Mabith's books in 2013

Discussão100 Books in 2013 Challenge

Entre no LibraryThing para poder publicar.

Mabith's books in 2013

Este tópico está presentemente marcado como "inativo" —a última mensagem tem mais de 90 dias. Reative o tópico publicando uma resposta.

1mabith
Editado: Dez 16, 2013, 7:11 pm

I read 156 last year, but that wasn't really a goal I was working towards.

This year I'm planning to focus on some of my longer audio books and the print books that I own but haven't read yet. It's difficult for me to hold print books for long, so I think it will result in a bit less reading.

The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey
War Underground by Alexander Barrie
The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection by Alexander McCall Smith
The March of Folly by Barbara Tuchman
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
The Nazi Officer's Wife by Edith Hahn Beer
Toms River by Dan Fagin
The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother by Xinran

Sister Citizen by Melissa V. Harris-Perry
Regeneration by Pat Barker
Fooling Houdini by Alex Stone
The Pilgrim of Hate by Ellis Peters
Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
American Nations by Colin Woodard
The Face of Battle by John Keegan
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Yokohama Yankee by Leslie Helm

The Violinist's Thumb by Sam Kean
Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla by Marc Seifer
Lotions, Potions, and Deadly Elixirs by Wayne Bethard
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire
Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz
In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally
David Mitchell: Back Story by David Mitchell (the comedian)

Mythologies by Roland Barthes
Tennis Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
A History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage
An Excellent Mystery by Ellis Peters
Island of Vice by Richard Zacks

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
Yiddishkeit by Paul Buhle and Harvey Pekar (editors)
Last Voyage of Columbus by Martin Dugard
Gulp by Mary Roach
We Are On Our Own by Miriam Katin

Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
The Eye of Jade by Diane Wei Liang
The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton
The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Girl Trouble by Carol Dyhouse
Last Ditch by Ngaio Marsh
Psmith, Journalist by PG Wodehouse
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Triangle: The Fire That Changed America by David von Drehle
The River of Doubt by Candice Millard
The Honest Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely
Life Disrupted by Laurie Edwards
A House Divided by Pearl S. Buck

Getting Stoned With Savages by J. Maarten Troost
The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan
Faith and Treason: The Story of the Gunpowder Plot by Antonia Frasier
Peter Duck by Arthur Ransome
A Brief History of Roman Britain by JP Alcock

The Wet and the Dry by Lawrence Osborne
The Dragon Scroll by I.J. Parker
The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde
Slavery by Another Name by Douglas A. Blackmon
The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

1066: The Year of the Conquest by David Howarth
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
The Student Loan Scam by Alan Collinge
The Man Who Ate His Boots by Anthony Brandt
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Life and Ideas of James Hillman by Dick Russell
A Night to Remember by Walter Lord
The Girls of Murder City by Douglas Perry
The Raven in the Foregate by Ellis Peters
The Girls of Room 28 by Hannelore Brenner

Candide by Voltaire
Leave it to Psmith by PG Wodehouse
Gun Thugs, Rednecks, and Radicals by David Alan Corbin
Bad Astronomy by Philip C. Plait
The White Cat by Mme. La Comtesse D'aulnoy

Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage
The Endurance by Caroline Alexander
To Love and Be Wise by Josephine Tey
Against Their Will by Allen Hornblum

Pies and Prejudice by Stuart Maconie
Moment of Battle by Jim Lacey
Stilwell and the American Experience in China by Barbara Tuchman
The Painted Garden by Noel Streatfeild
A Blink of the Screen by Terry Pratchett

The Rose Rent by Ellis Peters
Holidays and Other Disasters by John G. Rodwan, Jr.
The Whiskey Rebellion by William Hogeland
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Trouping by Philip C. Lewis

A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama
Raven Flight by Juliet Marillier
Destiny Disrupted by Tamim Ansary
After the Funeral by Agatha Christie
The Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum

Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
Just Kids by Patti Smith
The Great Crash, 1929 by John Kenneth Galbraith
Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
The Great War in Africa by Byron Farwell
The Hermit of Eyton Forest by Ellis Peters

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Indian Givers by Jack Weatherford
Searching for Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
The Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth
The Bondwoman's Narrative by Hannah Crafts

Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney
For All the Tea in China by Sarah Rose
2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America by Albert Brooks
How to Build a Dinosaur by Jack Horner and James Gorman
At the Dark End of the Street by Danielle L. Mcguire

Charlatan by Pope Brock
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe
Dancing Aztecs by Donald E. Westlake
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford
Unimagined by Imran Ahmad

2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
Turing's Cathedral by George Dyson
The Riddle of the Labyrinth by Margalit Fox
The Confession of Brother Haluin by Ellis Peters
The Mating Season by PG Wodehouse

Marie Curie and her Daughters by Shelley Emling
Sapper Martin (edited)by Richard Van Emden
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
The Great Race by David Hill
The War That Killed Achilles by Caroline Alexander

Sailor Moon Box Set by Naoko Takeuchi
Vikings by Neil Oliver
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
A Clown Like Me by Joan Oppenheimer

1493 by Charles C. Mann
Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
You Are Now Less Dumb by David McRaney
Mary Boleyn by Alison Weir
Swallowdale by Arthur Ransome

The Captured by Scott Zesch
East End Tales by Gilda O'Neill
The Heretic's Apprentice by Ellis Peters
Song of Survival by Helen Colijn
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

Talking to Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
Storm of Steel by Ernst Junger
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
One Day I Will Write About This Place by Binyavanga Wainaina
Nella Last's War by Nella Last

The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin

156

2wookiebender
Jan 2, 2013, 3:09 am

Looking forward to your 2013 reads!

3mabith
Jan 2, 2013, 10:15 am

And me to yours! I'm away from home until tonight and quite antsy about getting back to my audiobooks and such.

4judylou
Jan 3, 2013, 4:34 am

Look forward to following your thread here.

5mabith
Jan 3, 2013, 5:05 pm

Thanks, Judy, I feel the same about yours. It's really neat seeing everyone's reading habits, and having little blurbs or mini-reviews to offer a bit more guidance than just a star rating.

6mabith
Jan 3, 2013, 5:14 pm

1 - The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey

This is definitely not one of my favorite Tey novels, and probably my least favorite with Inspector Grant. Even though this was one of her last books the attitudes seem much more dated than in earlier works. Perhaps she got more conservative as she grew older? There was a really odd moment in which she had Grant saying that all Americans end up looking like "red Indians," which rather baffled me given, you know, history. There were just a lot of odd moments.

Generally I love Tey, because her mysteries are a little off-beat. They come together slowly and carefully without a lot of rushing about or action. There's often no real love story aspect and that's nice as well (or when there is it's done in a non-annoying way).

The plot is still good in this, it's the usual Tey fare, just an extra heaping helping of casual sexism and racism.

7mabith
Jan 5, 2013, 9:47 pm

2 - War Underground by Alexander Barrie

This book was excellent. It follows the British tunneling efforts by first covering the formation of the units and men behind that, and then focusing on individuals and specific events. Throughout the book it breaks away to talk about how these units were run or were getting along with the regular army, etc...

The writing is good and interesting, if a tiny bit dated in style, the stories are all generally amazing, I didn't notice any anti-German feeling, and the book is ordered chronologically. It ends with the Messines Ridge attack. The basic moral is "Pretty much every mine blown resulted in extra British losses and the effort generally only served to make the infantry feel slightly less paranoid." It really is staggering how utterly useless it was, apart from the Messines Ridge attack, and of course that was the idea that it took the leaders the longest to come around to.

I do recommend this, if you can find it! If you enjoyed Sebastian Faulks' Birdsong and want the real story on the mining then this is the book for you.

8clfisha
Jan 6, 2013, 1:44 pm

wow 156 books :) just dropping by to say Hi and wishing you good luck this year.

9mabith
Jan 6, 2013, 1:56 pm

Thanks!

10mabith
Editado: Jan 7, 2013, 12:13 pm

3 - The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection by Alexander McCall Smith

One of the things I enjoy about these stories is that they're easy, lazy reading (or listening, in my case, as the readers are excellent). There are a few different cases/issues going on at once and they get resolved at their pace, and you know they will be resolved. I'm quite happy with books that don't have me on the edge of my seat.

This one is perhaps a bit sillier than some of the others, but still enjoyable. I do think Mr. McCall should probably quit while he's ahead, but I've gotten very much in favor of things ENDING lately. There are so many books in the world that no series, no matter how enjoyable or loved, needs to just keep going and going until everyone's sick of it.

Don't get me started on how many TV shows need to bloody well end already...

11judylou
Jan 7, 2013, 7:00 pm

I have this one on my mp3 ready to go, but I am having trouble getting the previous one in the series from the library which is annoying. I too enjoy listening to these easy going stories. They are fun.

12mabith
Jan 8, 2013, 9:28 am

I hope you get the previous one soon! Even though this kind of series doesn't really need to be read in chronological order, it does really annoy me to not be able to (I've been paused on a favorite mystery series for months because I can't find the next one read by the person I like).

13jfetting
Jan 8, 2013, 3:35 pm

I LOVE whoever reads the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency books. Love, love, love. Her accent is perfect.

14mabith
Jan 8, 2013, 4:18 pm

Lisette Lecat does the American audiobooks and Adjoa Andoh does the British ones. I'm not sure why they have two different readers. The two are quite similar, though Andoh uses a slightly sharper/harsher accent for dialogue.

What's weirder is that Andoh does the narration for the American version of the Precious Ramotswe children's series, but they're continuing to release the adult books with Lecat. Andoh was the reader for Half of a Yellow Sun, which I read last year, and I really liked her, but I'm quite happy they've stuck with Lecat who is just SO pleasant to listen to.

15judylou
Jan 9, 2013, 2:19 am

#13 Yes! The accent is just magical. But I'm not sure which one I've been listening to.

Have you watched the TV series? I really enjoyed that as well.

16mabith
Jan 9, 2013, 9:18 am

I didn't even know there was a TV series!

17judylou
Jan 9, 2013, 6:43 pm

You should look for it. It's well worth finding.

18mabith
Jan 13, 2013, 8:42 pm

4 - The March of Folly by Barbara Tuchman

This book covers but a few examples of the way we're capable of continuing a course of action even when many around us have quite convincing evidence that it's the wrong choice.

It mostly focuses on the renaissance popes, Britain's loss of the American colonies, and the war in Vietnam. I admit I flagged a bit during the papal insanity, especially as I'd just read a book which touched on some of that.

Unless you really enjoy history, Tuchman will probably give you far more information than you really want. What I found most interesting was the Vietnam section, as it starts the story right at the beginning, after the end of WWII. I have a relatively good grounding in the history of the main war years, but really didn't know anything about the stupidity happening in the 1950s. I recommend reading that section if, like me, you really only know about the years we had a lot of troops there.

What's also interesting is that the British actually did learn a lesson from the Revolutionary War, exampled by their acceptance (creation) of the Commonwealth system. Sadly, many in the US learned absolutely nothing from the Vietnam war.

19mabith
Jan 17, 2013, 3:00 pm

5 - Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin

This is such a lovely, wonderful book! It bears pretty much no resemblance to the Shirley Temple movie, other than a young girl being sent to a crotchety old aunt. However, after one page you can see why someone thought of Shirley Temple. Rebecca is basically the archetype of Temple's movie and public persona.

The book follows Rebecca from age 11 or so to about 17. It's nice because she doesn't really change as she gets older, in terms of suddenly being perfect or suddenly having a host of beaux. She also doesn't have some super huge profound effect on the other characters. She has small effects on people, but there's no sudden rehabilitation. It's a lovely, generally realistic book in that sense.

Highly recommended!

20mabith
Jan 18, 2013, 1:47 pm

6 - The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I may be the only person not enamored of this book, but that's okay. I wasn't over the moon about his first book either (Looking for Alaska). It's not like I hate his books, but they're just a little too teenage for me, in the way where if you are long past that point in your life (and though I'm only 27, I became chronically ill at 19 and disabled at 20).

The character of Augustus just bothered me. I know there are a few teenagers who do the "I'm so grown up, I'm going to talk about symbolism or existentialism all the time," but in my experience they act that way more towards adults than to their peers. Anyone who got even a bit pretentious when I was a teenager was immediately subjected to constant eye-rolling and teasing. I went to a very academically rigorous boarding school, where there was a lot of adult conversation and serious discussion, but it wasn't forced, it wasn't a show, and it wasn't a 24/7 thing.

This book and Looking for Alaska felt disjointed to me. Parts of them are excellent and Green gets everything right, well-rounded realistic characters, relatable situations... But then there's a crack or a schizm, or one character is just so out of place and unbelievable, and it goes downhill for me. This one had a nice sort of twist, but some of the characters felt like grownups' ideas of their ideal teenager self, and I really hate that in YA. Usually I'd say "Oh but I'm sure I would have loved it if I were still 16," but with the way Augustus is written I don't think that's true. It's quite possible I'm not reading into enough, and I'm sure it can be analyzed to make perfect sense, but that's not how teenagers read and that's not how most adults read.

Because a lot of my experiences and issues with chronic pain and disability overlap with the experiences of his cancer patients, I feel confident in saying he gets a lot of emotions perfectly in this book, which is a pretty big task.

21judylou
Jan 18, 2013, 11:15 pm

I will be reading The Fault in our Stars sometime soon. I'll come back and let you know if I agree with you.

22mabith
Jan 18, 2013, 11:43 pm

I hope you enjoy it! I can see why people like him, I just can't get there. I really don't want to have read deeply into everything when I read any book, so maybe that's part of my issue.

23mabith
Jan 20, 2013, 10:35 am

7 - The Nazi Officer's Wife by Edith Hahn Beer

This is an excellent book. The writing/translation are good, and Beer tells her story well. It progresses in tight chronological order and there weren't any "Wait, what?" moments as far as chronology jumps go.

Beer is sent to various work details early in the war, but manages to avoid being sent to a ghetto and begins hiding in plain sight, pretending to be a gentile. I would say at least half of the book takes place prior to that.

The audiobook version is very well-read by Barbara Rosenblat.

24snarkhunting
Jan 23, 2013, 1:52 pm

Just stopping in to say hi, but you have piqued my interest with the Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency audiobooks. I need something nice to listen to.

25mabith
Jan 24, 2013, 10:57 am

8 - Toms River by Dan Fagin

When I received this book I was not in the mood to read about chemical companies' complete disregard for anything but profits or pollution or cancer. However, it immediately drew me in and I read 134 pages in the first sitting. I've also been compelled to tell everyone I'm in contact with about it.

Fagin's writing and structuring is particularly effective in keeping the book lively and interesting and preventing it from becoming overwhelming. He shifts between the specific history of Toms River, of the plant, its employees, and the citizens, and the history of industrial waste disposal, environmental safeguards, and the history of epidemiology, cancer, cancer treatments and research. The background feeds directly into the issues in Toms River, and each section seemed necessary.

While I find science interesting, it's certainly not specialist subject, but I didn't feel overwhelmed by the information presented. Fagin writes very clearly, and seems to keep the general audience in mind. For instance, if an acronym hasn't been used for a while he reminds you what it stands for (a move I greatly appreciate). There is a real balance in this book, both in the information reported (epidemiology is rarely completely obvious and solid) and between telling the scientific story and the human story.

I highly recommend this book, and really can't find anything to criticize. It will be released in mid-March, and I predict a swift rise to the best sellers lists.

26mabith
Jan 25, 2013, 9:41 pm

9 - The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

This is an excellent book, deserving of the praise it's gotten. I applied for it when it was available as an ER, but didn't get it. The audiobook is read by Elizabeth McGovern, whose narration took a while to grow on me. She reads it purposefully slowly, projecting the old woman, but the main character, Cora, isn't old when the book opens, and I do dislike slow readers.

Plot-wise it follows a woman in her mid-30s who is accompanying Louise Brooks to New York as a chaperone. She is rigid and old-fashioned, but Louise is hard to control. She is also there to seek information about her parents, as she was orphaned in New York.

The writing is excellent and the story flows well, and is imminently believable. The one quibble with research is Cora's constant complaint about her corset. Most women were not over-tightening their corsets. I own and wear real, tight-lacing, corsets (as opposed to costume/fashion pieces). You can reduce three-four inches with no discomfort at all. It seems especially unlikely that a married woman who wasn't particularly concerned with looking attractive would be over-tightening hers. It's mentioned often enough to be annoying, I imagine Moriarty does show to symbolize Cora's old-fashioned views constraining her life, etc... but still. Also Moriarty often says Cora can't reach to get something due to the corset, which I found difficult to believe. It changes the way you move to reach something, but not the fact of reaching.

I do absolutely recommend the book though.

27mabith
Jan 27, 2013, 11:46 pm

10 - Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother by Xinran

I was oddly disappointed in this one. It's supposed to focus on mothers who give up their children (mostly daughters) in China, the reasons they do this, and is kind of purporting to be a good text for adoptive parents and adopted children.

It's one of those books that you feel bad criticizing, but I really felt it struck the wrong chord. I found Xinran's writing style unpleasant in this context. Even though of course she's interviewed/talked to these women, I felt she was too present in the book. It's full of "I's" on her part, and she records conversations as dialogue, as opposed to pulling back and letting the women's stories take center stage. She instead puts herself in the center, making sure you know everything she did to get the story plus her reactions to every thing.

She also brings her own life into it, despite her situation being very different. Her mother, like many mothers of that era, put the Party ahead of her family and was then jailed for 10 years during the Cultural Revolution (as was her father). However, Xinran's family was eventually reunited. While a book about her experiences and her relationship with her mother (and hopefully a sharing of stories between them, about that ten-year period) would be very interesting, this was NOT that book.

She states in the beginning that she'd like to ask her mother about those ten years, but shifts focus to wanting her mother to hear about her life during those 'orphan' years (and doesn't mention interest in her mother's experiences again). She states that she had parents but they didn't love her, which seems like a very cruel statement (as opposed to "they didn't outwardly SHOW they loved her," which I'm sure is true), particularly since she hadn't bothered to talk to her mother about these issues. It's especially striking since she constantly defends the mothers who had to abandon children against their detractors in this book.

I'm going on and on, I know, but it almost sounded like a passive aggressive note in parts, so her mother will start the conversation first. I just kept feeling that if I were an adopted child this book would be of very little help to me. It tries too hard to straddle the line between an informative non-fiction book and a memoir or newspaper series, or feels as though it sprang from pieces she just couldn't quite fit into her book The Good Women of China.

28mabith
Jan 30, 2013, 8:55 pm

11 - Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America by Melissa V. Harris-Perry

This is an important book that anyone living in the US should read.

I grew up in an almost completely white town, but with well-meaning liberal parents who did things like diversifying the all-white picture books (before they could afford better books) by coloring the children in with colored pencils. The benefit of that town was that I didn't hear people making racist remarks, but we all have internalized racism, and we all lack awareness of the lives of people around us, and the struggles others face.

I really recommend this one. The writing, structure, and research are excellent. It's silly to try to summarize, and my opinions on this subject (no matter what they are) aren't particularly useful and certainly aren't important.

The book opens with this poem by Kate Rushin, and whether or not the book sounds interesting to you, do read the poem. It's short.

29judylou
Jan 31, 2013, 5:58 pm

Definitely a very strong voice in that poem.

30mabith
Editado: Fev 4, 2013, 11:00 pm

12 - Regeneration by Pat Barker

This book hit all the notes for me - WWI, poetry, and psychology have been long-time interests in my life. It is a fictionalized version of Siegfried Sassoon's time in treatmeat at Craighlockhart hospital after he published his latter against the war and Robert Graves managed to get him a medical board.

It focuses heavily on WH Rivers, the doctor who treated him, and the other patients (fictional, one assumes) he treated. It is not a book with a traditionally structured plot, but more just a lovely vignette into that time. They made a movie of the book called Behind the Lines, which I highly recommend. I actually watched it a couple years ago and didn't realize it was based on a book.

I feel like I'm the last person reading this, but in case I'm not, I highly recommend it.

31mabith
Editado: Fev 6, 2013, 9:56 pm

13 - Fooling Houdini by Alex Stone

I really enjoyed this book, though I don't really have an interest in magic (other than the interesting history). A lot of the book covers WHY magic tricks work, and specific aspects of our brains and how they function. Stone goes back and forth between stories of his personal life and how he learned magic, and long passages of science.

Definitely recommended.

32mabith
Fev 6, 2013, 10:01 pm

14 - The Pilgrim of Hate by Ellis Peters

Cadfael is always wonderful, though this wasn't one of my favorites. Most of the book is just sort of "a weekend in the life..." and it's over halfway through the book before there's any investigation going on. It wasn't bad, just not one of my favorites thus far.

33mabith
Fev 10, 2013, 9:04 pm

15 - Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves

This is the book that's been on my "I really have to get back to that..." list for the longest. I read the first few chapters about 4 1/2 years ago.

It was pretty much what I expected, very much a product of that time and his upbringing. I enjoyed it, especially the parts focusing on the the war in France, but I didn't love it. I find it a little odd that I don't have more to say about the book, but that experience/life/style is so ... not cliche, but it's become a trope that I'm very used to reading about.

When he's in Egypt at the end, I found more difficult to read that, having read a fair bit (fiction and non-fiction) about Egypt during WWI and after. Particularly the "Well how ungallant of the Egyptians to be nattering about independence, they'd be asking us back to fix things if we left" lines. Luckily it wasn't much of the book.

34wookiebender
Fev 11, 2013, 5:56 am

#28> thanks for the poem, it was very good.

And I haven't read Regeneration! You're not the last person to read it. :)

35mabith
Fev 15, 2013, 12:27 am

16 - The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein

Like most women, I assume, I hate Heinlein's women. Wyoming is allowed to be passionate and idealistic and brave, but nothing else. They get patted on the head for being well-meaning and then the men think things through for them. Blech.

Aside from that, I have issues with most space-based science-fiction. In my head the idea of space travel and space living has been set since I was a child. I would like to read more modern (post-1950) science-fiction, I just find it difficult to locate titles I'll enjoy. I also just don't want any "small group of people fighting against evil government/corporation" books unless they're like Little Fuzzy.

36mabith
Fev 16, 2013, 2:48 pm

17 - American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard

This was one of my books from my LT Santa and she couldn't have picked better! It was really fascinating, and everything rang true. You read going "Oh yeah, X part of this state does have more in common with X part of another state..." For me especially it made sense because I spend my life trying to explain that West Virginia is not a southern state in a cultural sense (except maybe Beckley where I can't have a two-second conversation without someone saying "Well bless yer heart").

Woodard brings us all the way up to the present day, in terms of how elections play out, etc... Most interesting for many of us, I think, will be the sections about the Civil War and the real, cultural divisions during that conflict.

My only quibble was in the beginning where Woodard says that Appalachian's fighting nature is what makes them join the military in high rates. Sorry, but it's a combination of poverty, isolation, and lack of jobs. The military is the only path to college for many people in WV, and the only way to get out of their small, stifling, rural area for others. I grew up with tons of people who'd never been out of WV even when I lived in a town on the Ohio river, where you could walk to Ohio in about fifteen minutes.

I most heartily recommend this book. It was excellent.

37ronincats
Fev 16, 2013, 3:30 pm

Have you ever read any Bujold or Elizabeth Moon or Sharon Lee? Try Shards of Honor or Hunting Party or Agent of Change for starters.

38mabith
Fev 16, 2013, 4:08 pm

I have read some Bujold (incl. Shards of Honor, I think), I have a friend who's very into Bujold and Mike Shepherd and SF in general and pushes them on me. Really, reading about type of war or battle or military establishment in science-fiction or fantasy just bores me, since if I want to read about that sort of thing I'll read history or historical fiction.

So I loved Little Fuzzy and To Your Scattered Bodies Go and quite liked The Long Earth, but those types of science-fiction book seem harder to find without specific recommendations or if you're not heavily into the genre. I'll also happily read the ridiculous old stuff (Arthur Conan Doyle and such).

39jfetting
Fev 17, 2013, 2:15 pm

Adding American Nations to the TBR list. It sounds fascinating.

40mabith
Fev 18, 2013, 11:05 am

18 - The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme by John Keegan

This was an interesting "new" look at battle for the individual soldier's sake rather than a look at outcomes or what led to the battle or how specific leader commanded it.

While the main focus is on the three battles mentioned in the title, it does randomly talk about the way battle itself has changed, how the emotional impact on individual soldiers has changed, how that relates to the culture/society that they grew up in, etc... It's an interesting book, which I'll have to re-read sometime, as I've had a bad flu most of the time I was listening to it, and slightly feel I didn't absorb as much as I could have.

41mabith
Fev 22, 2013, 12:01 pm

19 - Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

I didn't dislike this book, but I didn't really enjoy it either. I can't pinpoint exactly why, only that I'm not really a huge fantasy person. The fantasy I do really enjoy tends to be based in reality (most of Juliet Marillier's books, for instance). This one was well-written, of course, and the basic concept of the world was interesting, it just wasn't quite my style.

42mabith
Fev 27, 2013, 6:26 pm

20 - Yokohama Yankee: My Family's Five Generations as Outsiders in Japan by Leslie Helm

This is an interesting book I received through the ER program.

It chronicles the author's own life and family in Yokohama, Japan and the United States over the generations. It was certainly an interesting story, and their difficulties as outsiders in Japan matches what I've heard from Americans living there.

While the writing isn't tight enough to vault this to the next level of memoirs, it was engaging and I always wanted to keep reading it. The reading also just flew by. The book is full of pictures, both of the Helm family and general atmospheric shots. This is an uncorrected proof, but hopefully the finished version will have captions on all the family photos. The lack of them was fairly annoying.

I have an innate interest in family histories, my own and everyone else's, so this was a good book for me. Again, the writing could have been tighter (and no one should use the phrase youthful breasts, which is just completely unnecessary, we know you're talking about a teenager, just say chest or breasts, adding 'youthful' seems to sexualize them unnecessarily). but the author is a professional journalist and it wasn't bad. It had more of a finished book feel than the last family history written by a journalist I read (The Forgetting River), but it did go back and forth between the author's own history and his family (though that was kept in chronological order, for the most part).

43mabith
Mar 3, 2013, 1:12 pm

Describe yourself: Bright-Sided
Describe how you feel: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
Describe where you currently live: On Gold Mountain (Well, I live in the most mountainous state...)
If you could go anywhere, where would you go? Small Island
Your favourite form of transportation: The Bounty (boat)
Your best friend is: Under the North Light
You and your friends are: The Good Girls Revolt
What's the Weather Like: Nothing to Envy
You fear: Wild Swans
What is the best advice you have to give? You Are Not So Smart
Thought for the Day: To Hell And Back (so worn out from a long car trip)
How I would like to die: Chocolate Wars
My Soul's Present Condition: Half Broke Horses

44mabith
Mar 9, 2013, 11:52 pm

21 - The Violinists's Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code by Sam Kean

I've done so little reading this month! I'm nearly done with the 22 hour audiobook Tesla biogrpahy, and just took a break to finish this, since it was the book I chose for my non-fiction book club.

This, like Kean's previous book The Disappearing Spoon, wanders all around. I'm not sure why these books can't be written in chronological order. Doing that would help me in keeping things straight.

There was lots of good information in this one, though it's hard to feel it's a coherent story, because it's not of course. I did find Kean to be a bit sexist and just unthinking. He talked about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemming's "relationship" as though it were romantic and they started it on an even footing! WTF.

45mabith
Mar 11, 2013, 4:21 pm

22 - Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla by Marc Seifer

I can not express how happy I am to have finished this book. It was a 22 hour audio and focused far more on the science of his discoveries/inventions than on his life. It's the science I'm good at understanding, so it was feeling a bit endless.

If you want to read a book that makes you both confused and angry over how unpractical/narcissistic some of these geniuses are, this is the book for you! This was just too much for me, interested as much of it was.

46mabith
Mar 14, 2013, 6:21 pm

23 - Lotions, Potions, and Deadly Elixirs: Frontier Medicine in the American West by Wayne Bethard

This book tries to be too many things. It wants to be a catalog of personal remembrances, a reference guide, and a history. It did not succeed at being any of these things.

In the first section it describes the different classifications of medicine, for example "The Wets." Many of these descriptions include personal memories, some of which have absolutely nothing to do with the subject (such as the amount of lard his grandmother consumed, a paragraph tacked onto a sections about paints and tars). This is a common occurrence throughout the book. The subject matter also doesn't adequately reflect the title of the book, with numerous anecdotes taking place neither in the west nor on the frontier.

Another issue I had was simply the writing. The author will use uncommon words without explanation (or will add an explanation during the third use of the word three pages later), but will then give a strict definition of what a powder is -- albeit by using words like comminuted and triturated (also without explantion). He also sometimes gives a common name for a plant or parasite, but will then give only Latin names for the next two or three.

The author often uses bad grammar for atmosphere but only sporadically. The general structure and style was also problematic. In a few instances he relates his reaction to a story before telling the story, he refers to a woman who dressed as a man to join the army as a "woman impersonator,” doesn't seem to question most of the stories or anecdotes related to the cure-alls, and doesn't mention the placebo effect even once (while constantly wondering if these remedies worked as well as testimonials claimed). The tone is also frequently patronizing towards women and non-Caucasians.

The second half of the book purports to be a "materia medica" but continues to include random personal memories. Not to mention that there are many far more detailed compilations of herbs and folk remedies already in publication. It seems more likely that the author wanted to put together a book of interesting stories of early(ish) America with a vaguely medical theme, rather than a true history of patent medicine.

It's yet another book that doesn't appear to have been edited by anyone but the author. Honestly, I found something to write a negative note about on every single page. It was immensely frustrating, especially since I was so excited to get this one (it's an ER). Given that the book is dominated by random stories it probably barely counts of non-fiction.

47wookiebender
Mar 16, 2013, 10:03 pm

What a shame, the title is definitely intriguing!

48mabith
Mar 17, 2013, 10:47 am

Yeah, it definitely seemed like my kind of book and was the first ER I'd gotten in a while that I'd been really excited about from the get-go. C'est la vie! This was actually it's second publication, as it come out in hardcover some years ago, which kind of blows my mind, given the poor quality of the writing and structure.

49jfetting
Mar 17, 2013, 12:12 pm

Too bad it was a disappointment - it did sound like it could be fun.

50mabith
Mar 17, 2013, 7:39 pm

24 - The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

A retold, not too reimagined story of (who would have guess) Achilles, focusing on his relationship with Patroclus. I enjoyed this book, it's well written, thoughtful, and the emotions are well-told.

Despite quite enjoying it, I don't have much to say about it. It was good, but not mind-blowingly so. Everything was very solid until the end where I think the pacing was just a bit wonky. Definitely recommended if you like a nice re-told classic, though for me I don't think anything will compare to Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin.

51mabith
Mar 17, 2013, 7:56 pm

25 - Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

This is an excellent and important book that I'd put off reading for far too long. Luckily, my LT Santa got it for me and prodded me along. It hits two of my main reading interests - the Holocaust and psychology.

Most of the book focuses on Frankl's personal experiences in the concentration camps, albeit through a lens of what pushed most prisoners to keep living and the general psychological experience of the prisoner. He chooses incidents that highlight his reflections on psychology and exemplify his points about human nature and the value of suffering when there's no other choice.

The last bit of the book talks about the basic principles of logotherapy, Frankl's far more reasonable progression from traditional psychotherapy and his work with patients in that field. Again, focusing in large part on what makes life worth living for people in bad situations.

I related to the book personally at numerous points, because I've had severe chronic pain for the last eight years. It's very difficult to find a focus for my life, because I'm no longer able to work or do the things that really spoke to me, but I keep living and find various things to give my life more meaning.

Highly recommended, of course.

52wookiebender
Mar 18, 2013, 8:24 am

I really enjoyed Song of Achilles, and I think I have Lavinia on the shelves. I'd also recommend Ransom by David Malouf or The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason or The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood. All great recentish reads.

Hm, I seem to have read a number of books around this area of late!

53mabith
Mar 18, 2013, 8:37 am

Ha, someone on another site just recommended Ransom after I mentioned The Song of Achilles. Definitely have to add that to the list and check out the other ones. I do seriously recommend Lavinia. It's an absolutely gorgeous creation, and, for me, pretty much a perfect book.

54mabith
Mar 18, 2013, 12:02 pm

26 - Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire

Sadly, there are no touchstones for this wonderful little book of poetry. I suppose that's pretty common with poetry though.

Shire is a London-based Kenyan-born Somali writer, and this book would be a small triumph no matter what her age. However, she's also only 24, which really shocked me (I saw that after reading the book) given the beauty and content of her poems.

I became familiar with her name via some people I follow on Tumblr and kept seeing these great quotes attributed to her, such as:
“give your daughters difficult names. give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. my name makes you want to tell me the truth. my name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.”

I highly recommend her book, but I'm going to let this short article + interview explain it more coherently than I can. Other than recommending specific poetry, I am very possessive of my more specific feelings about it, since poetry has usually been a personal and solitary thing for me.

55mabith
Mar 22, 2013, 7:05 pm

27 - Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz

This was a rather long audiobook (25 hours), but it went by quite quickly. Child's life was just endlessly fascinating, both in its own right and by dint of the people she met and inspired and cavorted with.

It's an excellent book, well written and tightly organized, which I highly recommend.

It reminded me of something a friend and I did in high school... We'd found this horrifying picture of a very elderly Julia Child holding up this massive knife and grinning. We'd photocopy it and leave it around where the other would suddenly come upon it. After reading the biography, I rather think Julia would have liked that.

56mabith
Mar 26, 2013, 2:32 pm

28 - In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

Well, it's a modern classic for a reason... Absolutely wonderful book, which just flew by. The writing, the pacing, the view-point switching... I really enjoyed it and recommend it. I really didn't have any complaints and can't particularly think of much to say about it.

If you're looking for a real history of the Mirabal sisters this really isn't the book for you. This is fiction in the spirit of these women that represents this time, rather than historical fiction. I was perfectly happy with that, so I enjoyed it.

The audiobook was generally done very well. The version I had used four different readers, one for each of the girls, most of whom I really liked. One reader sounded so baby-ish though... She was doing the youngest sister but kept her sounding baby-ish and naive when she was already a mother and had gone through horrific treatment in prison. There was also a difference in pronunciation, commonly different between various countries but not so much in four sisters all raised in the same rural area... Some pronounced the double L with the y sound and some with the j.

57mabith
Mar 28, 2013, 1:32 pm

29 - Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally

This is 'novelized' in the barest way. There are some added conversations for atmosphere, but honestly not many.

If you read much about the holocaust or WWII in general and haven't read this yet, definitely add it to your reading list. It's pretty much a perfect book, with great balance, and one that's been extremely thoroughly researched. Keneally takes pains not to idolize Schindler, not to leave out his flaws, but he still comes across as an amazing and unique person in that day and age.

I haven't seen the film in quite a while, but I think that made him appear darker than the book does. Perhaps that's just the magic of seeing events rather than reading about them, and the fact that the book focuses are larger deals and events.

Highly recommended.

58jfetting
Mar 28, 2013, 4:58 pm

I totally agree about Schindler's Ark. A must read.

59mabith
Mar 30, 2013, 9:55 pm

30 - David Mitchell: Back Story by David Mitchell (can't do an author touchstone, as all I've tried go to the novelist)

I was slightly nervous about this book, because I love Mitchell's comedy work so much. I was pretty sure he'd write a good book, but you never know. It's an excellent book, hilarious, well-written, and well constructed. The pacing is good, the asides are short and funny, etc... As an American especially it's interesting to see the real progress of his popularity. I came upon his work mostly all at once or extremely out of order.

I did get rather upset at the end though, because he made me cry. What business does one of the funniest people in the world have in making me cry? It really wasn't fair. He moped (an understatement) around completely hung up on Victoria Coren (now his wife) for three years before they started dating, and I'm in a similar but more hopeless situation.

60wookiebender
Abr 2, 2013, 6:58 am

Oh, thanks for letting me knw about the David Mitchell book! I do love his comedy. And good luck with your love life too, doesn't sound like the happiest of situations.

61mabith
Abr 2, 2013, 10:29 pm

Tania, definitely get the book! It's quite lovely and fun. And, yeah it's a shitty situation. I should be used to it, but since I had to leave school due to medical issues and can't work or go to school my life's slow enough that I think it's harder to get over things (less distraction and all) in the normal way.

62mabith
Abr 2, 2013, 10:38 pm

31 - Mythologies by Roland Barthes

I have no idea why I picked this up. It's so not my type of thing. I think perhaps I didn't read the description very carefully.

The topics were certainly interesting, but it switched gears so quickly and was so intellectual that I felt a bit lost half the time.

I think I'd have enjoyed this far more in print as opposed to the audiobook. It's a collection of articles compiled from elsewhere, and probably a better book to slowly browse through.

If I hear anyone say 'bourgeois' in the next six months though I will cry. The last quarter of the book especially used it in every third sentence, I think.

63mabith
Abr 6, 2013, 1:35 pm

32 - Tennis Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

Oh my god, I've been spelling the author's name wrong for years. Just realized it today.

This is part of the Shoes 'series,' which really isn't a series at all, but I think all have the theme of children working towards some sort of goal related to a skill or hobby. It's an excellent set of books, and Streatfeild writes children (and parents) amazingly well. They all have flaws but are all basically good at heart. Often they are orphans, but not always. Most of the books have male and female main characters and will be enjoyed by boys and girls. They were all written from the 1930s to the 1950s.

My mom grew up with these books, and my sister read them when she was a kid, but I didn't. The 1980s covers looked girly (though the few that are in print in the US still have even girlier covers) so I avoided them. I read comics and John Bellairs books after all, so I certainly wasn't going to read something called Ballet Shoes! Big mistake, and shows the importance of children's book covers (re-issues of older books tending to be AWFUL, don't get me started on Betsy-Tacy).

I highly recommend them. The children never achieve their goals without a lot of hard work, nothing just magically comes together and the children/families are usually poor. The children have to earn money to keep up with their hobbies. It's honestly some of the best children's/YA writing out there.

64mabith
Abr 7, 2013, 8:38 pm

33 - A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage

This was quite a fascinating book! The title had made me expect something far more frivolous and humorous, but that's not the style here at all. The writing/research is thorough and detailed.

The beverages are covered in chronological order, though of course some time periods will overlap. The pacing and organization of the book was very sound. I honestly learned a lot from this one. It was completely packed with interesting information.

Definitely recommended (though the audiobook reader has some pronunciation issues, some of which are regional and some are just through ignorance and laziness. Honestly readers, if it's an unfamiliar brand name it's really a quick thing to find out how it's pronounced).

65judylou
Abr 8, 2013, 1:39 am

Honestly readers, if it's an unfamiliar brand name it's really a quick thing to find out how it's pronounced).

That is so right. It can be so annoying when the reader constantly mispronounces things.

66mabith
Abr 8, 2013, 8:14 am

Yeah. There might be somewhere that Ribena is pronounced ri-beh-nah, but certainly not in England (and that's where he was talking about at the time). It smacks of laziness and uncaring, which I find appalling when it's anything to do with books.

67mabith
Abr 8, 2013, 10:15 pm

34 - An Excellent Mystery by Ellis Peters

What a title for a mystery novel! It's Cadfael again, and again, I love him. This one was a bit sentimental for me, but I enjoyed it as always.

68mabith
Abr 13, 2013, 9:20 pm

35 - Island of Vice by Richard Zacks

Proper review later. I had a mole removed from my arm which ended in a lot more stitches than were predicted and I can't really use my right arm at all.

Really interesting book, though I think there were some issues with pacing.

69judylou
Abr 14, 2013, 12:54 am

Hope your arm heals quickly!

70clfisha
Abr 14, 2013, 7:51 am

Hope you recover quickly, I was a complete wimp when I had some moles removed on my back!

71mabith
Abr 15, 2013, 1:01 pm

Thanks, guys! I have a chronic nerve pain disease that makes every scratch hurt for two or three times as long as it should, so the stitches has really been killing me. I think today is the first day it's felt at all better though, which is something.

72mabith
Abr 15, 2013, 1:03 pm

36 - Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

Still can't type much, but oh my god, best children's book ever. I was blown away by the incredibly realistic way he wrote all of his characters and how well-balanced the book was (not to mention basically portraying my childhood dream/personality exactly).

73judylou
Abr 15, 2013, 7:58 pm

Yahoo! That is my favourite book form my childhood. My great aunt bought it for me way back when books were incredibly precious gifts. I still have the original copy with her spidery handwriting wishing me a happy birthday. I was never lucky enough to receive the rest of the books in the series, but I certainly made a pest of myself at the library constantly asking when the next one was due to be returned! I spent so much time with John and Susan and Titty and Roger back then. I really should reread them.

74mabith
Editado: Abr 15, 2013, 8:02 pm

How wonderful to still have the copy your aunt gave you! I think for some of us books are still incredibly precious gifts. :) That's actually the only thing I ever buy for my nieces and nephews (though I'll give them things I've knit or embroidered as well).

75mabith
Abr 15, 2013, 8:04 pm

37 - Yiddishkeit edited by Paul Buhle and Harvey Pekar

Really interesting book detailing Yiddish literature, theatre, movies, modern usage, etc... done in comic book style. It's broken up well, with lots of different artists and types of strips, plus some straight text.

76judylou
Abr 15, 2013, 8:05 pm

Yes, you are right. Books are always the best gift. But back when I was a young girl books were also difficult to get for those not living in the city and very expensive. So every book we ever received was met with complete joy!

77mabith
Abr 19, 2013, 6:57 pm

38 - The Last Voyage of Columbus: Being the Epic Tale of the Great Captain's Fourth Expedition by Martin Dugard

There are possibly a number of reasons I didn't love this book. It wasn't bad, particularly, but I'm extra cranky due to the mole removal and still can't do anything, so my usual audiobook routine was off. There's also the fact that it either glosses over or doesn't really cover the really evil stuff in regards to native populations.

It was an interesting story, but it didn't really seem like an "epic tale." Shipwreck and mutiny should be exciting but either the writing or the audiobook reader made it seem dull. Or, after reading Caroline Alexander's excellent book about the Bounty, every other tale of shipwreck and mutiny seems passe.

I feel a distinct sense of guilt over this, as my dad loved the book and is the one that gave it to me. Oh well.

78wookiebender
Abr 21, 2013, 8:36 am

I'm adding Swallows and Amazons and all of Streatfeild's shoes series to the wishlist for reading to the kids! I've been eyeing them off, but wasn't really sure of them yet.

79mabith
Abr 21, 2013, 9:54 am

They really are wonderful! Especially if you're looking for books with a mixed cast of boys and girls. There's at least one shoes book I haven't read, but of the seven I have only one doesn't have a boy as one of the main characters. Circus Shoes (also called The Circus is Coming) may be my favorite, because come on, there's a circus. And seriously, I was amazingly impressed by Swallows and Amazons. It was just a perfect children's book.

I also recommend the Freddy the Pig books, by Walter R. Brooks if they're available. They're great fun, with a nice balance of flaws and strengths in each character. There are a million so I didn't read them all as a kid, the new-to-me ones still make me laugh out loud.

80mabith
Abr 25, 2013, 1:18 pm

39 - Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

I'm still dealing with pain from my mole removal so the reviews will still be not really reviews (stitches are out, but only about 1/4 of the incision knit together, and I am really sick of this, I have never wanted to do my own dishes more).

Anyway, Mary Roach is still great. Loved this one, though Bonk and Stiff are still my favorites. Some very interesting stuff in this one.

81mabith
Abr 25, 2013, 1:22 pm

40 - We Are on Our Own by Miriam Katin

A graphic memoir about the author's flight, with her mother, from Budapest in 1944. The style of art was really effective and it's an amazing story (granted any survival story from WWII tends to be...).

82mabith
Abr 28, 2013, 3:28 pm

41 - Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

Really enjoyed this one, but I think I'll enjoy re-reading it even more. With Pratchett there are so many good lines and observations that get over-looked the first, second, even the sixth and seventh times. I've listened to Small Gods at least seven times, and only just noticed a particularly apt line (in terms of the current state of US reporting and general fundamentalism).

83bryanoz
Abr 29, 2013, 6:22 am

#82 I agree completely mabith, one can reread any Pratchett book many times, and find new gems every time !

84mabith
Editado: Abr 30, 2013, 7:02 pm

I saw someone once say they didn't think Discworld could hold up to a re-read and I about died. It made me wonder why they liked the books in the first place. It's not that the plots aren't interesting, I think they're quite well set-up, but it's the humour, the observations, the sharp one-liners that attract me.

85mabith
Abr 30, 2013, 7:22 pm

42 - The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

This book should be required reading for everyone in the US. It is extremely important. If you think you know just how problematic our justice system is, you are probably vastly underestimating the problem. I know I was, and I at least have minor knowledge of it due to my brother's dealing with the police and courts.

Throughout most of this I felt sick to my stomach and on the verge of tears, which I think is the only sane response (along with rage) to the information presented. Over the last six months I've done a lot of self-education about both institutional and casual personal racism, trying to better keep my privilege in mind. It makes me deeply ashamed of my country, but it's necessary to wake up and to keep waking up every day (especially given how unintentional cognitive bias easily takes over).

I'm sure some people will decide that they can't do anything about the cognitive bias, so what's the point in trying, but I do think we can learn to consistently and automatically second-guess and examine our first thoughts. Not to mention, that we MUST be more aware in order to change the media and other influences so the younger generations don't have the same built-in bias.

86jfetting
Maio 2, 2013, 1:53 pm

Just downloaded the ebook from the library onto my Kindle. I've heard a lot about it, but your review made me decide to read it right now.

87mabith
Maio 2, 2013, 2:32 pm

Great! I feel an evangelical zeal to get as many people as possible to read this book.

88mabith
Maio 2, 2013, 6:47 pm

43 - The Eye of Jade by Diane Wei Liang

I had high hopes for this book, particularly as the audiobook reader was SO good. The book starts out interestingly enough, but I think Liang wanted to tell too many stories and tried to give her protagonist, detective Mei Wang, too much dimension for one book.

The ending and conclusion were only half there, and didn't make a ton of sense/weren't that compelling. Things seemed a little too easier for Wang, and the focus of the book really isn't on detection/mystery.

89mabith
Maio 5, 2013, 9:50 am

44 - The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton

This book is mostly about picking out the bits of philosophy most useful for daily life problems. It's an interesting little book, especially if you really don't want to read much philosophy.

What most interested me was part three about the power of expectations. If you don't acknowledge that things can go wrong it completely throws you when they do. I think a lot of us in school used the old "I totally failed that test" line so we'd have something to be happy about when we got a C.

It translates so much into really important things though. I was completely shocked when I became chronically ill and found that most doctors just didn't care (even about the mystery), and I had to fight to even get a referral. You're taught to think about the medical system in such a high, holy light, only to discover how difficult it is to get help when you need it. I can understand a doctor being unsure, but you imagine that they refer you somewhere else, or do a little research themselves. The sheer indifference I encountered was staggering.

90bryanoz
Maio 6, 2013, 10:23 pm

de Botton is always interesting, sorry to hear of your medical experience.

91mabith
Maio 6, 2013, 10:27 pm

Thanks. It's just how the system is, sadly.

92mabith
Editado: Maio 9, 2013, 1:49 am

45 - The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt

This book had a lot of interesting things in it, but also a lot of problems. The first being that the answer to the questions is obvious - they're divided because they have different priorities, and some are more rational than others.

The interesting part of this book was the scientific stuff. Experiments dealing with morality and the "morality matrix," and such. That was great.

Where it fell was in comparing liberals and conservatives. He wanted to talk about some issues as if there were no hard studies behind them. For instance, everyone wants to lower the abortion rate (given that it's easier and cheaper to use birth control earlier on), whether or not they think it should be legal and freely available. There are studies that show that teaching kids about safe sex and birth control doesn't increase the rate of sex, but only the rate of SAFE sex. It's leaving out a lot to act as thought conservatives are serious about lowering the abortion and teen parenthood rates when they ignore this data. A lot of these issues seem to be far more about controlling people (and especially young women) than actually wanting fewer abortions.

The book also takes it for granted that politicians practice what they preach, or that we haven't seen time and again places where extreme loyalty (one of his morality points) results in very bad things happenings. Yet he doesn't mention this when talking about the fact that liberals are less focused on loyalty to a group or leader.

So again, it's interesting, but frustrating. The author's purpose is to try to foster understanding, but he gave me the impression that he only thinks liberals are likely to try to seriously understand the 'other side.' I agree that we all need to attempt to understand where others are coming from, but when people consistently ignore what happens in the real world, and the content of scientific studies, that needs to be acknowledged.

At the end he also makes a claim about welfare being the cause of single parenthood and children by multiple fathers, but only mentions it in relation to PoC. I'm pretty sure that if there was a gain to be had by not being married it wasn't ONLY noticed and used by PoC. That really, really bothered me.

93mabith
Maio 12, 2013, 8:21 pm

46 - To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This is actually the first time I've read this book. I didn't go to a high school with typical English course readings (I think the only standard things we read were in freshman year - Catcher in the Rye and A Midsummer Night's Dream).

Then you become an adult, read a couple over-rated classics and worry that most of over-rated. This book is, if anything, under-rated. I'm really glad I finally made the time to read it. Granted, reading it so soon after The New Jim Crow has really depressed me. Things just haven't changed much, if at all.

94mabith
Maio 13, 2013, 7:01 pm

47 - Girl Trouble: Panic and Progress in the History of Young Women by Carol Dyhouse

This book provides a history of the obsession with the conduct of young women, which has been a constant throughout history, from the Victorian era to the present. It's divided into several sections focusing on a particularly topic, and each of those sections are presented in chronological order.

I found the book extremely well-written and organized. Dyhouse is a balanced commentator, pointing out studies which are limited and drawing attention to differing views, especially on current events in feminism. Each section seemed warranted, without repeats but drawing on previous chapters. The book never lost my attention.

This book is also just important. Young women are still held to a higher standard than young men in almost every area. For instance, instead of focusing on teaching young men not to rape, and holding them responsible for reprehensible behavior, we focus on holding women responsible (you shouldn't drink, you shouldn't wear revealing clothing, you shouldn't invite a young man to your home if you don't want sex, etc...), even when it's been shown that most of these things have little to do with rape. It's important for both women and men, who should surely be shocked at the accusation that they have no self-control and cannot be trusted to NOT rape.

I'm not someone who puts markers in books or takes notes on them (except for negative things when preparing to review a book), but I filled this one with post-its - choice quotes from other books, novels and memoirs to look out, interesting information, etc...

Highly recommended.

95mabith
Maio 16, 2013, 10:19 am

48 - Last Ditch by Ngaio Marsh

This was one of the last Alleyn books, written in 1977. I don't think the book is set quite that late, but it's close. There's a lot of about marijuana and heroin smuggling, which I found a bit jarring.

It's Marsh, so it's still enjoyable, but definitely not a favorite. I need to go back and pick up where I left off with the early ones (my mom had this one around her house, and I took a ton of the books she was getting rid of).

96mabith
Maio 18, 2013, 12:21 am

49 - Psmith, Journalist by PG Wodehouse

While I love the audio versions of most Wodehouse books the ones with American accents can be a bit bothersome. This was full of cartoony NYC accents.

As usual Psmith has everything figured, and is generally two steps ahead. It's a pretty ridiculous ride. Warning for the casual racism of the time.

97mabith
Maio 19, 2013, 12:59 pm

50 - The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This is a book of twelve short stories. I hate short stories (barring those related to an already established world/character). I get sucked in and then it just ENDS and I never get to find out what happen to this people. Generally I just don't read short stories, but Adichie is such a wonderful writer, and the audiobooks are so well-done, that I couldn't resist.

They are brilliant stories. Sometimes you almost feel that one is a continuation of the previous one, but set generations before or after. They aren't, but I think it speaks to Adichie's skill that you're searching for that connection (or maybe it's just me). There wasn't a single story that I didn't want to keep going. She ended it well though, since the last story has more closure than the others, and didn't leave me completely annoyed that I'd never know what happened.

It's made it so I can't wait to read her newest novel, Americanah.

98mabith
Maio 19, 2013, 5:41 pm

51 - Triangle: The Fire That Changed America by David von Drehle

This was a great look at the causes of, events during, and after math of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. It's quite a detailed look, going into the histories of numerous people involved, numerous reformers after the fact, the lawyers and judge in the court case, the strike that preceded the fire, etc...

There were times when I questioned how the book was laid out, with factory worker profiles inserted slightly at random, but in the end I think it was a good way to organize the book.

I recommend this to anyone interested in labor history, but do avoid the audiobook. It's read by Barrett Whitener who sounds like a very advanced computer voice synthesizer, who I absolutely can't stand. His narration style/voice really takes away from the books.

99bryanoz
Maio 21, 2013, 6:33 am

#97 Another book for the TBR mountain, thanks !

100mabith
Maio 22, 2013, 5:27 pm

52 - The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard

I just read Island of Vice in April, so it was interesting to read this one so soon after. Roosevelt is basically annoyed at losing the 1912 election so he needs a grand adventure to distract him. The expedition was not particularly well-planned, and the plans changed after the quartermaster has already ordered the supplies. It's pretty much a miracle that they didn't all die.

Millard writes and organizes this book just as skillfully as she did Destiny of the Republic. It's very much an adventure book, and I found myself rather gripped by whether certain people would die (I knew Roosevelt didn't, but I didn't familiarize myself with the expedition before reading this).

One of the things that makes an excellent non-fiction book, I've found, is whether or not an author knows where to put extra information, and how much to give. Millard is very good on that point, in my opinion.

What I'm wondering now though, is how history would have changed if Roosevelt hadn't run in 1912 and Taft had won instead of Wilson (who was certainly responsible for holding back the Civil Rights movement, likely for decades).

101mabith
Maio 28, 2013, 10:34 am

53 - The Honest Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely

A nice little pop-science book about how much we lie and cheat, what keeps us from doing it, and the fact that while we're all a bit dishonest, it is usually limited to a bit.

Very interesting book, with some very neat experiments. Unlike a lot of the pop-science books dealing with similar subjects, Ariely isn't just collecting and describing these findings. He's actually a professor of psychology and behavioral economics, and personally conducted many of these experiments.

I do really need to get hard copies of some of these books for later reference. Unless I spent a ton of time taking notes while listening to the audiobook I just can't hold the information well enough to relate the most interesting bits to other people.

102mabith
Maio 29, 2013, 8:27 pm

54 - Life Disrupted: Getting Real About Chronic Illness in Your Twenties and Thirties by Laurie Edwards

I developed a chronic pain disease when I was 19, which is basically untreatable at this point. This book was really wonderful, and accurate. Some sections weren't relevant to me (particularly about frequent hospitalizations), but a lot of it was.

Edwards has a rare disease somewhat similar to cystic fibrosis. She also talks about the experiences of five or six other people with different chronic illnesses. She talks about relationships, work conditions, accepting help and a lot about balancing.

103wookiebender
Jun 1, 2013, 5:05 am

I do like the sound of #53. (And am very glad that #54 has no relevance to me, phew. I've been lucky.)

104mabith
Jun 1, 2013, 3:42 pm

55 - A House Divided by Pearl S. Buck

This is the third book in the Good Earth trilogy. I enjoyed it more than Sons, and it deals with the revolutions, changing roles for women, familial relations, etc... It covers a pretty interesting period, and you feel like the main character, Yuan, was a typical young man of his class.

105mabith
Jun 3, 2013, 2:21 pm

56 - Getting Stoned With Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu by J. Maarten Troost

I don't think this one is quite as good as Troost's two other books, in part because it straddles a very different line. While he lived (rather than toured) in Fiji and Vanuatu, he seems to have been around westerners far more than in his first book about living in Kiribati and I think that changes the attitude and experiences.

It was still a very enjoyable read, and interesting. Troost tends to go back and forth between his experiences on the islands, and the island's history in terms of colonization and current politics.

106mabith
Jun 9, 2013, 6:13 pm

57 - The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan

I could have sworn I read this when it was new (I certainly carried it around for a bit), but none of it was at all familiar, so I must never have gotten to it. I do, however, remember the huge level of hype and press.

If you haven't read this yet, don't worry, it's NOT over-rated. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing and the subject matter. Pollan doesn't spend too long on any one section (or a single aspect of any section), and there's some really interesting information in here.

Highly recommended for the other 10 of who haven't read it yet.

107mabith
Jun 11, 2013, 5:18 pm

58 - Faith and Treason: The Story of the Gunpowder Plot by Antonia Frasier

This is an extremely detailed book about the gunpowder plot, and the general events in Europe at that time related to monarchies, diplomatic relations, and Catholicism.

It was probably a bit too in-depth for me, and I occasionally got lost in the quantity of names that changed over the period the book covers. Also, who knew that Guy Fawkes had change his name to Guido!

Coming from a position of ignorance, this book seems to be incredibly well-researched. The author doesn't make fantastical leaps to support theories, just common sense judgements using research and traditions of the time.

108mabith
Jun 11, 2013, 5:20 pm

59 - Peter Duck by Arthur Ransome

A wonderful adventure! This is the third in the Swallows and Amazons series, but my friend recommended I read it before the second book, Swallowdale.

I really can't wait until my nieces and nephews are old enough for these books. There are aspects that are dated and will need careful explain, but they're so well-written and well-executed.

109mabith
Jun 15, 2013, 10:55 pm

60 - A Brief History of Roman Britain by JP Alcock

By brief it really means "still really detailed, and don't even try to keep track of all the tribe names and chieftains because you'll go mad."

This is a well-written book. It's not dry, particularly (at least by my definitely), but it's very detailed and will maybe go on about things you don't care so much about. It will be an invaluable aid to historical fiction writers, I'm sure.

I would only recommend this to other people who are very interested in Roman Britain.

110mabith
Jun 15, 2013, 11:21 pm

61 - The Wet and the Dry: A Drinker's Journey by Lawrence Osborne

This book is about drinking, and especially about drinking in places where it's harder to find alcohol or the relationship to alcohol is changing/complex. Most of the chapters are spent in the Middle East, though he also revisits particularly meaningful watering holes and the drinking culture in his home country, England.

There's a lot of interesting information in this book, though you will run into sections which are the typical "Man, I'm so drunk, here's all the 'deep' philosophical stuff I've suddenly realized." Osborne also visits his childhood periodically, and the relationship each of his parents had with drinking. However, I would say that he didn't write enough about those things to warrant including them in this book. They somewhat go against the grain of the rest of the book's stated theme.

The book's conclusion is something most of us already know: If you're in the right position/are the right person it's possible to drink in any country, no matter how restrictive the laws. It's not a bad little book, but it does not hold to it's stated theme very well. It's a drinking-travel memoir while trying to impart a lot of factual information, and I don't think quite the right balance was found. The author also slides into misogyny very quickly and easily.

111wookiebender
Jun 16, 2013, 12:25 am

Might skip The Wet and the Dry, but it does remind me of a book I heard about recently, High Sobriety, an Australian journalist's memoir of her "year without booze". I've signed up for Dry July this year (give up booze, and get sponsored with proceeds going to cancer charities), I should probably get some reading to suit my sobriety. :)

112mabith
Jun 16, 2013, 8:10 am

Ha, yeah, a book about the joys of drinking probably won't be helpful! And really, this one was too scattered to be that enjoyable (it was an ER, and since the writing wasn't terrible I felt I had to finish it).

113mabith
Editado: Jun 19, 2013, 7:00 pm

62 - The Dragon Scroll by I.J. Parker

This is a mystery set in 11th century Japan, which I did not particularly enjoy. The setting (and culture) really doesn't matter or shine at all, it's just a device to give it a bit of a marketing hook (compared to historical mysteries by Lindsey Davis or, to a slightly lesser extent, Ellis Peters).

Everything was also just really standard in this book. Every mystery trope you can think of was thrown in, and I just did not care at all who the killer was. There were also some things that just didn't make any logical sense, didn't have anything to do with the mystery, and seemed included more for questionable personal motives than anything else.

Not recommended.

114mabith
Jun 19, 2013, 7:06 pm

63 - The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde

This is the seventh Thursday Next novel. I started this series with Something Rotten, which I adored, but I've never enjoyed any of the others nearly so much.

Someone on another post mentioned that Fforde gives you a lot of details to keep track of, and maybe that's part of it. Since I read that one from the middle of the series first I didn't worry so much about keeping track of all this stuff, and just let it flow over me. Now there's a lot of "Wait, what? Oh right."

They're not unenjoyable books by any means, and I think for a reader it's lovely to read something that's full of literary references, but they don't crack me up.

115wookiebender
Jun 21, 2013, 8:17 am

Oh, I'll be buying it and reading it ASAP. :)

116mabith
Editado: Jun 22, 2013, 8:44 pm

64 - Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon

This is about the system of convict labor that developed in the south and quickly turned into slavery. Men and women were simply picked up off the streets, someone would lie and say they committed a crime for a fee from the police, and the police would sell them to a labor contractor. These men and women were help both by large national companies and individual farmers. Women were sometimes picked up solely to serve as sex slaves to white overseers in the labor operations. Some men in the coal mines were kept underground for months at a time.

It's a hard book to read, though less-so than if I hadn't already read The New Jim Crow. What's worse is that some officials, up to Theodore Roosevelt when he was president, made a stink, sent down investigators, and tried some people for the crime of debt peonage. A few men were given fines that they were never made to pay, and the main result was that the guilty kept more paperwork on the false crimes and set up 'courts' in case they were investigated again. I forget now how this happened, but the one jail-time result of the trials was actually given to a black man for something ridiculous.

Frankly, I'm surprised the author didn't relate this to the drug war, where police offices were given monetary incentives to arrest for drug crimes and the result ended up being completely racist. Not to mention that prison labor makes a lot of stuff at a joke wage, and those companies have every incentive to try to keep up the number of convicts available.

It's an important chapter in US history, and something that needs to be taught in school. You can't completely sanitize history for kids and teens, and then expect them to immediately adapt to real history. They're shocked, they're upset, they're confused, and many of them stay in denial, thinking that if things like this *really* happened they would have been learned about it in school. You can't understand current race relations at all unless you know the real history of our country.

(And in the news today... Pennsylvania Judge Sentenced For 28 Years For Selling Kids to the Prison System)

117mabith
Editado: Out 21, 2013, 10:11 am

65 - The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

This is a beautifully written and expressed book. It focuses on a women who survived a secret Japanese prison camp on Malaysia. She loses her sister in the camp, and seeks out a master Japanese gardener living in Malaysia to design a garden in memory of her sister. The book shifts both in time and to a different character's perspective once.

It seems silly to try and summarize this one at all. It's mostly straight forward fiction but with a mystery aspect that comes in more at the end. While it deals with traumatic events it doesn't really get literary or deep over them, it tends to acknowledge that there are some things you can never completely heal from, and that you shouldn't pretend healing to make other people more comfortable.

I had mixed feelings about the audiobook. The reader changes her voice to some extent for the time shifts, but other than that they aren't obvious at first (it's never hard to figure out, generally, but I had a fair few "Wait, where are we?" moments). I hope the reader, Anna Bentinck was chosen for some connection to Malaysia or at least China or Japan. She wasn't bad, but some of the accents she used made me squirm a bit.

118mabith
Editado: Jun 28, 2013, 12:13 pm

66 - 1066: The Year of the Conquest by David Howarth

This is an older, short work about 1066. It's the type of history book that tries to focus heavily on personalities and ignore the outcome of events when talking about the lead up to them.

It was quite enjoyable, and I liked the focus Howarth kept. The audiobook was a bit odd in that it was read by an American, but not too bothersome.

119mabith
Jun 28, 2013, 1:53 pm

67 - Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

This is a short, sweet, children's fantasy book about an unconventional princess. Instead of being abducted by a dragon in the usual way, she volunteers to work for one in order to escape an arranged marriage.

It's quite a bit of fun, though the audio edition does it's best to ruin it. I can see through it enough to know I would have loved it in print (and I'll read the other books in the series in print).

Definitely recommend this for the children's/YA readers any kids 9 and up.

120rainpebble
Jun 29, 2013, 11:44 pm

Meredith, thank you for popping over to 'my little corner of the world.'
I just wanted to stop over and tell you that Honor by Elif Safak was really good mabith. I hope that you do give it a try. I don't think you will be sorry.
And that is a good goal to have set for yourself. I just joined the Reading Globally Group for the same reason. A Different Sky is my first book for that group. Like minds and all that.....

121mabith
Jul 1, 2013, 10:17 am

Belva, thanks for letting me know about that group! I did join, though I definitely need to sit down and work out a reading list ahead of time to make sure I follow through on the goal.

122mabith
Jul 1, 2013, 10:24 am

68 - The Student Loan Scam: The Most Oppressive Debt in US History and How we Can Fight Back by Alan Collinge

This is an extremely important little book. I had absolutely no idea things were this bad or unfair.

The companies both giving the loans and collecting on them once in default (often owned by the same company) do reprehensible (and illegal) things. The book details a huge range of different loan/repayment experiences. It also talks a lot about the power of the loan company lobbies.

I highly recommend this book, as this will be relevant to almost everyone, one way or another. Plus, it's a very quick read.

123mabith
Jul 2, 2013, 9:40 pm

69 - The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage by Anthony Brandt

A good book, though it occasionally gets a bit tedious, I think mostly because the journeys were quite repetitive. Oh they're sailing, oh these are the supplies, oh there's been some trouble, oh the wintering over is terrible, oh we're going to patronize some native peoples, oh here's a journey that went seriously pear-shaped, etc...

It was a bit depressing to read about, since they should have realized that even if/when they'd found the Northwest Passage it never would have been viable to use, given how much ice they consistently encountered. The whole things seems to mostly have been a vanity exercise for the UK.

Definitely a worthwhile read, and good for keeping you cool during the hot weather!

124mabith
Jul 7, 2013, 1:42 pm

70 - The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

This is a wonderful novel, and impressive given that it was Roy's debut. It tells the story of two twins, jumps around in time a bit, and talks a lot about love and calculations therein.

I loved the writing, the metaphors she used, and the general tone. The story was interesting and captivating as well. It deals it with death, tradition, and general human nature.

Definitely recommend this.

125judylou
Jul 8, 2013, 2:11 am

One of my all time favourites!

126rainpebble
Jul 8, 2013, 4:57 pm

Meredith, I too loved The God of Small Things though upon going back I found that I neither rated nor reviewed it. Definitely my bad! But I recall thinking that it was written exquisitely. So happy to see that both you and judy thought so much of it as well.

127mabith
Jul 8, 2013, 4:59 pm

71 - The Life and Ideas of James Hillman: The Making of a Psychologist by Dick Russell

James Hillman's books fell into my life when I was 14 and had a huge impact. In many ways he's the psychologist I most agree with, and his writing is always interesting to read. I'm always glad my makeout spot in the high school library was the psychology section, thus making me notice Hillman's We've Had 100 Years of Psychotherapy and the World's Getting Worse.

Russell has put together an extremely thorough, and incredibly interesting book. I absolutely loved reading this, and it was so interesting to find out about Hillman's formative years and various struggles. I listened to the audiobook but almost immediately ordered a print copy to keep on hand.

Highly recommended to those interested in Hillman's work, and I highly recommend Hillman's own books to everyone. His two most popular are the one I mentioned above, and The Soul's Code.

128mabith
Jul 8, 2013, 5:05 pm

72 - A Night to Remember by Walter Lord

I've never read much about the Titanic. I watch a few of the documentaries that come out when the big movie was released, and loved hearing about finding the wreck and the types of submarines they sent down, but didn't have that much interest otherwise.

This book was really well put together and interesting. It IS the classic account of the sinking for a reason. Lord covers all the bases in telling the story, and it FEELS like a story. He's also very good at mentioning when testimonies disagree and the weakness of eye witness testimony.

Definitely recommended, plus it's short and a really easy read.

129mabith
Jul 11, 2013, 4:13 pm

73 - The Girls of Murder City by Douglas Perry

This book about the Chicago murderesses that the play (and musical) Chicago is based on. It was really interesting, and well put together, I think.

It turns out that one of the big reporters (for the Tribune, if I recall), a woman who came to get some real world experience after taking a play-writing workshop, actually wrote the play Chicago after her experiences. She was basically the opposite of the Mary Sunshine character, with absolutely no sympathy for the women, and a lot of contempt for the men who let them off just because of their looks.

Certainly recommended. Watkins, the intrepid girl reporter, was an interesting person and her own personal changes were fascinating. Though I'm a bit surprised that no one gave her trouble for using their statements verbatim in her play!

130mabith
Jul 13, 2013, 9:39 am

74 - The Raven in the Foregate by Ellis Peters

Another enjoyable Cadfael book! I'm over halfway through the books though, so I may have to start rationing them a bit more. Thank god I'll probably never run out of Agatha Christie books!

131mabith
Jul 14, 2013, 10:29 am

75 - The Girls of Room 28: Friendship, Hope, and Survival in Theresienstadt by Hannelore Brenner

This is the first thing I've read that's really focused on Theresienstadt, which was the model ghetto, used to show outsiders that "Oh, no, these camps aren't awful, they're great." Conditions, while not excellent, were generally better than in any other camp or ghetto throughout the war.

With this we get an intimate picture of the whole bunch of girls from room 28, their lives prior to Theresienstadt, and snippets of their lives after.

Definitely worth reading.

132mabith
Jul 15, 2013, 11:39 am

76 - Candide by Voltaire

An amusing little read! I'll have to read it again in print soon, as I think I'll enjoy it even more that way (versus listening to the audiobook).

It's such a well-known classic that I don't feel there's much point in going into specifics.

133mabith
Jul 16, 2013, 2:11 pm

77 - Leave it to Psmith by PG Wodehouse

The last of the Psmith novels (though actually I haven't read Mike at Wrykyn or Mike and Psmith yet, so never mind that). Wodehouse is always enjoyable and fun, and this one is particularly silly.

134mabith
Jul 17, 2013, 12:35 pm

78 - Gun Thugs, Rednecks, and Radicals: A Documentary History of the West Virginia Mine Wars by David Alan Corbin

The WV mine wars are my specialist subject, so this wasn't new information. It is always interesting to see the period documents and reporting though. Some of the interviews with a senate committee were also hilarious. One senator from NJ, Martine, was so appalled by the whole situation, which was reassuring.

There was an amusing zinger from a coal baron to Senator Martine though, when Martine was condemning him for the appalling sanitation in company towns:
"West Virginia does not need to go to the mosquito-ridden swamps of New Jersey to learn sanitation." (said in 1913)

My quibble is just that this is such a small selection. I would prefer to see separate books with documents corresponding to specific periods and events. I also think Corbin fell behind a bit on dating everything. I think every article and interview should list the the year it was published, but most do not. You can figure it out mostly, but that's really a basic thing.

The mine wars are an incredibly interesting part of labour history, but often overlooked. If you're interested in the subject I'd recommend Corbin's book Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields. It's well written and covers the the entire relevant period.

135mabith
Jul 19, 2013, 10:26 am

79 - Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, From Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax" by Philip C. Plait

This was a very informative book, but I think the tone shifted oddly. There were some wordings (not the topics themselves, but just random little bits of writing) which my 10-year-old self would have found too dumbed down. Two paragraphs or so were spent on assuring us that when the moon looks bigger on the horizon sometimes it hasn't *actually* grown.

I definitely understand that some people are ridiculously misinformed about the universe, but they're not really the people who are going to pick up a book like that (the only way we'll stamp them out is by improving early education). The real audience for this book are the people who are reasonably informed but have forgotten certain things or worry they weren't taught them correctly to begin with.

Glad I read it, but by it's nature this information is less relevant to my daily life than, say, Ben Goldacre's Bad Science. So, I don't know, sort of recommended?

136mabith
Jul 19, 2013, 10:37 am

80 - The White Cat and Other Old French Fairy Tales by Madame d'Aulnoy (arranged by Rachel Field, illustrated by E. MacKinstry)

This is a lovely book, with gorgeous illustrations, though the stories are pretty odd. I was only familiar with one of them (The Pot of Carnations) because it was featured in Rocky and Bullwinkle's Fractured Fairy Tales (in much simplified form, of course).

My dad is a professional story teller and I feel like there's a gap between folk tales and fairy tales. These are all princes and princesses, and wicked fairies and some death. I'm definitely more of a folk tale girl.

The woman who originally wrote/compiled these was the originator for the term 'fairy tale,' which is kind of neat. I'm not the translation in this volume is very good though.

137mabith
Jul 22, 2013, 2:00 pm

81 - Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson

A wonderful book following one English family from the turn of the century to the 1970s. The narrator is a daughter born late 1940s, narrating her life from the moment of conception.

I can't really describe this book well. It flits around in time, but it's brilliant, with wonderful commentary on the lives of women (mostly), their roles during the world wars, etc...

It was a brilliant read, and while the audio book makes it a little harder to immediately grasp a time shift, it's wonderfully read.

138mabith
Jul 26, 2013, 10:15 am

82 - The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage

This is a wonderful little history of the telegraph, the inventions that led up to it, the developing/laying of the underwater cable, etc... It was really interesting to see the development from basically an urban legend about a telegraph-like device to the visual telegraph systems and then to the electric.

It's also an interesting divide between the people with a lot of scientific training versus the amateur tinkerers and the businessmen.

Of course there are a lot of comparisons to the internet, though Standage doesn't make an effort to point them out through the book, which I liked, especially since they're all very obvious. That's especially good since the book was written in 1998 (with an updated afterward written in 2006, I think).

What's incredible to me is the fact that people didn't really see the potential of the telegraph very quickly. It was a novelty in the beginning, rather than "Wow, this will be incredibly useful!" It was also interesting to see the way the rules for it developed differently in the US and Europe (they were government owned lines in Europe and privately owned in the US).

139mabith
Jul 26, 2013, 10:20 am

83 - The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander

I knew the basic outline of this story, but it was wonderful to read the whole thing, and get all the entries from diaries and such.

Alexander's The Bounty really impressed me, so I've had her other books on my to-read list for a while. This one was good, but didn't hit me in the same way as The Bounty, presumably because the story was much more familiar.

Admittedly, my first thought after hearing when they were equipped and set out was "What? They left after the war started! What was the government thinking!" And of course that rather screwed up their homecoming, given that the public were thinking the same thing, and the only real hero was a war hero, at that point.

140mabith
Jul 27, 2013, 5:13 pm

84 - To Love and Be Wise by Josephine Tey

Now I've read all of the Inspector Grant books. This was a lovely departure from depressing non-fiction, and a great little mystery.

I can't say much about it, as that would be telling, but it's a neat one, and very low-key.

141mabith
Editado: Jul 28, 2013, 3:03 pm

85 - Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America by Allen Hornblum, Judith L. Newman, and Gregory J. Dober

This was an early reviewer, and given past experiences I'm beginning to suspect that Palgrave Macmillan no longer employs editors.

There's a lot of really interesting information in this book, and it's a history that should be more well known. The writing in general is good, but the organization is bad and the writing is sometimes repetitive. Each experiment is also covered quite briefly, so be prepared to look for other books if particular issues grab you.

The title/cover is also a bit sensationalistic given how few experiments in the book actually had anything to do with the Cold War, and how much of it was devoted to other time periods entirely. It is more like the shortest book it was possible to write on the general history of child experimentation in the 20th century. In the later chapters many of the stories aren't actually experiments, just questionable practices doctors embraced with vigor regardless of how little research had been done.

A frequent refrain is "Doctors in the US didn't pay any attention to the Nuremberg code at all." There's a chapter about WWII and the Nuremberg code but that line is still repeated frequently (numerous times in a single chapter) in reference to individual doctors/experiments. There are some other specific ideas that are over-repeated as well (such as researchers specifically choosing devalued populations vs college prep schools).

The individual sections on vaccine research, radiation research, etc... aren't organized chronologically and sometimes aren't organized in a logical way at all. There's also a slight tendency to leave out dates when something prior to 1945 is being talked about it, or sometimes the date is mentioned towards the end of the story that's being related, which is always frustrating, but especially so in a book that jumps around so much and mentions so many different experiments.

Again, lots of interesting information here, but it could have been presented so much more effectively and with a less misleading title.

142mabith
Jul 30, 2013, 10:28 am

86 - Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North by Stuart Maconie

This was an odd one for me. There are many interesting things in it, but the writing and all of it together managed to make them less interesting. It wasn't particularly humorous but seemed to be trying to be, and Maconie uses some anti-trans slurs.

143judylou
Ago 1, 2013, 9:58 pm

An interesting few books you have been reading.

144mabith
Ago 5, 2013, 11:06 am

87 - Moment of Battle: The Twenty Clashes that Changed the World by Jim Lacey and Williamson Murray

I found this to be written well and extremely clearly. When you're dealing with the events during an actual battle it can be easy to get muddled, to focus too much on one part, to assume the audience more knowledgeable than it is, etc...

The authors spend roughly twenty pages discussing each battle. They typically cover the events (both military and political) leading up to the battle, and go into what might have happened if the result had been flipped. They also talk specifically about the changes in culture or politics that resulted because the battle went the way it did. All but two of the battles include a map (though with Trafalgar it's a period piece showing the lines before battle started, of course). The two that don't include them are Teutoburger Wald and Yarmuk. Each chapter also includes various pictures of art or relics relating to that battle or period.

One quibble, and this may only be found in the uncorrected proof, is that the maps were sometimes placed a dozen pages before the action of the battle was beginning to be described. I did also find some historical simplifying in later chapters, however, so I wonder how much that went on in with the battles I was less knowledgeable about.

There are a lot of similar books out there, and I think they all basically have the same strengths and weaknesses.

145mabith
Ago 7, 2013, 1:18 pm

88 - Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45 by Barbara Tuchman

I know Tuchman is quite expansive and some consider her dry, but I absolutely adore her writing. The Guns of August is probably my favorite history book ever.

I seem to have developed a strong interest in China of the 20th century, so this was an excellent book for me. It's a fascinating look at a part of WWII that isn't as well-covered, generally, plus a great picture of the Kuomintang and their issues.

Recommend if you're already interested in the subject.

146mabith
Ago 7, 2013, 1:27 pm

89 - The Painted Garden by Noel Streatfeild

This was apparently slightly abridged and published as Movie Shoes in the US, though my mom says she doesn't think there was anything left out.

Streatfeild is just so brilliant at writing children. They are cranky and nice and jealous and just REAL. Even the extra nice ones aren't just selfless. She lets children be full-fledged people. The Shoes books are some of the most well-written children's books ever.

This one also had an extra bit of interest for me, as she came to the US to observe the filming of The Secret Garden that had Dean Stockwell playing Colin (which I so want to see, though I'm sure it's far inferior to the 1975 mini-series).

147mabith
Ago 10, 2013, 10:33 am

90 - A Blink of the Screen: Collected Shorter Fiction by Terry Pratchett

This was an interesting read, though I'm not really much for short stories. It was really neat to see the story that became Truckers and the one that become The Long Earth. Plus pretty interesting to read some of earliest creations.

148mabith
Ago 12, 2013, 1:43 pm

91 - The Rose Rent by Ellis Peters

Another Cadfael book (number 13, I think), quite good, though not a favorite of the series for me.

149mabith
Ago 17, 2013, 12:27 am

92 - Holidays and Other Disasters by John G. Rodwan, Jr.

This book's summary states that it considers major US holidays from an atheist's perspective, but it really doesn't do that.

This is a collection of anecdotes, some personal, some not, which SOMETIMES have something to do with a holiday (however passing that relationship is). Salman Rushdie's personal relationship to Feb. 14th, it being the day the fatwa was declared against him, really has nothing to do with atheists' relationship to that holiday or the holiday itself.

Likewise, the author's relationship with a particular priest at his Catholic school is a section that has nothing to do with any holiday (and there are numerous similar sections). The book states early on that its audience is not the believers, yet spends time documenting contradictions in the Bible.

This book was so random and generally uninteresting. There was nothing that made me want to keep reading. Maybe if I'd just decided I was an atheist it would have been more interesting, but even then I think Rodwan would have an uphill battle.

I also believe that in assuming Thanksgiving immediately invokes thanking a creator, he's overlooking the real meaning of the event - being thankful for other humans' kindness. Pilgrims may have thanked god for their luck, but that doesn't take away from the truth.

Rodwan feels you can't pick and choose what parts of a holiday to celebrate. I'm not sure why he cares or is trying to convince atheists not to have a god-free Christmas but to abandon family traditions and memories altogether.

Personally, I don't need atheists pressuring me about how to celebrate, just like I don't need Christians doing it, and frankly, Rodwan barely elaborates on the subject, given that it's supposed to be what the book was about. He spends more pages talking about 9/11 and the opening day of baseball season than Easter and Christmas. Rodwan's sections about parades honoring specific nationalities had me bristling. He reacts negatively against that partitioning, but he's also not part of a marginalized group and his privilege in that respect shows in his comments.

150Helenliz
Ago 17, 2013, 2:52 am

That sounds like a book to avoid at all costs! A logical discussion about to ways to approach religious holidays in a secular world could be an interesting thesis, but it sounds like this wasn't up to that standard.
I wonder what his target audience is?

151mabith
Ago 17, 2013, 8:46 am

Helen, I really couldn't guess about target audience. It was just such a strange book, maybe he was trying to set himself up for some sort of autobiographical essay book deal a la Augusten Burroughs. I mean, he spends an entire chapter talking about how it's okay to listen to religious music, and you know, I just don't think most atheists are so irrational as to need to hear that defense.

Even when skipping a few chapters (ones with no real connection to religion), I had a very hard time making myself finish the book.

152mabith
Editado: Ago 17, 2013, 3:51 pm

93 - The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Frontier Rebels who Challenged America's Newfound Sovereignty by William Hogeland

Now this was an excellent book. This was an extremely important and interesting part of US history that gets covered appallingly in high school history.

It also confirms my dislike of Alexander Hamilton, who was a jerk (to avoid stronger language). Not that any of the founding fathers were particular "friends of the people," but Hamilton gets off lightly because of the duel.

Hogeland writes well and clearly, though I think the choice of Simon Vance for audiobook wasn't great. "Oh, a book about US history, let's get a Brit to read it, rather than someone from the region who will pronounce the place names correctly..."

153mabith
Ago 20, 2013, 9:38 am

94 - Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

I don't know why it took me so long to pick up the book, though I think part of it is just because the play came first and I was very fulfilled by the Mary M. Martin edition we had on tape when I was growing up.

In any case, it was a really a wonderful read, and hilarious. If you're reading it aloud to children I would go through first and make notes where you'll want to omit/change certain words used in relation to Indians.

Highly recommended.

154mabith
Ago 20, 2013, 9:44 am

95 - Trouping: How the Show Came to Town by Philip C. Lewis

A really interesting book about the history of traveling theatre in the US. The stories are interesting, a lot of detailed is covered, and it's generally well-written.

My main quibble is the lack of dates when dates were known. Obviously now I can easily look up when Adah Menken lived and died, but that doesn't mean I should have to and it was a rather harder task in 1973 when the book was written.

I just don't understand why editors let this happen. Just one date would have helped, either when she was born or died or when she started acting or whichever. This was a somewhat recurring issue in the book. Mostly there are dates but then they just get left off certain things and the book isn't in precise chronological order.

155mabith
Editado: Ago 27, 2013, 3:47 pm

96 - A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama

I've really enjoyed everything I've read by Tsukiyama, particularly Women of the Silk. The last one I read by her was SO full of death that it just killed me, and I've waited a while to read this.

Thankfully my online book club picked it to read, forcing me to start this wonderful little book.

It's a different, more everyday, view of the effect of arrests following the Hundred Flowers campaign in the late 1950s. It follows one family, where the father is arrested. It's a little book, and there's not a huge (usual) plot arc, it's more a slice out of this family's life and their relationships with each other. Her writing is wonderful, her characters always feel so incredibly real and well-rounded.

Highly recommended.

156mabith
Editado: Ago 23, 2013, 8:36 am

97 - Raven Flight by Juliet Marillier

This is one of Marillier's YA offerings, which tend to be much heavier on the fantasy elements than her adult books. Her brand of historical fantasy-lite is my favorite, but I still read these as I think she's really a wonderful author (except maybe for the second and third books in the Bridei chronicles which were such a let-down after the brilliant first in that series, though probably it's more that I just really loved those characters and the other two books focused on a character I didn't care for that much).

In any case, this is the second of the Shadowfell series (which will probably be a trilogy) and I think it sucked me in a lot more than the first did. I read over 300 pages of it today, meaning it was engrossing enough for me to ignore the hand pain (that's almost a bad thing for me, as now I can say goodbye to doing anything else with the digits).

The series follows Neryn who is a legendary caller and her joining with the rebels as possibly the key to taking down the Evil King. I think I enjoyed it more because the love-interest wasn't in much of it. I can't say it wasn't generally predictable, but it's medieval-ish YA fantasy and Marillier's strong characters (both good and wicked) always win me.

157mabith
Ago 23, 2013, 8:49 pm

98 - Destiny Disrupted A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes by Tamim Ansary

This is an incredibly important book if you want to have a better understanding of the current state of most Middle Eastern countries and Islam in general.

It's also very well written and filled with fascinating information. I am so glad I picked it up right at this moment. I listened to the audiobook and I don't think 17 hours has ever gone by so quickly before...

Ansary has a gift for organizing this information, presenting it clearly, and explaining why it's important.

Highly, HIGHLY recommended.

158mabith
Editado: Ago 27, 2013, 3:49 pm

99 - After the Funeral by Agatha Christie

A nice Poirot mystery! This is quite a good little story, and the BBC version of this book is one of my favorites. It's a very late-written one, and I've realized now that I may have read ALL the Poirot novels.

159mabith
Editado: Set 2, 2013, 8:13 am

Woo! Not reading quite as much as last year, but I'm reading more really long books.

100 - The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum

I put off reading this one for some reason. I think I'd seen a review that it wasn't what the subtitle claimed, which I definitely don't agree with.

This is a great pop-science/history book. You get scientific method and discovery but also Crime! Corruption! City management! All together a very interesting book, and well-written/organized.

160Helenliz
Ago 28, 2013, 1:39 pm

Well done on reaching 100! I like your mixture of fact & fiction and there are some great sounding books on the list.

161Zefariath
Ago 29, 2013, 11:02 am

Hi there,

Re 31: sounds quite interesting, I might have to add it to my list.

Re 41: Neverwhere was one of my favorite books, but everyone's tastes differ. I also enjoyed it even more when I re-read it while on a trip to London, being in the city felt like it gave me a much better connection to the book, as I truely knew where the places he talked about were. I supppose that whole be true for any book that was written in a town one knew well.

Re 45: I do think Tesla was a very interesting person, and need to read more on him sometime. But perhaps this is not the book to start with.

Re 82: I love Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. I've been reading them since The Colour of Magic first came out in the US. My paperback is the first Signet printing in 1985 (wow, a long time ago.) I've reread many of the older books many times. While all are good, I do think that some are exceptional, though I couldn't say which, without looking over and reviewing them all :) it's been a while since I read through the series. I wish you many more enjoyable trips to Discworld!

Re 132: Candide Someday i have to go back and read this. I attempted it once when i was very young, 10 or 11 years old, my parents had picked up this big collection of classics in hardcover, which unfortunately they no longer have. I'm sure that I would get much more out of it now.

Finally, congrats on reaching 100 already.

162jfetting
Ago 29, 2013, 1:54 pm

Congratulations on hitting 100!

163mabith
Ago 29, 2013, 2:17 pm

Thanks, gang!

161 - Pratchett is always worth a re-read. I've read all of the Discworld books now (spaced out the last seven or so to try and savor them), but I re-listen to them pretty continuously. The audio editions are generally so excellent (barring the first two witches books, which Celia Imrie reads, love her but she was a bad choice for those books).

164mabith
Ago 30, 2013, 9:55 am

101 - Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients by Ben Goldacre

I really liked Goldacre's book Bad Science, and since this one strikes closer to home I had to read it too. Strikes close enough to be incredibly depressing, and it was interesting to see the differences between getting prescriptions on the NHS versus here, where apparently they don't tell doctors "Nope, we're only paying for that med if the patient has X disease not for Y disease." Here, both private insurance and Medicaid and Medicare are pretty strict on what they'll cover. So even though lidocaine patches are widely prescribed for my nerve pain disease Medicaid would only pay for them if I had a different nerve pain disease (they would pay for the lidocaine cream though, which makes loads of sense, right?).

Anyway, the book is excellent and extremely important. Even if you think you know the scale of madness you probably don't. The discussion of specific laws is most relevant to Europe and the US (with some mention of Canada and Australia), but the discussion of the companies and their trial tricks is relevant worldwide. Highly recommended!!

My one quibble is that surely it wouldn't have been that hard to mention both the scientific and the generic name at the first mention of any drug. Goldacre states at the beginning that he'll switch back and forth and not mention both, but I don't see that it would have hurt anything to say both together at least once.

It was slightly odd to listen to the audiobook due to the some of the drug names (non-generic) sounding especially ridiculous. The best was a diabetes medication that was read as "rosy glitter-zone."

165mabith
Set 1, 2013, 1:31 pm

102 - Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

I started listening to this one primarily for the readers and the accents, not expecting to really enjoy or appreciate the writing. I've never been a drugs person, I've never understood drugs people. My experiences have all been due to my chronic illness, and never pleasant (and my brother became a serious drug addict and alcoholic starting when I was seven or eight, so there's that).

However, I ended up really liking and appreciating this book. The loose vignettes merge into a picture of a group of "friends" and their families. The sort-of main figure's observations periodically expose (to himself) the sexist, racist, and homophobic nature of society in a way that is realistic and unforced.

It's not a book that I think I'll feel a desire to reread, or feel really evangelical about, but it's solid and deserves the acclaim it received. I definitely recommend giving it a read, or more especially, a listen. The audiobook was incredibly well-done (the slang is pretty easily understandable from context, but I have watched a lot of Scottish TV recently).

166clfisha
Set 2, 2013, 5:08 am

Belated congrats on reaching 100!

I really liked The Poisoner's Handbook, she managed to tie a very eclectic book together and make it really interesting.

167mabith
Set 3, 2013, 10:22 am

166 - Thanks! And yeah, another author definitely could have ruined the book by bad organization/less storytelling.

168mabith
Set 3, 2013, 10:22 am

103 - Just Kids by Patti Smith

This is a memoir that focuses on Patti Smith's early adult life and her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe.

It's really an interesting read just for the capturing of the artistic and poetic communities in New York City. It was maybe doubly interesting for me because I think her life (after she had a home in NYC, at least) was basically my mom's teenage dream life (she's five years older than my mum). Granted, that probably applies to a lot of teenagers (live in the city, be an artist, work in a bookstore, date an artist, randomly meet famous people you admire, break into rock and roll, etc...).

A wonderful book. The audio edition is read by Smith herself, which was probably good, though it took me a while to get used to her as she read somewhat slowly. Her accent also gets thicker as the book goes along, it's sort of cute. However, my intolerant nature made me want to shake her when she said "drar-ing," for drawing which she did rather a lot.

169mabith
Set 5, 2013, 3:14 pm

104 - The Great Crash, 1929 by John Kenneth Galbraith

So, I thought to myself, "The stockmarket is a huge gap in my general knowledge, I'll read a book about the 1929 crash." I don't think my brain wants to know anything about the stockmarket, deep down.

Given that, this was a pretty short book, and probably worth reading. It's considered a classic and has never been out of print. There was a lot of interesting information, my brain just didn't deal well with the more technical financial aspects. What I found most interesting was the steps taken by the wealthy and those trying to keep the crash from worsening, plus the fact that it would sort of work until the weekend when everyone was left to think on their own and solely about themselves.

170mabith
Set 5, 2013, 3:16 pm

105 - Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat

This was such a wonderful little book. None of it really went as I assumed it would, so it was lovely feeling surprised and not knowing what to expect.

The language is beautiful, and the message that's there is interesting (though I'm pretty sure people will take a wide variety of things from it, depending on their own life).

Very recommended.

171judylou
Set 8, 2013, 1:20 am

Belated congratulations on passing 100!

I read and loved Krik? Krak! by Danticat. I have a couple of her books on my TBR list. I wish I could get to them more quickly.

172mabith
Set 8, 2013, 12:30 pm

Thanks! Glad to hear Krik? Krak! is a goodie too! I'm trying to read more books by Caribbean and Central and South American authors, but it's hard to find them in audiobook editions.

173mabith
Set 11, 2013, 10:29 pm

106 - Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Every American should read this book. I have a feeling the situation is even worse now, in terms of the cost of living being higher.

The writing is strong and it's easy to get hooked on the stories Ehrenreich tells. Highly recommended.

174mabith
Set 11, 2013, 10:32 pm

107 - The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

The second in (probably) a trilogy. This one wasn't as interesting as the first book. The title is a misnomer, and the book is just to had some extra character development and let you know a few new facts.

It was kind of annoying. I kept going "This book is almost over... I don't see any war happening..." There was maybe one moment of action/excitement, right at the end, and then it ended randomly on a huge event which will be addressed in the next book.

175Zefariath
Set 12, 2013, 9:27 am

Hello again !

Re: 174... glad to see I wasn't the only one wondering about that second book, I kept thinking where is this book going.

176mabith
Set 12, 2013, 8:04 pm

108 - 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

This is a wonderful little book, containing the correspondence between Helene Hanff and various workers at an antiquarian bookshop in London.

It's incredibly short, which makes me sad. I highly recommend the audio edition, which is perfectly performed.

177mabith
Set 17, 2013, 9:35 am

109 - The Great War in Africa: 1914-1918 by Byron Farwell

An interesting book covering the least known arena of WWI. The writing is definitely pretty dry and focused. Of course it's dated in the sense of country names, which had changed by 1986 and have changed still further now.

Farwell is pretty even-handed, in terms of not putting any group down, and making a note of which specific groups of soldiers had a reputation for bad behavior versus reality.

There was a very understated bit at one point where he mentioned that the Belgians had "not endeared themselves to the local tribes." The Belgians having the most violent and repressive colonial rule in Africa... He does go on to elaborate about that a bit later on, though without being very specific.

Certainly not a bad book, but I'd only recommend it if you have an extremely strong interest in WWI and love strategy and battle descriptions with a large dose of graphic descriptions of parasites.

178mabith
Set 20, 2013, 11:54 am

110 - The Hermit of Eyton Forest by Ellis Peters

This is an excellent Cadfael novel, and my favorite of the four or five before it. This one had a lot of nice elements.

179mabith
Set 20, 2013, 9:11 pm

111 - The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

This is a wonderful book, which Alexie has said is about 78% memoir. I think it worked really well, and will go down as a Judy Blume-esque classic for boys.

For all the furor over mentions of masturbation in the book I was expecting it to get more than the two or three mentions there actually are... Write male YA characters at all realistically? Gasp!

180mabith
Set 25, 2013, 8:21 pm

112 - Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World by Jack Weatherford

This is such a wonderfully written and completely important book, particularly for Americans, I think. The things they fail to teach us in school... it's just criminal. This book starts to make up for that.

It covers native tribes of north, central, and south America pretty equally, though it will spend a good while working through one topic that relates to only one area. There wasn't much presence from the far north, but of course they would have been isolated for a longer period of time, presumably.

Highly HIGHLY recommended.

181mabith
Set 28, 2013, 11:02 am

113 - Searching for Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

This is the second in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. I listened to a dreadful audiobook production of the first book, but read this one in print. SO much more enjoyable this way.

These are such fun books, great for your grade school reader after they've soaked up all the fairy tales and Disney movies and such, and are ready for some longer fantasy stores.

182mabith
Set 28, 2013, 11:12 am

114 - The Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth

This is a rambling little book about where words come from. Each section flows into the next relatively smoothly.

It's short, a nice book to randomly pick up or have in a guest room. Not great on audio, at least not if you have a faulty memory the way I do.

Interesting, humorous, nice little read.

183mabith
Out 1, 2013, 11:50 pm

115 - The Bondwoman's Narrative by Hannah Crafts

This is a well-authenticated novel written by an escaped American slave in the mid-19th century. It is said to be the first novel written by an African American woman (that we've found, obviously).

The writing feels, for the most part, extremely modern. The book has the typical hallmarks of gothic writing, melodrama, and excessive sentimentality but combined with a slave narrative as well. There's lots of God and Jesus and Heavenly Reward talk.

I really enjoyed listening to it (read by Anna Deavere Smith), more so than I would have reading it in print, I think. At times the melodrama had me rolling my eyes. It was a fascinating book though, well worth reading, and really interesting to read about the authentication process and how they found who the author was and such. The print book has lots of appendixes relating to that, and the audiobook has a nice interview at the end with Henry Louis Gates, who purchased the manuscript at auction.

184mabith
Out 5, 2013, 10:50 am

116 - Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney

Okay, so technically I was read this when I was quite little, but I didn't really remember it, and I did buy a copy for myself a couple years back.

This is one of those family books which I can't actually dislike, even though I don't think it's one of the really quality old children's books. Then again, I haven't read as many from the 1880s as say, 1900-1916, so maybe it was a step ahead. My great-grandmothers both read this as girls, and at least on my mom's side they passed it down to their daughters. More and more I see how much my maternal grandmother focused on books where the children are all constantly planning surprises and presents for their mothers...

It follows a very poor family called Pepper. There are five children and it focuses most, I think, on Polly, the oldest daughter who does an immense amount of work and who everyone loves. I can't seem to find anything concrete about the author (real name Harriett Mulford Stone Lothrop) but I would hazard a guess that she did NOT grow up poor.

All in all, it's a sweet little story, just very twee and everyone ends as they started (no one grows, no one changes). I will try to make sure my nieces and nephews hear it still. Just don't read it expecting the true quality of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm or Understood Betsy.

185mabith
Out 5, 2013, 11:33 am

117 - For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History by Sarah Rose

First off, don't listen to the audiobook of this. It's read by the author and she's really not a good reader (and an American woman reader isn't the best choice for this anyway). She reads very much like she's trying to interest a class of 10 year olds in it, though at least she doesn't try to do any Scottish, English, or Chinese accents.

This follows Robert Fortune, a Scottish botanist. He was hired by the East India company to go into China (illegal for westerners to go past the foreign enclaves on the coast) and steal both tea plants and seeds, and discover the details of the tea manufacturing process.

Definitely an interesting book, though there are some problems with the scholarship that I noted, and that makes me worry about the things which I don't have the knowledge to notice. She also purposefully avoids mentioning sources in the text, which I really don't like. Since a lot of this came from Robert Fortune's memoirs I think it's more important to note when that's the case (and his wife burnt all of his journals and papers after he dead, which should make us even more suspicious of his memoirs).

There's definitely some interesting history here, though this is very much all from the British point of view, other than noting how we'd treat this kind of intellectual property theft now. What was most interesting to me was the difficulty of transporting the seeds and plants, and figuring out how to keep them alive, the facts of the highly refined manufacturing process, etc... Rose definitely seemed more inclined to focus on Fortune's adventures.

If you can turn off your non-fiction critiquing functions then it's an enjoyable, interesting book. Rose definitely tries to just make it a story, but doesn't entirely succeed. She doesn't know how to introduce the harder facts without breaking that, so it can feel a little like two separate books.

186jfetting
Out 5, 2013, 12:12 pm

Aww, the Peppers. I read those when I was a little girl and you're right, there isn't much to them but they fun. Have you read more than just the first one? Everyone Loves Polly continues all the way into her young adulthood.

187mabith
Out 5, 2013, 12:30 pm

I haven't read the others yet, and I don't think my grandparents or mom was really aware of them (probably partly a money issue), but I think I probably will. At first I was thinking "Sidney must have been the oldest daughter who was stuck with most of the awful jobs..." but I think she was probably just a sentimentalist. I did rather want Polly to do something bad or selfish.

188jfetting
Out 5, 2013, 5:18 pm

Nope. Never. Not for one single second. Also, SPOILER ALERT, she marries Jasper. Shocking, right? Except her mother needs to explain to her that he is proposing because she is just so darn sweet and innocent she has no idea what he is getting at.

Her wedding night must have been hellish. Except we don't learn about that, naturally, because they are children's books and that would be wrong.

189mabith
Out 5, 2013, 7:07 pm

That's how you know she was a proper lady. Only improper ladies would ever understand that a gentleman was proposing. They don't have married mothers or anything...

Now THERE'S some fan fiction I could get behind - Polly Pepper's wedding night!

190mabith
Out 7, 2013, 10:45 pm

118 - 2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America by Albert Brooks

This is a "trying to be positive in the end" dystopian book. It had a lot of possibility, and Brooks was exploring some really good lines, but it was too ambitious.

If he'd partnered with an experienced novel writer they probably could have produced an amazing, highly relevant book. As it is he explores healthcare, the issue of extended life (and thus more senior voters), debt, the worsening quality of life, and disaster relief.

It's a book you're really excited about to begin with, but that gradually fades as you keep reading, leaving a feeling of disappointment and missed opportunities.

191mabith
Out 9, 2013, 2:31 pm

119 - How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn't Have to be Forever by Jack Horner and James Gorman

Really neat little book, with a lot of great background information on DNA, evolution, etc... There are a lot of small repeats in the book, but as someone with a generally poor memory that's probably a good thing.

This is a popular science book actually written by someone who is in that field (with help from a science writer).

Definitely recommended.

192mabith
Editado: Out 10, 2013, 6:50 pm

120 - At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance (:A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power) by Danielle L. McGuire

Giving yourself a real education in US History is really depressing.

This is a hard book to read, both in terms of the stories in it and the feeling that things haven't actually changed all that much (given statistics I've seen recently), 40 pages at a sitting was about all I could handle. It is worth reading though, both from a history standpoint and because it's really interesting to see how specific sexual assault cases spurred large and important parts of the civil rights movement.

McGuire writes and organizes the book extremely well, drawing from many sources, and breaking up the stories in such a way that it's easier reading. She's very good at situating these events into the larger picture in a clear way and with lots of research backing up those connections.

193mabith
Out 10, 2013, 7:07 pm

121 - Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, The Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam by Pope Brock

Fascinating book about "Doctor" John R. Brinkley, who made his name transplanting pieces of goat testicles into men (and goat ovaries into women) as a "revitalization" measure. Morris Fishbein of the American Medical Association spend a lot of time trying to stop his quack doctoring in a variety of ways (which was kind of a new thing for the AMA).

Brinkley never stopped pushing. One setback after another but he'd rise up. When his medical radio show (diagnosing and prescribing over the radio, of course) was taken off the air, he built a station in Mexico, and accidentally discovered how to boost his signal significantly (and was able to broadcast at a wattage five times higher than the limit in the US, reaching Alaska and farther on clear nights). His radio station there eventually led to Wolfman Jack's widespread fame and both his stations guided a lot of the music industry (including the national fame of the Carter family, among others).

This book covers Brinkley in depth, but also the growth of the AMA and the changes in what they did. Of course, you still get just as much quackery today (though in the US it doesn't tend to involve life-threatening surgery), and now they know how to cherry pick studies, so who knows where we're heading. Ask anyone with a chronic illness and they'll tell you how often we deal with complete strangers (who know nothing about our illnesses) telling us that X supplement or Y procedure will cure us completely, and get it just as bad from some friends and family members.

Definitely a neat book, very recommended.

194mabith
Editado: Out 10, 2013, 7:14 pm

122 - The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists by Gideon Defoe

The best thing about having multiple books on the go is finishing three in one day!

Other than having a great title, this is a fun little book. The pirates are ridiculous, there are tidbits of facts and history in the footnotes. It's mostly suitable for children, though I'd make a few notes beforehand of what I might want to leave out before reading it aloud (mostly a few oblique references to sex, fine for your 10 and ups though, I think).

195clfisha
Out 11, 2013, 8:37 am

I admit I love The Pirates! series, never fails to cheer me up when I am feeling down they are just so exuberent and silly.

196jfetting
Out 11, 2013, 4:17 pm

I suspect that At the Dark End of the Street will be incredibly upsetting, but I probably should read it since I am also trying to educate myself.

197mabith
Editado: Out 13, 2013, 9:49 pm

Jennifer - It was hard, but it's nice to hear about the triumphs that happened and learn about some incredibly strong women.

198mabith
Out 13, 2013, 10:37 pm

123 - Dancing Aztecs by Donald E. Westlake

This was originally published in 1976, and it's dated in terms of language (though may not as much as sheltered me likes to think). Westlake has an interesting mix of stereotypes combined with honest talk about latent racism, racism coming from liberals (likewise a bit with homophobia). Only his characters use racial slurs, not the narrator, and the use isn't gratuitous, especially considering when it was written, but it's always a bit of a shock for me. He gets in so many good points about the everyday stupidity involved in bigotry. Westlake was kind of a genius.

The novel is funny, and the humor would only be amplified if Michael Kramer (who reads most of Westlake's Dortmunder books) was the reader for the audiobook. The book is kind of "almost could have been a Dortmunder story" in terms of the absolutely insanity involved, but I can see that Westlake wanted to deal with more real inter-personal issues than you could get into a pure-comedy novel.

Basically - a valuable object that was being smuggled goes awry, and more and more groups and people get involved in trying to find it. Set in NYC, of course. It was a very pleasant surprise for me, in general. I'm a nut for his first 10 or so Dortmunder novels, but most of his books aren't like those.

199mabith
Out 15, 2013, 7:08 pm

124 - Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford

It's so much harder to keep track of things in a history audiobook when you're only family with one name in every period of the subject. Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan, and that's all I've got...

Really interesting stuff, and an important period of history to know about, particularly since we absolutely vilified the Mongols out of racism and a feeling of cultural superiority. Yet the period sources speak so highly of their culture and laws until the enlightenment.

Basically - unprecedented religious tolerance, didn't meddle much in the cultures or agricultures of the areas they conquered, culture of meritocracy, promoted universal literacy (supposedly the first culture to do so), anti-torture, etc...

Definitely something I'll need to look through again in print.

200mabith
Out 15, 2013, 7:20 pm

125 - Unimagined: A Muslim Boy Meets the West by Imran Ahmad

The subtitle is kind of misleading, since Ahmad moved to England around age two. It's less about culture shock or even cultural differences than it is growing up as an "other" to the dominant culture, trying to figure out religion in the way the most kids raised in a religious household probably do, and the mesh between two different cultures.

He writes each section from the point-of-view of himself at that age, so the tone grows up with him. I really like that in a memoir that is largely about childhood.

Absolutely loved this book (and loved the audiobook, read by Ahmad). It was really interesting and well-written and I didn't want to stop reading it for a moment. For reference, he was born in 1962.

201mabith
Out 19, 2013, 1:50 am

126 - 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

This is my kind of science fiction. There's no war or revolution just space exploration and The World of Tomorrow, with an interesting twist and the always culturally relevant HAL. Really enjoyed it.

If anyone has any SF recommendations based on that and my love of Little Fuzzy, Blackout, To Your Scattered Bodies Go, let me have them! With SF I just often feel like there's too much "earth history, but in SPACE" and then I'd rather read non-fiction or historical fiction (don't really care to read about fighting unless it's true).

202mabith
Out 21, 2013, 10:44 am

127 - Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe by George Dyson

This focuses on a small group and mostly in their time around Princeton, NJ, and the Institute for Advanced Study. It really doesn't focus too much on Turing or the building of his Universal Machine. It's more useful as little biographies of the people involved. The book focuses a lot of the building of atomic and hydrogen bombs, and the creation and expansion of the Institute.

It does get pretty technical in a way that makes me go "Oh god, my head," but I keep thinking that someday it will all click if I read enough of these books! It does talk about the changes from certain analog technologies to digital, and switching from electro-mechanical devices to purely electrical ones. I do think the title is misleading though.

Apparently if you want something that's a bit more focused on the early computers The Soul of the Machine by Tracy Kidder is a better one. The biography-heavy aspect of this was interesting, and the story of how these people all got together, how they worked together, etc... It also doesn't move chronologically, but focuses on one figure at a time and goes through their life and work in the period before moving on to another person. This means that you've got discussions of the same technology advance scattered throughout the book. It definitely needed a stronger editing hand.

I have a feeling that people more familiar with this subject would find the book more frustrating. For me maybe it's a nice start in becoming acquainted with some of the people before finding another book on the subject.

203mabith
Out 21, 2013, 10:54 am

128 - The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code by Margalit Fox

This is about the cracking of Linear B, the bronze age writing first found on Crete in the 1900, and later dug up on the mainland as well.

Typically the only person credited with the decipherment is a young man, Michael Ventris, but his first breakthroughs come directly from using methods worked out by Alice Kober. She has been almost entirely left out of the story. This book puts the entire process in perspective. She does take work away from Ventris, by any means, but shows how it would not have been cracked at that time or probably for years to come without Kober's work.

Loved this book, and it was written and laid out so well. Fox is great at explaining techniques of decipherment, using abstract examples, and really making the process clear. Kober was an absolutely powerhouse of work. She did this in addition to a full teaching load, seems to have spent hours writing letters... It's astounding how hard she drove herself. She and Ventris both died young.

Very recommended!

204mabith
Out 31, 2013, 6:15 pm

129 - The Confession of Brother Haluin by Ellis Peters

Not my favorite Cadfael book. A few too many coincidences involved in figuring everything out. Pretty much no work for Cadfael and a little too predictable to be a favorite. Still fun, as they all are, but just a little less so than others in the series.

205mabith
Out 31, 2013, 6:23 pm

130 - The Mating Season by PG Wodehouse

It's Wodehouse, it's lovely. There's identity swapping, so you know it's extra silly.

206mabith
Out 31, 2013, 6:35 pm

131 - Marie Curie and her Daughters: The Private Lives of Science's First Family by Shelley Emling

I received this as an ER with a bit of trepidation, as it come from Palgrave Macmillan and the last few I've had from them didn't seem to have ever been touched by an editor... I was pleasantly surprised, however.

This is a wonderful book, picking up a part of Curie's life that isn't usually paid much attention - both in terms of tracking her scientific pursuits after her second Nobel prize, and in terms of her relationship with her children.

She's such an interesting person, for a lot of reasons, and her relationship to motherhood is interesting too, especially in light of being away from her children so often. I knew nothing about her daughters' lives, and they are just as worthy of study.

There's a lot to love in this one, between the information given and the way Emling shares Curie's story with us. She balances the writing very well. This is a real Curie, rather than the two-dimensional idea of her many of us have. It also speaks on her profound impact in numerous spheres.

Highly recommended.

207mabith
Nov 1, 2013, 1:11 pm

132 - Sapper Martin: The Secret Great War Diary of Jack Martin (edited)by Richard Van Emden

This was a really interesting find. Definitely recommended for anyone who's been reading general WWI histories lately but really wants a soldier's eye view. Martin wasn't in the the worst of things, in terms of danger of being sent over the top, as he was in the signal corps, so there's not a lot of blood and gore and horror.

His account seems stereotypically British, in terms of that era at least. He records things dutifully, and keeps his spirits up (as you pretty much have to in that situation, in order to stay sane, I think). It's a great portrait of regular army life in terms of the movement of regular troops outside of the worst trenches.

Definitely a great piece of WWI written history.

208jfetting
Nov 1, 2013, 3:06 pm

Did you see that Sebastian Faulks, he of Birdsong and a new non-Ian Fleming James Bond Novel, is writing a New Jeeves Novel? I'm still unsure how to react.

209mabith
Nov 1, 2013, 3:49 pm

I did! I am very unhappy about it. Things END and that's good. We have lots of Bond, lots of Jeeves. When we run out of a series that's when we seek out new authors and new series and such. That's how it should be.

If an author leaves a mostly finished novel, that's one thing, but otherwise I hate that whole business.

210mabith
Nov 7, 2013, 8:35 pm

133 - The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

This is a wonderful book.

It follows a group of Hungarian Jews leading up to and during WWII (and a bit after). I've read so many WWII and holocaust books, but there's always some new story I haven't read.

The book is wonderfully written, the story is believable, and I know a lot more about Hungary during the war than I used to.

Highly recommended. The audio edition isn't bad, though the reader pronounces a few things rather oddly.

211mabith
Nov 10, 2013, 7:17 pm

134 - The Great Race: The Race Between the English and the French to Complete the Map of Australia by David Hill

First off, for some reason the internet really tried to psych me out with this book. Both here on LT and on Amazon this was coming up as having been written in 1912. I kept going "This cannot be 1912, the writing is far too modern," and of course it was meant to say 2012. Y2K came back to haunt, maybe.

While the title of this is misleading (wasn't much of a race, wasn't a real source of animosity or anything...) it was a pretty neat book. I admit I'm fascinated/baffled by the idea of charting coasts and surveying rivers and such, because it seems like magic to me.

There were a lot of neat little stories in this volume, and a general picture of life on ocean at this time, differences between the French and English methods, etc... One of the most interesting things to me was the fact that while England and France were at war they both gave a 'passport' to the other country's scientific vessel anyway, so they could sale freely (so long as they didn't engage in any action against the other).

Recommended for anyone interested in Navy life in the early 19th century, cartography, or Australian history. Keep in mind this book is more of a jumping off point than a complete history.

212mabith
Nov 13, 2013, 10:45 pm

135 - The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer's Illiad and the Trojan War by Caroline Alexander

I didn't read though out of any particular interest in the Iliad or the Trojan war, but because I had audible credits and I've loved everything Alexander has written.

This book was SO good! I was sucked in immediately, and the information she presented was simply fascinating. This is in-depth analysis that you cannot do unless you have a stupendous about of background knowledge about ancient Greece, ancient epics, heroic traditions, etc... It was fascinating to see just how much Homer bucked tradition, view Achilles as the anti-hero, and see the entire piece as an anti-war tract.

Totally, completely recommended. I immediately put this book on hold for my dad at our library (because I am the type of child who saves their parents' library logins in her computer so that she can reserve books she feels they need to read).

213mabith
Nov 13, 2013, 10:52 pm

136 - Sailor Moon Box Set Vol. 7-12 by Naoko Takeuchi

I discovered Sailor Moon when I was 12 and was an immediate addict. I read not quite the first half of the manga at the time, and now with my millions in bookstore credit I bought the entire collection.

Comics don't usually go on my list here, but for 6 volumes, each roughly 245 pages long...

Sailor Moon is actually a great thing for girls. You've got a hero who is a clutzy, crybaby who loves video games, romance, and food. But she's also brave and always willing to fight for her friends and anyone who gets caught in the cross-fire.

All of the characters have fully fleshed personalities which often buck cliches in media aimed at pre-teen girls or include traits that seem to be opposites. Sailor Moon doesn't sacrifice her crybaby, 'girly' ways to be a brave fighter, as you see in a lot of media. The series, especially the anime, is also just FUN, and Takeuchi's art is beautiful.

I've seen some great analysis of Sailor Moon lately, and it's rekindled my love for it, which I was once shamed into hiding because it wasn't serious, higher-art anime.

214mabith
Nov 15, 2013, 10:22 am

137 - Vikings by Neil Oliver (this touchstone was showing up for the last few weeks under the full title The Vikings: A New History but now it's shortened. Weird.)

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read, with very little speculation involved. The author follows settlement in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark in the pre-Viking age, as well as the various routes these people took out of their countries.

Oliver gives you the full picture and I found the writing very engaging. The span is wide, as was the Viking Age, and there's a lot of detail from archaeological digs, of course. There's a pretty nice spread of color photos as well.

It was pretty neat to get the bigger picture involving all the various Viking groups and conquest/settlement areas, since usually the focus is more narrow. Definitely recommended.

215mabith
Nov 15, 2013, 10:34 am

138 - Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

This book was incredible. I saw a review of it from Eyejaybee in this group and I'm SO glad I picked it up. Not sure I quite agree about finest WWII novel I've read, but certainly up there and possibly the finest YA WWII novel I've read.

I spent a large part of my early reading years focusing on WWII and Holocaust books. Novels, history, memoirs, adult and children's and YA. It was probably somewhat disturbing for my parents, but I was rather obsessed with being strong, and where do you find stronger people?

This book enthralled me though, and I can only imagine how I would have felt about it when I was 10 or 11. The writing, the situations, the characters, the surprises... I'm off to find Wein's other WWII book right away.

I stayed up incredibly late last night, as I had to finish it and then I couldn't sleep for some time, because of that "just finished an amazing book" high you get occasionally.

The audio edition is particularly good. Highly, highly recommended in any form.

216clfisha
Nov 16, 2013, 4:57 am

I keep seeing great reviews for Code Name Verity, I am really going to have to check it out.

217mabith
Nov 16, 2013, 10:41 am

216 - I'm not all that easily impressed by YA fiction these days, not because it's bad, exactly, but I think often it refers to books that really only appeal to you while you're a teenager, and I wish there were a few more (getting big press) that weren't mainly love stories. This book, however, really impressed me from the get go.

218mabith
Nov 18, 2013, 9:17 pm

139 - Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

Classic, English humour novel. I agree with others who say it doesn't feel very dated, the jokes still work, etc...

If you've run out of Wodehouse this is a nice gap-filler. The audio edition read by Martin Jarvis is very nice. For some reason they only booked Hugh Laurie to do an abridged version, which I find ridiculous. Jarvis' performance is fairly Laurie-esque.

219mabith
Nov 23, 2013, 5:42 pm

140 - A Clown Like Me by Joan Oppenheimer

This was a favorite book in 6th-7th grade. I had a long list of favorites that I reread every single month (along with plenty of new books), and then the library heartlessly excised this one even though it was being checked out so frequently. It was incredibly cruel.

So, after 16 years I bought a copy and reread it. It's about a girl and her two best friends who are just starting high school and their issues. For the main character it's her lack of confidence and self-put downs. They're all fairly insecure really, as most teens are. So of course they take a clowning class!

It's still a pretty good book, though not the finest YA lit has to offer. It was written in 1985 and dated in many ways. One interesting point is that I'm 99% sure none of the girls' races were ever mentioned, and the cover features them in clown makeup. They're also all normal, average girls, and they acknowledge that. There's none of this "special snowfalke, she wasn't like the other girls, she drank tea and listened to jazz" stuff.

Oppenheimer shoves a lot into a relatively short book, so everyone comes to terms with their issues pretty quickly. I wish the main character's reassurances hadn't all come from her boyfriend though.

220mabith
Nov 23, 2013, 5:48 pm

141 - 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles C. Mann

Really wonderful book! Great information, and written very well. Coming from Jack Weatherford's Indian Givers there's some repeated information, but Mann goes into solid detail.

I enjoyed his writing and that he actually quoted from conversations with experts, rather than solely from their research papers. It gave the book a very nice feeling. Mann acknowledges up front that he leaves out a lot, and just focuses on a few things.

There was a lot about Jamestown in there, which I appreciated. It's often left out of various things due to horror of most of what happened. I'm descended from one of the few survivors of the original settlement, so it always interests me.

Highly recommended.

221mabith
Nov 25, 2013, 10:19 am

142 - Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

These are such fun books. So great for kids who love fantasy but also know the tropes and want to poke fun at them a bit. This is the only one that's ended with a cliffhanger, really.

This is the third book, and the fourth one was actually written first and then later edited a bit so it's more in line with the ones written later. So I'm curious to see how it will feel in contrast.

222mabith
Nov 26, 2013, 5:45 pm

143 - You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself by David McRaney

I've been reading a lot of these "geez our brains are dumb because they're still living in caveman days," books. I thought McRaney's first one was quite good. This one, however, seems a bit superfluous.

It may well be because I've read a lot on these topics, but I don't think he gave us anything new, and I'm wondering if some of the specific studes were also covered in his first book. I also don't think the book really focused on how to train yourself out of these behaviors at all. Most of the it was just about the various studies and experiments, which is fine, but this book purported to be more, and all the topics have been covered to death in recent pop science books.

Skip this one, read Incognito or The Honest Truth About Dishonesty instead (or McRaney's first book, You Are Not So Smart.

223mabith
Dez 1, 2013, 11:19 pm

144 - Mary Boleyn by Alison Weir

This books seeks clear away myth and rumour and legend from Mary Boleyn's life. It feels a fair bit like a rebuttal to all the popular 'historical' fiction books and the TV show about the Tudors.

I enjoyed this book, and I think Weir made it clear when any item was an assumption or guess and what information that was based on. It does get a bit tedious and I admit I didn't read every appendix about the other people in Boleyn's life. It's always quite interesting to suddenly get a real picture of a person like this.

224mabith
Dez 1, 2013, 11:22 pm

145 - Swallowdale by Arthur Ransome

I almost liked this one more than the first book, Swallows and Amazons. These books are just so perfect. The children and adults are both written very realistically.

There's a lot of sailing terminology in these, but I don't think most kids would care. This and the first book are honestly exactly what I wanted my life to be when I was a kid. It's just so lovely. The children are all well-rounded, having their own firm personalities.

If I'd read this as a kid I never would have stopped bugging my parents to take me on boats (which would have greatly pleased my mother!).

225mabith
Dez 2, 2013, 11:15 am

146 - The Captured by Scott Zesch

An interesting book about various non-native children taken by Native American tribes on the plains. The author's ancestor was one of those children, and this book examines his experience through the testimony of people who knew him. It also focuses heavily on the stories of five or six other children while bringing in other stories a bit at random when a detail is needed.

No matter how traumatic the circumstances of their abductions it took an incredibly short amount of time for the children to feel the tribes were their homes (four to six months). None of them ever returned to their birth families willingly.

There are a lot of interesting stories and information, but the book can drag a bit in places. The author is generally even-handed and neutral, though there are parts where his tone seemed somewhat patronizing, or phrases that might grate a native reader.

226mabith
Dez 2, 2013, 11:29 am

147 - East End Tales by Gilda O'Neill

This is a very short book, with random remembrances about lift in the east end from the 1930s-50s. It's a mix of the author's own experiences and those of older people she spoke to.

It's really not worth even the small amount of time taken to read it. It doesn't go deeply into life there, and it's all the usual stereotypes about this kind of reminiscence. "We was poor but we had each other," "People today don't know their own neighbors," "Kids today have so much, they don't know how to make their own fun," etc...

(Guess what, older people, you can GET to know your neighbors! Stop using that as some sort of living standard. Also, when I was kid I liked concocting potions of household cleaners and setting things on fire, it might have been safer if I were inside with a computer game.)

There was absolutely nothing unexpected in this if you have even a passing knowledge of 20th century life. Yet, it doesn't go into life deeply enough (and passes too much judgement on 'people today') for young kids today to get much out of it.

This book is certainly appropriate for middle school children, and grade schoolers if you don't mind explaining abortion or prostitution to them (tiny aspects of the book, not graphic). Certainly not recommended for adults though, and I imagine there are far more useful books in a similar vein for the younger set.

227mabith
Dez 5, 2013, 12:34 pm

148 - The Heretic's Apprentice by Ellis Peters

Another solidly enjoyable Cadfael book. I do think Cadfael needs a bit of a more permanent antagonist, or something getting in the way of his investigations. It's more interesting when he has to work around a blockage.

228mabith
Dez 5, 2013, 12:37 pm

149 - Song of Survival: Women Interned by Helen Colijn

A very interesting memoir about the author's experiences being interned by the Japanese during WWII. She writes with feeling but not in an overly emotional way. It's all very straight-forward and calm, which I think mimics the attitude she had to adopt in the camps in order to survive.

Recommended, especially if you're looking to round out your WWII knowledge with something on this subject.

229mabith
Dez 6, 2013, 11:07 pm

150 - Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

A beautifully written novel about two sisters and their troubled aunt who comes to stay as their new guardian. It is purely a novel about women's lives and relationships, which made happy. The story doesn't really go anywhere, but the writing is lovely.

I'm Gilead is the Robinson novel to read, so I've put that on the list for next year.

Recommended with caution. The story could be tighter, and again there's not a lot in the way of plot. The scenes were set wonderfully though, and it was a nice read.

230mabith
Dez 8, 2013, 1:31 pm

151 - Talking to Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

This is the last of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, which was actually written first as a stand-alone book (and later revised to fit in more with the prequels). I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the other books, as I missed Cimorene and felt there was a bit less humor in this one.

231mabith
Editado: Dez 8, 2013, 1:55 pm

152 - Storm of Steel by Ernst Jünger

This is a memoir of WWI service at the front, originally published in 1920 in basically unedited diary form. It's been revised many times since.

The author does rather glorify war. It's a strangely dry book, and focuses on describing the actions and events rather than reactions or personal feelings (other than duty, loyalty, etc...). Junger was an interesting person - an extremely conservative Nationalist who was also an anti-Nazi.

While it doesn't have a lot of personal impact, it's an interesting book just for the front line experiences, and for those who haven't read an account from the German side. Junger is highly praising of the English soldiers, though not anyone else (at the same time he doesn't spend time disparaging the other nationalities). It's interesting because I think you find the same thing in English books. They can respect the Germans but not the French.

Only recommended if you're very very interesting in graphic trench life minus the emotions that went with it.

232mabith
Dez 9, 2013, 7:58 pm

153 - The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

A relatively short book about, unsurprisingly, an affair which has ended. It's beautifully written. Some of the emotions hit a little close to home for me (though it was not an affair, thankfully). It is a pretty grim book, but very well-done.

233mabith
Dez 13, 2013, 4:26 pm

154 - One Day I Will Write About This Place by Binyavanga Wainaina

This memoir (mostly) about growing up in a middle-class Kenyan family is beautifully written, and more mood inducing than exhaustive, in terms of record.

It jumps around a bit in time (for reference, the author was born in 1971). I'm finding it hard to describe it, or why I liked it, but it was extremely evocative. It deals with normal things and political changes and language and migrations.

Recommended.

234mabith
Dez 15, 2013, 1:02 am

155 - Nella Last's War: The Second World War Diaries of 'Housewife, 49' by Nella Last

I only recently learned about the Mass Observation project, and I love it. This is exactly what I'd do if I had the power. Social/domestic history is so important.

This volume is more interesting for Last's development as an independent woman, starting to be true to herself and live a life more like what she wants, than as a record of life during the war. That's very subjective, if you don't know much about life in Britain during WWII it will give a great, particular, window.

It is absolutely, intensely personal though. There are some disturbing things (Last agreeing with Hitler's murder of the mentally and physically ill, as if she really thought the people involved had some choice and then later saying she couldn't bear to put down her old, suffering dog). Mostly I just found myself rooting for last to break free from her controlling husband, at least in terms of maintaining her freedom after the war ended.

Recommended.

235mabith
Dez 16, 2013, 7:14 pm

156 - The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, and Treachery by Steve Sheinkin

Loved this book. It was interesting, illuminating, and tightly written. The author didn't do any speculating and used of quotes from contemporary letters.

My knowledge of Arnold boiled down to "he became a traitor at some point" and I'm glad I picked this up and got the whole story. On the one hand it's a bit disappointment, because Arnold was rather vain and very proud and that's really what informed the treachery.

Definitely recommended.

236mabith
Dez 16, 2013, 7:16 pm

Now I have a dilemma. I could certainly read three or four more books this year, but 156 is such a perfect number to stop at (because it's divisible by 52). I'm thinking of just doing re-reads for the rest of the year (which I never count in this list unless it's been 15 or more years since I read the book).

Just stopping feels a bit lazy, but the evenly divisible number...

237mabith
Dez 20, 2013, 11:05 am

I didn't actually count this for this year, as it's a re-read, but I wanted to talk about it here!

The Illyrian Adventure by Lloyd Alexander

Vesper Holly is pretty much a mixture of Sherlock Holmes (though she plays a banjo instead of a violin) and Indiana Jones. She also made me think very much of Sybil Vimes, nee Ramkin, from Discworld. I had the silliest grin on my face pretty much the entire time that I read. Since they're narrated by her guardian that adds to the Sherlock Holmes feel.

This particular plot was a great one as well. Vesper's father has just died after writing to her that one of his bizarre pet history theories might be true. So she and Uncle Brinnie go off to Illyria to investigate (him kicking and screaming). The monarch has an evil grand vizier (duh) and a rebellion on his hands. He is good but too proud and won't capitulate (ditto the rebels). Someone is getting in the way of Vesper's investigations and the key to the story is a bit unexpected even as an adult. There were a few lines which rubbed me the wrong way (in terms of judging other cultures/peoples and stereotypes) but far fewer than I expect

There are five books in this series, all out of print now, but easy to get used. I recommend them SO highly. I think they're suitable for grade school age and up. This is the first in the series.

This is the first paragraph:
Miss Vesper Holly has the digestive talents of a goat and the mind of a chess master. She is familiar with half a dozen languages and can swear in all of them. She understands the use of a slide rule but prefers doing calculations in her head. She does not hesitate to risk life and limb--mine as well as her own. No doubt she has other qualities as yet undiscovered. I hope not.

238jfetting
Dez 20, 2013, 12:28 pm

Several things:
1) I love that you know that 156 is divisible by 52. And that you want to keep your total at this marvelously divisible number. Do it!
2) Housekeeping is amazing, and Gilead is better, and Home is also good but not Gilead levels of good, and given that we have very similar tastes I feel safe recommending any and all Marilynne Robinson including the essays. She is incredible.

239mabith
Dez 20, 2013, 12:44 pm

Ha, I am. I started a 31 hour audiobook that I'll read most of and then take a break. Once I finish my Christmas crafting I'll work on some longer print books and just stringently not finish anything...

A friend on another site gave me the "Noo, you have to read Gilead" speech. It's definitely on my list. I can't wait to get further into her books.

240mabith
Editado: Jan 1, 2014, 7:54 pm

I am finding it so awesome that my thread in the non-fiction books has 156 entries and that's how many books I read this year!

I was thinking of just having a thread in the 2014 Club Read rather than in the 100 books groups, since I always go over 100 and I might be trying for 208 this year. I don't care about having multiple threads, since I just copy and past, and there's no 200 Book Challenge group.

Was wondering what people thought about still having a thread here when your goal is different...? I don't want to lose track of some of you guys or lessen my book chat!

241Helenliz
Jan 2, 2014, 4:00 am

Personally (and I know I'm new in here) I hope you'd stay in the group - I've really liked seeing what you're reading, it's a real mixture and the non-fiction selection is sometimes really very interesting. And I don't think it matters if you're planning on reading more than 100 books - the group's title doesn't have an upper limit in it.

242mabith
Jan 2, 2014, 10:39 am

Thanks, Helen! I don't want to lose touch with people here and I know that sometimes switching between a lot of groups is just more tiring and time consuming. I don't truly think anyone on LT would ever be that picky with group participation, but my brain is great at irrational anxiety.