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japaul22's 12 in 12 Challenge

This topic was continued by japaul22's 12 in 12 Challenge - part 2.

The 12 in 12 Category Challenge

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Edited: May 9, 2012, 7:42pm Top

Hi everyone! Last year's 11 in 11 challenge was my first attempt at categorizing my reading and I LOVED doing it. So I'm back for the 12 in 12 challenge. I'm planning to read 6 books in each of my 12 categories for a total of 72 books. One goal for this year is to read Don Quixote. I tried it once and got sidetracked and never finished. This is the only book that I'll count as two books if I finish it.

I'm not planning to start until January, but I've been thinking about my plan for 2012 so much that it's taking away from my actual reading. Ironically, I think that starting my thread so that I can add books and change around categories will allow me to stop thinking about it so much. So here we go!

My categories are (up for revision before Jan 1)
1) Other Books by Authors of my Favorites
2) Books Published in 1978, the year of my birth
3) Historical Fiction
4) Mysteries/Thrillers
5) Classics or 1001 Books
6) Modern Works, fiction or non-fiction published after 2005
7) France! french authors, set in france, or non-fiction about France
8) Re-reads
9) 1001 books continued
10) Biographies, Autobiographies, Letters
11) Non-Fiction catch-all
12) Anything Goes

Edited: Apr 1, 2012, 3:06pm Top

Category 1 - Other Books by Authors of my Favorites
1) The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
2) Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
3) Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh

Possibilities: Villette, The Reivers, books by Trollope, Atwood Alias Grace, Toni Morrison Jazz, Willa Cather The Professor's House, something by Henry James, something by Daphne du Maurier

Edited: Aug 27, 2012, 6:59pm Top

Category 6 - Modern Works, Fiction or Non-fiction published after 2005
1) The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
2) Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
3) Gillespie and I by Jane Harris
4) 11/22/63 by Stephen King
5) A Mind of Winter by Shira Nayman
6) Small Island by Andrea Levy

I will probably try to read a few of the Orange Prize winners or short-listed books for this category.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Lullabies for little Criminals
Small Island
Bel Canto
The Prague Cemetery
Reinvention of Love
There But For the

Edited: Aug 14, 2012, 8:31pm Top

Category 12 - Anything Goes
1) Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen
2) Year Before Last by Kay Boyle
3) Faro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer

Oct 12, 2011, 12:52pm Top

Welcome to the challenge!
If you do decide to read The Stand, be sure to give yourself plenty of time. I'm doing it for my 11-11 and I'm ~550 pages in. I wish I had started it earlier in the year!

Oct 12, 2011, 1:00pm Top

Thanks for the tip. I have quite a few long books that I'm intending to read. I'll definitely need to pace myself!

Oct 12, 2011, 1:07pm Top

but I've been thinking about my plan for 2012 so much that it's taking away from my actual reading

Honestly, this place, it's like crack, isn't it?

Nice categories! I can't believe you haven't read The Westing Game yet - that was a Battle of the Books book. Once upon a time.

Oct 12, 2011, 2:00pm Top

I've been thinking about Great Expectations next year too...maybe it would make a good group read.

Oct 12, 2011, 2:24pm Top

Hmmm . . . maybe I did read The Westing Game. Well, if so, it was too long ago to count since I don't remember it!

cyderry: I would be interested in a Great Expectations group read. I'll chime in on the Group Reads thread.

Dec 18, 2011, 6:32pm Top

I'm stopping by to say hi and see what everyone has on their plates for 2012. Don Quixote has been tickling me for some time, too. This might be the year for it.

Dec 18, 2011, 6:39pm Top

OK, that's it. I've downloaded it to my Kindle so I am ready to go. Soon.

Dec 18, 2011, 8:30pm Top

Did you pick a particular translation? I did a little research and heard great things about the new translation by Edith Grossman. I would guess it isn't free for kindle though. I think I probably won't get to DQ until roughly March, but let me know how it's going for you!

Dec 18, 2011, 11:33pm Top

Now I want to read Don Quixote, too.

Dec 19, 2011, 8:55am Top

Hmmmm . . . maybe an unofficial group read? Let me know if you decide to read it. I generally love long books, but this one is intimidating me a bit, even though I've heard it's pretty amusing.

Dec 19, 2011, 1:06pm Top

I read DQ 2 years ago n a group read... It was much easier with others.

Dec 19, 2011, 7:40pm Top

I have the Grossman version available at the library where I work but I downloaded a free version. If I don't like it I'll try the other one. An unofficial group read would be fun. Considering the length, it might take me the better part of a year with breaks for other books. I was going to try and start it when I finished my current book to see how it goes.

Dec 19, 2011, 9:10pm Top

mamzel - I'm planning to read it slowly too. Although, if I let myself take too long, I'll end up losing interest. Let me know how you're liking it.

Dec 19, 2011, 10:20pm Top

Go add it to the Group Reads thread. I bet there'll be a bunch of interested people.

Dec 19, 2011, 10:22pm Top

I have downloaded DQ to my kindle, and am planning to read it while listening to They Might Be Giants.
The translation I have is Ormsby, I think... I did some online reading on the Grossman translation, and I don't think it's for me. I wish I could read Spanish!

Dec 19, 2011, 10:38pm Top

I have downloaded DQ to my kindle, and am planning to read it while listening to They Might Be Giants. :-)

I have the Smollett translation and will be getting the Grossman for Christmas. I'm interested to compare the two. I took RidgewayGirl's suggestion (thanks!) and asked on the group reads thread if anyone is interested in participating in a thread.

Dec 20, 2011, 3:59pm Top

I downloaded the Ormsby version (free!) with the thought that if I didn't like it I would check out the Grossman. I think I got a deal. A biography of Cervantes and a little history of Spain at the time and the book itself included, serve as a great intro. I'm already up to Chap. V and I only intended to take a peek!

Dec 20, 2011, 4:35pm Top

mamzel - I know what you mean about needing to read at your own pace. I've had trouble with that with other groups reads. If I take too long to read a book I never allow myself to get into it. Glad to hear you're enjoying DQ!

Jan 2, 2012, 1:13pm Top

Finished my first book! I'll say here that my reviews are typically more weighted towards my impressions and thoughts of the book and author rather than a plot review.

For my historical fiction category, I read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

I chose this book hoping to make it the last of my 2011 reading since I was looking for something fun that I wouldn't have to think about. I guess I should have known that a time-travel/historical fiction/romance would not really be for me. This is a very popular novel so I was expecting it to at least be a page turner, but I actually found large portions of it to be pretty boring. The basic story follows Claire Beauchamp, a 1940s nurse, who is sucked back in time through a Stonehenge-type rock structure to 1740s Scotland where she meets the love of her life, Jamie Fraser. Um, ok. I would mainly classify this book as a romance and I never read romances, which is probably the main reason I didn't like it. I was very disturbed by how Jamie and Claire's love is so wrapped up with violence. It bothers me when people equate passion with violent feelings. Also, the book falls into the trap of one disaster after another. Between getting captured and tortured himself, Claire is saved by Jamie from two rapes and being burned as a witch. It's all just too much. When Claire fights a wolf with her bare hands I almost threw my kindle across the room.

So obviously I wasn't a big fan of this book and I don't see myself wasting my time reading the following 6 books of the series. However, I will admit that, as a bestselling series should, this book left even me with a little curiosity about what tragedies Jamie and Claire would go through in the next book. I read an interview with Gabaldon that was at the end of my kindle version, and she repeatedly said that this novel was an experiment in writing for her and made it sound like it was her first attempt at a novel. If that's true, I suppose it's possible that subsequent books in the series get a bit better, but I think there are too many good books in the world to read for me to spend time on them.

Original Publication Date: 1991
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 2 stars

On to hopefully better things! I'm starting The Count of Monte Cristo and continuing Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet.

Jan 2, 2012, 1:18pm Top

I was surprised to find I hated Outlander when I tried to read it. I confess I only made it half way before I did throw the e-reader down (luckily onto a soft surface). Good on you for your persistence.

Jan 2, 2012, 1:21pm Top

Oh dear. When Borders had their closing sale, I picked up the first 6 in that series just because it seemed like everyone loved them. I do hope my impression will be different. :)

Jan 2, 2012, 1:23pm Top

majkia - glad to know I'm not the only one who didn't love it!

Eva - So many people love this book/series that I think there's still a good chance you'll enjoy it. It just wasn't for me.

Jan 2, 2012, 1:45pm Top

I'll brace myself and set my expectations at a reasonable level. I'm wary of that whole "historical fiction/romance" combo, but who knows... :)

Jan 2, 2012, 3:29pm Top

Sorry to hear your first read of 2012 was a bust. You are correct, the Outlander series isn't for everyone. I loved Outlander when I first read it back in 2008 and made quick work through the first three books and then started to lose all momentum. When book 5 - or was it book 6? - came out,I just didn't want to know. You do have to accept that it is a "historical fiction/romance" and as such it will have its flaws. My favorite - and don't ask me which book it was because I couldn't tell you if I tried - was the one where they were in France and there was an interesting espionage twist to the historical fiction/romance/time travel story. For me, I did find Claire's struggles as a modern medically trained professional making due with the resources available to her to treat people very interesting.

So, even though the Outlander series did wear thin with me, I am a big fan of her Lord John series - she spun out some books of her Lord John character from the Outlander series, keeping in mind I have a friend that just cannot stomach either series. ;-)

Jan 3, 2012, 1:37pm Top

ikernagh - It definitely seems like most people have a strong reaction to the Outlander series one way or the other. I heard from a few people who said subsequent novels in the series were better than the first. Who knows, maybe the idea of reading another one will strike my fancy some day. Book tastes certainly do change over the years!

Edited: Jan 11, 2012, 7:59am Top

For my non-fiction catch-all category, I read Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet by Jennifer Homans.

Last year, I heard an interview with Homans on Fresh Air (NPR) and knew I had to read this book. The first half of the book focuses on France primarily, with diversions to Denmark and Italy. Homans discusses ballet's role in society, politics, and the arts, but can't truly make the reader see what ballet must have looked like because it simply isn't known. I think she describes it as well as anyone could, but it's still hard to visualize. Ballet is a hard topic to write about for the same reason that it didn't really get its cultural footing established until the 1900s - because it has never had a reliable notation system. For that reason, it was only handed down by mentor to student and seems to not have been able to build upon itself or add rich resources and influences from other cultures. I was definitely surprised and dismayed to see how tied up ballet was with pantomime - really, most of it sounds like it would have been just ridiculous to watch. When I started reading this book, I wondered why, as a person having a Masters in music, I couldn't really recall much about ballet and its music (except for Gluck) until you get to the 1900s and Russia. Well, now I know it's because the music wasn't really that great or the focus. Once ballet left the aristocracy and court life, it was more about trying to pantomime a story and used simple form music or street music.

In the second half of the book, the focus shifts to Russia. Here is where ballet as we think of it really takes hold. Tchaikovsky begins to compose for ballet and some of the most famous ballets (Swan Lake, the Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty) are created. This tradition is followed by great composers like Stravinsky, Prokoviev, Debussy, Ravel, Bernstein, Copland, Delibes, etc. Some of these composers create specifically for ballet, and some have their music "appropriated" later. For me, knowing the music really helped me to envision the dancing innovations she describes. And, of course, starting as early as the 1940s, you can find clips online of many of the dancers and choreography that she describes. This really added to the experience of reading this book. The final chapters of the book describe the different schools of ballet in America, with an overwhelming emphasis on Balanchine (over people like Jerome Robbins, Joffrey, etc.). In this section, I started to really feel the author's personal biases. The manner in which she describes and critiques dancers, ballets, and choreographers starts to feel more personal and less historical. I guess this is partially to be expected; she is after all an American ballerina and lived and performed through this era. In some ways, the tone made the section more readable, but I was a bit uncomfortable not knowing enough about ballet to completely understand the bias. Also in this section, Homans sticks to describing ballet performers and ballets rather than talking much about the tradition of learning ballet. It's a topic that she discusses a lot in the first section. I wondered if it was maybe too personal for her to write about? She also doesn’t talk much about recording ballet, and the lack of a notation discussion ends, but instead she focuses on the thought that ballet reflects the period it’s written in and dancers it’s written for and really can’t truly be reproduced accurately. Balanchine definitely believed this and passed the thought on to his students.

And that thought leads to the Epilogue. The Epilogue may be the main reason this book has been talked about as much as it has. In it she states that ballet is a dying art and that she sees no way for it to be revived. There is a lack of innovation and talent and lack of interest from the public and she sees it all coming to a close. Today's ballet companies soullessly reproduce old works instead of coming up with new works to reflect their generation.

This is a much longer review than I normally write, but I really enjoyed this book and found it very thought-provoking. I know that many people will be turned away from it because they don't know much about ballet. I'd just like to say that I know very little (I've only seen The Nutcracker and The Rite of Spring live) and it still really meant something to me. I do think you need some knowledge of the arts to truly appreciate the book. My music background definitely helped me a deeper understanding of many of the ballets she writes about, but Homans does a good job, particularly in the first half, of tying ballet to many different aspects of life such as literature, visual arts, music, politics, court-life, and government, and knowledge of any of these areas will aid in understanding and connecting with the book. I highly recommend this book and will be passing it on to several friends.

Original Publication Date: 2010
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 550 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

Jan 11, 2012, 4:18am Top

Great review!

Jan 12, 2012, 10:23am Top

Thanks, psutto!

For my "books published in the year of my birth" I read The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera.

I chose this book because it fit three challenges I wanted to participate in: CR's read a book published in the year of your birth, my 12 in 12 category of the same topic, and it's a 1001 book. Unfortunately, I really didn't connect with this book. Kundera's book is part auto-biography, part intertwining fictional short stories, and part political history of the Czech Republic. He wrote it after fleeing Czechoslovakia and it resulted in his citizenship being revoked. I think that if I understood more of the history and politics of the country at the time, this book might have meant more to me. As it is, I didn't like how Kundera kept inserting himself into the book. It felt like he either was too egotistical to keep himself out of his fiction, or too afraid of the truth to keep fiction out of his views. There is also a lot of sex in this book but virtually no love, something that always bothers me.

In the end, I felt like I might not be smart enough to understand this book - a feeling that kept me pretty alienated while reading. I did like how Kundera uses words and there were paragraphs that blew me away, but overall I just didn't get it.

Jan 12, 2012, 12:12pm Top

I've tried Kundera, but have failed mainly because he makes me feel a bit dim. :) I have vowed to finish one eventually, but I'm not rearing to go, unfortunately.

Jan 16, 2012, 2:32pm Top

For my modern fiction category, I read The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes.

I've been curious to read this book since it has gotten talked about so much on LT lately. This is the Man Booker prize winner for 2011. It is a short novel that reads somewhat like a short story in that it is tightly focused on one event and the ramifications of this event about 40 years later. It's told in first person and I liked the narrator. As in so many first-person narrations, the reliability of the narrator is always in question, but one difference is that the narrator is trying to be reliable, but knows his memory is faulty. The book really delves into how well we really remember our own lives. I've read a lot of books that deal with "how well can you ever really know another person?", but this book turns that into "how well do we really know ourselves?". Are our memories accurate and complete? Are the events that we remember the ones that really have the most impact on others that were involved?

I really enjoyed this book and would love to read more by Julian Barnes. I didn't read the other nominees for the Booker prize this year, but I thought this was a worthy winner.

Original Publication Date: 2011
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 176 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 4 stars

Jan 16, 2012, 6:19pm Top

It was a good one! The Sense of an Ending is my first Barnes' book as well. I do have his book Arthur and George already on my TBR shelves so that might be my next Barnes.

Jan 17, 2012, 9:26am Top

Just stopping by to return the visit. Always good to find another DC-ite. I like your categories and see we have a couple of overlapping ones. I really like your first category, "other books by authors of my favorites". Now that is a category I need!

Wonderful review of Apollo's Angels

In the end, I felt like I might not be smart enough to understand this book ha! I'll admit I often feel that way about books I'm reading, but I try not to let it deter me.

I really liked The Sense of an Ending when I read it last year.

Jan 17, 2012, 11:25pm Top

another DC-ite here... stopping by just to say hi!

Jan 18, 2012, 9:18am Top

Thanks for stopping by fellow DC-ers!

AnneDC, I'm pretty excited about my "other books by authors of my favorites" category too. I don't know why it's so hard to make the time to get back to authors I love sometimes!

Jan 21, 2012, 2:13pm Top

For my France category, I read The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

This was a very fun book to read. It's long, about 1000 pages, but is definitely a page-turner. Most people are probably familiar with at least the beginning of the story. The innocent Edmund Dantes is imprisoned for 14 years, escapes, and proceeds to avenge himself as the Count of Monte Cristo. The book brings up serious questions about vengeance and the role of the man vs. God in seeking vengeance. I had some real problems with how the Count seeks vengeance, the peripheral people he hurts, his regrets (which I didn't think were deep enough), and the way he still tries to control outcomes, even intending good, instead of letting people live their own lives (regarding Valentine and Morrel for those who know the book). But I loved that the book brought up these themes and made me think.

I loved the first 300 pages and the last 300 pages, but the middle 300 dragged a bit for me. I had lots of thoughts in the middle of the book about cursing the publishers who paid authors by the line, as Dumas was paid for this book. I think he dragged out a lot of scenes and that the suspense aspect of the book would have been more effective if the book had been more tightly constructed.

Additionally, I read in the foreward of the book that this was written around the same time as Madame Bovary and that they represented different trends in literature. Dumas was writing a novel published serially that is part adventure novel, part historical fiction, part travelogue. Flaubert was presenting a carefully crafted novel that he wanted to be realistic (part of the realism movement). I read Madame Bovary last year and I didn't love it right when I finished reading, but I've thought more and more about it since I put it away and the more I reflect on it the more I appreciate it and consider one of the best books I've read. I'm not sure that Dumas really achieved the same heights as Flaubert, but he created an adventure novel that is more than just adventure and addresses some serious themes as well. It's a novel that will stick with me and I enjoyed the experience.

Original Publication Date: 1844
Author’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Length: 1276 pages
Other books read by this author: None
Rating: 4 stars

Jan 21, 2012, 9:47pm Top

Count of Monte Cristo was a huge favorite of mine when I was a kid and I really want to do a reread, but I'm a little afraid it won't hold up to my memory of it. Good to hear it was a page-turner - that's how I remember it - even though it's a little over-long.

"cursing the publishers who paid authors by the line"
Such a poor idea, right?!

Jan 22, 2012, 6:45am Top

I read it for the first time last year and loved it. I even enjoyed the slow bits.

Jan 22, 2012, 7:36am Top

@48 I read it a few years ago and struggled to get over the middle slow bit

Jan 22, 2012, 2:37pm Top

I'm glad to hear that the Count of Monte Cristo was a fun read. I was thinking of trying the three Musketeers.

Jan 22, 2012, 3:25pm Top

Thanks for the comments everyone! I could see how the middle part could read either slow or fast depending on your mood. For me, wanting to know what would happen to everyone kept me interested, even though I think it would have been a better book with some editing.

banjo123 - I suspect from what I know of the plot that The Three Musketeers is even more exciting than The Count of Monte Cristo. I'm thinking about reading it in the next year or so.

Jan 23, 2012, 1:35pm Top

For my France category I read, The Giant of the Revolution: Danton, A Life by David Lawday

I chose this book because I'm planning to read Hilary Mantel's A Place of Greater Safety this year and I know very little of the details of the French Revolution. Most of my knowledge embarrassingly comes from A Tale of Two Cities or my knowledge of American politics at the time (Jefferson vs. Adams, Washington's relationship with LaFayette, etc.). This book fit the bill. It's an exciting, fast-paced look at Danton's life, death, and impact on the Revolution. I liked the writing style. Lawday is a journalist and he has a way with words. I suspect he took some liberties in imagining some of Danton's thoughts and reactions. He admits that Danton left few clues to his life because he left almost no written record. He was, however, an amazing orator and many of his speeches were preserved by those who witnessed them.

Just as a side note, I don't know how well you can see the cover, but wow Danton was an ugly man! He used his physical attributes to command respect and, to some degree, fear from those he led. A very interesting man who blazed into Paris and the revolution, helped inspire the storming of the Bastille in 1789 and was guillotined just 5 years later. It's an amazing and horrifying time in history and this book captures it well.

Original Publication Date: 2009
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 294 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 3.5 stars

Jan 25, 2012, 10:10pm Top

For my non-fiction catch-all category I read Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

This is a book that I received for Early Reviewers. Since winning it, I've seen the book mentioned on several possible bests of 2012 lists so I was excited to read it. I wasn't disappointed, though I was highly disturbed by the book. Katherine Boo is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who has focused on poverty in the U.S. In this book, she shifts her focus to India, specifically a slum called Annawadi outside of the Mumbai airport. In an attempt to learn about the lives of these Indians, she spends from November 2007 until March of 2011 talking to, observing, and recording these people. In this book, she chooses a few of the people she met to focus on and details their lives through this time period. It is not pretty. Everything from sleeping on garbage, festering rat bites on malnourished children, and suicides by rat poison and burning. Difficult concepts to contemplate.

But possibly the most disturbing aspects of this book were the pervasive cultural notions that bring everyone in the book down. One is the level of corruption in every aspect of life. The author states that for the poor in India, corruption is seen as a way to get a head - probably the only way. For that reason they welcome it, until it turns around on them as it does for several people in the book. The second is the thought that the unpredictability of life in India (never knowing if electricity will work or water will turn on) produces ingenuity. She states that people believe this, but then the lack of good results from hard work (usually due to all the corruption) erodes any malleability. The third thought is not unique to India. Boo says it exists in the U.S., South America, Nairobi, etc. This is that instead of banding together and demanding their rights and a better existence, the poor have turned on each other instead, and are stomping over each other in a frantic (and usually unsuccessful) effort to get ahead.

Obviously, this is all horribly depressing to read. I was left feeling utterly unable to effect any change. Every charity she mentions is horribly corrupt. It all seems so hopeless. The press around the book suggests a juxtaposition of happy moments and despair, but I can't really remember any happy moments. The book gives you some escape from this in the writing style. It is very narrative, and will let you believe that you are reading a novel instead of actual events for large chunks. At first this really bothered me, but I grew to appreciate it. The writing is pretty, even when the subject is very ugly. Overall, I would recommend this book, though I can't say it will be a pleasant read.

Original Publication Date: 2012
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 252 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 4 stars

Jan 26, 2012, 10:25am Top

Thanks for posting your thoughts on the Danton book. I liked it quite a bit more than you did, but I do prefer to picture him as portrayed by Gerard Depardieu in the movie!

Jan 26, 2012, 12:36pm Top

And thanks for the rec - it was a very enjoyable book. I'd like to read Lawday's other book about Tallyrand also. And I've never seen the Danton movie - I'll have to see if it's on netflix streaming.

Edited: Jan 27, 2012, 8:48pm Top

For my non-fiction category I read Push has Come to Shove: Getting our Kids the Education they Deserve -- even if it means picking a fight by Dr. Steve Perry

This is an ER book that I really wish I hadn't requested.

If you like getting yelled at and reading non-sensical arguments, this is the book for you. Complete with swear words (“stupid-a**” included) and a complete lack of organization, this is Dr. Steve Perry’s rant about the state of education today. Apparently he has it all figured out, but I couldn’t figure out exactly what that means. He rails against the teachers’ unions and tries to give parenting tips while freely admitting that he never sees his children because of his work. The state of public education in this country deserves to be talked about and reformed where necessary, but please don’t bother with this book. It’s too argumentative and non-substantive to do anything but waste your time.

The book is unfinished so I'm not supposed to publish quotes in my review so I won't add this to my official review, but I thought you might enjoy my favorite sentence in the book (note that I'm being sarcastic!) After discussing how today's teaching materials are outdated and irrelevant he states:

As beautiful, thoughtful new political discourse is blogged every minute, our kids are weighed down with books bags bulging with George Orwell's Animal Farm and Charles Dickens's Great Expectations. They're great novels, sure, but not exactly fresh.

Later he says Shakespeare shouldn't be taught either and suggests watching "High School Musical" instead of teaching "Romeo and Juliet". Great. I think I'll look for a different education expert.

Can I give a book no stars?

Original Publication Date: 2011
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English (loosely)
Length: 248
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 1/2 star

Jan 28, 2012, 1:10pm Top

All I can say is .... wow, sounds like a book loaded with attitude, and not exactly helpful either.

Jan 28, 2012, 1:39pm Top

Danton was especially ugly. I have the book but haven't really started it yet.

Jan 28, 2012, 2:03pm Top

>58 japaul22: Great review! You had me captivated right down to the Original Language designation, but I'll definitely pass on the book!

Edited: Jan 28, 2012, 8:39pm Top

"like getting yelled at and reading non-sensical arguments"
No thanks. :) And, no I'm not replacing Romeo and Juliet with High School Musical either.

Jan 28, 2012, 10:51pm Top

ikernagh, ivyd, and Eva - Happy to help people avoid a dud of a book!

banjo123 - yes, I thought Danton was shockingly ugly. Lawday talks about it a lot in the biography. Hope you enjoy it!

Jan 28, 2012, 10:51pm Top

For my mystery/suspense category I read The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey

In a word, delightful. It's no surprise to me that I enjoy a 1940s british mystery. Tey crafts interesting characters, a suspenseful plot, and good dialogue, and I don't need much more in a mystery. Also, this was a folio society publication and that of course made it even more fun to read.

Original Publication Date: 1948
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 254
Other books read by this author: The Daughter of Time
Rating: 4 stars

Jan 29, 2012, 10:22am Top

Ooooh pretty Folio books... I'm saving my pennies to buy the Smiley set but it is slow going this year. When the government dictates your salary, that can mean no raises, like this year (as I'm sure you are perfectly well aware).

You are flying through the books this year! And no Shakespeare? Seriously? Kids can handle Shakespeare. I mean, he basically came up with all the major plot devices in our culture. All romantic comedies practically EVER come from Much Ado About Nothing and As You Like It. The Lion King is Hamlet. I loved when we did Shakespeare in high school. It was almost as awesome as the ancient Greek tragedies in Mrs. Nee's class (but not quite).

Jan 29, 2012, 11:15am Top

I know, I love the Folio books. I've bought several Folio and Easton Press books second hand over the last year, but I'm considering joining folio. I'm just not sure I want to commit to spending that much money and THEN see all the tempting sales. I want to get to the Smiley books sometime. I know so many people who love them.

I remember really liking Shakespeare in high school too, though Medea with Mrs. Nee is probably the most memorable!

I don't quite know how I'm getting through so many books right now. I guess between my schedule being light at work, my son sleeping (which means being totally free and at home after 7:30 every night), and the crazy amount of books I'm dying to read, I've just been motivated! I'm sure life will get in the way soon!

Feb 9, 2012, 11:54am Top

For my Classics/1001 books category (and the Feb group read), I read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

Well, I wasn't a huge fan of this book. The positives were the characterizations and the insight into human nature which I think Dickens is a master of. But I just didn't really connect to this story. I kind of felt that while the characters were realistic and engaging, the plot was a little too unbelievable for me to get into. I did find that when I got bored with the writing it helped me to read a few lines out loud or at least really imagine the voices of the characters. This made me wonder if I should try my next Dickens as an audio book, something I rarely do. Glad I read it, but not blown away.

The best part of reading this book was that I bought an Easton Press publication second hand and it is a beautiful book!

Original Publication Date: 1860
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 457
Other books read by this author: David Copperfield, A Christmas Carol
Rating: 3.5 stars

Feb 9, 2012, 7:59pm Top

Just catching up. Good review of Outlander. It is a book that I had been avoiding for similar reasons to the ones you listed, but still felt like I 'ought' to try reading since it was so popular. I think you may have saved me from a very bad book! Thank you! :P

Feb 13, 2012, 10:06pm Top

For my France category, I read A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel

Loved it! My first 5 star read of the year. I wanted to love this book and had high expectations and it lived up to them. This is Mantel's novel of the French Revolution. She focuses her attention on Camille Desmoulins, friend to both Danton and Robespierre. The French Revolution is confusing. Loyalties shift seemingly day to day. People are friends and allies one year and condemning each other to death as traitors the next. It's really hard to keep up. Somehow Mantel keeps it all together and creates characters out of these enigmas as well. I LOVED how Mantel chose to explore Danton and Robespierre through their relationship with Camille Desmoulins. Though dozens of characters are explored, Camille (using his first name so often heightens this) remains the focus and this helps to orient the book.

Mantel shifts point of view and even writing style, (sometimes quoting, sometimes using play-like dialogue, sometimes first person from various characters) which can be challenging to read, but I thought it was an intentional move. Shifting around so much helped to personify the chaos of time and created a sense of unease that matched what the characters were experiencing. I sometimes felt that I wished that Mantel had chosen to create an even tighter focus on Camille and make the book a little more personal and less historical, but in the end, I really think she did it right.

I really loved this book and will be turning it over in my mind for a long time to come. I'd kind of like to start reading it again right now.

Original Publication Date: 1992
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 749 pages
Other books read by this author: Wolf Hall
Rating: 5 stars

Feb 14, 2012, 1:15am Top

I'm glad you loved it! I did, too. Have you read Wolf Hall?

Feb 14, 2012, 1:22am Top

The picture Mantel paints of Danton was so different than the one Lawday shows. While Lawday was clearly a big, old Danton fanboy, it was interesting to see what Mantel put in and left out of her book. No exhuming his first wife, for example. And, given the size, I was surprised where she ended her book. She managed to portray everyone sympathetically except St. Just.

Feb 14, 2012, 7:03am Top

>71 RidgewayGirl: I agree. I was really bothered at first with the differences between Lawday's Danton and Mantel's. I also didn't really like how she portrayed Gabrielle and their relationship. But then at a certain point, I started to love so much how she was using Camille Desmoulins and his relationships that it didn't bother me any more. In fact, I also enjoyed seeing how she picks and chooses which events to include. I also wished the book was longer and went all the way through Robespierre's life. I know it was a long book, but I was so wrapped up in it that it went pretty fast and never felt like a chore. I think it's interesting that even though I could envision the book succeeding with some pretty major changes, it was still a 5 star read for me just the way it was.

Feb 14, 2012, 8:17am Top

I also think I might need to up the rating I gave Lawday's book. The more I think about the book, the more well done it seems. I'm so bad with ratings - I almost always feel differently about my choice of stars after a month or two. Lawday really brought Danton to life as well as a work of fiction could, which is not easy to do in non-fiction. I also kept thinking that I wished Mantel had added in some of his details - like the smells of the city.

Feb 14, 2012, 11:57am Top

Oooh, I want to read A Place of Greater Safety. Now. Great review!

Feb 14, 2012, 1:09pm Top

I'm sure you'll really like it!

Feb 19, 2012, 7:55pm Top

For my "modern works - fiction or non-fiction" category I read Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard.

This is a non-fiction book about the assassination of President James Garfield. Millard gives a short bio of Garfield’s life prior to the presidency, including his rise from poverty, service in the Union army during the Civil War, and his unlikely nomination as the Republican candidate for President in 1880. At the same time she introduces his assassin, Charles Guiteau, and Lister and Alexander Graham Bell whose inventions would affect Garfield’s medical treatment.

This is a popular history look at Garfield’s assassination. Millard never gets very in depth about anything, but her writing style is engaging and the book moves quickly. I knew next to nothing about Garfield, so this was a good intro, but it’s not a great book. I thought her first book, River of Doubt, was much better. The most interesting part to me was all of the mistakes the doctors made in treating Garfield who would most likely have lived if he hadn’t seen a doctor at all. I suspect there was plenty that Millard could have chosen to explore in this book that she didn’t. That coupled with the numerous typos and editing mistakes (at one point she writes “years later” when it’s obvious from the context that it should be “years earlier”) didn’t give me a lot of confidence about the accuracy of her reporting. This is an entertaining book, but not a scholarly one.

Original Publication Date: 2011
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 265 pages
Other books read by this author: River of Doubt
Rating: 2.5 or 3, I can't decide

Feb 20, 2012, 1:03pm Top

For my 1001 books category, I read Snow by Orhan Pamuk.

This is a novel by a Turkish author that won the Nobel Prize for literature. I chose it because it's a 1001 book and there's a group read going on now. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy it. This is the story of Ka, a Turkish poet who emigrated to Germany as a young adult. He travels back to Turkey all the way to Kars, a small city on the far East border of Turkey and ends up trapped there for several days in a snowstorm. His excuse for going to Kars is that he is writing a newspaper article on the suicides of several young Islamic women who committed suicide after being pressured to remove their head scarves, but he's actually going to reunite with a woman, Ipek, who he met years ago and is in love with. He wants her to come back to Germany with him. I actually really enjoyed the first 150 pages or so of this novel. Pamuk sets up the story well, creating a beautiful sense of the surroundings and describing the political and cultural tensions in Turkey, where the government wants to be secular but there is a large, vocal faction of Muslims who want an Islamic state.

As I read on several things began to bother me so much that they ruined my enjoyment of the book. One is that it's narrated by the author, who is re-telling Ka's story through notebooks that Ka kept while in Kars. This created a stilted kind of language that I could not get into. I felt that it was because of how far removed the language was from the actual events. What I mean is that Ka experiences these actions/conversations, paraphrases them into his journals, and then the author paraphrases yet again to create the novel. Add to that a translator and I have no idea what the flow of the language should have been, but it ended up not being good.

Also, the opinions of the characters in this book on both sides were pretty hard to take. There was no gray about anything - all was black and white. Over and over I read, if you don't believe in women wearing head scarves you are an atheist. Either side with political Islamists or you area western-loving atheist. It got really old.

And the worst part was Ka's "love" for Ipek. It was absolutely ridiculous. He is madly in lust with this woman who he does not know at all and feels his whole life hinges on her willingness to marry him and return to Germany. Their relationship was so far outside anything I would consider love that I was extremely annoyed. Plus, there was all of this serious political stuff going on (murders, beatings, suicides) and all Ka can think about is getting Ipek in bed and writing poems.

Whew - felt good to get all that off my chest! The sad thing about this book is that I felt like it really had potential. It just spiraled into this very pretentious novel with utterly selfish characters that I just couldn't enjoy.

Original Publication Date: 2002
Author’s nationality: Turkish
Original language: Turkish
Length: 426 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 2.5 stars

Feb 20, 2012, 8:42pm Top

Snow is one of the books I acquired during one of my many visits to my favorite book haunts. Good review and provides some nice balance for some of the stronger positive reviews I have read so far.

Feb 21, 2012, 8:47pm Top

For my Rereads category, I read Persuasion by Jane Austen.

I know it's cliche for a woman in her 30s to love Jane Austen, but I do. This was a re-read, I'm not sure how many times, probably 3? Last year jfetting had a discussion on her thread about ranking Austen's books and rereading this didn't change mine. Persuasion is #3 (behind P&P and Emma) for me. I love Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, but the other characters and situations aren't flushed out as well as in my two favorites. Still a 5 star read for me though! Nothing cleanses the reading palate and gets me in the mood to read more than revisiting Austen.

Original Publication Date: 1817
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 303 pages
Other books read by this author: Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Sanditon, The Watsons, Lady Susan
Rating: 5 stars

Feb 23, 2012, 3:10pm Top

@ 79 -- I definitely feel the same way about Austen! P&P is my favorite novel too, but my second-favorite changes all the time...they're all so good!

Feb 23, 2012, 8:49pm Top

For my "other books by authors of my favorites" I read The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. The Portrait of a Lady went on my favorites list when I read it several years ago, but I'd never read anything else by James. Turn of the Screw was very different, but I enjoyed it.

This short novel is basically a ghost story. The story is told through the first person account of a governess who is hired by the uncle and guardian of two children who live in a house in the country. The governess is told that the uncle doesn't want to be bothered at all about the kids and the governess is left to fend for herself with them. Soon after arriving at the house, the boy is sent home from his boarding school for unidentified misbehavior and the governess begins to see two ghosts. She finds from the housekeeper that these are the ghosts of former workers at the house. I wouldn't consider any of that info to be spoilers, but I won't give any more of the plot away for those who haven't read this yet. I'll just say that James is very good at giving just enough info to make your imagination run wild and there is not a neat, clean ending so your imagination can continue filling in the details after you're done reading. I read this on my kindle and I was shocked when I clicked "next page" and saw THE END.

One thing that took me a long time to get into is the sentence construction and use of way too many commas!!!! For instance:

In the first weeks the days were long; they often, at their finest, gave me what I used to call my own hour, the hour when, for my pupils, teatime and bedtime having come and gone, I had, before my final retirement, a small interval alone.

Yikes!! That's a complicated sentence for a really simple idea.

Original Publication Date: 1898
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 120 pages
Other books read by this author: The Portrait of a Lady
Rating: 4 stars

Feb 23, 2012, 9:09pm Top

James can be hard to read because of his dense prose, but IMHO Turn of the Screw is brilliant! The last line kills me. Glad you enjoyed it!

Feb 23, 2012, 10:23pm Top

I am starting to think about a Gothic category for next year..... would Turn the Screw fit into a Gothic category?

Feb 24, 2012, 8:16am Top

cammykitty - Yep, I'm liking it more and more as I think about all the possible ways to interpret what happened. Great book!

lkernagh - It would definitely fit a gothic category. Plus it's short and it's always nice to have a few short books in the plan.

Feb 24, 2012, 9:51pm Top

Usually I hate movies based on books I've read, but the BBC version of Turn of the Screw is actually pretty good. Wait until October and then rent it. James is like that. If you work at unraveling his meaning, it pays off. Not that I've read a lot of him. I need to read more of his novels.

Mar 6, 2012, 9:01pm Top

#16 War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk
Wow. This book has been quite an experience to read. I came upon it because I decided that one of my categories for the 12 in 12 challenge would be books published in the year of birth, and this book fit the bill. So last year I read The Winds of War, and War and Remembrance is the sequel. War and Remembrance is historical fiction about WWII. Wouk writes an amazingly detailed account of the war that I found incredibly interesting. Usually with military historical fiction, I get bored with the military part and just want to read about the characters - this book was the opposite. In fact, the characters in this book are pretty flat and one-dimensional. They are put in unrealistic situations to further Wouk's telling of the war. But for whatever reason, it didn't bother me. Wouk keeps the focus on what matters.

The most emotionally charged and best-written part of this book revolves around the Holocaust. The characters involved are the most interesting in the book. I don't know what to say to do this part of the book justice, but it was all very horrifying and moving and unforgettable.

At over 2000 pages for the combined books, this is quite an undertaking in terms of time, but it's a surprisingly easy book to read. I think it will really help give me a background for some of the non-fiction military history books that my husband has been bugging me to read.

Original Publication Date: 1978
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 1042
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 4.5 stars

Mar 7, 2012, 12:17pm Top

I've seen the TV series and have been wanting to read both tomes for a while, but I must admit that I've balked at the 2,000+ page count, so I appreciate the "surprisingly easy book to read"-comment.

Mar 7, 2012, 12:27pm Top

Eva - how was the tv series? I'm kind of curious to watch it now. And obviously any book(s) that are 2000+ pages will take a long time to read, but the writing isn't particularly dense and I found that large sections really read like a page-turner. Hope you decide to get to it sometime soon!

Edited: Mar 7, 2012, 1:01pm Top

Well, with the caveat that I saw it when I was a teenager, I loooved it. :) I thought about watching it again, but I don't want to ruin my memory of it.

ETA: I remember thinking Jan-Michael Vincent was dreamy, so I must have been in the very early part of my teenage years... LOL!

Mar 14, 2012, 1:50pm Top

>86 japaul22: Glad you liked Herman Wouk's WW II saga. I agree that he does an amazing job of integrating the history into the narrative. Although I don't think they're quite as good, his books about Israel, The Hope and The Glory, are similar.

I enjoyed the tv mini-series, but (as almost always) I thought the books were better.

Mar 17, 2012, 8:39am Top

>89 -Eva-: and 90 I checked and Winds of War is available on netflix streaming, but not War and Remembrance. Might put watching that off for a bit.

Edited: Mar 17, 2012, 8:46am Top

For my biographies category I read Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie.

I loved this biography of the Empress of Russia, Catherine II. I knew very little about Catherine and this biography really covers all the bases. Catherine was a German-born minor princess who ended up becoming arguably the second most powerful leader of monarchical Russia, behind Peter the Great. The book looks at her entire life, but I think the title hints at Massie's focus of the book which was that Catherine was a real person, a woman with real desires, interests, and intellect. After deposing her husband, Peter III, she had a string of "favorites", i.e. lovers, though she (probably) never remarried. She continued the Romanov line with the son of one of these lovers, accepted as the son of Peter III by the public. She loved reading, the arts, and stimulating conversation. She amassed one of the most impressive art collections of her time and corresponded with Voltaire and Diderot. Early in her reign she wrote the Nakaz, a huge document outlining her thoughts on government and its relationship to its people (among many other things). In it she writes about the plight of the serfs and her hopes to make their lives better. She had to give this up because of the politics of the time, but her great-grandson, Alexander II, abolished serfdom. She expanded her empire and controlled uprisings with a relatively gentle hand. Her fear from the ramifications of the French Revolution changed some of this benevolence at the end of her reign, but overall she seemed a rather enlightened monarch comparatively, although she believed completely in absolute monarchy. Her support of the arts and education for Russians led to a great generation in Russian arts with Tolstoy, Pushkin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Diaghelev, etc.

The information is fascinating and the writing is excellent in this book. My only quibble is that I thought the maps could have been better and I missed having a genealogy chart and timeline of events. I will definitely be looking into Massie's other Russian biographies.

Original Publication Date: 2011
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 656 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 4.5 stars

Mar 17, 2012, 12:58pm Top

>92 japaul22: Nice review. I want to read this book, but I have so many hefty books already lined up that I'm not sure when I'll get to it. I read Nicholas and Alexandra many years ago, when it was new, and I thought it was fascinating.

Edited: Mar 18, 2012, 9:37pm Top

ivyd - thanks! Nicholas and Alexandra is the other of Massie's books that looks most interesting to me.

For my "other books by authors of my favorites category" I read Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood.

This is another great book by Margaret Atwood, though not my favorite of hers that I've read. This book is a first person narrative of a woman artist (painter in her terms) who goes back to her hometown for a retrospective at a gallery and revisits her memories. It is very raw and personal and I keep wondering how much of it is based on the author's life. It was very hard to read the elementary school memories of how mean girls are to each other. That hit a little too close to home. What I didn't like about the book was what really makes it a great work - it just is relentlessly inside this narrator's life and memories, all the pain and anxiety. It really got to me.

Original Publication Date: 1998
Author’s nationality: Canadian
Original language: English
Length: 480
Other books read by this author: The Handmaid's Tale, The Blind Assassin
Rating: 3.5 stars

Mar 18, 2012, 11:40pm Top

I haven't ventured very far into Atwood's works and hope to do so at some point, although I think I will start with something other than Cat's Eye. Thanks for the warning about the relentless push of the narrator's life and memories - it sounds like the kind of book one needs to be in the mood for, or at least prepared.

Mar 22, 2012, 11:33pm Top

I loved Cat's Eye and Bluebeard's Egg. Yes raw, but sadly I could relate to the young life described in Cat's Eye.

Mar 25, 2012, 8:57am Top

For my mystery/suspense category I read, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.

What a creepy little novel! Jackson is a really a master of this kind of story. She strikes a perfect balance between what is and isn't said and gives your imagination free rein to fill in the rest. Loved it!

I read on someone else's thread around here that this book is based on the true crime described in The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, which I loved. Although some of the names are the same, I didn't see much else that was really similar between the two. Curious if anyone saw more of that than I did.

Original Publication Date: 1962
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 143
Other books read by this author: The Lottery and Other Stories
Rating: 4.5

Mar 26, 2012, 5:04am Top

yet again makes the mental to read more Shirley Jackson

I've read both the lottery and other stories and we have always lived in the castle wonder which to go for next...

Mar 26, 2012, 5:50am Top

I'm thinking The Haunting of Hill House for me.

Mar 26, 2012, 9:11am Top

It was based on a true crime? I had no idea. And I've never read the Mr. Whincher book, either, but now I feel like I should.

Mar 26, 2012, 9:26am Top

>100 jfetting: I don't know. I'd read that somewhere, but really, other than the name and the sex of one of the characters, there isn't really much else in common. But I LOVE The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher. Really interesting book and crime.

Edited: Mar 27, 2012, 8:24pm Top

For my non-fiction catch-all category, I read The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Wilkerson won the Pulitzer for this narrative non-fiction book about the Great Migration, the mass exodus of blacks from the south to the north and west from the early 1900s until 1970. Wilkerson writes this book masterfully. She interviewed 1200 migrants and ended up framing the book around 3 of these people’s lives. She intersperses their life stories with facts about the times. I won’t get into the details of the book or I won’t know where to stop, but it is very readable and the topic is important for any American to be able to understand our country.

As an American born in 1978, I missed all of this, but have seen a lot of the ramifications that she discusses. Having grown up in the far suburbs of Chicago, and considering the city of Chicago was one of the meccas for blacks leaving the south, a lot of the things she discusses really hit home. I’ve also lived in Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and currently live in Washington, D.C., all cities that were shaped by the Great Migration. This book has really opened up my eyes and I can see it influencing a lot of my thoughts in terms of other literature I read and, of course, the politics of the day.

Original Publication Date: 2011
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 640
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 5 stars

Mar 27, 2012, 7:39pm Top

...the far suburbs of Chicago, one of the meccas for blacks leaving the south

Really? I wouldn't have guessed that.

Great review - now I really want to read this book!

Mar 27, 2012, 8:23pm Top

I knew when I wrote that it was confusing. I meant that Chicago was one of the meccas for blacks leaving the south, not Algonquin ;-).

Mar 27, 2012, 8:33pm Top

Yes, ok, that makes much more sense. My reading comprehension fail.

Mar 29, 2012, 8:59pm Top

For my classics/1001 books category, I read Excellent Women by Barbara Pym.

And I loved it! This is the first novel I've read by Pym. I just knew from LT reviews that I would love her books. This has just the right pacing, humor, and character development for me. I love the ordinariness of the characters and the realistic ending (don't want to give anything away!). I'll be reading lots more of Pym's writing.

Original Publication Date: 1952
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 231 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 4.5 stars

Apr 1, 2012, 3:07pm Top

For my "other books by authors of my favorites" category, I read Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh.
***mild spoilers follow***
And another "loved it"! I was in just the right mood for this novel about a young man who just lets life happen to him. It's funny and sarcastic and I was very amused by how much Paul enjoys being in jail at the end. He hears of and experiences all kinds of events that could be highly traumatic, but nothing seems to affect him much at all. I need to read more Evelyn Waugh.

Original Publication Date: 1928
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 293 pages
Other books read by this author: Brideshead Revisited
Rating: 4.5 stars

Apr 2, 2012, 8:43am Top

Wow, what a great stretch of books for you! Waugh and Pym are two of my favorite authors.

Apr 2, 2012, 1:20pm Top

I know, I'm on a roll! Pretty sure I got the idea to try Pym from you and I know I kicked Brideshead Revisited up the TBR pile a couple of years ago on your recommendation. So thanks!

Apr 3, 2012, 2:44pm Top

Ok, so, I was re-reading your review of the ballet book you read earlier in the year, and have a question about ballet in general (and since you read a book about ballet AND are a musician, this makes you my resident ballet music expert. Feel free to add this title to your CV). I saw Swan Lake last weekend (very pretty), and something about it really bothered me - the music wasn't live. No orchestra. And you know how no matter how awesome the recording, it doesn't sound anywhere near as good as a live performance? This wasn't even an awesome recording. It was a problem. I kept hearing their little feet banging on the ground, and it was distracting. Plus it just lacked something... I don't know what. It felt wrong, or faded, or something. Diminished. Can't describe it at all, but it there was something missing because of the recorded sound.

Is this a thing? Or is it because I live in the middle of nowhere, Maine? The only other ballet I've ever seen was the Nutcracker, twice, once in Chicago and once in St. Louis and they both had orchestras. Why are they skimping on the music when the music is so important to ballet? Much more important than stupid sets.

Apr 3, 2012, 3:06pm Top

AHhhhhhh!!!! You're totally right that seeing a ballet with recorded music is not a good experience. It's bad for the dancers and bad for the audience (and bad for the musicians who aren't getting work ;-) ). It is almost always a decision made because of budget, but you're right - the music should mean more than even the sets/costumes as it's absolutely central to the ballet. I mean, even choreography changes from production to production, but the music stays the same - it's vital and defines the ballet.

More and more production companies are moving to recorded music, a trend that music unions are fighting hard. Even in large cities this is happening so I'm sure it's happening on a huge scale in more out of the way places. Here in D.C., one of the major Nutcracker productions in the city, the Washington Ballet, used recorded music last year. There was so much backlash (and picketing musicians) that a donor made a large endowment to bring back the live orchestra this year.

Its not a promising trend, and in my mind it's only killing ballet and the arts in general faster. Sad.

Good for you for noticing and being annoyed. I'd consider writing a letter to the production company with your thoughts on the music. If they hear from enough patrons it could make a difference.

OK, I'll get off my soapbox now!

Apr 3, 2012, 5:32pm Top

Good idea, I'll do that. Maybe it will help. It isn't like we have frequent ballet performances up here.

It really, really bothered me, especially with the pauses. I mean, in a live performance, the musicians don't just charge through and do their thing w/o I guess sort of responding to the audience (again, I'm putting this badly. I just get the feeling during performances that musicians do get energy or pick up on the mood or whatever from the audience and respond to it. If not, they're faking it well. It is like a conversation, almost, in which you all are doing all the work and we're all telling you how awesome you are) and with recorded music, that interaction was missing. And it got awkward; the music would pause for a really long time, probably because it is a point where frequently dancers get applause, but this particular production didn't have anything spectacular at that time to clap for, so there was just this weird pause. A real live conductor would have picked up on that.

Apr 3, 2012, 7:39pm Top

Yep, all good points. You just can't reproduce live music with recordings for those in the audience or on stage. And I'm sure there were lots of people there who weren't as astute as you who won't be able to put their finger on why they didn't love the performance. They'll probably think that they just don't like ballet all that much. Sad.

Apr 4, 2012, 9:05am Top

I'd imagine a ballet without live music would be like going to a rock concert where the band appear only on a film projection - a little unsatisfying...

Apr 6, 2012, 1:39am Top

Interested in your review of We have Always Lived in the Castle. I was at a conference last fall where they were talking about it, and someone said when it first came out people read it and responded as though it was funny. He said he reread it, and couldn't imagine why people had ever thought it was funny because now all the things people laughed about are acknowledged as abusive and it's creepy and disturbing. I haven't read it yet, but will. I didn't realize it was based on a crime.

Apr 17, 2012, 11:49am Top

For my books published in the year I was born category, I read The Virgin in the Garden by A.S. Byatt.

This is my first attempt at reading Byatt and I'm honestly not sure what I thought. I liked it, but there were definitely aspects of the book that I didn't connect with. This is a hard book to describe. It's basically a family drama and is the first of a series of four books following the Potter family, specifically Frederica Potter. But then again, the family drama description doesn't work too well, because the family rarely interacts. The entire book is a flashback from the early 70s to 1953, the year of Elizabeth II's coronation. This event and the production of a play written by one of the main characters about the reign of Elizabeth I frame the novel.

First the positives - I very much enjoyed Byatt's style. She has a beautiful way of describing setting. She also strikes a good balance between wordy description and succinct characterizations. I think she's brilliant at choosing the right way to describe each setting, character and event either in a long, drawn-out way or in one sentence. That was neat. It's also rare that I like a book in which I pretty much hate every character, but somehow she did it even though it did detract from my overall enjoyment of the book.

The negatives would be, again, that I didn't really like any of the characters. Everyone was very immature and had terrible judgment. Also, there were a lot of people almost having sex and that was annoying. I felt like screaming either do it or leave each other alone !!!! to almost every character. Also, one of the characters, Marcus, who is the brother of Frederica Potter is either a genius or crazy and befriends a seriously crazy teacher. There are lots of chapters about these strange metaphysical ideas that they have that I found pretty boring to read.

So, overall I liked Byatt's writing without particularly liking this book. I'm curious to try Possession since I've heard great things about it, but I'm not sure I'll continue with this 4 book series.

Original Publication Date: 1978
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 428 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 3 stars

Apr 17, 2012, 5:21pm Top

She does have a fantatically lush style, doesn't she?! I've only read Possession and am not even sure I loved it, but I still went on to get a bunch of her other books, simply because of style.

Apr 17, 2012, 7:45pm Top

Eva - Lush is the perfect word. I'm looking forward to reading Possession this year, even considering my misgivings about The Virgin in the Garden.

Apr 22, 2012, 9:14pm Top

It sounds like she's grown as a writer since The Virgin in the Garden. Not sure because I haven't read that one. I would try one of her wonderful short story collections such as Elementals or The Djinn in the Nightingales Eye. I like them better than Possession, and if you don't like them you probably don't like her short stories, you probably won't like her novels much.

Apr 24, 2012, 2:24pm Top

Thanks for the suggestion, cammykitty!

For my 1001 books category, I read Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

This is a prequel to Jane Eyre that imagines the life of Bertha Mason, Mr. Rochester's mad wife, before she meets Mr. Rochester and through their early relationship in the Caribbean. The writing style is pretty and imaginative, though sometimes I wished that Rhys would be a bit more straightforward about the plot instead of talking around things so much. Mr. Rochester does not come off very well in this book, and I have to admit that I never really gelled this book with Jane Eyre. The writing styles are just too different to really connect them in my mind. That being said, it's a good book on its own and I'm glad I read it. It's an interesting look at race and economic classes in the 19th century Caribbean.

Original Publication Date: 1966
Author’s nationality: Caribbean (Dominica)
Original language: English
Length: 171
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 3.5 stars

Apr 26, 2012, 3:53pm Top

For my biographies category, I read Elizabeth the Queen: the Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith.

This is a biography of Elizabeth II that I received from the Early Reviewers program. It was published to coincide with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, celebrating 60 years on the throne. The book is light and fun to read. Smith chooses to focus on the Queen's personal relationships, work habits, hobbies, and interests instead of making this an analysis of the monarchy or an overly scholarly work. She touches on Elizabeth II's interactions with each of the Prime Ministers she has worked with and mentions world events without going into too much detail. There is a lot of discussion about other members of the Royal Family, including Prince Phillip, Charles, Diana (of course!), and William and Kate. The book gets a bit gossipy at times, but that was fun too! The book has lots of fantastic pictures, many in full color.

Overall, I felt like I got a pretty good sense of the Queen's role and how she has viewed her position as Queen. This was a fun book to read.

Original Publication Date: 2012
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 544 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 3.5 stars

Apr 28, 2012, 9:10pm Top

I'm going to put this next put in my historical fiction category for now, but I reserve the right to move it to "modern works" if I need to. :-)

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
I am in love with this book. As soon as I finished it, I wanted to read it again - that or read The Iliad again. This is a retelling of the story of Achilles told from the point of view of Patroclus. In The Iliad, Patroclus is Achilles' companion and his death at the hands of Hector spurs Achilles into a violent killing spree that ultimately ends in his death. In the Iliad, Patroclus is a relatively minor character, but in this retelling, he is central to Achilles' life and his motivations.

Miller does a beautiful job of telling a modern love story while seamlessly weaving mythology into her book. It's a stunning mix and works so effortlessly. You feel like you're right there with the ancients, but somehow don't feel alienated by their customs and gods at all because the love story is so strong. I loved how she weaves in the prophecies as well. You are never allowed to forget that fate rules the lives of these characters.

Seeing Achilles through Patroclus' eyes humanizes him in a way that reading The Iliad never did for me. It brought up so many questions and thoughts in my mind about his decisions and motivations and themes that go along with them. I know I will never be able to read the Iliad or any other re-telling of Achilles's story without thinking that this novel's new take on his story is the absolute right one. That's a pretty big feat for a story that's been told for 2800 years.

Original Publication Date: 2012
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 384
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 5 stars

Apr 28, 2012, 11:55pm Top

I'm planning on reading Wide Sargasso Sea this year. It will be interesting to compare notes. I never found Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre that sympathetic either. I wondered why Jane would love to be nursemaid to such a harsh-tongued man, wealthy or not.

Apr 29, 2012, 1:59pm Top

Song of Achilles sounds fabulous. I am wishlisting it.

Apr 29, 2012, 2:55pm Top

Isn't that the best thing -- when you fall in love with the book you're reading? Bad for housework and punctuality, though.

Apr 29, 2012, 5:09pm Top

RidgewayGirl - So true! I've been so busy that I haven't been reading much, but when I started Song of Achilles I suddenly found hours every day to read!

banjo123 - I hope you like it as much as I did!

Apr 29, 2012, 11:19pm Top

No time right now to add Song of Achilles to my reading list but paying close attention to all the activity this one is generating here on LT!

May 6, 2012, 2:55pm Top

For my modern works category, I read Gillespie and I by Jane Harris.

This is going to be a difficult book to review, because I don't want to give away any of the plot. Instead, I'll just give my general impressions. To give an idea of what the book is about, it's written in first person by an unreliable narrator. This basic story revolves around the narrator's experience in Scotland with the Gillespie family in 1880, but is written as a flashback in the narrator's old age in 1933. Harris does a great job of revealing the narrator's character through her perception of events. Even though you can tell the narrator, Harriet, is trying to make you see things her way, the reader can gets hints of her true character and hints of how the Gillespies viewed her. This is very well done. Harriet is somewhere between annoying and diabolical depending on what you believe, but is pretty amusing as well. The book is a page turner and I enjoyed it a lot. I can see why it made the Orange prize long list this year.

Original Publication Date: 2012
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 528 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 4 stars

May 6, 2012, 7:37pm Top

I have just gotten Gillespie and I out of the library, and am looking forward to reading it.

May 6, 2012, 8:41pm Top

banjo123 - looking forward to hearing what you think of it! I really liked it, but I could see how it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea. Hope you enjoy it!

May 11, 2012, 2:06pm Top

For my historical fiction category, I read The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak

From the title you can probably guess that this is historical fiction set in the time of Catherine the Great of Russia. I thought this would be fun to read because I recently read a biography of Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie that I loved. This novel tries to tell Catherine's story through the eyes of Varvara, a orphan who ends up a servant in the Winter Palace, moves her way up through spying, and ends up a friend of Catherine. There were some things I liked about the book. One was that the details were very accurate and matched up with the non-fiction I just read. The first half of the book really grabbed my attention. Unfortunately, the book had too many flaws for me to really recommend it. I think that the author just couldn't decide who the book was really about - Varvara or Catherine. The title leads the reader to believe that Catherine is central, but she doesn't succeed in painting a clear picture of Catherine. Also, the book only goes up to Catherine's accession to the throne so most of Catherine's life is waiting around and being marginalized by Empress Elizabeth. The book needed to either be trashier (in a good, gossipy way) or be better written to qualify as a really good book.

All in all, I'm not sorry I read it, but I didn't like it enough to recommend it. I think the author is planning a sequel which I won't be reading unless I'm really bored.

Original Publication Date: 2012
Author’s nationality: Polish
Original language: English
Length: 424
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 3 stars

May 12, 2012, 2:11am Top

So is Gillespie like a mystery or a gothic or ??? I'm curious.

May 13, 2012, 12:53pm Top

>132 cammykitty: That is a hard question. Gillespie and I is kind of hard to categorize. There's a crime that unfolds in a suspenseful way, but I think the main point of the book is the unreliable narrator. The whole book you're trying to figure out if what Harriet says is true and how others would have viewed the same events. I guess it's more of a character study than anything. Hard to describe, but I really enjoyed it.

May 13, 2012, 1:16pm Top

Thanks for the great review of Song of Achilles, I've been thinking of reading that one...

May 13, 2012, 1:56pm Top

For my classics/1001 books category I read Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.

This was the first book I've read by Virginia Woolf and it won't be the last. Mrs. Dalloway is set on one summer day in London in 1923. But though the book only takes place in one day, Woolf manages to tell a lifetime of stories for her many characters in this one short book. The book revolves around Clarissa Dalloway and the party she is throwing that evening and the suicide of Septimus Smith, a war veteran struggling with post-traumatic stress (or whatever they would have called it then). Almost all of the action takes place inside the minds of the many characters that are introduced, which made for a very interesting and different way to read a book.

This is one of those books that I know I won't stop thinking about for a long time, though honestly I didn't connect with it at first. Woolf's writing is very lyrical, and I found myself reading whole paragraphs and then realizing that I had no idea what I'd just read because the words just roll along so beautifully. Once I got used to the pace I needed to read at, I was able to both understand the story and appreciate the language. I'm looking forward to trying out some more of Woolf's books soon.

Original Publication Date: 1925
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 190
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 4 stars

May 13, 2012, 7:20pm Top

Ooooh.... I LOVED Mrs. Dalloway when I read it a couple of years back. It was my introduction to Woolf's works and one I keep on my bookshelf for when I have to urge to re-read it.

May 14, 2012, 11:48am Top

I needed a book idea for something from my library to read and you have given me the nudge I needed. Thanks.

May 18, 2012, 9:31pm Top

For my mysteries/thrillers category, I read Faithful Place by Tana French.

Another excellent mystery by Irish author Tana French. This is the third book in her series centered around police officers in Dublin. For each book, she takes a somewhat peripheral character and let's him/her be the first person voice of the next book. I'm really enjoying this technique because her books all have a different flavor. This book was the weakest of the series for me - something about the predictability of the actual mystery - but I still enjoyed the book and loved the writing. I will definitely continue with this series when her newest book comes out this year.

Original Publication Date: 2010
Author’s nationality: Irish
Original language: English
Length: 416
Other books read by this author: In the Woods, The Likeness
Rating: 3.5 stars

May 18, 2012, 9:44pm Top

Broken Harbor, Tana French's new book, is due out in July.

May 21, 2012, 12:13pm Top

>139 RidgewayGirl: Thanks! I knew it was coming out soon, but didn't know when. I will probably wait til it's available at my library.

Edited: May 23, 2012, 4:07pm Top

For my classics/1001 books category I read The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov translated by Burgin and O'Connor

This is an amazing book about the Devil and his cohorts coming to Moscow in the 1930s and wreaking havoc. It was written in the 1930s, but because it was so subversive, it could not be published until the 1960s and even then was heavily censored. The book is packed with religious references, commentary on life under Stalin, and heavy metaphors. Yet on another level, it reads somewhere between fantasy and horror with terribly interesting characters and a fast-moving plot. This is a combination - intellectual, metaphorical, and readable - that I don't stumble upon as often as I'd like.

One of my favorite things about this book is how visual the language is. I'm not the kind of reader who typically paints a mental image of the words I'm reading, but it was unavoidable in this book - Satan's ball, the variety show with the emcee losing his head, and that cat!!! Unforgettable.

I did a little reading about the book on line, and it isn't considered an expressionist novel, but for some reason I couldn't help linking it with that movement. I know more about expressionist music than I do about expressionist literature, and I kept thinking of those composers as I read this book, especially Berg's opera, Wozzeck. I can't put my finger on why that is, but it helped me personally to enjoy and understand the book, so I'll go with it, even if it's wrong!

This book has been on my radar for a while now, but thanks to the CR group read for giving me the push to read it now.

Original Publication Date: written in the 1930s, published censored in 1960s, this edition in 1995
Author’s nationality: Russian
Original language: Russian
Length: 372 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 5 stars

May 23, 2012, 10:16am Top

The Master and Margarita is a book that I've tried to read twice now. Someday, the time will be right and I'll love it...

May 23, 2012, 1:08pm Top

I tried M & M without success as well. But I am going to try it again this year.

May 24, 2012, 9:44am Top

If you gave M&M 5 stars, I'll have to push it faster up the list. I really want to read it right now, now.

May 24, 2012, 10:26am Top

I think that it's one of those books you have to be willing and of a mind-set to engage with. It didn't work for me on the doggedly determined to read x number of pages a night, nor on the "life is nuts, time for some Bulgakov" approach. At least for me. It would do very well in my books that are daunting category.

May 24, 2012, 11:27am Top

I can see how it's a book you need to be in the right frame of mind for. I really don't think it would work well in a long drawn-out approach. I read it in about 5 days and it made sense that way because you have to kind of get into the world and be willing to read some fantastical stuff. I had no idea what to expect - when I think russian literature I think of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy and this is not that - it's much more modern and very weird. There are many levels that this book can be read on. Having a little knowledge of Christianity (especially Jesus's life) and knowing a tiny bit (and I mean really tiny) about life under Stalin's regime helped me get into the book, but honestly the extensive notes in my edition kind of bogged me down. I ended up just skimming them at the end of each chapter so they didn't interrupt the flow of the reading for me. I'm sure I missed a lot, but I got enough to love the book.

Hope you all give it a try soon!

May 24, 2012, 11:35am Top

I didn't get on with M&M at all when I read it (my review is in my 11/11 thread at number 98 if your interested why)

May 24, 2012, 12:18pm Top

I read your review, psutto, and can totally understand where you're coming from. It is a disjunct story and I agree that the love story was lame if you want it to be a true love story. I think Margarita was more in love with the Master's book and his intelligence than him which is why that relationship didn't bother me. For me, the visual imagery and the horror that Bulgakov was able to depict through these crazy situations really made the book. For whatever reason, the flow and the pace of the book really worked for me and even though there were many threads of the story, they all seemed to come together for me. I'm curious which translation you read and wonder if that could make a difference? I read the Burgin/O'Connor translation.

May 24, 2012, 12:59pm Top

For my 1001 books category* I read Don Quixote, Book One by Miguel de Cervantes trans. by Edith Grossman. This is part of the year long group read that some of us in the 12 in 12 group are doing.

Well, what can I say that hasn't already been said? I've finished book one of Don Quixote. I started reading in January, and it's my year long project to complete the book. Whether you've read the book or not, you probably know the basic plot; Don Quixote is obsessed with books of chivalry, goes mad, and takes Sancho Panza as a squire and Rocinante, his old horse, off on adventures believing he is a knight.

Some things that surprised me were how modern this very old book still feels. I suspect that since the story is so ingrained in our culture and literature it just feels familiar. I liked the women in this book. I was surprised that there were so many female characters and that they had so much personality and intelligence. I was surprised that the humor was so slap-stick and that it involved bodily functions so often! I was surprised at how sorry I felt for Don Quixote, who really should have been taken care of better with his mental illness. I had a hard time thinking some of the events that stemmed from his madness and resulted in injury were funny.

In the end, I'm very glad that I'm reading this book and I am enjoying it. But to be honest, I don't LOVE it. I like it, appreciate it, and am kind of in awe of how long ago it was written and how relevant a lot of it still is, but it's not necessarily my favorite book ever.

Original Publication Date: 1605
Author’s nationality: Spanish
Original language: Spanish
Length: 449 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 4 stars

* so I cheated and changed a category. I've been really into reading off of the 1001 books list this year, so I changed one of my non-fiction categories (memoirs, autobiographies, and letters) to an additional 1001 books category.

Edited: May 26, 2012, 10:34pm Top

I will be getting to Tana French's books this year and look forward to it. The Master and Margarita is on my radar screen after reading A Dead Man's Memoir: A Theatrical Novel. I will keep the immersion in the novel in mind when I do get around to it.

As for Don Quixote, I am behind on this group read - finished book 1 part 3 just this week - but hope to catch up to the group timelines soon. I am enjoying it as a form of escapism between books.

May 27, 2012, 1:05am Top

Interesting discussion on The Master and Margarita. It will have to go on my wishlist.

May 27, 2012, 8:54am Top

lkernagh - Love Tana French and hope you do too! Glad to hear you're still reading Don Quixote and that reading it between books is working for you!

cammykitty - The Master and Margarita is definitely a book to check out for yourself. From the discussion here, it's obviously not for everyone, but I loved it!

For my anything goes category, I read Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen.

This is a classic of Norwegian writing. It's a play written in verse about the adventurous, impetuous, selfish Peer Gynt. Ibsen weaves in Norwegian folk lore, though the play also has a modern feel in sections (well, modern for the time it was written) as Peer Gynt travels the world. I was nervous about reading this as translated verse doesn't usually work for me, but I liked the story (even though Peer Gynt is a selfish ass) and I thought the translated verse worked pretty well. I like reading Norwegian classics because some of my ancestry is Norwegian and I've always been interested in the culture.

The best part of reading this was that I received a beautiful Easton Press Publication of the play with fantastic pictures and a beautiful lay out. I would say it definitely colored my reading of the play in a favorable way.

Original Publication Date: 1867
Author’s nationality: Norwegian
Original language: Norwegian
Length: 329 pages (large type)
Other books read by this author: A Doll's House
Rating: 4 stars

May 27, 2012, 10:14am Top

I agree, translated poetry/verse is usually abominable. I love Ibsen though! Glad the translation had enough artistry for it to be worthwhile. It's Ibsen though. A translator can't ruin his writing completely (unless they try.)

May 28, 2012, 5:13am Top

@148 - Yeah at the time I wondered if i'd read a duff translation - no idea who did it now as I didn't keep the book...

not really inspired to try another version though it must be said!

May 28, 2012, 9:36pm Top

Ibsen is pretty interesting--did you listen to Grieg along with it?

May 28, 2012, 11:44pm Top

Oooo - I'm sure the Peer Gynt Suite would be more interesting after reading Ibsen. Good idea Banjo!

May 30, 2012, 8:39am Top

I didn't actually listen to Grieg with Peer Gynt, but I'm familiar enough with it that I definitely thought about it quite a bit!

May 30, 2012, 8:40am Top

For my 1001 books category, I read Lady Chatterly's Lover by D.H. Lawrence.

This is another classic that I've finally gotten to! This was my first novel by D.H. Lawrence and the review is going to be a bit tricky. I am of two very separate minds about this book.

On the positive side, I liked Lawrence's writing and am eager to read more. Something about the flow and pacing really engaged me. The novel itself was very well-done in it's exploration of the ramifications of WWI on different social classes and sexes. I thought it was interesting to contrast the characters who were changed by the war vs. those who weren't (or tried not to be) and also the areas in which society/culture changed after the war vs. the ways it didn't. All the different combinations of these four possibilities made for a lot of interesting themes.

But then there's the negative. Obviously, this book is most known for the love scenes between Connie and Mellors. The problem is that these are really dated. Not only the language and the ideas of what good sex is, but the thought that their relationship is somehow ideal and lets them be themselves did not convince me. In fact, it offended me. Mellors in particular has some really offensive ideas about women and sex. He did not strike me as the epitome of manhood, as I think Lawrence intended him. I came away from the book hoping that Connie uses this experience as a stepping stone to a better, more balanced relationship, though I doubt that's what Lawrence intended me to hope.

Overall, I liked Lawrence's writing and want to read more of his novels, but I know this particular book won't be my favorite.

Original Publication Date: 1928
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 309 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 3.5 stars

May 30, 2012, 11:04am Top

I hate Lawrence so much. Ugh ugh ugh. Have fun with Sons and Lovers!

May 30, 2012, 1:32pm Top

So Lady Chatterly's Lover is typical of his books? Maybe my intention to read more will be put on the back burner for a decade or so!

May 30, 2012, 5:09pm Top

No, no, we're bound to disagree on some author, sometime (but Lawrence! why?). I read a bunch of his novels when I was working my way through the Modern Library top 100 books of the 20th century list and I hate them all. He does have some issues with women. But you should read them anyway. The Rainbow wasn't quite as horrible as the rest.

OH! And you actually really do need to read Sons and Lovers and then go back and re-read Cold Comfort Farm. You will discover a whole new level of hilarity if you do.

Jun 3, 2012, 7:36pm Top

I knew when I read Cold Comfort Farm I was missing something. I'll remember to go back to it after I read Sons and Lovers somewhere down the road. Jury is still out on my overall feelings about Lawrence after reading only one book, but I'm definitely willing to give more a try.

Jun 3, 2012, 7:36pm Top

I went to my local used book store today and got a good haul. I don't go there too often because I really don't have the space for books and try to mainly use the library, but I couldn't resist going in today. I bought:

The Secret River by Kate Grenville
The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Year Before Last by Kay Boyle (a classic green cover Virago edition that I couldn't pass up even though I've never heard of it!)

This shop is insane. There are stacks of books everywhere - so many that you can barely walk through the already narrow row house. Thanks to my years on librarything I was no where near as overwhelmed as I was when I first starting going there 8 years ago. I recognized so many of the authors and titles and it really helped me browse intelligently. Thanks to all of you who've broaden my reading knowledge!!

Jun 4, 2012, 11:58am Top

For my modern works category, I read 11/22/63 by Stephen King
I enjoyed this time travel romance that centers around JFK's assassination and what might have happened if the assassination hadn't happened. I'm fairly new to King's writing and I like it. Yes, it's a bit long, but he writes so grippingly that it really pulls you along. I thought the romance angle in this book was a little weak and ended up being too big a part of the book, but overall it was an enjoyable read.

Original Publication Date: 2011
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 849
Other books read by this author: The Shining, Full Dark, No Stars
Rating: 3.5 stars

Jun 14, 2012, 8:56am Top

In my re-reads category, I read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

I first read Wolf Hall when my son was still a non-sleeping newborn and I knew that I loved it, but I honestly didn't remember much about it. So I wanted to re-read it before reading Bring up the Bodies. Luckily, my recollection of loving it was right. Since I've already reviewed it, I'll just say that I love how Mantel is able to get inside her characters and reveal their personalities through their actions and reactions. I also love that this book is funny - it isn't as serious as many historical fiction works can be. I also think her use of the present tense makes the reader feel more involved in the action than far removed from it. It is very effective. And the "he's" don't bother me at all! ;-)

Original Publication Date: 2009
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 560 pages
Other books read by this author: Wolf Hall in 2010, A Place of Greater Safety
Rating: 5 stars

Jun 17, 2012, 2:47pm Top

For my biographies category, I read Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff.

This is an interesting biography of Cleopatra. Schiff knows that most of what is believed about Cleopatra is more folk lore and media-influenced than fact and tries very hard to separate the two. Of course, there isn't all the much accurate first-hand source material about Cleopatra, but somehow Schiff paints a convincing picture of Cleopatra's life and motivations anyway. I personally was a little put off by Schiff's writing style though I can't put my finger on why, but this is a fascinating book in spite of that. Recommended.

Original Publication Date: 2010
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length:394 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 3.5 stars

Jun 17, 2012, 7:29pm Top

Stopping by to get caught up. I have 11/22/63 on my For Later list. I have avoided Stephen King's works to date but understand this is different and sounds like something I would find fascinating to read.

I am making headway on Wolf Hall but not far enough along into it to decide if I like it or not.

Jun 19, 2012, 8:35pm Top

For my mysteries/thrillers category, I read Case Histories by Kate Atkinson.

I've heard so many great things about this book on LT, and I'm happy to say I wasn't disappointed. This is a mystery that weaves several cold cases together that detective Jackson Brodie works to solve. I actually didn't think the mysteries were all that mysterious, but the character writing in this book is amazing. Atkinson shifts point of view between chapters and very successfully creates different third person voices for each of her main characters. I'm definitely interested in reading more of her work.

Original Publication Date: 2004
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 310 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 4 stars

Jun 21, 2012, 9:49pm Top

Oh, I'm glad you enjoyed Case Histories.

Jun 21, 2012, 9:55pm Top

I've heard a ton of good things about Case Histories too. I'll have to read it either this year or next year. :)

Jun 22, 2012, 1:38pm Top

I'm another of the Jackson Brodie-fans - he has such a great voice, doesn't he?!

Jun 30, 2012, 9:57am Top

For my historical fiction category, I read The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson.

Awesome! I loved this book about the adventures of Red Orm, a Viking from the mid 900s. This book has everything. Kidnapping, enslavement, fighting, humor, love, and adventure. Along the way I learned a lot about the evolving religions of the time. The Norse gods, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are all explored in a surprisingly evenhanded way. Also, I learned so much about daily life and family relationships at the time.

The book is in 4 parts. Part 1, The Long Voyage, sucks you right in as you go on a sea-faring adventure with Red Orm. This is the part where he goes from adolescence to manhood and becomes a man worthy of being a Chieftan. He's a smart, fair, and brave man. This part was an interesting discussion of the religions of the time. Part 2 takes place in England with more battles and Orm's conversion to Christianity. Part 3 explores home life and marriage as Orm gives up his adventures to farm, raise a family, and build a church. Part 4 is another adventure to recover a treasure.

Through all of this you meet interesting characters who show up again at unexpected moments. You see how communities interact with each other and how disputes are resolved. I also learned that Viking can be a verb - as in "to go a-viking". Awesome! The writing is fantastic - humorous, exciting, and intelligent. I highly recommend this book. It was great fun!

Original Publication Date: 1954
Author’s nationality: Swedish
Original language: Swedish
Length: 503 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 4.5 stars

Jun 30, 2012, 10:16am Top

Makes me want to go a-viking! I suppose I could float down the Mississippi to see if there's any place to pillage. ;) Sounds like a fun book.

Jun 30, 2012, 2:01pm Top

I am going to have to track down a copy of The Long Ships. I love books about vikings and I'm ready to go "a-viking" as well!

Jun 30, 2012, 6:58pm Top

I'm sad to admit I've not read The Long Ships, especially considering I'm Swedish... It's on Mt. TBR, though! And I do own one of those silly Viking-helmets - maybe I'll wear it while I read, to get into the right spirit. :)

Jul 6, 2012, 9:46pm Top

Do read The Long Ships everyone - it's really fun!

For my anything goes category, I read Year Before Last by Kay Boyle.

This is a book that I picked up on a whim in my local used book store because it is a Virago Modern Classics edition. I'd never heard of the book or the author. The story is about the love between Martin and Hannah. Both are young, in their 20s, and have left someone to be together. Hannah has left her husband behind after falling in love at first sight with Martin, and Martin has chosen Hannah over the financial support of his Aunt Eve. While Hannah's husband is all but absent from the book, Eve is a never-ending presence as she holds the purse strings to Martin's true love - his avant-garde literary magazine that he edits and contributes to. Hannah finds that Martin has no money of his own and they move from hotel to hotel in southern France, first running from bills and then leaving as proprietors refuse to let the deathly ill Martin stay in their hotel. His lung illness is gruesome and described in detail as Hannah nurses him through fits where he loses containers of blood.

The book ends up being a sort of love triangle between Hannah, Martin, and Eve/the magazine. I started out really liking it, was pretty put off by the tone in the middle, and then got engrossed in the end. Especially in the middle, I started to feel like even though the writing is descriptive and romantic I was being kept at a distance from everything. That's strange to feel in such a narrowly focused book. Then I read the afterword and discovered that this is a highly autobiographical work and that Boyle really did watch her lover die an excruciating death. Then the distance seemed to make more sense as I imagine this was pretty painful to write.

Overall, I'm glad I read this, but I don't think it's earth-shattering enough to seek out.

Original Publication Date: 1932
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 320 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 3.5 stars

*** I'm pretty sure this is the first time I have ever been the only reviewer for a book on LT!

Edited: Jul 8, 2012, 5:42pm Top

I just finished The Long Ships and you were absolutely right - it's brilliant!!

Jul 10, 2012, 1:40am Top

I am trying to resist adding The Long Ships to my kindle, but I don't think I am going to be able to hold out for long!

Jul 14, 2012, 7:52pm Top

For my 1001 books category and as part of the 12 in 12 group read, today I finished Don Quixote, Part 2 by Miguel de Cervantes.

I finished Part 1 of Don Quixote in May and though I enjoyed it and was impressed by it, I never really connected to it. I couldn’t feel more differently about Part 2. Part of it may be that I read it more quickly, but mainly I felt that Book 2 was the work of a more mature writer with deeper characterizations and a better thread of narrative. I LOVED reading of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza’s adventures and I was so sorry to see it end. Their relationship really develops through this part and their adventures are less silly and more meaningful. I loved the section where the Duke and the Duchess set up adventures for DQ and Sancho, especially seeing Sancho get his chance at being a governor. I also thought it was smart and creative to have the characters all have read the previously published first book of adventures and to have the “unofficial” second part floating around. It was so hard to remember just how long ago this book was written because it feels so modern in many ways. It is definitely a book I will come back to again and again.

A must-read for all readers.

Original Publication Date: 1615
Author’s nationality: Spanish
Original language: Spanish
Length: 491 pages
Other books read by this author: Don Quixote, Part 1
Rating: 5 stars

Jul 14, 2012, 11:34pm Top

Interesting review of Don Quixote - I've read excerpts of it in Spanish and like you, didn't really connect. Perhaps it's worth trying the whole thing in English.

Jul 16, 2012, 2:22pm Top

Congratulations on finishing Don Quixote! It sounds like I have some good reading ahead of me.

Jul 16, 2012, 4:28pm Top

Joining in on the congrats! I am about to embark on Part 2 and look forward to the further adventures of our erstwhile duo.

Jul 17, 2012, 5:26am Top

yep congrats - I'm looking to read it in 2013...

Jul 17, 2012, 9:13am Top

For my rereads category, I read Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.

After finishing Don Quixote, I needed a palate cleanser and for that I always turn to Jane Austen. I hadn't read Northanger Abbey since I started keeping track of my reading in 2008 so it was time to return to this book. I had remembered this as one of my less favorite Austen novels (it's all relative as I love them all) and I was a little surprised at how much I loved it. This is considered Austen's first novel and you can definitely tell. It's true that the writing may be a little less flowing and I could imagine some of the characters being more fleshed out if this was a later work, but I wouldn't trade those things for the benefits. Austen's voice and, most entertainingly, her sarcasm really comes through in this book. I felt like you could see more of her personality in this book than in some of her later ones. I also LOVE Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland, both of whom have their faults and feel like real people. Reading Austen always puts me in a general reading mood, so I'm off to find another book!

Original Publication Date: 1818
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 290 pages
Other books read by this author: all of them including most of her "juvenelia"
Rating: 5 stars

Jul 17, 2012, 12:26pm Top

Ooh, good to know that you ended up loving it. It's next up in my Jane Austen category and I've been putting it off because I also had this sense that I didn't really like it the first time. Time to move it up the TBR list then!

Jul 19, 2012, 11:47am Top

I definitely have a soft spot for Northanger. Mr. Tilney is delightful! I also love the passages in which Austen addresses the reader directly; the humor is a bit more pointed and less subtle than in her later works.

Edited: Jul 22, 2012, 4:51pm Top

For my 1001 books category, I read Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
Well that may just be the most satisfying book about an unsatisfying topic that I've ever read. This is a brilliant tale that weaves a historical subject with a character study. Atwood delves into the mind of Grace Marks, an 18th century woman convicted of colluding with a fellow servant to kill her employer and the housekeeper he was sleeping with. The book focuses on Grace's time in jail being interviewed by an aspiring doctor to the insane, Simon Jordan. The entire book is a question - just how involved was Grace in the murders? The answers range from her being a young, unwitting bystander who didn't stop the murders out of fear to her being a conniving, manipulative, jealous woman who orchestrated the whole affair. In the middle is the possibility of insanity, multiple personalities, etc. In addition to the questions about Grace, we get a glimpse into the mind of Dr. Jordan, who comes off as not-so-sane himself, even in comparison to Grace. Ultimately, there are few answers in this book, but even though that in itself is unsatisfying, the book is so absorbing and interesting that it is satisfying even without a neatly wrapped up ending. This may be my favorite Atwood novel so far.

Original Publication Date: 1996
Author’s nationality: Canadian
Original language: English
Length: 468 pages
Other books read by this author: The Handmaid's Tale, The Blind Assassin, Cat's Eye
Rating: 5 stars

Jul 22, 2012, 4:39am Top

I'm thinking I should read one of those classic Gothics like Castle of Otronto and read Northanger again. I love Northanger too, and agree. Her early style was a little simpler, and that too has its charms.

Great review of Alias Grace. I burned out on Atwood after attempting to read her novel with the road kill artist. How she can write a novel about Grace Marks, yet leave her innocence an open question, intrigues me. Not many authors could pull that off.

Jul 22, 2012, 3:25pm Top

Great review! I've got Alias Grace coming up later this year, too. I've been on a bit of an Atwood kick lately. I'll try to get to it sooner - better than The Blind Assassin must be amazing!

Jul 22, 2012, 4:50pm Top

Jennifer - Well, it's different than The Blind Assassin. I think that The Blind Assassin is the smarter book, but Alias Grace was more of a page turner for me and more the type of book that I tend to like. They are both 5 star reads for me, though.

cammykitty - I read the first half of Mysteries of Udolpho a year or two ago. It was not the page-turner for me that it was for Catherine Morland! But I did understand Austen's parody of the gothic romances better for reading it.

Jul 22, 2012, 8:57pm Top

I've heard that several of the Gothic romances were just abysmal! They didn't have Steven King obviously, and no bodice-rippers either. Poor Catherine would've loved having all the books to pick from we do.

Jul 31, 2012, 2:57pm Top

For my rereads category I read Middlemarch by George Eliot.

I intended to wait and read this with the August group read, but I wanted to read it before I go out of town next week since I didn't want to travel with my folio society edition. I'm planning to join in the discussion though.

This is one of my favorite books and was a reread in a used Folio Society edition that I received as a gift this year. I love this book. The characters are beautifully developed and though most are based on some sort of prototype they all feel like real people to me. There are beautiful love stories, unsuccessful marriages, local politics, youthful scandals coming back to haunt the established, family fights, family love, and it's all just fabulously written. I think that one of my favorite characters is the self-absorbed Rosamund. She is not the kind of character I'd normally like (and I don't actually like her), but Eliot does such a great job of making her human even with her selfish ways and limitless mistakes. I also love the contrasts between the main female characters - Dorothea, Rosamund, and Mary. This is a book that I will continue to return to.

Original Publication Date: 1871
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 837 pages
Other books read by this author: Daniel Deronda, The Mill on the Floss
Rating: 5 stars

Jul 31, 2012, 9:09pm Top

Thankfully, I am already overbooked for my planned and group reading in August but I will be adding Middlemarch to the list of books that I probably should get around to reading someday.

Aug 1, 2012, 12:16am Top

Overbooked too, but interesting review of Middlemarch. I'm thinking some quiet summer, I should find a way to fit it into my reading plans. At least the 1st hundred pages so I have a feel for it.

Aug 4, 2012, 4:57pm Top

For my Modern Works category, I read A Mind of Winter by Shira Nayman.

I received A Mind of Winter as a LT Early Reviewers book. To be honest, I wasn’t that excited about this book, but it turned out to be very enjoyable and I’m glad I read it.

This novel takes place in the immediate aftermath of WWII. Oscar has moved to America and from the beginning it is made clear that he has changed his identity and that he is hiding something. His story, and his family’s, is gradually revealed along the way. His life is intertwined with two women. Christine is a British woman who he had a relationship with after meeting her through English language classes that she taught to people housed in an Internment Camp that Oscar (named Robert at the time) was part of. Christine leaves England abruptly after seeming to discover something evil in Robert’s past. She travels to Shanghai where she falls deeper and deeper into an opium addiction and seems to be lost. The other woman central to the book is Marilyn, a photographer whose war-time pictures affect Oscar deeply. She is struggling with her own demons, trying to come to terms with the real world behind her photographs.

All of the characters in this book are haunting. The plot is interesting – exotic at times, but also familiar. There are nods to The Great Gatsby when Oscar moves to America and sets up a summer estate where he invites friends for the weekend, Marilyn included. The opulence and laziness of that setting definitely reminded me of Fitzgerald’s work.

Where the book fails a bit is in the ending. With a book like this, I actually would have liked a few more loose ends to remain. The plot gets tied up a bit too nicely for my taste. I also thought that the characters could have been tied together more strongly – especially getting Marilyn into the main story – and the theme of coincidences could have been more flushed out.

Overall, though, this was a pleasant surprise. There’s a good amount of suspense and it kept my interest to the end.

Original Publication Date: 2012
Author’s nationality:
Original language: English
Length: 320 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 3.5 stars

Aug 6, 2012, 2:41pm Top

Great that you enjoyed the book. I think it deserves more appreciation than it seems to have gotten so far. Good observation about the nod to The Great Gatsby.

Aug 10, 2012, 8:33pm Top

Thanks, smiler69. It was a fun book to read!

For my mysteries category, I read Torso by Helene Tursten trans. by Katarina E. Tucker

This is the second book in the Detective Irene Huss series. This book is much more gruesome than the first in the series, as it deals with a pair of serial murderers who are into "sado-necrophilia" - yeah, just what it sounds like and disgusting! What I like about this series is that the main detective is serious about her job and good at it, but it doesn't completely consume her family life. She stops working at the end of the day and she makes an effort to spend time with her family, including twin teenage girls. I get kind of sick of detective novels where the main detective is a disaster and has no separation between life and work. This feels more realistic. What I don't like is that the translation (originally in Swedish) is pretty clunky. The series has several different translators, so I'm hoping it improves. I enjoy this series as a diversion from my normal reading.

Original publication date: 2000
Author's Nationality: Swedish
Original Language: Swedish
Length: 341 pages
Other books read by this author: Detective Inspector Huss
Rating: 3 stars

Aug 11, 2012, 6:34pm Top

I haven't read any of the Irene Huss books, but I can recommend the TV-series based on them. I know that they are subtitled in English, so they must have been made available outside of the Nordic countries at some point. :)

Edited: Aug 14, 2012, 7:28pm Top

For my non-fiction category, I read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.

This is a book that will most definitely change your outlook of race relations and incarceration rates in America. It certainly did for me. In place of a review of this book, I’m going to list a few quotes to hopefully get you interested in reading this book. I highlighted almost 60 passages, which is quite possibly a record for me. As a person who thinks of herself as liberal, progressive, and informed about the state of America, I was pretty shocked by some of the statistics in this book. The basic tenet is that the mass incarceration of blacks through The War on Drugs is creating a massive racial caste system. I personally knew that incarceration rates for blacks were highly inequitable, but I will admit to not knowing that drug use across color boundaries is virtually identical even though it is not remotely prosecuted identically. I will also admit that media, tv shows, movies, skewed my thinking to assume that one of the reasons for the difference in incarceration rates between the races was that violence was often a part of black drug usage in a way that it is not for white drug usage. I’m really, really embarrassed to admit that, but there it is. I’m so glad I read this book as it has radically changed my knowledge and ideas. Alexander’s book is particularly strong in her analysis of court decisions and tracing the funding and politics behind the War on Drugs.

Here are just a couple of quotes - it was really hard to pick.

In less than thirty years, the US penal population exploded from around 300,000 to more than 2 million, with drug convictions accounting for the majority of the increase. The United States now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, dwarfing the rates of nearly every developed country, even surpassing those in highly repressive regimes like Russia, China, and Iran.

Studies show that people of all color use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates. If there are significant differences in the surveys to be found, they frequently suggest that whites, particularly white youth, are more likely to engage in drug crime than people of color. That is not what one would guess, however, when entering our nation’s prisons and jails, which are overflowing with black and brown drug offenders. In some states, back men have been admitted to prison on drug charges at rates twenty to fifty times greater than those of white men.

. . . for drug felons, there is little hope of escape. Barred from public housing by law, discriminated against by private landlords, ineligible for food stamps, forced to “check the box” indicating a felony conviction on employment applications for nearly every job, and denied licenses for a wide range of professions, people whose only crime is drug addiction or possession of a small amount of drugs for recreational use find themselves locked out of the mainstream society and economy – permanently.

SWAT teams could have rappelled from helicopters in gated suburban communities and raided the homes of high school lacrosse players known for hosting coke and ecstasy parties after their games . . . Suburban homemakers could have been placed under surveillance and subjected to undercover operations designed to catch them violating laws regulating the use and sale of prescription “uppers”. All of this could have happened as a matter of routine in white communities, but it did not. Instead, when police go looking for drugs, they look in the ‘hood.

To put the crisis in even sharper focus, consider this: just 992 black men received a bachelor’s degree from Illinois state universities in 1999, while roughly 7000 black men were released from the state prison system the following year just for drug offenses.

Original publication date: 2010
Author's Nationality: american
Original Language: english
Length: 290 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 4.5 stars

Aug 14, 2012, 1:30pm Top

Wow. I've added it to my TBR list - those are some horrifying quotes.

Aug 14, 2012, 5:22pm Top

Sounds intense - definitely going on the TBR list.

Aug 14, 2012, 8:32pm Top

For my anything goes category, I read Faro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer.

This was my first experience reading Heyer, an author I learned about on LT. I'd say I liked it and would read more by her in the future, though I wasn't as blown away as I hoped to be. This is one of Heyer's romances. There is the feisty female heroine in unfortunate financial situations and the rich, young nobleman who is infatuated with her. His cousin and guardian sets out to save him from this woman and of course ends up falling in love with her himself. There is lots of action and some witty dialogue. I found it all very predictable, but I still enjoyed it. It's a fun book if you're in the right mood for it.

Original publication date: 1941
Author's Nationality: British
Original Language: English
Length: 304 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 3.5 stars

Aug 15, 2012, 4:26pm Top

I really do need to try something by Georgette Heyer someday. I should get one and save it for a winter cold.

Aug 15, 2012, 10:06pm Top

Yes! Perfect reading for a winter cold!

Aug 23, 2012, 8:38am Top

For my 1001 books category, I read The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford.

I think that Ford Madox Ford should have fought the publishers and stuck with his original title, The Saddest Story. It is a much better descriptor of this intense and depressing short novel. This is the story of the twisted lives of two unhappily married couples and the various affairs they involve themselves in. It's narrated by one of the husbands, John Dowell, whose wife Florence has at least two affairs, one with the husband of the other married couple, Edward, who is the title character. Leonora, Edward's wife, is aware of everything going on and trying to control events as much as possible by managing her husband's affairs - both in love and money. John, the narrator, insists that he never knew that his wife was having affairs. He tells the story of Edward and Leonora through a series of flashbacks after Florence and Edward have both committed suicide, Edward several years after Florence.

If the above description was confusing, I'll say I'm just following the layout of Ford's book. The unreliable memories and misunderstanding of events by the narrator and the rambling, out-of-chronological order retelling make the novel complex and interesting. The writing style is amazing, especially considering this was written in 1915. The characters in this book are all pretty despicable, mostly being either totally passive, like the narrator, or passive aggressive, like Leonora. Usually I can't stand a book where I don't like at least one of the characters, but this book is good enough to overcome that.

Original Publication Date: 1915
Author’s nationality: British
Original language: English
Length: 177 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 4 stars

Aug 23, 2012, 12:52pm Top

The Good Soldier is on my list to read someday soon. Hemingway thought Ford Madox Ford was a reprehensible character, although they did have a falling out, which may have influenced his opinion.

Aug 23, 2012, 1:36pm Top

>206 RidgewayGirl: Interesting. I know very little about the personal lives of either man, but I definitely prefer Ford Madox Ford's writing! I've never enjoyed Hemingway and have pretty much given up on him. I did read somewhere that The Good Soldier is partially autobiographical and if so, it doesn't say much for Ford Madox Ford's character!

Aug 23, 2012, 5:10pm Top

And Hemingway wasn't exactly a spotless lamb himself. :)

Aug 24, 2012, 8:30pm Top

1915??? That doesn't sound like a book that would easily get published in 1915. After all, Kate Chopin got chewed up for far less in The Awakening published 1899 - which isn't that much earlier - but of course, she was a woman.

Aug 24, 2012, 9:23pm Top

It is interesting to think about the shock value considering the time it was written. I think part of the acceptance may have been that the writing devices (particularly the rambling, unreliable narrator) were so innovative that the scandal of the story was overlooked? Or maybe it was just ok to write shocking material as a man, but not as a woman.

Aug 25, 2012, 12:42am Top

Who knows??? Or maybe the world was really getting ready for the flappers.

Aug 25, 2012, 3:41pm Top

To complete my 6 book goal for the nonfiction catch-all category, I read The History of the Vikings by Gwyn Jones
Wow, I finally finished this! This is an incredibly dense and informative history of the entire Viking era. Jones works his way from pre 700 AD to 1066. He breaks this up into four sections based on time periods and explores the society, culture, legal systems, famous leaders, and religions. He also describes their explorations and expansions into other countries. To me, some of the most interesting sections were about the pre-Christian religious beliefs and descriptions of everyday life. I was also pretty interested in the ship building and thought there could have been a bit more about that.

Although the subject matter and detail is fascinating, this book is not an easy read. It was published in the 1960s and the language feels old-fashioned and stuffy. It was really hard to get into the flow of it and had lots of words that are rarely used today. I'm also so used to reading current nonfiction that is or tends toward narrative nonfiction that it took me a while to get used to the style.

While the information in this book is fantastic, you have to be determined to get through the dense language. I definitely got so bored at times that I missed the gist of certain sections.

Original publication date: 1968
Author's Nationality: Welsh
Original Language: English
Length: 504 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 3.5 stars

Aug 27, 2012, 7:49pm Top

To complete my modern works category I'm cheating a little and counting a book published in 2004 instead of 2005 or after. Close enough for me at this point! I read Small Island by Andrea Levy.

This fantastic book was winner of the Orange Prize in 2004. It is the story of two newly married Jamaican immigrants in England just after WWII and the white woman they rent a room from. I don't really want to describe the plot or characters much because Levy does it so beautifully. I will say that the portrayal of the immigrant experience, and the black immigrant experience at that, is done really well. I loved how she wrote their words in clear English as they were thinking them and made it clear how different it sounded by making others not understand. Also the characters are connected in ways they don't realize and I loved that Levy revealed this to the reader, but not to the characters. Levy also explores the war experience through both the black and white characters and especially how they are treated after service.

This book is an enjoyable read that has some important themes to share. I highly recommend it.

Original publication date: 2004
Author's Nationality: British
Original Language: English
Length: 415 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 4 stars

Aug 28, 2012, 8:31am Top

I'm so glad you liked it! It was one of the best books I read last year.

Aug 28, 2012, 9:32am Top

oo I have that on my tbr. nice to see a good review

Aug 28, 2012, 9:10pm Top

Glad to see you liked Small Island. I agree, Levy does a great job conveying the immigrant experience in post WWII England.

Sep 2, 2012, 2:02pm Top

For my 1001 books category, I read The Color Purple by Alice Walker.

This is the story of two black sisters who grow up in the south in the first half of the 20th century. They escape their abusive father, Celie through being given away in marriage as a very young girl to an abusive husband, and Nettie meets a black family that takes her along on a mission trip to Africa. This book is told through letters. Celie's are to God in journal form and later to Nettie, and Nettie writes to Celie of her experience in Africa.

Walker explores many topics in this book - the challenges of being poor and black in the south, relationships between husband and wife, the justice system for blacks, love, and religion. She also contrasts the African experience with the African-American experience through Nettie's letters.

Overall, I found this a very moving and well-done book. There were sections that I found a bit predictable , but I enjoyed watching Celie and Nettie grow out of their difficult beginnings to be whole, interesting people.

Original publication date: 1970
Author's Nationality: American
Original Language: English
Length: 288 pages
Other books read by this author: none
Rating: 3.5 stars

Sep 2, 2012, 11:58pm Top

Good review of The Color Purple. It's been a long time since I've read Alice Walker.

Sep 5, 2012, 9:45am Top

Thanks cammykitty - it's a moving book.

And now I think it's time for a new thread. Hope to see you there!

This topic was continued by japaul22's 12 in 12 Challenge - part 2.

Group: The 12 in 12 Category Challenge

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