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FicusFan's Reading in 2010

100 Books in 2010 Challenge

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Edited: Dec 17, 2009, 11:38am Top

A new year and a new start. I will not be posting over here until 2010 starts, and I finish posting all my 2009 books. I am way behind. Bad Ficus !

2009 Thread: http://www.librarything.com/topic/61719

Jan 1, 2010, 8:45pm Top

Bad Ficus? POOR Ficus! Still chuggin' away on those 2009ers. Eeeuuu. Suerte!

Edited: Jan 1, 2010, 8:56pm Top

House Keeping stuff:

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Jan 1, 2010, 8:56pm Top

I am bad because I have been putting them off, and thats why I am behind.

Jan 1, 2010, 9:02pm Top

You'll get your spanking later.

Jan 1, 2010, 9:59pm Top

Hi Ficus. Happy New Year! Richard, you are such a stern disciplinarian.

Jan 1, 2010, 11:10pm Top

Thanks Berly. Richard you seem to be taking this a bit too enthusiastically. I pass on the corporal punishment, thanks.

Jan 1, 2010, 11:41pm Top

2010 . . the year of the spanking????

Jan 2, 2010, 12:54am Top

Hi Judylou. Do I need to impose an age limit, a cover charge, serve drinks ??

Jan 2, 2010, 8:47pm Top

You'd have to set that age limit awwwful high to keep *me* out...and serving drinks just makes it flat impossible.

Jan 3, 2010, 1:22am Top

I love your map ficus. I get a strange thrill from seeing the dot on my little part of the world.

Edited: Jan 3, 2010, 1:30am Top

OK, Richard. So should I rename my thread Books and Debauchery in 2010 ?

Thank you Judylou. I like to see the different dots on the map too, which is why I added it to my thread.

Well I have finished my first book of 2010. May not post until tomorrow. Starting the new year with procrastination ! some things never change.

Jan 3, 2010, 1:32am Top

Books and Debauchery! *aaah* I feel right at home. *swigs some single malt* I'm avoiding going to sleep. I think I'll read something offscreen, though. Good night with good rest.

Edited: Jan 3, 2010, 1:44pm Top

Let the Debauching Begin !

I didn't mention it in my last thread but I will list what my star ratings mean.

3 stars is the minimum for an acceptable book. Usually it means I thought it was just OK. Anything less is STINKER territory.

4 stars means its a good book.

5 stars means its an exceptional book.

How books are slotted into each category is a variable balancing act. If I loved the book, I will overlook technical and writing flaws. If I didn't really enjoy the book but its well written and has few technical flaws then it will get an OK.


I have decided to try to reach my goal by reading at least 25% of my 150 from my older books that are already on my TBR pile (purchased before 2010). I am not going to start another thread in the Off the Shelf group, and the older books will count towards both goals.

Edited: Jan 3, 2010, 12:05pm Top

1. Scribbling the Cat by Alexandra Fuller, Non-Fiction, Completed: 1/2/10, Stars: 3

I was intrigued by the title and then the recap on the back. Traveling with an old African (white) soldier who fought on the side of Colonialism, and has demons to face. Unfortunately, I found the reading rather empty and unsatisfying.

I did not read Fuller's earlier book about her childhood in war-torn Africa, so her statement at the end of this book about it being her war too, seemed preposterous. All she mentions in this book is seeing her dad go off at 13 and waving at soldiers, that doesn't equate to living in the bush like an animal, killing/torturing others, and then losing the war and their way of life.

As near as I could tell Fuller was looking for something to write about and latched onto K, the old soldier. She couldn't get her father to open up about his war, and it seemed like she needed a excuse to call her trips to see her parents (she now lives in Wyoming) a business deduction. That may seem harsh, but it reflects the lack of feeling and insight that she put into the book. Everything was seen through her eyes, but she was absent for most of the story. I didn't see or feel her interest, or pain, I didn't feel K's pain either, though he seemed to cry almost every other page.

Her parents live in Zambia. She lives in Wyoming with her husband and children. She visits the parents and meets K. He is a neighbor and an old African soldier. She is interested in sucking the juice of the war and its aftermath from him, and he is interested in a finding a white woman to wed. He has found god, but the fact that she is already married doesn't seem to bother either of them. Not that they have an affair, but she is willing to go along with his obvious intent.

They have desultory conversations with the subject ending up at the war. Fuller asks to write about K, and he eventually agrees. They then decide that they will visit some of the places where K fought: Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Zimbabwe was once Rhodesia when run by whites. K was from Rhodesia, and started fighting in the Army there. They fought against the natives who wanted to have a say and even run their own country. The war period was from the 60s through the 70s. What started in one country Rhodesia, spread to others (Mozambique) because the combatants would use the other countries to hide, train, and recoup in.

When the natives won in Rhodesia and the country became Zimbabwe, many whites left, including many of the white soldiers. Some went on to become mercenaries in other African wars, and some tried to find peace and build lives for themselves. The old soldiers were and still are plagued by nightmares, drinking, divorce, violence and an inability to live quietly in civilization. And as the book depicts, the bar for civilization in Africa is pretty low. Some who have succeeded have been medicated by doctors or have found god.

On their trip they speak to some of K's old comrades, and even some of the natives who fought against the whites. The natives seem to harbor no hatred, though we don't see their personal lives, only their jobs - working for the whites. The whites say they don't hate, but their lives are still bent out of joint, and they have no real respect for the blacks.

Along the way, K talks about being in the Army, about waiting, fighting, suffering (no water, little food, being in the bush for weeks, bugs), being terrified, and becoming crazy and committing atrocities, some against civilians - even young people. He cries all the time, but I never actually feel anything from him, not his anger, his craziness, his remorse.

The book is best at describing the places they pass through, both the physical environment and the superficial arrangement of native people on the landscape. At the start Fuller's writing is so flowery that it detracts from the idea that its a non-fiction book. She tones it down but still tries to paint perfect little pictures now and then.

The book mentions Zimbabwe, but there is very little about the fighting there. They just pass through it on the way to Mozambique. Fuller does a good job of bringing in facts and figures about the conflict, explaining how it spread to Mozambique.

At the end of the trip they decide that they haven't exorcised demons so much as stirred up the pain with no resolution. She and K have a falling out, and patch up their relationship, but its not the same. When they get back home to Zambia, K asks Fuller not to contact him again. Fuller includes an email from him just before the book was published saying its OK to talk to him again. I feel as ambivalent as K does about this book.

One of the obvious issues is about the inhumanity and horror of war. How it not only destroys lives and property during the war, but it keeps destroying long after the conflict is over. There are physical remnants that destroy, the land mines and the destroyed infrastructure and missing towns; the psychological destruction is obvious in the broken lives of those who lived through it.

Also presented was the fact that fighting in the war is a constant series of adrenalin jolts. Peace is boring, so they create their own jolts: violence and conflict.

The book doesn't really look at the native side of the question. Are their lives as former combatants and survivors as damaged as the whites ? Or is their struggle to survive so incredibly difficult that they don't have time for looking back, and guilt ?

I am a great fan of ancient history and one of the questions that I have, is the current reaction to war a modern invention ? Way back in the past before monotheism and the belief that all human life should be precious, did their veterans have the same reaction to what they had seen and done ? Were the rest of their lives damaged by guilt ?

Oh yeah, the title refers to Curiosity Killing the Cat. Scribbling is slang for killing.

Jan 3, 2010, 2:17pm Top

Hi, Ficus ~ Just had to pop over to see what you were up to, and I see from some of the above posts that you (along with Richard and Judylou) are up to no good. Excellent! I'll be back to join in some of the debauchery, if that's okay with you.

Also excellent review and good question about reaction to war and its brutality. I don't think our ancestors had quite the delicate sensibilities we have about death and destruction (unless it happened to them or theirs) and, even then, I get the feeling they sort of accepted it as a given. My first book of '10 ~ Dark Fire ~ was set in the mid-1500s and portrays the English as a pretty bloodthirsty bunch, who thought nothing about bringing their children to burnings and hangings and drawing & quarterings and who had picnics while waiting for the fun to begin.

Jan 3, 2010, 2:54pm Top

Hi Storee. Enjoy the debauch, there is plenty for all. :)

I agree they had different sensibilities in the past. I just thought it was interesting that monotheistic religion which is supposed to teach that life is sacred, doesn't prevent wars, it only makes the aftermath worse. :0

Your first book sounds interesting. I will have to check it out.

Jan 3, 2010, 3:07pm Top

I put the first book of the series Dissolution by C.J. Sansom on my wishlist, Storee. Will check it out the next time I am in the stores. Thanks.

Jan 3, 2010, 3:14pm Top

How it not only destroys lives and property during the war, but it keeps destroying long after the conflict is over.

The gift that keeps on giving, war is. What a rotten thing to do, and I can think of no time at which it should be necessary. Then again, I oppose capital punishment for any and all crimes, too, so I guess that pigeonholes me pretty thoroughly.

I will never, under any circumstances, read this book but I am glad to know more about it. Thanks!

Jan 4, 2010, 8:22am Top

Hi Ficus- Got you starred! As usual, it looks like you are reading some terrific books. Good luck in 2010!

Edited: Jan 4, 2010, 5:43pm Top

Hi Mark. Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by. I have your thread starred as well. I hope you are feeling better. Good luck to you too.

Jan 7, 2010, 8:47am Top

Dropping in to catch up for 2010!

Jan 7, 2010, 7:14pm Top

Hi Ellie. Thanks for the visit. I just found your thread and popped in.

I am in the middle of a reading slump I think. I had a slow December and I have 3 books going, but am not making much headway. They aren't bad, I am just {shudder} not that interested in reading.

I must be Ill !

I am re-reading Triplanetary by E.E. 'Doc' Smith for a group read. It is the first book of the Lensman series, which I love, but I have put it down for now.

I am also reading Histories by Herodotus for a group read. We are doing a section a month and I should be reading book 1, but am still in the Intro material.

I had to start The City of Thieves by David Benioff, its for a RL book group due next week.

I hope to finish up this weekend on Benioff's book, and then read the other 3 books due the week after. Argh !

Jan 7, 2010, 8:29pm Top

Hope your slump passes. Do you think it is because they are all the "Have-To" books for group reads and book group? Maybe you need to jump start yourself with a wild card? Just saying...

Jan 7, 2010, 9:40pm Top

Thank you Berly, I hope my slump passes too. No I don't think its the pressure of required books - thats pretty standard for me. I was slacking off in December too but I thought I was over it by the end.

I will see if I can get some speed going this weekend. The 2 group reads I can defer 'til the end of the month, and 2 of my other 3 are short and quick.

I thought I did that at the end of December with Plum Lucky, guess it didn't take. Wish me luck.

Jan 7, 2010, 9:42pm Top

Berly, I've actually made an unofficial new year resolution to cut back on all the group reads. Once something becomes a "must" read, my enthusiasm dwindles. Even though they're usually great books! I just can't quite get around to starting them...

Jan 7, 2010, 9:46pm Top

This is the first time I am doing group reads on LT, but I don't feel any must about it, because I can always defer them, the discussion thread will be there forever.

I am in 4 RL book groups and have been for several years, and am used to the schedule.

Maybe the combination is the problem. We will see. It could just be a garden variety slump. I have them once or twice a year.

Jan 7, 2010, 10:39pm Top

I had the same problem in that I found everyone seemed to be reading the same book on their threads and raving about them so off I would go to get the book and I wound up reading less books that were random, completely of my own choosing. Trying to find more of a balance this year.

FF--Hope the slump fairy comes to bless you tonight (kinda like the tooth fairy takes away the tooth!).

Jan 8, 2010, 3:17am Top

Sometimes it just takes the right book to get your enthusiasm back; sometimes you just have to ride it out and wait.

Jan 8, 2010, 8:08am Top

Happy New Year's, Ficus. I've got you starred as I know you are always reading interesting books. I've been a bit slow on the uptake so far this year in regard to my reading. Residual effects of holiday brain, I think.

Jan 8, 2010, 10:33am Top

Thanks for dropping by my thread so quickly!

Hope your 'reading rut' passes soon... I know how that feels, it's the most awful time too, so frustrating for a bookaholic! It happened over the summer the year before last, just as we were going on holiday for a week, my chance to really kick back and get stuck into my books, and I was SO annoyed it very nearly ruined the whole thing for me! Maybe you could try delving through everything on your shelves and see if anything really catches your fancy? Kinda like if you've been ill, you always start the recovery process with eating something you REALLY want, no matter what it is!

Edited: Jan 8, 2010, 6:51pm Top

Judylou, that is so true. I thought Plum Lucky had cleared it up in December, but now its back. This maybe one of those times when I just have to wait it out.

Hi Ludmilla, thank you for stopping by and your kind words. Well happy holiday after-effects are at least good, because hopefully you enjoyed getting them in the first place. If that came out right and makes sense.

Ellie, I want to try to at least keep up on my posting, since I am slow on the reading.

I am sorry to hear that your vacation was almost ruined. I will try another book if I stall, but don't really want too many hanging over my head.

I did read last night and this morning in The City of Thieves. I am over 100 pages in, and hope to keep going.


Sorry I didn't mean to forget you Berly. I will be on the look out for the Slump Fairy. Is that like Pratchett's the God of Hangovers ? Hope my cat doesn't squash him/her. How many years bad luck is a cat-squashed fairy ?

Jan 8, 2010, 8:21pm Top

How many years bad luck is a cat-squashed fairy ?

*makes mental note to not mention this to Miss Boo, who has an imaginary fairy friend, as we have three cats in the house...*

I've heard good things about The City of Thieves, I hope it gets you out of your reading slump!

Jan 8, 2010, 11:43pm Top

The Slump Fairy is pretty agile. Not to worry. And cats love her.

Jan 9, 2010, 12:34am Top

I suppose cats do tend to go *slump* quite a bit!

Hot day in Sydney today, the cats are inside, enjoying the air-conditioning and cool tiled floors. They're slumped in all sorts of inconvenient places (mostly, the bottom of the stairs).

Jan 9, 2010, 2:27am Top

Huh, funny how they can always find just the place of most inconvenience!

Jan 9, 2010, 11:56am Top

Thanks Wookiebender, I think it did the trick, no fairy needed (but thanks for the thought Berly).

I did finish The City of Thieves, I enjoyed it but didn't find anything funny about it, even black humor. Rather I would say it was quietly gruesome. Will post a review later. Trying to catch up on all the posts and entering my books.

Yes cats do seem to know how to inconvenience you, probably encoded in the genes.

Jan 9, 2010, 1:41pm Top

I wonder whether the Slump Fairy can be found in Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book.

Jan 9, 2010, 3:55pm Top

You know I wondered about that ? Not the name of the book, because I didn't remember it, but I did see the book in the store once.

Edited: Jan 10, 2010, 1:27am Top

2. City of Thieves by David Benioff, Historical Fiction, Completed 1/8/10, Stars: 4

I picked this book up because of the recommendations of people on LT. A couple of days after I got it, one of my RL book groups decided to read it as a selection for January 2010.

The story uses the conceit of a young screenwriter going to Florida and pumping his grandfather for details of his most famous act: killing two Germans. The grandfather, Lev, was a teenager during WWII. He lived in Leningrad and was there during the Nazi siege.

The book is almost totally set in Leningrad as Lev tells of his life. His greatest adventure is meeting his best friend, the woman he will marry, and killing two Germans all while hunting for a dozen eggs under sentence of death by the NKVD (Soviet Secret Police).

It is a measure of how well Benioff did with the storytelling that I didn't hate the book. I usually find books that have characters looking back at events to be static and lifeless. You know everything worked out, otherwise the narrator wouldn't be around to tell the tale. In this book the setting and events are so interesting and odd that you forget its a re-telling and not just unfolding as you are reading. Benioff also doesn't go back to the future during the tale, so you aren't jerked out of the past world.

The characters that are the focus of the tale are believable, Lev a sheltered, bookish teenager (17) with big dreams wrapped in big fears. A charming scamp, Kolya who has great self-confidence, ideas, and appetites, but who is a brave decent man (22) who looks after the naive and frightened Lev, and others who cross his path and need his help. He has dreams and plans for the great Russian novel he is writing.

The story takes them through terrible scenes that they witness and sometimes participate in, and yet while impacting them, they never lose their humanity. It makes the tragedy at the end much worse.

The setting is war torn, frozen, starved, battered Leningrad; the danger, death and destruction is commonplace. Residents have to fear the Germans, their own police/military, and fellow citizens who will rob, kill, and even eat their own. The blurbs on the book talk about humor, but even black humor fails here. It is a quirky, odd story, but mostly I would call it quietly gruesome. The death and carnage are matter of fact and just part of the landscape, so it is quiet violence, not a shrieking look-at-me, look-at-me type of stylized Hollywood scene.

What you see is the strength of the human spirit as they struggle to survive freezing, violence and starvation, the horror of war that kills and destroys people, places, ideas and future possibilities. Benioff doesn't preach, its all very low-key.

It was a short, quick read that has a strong bittersweet ending. The writing was smooth if a bit pale at times. By the end of the story though, his quiet approach has built the story into a memorable experience.

Jan 10, 2010, 8:32am Top

Ficus- Great job on the review! You captured it perfectly! I loved that book!

Jan 10, 2010, 1:55pm Top

Thanks Mark. It was quite a story.

Jan 10, 2010, 4:25pm Top

3. Real Murders by Charlaine Harris, Mystery, Completed 1/9/10, Stars: 3.5

I read this book for a RL book group. I am not a big fan of cozies, they just seem too light and fluffy and this one was no different. I can deal with light and fluffy occasionally if there is something else going on: humor, oddness, local setting. This book had nothing extra for me.

I also found the writing to be unsophisticated, and the main character to be a limp noodle. That said, it did grow on me as the book progressed. I have 3 other books in the Aurora Teagarden series to read, but I probably won't keep reading after that.

The main character Aurora 'Roe' Teagarden is a short, nondescript person who is a librarian in a public library in a small southern town outside of Atlanta, Georgia. She is a bland and uninspiring character. She also manages her mother's condo complex where she lives. Roe belongs to a group called Real Murders. They are true crime buffs who meet each month and take turns presenting information about crimes, psychology, police work, etc...

Roe is supposed to present the 'Wallace' murder, at the next meeting. It turns out one of the members is murdered, and in the manner of the 'Wallace' murder. The story follows the detection of this killing, and the new ones that take place, or are attempted. Other people in town are killed and group members and others are implicated when murder weapons are found in their possession. The other murders are also copies of older crimes.

Besides the murders the story follows Roe's bland personal life, her working at the library and her interaction with her mother and the tenants she lives near.

Roe needs to find a man and we have to deal with her attempts to date 2 men that appear on her romantic radar. All very insipid.

If I had to describe this book it would be beige. There is little passion, color or excitement. There has to be a balance between over the top and not having a pulse.

What does save the book is towards the end where Roe's 6 year old half-brother makes an appearance and provokes real feeling from the characters.

There are several red herrings and the guilty are a bit of a surprise, though looking back there were subtle clues.

A quick read, that has blank pages between the chapters to pad out the page count.

Jan 10, 2010, 11:19pm Top

Ouch! I think your 3.5 sound generous. Thanks for saving me.

Jan 11, 2010, 2:10am Top

Heh ~ I tried one of Harris's cozies once, not sure whether it was one of the Teagarden or Shakespeare ones, and felt much the same as you about this one. In fact, I didn't finish it. I wasn't sure whether it was the fact that I don't care for cozies or the writing. Odd, though, how very much I enjoy Harris's Sookie Stackhouse and Harper Connelly novels. Same writer, different genres.

Jan 11, 2010, 4:30am Top

Interesting that Harris's books can be so different. I got the Sookie Stackhouse boxset for Sinterklaas, and even though I enjoy the books, I find they read like a TV show, action, sex but not a lot of deep thoughts behind it all... They are purely quick entertainment reads for me...

Jan 11, 2010, 1:00pm Top

Berly, It was going to be a 3.0 - everything seemed to be spelled correctly, until the end. It was better than the book, so I gave the whole thing a 3.5.

Jan 11, 2010, 1:53pm Top

Storee, I would have bailed except it was a RL book group read. The ending redeemed it somewhat. Cozies bug me too, though I can tolerate some.

I have the Sookie books but haven't read them. I have heard they were good, and I like vampires. Are the other books (the meh ones) earlier in her career ?

Perhaps she just needed to get some experience under her belt.

Jan 11, 2010, 1:56pm Top

Sara, I think the books have been made into a TV series here. I have never seen it.

Jan 11, 2010, 6:04pm Top

#49> We're talking the Sookie Stackhouse books? They've been (loosely, I believe) adapted as "True Blood". I wasn't a fan of the first book (I seem to be in the minority, however, so ignore me), but have heard very good things about the TV series. (It's only on cable in AU, so I have to go and source some DVDs if I want to see it...)

Jan 11, 2010, 6:40pm Top

#50> Yeah. The series is on premium cable (extra $) here HBO (?), which I don't have, so I have never seen it.

The TV series Blood Ties, based on the Tanya Huff books was fabulous, but got dropped. Broke my heart, so I have sworn off vampire series on TV.

Jan 11, 2010, 8:59pm Top

I think you can watch the first season of True Blood on the internet. My daughter showed me how but I forgot. I'll see if I can figure it out and let you know.

I don't know why I love two series written by Harris and loathe two other series by the same author. The only thing I can think of is that the two I loathe are cozies, and as far as I am concerned, cozies are the least palatable of any genre except maybe Harlequin romances. I can't help it ~ I guess I just like edgier stories.

Jan 12, 2010, 1:50am Top

I know about the show, and maybe my view of the books is prejudiced because of it... (knowing it is a TV show makes it read like a TV show...). I haven't seen it yet because, like with books that have been made into movies, I will read the books first...

Jan 12, 2010, 1:42pm Top

I got into the Sookie Stackhouse series when I started watching the TV show. In my opinion I like the books better. I have to say though you can't sit down and read them all at once. I had to break them up between my other reading. They are fun reads but I wouldn't classify them as great literature by any means.

Jan 12, 2010, 3:00pm Top

I read the books long before I saw the first episode of True Blood, and, although I enjoy the TV show, I have to agree that it's best to read the books first. Another anecdote in support of that: My daughter watched True Blood before reading any of the books, and she said she wishes she had read the books first because she kept seeing the TV show characters in her mind when reading the stories.

Jan 13, 2010, 8:24am Top

I have tried a couple things over the internet and am not real thrilled with the experience. Much too slow and jerky (and I don't have dial-up). But thanks for the suggestion.

I read Tanya Huff's Blood Ties series before seeing the TV series, but they did such a good job in casting that I think of the actors when I think about the characters in the book.

Jan 13, 2010, 11:01am Top

You can get True Blood on itunes if truly interested- I believe Netflix & Blockbuster are carrying them as well. I'd agree with meags222 that the books are definitely better than the show. The show isn't horrible, but it has a different feel.

Jan 15, 2010, 5:28am Top

Oh, I loved Blood Ties! I spotted it on a DVD promotion on Amazon UK ages ago and bought it on a whim - most people over here have never heard of it. I was so annoyed that it didn't get a second series - it's better than True Blood I think, not to mention more amusing. Unfortunately I didn't know it was based on a book series until I was half way through - on the plus side, with the show cancelled, now I can read them instead!

Jan 15, 2010, 7:24am Top

Ellie, they split the show into 2 series here, both on TV and on the DVD. The DVDs just came out here this fall and winter.

The casting was so good. It was a Canadian made show and it ran on Lifetime TV network in the USA, but they never really liked it. They gave up before the series was over and the last 2 episodes had to be watched on iTunes or Lifetime's web site.

Jan 15, 2010, 9:22am Top

Ah more True Blood fans! I caught the entrie "two" series on Virgin on demand last year and watched them all in one go, bliss :) I haven't tried the books though..

Jan 15, 2010, 8:48pm Top

Haven't seen the show yet, but I'm currently enjoying my first Sookie right now!

Jan 16, 2010, 3:17pm Top

4. Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman, SF, Completed 1/14/10, Stars: 3.0

This is a book that I read for a RL book group. I had already purchased the book many years before my group picked it, but hadn't gotten around to reading it. Haldeman is famous in SF circles for his book Forever War, which I also have, but have not read yet. This book is not really a sequel, but looks at some of the issues from Forever War in a different angle (according to the author).

In short, I found the book to be awkwardly written, confusing, lacking in focus, superficial, and a slog.

The book looks at Julian the POV character, an academic, scientist and part time soldier. They live in a world where nano-tech has made work-for-profit obsolete (at least in the developed world). His military service is as a mechanic, 10-15 days a month. He operates an empty robotic suit that is the 'soldier'. He thinks and feels as if he is in the Soldierboy when it is operating, but his body is safely locked away in cage and not in the field where the action takes place.

The other change in the world is that they have found a way to put jacks in people's heads. The jacks allow them to link with others and have a real meeting of the minds. The jack can allow sharing back and forth, or can be in only one direction. Not everyone can be jacked and many die or are disabled if the jack surgery doesn't work. The jacking is how Julian can remotely operate the solider. Besides remote operation he can link with others in his platoon, and those up the chain of command.

The people in the book are Julian's friends, his lover, and army comrades. So there are a lot of people and its hard to keep track. Specifically the author uses Julian and then a narrator. But rather than blending them as most authors do, the narrator is set off in a separate chapter. So you are reading as Julian, and then you are referring to Julian in the 3rd person, all in the same voice. Its very confusing, especially at the start. It makes you doubt who is who and it takes you out of the story. There are also issues with the descriptions and wording that jar and slow down the reading, because you have to go back.

The lack of focus is that the book seems to wander around with no real purpose. First its an action book with a focus on the war and fighting and stalking as a Soldierboy, then it focuses on Julian's love life and his relationship with his Girlfriend, then his social connections, then it becomes about science, then it winds up as a political, cultural thriller. The transitions aren't that good, you get bored by the time Haldeman moves on. And you ask yourself, what is this about, and when will it end ?

The superficiality comes in the big ideas Haldeman tosses around and doesn't really explore.

1. The 'war' is between the haves and the have-nots, the whites and the non-whites. Julian is actually a black man, and suffers racism - but he is the tool of a white society. The war is only casually mentioned, and never really explained as to what the conflict is about. Haldeman never explores why its OK for their society to work that way, why educated decent people support it. In many ways it echoes life today, though it was written in 1998.

2. Julian and his academic friends discover a giant science experiment will kill all life everywhere, essentially recreating the big bang. Outside reaction to the discovery when they try to warn others, is to either suppress the danger to weaponize it, or for religious zealots to use it to get closer to god by bringing about the end. The zealots have secretly infiltrated the government and the military.

Due to the possible extinction Julian and his friends decide that humans must be pacified so that not only will it not happen now, but that humans in the future won't come to the same brink and possibly make the wrong decision.

They hatch this secret plot to pacify the world using technology. No talk about laws, free will, or about how aggression when channeled probably fuels reproduction, creativity, exploration, and advancement of knowledge and culture. What will humans with no aggression be like, what is the impact on long term survival ?

Its all done in the name of peace so it must be OK, regardless of who gets trampled on. The political right and left end up meeting in the back if you go far enough. They both want to do the same things - suppress rights and control life in the name of safety or freedom.

The slog part is just a combination of the writing, and the fact that the story and characters didn't grab me. I keep looking at the page numbers to see how close to the end I was.

It isn't actually terrible, but it could have been done so much better and you just want it to end while reading.

Edited: Jan 16, 2010, 3:28pm Top

I am now going to try to finish Triplanetary and read my first chapter of The Histories .

I also thought I would mention something about The City of Thieves. It was a RL book group book. When we met, one of the members wondered why the book is focused on Lev ? He is the young man during the siege of Leningrad, and the grandfather that has been enticed to tell his tale by his grandson.

Someone pointed out the Lev's wife and the grandmother as an NKVD operative sent to organize partisans and as a sniper, would have had a much more interesting tale to tell about the war. Why wasn't the book about her, or her tale also included ?

So is it sexism, is it just too odd to try to tell a reality based story with a female who is a hero type ?

Even if the grandson didn't know about the grandmother's activities at the start, it came out in Lev's tale, so why didn't the grandson follow up ?

Inquiring minds want to know (at least in my book group) ? I totally missed that aspect myself.

Jan 17, 2010, 6:29pm Top

5. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, Fiction, Completed 1/16/10, Stars: 4.0

I read this book for a RL book group. I had already purchased it, but it was on Mt. TBR and didn't get read until now. I read The Kite Runner also for a RL book group, and didn't really enjoy it, there was no sense of place. I liked this book much better it was full of the place.

Like the first book it deals with the recent events in Afghanistan, from the 1970s to 2003. This book is set mostly in Afghanistan with a few chapters in Pakistan. The book focuses on 2 woman, of different ages and classes, though they both end up in the same place. It is a very sad read because the woman really have no voice or protection in their society, they have to rely on the men in their family. Even if the men are of goodwill everything is so precarious in a war zone and can change in an instant.

Mariam is poor, a bastard and outcast. Her rich father hides her away, and provides just subsistence level support. He won't be seen publicly with her, or let her meet her half-sisters and brothers. He has 3 wives and many legitimate children. She lives with her mother until she is 15, but when her mother commits suicide Mariam turns to her father for help. His 3 wives pressure him into marrying her off to a 40 year old widower they don't really know. He lives in Kabul, far from Herat, and is a shoemaker.

Mariam marries him and moves to Kabul. There she tries to make him happy, but she is unable to carry a pregnancy to term, having 7-8 miscarriages over the years. He resents her, and beats her. She is not allowed to go out without him, to be in the same room with his men friends even in their house and has to wear a full length burqa when he takes her out. Mariam becomes a dried up, broken, prisoner.

Laila is a beautiful young girl with loving parents living in Kabul. Her 2 older brothers leave to fight the Soviets and her mother goes into decline. Laila is not important to the mother, she is only a girl. Her mother becomes almost a patient that Laila has to take care of. Her father is a former teacher and is very progressive. He wants her to learn and become a modern woman.

Laila is fond of a boy down the street, Tariq. He was injured as a child by a Soviet land mine and has lost a leg. They are playmates as children, but their relationship changes as they grow. Laila lives a couple of doors down from Mariam.

In Kabul they live through the collapse of the King's government, the set up of a local communist government, the invasion of the Soviets, the fighting between the Soviets and the Mujahideen, the arrival of the war lords after the Soviets leave, the civil war between the war lords, the arrival of the Taliban, the removal of the Taliban.

Through it all the situation gets worse and worse for woman. They are not allowed to work, to go to school, they are not allowed to go to hospitals and they can't go anywhere without a male member of the family.

The treatment of women in society is based on religion. Oddly Rasheed, who is very strict with his women is not really religious. He is just a bully worried about his honor. He pretends to be publicly religious when the Taliban are in power. Mariam is honestly religious and she tries to follow the rules, not just because she is scared, but because she believes. Laila is a modern woman who is has no interest in religion or old fashioned rules.

Laila's world starts to unravel. Her 2 brothers are killed, Tariq and his family leave for Pakistan when the fighting in the streets and the danger gets too bad. He asks her to go with him as his wife, but she can't leave her father. Then a rocket destroys her house and kills her parents. She is injured and buried in rubble. Mariam's husband Rasheed sees an opportunity to end up with a young girl. He digs her out, takes her in, and makes Mariam take care of her. Mariam knows what he is up to and she resents Laila. Eventually Laila marries Rasheed and becomes his wife, with Mariam reduced to status of maid.

Eventually Laila and Mariam come to an understanding and even come to love and support each other. Laila has 2 children and Mariam loves them also. While the war outside the house goes on, there is also one inside. They try to please Rasheed, but he is angry and unpredictable. Their fortunes plummet during the fighting and money and food becomes tight. One of the children is a girl and Rasheed orders her to be given away to an orphanage. Mariam and Laila try to escape but are caught and returned to Rasheed.

Eventually the violence in the house comes to a head when an older Tariq returns looking for Laila. Tragedy ensues and the ending is bittersweet.

Throughout the story we see the disadvantage of the women and girls in their society, also how they endure and survive. At times they turn on each other, and sometimes its a man who helps them. Oddly its the Soviets who give them the best chance, because they required girls to be educated and women to be treated as citizens, not property.

We see the love the woman have for each other and their children, though sometimes it becomes a poisonous thing when it is stunted and turned in on itself.

The book ends on a positive note for the country in 2003, which I think does not match reality, at least in the news.

It was well written, it flowed quickly and I liked the characters and the story was interesting. It could also be called superficial, and doesn't really own the problems of women in a Muslim society. It just pushes the thought that peace will make it better. But that only means that the violence inside the home can go on uninterrupted by the violence outside.

Jan 18, 2010, 8:29am Top

Ficus- Excellent review! I loved the book! Thanks for the comments on City of Thieves! Some interesting points! Yes, the sniper story would have been great on it's own. Did you read The Cellist of Sarajevo? There is also a strong young woman sniper, in that as well!

Jan 18, 2010, 5:41pm Top

Mark, thanks. No I can't seem to find the Cellist book. My B&N says they have 1 in stock, but can't find it.

Jan 19, 2010, 6:35am Top

Don't let Forever Peace put you off Joe Haldeman's other books. In particular, Forever War. I loved Forever War but felt pretty much the same as you did about the mess that was Forever Peace. The only explanation I could think of for it winning both the Nebula and Hugo was that people wanted to honour the author for Forever War again!

Jan 19, 2010, 7:01am Top

Thanks iftyzaidi. I do have Forever War and will read it eventually. I also have Forever Free. I don't think I will buy anymore Haldeman until I have read those.

Jan 19, 2010, 8:44am Top

I liked Forever War okay, and it had some interesting ideas to explore, but I wasn't as thrilled with it as I had expected it to be given its place in the canon. I do think that it's interesting to read it as part of a conversation, along with things like Starship Troopers and recent things like Old Man's War.

Jan 19, 2010, 10:21am Top


I have read Starship Troopers and have Old Man's War. I read my first Scalzi last year, The Android's Dream and really enjoyed it.

I suspect that Haldeman's writing will be a difficulty to me, but I will still read the 2 books I have, eventually.

Forever Peace doesn't make me want to rush out and read more Haldeman.

Jan 19, 2010, 11:44am Top

> 70 Oh, you should definitely read Old Man's War - it's lovely!

One thing that I've enjoyed a lot about the sci fi folks on LT is learning more about the classic canon and how authors draw from one another, or respond to one another. It's so fascinating to see a genre do that.

Jan 19, 2010, 6:46pm Top


I just have to find the time to work Scalzi's series into my schedule, I have it. I have a lot of required reading for each month.

Not a big fan, in general, of older stuff (SF or not). I prefer modern writing, so the canon or classics don't interest me all that much. Heretic, I know.

Feb 27, 2010, 11:49am Top

Well I have been remiss in keeping this thread up. I have been reading and playing with my computers. Got a new-to-me Netbook (posting on it now) and setting up a home network.

I also have been visited by the slump fairy again. I keep putting down my current book. Its wordy but not bad.

Hope to get back on track. Thanks mckait for getting me started again.

Feb 27, 2010, 11:54am Top

6. A Bone to Pick by Charlaine Harris, Cozy Mystery, Completed 1/23/10, Stars: 3.5

This is the 2nd book in the Aurora Teagarden mystery series. It is a series that I started due to a RL book group (we pick a series, rather than specific books). I was not thrilled with it, and would not have read past the first book, except I bought the first 4 books.

I think the best way to describe the series is beige. Its just very bland, and way too lightweight for me. It is a cozy and I am not fond of them unless they have something else going on: oddness, humor, local setting.

I really don't like the main character,she is beige, wishy-washy and passive.

That said, even with all my criticism, the book is a smooth fast read.

The previous book introduced Aurora a poor, part time librarian in a small town near Atlanta. She is living in a condo complex her mother owns, and is also the manager. She is presented as much less successful than her mother in all phases of life.

In this book, a character introduced in the first book, Jane, an elderly spinster, barely connected to Aurora, dies. She leaves Aurora her house, its contents, and her fortune. Oh yes, and an old skull.

The mystery becomes who is the skull, how did it die, and where is the rest of the body? Aurora finds that Jane's house has been broken into and specific places ransacked. Holes have been dug in the lawn. Jane had been in the hospital and died there, so the house was supposedly empty for a while.

Aurora embarks on a clandestine investigation of Jane's neighbors. She fears Jane was involved in the killing so she decides not to contact the police. The mystery is rather limp, and highly tinged with suburban repressed sex and violence. It is a bit sad and tawdry, as she pokes into the lives and secrets of the neighbors.

The other part of the novel is Aurora trying to come to terms with her new wealth and the increased status she has. Now she can be independent of her mother. She is trying on and building a new persona.
Ho hum.

The ending seems like just pick a deranged neighbor.

Feb 27, 2010, 1:01pm Top

Hi Ficus, I just found your thread and have starred it. I always get great reading ideas from you.

Feb 27, 2010, 3:19pm Top

Hey Ficus! How are you? Missed seeing you around! Hope you are over your slump!

Feb 27, 2010, 6:21pm Top

Starred! Not caught up with the posts yet....
Thanks for the link FF :)

Feb 27, 2010, 6:28pm Top

btw, the dam finally broke on my reading funk.. hope your posting funk goes along with it.

Feb 27, 2010, 6:33pm Top

Thank you Delta, and welcome.

Thanks Mark, I have missed being around and am hopefully back. Missed LT and everyone.

Mckait from your lips to god's ears. I hope both my posting and reading slump will pass. Thanks for starring and welcome.

Edited: Feb 27, 2010, 10:35pm Top

7. Memoirs of the Warrior Kumagai by Donald Richie, Historical Fiction, Completed 1/28/10, Stars: 4.0

The cover and subject of this book intrigued me. It is historical fiction set in 12th century Japan.

The book is a retelling of The Heike Story a famous tale of the Genpei War which charts the battle for control of the country between the Taira and Minamoto clans. From their struggle, the formation of many aspects of Japanese culture was begun.

The POV of this book is a minor character in the drama, the warrior Kumagai. A minor noble from the provinces with no wealth, power or connections. He was born into one clan and then switched sides to the other.

Kumagai is famous for an encounter with the young handsome Atsumori on the field of battle, where he takes the young man's head. The event became famous because Atsumori was young and handsome and in the minds of the tellers of the tale, caused Kumagai hesitation and grief because he reminded Kumagai of his own similarly aged son. Eventually Kumagai gives up the warrior life and becomes a monk.

The story begins in Kumagai's old age where as a monk he is writing his memoirs. He has become disgusted with the modern (1204) interpretations of the events of the war and the various encounters, battles and people of the past.

In his reminiscences we are told of the events of the war, at the ground level. It is a very quiet and almost dry story. He does reflect on events and what he felt and saw, but you never are lost in the world he talks about. There is a good deal of telling as well as showing. The story is interesting but dry. The setting is well done, the characters are a bit shallow.

The other part of the story is the aged Kumagai dealing with the modern world that has passed him by. He hears the monks down the hall chanting the Heike epic, some are memorizing and some are creating it. The epic has little bearing on reality. The book switches back and forth from past to present.

Throughout the book we get a primer on the creation of history and the pressures that form the final story. How the ethos of the winner is used to cast the past in a light that will make the victory and their continuation seem inevitable. Truth and reality are buried as new customs, attitudes and traditions are inserted in the past. It was truly interesting and done well.

The monk Kumagai starts as an angry man who wants the truth to be told. As he writes his truth while listening to their lies, he slowly comes to understand the need at times to create a tale that will support unity and peace. By his death he seems to have become more philosophical about the changes.

It was an interesting book. It was written well, and it depicted an interesting time and discussed the pressures on the formation of history, from satisfying popular taste, to political aims of the current rulers.

Feb 27, 2010, 10:40pm Top

Sounds fantastic - onto the wishlist!

Feb 28, 2010, 12:22am Top

Good to see you posting again! I always look forward to your book reviews!

Feb 28, 2010, 9:54am Top

I am glad you are back too.. but you are a very dangerous poster for me.......
but then, one of many so it's okay.. I just close my eyes when I read.

Feb 28, 2010, 2:25pm Top

Hope you enjoy it wandering_star.

Thank you iftyzaidi and mckait. Neat trick reading with your eyes closed. Do you drive that way too :)

Edited: Apr 17, 2010, 10:59am Top

8. Three Bedrooms, One corpse by Charlaine Harris, Cozy Mystery, Completed 1/23/10, Stars: 3.5

Book 3 in the Aurora Teagarden cozy mystery series. I ended up reading these for a RL mystery group. Not fond of Cozies, and this series in particular. It is beige, bland and the main character is wishy-washy and mostly passive.

Aurora, was a part time librarian in a small town outside of Atlanta. In the last book she inherited a fortune and has since quit her job. Now she has nothing to do and has allowed her mother to talk her into selling real estate out of her mother's office. Since she doesn't have a license, she can only go along with her mother and observe. She doesn't enjoy it, but is unable to tell her mother.

This book opens with Aurora and her mother showing a local mansion to a high powered outsider, Martin Bartell, and his sister. Aurora develops the hots for him on the spot,despite the fact that Aurora is dating a local minister; her attraction seems to be reciprocated.

When they go into one of the bedrooms, they find the naked corpse of another Realtor, Tonia Lee Greenhouse, sitting up in the bed with thongs around her wrists. Tonia, though married, is known locally to be a bed-hopper.

The mystery of the book is which Realtor is the killer. Others die and another Realtor, a black man from Aurora's mother's office is the main suspect. Aurora feels the need to investigate on her own.

The other part of the book is Aurora dealing with her dating life. She works out a way to ditch the minister nicely, and goes after the real estate customer, Martin Bartell. He is wealthy, and powerful, an executive at the local branch of a large national company.

It is another quick easy read that is written well, but just not my cup of tea. The settings are OK, but the characters are pretty bland, and the story and how they interact just seems to be a waste of time.

Feb 28, 2010, 6:19pm Top

I only drive with my eyes closed sometimes... like reading.. just sometimes :)

Mar 17, 2010, 11:13pm Top

Kath--Just alternate eyes, then one will always be well rested! Hi Ficus. :)

Apr 13, 2010, 3:15pm Top

Ah, no wonder I never saw your thread around...I didn't even know there was a 100 book challenge thread!

Apr 13, 2010, 7:16pm Top

Berly, you are a genius!!!

Apr 16, 2010, 8:52am Top

Hi guys. Sorry to be absent. Will try to get back in gear with posting.

Welcome Ape. glad to see you drop in. Yes I hangout in 100 books. Did last year too.

Apr 16, 2010, 9:02am Top

Hi FicusFan. Good to see you again!

Apr 16, 2010, 6:12pm Top

yay! glad you're back :)

Apr 17, 2010, 12:23am Top

Looking forward to reading your reviews...

Apr 17, 2010, 3:13am Top

I've wondered where you were . . . .

Apr 17, 2010, 10:07am Top

Will get working on catching up this weekend.

iftyzaidi, I finally got the book you recommended: Things Unborn by Eugene Byrne. It is oop and only published in the UK, so I got a used copy from UK through Amazon Marketplace.

Looks interesting, but not sure when I will work it in.

Apr 17, 2010, 11:01am Top

9. The Julius House by Charlaine Harris, Cozy Mystery, Completed 1/23/10, Stars: 3.5

This is book 4 in the Aurora Teagarden cozy mystery series. If you read my reviews for the first 3 books, you know I am reading them for my RL book group, and that I am less than thrilled with them. That opinion is not improved with this book, the last one I read for my group, and the last one in the series I will ever read.

The writing is OK, but the whole thing is mostly bland and beige. The characters, especially Roe are wimpy and passive, and the mysteries are not all the good. Its usually a quick unsatisfying read.

This book started out with the possibility of being better, but couldn't sustain it.

Roe is getting married to her love-at-first-sight, new beau. He isn't a 'nice' bland man, so of course he must be evil. The book takes an interesting character and slowly trashes him with 'dark secrets' that come out. There are hints that he is not long for the series.

The Julius House of the title is a property that was owned by the Julius family. One day they all disappear: mother, father and teen-aged daughter. The mother-in-law in the apartment over the garage goes to the house and finds them all missing. They never return and there are no clues as to what happened. Twenty years down the road they are still a mystery.

Roe loves the house and she and newly married Martin move into it. Roe begins to decorate and her husband sends a married couple from his past to live in the garage apartment and help Roe out. He travels for business and the house is outside town so he doesn't want Roe to be alone. They are also there to 'help' with the remodel. That fiction is exposed when a drive by shooter attacks the house in Martin's absence and the couple, Shelby and Angel Youngblood are revealed as body guards. As they say, the plot thickens.

The story goes on about how Roe discovers nasty truths about her husband's past, and his present. Along the way she also goes on the hunt for the fate of the Julius family. Both the Julius family's fate and her husband's confession are rather preposterous.

Its as if Harris has only 2 settings in these books: bland and over the top. Well it is my last foray into Aurora's world and I am not sorry to see the last of her.

Now only 30 something to go in terms of catching up.

Apr 17, 2010, 12:51pm Top

10. Triplanetary by E.E. 'Doc' Smith, Space Opera SF, Completed 1/17/10, Stars: 3.0

This is the second book I started in 2010, but it took me so long to read, that it got lost in my review order. I skipped it and am just now reviewing it in April. No it didn't take me 4 months to read, more like 15 days.

This was actually a re-read, and it broke my heart, so I suspect I was also delaying the review on purpose. I was participating in the 75 Book Challenge Lensman Series read. I am way far behind in the reading, so I am not sure if I am still participating.

I wish I could say I loved it, or even that it was a good book, but I can't. The reason for heartbreak is that the books in this series are the first SF books I ever read, back when I was 10 or so. They were my dad's books and I loved them and the SF world they opened to me. I have re-read them before as a young adult, but this is the first time as a mature adult. This book does not hold up well.

Smith is one of the founders of Space Opera and his themes and tropes are used by most of the authors working today. He is rightfully a legend in SF, and in the New England SF community. Our 2 largest cons are called: Arisia and Boskone. One of my fondest moments was writing a note to his family in the memorial book the Boston SF Worldcon (2004) set up. I still well up thinking about it.

This book is supposed to be a prequel to the series. it is chronologically the 1st book, but it was written as the 5th book. What it does is give the background of the conflict between the Arisians and the Eddorians, and how it impacted earth and the growth of human civilization. The book is divided into 3 sections.

Smith uses ancient history (Atlantis, Rome) in the first section to show how we developed with the secret influences of the Eddoirans (bad) and the countermeasures of the Arisians (good).

The next section covers the world Wars, and adds the the use of technology into the mix.

The final section takes us into the future and space. As humans move into space they become aware of others already there. Like many early SF writers Smith thought we would develop technologically faster than we have in terms of becoming a space-faring civilization.

The Eddorians find humans who are willing to be their tools in exchange for unlimited wealth and power. These human tools wreak havoc to further the Eddoiran's goals. The forces for law, order and goodness also become aware of the Eddorians and end up getting help from the Arisians to battle the evil that is the result of the Eddorian's and their human tools.

The Eddorians are interested in power, domination and personal supremacy. Individuals find planets with life and work to subjugate and control them. There are few Eddorians (they killed each other off), and they nominally cooperate with each other to advance the goal of total domination.

The Arisians are those who developed through the stages of civilization and didn't wipe each other out. They learned to be better people with better societies. They watch over others who are developing, and upon discovering the Eddorians, secretly move to counter their evil influences.

Both the Arisians and Eddorians are immortal if not killed by accident or violence.

The book was first published in 1948, I think. Prior to that many of the 'chapters' were published as short stories in SF magazines (1934). That is one of the issues with the book. It is a group of short stories cobbled together with a little bit of connectivity. It jumps around and really lacks cohesion.

The other issue is the writing. It is lacking in feeling, drawn out, and often purple. Its almost like you are reading a purposefully bad parody of SF.

The final issue is the characters and the story. Characters are not developed, they are flat and often just representations of 'hero', 'villain', 'victim' , 'stooge' .... Given how old they are there are no minorities and women are not portrayed in a modern fashion, though they are often intelligent and involved.

The story is very simple tale of good versus evil. Some have called it a western in space.

That said with all the problems and issues, I still fondly remember the joy I had from them previously and love the series still. I just couldn't recommend the book to a new reader. And that too breaks my heart.

I was supposed to read the next one: First Lensman in February and I haven't been able to face it.

Apr 17, 2010, 1:10pm Top

>96 FicusFan: The writing is OK, but the whole thing is mostly bland and beige.


>97 FicusFan: This is a nostalgia re-read for many, but I for one can't see the point....

Edited: Apr 17, 2010, 1:54pm Top

11. Dead Eye: Pennies for the Ferryman by Jim Bernheimer, Urban Fantasy/Horror, Completed 1/30/10, Stars: 4.0

I saw this book on LT and it looked interesting. It was.

The story is set in the modern day, and seems to be another entry in the Urban Fantasy genre, but to me is more related to horror.

The main character is Mike Ross, a returning Iraqi disabled war vet who is poor. Not the standard hero type at all. He is trying to get well and get ahead in the world. Using his VA benefits to go to community college, while going through physical therapy. He is scarred, limps, has lost the hearing in one ear, and had one eye damaged. He can't see well and they are trying a cornea transplant. Because of his vision problems he can't drive, so he gets around on public transport.

Eventually he becomes aware that he is able to see ghosts with his damaged eye. The ghosts are people who have died and have unfinished business that keeps them from moving on. Sometimes they are sad, sometimes angry, and some are dangerous and try to impact the living world.

Mike starts to help people with ghost problems and even ghosts with people problems. If the ghosts can complete their task, then they can move on, and Mike can help them do that. He begins to eek a small living from his ability. He also ends up with a hot long distance girl friend.

Eventually Mike becomes aware of humans with magical powers who can control ghosts and move them into human bodies by forcing the living spirit out. The new being is called a Skinwalker and can act in the real world, but is tied to its creator.

There is someone who is using Civil War ghosts to release the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe's brother from the grave. Poe's brother is apparently powerful enough to threaten the world with his ability to move ghosts into human flesh, and Mike has to stop it.

I liked the writing, the story was interesting and funny, and the characters were fun to hang with. I really liked the low rent hero who had to ride the bus. It would be interesting to read more about Mike, though I would like him to stay low key and leave saving the world to someone else.

Edited: Apr 17, 2010, 3:25pm Top

12. The Cave Man by Xiaoda Xiao, World Fiction, Completed 1/31/10, Stars: 3.5

I saw this in the store and it looked good. It was, but not as wonderful as the book described itself. The early part was good and interesting, but then it sort of ran out of steam, as though it didn't know where to go or how to end.

It is fiction, but based on the true story of the author, and his life experience in communist China, under Mao. Perhaps that is the nub of the problem. His life story is not over, but the story needed an exit.

It is well written and interesting. The story of a young man, Ja Feng, in China who is arrested for joining a counterrevolutionary organization. All he did was meet with his fiance and her friends and play music. He lived with his mother and sister, and was arrested a week before his wedding.

While away in prison, his mother dies, his pregnant fiance marries another and eventually Mao also dies and the cultural revolution winds down.

In prison Ja feng is sent to solitary confinement. A small dark stone room set into the side of a mountain with an iron door that has a small opening. He has a hole in the floor for a toilet. The room is 3 feet by 4.5 feet and he can't stand, or stretch out, and can barely move.

His cell is one in a line and the inmates tap and communicate with each other. Food comes in once a day, and at time prisoners are taken out and shot. Ja Feng never knows what will happen to him. He is in solitary for 9 months. His friend and cell neighbor, Weiguo, is shot. Ja Feng promises to look after his wife and daughter.

Eventually Ja Feng is released from solitary, is hospitalized when his body can't deal with the abrupt change, and exonerated by a legal tribunal.

He goes home to live with his sister, and her husband and child. Ja Feng has lost the ability to blend into society. His solitary confinement has stripped him of his humanity. He tries to see his ex-fiance and his daughter, whom he has never met, and Weiguo's wife and daughter. He can't make any connections or live a normal life. He also knocks around in various jobs. But he has trouble with bosses and co-workers, so he keeps moving on. He ends up with highs and lows in his life, and even goes to the US, but returns. He eventually runs afoul of the law again and is charged with murder.

While Ja Feng's plight is sad, it is more a descriptive event than an emotional one. Eventually the book ends with whimper rather than a bang. The pacing is a bit uneven. The longer parts are in the beginning with the prison, and the wandering. The end part seems rushed.

Though he is treated horribly and loses everything repeatedly, his is also a rich, interesting life, which he is unable to enjoy.

Apr 17, 2010, 4:27pm Top

Remember that Triplanetary is a stitched together pastiche of some of Smith's earlier writing that wasn't originally part of the Lensman series at all. My suggestion is skip directly to Galactic Patrol, the original starting point of the series, and see how you get along with it. If you don't like it either, then drop the series reread, but a number of our first-timers for the group read have liked it much better than the first two. I'm hoping it will help you regain your sensawunda, but don't listen to the dialog!

Apr 18, 2010, 11:37am Top

> 98 Richard,

Its like visiting an old friend. sometimes it works out and sometimes either you or the friend have changed.

> 101 Ronin,

Sorry I can't skip, its not in my nature. But thanks for the good thought.

Apr 18, 2010, 12:57pm Top

13. The Rage Of Achilles by Terence Hawkins, Historical Fiction, Completed 1/31/10, Stars: 3.5

I saw this on LT and had such hopes for it.

Unfortunately, it is little more than a comic book caricature of how a TV-trained mind thinks the Battle of Troy was 'Really' fought. Yes, it was much more gritty and raw than most literary works present it, but there is a difference between injecting some reality and turning it into MTV history ala the Tudors or the movie Troy, albeit with more sex and violence.

But even those failures have some decent characters, this book has almost none. Everyone is pretty vile. Like a choir of egomaniacs trying to out do each other. The idea writ large that the people in the past were not very smart because they weren't as advanced as we are.

Besides robbing the reader of a decent story, it pops you out of the flow. They didn't just appear on the beach to fight (of course in this book they did), but in reality these characters had a life and relationships before Troy, something that would convince them to go to war together. That subtlety is entirely absent. Yes, there were factions within the Achaeans, but within each faction they are all slagging away at each other too. As though they couldn't get enough fighting with the Trojans.

Its the kind of book that you look at the page numbers and you want it to end. Its not bad enough to chuck, but you feel like you have been sucked into a bad parody.

Apr 18, 2010, 2:28pm Top

14. The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts by Louis de Bernieres, Magical Realism, Complete 2/6/10, Stars: 3.5

This was a book I read for a RL book group. It is set in an imaginary South American country and is done in the Magical Realism style.

It was well written and interesting. There is much that is funny and larger than life. The story is more about a small little village where most of the characters live, than any specific character. We meet many of the villagers, and learn about their pasts. Some are Indians, some are foreigners, some are Spanish. They are all connected and the story jumps around. In many ways the book is more like a series of short stories that are linked. There are also a lot of characters to keep track of.

Ostensibly, the story is about the fight between two rich people over the use of a river that runs through the village and other properties. Dona Constanza wants to use it to fill her pool, and Don Emmanuel, a champion of the local poor, who want it to irrigate their crops.

As this conflict plays out, there are others who are drawn in, the government and the army. The politicians are afraid of reformers and being thrown out of office. They see communists and socialists everywhere and send the army to exterminate them. The army more interested in keeping their new weapons coming, and looking good, kill randomly.

All the parties get mixed together, and the story of the country is made up of the mosaics of small lives.

Absurdity tinges all. The good guys are too perfect, and the bad ones too evil, but its still a good read.

I am reminded that last year, this same book group read a Middle Eastern book with the same Magical Realism formula and most just couldn't finish it. The Last of the Angels by Fadhil al-Azzawi

It was very similar with a neighborhood being the focus. The book and translation were written well too. But it was so outside our realm of familiarity that it just didn't click.

I guess Spanish culture, language and Catholic religion is just easier to deal with than Iraqi culture, language and Islamic religion. Sad but true.

Apr 19, 2010, 2:24am Top

@95> Hope you enjoy Things Unborn!

Also, I read E. E. Smith's Galactic Patrol a few years ago, and was suitably unimpressed. It just did not work for me, being too dated in just about every way. Of course, I had never read anything by him when I was a child, so I didn't have the nostalgia factor working in favour of the book.

Apr 21, 2010, 7:00pm Top

Interesting list!

Apr 24, 2010, 12:10pm Top

15. The Girl in the Glass by Jeffrey Ford, Historical Mystery, Completed 2/14/10, Stars: 4.5

I read this book for a RL book group. It is a quiet little story that is packed full of interesting tidbits. It is a mystery, historical fiction, science fiction, adventure and history with a bit of supernatural, or maybe a con ?

It is a mystery story set in The Depression on Long Island. The focus of the story is a small band of spiritualists. Con men who prey on the bereaved wealthy who are interested in the spirit world. Although they could be despicable characters, they are not. Yet they don't flinch from actually fleecing their marks.

The leader of the band is the gruff, yet cultured butterfly aficionado Thomas Schell. He has taken in a young illegal Mexican immigrant orphan, Diego. Thomas has been training Diego to be an Indian (Asian) Swami, to use his dark skin to hide Diego from the notice of the authorities. Times are tough and feeling is running high against the Mexicans who are seen to be taking American jobs. Anyone seeming to be Mexican is deported. Hmmm.

Thomas has connections in the carny/circus/freak shows of NYC and he uses them to help train Diego. Thomas also tries to educate him and raise him as a son. He doesn't shelter Diego, but actually uses him in his cons.

One night during a performance, Thomas sees the reflection of a young, small girl in the window glass. He is shaken because she is not part of his show/con. There is a story Thomas reads later in the paper about the young daughter of a rich family that has gone missing. It is a family that has used the services of Thomas' crew for a death in the family.

Thomas and his crew go to the family, find the image he saw is the daughter, and offer to help in the search. There is already another 'medium' there. They seem to work together. The woman is not what she seems, even for a con artist.

The story develops with their search for the girl, and for those who are responsible. It leads to fact based American Nazi sympathizers of the time, those who support the idea of racial purity, eugenics experiments and a rousing rescue.

Thomas then lets on that he made up the sighting of the girl in the glass .... or did he ?

The story is told from Diego's POV as he lives, grows, and participates in Thomas' cons and in the odd family life he has constructed. Diego reaches a point where he has to make a decision about the course of his life. The story also has a satisfying follow up years later to see the consequences of his decision, and ends with a twist.

The writing was very good, the characters and the setting were done well. It was interesting and had good emotional resonance. It was also set during a time that I have not spent much time reading about, so I enjoyed the novelty. Very good read.

Apr 24, 2010, 12:11pm Top

Thanks mckait.

Edited: Apr 24, 2010, 1:00pm Top

Ah, Ficus ~ I haven't been to visit for awhile, and I'm glad I stopped by today. Your reviews can always make me smile, sometimes even laugh! Also, of course, another couple of books are now on my TBR list.

I know what you mean about disappointing rereads from our youths. I've reread things that I loved when younger that I found pretty awful now (Stranger in a Strange Land comes to mind), though it's wonderful when the reread lives up to expectation (Dune, for one).

I read the Lensmen series when I was in my 20s and enjoyed them for the worlds they opened up, but I don't have any desire to reread them. The writing, as I remember it, wasn't very good, and my tastes have moved on even in in the fantastic scifi genre.

ETA a closing parenthesis and one last thought on rereads. :)

Apr 25, 2010, 1:57pm Top

16. Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Autobiography, Completed 2/16/10, Stars: 5.0

I read this book for a RL book group. It was well written and fascinating autobiography.

This is the life story(so far)of Ayaan Hirsi. She is from Somalia originally, though she travels much as a child (Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Kenya) and as an adult (Europe, USA).

Ayaan is the daughter of a strict Muslim family. She is burdened with many things as a child: the need to learn her family's heritage, the need to be a perfect daughter and a whipping post for the frustrations of the women, a third world existence, sudden poverty, fractured family, and lack of opportunity determined by her gender.

Her family was secure until her father was imprisoned by the government. He had a falling out with the dictator and Ayaan's world became filled with danger, uncertainty, and lack of food. She seems to have learned early that not everything she was told by her mother or grandmother was true. That set her on the path to questioning and thinking for herself. Quite dangerous traits given her setting.

The surprising thing was that although she lived under a male dominated society and religion, where women were property, it is the other women who were the most dangerous. As a child her mother and father did not want her to be circumcised, where the female genitals are hacked out, and then everything is sewn shut. During the family upheaval of her father's imprisonment, it is the grandmother who has it done to Ayaan. She does it to insure her granddaughter's purity and the family good name.

Throughout her time with her grandmother and mother, Ayaan is beaten, reviled and generally abused. Often in the name of learning to be proper, it is how the older women work out their personal demons and difficulties of trying to live under the cultural and religious limitations. At one point Ayaan's father, free at last, leaves the family and marries another woman and starts a second family. Ayaan bears the brunt of her mother's anger.

As a teen and a young adult, Ayaan can often do things she wants, as long as her mother thinks she is doing something else. Ayaan learns deception to keep her family happy and still meet her needs. She also tries to find a place in the world that works for her. She flirts with becoming strictly religious and with becoming a Nationalist. She has an illicit platonic romance with a non-Islamic young man. Then she has an secret marriage, arranged by an older female distant relative to a wayward son. He leaves her and she conceals the event from her immediate family. Her father, unaware of the previous marriage arranges for her to marry the son of a friend.

Ayaan is not interested in an arranged marriage and an arranged life. The man is from Canada and she would get to live in a modern world, but by archaic rules. It is this event that compels her to escape. She marries him, but on a trip to see him in Canada, she stops in Germany to see a relative. While there she gets on a train to the Netherlands and asks for asylum. The Netherlands have a very liberal policy for accepting refugees.

She is given a place to live, food, and provisional status while her case is investigated. She lies to the Dutch about her circumstances, and she changes her name to hide from her family. She learns their language and the rules of the game for asylum seekers. Much less complicated than the ones she had to play to survive with her family. Ayaan is granted asylum and then works with other refugees as a translator for the refugee center.

Ayaan builds a life for herself with friends and lovers. She struggles with education, though she is told she is not really suitable for college. She eventually comes to terms with her family and her groom. It is a great disgrace for her family that she has run off. They shun her for a while. She tries to help her sister who is not as good at finding a way to live as Ayaan has been. It eventually ends badly with her sister, who is not as strong as Ayaan.

Ayaan speaks publicly against the accommodation the Dutch have made with Islam. Many immigrants are coming into the country with the religion, and the Dutch allow them to run their own affairs with Islamic schools. Their sub-culture allows the brutality and repression of women, and their schools teach it as a proper way to live. Ayaan is often called out as an interpreter to deal with the violence, death and chaos of their lives. They are living by archaic rules with a cover of modernity in a modern society. They say what the Dutch want to hear, but then speak against the Dutch and their open society. Ayaan believes that the Dutch multi-cultural acceptance is allowing repression to flourish and damage lives.

Eventually Ayaan is elected to public office. She also receives death threats from Islamics. As part of her election she told that she had lied to receive asylum. After her election she is eventually forced to resign, and her citizenship is stripped from her. Her friend and filmmaker Theo van Gogh is murdered in the street by a Muslim who was enraged by a film he made with Ayaan about the repression of women.

Ayaan flees to the US where she is still living (at the time the book was published). She had her Dutch citizenship re-instated, but it is not safe for her to live there.

The book was well written and fascinating. Her life and travels are so absorbing that the book flies by. She seems to be a very strong woman who is trying to do what she thinks is right. She went from being a strong believer in Islam and god to someone who comes to see it as human manufactured cant to control and manipulate others. A power trip for those in charge. Her change is not just someone preaching her own new beliefs, but seen through the prism of her life, suffering and personal human experience.

A great read.

Apr 25, 2010, 2:02pm Top

Thank you Storee. I too loved Stranger in a Strange Land, but am not sure I would feel the same today. Did read it as a young adult, but now who knows.

I know my tastes have changed, because out of nowhere I suddenly enjoy some Woody Allen movies ! That makes me want to lie down until the feeling passes.

Apr 25, 2010, 2:21pm Top


I have started Things Unborn. So far it is good and fun (Edward II handcuffed to a radiator in the Bow Street Police Station).

Apr 26, 2010, 7:11am Top

I have read and enjoyed a couple of books by Jeffrey Ford now (including The Physiognomy) but I have yet to try The Girl in the Glass, must pick it up!

And its nice to see someone enjoying Things Unborn! I wish he would write a few more books, oh well.

Apr 26, 2010, 8:44am Top


Thanks for stopping by. Hope you enjoy the Ford book.

I did enjoy Things Unborn very much. I will look into his other books.

May 2, 2010, 12:44pm Top

17. The Women of Whitechapel and Jack the Ripper by Paul West, Psychological Historical Fiction, Completed 2/28/10, Stars: 3.0

I was very disappointed with this book. It is historical fiction, with a psychological bent, having to do with the murders of Jack the Ripper (JTR). I am interested JTR books, and this seemed to have some depth and was not just a sensationalistic treatment.

This was also my first Paul West book, so perhaps its how he writes. The problem is that is was very slow and rather repetitive and boring. I kept looking at the page numbers hoping for it to end.

The focus of the story is an artist, Walter Sickert. He flits with respectability, but loves to wallow in the dregs of lower class London. Through his art and his slumming he meets/knows/entraps the women who are murdered.

West was obviously more interested in the question of what is art, how does making art impact the artist, and what does the artist owe to mundane life. These themes are the repetitive part and frankly Walter bored me. The book also looks at someone who gets sucked into something bad, due to satisfying an illicit itch, and how that association leads to further degradation and even participation. In for a penny, in for a pound; the road to hell is paved with good intentions - though to be clear Walter was more the type to clothe his titillation as 'good intentions'.

The book also looks at the women and the horrible lives they are trying to survive in the East End of London. The appalling condition of the poor, and the lack of opportunity for a safe decent life. The twin oppression of poverty and sexism made them invisible and unimportant, until they were sliced open, publicly. The study of the women and their context in poor London was very worthwhile.

Interestingly enough West's premise of who the Ripper was, and how and why it happened is not something West made up. It is one of the Ripper theories from the 70s, having to do with the Royal Conspiracy Theory. It seems not to be accepted as the answer but there are several others who have also championed it.

If there had been less Walter, and a good bit of cutting it would have been a much better book, at least for me.

I ended up reading only 4 books in February because this one sucked the time and life out of me.

Edited: May 2, 2010, 5:02pm Top

18. In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin, Short Stories - World Fiction, Completed 3/5/10, Stars: 4.5

This was a wonderful book. It is a series of related stories set in modern Pakistan. I am not a big fan of short stories, so I wasn't expecting wonderful.

The writing is smooth and it flows. The stories are interesting and warm, though often filled with tragedy and double-dealing. They treat the inhabitants with respect, even when bad things happen.

The connection among all the stories is the character and family of K.K.Harouni. He is very rich and the head of an established family with a history. The focus of the stories is how Pakistani society is changing. How both the rich and the poor try to adhere to the old forms, but that often the traditions have little power left to protect them. Some are shown to be advancing with the changes, but it is a double-edged sword. For any advance there is also a loss.

The focus of some of the stories are the poor servants and labors around his city home, his farm, and his business. We see the lives that they have built in the shadow of Harouni's influence, even if its mostly an absence of the real person. The stories look at the relationships they develop given their social standing (ala Harouni) and their personal preferences and needs.

The rest of the stories are about his relatives and how they are adapting to the social changes and how they are defining their lives on a global level, not just a Pakastani one. There are new adventures, that often seem shallow, and the tug of old familiar settings and actions that no longer satisfy, though the ache remains.

The stories move through time and have some of the inevitable situations that impact everyone, life, birth, death , marriage, divorce. Eventually an era passes.

I really enjoyed the stories and while I would have loved more for some characters, I don't feel cheated because the story ended.

I will be interested to read more by this author.

May 2, 2010, 2:17pm Top

19. White Sky, Black Ice by Stan Jones, Mystery, Completed 3/6/10, Stars: 4.5

I read this book for a RL book group. It is the start of the Nathan Active mystery series. It is set in northern, rural Alaska and is about the lives of the native people. It is the setting and the characters and the native lore that makes it such a good read.

The writing is good, but very simple, and not as meaty as it could be. I think this may be his first book.

Nathan is the POV character and an Inupiat. He is an Alaskan State Trooper and has been stationed in the village of Chukchi. He was born there, but given to white teachers to raise. They moved to the city of Anchorage, were he grew up. Now returned to Chuckchi, Nathan is ignorant of his language, culture and the outdoor craft needed to survive in a harsh wilderness. Nathan's ignorance means the natives treat him like a half-breed, and allows the author to 'explain' the native lore for him, and the reading audience.

Nathan struggles with his conflicted feelings for his birth mother, his feeling of loss for the easy good life in the city, and his hunger to learn about his culture and to belong. He alternates between wanting to return to Anchorage as soon as possible, and to take up with an Inupiat woman who moves him (meaning he will need to stay in Chukchi).

The mystery in this book is about two odd suicides that Nathan thinks may be murders. He is walking a fine line professionally due to the different jurisdictions between the state and local police, and politics in the state capitol. It becomes even more dangerous when an outside 'white' business becomes involved, and the welfare of the tribe which depends on this business.

Great setting and interesting characters, with lots of good info and a glossary about the natives. I am reading the rest of the series, on my own.

May 2, 2010, 5:08pm Top

20. The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross, SF, Completed 3/12/10, Stars 3.0

I read this book for a RL book group. I already had it on hand, but had not read it until it was selected by the group. It is the start of The Laundry series.

It is a mix of science fiction/fantasy and thriller/mystery with a dash of cynical humor and romance thrown in. I have read other books by Charles Stross and enjoyed them. This one, not so much.

The premise is that the real world and the horror world both exist. The use of technology and magic in combination, open portals for nasty beasties and some of their world to invade ours. There is a secret service in the UK called The Laundry and its their job to prevent and fight incursions.

They prevent the problems by monitoring those who work in science and computers to keep them from innocently (or not) enacting or creating a dangerous formula that will open the other worlds. In fact many of the employees of The Laundry are those who have been co-opted into employment because they are too creative and dangerous to leave on their own.

The POV character, Bob Howard was recruited that way. He is required to work in the bureaucracy where they have extreme costing, time keeping, and rules and superiors who will hang you for a lost paper clip.

Bob also has other assignments were he is playing low-rent James Bond trying to save the world. He breaks in places and erases dangerous computer files, and he follows people to see what they are doing and who they are meeting.

He has to juggle the field work and the office work, and try to keep his sanity. He has strange room mates and an odd on-again, off-again girlfriend, all part of The Laundry. During his field work, which he screws up, he meets a woman and falls for her.

The story is of his juggling the different Laundry groups, his life and screw ups, and trying to save the world.

The problem is he tries too hard. He has to be funny all the time, which is tiresome, and he has to explain every little piece of technology, and magic. Its non-stop techno babble. Just tiresome and boring. There are also cutesy puns and pop culture references.

The horror they end up fighting is rather a let down, and there is very little that is interesting in the story. The book started life as a short story and has just been stretched. There is also an odd mini-story tacked onto the end.

At the end of the book is a glossary of all the acronyms he uses, and it should have been at the front. Oddly the book is supposed to also be 'horror', but Stross steps on it in an attempt to ramp it up. He first uses the Nazis, which is rather a tired trope.

The writing is OK, if a bit jumpy and full of acronyms and made up jargon.

I couldn't wait for it to be over, and though I have book 2, and may eventually read it, I won't go any further.

I am now about half way through my books read so far for 2010. Yeah !

May 3, 2010, 1:00am Top

@118> Interesting review of The Atrocity Archives. I haven't yet read anything by Stross, but this sounded like it had the right ingredients to be a fun read (British govt. bureaucracy vs. Lovecraftian horror), so its disappointing to hear that it didn't really work.

May 3, 2010, 9:04am Top

Well to be honest, it might just be me. The others in the group mostly liked it.

The problem for me was the main character explained everything he did (magic/tech). Imagine a regular person explaining how a light switch worked every time he turned on the light.

The other thing is we had a computer guy at work who did that. Sooo boring, eyes glazing over.

May 3, 2010, 10:29am Top

My sister and I had the same reaction to The Atrocity Archives and its sequel that you did, so it isn't just you. We also thought it had all the ingredients to be lots of fun, and that it didn't deliver. It was a disappointment because I had heard a lot of good things about Stross' writing. I'm still going to try some of his straight science fiction, which has a good rep.

May 4, 2010, 10:34pm Top

Infidel sounds like a must read, although a harsh dose of reality.

May 30, 2010, 6:35pm Top

Somebody is falling behind again... :)
*nudge nudge*

May 30, 2010, 6:53pm Top

Hi Ape,

Yes, I have fallen waaaay behind again. I have been reading and forgetting to post here.

I am just now catching up on book data entry, and will try to start back up with posting.

May 31, 2010, 3:03pm Top

Don't let us down Ficus. We are rooting for more frequent postings! (I do realize that I am the kettle here...)

Jun 7, 2010, 8:39pm Top

Berly, that's because it's always easier to go and chat on someone else's thread than to post on your own. (If you're the kettle, I must be the pot. ;)

Jun 7, 2010, 10:10pm Top

I always knew you were quick!! LOL

Jun 8, 2010, 3:34pm Top

There needs to be an LT Pot & Kettle Society for the Review-Posting Challenged.

Jun 8, 2010, 10:17pm Top

Fine. I believe I would be an admirable Pot and Kettle society member, but it cannot involve any thread-maintenance, because...well, that's self-evident!

Jun 8, 2010, 11:02pm Top

Skulking in .... to say thanks for stopping by and bringing my sad thread to life.

I am a kettle-pot and have yet to resume my posting duties. I keep aiming for the horizon, but it keeps moving further away.

Jun 9, 2010, 9:57am Top

Horizons do that, Ficus. Aim for a hill--they're less mobile. ;-)

Jun 9, 2010, 10:09am Top

glad to see you whenever you pop in !

Jun 9, 2010, 10:11am Top

Good morning Ficus! Your thread just needs a little TLC, a little "watering" and encouragement and we are here to help you. : ) If you do not want to post here, come say Hi on mine! LOL

Edited: Jun 20, 2010, 12:36pm Top

21. What is the What by Dave Eggers, World Fiction, Completed 3/14/10, Stars: 4.0

I read this book for a RL book group. It was also the first book by Dave Eggers that I have read. He seems to be controversial.

I enjoyed the book, I thought the writing was good, and it flowed smoothly and quickly. There was a combination of the personal and a summary of events, which was needed to get everything in. It was such a large story with political and social events and the impact on the lives of the people. The balance was good between the story of Deng and what was going on around him, that ultimately impacted him.

The story was fiction but based on the true story of one of the Sudanese Lost Boys, Valantino Achak Deng. Fiction was used since Deng was so young when much of the story takes place and there is no way to document or reproduce exactly everything that a non-fiction work needs.

The story is of life in a country beset by civil war, violence and greed. It is the earlier conflict between the North (Islamic) and South (Animist) of Sudan, prior to Darfur.

Deng was a young child in the poorer South. The son of a family who was relatively well off. His father owned several stores. His world was destroyed when raiders came to his village, looted the store and forced the father and some of the multiple wives and children of the family to flee to another town. Unfortunately the second town was not safe for the father. There was some question if he supported the government or the local freedom fighters.

Moving back to his village the situation gets worse and ends in a raid where everyone who can be found is killed. Deng escapes and wanders alone in the wilderness.

The story is of his wandering, the people he meets, those who save his life and the different refugee camps he goes into and out of.

Eventually he is approved for a program that is resettling refugees in the USA. He is scheduled to fly to the US on 9/11/01. After the delay he ends up in Atlanta. Life is difficult for the refugees in a strange land. They are trying to be Sudanese in a different culture and time period (they have very little technology in Sudan).

The story starts with Deng being robbed by home invaders in Atlanta, and the past is woven in as memories. The braided story is done very well, I never felt lost or confused. The past parts of the story were so interesting it never felt lifeless.

The events are heartbreaking, but it never felt like wallowing in death and destruction.

I didn't care for the hinting about his girlfriend, it was obvious something wasn't good. I also thought the Lost Boys seemed to be rather passive as a group. Waiting for something to happen rather than making it happen. And I really want to know why the resettlement program didn't take as many girls as boys. They just reinforced the Sudanese beliefs.

Still it was a very good read, and brings light on the horrors of war, and what 'collateral damage' really entails.

There were elections this year to allow the people of the South to voice their opinion, and Deng has a foundation to help educate the young in his home village. Hopefully good things will come of this tragedy.

Jun 20, 2010, 1:46pm Top

22. Unquiet Bones by Melvin Starr, Historical Mystery, Completed: 3/14/10, Stars: 4.0

This is book 1 in the Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon series. It is set in 1360s England. It was an unexpected read for me. I won the 2nd book in the series in the LT Early Reviewer program. I thought while I was waiting for book 2 to arrive I would read book 1. I loved it.

I should warn that the publisher is a religious one, and the story has religion woven into it. Normally I would pass, except it fits perfectly with the time period. Religion was the major influence on their lives at the time. It is done very gently and lightly in the book.

The POV character, Hugh de Singleton, is a believer and he tries to make sense and even question the prayers or beliefs that arise in certain situations. He wants to do the right thing, but is never intolerant or judgmental of others. The days and nights are also divided by the church's prayer times (though not the prayers themselves), which is interesting. And gives people an excuse to be up at odd hours.

The writing is very simple and straightforward, to match Hugh who is writing about events in his journal. He is an extra son of country gentry and needs to make his own way in the world. He went to school at Oxford and became a surgeon (not doctor, barber or leech).

As the book opens he is trying to practice his trade in Oxford as a new graduate, with few clients. He helps the Lord of Brampton who is injured in the street. The Lord likes him and asks him to come to the seat of Brampton and take up the health of the castle and village. Hugh agrees.

Once there, a dead woman is found in the waste pit and the Lord asks Hugh to investigate. The Lord likes how Hugh thinks ( he tries modern methods for cures) and Hugh has no ties to the people in the village - no bias.

The story follows Hugh as he takes care of the villagers, searches for the dead girl's identity and family, and tries to find out who killed her.

Besides making a living, solving mysteries and wrestling with his demons, Hugh is also in search of a wife.

The real strength of the book is in its depiction of medieval life and times. I just loved it. The characters are interesting, the plot had a real twist and the setting was fabulous. The author includes a glossary of terms for those who aren't familiar with the words used.

The author has John Wyclif (Lollards) make an appearance, and I can't wait to see who else shows up. The time period in England is so full of interesting people and events I am hopeful for more cameos.

Jun 20, 2010, 2:06pm Top

>135 FicusFan: Hmmm...it sounds like a maybe, but you're not free with your stars and this one merits four...hmmm

Jun 20, 2010, 2:25pm Top

> 136 I also read and loved book 2 (review coming) and can't wait for book 3. But there are issues that might annoy: simplicity, and the religion (those who want no mention at all).

Maybe a library book to test read ?

Edited: Jun 20, 2010, 2:28pm Top

23. Unperfect Souls by Mark del Franco, Urban Fantasy, Completed 3/17/10, Stars: 4.5

This is book 4 in the Connor Grey series. it is urban fantasy set in Boston. I loved it, and each book seems to get better.

The POV is Connor Grey a disabled Druid. In this universe part of fantasy ended up merging with our modern world. No one knows why or how. The 2 major groups are the German Fae and the Celtic Fae. They fight and politic against each other, often with humans caught in the middle.

Connor was attacked by a German fae terrorist who used a black mass to strangle his magic. No one could remove or defuse the mass. With the loss of his ability to use his magic, he became disabled. The Guild downgraded him from big shot investigator to a medical disability.

Gone are his power, perks, wealth, importance, social entre and job. Connor now lives in the Weird - a magical slum in Boston and scrounges jobs to get by. He helps the Boston PD with magical crimes that are too small for the the Guild.

This story takes up the Taint, which is left over from the explosion of a spell in Book 3. The Taint hangs over Boston and occludes the magic of others. The Dead who crossed over in the last book are also being murdered. Once they are decapitated they can no longer return as they do from most other types of murder. The Dead are disliked by both the humans and the other magical beings.

Connor is trying to solve the problem of his disability, the murders of the Dead, and keep from being swallowed by both the German and Celt power structures.

He discovered that he was a snooty jackass before his disability. Now as a little person he realizes how he treated those in his shoes when he had power. Its an interesting personal journey he makes over the 4 books, and he is still evolving.

Connor still has magical friends and has made some human friends. In this book everything collides as the mystery leads to the halls of power, and changes the life of a human friend forever.

Great writing, world building, characters and stories. Complex stories. There is also a dollop of humor.

Can't wait for the next book.

Edited: Jun 20, 2010, 3:30pm Top

24. Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith, Mystery, Completed: 3/20/10, Stars: 4.0

I read this book because of the hype on LT. People were so excited about it. I also like a good thriller/mystery and had enjoyed the Gorky Park series by Martin Cruz Smith. I have to say it was a good book, but for me it was also a major disappointment.

From the blurb and the way people talked about the book I thought it was a thriller about a serial killer in Stalin's Soviet Union (SU) where crime was not allowed to exist. Instead it was mostly about the horror of Stalin's Soviet Union, and the murders and their detection seemed to be a minor part of the book. Not what I was expecting: Soviet Union = bad. Yeah, yeah, very unhappy reader.

The writing was good, and the setting seemed to match what we in the West had heard of the SU. The characters didn't really grab me, which is also perhaps part of the problem. The story was not told how I expected, and its twist was obvious for most of the book.

The subtext was interesting in that Leo Demidov the POV was an ardent Communist who supported Stalin and the torture, and even killing of innocents in the name of protecting the state. He had been a killer in the army during the war, and now he has become a state policeman, involved in more killing.

The problem for him is when the child of a co-worker is murdered and the state decides its didn't happen - it was an accident. It makes him start to question their actions in the face of innocent suffering and grief.

Because he is no longer in lock-step with the state's beliefs (it shows, though Leo tries to hide it). They attempt to bring him back by involving him in torture, and making him choose to sacrifice either his wife's life, or the ease of life for his aged parents.

Leo makes the wrong choice and is excoriated. He eventually must flee and he tries to find trustworthy people to hide with, and officials to help him investigate the murders. He finds that many children have been killed and its still going on because the authorities refuse to acknowledge it.

There is much sadness and violence and some who are innocent are killed. A major change happens in the S.U. and suddenly Leo is no longer wanted. The obvious killer is dealt with and Leo finds a place and tries to make amends.

I am going to read book 2, and hopefully without any preconceived notions, I will enjoy it more than book 1.

Jun 20, 2010, 3:42pm Top

thanks for the Connor Grey review.. I'll definitely be adding those books to my list!

Jun 20, 2010, 3:53pm Top

>137 FicusFan: Yes, a library borrow is just the ticket, and I think our system has it. I've put in my request.

>138 FicusFan: Somewhere around here I have Unshapely Things, a gift from an old friend in Texas. Maybe these are worth reading...? Your review is nudging me that direction.

Jun 20, 2010, 3:59pm Top

> 140, 141 The Connor Grey series starts out slow. Book 1 was just OK for me. But book 2 was great as was book 3.

Hope you enjoy.

Jun 20, 2010, 4:17pm Top

25. A Corpse at St. Andrew's Chapel by Melvin Starr, Historical Mystery, Completed:3/21/10, Stars: 4.0

I got this book from the LT ER program. It is the second in the Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon series. I didn't have book 1 Unquiet Bones, so I ordered it, and read it before this one.

I loved both of them. The writing is very simple and straightforward, so those who enjoy fancy or stylistic prose may be put off. It is a very quick read, but not fluffy, and very satisfying. Both books are also religious. In fact the publisher produces Christian fiction. I am not fond of the genre usually, but its not an issue with these books. They are set in the 14th century in a small English hamlet.

If you are knowledgeable at all about the time period the strong religious theme fits right in with the time, place and people. It is also not preachy, just part of their lives, especially the different devotions during the day, and as a reality check (in their world), about what they were doing and hoping for - are they doing the right thing. Of course, not everyone believes or follows the rules, but the main characters does both.

The POV is Hugh de Singleton an extra son (4th) of some minor gentry. He has to fend for himself in the world and through a series of events becomes interested in Surgery while at College. Surgery is not the same practice of medicine as leech, barber or doctor. Hugh mostly deals with injuries and their side effects, and the methods to make them well.

He rescued the Lord of Brampton when he was injured and bleeding in the streets of Oxford.
He is engaged soon after by the Lord. Hugh moves to the small hamlet to look after him, his family, the villagers and castle workers. Hugh is a bit of a modernist in his medical approach, but he has good results which develops a good reputation. Because of his methods of careful observation and questioning, and the trust the Lord has for him, Hugh gets handed all the mysteries in the castle/hamlet. In the second book Hugh has also become the Bailiff for the Lord, giving him official standing when he makes his inquiries.

Hugh is also a very straightforward man and so his prose style in his chronicles reflects that. He is trying to do his best, but often feels overwhelmed. He makes mistakes and owns up to them and tries to learn from them. He is interested in having a wife, but often afraid to look for her, since those in his path so far, have been unsuitable (too high or too low on the social ladder (the scullery maid is not too young, but too lowly for him)). He has a fear of horse riding, and consequently a fondness for an old slow war horse named Bruce, and an inquisitive mind.

The period details and setting are masterfully done and you really feel yourself in the time period. When the book was over, I still wanted to be wandering in the hamlet. Although the book is about the killing of Alan the Beadle, the mystery is about a pair of shoes, and the interactions in the village. The shoes lead to the unraveling of the case. It reflects how little the people had, and how dear even the smallest item was. Starr brings in the church, the castle, the foresters, and the village tradesmen as part of the story and the mystery. Very well done, and a good foundation for more books and character development. Hugh may also have finally found the right young lady, but only time will tell.

The author provides a glossary of period terms for those who are unfamiliar with them. The first book had Wycliffe making a cameo, and I hope other notables of the time will also show up. I can't wait for book #3. This is a series I will keep reading.

Jun 20, 2010, 4:59pm Top

Some interesting reads lately, and very nicely written reviews that are sucking me in--curse you, as rd would say.

The Hugh books sound somewhat similar to the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters. As you said, religion in the context of the times doesn't bother me at all, and these sound really interesting. I'm guessing you would have read some of the Cadfael books--how do they compare?

The Connor Grey series sounds very interesting as well. I've never heard of it. It sounds deeper than a lot of what is passing for urban fantasy these days. I'm a big fan of Emma Bull, and her classic urban fantasy. Have you read anything by her?

Not only two new books, but two whole new series...sigh...

Jun 20, 2010, 7:50pm Top

>144 ronincats: ronin,

I have a cadfael omnibus somewhere here but haven't read it. I have seen the TV show and it could be similar, except Cadfael is older and has more confidence (from the TV shows I have seen) than Hugh.

Connor Grey is really Urban Fantasy and not romance dressed up as such, as many are now. After the first book, it is meaty and complex.

I have read one of Bull's books and have another I think. She is good.

Hope you enjoy if you read any. :)

Jun 20, 2010, 7:58pm Top

I put both into my wishlist--I will get around to them eventually.

Jun 20, 2010, 8:42pm Top

#134> Good review of What is the What. I've tackled one Eggers book before, and just could not get into it (You Shall Know Our Velocity) - it was too rambling and frustrating. But I've recently heard good (and fascinating) things about Zeitoun, and now this one as well.

Might be time to rethink my attitude on Eggers.

Jun 20, 2010, 9:24pm Top

26. Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded by John Scalzi, Non-Fiction, Completed: 3/22/10, Stars: 4.0

John Scalzi is an SF writer, and I enjoy his books. He is also a blogger and has been doing so since 1998. This book is a selection of his blogs for the first ten years.

There is no real organization or theme, he just selected pieces at random. They do cover the spectrum from funny, to sad, to sweet, to informational. But he is famously snarky and acerbic, and has been known to send back emails with spelling and grammar corrections and grades.

It was a fast, fun read. I also read his blog occasionally and follow him on Twitter. I don't always agree with him, but its always fun to see what he has to say.

Jun 20, 2010, 9:38pm Top

27. Keeper of Light and Dust by Natasha Mostert, Urban Fantasy, Completed: 3/27/10, Stars: 2.5

I am not sure what to rate this book, 3.0 stars or 2.0 stars ? Probably a 2.5 stars. Not real happy how the book played out. The writing was OK, and parts of the characters were OK. The rest not so much. It was really a goopy romance ala Harlequin, very little thriller.

The 2 main characters, Nick and Mia had the hots for each other, but kept it a secret from each other for 3/4 of the book. Very boring to read about, very tired premise.

The women in the book were quiveringly drooling over the mostly unclothed men, and were happy to be picked up by construction workers, and to clean and cook. They couldn't stand up for themselves when they or their loved ones were in danger. They tried, but in the end failed (even after a lifetime of training) so as to preserve their femininity. Then it had to be said that they had no time for feminism, no kidding. Retro crap thick enough to apply with a trowel.

The other big problem is the premise. It was not thought out or developed. Mia is a Keeper from a long line of females who are protectors of warriors/fighters. The women use martial arts training and discipline to focus Chi (spiritual energy)to heal and strengthen.

The problem is that the fighters here don't do anything except inflict pain and violence on other men in the ring. No helping the weak, fighting evil, or working for justice, just the pursuit of domination and a title or trophy. With that set up, the Keeper seems to be helping them cheat rather the serving a moral purpose. Not to mention perpetuating senseless violence for entertainment purposes. Very icky and it made the book hard to keep reading.

There was information about martial arts, tattoos and bio chronology and luminescence, all very interesting and worked well into the story. Unfortunately the story just wasn't worthwhile.

Jun 20, 2010, 9:46pm Top

Uh oh..... way too good a list here.. *tries to wipe them all from mind*

Jun 23, 2010, 10:28pm Top

Unquiet Bones looks good - duly added to the evergrowing TBR list. Thanks!

Jun 26, 2010, 5:56pm Top

28. Shaman Pass by Stan Jones, Mystery, Completed: 3/29/10, Stars: 4.0

This is book 2 in the Nathan Active mystery series. It is set in modern day Alaska and follows a native State Trooper who is stationed in a small native village in the far north of the state.

Nathan was raised by whites in the big city of Anchorage so he is just learning the native culture and customs and the outdoors craft that are his heritage. He is personally torn between wanting to return to the easy, technologically rich life in the big city and becoming part of the native community and his natal family. He is also ambivalent about his feelings for his mother who gave him up. On top of his emotional confusion he has fallen for a native girl who has no plans to leave the village.

Amid Nathan's personal growth, exploration and changes he also has to uphold the law and investigate crime.

In this book a native artifact, a preserved man and a harpoon (locally dubbed 'Uncle Frosty'), has been returned from the Smithsonian. There is controversy surrounding his disposition. Traditional natives want him put out on the ice or in the wilderness to let nature take him. This is what they did for burial before the whites and Christians arrived. More modern natives want him displayed in the local museum where he will help raise money for the poor tribe.

While the conflict is swirling Uncle Frosty is stolen. The local activist, Calvin, somewhat of a dingbat, is the main suspect. Then the harpoon is used to kill the tribal Chairman, Victor Solomon out at his ice-fishing camp. The mechanisms of justice go after Calvin, but Nathan investigates in another direction.

He excavates an old feud and legend of the time just before the whites came, when Shamans with their magic and their curses ruled the tribes. The relatives of the last Shaman and Uncle Frosty have a violent tangled history of opposition and are still alive in Chukchi.

The story is very interesting with Inupiat history and legends worked into the mystery. The setting is well done, quite unique and fascinating. The characters are well developed, many are from the previous book, with a bit more development added.

Nathan is seen trying to balance his competing desires, and to learn more about his heritage. He as a law enforcement officer is also in the middle of the conflict between the white way, modernity and the native culture and their traditional way of dealing with events. In the end Nathan works out a compromise that he can live with and that respects the native culture.

I really enjoyed this book, and will keep reading the series. The writing is smooth, if a bit simple. I was fascinated by the native setting, history and culture, and I like the characters.

Jun 26, 2010, 6:21pm Top

29. First Contact: Or It's Later Than You Think by Evan Mandery, Humor, Completed: 4/3/10, Stars: 4.5

I picked this book up on a whim. It looked like it could be fun, and it was.

The story is of first contact with aliens and earth. The aliens want to meet the President of the USA. Of course he is a shallow, selfish, dingbat who believes in god and guns and doubts science. His handlers try to minimize the damage his stupidity does generally, but are in over their heads with actual aliens.

The story is told from the Earth side by his aide, Ralph Bailey, and from the alien side by the Chief Negotiator and his wife (at home). The aliens are very laid-back, though they respond in-kind to violence.

Ralph meets a young woman and falls in love. He tries to manage his courtship while trying to keep the stupidity of the President from killing them all. He also has to deal with manipulation and politics from those on the staff who see a way to use the situation to build up their power base.

The Negotiator has problems with his wife and her having an accident and losing her license. The wife is trying to deal with their son who is doing poorly in school. She then becomes embroiled in a controversy about a teacher who is telling the students that the universe is going to end much sooner than expected. The parents don't dispute the science, just that teaching it to their children might frighten them.

On one level it was a charming lighthearted romp based in absurdity. On another level it was quite apt satire of the various ridiculous attitudes and actions we have adopted in the modern world. It was the reference to the 'Parrot Sketch' that stole my heart though.

Jun 26, 2010, 6:54pm Top

I think I would like them both !

Jun 26, 2010, 10:31pm Top

30. A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam, World Fiction, Completed: 4/4/1-, Stars: 4.0

I read this book for a RL book group. In this group we read books based in different cultures. This book was set in East Pakistan in 1971 just as their war for independence from Pakistan breaks out. They become the nation of Bangladesh.

I had heard of Bangladesh, but had no real in-depth information. Just that it seems to be poor, flat and floods a lot. I didn't realize that it was the former Indian state of Bengal (which I thought was still part of India). So it was a very interesting read. The author is from Dhaka and has worked her interpretation of events into the book.

The story follows a woman, Rehana Haque, whose husband dies unexpectedly in 1959. He did everything for his wife and 2 children. Once he dies, she has no means of support and his childless brother and wife petition the court to take Rehana's children to live with them in Lahore. Rehana's blood relatives are formerly rich and important, but have nothing at the current time to help her.

In fact her family and the brother-in-law and wife live in Pakistan and can't understand why she stays in East Pakistan. It is poorer and separated from Pakistan by a 1,000 miles of India. Rehana wants to stay in her house and neighborhood where her husband had lived, and her children were born.

Rhana has her children taken and she spends 2 years struggling to find a way to support them so she can have them back. The exact means that allow her to build a guest house and take in a permanently lodging rich Indian family, are shrouded in mystery. Eventually she brings her children home to Dhaka.

The story jumps 10 years and her children are grown and her life has been good, but the political situation has deteriorated. East Pakistan has been denied the ability to make its own decisions, and those forced on them from Pakistan rankle.

Eventually the students at the college in Dhaka begin striking and police try to quell them. The situation escalates and troops from Pakistan arrive, and the students become insurgents. Violence reigns in the streets with battles between the students and the troops, and the troops conduct house raids and carry people off in the night; those take are never seen again, though there are rumors of horrible humiliation and torture.

Rhana's children are of course involved in the student movement. The son joins the insurgents, and the daughter goes to Karachi (Pakistan) and writes in a protest paper in support of the insurgents. She uses her real name, and eventually it comes back to the family, who are based in Pakistan and don't support the fight for independence.

Rehana's brother-in-law comes to Dhaka as the top civilian sent by the government to regain order, and rule over the locals. Rehana has to tip-toe around him to keep her son safe, and to help other families who have lost members to the jails. Rehana, while seeming to support the government, works to gather supplies, and food for the insurgents. She even lets her son hide guns in her garden. She does all this not out of patriotism, but because her son is involved and she wants to keep him safe, and from going away.

Rehana's family of Indian lodgers must eventually flee because they are Hindus in a Muslim land. It has become an issue in the upheaval, but it didn't matter during the peace. Also India seems to be about to support freedom for East Pakistan and the government troops are rampaging against Indians.

Eventually it all becomes too dangerous and Rhana goes to be with her daughter in Karachi and her son goes into to wilds with his friends to join their troops fighting against the government.

In Karachi, Rehana comes face to face with the horror of the refugee camps: no shelter, no food or water, no sanitation, and little medical help. She finds the wife of the Indian family who is now alone and is so traumatized she can't speak or interact with any human.

Rehana returns home as the revolution winds down. Her children and house are safe, but neighbors have had their lives destroyed. She has a chance at happiness with a man in the insurgents, but tragedy and self-sacrifice derail it.

Through it all Rhana defines herself first as a wife and then a mother, and a good family member. She never deals with what she wants, as a person or a woman. While her family is her strength it is also a weakness when it demands that she behave a certain way, rather than as she wants. Her children are sketchy characters in the book, as they are in Rehana's life. She devotes everything to them, and they barely have time to acknowledge her.

On a larger scale the story tells the tale of the 2 Pakistans. They are 'families' who fight and tear at each other, just a Rehana's relatives feel they have the right to plunder her children and order her to do things for their benefit not hers. There is both a societal and a familial hierarchy of who is the best and the strongest and those further down the ladder must submit to the wishes of the their betters.

It was an interesting book, and well written. There were some issues with the children because they don't really come across as vital characters, but perhaps that is symbolic of the one-way relationship they had with Rehana. It had sad moments, but also showed how Rehana eventually started to think about and assert what she wanted. There was a lot of information and context, and it was worked well into the story so there were no slow spots.

Jun 26, 2010, 11:52pm Top

31. The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney, Historical Mystery, Completed: 4/5/10, Stars: 4.5

I read this book for a RL book group. I was not thrilled when it was picked, but after reading it, I have changed my mind. It was interesting and well written and was one of those books that just sucked me right in. I enjoyed it very much.

The book could be called an historical mystery, but it was about much more than just a 'who done it'.

The book is set in 1867 in the remote Canadian, north-western wilderness in the settlement of Dove River, with winter approaching. A trapper who comes and goes, Laurent Jammett is found murdered in his remote cabin. The woman who finds him, Mrs. Ross must go to the nearest hamlet, Caulfield, to notify the local authority - Mr. Knox.

Although Knox is a civil authority, the real power in the area is the company that is present to reap the rich pickings of the trappers. They go out and bring in skins and furs that are worth huge amounts of money back in civilization. The company of course insists the trappers deal only with them, and sets the prices. Some trappers are trying to organize and go around the company. Was Jammett one, or did he get caught in the cross-fire? The company sends a group of men to investigate the events in Dove River.

Mrs. Ross's 17 year old son Francis has also disappeared. He was having trouble with her husband (Francis is adopted) and was an outcast with the local kids at school. He also seemed to be spending time with Jammett. Slowly Francis becomes a focus of the hunt.

Strangers appear and go through Jammett's cabin looking for something. But no one will say what. There is eventually talk of a rare Indian artifact that could make the bearer famous for all time. Some want the money, some want the fame, some want nothing from the savages to be important.

There was a dark tragedy in the area about 10 years before. Two young girls, sisters, went into the woods to pick berries, and were never seen again. No girls, no bodies, no clues. They were never found, and this killing stirs up all the old feelings about the lost children. Fear of the Indians hovers over the settlers.

The story has lots of characters, and we get a little slice of their lives, from the tender-foot who comes with the company posse and develops a crush on a Knox daughter, to the Norwegians who have created a religious agricultural settlement that ends up offering refuge to some of the people wandering in the cold. Many inhabitants of Heaven's Fields are happy, but one woman wishes to take her children and escape with another woman's husband.

We find out about what was going on with Francis. Some of the Caufield men also start looking for Francis and any one else they can find who is trapping in the area near Jammett's cabin.

Eventually Mrs. Ross takes to the trail in search of her son with a half-breed trapper who is accosted and beaten by a corrupt company man who wants to solve the case for glory, regardless of whether the person is guilty or not. Mrs. Ross is afraid her son will be a convenient dupe for the crime and is afraid he will be killed and his body turned in, so he can't protest his innocence.

The separate posses also come upon a company post that seems to be a pit of evil. It is falling apart, filled with lazy people who seem to be be drunk or crazy and it not run to company rules. People start to die, and some have 'accidents'. It appears there are dark secrets here, and tragedy and violence conclude the hunt.

The characters interact and try to advance their causes or protect their secrets. Many of them are carrying baggage from civilization and are trying to start over in the wilderness. The back-story and motivation for these characters propels their current actions.

Its quite a busy and interesting book. I didn't feel lost with all the characters and threads and really enjoyed the story and the writing.

Jun 26, 2010, 11:55pm Top

@155> Sounds interesting. One I will have to keep an eye our for, I think. I've heard some hair-raising stories about the 71 war from various people. My former boss was a student at the time who participated in anti-war peace protests, while his elder brother was a fighter pilot in the Pakistani air force. His plane was shot down during the war and his body was never recovered. Despite this, my boss continued to agitate against the military action in East Pakistan - though this was regarded as both anti-patriotic and, perhaps even worse, going against the memory of his brother. Its difficult to eulogize the death of a loved one in war, if someone keeps insisting that the war was stupid and wrong and should never have happened.

Jun 27, 2010, 12:53am Top


The book was interesting, but really didn't go into the specific issues that caused the war, other than East Pakistan having their leader from an election denied. I think Anam was trying to focus on the destruction and not who was right or wrong.

It says the author was born in 1975, so she would probably not have her own memories, but would be filtering other sources. Can't speak to her accuracy or bias because I know so little about the real events.

It is always hard to honor the soldiers when the war itself is unpopular. We had that with the Vietnam War.

I think people are better about not blaming the soldiers for the current wars, even when they don't support the wars.

If you read the book I hope you find it worthwhile.

I am far away and the war didn't impact me, so I may have a different reaction than someone who lives there and understands the details and nuances better than I. Hopefully I will not have wasted your time.

Jun 27, 2010, 7:21am Top

@158> Well your review certainly made it sound worth investigating! People have strong opinions about who was responsible but certainly the sheer scale of destruction wrecked upon the people of East Pakistan by the army who ostensibly were their own countrymen is horrifying. Alas the actions of the military were all-too-often glossed over and supported in West Pakistan - I have a great deal of respect for the gentleman I mentioned who took a principled stand against the war. Then again, I was born in 77 so I suppose its easy for me to distance myself from what came before.

Jun 27, 2010, 10:44am Top

32. Tonight I said Goodbye by Michael Koryta, Mystery, Completed: 4/8/10, Stars: 4.0

I read this book for a RL book group. It is the start of the Lincoln Perry mystery series.

I had never heard of this author or series before we picked it. Searching on the net told me he was 21 when he wrote/published it. There is one age-related gaffe, but mostly its very good.

Lincoln Perry is a former cop with impulse control problems. The problems led him to be dismissed from the force. He owns a boxing/gym and has gone into the PI business with another former cop. Joe Pritchard is old enough to be retired from the force. He is well respected and a steadying influence on Perry. The setting of the stories is Cleveland.

The premise is that another PI, Wayne Weston has killed himself. His wife and 5 year old daughter are missing but the cops think he killed them, and then himself. Weston's father won't accept suicide and wants the wife and his granddaughter found. He asks Perry and Pritchard to take the case.

They reluctantly investigate, and find that all is not what it seems to be. In the course of the investigation they cross paths with Russian mob killers, a millionaire businessman, dodgy FBI, an ex-military mercenary, and the mob boss himself. Others begin to die, and there are several twists.

It was a fast well written story. I liked the tone, the setting and the characters. I especially like that there is an older character - Pritchard who is respected and valued.

The age-related gaffe: the way he depicts the relationship between a mother and her children. I imagine at 21 he knows girls but other than his mother, not any actual women.

Still it was a good read and a series I will continue with.

Jun 27, 2010, 11:43am Top

33. Sorrow's Anthem by Michael Koryta, Mystery, Completed: 4/10/10, Stars: 4.0

Book 2 in the Lincoln Perry mystery series.

In this book Perry and Pritchard are involved in arson, murder, and official corruption.

Perry gets involved with an estranged old friend,Ed Gradduk, who has been accused of arson. Ed dies when accidently struck by a police car, though Perry is not so sure it was really an accident. Perry's guilt requires him to investigate.

In the fire Ed was supposed to have set, a murdered woman was found. Ed had a brief, bad relationship with the woman. Perry doubts Ed set any fires, but he knows he didn't kill anyone. Ed and Perry grew up together, but went separate ways when they were grown.

Perry went into law enforcement, Ed went into crime. Perry in an effort to help Ed (in their younger days) actually got him sent to prison. Ed and Perry had been estranged ever since.

The fires are being set in Perry's old neighborhood, and the investigation has him opening old wounds, and long buried secrets. There is a DA in search of higher political office, and several cops who seem less than interested in the truth. Perry starts to connect the current wave of arson with a 17 year old spree that was never solved.

Perry also has to deal with the enmity his old neighborhood has for him, and pain of past childhood tragedies.

Eventually Perry and Pritchard put all the pieces together. They are almost killed in an effort to silence them. Pritchard is critically injured and Perry must carry on alone.

I liked this book as well as the first. The writing was good, it was a fast read with an interesting story. The character exposition and development is really well done.

One of the things I didn't like was the sidelining of Pritchard. I hope its not going to be the norm for future books. Although a partner, he is a minor character in the book and he provides balance.

Jun 27, 2010, 12:24pm Top

The Tenderness of Wolves I have it!! but.... where? :P

Jun 27, 2010, 12:47pm Top


I know what thats like. Hope you find it.

Jun 27, 2010, 2:20pm Top

34. A Welcome Grave by Michael Koryta, Mystery, Completed: 4/10/10, Stars: 3.5

This is book 3 in the Lincoln Perry mystery series. It is set in Cleveland and follows 2 PIs, Lincoln Perry, young and brash, and Joe Pritchard, retired cop.

While I liked all 3 of the books I have read in this series, this one was my least favorite. Some of Koryta's tropes are becoming annoying and I don't like how Joe has been shuffled off the stage.

Perry, working alone while Joe recuperates, gets called by his ex-fiancee. Her husband has been murdered, and she needs Perry to find his grown son from a previous marriage. The dead man, lawyer Alex Jefferson, was the reason Perry got booted off the police force, and he stole Perry's fiancee.

Because of their bad relationship the police believe Perry may be involved in the torture killing of Jefferson.

Perry travels to Indiana in search of the son, Matt. He finds where he is living and working, and leaves a note. Matt reads the note assumes something else, and kills himself. Just didn't work for me. Thought it was too dumb. Now Perry is suspected in this killing too.

The police in 2 states are trying to throw Perry in jail. This excessive police persecution is getting old in the 3rd book. Unfortunately the police are the bad guys for most of the book, because the killer is in hiding, and is a secret.

Someone is trying to frame Perry, with manufactured evidence that Perry is involved with the killings. The police manage to get the ex-fiancee to doubt Perry and she fires him. He is investigating the husband and son for the death of a young woman many years ago. He thinks the 2 crimes are related.

Eventually the bad guy goes after Perry and the woman in his life. He is trying to stay alive, solve the crimes (current and past) and keep the police from throwing him in jail.

This was another fast read. The story seemed to move into thriller territory where Perry became like the super-spy action hero. It wasn't bad, but was less satisfying than the previous books. Will read the next one when it comes out in paper later this summer.

Jun 27, 2010, 2:28pm Top

35. The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner, Historical Fiction, Completed: 4/14/10, Stars: 4.0

I got this book from LT Early Reviewers. It is historical fiction, about Catherine de Medici of Italy, and how she ended up in France, and what her life was like there.

I am interested in the Medici, but hadn't read anything about Catherine, directly. She ends up in other books often with an unsavory reputation. Since I know little about her, I can't say if Gortner portrays her well or truthfully. The story is interesting and well written.

He tries to exculpate her for several murderous plots and wars. His premise is plausible, saying she is a powerless outsider, who can't fight the established lords and their plans. It just makes her too clean most of the time though, the kind of thing you would say to explain away the mess of murder and deceit, especially if you were involved. That said, I still felt sympathetic to Catherine.

One of the ironies of the book, and possibly her life, is that Catherine is planted right in the middle of the religious wars in Europe: Catholics and Protestants. While both religions were often about the people in power gaining more, they both claim to have moral underpinnings.

Morality was a desperately lacking quality in Catherine's family. Religion everywhere and they were a completely amoral group. Plotting, murder, poisoning, treason, war all just another day in the life for various of her children. Catherine is often too busy to be a mother, or is edged out by her husband's powerful mistress (another excuse?).

Catherine bemoans the impermanence of her line, without ever seeing the lack at their core. Their inability to care for others, to empathize, to try to do good or the right thing. And all this Machiavellian plotting gets them nowhere in the end.

It was a very absorbing book, and I enjoyed it very much.

Edited: Jun 27, 2010, 3:33pm Top

36. The Plague by Albert Camus, Classic, Completed: 4/18/10, Stars: 3.0

I read a modern update of this book, The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen and enjoyed it. I thought I would read the original, so I got this book. Then there was a Group Read on LT for the book. I had never done one before, so I joined.

Its a good thing I did or I might not have finished the book. It wasn't actually terrible, but it was flat, dry and mostly boring. Hard to say if it was Camus or the translator. I realize that can be seen as heresy because its a classic, but old books usually don't work for me. The manner of writing seems to be at arms length and devoid of any feeling.

The story was set in a seaside town in Algeria and tells the tale of a plague that comes over the town and how people are dying. The town is described in such a way that it seems to deserve to have bad things happen to it. The town is quarantined, and people have to survive or not on their own.

The story follows the progress of the disease and the effect it has on the populace: how they live, how they treat each other, how they try to escape.

First there is official denial of the depth of the problem, and then official action is all there is, carting people off, holding them separate if they have been exposed. There is rationing, shortages and hoarding. Some engage in debauchery, determined to have a good time on the way to the grave.

There are medical and religious people who work tirelessly to help the suffering. Nursing is about all they can do, because there is no cure.

The book is in the form of a journal kept of the events.

There is one very moving passage, where a child dies, but mostly I don't care about the people or their battle with the disease.

The time period seems to be before WWII. In fact the book could be taken as the symbolic story of the progress of evil/fascism (Nazism) that moves through a group of people.

Too much like school reading for me to enjoy it.

Jun 27, 2010, 9:51pm Top

37. Discontinuity in Greek Civilization by Rhys Carpenter, Non-Fiction, Completed: 4/12/10, Stars: 3.5

This is a non-fiction book that I saw on LT. It is very short (85 pages) and a bit old (1968). There may have been advances in knowledge since this was published, but it still was interesting. The book is divided into 3 essays.

It is a history/archeology book that looks at the Mediterranean Basin, the Greeks, Minoans and Mycenaeans, in the 15th to 12th century BC. The author posits that there were climatological reasons for the various collapses.

He starts with the Minoans and the volcanic explosion on Santorini/Thera. He believes the devastation was much worse than historians have concluded. He thinks human history was altered as a result of the huge disruption (ash, pyroclastic flow, tidal waves) which had to have a major impact on the heart of the Minoan civilization,only 140 miles away, as well a causing disruptions in other lands.

Historians have considered the event to be similar to the Krakatoa explosion. Carpenter thinks the magnitude was possibly 2-4 times greater. He of course did not have the recent events of the December tsunami in the Indian Ocean to see just how devastating tidal waves can be. There have also been new findings of massive ash deposits on both Santorini and Crete that give physical evidence to bump up the magnitude of the event.

The Mycenaeans had risen to power on the Greek mainland. When they collapsed many have attributed it to the invasion/return of the Dorians or Heraklids. Carpenter argues that looking a pottery and other artifacts in the different layers shows that many areas were already abandoned when the Dorians arrived. He believes the evidence can be explained by a changed weather pattern that caused a long term drought. The Mycenaeans left to go to wetter areas.

Carpenter looks at Europe in the same time period and sees evidence of the climate being colder and wetter, a shift of the weather that should have been in the Med.

The book was interesting, well written and clear in the evidence he is using to support his interpretations. Don't know if his theories have been accepted since 1968, but they certainly deserve to be considered. Even if the climate was not the complete explanation, it certainly seems to have played a part in the rise and fall of various civilizations in the area.

The reason I didn't rate it higher is he seems to have wasted the first essay on climate and context in the area. That is important to understand what can go wrong and the impact, but it was too much for such a short book.

He also seems to repeat himself a bit.

Jun 27, 2010, 11:11pm Top

That's too bad about The Plague but I'm happy to see a positive comment on The Last Town on Earth. I received Mullen's latest, The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers via ER and really enjoyed it, so I was thinking about trying that one. I've enjoyed (?!!) other plague novels -- Year of Wonders and especially A Prayer for the Dying.

Jun 27, 2010, 11:56pm Top

Hi kristenn,

I hope you enjoy the other Mullen book.

I have read The Year of Wonders based on the true story of Eyam, and thought it just OK. Loved the information about the past but thought the writing and characters were pale.

I have a Prayer for the Dying but haven't read it yet.

Jun 28, 2010, 1:16am Top

I read The Tenderness of Wolves a couple of months ago and really enjoyed it too. You mentioned that you weren't thrilled when your book group picked it - I know it sat on my shelf for a long time before I half-heartedly sat down with it and was pleasantly surprised

A Prayer for the Dying is excellent!

Jun 28, 2010, 12:05pm Top

The love lifes of the characters in Year of Wonders just irritated me. But it was a nifty overall premise. Read it for a book group when brand new so I remember next to nothing about the actual style, but I didn't bother with her subsequent stuff.

It's been even longer since I've read A Prayer for the Dying but there's no risk of forgetting much about it. Although sometimes I'd prefer to. More morbid than I usually go for. But so good. He's very versatile. For example, Last Night at the Lobster was also very enjoyable but I'd never have guessed they were by the same person. I've skipped his grim-sounding contemporary stuff.

Jun 28, 2010, 3:17pm Top

I read Last Night at the Lobster and thought it was meh. Hope I like the other book of his better.

Funny, I read Year of Wonders for a RL book group too.

Aug 12, 2010, 12:05am Top

Helloooo! (steps cautiously into thread and peers around) Is anyone here? We miss you!

Aug 12, 2010, 12:41pm Top

Sorry Ronin. I have been remiss again. I will try to start working on my backlog this weekend. I miss people too, but have been so tied up, and then the time has flown.

Aug 14, 2010, 1:37pm Top

Post the list, and then just comment on the ones that you really have something to say about, to get caught up. We'd rather have your presence than extended reviews!

Aug 17, 2010, 12:00am Top

Seconded! And maybe some good advice I should take myself. :}

Sep 26, 2010, 5:23pm Top

Just wanted to let you know that PaperBackSwap finally came through with Unshapely Things, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I had said from your description that the series seems a bit deeper than a lot of what passes for urban fantasy these days, and this book seems to bear that out. I'm excited because you said the books in the series get better after this one, and I already like this one more than most. And what a relief that the only sex is offscreen and not by the protagonist! Now off to order the rest from PBS. Thanks for the review!

Sep 26, 2010, 7:04pm Top


Thank You.

I am happy you enjoyed the book. I do think the series gets better and richer. Hope you enjoy them too.

del Franco has started a second series. I haven't tried them, but I think the Connor Grey books are now on an every other year cycle.

I seem not to have been able to post much this year. I am just not in a chatty mood, sorry.

I have met my 100 books, and am now on #103.

Sep 26, 2010, 7:37pm Top

Thank YOU! That's exactly where I am as well--Unshapely Things was my 103rd book for the year.

Sep 26, 2010, 7:38pm Top

Thank YOU! That's exactly where I am as well--Unshapely Things was my 103rd book for the year.

Oct 12, 2010, 3:28pm Top

Way to go you two!! Breaking one hundred is impressive and I am totally jealous. : )

Oct 17, 2010, 10:28pm Top

Congratulations from me too on breaking the 100 barrier!

Oct 17, 2010, 10:31pm Top

Thanks Berly and Wookie.

Congrats ronin.

Group: 100 Books in 2010 Challenge

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