The Homeless Reviews Thread of richardderus
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I have a 75-Books Challenge thread for all reviews of books published in 2008 and after. I have a Books Off the Shelf thread for all reviews of books I already own and need to clear out of the ever-growing piles.
And I have nowhere to review books I've borrowed from friends, libraries, and other places (no awkward questions, please) published before 2008. So I came over here to fix that problem. I set a goal of 50 reviews just to stretch myself...I wrote 118 reviews last year, trying to go a little farther every year.
Thank you for your kind attention. I shall now commence reviewing.
FOR THOSE JUST TUNING IN: I don't practice book reporting in my reviews. I see the purpose of my review of a book as describing what I *felt* and *thought* and why I think you *should* (or shouldn't, though that's rare with me; why review a book I didn't like unless there's a compelling reason?) read it. I don't know the readers of my reviews personally, for the most part, so I don't have any way to gauge whether you'll agree or disagree with me. It's always perfectly fine with me either way, and I invite comments from all.
Books are reviewed in post number:
30. Paddy Clarke, Ha-Ha-Ha......#247
29. Wings of Fire...#223
28. China Court...#214
27. Austin City Blue...#210
25. Life of Pi...#182
24. A Test of Wills...#178
23. The Old Bank House...#176
22. Mr. Golightly's Holiday...#173
21. Lord of the Flies & John Dollar...#172
20. This Side of Brightness...#156
19. The Conqueror...#153
18. Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World...#144
17. The World of Jesse Stuart...#137
16. Sprig Muslin...#120
14. Lincoln's Critics...#101
13. The Perfect Heresy...#98
12. The Hour of the Star...#94
11. Everything In This Country Must...#90
9. Jar City...#83
8. Sacred Games...#78
7. The Aluminum Christmas Tree: A Novel...#72
6. Lord John and the Hand of Devils...#59
5. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, vol. 1: The Pox Party...#51
4. Keeper of Secrets...Translations of an Incident:...#32
3. Purple Hibiscus...#28
2. Still Life...#5
1. Beasts of No Nation...#2
Title: BEASTS OF NO NATION
Author: UZODINMA IWEALA
Rating: ****1/2 of 5
I read this as part of SqueakyChu's "Take It or Leave It" Challenge for January 2010...read an author's first book. It seemed appropriate for a New Year, first month challenge, and I've had this book around for a while. Plus I want to send it to a fellow LTer who's got an African voices challenge going for herself (watch your mailbox, MusicMom).
Men writing in the voice of a child are at a disadvantage because childhood is traditionally thought of as a woman's preserve. Iweala writes about a boy who is only nominally a child, though; one of the thousands of boys who are compelled to serve in the civil wars and rebellions of Africa's troubled states.
He does this with force, beauty, and horror.
This moment is the narrator's first moment of joy:
"Nobody is seeing me as I am getting up and walking through the tree right to the road. I am feeling breezes to my back that is pushing me to walk far far away from here and I am moving quickly quickly onto the road where I am just walking walking walking to where the sun is setting. I am looking at it and wanting to catch it in my hand to be squeezing until the color are dripping out from it forever. That way everywhere it is always dark and nobody is ever having to see any of the terrible thing that is happening in this world." --p136
I can't stress enough that this first novel is To Be Read! The passage above, in the context of the story, brought me to tears. It's a lovely piece of writing no matter what...but coming where it does in this wrenchingly infuriating story, it's got a wallop that must be experienced.
Beasts of No Nation was published in 2005. It's written by a Nigerian man of (then) some 23 years of age. Jamaica Kincaid acted as his advisor. Someone explain to me, that all being said, why the Adichie (of similar background and age) cult got rollin' and there was not an Iweala cult...?
This author deserves your attention. Please read his work. It's not flawless, but it's head and shoulders above most things that clutter our shelves!
Pestilentially Young LT Deserteress, checking in... And first, I notice. How ironic. ;-)
Hi Elliie... I suspect this thread won't see a lot of traffic, it's not in one of the high-volume groups, and not one where I'm very active either. But I'm glad to see you here!
Title: STILL LIFE
Author: LOUISE PENNY
Rating: **** of 5
Oh, the raptures of a first novel that also inaugurates a mystery series! It's like your first piece of birthday cake as a kid...OMIGOD this is good wait whaddaya mean I gotta wait another whole year to get another one you stink and you're mean *waaahIwantmymommy*
But crafty old fifty-plussers like moi wait. We lurk behind the bakery, sniffing the ineffable esters of birthday cakes destined for the inexperienced and the impatient and the indiscriminate, mentally filing away those scents most closely followed by moans and slurps of ecstasy, biding our time and hoarding our book-calories (aka money) to see which annual yumyums consistently produce those sounds and smells.
Here it is, ladies and what-all-else, the first birthday cake from Canadian cake-baker Louise Penny, and my GOD was it worth the wait!
LT member mckait sent this to me as a Christmas gift. It came after self-same member raved and jumped up and down and yodeled the praises of the series, featuring Inspector Gamache of the Quebec Surete (I can't help myself, I hear Gestapo jackboots and Euro-sirens every time I see that word) and the odd, off-kilter inhabitants of Three Pines, Quebec. I was practically panting with eagerness to get this package, which when it arrived proved to contain *several* of the Gamache series. *swoon* eternal love sworn for mckait
Being a good Virgo, I snatched up the first in the series, and applied eyes to page. Steadily. For four hours. I was 2/3 through with the book then, and *forced* myself to put it down because a) I had to walk the dog, b) I had to feed my 91-yr-old aunt, and c) I had to pee.
Let's talk about mystery series for a minute. I like them, as readers of past reviews will yawningly recall, because they satisfy my need for order, for the world to work *right* for a change. I think a lot of people feel similarly to me. But a series, iteration upon iteration of similar plots/characters/motivations/dialogue...what makes a well-read consumer of Lit'rachure such as I, and so many fellow LTers, am/are seek these books out? Comfort? Yes, but... Ease? Yes, but... Quality.
Some of the best storytelling going on in literature today happens in mysteries and thrillers.
Yeup, you can love or loathe Grisham's writing, but you CANNOT fault, in any way, his eye for a story. You can fairly say it's not to your personal taste, but don't even TRY to say it's "not good." Likewise James Patterson, Stephen King, Iris Johansen, et alii. There is a reason these folks are bestsellers, and it is NOT that the People got no taste. It's that these are storytellers, entertainers, creators of worlds we-the-people want to inhabit if only for a moment.
As was Homer, may I remind the snobs. No one thought much about Homer's stuff, except that it was rollicking good fun. Nobody even bothered to write it down for a few centuries *after* writing was invented. Somewhere on the Times bestseller list is the work of the Homer our culture will be remembered for, and it's not likely to be Faulkner. (Horrible thought: What if it's HEMINGWAY?!?)
Louise Penny's Three Pines is a place I want to go and stay, eating Gabri's bounteous cooking and flirting with Olivier and lusting from afar at unattainable Peter and gossiping unkindly with Ruth...then settling in for a long, quiet snifter with Gamache and Beauvoir and Clara, to think it all through and come to a reasoned conclusion about life. I am there with these people, these words-on-page creations that have the life only a deep well of talent can water into existence. I believe them. I think you will, too.
I offer this moment from very near the end of the book, when Clara realizes who murdered her very best friend: "Clara stared at her reflection in the window of Jane's kitchen. A ghostly,frightened woman looked back. Her theory made sense.
Ignore it, the voice inside said. It's not your business. Let the police do their work. For God's sake, don't say anything. It was a seductive voice, one that promised peace and calm and the continuation of her beautiful life in Three Pines. To act on what she knew would destroy that life.
What if you're wrong? cooed the voice. You'll hurt a lot of people...But Clara knew the voice lied. Had always lied to her. Clara would know and that knowing would eventually destroy her life anyway."
If that doesn't make you sprint out to get this book, nothing else I can say will.
okay..to repeat myself:
i gave a thumbs-up (ouch!) to your review for your enthusiasm alone...but i am waiting on my pokey Liberry system to deliver the Penny books to moi...you crack me up, Richard Dear....no mean feat..or is that feets?
A great review Richard. I read Still Life last year and I too fell in love with Three Pines. It's a great feeling to know that there is still more of this series to read and enjoy.
Yes - that's how I felt when I read Still Life
And how I feel every time I read another one in that series.
Richard: I've just begun to record Still Life for the National Library Service. You're right: delightful characters and a wonderful detective. Did you guess who dunnit?
>11 NarratorLady: Yes, I fear so; at the Thanksgiving table, the murderer made *mumble*self obvious to me. But thirty-seven years into a mystery addiction, it would be a little sad if I couldn't outwit a first-timer, don't you think?
I so hope you're enjoying reading this for posterity! And that "they" will let you do the rest of the series...what a treat!
Actually, I'll be reading all three in a row. It's going to be a good month!
>13 NarratorLady: *envy-sweat beads forehead*
Why...how lovely for you! Really!
Great review of Still Life! I loved it when I read it last year, and I'll shortly be reading the next two books in the series. (I could have read them by now, but part of me wants to savor these books and make them last longer - there's only 5!)
amswmsw... you waited!
rd.. well I am glad you like the books..and thrilled to have your eternal love :)
I did not know that you liked Johansen...I do too.. and Patterson, too.
Lusting after Peter?!?!?!
Richard I now picture you as a new neighbor in Three Pines. I have read all of her books. My library has them all.
Oh dear. And I was trying SO hard to stay away from my wishlist a little while...
>18 mckait: He's wounded, he's pretty, and he's over 50. I am a total goner.
>19 cindysprocket: Cindy, yeah...LT is a lot like Three Pines, and you know who the crotchety, mean old lady is...*cough*Kath*cough*
>20 elliepotten: Surrender to the Dark Side, little grasshopper, Louise Penny DESERVES your money.
Tee hee! *chuckles despite migraine headache threatening to melt her brain*
Laura...I give full credit to the lady...she writes nice sentences. I just have an increasing aversion to abuse stories. If this isn't your bugaboo, maybe she can reach you.
Title: Keeper of Secrets... Translations of an Incident
Author: Anjuelle Floyd
Rating: ***1/2 of 5
I got this as part of the Member Giveaway Program. Floyd is an LT author, looking for attention for her intertwined stories of loss and redemption.
Her prism for divining the paths that light takes from a single source through many bends and twists is unusual: A couple, having dinner in a pleasant, upscale restaurant, erupt into violent conflict, almost ending in murder. The murder is prevented by the intervention of another couple dining in the restaurant.
And then...? Through eight stories, Floyd traces the steps of connection and the effects and aftershocks of the event on the lives of couples and would-be couples whose tethers to life, to love, to themselves and each other, are re-defined in the light this occurence casts, colored and fractured and focused and refined each step of the way. The connecting thread among the stories is thematic...big changes are a-comin'...and the central conceit of the event in the restaurant is continued by the increasingly tangential connections the actors in the stories bear to each other.
It's a creative idea, and it serves the author well in making the reader feel a sense of involvement with characters moving through otherwise inexplicably similar emotional landscapes. Floyd thereby turns a perceived problem into a perceived asset...there is a karmic, spiritual *reason* all these people are dealing with similar issues, they all *know* each other!
"Dancing Siva" introduces the theme of change resisted then embraced; it is a strong story. The other stories vary from good to okay, the weakest link coming with a story called "Myrandha", which uses the coincidence trope a LOT too freely. Possibly the most moving, most unsettling story is "In Baghdad," the last of the eight. Its changes, reflecting war in Iraq, in the home, and in the body, are the most sharply delineated of them all. You can cut yourself on the edges of the characters' dialogue. It deserves its place of honor at the end of the collection.
I recommend the book, with a reservation...it's curiously monotonal in writing style, though I wondered if this wasn't a deliberate choice on Floyd's part; that I *had* to wonder is a whole half-star off her "score." Anyone feeling unmoored or unnerved might find this a very timely read.
#32: Adding that one to the BlackHole. A thumbs up for the review, too!
Richard--I did not know you had yet ANOTHER thread!! Found you and starred.
Okay...who spilled the beans to that tacky Berly about this double-secret clubhouse?! C'mon, fess up!
Hi Stasia! I think you'll like the book. It's thought-provoking in all the right ways.
Great review, Richard! Even when I'm not 100% interested in the books you read, I always enjoy your reviews.
Anyone feeling unmoored or unnerved might find this a very timely read.
yes, indeedy...right up my alley.....though i wonder if the Wish List can take another addition...thanks for a grand review, anyway
I'm still waiting on the Louise Pennys from my local Library...something about January and Molasses...ahem
#40 I know you are laughing at my little joke and it is nice to be appreciated, but your gif just absolutely made my day!
acknowledges and accepts adulation...
returns it for the sharing of the Quant
Richard, I wish you knew how much appreciated you are. The combination of humor and close analysis in your reviews is a delight.
*Moves back slightly to allow for r.d.'s inflated noggin to come into the room*
*regal wave, gracious nod*
WE are always pleased to hear that The Peasantry from Our Most Backward Territories are aware of Our Magnificence.
*small, V-shaped smile*
Once again, I'm snorting my pepsi onto my keyboard. You, sir, can be a menace to public decorum.
Title: THE ASTONISHING LIFE OF OCTAVIAN NOTHING TRAITOR TO THE NATION, VOLUME I: THE POX PARTY
Author: M.T. Anderson
Rating: ****1/2 of 5
First and foremost, a shout-out to LTer mikeepatrick for raving so hard about this book that I was compelled to go get it as soon as I read his review. Thanks, Mike, you get my undying gratitude for breaching the wall I've built against books called YA, as well as introducing me to this beautifully written, gorgeously imagined book.
I am always up for history, especially if it's presented from an unusual viewpoint or in a fresh manner. I thought this would be a fairly conventional and thus mildly tedious slave-comes-of-age, resists-tyranny thing. But there was that raver...surely someone who bothers to come to LT won't be that impressed by the usual thing....
So I got it, and I am so glad I did. The author recapitulates the bizarre upbringing of Octavian in a place called "The College of Lucidity" which is located in Boston (which is how you know it's fiction, Boston being the least lucid place I've ever been) in the faintly modernized voice of the youth himself looking back on the experience.
It's troubling, to put it mildly. It's flat creepy. But it's all he knew as a childhood, though life has taught him it's not what others knew as a childhood. He even quotes his mother saying he's never been a child. (He, Octavian, our narrator...these are interchangeable references in this review.) His very...well, ummm, inputs and throughputs are weighed and measured and logged for reference. His education is that of the most privileged, enlighted prince of his age. He stresses in presenting us with these facts that he felt no strangeness or otherness to his life. He was, so far as he knew, the object of no untoward interference or unusual interest.
The object speaks. It is a very unsettling reading experience.
As the story progresses and our narrator recalls his budding awareness and emotional growth as regards self and others, it becomes evident that Octvian and his mother are gilded captives. It's a realization that doesn't gall...yet...on him, but the author's subtlety with his emotional flensing knife is such that the older narrator's awareness of his feelings presages quietly the events at the end of the book. (No spoilers...but look carefully at the disturbing jacket illustration.)
Anderson's stated aim in writing this book is that he wished it had been around when he was a young reader. I wish it had, too. It's wonderful writing, no matter it's supposed to be "for" YAs. From p96 of the hardcover edition:
"Shortly after two o'clock on June 3rd, 1769, Venus descended into the plane of the ecliptic and came between the Earth and the sun. It is with awe that I treat of the event -- so minute, so silent here upon the Earth -- but there -- one can scarce imagine the roaring of that vast orb through those frigid depths, tumbling, flung through the plane of our orbit; the glaring heat, the searing glare of Sol -- and the gargantuan prodigiality of that body, consuming its own substance ceaselessly while planets whirled like houris, veiled and ecstatic around the throne of some blast-turbaned, light-drunken king."
Our narrator...a youth, a stripling...so beautifully educated that he can create sentences like these! Such a huge bar is set for the youth reading this, but not one that's so far above and beyond comprehension that it's discouragingly impossible to meet. It's a nice sight to see the lack of condescenscion in this type of writing.
So how do the adults fare? Not too well, from the foolish and clueless Mr. Gitney to the aptly named and evil Mr. Sharpe, whose words from p338 (hardcover) I reproduce here that he may damn himself from his own lips:
"We have labored too long under a government that has sought to curtail exchange; such interference is unnatural. We shall see a brave new day, Octavian, when the rights of liberty and property are exerciseed, and when all men are free to operate in their own self-interest. And as each individual expresses his self-interested will, so does the democratical voice speak, the will of the common people, not kings and ministers; and when the self-interest of every citizen speaks together, then and only then does benevolence arise."
So sayeth the free man to the slave. The prosecution rests. Recommended, and most highly.
One more reason I am going to read this book....well, aside from the recommendations floating all through the Ether (just give me a hit & i'll continue)...Your Review...Richard....a wonder to behold!..not unlike yourself (did i just type that?)....now i must hie me, not to a Nunnery....but to somewhere..to find this treasure
*exit, Stage Left*
Sounds interesting - your review gets a thumb from me - but it looks like the start of a series - and I'm determined *no new series* ... unless all volumes are published!
#51: I already have that one pulled out and in my stack to read this year. I am hoping to get to it in the next week or so. Great review, Richard!
>52 jdthloue: Jude, this book is tailor-made for you. Your desire to be kept on your toes by a narrative is present in abundance here, and the author's efforts to present points of interest is done in such a way as to elicit many an "oh no he didn't!" moment.
>53 calm: rest easy, calm, the series is two books and they're both out already!
>54 alcottacre: Stasia, I think you'll really appreciate the storytelling voice Anderson uses. It's got such depth and richness...I can here James Earl Jones narrating this book.
#55: Now I am going to be hearing Darth Vader while I am reading it!
I found both books at BetterWorldBooks...yesterday..but haven't ordered them yet...am waiting for some other folks' orders so i can put in for one Big Bookfest....and it's been on my WishList for a while now..
lol @ Darth Vadar
rd, it looks quite good. It will go on my maybe list...
Title: LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS
Author: DIANA GABALDON
Rating: *** of 5
Gabaldon's writing is of the kind I call "serviceable" but her characters either make you swoon, pant, sweat and holler, or they leave you completely cold. I fall on the non-hollerin' end of category A. I like these people, Lord John especially having a claim on me because he's a shirt-lifter (or Warmbruder, depending on where we are geographically).
This book is a collection of three novellas that Gabaldon wrote about the good Major Lord John Grey. One was written for this collection. Does it matter what they're about? Lord John, in peace or at war, will never suffer a wrong he can right to go unrighted; he will never allow personal comfort or convenience to stand in the way of what duty and honor require him to do; and he will never fall out of love with Jamie Fraser, featured in Gabaldon's main time travel romance series as the husband of the time traveler.
So he don't get none. Relax, ewww-ickers.
Anyway, in a marketplace crowded with mystery choices, and quite a fair few eighteenth-century historicals at that, why choose these books with their serviceable writing? Bruce Alexander, for one example, is a better writer. His Blind Justice series is very good.
Simple: Depth. Lord John Grey is part of a well-known alternate world. It's obvious that Gabaldon could act as a tour guide to eighteenth-century England and Scotland, and it's obvious that SOMEwhere in a properly ordered Creation, Jamie and Claire and Lord John are plying their different courses through the time streams. The reason to read this series starts and stops with an individual's familiarity with or receptivity to Gabaldon's world. If you've read Dragonfly in Amber and did not find it so tedious and plodding as to make you beg a merciful Goddess for death or blindness, you're likely to enjoy these books.
Recommended? Oh, sure. Why not. Start with these novellas and see if the character appeals; if so, the novels await your pleasure.
#59: I have read the two Lord John novels Gabaldon has written thus far as well as the Outlander series, so I will give the book a shot. Thanks for the recommendation, Richard.
BTW - I am completely in love with Jamie Frasier, lol.
I've only read the first Lord John - must put the rest on my to read list!
Have you checked out Diana Gabaldon's library? It's no wonder that her history is so good!
I read the first several ooks in the series.. 2-3 times at least. I like them...
I grew tired of the Outlander series, but I will have to give Lord John another chance.
I sort of wearied of it around the beginning of the Lord John books.. but may have another go soon
The only book i have of Gabaldon's is Outlander....and there is a bookmark about 1/3 of the way through it...but i can't recall if it's MY bookmark..or not....guess i was REALLY IMPRESSED, huh?
Octavian Nothing...Vols. I & II...are on the way....from BetterWorldBooks...and already folks want to borrow 'em...nothing scarier than Psychic Hillbillies!!!
take care, R
Two more excellent reviews, Sir R. Octavian sounds particularly intriguing. Unfortunately, sometimes your review are better than the books...but one must continue to try them (the books, I mean).
"Putting from the rough"...heh.
Title: THE ALUMINUM CHRISTMAS TREE: A Novel
Author: Thomas J. Davis
Rating: *** of 5
A gift from a delightful LTer, this book arrived at precisely the right time. I was not at my most pleased and happy the day it came. I read the whole book in a sitting, and was much restored and refreshed.
Thomas Davis tells an oft-told tale of a man's descent into depression caused by his single-minded pursuit of material success with no nods towards his inner needs. His wife recounts the tale to her sympathetic audience after his death, which causes her to move to a new, smaller home in town from their half-century long country life on an apple orchard. She tells her cousin and his wife, who are helping her pack and move, the story of the year that almost ended the marriage most people thought was perfect.
I think the story of any well-lived life contains the passage that Mildred, our narratrix, recounts. It's instructive to be reminded of this in fiction as well as fact. All of us fallible humans can run off the rails, and it's often only after losing "everything" that we realize how much we really have that *can't* be lost, only thrown away.
The book breaks no new ground anywhere, but it takes the reader on its well-worn path with a pleasant tone and a loving heart. I can't recommend it to the cynical or the youthful, but anyone over 40 will recognize the situation and could probably benefit from a reminder of its perils and the tenuous nature of human relationships. Take care of them, feed them, prune them carefully, and a lifetime will seem too short.
Great review - I think I'll have to give The Aluminum Christmas Tree: A Novel a try. The name is slightly ponderous, is it not?
Richard--It's always nice to read a book that refreshes the soul. As they say, Peace Be With You! Hugs.
>73 nittnut: I think the name's a disaster...makes it sound snarky and sarcastic, like a poke-fun-at-the-poor-tasteless-slobs book. When I saw Rutledge Hill had published it, I was sure that couldn't be the case, but to someone unfamiliar with the imprint, the title could just scare 'em off. Too bad.
>74 Berly: Heydeho there, Cuddle Punkin, nice to see you so far from your usual haunts! xoxo
I think it's wonderful, when a book is found(and read) that pulls one out of whatever Slough of Despond is making life a misery. You were lucky here. I'm jealous!
Title: SACRED GAMES--a TIOILI "red-spine" challenge book
Author: VIKRAM CHANDRA
Rating: ***1/2 of 5
WOW. What a book! It's over 900pp long! It's as overwhelming and complex and befuddling as Bharat itself is, for an uninitiated Murrikin tourist.
It's also fabuolously, gorgeously wrought, and very much worthy of being a bestseller. It never will be, for several reasons.
First: It has, and needs, a glossary. Second, it needs but has not an organized-by-relationship Cast of Characters. Third, it's a blinkin' wrist-sprainer of a hardcover and would be fatter than the Bible if it was turned into a mass-market paperback. Fourth, it's just as challengingly fragmented as Ulysses, only more fun to read.
Okay, first comes the glossary. Honestly, I don't know what to tell you about this. I think, based on personal experience, that it's best simply to immerse yourself in the sea of the book, experiencing it the way you would Mumbai if you went there without a tour guide. Just wander along behind Vikram, looking over his shoulder and listening to the people he's talking to; he's the author, after all, and we should trust him to lead us not into the temptation to give up, but deliver us to a satisfying conclusion to the stories he's telling us. He won't disappoint. But if you constantly flip back and forth, back and forth, to the glossary, it'll get wearing and make that giving-up option well-igh irresistable. Just let the language happen, let yourself see the words without having an instant picture of the concrete reality but rather absorbing the ideas behind them. "Chodo" doesn't need to mean something explicit to you for you to realize that it's being used to describe physical intimacy. You'll get that point PDQ. Let it happen naturally! Try to move past your ingrained logic-and-analysis patterns to experience something afresh.
Second, there are a LOT of people in this tale, and a more complete league table of them would have been helpful where a glossary was not especially so. I think it's useful, in books of more than 20 characters, for publishers to offer us the chance to refresh our memories about who's who and what role and relationship they have in the book. I'd make the publisher do this retroactively but that's not practical...Harper Collins isn't taking orders from me, for some strange reason.
Third, the immensity of the tome! Gadzooks and Godzilla! Had this book sold in the millions, Canada would be devoid of tree-cover. 928pp!! Now, having read the book twice, I can honestly and objectively say that at least 150pp could have come out and left the beauties of the book intact. I think it's a common problem among publishers, though, this inability, or unwillingness, or inexpertise at the art of good editing. I know it's hard. I know because I've done it, and done it very well. But I also know that the end product of a good, collaborative edit is a fabulously improved book.
Fourth, Vikram Chandra's fractured PoV for storytelling. This is the reason an organized Cast of Characters is needed...who's who is provided on p. xi-xii, but it's not complete, and it's not broken into groups by relationship. But the voices are, for third person-limited narrative, beautifully differentiated. The "Inset:" tags are clues to the changes of viewpoint, but we never leave the third person-limited narrative voice; it's challenging to make that not seem flat, like the PoV character suddenly knows things he can't possibly have access to; and for the most part, Vikram Chandra does it well. The last "Inset: Two Deaths, in Cities Far From Home" isn't quite as smooth as others, and in my never-very-humble opinion could be dispensed with whole and entire without damage to the rest of the story.
So why am I so mingy in giving this book a mere 3.5 stars? Because it's too big a commitment to ask a reader to make when it could have been shorter and better told. But folks, India is a huge, huge, huge place that has a lot of English speakers in it. They're going to be producing more and more books in English. I really, strongly advise you to start acclimatizing yourselves to this new reality by picking up works by talented storytellers like Vikram Chandra. Start here, start learning to let Hindi words reveal themselves to you, sink back into the immense, soft seas of India's talented storytellers...unless you want to learn Mandarin, that is.
Chandra/Seth?..it's all Vikram to me. But seriously, your review actually makes me want to dive into the freakin' thing!! It sounds so Bollywood! glossary or not. Thank you, suh!
Think I'll give the book a miss for now - but a happy thumb for the review, as ever. I don't know why I come to your thread two minutes before closing time, I always end up reading your new posts then chasing books and reviews around LT for thumbs and stars and wishlists...
*heads off to shut up shop before eight billion people arrive, as usually happens when we're open one minute late and want to go home*
Title: JAR CITY: A REYKJAVIK THRILLER
Author: ARNALDUR INDRIDASON
Rating: ***1/2 of 5
It's hard for me to believe this is a debut novel. The author is, of course, a journalist and so the possessor of writerly skills; still, a novel is something wholly and entirely other than he could be expected to do in his sleep.
I think the first-novel-ishness comes out in a few small ways. He introduces a deeply disturbing sub-plot and does almost nothing with it. He has characters behave in some ways that don't scan with their stated behaviors. But on the whole, the book's as accomplished a noir as I've seen in many a long month.
I came away from this book chilled, angry, and annoyed at the unfairess of life. Perfect noir! I see that the author carefully crafted his story to elicit these feeling in me, and I salute his success. I am aware that the story was, for 2000, quite ground-breaking in its use of genetics as a plot-point, but it doesn't feel as amazing today, when "Scientific Adam" and "Scientific Eve" have been genetically identified. Still, I was impressed by the good handling of the subject matter...I wish it had been given a little more prominence in the story, but that's a minor cavil.
If you haven't yet read the book, I'd say you should, because its dark, gloomy pleasures are significally rewarding. I warn the squeamish: Violence exists here, and a lot of uccchy stuff that's not violent but is revolting takes place.
ETA: Bloody damned touchstone won't work!!!
Title: VOICES INDRIDASON
Author: Arnaldur Indriðason
Rating: *** of 5
Dear Goddess, can Iceland really be this bleak?! This is one of the grimmest, saddest, most joy-sapping books I've ever read. And I quite simply couldn't put it down. I was vacuumed into the book's slipstream as soon as I read the first page...who uses the word "fracas" to describe a murder investigation?...and it kept me flipping pages until 2:40a EST.
But no way in Hell do I want to make a trip to Reykjavik now! It would be too gruesome, seeing all the places I now know from Arnaldur Indriðason's sad slay-fests. And I'd be looking at every 50-ish redheaded man a little too intensely, just to make sure I didn't cross paths with Mr. Bad Luck Erlendur. *shiver* I get the feeling he'd leach the body heat out of passers-by, he's so frozen inside.
Would I recommend it? Yeah, but not to the tender of spirit. Just no, no, no for the delicate. (mckait, the Terris, Linda) Caro and Mark'll love it. It's a nicely built book, though in common with the first one it's got some very untidy dingle-dangles that make me itch, hence the three stars. I feel like a mystery isn't fully ready for market until the clues are woven up, and if you're gonna tell me more than one story, the second one better be important to the first in SOME way. *grrr*
In answer to your question "Dear Goddess, can Iceland really be this bleak?" I submit as evidence Independent People by Halldor Laxness.
Yes times a million.
If you haven't read it, you must add it to your TBR pile and blame me once again.
If you have read it, then it can only substantiate the bleakness factor.
I'll second the bit about Independent People...bleak as hell but i enjoyed the book quite a lot...what doth that say about me?
I have had Indridason on my radar for a while..just haven't read any of the works...yeah, yeah, lazy me!
You're doing real good here, Richard..making me add title after title to an already humungous WishList..but that's what friends are for, right?
Love your reviews as usual. :)
Hate that you constantly make me add to my book wishlist. >: (
Your eloquence makes me shrink from the thought of even daring to write reviews for the last 5 books I've read (yes, I am a tad behind!) ;)
Ooo. I'm going to add those two books to my wishlist. I've read so many bleak thriller/mysteries (Mankell, Smilla, O'Connell) that I don't think bleak even registers with me. I'm very much looking forward to visiting Iceland, literarily (is that a word)?
>85 karenmarie: Karen, I think it's no accident that Erlendur's grudge-totin' ex-wife is named Halldora. Nope, no accident at all.
>86 jdthloue: Jude, hustle your bustle to Amazon and procure Jar City. You will *love* it. Do it now, I want to hear that modem warble and those keys click....
>87 Berly: Berly-boo, what eloquence is this of which you speak? I'm not a standard by which to gauge one's talents. I'm just musing on the point of the books I read. If Arnaldur read my reviews, he probably wouldn't recognize what I was talking about.
>88 citygirl: I'd certainly recommend them, citygirl!
Title: EVERYTHING IN THIS COUNTRY MUST
Author: COLUM MCCANN
Rating: **** of 5
Okay, so, see, there's this place called Ireland? And it's really poor? Or, well, anyway, it used to be and stuff. So anyway, this Irish guy comes here, I mean to America, and he writes about these Irish people from when it was all poor and stuff? And so these stories are, like, really really sad and the people are all poor and kinda mean and they don't seem like they ever smile or anything? But they're all, like, really really trying to be good but something Irish just won't let em! Honest!
If "Hunger Strike" doesn't make you madder'n Hell's hottest rock, you're dead inside. "Everything in This Country Must" should make you weep buckets; "Wood" which is a lovely piece of writing, just doesn't fit in the emotional continuum of the other two, but what do I know.
I know I think you should read this collection tout suite. It's only 150pp, anyone here can polish that off in a day. Stasia and Kath, they just need to look hard at it, they're done already.
Thanks, Richard; I was trying to decide which Colum McCann book to read next. Since you & Lois rated this book so highly I'll buy this ASAP and read it for the March TIOLI Challenge and for March Is Novella Month.
Title: THE HOUR OF THE STAR
Author: CLARICE LISPECTOR
Rating: **** of 5
This is billed as Lispector, a Brazilian pyrotechnician of words, writing her last novel. It's about 80pp long, so I am hard pressed to see how it's anything but a novella as defined by length. Its content, the descent and fall of one of life's losers, places it firmly in novella territory as well. Its beauty and grace of language mark it as a poetic novella. But it's not a complex, nuanced, developed story, so not what I'm willing to call a novel.
But it's brilliant, and it's beautiful, and it should form a part of your mental furniture. It's fascinating in its presumptive male narrator's chill and malign distance from the heat of life that makes Macabea, the protagonist, both unfurl and wither seemingly simultaneously.
The relationships that Macabea, immigrant to the cold cruel city from the cold cruel countryside, forms are classics of naive toxicity. She's seemingly unable to judge anyone around her...even herself...on any level deeper than the most glistening surface. She's not a bright girl, she's not a pretty girl, and she's got no discernable talent for anything. She's destined to come to a bad end. SPOILER FOLLOWS
But Lispector, the creatrix, pulls the Oz-curtain aside periodically, dropping the rudimentary and nugatory male narrator into the bin when she has something important to say: "Will I be condemned to death for discussing a life that contains, like the lives of all of us, an inviolable secret? I am desperately trying to discover in the girl's existence at least one bright topaz."
Could it be, I wonder at the end of the story, that there is no bright topaz in some lives? That the brightest sparkle in some humans is just the mineral potential of bones waiting for death to free it? Macabea, "female Maccabee" for those interested in looking for some Biblical enrichment of the tale, makes me think...unwillingly, reluctantly, but honestly...that the answer is Yes.
Hour of the Star has been "on the radar screen" for a while now...Thank you for a wonderful review!
Review: 13 of 50
Title: THE PERFECT HERESY
Author: STEPHEN O'SHEA
Rating: ***1/2 of 5
Ye gods and little fiishes, what a ghastly thing the Catholic Church is. Reading this book about the treatment meted out to the unquestionably heretical Cathars, or "the Perfect" as they called themselves, makes me feel sorry for the "saints" and "holy" men involved in the brutal and complete suppression of this dualistic religion.
Hell, in which they seem to have believed unquestioningly, must resound with their cries and pleas for mercy and understanding.
The political threat of the anti-clerical, anti-authoritarian Cathars could not be tolerated. The Church would have been suicidal to ignore the appeal of the Manichaean world-view in a priest-ridden, anarchic world just clawing its way out of a devastating few centuries of almost simultaneous economic and population collapses beginning in the sixth century. Imagine, after quite a looong time of answering to your overlord and only vaguely to the local priest, having to *ask* the *Church* for permission to get married! The very idea! That the Church, where one went for spiritual uplift, should suddenly interest itself in who you sleep with!
It was one of many means the Church used to make itself the replacement for the vanished Roman Empire. It caused a bitter backlash. It was viewed as unChristian (Heaven, after all, is the Church's stated model for life, and in Heaven there is neither marriage nor giving in marriage, right?). And along come these religious guys, doing the work of the world along side you, saying scrupmtious things like the entire physical world is a snare of the Devil, so what's a "Holy Mother Church" doing trying to tell you what to do in it, instead of telling you how to get out of it?
I would've loved the Cathars. They said that all the Heaven and woo-woo stuff was codswallop, and the best you should do in this world is Not Hurt Nobody Nohow. As you, o creature of flesh, learn more and more and more to follow that rule, you *step off the cycle of rebirth* and cease to be flesh.
In fact, I *do* love the Cathars.
So anyway, their commonsensical view of the teachings of Jesus caused no end of angst in Rome, and the Holy Office of the Inquisition was invented to cause these right-thinking Perfect as much pain and suffering as possible.
It worked, as viciousness and evil routinely triumph over good, at least in the short run (though 800 years don't seem so short to me, but then I'm only a Devil-created human, ain't I?). It was painful to read this book because I knew how it would end, it was painful to read because I felt such compassion for the Perfect, and it was just damn good and depressing to be reminded of the horrors humans visit upon each other in the name of their big-bully imaginary friend in the sky.
If this is what "God" really wants, I say screw him. Fortunately, I don't for one single instant believe such a "God" actually exists. The Divine might not be susceptible to our limited reasoning power, but active evil such as the Crusades, the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation play no part in its wishes.
The author pens a creditable sentence, and tells the well-known tale with such true compassion that it's as though he feels the flames and screams the screams. I'd recommend it to the anti-Christian/Catholic contingent, the spiritually honest Christians, and the stout of heart. Not for True Believers or those seeking peace.
Sounds brilliant, I'll have to track down a copy!
ETA - Yes. The library has a copy!
Review: 14 of 50
Title: LINCOLN'S CRITICS: The Copperheads of the North
Author: FRANK L. KLEMENT
Rating: *** of 5
I do not for one single instant doubt either the erudition or the scholarship of the late Dr. Klement, famous (if you know who he is) for his refutation of the existence of an organized Fifth Column of Confederate sympathizers in the North. I do wish he'd been thwacked a few times with the Lash of the Muse of Writing instead of JUST the Muse of History.
This is one dry, dusty, dull read. If you're really, really, really interested in the Civil War, dabble around. If you're a casual reader, purse your lips knowingly and murmur, "aaah yes, the Copperheads, never came to much did they?" and your social obligation to the Civil War nut will be forever discharged.
NOT recommended for civilian reading, historiographers only.
oh dear.... I just tripped over rd's enlarged head!
Stopping by to see how you are...I see you are fine fettle..
Alas my library doesn't have a copy of The Perfect Heresy.
It does, however, have a copy of Perfect Health by Deepak Chopra, Perfect Hiding Place (it's about P.J. Funnybunny, that sounds interesting), The Perfect Holiday and The Perfect Horse, and let's not forget The Perfect Husband (must be fiction).
Wishlisting it in case an opportunity arises. Maybe the library will realize it fits in perfectly (ooh, a pun!) with the list above.
Of the "spate" of Cathar Books published 'round the time of The Perfect Heresy....this one seems to have lasted the longest...so I will give it its due...someday. I do recall starting a Novel concerning The Cathars...The Good Men by Charmaine Craig. i can't recall too many specifics...as the tome was Swiped from my very Presence..before i got to the halfway point...but, i do recall It Was Not Crap...!
>83 richardderus: I believe that Jar City is not a debut novel, but his debut in English. It seems somewhere, ages ago, I read that it was a third or fourth book. btw, make sure you see the movie (I like the fact that it's NOT a Hollywood production).
Glad you read Everything in This Country Must, I loved it. It deserves more readers and maybe it will garner more now that his latest won the National Book Award, eh?
>106 jdthloue: I read The Good Men: A Novel of Heresy also. I can't remember the particulars either at this point but I thought it a very decent debut historical novel. Very well-researched, I believe (I read an arc before publication - being then at the bookstore - but I believe it generally got good reviews)
>103 mckait: Relapsing into congestion at an inconvenient moment. The Divine Miss's Ghanaian brother is on the way for a visit. GREAT time to feel crummy! *grumble*
>104 lauranav: Laura, The Perfect Husband sounds fascinating! If you read it, tell me what makes him perfect so I can set about seducing him away from his wife. I need a perfect husband.
>105 Berly: Hi Berly-Boo! Yes, flee flee for your very soul from the Copperheads. Couldn't have been duller. There is literally no way to make this book *more* boring.
>106 jdthloue: I think you *are* a Cathar, Jude, so perchance push it up a leetle ootsy schnookin?
>107 avaland: I believe that Jar City is not a debut novel, but his debut in English Oh oh. That, if so, bodes ill for the rest of the books.
It deserves more readers and maybe it will garner more now that his latest won the National Book Award, eh? I can but hope...it's hard to find a copy. I got mine from the liberry. When I shopped for it, there were only a few used ones on Amazon, though that could have been a temporary stocking issue. I really liked the book, and really want to see it in peoples' hands, but if they can't find one even when they're looking....
>107 avaland: Actually, I've liked all his books in English thus far - the most recent being Hypothermia (don't think it is out in the US yet). The translator changed at some point because the first one passed away but they are reliably good reads and Erlander does make progress as a human being and we eventually find out why he is so messed up:-)
>109 richardderus: I bought my copy new, this year, from Amazon (or possibly very late in '09). I've since bought another collection of McCann's.
Duly noted, Richard....and thanks for the "compliment" (I think)...
Thumbed the review for The Perfect Heresy Ricardo...
...it was just damn good and depressing to be reminded of the horrors humans visit upon each other in the name of their big-bully imaginary friend in the sky... If this is what "God" really wants, I say screw him.
Couldn't agree more. Too often religious zealots seem to forget every 'virtue' they've been peddling (tolerance and peace, mostly) and set to destroying each other and pulling down anyone Not Like Them with such fervent abandon that it makes you wonder... I can't help but imagine a big beardy man standing in a big white heavenly room in the sky, calmly reminding people like that, arriving all smug and certain of themselves, of all the vile things they've done 'in his name', then gleefully squishing each one with his thumb, like nasty little bugs. Hehe.
rd," The Divine Miss's Ghanaian brother is on the way for a visit "
I need a perfect.... someone too ! NOT a husband, thanks..
>113 mckait: Oh yeah...that's not instantly obvious, is it?
Maaany years ago, TDM went off to college. Her mums and duds decided there was no earthly reason for her room to stay empty, so they signed up to host a Ghanaian student for the year. He stayed even after she came home, so she didn't get to sleep in her own room for a year or so while he was acclimatizing himself to the US and its sixties weirdness. Surprisingly this did not lead to fights and awkward weirdness, but to closeness and affection.
Now a US citizen and a retired professor of something mind-numbingly boring, he's still her brother and spends many holidays with us...has for all forty-plus years he's lived in the US. We're hoping he and his youngest son will spend this Thanksgiving with us this year. It's been two years since they have.
And you *have* a husband, so a *perfect* husband is merely a personality transplant away!
Review: 15 of 50
Author: COLUM MCCANN
Rating: **** of 5
What a daring idea...trace the life of a Roma poetess from early life under fascist rule in the dying democracy of Czechoslovakia to dying years in the utterly different but equally repressive "Free World" that doesn't like her unrepentant socialism...in her own voice.
McCann's up to the task. It's a very well-built book, and Zoli (a boy's name in her culture, given by her grandfather to help protect her) is a fully realized person. She lives an exciting life. She writes amazing poetry (so we're told). She has a daughter who, true to life, turns out to be very little like her amazing mummy.
My kick is that, like most extraordinary women, she falls in love with the damnedest collection of creeps and yutzes imaginable. There's this one Brit who is just about the most Babbitty little snot imaginable. Her response to him when they meet up later in life is pretty amusing.
But, and here's the kick part, why is she bothering with these guys? Why is it no one writes about these women with actual worthy partners? Blech.
Recommended. Enthusiastically. Read now.
Alright, already! Another title on THE LIST...and, I was not aware of this book (i know...sleeping on the job)..regarding the "why no one writes about smart women with worthy partners?"...that would be pretty boring...nothing to rant about...and, i ask you, do You know of any smart woman with a worthy partner, in Real Life? I don't...most gals fall all over theirselves to score a creep/cad/layabout/wastrel..is it genetic? I don't know. I live alone...and my boyfriend does too..much better that way. no messy emotional scenes..and he can't bitch about my Insomnia...and i can't bitch because he's a fuddy-duddy...so we be happy..oh
........lost the train-of-thought.........Thanks for the recommend, Richard..loverly review as ever..
From the male perspective, women want bad boys because they're intrinsically evil (the women, that is); from the female perspective, men want pneumatic babes on a revolving basis because they're intrinsically evil (the men, that is); my decision to stick to my own kind is seeming like a wiser and wiser choice.
Back up to # 94 - I'm having problems keeping up with all your reading on these diverse threads of yours. I recently got hold of a copy of The hour of the Star and am bumping it up my tbr pile.
Review: 16 of 50
Title: SPRIG MUSLIN
Author: GEORGETTE HEYER
Rating: ***1/2 of 5
I confess it true: I am such a noddycock that this is the first of the estimable Miss Heyer's trashy novels that I e'er did peruse. Dash it all, how was I to know she was a veritable caryatid of culture, a purveyoress of fine wordsmithing, an artiste?
Yeah, so she invented the Regency romance, or close enough to it. Yeah, she was an English homemaker. And by today's "so what did you smell like after you murdered those teenagers, Mr. Dahmer?" celebrity standards, she was a complete nonentity. Never gave an interview, never went on tour, never so much as blew a kiss to a crowd.
And still her legend lives on. I imagine the Regency period of English history would still be a giant snorefest for the youth of America if it were not for Miss Heyer's Regency-set romances. They spawned myriad imitatrixes to mine the rich seam, from the time she started out at age nineteen until this good day. And beyond, I suspect. She wrote well over 50 titles, she had a half-century career, she was a commercial powerhouse. She was a game-changer for the publishing industry. She was, in short, JRR Tolkien but female (and fun to read).
You won't spot historical inaccuracies in her books. You won't spot infelicities of style. You won't see violence or mayhem, though the odd lord does get shot or sliced with a sword.
What you will see is simple, direct, and graceful writing, not precious or cutesy-poo drivel. You will see implausible-but-consistent plotting. You will see clearly and concisely drawn characters, people one can believe really went to Almack's and faught in the Peninsular campaign and made their debuts to the ton. You will, if you climb down off your preconceived notions, get a rare treat...a book that's a pleasure to read and a disappointment to finish, but is just exactly the right length.
Recommended. Most heartily. Damme if it's not.
Ah, Richard! You are finally reading one of my favorite authors of all time. I started reading Georgette Heyer when I was 13 (aack!!!! 44 years ago). Faro's Daughter was my first foray into her Regency world and I was hooked. I still have that battered copy, as a matter of fact.
I just went on a Heyer binge last week and re-read The Devil's Cub, Black Sheep and The Talisman Ring and read Cousin Kate for the first time. I think I've read all her historicals and romances now. She does have some mysteries a la Christie that are amusing, but I prefer the romances and historicals.
You're right about her writing. It almost makes me swoon to read it. Get out the smelling salts!
Quick! Summon Lady Karen's abigail with her vinaigrette! As she is the one largely responsible for setting me alight with the fires of Heyerianism, mustn't allow her to suffer!
I figured, Karen, if you were reading and re-reading these, must be somethin' to it. I liked the immersive experience of the book, the clear evidence of Heyer's knowledge of the period, and the delights of her characters (Lady Widmore in this book is a treasure--I fancy I am her reincarnation).
Bless you, dear North Carolinian aristocratess, for nudging me over the edge into Heyer's gravity well. I had a *great* time.
I read Heyer years ago... decades ago..note lately though. I may have to try her again..
I'm glad to have inspired you.
And, taking deep sniffs of the vinaigrette helps, dear Richard. Such a gentleman.
Being a bit in the doldrums again (sigh), I thought it prudent to re-read things that I knew would bring a smile to my face.
Go for it, mckait. My favorites are The Devil's Cub, These Old Shades, The Nonesuch, The Toll-Gate, and Faro's Daughter although most of them are quite wonderful.
Oh. The Masqueraders too. And Powder and Patch.
Once upon a time, there was a Regency fans group here on LT called Almack's. I'm too lazy to look it up, but I wonder if it's still active. Most Regencies are simply *ghastly* since most romance writers aren't willing to put in Heyer's research time and resort to transporting stock characters from modern romances back in time and adding "odd's bodkins!" and "not the thing, don't you know" to give it atmosphere--faugh! (How, incidentally, does one pronounce "faugh"?)
Kath dearie, perhaps there should be a Heyer read in the near future. I feel confident that Karen would guide us through the labyrinth of the read, eh what?
Georgette Heyer is also the author I turn to when I'm stressed or ill or just depressed. I've never found another author who can cheer me up as much or at least take my mind off what I'm worrying about. One of my biggest mistakes was in getting rid of quite a few Heyer books once when we were moving house on the grounds that 'I had grown out of them' - I hadn't grown out of them at all - it was just that I wasn't in a period of my life that I needed them so much. I think over the last few years I've repurchased virtually all the ones I got rid of. I've only come accross one Georgette Heyer book that I haven't enjoyed which was The Spanish Bride.
>119 avatiakh: Kerrymelon, it' a very worthy read. It's compact, too, which is a charming quality in a depressing book. I hope The Hour of the Star won't disappoint!
My various threads seemed like a good idea at the time, though I begin to suspect that the readership becomes diluted. I just didn't want to have my 75-Books thread become a review factory that had no organizing principle again.
Perhaps I oversolved the problem...?
>126 SandDune: Greetings ReeC, it's nice to see a new name among the posts here!
I think there are some "comfort authors" whose works we just shouldn't ever give away, sell, lend, or trade. There are some books that, even though one may not read them for many years at a stretch, need to be available instantly upon need. Heyer being one of those authors who has created many of those books fails to shock me, now that I've read her. The books, unless Sprig Muslin is an anomaly, are enchanting in the actual definition of the word...they weave an unreality that is convincingly real, and can be fully experienced by the enchanted.
One of my comfort books is Ethan of Athos, which I must have read ten times in the past 25 years. I have a Sacred Copy, which I don't allow anyone to touch except me, and a lending copy which gets replaced about every four years or so as it fails to return.
edited/attempted touchstone fix
I had three other comfort authors - but I gave away all my Rex Stouts, Erle Stanley Gardners, and Ellery Queens when I moved to North Carolina in 1991. Some were ratty paperbacks, some were nice hardcovers, all were wonderful. - what was I thinking of??!!?
I've replaced a few over the years, but will certainly never get back the ones I got rid of.
Thank God I had enough sense to keep my Heyers.
Ethan of Athos sounds intriguing. I've added it to my Bookmooch wishlist. When I get it I will see if I can figure out what makes it a comfort read. :)
Georgette Heyer?? My mother loved her books..."nuff said.. I stopped reading Romance as a Jaded Virgin..age 15...But i lurve your review , Sir...but methinks I'll pass (lightly, lightly..in my Violet Gown)
Richard - my mother adores Heyer's books and has most of them so I read her in my teens. I am planning to read her An Infamous Army which is meant to have an excellent coverage of the battle action at Waterloo. Took me a while to track down a copy of it after it was discussed on the threads last year, and now that I looked it up on LT I see it is the third of the Alastair trilogy. So I'll have to reread These Old Shades and Devil's Cub.
I don't mind your various threads, just that every now and then I catch you mentioning a book and I do want to track down your review. Looking out for your Leviathan review as I like Westerfeld's work for teens.
Oh, much on which to comment. Delightful.
I've had Heyer on TBR forever, so I really enjoyed your thoughts on your first. Maybe I'll make it sometime this year.
If I may hop back to an earlier topic: I'm not sure of your standard for "smart woman," but I think I'd probably meet it; extraordinary? I really have no idea, totally subjective right, I don't think I'm ordinary but anyway, I'm not trying to, well, you know...all I'm saying is I might have an insight into your smart girls/bad boys question. I am married to a magnificent, decent man who is the love of my life, yada, yada, blah, blah, but I was watching Mad Men last night (have you ever seen it? I think you'd like it.) and I was thinking that as much of a bastard as the main character Don Draper can be, he is tremendously sexy and a large part is that he is a bastard. There's just something about a man who who never lets anyone have any power over him and who pretty much does whatever he damned well pleases. The freedom, maybe?
Hi citygirl! Glad to see you here amongst the riff-raff I *usually* chat with.
Your first Heyer should be a thrill, if you're a fan of a certain kind of literary experience...the Quiet Good Taste of books, a la Elizabeth Goudge, Angela Thirkell et alii. I miss this kind of reading. It's fallen far out of fashion, or it's changed into something I can't recognize; but at any rate, I miss it.
Bad boys = lovers; good boys = husbands. I think a normal person needs both sets of inputs. So Don Draper as a husband seems like a bad idea to me; but as a lover, *zing*!
Ah me, the French have it right as usual: A Consort for dynastic/social reasons, then whatever Urges need to be met get met in less formal relationships.
Ahh, the French. We Americans (myself included) will never desert our basic puritanism enough to embark collectively on such sophisticated arrangements. (The very idea chills me.) I guess we is what we is.
Oh, and as to you sticking to your own kind, it's always seemed very rational to me. Unfortunately/fortunately, the idea of living with a woman repels me, not because of any homophobic feelings, but god are women a lot of work. I require much attention and maintenance; you think I'm going to cater to some other chick? Here's another politically incorrect hypothesis: gay men are more professionally and financially successful precisely because they are not distracted by women.
*hands held out for cuffing by the gender-equality/anti-stereotyping police*
Glad to see you here amongst the riff-raff I *usually* chat with.
I've always enjoyed a little slumming ;-)
But seriously, I've had you starred all year.
Here's another politically incorrect hypothesis: gay men are more professionally and financially successful precisely because they are not distracted by women.
The sirens of WWII Parisian Gestapo agents in their bland black sedans, in hot pursuit of citygirl, grow ever louder, ever nearer, ever more menacing as they squeal around corners, splash through rainpuddles causing mischief to pedestrienne's hosiery....
That's part of it; but don't forget the gender bias factor, men get better paid jobs than women do ordinarily. But high maintenance decribes the women I've known, especially the ones that say "who? ME? Never!!"
Men are simple: Feed 'em and *ahem* 'em. Occasionally fiight with 'em to remind them and you that you're not a blow-up doll. They're good to go after that.
Whew! I barely escaped, I was rescued by some dashing rogue that I knew would be good for only one or two things. He offered to help me off with my tattered stockings. But I'm a married lady. *bats eyes innocently*
And until recently gay men didn't have to spend their money on children, and I imagine that in large part, they still don't.
Review: 17 of fifty
Title: THE WORLD OF JESSE STUART
Author: JESSE STUART, intro. J.R. LEMASTER
Rating: *** of 5
Stuart is one of the mid-century's critical darlings whose fame didn't live on. I read his poetry without pleasure in school, during a class on twentieth-century poets. I don't really like formal poetry, and find sonnets particularly arch and annoying; these sonnets about Stuart's land and the seasons and such-like maunderings of personal observation are just barely tolerable to me now, as I skate towards the imaginary border of middle/old age. (Actuarially, I sailed over that 'un a while back, but I am firmly rooted in denial, and don't wish to be acquainted with the facts.)
So why read this again? There's a garage sale in our near future, and quite a number of older books are destined for tables on the front lawn and I want to know if any of them are worth clawing back.
This one, absent fond memories and void of reading rapture, is headed for the grass, and good riddance. The unsolds will go to the liberry's sale-or-shelve piles.
Recommended for sentimental old conservationists and unreconstructed Appalachians. Most of y'all can live nicely for the next half-century in complete unawareness of Stuart and his writings.
Review: 18 of fifty
Title: A CANDLE FOR ST. JUDE
Author: RUMER GODDEN
Rating: ***1/2 of 5
All the talk in cmt/Cushla's thread about Rumer Godden was making me a little hankersome for a quick dip in that pond. I dredged this oldie up, since it's a short book and a re-read, and sailed through it on a cloud of appreciative smiles.
Now, to make sure you understand how weird that is, I do not love the ballet, which is the subject of this book. I do not love it so much that I refer to it as the Charles Dickens of the dahnse: Ponderous, possessed of a cliquish, cultlike following with its own icky little patois, and able to scrutinize the itsy-ootsy-teensiest of twitches with all the seriousness that a normal person would give their bank statement.
Unpromising beginning, in short, for me and this novel. I love it. It's just stellar. The characters are so vivid and real, the stakes of the story are so vividly presented, the ending so exactly what would happen inevitably, that there is no way not to appreciate the craftsmanship of the tale.
Since I know from my own life that miracles occur, I had no problem with the basics of the plot. I don't respond to this book as a religious tract, but as a tale well told, and I think that's what Rumer Godden would want a reader to do...she slipped her messages into the book so well that I wouldn't even have clipped them out as her editor.
Know any balletomanes? Give them this book immediately! It's in print! Are you of a faith-and-family bent? Read it read it read it! Interested in midcentury writers? A minor book by a major talent of the day, but worth reading.
Richard Dear -
Wow. What a great thread and I have really taken some time to catch up with what you have been reading, reviewing and posting on this thread.
As you know ... I am WAY behind.
I chose several of the books you review in this thread to add to my Wishlist. So often after reading one of your reviews I feel absolutely compelled to search for the book and share the experience of reading for myself what you have been scanning ... the same words mere weeks earlier. One of the great joys of knowing you is reading and incorporating a book into the brain. See, I know it is already living in yours (your brain) ... you read 'em twice before reviewing and the good ones store themselves in the big ol' server that serves you and delights me and a bunch of other readers.
I send love and hope you are feeling well.
WOOFIE!! You're back, you're back! I am delighted that you're past the nasty siege of anemia and dehydration!!
*blush* Awww. You're too kind, madame. Now STAY healthy!
Review: 18 of fifty
Title: COD: A BIOGRAPHY OF THE FISH THAT CHANGED THE WORLD
Author: MARK KURLANSKY
Rating: ***1/2 of 5
This is part of April's TIOLI challenge, "read a book with an animal in the title in honor of the Easter Bunny" division. After all, Victorian scientists said that cod was the fish in the miracle of the loaves and fishes because there were so darn many of them....
Yeah, late to the party yet again...13 years late. I read this book, I would swear, when it came out; I recognized a few of the anecdotes, and I remember the jacket design very clearly. But a lot had slipped from my memory, and I now wonder if I actually read it, or had enough conversations about it to think I had.
Well, whatever, if it was a re-read it was a fun one. I like Kurlansky's informative-yet-chatty style, and I love the angle of view in the book...what's cod done for us as a species? So what? What's cod made possible in the world? The rise of an independent America. The agrarian horrors of African chattel slavery. The Industrial Revolution. Little stuff like that was built on the white-fleshed back of a formerly abundant fish.
I like cod. Salted, dried, fresh-frozen, the tongues, the cheeks...it's all good, as my daughter's generation says with monotonous regularity (and questionable factual basis). I never once thought about Cod, the deliverer from hunger, until the Cod Wars of the early 1970s. I remember the world reaction to Iceland going to a 200-mile fishing limit with a teenager's detached bemusement: "So? Little teeny place like that, let 'em have it, big whoop." For rhetorical effect, let's assume I was sitting in front of the TV eating Gorton's fish sticks at the time I said this, though I spent little time with the TV and less eating fish sticks as a kid.
It caused such trouble because of cod's enormous significance even now as an agribusiness output. Iceland's post-colonial economy was built on cod; Canada's Maritime provinces relied on it in those days (and on unemployment payments from the rest of Canada now that cod's commercially extinct); Norway and the UK want all there is to have so their fisheries industries don't wither away and leave them hungry as well as sailor-less.
Kurlansky wrote a very enjoyable read about a very important food-source and industrial product. I recommend it to anyone even marginally interested in the world around them, to science browsers, and to policy wonks of a scientific bent. You won't regret it.
Good review..I liked the book..but love the Fish more better.....
#144 - sounds good. He also wrote a book in a similar vein called Salt: A World History. I've got it tagged Started, don't remember why I put it down. Probably because something seemed more exciting at the time.
>147 karenmarie: I'm fairly sure I read that one, too, but I'm not coming up with a thread leading to it in the labyrinth of my memories.
I'd say it's worth a check-out at the liberry on your next trip.
Well done, Sir Richard. I've been putting off reading it about the same length of time. I know I won't get to it any time soon, but, I can add it to my Wishlist to keep it in front of me somehow.
I put Pacific Wild Caught Salmon in front of Cod, but when I lived in Nova Scotia, I had salt cod and potatoes like the native folks ate so much of. Yumm!
Let's check in sometime before too long, man-wife.
Richard had said in a post, maybe on Luxx's thread, that he would like to be a "wife." So I just put man and wife together to refer to our mutual sweetheart, Sir Richard.
Hi, sweet Richard, brilliant friend and reader/writer. Yours, W
Review: 19 of fifty
Title: THE CONQUEROR
Author: GEORGETTE HEYER
Rating: **1/2 of 5
If this had been my first Heyer, it would also have been my last. This novel was written in 1927, and reissued in 1966 when the 900th anniversary of the Norman Conquest was celebrated.
They shoulda left it on the shelf. It's boring.
I leave all issues of historical accuracy to the anal-compulsive yammerers who think fiction should obey the laws of fact, contenting myself only with the observation that there are a scant number of primary sources from 900-plus years ago, so just unpucker and leave it alone.
The book starts with imagining the life of William's mother, Herleva, in the tannery town of Falaise. This is usually a bad sign that we're going to pretend we were there, but tell our story in third person omniscient PoV. The auguries were correct. Bleeearrgh! Nobosy knows if William's mother was named Herleva for a fact; nobody knows when he was born; nobody knows much about Falaise and its townspeople; so QUIT PRETENDING WE DO! This narrative voice gives the book a spurious air of knowledge imparted instead of speculation and storytelling indulged in; far better to use limited or even first person narration.
And then there are the generational complaints...the silly formality of language (how should we represent the voices of people from the past? It's a good question, but one I think the bygone writers always answered wrong, giving the men and women who came before us the silly faux gravitas of Formal Speech) which makes Every Utterance A Statement, instead of giving a character a voice we can accept and believe in.
Oh well. It was a nice idea to read one of Mrs. Heyer's historicals. I won't do it again. Regencies or nothing at all. NOT recommended.
Review: 20 of fifty
Title: THIS SIDE OF BRIGHTNESS
Author: COLUM MCCANN
Rating: ***1/2 of 5
How delightful it is to go back and fill in the high spots in a favorite author's early career. This book, published in 1998, was the third published book by McCann, and showed that his command of language was equal to his command of storytelling. He's a winner of the National Book Award now, but his earlier books don't disappoint in any way. (Well, Songdogs disappointed me, but not severely.)
The evocation of the sandhog life in early 20th-century New York was strong, compelling stuff. The juxtaposition of that hard, working life with modern-day tunnel dwelling by those rendered homeless from the machinations of the current culture's prejudices was the knockout punch for me.
I was sucked into the flow of the book immediately, and the relationships that unfolded over time were so exactingly built, emotion by emotion, event by event, that I never once questioned their factual accuracy. Spoilerlessly, let's just go with: The relationships in question are now, and certainly were then, inflammatory in nature. McCann simply writes them as truth, and does so convincingly.
Expect no disappointments from reading this book. It's a humdinger of a story, well crafted and fully realized. Most assuredly recommended.
May I say "I told you so"? This is my favorite of McCann's (so far).....good review, sweetie!
Passing through your thread to send good vibes and heartfelt admiration and respect your way. You are a mench, through and through.
Sounds like a lovely book.. but then.. my taste is in question so I believe I will avoid it for now.
I need a Long Island Iced Tea... anyone in ?
Long Island Iced Tea??? For Real?
I am game for sure...if you have the right recipe....
My plan was to go out
but then, its thursday... how about tomorrow?
meet y'all at the pub :)
There's non Pub where i live.........Jeesh, guess I'll just mix the dirnks on my own..all by my lonesome..
Mmm...I have Gale Force Girl and The Divine Miss tomorrow evening, so it'll be G&Ts and Crangerine Breezes. I will be on a codeine high to avoid this bloody bedamned sciatica.
I want to be able to sit still long enough to review Sea of Poppies and A Guide to the Birds of East Africa!! (Jude, avoid the latter at all costs, it would make you urp.) (Kath, avoid the former, animals are mistreated.)
Hooray for codeine. Boo to sciatica.
Hope you are finding some relief. Seriously. You are my "brother/sister in pain" these days. So sorry we have to do our lives in spite of tough pain. It s_cks. Big time.
I am still chugging through The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks which I think is a very good, respectful book and piques my interest in science quite a bit. Well written, too.
Sending gentle, peaceful relief your way through the ethers, Sir Richard.
Point taken, sweets! But, i liked your review of A Guide to the Birds of East Africa!!! If i can scope out a copy that I don't have to pay for, I may take a teensy peek...heh heh.
Richard, you are a darling and thoughtful man ( when you are not being a cranky curmudgeon.. )and I love you madly. Thank you!
I hope that someone there is pampering you for a change????
> 166 - Kath, wouldn't that be wonderful ... the pampering. Maybe you, Sir Richard and I could go to a spa somewhere on the mid Atlantic Eastern seabord and be pampered by some of the best in the business. All three of us need and deserve it IMHO.
I am also on the list of loving you madly people, Richard Dear. Don't forget it either!
PS - I saw a book recommendation from you recently and added it to my books. Sounds very good, too. Something about birds and Africa and a love triangle. Hmmmm (full stop). I added it right away and hope that it is still there on the shelf when I stop by the library tomorrow. I already checked on-line at their website.
Ruth.. I am not used to pampering.. it makes me a little nervous if someone tries... lol.....fidgety too..
I just creaked up the stairs to check in on LT...we're having meat loaf sammies and cole slaw for lunch. so I had to make the meat loaf.
Pampered? Me? I'd be so suspicious of the pamperer that I'd never relax! "What *exactly* am I being set up for? What nefarious plot is afoot?"
We had coffee on the patio this morning, though, in the cool breezy shade of the dogwood tree. It was lovely. *NO ONE* gets breakfast made for them, and I didn't even have to put up the coffee, so that was nice.
coffee on the porch while watching the rain......with Duncan, naturally. I did make the coffee.
Caught up, finally! *sighs with relief*
Though since I've come away with a heap of books for my TBR pile that's maybe not a good thing. My dear sweet mother has strictly banned me from buying books for a while (to the point of confiscating my post!) until a few wend their weary way onto the bookshop shelves in return. I have a feeling things may turn nasty when my latest Amazon order arrives...
But THEN I shall try me some Sprig Muslin since I too am a Heyer novice. Oh, and those bad boys? There's surely a reason why romance novels are littered with witty dandies and dashing pirates and brooding motorcycle-riding rebels, right? You just gotta love 'em...
Review: 21 of fifty
Titles: LORD OF THE FLIES & JOHN DOLLAR
Authors: WILLIAM GOLDING & MARIANNE WIGGINS
Rating: 2.9 of five
Thematically linked, culturally welded together with Heart of Darkness, and required reading for most 8th graders still, these novels were my RL book circle's selections for our May meeting.
I read Lord of the Flies in 1972. I read John Dollar in 2002, with my niece's high school class. I am not impressed with either title's writing, and I'm not convinced either will stand the test of time. I don't like Golding's book at all, but that's for personal reasons...my mother, Satan rest her soul, when I was writing my book report on the title, said ruminitively, "You're just like Piggy, aren't you, daaahliiin? Fat, unpopular, and four-eyed"...and, on re-reading it almost forty years later, I found myself agreeing with my almost-teenaged self that this book's a crock of crap and the PTB are all buying a bill of goods: that this is Lit'rachure. It's a marginally competent rehash of Heart of Darkness, which is what I wrote in my book report, and which earned me a "B" from the English teacher. (Considering I had that same teacher each and every year from 1971-1977, and I was horrible to her in each and every class I attended, I'm suprised in retrospect that she could bring herself to give me a "B"!)
So then my niece Stephanie read John Dollar, billed as the girls' version of Lord of the Flies, and I decided to read along. She was anguishedly grumbling about how boring the book was (it is) and how much she hated the style (I disagree, but this is personal so I can't argue). Yap yap yip, blah blah blah, nothing happens and no one does much, then comes the island and Nolly takes over, more yap yap yip and blah blah blah. Nolly's Jeezus fixation annoyed the crap out of me, and the girls I was pleased to note. I wish Wiggins had written a different book, since THIS rehash of Heart of Darkness was just as unnecessary as Golding's, but at least this book had some *style* and some effort behind its writing instead of being a bad pastich of Hemingway with British slang.
Ugh to both. Not recommended, no matter who or what you are.
Review: 22 of fifty
Title: MR. GOLIGHTLY'S HOLIDAY
Author: SALLEY VICKERS
Rating: 3.7* of five
I fell in love with Salley Vickers when I read Miss Garnet's Angel ten or so years ago. It's set in Venice, a city I simply adore. It's a beautifully imagined moment in a solitary person's life, one where limitless possibilities open up inside her.
Then came Instances of the Number 3, a very very odd book that captivated me despite my discomfort with the subject of a widow's growing fascination with her husband's transsexual mistress. These are books of courage and beauty.
Now this. I wasn't at all sure why, but I was drawn to Mr. Golightly as an exemplar of the kind of quiet, reserved, polite man of late middle age that I am. (Stop laughing.) Normally I give fiction about such men a wide berth because their lives are presented as so arid and meaningless...yet this is Salley Vickers, after all, and one can trust her to find an angle not instantly obvious, can't one?
Uhhh...I guess so...after all, Golightly's loss of his son is presented as the central event in his life, one that caused his entire world to rearrange and reorient itself. I know from losing my own son that this is the way many, if not most, of us respond to loss and grief for our dead children. But the writer in me was itchy. What was Vickers playing at? Where was the element of unexpectedness that her previous books delivered?
I'm glad I was patient. She delivered. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but it wasn't anything other than solidly conceived and executed fiction plotting. So much tidier than life.
I quibble with some of the authorial choices made, I sigh frustratedly over some infelicities of editing ("hoard" when "horde" is meant, oof), and I don't at all know what I really think about her central premise as tied together at the end...I think Golightly gets off rather too easily, but then again I'm a mean old cuss...but it's Salley Vickers, so you can take it from me that it's very much worth a read and will reward you for spending your time with its gentle, flawed, angry, hurt, practical, loving characters. It's like making a village-ful of friends in a few hours, and getting to leave before they get tedious.
Say...I think I just explained British cozy fiction!
Personal recommendations to: Stasia, Terri, Terri, Bonnie, Tui, Madeline, Lucy, Linda, Lynda, Gail. Avoid notices to: Jude (run! run!), Ape, Mark, Kath.
*Huddles under Ellie coat with her and holds the box of Kleenex tissues*
Wondering when I will hear back from you, Mr. Derus ...
Review: 23 of fifty
Title: THE OLD BANK HOUSE
Author: ANGELA THIRKELL
Rating: 3.4* of five
I have finally figured it out: The pleasure of reading these books comes from the same orderly place that the pleasure of studying genealogical tables comes from. If you're into it, this kind of book, with its large cast of characters that you meet here, the large cast of characters you've met before in other circumstances, and the passing mentions of familiar names, will wrap you up in a tea-cosy and feed you clotted cream on scones in front of a warm fire.
Still, in this entry into the Chronicles of Barsetshire, the characters one meets again are interesting but not A list, and a lot of the new people aren't that fascinating. Laura Morland, the authoress's alter ego in these books, appears, and that's always fun. But overall, this book would most certainly not be the first one a newbie should pick up. It's a fill-in and comfort read for us old hands.
No recommendations, no avoid notices, just a small sigh of contentment at having discovered a new book in an old, well-loved series.
>174 elliepotten:, 175 Girls! Now now! Just because you aren't mentioned doesn't mean you're not loved! I don't think either of you will love or hate this book, so decide on your own...I won't shove it into y'all's faces. It's just too twee for either of you to fall in love with it, though I can see it as a rainy-Sunday read for either of you in the proper mood of daffy smiling goofiness.
Review: 24 of fifty
Title: A TEST OF WILLS
Author: CHARLES TODD
Rating: 3.9* of five
Not quite a four-star read because the solution to the mystery wasn't exactly fair.
Still and all, the character of Ian Rutledge, shell-shocked veteran of The Great War, is wonderfully realized. He's drawn with care and kindness, yet flawed in his core by the presence of Hamish MacLeod, a dead soldier whose afterlife is inside Rutledge's stressed-out brain. Hamish comes to life when Rutledge thinks he least needs him, but in the end it's Hamish whose voice resonates in the reader's skull long after the book is closed. I thought that was gutsy of Todd...making the crazy guy the sleuth and the manifestation of crazy the strong character that he is. Not many writers could pull it off, but Todd can.
As to the mystery itself, well...I had 95% figured out but the big reveal was marred only by its lack of interweaving with the plot. It was a good solution and it was nicely thought out, but it wasn't part of the rest of the book, and I think that's not fair.
Still, I am gaffed in the gills. This is just plain ol' good writing! Recommended because I *love* seeing others suffer the pangs of falling for yet another mystery series. Heh heh.
I have that one sitting on my nightstand waiting for me to get to it. *sigh* Now I suppose I really will have to do it.
Gee, thanks, Richard; I really need a new mystery series...the shelves groan under the weight of the current collections.
Btw, have you read John Dickson Carr? He was a "locked room" specialist. Slightly dated, but funny and interesting. Many of his books have a sort of supernatural or ghostly feel as well, although it's just a feeling, not portrayed as being the cause or solution.
Review: 25 of fifty
Title: LIFE OF PI
Author: YANN MARTEL
Rating: 2.9* of five
This was a May TIOLI challenge read.
The whole world has a copy of this book, including me...but not for long. Over 10,000 copies of this on LT, so how many trees died just for our copies alone? Don't go into the forest, ladies and gents, the trees will be lookin' for revenge after they read this book.
There is no question that Martel can write lovely sentences: "Those first hours were associated in my memory with one sound, not one you'd guess, not the yipping of the hyena or the hissing of the sea: it was the buzzing of flies. There were flies aboard the lifeboat. They emerged and flew about in the way of flies, in great, lazy orbits except when they came close to each other, when they spiralled together with dizzying speed and a burst of buzzing." (p118, paper ed.) Good, good stuff, nicely observed and handsomely rendered, and not enough to lift this dreary pseudo-philosophical rehash of Jonathan Livingston Seagull into greatness.
Piscine Molitor (Pi) Patel does not wring my heartstrings on his spiritual quest across the vasty deep, accompanied by a tiger named Richard Parker, to a carnivorous island, thence to Mexico to answer to a pair of noxious Japanese stereotypes and, ultimately, to Canada...sort of an anodyne for all the adventure he's been through, the way the author presents it. If I were Canadian or Torontoid (or whatever they call themselves), I'd be livid with fury over this crapulous insult to my homeland.
But hey, I'm Texan and Murrikin, if they don't care enough to run this yahoo outta town, why should I? The yodeling of joyous awakening that fogged this book on its debut..."a story to make you believe in the soul-sustaining power of fiction" ugh!; "could renew your faith in the ability of novelists to invest even the most outrageous scenario with plausible life" oh really?; "a fabulous romp through an imagination by turns ecstatic, cunning, despairing and resilient" *retch*...made my "oh yeah?" follicle erect its sturdy little hair, so I avoided it. But, in all fairness, people I love and respect lived it, so it's a mitzvah to read it, right?
Public notice: My spiritual debt to the opinions of others is, with the reading of this ghastly book, herewith Paid In Full For Good. Most strongly and heartily NOT RECOMMENDED.
What a fun review. This is a book I tried to read but simply had to put it down. It is good to see your opinion matches mine.
Are you sure about that? I mean, how do you really feel? Perhaps you are not spiritually enlightened enough to grasp the full beauty of this book? : p
>183 Whisper1: Linda, I tried sooo haaard not to put this thing down, and only made it by dint of much self-encouragement to the last page TWICE. It was **awful**!
>184 Berly: Ah, perhaps the Yogiess Berly-boo, Maharincess of Enlightenmentreadingland, is correct...I am too-frail clay, crumbling to dust at the weight of Martel's brilliant insights!
I tried reading that book a couple of times and just couldn't get started.
Glad my opinion of it, even though I didn't actually read it, is confirmed by the our resident Book Reviewer Par Excellence.
Oddly enough, I never had the slightest interest in reading this here tale.....maybe it was all the treacly HoopLa!. Now I know I was right! Thanks for another good review, sweetie. and I'll give it a dainty thumb, so it can stand as Fair Warning.
Don't go into the forest, ladies and gents, the trees will be lookin' for revenge after they read this book
I never read ( or owned) this one. When it came out, two particularly snobby folks at work were discussing it. Talk about wanting to retch. If someone had offered me a gold plated copy with diamond studs... I would have declined. Thank you for another good one oh exalted one ~
What am I missing?
When I bought the book the sales clerk told me it was the best book he had read that year. Others have fallen all over themselves saying how great it is.
On the other hand we have the naysayers who have been around for some time, now culminating with Richard's acid rejection.
I found the tale better written than just an agglomeration of pretty sentences. I liked the respect for animals and the challenges of living with a tiger. I thought it was pretty good. But it was silly in its conclusion, and the people who have an opinion about what "really" happened are de trop; it's a novel folks -- fiction, nothing "really" happened. That is to say I found the book to be a so so story fairly well written with some cleverness.
How do I get to be at one of the poles?
Ah well, not everyone can see the forest for the trees...
And disagreement is what keeps us going here on LT, right?
#189: I liked The Life of Pi as well, so I will be dissenting against Richard's review too, well-written (and thumbed up) as it is.
>189 Mr.Durick: That is to say I found the book to be a so so story fairly well written with some cleverness. That's damned with faint praise if I ever saw it....
And Robert, my observation is that you're simply not a pole-dweller by nature. Yours are measured, well reasoned, cogent opinions. That's retty much a No Fly List entry for people aiming for the poles.
>190 mckait: A-MEN, Sister Woman!
>191 alcottacre: Dissent is always a good thing. If everyone always agreed with me, I'd be unnecessary, now wouldn't I? And that would stink, for me at least.
A world without Richard would be a horrible thing. Just let me know if you need to justify your existence and dissent and I'll send something your way quick! (Not that I really think you will have to resort to this emergency plan, ever, EVER!! You of the firm opinions and agile mind.)
Mmmm, quite a different take on Life of Pi, Richard. Just as with The Shack I did not read Pi for its spiritual content. The Shack was put upon me and I can not even commend it for its particular writing style but I chose to read Pi and it remains one of my all time favorites because of the spell it cast upon me and the twist at the end. I never read fiction to find spiritual revelations only entertainment and a window into something factual that I may or may not delve into further. Pi entertained me The Shack bored me to tears. I think I will be safe among the trees.
Hope I'm still welcome to visit.
Review: 26 of fifty
Author: ERIK LARSON
Rating: 3.9* of five
This was another May TIOLI Challenge read.
It's an axiom that Great Men (and, one supposes, Great Women) are Unpleasant People. Larson's treatment of Guglielmo Marconi, great-great-great grandfather of the device you're reading this on, does nothing to dispel the miasma of meanness from him. What a rotten human being! How completely insensitive, how thoroughly obsessively devoted to his own self and comfort, what a complete rotter of a businessman!
Thank you, Guglielmo, for the gifts all that human wreckage you left behind have given us all. Rot in peace.
Then, at the precise opposite end of the emotional spectrum, lies the once-infamous, now largely forgotten, Dr. Hawley Crippen, who murdered his termagant of a wife (who *richly* deserved killing, being a female Marconi sans genius), so he could be with his little light-o-love. Didn't work out, needless to say, though if the Scotland Yard inspector had simply been told to go the hell away, the whole chase and capture and hanging might not have had to happen. There was no evidence of a killing, but the Inspector went on a fishing expedition in Crippen's basement--wouldn't be allowed today, not a chance!--and, well...he really did do it. Probably not alone, though....
Well, anyway, you've read The Devil in the White City and Isaac's Storm, so I needn't belabor the point that Larson has a magpie's eye for shiny things, bringing to the nest of the book a trove of odd and telling details about Edwardian London, about the nature of human relationships, about the science of radio waves as it was being discovered; most of all, he brings us characters we feel some connection to, and can really invest in. I know how the book ends before I pick it up, but I find myself wanting Crippen to get away with it and pulling for him and Ethel to make it to Canada *this time*.
They don't. Shame, that.
Wrap yourself in this big, warm greatcoat of a book that transports you back to an optimistic, doomed, bright summer afternoon of a time. It's oodles of fun, if you take it slowly and don't try to gulp it down. It's too big to swallow whole, and half the fun is setting the book down and savoring the images of this vanished world. Recommended to all but the most history-phobic.
#196: I am glad you liked Thunderstruck, Richard. Larson is one of my favorite nonfiction writers.
>194 Berly: Based on my family history and general advances in the health of the rich, I'm not likely goin' much of anywhere until 2070 or so. Everything that's wrong with me makes me more uncomfortable, not less likely to live. I am thoroughly rateful for joint problems instead of heart problems!
>195 Carmenere: Now none of that, Lynda, there is only one litmus test for visiting this thread: Bring No Cats.
Kath, if you GIF me with some horrid feline, I will make a voodoo dolly of your Favorite Teacher and cause her to develop an unquenchable love for you. Phone calls, lunch invitations, and all droningly dull...remember, now....
What an imaginative curse, Richard. May I borrow it? All the more delicious since I know it won't work on me---my favorite teacher is no longer with us and I don't believe even you can bring her back.
I really enjoyed Thunderstruck, and have the other two Larsons waiting for me. I kinda wanted them to get away with it too...what's wrong with us?
What a sad bunch: those of us who think, "Gee, I know it was a murder but still..." Great review, Richard. Larsen is a master at presenting a time and place.
Re: life of Pi I am frequently thankful for your, er incisiveness. My thought was limited to, "Geez, this is a silly waste of good writing". It's a good thing to have an articulate, witty reviewer. Thumbs up on both.
>199 laytonwoman3rd: Linda3rd, it' a cruel curse...a horrible one...Kath's work in a special needs classroom is made a living nightmare by the insensitivity and foolishness of the teacher "in charge" of the room...and it is to her that my now-tucked-away voodoo dolly was aimed. *evil chortle*
>200 bohemima: Gail, I think yours is the more concise way to say the same thing about "Pi". I merely decorated the same sentiment in meanness. Had a blast doing it, too.
As for all three of us wanting them to get away, I think it shows we're all romantics at heart. True Love *should* triumph, at lesat once in a while!
>201 mckait: GIFless, I see....
#202 Oh, don't get me started on the idiocy of the "teacher in charge". I once thought I wanted to teach high school. My experiences with student teaching were the stuff of nightmares. Once when I had a group of "business kids" enthusiastically engrossed in writing a poem in English class, my supervising teacher asked me "Just what is the point of this exercise? These kids don't need poetry." Of course I was too young and insecure to argue with her, but it was obvious by the way they took to the "exercise" that they did, indeed, NEED poetry quite a lot.
>205 jdthloue: Thanks, Jude! I hope you get to it soon, it's really a good read.
>204 laytonwoman3rd: Oh now look at that...Linda3rd opened the floodgates...
I student taught history, American, Revolutionary War period in a Texas high school. At issue: The Battle of Saratoga.
I could feel the kids glazing over as we plodded and scrabbled through the chronology of the Revolution. Came my moment to teach, and I made up a fact list about the Battle of Saratoga...who, what, when, where and why, plus as much how as I could bear.
I passed the sheet to each kid, had them read it, and then announced, "Count off." Surprised, they did. "Okay...evens are American reporters writing an account of the battle for Associated Press. Odds, you're Brits writing it for Reuters. You have 30 minutes, include two facts from each category, and you will be graded on spelling and punctuation. Go."
They wrote their hearts out! At the end of 30 minutes: "AMERICANS! Hand your stories to the Brit closest to you, who will hand YOU their story. Read, and we'll discuss tomorrow."
Buzzing, enthusiasm, lots of excitement...and the teacher tore me a new one for going off syllabus.
I am not now, nor have I ever been, a teacher. That's why.
My husband is a history teacher in the UK and this sounds like the sort of lesson that he teaches normally (at least when he's got time to plan something imaginative). In the States is the method of teaching set out as well as what you actually have to cover? In the UK we have the national curriculum but as long as the correct topics are covered and the exam results are fine I think the method of teaching is up to the teacher.
I am not now, nor have I ever been, a teacher. Yeah, me neither.
Review: 27 of fifty
Title: AUSTIN CITY BLUE
Author: JAN GRAPE
Rating: *** of 5
Jan Grape wrote a very competent first mystery in this Zoe Barrow, Wounded Cop, series. It's easy to read, it's got a decent plot, it's very atmospheric, and it's set in my hometown. All reasons to like it, and I did, just fine.
It's not great literature, but it's in no way a waste of a tree; it's not fancy, it's solid. I like that kind of book.
Grape wasn't a young'un when this book came out, which is a plus in my mind. She's a reader of long standing, and she's had oodles of short stories published in mystery anthologies over the years. Put all that together and I think it's no surprise that she's crafted something good: A female cop, not battle hardened, not world weary, and stubbornly optimistic. Zoe Barrow is the kinda gal you'd like to find on the barstool next to you...good at the chat, good at her job, and realistic about herself and the world. It makes her a good detective.
Zoe sounds like a gal after my own heart...will take note, sweetie. Sometimes, your recommends are good for me (just kidding...they are always, in varying degrees)....a dainty Thumb.
Hope you're having a decent Weekend. I am alone (praise the lord)
Okay...what is it with this dainty thumb thing? LOL. (#211) Richard, I like your style of teaching!
Oh yes, and Richard, what do you have against baseball? Your book counter and the lightning...
Review: 28 of seventy-five
Title: CHINA COURT
Author: RUMER GODDEN
Rating: 3.9* of five
When I was a youngster, my mother had a lot of books from the 1930s to the 1960s on her shelves. I was allowed to roam freely among them, because she said that if I was old enough to want to read something, I should be able to do so.
As one can imagine, the large majority of a mother's bookshelf wasn't all that appealing to a young boy...Taylor Caldwell, Mary Lasswell, Anya Seton, Kathleen Winsor, and Rumer Godden were all well-represented. I called them, collectively, "snoozer biddies." Lots of long-face about loves lost, and noble sacrifices in the name of love, and mothers Doing Their All for Their Children, and blah blah blah blah.
Forty years later, I pick up China Court at the prompting of memory and the LT connection cloud bringing Rumer Godden's name back up to me. I half-remember some plot points, I do remember thinking that the rest of the snoozer biddies shoulda talked to this lady, she knew her onions comes to writin', and this was a good story.
It's a good story! I think family sagas always appealed to me, and that's why this book snuck past the general opprobrium of youthful disdain heaped on the other books.
Not everyone in this book is likable, in fact most of them are pretty skeevy...motivated by greed, lust, vengeful meanness to do some extraordinaily good things, and some cruel ones too. It reminded me then, and does also now, of my own family.
China Court is a house. It's not some Stately Manor, it's a big, old-fashined family house. In the early 1960s, big places like this were in a serious period of desuetude in England. This book chronicles the house and the family's intertwined fates at this now-very-distant moment of crisis. It's structured in echo of the Book of Hours Mrs. Quin, the last nineteenth-century native to live in the house, treasured and apparently read often. A Book of Hours, for the non-Catholic, divides the day into periods of prayer. Most of us have heard the terms "Lauds" and "Prime" and so forth, but these are just words...the idea of them, their purpose, is to give a reverential and spiritual cast to a person's every day and every act.
Speaking as a practicing anti-Christian, I think this is one of the best, most missed, ideas that modernity has rendered obsolete. I think, if this system of spiritual organization were to be reintroduced, the number of people who *actually* understood the religion they profess would rise exponentially, and I am just optimist enough to hope that there would be a corresponding reduction in the amount of loathsome hate-speech emanating from them.
As a narrative force in this novel, I think it's excellent and inspired. I think Rumer Godden deserves the attention of today's readers for her technical talent, her spiritual message, and her ahead-of-the-curve ideas. I recommend this to you.
#214: I brought that one home from the library the other day after your mention on my thread. I am glad to hear that you still think it is a good story :)
Many of those authors were on my mother's bookshelves as well, Richard. (Never heard of Mary Laswell, though.) Add in Pearl Buck, Thomas B. Costain, John Steinbeck and John Galsworthy, and a few *shudder* Reader's Digest Condensed books for good measure. Of course, she also had a terribly naughty volume called Angelique, which I remember fondly because I read it in sneaky fashion, when no one else was at home. Nobody ever forbid me to read it, I just figured from the content that it might be considered "inappropriate" for my tender sensibilities. It probably wouldn't cause even my mother to bat an eyelash these days, and as I recall, the story was really quite good. It's one of the books I routinely look for at library sales and flea markets because it's gone collectible, apparently. An "acceptable" paperback copy goes for over $25.00 on all the used books sites, and better copies shoot up in price rapidly from there. Rumer Godden, in my mind, goes into a category with nuns who left convents and then wrote about it. I Leap Over the Wall, A Nun's Story, and The Family Von Trapp, for examples. Am I close?
>216 mckait: I don't think you should, dove...it's so mild.
>217 jdthloue: Jude m'dear, I think you'd pass out from boredom about p40. Run, little bunny, run away!
>218 laytonwoman3rd: Linda3rd, your chosen examples of un-nunned authoresses have great validity as thematic comparos. Baroness von Trapp, in particular, chose wholesome-family territory. But Godden was a divorced-and-remarried mum of two girls, never a nun, and she made wholesome dance the merengue with a rose in its teeth.
>218 laytonwoman3rd:...Angelique...oh my god..i think i have a copy somewhere in the house..a very OLD one saved from my Junior High School days!
>219 richardderus:..........never, never tell me to "run" from a particular book. That makes me want to "check it out" for myself...just to be contrary. Understand????
Good grief...we all had the same childhood!!!! It explains so much, doesn't it? Even the same illicit reading experiences. Heh.
Review: 29 of fifty
Title: WINGS OF FIRE
Author: CHARLES TODD
Rating: 4.1* of five
A more assured second outing for a mystery series that is becoming an addiction! This is a very well-written novel that happens to have a mystery at its center. The role of Hamish-the-voice is a little skimpier this time, not quite as loud on the page; I'm not sure that's entirely to my liking, but I think it's probably the best way to treat that difficult character. He could be a very great distraction, used too freely, though I find him fascinating...sleuth and sidekick only need one body!
I'm always interested in stories set in Cornwall, as this one is. It's such a different place, one that doesn't seem quite like England but undeniably is; it's so isolated (in English terms) from the main flow of the country that it seems to have all the advantages of being foreign...mystery, exoticism...without the inconvenience of learning a foreign language. Necessarily, that is, since a determined (an American would say "bloody-minded") effort is underway to "save" the Cornish tongue.
Inspector Ian Rutledge's work in this small Cornish village, whose Hall has seen three rapidly succesive deaths, is to determine with his London experience whether the local force did its job properly in ruling the deaths accidental or suicides. You can imagine that puts the backs up of pretty much the entire village as the news spreads! No one likes his territory big-footed across by the Big Noise from the City. It's just never a popular thing, and as the newsvine spreads the fact that it's a member of the Hall family...a cousin...who called in the Londoner, feeling runs even higher.
Todd examines how people, no matter their connection to events, respond to them with fierce passion. A simple childhood slight, an accident of observation, a detail changed by a fearful witness in a larger plan...all these play their role in creating and then sustaining a mystery that has at its heart the simplest of human motivations: Envy. Coming fresh off the Great War, this trope has special poignance, since it was largely the German Kaiser's envy of his cousins that set the conflict in motion.
I would recommend reading these books in order. I hope you'll give them a shot. They're good psychological novels that happen to come in a series and feature the same protagonist(s). Gladly recommended.
Excellent review, and the book sounds very interesting. My library doesn't carry that one specifically, but it has numerous other books from the series. Am I right in assuming the storyline isn't continuous, and that the novels can be read individually? If so, I might have to check one of them out the next time I'm itching for a mystery novel.
Ok. My library does have A Test of Wills, but after the books are scattered throughout the series. They have books 1, 3, 9, 11, and 12.
Aren't libraries puzzling when it comes to series? Some they buy every single one, some seem to float in on the tide onesy-twosy.
Still, with A Test of Wills in your mental furniture, feel free to leap like the chamois among the books.
Aren't libraries puzzling when it comes to series? Some they buy every single one, some seem to float in on the tide onesy-twosy.
Yea, and unfortunately my library is the latter. They don't seem to consider whether or not a book is part of a series in the least bit when making purchases. 90 percent of the fantasy section is obsolete because almost all of the books are a part of a series, and NONE of them are complete. The mystery section is much the same.
I've unjustly grown a bit of a hatred for publishers who don't mention that a book is part of a series on the cover. I used to check out books with absolutely no indication that they were part of a series only to get home and see on LT that it wasn't a stand alone novel. It was so irritating. There's nothing wrong with saying "book X of the Y series" on your cover/spine people! Bah!!
There's nothing wrong with saying "book X of the Y series" on your cover/spine people! Bah!!
I think they do themselves and their authors a disservice, myself. I pick it up, think it's a possibility, discover on getting it home that I am on book 3, and give the damned thing away. Bah, indeed.
Glad you're continuing to like the series, Richard. 4.1 indeed.
I broke down and actually bought a new copy of The Red Door, the most recent installation.
I'll probably start it next week.
I finally bought a copy of A Test of Wills and plan to read it this summer. Glad to see you enjoyed the second!
eta - Really Ape, a simple number on the spine indicating where a book is in a series is such a good (easy) idea!
>230 karenmarie: OH! It' Horrible Karen, the crack pusheress who addicted me to these books! How are you today, Horrible?
Seriously...the books are getting better, and that's saying quite a lot. Unlike Three Pines, I don't feel the need to up sticks and move to Rutledge's England (besides, the time machine's on the fritz), but the series is very much as good as Penny's.
>231 Copperskye: Careful, Joanne, that's some addictive reading...you were warned....
The Mystery look very yummy rdear... I may have to venture into that series..
APE ~ even more puzzling when complete series is offered and they do not have it and they say no thank you..
I always look our for series, and if they don't have book one, I pass..
they are so common these days. Of course if LTER sends me book #5 .. what can I do :)
Crack pusheress Horrible Karen is doing okay. I neglected to say I liked your review very much.
I read, and enjoyed, A Test of Wills way before I joined LT...meant to continue with the series....but "the road to hell....." and all. Excellent review, Sweets....the series has been on THE LIST since whenever...maybe someday 'fore i croak!
A dainty ThumbyThing......too
My review of Brown Girl in the Ring will be up sometime today..I have a friend coming over to hijack, I mean "use", my computer this afternoon...so reviewing is on Hold for now
Richard, 229: I think they do themselves and their authors a disservice, myself. I pick it up, think it's a possibility, discover on getting it home that I am on book 3, and give the damned thing away. Bah, indeed.
I imagine it has all to do with book sales and profits. You go into a store and see a book that's the 3rd book of a series you are less likely to buy it. You'll be more likely to make the purchase if you think it's a stand alone novel, and if you find out otherwise later it doesn't matter to the publisher - they still sold a book. Profits before consumer satisfaction Richard! :)
May I butt in on the Series question? I know that my Library here does not always have an entire Series "on the shelves"...but there is Inter Library Loan...where you can find all kinds of s**t that your local "branch" might not carry. ILL has saved my life, and sanity, many times in the past..and, so far, in Ohio..it's still Free
>233 mckait: You'll appreciate the character of Hamish, dearest, once you get past the way he came to be. It's devilishly clever, this idea of hero/sidekick in one package.
>234 karenmarie: Thank you, Karen! I mean, Horrible!
>235 Copperskye: Nooo...not bad, precisely, but quite important for you, or any prospective reader, to know.
>236 jdthloue: Thanks for the thumb, Jude! Now get that review up...I've never read any Nalo Hopkinson and I need to know if I should.
>237 Ape: Sales and profits, sales and profits
Go together like tubercular cough-fits
This I tell you, brother
You can't escape from one or t'other
--to the tune of "Love and Marriage"
Sometimes, it isn't in the county..
Our system doesn't allow for us to request online..
We have to get the librarians to do it..
I am glad that so many of us pass books around.
>242 mckait: Kath, you can't do ILL on your own? that is a shame!...I can request books from the Library here, at home, from my own computer...Darn, girl!...now i will remember that, and offer books to more folks here..
Richard..the review be up...here
and on my thread at 25 BOOKS
Nope.. our system is .. not the best :) I can order things from the next county at their site... but, I usually just don't . Wehn I get out of work, I just want to come home, not go and battle for parking... so.. it is partly me being lazy..
No worries about me though.. I somehow manage to manage :)
#244 You manage more than most!
#245 Nice accent.
Off to read Jude's review...
Review: 30 of fifty
Title: PADDY CLARKE, HA-HA-HA
Author: RODDY DOYLE
Rating: 3* of five
Books written in the voice of a child had best use that technique for a reason...the child's perspective becomes wearing unless there is some very, very compelling narrative reason to make us follow a kid around without wanting to scream blue murder after a while.
I don't find any such compelling reason in this book. I don't find anything compelling at all in this book, as a matter of fact.
Ireland sounds damned good and dreary, and I am rethinking my desire to visit. I hate priests, nuns, and the Catholic Church with a vibrating Day-Glo orange passion. I'm beginning to hate all the fools and cruels who dare to become parents in Ireland, too. All the cheery Irish that exist appear to have moved here and taken up writing about the badness of Irish childhoods.
Blech. I don't want to talk about this book anymore. Read it at your peril. Why did I give it three stars? Because the writing, the descriptions, the sheer visual acuity of it makes anything less a dishonest rating, one based on my growing dislike of the country it's about, not a judgment of the book's merits.
I'm curious, Richard. Is Paddy Clarke YA? I ask because I don't believe I have ever read an adult fiction told in a child's voice. Sort of disconcerting IMO.
After reading Maeve Binchy, I've put off Ireland indefinately.
>248 alcottacre: I'm right there with ya, Sister Woman.
>249 Carmenere: No, it's an adult novel, I would *never* give it to a kid under 16. Y'know, Lynda, it's not a safe technique for a writer to employ. Look at The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie for a great cautionary tale...most of the gritches I've seen against that book are about the unbelievability of the child narratrix's voice. I liked one book told this way, What Maisie Knew, a lot. Most others, not so much.
Sorry that you didn't like it. I thoroughly enjoyed Paddy's voice and character, and I can't think of any other book I've read where a child's voice was so convincing and compelling.
Agreed; it's definitely an adult novel.
>251 calm: True that, calm, new thread time...but I have a quandary...should I move to the 50-Books challenge? Club Read appears to ignore me, which is fine and their privilege, but I'm accustomed to more give-and-take from the 75-Books experience.
I feel the need to ponder. I'll post the results of the pondering.
>252 kidzdoc: I can see that it's good writing, Darryl, I'm just *over* the sad-Irish-childhood trope.
How does Club Read ignore you?
I've read every one of your threads and others. But I've only read 2 of the books you have mentioned in this thread so I just don't comment.
But we enjoy your presence. :)
>255 lilisin: Well, okay, lilisin...I'm just accustomed to more of a "small-town-front-porch" atmosphere of visiting and chatting. It's not the group that's wronged me, it's that I wonder if I'm in the wrong group, is all.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.