rosalita jumps a little higher in 2018: Verse 7
This is a continuation of the topic rosalita jumps a little higher in 2018: Verse 6.
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Well, hello there! I’m Julia and this is where I will chronicle my year in books and other wordy things. I’m 53, I work in higher education, and I live in Iowa. I read books of all sorts (fiction, nonfiction, mystery, history, science fiction/fantasy), maybe fewer than in the past but hopefully better. (Better does not mean Serious, or Literary, or any such thing. It just means, you know, Better.)
And because I do a lot of reading outside of books, I’ll be tempting you once again with Clickbait, my possibly-too-cute way to refer to links and comments to various internetty items of interest that I find interesting, amusing, or thought-provoking. Maybe you will, too! None of the non-book reading will count toward my 75-book total, of course. And after a year of not counting re-reads in my yearly total, I've decided to once again count all books. Thanks to everyone who chimed in when I was mulling this over late last year!
About those stars:
My system for assigning star ratings to books has evolved over the years, but this chart comes the closest to describing what I consider when I rate a book.
This book may not be perfect, but it was perfect for me.
I will actively recommend this book to friends.
A really great book with minor flaws, still highly recommended.
Better than average but some flaws. Recommended.
Entertaining but probably forgettable, recommended only for fans of the genre or author.
Readable but something about the story, characters or writing was not up to standards. Not recommended.
Finished but did not like, and would not recommend.
Some redeeming qualities made me finish it, but nothing to recommend.
Nearly no redeeming qualities. Really rather bad.
Could not finish, possibly destroyed by fire (unless it's a library book)
2017 in Review
I made the decision at the start of the year to only count new reads in my yearly total, and that turned out to be 77. I've read more in the past but that's OK. Every year has its own rhythm. Since I track reading dates in my catalog, I can see that the total number of books read in 2017, including re-reads, is 103. The consensus in an unscientific poll on my last thread of 2017 showed overwhelming support for counting them all in one list, so that's what I'll do this year.
I only rated three books as :
The Children by David Halberstam (nonfiction, history)
Uprooted by Naomi Novik (fantasy)
Calamity Town by Ellery Queen (fiction, mystery)
The list of books is a bit longer:
The Green Mile by Stephen King
Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
The Western Star by Craig Johnson
The Glass Universe by Dava Sobel
Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach
Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Trespasser by Tana French
The Fireman by Joe Hill
Of the 77 books I read for the first time, 38 were written by men; 37 by women, and 2 were written by a mixed male-female collaboration.
And that's about the extent of the stats I track!
2018 Reading Stats to Date
Lincoln: Biography of a Writer
Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries
The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures
The Radium Girls
Travels With Charley
The Dark Angel
Third entry in the Gabriel Allon series came in unexpectedly at the library; and a book of short stories by rediscovered favorite Dick Francis.
Hi Julia! Happy new thread! I am woefully behind on threads, but I did check out your reviews for your 5 & 4.5 star reads in >3 rosalita:!
Happy new thread, Julia!
I like your topper, I recently have read a few like that :-)
76. Night of the Grizzlies by Jack Olsen.
Up through the middle of the 20th century, as the frontier of the American West became more and more crowded with humans, the mighty grizzly bear population found its safe spaces dwindling to smaller and smaller enclaves. This led to increasing numbers of close encounters between people and the bears believed to be averse to human contact. Still, no one had ever been killed by a grizzly in the U.S. — until 1967, when two women were killed by two different grizzlies on the same night inside Glacier National Park in Montana. What provoked the bears to attack? And why did the National Park Service ignore a multitude of warnings all that summer that human-bear interactions were reaching dangerous levels?
Olsen tries to answer those questions with this account, though he comes up a bit short on final conclusions. And given that the book was first published in 1969, his pessimistic conclusion that the killings were the beginning of the end for the grizzly bear in North America proved to be premature. In fact, the population rebounded after being listed on the Endangered Species List in 1975 and has now recovered to the point where some of the restrictions on hunting and killing grizzlies are being lifted. By sheer coincidence, I heard a story about this very topic this morning on NPR: Grizzlies Have Recovered, Officials Say; Now Montanans Have to Get Along With Them.
Despite the ways in which Olsen's account is outdated, it's still worth reading for the descriptions of the beauty of Glacier NP and the magnificence of the grizzly bear. It's clear that Olsen, while not quite condoning the grizzly attacks (though it's clear he places the majority of the blame on the NPS), is on the side of Ursus horribilis when it comes to deserving a corner of the planet where they can live without human interference.
Happy new thread! Night of the Grizzlies looks like a very interesting read. I have been watching the debate over the grizzly hunt with interest. Like the story in American Wolf, it seems unsportsmanlike to set boundaries where hunters can and cannot hunt, and ignore the fact that the bears, or wolves, don't recognize those boundaries. Not exactly a level playing field. Glacier is a gorgeous park. I'd love to go there again.
ETA: I just went to mark it "to read" over at Goodreads and saw that there is a Night of the Grizzlies, 45 Years Later by Chris Nunnally. I wonder if it's any good?
Happy new one - I love your green topper. Good to read the author of >14 rosalita: got it wrong, although I can't imagine what the UK would do to cope with such a large predator - there are so many complaints just about urban foxes.
>15 nittnut: Yes, it does seem similar to the arguments about the wolf, especially if you read/listen to that NPR story. I think you might really enjoy the descriptions of Glacier since you've been there and have something to compare them to. It sounds lovely. And thanks for the heads-up about the Nunnally book. There's nothing on LT about it, so I went a-googling, and found that it's a 10-page self-published piece with mixed reviews. Too bad.
>16 johnsimpson: Thanks, John.
>17 charl08: I'd love to know what the author thinks of how things turned out in the end. I'm sure he's happy that his dire prediction of extinction didn't come true. The biggest wild animal I've had a close encounter with was deer wandering into the yard to munch on trees and things. That was plenty exciting enough, and they are not exactly known as fierce predators. :-)
Hi Julia. Glacier Park is one of my favorite places. I've been there probably half a dozen times and I've seen bears every time I've been there as well. The valley is pretty small for all the humans and wildlife not to bump into each other at times. I haven't seen a grizzly bear, and I am not complaining about that. Oh, I just realized that I was thinking more of Waterton Lakes National Park which is the sister park to Glacier on the Canadian side of the border. The bears were all seen in Canada. :)
>19 DeltaQueen50: Hi, Judy. The book talks about how the park essentially straddles the Canadian border. Some of the stories about close encounters made my blood freeze — a pair who would come every three days to rummage through a cabin's garbage bins, and would get enraged by any noise from inside the house (such as the family dog barking) and crash repeatedly into the door trying to break it down. Yikes!
77. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.
I'm so glad I finally got around to reading this classic mystery, which has a most unusual set-up. Tey's detective Alan Grant (this is the fifth in a series) is flat on his back in hospital with injuries incurred in the course of duty. He's bored out of his mind until his friend Marta gets him interested in trying to solve a historical mystery: Was Richard III really a monster who had his young nephews murdered in order to steal the throne of England?
I confess that the parade of similarly named English royalty often confounds me, and I couldn't coherently distinguish between Edward II and Edward III, or the multitude of Henrys, without a cheat sheet. Fortunately Tey, through Grant and his legman, American researcher Brent Carradine, provides plenty of easily digestible background material to fill in the blanks.
It's always pleasantly surprising when books where the conclusion is known in advance remain compelling to read (cf. Erik Larson's Dead Wake about the sinking of the Lusitania), and that was the case for me here. I knew the bloodthirsty image of Richard III promulgated by Shakespeare and others had been debunked, but I still followed every twist and turn in the story with anticipation. And Tey's ability to make a book set entirely in a hospital room compelling is a tour de force.
I don't know if or how the rest of the series can live up to this singular book, but I think I'd like to give it a try.
Happy Newish Thread, Julia!
Nice to see Josephine Tey being read. That one is a tour de force - good phrase for it. I'm always impressed when an author is able to convey a lot of factual information seamlessly while the story gallops on. I just had that in The Overstory, with lots of tree info rather than English history.
>22 jnwelch: Hi, Joe! I think it takes a really strong understanding of the subject matter before an author can write that smoothly about it without coming off like a college survey course. Sounds like your current read also passes that test.
Have you read any of the other Alan Grant mysteries from Tey?
>21 rosalita: nice premise! I am not traditionally sold on mystery novels. Glad you liked it, and that you plan to delve further into the series.
Happy are thread! I am sure I was here yesterday but didn't leave a message, what the? Ah well, I am here now :)
>24 LovingLit: Better late than never, Megan! I do that all the time, btw. "Didn't I already comment on this thread?"
New and noteworthy books, via The New York Times:
Fashion Climbing: A Memoir with Photographs by Bill Cunningham. "This posthumous memoir by Cunningham, who was for many years the fashion and society photographer for The New York Times, begins when its author was 4 and his middle-class Catholic family lived in a suburb of Boston. But it is mostly about the fashion world of the late 1940s through the early ’60s, when Cunningham was a hat designer and party crasher in Manhattan." ... I'd probably rather browse through a book of his photographs, to be honest.
Temp: How American Work, American Business, and the American Dream Become Temporary by Louis Hyman. "An astounding 94 percent of American jobs created between 2005 and 2015 were for 'alternative work.' Temp examines the underlying cultural shift that made that possible." Sounds depressing but also right up my alley.
Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas. "Giridharadas examines the worlds of Davos and Aspen, where an elite intent on 'changing the world' hang out, emerging with a quietly scathing report on how little they actually do to make a difference when it comes to the big structural problems." I've had it up to here with reading about rich people, myself.
The Husband Hunters: American Heiresses Who Married into the British Aristocracy by Anne De Courcy. "'De Courcy’s diverting new study of this phenomenon,' Tina Brown writes in her review, 'makes a persuasive case that a prime driver in the American heiress exodus was escape from the savage competitiveness of Gilded Age society in the capital of status, New York.'" I just keep thinking of Lady Grantham. Also, see comment above re: rich people and reading about them.
The Fighters: Americans in Combat in Afghanistan and Iraq by C.J. Chivers. "In this forceful narrative of America’s recent wars, by a senior writer for The New York Times, soldiers who began their military service in a blaze of patriotism after 9/11 end up cynical, betrayed and often disfigured or dead." Sounds powerful. A solid maybe.
Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O'Brien. "The title honors the female aviators who were hindered by the deep gender inequities of the golden age of flying. These are women few of us have heard of before; as O’Brien explains of their forgotten histories, each woman 'went missing in her own way.'" Yes, please!
The Traitors' Niche by Ismail Kadare. "The quest for a rebel pasha’s severed head serves as a darkly satirical symbol in this sly Albanian novel originally published in 1978, an allegorical fable about 20th-century authoritarianism." Hmm, maybe?
If You See Me, Don't Say Hi by Neel Patel. "The Indian-Americans in this debut story collection are less troubled by cultural clashes than they are by the unraveling of emotions." Probably not.
I Will Be Complete by Glen David Gold. "Gold attempts to explain his neo-Dickensian upbringing by summarizing his ‘mom’s need to maneuver her way past some obstacles toward the bright and confusing future she wanted. The immediate obstacle in her path? That would be me.’" Not at all familiar with Glen David Gold, so no.
>30 karenmarie: Hi there, Karen! Great meme — we've all been there, haven't we? And I want to read more Tey for sure — my library has three of the other Alan Grant books and neither of the standalones, so I may have to do a little ILLing. I'm glad to hear they are worth the trouble.
78. The Confessor by Daniel Silva.
Gabriel Allon, our favorite art restorer/Israeli assassin, is back, this time on the hunt for the killer of one of his former colleagues in Israeli espionage. Benjamin was a professor working on a mysterious book at the time of his murder, and Gabriel suspects the killing was an attempt to keep the book from being published. The investigation takes him from Munich to Rome to Venice France and back again, as his findings threaten to expose some explosive secrets of the Catholic Church. The plot is complicated and heavy with conspiracy as usual, as well as the copious amounts of gore you can expect when the main character is a professional assassin. Perhaps a little heavy-handed, which keeps it from rising to the level of previous entries in the series.
>33 charl08: I thought of you when I saw Fly Girls, Charlotte. Of course, I also thought of Susan when I saw the one about American heiresses marrying British royalty. :-)
>34 charl08: Oh, wouldn't that be nifty if it were so? It certainly sounds plausible. I've not read any of the Morse books OR seen the TV series yet, inexplicably as it's certainly right in my wheelhouse, genre-wise.
I read all of the Josephine Tey mysteries ages ago, but The Daughter of Time is the one that sticks in my memory, of course. As I recall, all of them were enjoyable, but as I read them in my teens, I don't know how they will stand up. Oh, come to think of it, she wrote Brat Farrar, which I did reread in the last few years, and found quite delightful.
Love the thread topper, Julia. And congrats on blowing past the 75 books read goal! You got me with a book bullet on your last thread. Great review of the newest Jane Harper book. I really enjoyed The Dry when I read it. I'm so glad she did a follow-up book…and that you liked it.
ETA: I'd better get to Force of Nature in a more timely nature than the rest of my wish-listed books. It looks like The Lost Man will be coming out in February of 2019. Yay!
79. The Home Place by Carrie La Seur.
Alma Terrebone thinks she's escaped a hardscrabble upbringing in Montana. She's a high-powered corporate lawyer in Seattle, with a live-in French-Canadian boyfriend and an imminent merger deal that should give her the inside track to a partnership in her firm. But when she gets a phone call saying her younger sister Vicky was found dead on the streets of their hometown, she is unwillingly drawn back into the family she tried so hard to leave behind.
This is an interesting story that walks the edge of being a mystery, except the characters and their relationships with each other and the land that surrounds them is so much more compelling that I found myself not really caring about the whodunit. La Seur's descriptions of Montana are vivid, but it's Alma's musings on how the "home place" — the ranch where her grandaprents lived during her childhood — seeped almost unnoticed into her soul that really resonated. In the end, she knows she'll have to choose between Seattle and Montana, and she has trouble accepting that Montana and her messy family dynamic have more of a hold on her than she thought.
All the stories, all the history, everything she knows about every point on the landscape envelops her, and the only word that can express anything about what this place is to her is texture — like running her hands over a variegated rock face or smooth birch bark, embedding them in dough, palming handfuls of red clay mud, sinking her feet into the pebbles in the creek bed, lifting a slick live trout with both hands, lying on the rocky earth, rubbing her horse's sweaty neck. Her body is part of the texture, made of this land and the good, sweet water, healed by the herbs, raised on the stories, grown on the plants and animals, quickened by the air. Her body knows textures here that her mind can't hold consciously all at once.
I bought an e-omnibus of The Cazalet Chronicles, which is apparently one of those family-saga things a la Downton Abbey but with fewer earls and dowager duchesses. I'd never heard of either the books or the author, though they are apparently quite well-known and have had television adaptations Over There, so I thought I'd see what it's all about. This first book of five, The Light Years spans 1937-1939.
>44 katiekrug: I hope you like it!
At least you've heard of the Cazalets! This was the sort of blind purchase I don't usually make except that the 5-book omnibus was like 99 cents or something ridiculous. I'm trying to read more of my own books this year, so when this one floated up to the surface on my Kobo I figured I might as well dig in.
>32 rosalita: Julia, you are getting on really well with the Gabriel series!
>35 rosalita: Ha! I have read that Anne de Courcy book, and it is very good. The Fishing Fleet: Husband-Hunting in the Raj is also excellent.
>43 rosalita: The Cazalets is a great series - even our Amazon had them for a reasonable price a few years ago (not 99c for the set though - sob). I whizzed through them, because I do love a series.
I am enjoying the Gabriel series, but I didn't mean to do a mini-binge. They just kept coming off the reserves list faster than I expected. I don't want them to all run together in my mind, which can happen when I binge-read. Thanks for the recommendation!
It sounds like de Courcy has a niche, writing about husband hunters all over the globe. Love it.
I'm glad to hear you like the Cazalets — I am enjoying the first one, though I had to go back and put an electronic bookmark on the cast of characters page so I could keep all the brothers and their various wives and offspring straight!
>42 rosalita: This sounds excellent. Off to see if my library has a copy...Nope. I'll add it to my WL. It sounds like one I would like.
I loved the Cazalets, Julia. I read the first four a few years ago. I have the fifth one, but it's been so long, I'm thinking I should read them again...
>50 BLBera: It's a good one, Beth! I hope you find it. And more good news that you are a fan of the Cazalets.
Morning, Julia! Nothing to add to the discussion - just wanted to poke my head in and wave.
New and noteworthy books this week via The New York Times:
Every Day is Extra by John Kerry. "Our critic Dwight Garner writes that the book, 'like its author, is reserved and idealistic and reassuringly dull, for long stretches, in its statesmanlike carriage. Every Day Is Extra is a booster shot of old school, small-l liberal values. It is bland the way upper-class food used to be bland. It reminds you why Kerry would probably have made a very good president. It also reminds you why he lost.'" Well, then.
21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari. "This sweeping survey of the modern world by an ambitious and stimulating thinker offers a framework for confronting the fears raised by such major issues as nationalism, immigration, education and religion." Sounds very ... earnest.
Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World Class Metropolis by Sam Anderson. Goodness, that title! "A vivid, slightly surreal history of “the great minor city of America,” starting 500 million years ago and continuing up through Timothy McVeigh, Kevin Durant and the Flaming Lips." That might be more than I want to know about OKC, tbh.
Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs. "This is a work of uncanny intimacy," Melanie Thernstrom writes in her review. "It has that defining aspect of a literary work: the stamp of a singular sensibility. In the fallen world of kiss-and-tell celebrity memoirs, this may be the most beautiful, literary and devastating one ever written." That's a lot of weight for a book to carry.
Codex 1962 by Sjon, translated by Victoria Cribb. "The three parts of this newly translated work by the Icelandic fabulist Sjon, 20 years in the making, were published as individual books in the author’s home country — a romance, a crime novel and a science fiction story. But “CoDex 1962” toys with every genre under the sun." It sounds interesting.
Presidio by Randy Kennedy. "Vintage Texas noir, this first novel follows the flight to the Mexican border of a car thief turned accidental kidnapper." Lee Child wrote a rave review, if that counts for anything.
Open Me by Lisa Locascio. Oh, hey! A book about college students studying abroad. Maybe we can add this one to our recommended reading lists? "Locascio is 'especially exquisite on the female orgasm,' Buntin writes in her review, and the novel 'transforms from a well-written and recognizable Bildungsroman (younger woman meets older man abroad, education ensues) into something much darker, and more interesting.' OK, maybe not.
Terrarium: New and Selected Stories by Valerie Trueblood. "Urgent, unnerving and tightly packed short fiction that covers enough ground for a whole library."
>57 DeltaQueen50: Duly noted, Judy! I really want to read some more Tey soon.
>56 rosalita: I never make it through the Book section of the NYT without requesting or otherwise taking note of at least 3 or 4 books. I love their short little reviews as well as the in-depth ones. This week, I made sure I had my "Small Fry" request in place and the "21 Lessons" book is looking awfully tempting.
>59 klobrien2: I usually just skim the Books section because I so very seldom read new books (don't buy many books these days and new books are either not available yet or have enormous holds list at the library). I heard Lisa Jobs interviewed on NPR and thought she has an interesting story but memoirs in general are not my thing. I'll be sure to keep an eye on what you think!
>61 susanj67: I almost name-checked you in the blurb for that one, Susan, but I restrained myself. :-)
80. The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard.
The Cazalets are a trio of brothers — Hugh, Edward, and Rupert — along with their various wives and children. Hugh and Edward work in the family lumber business, while Rupert struggles to make ends meet as a schoolteacher and erstwhile painter. True to Tolstoy's famous words, each of their at least somewhat unhappy family units is unhappy in its own unique way. Hugh and his wife Sybil love each other deeply but are utterly incapable of telling the truth to each other, thus doomed to forever be doing things neither of them wants to do because each of them thinks the other does. Edward is a cad, a hound, who never met a woman he didn't want to bed, while his wife Viola (completely oblivious to Edward's dalliances) wonders why she gave up her life as a professional dancer for domestic drudgery. Rupert's still mourning his first wife, who died giving birth to their youngest, and trying to keep his children and his very young, very beautiful, very shallow second wife happy. And then there's Rachel, the unmarried sister who keeps house for their still-living parents.
The next generation of Cazalets have their own problems, from thwarted dreams of theatrical fame to bullying at public school to dealing with a stepmother who wishes you would just disappear. And lest we forget the elders, Cazalet Sr. and his wife are finding life tough going as well, as all of this family drama plays out against the faint drumbeats of the impending Second World War.
Whew! There is a lot going on here, and I didn't even mention the various intrigues and dramas that surround the servants. And yet, it never seemed too much and I found myself equally absorbed by nearly every character's storyline, which is rare. As you might expect in the first of five connected novels, there's a fair bit of scene-setting and character exposition to plow through, but the family tree and cast of characters at the front of the book got a good workout from me until I could finally keep them all straight.
With the combination of upstairs and downstairs stories along with the early 20th century setting, I couldn't help comparing the Cazalets to the Granthams of Downton Abbey, although a bit lower down on the social scale. The best thing I can think of to say about it is that all of the characters seemed like real people, with real joys and real concerns. I didn't like them all, but I understood them and recognized them for what they are. I will certainly be continuing with the series.
Great that you like the Cazalets, Julia. Is there a Masterpiece Theater of this series? Doesn't it seem like one?
>64 BLBera: I knew it had been a BBC production, Beth, but I went looking just for you and sure enough, the BBC version was ported to Masterpiece Theater. And you'll never guess who was one of the stars, according to the Amazon listing for the DVD — Hugh Bonneville, who played the Earl of Grantham on Downton Abbey!
That seems right. I'll have to check on availability. Thanks for checking for me, Julia.
>66 BLBera: I was hoping it might be available for streaming but no such luck. If you het hold of the DVD you'll have to let me know what you think.
J.K. Rowling's Friend Robert Galbraith Has Something to Say — The central conceit of this Q&A–that it is Galbraith himself answering questions–isn't sustained very consistently throughout which makes it a little confusing to read. But if you can get past that, there are some interesting insights from Rowling into creating the Cormoran Strike series, including her influences and how she plans out each book.
Happy new to me thread!
I’ve had The Daughter of Time on the shelf for a while now. Someone around here must have recommended it ages ago. I know little about the Edwards, Henrys, or Richard but I should give a try sometime, Classic that it is.
Congrats on reaching 75 already!
>69 Copperskye: Hiya, Joanne! Don't sweat not knowing all the English kings in order; Tey really does provide some painless background.
Also, your mention of The Daughter of Time reminds me of something I meant to being up earlier when I wrote my review. I've never broken my leg but I wonder if any modern hospital would keep Grant confined to bed flat on his back for so long? It seems like nowadays they are so,anxious to get you up and out as soon as they can. Of course, that's in the U.S. I'm sure the UK with the NHS is much more civilized about it even now.
>62 rosalita: Julia, feel free!
>63 rosalita: I'm glad you enjoyed The Light Years. It's a very readable series.
>70 rosalita: I think it would depend on how bad the break was. First you'd wait for many hours in A&E with all the drunks and druggies, and then it would take more hours to x-ray and diagnose you (unless it was the weekend, in which case you'd wait till Monday). They'd admit you if you needed surgery or traction, but I doubt otherwise. Some of the private hospitals in London have minor injuries units which treat things like straightforward fractures, and they are popular. But friends from work have been x-rayed, plastered and sent on their way from those, so lying down doesn't really seem to be the thing any more, even when a hospital could charge for it.
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