rosalita jumps a little higher in 2018: Verse 6
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Well, hello there! I’m Julia and this is where I will chronicle my year in books and other wordy things. I’m 53, I work in higher education, and I live in Iowa. I read books of all sorts (fiction, nonfiction, mystery, history, science fiction/fantasy), maybe fewer than in the past but hopefully better. (Better does not mean Serious, or Literary, or any such thing. It just means, you know, Better.)
And because I do a lot of reading outside of books, I’ll be tempting you once again with Clickbait!, my possibly-too-cute way to refer to links and comments to various internetty items of interest that I find interesting, amusing, or thought-provoking. Maybe you will, too! None of the non-book reading will count toward my 75-book total, of course. And after a year of not counting re-reads in my yearly total, I've decided to once again count all books. Thanks to everyone who chimed in when I was mulling this over late last year!
About those stars:
My system for assigning star ratings to books has evolved over the years, but this chart comes the closest to describing what I consider when I rate a book.
This book may not be perfect, but it was perfect for me.
I will actively recommend this book to friends.
A really great book with minor flaws, still highly recommended.
Better than average but some flaws. Recommended.
Entertaining but probably forgettable, recommended only for fans of the genre or author.
Readable but something about the story, characters or writing was not up to standards. Not recommended.
Finished but did not like, and would not recommend.
Some redeeming qualities made me finish it, but nothing to recommend.
Nearly no redeeming qualities. Really rather bad.
Could not finish, possibly destroyed by fire (unless it's a library book)
2017 in Review
I made the decision at the start of the year to only count new reads in my yearly total, and that turned out to be 77. I've read more in the past but that's OK. Every year has its own rhythm. Since I track reading dates in my catalog, I can see that the total number of books read in 2017, including re-reads, is 103. The consensus in an unscientific poll on my last thread of 2017 showed overwhelming support for counting them all in one list, so that's what I'll do this year.
I only rated three books as :
The Children by David Halberstam (nonfiction, history)
Uprooted by Naomi Novik (fantasy)
Calamity Town by Ellery Queen (fiction, mystery)
The list of books is a bit longer:
The Green Mile by Stephen King
Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
The Western Star by Craig Johnson
The Glass Universe by Dava Sobel
Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach
Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Trespasser by Tana French
The Fireman by Joe Hill
Of the 77 books I read for the first time, 38 were written by men; 37 by women, and 2 were written by a mixed male-female collaboration.
And that's about the extent of the stats I track!
2018 Reading Stats to Date
Lincoln: Biography of a Writer
Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries
The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures
Travels With Charley
The Dark Angel
47. Scourged by Kevin Hearne.
The final book in Hearne's nine-volume Iron Druid Chronicles finds our hero, ancient (and yet perpetually young and hot) druid Atticus fighting to save the world from Ragnarök, the apocalyptic end game of Norse mythology. Meanwhile, his apprentice Granuaile is in Taiwan learning life lessons, and his mentor, Owen Kennedy, is putting out fires literal and figurative all over the planet.
I greatly enjoyed this series, but it probably should have ended a couple of books ago. I didn't enjoy the shifting narrative voice, alternating chapters between Atticus, Granuaile, and Owen; none of the voices felt distinctive except Atticus. And when you have a trio of good guys, I kind of expect them to join together to try to stop the end of the world instead of all going off and doing their own thing. I had that same complaint in the last book, when the stakes were lower, and the feeling was exacerbated here.
On the plus side, I like the way Hearne mixes and matches gods from the various mythological traditions — Odin sparring with Zeus and Mars, with Coyote and Jesus making cameo appearances. And there's a new and super-cute SLOTH!!! character named Slomo. It's a shame she got introduced just as the series was ending, because I would have gladly hung out with her some more.
I won't criticize the plotting of the ending, since I don't necessarily have a better idea, but if the goal was to whet the appetite for future short stories set in this world with these characters — well, it didn't work for me. You can't please everyone, and I loved the first three or four books in this series, and liked most of the rest until this one, so those are pretty good odds.
48. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.
I bought this book in 2014 and I don't know what took me so long to read it. Written in 1937, it's now considered a classic of African-American literature, though it got mixed reviews on publication, even from other black intellectuals, and it fell into obscurity for a long time after it was written before being re-surfaced largely due to the efforts of Alice Walker, who considered Hurston a role model when she was writing The Color Purple.
The novel tells the story of Janie, a black woman who refused to conform to the expectations of her time for women of her race and class. She married three times, and struggled to maintain her own autonomy in a world where women were supposed to take whatever their menfolk dished out. I thought the storyline was a powerful one, and I felt a great deal of sympathy for Janie, living in a time and a place that could not value her true gifts.
Much of the book's dialogue is rendered in black vernacular, and I am of two minds about it. On the one hand, it brought the voices of Janie, Tea Cake, and their friends and neighbors right into my head in a way that dialogue written in standard English would not have. On the other hand, I struggled with reading and comprehending it. The fault is entirely mine for simple lack of familiarity with black dialect, but it did make reading a chore when I so wanted it to be pure pleasure. (I've had a similar problem with Faulkner although my issues with that guy go far beyond how he chose to render Southern working-class dialogue in print.)
If reading vernacular doesn't bother you, or you are willing to push your way through it in the service of greater familiarity with the world Hurston wants to show us, I expect you would find this to be a book that offers food for thought far beyond turning the last page.
Happy new thread, Julia!
>10 rosalita: I just recently listened to this one, and I think the audio version helped a ton with the dialect.
Happy New Thread, Julia. I was also "Born to Read", so we have that in common. I have Scourged on audio. I will get to it in the coming months.
Hope you are keeping cool in Iowa.
>11 scaifea: Hi, Amber! Yes, I can see that an audio would have made understanding the dialect much easier. I kind of wish I had gone that route, but I'm still glad to have finally read it.
>12 msf59: Thanks for stopping by, Mark. I hope you enjoy Scourged when you get to it. The weather here has been vile and it's expected to remain so for at least the next couple of weeks. Ugh!
The vernacular of Their Eyes Were Watching God (what a title!) eventually became so comfortable that I'm looking forward to any challenges in Barracoon.
I'm intrigued by your "issues" with Faulkner.
My daughter said that his conversations revealed a personal racism which contrasted with what he had written.
>17 ronincats: Thank you for that, Roni! I've been feeling bad for not loving it, but I just didn't think the last few books delivered on the promise of the early ones.
>18 m.belljackson: I had never known where the title came from until I read it, Marianne. It's such a powerful image I don't think I'll ever forget it now. I will look forward to your thoughts on Barracoon.
Re Faulkner: I've just never been able to finish one of his books. Something about his writing style (beyond vernacular dialogue) just leaves me cold and feeling stupid. It sounds like your daughter was much more successful at wading through it to have an informed opinion — mine is just reflexive, as I've never finished a single Faulkner I've tried.
Ah, Faulkner. Yes, those books are tough but I’m so glad I’ve persevered and read a few of them. I ended up loving Light in August. He’s definitely not for everyone.
I hope summer is agreeing with you, Julia. The Born to Read theme suits you and your musical tastes. Take care, my friend.
>20 Donna828: He's certainly not for me! Too many wonderful books in the world to waste time on something that doesn't appeal to me.
49. The Unfinished Odyssey of Robert Kennedy by David Halberstam.
Last month was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, brother of President John F. Kennedy (assassinated in 1963) and Senator Ted Kennedy (died of natural causes in 2009). At the time he was killed, he was running for president himself, having served as Attorney General in his brother's administration and then as a Senator from New York State. Halberstam details how Kennedy waffled for months about whether to enter the 1968 election. His primary motivation was his growing conviction that the war in Vietnam was being badly bungled by the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson, but the notion of primarying an incumbent was almost unheard of at the time and many of his advisors thought he was better off to wait until 1972 to run.
I was only 4 years old when RFK was killed, so I don't remember him at all except that my mom always said he was the best of the bunch, Kennedy-wise. I never had the chance to ask David Halberstam if he thought that was true, but after reading this book I'd suspect the answer would have been yes. Halberstam was part of the press pool tagging along as Kennedy entered the 1968 campaign, following him all the way from the Indiana primary to his final, fatal election day in California. This book isn't intended to be a comprehensive biography, and it doesn't waste much space speculating about how the country would have been different if Kennedy had lived and become president. But it's an absorbing inside look at how the campaign season unfolded, all the choices and decisions that had to be made daily, and the ways the candidate and his advisors got things right as well as the many mistakes they made.
Something I learned from this book is that contrary to the revisionist history that is often recited today, Kennedy was by no means a lock to win the Democratic nomination in 1968, even after his big primary win in California. The electoral process at that time meant not every state had a primary. Most delegates who cast the actual votes for presidential candidates at the party conventions were chosen by the political establishment, not the people. And the Democratic establishment didn't like RFK, or at least mistrusted him, because by 1968 he was spouting some pretty radically liberal positions: equal rights for black citizens, support for migrant workers, anti-poverty measures for both urban and rural poor. The fervor that was stirred up whenever Kennedy made a public appearance somewhere made more dispassionate political honchos shudder.
If there's any criticism I have of the book, it's the lack of historical perspective. That's understandable, as the book was published in 1968, shortly after the assassination. It's about as close to "instant history" as you can get. As such, it's a valuable document of the way things were seen and perceived at the time but it would be interesting to read a book that compares and contrasts the ways that campaigns were conducted then and how they are conducted now. As an example, it's impossible to conceive of a successful presidential candidate today who did not declare he was running until after the New Hampshire and other primaries had already been contested. I'm still glad I read it, even though it made me sad to think of the tremendous potential for good that was lost on that June evening in 1968.
>21 rosalita: Agreed! But sometimes I (emphasis on the I) like to persevere if I think something might be more than my initial response tells me. I did that with Faulkner and it paid off. Just saying...
In college, we were assigned THE SOUND AND THE FURY, of which I now remember nothing.
A few years back, I did complete AS I LAY DYING because the plot was compelling in the sense
of really wanting to know which unhappy way it would end.
The opening was dramatic and confusing, yet great in a quiet way.
I resolved to read more, then my daughter commented on my choices and I returned them.
I still do not understand why Democrats or plain old ordinary citizens cannot sue to have
the JFK files released BEFORE the next election.
Happy new thread, Julia! I liked Proof a lot, so I'm definitely up for a group read next year if that happens. Meanwhile, I've added Francis to my "series" post, so I can keep track of which ones I read, even though strictly speaking they aren't a series, except those few that are.
That sentence was far too long.
The Robert Kennedy book looks interesting. We have just got the documentary about him on Netflix but I haven't started it yet due to the Vietnam one. I'm trying to finish things before I start new things. I know what you mean about the difference something written at the time vs decades afterwards - I thought the same about The Making of a President 1960, which followed JFK's campaign and election and won the Pulitzer in 1962. It was so poignant at the end when the author wondered about how the presidency might turn out and what he could achieve.
>25 m.belljackson: Marianne, do you think there are bombshell revelations in the JFK files? I'm more cynical than I'd like and I can't help thinking anything really explosive was disposed of long ago ...
>26 susanj67: SO glad you liked Proof, Susan! I am getting excited about our group read project. The Netflix documentary about RFK was what prompted me to pull this book off the shelf and finally read it. The doc is very good, IMO; I will confess I cried like a baby watching the final episode.
Ha! I guess not being content with having two perfectly cromulent words for a thing, I felt compelled to make up a third! OK, I'm going to go with tetralogy from now on. If I remember. :-)
50. Winter by Ali Smith.
No matter how hard I try, I struggle to describe an Ali Smith novel. Her books are unlike anything I've ever read, combining quirky characters, clever wordplay and the gauziest of plots to hold it all together. Her narratives usually jump backward and forward in time and are told from multiple points of view. This one, the second in her Seasons tetralogy (Liz taught me a new word!) does not quite reach the heights of serendipitous delight that I got from both Autumn and There But For The, but it still has much to recommend it.
I won't even attempt to summarize the plot, other than to say it's centered around a complicated family dynamic between two sisters, the son that both of them love, and his pretend girlfriend. Along the way, Smith sprinkles the novel with ruminations on the current global political climate (particularly but not exclusively Brexit), old-time radio and television comedians, artists, and peace activists. Oh, and there's a disembodied head floating around. The political commentary on xenophobia and racism is still trenchant but it didn't quite feel as fresh as it did in Autumn. I fear that's because as time goes on we (or perhaps just I) am becoming numb to the daily insults to human dignity that continue to be perpetrated by people who seem proud of their inhumanity.
I'm not sure what Smith has in store for us when Spring rolls around, but I have a feeling I will once again be left struggling to explain what, or how, or why.
I saw your book catalogue book from the last thread scored a 5-star rating! Nice.
>33 rosalita: I have never read an Ali Smith novel, it is beyond me how I have let her go by me all these years!
Howdy, Megan! Oh, the card catalog book was a real treat. I think you'd enjoy it if it ever surfaces down on your end of the planet.
I felt the same way about Ali Smith when I first read There But For The which was just a couple of years ago! I think I found her (and also Penelope Lively, who I also really enjoy) through the British Author Challenge. You should take one of her books out for a spin.
I realized just now as I scrolled back up my thread that I used the exact same line for my last two "Currently Reading" posts: "Two very different books on the go right now." And whaddya know? It's still true!
The Last Coyote is a zoomy police procedural, the fourth in the Harry Bosch series. If on a Winter's Night a Traveler fills me with trepidation but I'm going to give it a go. It's probably not good that I'm going into it already annoyed because Barnes & Noble have stopped supporting their desktop apps, which means I can no longer download my Nook books from the B&N website and then transfer them to my e-reader. Instead, I have to read them on my iPad, which I don't like using for longform reading. Heavy sigh.
>23 rosalita: I was one of the students on the floor of Allen Fieldhouse during this
and I got to touch his hand as he made his way out! Such a tragedy.
>37 ronincats: That is just so cool, Roni! So many tragedies in 1968, starting with MLK and then RFK. What a waste of incredible potential for tremendous good.
>39 Donna828: Hi, Donna. Quartet — THAT'S the word I couldn't drum up in my brain, leading to me just making up quadrilogy until Liz set me straight. I am also eager to see what she does with the last two seasons.
Happy new thread, Julia. I LOVE the topper. So true.
I am looking forward to Winter; Autumn was one of my favorites from last year. And my first Ali Smith as well.
I taught Their Eyes Were Watching God, and my students hated it, the vernacular was too much of a challenge for them. So I hesitate to recommend it to people. I loved it, but it's one of those books that is not everyone's cup of tea.
>41 BLBera: Hi, Beth! I will be interested to read your thoughts on Winter and how it compares to Autumn when you get to it. And I sympathize with your students, because I would never have had the patience to read the vernacular at that age. It doesn't do much good to tell them that their persistence will be rewarded with a wonderful story. I wonder if you could teach it as an audiobook? Have you ever tried that?
Audio sounds like it might work for Their Eyes Were Watching God, but instead, I'll find other books for them.
51. The Last Coyote by Michael Connelly.
Los Angeles Police Detective Harry Bosch has been placed on indefinite stress leave after some sort of incident involving his commanding officer, Harvey Pounds. (We've seen the dysfunctional relationship between Harry and Harvey in previous entries in this series, so it's no surprise that it's come to a head, though we only get the details in drips and drabs.) He won't be allowed to return to active duty until a police psychiatrist clears him, which involves thrice-weekly therapy sessions.
He-man Harry has little patience for the psychobabble, but eventually he opens up to the female doctor, who is concerned for his mental health when he decides to spend his free time investigating the murder of his mother, a party girl/prostitute, 35 years ago. Chasing down leads takes him from L.A. to Florida and back again, and he begins to suspect some high-level shenanigans in both his mother's death and the subsequent investigation, which seems more like a cover-up than a quest for justice.
Bosch is a classic flawed protagonist. He's harsh, quick to anger, relentlessly un-PC; on the other hand, he cares more than anything about getting justice for the homicide victims whose cases cross his desk. Connelly has given us glimpses of Bosch's back story before, but this book really dives in and makes clear that everything that he is today stems from what happened to his mother. But can he solve her murder without triggering his own?
Connelly is not the smoothest or the most lyrical of writers; his background is in journalism and it shows in his straightforward, just-the-facts-ma'am style. But the glimpses he gives readers into the inner lives of his characters feel authentic, and the somewhat convoluted plots hold up well through the denouement. I do wish just once that the bureaucratic obstacle du jour standing in Harry's way didn't always turn out to be a stupid fat woman who gets her comeuppance in physical humiliation. Don't thin, moderately attractive women ever act like petty tyrants?
Have you ever read any of Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus novels? My daughter has read most of them, and lent me one to sample. I learned from it how to pronounce the name Siobhan. Well, I just didn't know, and Mr. Rankin sensed that failing in me and supplied the pronunciation. Anyway, I took a mass market paperback of the first in the series with me to Ireland, for to read on the flight home. The author's intro blew a key element of the conclusion, but I forgive him.
>47 weird_O: I remember that there was a pronunciation guide, but have since forgotten how Siobhan is sounds
>45 Berly: Thanks, Kim!
>46 quondame: I think so, Sue. Remind me who Mrs, Coulter is? I do know Umbridge. :-)
>47 weird_O: Hey, Bill. I read the first Rankin and thought it was fine but for whatever reason have not felt compelled to return to the series. Usually it's the characters who draw me in to mystery series, and I didn't really like Rebus much at all. Not enough to spend more time with him right away at least, but maybe someday ...
>48 quondame: I believe it's pronounced SHO-van, Sue. And Aislinn is Ash-LEEN. For some reason, those two Irish names have stuck with me from all the Irish authors I've read.
>49 rosalita: In the Golden Compass, the heroine, Lyra's beautiful evil mother - Nicole Kidman in the movie. Thanks for the reminder.
>50 quondame: Ah! I have not read any Pullman, though I keep thinking I should. Should I?
Hi Julia, I read your comments regarding Ali Smith with interest as I have only read one book by her and I hated it. I suffered through The Accidental but at the same time, I can't help but wonder if I should try another by her.
>52 DeltaQueen50: Oh no, Judy! Well, I don't know if you should try another, since I haven't read The Accidental to know how it compares t9 the ones I've read, but I also think it's A-OK to just say an author isn't for me. Author-reader affinity is a mysterious alchemy, and especially with Ali Smith I find myself struggling to articulate why the books of hers I've read resonate with me.
I'm really no help at all, am I?!
>58 LOL, Julia, I expect that I will never go hunting a book by Ali Smith, but if another one happens to drop by then I may give it a try.
>51 rosalita: I enjoyed them. The church in the books is on the wrong side, which is mostly what made them controversial. Since it isn't uncommon for members of one religion to go on about the baddies in others and since the established church in the book isn't really that close to a major current one it boggles me that it was so much of an issue.
>56 quondame: Thanks for the rundown, Sue. It sounds like something I'd like to try. I'll let you know how it goes!
Hi Julia! Great reads here. I just saw one of the Ali Smith books on audio at the library. I think it was the second of the quartet. Can they be read out of order?
Happy new thread! Glad you are still enjoying the Michael Connelly series! My dad borrowed all of mine and is working his way through the series this summer
>58 AMQS: Hi, Anne! None of the characters carry over from Autumn to Winter as far as I can recall, so I think they could be read in any order. I'll be interested to know how it plays on audiobook if you do tackle it.
>59 ChelleBearss: That's great that your dad is also reading the Connelly books, Chelle! They are rather addictive, I must say. I'm trying the space them out so I don't just read them all in one big gulp.
52. My Name is Markham by Jodi Taylor.
Another short story featuring the intrepid time travelers at St. Mary's. This one falls between the seventh and eighth full-length novels. In a twist, it is narrated not by Maxwell, Chief Historian and Primary Screw-up, but by Markham, hapless member of the Security Section who seems to trail mayhem wherever he goes. In this installment, where he goes is back to the 9th century with Maxwell and Peterson to discover the true story of King Alfred and the burnt cakes. The usual cockups ensue; a more rigorous reader might wonder how it is that every trip these historians take ends up with them substantially altering the historical timeline when that supposedly is the one thing that can never happen, but it's best not to dwell on such uncharitable thoughts. Back at St. Mary's, a holiday party for local kiddies is marred (or saved, depending on your point of view) by a faux reindeer dancing the can-can and spewing black-olive poo. So, pretty much business as usual.
>61 rosalita: Sounds like another good one, Julia. I'm not quite up to that one yet.
It's OK, Beth. I don't like the shorts as much as the full-length books. The balance of hijinks to drama is off kilter.
53. Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie.
A rich elderly woman suspects someone in her family is trying to kill her to get their inheritance a bit early. She writes to Hercule Poirot but due to the letter being mislaid it isn't delivered until a couple of months later — when Miss Emily Arundell has already died and left her considerable fortune to someone outside of the family. Though investigating a possible attempted murder seems moot to that doofus Hastings, given that the target has died of apparently natural causes in the meantime, Poirot persists. He learns that all of the family members (nieces, nephew and assorted spouses) are desperate for money, giving them all a capital (no pun intended) motive. But did any of them actually initiate a fatal action?
The "dumb witness" of the title is Bob, Miss Emily's intrepid wire terrier. He doesn't exactly solve the mystery but his actions and inactions are key to unraveling the case. I don't know much about Christie's personal life but I'm going to wager she was a dog lover, judging by the affectionate way she portrays Bob, even going so far as to give him actual dialogue. It's utterly charming and I'm glad Poirot was able to clear him of any wrongdoing in the case.
The more Poirot books I read the more I dislike the Hastings character. I realize he's there to provide a handy vehicle for Poirot to explain the clues and solution to the reader, but good grief no one can be that stupid and still be able to tie his shoes. Unlike Watson, who has his own charm separate from Sherlock Holmes, this sidekick has no redeeming characteristics that I can discern. I far prefer the Poirot cases where he is absent in Argentina or wherever, but even he can't keep this one from being a winner.
Really great reviews here, Julia, as always. I loved Their Eyes Were Watching God when I read it, and it is truly fabulous on audio narrated by Ruby Dee - one of the best audios I have listened to, and that's saying something.
I love that you are enjoying the Harry Bosch books - one of my favorite series. And they did a good job with the tv series, too, although I had to get used to Titus Welliver as Bosch, as that is totally not how I pictured him. And they made him more contemporary, so he has served in the Gulf War instead of Vietnam.
I need to get to Dumb Witness - one of the few Poirot's that I have yet to read, although I do have a copy waiting patiently. Also, I need to get to Winter - I was sad to read that she doesn't carry over any of the characters from the first book. I was hoping for more of them. *sigh*
Hoping that your week is full of fabulous!
Thanks for stopping by, Cra-Ma! I would have liked the Autumn characters to carry over as well — I thought they were really interesting people to hang out with.
>64 rosalita: I believe you are spot on about Hastings, Julia. Not sure why Poirot is able to stand him. When did he drop out of the Poirot investigations? Was he a creature of Christie's early Poirots, dispensed with in later episodes? Look it up and let me know, will you? (snork)
I've got two more of Christie's top ten to read. Endless Night, which is apparently non-Poirot/Marple; and Curtain: Poirot's Last Case. I have both, just must work 'em into the reading rodeo.
I like that comparison of Hastings to Watson - you're right, H doesn't have his own charm like W.
I've been reading Agatha, too, and just finished Death on the Nile.
>67 weird_O: It's funny, Bill. I decided with this book to create a new tag, "that doofus Hasting" so I could easily tell which books he defiles with his presence and which are blessedly doofus-free. I'll use it moving forward, but now I just need to go back over the ones I've already read and figure out which category they belong in.
>68 jnwelch: I'm glad I'm not the only one on whom Hastings grates, Joe! I'm in good company with you and Bill. And Death on the Nile is next on my Poirot list!
Agatha knew quite early that she had written herself into a corner with Hastings: it's only the second Poirot when she dispatches him to Argentina. He actually appears in only a minority of the novels, when Agatha found the need to put a shield between Poirot's thoughts and the reader.
Agatha / Poirot actually have a lot of insulting fun with him; it helps if you keep your eye on that. :)
>70 lyzard: Agatha / Poirot actually have a lot of insulting fun with him; it helps if you keep your eye on that.
It helps, just not enough. :-)
And really, if she knew what a doofus she created, couldn't she have made him less doofus-y over time? I love Dame Agatha but I'm not letting her off the hook on this one. I do give her credit for not foisting him upon the reader in every Poirot tale.
But people don't suddenly grow a brain. She was stuck with what she'd done, but looked for ways to minimise the damage. :D
Hmph. She should have killed him off in Argentina and brought in his smarter brother, then. :P
Honestly, if she'd bothered to watch a single episode of a soap opera she would have gotten loads of good ideas!
>73 rosalita: Ha!
Great reviews of the Taylor and Christie books, neither of which I have read, but should get to someday.
54. The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer.
I keep a few of my favorite Heyer Regency romances stashed on my Kobo for reading emergencies. I've been re-reading this one off and on for a few months, usually when I've finished one book but don't want to jump right into the next new one. Anyway, I realized I never wrote a review when I first read it all those years ago, so here goes.
When I first wanted to try Heyer's romances to see what all the fuss was about, the two books that were most often recommended to me were this one and Frederica. I started with this one, and it was the beginning of a beautiful relationship between Georgette and me.
The Ombersleys are leading a relatively quiet life among the Upper Ten Thousand of British society in the Regency period, when Lady Ombersley's brother, a diplomat who lives abroad mostly, drops his 19-year-old daughter, Sophia, on them for an extended visit. Sir Horace is being sent to Brazil and doesn't want to take Sophy along (her mother having died when she was a little girl).
It doesn't take long for Sophy to upend the family, with her gifts of pet monkeys and knack for ruffling the feathers of high society in general and stodgy eldest son Charles in particular. It's a madcap ride toward the eventual happy ending for all involved, and Heyer's deft touch with meticulously recreating the time period combined with her sly sense of humor keeps the pages turning all the way.
55. Gone Again by Doug Johnstone.
Mark Douglas is a freelance photographer in Edinburgh. He's on assignment, shooting the efforts of the coast guard to keep a pod of pilot whales from beaching themselves, when he gets a phone call from his son's school: Mark's wife, Lauren, never showed up to pick up their six-year-old at the end of the day. Mark's urgency about Lauren's absence seems unduly panicky until we learn that she's done this before: When Nathan was a baby, she disappeared for 10 days before reappearing without a word about where she'd been.
I finished this off in one day. It's a compulsive page turner, with lots of action and little introspection. Maybe a little too little, as I was left feeling unsatisfied by the eventual explanation of what happened to Lauren and unconvinced that anyone would react the way Mark did. It's also increasingly violent and gory as the story progresses, which generally doesn't bother me but i didn't like the way the child was involved in it. Even with the perfunctory lip service paid to fretting about how traumatic it was for him, it felt unpleasantly voyeuristic and gratuitous.
To sum up: An action-packed thriller that needed more nuance and character development to be above average.
I'm sure I've mentioned it before, Julia, but The Grand Sophy was my first GH, and I agree with all you say. I loved it, and began a long run of reading her books.
P.S. I want to re-read it sometime soon.
>79 jnwelch: I can tell you it holds up beautifully on a re-read, Joe! I loved it just as much the second time. I bet you will, too.
I keep a few of my favorite Heyer Regency romances stashed on my Kobo for reading emergencies. I don't know what a Kobo is, but other than that I completely understand!
Hi Julia! Sorry about book 55 - it sounded promising but I'll give it a miss. I love your emergency Heyer romances :-) So much easier on an ereader than lugging them round in hard copy form.
>81 AMQS: Hi Anne! A Kobo is an e-reader, like a Kindle but better.
>83 rosalita: I really wanted it to be better, Susan. It started very promisingly but quickly turned into a ridiculous shoot-em-up. Oh, well. They can't all be winners. And hooray for e-readers that let us lug all sorts of books with us everywhere!
I love The Grand Sophy as well, but I love Frederica more. I agree, the Heyers are great when you're in a book funk. I have several I haven't read, so I have a treat ahead.
Can't wait to see you, Julia. Next week!
>89 lyzard: It is absolutely entirely your fault, Liz! It all started on your thread, as I recall. No doubt the best book bullet I've ever gotten from LT.
Aww, thank you!
ETA: So anyway---are you up for Latter End next month? Same old story, need to place an ILL...
Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders That America Forgot by Michael Arntfield. The problem with reading a lot of Erik Larson, Dava Sobel, and David Halberstam is that you get spoiled for what good narrative nonfiction can be. This ... is not it. I am just one chapter in and I am already deeply annoyed by the author's unsubstantiated hyperbole, circular writing, and smug over-generalizations. I never thought I'd type this line, but I hope things pick up once the murders start.
>91 lyzard: I am ready for Latter End whenever you are, Liz, because ... drumroll ... I have my own copy! It was on e-sale a few months ago and I snatched it right up. I've seen Miss Silver books touted once or twice before in the email alerts I get about ebook sales, but every time by the time I clicked through they weren't on sale anymore. This one time, I was quick enough.
It's about a series of murders in the 1960s on the campus of the University of Wisconsin, which is in the city of Madison (hence the title). I thought it would be interesting because I'm fairly familiar with UW and it's a peer institution of the uni I work at, and I wasn't around in 1967 when this all happened. But so far he's just made sweeping — and easily disproved — generalizations about the city, about how state university systems work, and those self-righteous hippies who basically unleashed anarchy and caused the murders (apparently; his argument so far is so rambling and incoherent the only thing that comes through clearly is his utter contempt for the movement), so much so that I'm losing trust that I can believe anything he's going to assert at any point. I hope I'm wrong, or it's going to be a long slog.
I'm not familiar with that case, but it certainly it doesn't sound like a fair and impartial presentation. :(
>95 rosalita: It's maddening when a writer of history engages in unsubstantiated hyperbole, circular writing, and smug over-generalizations, whether the subject is recent or ancient history. I don't mind inferences drawn from facts and circumstances, but not when the writer is obviously biased. I stop reading as soon as that becomes clear.
>97 Storeetllr: Oh Mary, this guy is so terrible. I'm officially in hate-read mode at this point. I'm going to post some excerpts tomorrow so you all can share in the pain (or possibly tell me I'm over-reacting, which is possible).
Hate-read mode. Love it! I'm too old to indulge in that, myself. I start hating a book, it's gone.
Oh, I've cheerfully abandoned any number of terrible books, Mary. There's no fun to be had in those. But there's a certain kind of terribly-written book that I enjoy reading, if only to see just how bad it gets.
>98 rosalita: Yes please! Bad quotes can be even better than the good ones.
I must apologise for missing the thread this far - to go way back to the beginning, I really liked the Hurston review - I hadn't realised Alice Walker was so key in getting her work remembered. Good to know.
>101 charl08: No need to apologize, Charlotte, now that you're here! I'll try to serve up some entertainingly dreadful excerpts later today.
Madison's free newspaper, ISTHMUS, had a review of MAD CITY awhile back with the same devastating responses as yours.
IF a reader believed even a portion of MAD CITY, this city would be a place of total horror instead of one of the top U.S. 15-20 small cities.
Yes, it still has the spillover of big city crime to be dealt with, plus the state legacy of total lunatics and unsolved murders,
yet it remains a strong and blue oasis. It deserves a balanced book.
>104 m.belljackson: Oh that's interesting, Marianne! I will have to look that up after I've finished the book and written by own review. And I'm glad that I'm not off base in my reaction — I would never claim to be an expert on Madison but I know enough to know most of his sweeping generalizations so far are complete bunk.
Also: I've never heard anyone refer to it regularly as "Mad City." Once in a while I get a "Mad Town" but it's far from universal. One more thing that made me raise my eyebrow.
>77 rosalita: Oh yes. I have a shelf of Georgette Heyer's and I love them. They are like hot cocoa on a chilly night. I also have a few Heyer books on Audible, which are a great comfort to listen to - especially if Richard Armitage is narrating.
>106 nittnut: "Hot cocoa on a chilly night" — perfect description, Jenn!
OK, by semi-popular demand ;-) — some excerpts from this atrocious nonfiction, Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders That America Forgot:
This paragraph tries to make the case why "Mad City" is a universally used and appropriate nickname for Madison, Wisconsin (a town that regularly appears on "Best Small City in the U.S." lists, by the way).
These pseudonyms — not unlike Denver as the "Mile High City" or Birmingham as the "Tragic City" — appropriately underscore Madison's distinct and precarious position in the American landscape and national conscience at once. It's not only a place seated along a picturesque isthmus and circumscribed by four lakes when viewed on a map from above, but also a place shunted squarely in the mouth of madness once you're actually on the ground. As time and space battle it out, Madison is a city surrounded by reality on all sides yet still defined by a certain surrealism.What in the Sam Hill does that mean?! In addition to being terrible writing ("viewed on a map from above" — so if you're looking at a map while standing on the ground the lakes disappear?) it's vague, unsupportable and from what I know of Madison completely untrue. Bonus: Birmingham is the "Tragic City"? Which Birmingham? Michigan? Alabama? England? I have literally never heard that nickname used for any city before, so I'm at a complete loss as to what he meant. And yet he presents it as if it's as famous as "Mile High City".
Another passage that pretends to be authoritative but is nearly devoid of fact:
Whenever a state establishes a network of public universities, the city is a suffix that brands that campus as its own animal. Eventually, the U-and-whatever state abbreviation gets dropped and only the city remains, as though the campus were a stand-alone entity. Once upon a time, UC Davis simply became Davis. Ditto for UC Berkeley, UNC Chapel Hill, and UVA Charlottesville — truncated to become Berkeley, Chapel Hill and Charlottesville respectively.No. Just no. You have only to look at two states that border Wisconsin to know that's rubbish — Illinois uses directionals to differentiate between its various state universities (Northern/Western/Eastern Illinois in addition to the main campus simply called the University of Illinois), and Iowa's public institutions follow neither pattern (University of Iowa, Iowa State University, University of Northern Iowa).
Furthermore, I will eat my hat if anyone can show me that UC Davis is now universally known as simply Davis. I've never heard it called that. And the University of North Carolina is either UNC or Carolina, as far as I've ever heard. And it's such a stupid thing to get wrong —he's only bringing it up as a tortured analogy to explain why the University of Wisconsin-Madison is known simply as Madison. Which, by the way, I'm pretty sure it isn't — most people I know refer to it either as Wisconsin or UW or U-Dub.
One more and then I'll have to stop for now before my blood pressure spikes too high. Here's his explanation for the societal unrest of the late 1960s:
The Summer of Love was also a distinctly national phenomenon that transcended the celebrated Bay Area, sending out a seismic wave of psychedelic drug use, sexual experimentation, and self-righteous dissolution that made its way east across America, swallowing up unsuspecting cities like Madison in an unwashed wave of hippie zealotry.Those damn dirty hippies! Self-righteous bastards who only care about getting high and getting laid — oh, and trying to stop an increasingly bloody and illegitimate war, although this author doesn't seem to be aware of Vietnam at all, except as "a good excuse to get stoned and chew the rag."
I have so many more samples flagged and I am only on Chapter 3! I reserve the right to inflict more on you at a future date, so be warned. I have to get them out of my system now, because if I waited and used them all in my eventual review it would be nine miles long.
>108 rosalita: While Davis is commonly used for UC Davis among the generations of UC bound I was in and others later, I can surely attest that he knows nothing of the mechanisms of the protests at UC Berkeley - my brother was into the Free Speech movement well before the summer of love and I was at Berkeley avoiding all sorts of on campus activities from 1967 to 1971. What was reported had so little to do with what happened, what motivated the people I knew and the effects it had on them and me, that it makes no sense to me. If it makes sense to someone evaluating the fanciful reports of the time, it is for sure dead certain they are dead wrong. Well, except those who notice that young men are likely to be troublesome when sent off to die without their mamas and girl friends telling them they should. Very few went willingly on their dad's say so alone, it seemed to me, and there wasn't a woman in my circle who thought the men wrong to want to avoid military service in Vietnam.
>108 rosalita: OMG, Julia. This is terrible. You should stop reading, for the sake of your blood pressure.
>109 quondame: Ah, thanks for setting me straight about (UC) Davis, Sue. Perhaps it's only outside of the state that the full name is more common, which makes sense.
And good for your brother and all the students who were integral to the Free Speech movement, which in my opinion did quite a bit of good along with the inevitable occasional bad apple. Claiming that students only used the issue of Vietnam as an excuse to get high is so insultingly tone deaf. As you say, those young men were the ones who were going to be asked to risk their lives and kill other people on behalf of a suspect cause.
I haven't looked up this guy's bio, but I strongly suspect he's either a former cop or a reporter who covered the cop beat and fell in love with his sources. He repeatedly expresses contempt for anyone who doesn't rigidly conform to so-called societal norms.
>110 BLBera: I may not finish it, Beth, but I'm taking a perverse satisfaction in seeing just how bad it can get. :-)
See, I would have thought the phrase that stood out in that particular pile of excrement was "a place shunted squarely in the mouth of madness".
And no, I don't know how a city can be defined by surrealism, except in the fevered brain of this author.
Totally worth the wait! Wow to those quotes, Julia. Sounds like you need to take a break and indulge in some Archie Goodwin.
Funny you should say that, Mamie! I just snagged a copy of Trouble in Triplicate on e-sale, so I whenever Mad City gets to be too much I go hang out with Archie for a while. :-)
Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, '"quirky"' Madison writers adopted "Mad City," along with the really tiresome "bubblers"
and deplorable "Sconnies" ... and more.
The author's "surrounded by reality" plagiarism is lifted from an old - and unintentionally very funny - mildly right winger quote.
(maybe Lee Dreyfus?)
If you're on the ground, you can usually see only 1-2 lakes, maybe all four from a hotel.
"Mouth of madness" appears to be from this author!
UW Madison, UW Platteville, UW Whitewater, etc. are all firmly distinguished.
If you say you went to the UW, most folks would ask "which one?"
Illinois schools can be confusing in a different way - if you say you went to The University of Chicago, even Illinois residents often figure you actually mean The University of Illinois at Chicago.
Most of us Chicago and Madison "hippies" actually had real jobs to keep us in those expensive bell bottoms & drugs, then
risked our lives (though we didn't know it until Kent State) marching against the still undeclared war, getting tear gassed,
and joining Dick Gregory's march to his house until stopped by one of Mayor Daley's Democratic Convention tanks.
I lived in California for 40 years, tho I did not attend any of the universities, and I always referred to the various universities as UC Davis, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, and heard other civilians refer to them that way too.
Also, that writing is gibberish, and, according to Wikipedia, you're right about his credentials. Michael Andrew Arntfield is a Canadian academic, author, true crime broadcaster, university professor, criminologist, Fulbright scholar, and former police officer.
Also looks like he hadn't even been born when the hippie / anti-Vietnam War movement was happening, though I couldn't find out his age by Googling it.
>110 BLBera: I agree with Beth.
>117 m.belljackson: Thanks for adding your local knowledge, Marianne!
>118 Storeetllr: What the heck is a "true crime broadcaster?" Thanks for doing the legwork, Mary. I shudder to think of his poor University students being fed a steady diet of his particular brand of critical thinking — lots of criticism, little thinking!
BTW, Arntfield's website (http://www.michaelarntfield.com/) directs you to the Wikipedia article I took the quote from if you click on "About Me," which I think he wrote himself. Nothing arrogant about this guy. I think his "professorship" is akin to a Trump University scam. Just my opinion, base on what I read on his website. Too bad he can't spell (or proofread)
It's amusing that this book is not even mentioned on his website. I guess he's disowned it, and I don't blame him.
Hi Julia, hope you are having a good weekend my dear and getting some reading done. Sending love and hugs to you dear friend.
>108 rosalita: Julia, I promise I won't read that book. But thank you for doing it so we can all be warned :-)
>123 susanj67: It's my good deed of the month, Susan! I just read a book that I think would be much more to your liking, so stay tuned for that.
>124 rosalita: Ooh, I'm tuned! Should I start tapping my foot yet, or would that be rude?
>125 susanj67: I wouldn't want you to sprain your ankle doing all that tapping, Susan! But perhaps by the time you wake up tomorrow morning it will be posted ...
>126 jnwelch: You know, I read the first
56. Ax by Ed McBain.
The 18th entry in McBain's classic long-running police procedural series about the 87th Precinct, located in a fictional New York City. In this 1960s entry, our detectives are called to the basement of a tenement where the building superintendent has been found with an ax buried in his skull. It seems like an extreme crime against an 86-year-old man who is not known for vice, but the investigation turns up some oddities, like a schizophrenic wife and an agoraphobic grown son. The mystery deepens when the beat cop turns up dead in the same basement.
This is a solid entry in the series. The central crime is interesting, the suspect list pleasingly varied, and the red herrings convincing. The reflexive assumption that the murder was committed by an oversized black man who happens to be on the scene is quashed early and easily, a rarity in books of this time period.
Unlike other 87th books, there's not a lot of time spent with the detectives off duty, although Steve Carella's lovely wife Teddy makes a welcome appearance. One of the things I like about this series is that McBain gives us enough personal info on his detectives to make us care about them, but he's not a one-note writer. Some books we get a lot of personal exposition; some books hardly any. It keeps everything feeling fresh and unpredictable. And unlike some series where the characterization is stronger than the plotting, McBain generally has a good mix of the two.
And I love the way he describes things; here, it's the home of the victim, wherein live the aforementioned wife and son:
The house was out of Great Expectations, sired by Dragonwyck, from Wuthering Heights twice removed. There were no actual cobwebs clinging to the ceilings and walls, but there was a feeling of foreboding gloom, a darkness that seemed permanently stained into the wooden beams and plaster, a certain knowledge that Dr. Frankenstein or some damn ghoul was up in the attic working on God knew what foul creation. For a moment Carella had the feeling he had stepped into the wrong horror movie, and he stopped deliberately and waited for Hawes to join him, not because he was frightened — well, the place was a bit eerie, but hell, hadn't he told young Mickey Ryan there was no such things as ghosts? — but simply to reassure himself that he was really here, inside this gloomy Tudor cottage, investigating a murder which had taken place many miles away within the confines of the 87th Precinct, where life was real and earnest, and so was death.
Hi Julia, I came for a quick visit and stayed to enjoy those amazing (in a totally bad way) quotes. The phrase "a place shunted squarely in the mouth of madness" will live in infamy!
>127 rosalita: I'd say the answer is yes, you could read the Dresden short stories in Brief Cases without reading the novels past number 5. You might get a spoiler or two about how something in the novels turned out, but for me that wouldn't be a big deal. He does tell you where each story would fit among the novels in terms of chronology. You'd have no trouble understanding and appreciating the stories.
I guess in my mind, if you're not reading the novels now, why not read these and see whether you're tempted to pick up the novels again. If you stall out on the short stories, you'll have your answer, and if you eat them up like potato chips, you'll have a different answer. :-)
57. Don't Know Jack by Diane Capri.
The series of thrillers written by Lee Child and featuring Jack Reacher, gigantic former Marine and current asskicker, have been a sorta-guilty pleasure ever since I got a copy of One Shot free when I bought my first e-reader in 2011 (don't worry, Susan and Liz, I went back and started at Book One once I realized it was a series). They are increasingly silly in their over-the-top plotting but still I scarf them down like potato chips as soon as the next one is published.
The problem, of course, is that Lee Child, while pleasingly prolific, is just one man who only publishes one full-length novel a year. But fear not, Reacher Creatures! Now you can fill the gaps with this series by Diane Capri, which uses our favorite hulk as a springboard for thriller-ific action of her own devising. The series is called "The Hunt For Reacher," and this is the first book. Two FBI agents, Kim Otto and Carlos Gaspar, receive mysterious orders for an under-the-radar task: Travel to Margrave, Georgia, and find out everything they can about Jack Reacher, especially where he is now.
Reacher-philes will recognize that location as the setting for The Killing Floor, Child's first Reacher adventure. I found myself wishing I'd read that one recently, as I'm sure remembering more of the details would have made the tie-in even more meaningful. But even without that, I enjoyed reading how Otto and Gaspar handled their assignment and all of the chaos that gets kicked up along the way. Much like the Reacher books, there's no time to dwell on any questionable elements, as Capri (like her mentor Child) has a knack for propulsive plotting that carries the reader right along.
The book opens with a "Dear Reader" letter from Capri, assuring readers that she has Child's enthusiastic permission to use his character, quoting him as saying the books are "full of thrills and tension, but smart and human, too." So there you go.
I bought this in a three-book e-omnibus that was being sold for a grand 99 cents. I'd say I got my money's worth and then some. I'm going to try to space out reading the other two so they can hopefully bridge the gap before the next Child offering comes out this fall. I don't know, though, I sure do love potato chips ...
Continuing with my efforts to catch up with people, but mostly skimming.
From your last thread: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige. This was ... not good. It's a classic example of a really interesting idea married to mediocre plotting and pedestrian writing. Other than that, it's great! I read this review with horror – it sounds as awful as you say and I am amazed that you stuck with it. Do you always finish books or do you abandon books? I apologize if I have already asked you this before – don’t remember, but this sounds like an excellent book to abandon.
>1 rosalita: Love your topper.
>44 rosalita: I love Harry Bosch – I’m re-reading the Kinsey Millhone series by Sue Grafton this year but may re-read Harry and the Lincoln Lawyer next year.
>64 rosalita: Took me a minute to get this one – I have it on my shelves as Poirot Loses a Client. Yay for Dame Agatha. I don’t abhor Hastings as much as you do, but I read most of these the first time as a teenager, wasn’t quite as critical a reader then, and he’s entrenched in my mind as someone Poirot has affection for and who occasionally actually helps.
>77 rosalita: My my, this thread is hitting quite a few of my favorite authors, although The Grand Sophy is not among my favorites. But Heyer is definitely a comfort and emergency read for me, too. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but Faro’s Daughter was my first Heyer, 52 years ago.
>108 rosalita: Yikes and *shudder* Revisionist and just plain stupid, from the sound of it.
>132 rosalita: Jack Reacher is another one of my favorites. I may have to look into this, thanks. Have you read No Middle Name? It’s a book of short stories published last May by Child and I loved ‘em all; I don’t usually like short stories.
Well, mostly caught up. I hope you have a wonderful day and week.
>132 rosalita: Oh my word!!!!! (Imagine Mamie's Seinfeld gif right here)
This sounds like just the sort of series I would love, and the elibrary has the first three :-) There are TEN! And she's written all sorts of other things. Thanks Julia!
>133 karenmarie: It's great to see you here, Karen! I would not have read the Dorothy Must Die book at all except it was the choice for my real-life book club. And I definitely would not have finished it except for that. It was very much not my cup of tea. I'm glad I hit some of your favorites along the way, with Bosch and Poirot and Heyer. I did read the book of Reacher short stories and enjoyed it.
>134 susanj67: I thought that might seem like your cup of tea, Susan. :-) I hope I haven't oversold it and you enjoy it as much as I did.
58. Trouble in Triplicate by Rex Stout.
A collection of three novellas featuring rotund detecting genius Nero Wolfe and my literary boyfriend Archie Goodwin.
Before I Die — World War II is raging, and Archie is restless. He's enlisted and is a major in the U.S. Army, but he's been assigned to help Wolfe work on top-secret cases for the government instead of going off to fight Germans. Compounding the problem is a rationing crisis that has gourmand Wolfe desperate to get his hands and teeth on some real meat. When one of New York City's most notorious gangsters shows up at the door needing help with his daughter, the promise of black-market access in return makes Wolfe throw caution to the wind, leaving Archie to try to keep house, home, and body together long enough to solve the case.
Help Wanted, Male — The war is over and Archie is back in civvies, but one of the cases Wolfe solved for the U.S. Army comes back to haunt him. A publisher involved in that case is murdered, and the killer sends Wolfe a message saying he's next. Deciding he can't detect properly with his head on a swivel waiting for attack, he hires a lookalike to impersonate him and serve as bait. You can imagine how much fun Archie has with that.
Instead of Evidence — A man and his wife come to Wolfe, claiming his business partner is going to kill him. Oddly, the man doesn't want Wolfe to try to stop him; he just wants him to promise that after he's killed Wolfe will make sure his partner doesn't get away with the crime. Bonus points for a novel murder method.
I must reread some of the Stout books. You make them sound like so much fun.
>137 BLBera: That makes me happy to hear, Beth. I do try to have fun with my reviews, which is a bit easier because I have read each of them so many times. And in the end, they really ARE funny, even if they are also legit mysteries. Which you know, since you've read some.
I'm pretty sure I'm the last LTer to get around to The Radium Girls, which I've had on my e-reader forever, it seems. ... The less said about that second book, the better.
I haven't read Radium Girls either, Julia. And I won't be reading the other one.
>142 charl08: I'll do my best, Charlotte!
>143 BLBera: >144 BLBera: Well, you all are making me feel much better about not being the last person to read this one! It seemed like there was a flurry of reviews a while back and it made me think all my thread-friends had beaten me to it.
It won't be long now! I am feeling a bit anxious about street closings in downtown Iowa City for the RAGBRAI shenanigans, but surely they will all be gone by Saturday morning when the cyclists have left? I will be heading in early just in case, so I can text you if something unexpected arises. But positive thoughts in the meanwhile!
So jealous about this meet-up happening while I'll be headed in the wrong direction...
Yep. And I have Kerri's as well so I can let both of you know if something goes awry.
Which it won't!
But if it does ...
Research Finds Getting Lost in Books is Good for You — Ignore, if you can, the ludicrous name of this website and instead focus on this: "A recent study from the Department of Communication at University at Buffalo (UB) proved that 'getting lost in books' has unexpectedly powerful advantages to our mental growth, sense of belonging, social skills, longevity, and mood management." (via Bookstr)
Great article, Julia.
Great to see you -- and we didn't talk about your trip to NYC to see Bruce!
>151 rosalita: So that's one thing I don't have to be careful about in my old age!
59. The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore.
In a desperate attempt to avoid picking up Mad City again, but still wanting to read at least one nonfiction book this month, I reached for this book that I've had on my ereader for a year or so. It turned out to be an excellent choice, and it's easy to see why many 75ers reviewed it positively when it first came out.
When Marie and Pierre Curie discovered the element radium in 1898, its destructive effects on living tissue were not fully understood. A rash of commercial products incorporated radium as a health benefit, including toothpaste, hair cream, and food products. And it was quickly put to use to provide long-lasting luminescence in clocks, watches, and instrument displays and dials for aircraft and other military equipment. Such use soared beginning with the onset of World War I and continued for decades.
The luminescent paint containing radium was applied by hand by women, many of them teenagers when they began working at the factory, using small paintbrushes. In order to apply the paint to small areas with precision, they were instructed to lick the brush heads to draw them to a fine point. This caused them to ingest the radium-infused paint, but they didn't worry about it because they were told, repeatedly, that the radium was perfectly safe. It was so safe, in fact, that they would often jokingly paint mustaches and other designs on their faces, enjoying the effect it created when they stood in a darkened room. Even without such playful shenanigans, the women's clothing and hair would shine with luminescence from the accumulation of radium dust from the factory air, which they carried out into the public and home with them. Because of this, they became known as the "Shining Girls."
Of course, we know how this ended. The radium was a deadly poison that settled itself in their bones and erupted months or years later into cancerous tumors and other devastatingly fatal conditions. Many of the girls suffered immensely as all of their teeth fell out and their very jawbones disintegrated from the effects of the radium poisoning. Because radium was not understood to be a poison, however, the dentists and doctors that they repeatedly consulted had no idea what was causing their ills. At least one girl was diagnosed as having syphilis, although she had never been sexually active. It took decades for the truth to become known and for at least some of the girls to receive monetary compensation.
The story as told by Kate Moore through contemporary accounts, including journals and interviews of the women involved, has several layers that make it interesting beyond the quest for justice by these specific women in this specific circumstance. Moore does a good job of outlining just how anemic were workplace safety regulations during the early 20th century, and how the case of the radium workers spurred stricter oversight of dangerous industries. She also effectively conveys how the science surrounding radium toxicity was laggard, though certainly the companies who hired the women knew it was dangerous and deliberately lied and stonewalled to keep from facing liability after the women began falling ill. Many, many women died before ever receiving the justice of hearing their employer admit they were culpable.
Moore writes in a mostly dispassionate tone, although her sympathy clearly lies with the women and there are moments when her indignation on their behalf leaks onto the page. I didn't feel her emotions detracted from the authority of her research and narrative; indeed as I read I was feeling much the same way and in a more emphatic way than she allowed herself to reveal.
All in all, it's a useful reminder of what life was like for working people, and women especially, in the days before government organized itself to protect employees from the greed and amorality of their employers.
>155 rosalita: I haven't read that one but I keep seeing it around and feel that I should!
>156 ChelleBearss: Yes, you should! It's really well written, although it's difficult to read about the terrible agony those poor women went through. It sounds like a truly horrible way to die.
Well, there you go! The official scientific seal of approval from Jim. :-)
July in Review
(stats courtesy of Kobo, my e-reader)
The Radium Girls
The Unfinished Odyssey of Robert Kennedy
The Last Coyote
The Grand Sophy
Don't Know Jack
The Kill Artist
Trouble in Triplicate
My Name is Markham
Winter (Seasons, 2/4)
The Last Coyote (Harry Bosch, 4/22)
My Name is Markham (St. Mary's, 7.75/9)
Dumb Witness (Hercule Poirot, 16/39)
Ax (87th Precinct, 18/55)
Trouble in Triplicate (Nero Wolfe, 14/48)
Don't Know Jack (Hunt for Reacher, 1/8)
The Kill Artist (Gabriel Allon, 1/18)
>163 ChelleBearss: It wasn't too bad, Chelle! More books than usual but only two re-reads.
60. The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva.
The first book in a series featuring Israeli spy/hitman Gabriel Allon. Gabriel is pulled out of retirement (which he's spending working as an art restorer) to do one more job for a shadowy Israeli spy agency. They want him to eliminate Tariq, a notorious Palestinian who uses targeted assassinations to derail the Mideast Peace Process. Gabriel has his own personal reasons to want Tariq dead, so he agrees to take the job. But are his handlers telling him everything, and is everyone what they appear to be? Almost certainly not, or there wouldn't be a much of a book. A good series beginning; Silva is a good writer, which makes everything hold together more than in most debuts. I expect I'll keep reading.
61. Gabriella by Brenda Hiatt.
Hey, it was free. The ebook, that is, offered no doubt because I've bought nearly every Georgette Heyer title available. Here we meet Gabriella, a young woman who lives in happy obscurity in the country until her sister, who made a good marriage and now resides in London, brings her to town for the Season, in hopes of snagging her own husband. Enter the Duke of Ravenham, who loses a bet and is therefore obliged to help launch "Brie" into society. Guess what happens next?
Brenda Hiatt is no Georgette Heyer despite the suspicious similarity of their last names, but she's not terrible. All the elements of a good Regency romance are there, just a bit subdued. The characters aren't as singular, the dialogue isn't as sharp, and the humor is not as sparkling or cutting as the OG provides. As Merle Haggard once sang, "It's Not Love, But It's Not Bad."
Joe Hill, son of spookmaster Stephen King, knows a thing or two about delivering thrills and chills. Heart-Shaped Box was his first novel, published in 2007.
Hi Julia, great reading stats for July. I also loved Heart Shaped Box when I read it a number of years ago. He's a real chip off the ol' block!
>169 DeltaQueen50: Hi, Judy! This is the third or fourth Joe Hill book I've read, and I've enjoyed them all.
>108 rosalita: Ah, Berkeley might be the Only one of the listed universities that is actually known as "Berkeley," but it's also UC Berkeley. As a CA kid, I can tell you that UC Davis has always been UC Davis. Idiot.
Hippie zealotry was the final straw. What an awful book. But funny to read the bits with your commentary.
>155 rosalita: Great review of Radium Girls!
>108 rosalita: Interesting bad quotes there. The sentence that begins The Summer of Love was also a distinctly national phenomenon, caught my attention because it wasn't true that the phenomenon was confined to one nation, it spanned borders. If you remember the '60s you know that. I looked up Michael Arntfield because I figured he must be looking back at the '60s as an historian not as one who lived through them. Yep, he doesn't look old enough and he actually was a police officer before teaching "literary criminology" at the University of Western Ontario. So cop and teacher therefore someone who is an "authority" about the facts.
You reminded me that I really should read another Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin book.
Great review of The Radium Girls, Julia. Thumb! I agree, it is an excellent read and scary as hell.
Mutters to self: I *am* going to get to the Radium Girls, I am! Great review.
>173 Familyhistorian: Hi, Meg! Definitely skip the terrible Arntfield book. And super-definitely read more Wolfe/Goodwin! It's a real comfort these days to read about a world where the biggest threats are warm beer and difficult orchid hybridization.
>174 msf59: Thanks for the thumb, Mark! I'm glad I finally got around to it.
>175 ChelleBearss: Argh! I missed you, Chelle! You were so right — I'm really liking the Joe Hill.
>176 charl08: Honestly, Charlotte, I'm going to have to insist that you read it. It really is very much your thing, young lady. :-)
Hey there Julia. Well, despite what Merle Haggard says, I'll pass on the Hiatt.
The Silva does sound good. I think I might have one of his around here somewhere.
Have a great weekend. It's rainy here -- a good day for reading on the couch.
>178 BLBera: Enjoy your rainy Saturday, Beth! Just hot and humid here, I'm afraid. Fireworks tonight in my small town as we celebrate native son Herbert Hoover's birthday.
63. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill.
Jude is a rock star, one who made his millions by churning out the sort of heavy metal that Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osborne made famous. Now in his 50s, he's retired from touring since most of his band members have died over the years from causes natural and otherwise. These days Jude indulges his taste in the grotesque and macabre by buying creepy mementos, like a real human skull and an honest-to-evil snuff tape. So he's easy pickings when his secretary shows him an online auction lot: One human soul, contained in an ornate black suit of clothes. On a lark, he buys it.
The suit arrives in an old heart-shaped chocolates box. No sooner does he get it unpacked than his girlfriend of the moment, Georgia (he can't be bothered to learn his groupies' names, so he just calls them by their state of origin), pricks her thumb on an invisible pin and he sees a ghostly old guy sitting in the hallway outside his bedroom in the middle of the night. The music master of death may have met his match ... but what does the old man want with him, and can Jude get rid of him before the tables are turned for good?
The first third or so of this one had a great spooky vibe for me that had me only picking it up during daylight hours. That feeling dissipated a bit once we find out who the ghost is and why he's after Jude. But that didn't detract from the rest of the story at all, which turns into a classic action-packed Road Trip in Search of Answers. Despite Jude being a pretty big jerk, Hill manages to make the reader feel sympathy for his plight and root for him to prevail over the forces of evil, even if living happily-ever-after seems too much to hope for.
Joe Hill, for those of you unaware, is the son of Stephen King, and he upholds the family business well. I've enjoyed all of his books I've read; this was his first published novel but it's remarkably polished for a debut. If you crave some spook and some gore in your reading life, you could do far worse than this. Sensitive animal lovers may want to sit this one out, though.
I'm working on some short stuff this week as I expect my reading time to be a bit disjointed. I may pick something else up along the way; we'll see. But for now it's some Ray Bradbury short stories, and a set of short mystery stories from Charles Todd, two each from the Bess Crawford and Ian Rutledge series.
>180 rosalita: I started that one once on audio and didn't get very far before giving up. I was nervous that it would be to scary, plus I didn't care for Jude at all. I'm glad it worked for you!
>182 susanj67: Thank you again (sort of) for recommending the Silva series, Susan. And I've already put #2 on my Library holds list, so I guess you win this round. :-) I think The Fireman was a bit better than Heart-Shaped Box but this one is still well worth reading.
>183 scaifea: Yes, the beginning was SUPER spooky to me, and I can imagine that effect would have been even more pronounced on audio, with the voice right inside your head. Shudder. Have you read The Fireman? Less spooky, more depth for me.
Glad to see you enjoyed the Joe Hill! I read it last year and loved it!
I'll pass on spooky and gore, Julia. Maybe I'll try The Fireman at some point.
64. Tales by Charles Todd.
This author — actually a mother-son writing team — has two ongoing series, both set in the time period during and immediately following World War I. This book contains two short stories from each series, featuring military nurse Bess Crawford and Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge, respectively. I read the first full-length Bess Crawford novel a few years ago, and thought it was fine but not compelling enough to continue the series. On the other hand, I've read and enjoyed every one of the novels featuring Ian Rutledge, finding him a much more compelling character. None of these short stories changed either of those opinions.
The Kidnapping — It's 1920, and Inspector Rutledge is drawn into investigating a kidnapping that has just happened: A man is returning from a dinner party with his young daughter when they are set upon by a trio of strangers, who attack the father and take the little girl with them. The entire case, from crime to capture, happens in the space of a single evening.
The Girl on the Beach — World War I is underway, and nurse Crawford is on a short leave in Sussex when she stumbles on the body of a young woman on the beach. The local police don't appreciate having a mere nurse, and a woman at that, offering her deductive reasoning skills, but she ends up solving the case anyway. Whatever.
Cold Comfort — Lieutenant Rutledge is supervising the placement of explosives in a tunnel under German lines at the front when he's confronted with vague evidence that two of the men under his charge may be trying to kill one of their fellow soldiers. When a demolition attempt goes awry and nearly blows Rutledge and Private Williams sky-high, he's determined to get to the bottom of it before it's too late.
The Maharani's Pearls — The prequel of all prequels. Bess is 10 years old, living with her parents in India, where her father is some kind of muckety-muck in the British colonial force. A plot to overthrow the Maharajah can only be thwarted because nosy Bess is where she shouldn't be and passes along information to her father and his batman, who don't seem to hesitate at all before initiating a military action solely on the word of a precocious 10-year-old. Double whatever.
There's also a two-chapter excerpt from a full-length Bess Crawford novel, A Pattern of Lies, which I read to see if maybe my initial impressions of the character and the series had been mistaken. Nope. The main problem, I think, is that Bess is just a very boring character, with no personal quirks to make her stand out or to make readers identify with her. The books aren't bad, but they are to me very boring, which is something a mystery series should never be.
In contrast, Rutledge is a clearly drawn character with a compelling personal story and interior dialogue that caught my attention from the first book. Even so, these two shorts are pretty standard and don't do much to advance any understanding of the character for me. I don't mind having read them, but you won't have missed much if you choose to skip them.
>190 susanj67: Well, I'll be happy to take the credit if you like it, but if you don't then clearly you heard about it somewhere else. ;-)
65. Jack in a Box by Diane Capri.
66. Jack and Kill by Diane Capri.
I was under the impression when I bought Capri's "Hunt for Jack Reacher" series omnibus that I was getting the first three full-length novels featuring FBI agents Kim Otto and Carlos Gaspar, who are on a mysterious mission to track down Jack Reacher (the noggin-busting protagonist of Lee Child's wildly popular series). As it turns out, only the first was a full novel, the other two in the e-omnibus are short stories. At least it was only 99 cents.
There's nothing really wrong with these stories, except they don't really advance the main plot, like, at all. Jack in a Box in particular is so slight I actually thought the ebook was defective and the whole last half had been somehow omitted. But, no. Jack and Kill is an okay vignette, but it seems an odd choice so early in the series to be churning out one-note stories instead of further developing the series' characters and storylines. WHY are they hunting for Jack Reacher? Who is the mysterious government honcho who sent them on this mission? What are they going to do when they find him? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I think the rest of this series will be library acquisitions for me.
>189 rosalita: I think I'm done with the Crawford series, too, Julia. I listened to one, I think the third in the series, when I drove to Iowa, and the solution came from nowhere? I went back and listened again to make sure I hadn't missed something. I just don't care about these enough to continue. I will try the Rutledge series.
>193 BLBera: I hope you like the Rutledge series better, Beth. It's odd that the two series seem so different in characterization and tone, given that they are set in the same time/place. Maybe this mother-son team just doesn't know how to write interesting women characters.
67. Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders That America Forgot by Michael Arntfield.
Yes, I finished it! And all it took was being confined to a sleeping compartment on an Amtrak train with nothing to distract me. If you read the excerpts in >108 rosalita: then you probably know all you need to about this one. It's bad. Really bad. Breathtaking in the variety of its badness. It is badly researched, badly written, badly organized, and badly footnoted.
It suffers from an author who apparently didn't really know what he was trying to accomplish. Was he writing a true-crime story about a series of related murders on the campus of the University of Wisconsin? Well, there's no evidence that any of the murders actually were related, so ...
Was he writing a critique of police procedures and detecting methods of the 1960s and 1970s? He certainly unloads a metric crapton of criticism of the actions of the Madison and campus police departments but fails to back it up with anything other than his own opinion, as far as I could tell. I say "as far as I could tell" because his sourcing is opaque, to say the least. In the author's note at the end, he blithely says that he changed or withheld some people's names to protect their anonymity (fine), and he quoted other people anonymously more or less because he felt like it: Once again, however, simply because I can provide names doesn't mean I felt compelled to, in every case. I've never read anything like it.
Was he writing an overview of the different types of serial murderers and their characteristics? Maybe, but he flips and flops all over the place and repeats himself as if even he couldn't bear to look back at what he'd already written to see if he'd already explained some particular aspect.
He makes dizzying leaps backward and forward in time and continually goes off on tangents about other "interesting" cases of serial killers, none of which have anything to do with Madison, Wisconsin, or the cases that the book is supposed to be about. When I was a journalist, we called it "emptying the notebook" — you've done all this research for background and you are by golly going to shoehorn it into the article just so it doesn't feel like you wasted your time. In this author's case, I suspect it was also meant to make him appear like some sort of serial-killer expert; that was ... less successful.
I'll leave you with some more choice excerpts.
These first three all occur within the same chapter — the last two on the same page:
In the meantime, in the Mad City — 1968 through 1984 — the Ripper reemerges, this time as the so-called Capital City Killer.
All told, seven victims would be slain at the hands of the equally fictional Capital City Killer — a mythical Wisconsin Ripper.
In time, they'd call him the Capital City Killer — a Midwestern Ripper.
It's a story of a serial killer whose crimes filled the middle innings of one city's sordid but suppressed criminal past and, as a consequence, it's a story without an ending. The killer — the heir apparent to a local legend that started soon after Camp Indianola was shuttered — will in turn most likely never be caught.Oh, if only you had told me this at the beginning! It would have saved me a lot of time and aggravation.
Glad you finished it. It must be wretched indeed if you have to lock yourself up to get through it. 😀
>198 drneutron: Wretched, indeed. I only wish we could have loaded it onto the Parker Solar Probe to be jettisoned into the sun!
Thanks for taking one for the team on that one, Julia. His lack of sources are concerning especially as he is a teacher. I hope he isn't passing along his bad habits.
>200 Familyhistorian: Hi, Meg. Apparently he used his students to do research on the case as part of their class assignments, which he then incorporated into the book. He did at least name a couple of them, but it was one of many things that felt sketchy to me.
>197 rosalita: Julia - You are a better person than I am. I can't believe you persisted and finished it.
>202 BLBera: I honestly didn't expect to finish it, Beth. But I'm currently reading a book of short stories by Ray Bradbury and I find that I enjoy short stories more when I don't read them one after the other, so I was looking for something else to alternate with that wouldn't be so absorbing that I wouldn't want to switch off. No danger of this book being too absorbing, that's for sure!
>203 LovingLit: No, this collection of short stories isn't worth picking up, Megan. But the Ian Rutledge series that begins with A Test of Wills is good. And stay far away from >197 rosalita:, whatever you do!
>206 rosalita: Oh! That came up so fast! Glad to hear you had a great time. So did you enjoy the show more than a concert?
Wow, good for you, Julia. How great that you got to his Broadway show. It does sound amazing.
Breathtaking in the variety of its badness.
I sincerely hope you posted that. And in as many places as possible.
>212 lyzard: I haven't, but I should. It's just soooo long. I'm not sure anyone wants to read that much about such a bad book. (I assume all of you just skimmed it.)
>155 rosalita: Still on my Kindle waiting to be read. Sigh. Too many books, too little time.
>180 rosalita: I have Heart-Shaped Box to thank for my being on LT – I unintentionally bought it from Book-of-the-Month Club when I didn’t return the ‘don’t send it to me’ card, read it, loved it, and went to Joe Hill’s website. I didn’t even know he was Stephen King’s son. Anyway, he mentioned LT on his website, I came over here, and bought a lifetime membership that very day. And the rest, as they say, is history. Why, oh why, aren't touchstones working for me today?
>189 rosalita: I have the exact same opinion of the two series as you. I haven’t continued the Bess Crawford series but love the Ian Rutledge series, especially Hamish. The only quibble I have is that I was in a catch-up position when I first discovered the Ian Rutledge series and reading too many of them too close together put me off them for a while. I’m back in the saddle, though. *smile*
>197 rosalita: Thanks for taking one for the team. I’ll avoid it like the plague.
And, finally, I'm glad to hear that Bruce was amazing.
>197 rosalita: Congratulations on finishing it, though I think commiserations on slogging through it is more apt. Breathtakingly bad indeed!
>214 karenmarie: Thanks for stopping by, Karen! That's a great story about Joe Hill leading you to LT. I knew I liked that guy! I find very few series can stand up to binge-reading, including Rutledge. But spaced out, as you say, they are wonderful. I've been a little disappointed that Hamish seems to be taking more of a back seat recently (pun intended).
>215 Storeetllr: It feels good to be able to delete it off my e-reader and never think of it again, Mary.
68. Fade to Black by Robert Goldsborough.
Nero Wolfe and his legman Archie Goodwin are drawn into a fictionalized "cola wars" battle, as one maker of cherry soda accuses another of stealing its advertising campaign ideas. The plot thickens when one of the admen turns up dead. I always enjoy spending time with Archie but Goldsborough isn't Rex Stout, the genius who birthed these characters, and his dialogue is always just a bit off and grating to my ears. Still, it's better than nothing. And considering the last Stout novel was published in 1975, it's mildly amusing to read about how life in the brownstone is altered (or not, as the case may be) by modern technology. Not really recommended for anyone except extreme Wolfe/Archie fans who have read all the originals and need more, even if it's lesser.
69. The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck.
In the weeks just before World War II, a group of upper-class Germans gathers at Burg Lingenfels, a castle owned by one of their families, to discuss plans for resisting Hitler and the Nazi government under the guise of throwing a party. As they are meeting, word comes that Kristallnacht has begun, and they know their plans are more important — and more dangerous — than ever. Skip forward and World War II is nearly over when Marianne, the wife of one of the conspirators, makes her way back to the castle. She's lost her husband and most of her friends to the resistance, but she promised the men she would gather as many of their families as she could to face post-war life together. Eventually, three women and their children take up residence at the castle, where they must navigate a post-war Germany that is still grappling with feelings of guilt, shame, and defiance in the wake of the Nazi defeat.
I enjoyed it mostly for the unique (to me) perspective of exploring the lives of ordinary Germans after the war. I found Marianne to be a bit one-dimensional but the dynamic between the very different women was compelling. Together they are forced to contend with a rogue troop of Russians and a village filled with locals who were and remain sympathetic to the Nazi cause, and who look with contempt on those who took the other side.
This is one of two books I picked up while staying at the Library Hotel in NYC last week. I started reading it during the nightly wine-and-cheese reception and then "liberated" it the next day (with permission) to finish on the train ride home.
>219 Storeetllr: It was good, Mary! I saw on the work page that you have it in your library — I guess you haven't read it yet?
I also enjoyed The Women in the Castle, Julia, I think for the unique perspective, as you point out in your excellent comments. Cool that you picked it up in NY.
>221 BLBera: I'm always amazed when an author can manage to find something unique to say about World War II, which has had so many millions of words written about it. I'll have to look for other works by this author.
>220 rosalita: Ah, right. It's wishlisted. I'll have to get to it sooner than later. (I totally forgot I added it to my wishlist. :)
>223 Storeetllr: I do that all the time. I go to add a book to my LT wishlist and find out it's already there. So many books ... :-)
>225 Familyhistorian: Hi, Meg. The hotel had a shelf of ARCs at the front desk that are supplied by Simon & Schuster and are free for the taking. The one I picked up there was A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl. The Shattuck book was on the shelves in the Reading Room, so not for giveaway, except I asked nicely because I knew I wouldn't be able to finish it before I checked out. The hotel was fantastic; both the actual building and the staff were terrific. By far the most comfortable hotel bed I've ever slept in.
Given your familiarity with Stout's Wolfe books, I'd be very interested to know how you feel about the Goldsborough books if you try them.
>226 rosalita: A shelf of ARC's! That's my kind of hotel. And the nice bed. : )
70. Concussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas.
Over the past few years, the long-term dangers associated with playing professional football (and we're talking American football and the NFL here, not soccer) have received a lot of attention. Former players are being diagnosed with dementia and other traumatic brain injuries at an alarming rate, and at far younger ages than the general population. This is considered common knowledge today, but it wasn't that long ago that nobody knew any of it was happening. It took a medical examiner in Pittsburgh, a Nigerian immigrant doctor who knew nothing about football, to first sound the alarm. Who Bennett Omalu is, how he came to be the first to discover and name CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and what has happened to him since is the subject of Laskas' absorbing book.
Laskas first wrote about Omalu and the concussion issue in a 2009 article in GQ magazine, and the book is an expansion of that original article. I found Omalu's life story extremely compelling, from his childhood in Nigeria to his emigration to the U.S. to attend medical school. His life was far from a walk in the park, but throughout the book Laskas shows what most would consider his naïvete in dealing with the powerful forces of the NFL, who stonewalled every attempt to highlight football's dangers, to the way racism allowed other — white — doctors to steal the credit and the notoriety for his discoveries. He is an immensely appealing protagonist, and Laskas is skilled at letting his humanity shine through.
At the other end of the spectrum is the NFL, whose underhanded actions in denying health benefits and support to former players who were clearly injured by the game are simply disgusting and immoral. As another football season gets underway, it's hard for me to imagine watching any of these games any longer, even my beloved Iowa Hawkeyes. I'm not about to judge anyone who comes to a different conclusion, but that's just where I seem to have landed now.
I should add that the book was made into a movie starring Will Smith, which got good reviews. I haven't seen it yet but I'd like to now that I've read the book.
I don't like to read short stories back-to-back-to-back because they all blur together, so I'm only reading one or two at a time in I Sing the Body Electric! and then switching to something else. And right now the "something else" is Spinning Silver, another enchanting tale based on Russian and East European folk tales. I'm only about a quarter of the way into it but I love it so far.
Hi Julia, oh, is that the lastest from Naomi Novik that you are reading? Sounds like another good one from her, will have to add that to my list. I am having trouble concentrating on anything right now so have fallen back on mysteries and zombie books - both easy to pick up and put down.
I keep looking at Spinning Silver and wanting to read it - I did love Uprooted (which I bought at one of our meet-ups!) tons.
Just dropping by to say, please tell me to go to bed. I have a big day tomorrow and need my sleep. That is all.
*or maybe I will just pop by another thread before bed*
>230 rosalita: I hope the double dose of short stories doesn't fry your brain!
>234 LovingLit: Only the Bradbury is short stories, Megan. The other is a novel. My blurb was not exactly crystal clear.
>235 rosalita: thank goodness. I was worried for you there for a minute ;)
>229 rosalita: That sounds like a win-win to me, Susan! Glad I could help you pop your sugar. Or whatever. :-)
>218 rosalita: I’ve got that one lost on my kindle. You make it sound like something I should get to sooner rather than later. Have you read Every Man Dies Alone? German resistance during the war.
>229 rosalita: The movie was very good! I don’t know how it compares to the book, though, since I didn’t read it. (I’m going to hell in a hand basket lately...) :)
Hope you’re having a swell weekend!
>240 Copperskye: Hi, Joanne! I have not read Every Man Dies Alone, but I've just put it on my list. You've never steered me wrong! I need to find the Concussion movie streaming somewhere. I just spent two hours watching the 2013 PBS Frontline episode "League of Denial" which covers the same ground, and got mad at the NFL all over again.
71. The English Assasin by Daniel Silva.
Israeli art restorer/assasin Gabriel Allon is back, traveling to Switzerland to meet a man who needs a valuable painting restored. But the man is dead when Gabriel arrives, and the local police suspect he had something to do with it. And just like that we're off and running, from Switzerland to Portugal to Italy in a quest to find the truth behind the priceless art stolen from Jews during the Holocaust and hidden, perhaps, in secretive Swiss banks. Everywhere Gabriel goes for answers, he find another professional killer has been there before him, erasing the evidence he needs to uncover the truth. Like the first entry in this series, the plot hums right along and Gabriel, despite his lamentable side hustle, is an appealing and sympathetic figure.
In the spirit of Charlotte's fabulous roundups of book reviews from the Guardian, and because I'm not reading enough to keep my own thread warm, I thought I'd share some book-related articles I've read lately. All of these are from the Washington Post.
Irritated By Tweedy Academic Types? Read This Wonderful Campus Comedy — In which I learn there is a sequel to the delightful Dear Committee Members, a 4-star read for me in 2016. The new book is The Shakespeare Requirement and it once again features acerbic English professor Jason Fitger, though the epistolary style of the first book has been replaced with straight narrative.
George Pelecanos Has Helped Make TV Great Again. His New Book Reminds Us Why — Pelecanos wrote for hit TV series such as The Wire in addition to writing other crime fiction. His new book is The Man Who Came Uptown. "Yes, he is a gifted screenwriter who draws my wife and me away from the printed word to our television, but he also loves the novel," writes reviewer/author Chris Bohjalian. "In many ways, 'The Man Who Came Uptown' is a book about books. Anna and Hudson’s friendship continues when he is free, and it is a relationship founded upon the novels she recommends."
Nico Walker is a Convicted Bank Robber. 'Cherry' Proves He's Also a Must-Read Author — "You won’t hear Nico Walker on a book tour anytime soon because he’s serving two more years in prison for bank robbery. But don’t wait to pick up his lacerating new novel about the horrors of war and addiction."
72. Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik.
I did not want this book to end. Following up on 2015's Uprooted, a tale of magic and witches based on old East European folk tales, Novik has created another gem of a story. This time, the tale is an imaginative take-off on Rumpelsiltskin, in which a young Jewish girl is commanded by the king of the fairy people to turn silver into gold. What the silver signifies, why the Staryk need so much gold, and how Miryem will walk the tightrope between two worlds is magic all its own in Novik's hands. I don't want to say too much, because every reader deserves to discover the delights hidden between these two covers for themselves. Highly recommended, in case it wasn't clear.
73. I Sing the Body Electric! by Ray Bradbury.
I don't always do well with short story collections. If they're good I want to read them one after the other, only to find the individual stories get lost in the blur. If they're not so good, I'm tempted to put the book down part way through and never pick it up again.
I suspected this book of Bradbury stories was more likely to be the former, so had a strategy going in. I would read one story at a time, switching to other books in between so that the stories remained distinct in my mind. And I took the time after finishing each story to jot down a very brief description of each one, again to help me remember them as individual tales. And that's what I'm going to share here.
Not all of these stories have science-fiction elements, and several reveal Bradbury's preoccupation with his fellow writers. I've marked my favorites with an asterisk.
The Kilimanjaro Device — A man invents a time-travel contraption to give Ernest Hemingway a better ending. (This is not the last we'll read of Papa. I gather Bradbury was a bit of a fanboi.)
*The Terrible Conflagration Up at the Place — A comic tale of some bumbling IRA soldiers and the best-laid plans of mice and men.
Tomorrow's Child — A baby is born into another dimension, and appears in this one as a small blue pyramid with tentacles, to the distress of his all-too-human parents.
The Women — Something in the sea wants to claim a sunbather, but his wife has other plans.
The Inspired Chicken Motel — In the depths of the Great Depression, a chicken lays prophetic eggs.
*Downwind from Gettysburg — A man named Booth assassinates a man named Lincoln, 100 years after the Civil War.
*Yes We'll Gather at the River — The relentless march of progress leaves a small town behind.
*The Cold Wind and the Warm — The fairies return to Ireland, if only for a day.
Night Call, Collect — The last man alive on Mars is haunted by the voice of his younger self.
The Haunting of the New — A house forcefully renounces its history of debauchery.
*I Sing the Body Electric! — Robot Grandma comforts a family of young children after their mother dies.
*The Tombling Day — An old woman encounters her first love, who has been dead for sixty years.
*Any Friend of Nicholas Nickelby's is a Friend of Mine — Charles Dickens takes up residence in a small Illinois town — in 1929.
Heavy Set — An overgrown boy and his mama.
The Man in the Rohrschach Shirt — A retired psychiatrist finds a new clientele on the California beaches.
*Henry the Ninth — The last king of England surveys his kingdom.
The Lost City of Mars — An expedition to an abandoned underground city that runs itself — and the people who stumble on it.
The Blue Bottle — On a long-abandoned Mars, a man searches endlessly for his heart's desire.
One Timeless Spring — A 12-year-old boy is convinced his parents are poisoning him.
The Parrot Who Met Papa — A man birdnaps a parrot that met Hemingway, and memorized his final unpublished manuscript.
*The Burning Man — On the hottest day of the year, a boy and his aunt pick up a most unusual hitchhiker.
A Piece of Wood — A pacifist soldier invents a device to turn the world's weapons to rust.
*The Messiah — The Second Coming of Christ, on Mars.
G.B.S. Mark V — A voyage through space with George Bernard Shaw.
The Utterly Perfect Murder — A middle-aged man travels across the country to avenge a childhood snub.
*Punishment Without Crime — A man is sentenced to an authentic penalty for a faux crime.
*Getting Through Sunday Somehow — A man struggles through a gloomy, sleepy Dublin Sunday until he meets the perfect antidote.
Drink Entire: Against the Madness of Crowds — A brutal heat wave drives a man to desperate things.
Christus Apollo — A cantata contemplating other Jesuses on other worlds.
74. Latter End by Patricia Wentworth.
Eleven books into the series and World War II is finally over. And nowhere is it more over than Latter End, a country house inhabited by strong-willed Lois Latter and her second husband, the besotted James, along with a motley crew of James' ersatz female relatives. Lois does not like these women, not at all, and her schemes to force them out are blatantly obvious to everyone except her clueless husband. That setup leaves no shortage of suspects when the loathsome Lois turns up dead. Chief Inspector Lamb and Inspector Abbott, whom we've met in previous entries in this series, are in charge of the investigation, which of course spins its wheels until Miss Maud Silver arrives to straighten it all out. A more straightforward mystery than earlier entries in the Miss Silver series, and a romantic subplot that knows its place, made this one an enjoyable read.
Wow, Julia. I am absent for a few days and you are up to 75!
I am waiting for a copy of The Dry from the library. It sounds like one I would like. Concussion sounds good, as do the Novik books.
75. Force of Nature by Jane Harper.
Australian Federal Police officer Aaron Falk, the focus of Harper's first novel, The Dry, is back in Melbourne recuperating from his adventures in that book. He and his partner, Carmen, have been working hard on a money-laundering case, but their progress is stymied when a key witness goes missing during one of those dreadful "executive trust-building" weekends in a wilderness area. Is her disappearance related to the case she was helping Aaron and Carmen build against her bosses? And where on earth could she have gone?
Harper is a master of scene-setting. Just as her descriptions of the rural drought-ravaged landscape in The Dry left me panting for water, here she skillfully conveys the remote impenetrability and the needle-in-a-haystack nature of the Australian bush. She uses a flashback device to slowly clue readers into what happened on the retreat that led to Alice's disappearance, while keeping us updated on the progress of the search in real time. Sometimes that sort of split focus leaves a reader disappointed when the focus shifts from the more compelling storyline to the lesser one, but in this case I was eager to follow both threads equally.
Force of Nature was just published in February, two years after The Dry. That does not bode well for how long I will be impatiently waiting for Aaron Falk's next adventure.
Catching up .... my, it's been awhile.
Thanks for reminders I need to continue the 87th Precinct and Gabriel Allon series. Good to hear the next Jane Harper book is as good as the first, need to get to that too.
Heart Shaped Box and The Radium Girls are unread on my Kindle app, ought to bump those up.
And the thing about Universities and the cities they live in ... I know you don't need more evidence, but thinking about my own state: the University of Missouri has its main campus in Columbia, and satellite campuses in St Louis, Kansas City, and Rolla. One of them (Rolla), yes, is commonly refered to by location. The other branches are commonly called "UMKC" and "UMSL" (the first spelled out, the second pronounced "um-sull"). The main campus is often (puzzlingly) "MU", less frequently "UMC", and very often "Mizzou." If I heard a college called "Columbia" I'd assume the speaker was either talking about Columbia College, also located in Columbia, Missouri ... or possibly that East-coast school I've heard tell of.
So one out of four. That ain't so ... well, actually, when you're trying to claim a general rule it's pretty crap.
As for my own place of employment, I'm told that it was indeed once designated by its place name decades ago when it was "Kirksville State Teacher's College." So maybe half a point? Not that it does him any good by now.
Oh, and congratulations on 75!
Congrats on reaching 75, Julia. I am patiently waiting for my turn with The Dry...
>257 ronincats: Hi, Roni! I haven't read much Bradbury at all but I'm trying to fix that. I was surprised that some of the stories weren't sci-fi; I hadn't realized he wrote "straight" stories, too. What are your favorites from this collection?
The only one that sticks in my memory is the title story, which really touched me and I thought the writing lyrical. I need to reread the collection, I suppose; it's been 40-plus years. The book is still on my shelves, though, so I know I liked it.
Congratulations on reaching 75, Julia! And yay for book 71! I'm so glad you love Gabriel and plan to binge-read the rest of the series.
No pressure, though :-)
I also have The Dry on my Kindle, and I've just reserved the first Miss Silver book. I had my doubts (about the state of the hard copy) when I saw that it was written in the 1920s, but it's a 2018 reprint, so woo-hoo!
Hi Julia, and congrats on reaching 75!
>242 rosalita: I have 9 of the 18 books in the Gabriel Allon series, including the first one. You make me want to actually start reading them.
Congrats on hitting 75!
Glad to see you enjoyed Spinning Silver and Force of Nature! I have them both on my wish list
>264 karenmarie: Thanks, Karen. The Gabriel Allon books are pretty good. As someone who has to wait in line at the library for each one, I'm jealous you've got nine of them just waiting for you!
>264 karenmarie: Thanks, Chelle. They are two of the best books I've read this year — I hope you're able to get to them soon.
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