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Kristel's Baker's Dozen

2013 Category Challenge

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Edited: Dec 17, 2013, 7:01am Top

I will be doing my pyramid this year but adding a 13th category like that extra doughnut you used to get when you bought a dozen. I will be posting to as many categories as a book can fill because it is too hard to read this many books but will try for as few repeats as can be mustered. (categories are subject to change until 1/1/13 when it becomes official.

Not Your Mother's Genre (young adult)
1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

1. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
2. Country Driving by Peter Hessler

Weight Lifting 101(books over 700 pages)
1. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
2. Cryptonomican by Neal Stephenson
3. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, translation by Julie Rose, Narrated by George Guidall, 959 pages, 60 hrs, 31 min listening time

19th Century (1800s)
1. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
2. Villette by Charlotte Brontë
3. The Temptation of Saint Anthony by Gustave Flaubert
4. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Family Affair
1. Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
2. The Reconstructionist by Joesphine Hart, completed 2/24/13
3. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf 12/15/13
4. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
5.The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, completed 2/17/13.

6. Off the Shelf (I owned them before 1/1/2013)
1. Neuromancer by William Gibson
2. Perfume by Suskind 1/25/13
3. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier 5/24/13
4. The Reconstructionist by Josephine Hart, completed 2/24/13
5. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, completed 4/29/13
6. Killing Floor by Lee Child, completed 6/26/13

Around the World (international authors)
1. Argentina--Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
2. France--The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
3. Germany Perfume by Patrick Süskind
4. Russian The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
6. Ireland, The Book of Evidence by John Banville
7. Spain, The Heretic by Miguel Delibes

Let's Stay Home (US authors or settings)
1. Saul Bellow, Humboldt's Gift US author and place, Chicago, New York, Texas
2. Dean Bakopoulos, My American Unhappiness, Madison, Wisconsin
3. Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, book set in Arizona, West Virginia, New York
4. Michael Chabon, (California) The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (New York City).
5. Raymond Chandler (California), The Big Sleep (Los Angeles)
6. Stephen King (Maine), 11/22/63 (Maine, Texas)
7. Louise Erdrich (Minnesota author) The Round House (North Dakota)
8. Lee Child Killing Floor (Georgia)

Reading Dewey (Dewey Decimal System)
100 – Philosophy and psychology Spook by Mary Roach 129
200 – Religion Mere Christianity, Christless Christianity, The Faith
300 – Social sciences: Country Driving by Peter Hessler
400 – Language Fumblerules by William Safire 428
500 – Science Munching Maggots, Noah's Flood and TV Heart Attacks by Karl Kruszelnicki
600 – Technology and applied science: Cooking for the Week Leisurely Weekend Cooking for Easy Weekday Meals (641.5) by Morgan, Taggart and Taggart.
700 – Arts and recreation: Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars by Sharon Lovejoy
800 – Literature Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola
900 – History and geography A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Decade by Decade (potential)
1. 1900..The Hound of Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
2. 1910..A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
3. 1920...To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
4. 1930...The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
5. 1940...Ficciones by Borges
6. 1950...The Tin Drum by Günter Grass
7. 1960...The Magus by John Fowles
8. 1970...Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow
9. 1980...Perfume by Patrick Süskind
10. 1990...Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

First century of the 3rd Millennium
2003: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
2004: The Line of Beauty by Hollinghurst (e-reader)
2005: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
2006: carry me down by M.J. Hyland
2007: The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
2008: Mudboud by Jordan (kindle)
2009: Lacuna by Kingsolver (kindle)
2010: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
2011: My American Unhappiness by Dean Bakopoulos
2012: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
2013: The Dinner by Herman Koch

1001 as if your life depends on it
1. Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
2. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
3. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
4. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel DeFoe
5. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
6. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
7. Mrs 'arris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico
8. The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith
9. The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
10 The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
11. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
12. Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola

Down the Rabbit Path (13 tags)
1. Mental Illness....The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, completed 2/17/13
2. Non-Fiction....A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
3. North Carolina....Bastard Out of Carolina
4. Poverty....God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
5. Read....Mysterious Affair at Styles
6. Series....Ironweed
7. The Great Depression....The Razor's Edge
8. Travel....Silk
9. Women....Cost
10. 2008....The Faith
11. Bible Study....What's So Amazing About Grace
12. Christian....Quo Vadis
13, Classic....TBD This will be the last of my bunny hop I think and so I will be picking my last book when I get there. I started with Book so I will have gone full circle.

Nov 22, 2012, 10:44pm Top

Looks like you have some interesting categories lined up. I look forward to seeing what books you read to fill them.

Nov 22, 2012, 11:06pm Top

Welcome back! The Dewey system always scares the heck out of me, probably because I don't understand it... I just roam the shelves until I find something I want to read or rely on the on-line catalogue to place holds, so I am curious whenever someone has a Dewy decimal system-type category.

Nov 23, 2012, 3:56pm Top

This makes me laugh. If I had a Dewey category it would revolve around scones and cookies! Our library has a great cafe called Dewey's and they have the best of the best cookies and scones. I love to go in for a coffee, scone and peruse whatever I've pulled from the shelves. Heaven!

Nov 23, 2012, 4:41pm Top

Down the rabbit path, eh? I'll be back to see what shows up in that category.

Edited: Nov 29, 2012, 12:36pm Top

Looking forward to following along in 2013 - lots of great categories! Except, I now want a doughnut....

Nov 28, 2012, 8:29pm Top

Thanks for all the comments, I filled in some of my thoughts, not set in stone, Any suggestions for language and science? Rabbit Path is a challenge that I have over at Shelfari called Bunny Hop. It can end up being most anything. You hop through the tags, reading the third from the last books tag read. It could bottom out on this one because I could hop down a dead end tunnel.

Nov 29, 2012, 10:53pm Top

I like your weight lifting 101 category. I have several books like that, ones I've been saving for an extended period of peace and quiet. Someday...

I have Cryptonomicon waiting on my shelf for me; looking forward to your thoughts on it. And to finding out where your Rabbit Path leads you. That sounds like a fun way to discover new books.

Good luck on your challenge!

Edited: Jan 1, 2013, 3:39pm Top

The Magus by John Fowles
published 1966

The Magus was the first book John Fowles started writing but not the first he published. It is the story of Nicholas Urfe, a middle-class Englishman, single, self absorbed playboy set in post war period. Nicholas decides to go to Greece to take a teaching position in an all boys school where he becomes in an ordeal that is a nightmare and where the nature of reality is questioned. There are many questions raised and reader be warned, left unanswered. The themes touch on freedom, power, knowledge and love. The novel is filled with tension that keeps you reading. A good knowledge of Greek mythology and Shakespeare’s Tempest and Othello and Jungian psychology will go a long way to adding to the enjoyment of this book.

Jan 5, 2013, 6:00pm Top

Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
Published 1944
3 stars

Ficciones by Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges is really a work of a master. The work is a series of short stories by this incredibly intelligent author. These short stories have some common themes including libraries, books, philosophy, God reality and unreality. Borges was gradually growing blind and he also served as a librarian. The author was educated in Europe and while he is Argentinian his stories have various settings and various nationalities. He is truly a international author. The various stories that comprise Ficciones sometimes read as essays, are mixed with many non fictional characters and elements and require careful, slow reading and probably should be read many times to really appreciate the authors genius. I enjoyed some of these stories, some were difficult to read. I gave it 3 stars because I do think the author is great and that these stories represent a mastery and a forerunner of magical realism but it was also hard to read. I especially enjoyed Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius though it was struggle to read. I also enjoyed Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote, The Circular Ruins, The Babylon Lottery, Funes, the Memorious, Death and the Compass and Three Versions of Judas. Wikipedia provides a synopsis of each story and I found this very helpful.

Jan 6, 2013, 2:07pm Top

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Original title Le Petit Prince
Translation by Richard Howard
IllustratorAntoine de Saint-Exupéry
rated: 5 stars

This book published in the United States in 1943 and France in 1944, by the French aristocrat, writer, poet and aviator while exiled in the United States after the fall of France. The story is a tale of loneliness, friendship, love and loss. The little prince has fallen to the Earth. He finds a downed pilot stranded in the desert without much water. A situation that had actually occurred in the author’s life. The story is set in the Sahara. The story addresses one’s life and how you choose to spend it. A key message is delivered by the fox. “you become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed” and “It is the time you have devoted to your rose that makes your rose so important.”

It took me a long time to finally get to this novella, children’s story with an adult message and social commentary but it was worth the read and I enjoyed learning about the history as much as reading the book. A delightful story of about staying connected to our inner child.

Jan 6, 2013, 4:52pm Top

Isn't The Little Prince an amazing book to read as an adult?! I got more out of it when I re-read it in the last two years than I did when I first read it. Brilliant!

Jan 6, 2013, 7:23pm Top

->10 Kristelh:
Imagine if you could get a peek into Borges' mind, what wonderful things you would see. :) Ficciones is one I've never read straight through, because the number of ideas just get overwhelming. I do need to dip into it more often, though.

Jan 7, 2013, 10:58am Top

I love Borges - I've read his complete short stories and hope to get to his complete non-fiction some day

Jan 7, 2013, 4:26pm Top

Because it was short, I put one of Borges' quotes on the wall of my work library - "I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library."

Jan 8, 2013, 9:27pm Top

15 Good quote!

Jan 19, 2013, 9:34pm Top

Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow
Published 1975, Pulitzer Prize 1976.

The novel tells the story of Charlie Citrine, a successful writer, who is reflecting on his own talents and life after his friend, Humbolt’s death. Citrine is involved with a young mistress who is leading him around by sexual promises, a wanta be gangster, the IRS and his exwife and her lawyers. Even his mistress abandons him. Charlie is alienated in Madrid when he discovered that Humboldt has left a gift. Saul Bellow is really writing about his friend, the poet Delmore Schwartz and the influence Schwartz had in his own life. Bellow writes about America and he especially likes to write about Chicago which he thought better represented America that New York City. This story is about a man of feeling and a deep thinker. Charlie is honorable and not greedy but there is greed all around him and it is destroying him Other themes are sex, capitalism, meaningless intellectualization, feminism and death. Bellow wanted to show the sense of crisis and despair and writes with great prose style and satire.

Jan 20, 2013, 3:45pm Top

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, narrated by Simon Vance 13 hours and 39 mins
5 stars for the story and 5 stars for the narration

A story of the France before and during the French Revolution by Charles Dickens published in 1859 is my favorite Dickens right now. The two cities are London and Paris. The French peasantry had been abused by the aristocracy and revolution broke and the lives of aristocrats was in danger of the guillotine. The story follows several protagonist as is the usual with Dickens. Charles Darnay, a former French aristocrat who gave it up because he detested the way the aristocrats were behaving. He goes to London. Upon return to France because of a letter requesting his help. Charles is taken prisoner by the revolution and sentenced to die. Charles is married to Lucy Manette and has a young daughter. Syndey Carton is a dissipated English barrister who endeavours to redeem his ill-spent life out of his unrequited love for Darnay's wife. This book is a story of love and redemption. The DeFarges operate a wine shop and are revolutionaries. Madame DeFarge is constantly knitting but is very deadly character.
This was a audio/whispernet kindle book. The narrator did a superb job.

Jan 20, 2013, 6:18pm Top

Cooking for the Week by Morgan, Taggart and Taggart. Call 641.5 Published 1999
Picked this up at the library this month and I just have to rave. It is a compilation of 13 meals to make on the weekend and then several meals to make during the week from what was made on the weekend. Here are some of the weekend meals;
1. Roast Chicken with Lemon, Garlic and Rosemary, Herbed Drop Biscuits, steamed Broccoli and Chocolate Cheesecake.
2. Roast Pork Tenderloin, Red Pepper Pilaf, Roasted Carrot, Rutabaga and Turnip Melange and Mocha Pots de Creme.
3. Bourbon Glazed Ham, Sweet Potato Saute, Sauteed Swiss Chard and cherry Pie.

I've made those three. The rest of the week we ate such meals as Pork and Cheddar Subs, Fried Rice with Pork, Beef Barley Soup with roasted vegetables, cheddar macaroni and Ham; Ham, shrimp and Sweet Potato Jambalaya, Asian Noodle Bowl with Ham. And the good news is the meals have been good. What I really like is I can choose the meal for the week based on what is on sale that week, put my shopping list on Share a list with my husband and send him to the store and I am set for the week. I like this so much that I checked for used books (no longer in print) and ordered myself a copy to keep. There are some fancy meals that you would never make on a regular bases such as Roast Duck, Poached Halibut with chipotle Sauce but I will most likely do the more exotic ones for special occasions. I love anything that makes my life easier and this book does.

Jan 20, 2013, 10:40pm Top

I listened to the same audio version of A Tale of Two Cities in December and I loved it. I was nervous about listening to it because I found up to then, mostly lighter books worked for me in the audio format.

Jan 21, 2013, 3:21am Top

Bellow on feminism? Did he keep it civil? Interesting comments on Humboldt's Gift. It sounds quirky enough.

Jan 22, 2013, 7:38am Top

Cammykitty, yes, quite civil. Compared to books in the present era and it was the seventies so only emerging and not a big part of the book.

Jan 26, 2013, 7:29am Top

Perfume by Patrick Süskind, translated from German by John E. Woods
Originally published as Das Pafum in 1985.

4 stars to 4. 5 because it is a book I will remember and therefore I will end up mentioning it and therefore others might read it.

This book was odd, really odd. I struggled with it because it was odd. The protagonist, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is not likeable. His mother plan to leave him in a pile of fish offal but he survived because he cried out. She was beheaded, thus his name Jean-Baptiste, is a reminder of his mother and his last name means frog. But the oddest thing about Grenouille is he has no odor. He has no scent at all. Grenouille was born July 17, 1738 in Paris, France. While Grenouille has no odor he has an extraordinary sense of smell. The story follows Grenouille over the next thirty some years as he is rejected by the wet nurse, the monk, placed in an orphanage, indentured to a tanner and finally he manages to get into the perfume business where he is able to learn how to put his sense of smell to his advantage. During this early time, he discovers a scent that he “has to have”, the smell of a young virgin on the brink of womanhood. The next span of time, Grenouille takes himself into the wilderness where he spends seven years to avoid smelling any human smell. This section is very strange, there is a part that reads like Genesis and it reads as if Grenouille is a god, a creator. From here, Grenouille goes to Grasse (he has his papers as a journeyman perfumer) and he finds a business to attach himself where he learns more methods used in creating perfumes. He also finds a new virgin and again wants to capture that scent. Jean-Baptiste has also discovered he has no scent and therefore no identity so he begins working on creating scents for himself. He finds different ones that work for various occasions. He also decides to create a scent that will make mankind love him. Well that is enough, if this intrigues you, you will need to read the book. The ending is, well, it is a bit of surprise. One thing that also occurs, everywhere that Grenouille goes, death follows. The mother dies, the orphan mistress dies, the perfumer in France dies. The deaths are natural deaths but all odd deaths or deaths they feared the most.

************This section may contain spoilers not otherwise available in most areas**********

For originality this story takes 5 stars. I felt like there is so much there the author is trying to say through this story but what I feel is that it follows the life of Jesus only in reverse. Grenouille is introduced by his mother who is beheaded. He spends time in the wilderness but instead of resisting temptation, he goes with the grandiose. At this point he heads into his ministry. Instead of healing he brings death even though at first he often brings lots of money to those he joins. Instead of being rejected as he is taken to die (very similar to Jesus by the way) all people feel total love for him and want him.

Character development; yes Grenouille’s character is developed and through him we know some of the other characters but it really is a march through several characters lives.

The language of perfume and the business is very interesting. The writing is poetic at times.

Emotional impact. Because this is a bit of a horror in so many ways, there is not a feeling of pleasure nor is it a nice picture of people. It is also a mystery and the ending is truly unpredictable at least I think so. I think it is going to be hard to quit thinking about this story.

This book made me think about the killings by people who are bullied in school, shunned by society and have gone out and killed. The protagonist is not treated badly in general but he also is not especially noted. He is just easy to overlook. He has no scent, he has no identity. People pay no attention. He has no attachment to people. He hates how they smell. The only thing he loves is smell. The protagonist is a murderer but as in so many cases, he takes his reason with him and no one will ever know why.

Odd story, just odd.

Jan 26, 2013, 6:48pm Top

Odd is usually pretty good for me but I am still having my doubts about Perfume. Might need to buckle down and check it out for my self. Very detailed and constructive review!

Edited: Jan 26, 2013, 7:00pm Top

24. I hated Perfume but everyone I know seems to like it. Maybe it's just me who's weird.

Jan 26, 2013, 8:09pm Top

It was ages since I read Perfume (actually, it was probably over 20 years ago!), but I do remember it as quite mesmerizing. A reread is in order, I think.

Jan 27, 2013, 1:31pm Top

@25 Perfume didn't do it for me either. I remember finding it had to get engaged but finding it much easier to become irritated. I think it was just the writing style wasn't for me.

Jan 28, 2013, 9:55pm Top

Fumblerules by William Safire
A lighthearted rule book for grammar, Fumble Rules was a fun refresher for me. Grammar and good usage are not my strong point so I picked this up at the library. it had me laughing through all 50 rules. will i be a better writer, well, probably not.

Feb 4, 2013, 9:03pm Top

My American Unhappiness by Dean Bakopoulos
Published 2011
2.5 stars

My American Unhappiness is the a fiction story of Zeke Pappas who is a widowed man working on an oral history of “The Inventory of American Unhappiness.” He is the director of the Great Midwestern Humanities Initiative (GMHI). Zeke’s mother and his nieces are living with him. Zeke is quite happy with this arrangement but his mother wants him to marry and if he doesn’t she is going to have the girls go to Michigan and live with their aunt. Zeke is desparate to find a wife before his mother dies of lung cancer. Zeke isn’t paying attention to what is happening around him, the money is all gone and the federal government is investigating.The story is set in Madison, Wisconsin during the last years of Bush and the election of Obama. The political stance is liberal and the book seems to be written as a vehicle to espouse the author’s political opinions. Zeke tells his story in first person therefore we only know Zeke’s point of view. Zeke is unreliable and we soon learn that he can’t be trusted. It took awhile before this felt like a story but it did read fast. As a story it wasn’t particularly original. Because it was Zeke telling the story, no character was developed beyond Zeke’s view. Because Zeke is falling apart, the story tended to also fall apart. While there was little swearing and f bombs initially, they began to explode all over the place. The writing wasn’t that great though the author had some pretty nice quotes throughout the book. These can be found on the book page here at Shelfari so I am not going to repeat them here. I really can’t give this book much more that 2.5 stars. Because it was a fast read that I didn’t have to torture myself to finish, I gave it the 2.5 rather than the straight 2.

Feb 4, 2013, 9:55pm Top

Oh my. Thanks for taking the hit on My American Unhappiness. The title is odd enough that I might have been conned into picking it up.

Edited: Feb 12, 2013, 9:33pm Top

Country Driving by Peter Hessler, narrated by Peter Berkrot.
16 hrs, 34 min. 438 pages.
Published 2010
Call number 303.4832

Country Driving A Chinese Road Trip was written by Peter Hessler, a staff writer at the The New Yorker served as the Beijing correspondent from 2000 to 2007 and is also a contributing writer for National Geographic. This book was a Notable Book of the Year for the New York Times Book Review. In this book, the reader is given a look at China from an anthropological view of a country that built the great wall to keep others out to a country building roads and factory towns that look to the outside world. The book is divided into three. The first book examines the very rural parts of China that follows the wall. The second one examines life in the village and the third book looks at the factory. The author tells his story through the trips he makes in cars that he rents in China. From the description of getting a license, driving lessons, and driving behavior this story is humorous but it is also quite serious and it examines Chinese lives in rural China, villages and in the factory. The author wants the reader to know what it means to be a Chinese citizen in China as much as he wants us to experience what it is like to be a journalist who lives in China. The style of writing is journalistic but also a feel of the “road trip”.

I enjoyed this glimpse of China from someone who lived there for several years, spoke the language and was immersed in the culture. It was an in-depth examination of context, comparisons of Chinese culture with the United States, and was conducted through participant observer and long-term, experiential immersion in the Chinese culture. I felt much more optimistic than China is progressing and is moving toward a more capitalistic country that what it had been during the cold war years. I also understand more about why the Chinese do what they do that is different that what is done here in the United States. I would recommend the book or audio to anyone who wants to know more about China or understand Chinese ways.

Feb 15, 2013, 8:44pm Top

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, translated by Mirra Ginsburg.
originally published in two issues of Moskva in late 1966 and early 1967, copyright 1967 by The Estate of Mikhail Bulgakov. 1937 but not published until 1967.
4 stars

The novel is a story with one storyline set in Jerusalem and the other in Moscow. The devil visits Moscow, a country that is identifying itself as atheistic. The setting is the 1930s, Professor Woland visits Moscow with his retinue of the ex choirmaster Koroviev, Behemoth the cat (a kind of Puss in Boots) and a reference to a Biblical monster, Russian word for Hippopotamus and the fanged Azazello. There is also Abadonna (death) and Hella (witch and vampire). The visit is to the literary elite of the trade union MASSOLIT. Not a real trade union but may stand for the Moscow Association of Writers. The second setting is Jerusalem and the characters are Pontius Pilate, Yeshua Ha-Notsri, Matthu Levi and Yehudah (Judas). The first book sets up the Variety Show that has women running the streets in their underwear and money turning into worthless labels. The second book really introduces Margarita, the mistress of the Master. She is invited to the Devil’s midnight Ball where she will be Queen to Satan. She enjoys her supernatural powers, learning to fly and control her passions and to obtain some satisfaction by destroying the home of a literary bureaucrat that has ruined the Master’s life. This ball coincides with Good Friday and the spring full moon. It is very interesting to look up The Spring Festival Ball at Spaso House and the Master and Margarita. This was a historical event that the author attended. There was decorations that created a forest of birch trees in the chandelier room, dining room covered with tulips and lawn covered with chicory grown on felt. There were pheasants, parakeets and zebra finches from the Moscow Zoo. The festival lasted until early hours of morning.

Margarite and the Master then die but are brought back to spend time in peace but denied light. They will spend eternity in the shadow region. This is a section of the book with many great quotes;

“what would your good be doing if there were no evil, and what would the earth look like if shadows disappeared from it?...”

“But, then, those who love must share the fate of those they love.”

“Everything will turn out right. That’s what the world is built on.”

There are several characters in this book, there are characters of Moscow and the theater, there are the characters of Jerusalem and the characters of Satan. The novel deals with good and evil. courage and cowardice and innocence and guilt. This is also a romance, a love story of the Master and Margarita. There are; light and darkness, noise and silence, sun and moon, and storms. Music and literature strongly influence the book. Characters are named after musicians, there are references to Goethe’s Faust and opera, Nikolai Gogol, and Dostoyevsky and even a reference to Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. There are strong elements of magical realism.

I felt this was a very original work. Some have considered it one of the best novels of the 20th century. The characters were very interesting, the writing was good. The characters were odd and the names being long Russian names added some difficulty but the author was able to make these characters interesting and to the point you actually engaged positively with Satan’s retinue. It is not a hard read as some Russian writing can be perceived. I felt that the translated I read was good though I have heard there is a better one. I just happened to own this one so it is what I read and I didn’t find it lacking.

Feb 16, 2013, 12:30am Top

Ah, I have to read The Master and Margarita

Feb 16, 2013, 4:33am Top

I love The Master and Margarita. One of my favourite books ever - simply because it's completely bonkers and yet strangely believeable.

I haven't re-read it since the first time. I think I'll try to get to some of the "source material" (references) before I do. Thanks fr reminding me of it.

Edited: Feb 22, 2013, 8:25pm Top

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
published 2005
pages, 288
3 1/2 stars

A memoir of Jeannette Walls childhood and young adulthood is in the style of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and Mary Karr’s Liars Club. Ms Walls was the second born of four children and the closest to her father. The story starts in the West, the author was born in Phoenix, Arizona. The family was very transient, always on the move so the parents could avoid troubles. The children were schooled with a mix of homeschooling and public school and were gifted children, well read and knowledgeable in math and sciences. The mother was educated as a teacher but refused to work in her career and viewed herself as an artist and writer. Their father was an alcoholic. Both parents were extremely self centered and put themselves before the children. The family eventually end up in the hollow of Welch, West Virginia, the family home of their father. The children were bullied and abused by the other students, their paternal grandmother was cruel and abusive and the parents neglected the children. They had no heat to speak of, no plumbing and essentially were starving unless they could scavenge food on their own. This book speaks to the resiliency of children and to the fact that some people choose the homeless lifestyle as a preference. I found it surprising that no agency ever intervened on these children’s part and that in the end they had to remove themselves. It also speaks to the fact that removing children from their family of origin is not necessary even if the family is dysfunctional. Children are sometimes better to be left alone. My speculation is that the mother suffered from an affective disorder probably bipolar disorder and the father was sexually abused and an alcoholic. I think the youngest child probably suffered from anxiety so severe that she was unable to function without someone taking care of her. Proof that not all children raised in this family did equally well. In my opinion, memoirs are memories and therefore may not be historically accurate. It would be interesting to talk with the other children to see how their perceptions fit with Jeannette’s.

Feb 22, 2013, 8:25pm Top

Villette by Charlotte Bronte
Published 1853, pages 608
4 stars

Villette is the semi autobiographical story of Lucy Snowe, a young woman of 23 who travels to Villette, a fictional town but modeled after Brussels, Belgium, where the author and her sister did travel for teaching positions. Ms Snowe does not know French, travels alone and is fortunate to find a position as a teacher in a boarding school because she speaks English. While traveling she befriends a young, shallow woman by the name of Ginevra Fanshawe, reunites with her Godmother and her son and becomes friends with M. Paul Carlos David Emanuel. She also runs into a former acquaintance named Polly, a serious young woman of high virtue. This is a Gothic romance and there are spectres of a nun and love that is met with adversity. Themes include the clash of protestantism and catholicism and gender roles and isolation.
This is the author's third novel, the first being Jane Eyre. The first is probably a better story in scope but this novel is enjoyable, the protagonist has many admirable characteristics and the men in the book are generally of good qualities. This novel was criticized at the time for not being suitably feminine in portraying Lucy Snowe, therefore I think the author was successful in getting her social commentary on the life of single women in Victorian England heard.

Feb 22, 2013, 10:37pm Top

The Temptation of Saint Anthony by Gustave Flaubert
Published 1874
Pages 236
4 stars

Saint Anthony or Anthony the Great was a Christian saint from Egypt. Flaubert desired to write an epic of spiritual torment that might equal Goethe’s Faust (German literature). The author spent a large portion of his life writing this story that is written in the form of play script. The work’s form influenced the development of modernist play-texts, notable the “Circe” section of Joyce’s Ulysses. The novel might also be called a prose poem. The work is a fictionalized story of the inner life of Saint Anthony a fourth century Christian. The anchorite undergoes temptations; fraily, the seven deadly sins, Heresiarchs, the martyrs, the magicians, the gods, science, food, lust and death, monsters and metamorphosis. I especially enjoyed the sections that included dialogue with Hilarion (satan and also science). There is a cast of biblical characters including Queen of Sheba and King Nebuchadnezzar. The section on Chimera and the Sphinx and all the monsters were the most confusing to me. I did not get the purpose of that section though did like the ladies, lust and death. My favorite was the exploration of the heresies. Vampires are even mentioned in this work. I had many sections I highlighted and here is one example, a quote from Hilarion--”My kingdom is as wide as the universe, and my desire has no limits. I am always going about enfranchising the mind and weighing the worlds, without hate, without fear, without love, and without God. I am called Science.” This was an interesting read, I gave it 4 stars. It would appeal to anyone interested in religion, hallucinations of the flesh or modernist poetics.

Feb 23, 2013, 7:56am Top

Catching up with your thread. I'll keep an eye out for Country Driving. I'm glad you liked Villette. It was one of my top books for the year a couple of years ago.

Feb 24, 2013, 3:05pm Top

The Reconstructionist by Josephine Hart
Published 2001
Pages 218

The novel is the fifth by Josephine Hart, an Irish author living in London, explores the relationship of Jack and his sister Kate and their parents. Jack is a divorced psychiatrist living in London. We know he is still connected to his first wife because the story starts with his agreement to babysit his wife’s children. We know that Jack’s marriage never resulted in children and the reader knows that another reason the marriage failed is his sister, Kate. What and why Kate is to Jack is really unclear but the reader is afraid that they know the reason. Jack returns to Ireland for the sale of the family home where the past is finally faced and terrible truths emerge. The story is about the damage done in families and how lives our rebuilt from memory, half truths and what we what the truth to be. It is a quick psychological read. I liked it well enough. I bought this one in 2007 because it was on Nancy Pearl’s list THE PEARL 100, as a book about brother and sisters.

Edited: Mar 8, 2013, 8:37pm Top

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, narrated by James Langton
Published 1868.
5 stars

The Moonstone is considered to be the first English detective novel. The story is told in a series of narratives by various characters. It also has some social statements on the life of servants and on the imperialism of the British nation. The Moonstone is a large flawed yellow diamond sacred to Hindus in India. It happens to cause trouble to the possessor since it was taken in the battle at Seringapatam. Rachel Verinder receives it as an inheritance on her eighteenth birthday. Three Hindu men have dedicated their lives to capturing and returning the Moonstone to India. The three Indian men show up as jugglers during the birthday celebration. that night Rachel puts the Moonstone in her cabinet and the next day it is found to be stolen. At first it is thought the Indians have taken it but soon the reader knows that someone who was in the house that night is responsible. Rachel will not cooperate with the investigation. The mystery is not solved.

This book was very enjoyable and was a quick enjoyable read for a book of nearly 500 pages. Many people enjoy the author’s The Woman in White but I preferred this one. The mystery is interesting, the characters are well developed and I can recommend this one to just about anyone who likes a good story. I have this in dead tree, kindle and audio and read it with whispersync. The narrator did a good job of trying to create a voice for each character.

Mar 11, 2013, 6:12am Top

>40 Kristelh: - Really must get round to reading that book, which has been sat on my shelf for a couple of years...

Mar 15, 2013, 3:32pm Top

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, narrated by Julia Whelan, Kirby Heyborne Published 2012
3.5 stars

Read for F2F Book Group.

This was an interesting tale of toxic relationship between Nick and Amy. Nick was raised by his doting mother and abusive father while Amy is the spoiled only child of two professional psychologist who made a bundle of money off books called Amazing Amy. It is told in a back and forth manner between Nick and Amy so the reader is always in one or the other’s head getting their viewpoint and both narrators are very unreliable narrators. Amy goes missing and we get little segments of Nick’s thoughts, little hints that there is a problem and we also get in on sections of Amy’s diary. Amy has gone missing, Nick appears to be a not so nice guy and it appears he could have killed his wife. To say there are twists in this story is true. I thought one was very interesting and then the next was a little past believable. The story does pull you in and you are compelled to keep reading. Faults I have with the story would be that there is too much vulgar language that could have been done without. Definitely can see this as a movie.

Mar 16, 2013, 4:18pm Top

I agree that I can see this as a movie, although having read the book, I doubt I would go and see it.

Mar 16, 2013, 8:49pm Top

>43 mamzel:, I would not go to it either.

Mar 20, 2013, 10:07pm Top

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon.

published 2000

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This epic novel of the golden years of comics set in the late 30’s to the 50s is a story of not only the industry of comics but a people. The Jewish people who came to the United States or were unable to get out of Europe. It is a story of family and friendship. I think the author wrote about being Jewish and about WWII in a very unique way. While he did not depict the concentration camps and the horrible abuse he did tell the story through Joe. Joe was a young immigrant who escaped Europe by riding in a coffin with the Golem. This summarizes the book; On page 575: "Having lost his mother, father, brother, and grandfather, the friends and foes of his youth, his beloved teacher Bernard Kornblum, his city, his history--his home--the usual charged leveled against comic books, that they offered merely an easy escape from reality, seemed to Joe actually to be a powerful argument on their behalf. He had escaped in his life from ropes, chains, boxes, bags, and crates, from handcuffs and shackles, from countries and regimes, from the arms of a woman who loved him, from crashed airplanes and an opiate addiction and from an entire frozen continent intent on causing his death. The escape from reality was, he felt--especially after the war--a worthy challenge." This book won the Pulitzer in 2001 and many other wards and rightfully so. Reading this book was a visit to a time in history. It was fun to read the different brands, movies, books, etc that are mentioned. If often felt like I was reading nonfiction. I enjoyed the characters in this story, they were interesting and well developed. This will be one of my favorite books this year.

Mar 21, 2013, 6:45pm Top

I just got Gone Girl from the library (I've been in the queue for quite a while) and have heard so many different views of it that I can't help but be intrigued. :)

Edited: Mar 25, 2013, 8:37pm Top

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

Published 1939 in London

★ ★ ★

The first in the Philip Marlowe series, this hardboiled detective novel was written by Raymond Chandler and set in Los Angeles. Philip Marlowe is a detective hired by a rich, old man to deal with a blackmail. General Sternwood has two daughters, the older married daughter Vivian Regan and the younger Carmen. Marlowe is cynical but honest. There are two plot lines. Vivian is married to a Rusty Regan who has gone missing which the General mentions but Marlowe is hired to take care of a blackmail attempt by a bookseller named Geiger. There has been a previous blackmail by Joe Brody so blackmail is not new to the Sternwoods. Carmen, the younger sister, is childish and morally careless putting herself into situations that can bring about negative consequences to the Sternwood family. She has little teeth and hisses. As the title implies, bodies start dropping dead. Marlowe does successfully stop the blackmail but he doesn’t quite end the job at that point. The story takes place in October and it would seem that it rains a lot in California a lot. If it seems that there was several story lines, there was as Chandler put together his novels from several short stories published in pulp magazine that he intertwined. It was included in 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die because it represented some major departures in the detective genre that reflected corruption in a post prohibition era. The story develops in place such as cars and rooms that seem to have no connections. The reader knows nothing about Marlowe, he just arrives at the Sternwood mansion. Gone is the Sherlock Holmes detective that considered the facts and solved the case. Marlowe gets beat up at every twist and turn. The book was made into a movie in 1946 with Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart.

Mar 28, 2013, 4:36pm Top

The Book of Evidence by John Banville

3.5 stars

published 1989

Narrated by Freddie Montgomery who is waiting trial from jail for the murder he committed while stealing a painting from the home of family friend.

The first half of the book is a weaving of Freddie’s memories and current thoughts. We learn that Freddie is from Ireland but has ben lving in the California and on a island in the Mediterranean with his wife and son. Freddie gets into some trouble with gangster, owes money and is forced to go home to get the money. At home, Freddie finds his mother to be quite poor. She says she was forced to sell the paintings because Freddie has been living off his father’s money. This angers Freddie who feels his mother has squandered his inheritance. Freddie visits the neighbor, goes back to steal a painting and is caught by a young maid which he forces to go with him and later kills. The second half of the book tells of his arrest and his interaction with the legal authorities.

I decided to read this rather short book because of the controversy in the 1001 Books You Must Read Group. It was a 5 star book for one and 2 stars from the guys. First, I knew that the murder description was graphic and it was so (I skimmed quickly over) and that there was description of vomit and there is some sexual stuff too. The narrator is totally unreliable and self focused thus narcissistic is a good description as well as antisocial and has also been referred to as amoral. In his narrative, at times it would appear that Freddie is trying to blame everyone and everything for what has happened. I agree with John, there is no remorse. The last line, is remorse that he has not been respected more and admired more for what has happened and he has taken on the idea that he can give life back to this girl nor do we the reader ever know what is truth. Freddie’s reality is so distorted. The story was based on the 1982 incident of Edward MacArthur, who killed a young nurse in Dublin during the course of stealing her car. The phrase grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented (GUBU) was paraphrased from a comment by then Taoiseach (prime minister) of Ireland, Charles Haughey, while describing a strange series of incidents in the summer of 1982 that led to a double-murderer being apprehended in the house of the Irish Attorney General. Edward MacArthur was staying with the attorney general and later resigned after MacArthur was arrested. Banville was attempting to give his prose more characteristics of poetry. The book won Ireland's Guinness Peat Aviation Award in 1989 and was short-listed for Britain's Booker Prize. There is a sequel to this book called Ghosts in which many of the characters reappear.

I didn’t find the book as distateful as the 2 star reviewers now maybe as 5 star as Shelley but I will give in 3.5 stars. I liked The Sea better in which the author does achieve the qualities of poetry.

Edited: Apr 20, 2013, 12:20pm Top

The Heretic a Novel of the Inquisition by Miguel Delibes
Translated by Alfred MacAdam
Published by the author 1998. Translated 2006.

I give it 5 stars

The story is of Cipriano Salcedo, citizen of Valladolid, Spain set in the 1500s. In fact, Cipriano Salcedo was born on October 31, 1517, the day Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses. There is a brief introduction to Luther and Calvin and the Council of Trent. Cipriano’s mother died shortly after childbirth and his father never approached the son with anything but disdain. Cipriano was raised in the Catholic faith but along the way, without his fully realizing, he becomes a believer in the doctrine of beneficence. His desire for fraternity leads him to trust that others will stay true to their oaths. The author dedicated this book to his hometown of Valladolid in which he creates the landscape, the man and the passion. Cipriano is a merchant and the story of man’s freedom to think and the intolerance of mankind. The story does immerse you in the sixteenth century. I recommend this to anyone interested in the inquisition, the reformation or the 16th century.

Apr 23, 2013, 9:04pm Top

11/22/63 by Stephen King

4 stars

Published 2011

Page count 853

11/22/63 of course is the date that President Kennedy was assassinated. For years there have been questions and suggestions of conspiracy. It is a half century since the shooting. What would life have been like if Kennedy had not been assassinated? f history could be changed would you change it? The protagonist is Jake Epping, a man who is young and really doesn’t have any connection to the assassination unlike myself who was in fifth grade at the time. I found it disconcerting to realize that this huge event in my life is losing its significance. It was also a big even in the author's life who was born in 47. Mr King tells us that he wrote the story because he has curiosity about why the questions around the assassination remain. This was the first novel by Stephen King for me. I’ve seen some of his movies like Green Mile but I’ve never braved reading his books as frankly I am afraid to expose myself to the horror. This book I am told is different than is other books. Its about time-travel and that part was interesting but there was also some creepiness. Derry references back to Stephen’s early work, It and the suggestions of something bad happening to children in Derry is simply that but it was plenty creepy. The description of the killing with the hammer was graphic. Overall there were long sections where there was little tension. A lot of the book was a love story. A love story with no satisfactory solution so you wonder how this is going to play out. I would also say that there was a little too much swearing. Sex was also at times descriptive. I believe that most of the descriptions of the fifties/sixties was accurate though at times I felt that words such as rehab center, assisted living, big screen didn’t really fit in that time period. The book did not change my views on the assassination. Would I change history, no, I wouldn’t but I also don’t think things would have gone all that bad if Kennedy had not died nor do I think it would have prevented wars and moral decay. I gave the book 4 stars because I think it was creative idea for a story. Time travel is not new, nor is alternate history. What was new is the bravery to write about the assassination but a lot is being written so that isn’t new either. I think King is a good writer. I thought there was a lot left hanging that maybe could have been left out of the story or needed closure. Themes include memory, love, loss, free will and necessity as well as butterfly effect and chaos theory. A section is titled, “dancing is life” and dancing, music and food are ways in which changes in American life is presented. I enjoyed the stroll down memory lane with the music. King wanted to write into the story the energy of the music of the fifties.

This is my F2F book for April and I am hosting. I will be using King’s playlist for background music and serving cheeseburgers and root beer, beer and of course pound cake.

Apr 24, 2013, 9:38am Top

Like you, I have seen The Green Mile but haven't ventured into any of King's books. This one is on my future reading list. Nice review and great menu for the F2F meeting!

Apr 25, 2013, 12:04pm Top

Pound cake - Ha!

May 1, 2013, 9:42pm Top

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

4 stars

Bill Bryson is once again walking. I liked his tale Notes From a Small Island where he is walking England so have always wanted to read this one. I didn't like this as much. Bills humor can be a little caustic at times. The book is filled with information of the history, geography and ecology of the Appalachian Trail.

May 7, 2013, 10:14pm Top

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

First published 1902

Pages 243

5 stars

The Hound of the Baskervilles first chapter is titled. Mr. Sherlock Holmes as previous to this book, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had grown tired of the detective and had sent him to his death but his readership would not let him go and begged for more and so we have this book which was supposed to have occurred prior to his death. The story is about the Baskervilles who live in the the southwest part of England in the moors. The Baskervilles family has been victims of untimely and violent deaths and there is a legend that the hound seeks to kill off the Baskervilles because of a misdeed of one of the early wild Baskervilles. Sir Charles dies mysteriously and there are footprints of a hound nearby. Sherlock Holmes sends Watson to accompany Henry Baskervilles, the heir to the estate, as he goes to take hold of his inheritance. The moor is sinister with its Grimpen Mire, escaped convict and howls of some unknown beast.

Holmes is a rational detective who solves crime by using his reasoning. Dr. Watson is a man of science as well though not as astute as Holmes. These stories reflect the advance of science. The myth of the hound and supernatural speculations reflects the interest in spiritualism that also occurred during this time. The story is enjoyable and often considered to be the author’s best work. I give it 5 stars because it was a good read, interesting story and contributed to future detective novels as well as many movies and TV shows.

May 7, 2013, 10:15pm Top

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, kindle edition and audio narration by Simon Vance

Publication date: 1719


A fictional autobiography of Robinson Kreutznaer, or Crusoe as he is better known, tells the story of a young man who wouldn't listen to his father and left home for the life of adventure. He was forewarned by his father and others that he should not go to sea or it would be his peril. Robinson doesn't listen and ends up a castaway on a remote island near Trinidad. The first part is Robinson's efforts to create his castle. The second part involves fear of others, cannibals and gathering of slaves and subjects. I enjoyed the first part of the book, the mastery of survival on an island where he finds himself completely alone. Crusoe starts out feeling sorry that he didn't listen to his father, then he begins to see God's providence in his survival and the mastery of the environment lead Crusoe to have a better attitude. The second part of the novel, where Crusoe begins to be fearful of cannibals deprives him of the peaceful life he had created. He has thoughts of killing the others and then of capturing others to be his slave. In the second part there is fear and there is the unfair mastery over other people. It certainly is a look at the imperialism and colonization by the British. There is a strong theme of repentence. The moral is that it is not enough to give God credit for the miracles or even to pray but Crusoe must repent of his wretched state and acknowledge his dependence on God.

Some thoughts of the book include the exactness of measuring and counting. The focus on eating or being eaten. When Crusoe finds the footprint he immediately becomes negative again. He is fearful and no longer trusts God. One could make a point of racism in this book written in 1719 but also I think it reflects the time and I think books should be judged by when they were written not by our superiority in the present. In fact I think this superiority that is often taken on isn't much better than racism of the past. It's still a value judgment. I actually think Defoe might have been making a political statement against imperialism, colonization and unfair treatment of others.

I enjoyed this adventure tale but liked the first part better than the second. I listened to an audio read by Simon Vance who did a good job of narration. The strong Christian theme reflected Defoe's Puritan beliefs.

May 25, 2013, 1:54pm Top

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Published 1938
5 stars
The story begins, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley…..” and ends, “And the ashes blew towards us with the salt wind from the sea.” This book has been on my TBR list for quite some time but always seemed to get pushed aside until this month and year. This is a mystery and the tone is set in the first chapter with great writing and words such as ‘barred to me, rusted spokes, forlorn, unkept, stealthy insidious way, long tenacious fingers, always a menace. Probably one of the most remarked thing about this book is the narrator is who never named other than Mrs de Winter, and she is really the second Mrs. De Winter. The narrator is so overshadowed by the deceased Mrs. De Winter that she doesn’t even have a name.
The narrator meets Mr de Winter in Monte Carlo where she is in training as a companion to an older woman. In a rush of a few days, she is proposed to and married and finds herself in Manderley, a secluded mansion and land where she finds herself surrounded by the presence of Rebecca until she comes to the conclusion that her husband can never love because he can never stop loving Rebecca.
The story is a pretty good mystery and nothing more will be said that could give away any of the plot twists. The author has written many novels but this is her most famous. It was met with a lot of controversy and there have been charges of plagiarism. Many of her works have been made into movies.
I did not like the characters in this book. I did not like the narrator. She seemed so pathetically weak and introverted. She does grow stronger as the story progresses. I did not especially like Maxim de Winter either for various reasons. I found it a little slow going initially. The second part of the book moves better. The ending is satisfying. I rate the book 5 stars because it is a good mystery, interesting twists and it has stood the test of time and controversy.

May 25, 2013, 3:00pm Top

Great review of Rebecca. Like you, I found the second part of the book a great improvement over the first bit and it was the mystery and how it was handled that made it a good read for me.

Jun 1, 2013, 7:54pm Top

I've tried Bill Bryson in the past, but have not had much luck. Maybe I should try Notes From a Small Island and see if that one works. The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of my favorite Holmes, but many of them do fall in the "favorites" category, so maybe that's not saying much. :)

Jun 4, 2013, 8:39pm Top

The Round House

published 2012

Pages 336pp.

Format: ☊ read by Gary Farmer

5 stars


Winner, 2012 National Book Award

Minnesota Book Award for Novel & Short Story 2013

Louise Erdrich is a Minnesota born and currently living in Minneapolis author. She has some Native American blood.

This story, set on a reservation in North Dakota is the coming of age story of Joe. Joe's mother is attacked one Sunday in 1988. Joe is 13 at the time and the event changes his life and he will never again know the tranquility of family life or the joy of youth. It also gives a very good look at family life of Native Americans of the Ojibway. Joe's father who is a judge is unable to bring justice. Joe becomes more and more distant from his parents as teens are apt to do but he also sets on a quest to bring justice where his father was unable. While some of the themes in this book are not new, the setting and the culture and the spiritual life of the Ojibway make this book standout. The characters are all well developed and the voice in my opinion is very Native American. I listened to an audio format read by Gary Farmer who also gave a wonderful rendition of Native American voice. I did have to increase the speed to 1 1/4 because he was a little too slow. It was perfect at the faster speed. The subject matter, a rape of a mother, gives this book emotional impact along with the PTSD that she experienced as well as the look into the life of the older generation and various other members of the tribe including the one white girl who was adopted by a Native American family. The ending is not to be given away but also hits with force.

Jun 16, 2013, 6:28pm Top

Title: Cryptonomicon

Author: Neal Stephenson

Publication: 1999

Pages: 1130 pages, appendix 9 pgs

Genre: fiction, techno thriller, science fiction, historical fiction

My Copy: kindle and paperback edition

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A story set in alternating time periods of WWII and the nineties during the internet boom. It is a story of cryptography and high tech finance with a scoop of military adventure, conspiracies and great escapes. The back of my book states imagine Tom Clancy, William Gibson and James Michener working together and you get the idea.

I really enjoyed this book and it was not painful to read this 1130 page book. In fact it reads pretty fast. I started in March but really I didn’t get past 16% until June. Stephenson's story is engaging. His prose and humor are great. I love the characters, great characters that the reader feels invested in and therefore the difficulties and great escapes are thrilling. The characters of the nineties are connected to the characters of WWII only they don’t know how connected they really are. Randall Waterhouse is one of the main characters and he comes to know himself and grows in the process. This is not just a character driven book and probably more a plot driven book. It is engaging and could be called a page turner. Themes involve war and the damage done to people, codes and breaking codes and the dangers in our high tech lives. This quote pretty much sums it up; “Wealth that is stored up in gold is dead. It rots and stinks.” I think that the detail of the math and art of code was very interesting. You do not need to be great at math to enjoy this book. The author includes an appendix with details on how the Solitaire Code works.

Jun 17, 2013, 8:01am Top

keep meaning to read another Stephenson, got to admit that the size of them has been putting me off a bit though! great review

Jun 17, 2013, 11:06am Top

I keep wanting to get around to the Baroque Cycle but have heard it's better to read Cryptonomicon first. A very positive review makes that look like less of a task and more a pleasurable experience. Thanks!

Jun 18, 2013, 10:46pm Top

The Last of the Mohicans
by James Fenimore Cooper
Published 1826
Pages: 416
Genre: Fiction, historical romance
My copy: kindle/☊, narrated by Larry McKeever.
Rating ★ ★ ★ 1/2

Story of the Seven Year War of 1757. Frontiersman, Hawkeye and his Native American friend Uncas, along with David Gamut, the singing teacher, and Major Duncan Heyward, the group's military leader set off to rescue the two Munro sisters who have been taken captive. This author is one of the first to include Native American's in his writing and he does a good job of respecting their culture. There is the suggestion of interracial marriage in the story which would have been quite controversial and maybe also was the reason for his popularity. I think his book might have been one of the very first to make this suggestion. While it is a historical novel and also a novel about a people, there are some inaccuracies. The author's prose is not easy to read. Audio made it better and McKeever had a fine voice but the quality of the audio was poor. I had an echo and also the transitions were quite obvious. Twain criticized Cooper as being a spendthrift as far as his use of words.

Jun 26, 2013, 9:28am Top

I love the film (I know I know) but not sure about reading The Last of the Mohicans.. still yet another good review of Neal Stephenson means I really should try him.

Edited: Jun 29, 2013, 10:30pm Top

book: Killing Floor

author: Lee Child

Published 1997

Pages: 407

Genre: Fiction/thriller

My Copy: Paperback

Why: recommended by Nancy Pearl, been on my TBR for a very long time.

Rating: ★ ★ ★

The debut novel of the Jack Reacher series introduces us to Jack Reacher, an ex military cop, who is walking the U.S. without any ties and happens to stop in Margrave, Georgia where he is arrested for a brutal murder that has been discovered out at the Kliner warehouses. Jack is here because his brother had mentioned that the musician, Blind Blake, had stopped in this town. This book is filled with violence. I learned about different guns, bullets and weapons and the kind of damage they do. Margrave as far as towns go is a bit unusual. Everything is beautiful. Businesses appear to be doing quite well even though there really isn’t any business going on. Something is going on and people are dying violently. The Kliner Foundation is taking care of things in Margrave.

This book has been on my TBR list for quite awhile, since 2005, when I was gifted Book Lust Journal with an introduction by Nancy Pearl. The Journal contains The Pearl 100, a list of Great Reads. The Killing Floor by Lee Child’s was listed as a Summer Read, nothing much to overtax the brain but at the same time entertaining.

I would agree that this book did not overtax the brain and it was entertaining but I also had no trouble at all figuring out the bad guys. I wasn’t impressed with Jack Reacher as a character. I saw one person refer to him as lawless and that is an apt description. He falls in bed very easy with the female even though he has just found out his brother was brutally murdered. This is a long series, my husband loves these books, but I don’t like series and this is where Jack Reacher starts and stops for me. Still, I am happy that I read it.

Jul 12, 2013, 4:55pm Top

Book: Mrs. 'arris Goes to Paris
Author: Paul Gallico
Published: 1958
Pages: 157
My copy: Library
Rating: 3.5 stars
Why: BOTM July 2013, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
Genre: fiction, sentimental, humour

The story of an older, widowed charwoman who becomes enamored of a Dior dress and determines to own one. She sees signs that this is what God wants for her when she wins the football lottery but it isn't enough and she must save and scrimp to get the money. Then the adventure starts. Ms Harris must travel to Paris to the dressmaker, she must get the right currency and she must get around among the notorious and not to be trusted French. Mrs Harris flies to Paris, manages to actually get a front row seat where she will be able to view the collection. While in Paris, Mrs Harris touches the lives of several people; Mme. Colbert, Natasha and M. André Fauvel. Mrs Harris learns that the French are just like other people, she enjoys a wonderful adventure. "For it had not been a dress she had bought so much as an adventure and an experience that would last her to the end of her days."
This is not a great literary creation but it is an enjoyable story with a moral that can be read in a sitting. The characters are all simple and the story itself is simple, sentimental and fun.

Jul 12, 2013, 4:58pm Top

Book: The Dinner
Author: Herman Koch, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Translated by Sam Garrett
Published: 2009 in Netherlands, February 12, 2013 in USA
Pages: 304 pages
Genre: fiction
Awards: Publieksprijs Prize in 2009
My Copy: kindle, overdrive
My Rating: 2 stars
Why: F2F

This book is the 6th book written by author and actor, Herman Koch a Dutch author and television writer, it was translated by Sam Garrett. It is compared to Gone Girl and like Gone Girl it is dark. It is the story of two brothers and their families and is told by Paul Lohman, an increasingly unreliable narrator. They meet in a restaurant to discuss their son’s behaviors and what to do about them. The story is told around a five course meal and the book is divided into chapter headings; aperitif, appetizer, main course, dessert and digestif.

The characters are middle to upper class people with adolescent children. The narrator is a former teacher on leave from his job for mental health reasons and his brother is a politician running for prime minister. The teacher has one son, age 15. The parents have not been strict in fact they have been very liberal and purposely do not inject themselves into their son’s life. The politician has one biological son and an African adopted son. The narrator and his wife have become aware of some pretty horrendous behavior and have chosen to not get involved and hope it passes over. The author is presenting parents of affluence and what lengths they will go to for their children. Because everything is told through the unreliable narrator we only know the other characters from the narrator's perspective. None of the characters are likeable because the narrator really doesn’t like them except his wife and son and there are other reasons to not like them.

The main theme is what should a parent do if they be become aware of something about their child that is potentially life destroying. I think the author might be making a social commentary of the state of parenting and social responsibility. The theme is contemporary but probably is not new, just the setting in age of cellphones. The author also implies that there is a genetic problem for the narrator that has resulted in the narrator’s inability to function as a teacher and that he may have passed this on to his son. I felt this was a poor addition to the book, not well supported and poorly developed. I am unaware of any genetic testing that would tell parents that their son will be sociopath and should be aborted.

The story was compelling. I did want to keep reading to find out what would happen. The events are slowly revealed through the course of the night as they are dining in this high end restaurant though there are pre dinner, after dinner and flashbacks so the time period is more than the dinner. I felt there were too many topics introduced that were never fully developed and information kept back that should have been developed more. This may have been a device to demonstrate paranoia of the narrator but it made the story a little lacking for the reader’s curiosity. There is suspense because the reader just never knows what is going on because you know that this narrator is not to be trusted. The tension is the created by the buildup of ever increasing violence. The style is the 5 course restaurant menu and the unreliable narrator. The setting is in a restaurant and Netherlands. The restaurant is not a very realistic setting that parents would meet to discuss their children’s behaviors that they do not want made public, though it is manipulated by the politician who does like a lot of publicity. The characters all display rather bad public behavior in this setting.

I gave it 2 stars only but probably it is 2.5 to 3 stars. I just felt it could have been developed more. I think it will make a pretty good discussion for book club.

Jul 12, 2013, 8:52pm Top

Mrs. 'arris Goes to Paris sounds like a fun read! I see that it was made into a TV movie back in 1992 starring Angela Landsbury and Diana Rigg, so I think I will be keeping an eye out for the book and the movie!

As for The Dinner, that is one of those books that have an 'ick' factor. I had some problems with the book but I like your observation that maybe the author was going for social commentary - sign of the times - while telling his story. Good review!

Jul 13, 2013, 9:37am Top

Would love to see the movie of Mrs. 'Arris, especially since Angela Lansbury is in it! The book sounds like fun too :)

Jul 13, 2013, 12:25pm Top

> 69 - I found the movie available on-line here and watched it last night. It is an absolutely delightful movie to watch and I can see how the story is just as Kristel describes it.... simple, sentimental and fun. My other half even enjoyed it. I forgot to mention, Omar Sharif is also in it. ;-)

Edited: Jul 14, 2013, 7:51pm Top

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
Published 2012
Audio version, narrated by Kate Rudd

This young adult novel by John Green features a female protagonist, Hazel who has terminal cancer. She is 16 and has responded to an experimental drug. This story is about sick young people with cancer. The author states that he hadn’t written with a female protagonist before.

*****May contain mild spoilers but I don’t think anything to significant.

I gave this story 4 stars because I think it is a good YA about having cancer or an illness that makes them different than others. There we things I didn’t like about the female protagonist. I didn’t like that she had to know what happened to the people in the book but I get it. This is a question people ask authors. At least that’s what John Green says. And John Green says that Peter Van Houten said is the truth but you don’t have to be a jerk when saying it. The only time I’ve ever wanted to ask an author what happened to the people in the book was with Gone With The Wind. I liked the male characters best in this book. Maybe Mr. Green is just better with males. One comment I had noted in previous reviews is that perhaps these young people acted more mature that a young person really would but I thought it was pretty right on. The author captured a lot of reality with cancer; the becoming the illness, not knowing how to be anything but your illness. I’ve worked with people who survived cancer as children and it does forever affect their lives. Granted, I work only with people who have problems so I can’t say that it is the norm but it does exist. I liked the ending. I am glad that Hazel was finally able to talk with her parents.

I like the title and enjoyed learning that it actually comes from Shakespeare and is Caesar talking to Brutus, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings." and refers to fate and friendship.

The narration was good. I enjoyed Kate’s voice. She handled many accents well. I was a little annoyed that one of the minor characters, Kaitlyn had a British affectation. I thought that was a little much.

A quick read, how can you say anything bad about it but I don’t think I liked it as much as others have.

Aug 3, 2013, 7:42pm Top

Book: Neuromancer
Author: William Gibson, Canadian author
First published: 1984
Pages: 261
Genre: Science Fiction, Cyberpunk, dystopia
My Copy: paperback, Ace
Reason: BOTM for 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, July 2013
Rating: ★★★ and 1/2
Awards: Hugo, Nebula and Philip K. Dick

This debut novel, written by William Gibson is the first and possibly the best cyberpunk novel. The protagonist Case is a burned out computer hacker who is hanging out on the streets of Chiba City, Japan in a dystopian world. The United States east coast is called the Sprawl. Case was caught stealing from the person he was stealing for and the punishment was to have enough of his brains destroyed that he would not be able to work in cyberspace. Case is recruited by Molly, an assassin and Armitage (ex military) to do some work in exchange for repair of his brain. The settings are here on earth and space stations known as Zion and Freeside and of course a lot of time is spent in cyberspace. It can be a challenge to know where you are and what is real and what is imaginary or holographic. It helped to read this book with a guideline. I actually enjoyed it and found it not that hard to read. My rating would be 3.5 stars. The characters were unique and interesting. The author is combining human life with artificial intelligence. It was written in the eighties, well before the internet was a common and familiar place to all of us. Critics have claimed that Gibson borrowed and used sources from all over the place, comparing his writing to William S. Burroughs, Raymond Chandler, Ballard and Dick. Winning the triple crown, Hugo, Nebula and Philip K. Dick was a first. The character development can be criticized and the prose described as dense and tangled. This book does become the first of The Sprawl trilogy though at the time, Gibson did not plan to write more. It would be nice to know more of Molly but I am sure I won’t read more.

Aug 5, 2013, 10:48pm Top

Neuromancer has been sitting on my Mt. TBR since the mid 80s and I do wish I had read it back then. I will try to read it (once I get around to it...) with its time in mind.

Aug 7, 2013, 8:16pm Top

It's been on my shelf for quite awhile too. Hoping that next year will finally be the year I read it.

Edited: Aug 9, 2013, 10:08pm Top

Book: The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Author: Mohsin Hamid
Published: 2007
Pages: 184
Genre: Fiction, Pakistani Americans, Race Discrimination, Self-perception, psychological fiction
My Copy: ILL
Why: 1001 Books You Must Read BOTM, August 2013
Rating: ★★★
Awards: the novel was shortlisted in 2007 for the Booker. It won the Anisfield-Wolf Award for Literature. The Guardian selected it as on of the books that defined the decade.

This novel, written by Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid, is the story that takes place in a single evening in an outdoor Lahore cafe, where Changez (Urdu for Genghis) tells an American stranger about his love affair with an American woman called ‘Erica’ and of his eventual abandonment of America. Changez is a brilliant young student who obtains his education in finance at Princeton and is hired by a prestigious company as an analyst. He meets Erica while on vacation in Greece. Their relationship starts out bright and but deteriorates as does Changez’s relationship with America until we are back with him in the outdoor cafe in Lahore talking to the nervous American who we never hear other than through Changez during the entire book.

The novel was engaging in that there was a building tension but I found the monologue a bit tedious and it left me feeling disturbed. Changez seemed like a nice enough guy but he grew more and more distant and angry. He had good manners but the hostility was just there under all the nice and polite manners. Erica was mentally ill and fragile. She became more and more withdrawn, representing Changez’s relationship with America. The American was depicted as ‘nervous and distrustful’. Jim was Changez’s boss at the company and he was depicted as a man who was an outsider but successful, unmarried and possibly gay. Changez and Erica change over the course of the story from a couple who looked like love and a future together might exist to estranged isolation from each other. This is a psychological fiction with emphasis on what is going on internally with Erica, Changez and the nervous American. There was mounting tension as the story progresses. This quote pretty much describes the ambiguity of the story; “....the prospect of sugaring your tongue before undertaking even the bloodiest of tasks cannot be entirely alien to you.” The structure is a frame story; we have the story of Changez talking to the nervous American and then we have the story of Changez’s immigration to America, his success at school, first job and love affair with Erica.

I felt that this novel which looked at the racism that Arabs, Pakistani and Islamic people experience in the United States, stereotyped and was racist in reverse.

“Why do you recoil? Ah yes, this beggar is a particularly unfortunate fellow. One can only wonder what series of accidents could have left him so thoroughly disfigured. He draws close to you because you are a foreigner. Will you give him something? No? Very wise; one ought not to encourage beggars, and yes, you are right, it is far better to donate to charities that address the causes of poverty rather than to him, a creature who is merely its symptoms. What am I doing? I am handing him a few rupees--misguidedly, of course, and out of habit. There, he offers us his prayers for our well-being; now he is on his way.”

“I turned on the television and saw what at first I took to be a film. But as I continued to watch, I realized that it was not fiction but news. I stared as one--and then the other--of the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center collapsed. And then I smiled. Yes, despicable as it may sound, my initial reaction was to be remarkably pleased.”

“...in history, as I suspect you--an American--will agree, it is the thrust of one’s narrative that counts, not the accuracy of one’s details.”

“...entitled and unsympathetic American who so annoyed me when I encountered him in the classrooms and workplaces of your country’s elite.”

“....the prospect of sugaring your tongue before undertaking even the bloodiest of tasks cannot be entirely alien to you.”

This attitude wasn’t new and the prejudice and hatred toward America is not new. The author did a great job of depicting why hating Americans is justifiable while wanting to get a Princeton education and the “entitlement” of foreign students to be admitted to colleges like Princeton and Harvard while despising the land where these colleges exist. I think the author’s goal was probably to make Americans aware of our own anger, prejudices and hostilities but he also failed to understand his own prejudices and stereotyping.

Aug 9, 2013, 10:23pm Top

Book: The Diary of a Nobody
Author: George and Weedon Grossmith
First Published: 1892
Pages: 136 pages
Genre: fiction, humour, British Literature.
Why: BOTM August 2013, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.
English comic novel set in 1890's is a novel of Charles Pooter, a clerk. Through its humor the reader gets a picture of 1890 and what it is to be neither upper social or lower social class. Remarkable could fit yet today.

Aug 10, 2013, 10:31am Top

Great review of The Reluctant Fundamentalist! Sounds like it is quite the introspective story. Looks like this is something to read when I can focus on the story, uninterrupted.

I found The Diary of a Nobody to be quite fun, if different and I must say I preferred the book to the movie adaptation I tried to watch starring Hugh Bonneville. I really like Bonneville as an actor (although, lately I have troubles picturing him as anyone other than his character the Earl of Grantham from Downton Abbey!) but even I finally stopped watching his monologue as Pooter. Maybe it works better in a theatre setting.

Aug 11, 2013, 3:28pm Top

I tried Reluctant Fundamentalist and was thwarted by the style - I ended up giving my copy away and never finishing. I had wondered if that was a mistake, but it does sound like it was the right decision.

Sep 4, 2013, 10:16pm Top

Book: The Tin Drum
Author: Günter Wilhelm Grass, translated by Ralph Manheim
Audio, translated by Breon Mitchell, narrated by Paul Michael Garcia
Published: 1959
Pages, 589
Genre: fiction, German literature, magical realism, Danzig Trilogy
My copy: library book, switched to audio ⅓ into book
Why: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, August 2013 BOTM
Awards: winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature

The story is about a small person (dwarf) named Oskar Matzerath who decides to quit growing at age three. We first meet him in a mental hospital where he is being held for a murder. Oskar is obsessed with red and white drums which he uses to tell his story. He also can cut glass with his screams. It is also the story of pre-war Poland and Germany, the rise of Hitler, defeat of Poland and defeat and partition of Germany. I am going to take a quote from the 1001 Books 2006 edition because I could never have come up with this on my own, “Oskar is the voice of an asocial, those Nazis considered to belong to life unworthy of life. Grass draws on the picaresque tradition to map out his dwarf drummer’s journey through a brutal and brutalizing era in European history, but he also reinvents the traditions of popular culture despised by the Nazis as degenerate art. Fairy tales, the carnivalesque, the harlequin, the mythological trickster--all jostle and combine in the The Tin Drum to reveal the deathlike inhumanity of the rationalization of racial hygiene. I can say that looking back, all that is there. I also can say that the author is extremely talented wordsmith. Here is one example, ...and there deposited the hollow metallic cylinder, slightly tapered at the front end, which had lodged a lead kernel until someone with a curved forefinger had exerted just enough pressure to evict the lead projectile and start it on its death-dealing change of habitat. (all to say an empty cartridge that someone had shot from a gun).

Another example of his writing, “when every male who could stand halfway erect was being shipped to Verdun to undergo a radical change of posture from the vertical to the eternal horizontal”.

“China crying out for a bull” and

“even bad books are books and therefore sacred”

I just wish I could have liked it but I couldn’t. I didn’t like reading it and audio was just a way to bulldoze my way to the end. I didn’t like the sexual innuendos. They were quite clever though. Oskar had no redeeming qualities and most of the characters were grotesque. I can’t recommend that anyone should read this book but if you really like reading all kinds of magical realism, and you have an interest in the history of Poland and post war Germany perhaps you would like to tackle this one.

Sep 13, 2013, 8:34am Top

Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Format: audio, read by Simon Vance, Kindle whispersync
Published 1891
My rating: 5 ★★★★★ both book and reader performance
Pages 405
This book by Hardy comes to me highly recommended by others and it lived up to its high recommendation. Tess Durbeyfield is a tragic heroine, Angel Clare is maddening. Men readily abuse this young woman who starts out so sweet and ends so tragically. Tess's spirit is slowly destroyed by the events until the final moment of passion. I am thankful that I knew nothing about this book going in to it and therefore I am not going to say anything here. Even though this book is set in the 1800s, I felt that it was still very relevant today, though I would hope women would not be this self sacrificing. Hardy wrote this novel, a social commentary on the lives of nineteenth century English Women. Hardy is an excellent author. His characters are well developed. His writing is full of beauty and skill. This is the second book I have read by him and exceeded Jude the Obscure which I also enjoyed.

Sep 13, 2013, 8:40am Top

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Published 1955
Media type: audio, read by Kevin Kenerly
Genre: fiction,crime novel, series, psychological thriller
Pages: 252 pages
Why: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, September 2013 BOTM

This novel introduces the the reader to Tom Ripley and is the first of a series of five novels known as Ripliad. Tom Ripley is devoid of of any concern for another human being. He has no moral sense of conscience. In this story, Tom has so little personality of his own that he takes on the personality of a young man living in Italy. This is a short, fast read for a 1001 Book and to say much about it is to give the story away. There is violence, really no sex at all and mostly you spend your time in Tom's head. I gave it three stars. It was readable, there really is no character that the reader really gets attached to and the story is set in the fifites when American's who could afford it were going to Europe and just hanging out.

Sep 17, 2013, 10:05pm Top

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, translation by Julie Rose, Narrated by George Guidall
Published: 1862
Pages: 959 pages, 60 hrs and 31 minutes of listening time
Genre: fiction, French literature
My copy: audible/kindle, whispersync
My rating: ★★★★★
Nothing I can write here will do justice to this wonderful story. I’ve listened to an abridged copy of this a few years ago, saw the play while in New York (a few years ago) and now I’ve listened to the full book. I’ve enjoyed each one. What an absolutely great story of lives lived during epoch changing events in history. To read the abridged or to see the play is truly entertaining but the reader misses the context. This does remind me of Tolstoy’s War and Peace but a much better story. The characters in this book are complex and wonderful; Valjean the escaped convict with a need to redeem himself, Cossette his adopted daughter, Inspector Javert who only knows justice, Marius the idealist. Through these characters we see Paris, we see the revolution, the streets, slang and the sewers among many other subjects that Hugo shares his meditations. The title is a also a key, Les Misérables, tells us that the story is about the miserable. or the poor and homeless people. That this is a story about the poor and homeless makes this a timeless story. This story could occur anywhere but Hugo makes Paris alive in this story. The most wonderful part of this story for me is the redemption/forgiveness. It is healing story if one can embrace the gift of forgiveness in their own lives.

I liked the Rose translation but the narrator George Guidall made this story. His accent was perfect and he made the characters alive and individuals. I can highly recommend this audio version of Les Mis.

Sep 29, 2013, 9:39pm Top

Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Narrated by Amy Rubinate
Published: 2012
Pages 368
Rating ★★★

This debut novel was read for my f2f bookclub. It is told from the perspective of a 14-year-old June Elbus who lives in the suburbs of NYC and is set in the eighties when AIDS is a fairly new illness. June’s mostly a loner and a dreamer, infatuated with her uncle who is dying of AIDS, disconnected from her sister and the parents are disconnected from the girls. Relationships are tainted with jealousy. I didn’t like the mother or the sister. Still its a feel good story when it is all said and done. A fast read for me (two days), I hardly ever do that. My children would have been 12 and 10 at the time this story is set. It seemed familiar from being a parent myself in the eighties. Faults I had with the story is that it would be hard to believe that children as young as 14 would be skipping school and traveling into the cities and that school and parents would never notice this. I thought the parents were unusual in that they seemed to give their daughters a great deal of freedom though it rang true that during tax season the auditors I know are too busy to spend time on family life.

Oct 3, 2013, 3:51pm Top

Great string of reviews! The Tin Drum is on my bookshelf and it looks like it will stay there awhile longer. While I can admire the quotes you pulled out, I don't know that I could take 600 pages of that writing - or the subject matter.

I finished that exact version of Les Miserables yesterday and was enamored with George Guidall's narration throughout. Plus it's a pretty great story!

Oct 5, 2013, 7:29am Top

@ aliciamay

Yes, I think Les Mis is one of the greatest books I've read in a long time.

Oct 30, 2013, 7:51am Top

The Remains of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Published 1989
Pages 245

Adaptations: The Remains of the Day (1993)
Characters: Miss Kenton, Lord Darlington, Reginald Cardinal, William Stevens, Mr. Stevens
Genres: Fiction, Historical novel
The Remains of the Day is Kazuo Ishiguro's third published novel. The work was awarded the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1989.

The story, told by an English Butler named Stevens, is set in the time after WWII but is Stevens’ reflections back to the time before WWII and the war. Stevens worked for Lord Darlington and desired to be a truly great and dignified butler. Stevens has worked so hard at being a great butler he has lost out on being fully human. He puts the job before his father’s dying, relationships with the opposite sex and he denies himself even the right to an opinion. It also tells the story of changing times in the backdrop of approaching war, the war and the aftermath of war. As the butler, Stevens is an observer of life but never a participant. He lives vicariously through the people who come to Darlington. The story is told while Stevens embarks on a country drive and he is looking back on his career as contributing to the greater good by serving a “great gentleman”. During this drive, Stevens becomes aware that maybe what he thought was greatness wasn’t. Stevens has a choice to make good on what remains of his day. “The evening is the best part of the day.” I liked the story, Ishiguro is a good writer. This is the second book by the author for me. I enjoyed this quiet, reflective book. Stevens is not the most likeable character. You want to tell him to quit being so obtuse but still he is a sympathetic character. I think liking Downton Abbey made reading this book quite enjoyable.

Edited: Oct 30, 2013, 8:08am Top

carry me down by M.J.Hyland
Published 2006, Great Britain
Pages: 334
Genre and tags: fiction, coming of age, family relationships, mental illness
Reason read: 1001 Books, BOTM October 2013

The book was written in 2006 by Hyland, a female author born in London of Irish parents. She was born in 1968 so that makes her 38 at the time she wrote this book. Maybe she was influenced by Edna O'Brien's book. The story is of an 11 year old soon to be 12 boy who lives with his father, mother and grandmother in Gorey, Ireland. He is different than other children. John Egan is big for his age. He is an only child and he is fascinated with the Guinness Book of World Records and would like to visit Niagara. I thought the book was interesting. I found it engaging and easy to read. The flawed characters were interesting. The short bits of reading helped make the reading go fast. I do think the author may have overdid the freudian stuff and that in 1970's there might have been less emphasis on Freudian and more on interpersonal and family relationships so perhaps her psychological stuff was a bit off. Asperger's really wasn't the thing then either but the character of John sure was more autistic spectrum. I suppose he really was just neurotic because his parents were a mess. I think the author failed to develop some points of the story. I thought page 100, "My head, as though filled with helium has nothing in it to carry me down to rest, to dark, down to sleep. " (referring to the title) never got fully developed. *****potential spoiler**** Yet, in the scene where the mother can't sleep, John is seen trying to assist his mother to the dark, down to sleep.****spoiler over***** I give the story 3.5 stars. I think that I will remember this story.

Edited: Nov 14, 2013, 6:23am Top

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Author: Haruki Murakami Jay Rubin (translator), Philip Gabriel (translator)
Narrated By Allison Hiroto, Marc Vietor, Mark Boyett
Copyright date: 2011
Genre: Fiction, Japanese Literature, Magical Realism, Alternate history
Characters: Aomame, Ushikawa, Fuka-Eri, Tengo Kawana, Shizue Ogata, Tamotsu Fukada, Professor Ebisuno, Komatsu, Tamaru
Pages: about 1000 Length: Listening time: 46 hrs and 50 mins
rating: ★★★★

The story takes place in Tokyo in 1984 and like other books by Murakami has many of the same themes, symbols and imagery. Music plays a big part in the author’s books, and he makes reference to many composers and musicians of the past, ranging from Bach, Vivaldi and Leoš Janáček (his Sinfonietta popping up many times at crucial points in the novel) to more contemporary artists such as Billie Holiday, Charles Mingus and The Rolling Stones. The song Paper Moon is an Asian song and also has a major part besides the Sinfonietta. Besides music there are many references to literature such as Chekov, Tolstoy, Hemingway and Proust.

The story is a love story, a mystery and suspense novel, a parallel universe and also has a lot of philosophical and social commentaries and it is a fine example of Japanese magical realism.

I really enjoyed the story and thought it was his best work but maybe I am wrong. Some reviewers think it is his weakest. It was suspenseful, pulled you in and you wanted to keep reading to learn more of the mysteries which were slowly revealed.

What I didn’t like would be the strong sexual content that you get in a Murakami novel and I also thought the ending was weak. Where it should have been the most tense, it was actually quite uneventful. Some things were left unexplained so that could also be bothersome though I didn’t find it that annoying.

I thought the narration was good. The story was back and forth between narrators with most narration either by Tango or Aomame but also Ushikawa.

Edited: Nov 14, 2013, 6:18am Top

Spook Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach
published 2005
Pages 311
Rating: ★★★
Dewey: 129

I was forewarned that this is not the best example of Roach’s writing but it is all that was available from the library. In this book, the author examines the afterlife through science. At least she tries. The book also covers the history of research into the paranormal, seances, mediums and a variety of people who were known spiritualists such as Arthur Conan Doyle. The writing is easy and her humor is generally fun. The author’s purpose in choosing this subject is her own desire for a reason to believe. I believe that this subject with current technology and information is not able to be examined scientifically as the book seems to support. That an afterlife might exist in a different dimension and that it really comes down to making a choice or a decision. The author does make her decision.

I could have put this book down and not finished many times. I liked the last part of the book (more modern) that the beginning though did appreciate the history. I finished it because it actually worked for one of my 13 x 13 challenges (reading Dewey) and also the PBT tag for November.

Nov 12, 2013, 12:35am Top

If Spook is your first of Roach's books, you've really started at the right end - the others are going to be even better!

Nov 19, 2013, 8:46pm Top

Book: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
Published 2005
Pages 252
Genre/subjects: Fiction, authors, immigrants, Loss, Poland, Jewish, New York

Rating: ★★★★★

Why: BOTM, 1001-Books November 2013

Characters: Leopold Gursky, Bruno Shultz, Isaac Moritz, Alma Mereminski, Mordecai Moritz, Alma Singer

The novel, written in 2005 by Nicole Krauss, the wife of Jonathan Safron Foer is the story of Leo Gursky author of The History of Love which he left in the hands of a friend for safe keeping. Leo is a Polish Jew who lost his girl friend when she immigrated to America, his family when the Germans invaded his town and his friend Bruno. Leo finally makes it to America to find he is still very much alone. He is an old man, his only son has never known his biological father. Leo is waiting to die and fighting against being invisible.

Within this work there are many references to authors such as Russian author, Isaac Babel, Polish author Bruno Shultz especially his collection of short stories Street of Crocodiles, passing reference to Cervantes, and references to James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Antoine de Saint Exupéry, and Leo Tolstoy. The book references a book by the same title. This book is about writing and authors and is a book within a book.

Another thing that helps this book stand apart is the graphic designs and structure of the book. The dedication page gives us four pictures; the authors grandparents and the statement “For My Grandparents, who taught me the opposite of disappearing and For Jonathan, my life. In the book, the main character tells us about pictures and how they are proof of life. Chapters have titles and little icons. The first chapter has a heart and the title THE LAST WORDS ON EARTH. In that chapter we learn that Leo had a heart attack and expects to die suddenly any day and fears that he will die alone. Opening the chapter, the first sentences tell us this, ***When they write my obituary. Tomorrow. Or the next day. It will say Leo Gursky is survived by an apartment full of shit.**** You can tell that this sad and melancholy work is full of wonderful humor that makes the reading easier.

When I first started reading this book, it made me think of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Everything is Illuminated then I noticed the introduction for our discussion questions that the author is the wife of Jonathan Safron Foer and that he wrote his book, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close at the same time as Ms Krauss wrote her book. They both have young characters who are looking for someone and who encounter old men. They both mention locks. Both books have unique typography.

I liked this book and will give it 5 stars but I did find that I was often confused by the number of characters, non characters, shifting narratives, etc. This is a book that it would be well to read more than once. There is so much here that you can’t really take it all in on one reading.

Nov 21, 2013, 4:19am Top

>90 -Eva-: - I agree I've enjoyed all of her other books more than spook

Edited: Nov 21, 2013, 7:47pm Top

Book: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Author: Garth Stein
Narrator: Christopher Evan Welch
Published: 2008
Format: ☊
Pages: 321, 6 hrs 56 mins listening time.
Genre/Tags: fiction, audio, family, cancer, death, car racing, dogs, Seattle, philosophy
Characters: Eve, Enzo, Denny Swift, Zoë
Setting: Seattle, Washington
Rating ★★★1/2

This story of the Swift family as told by their dog Enzo is a story of heartache and struggles but not so different than many other family stories. What makes this story different is that Enzo the dog tells the story. Enzo gives us his philosophy of life as he tells us about Denny, racing, TV watching and then marriage to Eve and the addition of the daughter Zoë. You know this is going to be a sad story when you start reading it because Enzo tells you that he is ready to die and is trying to get Denny to take him to the veterinary for his last trip but there is more tragedy than Enzo’s nearing death. Enzo is a wonderful dog and any dog lover will love Enzo and see characteristics of their own dog in Enzo. It was especially poignant for me as my lab, Belle, is 13 and she is suffering with arthritis and life is becoming harder and harder for her. The narration is good the music used to divide segments of the book was rather annoying but not a big deal.

Edited: Nov 30, 2013, 9:16pm Top

Book: A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man
Author: James Joyce
☊ narrator John Lee
Rating: ★★★

A debut novel by Irish author, James Joyce, it is considered to be a Künstlerroman (artist growth to maturity) in a modernist style and is told in third person and free indirect speech. The subject matter addresses intellectual, religio-philosophical growth of Stephen Dedalus who eventually rebels against Catholic and Irish conventions. In this novel, the author uses the techniques that he more fully uses in Ulysses and Finnigans Wake. Stephen attends a Jesuit run school where he is bullied by the other students. His father's debts interrupt his education but then he attends college on scholarship. Stephen’s name and character represents James Joyce the author and Daedalus from Greek mythology.

Overall the story was okay. It was quick, I didn’t mind the style but it didn’t make me anymore eager to tackle Ulysses and Finnigans Wake. The narrator spoke with an Irish accent and did a good job with the reading of the story.

Edited: Dec 3, 2013, 9:43pm Top

Book: The Namesake
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Published: 2003
Format: Kindle
Rating ★★★★

Genre/CATs: fiction, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, India, Immigrant experience, family relationships

What the book is about: The book is about a woman from India who marries by arrangement and then comes to America to live with her husband. She has two children. Mostly the story follows the oldest, the son. The story is of the experience of immigration, children born in America who take on ways of the land where they are born. The title tells us of the importance of naming their son for the parents, his rejection of that name. Their son is named Golgol through a series of events that prevent his parents from naming him they way he would have been named in India.

This is the author’s debut novel and is set in Calcutta, Boston and New York City. Her writing is nice and easy and this is a fast read. The characters are well developed and the story puts you into the heart of this family that struggles with adapting to a new culture and raising children who live in the world of their parents in the home and the America outside the walls of their home.

Dec 9, 2013, 9:50pm Top

Book: Thérèse Raquin
Author: Émile Zola
Narrated: Kate Winslet
Published: 1867
Pages: 240 pages, 8 hours listening time
Rating: 3.5 stars

The story is of a young girl, daughter of the brother of Madame Raquin and a woman from Algeria who is brought to Madame Raquin to raise after the mother dies. Madame Raquin has one son Camille Raquin who is sickly and spoiled. Madame Raquin marries her son and Therese to each other. Therese later becomes involved an an affair. The story is about the affair and murder. The author’s purpose in writing the novel is to “study temperaments” Therefore there is a detached and scientific approach to the story and the work is considered an example of Naturalism. Themes include punishment and imprisonment, temperaments and the interaction of these temperaments. Therese is melancholic, Laurent is sanguine, Camille is phlegmatic. It was made into film, TV and theatrical adaptations.

What I liked; it was a story easy to follow, the characters were such that it was hard to like any of them. You want to feel sorry for Therese and Laurent is detestable. Madame and Camille Raquin have little to evoke any sympathy. Still the story is good. The narration by Winslet is very good. Her voice is clear and easy to listen. I give it 3.5 stars. It would have been higher except for its detachment. The author studies adultery and murder and the devastating effects it has on those that make that choice. Of the three temperaments, Camille’s was the easiest to find merit. He was rather spoiled but he had a desire to work and work he found and work he did. More than what can be said for Laurent.

Edited: Dec 13, 2013, 11:07pm Top

Book: Munching Maggots, Noah’s Flood :& TV Heart Attacks
Author: Karl Kruszelnicki
Published; 1998, Australia
Pages: 189

First off, I picked this book up at the library because I had made challenge to read a book from all the Dewey sections of the library, so this is my 500 section. It's science, written simple and with humor. Each chapter covers a topic and the author uses a lot of humor in his writing. My criticism would be that this book is outdated. It probably should be pulled off the shelf around 2003.

1. Running in the Rain
2. Noah’s Flood
3. Can’t Get to the Stars in a Lifetime
4. Can Get to the Stars in a Lifetime
5. Coffee, Caffeine and Circles
6. Maggots Give LIve
7. Maggots Date Death
8. Is Mr Smith Heavier Than Mr Tailor?
9. Super Broccoli!
10. Life on Titan
11. Life on Europa
12. Flattened Fauna
13. Melatonin--Magic or Madness?
14. Name Your Own Element?
15. Planets Line Up
16. TV, Heart Attacks and CPR
17. Your Name Is Your Job
18. Cold Baths, Olympic Games and Hot Bodies

#1: yes if you run the right direction and speed you should be able to avoid getting wet depending on the slant of rain.

#2: Is there any evidence of a flood. The author states it was very local and involved the Mediterrenean Basin and the Black Sea.

#3, 4: is star travel possible.

# 5: the benefits of caffeine (yea, coffee is good for energy, alertness, fighting cancer, etc.

# 6, 7: Maggots in wound care and Maggots in forensics.

# 8. both 8 and 17 talk about names and jobs

#9: broccoli, where did it come from and why is it good when it taste so bad. And yes its very good for you.

#10 and #11: outdated, talked about the proposed Voyager trips when it is already over. But I decided to check and yes, there is a vehicle that keeps flying by Titan and sending back videos.

#12. Research on roadkill.

#13: should you take Melatonin or not. I can say that I actually found things in this chapter to use in my work and that the chapters I found most interesting were #5 and 6, 7, and 9.

#14-18, generally I am growing tired of the book and rushed through these final chapters. The author reported on some research in cold baths and athlete performance and tolerance of cold that was as weak as the Melatonin reseach but he wasn't as critical

#16: Findings, so far, challenge simplistic
notions that viewing TV encourages anti-social behaviour.
Discussions with older students suggested family and
community factors which seem more persuasive in shaping
behaviour than mere exposure to TV. St. Helena Project by Prof Tony Charlton and Dr. Andrew Hannan

The section on TV is severely outdated with the advances made in flat screens, LCD, Plasma etc. And changes with viewing TV verses watching content on computers, pads and laptops.

Finally, even though I want to read some nonfiction, I will never do another Dewey challenge.

Dec 15, 2013, 8:49pm Top

Book: To The Lighthouse
Author: Virginia Woolf
☊ narrated by Juliet Stevenson
Published: 1927
Listening time: 7 hours
Genre: novel, modernism, stream of consciousness
Why: 13x13 challenge, book published in 1920s.
Rating: ★★★

Thoughts/quotes: A novel that takes place on the Isle of Skye in Scotland between 1910 and 1920 and is mostly told through the thoughts of the characters.

Part I: The Window--summer home in the Hebrides on the Isle of Skye. This section involves the thoughts of Mrs Ramsay and involves son James and her husband and a planned trip to the lighthouse. She assures son that they will go and the father says the weather will be bad and the trip will not happen. Lily Briscoe is visiting. She is an unsure artist.
Part II: Time Passes-- time passes, deaths happen. WWI begins and ends. Mr Ramsay is adrift without his wife.
Part III: The Lighthouse After a long time, over 10 years, some of the family returns but not Mrs Ramsay who died. The long delayed trip to the lighthouse occurs. James relationship with his father improves. Lily finally completes a picture she had started and has made progress as a painter and as a woman.

Complexity of experience
Complexity of human relationships.

Review: Story of the Ramsay's starts and ends on the Isle of Skye in Scotland told mostly in stream of consciousness. First we are introduced to the Ramsay's as husband and wife/mother and father. The Ramsay's have a good marriage. Mrs Ramsay is a strong woman in her way and holds the family together. Son James loves his mother but dislikes his father. A trip to the lighthouse cannot happen because of weather. Life is interupted by WWI. Several people die and no one returns to the summer home for 10 years. Finally the family does return and the trip finally occurs. The narration shifts from person to person, started with Mrs Ramsay and ends with Lily Briscoe, an artist and strong independent woman who has not married who achieves her vision. This story is somewhat autobiographical of Virginia Woolf's own life. She is what I would categorize as a "woman's" author.

Group: 2013 Category Challenge

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