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Ivy's 999 Addendum

999 Challenge

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Edited: Dec 29, 2009, 1:52am Top

After much contemplation and vacillation, I've decided that I want to have realistic goals for the remainder of 2009. Unless I were to read only very short and/or children's books, it's extremely unlikely that I'd finish a 2nd challenge, and at this point I'm more interested in reading some thick books, Shakespeare (which I love, but read very slowly), and working on the Fifty States Challenge.

I also don't want to leave this group, with all the great people here, so I'm designing a mini-challenge for myself.

999 Addendum Goals: COMPLETED 12-28-09
(9 in each category, 27 total)

A. Books in my house on 9-4-09 (msg #2) -- completed December
B. Shakespeare (Category #4) -- completed December
C. USA (Category #6) -- completed December

But since I also want to see how far I do get on a 2nd 999 Challenge, I'm transferring the "extra" books from the completed challenge to this thread. The categories are the same, except that I'll integrate "Joanne Fluke" with Series, and drop "Other Children's / YA Books" until next year, in order to make room for Shakespeare and USA.

Dec 26: I find I must add back "Other Children's / YA Books" to accomodate my Christmas gifts. It doesn't really matter, since I'm far from finishing a 2nd Challenge, but I want a place for all the books I read, and it will make it easier for my planned year-end summary.

2nd 999 Challenge:

1. Contemporary Fiction
2. Series / Favorite Authors -- completed November
3. British Isles
4. Shakespeare -- completed December
5. World View
6. USA -- completed December
7. Grace Moon and Native American
8. Caroline Dale Snedeker and New Harmony
9A. Women Authors of Children's Books
9B. Other Children's / YA Books

My completed 999 Challenge is here, with comments, critiques and occasional reviews of books read prior to 9-4-09:

Edited: Dec 29, 2009, 1:56am Top

9 Books in my house on 9-4-09
COMPLETED -- December

This includes books that I own, books that have been loaned to me (and that I'm becoming embarrassed about not having read yet), and books that my younger daughter has stored here while she is overseas (several of which I want to read before she takes them back).

According to my rules for my mini-challenge, these books can't overlap with Shakespeare (of which I have the Complete Works) or USA, but can and should fit into the other categories. It may take a few days to complete the process, but I am putting a * by books that qualify for this category.

1. When Did We Lose Harriet? by Patricia Sprinkle (September, 3*, Series / Favorite Authors)
2. The Scarlet Seed by Edith Pargeter (The Heaven Tree Trilogy #3) (September, 3*, British Isles)
3. Death on the Family Tree by Patricia Sprinkle (September, 3 3/4*, Series / Favorite Authors)
4. The Gospel of Mary of Magdala by Karen L. King (October, 4 1/2*, World View)
5. The Good Master by Kate Seredy (October, 4*, Women Authors of Children's Books)
6. The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy (October, 3 1/2*, Women Authors of Children's Books)
7. Promises in Death by J.D. Robb (November, 3*, Series / Favorite Authors)
8. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (November, 3*, Contemporary Fiction)
9. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (December, 5*, Women Authors of Children's Books)

Edited: Dec 30, 2009, 1:33pm Top

1. Contemporary Fiction

1. Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz (September, 4*)
2. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson (October, 4 1/2*)
3. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (November, 3*)
4. Heat Wave by Richard Castle (December, 2 1/2*)
5. Irregardless of Murder by Ellen Edwards Kennedy (December, 3 1/2*)

Edited: Dec 30, 2009, 1:48pm Top

2. Series / Favorite Authors
COMPLETED -- November

From 999 Challenge:
1. Key Lime Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke (Hannah Swensen #9) (May, 3 1/2*)
2. Carrot Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke (Hannah Swensen #10) (July, 3*)
3. Candy Cane Murder by Joanne Fluke, Laura Levine & Leslie Meier (Christmas anthology, Hannah Swensen story occurs after book #11?, same Christmas but before Sugar and Spice) (June)

4. When Did We Lose Harriet? by Patricia Sprinkle (Southern #1) (September, 3*)
5. Death on the Family Tree by Patricia Sprinkle (Family Tree #1) (September, 3 3/4*)
6. Sins of the Fathers by Patricia Sprinkle (Family Tree #2) (September, 3*)
7. Daughter of Deceit by Patricia Sprinkle (Family Tree #3) (October, 3*)
8. Anything Goes by Jill Churchill (Grace & Favor #1) (October, 3*)
9. Promises in Death by J.D. Robb (Eve Dallas #28) (November, 3*)

10. In the Still of the Night by Jill Churchill (Grace & Favor #2) (November, 3*)
11. Someone to Watch Over Me by Jill Churchill (Grace & Favor #3) (November, 3*)
12. Still Life by Louise Penny (Three Pines #1) (November, 4*)
13. Love for Sale by Jill Churchill (Grace & Favor #4) (November, 3*)
14. It Had to Be You by Jill Churchill (Grace & Favor #5) (November, 3*)
15. Who's Sorry Now? by Jill Churchill (Grace & Favor #6) (November, 3*)
16. A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny (Three Pines #2) (December, 4*)
17. The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny (Three Pines #3) (December, 4*)

Edited: Dec 30, 2009, 2:17pm Top

3. British Isles

1. The Scarlet Seed by Edith Pargeter
(The Heaven Tree Trilogy #3) (September, 3*)
2. Grave Goods by Ariana Franklin (Mistress of the Art of Death #3) (September, 4*)

Edited: Dec 30, 2009, 2:27pm Top

4. Shakespeare
COMPLETED -- December

From 999 Challenge:
1. The Life and Death of King John (April)
2. The Tragedy of King Richard II (May)

3. Shakespeare: The World as Stage, by Bill Bryson (September)

4. The Tempest (November)
5. A Brave Vessel by Hobson Woodward (November, 3*)

6. The First Part of King Henry IV (November)
7. The Second Part of King Henry IV (November)
8. The Merry Wives of Windsor (November)
9. The Life of King Henry V (December)

Edited: Jan 1, 2010, 3:16pm Top

5. World View

From 999 Challenge:
1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (August, 5*)

2. Flow Down Like Silver by Ki Longfellow (October, 3 1/2*)
3. The Gospel of Mary of Magdala by Karen L. King (October, 4 1/2*)

Edited: Jan 1, 2010, 3:19pm Top

6. USA
COMPLETED -- December

From 999 Challenge:
1. Disneyland's Hidden Mickeys by Steven M. Barrett (May)
2. The Disneyland Encyclopedia by Chris Stodder (May)
3. Home to Harmony by Philip Gulley (June, 2 1/2*)
4. Pure Drivel by Steve Martin (June)

5. Dewey by Vicki Myron (October, 3*)
6. Moloka'i by Alan Brennert (October, 4*)
7. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (November)
8. Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (December)
9. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (December, 5*)

Edited: Jan 1, 2010, 3:22pm Top

7. Grace Moon and Native American

From 999 Challenge:
1. American Indian Stories by Zitkala-Sa (August)

Edited: Jan 1, 2010, 3:27pm Top

Edited: Jan 1, 2010, 3:33pm Top

9A. Women Authors of Children's Books

1. The Good Master by Kate Seredy (Newbery Honor Book 1936) (October, 4*)
2. The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy (Newbery Honor Book 1940) (October, 3 1/2*)
3. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (December, 5*)

Edited: Dec 31, 2009, 1:06pm Top

9B. Other Children's / YA Books

1. The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
(Newbery Honor Book 2008) (December, 5*)
2. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin (Earthsea Cycle 1) (December, 3*)

Sep 7, 2009, 3:25pm Top

After transferring the extra books from my 999 Challenge, this is where I am, as I start a 2nd 999 (which I know will not be completed):

1. Contemporary Fiction (0/9)
2. Series / Favorite Authors (3/9)
3. British Isles (0/9)
4. Shakespeare (2/9)
5. World View (1/9)
6. USA (4/9)
7. Grace Moon and Native American (1/9)
8. Caroline Dale Snedeker and New Harmony (2/9)
9. Women Authors of Children's Books (0/9)

Sep 7, 2009, 8:23pm Top

Glad to see you'll still be around!!

Sep 8, 2009, 12:25pm Top

Thanks, linda!

Edited: Sep 11, 2009, 5:05pm Top

September (continued from 999 Challenge)

95. When Did We Lose Harriet? by Patricia Sprinkle (Thoroughly Southern #1), 3*
Categories: Series / Favorite Authors, Books in my house
Fifty States: Alabama

MacLaren Yarbrough is a delightful 60-something sleuth, who arrives in Montgomery, Alabama, after her younger brother has suffered a heart attack. Manipulated into filling in as a volunteer at a teen center, Mac discovers that 15-year-old Harriet has been missing for 6 weeks, but that no one seems very concerned.

I very much enjoyed this well-constructed mystery and definitely intend to continue with the series. I do have a question about motive/resolution, but it involves spoilers, so won't say more about it here.

Sep 10, 2009, 4:20pm Top

When Did We Lose Harriet is one of my paperspine requests. I'm hoping it arrives today so I can take it to StL tomorrow.

Glad to hear you liked it.

Sep 11, 2009, 4:59pm Top

>17 lindapanzo: I'm eager to hear what you think of When Did We Lose Harriet?, Linda.

96. The Scarlet Seed by Edith Pargeter (The Heaven Tree Trilogy #3), 3*
Categories: British Isles, Books in my house

I finally finished this trilogy; it became something of a struggle.

Did I like the book? No, but I liked the early 13th century setting and the historical information, and I found her characterization of historical personages (particularly Llewelyn and Princess Joan) interesting.

I rarely have trouble with visualization of novels: sometimes, after a period of years, I can't remember whether I read the book or saw the movie. So I was puzzled as to why I wasn't getting a clear picture in this trilogy, until I realized that her descriptions are frequently backwards; that is to say, she doesn't give the reader a crucial element until the end of the description. For example, "They" crossed an ice-filled river, which is described in detail, and then 1 1/2 pages later "they" found bodies killed by the "Welsh"; so I was confused at that point, since I knew the army was heading there, and I had assumed that "they" was the Welsh army; another page later, it turns out that "they" was only 2 people. In another place, a conversation goes on for 1 1/2 pages before we are told the identity of one of the conversants. And in yet another place, a cottage and its surroundings are described, but not until the last sentence of the paragraph are we told that it is the same cottage that we have visited numerous times before. The reader has to constantly readjust mental pictures as the salient points become known, resulting in confusion and lack of clarity.

I was also irritated by her faux Middle English sentence structure with a few archaic words popped in (notably, "liefer"). I didn't find the fictional characters likeable or believable; and I didn't like the fictional story very much either, although I was interested enough to finish the trilogy.

A number of years ago, I read several of her Brother Cafael mysteries, and remember liking them, but I would be hard-pressed to recommend this trilogy.

Sep 13, 2009, 1:31pm Top

97. Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson
Category: Shakespeare

In his clear, concise and entertaining book, Bill Bryson explores known facts about William Shakespeare's life -- which isn't much -- and (often humorously, but not unkindly) exposes theories and legends for their fallacies or lack of evidence. A good portion of the book simply places Shakespeare in his time, through discussions of London, architecture, theaters, education, prominent figures, the political situation, publishing and more.

I enjoyed the odd facts -- e.g., that London Bridge (with its shops and houses) was the only bridge across the Thames. And the broader context is helpful in understanding Shakepeare's works -- e.g., that the spate of history plays was in response to an upsurge in patriotism after the defeat of the Spanish Armada. I found myself wishing that such a fact-filled summary were available for every historical period.

Edited: Sep 29, 2009, 1:37am Top

98. Death on the Family Tree by Patricia Sprinkle (Family Tree #1), 3 3/4*
Categories: Series / Favorite Authors, Books in my house

Atlanta houewife Katharine Murray awakens, on her 46th birthday, to an empty house: her children are grown and gone, her husband only comes home on weekends, and several elderly relatives have recently died. When 10 boxes of Aunt Lucy's personal effects are delivered to her home, she makes a puzzling discovery, and heads off to the history center to research her find.

Plots and subplots abound as Katharine copes with her family, her aloneness, and increasingly surprising and enigmatic discoveries and events. She is a very likeable, multi-dimensional heroine, surrounded with interesting friends, acquaintances, and family members. Despite the focus on Katharine's genealogical research, the book is fast-paced and action-packed, and I found the resolution satisfying.. though a few threads are left hanging for the next book, which I can't wait to read!

Sep 20, 2009, 3:15pm Top

99. Grave Goods by Ariana Franklin (Mistress of the Art of Death #3), 4*
Category: British Isles

Set in Glastonbury and about the discovery of bones purported to be those of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, this is my favorite of this series.

Sep 26, 2009, 4:03pm Top

100. Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz, 4*
Category: Contemporary Fiction

Portia Nathan, a 38-year-old admissions officer for Princeton University, begins her fall visitations to New England secondary schools, and finds her own past confronting her. As the careful process of choosing and admitting new students progresses to the final admissions, her own carefully built life begins to unravel, and "admission" takes on both meanings of the word.

This beautifully constructed novel is dense with fascinating details about the admission process at Ivy League schools, which runs counerpoint to the discoveries made by Portia (and the reader) about her life. I read the book rather slowly, not because every detail was necessary to the plot (a lot of it undoubtedly isn't), but because I was so interested that I didn't want to miss anything.

I very much enjoyed Admission. Thanks, lindapanzo, for the recommendation!

Sep 30, 2009, 3:29pm Top

101. Sins of the Fathers by Patricia Sprinkle (Family Tree #2), 3*

I enjoyed this book. I am, however, having a few reservations about Ms Sprinkle's books. More in a day or two after I finish the 3rd Family Tree mystery.

Sep 30, 2009, 3:45pm Top

I have a whole armload of Patricia Sprinkle books out of the library. I have to get cracking on these.

Sep 30, 2009, 4:57pm Top

I'm enjoying them, Linda. I really like Katharine and the genealogical/historical aspects of the family tree series, but there are a couple of things that are starting to annoy me. I'm about half way through the 3rd one and want to see how it turns out before I comment. Sometimes I think it's better not to read too many of these cozies in a row -- minor irritations with the author's style or idiosyncrasies seem to be intensified.

Edited: Oct 31, 2009, 4:12pm Top

I've been enjoying the monthly recaps by lindapanzo, cyderry and several others, so I thought I'd do one for myself.

September Recap

The best books this month were Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz and Grave Goods by Ariana Franklin. The book I liked least was The Scarlet Seed by Edith Pargeter.

During the first few days of September, I finished my 999 Challenge:
~~ Lyra's Oxford by Philip Pullman
~~ Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith
~~ The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith

Books in My House: (3/9)

1. Contemporary Fiction (1/9)

~~ Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz

2. Series / Favorite Authors (6/9)
~~ When Did We Lose Harriet? by Patricia Sprinkle
~~ Death on the Family Tree by Patricia Sprinkle
~~ Sins of the Fathers by Patricia Sprinkle

3. British Isles (2/9)
~~ The Scarlet Seed by Edith Pargeter
~~ Grave Goods by Ariana Franklin

4. Shakespeare (3/9)
~~ Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson

5. World View (1/9)

6. USA (4/9)

7. Grace Moon and Native American (1/9)

8. Caroline Dale Snedeker and New Harmony (2/9)

9. Women Authors of Children's Books (0/9)

Oct 1, 2009, 2:06pm Top

Thanks for the reminder that it's time for a September recap! I can't believe that month is done already.

Edited: Dec 29, 2009, 2:17am Top


102. Daughter of Deceit by Patricia Sprinkle (Family Tree #3), 3*
Category: Series / Favorite Authors

After having read the first Thoroughly Southern mystery and all 3 Family Tree mysteries, I am not as excited about this mystery writer as I was initially. I find the characters likeable and the mysteries interesting (though not totally realistic or believable), but particularly with this last book, I got the feeling that it was more or less just thrown together (perhaps to fulfill a contract?). It was clumsily written from 2 points of view, and the main solution was obvious 1/4 of the way into the book.

My complaints about these books:

1. The resolutions come suddenly and without complete explanations, much of it spontaneously occurring "off-screen," rather than being solved by the protagonist. And threads are left hanging; after reading the first books, I thought they would be picked up in later installments, but most were not.

2. Many legal concepts, particularly regarding inheritance law, are inaccurate. I find it hard to understand why Ms Sprinkle or her editor would not verify applicable law, especially since accurate law would fit into her stories as well or better. Some of the inaccuracies are not even specialized knowledge, such as her confusion of next-of-kin with descendants; or a policeman stating, at the scene of the crime, that an object has the fingerprints of a particular person.

3. Religion is inserted in a way that I find superfluous and superficial. For example, Katharine, who exhibits no particularly deep religious conviction, frequently tells a guest something to the effect of "It's our custom to pray before eating. Do you mind?" I don't object to reading about religion -- in fact, I read quite a lot about it -- but I find these gratuitous references annoying.

However, despite these criticisms, I have to say that I've enjoyed reading all 4 books. I will almost certainly read the next Family Tree mystery (if she writes one), and I still plan to continue the Thoroughly Southern series. They're nice, light, entertaining reads, even if not as good as I first hoped.

Oct 5, 2009, 3:38pm Top

103. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson, 4 1/2*
Category: Contemporary Fiction

The focus of this 2nd book in Stieg Larsson's trilogy is on Lisbeth Salander and her past, though Mikael Blomkvist also figures prominently in the book.

I don't think I liked this book quite as well as the first one, though others (including my daughter) have liked it more. But when I can't put a book down, and then am sorry when it's over, I have to say I think it's a great book.

Oct 5, 2009, 3:47pm Top

#102 Ivy, you did a great job summarizing some of your complaints about the Sprinkle books. I feel much the same way. I have the first family tree mystery on my Kindle and, no doubt, will read that one at some point. I think you hit the nail on your head with your third point. I don't object to reading about religion at all but, in this instance, the references are, as you say, gratuitous.

I also have very little tolerance for factual errors in books.

New books by tried and true favorite mystery authors--Claudia Bishop, Laura Childs, and the Sunday Philosophy Club series from Alexander McCall Smith--are pouring in right now and, as the weather cools off, I feel an increasingly strong need for my "comfort reads."

#103 My sister, the lurking Laura, loves the Stieg Larsson books and I'm sure I'll be reading those soon. Just not right away. They sound great, though.

Oct 5, 2009, 4:27pm Top

>30 lindapanzo: Thanks, Linda.

I plan to try the Sunday Philosophy series at some point, and I need to try some Laura Childs. I don't think I know anything about Claudia Bishop...

I suspect you'll like the Stieg Larsson books a lot: interesting characters, great mysteries, lots and lots of details. My only criticism of them is the occasional awkward translation -- someone on another thread verified that it is the translation, but since I can't read Swedish, it's a small price to pay.

Oct 11, 2009, 5:40pm Top

104. Flow Down Like Silver by Ki Longfellow, 3 1/2*
Category: World View

I have to say that after The Secret Magdalene, which remains my favorite book this year, Ki Longfellow's new book was a disappointment.

Hypatia of Alexandria is an historical figure of the early 5th century -- a strong, brilliant, independent woman -- but little is known about her. As with The Secret Magdalene, Ms Longfellow has taken massive artistic license, but where her story of Mary Magdalene was powerful, both as a "maybe it was something like this" and as an exploration of gnosticism, this book is strained, not very believable and lacking full characterization and explanation.

The book is written in Ms Longfellow's distinctive (and sometimes ungrammatical) style, and from multiple points of view, but with little difference in voice among the narrators. I didn't dislike the book, nor did I have any difficulty finishing it, but I am left dissatisfied and wanting to know more about the real Hypatia rather than this imaginary and incomplete character in the book.

Edited: Oct 13, 2009, 3:26pm Top

Since I usually agree with you, ivyd, it's fun to find a place I don't agree. I wasn't at all disappointed in Flow Down Like Silver. And I loved Hypatia as a character. To be as gifted as she was and to try to fit in with others, that has to be hard. As for Longfellow taking liberties, well, so little is known about Hypatia there could hardly be a story if she didn't. After I read your comments yesterday I investigated a bit. All that's so-called "known" about Hypatia is taken from work done by scholars centuries later, and they had as little to go on as we do. The memory of Hypatia is faint and everyone used it to make their own points. There are only some letters from a student that remain and they are mostly about him! LOL I do agree that The Secret Magdalene is by far the more powerful book, but both are written beautifully. I think the Magdalene book is better for a number of reasons. First of all, so many care about MM and know her "story." And to read such a brilliant reconstruction! Hypatia is not well known at all and her story hasn't the power of the "greatest story ever told." But I am a sucker for good writing and Hypatia is full of whole scenes that made me swoon. As for knowing more about Hypatia, unless long lost papers are found, we never will. Alas. Meanwhile I await the movie based on The Secret Magdalene eagerly. I also await the sequel to The Secret Magdalene. I really want to know what happens next.

Oct 13, 2009, 10:35pm Top

I'm sorry to hear you didn't like it, but I think the conflicting views here have somehow made me even more eager to read the book :)

Oct 16, 2009, 1:08pm Top

That's often how I feel, Zoe. A lot of praise for certain books makes me back off. Some praise, some criticism interests me. I love some books others can't even get into and I throw books across the room other think great literature. For instance The Shack. Wobbly uncertain writing, not sure of his point of view, and then a very clear Message: this book is going to be a Big Warm Hug for Jesus. I certainly don't mind a book about Jesus which is why The Secret Magdalene jumped to the top of my favorite books. But huggy sappy books get up my nose. Flow Down Like Silver is not The Secret Magdalene. I think if you bring your love for that book to the table, you could miss the strengths in the book about Hypatia. Mariamne was heart with intellect behind it. Hypatia is mind looking for her heart.

Oct 17, 2009, 3:14pm Top

re 32-35:

Perhaps I overstated my case. I didn't dislike Flow Down Like Silver, but I was disappointed. I think you're right, ShaggyBag, when you say "I think if you bring your love for that book (The Secret Magdalene) to the table, you could miss the strengths in the book about Hypatia." And that's probably what I did, hoping for another book as wonderful as The Secret Magdalene. And despite my disappointment, I will probably be first in line to read Ms Longfellow's third book of the trilogy.

I also loved Hypatia -- how I wish we did (or could) know more about her! -- and thoroughly enjoyed the view of Alexandria and the politics of the time. I am not bothered by Ms Longfellow's imagination -- it could not be otherwise, with the paucity of knowledge we have about Hypatia – but I did want her interpretation to be believable. More specifically, here are my concerns, which may contain

POSSIBLE SPOILERS, depending of how much one knows going into the book:

~~ While the multiple points of view served to give a more complete picture of Hypatia, I found most of the other characterizations one-dimensional, incomplete, or unbelievable. Although she gave "reasons" for them to behave or believe as they did, I did not find myself totally satisfied by the "explanations." That is to say, that given their characters and backgrounds, I was just not convinced that their thoughts and actions flowed naturally from those bases. And to some extent, I found the change in narrators distracting from my interest in Hypatia herself and her view of her world. At the same time, some passages of Hypatia's thoughts came perilously close to the repetitive, agonizing, whining introspection that I so dislike in far too many contemporary novels.

~~ The scrolls that Hypatia found changed her, yet what they contained -- that made such a difference to her -- was very vague. I don't think that it was ever explicitly stated that one of the documents was The Gospel of Mary (Magdalene), yet it's clear that it was. What was in that gospel (and the other documents) that changed her view? How did they lead her to her new understanding? Hypatia found peace (or rapture) from them, but I wanted to know what it was that affected her so much. It was almost as though Ms Longfellow expected her reader to know the text of The Gospel of Mary and thus to understand what Hypatia was experiencing. I am currently reading Karen L. King's The Gospel of Mary of Magdala, and based on that I am better understanding Hypatia's reaction, but I would have liked to find Hypatia's (Ms Longfellow's) interpretation in the book itself. (I'm also rather surprised that Ms King's book is not cited in the bibliography.)


Edited: Oct 17, 2009, 3:36pm Top

I've skipped the spoiler part, but I'm looking forward to reading the book so that I can come back and see what you said. I'm probably not doing it any favours by treating it as something special and waiting for a distraction-free time anyway. Which means it may get read before the Christmas break, at least.

Oct 17, 2009, 4:09pm Top

I'll be interested in your reaction, Zoe!

Edited: Oct 25, 2009, 12:31pm Top

105. The Perilous Seat by Caroline Dale Snedeker
Category: Caroline Dale Snedeker and New Harmony

Set in ancient Greece at the time of the Persian invasion and Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC), The Perilous Seat is the story of a girl who becomes an oracle at Delphi. It is not a book I would recommend (unless someone else is also interested in reading all of Mrs Snedeker's works), nor iis it likely that a copy of the book would be available -- it has taken me 3 years to find a (somewhat) reasonably priced copy of the book, and I am the only person on LT who has cataloged the book.

However, though no one may be interested, I want to record some of my thoughts about the book, so that I won't forget, and here seems a better place than some file that I will lose on my computer.

The intended audience for this book is unclear. I would guess that Mrs Snedeker was aiming for young adult, but the lengthy flashback to Theria at age 7 would probably not appeal to teenagers, and the references to ancient Greek personages, culture and philosophies would probably be incomprehensible to most children -- I know far more now than I did at that age, and I was even now struggling to remember and comprehend many of them.

Mrs Snedeker's first book, The Coward of Thermopylae (1911) was retitled The Spartan (1912) and then successfully marketed as a children's book. I really liked that book, for its outstanding scholarship on ancient Greece, the fascinating and believable characterizations, and its beautiful, non-judgmental treatment of the homosexual relationships of ancient Sparta.

Her second book, Seth Way (1917) also featured a male protagonist and, as the sub-title indicates, was a romance set (partially) in New Harmony, Indiana (which was founded by Mrs Snedeker's ancestors, and where she spent much of her childhood).

In this third book, The Perilous Seat (1923), Mrs Snedeker seems to be struggling to find her voice and audience, which she ultimately did beginning with her first Newbery Honor Book Downright Dencey (1927): a children's book with a plucky, rebellious female protagonist, and a firmly grounded historical setting. In many respects, Theria is Dencey, set in a different time and place, and Mrs Snedeker's view of the abilities and place of women is evident -- a view that was not generally held for another 50 years.

I'm glad that I was finally able to read this book, as it added to my understanding of Mrs Snedeker and the progression of her works. She -- perhaps more than any other author I have read -- is a woman that I would like to have known; she must have been brilliant, progressive far beyond her time, wise, kind and independent.

Oct 24, 2009, 5:10pm Top

106. Dewey by Vicki Myron, 3*
Category: USA

This was a pleasant, light book about a special cat. Dewey so much resembled one of the two Cats Who Loved Me (as opposed to all the others who have allowed me to love them), that it made me sad, remembering my own special cat.

I'm a bit surprised at the overwhelming popularity of this book, since in my view it was only moderately well written, and it was as much about the author, and her overcoming of her various difficulties, as it was about Dewey. Although Ms Myron deserves plaudits for her perseverance and success in the face of serious problems, I didn't find her story particularly inspiring or insightful.

Oct 24, 2009, 5:34pm Top

107. Anything Goes by Jill Churchill (Grace and Favor #1), 3*
Category: Series / Favorite Authors

I enjoyed this cozy mystery, set in New York during The Great Depression. Robert and Lily (brother and sister) are nearly destitute and struggling when they learn they have been left a mansion from a dimly-remembered great-uncle, but that they must fulfill unusual conditions to accept the inheritance. The first mystery to be solved is the manner of their uncle's death...

This is yet another series that I want to continue reading, and I might even try a book in Ms Churchill's other series as well, though the subject matter of this one appeals more to me.

Oct 24, 2009, 8:17pm Top

I love the Grace and Favor series.

I've gotten really tired of her Jane Jeffrey suburban Chicago housewife series and don't read them anymore. I'd read about a dozen of those, I think, and they really started sounding the same.

Valerie Wolzien wrote a very similar series and I liked her Susan Henshaw series much better.

Oct 25, 2009, 1:24pm Top

Linda, I just ordered the next 2 Grace and Favor books -- I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens next! I think that's a big part of series that I like the best, when I'm as interested in the characters and what's happening in their lives as in the mysteries (e.g., Hannah Swensen). The suburban housewife doesn't really sound very interesting to me (been there, done that, to used a tired phrase -- though I didn't solve any murder mysteries).

I, too, have gotten tired of some of the series I've read -- Sue Grafton and Diane Mott Davidson come immediately to mind. Sometimes it seems to me that the authors have also gotten tired of their characters, and are just pumping out formula mysteries with little enthusiasm or story development. I'm wondering if that has happened with Nora Roberts and the Eve Dallas series -- I've had the newest one sitting here for a couple of months, but I wasn't particularly impressed with the previous one and am just not very excited to read the new one.

Edited: Nov 6, 2009, 4:22pm Top

108. Moloka'i by Alan Brennert, 4*
Category: USA (Hawaii)

When we visited Maui (in 1989, I think), we could see the island of Moloka'i across the water from our hotel room. I was fascinated when I found out that it (still) contained a leper colony. So, a couple of months ago, when I saw a review of Moloka'i (sorry, I don’t remenber by whom), I knew it was a book that I was interested in reading.

Moloka'i is the saga of Rachel Kalama and of the leper colony -- encompassing its 100+ year history -- and to a lesser extent, also of the history, traditions and legends of Hawaii. Rachel's story begins in 1891; shortly afterward, she was diagnosed with leprosy and sent to Moloka'i, where she remained for most of her long life. Despite the horrors of the disease, and the official actions taken to combat it, at a time when leprosy was misunderstood and medical treatment was minimal, it is not a horrible or sad story, but one of heroic people coping with a situation beyond their control.

The book is meticulously researched, and history, facts, legends, and historical persons are seamlessly intertwined with the fictional characters and story. Mr Brennert's skill and experience as a screen-writer is apparent in his realistic dialogue, which quickly reveals character, and his ability to pace the story and keep it moving, without resorting to long passages of thoughts or soul-searching, or getting bogged down with factual details -- although the amount of factual information in the book, about both leprosy and Hawaii, is considerable.

This was a totally satisfying book for me, and a perfect example of why I love good historical fiction. I not only learned facts about a place I was interested in, but I was able to see if from the perspective of the people who were involved.

Oct 25, 2009, 7:28pm Top

I'm that same way with the Diane Mott Davidson books. I've stopped reading those, too.

I do still like the Eve Dallas books by JD Robb though.

I picked up an interesting sounding one for my Kindle yesterday. It's called The Ninth Daughter and it's an Abigail Adams mystery by Barbara Hamilton.

Oct 29, 2009, 2:18pm Top

>45 lindapanzo: Correction: I was just looking at my library, and I see that I DID really like the last Eve Dallas book -- must have been the one before that I didn't like so much. That, combined with talking about it, has caused me to put the new one at the top of the stack -- will start it as soon as I finish the two Kate Seredy children's books that I'm reading now.

Looking at my list, I see that more than half of the books I've read in the past couple of months have been mysteries. It's my favorite genre, and thanks to all the discussions and recommendations, I keep finding new ones that I'm really enjoying.

Edited: Nov 8, 2009, 2:42pm Top

109. The Gospel of Mary of Magdala by Karen L. King, 4 1/2*
Categories: World View, Books in my house

This, too, was a very satisfying book; it told me much of what I wanted to know about The Gospel of Mary.

The book is organized into three sections. The first recounts the discovery and subsequent history of the documents (a Coptic version estimated to be about 40% complete, and 2 Greek fragments) with a new translation by King, overlapping portions shown side by side. The second section discusses the interpretation and meaning of the gospel itself, and the last part compares it to other early Christian works and attempts to show its place in the history and development of Christianity.

Ms King is exceedingly knowledgable, but the book reads like a series of college lectures to students who know little of the subject matter (and since she is a Harvard professor, perhaps they are!). She draws original conclusions and expresses opinions, but she clearly explains her bases and reasoning, and cites and explains differing theories. The only lingering question I have is how her translation differs from those made by others.

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in gnosticism or early Christianity.

Oct 29, 2009, 2:42pm Top

Ivy, I think the new J.D. Robb comes out next week. I need to order it from my $9.99 book club. A few of us like these so we usually split the cost and pass it around.

Oct 31, 2009, 1:59pm Top

>48 lindapanzo: So I'm a full book behind! I did start the previous one last night -- only a few pages in, but so far it looks good.

That's a nice way of doing it -- splitting the cost.

Oct 31, 2009, 3:34pm Top

110. The Good Master by Kate Seredy (Newbery Honor Book 1936), 4*
111. The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy (Newbery Honor Book 1940, sequel to The Good Master), 3 1/2*
Categories: Women Authors of Children's Books, Books in my house

These two books, although they have the same core characters, are thematically very different books.

In The Good Master, 10-year-old Kate is a skinny, spoiled, out-of-control city girl, who is sent to live with her uncle ("The Good Master"), a farmer on the plains of Hungary. In the company of her cousin Jancsi, and with the loving guidance of her aunt and uncle, she becomes (of course) healthy, helpful and caring -- but still spirited.

The book is rather episodic, with Kate's transformation the only real story line, but Kate and Jancsi are likeable characters, the description of life in the Hungarian countryside is outstanding, Ms Seredy's many illustrations are charming, and the main story is enhanced with Hungarian legends, history and traditions.

Although the exact time is not specified in The Good Master (there are phones and automobiles in the city, but they haven't yet reached the country), The Singing Tree begins two years later in 1914, and covers the next four years of World War I. It is a book about the senselessness and horrors of war (clearly stated but not explicitly described), the effects of war on ordinary people who don't care about the political issues, and the sameness of people regardless of their nationality.

Although there is no real storyline other than the war and the changes it wrought on people involved against their will, I found this perspective on World War I very interesting. I thought the publication date (1939) was also very interesting, since the over-riding desire of everyone in the book was for equality, justice, and peace.

I suspect that both books are semi-autobiographical (the main character's name is even "Kate"), since Ms Seredy grew up in Hungary and served as nurse in World War I prior to coming to the US. The authenticity of the settings and experiences is evident.

The Good Master is clearly a children's book (ages 6-10), but The Singing Tree would probably today be classified as Young Adult. I like The Good Master better, but I'm glad I read The Singing Tree (which I did not read as a child) for its different view of World War I.

Edited: Dec 3, 2009, 4:08pm Top

October Recap

My favorite book this month was The Girl Who Played with Fire, but Moloka'i and The Gospel of Mary of Magdala were also very good. I still need to add some comments about these last two, which I'll try to do in the next couple of days.

Books in My House: (6/9)

1. Contemporary Fiction (2/9)

~~ The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

2. Series / Favorite Authors (8/9)
~~ Daughter of Deceit by Patricia Sprinkle
~~ Anything Goes by Jill Churchill

3. British Isles (2/9)

4. Shakespeare (3/9)

5. World View (3/9)
~~ Flow Down Like Silver by Ki Longfellow
~~ The Gospel of Mary of Magdala by Karen L. King

6. USA (6/9)
~~ Dewey by Vicki Myron
~~ Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

7. Grace Moon and Native American (1/9)

8. Caroline Dale Snedeker and New Harmony (3/9)

~~ The Perilous Seat by Caroline Dale Snedeker

9. Women Authors of Children's Books (2/9)
~~ The Good Master by Kate Seredy
~~ The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy

Edited: Dec 3, 2009, 4:10pm Top


112. Promises in Death by J.D. Robb (Eve Dallas #28), 3*
Categories: Series / Favorite Authors, Books in my house

Another enjoyable episode in the life of Eve Dallas. And despite my reservations expressed in a previous post, I'm not tired of this series yet, even after 28 books! (I think I missed a couple of the early ones, but only a couple of them.)

This book completes my 2nd round of Series / Favorite Authors. These next 2 overread this category -- and if (when) I read another one, that will make 18 series books plus 12 Joanne Fluke books, as well as several other mystery/series books that I have stashed in other categories. I guess my favorite genre is pretty obvious.

113. In the Still of the Night by Jill Churchill (Grace and Favor #2), 3*
114. Someone to Watch Over Me by Jill Churchill (Grace and Favor #3), 3*
Category: Series / Favorite Authors

I am really enjoying this Grace and Favor series set in The Great Depression. The mysteries are well-crafted, and although the clues are sufficient for me to have a pretty good idea of the culprit before the end, it's also rather nice that the resolution doesn't just come out of the blue, based on clues and events that are not revealed to the reader.

I've been fascinated by The Great Depression for as long as I can remember. And it's always a treat when I learn something new while reading a cozy mystery: I had never heard of the Bonus March, and didn't even know that US veterans were paid later bonuses for their military service. Now I'm wondering if my grandfather received one... $625 in 1936 would have been a fortune! Maybe my uncle would know, though he was pretty young at the time...

Edited: Nov 8, 2009, 2:49pm Top

I have finally added comments about Moloka'i by Alan Brennert (book #108, msg 44) and The Gospel of Mary of Magdala by Karen L. King (book #109, msg 47).

I really liked both books.

Nov 10, 2009, 1:36pm Top

115. The Tempest by William Shakespeare
116. A Brave Vessel by Hobson Woodward, 3*
Category: Shakespeare

The Tempest was, as always, a charming romantic comedy, though it isn't my favorite play. Since I hadn't read it for several years, I wanted to refresh my memory while reading Hobson's A Brave Vessel.

A Brave Vessel is clearly popular history, as opposed to a scholarly treatment, of the voyage of the Sea Venture, the repercussions for the infant colony at Jamestown, and its influence on Shakespeare's The Tempest.

The strengths of the book are that it is easy reading and doesn't presuppose much knowledge of the reader; it is based on scholarly works on the subject (the bibliography is extremely impressive); and it ties together many narrow, in-depth discussions into a more comprehensive view of the events.

The weaknesses, in my opinion, are that it is popular history, thus not giving as much information as I would have liked about some aspects of the voyage; it is a somewhat dry chronological recitation of facts, with little attention given to the personalities involved; and Mr Hobson speculates and makes assumptions which I don't believe are warranted, sometimes presenting them as facts (although he ususally records that he has done so in the poorly-organized notes). Particularly annoying to me is his habit of speculating on the thoughts of William Strachey, presumably in an (unsuccessful) attempt to bring some personality to the book; this technique reached its apex during the comparison of Strachey's report on the voyage to The Tempest, when he speculated that Strachey saw the play and then proceeded to imagine Strachey's thoughts while watching the play.

Nevertheless, the book was easy reading, it contained a great deal of information that I didn't know, and I liked that it tied the voyage with both The Tempest and Jamestown (most scholarly works deal with one or the other). I would recommend the book for someone wanting just an overview, or as a starting point for someone who is interested in more thorough discussions.

Edited: Nov 15, 2009, 2:34am Top

117. Still Life by Louise Penny (Three Pines #1), 4*
Category: Series / Favorite Authors

I really liked this cozy mystery set in Canada, and can't wait to read the rest of the series! Thanks, Linda and others for your praise of this author!

This book seemed denser -- more detailed, more literary, more philosophical -- than many of the cozy mysteries set in the US, perhaps in part because of the omniscient narrator. It is in the tradition of the British detective mysteries (Martha Grimes, P.D. James, Anne Perry and others), rather than about an independent woman who keeps stumbling into bodies. I loved the cast of characters, and am hoping to revisit them in future books; the clues kept me slightly off-guard -- just when I thought I had it figured out, there was another twist; and all the threads and puzzles were neatly resolved in the end.

This was another in the string of extremely satisfying books that I've read since completing my 1st 999 Challenge. I'm wondering if I should redo my 1010 categories...

Nov 13, 2009, 3:09pm Top

I'm glad you liked the Louise Penny. Her books do seem somehow more literary than most mysteries. I think denser is a good word for it.

I'm glad to hear that you're in the midst of a string of good books. I've been so swamped at work (health reform) that I've hardly read at all this entire week. I stagger home about 9 or 10 at night and am too tired to read much, though last night was a bit better and I read for a half hour.

I've enjoyed the biography/autobiography category of 999 x 2 so much that I dropped Vintage Mysteries in 1010 and added bios. I'm sure I will still read some Vintage Mysteries, of course, but can fit those into my bonus "next in the series" category, I think.

Edited: Nov 15, 2009, 2:27pm Top

>56 lindapanzo: Sorry you've been so busy working, Linda -- and I suppose it won't let up until they get it finalized.

Besides the large number of cozies/mysteries, which I always enjoy, and the discovery of some new series, I think part of my satisfaction with the books I've read recently is the variety of topics: college admission process, gnosticism and ancient philosopy, leprosy, World War I and the Great Depression, Jamestown and the story behind The Tempest, and the settings have been all over the world. In the 888 Challenge, my categories were genre based, which didn't work as well for me as the topic-based categories in the 999 Challenge, but I'm thinking that perhaps I don't enjoy delving into a topic as much as reading a bit about it from time to time -- I think I tend toward the "Jack of all trades" theory of knowledge. I'm not sure how to translate this into categories for the 1010... I'll have to give it some thought.

I think I'll be going to B&N later this afternoon. I hope they'll have the next Louise Penny books. They're fairly recent, so there's a good chance they will, but it always amazes me that such a huge bookstore often doesn't stock the books that I want.

Nov 15, 2009, 2:20pm Top

Nov 17, 2009, 2:32pm Top

119. The Second Part of King Henry IV by William Shakespeare
Category: Shakespeare

Edited: Nov 19, 2009, 7:28pm Top

120. Love for Sale by Jill Churchill (Grace and Favor #4), 3*
Category: Series / Favorite Authors

I'm liking this series very much, but this is not my favorite book in the series. To avoid a spoiler, I'll just say that the topic explored (in addition to The Great Depression) is not one that particularly interests me. In addition, I was a bit surprised that the main character seemed to be Police Chief Howard Walker rather than Lily and/or Robert.

Edited: Nov 21, 2009, 6:23pm Top

121. It Had to Be You (Grace and Favor #5), 3*
Category: Series / Favorite Authors

Nov 20, 2009, 2:10pm Top

I think I tend toward the "Jack of all trades" theory of knowledge. I'm not sure how to translate this into categories for the 1010... I'll have to give it some thought.

One category that's worked well for me is Dewey Decimal Challenge. I'm picking books from subcategories that I've never read before, and I've seen other people reading one book from each of the ten main categories.

The other thing I've done is just throw categories together as my reading progresses. I started with an Arabian Nights category this year, which I then expanded to Arabian Nights and the Arab World to give myself a bit more flexibility. And then when I realized I was still struggling with that category but had read several books about Africa, I expanded it yet again. So I now have a category called Arabian Nights, the Arab World, and Africa, which may seem slightly odd but does have a certain amount of geographical consistency. I'm happy with it, anyway.

Also, since 10 books is a lot in each category for next year, I'm going to start with half-categories of 5 books each. Then, when I finish a half-category, I'll choose whether I want to add another of the same (to get the full 10 in the end) or a start a completely different one. I'm not sure how well this will turn out, but I like the idea of introducing a bit more flexibility and choosing new categories throughout the year, without abandoning the progress I've made in the old ones.

Nov 21, 2009, 6:13pm Top

Hi, Zoe! I really like the idea of half-categories! I've been thinking that 50 may be a more realistic goal for me than 100, but it hadn't occurred to me to switch categories after I got to 5.

I've done a lot of fiddling with my categories in both the 888 and 999. One thing that absolutely does NOT appeal to me is feeling that I "have to" read books just because I've listed them or set up a category for them, so I adjust or add categories to fit what I've read. This year's categories were (deliberately) general enough that I did more adding than adjusting.

The Dewey Decimal Challenge hasn't really appealed to me, mostly because I don't think I'm interested in some of the categories. That's probably not true, since I often find myself fascinated by a topic that I didn't think I was interested in. I'm also not a big reader of non-fiction... but that's only until I find something I want to know more about..

Nov 21, 2009, 6:22pm Top

122. Who's Sorry Now? by Jill Churchill (Grace and Favor #6), 3*
Category: Series / Favorite Authors

I'm disappointed that this finishes the published books of this series, since I'd like to keep reading them. According to fantasticfiction.com, there will be a 7th book published in paperback in 2010 and hardback in 2011 -- which doesn't make sense. Ms Brooks seems to have slowed down on her books -- since 2005, she's published only one book (a Jane Jeffreys book in 2007).

Edited: Nov 23, 2009, 1:12pm Top

123. The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare
Category: Shakespeare

This is not among my favorite plays, although I find Falstaff amusing, like that it is women who give him his comeuppance, and enjoy the malapropisms (when I can figure them out). The introduction comments that this is a play that is better seen than read, and that makes sense since there is a bit of the slapstick to it. It's pretty tough reading, though, since so many puns and jokes are now obsolete. And, because it's written almost entirely in prose, I miss the flow and rhythm of Shakespeare's wonderful blank verse.

Dec 1, 2009, 3:16pm Top

124. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Category: USA

125. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, 3*
Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Books in my house

After a long string of books that I very much enjoyed, I finished November with these 2 books which I didn't much like. They've been on my tbr stack for a long time, probably for a reason. There's nothing really wrong with either of them -- they're just not my favorite kind of book.

I could be more specific, I guess, but I don't feel like spending any more time on them, so I'll just leave it at that, at least for now (and maybe forever).

Edited: Dec 31, 2009, 2:26pm Top

November Recap

Most of this month was a delightful alternation between cozy mysteries and Shakespeare. I enjoyed them all, but I was particularly impressed with Louise Penny's Still Life, and I still prefer The Tempest over Shakespeare's histories.

The last 2 books of the month were my least favorites -- A Walk in the Woods and Peace Like a River. Just not my cup of tea, but at least now I can say "yes" to the people who keep asking me if I've read them yet.

As I expected, it looks as though I'll probably finish my mini-challenge by the end of the year, and not come even close to finishing a 2nd 999.

Books in My House: (8/9)

1. Contemporary Fiction (3/9)

~~ Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

2. Series / Favorite Authors (15/9)
~~ Promises in Death by J.D. Robb
~~ In the Still of the Night by Jill Churchill
~~ Someone to Watch Over Me by Jill Churchill
~~ Still Life by Louise Penny
~~ Love for Sale by Jill Churchill
~~ It Had to Be You by Jill Churchill
~~ Who's Sorry Now? by Jill Churchill

3. British Isles (2/9)

4. Shakespeare (8/9)
~~ The Tempest
~~ A Brave Vessel by Hobson Woodward
~~ The First Part of King Henry IV
~~ The Second Part of King Henry IV
~~ The Merry Wives of Windsor

5. World View (3/9)

6. USA (7/9)
~~ A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

7. Grace Moon and Native American (1/9)

8. Caroline Dale Snedeker and New Harmony (3/9)

9. Women Authors of Children's Books (2/9)

Dec 3, 2009, 2:19pm Top


126. Heat Wave by Richard Castle, 2 1/2*
Category: Contemporary Fiction

This book was terrible. I enjoyed it.

An offshoot from the TV show Castle, this is supposed to be the book that bestselling author Richard Castle just published, basing his main character on Detective Kate Beckett. I don't watch very much television, but I like this show, with its witty dialogue, interesting characters, and decent mysteries. So, of course, I couldn't resist reading "his" book.

It's hard to imagine a book filled with so many cliches, pop culture references, brand names and slang. I counted 9 of them in one short 4-sentence paragraph, and that paragraph was typical. The style is choppy and the sentence structure is poor. The rumor is that James Patterson or another real bestselling author wrote the book, but I suspect that it is just that: a promotional rumor. The book is definitely not a bestseller, and even acknowledging the deficiencies of some bestselling authors, the quality of this book falls far short.

My guess is that the book was written by the script-writers (plural: some parts are better than others), since the dialogue is snappy and often quite good, but the narrative reads like stage directions and set descriptions. Characterization is poor -- even to the point that there are no physical descriptions (and I mean none) of the main characters, and few of the supporting "actors" -- and I think it would be hard to have any sense of them unless one has seen the show. What characterization there is depicts "Rook" (based on Castle) as something of a dolt without the panache of the TV Castle, and "Nikki Heat" (based on Beckett) as a bit mean and inconsistent. The mystery, though, is quite well done, with a couple of twists.

Clearly a spoof of bestsellers and of the TV show, I had fun reading the book. But I don't think it even begins to stand alone without the background of the television show, and I think it could have used a bit (a lot) more polish, if for no other reason than to bolster Castle's reputation as a bestselling author. If there should be further books in this series, I doubt that I will read them (though I'll probably continue to watch the show).

Dec 6, 2009, 3:27pm Top

127. Irregardless of Murder by Ellen Edwards Kennedy, 3 1/2*
Category: Contemporary Fiction

I quite liked this cozy mystery.

Amelia Prentice is a 45-year-old single (never married) high school English teacher who, literally, stumbles over a corpse in the library. The book is very well written, with good characterization of interesting people, a nice small-town setting on the banks of Lake Champlain, and well-paced events and action.

On the downside (for me) is that it is "Christian" fiction, the often repeated comments about grammatical errors (especially, of course, regarding the use of "irregardless"), and a weak mystery (the clues were much too obvious, and it was not so much solved as just ended). None of this, though, was enough to keep me from enjoying the book, although I think it could eventually become annoying in a series.

Although this book appears to be the first in a series, it was copyrighted in 2001, and Ms Kennedy has apparently not published any books since then.

Dec 6, 2009, 7:22pm Top

#69, Ivy, I will have to think about this mystery. I've never heard of it and some of the downsides you mention would also bother me. But if you liked it...

Dec 7, 2009, 12:55pm Top

Well, Linda, I'm not sure whether or not I recommend it. I enjoyed it more while I was reading it, than after I finished it -- if that makes any sense. It reminded me quite a lot of Patricia Sprinkle's books, and while I enjoyed her books, I'm not totally sure I'm going to continue with her Thoroughly Southern series.

I hadn't heard of it either. I found it when I was looking for cozy mystery series featuring a high school teacher. This was the only one I found, though there is another one that features a junior college instructor.

Dec 7, 2009, 1:09pm Top

I may take a pass then, Ivy. I have so many cozy series I absolutely love, already.

If you like professor sleuths, I see that, after a 6 or 7-year break, Joanne Dobson has a new Karen Pelletier out early next year. I love these--the sleuth is an English professor.

Dec 7, 2009, 8:32pm Top

32. I loved both The Secret Magdalene and Flow Down Like Silver. They were similar and yet very different. If I had to choose between them, I think I'd choose Flow Down Like Silver. Hypatia is one of my heroines and Longfellow's version just about broke my heart.

Dec 9, 2009, 12:46pm Top

>73 Shambles: Hi, Shambles! Thanks for stopping by, and welcome to LT!

I really loved The Secret Magdalene and think I expected too much from Flow Down Like Silver, although I did like it, and I also find Hypatia fascinating. I'm eager to see what she does in her third book, which I understand is a continuation of Mary's story.

Have you read Ms Longfellow's earlier books?

Edited: Dec 13, 2009, 1:25pm Top

128. Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Category: USA

This is one of those books that I've known about for pretty much all my life, but had never read. I knew a lot of the story -- and may have seen a movie in the distant past, since I had a pretty clear picture of Eliza on the ice-filled river before I got to that part -- and, of course, Uncle Tom, Little Eva, and Simon Legree are part of our cultural traditions.

I'm usually not particularly fond of 19th century literature, but I thought the first part of the book was wonderful. About 2/3 of the way through, it got a bit too "preachy" for me, though I'm sure it was to be expected from the daughter and sister of some of America's most famous clergymen, and the discussion/dissection of Christian principles undoubtedly contributed to the book's impact in 1852. The extensive use of dialect made the book rather slow reading, though it became easier as I got used to it.

As for content, the book exposes a shameful period of America's past, one that we should not forget, and has application to any system where the powerful are legally enabled to exploit the "lowly." Mrs Stowe's characters are unforgettable, even if stereotypical (I wonder... was she perhaps largely responsible for creating those stereotypes?). Interestingly, by our standards today, the book is racist (e.g., the repeated mention of the "childlike" character of "Africans" and the "strong" nature of "Anglo-Saxons"), but the importance of Mrs Stowe's representation of slaves as human beings, and of the horrors and immorality of slavery, cannot be overstated.

Edited: Dec 15, 2009, 1:37pm Top

129. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, 5*
Category: USA (completes category!)

What a truly fabulous novel! It's a fairly simple book: the life story of a black woman in early 20th century Florida, and a love story. It's black literature, 20th century literature, American literature, feminist literature. Yet it is far more than any of these because it is literature. The human condition -- the struggle for self, the relationships, the emotions -- defy time or place, even while the book is firmly set in black communities of 100 years ago. Who can't identify with Janie when "she starched and ironed her face, forming it into just what people wanted to see"; or when she explains her love for her man by saying, "He kin take most any lil thing and make summertime out of it when times is dull"? Those are just two small examples in a book filled with succinct and beautiful imagery, metaphors, similes.

This book has been sitting on my tbr stack for a couple of years. I didn't think I would like it very much; my daughter didn't think I would, either. We were both wrong. For the first 30 or 40 pages, as I struggled with the dialect, I wondered what the big deal was... and then, suddenly, I thought, "Wow! This is amazing and I love this book!"

Note: If you have the Harper Perennial Modern Classics edition, don't read the Foreward until you've read at least part of the book -- it has spoilers. Conversely, the Afterword is mostly about Ms Hurston's life, and I don't think it has any spoilers.

Dec 15, 2009, 2:12pm Top

I'm feeling good about my 3 category mini-challenge: 1 category completed and only 2 books to go: a Shakespeare play already started, and one from the September tbr stack. I'm not sure which one that will be; Black Swan Green, The Red Tent and Wicked are beckoning me, and so are a couple of children's books. At the same time, though, I'm getting some pretty strong calls from Olive Kitteridge, 2 more Louise Penny novels, and a Native American book --all acquired since September.

I'm getting really eager to start the 1010, too, but I'm determined to wait until Jan 1.

Dec 16, 2009, 12:54am Top

76 - It seems to me like most 'forewards' are nothing but spoilers! I just don't even bother reading them until I am at least halfway into the book, and even then, it's best to approach with caution.

Dec 16, 2009, 1:00am Top

Ivy, after reading about your enthusiasm for Their Eyes Were Watching God Stasia's enthusiasm, too, I have absolutely got to get to this one in January.

I read almost no fiction, besides mysteries, that is, this year and definitely want to read more of that in 2010.

Dec 16, 2009, 3:35pm Top

>78 cmbohn: Cheli, I agree! I rarely read them until after I've read the book, but this time I started when I was only slightly into the book -- I stopped when I hit the first spoiler, but I was irritated. What annoys me even more is when the blurb on the cover or book jacket tells you something that the author doesn't want revealed for at least a few chapters.

>79 lindapanzo: Linda, I hope you like it, and I hope I haven't over-sold it. I find that sometimes my expectations are too high when I've seen someone rave about a book, and then I'm disappointed. I also know that opinions can differ, even when people like many of the same books, so I'll be really interested in your reaction.

Incidentally, the next Louise Penny book won out over all the others last night. But I still have 2 weeks to read the last 2 books of my mini-challenge... it should be ok...

Dec 16, 2009, 4:03pm Top

I'll keep that in mind, Ivy.

Two books to go is great. I need to finish 8 more to get my second 999 done, though I've got only about 10 percent (25 pages?) left on a Sandy Koufax biography.

Now that I've found a Chicago baseball mystery, 6 of the remaining 7 are mysteries so I'm feeling pretty confident. I've got only 3.5 work days left this year so I should be ok with this.

Edited: Dec 19, 2009, 2:08pm Top

130. A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny (Three Pines Mysteries #2), 4*
Category: Series / Favorite Authors

This may have become my favorite series of the year, though I've particularly enjoyed Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen series, too.

It was a pleasant surprise to find that this book was set at Christmastime. I can't wait to get to the next one, though I'm thinking I should finish out my mini-challenge before Christmas, just in case someone gives me a book or two for Christmas...

Dec 21, 2009, 6:01pm Top

Okay, I have a copy of Anne of Green Gables in hand, so I'm reading to start reading (though very embarrassed to read a library copy of a book I own!).

Edited: Dec 26, 2009, 4:02pm Top

131. The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny (Three Pines #3), 4*
Category: Series / Favorite Authors

Another great book in this series!

Dec 26, 2009, 4:01pm Top

132. The Life of King Henry V by William Shakespeare
Category: Shakespeare (completed!!)

I must say that this play is one of my least favorites, and I don't think I've ever before read it all the way through. For me, it is noteworthy only in that it gets me very close to having read the Complete Works of Shakespeare. AND it does complete a Shakespeare category in 2009.

Edited: Dec 27, 2009, 2:34pm Top

133. The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt (Newbery Honor Book 2008), 5*
Category: Other Children's / YA Books

Hollis Hoodhood is a seventh-grader in the fall of 1967. As the only Presbyterian in his class, he is left alone with his teacher Mrs Baker (whose husband has been deployed to Vietnam) on Wednesday afternoons, while Jewish and Catholic students attend religious classes. After a rocky start, having Hollis perform chores for her, Mrs Baker assigns Shakepearean plays for Wednesday afternoons. As the school year progesses, the often hilarious antics of the students, family and peer relationships, and world events are increasingly affected by the understanding that Hollis acquires from Shakespeare, and his growing perception of Mrs Baker as a person (as opposed to A Teacher).

This is an excellent children's / young adult book, and I think it probably has a wider audience than 10-15 year olds. It is quite a bit more sophisticated than I expected, with its discussions of and quotations from Shakespeare, and the handling of religious differences and (especially) the Vietnam War, political situation and assassinations of 1968. I frequently find that recent books dealing with the 1950s and 1960s tend to either idealize the era or deal with only a narrow aspect of it (usually a negative one), but I think Mr Schmidt did an outstanding job of accurately bringing to life a time that I remember (except that by 1967, we were wearing pale, almost white lipstick, not bright red).

Dec 30, 2009, 12:55pm Top

134. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, 5*
Categories: Women Authors of Children's Books, Books in my house (completed!)

This was supposed to be for the 1010 Challenge and group read in January, but Zoe & I both got ahead on it. I'll post some comments on the Group Read thread, hopefully today.

This was the 2nd time I've read Anne of Green Gables as an adult, after having read it numerous times between the ages of 9 and 12. I still love it -- and Anne. Even as an adult (or maybe I should say grandmother), it's one of my all-time favorite books.

Dec 31, 2009, 1:37pm Top

135. A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin (Earthsea Cycle, Book 1), 3*
Category: Other Children's / YA Books

I've been curious about the Earthsea series, since I've heard claims that it's in the same league as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and "better than Harry Potter." I don't know about C.S. Lewis, since I've never read The Chronicles of Narnia (soon to be remedied, since I got them for Christmas), but I don't think -- so far, at least -- that it even begins to approach the greatness of Tolkien or Rowling.

I nevertheless found the book interesting, and immediately started the 2nd book in the series, which -- based on the first 20 pages -- I think I will like better. The world that Ms LeGuin has created is very complete and rather engaging, but that is also the problem with this first book in the series: most of the book is merely a detailed description of that world --the islands, the magic, the people -- which is impossible to follow without frequently consulting the maps, with a rather thin story about the childhood and coming-of-age of the mage Ged. Although it appears that this was the first book she wrote (or at least the first copyrighted), it seems more like a back-story, or an appendix, and it's clear that she had other stories of Earthsea planned (or perhaps already written).

Edited: Jan 31, 2010, 3:55pm Top

December Recap

In December, I managed to finish my 27 book mini-challenge. The 9 "Books in My House" is good... nine fewer unread books... but I know I have acquired more than 9 since Sept 4 (some already read, but I'm not sure that I gained any ground on tbrs). The other 2 categories, Shakespeare and USA, bring the total to 11 different categories completed in 2009.

This was a really good reading month. I really like Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series, I'm glad I finally read Uncle Tom's Cabin, and I thought that The Wednesday Wars was excellent. But the real standouts were Their Eyes Were Watching God, which will be one of my top 2 for the year, and Anne of Green Gables, which I still love as much as ever.

Books in My House: (9/9) -- completed!

1. Contemporary Fiction (5/9)

~~ Heat Wave by Richard Castle
~~ Irregardless of Murder by Ellen Edwards Kennedy

2. Series / Favorite Authors (17/9)
~~ A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny
~~ The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

3. British Isles (2/9)

4. Shakespeare (9/9) -- completed!
~~ The Life of King Henry V

5. World View (3/9)

6. USA (9/9) -- completed!
~~ Uncle Tom's Cabin Harriet Beecher Stowe
~~ Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

7. Grace Moon and Native American (1/9)

8. Caroline Dale Snedeker and New Harmony (3/9)

9A. Women Authors of Children's Books (3/9)
~~ Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

9B. Other Children's / YA Books (2/9)
~~ The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
~~ A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin

Jan 2, 2010, 5:24pm Top

2009 Recap

I read 135 books in 2009, which I'm sure is a record for many years, though I've only been keeping track since 2007. There were only a few books that I didn't much like, and I think that reading so many good books spurred me on to read even more. As for why there were so many good ones, I think it has a lot to do with LT -- I'm learning about books that I didn't know about, and seeing recommendations by people who have similar tastes, so that I'm choosing my books more carefully -- not just grabbing a book that has gotten good (mass media) reviews or that looks somewhat interesting.

The other change in my reading is that I'm finishing more non-fiction books. I've never been much of a non-fiction reader, and I've got shelves and shelves of partially-read non-fiction books, abandoned after my most pressing questions were answered. Initially, I was finishing non-fiction books so that I could add them to my lists or categories, but I've found that I really like reading the complete book -- sometimes, the author's perspective is not totally clear until you've read the whole thing.

These lists are mostly in the order I read them; it's too hard to rank them.

Best of 2009
I thought these 2 books were amazing; they left me with the mental equivalent of my mouth hanging open in awe:
The Secret Magdalene by Ki Longfellow
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston

Other Novels I Really Liked
The Hope and The Glory by Herman Wouk
The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

Best New Series
Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache / Three Pines series
With these 2 close behind:
Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen series
Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death series

Best Non-Fiction
I actually read enough to have favorites!
This Is My God by Herman Wouk
The Disneyland Encyclopedia by Chris Stodder
The Gospel of Mary of Magdala by Karen L. King
And I found the travel diaries from the 1820s fascinating for their view of the US nearly 200 years ago.

5* Children's Books
From my childhood, that I still love:
Downright Dencey by Caroline Dale Snedeker
The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth
Blue Willow by Doris Gates
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
New books:
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
The Cats in Krasinsky Square by Karen Hesse (picture book)
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

Thanks to all of you for the recommendations, conversations, fun and friendship! Happy New Year! and I hope to see you on the 1010 Challenge!

Feb 5, 2010, 7:33pm Top

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Mar 5, 2010, 5:09pm Top

#91 - When I read The Secret Magdalene I couldn't imagine the writer could pull it off again. In her book about Hypatia of Alexandria called Flow Down Like Silver (a title that is so beautiful) I discovered to my great joy that she really could. What a story and what a human being, not to mention Hypatia was female and being female is hard hard hard in this world.

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