rosalita comes out tonight
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Hi, I’m Julia and I like to read. Now that I’ve passed the half-century mark (how did that happen??) I find myself becoming faintly obsessed about reading ALL THE BOOKS before I go to the clearing at the end of the path (obligatory The Dark Tower reference for you fellow Stephen King nerds out there). I'll try just about any genre once, though I would say my main focus is mysteries, historical fiction/nonfiction, and literary fiction (ooh, fancy). But really I read just about everything, although very little modern romance unless someone I trust says it’s good. Historical romance, a la Georgette Heyer, is cool, though, so go figure. I am large; I contain multitudes, as my buddy Walt used to say.
I took a hiatus from the 75ers in 2015 after getting over-involved in 2014 to the point where LibraryThing started feeling like a trial instead of a treat. I don’t want that to happen again, so I’m going to be taking it easy and giving myself lots of latitude to enjoy the group to the extent that real life allows me. That means no ticker, no huge list of touchstoned books read so far (I do have a Read in 2016 collection, though, if you ever want to get an overview).
I hope 2016 treats us all like the queens and kings that we are. We’re good enough, we’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like us!
Now that I can cross off “name-check King, Whitman, and Smalley in the same post” from my bucket list, let’s get started!
My Rating Scale:
= Breathtaking. This book touched me in a way that only a perfect book can do.
= A wonderful read, among my favorites of the year.
= A very good read; truly enjoyable.
= I'm glad I read this.
= Pretty good, with a few things done well.
= Average, and life is too short to read average works.
= A bit below average. A waste of time.
= Nearly no redeeming qualities. Really rather bad.
= Among the worst books I've ever read.
1. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu)
China during the Cultural Revolution was not a gentle place for intellectuals. Scientists were killed simply for believing in Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. At the same time, a secret military base is set up to search for extraterrestrial life. What happens when it makes contact, many years after the Cultural Revolution has ended, is the basis for this book, which is the first volume of a trilogy. This book was only recently translated into English, and won the Hugo Award this year for best novel.
I’m not a big reader of what I call “hard” science fiction, and that is how I would classify this book — there is lots and lots of math and physics, most of which went straight over my head. I also have a shamefully low body of knowledge about China and Chinese culture, which put me at a disadvantage (though the translator did include some footnotes for some things that few Western readers would be likely to understand). At the same time, I really liked the parts I understood. The characters are compellingly portrayed, and the central puzzle is one that I have found myself thinking about at times between reading sessions.
Thanks to DorsVenabili for recommending this one. I know she hesitated to do so knowing that I am “iffy” on the hard stuff, but I’m glad she did. It’s good to stretch the old genre boundaries once in a while. I plan to continue with the series at some point.
Hi Julia! Found and starred! I'm not a fan of hard science fiction either, but The Three Body Problem does sound interesting!
I knew you missed us! You can be sure that we missed you, too, Julia. I like your casual approach to a thread. I don't mind the thread upkeep, it's keeping up with everyone else's thread that drives me nuts. I just do the best I can...and lurk a lot. Welcome back, friend, and Happy New Year!
>4 Donna828: I agree... I can keep up with ONE of my own threads - but it gets difficult keeping up with everyone else - and that was why creepers - I mean Lurkers were created
Welcome back!.... looking forward to
Hi Julia! I'm glad to see your 2016 thread! Even though we live in the same town, keeping up with each other can be a challenge, so I look forward to seeing you here on LT. Plus, we can commiserate about the disappointing Rose Bowl. Still, it was a good season for our Hawkeyes!
Julia, you have been missed! Great to see you in 2016. Happy New Year to you!
Julia has a thread, Julia has a thread! Welcome back :-)
>1 rosalita: 'I’m going to be taking it easy and giving myself lots of latitude to enjoy the group to the extent that real life allows me'
Sounds like a good plan. I have on occasion let keeping up my thread become something to beat myself up about rather than something I enjoy doing so that sounds very healthy to me :-)
>2 rosalita: I have The Three Body Problem on the wishlist so glad you enjoyed it. I like hard sf but have to space it out with less mind-boggling reads.
Welcome back! The Three Body Problem had been high on my list - I'm hoping to get to it this year.
Hello Julia, how are you? Long time no see. :) A belated happy New Year to you!
>14 PaulCranswick: And exactly why is this woman skating outdoors without a shirt?
Julia! SO thrilled to see you here! And your plan sounds like an excellent one. I was just thinking of you the other day when I came across this quote in my Bond read:
M asks:"What the devil's the name of that fat American detective who's always fiddling about with orchids, those obscene hybrids from Venezuela and so forth? Then he comes sweating out of his orchid house, eats a gigantic meal of some foreign muck and solves the murder. What's he called?
Bond responds: "Nero Wolfe, sir. They're written by a chap called Rex Stout. I like them."
Since it was you who first introduced me to those mysteries, causing me to fall in love with Archie Goodwin, any reference to them makes me think of you.
Wishing you a New Year filled with all that is fabulous, Miss Julia!
Happy New Year and welcome back, Julia!
I was also a fan of TBP, and hope to get to the second book soon. Glad to hear it worked even for someone not a fan of hard sf.
>18 lyzard: aaaaw, I love the humble sloth :)
Hi Julia, happy new year! Welcome back. Happy reading!
Great to see you here, Julia. Happy New Year. I hope we can have another meet up this year.
So happy to see you back here!! Happy new year of reading to you, Julia!
Yay! You are back!! I wholeheartedly endorse your approach to LT this year. Hope it works for you.
Thanks for visiting, everyone! I hope you'll forgive me if I don't respond directly to each of you but I read them all and am so grateful that you took the time to come by.
>6 porch_reader: Hi, Amy! Ugh, the Rose Bowl. So painful. But that basketball game last night healed some of the hurt, didn't it?
>7 katiekrug: and >21 luvamystery65: Let the record show that it was Katie and Ro who twisted my arm to have a thread in 2016. Anything that happens here is entirely their fault!
>9 souloftherose: I hope you like The Three-Body Problem, Heather. I think I will wait a while before I try to tackle the second one, just to let my brain heal from all that math. :-)
>11 drneutron: I will definitely be looking for your review, Jim. I'm sure you will have some good insight into all the space stuff. And I'm going to take a wild guess that the math and physics will NOT be a barrier for you.
>14 PaulCranswick: Oh goody, a naked lady on my thread. Here's where I wish for the ability to hide images. But thanks for visiting, Paul.
>16 Crazymamie: Mamie, I don't know which I love more — that excerpt from your Bond novel or the fact that references to Nero and Archie make you think of me. Whatever else I do in my sorry life, at least I got one more person to fall in love with Archie!
>18 lyzard: SLOTHS!!! Now that's the kind of image I'm looking for. Thanks, Liz.
>20 BLBera: I would love to meet-up again this year, Beth. The last couple of years we've done it the weekend of MLK Day. What does everyone else think? I'm open to a different date if it works better for everyone.
Thanks again, everyone. I'm truly touched that so many of you chose to stop by. I hope you'll keep coming back when you can. I'm going to try to use book covers with each review to make the thread-skimming easier — that's always a huge help to me on others' threads (hint, hint). :-)
And speaking of reviews ...
2. Skinwalkers by Tony Hillerman
The seventh entry in a mystery series that follows either Joe Leaphorn or Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police (in this book, the two appear together for the first time). I enjoy these books because I always learn a lot about the Navajo and their culture, while also getting a decent mystery. Here, a series of seemingly unconnected homicides turn out to be very much related, and Chee himself is a target.
I was prompted to begin this series last year thanks to the awesome Roberta and her Leaphorn/Longmire reading project. I’m really pleased that we are continuing the reads into 2016.
Julia is back! Hurrah! Great to see you! Take it easy in 2016. I had a non- thread year in 2014 - for whatever reason I just got tired. I understand .Oh, I remember - we adopted a puppy that year and it was all my husband and I could do to keep up with her chewing, exercise needs, house training, puppy biting etc I just got exhausted.
I love Hillerman - your review makes me want to revisit the series. I haven't read the books by his daughter yet, so maybe I'll try one of those.
I'd be up for a meet up on MLK weekend, I think.
>25 rosalita: Re: meetup. I'm up for one, and MLK weekend is convenient me. I'm not running the Dubuque race this year (barring a last-minute change of mind) so I'm flexible.
Well look who's got a thread for 2016!!!! Welcome back to real time, Julia. Good golly, you've got 2 books posted already! That's quite an entrance!
>25 rosalita: Let the record show that it was Katie and Ro who twisted my arm to have a thread in 2016. Anything that happens here is entirely their fault! Being blamed so early in the year, I must be doing it up right!
Random Reading Observation #1
I'm currently reading Queen Isabella: Treachery, Adultery and Murder in Medieval England for the January theme (Women in Command) in the Reading Through Time group. So far in the first chapter Isabella has just been married — at age TWELVE — to the King of England, Edward II.
So that's gross, but it turns out that Ed is gay, so perhaps slightly less gross. But that's not the RRO. The RRO is that Ed's nearest-and-dearest purported lover is named Gaveston. But every time I see that name I read it as Galveston, and now whenever this guy is mentioned I picture him as Glen Campbell. Which, yeah.
Footnote: These are the kind of sterling insights you missed last year when I didn't have a thread. Aren't you glad I'm back?
"Aren't you glad I'm back?" YES! These are the kind of sterling insights that make me laugh out loud. The funny thing is that as soon as I read the name Gaveston, I was immediately hearing that song in my head because of course I read it as Galveston, too!! And now, dear Julia, how am I to get that song out of my head?! Although the song is less irksome than the image of Glen Campbell, I would imagine...
Hi Julia! I am also very glad you're back!!! I love that random reading observation and look forward to many more!
I won't "keep up" but I'm dropping off my star and will stop by when I can.
Happy New Year to you!!
>25 rosalita: - Did someone say meetup? I'm available on Sunday or Monday of MLK weekend. On Saturday, I'm videotaping an all-day show choir competition. I don't think I even get anytime off for good behavior this year!
Oh, I remember that you had that same conflict last year. I'm free any of the three days, so we'll see what Beth, Steve, and Amber have in mind.
And I might as well issue a general invitation to anyone within driving distance of Iowa City who would like to join us — we'd love to have you!
>41 rosalita: - Yes, apparently I'll be busy on the Saturday of MLK weekend for the next 7 years (until Matt graduates)! But if Saturday works better for others, I'll try to make a quick appearance!
>41 rosalita: - I was thinking of driving up for this (I think it's only 10 hours or so!) but then remembered I don't get MLK day off. And I have Board meetings that Tuesday and Wednesday. Phooey.
>42 porch_reader: Don't give up yet!
>43 BLBera: The bookstore is open on Sundays, Beth, and opens at the same time, 10 a.m. (the cafe opens at 9 a.m.). So we have ultimate flexibility, really.
>44 katiekrug: Oh, pooh on those stupid board meetings, anyway. Is it really only 10 hours? It took me 8 to get to Joplin — I didn't realize you were so close. Perhaps next year I'll just keep driving ...
Meh. What's another 2.5 hours once you've driven that far? As long as I have enough audiobooks to last on the drive, I'm good.
Yeah, c'mon Katie, where's your commitment!?
You all figure out what's best for you and I'll try to come on whichever day you decide!
Hi Julia! Great to stumble across your thread here in the 2016 group! I will pop over from time to time - basically, whenever I reach your thread as I slowly work my way through the never ending pile of unread posts/threads in my Talk. ;-)
Yay for meet ups! Happy New Year, my friend. Managed to snag tix for BRUCE here in Boston. On the side of the stage. Clarence side. (It makes me sad to type that, but even though the Big Man is gone, it's the best way to let people know where the seats are!) Wish you were here!
>50 michigantrumpet: Marianne, I wish I was, too! I got shut out — the only show that might have been feasible was Chicago but as it turned out I was in a work meeting at 11 a.m. when tix went on sale so I didn't really have a decision to make. Sigh. Please enjoy the heck out of the show for me!
Do you have the boxed set? It is glorious, I tell you, glorious.
>52 katiekrug: Katie: I still say you need to sort out your priorities.
It looks like we are slowly coalescing around Sunday, Jan. 17, for the meet-up in Iowa City. Is there anyone who would like to come who can't come on that day (please say no)?
>55 rosalita: Sunday the 17th, then - I'll check with Tomm but I'm pretty hopeful that I'll be able to make it.
Bruce! Believe it or not, many moons ago I saw him and the E Street Band for the first time in Cambridge as a warmup act for Bonnie Raitt. I was there for her, and had no idea who he or the band were. They blew me away! So great. I was a fan from that moment on.
>59 jnwelch: That is so cool, Joe! I didn't see Bruce in concert until 1985 and I have always wished I could have seen him in those early days.
WARNING! BRUCE TRIVIA FOLLOWS...
Did you know that it was that very show that you were at that inspired Jon Landau (then a critic for Rolling Stone and other outlets and now Springsteen's manager) to write his famous 'I have seen rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen' article? I found a link to an article that tells the story if you're interested:
‘I Saw Rock And Roll Future’: The History of Bruce Springsteen and Jon Landau
I am so jealous. I have never seen Bruce in concert. Early days would have been great.
>61 BLBera: I've seen him 29 times, but it's always the one that got away, you know?
>60 rosalita: you beat me to the Jon Landau story!! (Although you did it way better than I would have done... and with links!!)
My husband is well over 50 times now. This concert will be Number 26 for me. I hear you about 'the one that got away' ...
>60 rosalita: Thanks, Julia. I'll look forward to reading that.
I believe it. Springsteen was amazing that night. Including, during a sound system breakdown, telling the crowd a long, entertaining story about a road trip they took, cracking everyone up, and then smoothly seque-ing into a song from the Asbury Park album once the sound system was ready.
I've seen him lots in concert since then, and certainly recommend it. (Nowhere close to Marianne and hubby numbers though - that's like Grateful Dead-style dedication!)
Losing Clarence, the Big Man, was and is hard.
I would love to see the Iowa City bunch! I wish Knoxville and Iowa City were a lot closer than they are. Unless I can persuade Scotty to beam me up, there's no way I could get there from here. :-(
3. Queen Isabella: Treachery, Adultery, and Murder in Medieval England by Alison Weir
I knew nothing about Queen Isabella of England or this era of English history (early 14th century) so I really feel like I learned something, in addition to being an interesting tale of an English queen (daughter of a French king) who wound up leading an invading force to depose her husband King Edward II and put her son on the throne, only to suffer her own deposition of sorts when her son (Edward III) returned the favor a few years later. Weir's stated aim was to rehabilitate Isabella's reputation as a bloodthirsty "She-Wolf of France", and as far as I could tell she succeeded. As always with books set in this era and earlier, there is too much mundane listing of household goods and purchases, land grants, day-to-day movements that are not momentous etc., presumably because these are the only things that are solidly documented in what remains of the written record, but it's still fairly absorbing for all that. I thought Weir provided adequate backup for her claims, which apparently run counter to the conventional historical view of Isabella (generally written by men, of course).
Nice review, Julia! I don't know anything about Queen Isabella but her life sounds tumultuous and I think I'd enjoy reading it. Hope you're having a great weekend!
Hi Julia, I am so happy you have a thread this year and I can find you!
How fun! An LT meet up! Tell us all about it!Queen Isabella sounds like an interesting read!
Julia - I'm sorry I'm not going to be able to make it after all. My sisters' birthday lunch is on Sunday. I think I told them it was OK because I was thinking I was going to do the meet up on Saturday. Sorry. Next time. I have a friend who lives in Anamosa who has been bugging me for a visit. When I'm in the neighborhood, I'll let you know. :(
4. Now May You Weep by Deborah Crombie
A little palate cleanser between heavy nonfiction reads. I really enjoy this mystery series, featuring Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James of Scotland Yard. In this ninth book, the spotlight is largely on Gemma, who stumbles into a mystery when she accompanies her friend Hazel for a weekend in the Scottish Highlands. One of the things I like about this series is the way Crombie balances the mystery with the development of the characters and their home lives, and this one is no exception. I highly recommend this series, which does need to be read in order because of that aforementioned character development.
>78 BLBera: I'm so sorry to hear that, Beth, although of course i understand. Please do let us know the next time you come down this way. Have a piece of birthday cake for me. :-)
I know, Julia, I was so looking forward to the meet up. I was tempted to blow off my sisters, but long term, that probably isn't a good idea.
Oh, ding dang, Beth! I'm sorry you won't be meeting up with us!
Julia: How many will we be on Sunday, then?
Hey Julia, stopping by to drop a star. Not sure I can keep up with everyone, but I will certainly be lurking around.
Hi Julia. Finally getting around to stopping by and dropping a star. Look forward to seeing what interesting reads you come up with this year. Already you've hit a chord with me. I am a big fan of both Deborah Crombie (I understand she has a new one coming out in August --YEAH) and Alison Weir. Looking forward to seeing what else you happen upon.
So, I was talking to my sister today about our lunch on Sunday, and she said, "Don't you mean Saturday?" So, I was confused, not a new thing, by the way, and will plan to meet you at the bookstore around 10 on Sunday, if that's OK.
Hi meet-up gang! If been under the weather for a couple of days, but I think I'm on the mend. I'm planning on coming to Prairie Lights on Sunday. I might be there just a few minutes after 10. I think my son has to light candles at church, but I'm sure you'll still be catching up or browsing the shelves! See you Sunday!
I love it when a plan comes together! I'm looking forward to seeing all of you on Sunday.
Meetup time…wish I could make it. Put in a plug for the Book Festival in October, Julia. I may actually show up there one of these years. If Joplin is an 8-hour drive for you, that means it will be a 7-hour drive for me. Heck, I could probably do a day trip! Have fun at your get-together and take some pictures!
5. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.
This book broke my heart.
One of the (few) encouraging things that seems to be coming out of our current deeply dysfunctional political process is growing bipartisan agreement that the United States is in desperate need of criminal justice reform. Politicians from both major parties are realizing that "mandatory minimum" sentencing laws, harsh solitary confinement practices, overly punitive punishment for juveniles who commit crimes, racial disparities in sentencing, overzealous prosecutions that ignore exculpatory evidence in order to secure conviction — all of these are having a profoundly negative effect on our society. (A cynic might note that the recent Republican interest in providing treatment instead of prison for drug users only came once the heroin epidemic struck middle-class whites, but I digress).
So many of us have become afraid and angry. We’ve become so fearful and vengeful that we’ve thrown away children, discarded the disabled, and sanctioned the imprisonment of the sick and the weak — not because they are a threat to public safety or beyond rehabilitation but because we think it makes us seem tough, less broken.
All of these issues are explored by Bryan Stevenson in Just Mercy, subtitled “A Story of Justice and Redemption”. And it’s true, some of the people Stevenson and his organization, the Equal Justice Initiative, try to help do receive justice and some form of redemption, eventually. But it’s hard to feel triumphant about the outcomes when you read about how thoroughly their lives have been shattered before that justice is finally served.
Stevenson’s main focus is on Walter McMillian, a black man who has lived a largely blameless life in Alabama until he is arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a white teenager despite having been continuously in the company of more than 20 people at the time the murder was committed. The ways in which justice was mauled in his initial trial is shocking and infuriating, the sort of tale that would get rejected as completely unbelievable if someone wrote it as fiction. And yes, racism was absolutely a factor in his case, and in many aspects of EJI’s work. More than once, Stevenson himself is spoken to harshly by judges, bailiffs, law enforcement officers who don’t realize they are speaking to a black graduate of Harvard Law School and not just another black defendant. They are unable to see past the color of his skin, even when he is wearing a suit and sitting in a courtroom.
Of course innocent mistakes occur, but the accumulated insults and indignations caused by racial presumptions are destructive in ways that are hard to measure. Constantly being suspected, accused, watched, doubted, distrusted, presumed guilty, and even feared is a burden borne by people of color that can’t be understood or confronted without a deeper conversation about our history of racial injustice.
Interspersed with chapters about Stevenson’s attempts to win Walter a stay of execution, a new trial, or exoneration are explorations of other aspects of the ways in which the criminal justice system has failed. The EJI successfully argued before the Supreme Court that sentencing juveniles to death row or life in prison without parole is unconstitutional, first for non-homicide crimes and eventually for all crimes. They also advocated for the mentally ill or developmentally disabled, many of whom are sentenced to death or life in prison without even understanding what they have done.
Walter’s case is a clear-cut case of wrongful conviction, but not every case that Stevenson and EJI took involved saving the innocent. Many times, the question wasn’t whether the defendant had committed the crime, but whether the sentence received was proportional to the crime, or whether the defendant had received the adequate legal counsel that they are entitled to under the Constitution.
Presenting a mix of cases and circumstances gave the book even more power for me. It’s easy to feel indignant about innocent people being executed or left to rot in jail. It’s harder to feel sympathy — and yes, mercy — for the guilty, but Stevenson’s powerful rhetoric made me understand the need for such compassion in a very personal way.
The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving. It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent — strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and the psychic harm and injuries that lead to aggression and violence, abuse of power, mass incarceration. I drove home broken and brokenhearted about Jimmy Dill. But I knew I would come back the next day. There was more work to do.
>95 rosalita: Julia what a powerful review. This is a subject we should all be taking a personal interest in. I have put it on my list as a must read this year. Please post your review to the book page so I can thumb it. It's a definite up thumb.
Julia - This book sounds excellent. I'm off to check to see if my library has it.
A wonderful review, Julia and thumbed. I'm very happy that in Canada, our previous Prime Minister , Stephen Harper was trying to lead us down the road of the USA, with minimum sentences and "getting tough on crime." Most people in Canada apparently saw that was a misguided way to go, and we voted in a new Government . Thankfully Canada has been rid of capital punishment since the early 1960's , and we do recognize those who are not guilty by reason of insanity.
>96 tututhefirst: Thank you so much, Tina! I did post the review and would be honored if you considered it worthy of a thumb.
>97 BLBera: It's very much worth reading despite the difficult subject matter, Beth.
>98 vancouverdeb: I remember during the Harper years wondering how Canada had managed to start down that road, Deborah. You all always seemed so much more sensible than that! I'm nearly as glad as you are that things have swung back to the side of reason. Here's hoping that we can follow your lead.
Amazing review, Julia. I also gave you my thumb. Adding that to my giant list - those were powerful quotes that you chose.
Hoping that your weekend is filled with fabulous.
It is wonderful to have you back in the group. I wasn't able to participate as much as usual in 2015. I'm hoping to visit more frequently this year. All good wishes to you.
>95 rosalita: Brilliant review, Julia! A thumb to you and a stop at my library for me!
Have a wonderful meet up!!!
I don't know if everyone coming to Iowa City today for the meetup will see this, but I just woke up to no water — apparently the pipes in my apartment building have frozen. (It is -5 degrees F outside, so really not that cold.) I am trying to reach my landlord, but he is not always super responsive on the weekends. I will post more as soon as I know, but right now I'm not sure I'll be able to make the metope.
>15 scvlad: I was busy talking about stolen moments and someone went and nicked the blouse she should have been wearing.
No topless bibliophiles, Julia, just a wish for a lovely weekend.
>104 rosalita: Dingdangit, Julia! Of course I'm sorry that your pipes are frozen, but selfishly I'm also pretty darn unhappy that we may not get to see you today! I'm still driving down because I've already planned to do so and I really enjoy this particular drive and I kinda love this annual Me Day. I hope to see you and Beth and Steve there...
>104 rosalita: Oh how disappointing that you are not able to make the LT meet up. These events are always so wonderful.
Good luck with your pipes.
Oh, Julia! That's awful. This darn cold weather.
Amber and Steve, I posted on your profile pages last night that I have the stomach flu and definitely don't want to share. And this morning, Beth messaged that she has the flu too. I'm so sorry to miss the meetup!
Well, I've had better days in my life, that's for sure. I was so looking forward to our annual LT Meet-up in Iowa City, only to wake up this morning with no running water — frozen pipes as a result of the -7 F temperatures. Now, if you're thinking that is not a particularly cold temperature for Iowa in winter, you're right. But I have the world's worst (and most tight-fisted) landlord, which means simple things like wrapping pipes that are up in an uninsulated attic space costs too much money to bother with. He finally showed up about 11:45, and the water was flowing not too long after that. But when he came into my apartment to test the faucets he commented, "Wow, it's sure chilly in here."
"Well, I keep the heat at 66 degrees in the winter," I replied from inside my T-shirt, sweatshirt, sweatpants, fingerless mitts, heavy socks and fuzzy slippers. "But now that you mention it, it does seem a little chillier than normal."
So we checked the thermostat, which was set at 66, to find that the actual temp was 58. Yeah, the furnace wasn't working. To his credit, my landlord did call someone right away, and they came out within 90 minutes and were able to fix it pretty quickly. But by then, Amber and Steve had met and shopped and ate and left, and I didn't get to see either of them. Boo-hoo for me.
I did at least finish writing a book review, which I shall post forthwith.
6. In a Dark House by Deborah Crombie.
I don’t normally read books in this series so closely together, but when you’re dependent upon the library you can’t always pick and choose when your name comes up in the reserve queue carousel. Another very good outing, featuring arson, infidelity and a kidnapped child.
Gee, you want all the modern stuff, don't you, Julia? Heat, hot water....
So sorry you missed out on the meet-up. :(
I'm definitely going to try the Crombie series this year!
Oh gee, Julia, what a bummer to have frozen pipes and a non working furnace on a meet up day! Mother Nature is just so cruel at times. I'm sure it's jealousy on her part.
I'm hoping nothing was damaged in your apartment? Books? Fountain Pens?
I'm glad that your water and heat are both fixed, Julia! I love Iowa, but winter is a pain sometimes, isn't it?
Oh, Julia! What a bummer! Not dealing with frozen pipes is one of the top things on my list about not missing Indiana. And the timing! I'm so sorry that you had to miss your meet-up but glad that everything got fixed. Sending you hugs.
I'm so sad that you couldn't make the meet-up (we missed you!!), but I'm very happy that you now have water and heat!
Here's hoping that the residents of Scaife Manor (or maybe just the missus) can make it back down to Iowa City this spring or summer again...
Glad you got everything sorted out, Julia. What a day!
I love the Crombie series, too. I have the last one on my shelf.
So sorry that you missed out on a meet-up! @#!*$!!X?*! Glad that things got fixed though. LOVED your review of Just Mercy. I am off to thumb it... Have a great week. That's an order!!
Thanks for your condolences on missing the meet-up, everyone. I was seriously bummed out by it. I'm glad that Steve and Amber weren't daunted and I know they had a good time without me, dang it. ;-)
Believe it or not, my pipes were frozen AGAIN on Monday morning. Since I wasn't going anywhere I wasn't as anxious about it, but the landlord did eventually come out when someone from another apartment called him. His advice to me was "leave the water running at each faucet overnight". Oh yeah, and who's gonna pay my water bill, bub? Not to mention the waste of a precious resource. Honestly, he is just the WORST.
Anyway, no frozen pipes this morning, thankfully, as today was the first day of the spring semester at UI. I spent most of the day training two new student workers who will staff our reception desk. There's a lot of learn but I am cautiously optimistic that both of them seemed very engaged and asked lots of good questions. I came home with a sore throat, though, from having to talk so much. It's been so quiet at work over winter break that I guess the old vocal cords were a little rusty. :-)
So very sorry about the pipes (both fluid and vocal!). How discouraging.
Loved the review at >95 rosalita:. I've done a bit of reading centered in our penal system myself this January. Reviews over at my thread.
Did you see the set lists for Springsteen's Pittsburgh and Chicago concerts? Wow. Just wish he didn't have to do any memorial tributes (Bowie one night, Frey the other.) Enough with the loss of music idols! Stay healthy Bruce!
>119 michigantrumpet: The setlists for both Pitt and Chicago are killing me. I think I'm going to buy the legal bootleg of the Chicago show, because dang it I should have been there! I hadn't missed a show he's played in Chicago since 1985 until now. Can you believe how varied the setlists are considering that a huge chunk of the show is playing "The River" album in its entirety? That man is amazing.
I will get over to your thread soon and check out your reviews!
>118 rosalita: Julia, I hate to break the bad news, but, after living in many places in the past 45 years, one of the best ways we've found to keep pipes from freezing is to leave a very small trickle of water running through the pipes overnight. That small amount on your water bill is nothing compared to the amount of water that will be wasted if the pipes burst when they freeze. Been there, done that, and sure don't want that mess to clean up again. It's an unfortunate by-product of house design of yesteryear and cold weather. Maybe your landlord would consider wrapping the pipes in that foam material they sell in any good hardware store. It's like a glove that just fits over the pipes. And it works. In the meantime, just drip away. Hope you get warmed up fast.
My sympathy for your pipe problem, Julia. Last winter when it was so cold, I did leave water running; I didn't notice a huge change in my bill, but of course, local charges can vary quite a lot.
>121 tututhefirst: and >122 BLBera: Thank you for sharing your perspectives, Tina and Beth. I suppose I'll have to suck it up and do it but nothing will convince me that it has to be that way, at least not in my situation. I have lived through much colder freezes and never had a problem with pipes freezing until I moved to this building — which is NOT an old building but actually fairly new. But he is a terrible landlord and he has been a terrible landlord for most of the 14 years I've lived here and if I'm not going to suck it up and move somewhere else I need to shut up and deal with it. So this is the last time you'll hear me complain, I promise!
Hi Julia! Wishing you a much better weekend than the one you had last week!
7. Stonehenge by Bernard Cromwell.
A fictional account of how the iconic prehistoric stone structure may have come to grace the Salisbury Plain in England. Although I'm quite interested in learning more about Stonehenge, I found this particular account to be somewhat of a slog. Lots of harnessing oxen to sledges to pull big stones, lots of bloody warfare and violence, and some dopey romance combined to make me feel more relieved than inspired by the end. The main thing I learned is that I want to read a good nonfiction account of Stonehenge at some point.
I read this book for the Reading Through Time group's themed read (Prehistory, of course) for the first quarter of 2016.
>123 rosalita: But if no one complains about anything then I think you are all Saints and I am a total wretch for having my down moments so you wouldn't want to do that to me would you? : )
And let me know when you find a non-slog Stonehenge book--it should be fascinating reading.
>126 Berly: I certainly would NOT want you to feel bad, Kim! I may resume some occasional minor whining just for your sake. :-)
In the historical note, Cromwell references Stonehenge by RJC Atkinson as "impressive", but it doesn't have much of a presence here on LT. Nor does Stonehenge, Neolithic Man and the Cosmos, also mentioned in the historical note. I'll keep looking ...
Hi Julia, I was sorry to read of your troubles with the frozen water pipes and missing a planned meet-up. I hope this weekend things are going smoother for you.
>95 rosalita: Thank you for that wonderful review of Just Mercy, Julia. Our justice system is a joke but not sure what the answer is. You chose some powerful quotes that make me want to read it. Off I go to see if our library has it. …Success! It will be ready for pickup early next week along with The Quality of Mercy which I just reserved. I am seeing a pattern here!
>109 rosalita: Dang it, that stinks about your frozen pipes and missing the meet up. I'm glad your
8. The Big Four by Agatha Christie.
I read a few of Christie's detective series featuring Hercule Poirot in my wayward youth, but now I'm working my way through them in order. This entry finds the funny little Belgian with the "little gray cells" up against a vast international conspiracy called The Big Four. It takes all of Poirot's ingenuity and even a little help from the dim-witted Hastings (back in London for a visit, having left the wife he met and married in Murder on the Links back in Argentina). As usual, Christie's plotting is first-rate. I was intrigued by the structure of the book, which is almost a series of interconnected stories (more accurately nearly standalone chapters) leading up to the big denouement.
Hi Julia! Just cruising through but throwing some curses your landlord's way :)
Love Christie and Poirot, but I have not read that one yet. He is always good. Happy Sunday!
>134 jnwelch: I have no doubt that Cromwell is a good historical writer, but I think the problem with Stonehenge is that we really have no idea who built Stonehenge, how they built it, or why. That left Cromwell to have to invent pretty much everything and I just didn't find his imaginings to be convincing or interesting — not least because apparently the archaeological record shows that it was built in three stages over several hundred years, and he has it all happening within the span of one man's life. I have heard very good things about the Sharpe series, so I'd like to give that one a try sometime.
>131 rosalita: Hi Julia! I seem to remember reading somewhere that Christie was going through a difficult time in her personal life when this book came out. I think someone suggested to her that she tie some of her short stories together into a novel.
9. Hell Is Empty by Craig Johnson.
The seventh entry in the Longmire series finds Sheriff Walt Longmire alone on top of a mountain in the teeth of a tremendous blizzard, tracking a gang of escaped prisoners and their hostages. This one delves heavily into the series' exploration of Native American mysticism, as Longmire may or may not be accompanied by an Indian guide as he fights the elements and the depraved psychopath mastermind of the escapees. I enjoy this series very much, although I would have preferred to read this particular book in the dog days of August. :-)
I read this for the ongoing Leaphorn/Longmire Reading Project; it's meant to be the February entry but my copy came in early at the library so I had to read it now.
>136 cbl_tn: Thanks for that information, Carrie! That makes a lot of sense, because the book really is a series of independent mysteries that are only tied together by Poirot's certainty that they are being directed by the masterminds of The Big Four. It would have been very easy for her to take some already written short stories and overlay the Big Four stuff over them.
>137 rosalita: I am almost done reading this one by audio--really liking it!
Julia, so sorry to hear about the burst pipes and furnace meaning you missed a LT meet-up. Wah! :-(
>131 rosalita: I know a lot of people consider The Big Four one of AC's weaker mysteries but I have always particularly enjoyed that one so I'm glad you liked it too.
>135 rosalita: Perhaps we should consider the Sharp series when we are done with Longmire? It's one I've always wanted to read.
>137 rosalita: "teeth of tremendous blizzard" -- seems somewhat apt reading for these days! I'm considering a tropical read, myownself.
>140 souloftherose: Great minds think alike, Heather! I did enjoy the storyline quite a bit. The individual mysteries were very neatly done.
>141 luvamystery65: I would be up for that!
>143 rosalita: I do not need anything more to make me feel cold right now, Marianne! A tropical read sounds darn good right now.
>144 lyzard: Uh-oh. There must be something interesting on your thread. Is it ... SLOTHS?!?!
Since it was not the regular kind but a BONUS SLOTH, I thought I'd better give you a heads-up. :D
So I went to see this guy I follow on Twitter tonight. He writes books too. You might be familiar with some of his work. I told him I "Hounded" a friend of mine to start his series and she loved it! He was amused.
I got ya a little something too.
Hi Julia. I hope the water pipe situation is better. Thinking of you and sending all good wishes your way.
Cool! And Exciting! And I've not even read the books yet! (I need to get crackin' on that...)
>148 luvamystery65: How great! You've seen him in person at least twice now, right?
This was at Murder by the Book, wasn't it? I recognized it on FB.
ETA: Hi, Julia!
>148 luvamystery65: That is just the coolest thing, Roberta!!
Julia, were your ears burning - Roberta was talking about you WITH Kevin Hearne!! Yowza!!
>150 LovingLit: Had to do it. :-)
>151 scaifea: I need to get crackin' on that... You've been saying that for a couple of years now Amber. I do think that this may not be your normal cup of tea but that you would appreciate all the pantheons represented, the pop culture references and Hearne was a high school English teacher. He's pretty awesome. Oh, Oberon. You would LOVE Oberon.
>152 rosalita: ^ You see how the warbling for this series just comes naturally to me! Had to do this for you Julia. You took my obsessive warbling like a champ. It also hurts my heart that your library does not have this available for you. Give me their number so I can give them what's what!
>153 jnwelch: Yes Joe this is my second time to see Hearne at MBTB. He has huge fans in Houston and told us that his publishers will always send him here because he does well here ($$$). People bring him bacon cupcakes and bottles of Tullamore Dew to sign. Oh how I miss the Widow MacDonagh.
>154 Crazymamie: Mamie you were witness to my unrelenting warbling for this series to Julia. It would be a crime not to get her this book.
>154 Crazymamie: Can you even believe how awesome that Roberta is?!
>155 luvamystery65: You are a first-class warbler, Ro! I put in a buy request at the library and talked some of my friends into doing the same, in hopes that they will be persuaded. They have all the other books in the series so it's very likely they will get this one, too, but probably not for a little while. It's a small library with limited resources, so I get that. But the wait is excruciating!
>156 BLBera: Beth, the onsale wasn't until this morning but I did get a ticket. So I guess Katie (and hopefully Ro) better watch out!
10. The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King.
The final entry written in King's Dark Tower series, this novel slots between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla in the epic's timeline. Like Wizard and Glass, it consists almost entirely of a story told by Roland of events from long ago. As such, it does not advance the main plot line of the Dark Tower series at all, but is nevertheless an enjoyable evening spent with characters I've come to regard as friends. I'm glad I read it last, as it leaves me with a sweetly nostalgic feeling about the series overall.
11. April Lady by Georgette Heyer.
A re-read of one of my less favorite Regency romances, timed to coincide with Liz's re-reading project. All of my favorite Heyer touches are here — the goofy slang, the comedy of manners, the lavish descriptions of dresses and hats and pantaloons — but the storyline turns on the tired trope of two people in love and sure that the other person does not love them back even though everyone around them can plainly see it. This of course leads to Misunderstandings which struck me as more rote than romantic. If you are new to Heyer don't start here; try The Grand Sophy or Frederica instead. If you are already a Heyer fan, this one is worth reading to complete the set.
12. The Breaking Point by Jefferson Bass.
The latest in a series of forensic mysteries co-written by Bill Bass, the director of the real-life Body Farm at the University of Tennessee. This one is set in the past, before the Bass-based Dr. Brockton's wife dies, and that's a good thing, because the latter books in this series seemed to make Dr. Brockton a more and more ridiculous character. There are still unpleasant elements of overwrought plotting and paranoid and borderline stupid behavior but the core mystery is good and the technical aspects as well-described as usual.
>148 luvamystery65: That's so sweet!
Congrats on snagging tix for Bruce! Tickets for the Denver show go on sale Friday at 10am. I blocked the time out on my calendar so nobody schedules anything and then do my best to get 2. Fingers crossed!
>162 Copperskye: There are no words to describe how awesome Roberta is! And good luck with getting Bruce tix — I had thought about trying for Denver as well but 10 a.m. Fridays is an impossible time for me to be camped out on Ticketmaster as I have a standing meeting at that time that I can't miss. But I'll send all my ticket-getting karma your way!
>163 BLBera: Beth, the first book in the series is Carved in Bone and it's the only one I have given 4 stars so I would say start with that one. There's also a nonfiction book written by Dr. Bass that is a series of short essays about actual cases that had unusual forensic elements to them. That's called Beyond the Body Farm if you are interested.
13. Water Like a Stone by Deborah Crombie.
Another strong entry in the Kincaid/James series. This time around, Duncan and Gemma take the boys and the dogs and travel north to Cheshire to spend Christmas with Duncan's parents. Of course they get mixed up in some local murders while they are there. One of the most striking things about this series is how strong both the character elements and the mystery elements are. Most mystery series authors tend to be good at one or the other, but Crombie manages to write appealing characters and believable mysteries as well.
>166 rosalita: That's my favorite of the books in the series I've read so far. I've always wanted to take a trip in a canal boat, so that could be why I liked it so much.
>167 cbl_tn: I know what you mean, Carrie. There's a fellow who has a YouTube channel called A Sort of Interesting Life, which is mostly about living on a narrowboat. Funnily enough, I stumbled on the channel when I was looking for reviews of Leuchtturm notebooks, and he had done a very good video review. You just never know what you're going to find on YouTube, I tell you.
Of course, the canal boat trip in my head is much more relaxed and enjoyable than a real canal boat trip would be if I had to operate the boat. I'd probably run into both banks, manage to end up in the water, and drift loose from the mooring overnight.
I think a trip in a canal boat sounds romantic too, Julia. My sister and her husband have enjoyed Venice and the canal boats. I suppose as long as someone did the steering and err - rowing for me , it might go okay :)
>169 cbl_tn: No doubt, Carrie, I would manage to sink the thing on the first day!
>170 vancouverdeb: When I watch episodes of Downton Abbey online they show the adverts for Viking River Cruises and I always think it looks like such a great way to see the world.
>171 EBT1002: The Grand Sophy was my first, on the recommendation of Liz and Heather, and it was a great introduction. But Frederica would be also; you can't go wrong with either of them. I do hope you'll give them a try and let me know if you like them!
And the Crombie series as well. Usually when I binge-read a series I start to see all the flaws and go off it after a while, but this one has kept my interest clear through. If you like mysteries, and particularly mysteries set in Great Britain, I think you'd really enjoy it.
Hi Julia! I just remembered I read a book many years ago by Edward Rutherford titled Sarum . It is an historical fiction about Stonehenge. I was on a Rutherford binge for awhile and I really like it. It's not NF but may be worth looking into.
Hello Julia, hope your days are improving. So sorry to hear about your heat/pipes, and about missing the meat-up :( Loved your review in >95 rosalita:.
Morning, Julia! You are reminding me that I need to get back to that Crombie series. You are much further along than I. And HOORAY for getting your ticket!! Most exciting!!
I put The Grand Sophy on hold (it was the shorter of the two) and paused it until March.
I wonder how these would work as audiobooks.
Happy Wednesday, Julia!
>178 EBT1002: Yay! I will check back with you March to see how you liked it. I hope someone else who reads Heyer can chime in with information about the audiobook versions, but I can say that there is a lot of quaint 19th-century slang that would not have translated well for me in audio when I first started reading them. However, at this point I think I could listen to a good audiobook version and enjoy it very much. There is a lot of humor which a good narrator could really make very enjoyable, I think.
14. Bones of the Lost by Kathy Reichs.
The 16th (!) entry in the series about forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. I am a relative latecomer to reading this series, although I watched the television show that is (loosely) based on it from the time it first started way back when. I liked the show and I like the books, but I don't feel they have much in common. (For those who are unfamiliar with either: Temperance Brennan in the books is not nearly as robotic/gruff/rude as she is in the TV version; the book Brennan also does not work in Washington, D.C., with the FBI but rather splits her time between Charlotte, S.C., and Montreal, Quebec.) I like forensic mysteries, and these are decent if not spectacular. I would put them a cut or two above the Body Farm series that I reviewed in #12, if you'd like a comparison.
Hi Julia, confession time - April Lady was my first Georgette Heyer and I loved it. For me it was the language, I was so totally blown away by the author's descriptive and colorful words. Looking back now, I can see that the story wasn't one of her better ones but April Lady still remains a very fond favorite.
I have fallen behind with my Deborah Crombie reading and must make sure to include her in my Category Challenge at some point as I love her Kincaid/James series.
>179 rosalita: I love most of the audio versions of Georgette Heyer that I have. My favourite readers are Phyllida Nash, Cornelius Garrett and Eve Matheson. I didn't like Sian Phillips's reading of Bath Tangle as she is a woman of mature years and the two main female characters are young women. Daniel Philpott and Daniel Hill did not make good readers for their books The Toll Gate, The Unknown Ajax and Charity Girl either as all three involved northern accents, which the two Daniels did not do well. I also didn't care for Jilly Bond's reading of Cousin Kate but that was partly because I didn't care for the story. Georgette Heyer books, in audio or print, have been my main comfort reading over the last year and lots of them are laugh out loud funny.
>181 DeltaQueen50: I'm glad April Ladyworked for you, Judy! The language is a big part of Heyer's appeal for me, too.
>182 CDVicarage: Thanks for the audiobook review, Kerry. It was the prospect of hard-to-decipher accents that made me hesitant to try Heyer on audio, especially at the beginning. While I generally love listening to British/Scottish/Irish accents, my American ears can sometimes struggle to decipher what's being said especially if a lot of new-to-me slang is a part of the equation.
OMG! Bruce rocked it last night. Posting some picks/set list over on my thread. Rosalita was his second to last bit, and I recorded some of it, but am still trying to figure out how to move it from Facebook to here. Thought of you!
First time on tour he played Roulette which was a real treat. He also had a platform out in the center of the floor. Made his way there twice, including diving into the crowd and being passed back up to the stage.
You are in for a treat.
>184 michigantrumpet: Ooh, thanks for the first-hand report, Marianne! April 5 can't get here soon enough.
15. Sylvester by Georgette Heyer.
Sylvester, more formally known as the Duke of Salford, is a duke right down to the beautifully shined toes of his Hessian boots. His manners are impeccable and he is careful to treat his lessers with cool courtesy. For all that, his attitude strikes Phoebe as the very height of arrogance, and she responds to the prospect of marriage to him by running away from home. Part of her consternation has to do with the roman a clef she has written and published anonymously which skewers many members of the aristocracy but none more pointedly than the Dook. Antics, misunderstandings, and shenanigans ensure before the requisite happy ending.
It's hard to say this is one of Heyer's funniest Regency romances because so many of them are delightfully humorous, but the characters of Sylvester and Phoebe are well-drawn and there is a stellar supporting cast that adds greatly to the novel's enjoyment. And I would give anything to read Phoebe's tell-all tale!
>178 EBT1002: I've listened to several Heyer books on audio, and enjoyed all of them with the exception of Friday's Child, which had such a breathless, oozy narrator that I couldn't stand anything about the story and gave up. I think Mary did the same. Right after we both abandoned we heard form many friends here about what a great book it is, so I may give it another try in print:) I've enjoyed The Quiet Gentleman, The Convenient Marriage, The Corinthian, and most recently, Cotillion on audio and enjoyed them all.
16. Where Memories Lie by Deborah Crombie.
One of the things I love about this series is how Crombie weaves secondary characters in and out of the various books (that's also why this is one series I would always recommend reading in order). In this installment, Gemma's friend Erika Rosenthal takes a more primary role than she has before, as the story examines how incidents from her past during and after World War II are fueling a series of murders in the present day.
17. Necessary As Blood by Deborah Crombie.
I may need to rethink my habit of putting the next book in this series on library hold as soon as I finish the previous one. In the beginning that usually resulted in getting the books a month or so apart but lately they have been coming in much more quickly. On the other hand, I enjoy reading them and I'm almost caught up with the series so I might as well keep on. This is a strong entry involving the Bangladeshi emigrant community in the East End of London, human trafficking, orphan children, and murder. So you know, just another day in the life.
Good reading, my friend! I love that Crombie series. I think I'm up to #7....
You have got to read the review of the Albany concert!
Scroll down until you get to the bit about the guy in the checked shirt. What fun! That could be you!
18. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.
I've had this one lurking about on my eShelf for a long time. The impetus to finally pull it up and read it was provided by one of my student employees who was assigned the book in one of her classes. She was nervous about reading something "so old", and I told her I would read along with her just for fun. I was happy when she reported back after reading the first 8 chapters that she liked it and hadn't realized it would be so funny. I was not surprised that it was funny, because Austen has a marvelously sly sense of humor, but I too enjoyed this one. There is perhaps not quite the subtlety of some of her later works but Catherine is a fine "heroine" and Mr. Tinley was divine if somewhat simplistically rendered. I especially enjoyed Austen's spoofing of sentimental/romance novels.
And as a sidenote, I dug up the tutored read thread of Northanger Abbey from 2012, in which Madeline (SqueakyChu) asked the questions and Liz (lyzard) provided the answers and context. I thought it added a nice element and added appreciation to my reading. Thanks, Madeline and Liz!
I need to read that one, Julia! Abby and I are hoping to get to it together this year. I love that you read it with the student - so sweet of you. And you are WAY ahead of me in the Crombie series - I need to get back to it before I forget everything.
Wishing for you a weekend filled with fabulous!
19. The Thousand-Year Flood by David Welky.
I’ve read and heard a lot about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, which devastated the Lower Mississippi River Valley, displacing hundreds of thousands of mostly poor people, killing more than 200 and causing millions in property damage. Many historians believe it was this flood that spurred the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to midwestern industrial cities like Chicago and Detroit, which has had a profound effect on the nation’s history. Bill Bryson wrote about the 1927 flood in his book One Summer; Randy Newman wrote a sharp-edged satirical song about it (Louisiana 1927). It was a seminal moment in American history.
That flood, however, is not what this book is about. Instead, Welky examines the Thousand-Year Flood of 1937, so-called because the likelihood of such a catastrophic event was thought to be one in one thousand, or .1 percent. In many ways, it was just as destructive and expensive as the 1927 flood, but for some reason has received much less attention. As the book’s subtitle (The Ohio-Mississippi Disaster of 1937) indicates, this flood occurred primarily in the Ohio River Valley, from Pittsburgh, Pa., to where the Ohio meets the Mississippi at Cairo, Ill. Large cities, like Cincinnati and Louisville, were swamped under feet of water. So were small towns like Paducah, Ky., and Shawneetown, Ill. Each of these municipalities dealt with the flood’s immediate effects and aftershocks in different ways with widely differing results. Cincinnati and Louisville emerged stronger than ever; Louisville in particular experienced a real revitalization of business and cultural development. In contrast, Shawneetown floundered without strong leadership and ended up a sadly reduced and divided community. Cairo, which managed to avoid being inundated by floodwater thanks to the deliberate destruction of a levee across the river in Missouri that allowed floodwater to displace hundreds of sharecroppers, nevertheless failed to seize the opportunity to remake itself and instead continued on its path toward oblivion and irrelevancy. And of course, outside of the cities lived hundreds of thousands of poor farmers and sharecroppers who lost everything and had to live in refugee camps and tent cities. One of the saddest images in the book is the fact for many of the poorest folks, the meager rations of gruel, beans, and sowbelly actually represented an improvement in the food they could afford to eat at home.
Welky first lays the foundation by recounting how the Ohio River Valley was settled, and how the decisions made while the area was still considered frontier had a direct bearing on what happened more than a century later. He effectively mixes personal stories drawn from contemporary accounts and records with an examination of the official response to the disaster, at the local, state, and federal levels. On the one hand, swift and effective relief work was performed by an unprecedented public-private partnership of the Red Cross and the Works Progress Administration. Once the immediate situation was in hand, President Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal administration tried to use it to consolidate the notion of federal management of floodplains, waterways, and disaster response, but with limited success. And of course, the entry of the United States into the second world war in 1941 also distracted attention from the need for a comprehensive conservation and environmental plan that would manage both land and water effectively. It’s in this section of the book, after the floodwaters have receded and the political infighting begins, that some readers may find the book start to drag. But it’s worth persevering to the end, as Welky revisits each of the cities and towns he focused on in the beginning to see how the flood’s effects were being felt throughout the rest of the 20th century and into the 21st.
This is not the smoothest “narrative nonfiction” I’ve ever read but it’s quite accessible to lay readers. And the ebook version I read (from the consistently high-quality University of Chicago Press) has functioning endnote links that make flipping back and forth quite easy. The ebook also includes a full index, with the page listings also hyperlinked back the text. All in all, it’s a very well-done edition.
Highly recommended for those interested in natural disasters and their effects on the people and governments who survive them.
Note: I read this for the February theme of the Nonfiction Reading Challenge: History.
I haven't read Heyer in quite a while...love her! And speaking of romance...a little LT love!
Thanks for the wonderful reviews of books you've read. You are clipping along at quite a fast pace, and so many good ones. I hope to read The Thousand-Year Flood soon!
Hi Julia - You've read some good nonfiction lately. The Thousand-Year Flood sounds good. I love most of Austen. I think she had a lot of fun with this one, making fun of gothic tales. I look forward to reading Val McDermid's modern take later this year.
>199 BLBera: I didn't know there was a modern take coming, Beth. I'm not sure about that; I'll let you read it first and tell me what I should think. :-)
>200 jnwelch: The humor is much more overt than in other Austens I've read, Joe. It was a lot of fun! Now I need to figure out which Austens I haven't read yet — I think I'm close to having a full set.
20. A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie.
Miss Marple is chilling out in the West Indies, knitting and dabbling her toes in the sea — oh, and solving murders. As one does on vacation. You can tell this is a later Marple because there's plenty of talk about S-E-X, but Marple still remains above it all. I must say, though, that I found it difficult to read Christie's affectionate descriptions of Miss Marple as a "sweet old pussy" without having Donald Trump flashbacks. Wonder if he's ever read any Miss Marple ... ?
I don't think I can handle the pressure, Julia.
Here's the link that describes the modernization project. I haven't read any yet...
>203 BLBera: Thanks for that link, Beth! I am unpersuaded that I would like the new versions, so I think I'll stick with Jane for now. But from the link I can also see that I have only one Austen that remains unread by me: Persuasion. I must try to fit that one in sometime this year. It's only fair, since I have read Sense and Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice multiple times!
>206 Crazymamie: - Because Birdy is a young woman of impeccable taste!
Persuasion is my favorite, too, Julia. I haven't read any of the "project" books yet, but I will give a couple of them a try. I'll let you know.
No, it's maybe 100 pages? Epistolary format. And that woman is a piece of work. You'll love to hate her :)
>195 rosalita: I think I downloaded that one when it was offered. I'll have to try to get around to reading it.
>219 lyzard: Oh boy oh boy oh boy! Do you remember which year that was? I thought I had saved all of your tutored reads, but even though I have all the Trollopes and the P&P thread starred, I don't seem to have that one somehow.
It was a tutored read with Ilana using the Q&A format.
Ah, thank you! Duly starred now. I don't know how I missed it the first time around.
21. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.
Finally! I have no idea how I managed to get through my 1970s childhood without ever reading this or any of the other Chronicles of Narnia books, but there you have it. Of course, I picked up a general idea of the plotline through sheer osmosis of the book's place in popular culture, but it was a treat to actually read the O.G., so to speak. I really like Lewis' manner of directly addressing the reader; it is just as if you are having a bedtime story told to you by your favorite grandpa. It's a lovely, sweet tale and well-deserving of its popularity through the ages. I already knew about it being a Christian allegory, and that people are rather divided on whether that allegory is or is not too in-your-face. It was quite obvious to me, being an adult and already knowing it existed, but I'm not sure I would have picked up on it as a child. I tended to be fairly oblivious to subtext until well into my 20s, I'm sorry to say. Anyway, I've got the rest of the Narnia books on my e-shelf and I plan to get to all of them in due time.
Note: I read this for Fantasy February.
>224 rosalita: Glad you had a good time with it, Julia. Me, too. I didn't pick up on the Christian allegory either when I read it in my teens - I was surprised when I learned about it later. It didn't crop up for me in the subsequent ones either, and the final one, The Last Battle, has more of an inclusive message than a lot of people seem to give it credit for.
t is just as if you are having a bedtime story told to you by your favorite grandpa. Nicely put!
>225 jnwelch: Thanks, Joe! Maybe someday you'll be that favorite grandpa reading it to your kids' kids!
I recently listened to all of the Narnia books, having only read the first one as a child. I found the overt religious message in some of the later ones a bit heavy-handed, but as you say, it would probably sail past most kids.
22. The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths.
Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway finds a World War II aviator buried in a crashed fighter plane. The only problem is that the pilot in the cockpit is not the pilot who was supposed to be flying the plane — indeed, he was supposedly lost at sea in an earlier crash. So how did he end up buried in a plane not his own, and with a bullet hole in his skull? That's for the murderer to know and Ruth to find out, and she does eventually, with the help of Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson and his squad. Even more than most of the books in this series, The Ghost Fields provides a very evocative image of Norfolk, with thunderstorms, torrential rains, floods and more all emphasizing the tenuous hold that humans have on the land along the British coast. Highly recommended series.
I learned to love the Narnia books in my C. S. Lewis class I took years ago. I like that they can serve as just a fun story for kids or a deeper one for those looking for spiritual meaning. Take your pick I say!
>224 rosalita: I read Narnia frequently as a child - I had my own boxed set. Then I lost all my books (long story) and didn't read it for years, and in that time encountered the Christian allegory idea. Got them again, reread, and didn't see anything that really stood out until the lamb in the Dawn Treader - for whatever reason, that stood up and yelled Christianity to me (I'm Catholic, so the imagery is quite familiar - but I see it all over the place, not just in intentional allegories). Then the Last Battle also had heavy Christian symbolism (though I agree, it's quite inclusive - the bit about good deeds done in Evil's name and vice versa is the touchstone for me). For me, the Christian imagery just enriches a good adventure story - but again, it's all utterly familiar to me.
And the movie of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is the first and only one I've ever seen that I think improves on the book. I saw the movie and immediately went to reread the book - and found it rather vague and fairy-tale-like as opposed to the better-explained motivations in the movie. Not a familiar experience! Usually the movie skims over the important stuff and the book delves deeper, but not here. And I've been afraid to watch the rest of the series because it might not stand up to the first. Still rereading the books, though.
Hi Julia, I'm glad that you enjoyed the Narnia book, I loved those books when I was young and like you never noticed sub-text until I was much older.
You have reminded me of another series (Ruth Galloway) in which I loved the first one which I read a couple of years ago and haven't gotten back to. I need to get book number two!
I'm tickled to see all the Narnia love over here! Reading all of your comments has really hammered home for me what I missed by not reading these as a kid, but I'm glad I'm finally getting to them now. Hey, better late than never, right?
>237 BLBera: and >238 DeltaQueen50: The Galloway series is so good, Beth and Judy. I just love the way she's written all of the characters as nuanced personalities, and I like how the personal plot developments seem organic and not at all stagy or forced. I think Griffiths has that in common with Deborah Crombie and her Kincaid/James series. The characters are very compelling in both series.
23. The Summer Game by Roger Angell.
I always try to read a baseball book about this time of year. Down in Florida and Arizona, spring training is underway as players prepare for the season. Likewise, reading about the sport is sort of my version of getting into shape for the season. And there just is no baseball writer better suited to rekindling a fan's love with baseball than Roger Angell.
Angell, longtime fiction editor of the New Yorker and frequent contributor of articles about baseball to that magazine, is a splendid writer regardless of the subject, but his unabashed love for the game imbues his essays with an elegance and insight that is rare. Today more than ever, there is no shortage of coverage of your favorite team or sport, but no one can both clearly describe the action, explain it, and elevate it above the mundane like Angell.
The Summer Game pulls together essays Angell wrote between 1962 and 1972. There's an essay from nearly every World Series during that span, including the Amazin' Mets who went from their founding season in 1962 (when they lost 120 games) to winning the World Series just seven years later. The 1960s were a time of great upheaval and chance for baseball — the league expanded from 16 teams to 24, the season expanded from 154 games to 162, the playoffs expanded from just the World Series to add a preliminary round of games, television began to dominate the coverage and change the way the game was played and watched (the first night World Series game was played in 1971; in 2015 every game was played at night), new stadiums were built with all the charm of tin cans, players were on the cusp of gaining free agency and million-dollar salaries. Angell chronicles each of these changes with thoughtful clarity and consideration; the book is worth reading strictly for this historical record of a tumultuous decade but Angell's writing makes it so much more than that.
Of course, I can't make such a claim and expect you all to take my word for it, so here are some examples of his mastery.
Sometimes Angell tackles the "big picture", as when he wrote in 1966 about the first-ever domed stadium, the Houston Astrodome, and the unwelcome introduction of the big flashy scoreboard that is now ubiquitous:
Baseball’s clock ticks inwardly and silently, and a man absorbed in a ball game is caught in a slow, green place of removal and concentration and in a tension that is screwed up slowly and ever more tightly with each pitcher’s windup and with the almost imperceptible forward lean and little half-step with which the fielders accompany each pitch. Whatever the place of the particular baseball game we are watching, whatever its outcome, it holds us in its own continuum and mercifully releases us from our own. Any persistent effort to destroy this unique phenomenon, to “use up” baseball’s time with planned distractions, will in fact transform the sport into another mere entertainment and thus hasten its descent to the status of a boring and stylized curiosity.But he didn't always write on such an abstract level. Describing a 1962 spring training game in Florida,
A watery wash of indigo clouds hung lower and lower over the field during batting practice, deepening the greens of the box-seat railings, the infield grass, and the tall hedges in center field, and for a time the field, a box of light in the surrounding darkness, resembled an aquarium full of small, oddly darting gray and white fish.He was there in 1962 when the New York Mets played their first season, and he marveled at the way jaded New Yorkers embraced a team that lost 120 out of 154 games:
It seemed statistically unlikely that there could be, even in New York, a forty- or fifty-thousand-man audience made up exclusively of born losers — leftover Landon voters, collectors of mongrel puppies, owners of stock in played-out gold mines — who had been waiting years for a suitably hopeless cause.Even his play-by-play game descriptions were a level above the ordinary:
But no lead and no pitcher was safe for long on this particular evening; the hits flew through the night air like enraged deer flies, and the infielders seemed to be using their gloves mostly in self-defense.And he had a knack for describing players that made you feel they were standing right in front of you, like Detroit Tigers pitcher Mickey Lolich:
He pitched the first two innings like a man defusing a live bomb, working slowly and unhappily, and studying the problem at length before each new move.Or Tommie Agee of the Mets:
I’ll bet that a lot of local Little Leaguers have begun imitating Agee’s odd batting mannerism — a tiny kick of the left leg that makes him look like a house guest secretly discouraging the family terrier.Or Baltimore Orioles pitcher Dick Hall:
Dick Hall is a Baltimore institution, like crab cakes. He is six feet six and one-half inches tall and forty years old, and he pitches with an awkward, sidewise motion that suggests a man feeling under his bed for a lost collar stud. … Hall is almost bald; he has ulcers, a degree in economics from Swarthmore, a Mexican wife, four children, and an off-season job as a certified public accountant; and he once startled his bullpen mates by trying to estimate mathematically how many drops of rain were falling on the playing field during a shower.I count my baseball fandom from that miracle 1969 season, in fact, being five years old and growing up in a family of rabid Mets fans on Long Island (just down the road from the Mets' home ballpark). But I found even the essays that predated my baseball consciousness enjoyable, so readers who are of a less antique vintage should find plenty to enjoy as well.
As a fan of the often hapless Chicago Cubs since I moved to the Midwest many years ago, spring training has generally been the only time I've indulged in wild dreams of potential glory, as the team was usually firmly out of contention by the beginning of June. Fans of such a team sometimes need to be reminded why they love the game so much. But this year, with the Cubs fresh off an appearance in the 2015 National League Championship Series (one step away from the World Series) and with a young, talented team that promises to be good for a long time, those spring training dreams don't seem quite so preposterous this year.
So maybe I didn't need Angell to make me fall in love with baseball all over again this spring. But I can't imagine a better companion for the season to come.
Julia, I will be hosting the a Dewey Challenge in September that will focus on the 700's, of which sports is one of the subjects. Thanks for the recommendation of The Summer Game I will probably be passing it along in my introduction.
The writing in The Summer Game, from the little snippets you posted, are simply wonderful. Great review. And enjoy your wild dreams of potential glory while they last!! ; )
24. Empire Falls by Richard Russo.
Richard Russo is one of those authors I've been meaning to read for a long time but somehow kept missing along the way. Last December, I bought my copy of Empire Falls at the annual LibraryThing meetup in Joplin, Mo., and then promptly forgot all about it in the rush of reading all the books I had put on hold from the library. It wasn't until Mamie mentioned in her thread that she was planning to read it for Mark's American Author Challenge this month that I was inspired to pull it out and give it a read, and I'm so glad I did.
Russo's writing style is very appealing to me. It is funny and self-deprecating, but also tender and kind even as the point of view rotates amongst several different characters. He has a way of slipping in great truths about life in ways that seem natural to the conversation or the situation. And there are plenty of opportunities for that, as we spend time with Miles Roby, who grew up in Empire Falls and failed to fulfill his mother's single quest, to make sure that he got a college education and never returned to the small, dying mill town again. Now he's raising his daughter Tick, going through a divorce from Tick's mother, and trying to keep the Empire Grill alive even as its owner, the formidable Francine Whiting, does her best to keep him teetering on the brink of solvency.
The town of Empire Falls itself is a character, a small town whose brief burst of prosperity died along with the textile mills and the shirt factory, and is now limping into a dismal and uncertain future. No one in this book is successful, really. Miles and his family are insecure financially and emotionally; the town cop is on the take, the high school is the kind of festering cesspool of insecurity, meanness and unhappiness that only a high school can be, and even rich Mrs. Whiting must cope with a crippled daughter and a seemingly satanic cat. Terrible things happen, and there is no guaranteed happily-ever-after for anyone, but I found the ending satisfying in its own way, for it seemed to offer a glimmer of hope to Miles and Tick and the rest of the town. Of course, glimmers of hope can be snuffed out in an instant, so perhaps it's best that Russo draws the curtain before the disillusionment arrives.
>233 rosalita: OOooooo, Is that the new Ruth Gallaway?! It sounds wonderfully atmospheric. Sadly, I've had to put the Galloway's aside for awhile but I'll certainly look forward to this one.
Happy Leap Day, Julia! Skipping your review just until I have finished reading it. I'll be back...
>241 DeltaQueen50: I'm happy that you might attract more readers to experience Angell's amazing writing, Judy. Thanks for considering it for your challenge.
>246 Carmenere: Apparently there is an even newer one now, Lynda, but my library does not have it yet. They tend to be a bit behind in their ebook acquisitions, which I can't blame them for because the pricing is so terribly outlandish for libraries. At least it gives me something to look forward to.
>233 rosalita: Ooh, another Ruth Galloway. Going on my list! Hope you're keeping warm Rosalita!
>250 markon: Nice to see another Galloway series fan around these parts! Ardene, it was 60 degrees over the weekend! And it's 50 degrees as I type this around 5 p.m. Monday. Now, it is supposed to rain/snow tonight so I wouldn't say spring has definitively sprung, but as you know this is rather unseasonable weather for Iowa in February.
25. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner.
Historian Lyman Ward, 58 years old and suffering from a crippling bone disease that is slowly immobilizing his entire body, retreats to a remote mountain cottage in California to write a biography of his grandmother, a woman who made a name for herself in the late 19th century as an artist and a writer, and as the genteel wife of a rough-and-tumble mining engineer. Really, Ward's book is a portrait of a marriage, and the ways that these two wildly mismatched people come together and ultimately fall apart. Much of the book is told through lengthy quotations from his grandmother's letters and private papers, and even as Lyman tries to bury his hopeless present and future in an attempt to understand his family's past, he is forced to draw parallels between the lives of his grandparents and his own circumstances.
The introduction to my edition informed me that Stegner used an actual Victorian woman's letters and papers — verbatim in some place — to create his character, which did not endear him to some of the woman's descendants. That was mildly interesting but the story that Stegner tells and the characters he creates are much more fascinating.
There was a point about halfway to two-thirds of the way through this 500-plus-page book that I felt the story dragged a bit, but by the end I was once again fully invested in Stegner's characters. Overall, I probably enjoyed reading Stegner's Crossing to Safety just a little bit more, but this one still earns a recommendation from me.
Note: I read this as part of the Reading Through Time group's February theme: Celebrating the Writers.
26. Feeding a Yen: Savoring Local Specialties, from Kansas City to Cuzco by Calvin Trillin.
This is a short but very enjoyable read. Calvin Trillin was one of my favorite writers, and here he examines the idea that certain foods can only be found in their native location, making them candidates for entry on his Register of Frustration and Deprivation. And so he travels to Spain to savor pimientos de Padrón or fried peppers, and to Nice in France to gorge himself on pan bagnat, which is essentially a tunafish sandwich. In South America he makes a careful comparison of the relative merits of the kinds of ceviche served in Ecuador vs. Peru, and waxes poetic over the cuisine of northern New Mexico and in particular the posole he fills up on whenever he's there. And of course no book about food written by a native of Kansas City would be complete without a look at the issue of barbecue.
Throughout the essays that make up the book, Trillin keeps us a running report on his attempts to persuade his grown daughter Abigail, who now lives in San Francisco, that she needs to move back to New York, and of course he uses food as his primary motivation. One essay has him searching for the particular pumpernickel bagel she loved as a child, because she has promised if he can find it she will move back (though his wife Alice warns him she may not be entirely serious, you can tell that Trillin knows that but persists anyway). As in the other Trillin books I've read, what comes through is his gentle humor and his love for his family and his food.
I consider myself to be a fairly picky eater, so it's a good bet I would not eat many of the things Trillin finds irresistible. But through his eyes and his writing, he's made me think I could. And now I'm hungry, dang it.
Note: I read this for the March theme of the Nonfiction Reading Challenge: Travels.
Julia, I finally finished reading Empire Falls! I came back to read your review, which I LOVED. If you posted it, I will thumb that baby. Well said, and I agree with all of it. I even read the epilogue, which I hardly ever do - look at me breaking my own rules!
Hoping that your Friday is full of fabulous!
You didn't post it. Will you think about posting your review? Because it's perfect. Really.
>254 Copperskye: Hi, Joanne! I have not read Big Rock Candy Mountain yet, but I think it will be my next Stegner.
>256 Crazymamie: Thanks, Mamie! I'll come over to your thread and see what you had to say. I didn't post my review because the book already has so many, and I don't think mine adds much to the conversation. But thanks for the thumb offer, anyway!
I didn't post any comments about the book yet - just finished it yesterday in the morning, so I am still thinking about it. I loved the humor, and thought he really captured small town life in all its ugliness and quaintness. The characters were just so well drawn - I felt like I knew them.
Howdy Julia! I am counting the days for our reading retreat and when I finally get to meet you. BAD friend that I am, I haven't mailed you your book. My goal is to mail it on Tuesday but I'm not going to promise you.
27. No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie.
I know, I know. But really I have exhibited great patience in getting to this one, as I read two other library books that came in at the same time before reading this one. Yeah, this series is still very good, and now I know a whole lot more about the sport of rowing than I ever dreamed I would. Also, search-and-rescue dogs are the best.
>263 rosalita: There's a dog in this one? It's next up for me in the series. I really must find time to work it into my reading schedule!
>264 cbl_tn: Two dogs! A German shepherd and a black labrador, Tosh and Finn. They are awesome. Adrian would want you to read this one soon. :-)
28. A Thief of Time by Tony Hillerman.
A thief of time is the Navajo name for someone who steals artifacts from archaeological sites on the reservation. In this case, it's jawbones and potsherds from the abandoned cliff dwellings of the mysterious Anasazi people. A woman archaeologist goes missing, and even though Joe Leaphorn has put in his resignation he gets caught up in the search for her as well as whoever killed two men in the act of looting another archaeological site. The two cases are related, as is a long-ago multiple murder, and Leaphorn figures out how and who with the help of Jim Chee. A good entry in this series.
Note: Read for the ongoing Leaphorn/Longmire Reading Project.
Love your Stegner review. Skipped over the Hillerman because I haven't read it yet. I am probably not going to get to it until the end of the month....
>270 vancouverdeb: Honestly, Deborah, haven't you done enough to hook me on mysteries?! It's your fault I'm reading those Elly Griffiths books, you know!
I've noticed those Deborah Crombie's as well - another series I need to get back to!
>272 EBT1002: Thanks, Ellen! I'd like to read more Russo, but perhaps not that one, then. I think maybe I'll try Nobody's Fool, of which I vaguely remember seeing the movie starring Paul Newman. I'm sure any book is improved by picturing Paul Newman as the main character!
>273 DeltaQueen50: It's a good series, Judy. You needn't binge-read them the way I am, though. :-)
>274 vancouverdeb: No, I definitely remember that it was YOU hooking me, when I saw you had read a couple of them in one month last year. It must have been some other kind LT soul who fired the book bullet that hit you!
29. A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos by Dava Sobel.
I remember when I was a kid, and we first learned in school about Copernicus and how he discovered that the Earth revolved around the sun and not the other way around, and how he was vilified for it by pretty much everyone. At the time, it seemed incredible that anyone could ever have doubted what now seems obvious to us, but of course the status quo seemed equally obvious to people in the 15th and 16th centuries when he first proposed his wacky idea.
I wanted to know more about how Copernicus' discovery came about, so I picked up this book in a Kindle daily deal some time ago. I did learn a lot, including that Copernicus was actually not the first person to espouse the heliocentric theory — some Greek dude named Aristarchus back in the 3rd century B.C. had that honor, which people promptly forgot once Ptolemy (another Greek dude, natch) started writing and promoting his geocentric viewpoint that the Earth was the center of the universe. Despite some obvious flaws in Ptolemy's calculations his writings were considered settled science before Copernicus came along.
So why was Copernicus' pronouncement so controversial? As Sobel tells it, it all comes down to the Bible, specifically a verse in which Joshua commands the sun to stay still in the sky, and it does. So clearly the sun must revolve around the earth, right? Complicating the whole situation was the schism in the Catholic Church when Martin Luther made a revolutionary pronouncement of his own, although the idea that Copernicus was full of horse manure was actually one of the few things that the Pope and Luther still agreed on. Fortunately for Copernicus, he shuffled off this mortal coil about 10 minutes after his book, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres came off the printing press in 1543, so he never had to face the scorn and condemnation that he feared.
But those who came after him did, including most famously Galileo Galilei, who didn't get fully rehabilitated within the Catholic Church until 1992 when Pope John Paul II issued a mea culpa about that whole "persecuted and imprisoned by the Inquisition" thing. Mistakes were made, as an American president once famously said.
All in all, I learned a lot from this book. In particular, I have a much clearer sense of the religious and political scene in Poland specifically and Europe generally during the 15th and 16th centuries. Copernicus was a canon in the Catholic Church, appointed by his uncle the bishop, but he wasn't a priest and didn't celebrate Mass or any other religious ceremonies. He mostly traveled around and settled land disputes and collected rent money, along with conducting a torrid affair with his housekeeper (that last one is probably the most priest-like thing he did, I suspect).
I still don't really understand exactly how old Copernicus made his revolutionary discovery or indeed any of the specific implications that follow the basic fact of a heliocentric cosmos, but we could as easily chalk that up to my scientific illiteracy as to any fault in Sobel's writing.
I could have done without the two-act play embedded within the book in which Sobel imagines the young Lutheran mathematician Rheticus visiting Copernicus in Poland and convincing him that he must publish his theory and damn the consequences (oh, and also seducing the boy sent by the bishop to spy on Copernicus, just in case the whole thing wasn't already weird enough), though. I'd still cautiously recommend the book to anyone wanting to know more about Copernicus or the birth of true scientific astronomy.
Note: I read this as part of the Reading Through Time group's March theme: Discoveries and Innovations.
Those Greeks always doing all that discovering and philosophizing. Sheesh.
I just started Spider Woman's Daughter, and so far, it seems as though Anne Hillerman has captured the tone and setting of her father's books...As I started it, I remembered how much I enjoyed those.
30. There But For The by Ali Smith.
Every time I think about trying to sum up or explain this book I come to a stuttering halt. There's a storyline, yes of course there is. A man goes to a dinner party and partway through he goes upstairs and locks himself in the spare bedroom. But while that sounds somewhat interesting it doesn't sound like much to hang a book on, does it? And yet, Ali Smith took that simple premise and crafted a work of art that made me smile with delight to the very last page. The story is told from several points of view, which can be a mess if not done right but in this case works perfectly as each person fills in a little bit of the story that you don't get from the other perspectives. And throughout there is delightful wordplay and puns and an all-around joyful celebration of the English language that I've seldom experienced. This isn't a typical linear story, which usually sets alarm bells ringing in my stodgy brain, but in this book for me the experimental aspects only served to enhance the story that Smith is telling instead of shouting "look at me! aren't I clever!". My only regret is that I'll never be able to read it again and experience that delighted confused happiness again for the first time.
Note: I read this book as part of the British Author Challenge for March.
31. Staked by Kevin Hearne.
The penultimate entry in the Iron Druid Chronicles finds Atticus, Granuaile, and Owen split up and preoccupied with their own concerns for much of the book. Atticus is waging war on the world's vampire population, Granuaile is rescuing a god's horse from an underground prison and hanging out with Polish witches, and Owen is setting up a new druid training camp in Arizona for the children of werewolves. So you know, just another day in the life.
32. 'Til Death by Ed McBain.
The 9th entry in McBain's classic 87th Precinct police procedural series. Steve Carella enlists some of his precinct mates to help him figure out if a threat made on the life of his prospective brother-in-law is serious or just a joke. The action takes place mostly at the big fat Italian wedding of Carella's sister, Angela, with Bert Kling, Cotton Hawes and Meyer Meyer lending a hand — and an occasional fist or gun — to their buddy. This was one of the first series that got me hooked on crime and mystery books back when I was a kid, and now I'm re-reading them in order.
Hello Julia, It sounds like we both took a break from LT. I'm back again though and I think the timing is right for me. I had a couple stinky years which I think make you a little unwilling to share your time with people who mean only good things to you like the folks on LT do to me. Anyway from your intro I realized you and I like the same genres, but choose some different books to read, which I think is great because your reviews offer me some selections I might otherwise miss out on. I do love Alison Weir too. I have several (read lots) of her on my shelves TBR. This year I am reading off my shelves mostly but not only. Hope you find something that interests you in my reviews too. Glad to see you here. You always have an interesting thread.
>282 rosalita: Great review of a book that is hard to define. Love how you
>286 mmignano11: Mary Beth, I don't think I realized you had a thread this year. I haven't been keeping up very well, I'm afraid. I will go look for it now!
>283 BLBera: >287 Berly: >288 jnwelch: >289 Crazymamie: Thanks for the kind words, Beth, Kim, Joe, and Mamie. It a hard review to write because nothing really does justice to what I loved about the book, but I did post my review at your request. Thank you if you are inclined to thumb!
>290 rosalita: I will thumb too because your thoughts make me want to read the book. :-)
Treat yourself to a slice of your favorite pie, my friend. It's National Pie Day (3.14)!
Hmm I've never read How to Be Both . You have me interested now!
>293 weird_O: Oh, now you've made me very hungry for a late-night snack, Bill! That chocolate mousse looking number at the top right would do me nicely, it would.
>295 cbl_tn: Carrie, I definitely want to read more by Ali Smith. I know that the library has How To Be Both because i was wavering between that one and There But For The, so I'm sure I'll get to it sooner or later. I'm glad to hear you liked it!
Thank you all for the thumbs! I do hope at least some of you decide to give it a try — please come back and tell me if you liked it or not!
You got me, Julia and I am adding There But For The to the wishlist. A big Thumb for your excellent review.
HI JULIA! (I am making up for my absence by being loud...)
As usual, I love *all* your reviews. And I would encourage you to read Nobody's Fool which I just finished and gave 5 stars to :)
Unsurprisingly, like you and Ro, I am counting the days (17!) until our reading retreat. I just got a text from my cousin asking about availability for my "niece's" 11th birthday party on April 2 and I said, "NOPE!"
I'm already starting to plan what I want to read for it. nothing too heavy, as I expect there might be a lot of chatter distracting me.....
>282 rosalita: LOL! I often start reviews that way :)
Can you believe I have never read this author!!!??
>302 LovingLit: I'll go you one better, Megan: I had never even heard of her until Paul chose her for his British Author Challenge! The same thing happened to me with Penelope Lively last year, who I also discovered and loved through the BAC.
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