part of Susanna Figaro was written by Mozart (in real life). This was the author's first work and while I found the historical of great interest, the chapters were shorty and choppy and it seemed as if the plot was rushed. I would give this author another go-round if she wrote a good story. 291 pages 3 stars
68. The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen was one of those books "on sale" on Kindle.....well you do get what you pay for. I need to stop doing that! This was a very disjointed "romance" (???) billed as contemporary fiction. There were so many characters that were not well developed that it was difficult to follow. The action takes place during the summer and the locale is the community swimming pool. 290 pages 2 1/2 stars
69. The Mountain and the Wall is the first novel by Alisa Ganieva, a native Russian, born in Moscow, moved to Dagestan as a child, and then back to Moscow for university. This is the story of Shamil right before and during the hypothetical building of a wall that will separate Russia from Dagestan. Following those rumors (or are they?) the town of Makhachkala is in turmoil when extremist Muslims try to enforce Sharia law. The usual that we see today (especially in Eastern Turkey): blowing up and burning of museums, no TV or internet access, all women must dress in hajib, railroad tracks are torn apart, musical instruments and books taken to the town square and burned. All businesses owned by women were confiscated. The reader sees this through the eyes of Shamil, a "writer"???, who doesn't seem to work and is not the most likeable fellow.
I really tried to like this book but came away cold. Firstly, there were so many (as many as 12 on one page) foreign words (you couldn't get from context). I read this on Kindle so the word translations were in the glossary on the last page and to flip back and forth 4-5 times per page just didn't work for me. I can't believe there were that many words that couldn't be translated. If one is going to read it, I would suggest a hard copy. Secondly, it just wasn't interesting. I found it to be mundane. There were no shockers or surprises; most of this information I've gotten from news programs. 264 pages 2 1/2 stars.
I'm an old fogey, think I will stick with Tolstoy, Bulgakov, and Solzhenitsyn.
70.Our Own Country: A Novel (The Midwife Series Book 2 by Jodi Daynard. I read the first book in the series last year. Thinking this might be in the same vein, midwifing and all it's tragedies and travails, I read this one. I was surprised that this book had nothing to do with Midwives! This was a story of the Revolutionary War, primarily in Massachusetts. It included personages such as John and Abigail Adams and other important dignitaries . The story was good, for the most part, so I was not really disappointed, even though no midwifery! I did find that a romance between a slave and an upper crust society female being accepted in large circles probably wasn't plausible at the time. However, I will give this book 4 stars, 444 pages.
71. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. An honest and poignant story of growing up in Appalachia. The conclusion is what I've seen as a teacher: each child needs SOMEBODY to guide and direct them, to be in their corner, to offer tough love; if not a parent, a grandparent, a sister, etc. 272 pages 5 stars
72. Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux was a Gothic tale centering around the ghost of the Paris Opera House, Eric (as they call him). I have seen the musical twice and much prefer it over the book not because of the scenery, the costumes, or the music, but because of the tale, or the lack of it The book is very very detailed and we have a nice little wrapped up package in the end, where everybody ends up "happy", even Eric; who finds another opera house. I much prefer the "unknown" of the musical. The book also seemed to drag for about 4-5 chapters when telling about the "magical" dungeon. I read this and listened to it on audio while driving. The audio was very well done. 320 pages 3 1/2 stars.
73. Mary Queen of Scotland and The Isles: A Novel by Margaret George was a superb read as all the books I've read by this author have been. (The Memoirs of Cleopatra and Mary Called Magdalene). This book tells the story of Mary from her birth to her execution. Today's politics has nothing on Tudor politics! 870 pages 5 stars
74. George Washington the Writer by Catelyn Yoder. This is a collection of letters, diaries, and public documents written by Washington. Most of them were only excerpts and the explanation of each before each reading really told the reader what to think,or interpreted it for them. This would be a good book to introduce students to historical documents. 124 pages 3 stars
76. Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy was the story of Clym, a native to the heath of Edgeron who became educated in Paris but has returned to the heath, for reasons we never do find out. This is my 4th Hardy read and imho is not nearly as well written or as interesting as the others (i.e. Far from the Madding Crowd, Tess of D'Urbervilles, The Mayor of Castorbridge). Much time is spent on the description of nature and the seasons on the Heath---almost puts me in mind of Dickens and to sleep! The plot reads like a soap opera or a play from Shakespeare: love lost by folly. I vaguely see some of the themes that Hardy is attempting to portray: family, tradition/custom, pride, and fate vs. free will. I just don't feel it's done as well as in the aforementioned novels. If you haven't read Hardy, and I suggest you do, don't start with this one! 437 pages 2.5 stars
77. I read more than 50% of The Master and the Margarita. I know that it got rave reviews, that's why I purchased it, but to me it's a dud! It read like a slap-stick comedy, of which I am not fond. Every chapter introduced new characters whose names all looked and sounded like everybody else's. The best word I can use to describe it is inane. Life is too short to read a large book that you hate! Read 16/32 chapters (about 200 pages) .
78. One would think I would have learned my lesson by now, but no...when Kindle offered a free book a day for their anniversary, I took the bait! Everybody loves Kamau was an essay of a larger work that is supposed to portray slices of life. This one was a little too much like ordinary, mundane life, Italian grandfather doesn't like African-American fiancee of granddaughter. Sigh.........this was on Audible and I listened to 20/47 minutes.
79. Little Slaughterhouse on the Prairie by Harold Schechter was the story of the Benton family of Iowa. The Bentons ran a Wayside Inn in Iowa in the late 1860's and early 1870's and over a dozen people disappeared after checking in for dinner or the night. This short story (70 pages) is part of a larger collection known as Bloodlands collection. Never heard of this family before but the novella was done extremely well and was informative. 70 pages 5 stars
81. A Thousand Splendid Suns is Hosseini's second novel. The story takes place mostly in Afghanistan,but minor parts also in Pakistan. This novel shows the wretchedness of the human spirit as well as the overriding will to survive at any cost against unimaginable grief, loss, cruelty, and unspeakable tragedy.
This novel covers the period from the Soviet Invasion through 2009. Afghani life is changed drastically depending upon whom is in charge: The Soviets, the muhaideen, the war lords or the Taliban. The descriptions of how the country changes is in detail, and terror, especially when Afghanistan becomes the Islamic State of Afghanistan
The novel focuses on two women: Miriam, a "bastard" child who is married off to a cobbler 20-30 years her senior and Laila, a pregnant, unwed mother. These two women should be enemies, but fear and survival cement their friendship and commitment, even unto death.
A gut-wrenching tear-jerker of a book that will haunt me for sometime.
372 pages, 5 stars
82. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro was a subtle, gentle slow read. Although starting out slow, I was compelled to read on; although not fully engaged. This tale is told by Stevens, a post war butler in England; a terse man with little humor. His redemption comes at the very end of the book. 258 pages, 3 1/2 stars. 1001 BYMRBYD
83. Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Lacios. It is difficult to know where to begin with this review. A convoluted story, told in epistolary form, of sex and revenge in 18th century France. It is the story of two people's malicious games that they play and it how it affects the innocent. The Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil make a bet: if the Vicomte can seduce the married Madame de Tourvel, then the Marquise will sleep with him. Along the way each sleep with numerous others by design and for the purpose of hurt. There is even the rape of a 15 year old girl; although French society doesn’t see it as such at the time. The just (?) desserts at the end, where they turn on each other, is the best part! This book is 448 pages long, about 200 pages too long! 2 ½ stars
84. We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver is a psychological thriller. The book is 400 pages in length (too long) and told in epistolary form as Kevin's mother is writing to Kevin's father; the question being what to do about Kevin. Kevin, besides being psycho is cunning. He has his father fooled as to his true nature.
This book is painful to read; long, at times boring. I think some good editing would have helped this book; cut out the bland to save the good. 400 pages 3 stars
85. The Postman Always Rings Twice by James Cain is on 1001 BYMRBYD. From what I understand, it was one of the first noir crime novels. It would mild by today's standards, but caused an obscenity trial in Boston when it first came out. It is the story of the love triangle: older man--drinks too much, younger woman--bored, new hired hand--trouble! (who is the narrator). 188 pages 3 stars
The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. Firstly, to read this book you must suspend everything you know about reality. Secondly, if you like lots of characters like blips on a screen (not fully developed), then this book is for you! Much of the locale are wells, both dry and with water. All of the women in this book are helpless and need saved. Many of the same character's actions are repetitive. The title? The wind up bird is an invisible bird sitting in a tree that "springs" the world. There is everything but the kitchen sink in this book: skinning of people alive, mind sex with physical ramifications, and baseball bats with human skin and hair on them. Not my cup of tea! No more Murakami for me; magic realism is not my thing. 623 pages 2 1/2 stars.
87. Young Henry of Navarre One of the most fascinating and historically accurate works of fiction that I have read. My only complaint is that there is not an emotional layer; it's hard to connect with Henry. I cheered him on in battle and would liked to have felt his grief over the death of his mother or lamented over one of his lost loves; but the author did not permit this. I will definitely read the sequel. 585 pages 5 stars
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