jfetting's 2014 challenge thread

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jfetting's 2014 challenge thread

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Dez 23, 2013, 9:28 am

My only real goal is to read 100 books this year. I'd like 20 of these to be nonfiction (ha!) and at least 30 to be 1001 books. I'm also trying, as ever, to reduce the number of books marked "TBR"

Note to self: you currently have 196 books tagged "TBR". Read them already.

Dez 27, 2013, 2:43 am

Thanks heaps for setting up the group, Jennifer! Looking forward to following along with your reading in the new year.

Dez 27, 2013, 12:16 pm

Just dropping by to say, "Hi!" and "Thank you" for setting this group up for 2014! :-)

Jan 3, 2014, 3:05 pm

Hey there Doc! Happy New Year Jennifer & good luck with your 2014 reading challenges. I look forward to following you and I too thank you for starting this group. It has turned out to be the perfect home for me.

Jan 3, 2014, 3:06 pm

Jan 5, 2014, 5:31 pm

Thank you for the pretty sparkly image! I love butterflies.

I read books!

#1 Lost Horizon by James Hilton

Very entertaining trip to Shangri-La. More sarcasm than I expected.

#2 The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan

OH DEAR GOD NO. What is WRONG with McEwan? Ewwwwwwww.

Jan 5, 2014, 8:18 pm

Jennifer, DON'T read early McEwan!! His later stuff is a lot more palatable, his early stuff is just grotesque. (Apparently it was the style at the time, which does make me rather worried about other English books from that period...) My favourites of his are Atonement and Sweet Tooth, and I also really enjoyed Solar. But his early stuff is hard to stomach (in particular, The Cement Garden, although I don't think I'll ever forget it, for all the wrong reasons).

Jan 5, 2014, 10:08 pm

Ahhh McEwan. Yes, his early stuff is not, well, nice. But geez he wrote it well :-)

Jan 6, 2014, 9:49 am

I think I will stop. I enjoyed Atonement and loved Amsterdam, but I hate every single other thing I have read by him.

Jan 8, 2014, 6:08 pm

Yss, I agree that there was something very unpleasant about McEwan's early stuff - I find it amazing that the writer of something as plain nasty as The Cement Garden could go on to write novels as sensitive as On Chesil Beach, Saturday, Solar and Sweet Tooth.

Jan 9, 2014, 12:01 am

Have to say James, On Chesil Beach wasn't one of my favourite McEwan novels, although I did have the good luck to hear him read out some of the awkward sex scenes (at the Sydney Writers' Festival, mumble years ago), and he made them funny. I read them straight-faced (serious literature, don't you know!) and having a different take on them made a lot of difference. (Still not my favourite McEwan, however.)

Editado: Jan 9, 2014, 8:24 am

Oddly Solar won the P G Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction. There were some amusing scenes but it didn't have people rolling in the aisles.

I enjoyed Amsterdam though it seemed to end very suddenly, almost as if a final deadline had crept up on him.

{Edited to correct some pretty ghastly typos!}

Jan 9, 2014, 6:14 am

Oh, I thought Solar was pretty funny, in a rather grotesque way. Amsterdam had a great setup, but I really thought the ending was pretty nasty and a bit silly.

Obviously, good literature inspires all sorts of reactions. :)

Jan 9, 2014, 10:56 am

I also hate On Chesil Beach and Saturday, although I will acknowledge that they are well-written. I think McEwan is just Not For Me. Unfortunately he has about 35 books on the 1001 lists. Happily they are short, so it isn't like I'm suffering for days or anything.

Thinking about On Chesil Beach as comedy would have helped it a lot, now that I think about it. I, too, read it as serious literature and was left thinking "Really? You really for real wrote a book about this?"

Jan 9, 2014, 11:22 am

I'm afraid I'm on the same page with McEwan...I've read Amsterdam (which many folks I trust have told me is his best), & Atonement, and On Chesil Beach (my reaction was the same as yours!)...and I think there's even one more, but I've been unimpressed by any of them. He really strikes me as someone who is a talented writer, and very very good at making his works feel literary, when there's not much original or enjoyable anywhere in the mix. I'm struggling with whether or not to just ignore the fact that there are more books by him on the 1001 list...

Jan 9, 2014, 12:06 pm

I'm not a McEwan fan either (read On Chesil Beach and, Saturday) and usually, every time I say that, McEwan fans keep insisting that I haven't read the *right* McEwan novel or not read him correctly! With "humor" in mind, I may try and tackle Solar, but I suspect my sense of humor is very far away from McEwan's :-/

Editado: Jan 9, 2014, 2:10 pm

And I have two of McEwan's on my TBR...........Drat! Ah well, I can pbs them out of here.
Read something else quickly Jen, to cleanse the palate for goodness sake!

Jan 9, 2014, 2:29 pm

Unfortunately, Belva, right now I am trying to finish a book called The Swimming-Pool Library which is soooo not a palate cleanser. Stay tuned for my review, but right now all I can say is that unless you are really really interested in a explicit account of NOT ONLY posh British prep school graduate gay sex in the 1980s BUT ALSO posh British prep school graduate gay sex in the 1920s, COMBINED WITH some casual racism, I'd give it a miss. I'm no prude, but I've had just about all I can handle. I'll be skimming the rest tonight, because I doubt Hollinghurst is going to stick something resembling a plot into the last 80 pages. Probably it'll be several more sex scenes, and some more dehumanizing descriptions of and references to black men.

Jan 9, 2014, 2:39 pm

Sounds like a good one to pass on Jennifer. Thank you for the mini-review. I think I even understand the title now. lol!~!

Jan 9, 2014, 2:53 pm

I tried to read The Swimming Pool Library about twenty-five years ago but gave up. I didn't know anything about it beforehand, and just found it desperately unpleasant.

Editado: Jan 10, 2014, 7:04 am

(Oh no! I love Hollinghurst! Maybe I should just admit we have different tastes in English writers. :)

ETA: I haven't actually read The Swimming Pool Library, but I do have it on the shelves.

Jan 10, 2014, 10:55 am

I liked The Line of Beauty. I was a bit surprised by the - education? shall we say? - I received from that book but there was a point to it and that point was important AND it was beautifully written and not just nonstop penis descriptions.

#3 The Swimming-Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst

Dirty, dirty, dirty. And boring. I'm not offended by sex scenes of any flavor (straight, gay, whatever), I'm offended by books that are little more than sex scenes interspersed with trips to the gym and reminiscences of the main character's (and another character's) days at fancy boarding school - I believe you Brits call them "public schools". I am not by any means giving up on Hollinghurst b/c The Line of Beauty was nice, but I'd steer people away from this one unless you are a Hollinghurst completist or something. I picked up the book at a library book sale a couple years ago, and it has such a great title but of course I knew nothing of what it was about.

Jan 11, 2014, 6:09 am

Ahah, I shall bump The Swimming Pool Library down the pile a bit. But will leave The Stranger's Child where it is.

Jan 14, 2014, 4:03 pm

Ahah, I shall not even put it on my list! Thanks for being so open with your review of the book Jennifer. I am no prude but there has to be so much more to a book if I am going to give it my time.

Jan 15, 2014, 10:47 am

#4 The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (note:totally goes to the wrong touchstone and I can't find the right one)

The year's first 5-star read. This book is amazing - hilarious, dark, profound, full of metaphors, probably over my head and I'll need to read it again but it will be something to look forward to.

As an aside, how come Satan always makes such an interesting character? He was my favorite part of Paradise Lost, too.

Jan 15, 2014, 11:32 am

I've been meaning to get to that for ages--I've really got to do it this year. On an aside, if you're not against reading plays, Clive Barker's History of the Devil is really wonderful, and another great work where Satan is an amazing character. It's hard to find, though it's included in his collection of plays, Incarnations: Three Plays, and it's well worth the search :)

Jan 15, 2014, 11:36 am

Thanks for the rec! I do love reading plays, and I'll have to find this one.

Jan 15, 2014, 12:08 pm

I LOVED Master and Margarita too! Some extremely memorable scenes.

Jan 15, 2014, 1:13 pm

>25 jfetting: You can force a touchstone to the correct book by prefixing the title with the work number followed by two colons like so: 10151::Master and Margarita -- > Master and Margarita.

I can understand why you wouldn't want to bother, though. So I'm not trying to tell you that you have to, just mentioning it in case it's a trick you don't already know.

Jan 15, 2014, 1:48 pm

This is indeed I trick I do not know. Thanks!

Editado: Jan 15, 2014, 2:41 pm

I read it, remember loving it, but was on a reading tear at the time & neglected to rate or review it. Sadly that requires a reread of Master and Margarita.

Jan 20, 2014, 10:10 am

#5 Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

So you're going to maybe let a man get convicted for MURDER because he's married to your high school girlfriend and you never got over her and she's a decent human being who moved on with her life and won't kiss you? Honestly.

Jan 22, 2014, 5:15 pm

#32 hehehehe

And re: Hollinghurst. My all time least favourite author ever. There, I've said it. :O)

Jan 23, 2014, 10:11 am

Jan 24, 2014, 7:51 am

Oh dear, two stinkers in a row! Better luck for your next read.

Jan 25, 2014, 5:08 am

The Light Between Oceans is one of those love it or hate it kind of books.

Fev 1, 2014, 12:05 pm

I fear I'm in the "hate it" camp. However, as I've been told AT LEAST 10 times, I don't have kids and since I don't have kids I can't possibly truly understand or appreciate it. You can imagine how much I enjoy these conversations.

#7 Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens 4 stars

So long! So very very long! But charming, and entertaining, and populated by idiots who are either sweet and good and stupid or evil and stupid. But charming, entertaining idiots.

Fev 1, 2014, 2:03 pm

{{{Ouch}}} times ten! Just one perspective, but I don't think parenthood was a requirement to have an informed opinion on The Light Between Oceans.

Fev 1, 2014, 2:16 pm

I'm with wareagle - I'm not sure having children has anything to do with being able to express an opinion on the text. I liked it, it certainly got to me & there were tears. Having said that, I do understand not liking it; it could be described as manipulative and cliched. All of which I'm perfectly able to arrive at without ever having, or wished to procreate.
I'm actually annoyed, on your behalf, with anyone who uses that as an argument. grrr.

Editado: Fev 1, 2014, 3:24 pm

Hmmm, I have a copy of the The Light Between Oceans and I am a parent; but I am now less inclined to want to read the book! It was a book I picked up on one of my sweeps so I didn't know what it was about. I hate manipulative texts, especially those that exploit my sense of motherhood. Also, there are enough opportunities for a good cry in real life; I don't need a vicarious trigger :-/

The argument that "you won't get it because you're (not) fill in the blank" is insulting. It's a spurious argument countering the author's writing skill and the intelligence of others who may not like the book. Bah!

Fev 1, 2014, 3:10 pm

I'm not sure why any of the people who told me that didn't realize how *expletive deleted* obnoxious AND STUPID their arguments were. I read and enjoyed a fantastic book above where Satan goes to the USSR and brings along a talking cat; I am neither Satan nor a talking cat yet I managed to appreciate the book.

Fev 1, 2014, 4:04 pm

I am not a Vietnam Vet nor has anyone in my family gone in country; but I think I "got" Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War (by Karl Marlantes) through his skillful writing which enabled me to feel like I was there every step, every klick of the nine months over there. I read that book when it first came out a few years ago and it still lives like an experience in my memory rather than a book that I read!

Fev 1, 2014, 4:09 pm

41> Are you sure you're not a talking cat? It's difficult to know what persona is lurking behind an online presence.

Fev 1, 2014, 4:15 pm

>43 Helenliz: Pretty sure, but you are right. On the internet, nobody knows if one is a talking cat.

I just thought of a rebuttal to those annoying people: while they ARE parents, they are not parents who have had their children abducted. So really, they have just as little idea how that feels as anyone EXCEPT people whose children were actually abducted.

Stupid people are stupid. I need to stop taking it personally when they feel the need to demonstrate their stupidity.

Editado: Fev 1, 2014, 4:21 pm

OY, that does it. I need to find and donate The Light Between the Oceans immediately. I feel ill just thinking about it. This sounds exactly like the sort of book that would push all my buttons in all the worst ways :-(

Fev 1, 2014, 7:20 pm

I have considered picking up The Light Between the Oceans at the library, but now I'm less inclined. Manipulative is not my favourite book description. (Great discussion above, btw! I agree with all your comments.)

Fev 1, 2014, 7:52 pm

I am a parent and thought The Light Between Oceans was a barely ok read.
And Nicholas Nickleby is one of my favourite Dickens, charming is an apt description.

Fev 2, 2014, 7:49 pm

I too am a parent and while reading the book, didn't really think once about my kids. Because I did not live in a Western Australian lighthouse presumably. Anyway, I liked it more while I was reading it than afterwards when I actually started thinking about it. So I believe that means that the text did manipulate this reader. But does that mean that it manipulated all the readers?????

Fev 2, 2014, 10:05 pm

I did not feel manipulated. I thought it was a fairly skillful development of a no-win situation. I can understand some not liking it, I thought it was a fairly dry read, perhaps because to offset the emotional theme. I still liked it, including puzzling over how I thought the situation should best be handled.

Fev 4, 2014, 10:23 am

Certainly a book that generates a lot of discussion! Which is a good thing.

#8 Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Wow! Immediately after I finished it I would have given it 5 stars, but after sleeping on it I'd give it more a 4 or 4.5 because I don't feel like I need to read it again and run out and buy a copy. But I did love it and could have read several hundred more pages of Ursula's alternative lives. Are all Atkinson's books this good? Should I go read more?

Fev 4, 2014, 10:34 am

Oh! Life After Life (by Kate Atkinson) was my favorite new release of 2013! I, too wanted Ursula's lives to go on and on! I was reading it greedily and had to force myself to slow down at the end to fully appreciate it (otherwise I think I would have blown through it and ended just liking it a lot.) I'm curious about Atkinson's other works and picked up a copy of Case Histories when I saw it. I probably won't get to it until for a few months though!

Fev 4, 2014, 11:04 am

I read Case Histories which was good, but I didn't love it as much as most on LT. It's nothing like Life After Life which I also loved.

Fev 4, 2014, 12:34 pm

I loved Life After Life too - it was definitely one of my favourite new releases from last year.

I have enjoyed a lot of her other books (especially those featuring Jackson Brodie and, in particular When Will There be Good News? though they are markledly different in style from this one.

Fev 4, 2014, 4:23 pm

I've had Life after Life sitting on the floor for ages now. I really ought to get round to it, but I'm mildly worried that it's going to fail to live up to its hype.

Fev 4, 2014, 4:47 pm

I was fortunate in picking Life After Life up "pre-hype" but I know what you mean. In other cases where I have found a Buzz Book in my hands, I usually shelve it for a couple of years before even thinking about it. I still haven't read any of the Oprah 2.0 books or The Goldfinch!

Fev 4, 2014, 6:13 pm

Yes, Life After Life was excellent. Her other books are equally well written, but completely different to this one. However, they are still worth a look.

Fev 4, 2014, 6:15 pm

I've read (and loved) all the Jackson Brodie mysteries, and have no idea why I haven't gotten myself a copy of Life after Life yet...

Fev 5, 2014, 11:38 pm

I haven't read Life After Life yet, but Atkinson's Behind the Scenes at the Museum was wonderful!

Fev 6, 2014, 3:38 pm

Life After Life sitting on the shelf, must get to it .....

Fev 7, 2014, 9:36 am

Ok, I'm definitely going to give her other books a go. Even if they aren't as spectacular as Life After Life, a good author is a rare thing.

#9 American Gods by Neil Gaiman

So this was definitely a 5 star, must re-read, must own book for me. I can't believe it took me this long to read it, given that I absolutely love his short stories and Neverwhere. I'd never really read a Gaiman book for grown-ups before, and it is just fantastic. Gush, gush, gush, fangirl, fangirl, fangirl. Honestly. It'll end up being one of my top 5 of the year.

Three great books in a row! I'm on a roll! And I'm currently reading one of the Mapp and Lucia books so that'll easily make four.

Fev 7, 2014, 6:57 pm

Glad you loved American Gods, that's a favourite of mine too!

Fev 10, 2014, 7:42 am

#10 After the Quake by Haruki Murakami

Not my favorite of his works (only 4 stars instead of his usual 5), but still a very readable collection of six short stories set in Japan after the Kobe earthquake.

Fev 10, 2014, 3:20 pm

Must get to this, thanks for the reminder !

Fev 12, 2014, 1:41 pm

He's so great. The stories are less Murakami-like than I had expected (except for the one with the talking frog) but still excellent.

#11 Lucia in London by E.F Benson

Peppino's aunt has died and left him and Lucia her fancy schmancy house in London, along with furniture and pearls and whatnot. So despite Lucia's constant denigration of London in favor of rural Riseholme, they pack themselves up and move to London where Lucia behaves exactly like Lucia and takes over things and pretends to be all in with high society. And of course she isn't, and of course everyone tries to trip her up and mocks her. She is such a giant hilarious pain in the ass. We all know people like this, I think, and secretly laugh at them (they'd never believe it). This book is just as bitchy and funny as Queen Lucia and I have high hopes for the rest of the series.

Fev 12, 2014, 1:50 pm

Hmm, this sounds light and entertaining! I just dnloaded Queen Lucia, though I probably won't get to it until March :-/

Fev 12, 2014, 7:29 pm

I've got a Lucia book somewhere, I believe Mum gave it to me many Xmases ago. Must find it and dust it off...

Fev 12, 2014, 7:41 pm

I have the whole series of Mapp and Lucia on my kindle. They sound right up my alley!

Fev 12, 2014, 10:36 pm

FYI, I think Anansi Boys is even better than American Gods. And I think that Changer by Jane Lindskold is actually a better story about the gods in America than AG. Not to put AG down at all.

Fev 13, 2014, 1:44 am

I agree. American gods is good, but Anansi Boys is great!

Fev 13, 2014, 6:42 am

I preferred Anansi Boys, but any Gaiman is good !

Fev 13, 2014, 9:55 am

The two Lucia books I've read so far are amazing, and certainly light and entertaining. George is my favorite character, although the author trying to say that he is in love with some woman or other (doesn't happen often, but did happen) is insane because he reads as gay to me. Everyone in the book is so gossipy and bitchy. I want to move to Riseholme.

Anansi Boys is on my shelf at home and I'll probably get to it this weekend, actually. I've never heard of Changer but I'm adding it to my wishlist now. Thanks for the suggestion!

Editado: Fev 13, 2014, 12:48 pm

Oh my God, I just realized I read the Lucia books OUT OF ORDER. I was supposed to read Miss Mapp first. I'm a little bit embarrassed to admit how upsetting I find this.

ETA and now I found another series list that says that Lucia in London is #2 after all. Why are they doing this to me?

Fev 13, 2014, 12:57 pm

What source(s) are you going by?

FWIW, I tend to go by FantasticFiction.co.uk:

Make Way For Lucia
1. Queen Lucia (1920)
2. Miss Mapp (1922)
3. Lucia in London (1927)
4. Mapp and Lucia (1931)
5. Trouble for Lucia (1939)
6. Lucia's Progress (1935)
aka The Worshipful Lucia

Fev 13, 2014, 1:41 pm

I looked at here, and then at goodreads, and now your list (which I will hereby call the "official list") means that I read them wrong!

Editado: Fev 16, 2014, 1:27 am

So, it happens that one of my odd interests is reading about quantum mechanics. I don't really understand it, but I still like reading about it, even though there are times that it gets so abstract that I might as well be reading Kierkegaard. This past week I was reading about Fred Hoyle's Steady State theory of the universe (the universe is *not* expanding) which was a working theory for about twenty years. He got his idea from watching an English horror movie called Dead of Night (1946.) So I had to see this movie which turned out not to be scary at all, but really mind-bendy at the end! It was definitely worth a twilight Zone treatment, which is interesting because one of the movie's sequences was based on a story written by a writer who wrote another story that became an episode of The Twilight Zone. The writer? E.F. Benson!!!

So I think about this movie and all sorts of quantum theory trivia that I've been engrossed in this past week and how it's all connecting to other threads in my life and now my brain may be expanding like the universe and it kinda hurts to think about it all and I wonder if two extra-strength Tylenol will help me out :-D

Also, best prank to pull on your geeky science friends: Put Dead of Night on a perpetual play loop! :-)

Fev 16, 2014, 5:04 pm


I dipped my toe into the murky waters of string theory. It hurt my brain. (But the book, The Elegant Universe was excellent, although maybe outdated by now.)

Fev 17, 2014, 1:58 am

75, I seem to remember a scientist once saying "If you think you understand Quantum mechanics, you don't understand Quantum mechanics" so not just you on the don't really understand it thing. I could (once upon a time) derive equations about it, but that's long since slipped out of working memory.

Fev 17, 2014, 10:15 am

E.F. Benson wrote science fiction? What? Thats completely bizarre. There could be nothing LESS sci-fi than the Lucia books.

#12 The Overspent American by Juliet. B. Schor

Fascinating look at spending habits in the US. It is a bit out of date (15 years old) and could really use an update. She talks about how people spend too much and feel poor if they have a reference group that makes more money than they do, and this is a big problem because we don't really compare ourselves to our neighbors now, we compare ourselves to TV shows which are almost entirely upper middle to upper class standards (whether or not the characters themselves are actually upper class, which makes it worse because then we assume we should be living in killer apartments, giant houses, etc just like the waitresses, scientists, etc on TV). And we spend lots of money on showy things and skimp on things that aren't showy. She has data to back her up.

The book is particularly interesting because it is one of those things where I read it and think "oh, that's so silly, all those women spending $20 on lipstick OBVIOUSLY I would NEVER be so foolish" but than she goes and skewers people like me who are reading the book and thinking that and calls us out on buying certain brands because of "quality". An example: in the middle of this long, hellish winter, my old snow boots gave out and leak and don't keep the snow out anymore, and I was patting myself on the back because I was frugal and bought the Columbia boots for X dollars instead of the Sorels I really, really, really want for 2X dollars because Quality (and because the Sorels aren't available in my size). I convinced myself it was Worth It to buy "Quality" boots EVEN though my old snow boots, no brand at all, lasted me 10 years of hard snowy use for the bargain price of X/3. Even allegedly intelligent, well-educated people get caught in this trap.

Actually, she claims that allegedly intelligent, well-educated people are the biggest suckers. The plural of anecdote isn't spelled "D-a-t-a", but I think she's on to something. Eye-opening.

Fev 17, 2014, 11:36 am

78 - That one sounds very interesting! Since in general (especially 15 years ago), well-educated people tended to have more money to spend it wouldn't be surprising they fall into that trap more. I'm kind of trying to be more free with money. Growing up super frugal and having very limited resources now, I end up thinking "Well I can't spend $10 on one pair of pants!" even when I easily can spend it and desperately need more pants (and that's very cheap for pants, I think).

Fev 17, 2014, 1:22 pm

> 78 After I read your review this morning, I was thinking about examples in my own life. I'm less inclined to buy up into perceived luxury vis-a-vis "stuff" (experience and necessity have been the driving factors in most of my purchasing decisions since I was seriously broke in my immediate post-collegiate years); but I do apply the same principle to speech and behavior. I would liken myself to Hyacinth Bucket in Keeping Up Appearances, but on a much, much smaller scale. *

I say "experience and necessity have been the driving factors in most of my purchasing decisions" because there is this weird thing that happens after a protracted period of frugality. I will have saved up a little bit; but instead of spending it wisely, I indulge in spending it something completely non-essential! It's like being on a diet for a year and then one day having some sort of breakdown and eating a box of Godiva chocolates by yourself!*

*(Do you see what I did there?) :-D

Fev 17, 2014, 4:01 pm

I recognise the description of rationalisation and "buying quality" thing in me sometimes. Shoes are one area. I'll happily spend far more on a pair of shoes then the rest of my wardrobe combined (not quite, but you get the idea). An elderly female relative once told me to always by the best shoes and bed you can afford - because if you're not in one, you're in the other.

Fev 18, 2014, 10:12 am

I love Hyacinth! "Lady of the house speaking". And yes, I agree about the frugality fatigue leading to impulse buying. Not sure how to fix that in myself.

Part of her argument in the book is that yes, spending more for quality is good, but how do you know that the more expensive thing is really the more high-quality thing? She argues that much of it, more than anyone would like to admit, is advertising. And branding.

People apparently skimp on mattresses (or did in 1999) because no one sees your mattress, even though you spend a third of your life on it. I rationalize pricey shoe buying as well (but I NEED the Danskos. Because I am on my feet all day. And everyone else in my scientist reference group wears them and swears by them. So I must have them), but quality has been going downhill over time. I had a pair of loafers from high school till about halfway through grad school. When I got a new exact same pair, they fell apart in about 3 years. :-(

Anyway, it is an interesting read and it really pushed several of my buttons and I'm glad I read it.

#13 A History of the English-Speaking Peoples vol 1 by Winston Churchill

Volume 1 means, really, a history of England from slightly before the Romans through Richard III. It is an interesting read, given that I know nothing about this timeframe besides reading historical fiction about Henry II, the Wars of the Roses, and the Tudors. Oh, and I also watched The Hollow Crown on PBS so I know about what Shakespeare wrote about Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V. Churchill is a very readable writer (I am making the possibly incorrect assumption that he wrote this, not a ghostwriter) although he does stick his opinions in and he is a product of his time, so take that as you will (lots of nastiness about Edward II and his homosexuality, a word which Churchill never uses, although "perversion" pops up pretty frequently). He does try, whenever there is evidence, to write about how the political decisions of the rulers affect the common people, which most historians DON'T do so he gets some points for that.

I liked the bit about prior to the Conquest - the Viking raiders are fun. And it does seem like England gets a really good king, then two or three shitty worthless kings, then another good king, then some more worthless ones. And for crying out loud, leave France alone! So much money and so many lives wasted on this BS.

Fev 24, 2014, 10:24 am

#14 The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

I tried and failed to read this during my December Reading Slump/Sherlock rewatchathon. I managed to get through it this time around. The plot kept me interested and while the huge cast of characters was tricky to keep on top of, it wasn't impossible. It was also beautifully written. I'm giving it three stars.

Which would TOTALLY piss off the author. I made the mistake of reading an article she wrote (and a different article that recapped her article) about essentially how readers suck because they books star ratings and they don't write long, involved, well-thought-out and deeply profound reviews on Amazon about her books or any books, but really her books. And they read young adult books! And they don't study in depth the layers of symbolism and meaning that the authors LABORED to put into the books! Why won't the readers stop sucking?!?

Does spending a lot of time analyzing a book and thinking about it and studying it improve the book? Sure. Are some of my favorite books in the world books that I have studied in depth? Yes. In school? Yes. Am I currently in school? No. Am I a busy working adult with a lot on her plate who likes to read but tragically doesn't have time to give Eleanor Catton's book the attention that Eleanor Catton thinks it deserves? Yes. Does this make me a bad person? Apparently.

#15 Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves

Rick Steves never lectures me. Rick Steves is too polite to complain about the 5 stars I'm giving this book. Rick Steves wants me to go to Europe and South America and Central America and eat weird food and move to Denmark and ride bikes and not go on cruises. Rick Steves also apparently wants me to smoke pot.

Rick Steves >>>> Eleanor Catton.

I'm pretty much the choir to whom Rick Steves is preaching: I am also a middle-class, educated, liberal, progressive Christian US citizen who thinks that other countries have a lot to teach us if we would maybe pull our collective heads out of our collective asses and be willing to listen and learn and not just shoot things. The people who may be best served by this book are unlikely to read it because they probably don't know who he is because they watch Fox News and not PBS.

Which is a huge sweeping horrible generalization and stereotype but I'm too cranky this morning to be fair and balanced. And thinking about Eleanor Catton makes me cranky also. But apologies to Fox News viewers; my Dad is one and I know you are good people too.

Fev 24, 2014, 6:05 pm

Aren't we lucky that as readers, our opinions of a book don't have to match our opinions of the author.

Fev 24, 2014, 6:38 pm

One of the things I quickly learned after starting to work in a bookstore was that often it's best NOT to meet or talk to or listen to authors.

Fev 24, 2014, 6:54 pm

Oh Judy, I wish I could ignore what I know about some authors and just enjoy their books without feeling a wee bit guilty about somehow supporting them.

Most authors I've met are lovely, and make me go squeee! about reading their books. But there are a few who leave me uncomfortable.

Fev 24, 2014, 6:57 pm

Tania - Probably when you're dealing with them in a business sense rather than just a fan sense it can be a bit different.

Editado: Fev 24, 2014, 8:13 pm

Very interesting about Catton's interview. I haven't read that. I will say that I thought the astrological idea was ambitious but that the basic plot suffered because of it. I love a book that tries a new technique, but not at the expense of the story or characters.

So speaking of making the plot convoluted, can you answer this question about the gold? I feel like it was central to the story but no one on LT has been able to answer this yet. It's still really bothering me!

I'm still confused about the gold found in Crosbie Wells's home. I thought it was the gold from Lydia's dresses (that she stole from Crosbie) that Ah Quee stole from Anna's dresses (taken from Lydia's trunk), pressed into blocks, and stamped with the Aurora's name. But I can't remember how the gold got into Crosbie's cabin. Was that explained? Will it still be given to Lydia since she was his wife? Also, is there a separate stash of gold that belonged to Staines? For a while, I thought Catton was insinuating that it was actually Staines's gold in the cabin, since he was the proprietor of the Aurora. I'm confused and I feel like the gold was central to the story!

Editado: Fev 25, 2014, 10:55 am

How do you do the hiding the spoiler thing?!?!?

ETA: I have figured it out!

Fev 25, 2014, 10:59 am

Ok, so in response to Jennifer:

When Staines went to deposit the gold with the bank, he paid the guard something like $20 ish to turn the other way while he didn't deposit the gold. Then he buried it under a tree. Then he got drunk and got all maudlin about Anna's dead baby, and he told Crosbie where it was buried. And then Crosbie went and dug it up. I think. I'm certain about everything up to "and then Crosbie went and dug it up".

I have no idea what the astrological thing was about and just ignored it. SUCH A BAD READER. Eleanor Catton deserves SO MUCH BETTER.

Editado: Fev 25, 2014, 11:09 am

So the money Crosbie dug up from the tree is the same money Lydia stole and sewed into her dresses? Cause then I could see how that would work. But otherwise, there's the money that was buried under the tree plus the money that Crosbie had when he was married to Lydia that she took. Either way, it shouldn't have been so complicated.

I guess the point is that it's all well and good to have some fancy astrological plan to organize your book, but if it obscures the basic plot points (especially when you've chosen to write a mystery/adventure story), it may not have been worth it. I think she should have either written the adventure story or an astrological based book with a less plot-heavy focus. But that's just my opinion . . .

Fev 26, 2014, 3:55 am

I have to say as an astrology-unbeliever, I find it hard to get enthused over The Luminaries, I just worry I might be irritated by its presence.

Fev 26, 2014, 7:42 am

re: #14 The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Completely agree. Didn't give a damn about the astrological stuff. Enjoyed the characters and the plot as it was moving along, but the farther I got into the book, the more cranky I became. The early chapters were long and lugubrious, but the later ones were short. That might have worked well if the action was accelerating, but it wasn't. Turns out it was all just a formal construct. The first chapter was 360 pages, the second was 180, the third 90, the fourth 45, etc. Bah. What's the use of imposing a formal structure if it doesn't serve the story?

Fev 26, 2014, 11:26 am

I completely agree, sushidog, and I was put off by the speeding-up of the chapters towards the end, too. Especially when the majority of the chapter was the italicized in which Anna the prostitute and Staines further annoy jfetting by going over backstory that is no longer interesting part.

Fev 27, 2014, 1:59 am

I still don't know how to do the spoiler thing, but I am glad you two do, since I have the book waiting for me at the library today!

Fev 28, 2014, 9:08 am

#16 Miss Mapp by E.F. Benson

While the residents of Riseholme (including Lucia and George et al) are secretly bitchy and outwardly friendly, you never really get a sense that they all are filled with rage and loathing. Miss Mapp and the other Tilling residents, however, are. And I love them. I am looking forward to watching Lucia and Miss Mapp go head to head.

Where have these books been all my life?

Mar 6, 2014, 2:37 pm

#17 The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I enjoyed it, but it could have been half the length. Most of the book was spent describing all the exciting drugs the protagonist did, and how messed up he was, etc. The bit about the art theft was much more interesting but it didn't get resolved until the very end. And to nitpick the plot a little bit, there is no way this story would have even been a story if everybody wasn't a little bit stupid. Well-written, though, and I'm looking forward to other Tartt books but it was really just too long.

Mar 6, 2014, 2:49 pm

Ah, you've confirmed me against The Goldfinch (which I was pretty unlikely to pick up anyway, really). That kind of drug stuff I find so tedious, and more importantly I get so impatient when the characters have to remain a bit dim for the plot to work.

Mar 6, 2014, 4:57 pm

The drug stuff really was tedious. High as a kite and falling down. We get it. Get back to the painting already!

Mar 9, 2014, 11:57 pm

Thanks for confirming that The Goldfinch is really not my kind of book. I got enough of that sort of thing with The Magicians.

Mar 10, 2014, 11:43 am

Oh, God, The Magicians. Don't even start me on The Magicians. I can STILL complain about that book for hours. Such total shit.


#18 The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Amazing book. 5 stars. I loved the story, I loved the description of how adults are really still children on the inside, I loved the writing, I loved everything. Neil Gaiman really can do no wrong.

Mar 12, 2014, 12:56 pm

#19 The Master by Colm Toibin

Well, that was beautiful. I love Henry James and I love great writing and so I loved this novelization of part of James's life.

Mar 22, 2014, 9:05 pm

#20 The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Lahiri writes the most spectacular short stories and the most mediocre novels. Three grudging stars.

Mar 23, 2014, 2:09 pm

Hmmm, in December I read Unaccustomed Earth, a short story collection that was released in 2009 and thought it was mediocre as well. I picked up Interpreter of Maladies thinking she would do better in the long form; but I'm seeing so many "meh" responses to her writing overall that I may skip it :-/

Mar 26, 2014, 1:33 pm

#21 Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (re-read)

A little comfort reading. Coming in handy right about now. This is a 5 star book for me.

Mar 29, 2014, 10:57 am

#22 Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
I love this series on PBS, and the book is pretty good too. I like the narrator's (aka Jenny's) voice in the book; she seems like she would have been a fun person to have around. Some of the chapters in the book I recognized from the series. Just a nice, light, easy, enjoyable read with lots of gross details about childbirth.

#23 History of the English-Speaking Peoples vol 2 by Winston Churchill

From Henry VI up to whomever comes after James II. William and Mary? Are they next? The book implied they were but didn't say for sure. I liked the first volume better, actually. It had more of the history of the people, and this was definitely Great Man history (or Great Woman, as the case may be). Lots of boring battles during the Civil Wars - I've always preferred politics to battles, both in literature and in live. Churchill doesn't pretend to be an impartial writer, although he is pretty fair and can usually find something decent about the characters he hates (Oliver Cromwell). He is particularly entertaining when he drags his ancestors into the story, but to be fair I wouldn't be able to resist that either if I had illustrious forebears. He talks about the naughty ones, too, so it isn't like he is hiding their flaws either.

Abr 27, 2014, 6:41 pm

Not a good year for reading, alas. Too much going on at work, none of it good. In the past month I managed to read

#24 Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen

Written a hundred years ago, could have been written today. Conspicuous consumption

#25 Mapp and Lucia by E.F. Benson

Lucia moves to Tilling and does battle with Miss Mapp. I know I say "This is the best one!" with every new one I read, but really THIS is the best one. Five stars.

Abr 28, 2014, 10:15 am

Sorry to hear about the work issues. Sounds like time for some comfort re-reads!

Abr 28, 2014, 6:32 pm

Hang in there Jennifer, just read when you can.

Editado: Abr 29, 2014, 5:08 pm

There are worse things that could happen. This is kind of helping me decide on a particular career path vs. a more different career path, which decision I've been struggling with for awhile, but that doesn't mean it is any fun. Blech.

#26 Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
Not as good as Fragile Things, but most of the stories are quite good. A lot of them I guess he wrote for Penthouse and the like, so many are dirtier than I expected (and those aren't as good). There is one about angels that is fantastic, and a really short one about a sweeper of dreams that was also fantastic.

Maio 1, 2014, 8:32 am

#27 The Bell by Iris Murdoch

About faith and loss of faith and homosexuality and adultery and suicide and finding a great big bell and the English countryside and laypeople communities and so it should have been really good and interesting, right? And not super boring and almost impossible to finish? However.

#28 The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

False advertising. Almost no Jane Austen book club discussions, and way too much about the characters' backstories.

Maio 1, 2014, 5:33 pm

I am not sure what to make of Iris Murdoch now.

About twenty five years ago I went through a phase almost of obsession with her novels and read quite a lot of them, including The Bell within a fairly short period of time, and thought they were marvellous. However, two or three years ago I tried to re-read The Bell and really couldn't cope with it at all, and was unable to get beyond the first fifty pages or so.

Maio 2, 2014, 9:04 am

I've read a couple of her books previously a few years ago - A Fairly Honorable Defeat (great title!) and another one whose title escapes me. I remember liking them much more than this one. I wonder if she is one of those authors who really resonate a particular age (say, 25) and then kind of don't at other ages.

Maio 2, 2014, 9:04 am

#29 The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald

My first Fitzgerald novel. I loved it and tore right through it. Interesting story, sly humor, it was great.

Maio 2, 2014, 9:05 am

#30 The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Also good. Not a lot to say about it, though. Is it supposed to be a YA book?

Maio 8, 2014, 9:56 am

#31 Lucia's Progress by E.F. Bensen

The ending surprised me, and I'm not sure why he did it, but overall it is another thoroughly enjoyable trip to Tilling with all those bitchy gossipy characters whom I love so much.

Maio 13, 2014, 12:25 pm

Two great books read on airplanes on a trip home:

#32 The Secret History by Donna Tartt

WAY better than The Goldfinch. It started a little shaky - it is one of those "poor kid goes to rich school and admires this standoffish group of fabulous people and then becomes one of them" stories (like the Twilight series, The Magicians, Special Topics in Calamity Physics etc). Most of these books annoy me and are terrible, but THIS book is fantastic. Its about a group of friends who murder one of themselves (not a spoiler - you know this from chapter 1) and why and how and the consequences. Super good.

#33 Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva

Israeli assassin/spy who is also an art restorer hunts down a terrorist group. I didn't realize it was part of a series, much less NUMBER 11 in the series, but I can say that you don't need to read the earlier ones to enjoy this one a lot. Plus now I have a new author and a new series to read!

Maio 13, 2014, 12:32 pm

#117 I agree The Secret History is the best of Donna Tartt books. However I also loved The Goldfinch I would say it was my favorite book of the 167 I read in 2013.

Maio 13, 2014, 5:58 pm

Wow, that is high praise! I can guarantee that The Goldfinch won't be in the top half of my rankings this year, much less first.

Maio 16, 2014, 12:20 pm

Interesting. I did not love The Secret History, though I didn't hate it either. I remember feeling like the first person narrator kept me too distant from what really was going on since he didn't really know either. I still think I'll probably try The Goldfinch even though I've heard so many polarized reviews.

I'm also ready for our Mapp vs. Lucia discussion! I think I just overall like the book Queen Lucia better because I LOVED Georgie. I should probably reserve total judgment until I read the next one that they are both in.

Maio 16, 2014, 2:28 pm

I also love Georgie. Everything about him. His hair, his bibelots, his bitchiness, the way he totally sees right through Lucia... everything. I also love Olga Whatshername. I think my problem (and isn't really a problem, but I can't think of a better word) is that Lucia is AWFUL in her books, and I wanted her to get her comeuppance and fail a little bit, but she doesn't. Oh, spoiler alert, everyone, sorry. Miss Mapp, on the other hand, is an unrepentant bitch as is everyone else in Tilling, really, and so when Diva or whoever gleefully points out when she fails and Mapp gets angry I enjoy it so very much.

Overall I prefer Tilling to Riseholme. E.F. Benson agreed with me, I think, which is why he moves Georgie and Lucia over to Tilling eventually in Mapp and Lucia which is just spectacular. You should hurry up and read that ASAP because it kind of turned me into a Lucia fan.

Maio 16, 2014, 2:58 pm

Glad to hear that Georgie moves with Lucia! I'll go ahead and plan on reading Mapp and Lucia after I finish my current book. I agree that Diva and Miss Mapp were a good pairing. Can't wait to see Mapp vs. Lucia!

Maio 16, 2014, 3:01 pm

Maio 16, 2014, 3:17 pm

WHAT?!?!? OH my God!! When is that coming to the US? Mycroft is going to be Major Benjy! That is the best news ever and totally makes my whole day. And Rita Skeeter is Miss Mapp!

I haven't seen the old ones yet, but I want to. I love Geraldine McEwan and I love Nigel Hawthorne and the idea of them as Lucia and Georgie is THE BEST. They were the best Mrs. Proudie and Archdeacon Grantly, too.

I love how Diva inevitably says whatever the reader is thinking. Like if Mapp pretends to be doing something for reason X (cannot think of an example here at work with my books away from me), and the reader is all "Whatever Mapp, you know you are actually doing it for reason Y", Diva immediately accuses Mapp of doing whatever for reason Y. I love Diva too. If Georgie wasn't so clearly gay, he and Diva should end up together.

Maio 16, 2014, 7:56 pm

I know, I'm super excited. No idea when it will be in the US, but I'll keep an eye out. I've never seen the Trollope series and it doesn't look like it's on netflix or amazon prime. :-(

I did love Diva. The secondary characters (except for Georgie - he's the best) were better in Miss Mapp, but there was something a little more fragile about Lucia that I liked and made her a little more human - still ridiculous, stuck up, and controlling, but less heartless than Mapp. I can't wait to see them interact though. I may change my mind after seeing them go head to head!

Maio 18, 2014, 6:24 pm

#34 Trouble for Lucia by E.F. Benson

I've finished the last book in my set. I'm not sure if there are more. Overall I'm giving the series a very enthusiastic 5 stars. I loved it; I'd actually say that this one and Lucia in London were my least favorite, despite the presence of Olga Whatshername in both. Lucia is kind of her old obnoxious self in this one, and her relationship with Georgie is much more like the earlier novels. They both changed a bit when they were up against Miss Mapp.

Maio 20, 2014, 8:37 am

#35 Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Light, entertaining adventure story set in the Scottish Highlands right after the Jacobite uprising (and resulting smackdown by the English).

Maio 21, 2014, 3:15 pm

That's a good summer read! I read it so long ago I can't remember the plot at all.

Maio 25, 2014, 7:01 am

Okay, I've dusted off my E. F. Benson novels, and I have one compilation of the first three and a standalone edition of the first. Moving them to the Mt TBR by the bed...

And the author does not look like what I expected on his author page!

Maio 25, 2014, 9:23 am

Yay! Read them! They are so good!

#36 An Assembly Such as This by Pamela Aidan (re-read)

Pride and Prejudice fanfic, published despite being so poorly written. Also a book I have read multiple times and have given 4 stars, ALSO despite being so poorly written. It seems highly likely that I will spend much of my rainy Memorial Day weekend re-reading the whole damn trilogy and enjoying myself immensely.

#37 A History of the English-Speaking Peoples vol 4 by Winston Churchill

It is interesting reading about the Civil War (my civil war, the US civil war) written by someone from a different country. I would almost argue that this book has too much US and not enough rest of the English-speaking peoples.

Maio 27, 2014, 8:24 am

And yes, I did read the next two over the weekend (they're quick! not much too them)

#38 Duty and Desire by Pamela Aidan (re-read)

Somewhere around here I have a review of this book stating that I can't believe I actually read a book called Duty and Desire. That still holds. This book tries to fill in the gaps between Darcy at Netherfield and Darcy at Rosings Park. He apparently goes to a house party in the country with seductresses, standing stones, and attempted human sacrifice. No.

#39 These Three Remain by Pamela Aidan (re-read)

But we all know how this ends! Happily ever after.

I'm reading the original yet again right now.

Maio 28, 2014, 3:41 pm

#37 I had a similar (although opposite) reaction to taking a class in history at a US university. History turned out to be American History (is there any other?) from 1492 (because clearly that's when history starts) to 1865. Taking in the American war of Independence. Put it this way, wasn't like any history I'd ever heard...

Jun 3, 2014, 9:15 am

You made me laugh, Helenliz, because that really is exactly what every history class I ever took covered. I think we did learn about the Egyptians and the Greeks and Romans in world history classes, but really all the history I actually know is from the American revolution through Reconstruction. Lots and lots and LOTS about the Industrial Revolution, which may be the dullest subject in all of history.

#40 Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum

A fascinating and detailed look at the USSR's Gulag prison system, both its political history and the history of daily life in the camps. She emphasizes the actual Gulag camps, starting in the 20s, but does mention the Czarist prison camps in Siberia as well. I'm interested in these because my great-grandmother was sent to a Czarist prison camp back in the early 20th century (during WWI, I think) for "political reasons" that my grandmother absolutely refused to talk about for her entire life. I can understand not wanting to, but its such a fascinating bit of family history to be lost. Anyway, I wanted to know what the camps were like and stumbled upon this book and OH MY GOD. Horrific. And the worst part is that while the Gulag system shut down in the 1960s, there were STILL prison camps in the 1980s in the USSR! Holy smokes!

Jun 3, 2014, 5:02 pm

mmm, it did feel a little insular.
I did the second year of my undergraduate degree in the US, and while the majority of hours were set courses, we had ~ 8 credit hours of choice. So I have 2 courses of swimming, one geology and a history course lurking in my Chemistry degree. Odd selection. The Geology professor was an anglophile, so I went to Texas to study the geology of the UK. We spent time discussing the chalk hills I grew up on, aquifers and London clay. Talk about bizarre.
I managed to keep quiet in the history class until we had a mid term paper with a question of the significance of Yorktown. Well I found it hard to toe the party line and wrote how it was the first time a major world power had been forced to surrender to a bunch of colonial rebels (and so on and so on for about 5 pages). Certainly felt better afterwards. Came back marked 4.5/5 and commented "Interesting viewpoint". Couldn't argue my facts were wrong, just presented somewhat differently.
The thing I think I found most odd was that there was no discussion at all about what the various parties arriving in the US were actually hoping for or trying to escape from. They sort of arrived over the horizon from a misty blue yonder with no attendant baggage of hopes, fears, prejudices or anything else. It all struck me as very odd.

Jun 4, 2014, 8:36 am

Why, they came here for freedom! ;-) Because that is what we have and no one else does! Land and freedom! From tyrants! Because every other country was full of tyrants and the US was full of freedom! And native peoples, of course, but best not to think about that.

***The entire above should be read as sarcasm***

#41 March by Gwendolyn Brooks

Meh. I am indifferent. I loved the Little Women books growing up, and so this retelling of the story from the POV of Mr. March and Marmee during the Civil Was was interesting enough to pick up but I wasn't impressed. Won the Pulitzer, did it? I'm not surprised. When they aren't giving the award to Marilynne Robinson they're pretty much wasting it.

Jun 4, 2014, 12:00 pm

I may be talking out of my hat because I can't remember where I read it, but I seem to recall that there's a reason why History courses taught in the US are very much along the Roman-Greek-American vein: WWI was the first war in which the US was expected to fight without any material gain. In order to help students/future soldiers understand the reasons for waging battle for principle the public school curriculums were reformed with Democratic themes. Prior to that, there was a heavy dose of British history. Very rarely have curriculums, then or now had true world or even all-inclusive elements despite efforts to better broaden and integrate those elements :-/

I love history and I went to some pretty nice schools, but I'm still shocked at the history that I wasn't taught in schools. Interestingly, when and where I was growing up on the East Coast (US), emphases was on The Revolutionary War and The Civil War. The emphases in my daughter's history education is on Manifest Destiny (Pioneer life) and Native American cultures. Yep, you got it, we live on the "Left Coast" now!

I love history and went to some decent schools; but I'm still shocked when I discover the extent of what I wasn't taught or even introduced to, in my so-called education!

Jun 4, 2014, 2:58 pm

I love history and went to some decent schools; but I'm still shocked when I discover the extent of what I wasn't taught or even introduced to, in my so-called education!

Yes, this, exactly. And I'm trying to improve it by reading but there is only so much time in the day. And that is really interesting what you say about how WWI influenced the teaching of history - I'd never heard that but it makes sense. It would be difficult to teach history all-inclusively, given the tens of thousands of years of human existence, but it'd be easier if they stopped covering the cotton gin and the steam engine over and over and OVER.

Jun 4, 2014, 3:34 pm

>135 jfetting: Like your thinking >;-)

Jun 6, 2014, 9:36 am

#42 Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

I liked it better and better as I kept reading, and I'm still thinking about it, so while I probably would have given it three stars when I started it is up to at least 4. Janie is a fascinating character who really develops as a person and gets what SHE wants, not what other people want. The dialogue was all in dialect, which was tricky enough for me that it slowed me down while reading it and that really helped me appreciate it more.

Jun 10, 2014, 7:54 am

I didn't do history past Year 10 (junior high school, I guess would be the equivalent) and it was very Australian in focus. But I reckoned that's how it *should* be in Australia. (And the industrial revolution. That one is obviously a universal historical theme. :)

Sadly, I still obviously know very little about Australian history, as I look blank when people mention the rum corps, etc.

And I'm glad you liked Their Eyes Were Watching God too!

Jun 10, 2014, 2:26 pm

#43 The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker

4.5 stars. Loved it. Alice Walker is one of my favorite writers and her books just suck me in and don't let me go. They often cover horrific topics, but still impossible to put down.

Jun 12, 2014, 8:41 am

#44 A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (re-read)

Re-read this in anticipation of the third book in the trilogy coming out this summer. In some ways the book is incredibly frustrating - I'm not particularly a fan of Diana and Matthew's relationship. This is especially true because I discovered this trilogy when the second book came out and I heard and interview on NPR with the author, and she was talking about the characters and how she (and everyone else) who writes this kind of relationship are essentially writing Jane Eyre fanfiction. Well. Jane Eyre is one of my top 3 books of all time, and I've always love the Rochester-Jane conversations, so I started reading this. However, I suspect that Harkness stopped reading JE at the long tedious St. John de River section and assumed that Rochester ALWAYS STAYS THE SAME - rich, powerful, commanding, confident, etc. It is confusing because she apparently read Jane as going from strong and independent to submissive, whiny, unable to take care of herself, willing to kill her own dear relatives for daring to challenge Matthew's Rochester's authority, and full of excuses for his murdering.

Oh wait, it isn't Jane Eyre fanfiction AT ALL! Harkness flatters herself.

Lots of whining, right? You'd think I'd hate the book, right? Nope. Everything else is great - mysterious alchemical text, witches with powers and haunted houses and friendly ghosts, time travel, spells, yoga, tea, great OTHER characters. Actually, I like Diana and Matthew a lot before they get together.

Jun 14, 2014, 10:21 am

#45 Minimalist Living: the ultimate guide for living a minimalist lifestyle where less is more by Darlene Carlson

Free kindle e-"book" (book in scare quotes because it is really more of a magazine article) about the benefits of being a minimalist and not a pack rat.

#46 The Fifth Woman by Henning Mankell (audiobook)

It is summer, so I must read a Wallander book. This one was great; the one where the murderer is a woman (no spoiler - you know this from chapter 1) and she goes after men who abuse women. I like the reader for the Wallander series because I usually have no idea how to pronounce any of the names when reading.

#47 Debt Free for Life by David Bach

Back is the Automatic Millionaire guy, the one who introduced "latte factor" to the world. Just stop buying Starbucks twice a day and you'll get rich! Except not helpful for those of us who already don't buy starbucks twice a day. This is an update to his other books and in this one he suggests a system for paying off debt (credit card, student loan, mortgage etc) as quickly as possible.

Jun 16, 2014, 11:26 am

#48 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-read)

Because sometimes you need to read P&P for like the 85th time.

Jun 17, 2014, 9:39 am

#49 Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Oh, wow. 5 stars. This book is incredible. It is short in page-number terms, but it took me a long time to read it because it was so beautifully written that I read each sentence 3 or 4 times.

Jun 17, 2014, 10:50 am

Yes! Mrs. Dalloway is the book that really got me intrigued by Woolf. What a great book!

Editado: Jun 17, 2014, 11:00 am

>RE: 44 A Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness

EXACTLY! I recommend this/these books to others, and it always comes with a disclaimer: "so the romance is kind of terrible... but the rest!" Regardless, I'll likely reread them both before the third comes out next month.

(Jane/Rochester always bothers me too, though.... He's than the insufferable St. John, but I just can't quite forgive Rochester for the Blanche manipulation. I love and reread the book for Jane and Jane alone.)

Jun 17, 2014, 3:12 pm

He is SUCH A JERK to Blanche. She is ALSO such a jerk. I love that part, keeping in mind that it is something that is entertaining in fiction that would suck in real life.

Jun 22, 2014, 8:01 pm

#50 The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley (re-read, but the 2010 reboot instead of the one I read)

New and improved and preachier! Someday I will be the millionaire next door.

#51 A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

I thought this was supposed to be funny. It wasn't.

Also, I decided that this summer will be the summer I finally, finally, FINALLY read and finish The Brothers Karamazov. To this end, I spend the day laying in the sun re-reading Outlander.

Jun 26, 2014, 10:32 am

#52 One Step Behind by Henning Mankell (audiobook)

The eighth one, maybe? I love these.

Jun 28, 2014, 10:29 am

I just finished Longbournand thought that it was a perfect book to read after Pride and Prejudice- I also reread P and P about once a year.

Jul 2, 2014, 10:41 am

#53 The Hours by Michael Cunningham

This should actually be right after Mrs. Dalloway but I completely forgot about it. Which pretty much sums up my feelings toward it: pretty but utterly forgettable.

Jul 14, 2014, 9:24 am

#54 The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I did it! This book has been a huge challenge for me; I think I've started to read it about 4 times and never got past the Grand Inquisitor chapter. But this time I was in exactly the right mood for it, and "flew" through it (not really - 3 weeks or so) and absolutely loved it. I had no idea it was a courtroom book!

This really read as a much more modern book than it is. So many of the themes are still applicable. I loved Aloysha, obviously, although Ivan gets all the best scenes (Grand Inquisitor, the meeting with the Devil). 5 stars.

Editado: Jul 15, 2014, 4:21 pm

I have tried it a couple of times and run aground, but having read your review I am going to try again!

(Edited to rectify some appalling typos.)

Jul 15, 2014, 3:51 pm

Once it stops being all about Aloysha running around and talking to every single other character in the course of the afternoon, it becomes easier. Super worth it.

#55 Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (re-read)

What? The Brothers Karamazov was hard. This was easy. Plus I tried to read the 5th one and realized that I had forgotten about all of the non-Claire, non-Jamie characters. So I'm going to re-read the series.

Jul 19, 2014, 6:54 am

>153 jfetting: Well done - I read that last year (my January chunky) and it took what felt like forever. The chapters of introspection and discourse on religion where tough going. I felt it could have done with an editor! Not sure I'm ever going to feel the need to revisit that one.

Jul 21, 2014, 9:00 am

Thank you! I had the hardest time whenever there were several chapters in a row of Aloysha running from person to person listening to them be irrational and melodramatic. My favorite part was when Ivan talked to the Devil.

#56 Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

Trashy series re-read. I like this one better than Outlander.

Jul 25, 2014, 2:42 pm

#57 The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

It must be difficult to be a fiction writer. You get an idea, a GREAT idea, like maybe about magic and witches and a mysterious book! And academia and historians and vampires! Not just vampires, scientist vampires! And you get even more great ideas, little details that make the book pop, and a huge cast of fascinating minor characters and subplots. It must be a lot of work. So much work that it must completely drain them of ideas so they basically just steal the Twilight relationship for the major characters and the Twilight plot for the main plot - oh sorry, with time travel and a fancy book - and call it a day.

The Matthew/Diana relationship is far and away the worst part of this book. Anything having to do with Matthew is the worst part of these books. He's the worst. Both Matthew and his author take him entirely too seriously. Everything to do with him lacks the sparkling humor and wit and cleverness that makes the other parts of these books so charming. The blood rage thing doesn't make him any more sympathetic or interesting. Halfway through the book I started hoping that someone (anyone) would off Matthew and then Diana could take off with Gallowglass (spoiler alert: doesn't happen). The breaking point came for me when Matthew goes to Chris's lab at Yale. A lot of valuable trees and ink have been sacrificed in the previous books explaining to us how Matthew is the world's bestest scientist ever. But we find out that Matthew A) doesn't like to share any of his results with anyone ever and B) (almost a direct quote) "really does not like to be questioned about his work". I call bullshit. This makes Matthew among the WORST kind of scientist. Matthew sucks. So it is hard to buy into a story that insists that he is perfect, always right, perfect, not at all creepy and overprotective and stalkerish and perfect. Don't get me wrong: I am not in general opposed to hot perfect male vampires. You will have a difficult time finding a bigger Eric Northman fan than myself. But this guy? Sucks.

The big reveal of the Book of Life's contents is a big letdown. The settings continue to be wonderful (the Bishop house, that castle in France, the place in London). We get to meet the Congregation! More wonderful minor characters show up. So it gets three stars, because I love all the details so much that they offset the main plot.

Jul 25, 2014, 3:25 pm

I'm working my way through this one too--loved the other two, but haven't been able to get quite as entranced as I have with the earlier books. And yes! The Gallowglass part (airplane, haven't gotten farther, so not sure what the result is) was just terribly sad. :(

I don't think Matthew was quite as bad earlier... or maybe he was as bad, but he was more mysterious, so we (I) cut him more slack and assumed the best? This book, so far, is making me feel like Diana's fears about losing herself are totally justified. I'm fairly certain I'd run like hell.

Editado: Jul 25, 2014, 4:29 pm

I too assumed the best. I thought he was just weird b/c mysterious, but that being with Diana would change him for the better. I assumed he'd get less Matthew-y and less creepy. Didn't really happen. Not enough. I just cannot see what is so appealing about Matthew (besides his being tall, dark, handsome, and filthy stinking rich). I also think it is a little creepy that her parents and in laws spent HER WHOLE LIFE "keeping" Diana for Matthew.


ETA: You can't run like hell! He'd find you!

Jul 25, 2014, 4:47 pm

I've only read the first one and on the basis of your reviews will stick the sequels in the "probably not" column. I found Diana far more annoying than Matthew. Struck me as a mass of contradictions. Wants to escape magic, so studies the birth of science out of alchemy. Yup, that's rational. Wants to be treated as an adult, but seems to revert to being a sulky teen as soon as Matthew turns up. OK, I grant he's dishy, but no man is worth making that much of a cake of yourself.
*rolls eyes*

Jul 25, 2014, 11:24 pm

LOL, I've only read the first-in-series as well, and had vowed not to continue! I knew it wasn't for me when I really, really, *really* wanted Diana to die when she was levitated and engulfed by the blue flames! I thought I was going to scream every time she looked at Matthew, and the scene in the yoga studio was unbearable. I struggled through this book a couple of summers ago, and only finished it out of a warped sense of finishing what I had started; but never again. I've developed a DNF-backbone! :-)

Jul 29, 2014, 8:37 am

Oh, God, I had forgotten about creature yoga. There was so much potential there! If only she hadn't felt the need to make Diana and Matthew the most perfect ever at everything.

#58 Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe

Well, this is better. It is one of those Southern coming-of-age novels set around the turn of the last century. Eugene is the youngest in a family of alcoholics who are mostly charming and crazy and obsessed with money. He grows up, goes to college, WWI comes, etc. I did enjoy it; the writing especially was beautiful. The racism was disgusting and difficult to read in sections but with Southern coming-of-age novels set around the turn of the last century there is no avoiding racism.

My favorite part was all the descriptions of delicious Southern meals. Biscuits and gravy, ham, fried apples, mashed potatoes, greens... yum! It made me hungry.

Ago 1, 2014, 10:21 am

#59 Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

I want to go! I want to go long distance hiking! A lot of people hate this book, but I didn't mind it, or Cheryl. Her story was sad but interesting, and it takes a lot of guts to go into the wilderness BY YOURSELF for thousands of miles. Sure, she could have been more prepared but no ranger had to come take her off the trail. Mostly this book made me want to head off into the woods.

Editado: Ago 2, 2014, 1:46 am

>164 jfetting: I've had this book ever since Oprah selected it for her book club 2.0 because I was interested in the interactive features; but when I found out it was basically about highlight sharing, I tabled it. A friend of mine who had read it told me to read it anyway, but as I live right off of the PCT and, in fact hike sections of it regularly, I felt there was something a bit too ironic about reading about someone else's adventures in my own backyard!

Reese Witherspoon and the movies crews were out here last year filming the section that takes place in Ashland, OR; and now, once again, with your comments, the book is again on my radar :-)

Ago 1, 2014, 10:26 pm

I think you've pinpointed for me why I haven't read Wild yet. I can't hike anymore and I think it would make me too sad, as I still really miss that.

Ago 2, 2014, 12:41 pm

There really isn't much about the trail itself; more her experiences. It is definitely a memoir and not a travel book. I've never hiked anywhere out west. I live close (ish) to some of the Maine parts of the AT and I've hiked those and I've always had the best time meeting thru-hikers. I'm not at all surprised that for the most part Cheryl met helpful people. I'm only a day-hiker, and people have given me granola bars, walking sticks, beer, and a whole lobster (I kept telling the guy who was handing out lobsters that I was just a day hiker and didn't deserve lobster but he gave me one anyway).

Ago 4, 2014, 12:37 pm

#60 Voyager by Diana Gabaldon (re-read)

This is my favorite of the ones I've read.

Ago 4, 2014, 2:32 pm

#61 Firewall by Henning Mankell (audiobook)

So this is apparently the year of me reading my way entirely through series. This is a great Wallander book. He's up against cybercrime and murder this time around, and being backstabbed by a trusted colleague, and all in all a great book.

Ago 6, 2014, 12:10 pm

#62 The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

Just a sweet story about four unhappy women who, although mostly strangers to each other, rent a castle in Italy together in April in the 1920s. Their lives improve. I loved it.

Ago 6, 2014, 9:15 pm

I keep meaning to get to The Enchanted April. Maybe soon - it sounds charming in a good way.

Ago 6, 2014, 11:02 pm

Love that movie--had no idea it was a book! I'll have to look it up.

Ago 7, 2014, 8:25 am

It was very charming and now I want to go spend a month in a castle in Italy. And I had no idea it was a movie! It appears to have Jim Broadbent in it, so it must be good.

Ago 7, 2014, 10:25 am

Ooh, I didn't know The Enchanted April was a book either. It's been so long since I've seen the movie but I remember enjoying it. I'd happily settle for a month in a nice old house anywhere but home at this point!

Ago 7, 2014, 1:10 pm

Ha! mabith, I know exactly what you mean.

Ago 12, 2014, 4:05 pm

#63 On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and What Politics Hasn't Learned About Serving the Common Good by Jim Wallis

So I loved this, about how people of faith need to come together, stop bickering about side issues like who is more holy and better and Godlike, and start pressuring politicians to put THEIR stupid pointless worthless bickering aside and promote the common good. Wallis thinks that we've gone off the rails, in terms of the total lack of political compromising, and politicians are focusing too much on personal gain and helping the uber rich and completely ignoring the marginalized, the needy, the disabled, the poor, etc. Of course I agree with him, and spent half the book nodding vigorously ("OF COURSE we need to not balance the budget by slashing food programs!") and the other half despairing because it's never going to get better. But I'm always shocked when I find myself agreeing with an evangelical (and yes, I know, he's not a super conservative evangelical)

Personal responsibility AND social justice. Shouldn't be that hard. Doesn't have to be one or the other.

Ago 19, 2014, 12:01 pm

#63 Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (re-read)

My goodness this one is long. And I like the Scotland settings better than I like the Colonial America settings.

Ago 25, 2014, 12:34 pm

#64 The World Crisis vol 1 by Winston Churchill

Churchill's version of the events leading up to WWI, and the conflict itself through December 1914. He focuses on naval events and preparations for them (which makes sense what with him being the First Lord of the Admiralty at the time). I like his style, and how he sets up the setbacks and failures - not fully taking blame for any of them, although it sounds like he got plenty of that from other sources.

#65 The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

Highly entertaining story about a bored ex-mining engineer in London who accidentally gets mixed up in a evil scheme trying to plunge the world into WWI. The book is as good as the Hitchcock movie (better, actually) and I highly recommend it.

Ago 25, 2014, 2:09 pm

#65 I read that for the first time last year. It's a book I think most people know the outline of, but it was still surprising and a right good read. Not seen the film, so can't compare, but I'd agree with the highly recommended for the book.

Ago 25, 2014, 3:48 pm

#65 I remember first reading The Thirty Nine Steps about forty years ago at school and loving it. I have always been surprised that all of the films have made such unnecessary and discordant twists to the plot (most notably Robert Powell as Hannay, hanging off the hands of the clock face of Big Ben in the 1970s version!).

Ago 25, 2014, 5:20 pm

I can't think why they need to add all those changes. Plenty of horrible stuff happens to poor Hannay as written!

Set 4, 2014, 10:36 am

#66 Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

This was more like Norwegian Wood than 1Q84 or his other magical realism novels. It is a lovely book about friendship and its loss, philosophy, etc. I absolutely loved it and give it 5 stars and am going to have to buy it. For those of you who can't stand Murakami's loose ends... well... this probably isn't the book for you either.

Editado: Set 4, 2014, 2:09 pm

<182. I loved it too. I felt a certain frustration in that having waited for it for three years I couldn't stop reading it and it was over all too soon. I will probably now have another three years for his next one!

Set 4, 2014, 2:42 pm

Apparently he is publishing an 80 page novella this fall. I will probably be a sucker and buy it.

Set 4, 2014, 4:14 pm

Me too!

Set 5, 2014, 7:39 am

re: #62 Enchanted April is also a play. Works very well on the stage. Very funny scene when Melorsh (sp) is literally caught with his pants down.

re: #65 The Thirty-nine Steps was also made into a play. Very funny as the whole show is performed by 4 actors. One plays Hannay, one plays all the female roles (which means mostly the woman he ends up with), and the other two actors play all the other roles. A gift for comic actors. Certainly changes the tone of the piece, but manages to keep the suspense.

re: all the Diana Gabaldon books. On 9/11 my wife and I were on the road doing a play. As an escape, she started reading a bunch of Gabaldon books. I haven't read any myself, but they must be a little racy. Nine months later we were parents :)

Set 5, 2014, 9:35 am

LOL sushidog. Yep, they're a bit racy. That's hilarious.

I had no idea that EITHER of those stories were made into plays, but they sound like great adaptations.

Set 7, 2014, 5:20 pm

#67 The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon

This is the book I tried reading in May that made me realize that I no longer had any idea who any of the characters were, and what they were doing, and so I had to re-read the series. It is also my least favorite of the series. I hate it when authors get really popular and the public loves their work and so editors stop editing and so we poor readers have to put up with 1500 pages of nothing. The first 200 pages cover one day. It isn't necessary. There were also a lot a lot of descriptions of lactating breasts. When breastfeeding, when not breastfeeding, during sex (ew?) etc etc etc. It never ends.

Set 8, 2014, 9:49 am

#68 The Martian by Andy Weir

I read this because I think just about every single person in this group read it either this year or last year, and you all have great taste, and so I figured what the hell? And I'm so glad I did because it was amazing. 5 stars. I cried at the end. Yay humanity!

Set 8, 2014, 12:03 pm

>189 jfetting: ... it was amazing. 5 stars. I cried at the end. Yay humanity!

Best.review.ever. :-)

Set 8, 2014, 2:47 pm

>190 Tanya-dogearedcopy: Seconding! I can't imagine any book topping it for my favorite read of this year (at least for fiction).

Set 8, 2014, 11:25 pm

Yay! The Martians is an amazing book!

Set 14, 2014, 9:45 am

#69 The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

I've tried to read this many times over the years, and I finally managed to drag myself all the way through it. Still not sure what the point of this book was, or what even really happened. Is it a ghost story? A murder story? What is this even?

Set 14, 2014, 8:14 pm

#70 Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry

I had to read this for work. They gave us the book for free as part of our leadership training series. The book had some interesting yet commonsense tips for improving self-awareness and social awareness and interacting with people. There was an online quiz, too, which is one of those "how often do you do X" thingys.

Set 15, 2014, 11:48 am

You've reaffirmed my decision not to go near Nathaniel Hawthorne ever again. I had to read The Blithedale Romance in college and UGH.

Set 23, 2014, 11:01 am

#71 The Secret Place by Tana French

This was back to the quality of her early work. I loved it! I think the teenage slang is going to read as dated (or even more dated) in a few years, and so the book won't have much staying power in that sense, but the cop work was fantastic. I figured out whodunit pretty quickly, but still enjoyed the big reveal.

Set 24, 2014, 11:38 am

I'm reading it right now and have been totally sucked in! Agree about the teenage slang, but there's really no way around it if you're writing teenagers. It just changes so fast! I'll probably finish it in a couple days.

I've been wondering as I read it if Tana French will keep writing mysteries (she's so good at it) and if she'll ever branch out into other genres. I think she's pretty young, so she has a lot of writing years ahead of her and one thing I love about her mysteries is the actual language skill. That could translate to other types of novels as well.

Set 24, 2014, 3:57 pm

Sure she can do that but first she has to go back and finish Cassie and Rob's story which I consider unfinished. She is a wonderful writer, in terms of her prose.

Editado: Set 28, 2014, 8:23 am

#72 The Pyramid and Other Stories by Henning Mankell (audiobook)

A story collection spanning Wallander's first case through a case set immediately before Faceless Killers. The stories are fine, but this isn't my favorite by far. I'd probably only recommend it to a Wallander completist.

There is only one Wallander novel left. Mankell can't mean it, when he says he isn't writing any more. Can he?

Set 30, 2014, 8:40 am

#73 The World Crisis: Volume 2 by Winston Churchill

These books aren't really about the World crisis during WWI so much as Churchill's crisis in WWI. So all about the failed attack on the Dardanelles, and the political fallout, and how it wasn't really his fault but he got all the blame but that's fine but really it wasn't his fault.

Also there was apparently some fighting in France, and Russia fell apart.

Set 30, 2014, 4:15 pm

#74 The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham (audiobook)

Oooh, creepy. This was a lot of fun. I love these midcentury sci-fi books.

Out 6, 2014, 10:59 am

#75 Chocolat by Joanne Harris

An enjoyable read, but one of the few books for which I prefer the movie version.

Out 15, 2014, 8:52 am

#76 Aesop's Fables by Aesop

Haven't read these since I was a kid. There is a lot of death and getting eaten in them. Quite violent.

Out 17, 2014, 8:38 am

#77 A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel

Wow. This is another top 5 of the year book. It is about the big revolutionaries during the French Revolution - Danton, Robespierre, etc - and their relationships and their journey from being young students and lawyers in Paris to their ultimate ends. Everything starts out so well, with high ideals, but then they start accepting bribes and killing off enemies and then boom! Their hubris does them in as well.

Obviously this is fiction, but I can see how it could be real, and how terrifyingly quickly one can go from being a Father of the Revolution to being its victim, depending on who you piss off and what mistakes you made in the past.

5 stars. Great read. Go read it.

Out 17, 2014, 9:16 am

Yes! I loved A Place of Greater Safety even more than her Wolf Hall books, which is saying something. Glad you loved it too!

Out 17, 2014, 9:40 am

I loved A Place of Greater Safety- but just as well as the Wolf Hall books

Out 17, 2014, 4:05 pm

I love all three of the books I've read of hers (the two Wolf Hall books and this one). What I enjoy most is how she rehabilitates the characters to whom history has given a bad name. Cromwell, for instance, in the Wolf Hall books, and Robespierre here. I always thought of Robespierre as a bloodthirsty lunatic. Now I find him incredibly sympathetic. Poor guy, just trying to do what his conscience tells him to do for his country, killing his best friend...

Out 21, 2014, 1:41 pm

#78 Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

So this is a very, very strange and very, very beautifully written and very, very Murakami book. Not all the ends were tied up, and what started as a fairly action-driven story turns into a meditation on consciousness. There are actually two storylines, and they alternate, and one is more-realistic and one is less-realistic, and then the connection becomes clear in the end.

Out 22, 2014, 2:58 pm

#79 Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene (audiobook)

Someone around here (or many someones around here) recommended this book to me after I read The Tailor of Panama by John le Carre last year. I thought it was a really funny novel about an accidental spy who makes things up. The audio version was great; this one was read by Jeremy Northam who is extremely goodlooking and has a very attractive voice.

Out 22, 2014, 3:45 pm

I loved that one - perhaps my favourite Graham Greene novel. I think that le Carre refers to it in the 'Afterword' or acknowledgements to 'The Tailor of Panama'.

There was a splendid film of it starring Alec Guiness as Wormold.

Out 22, 2014, 4:08 pm

I've been pondering which Greene novel to read next (I've only read one, The End of the Affair), and I think you've both made up my mind for me!

Out 22, 2014, 4:39 pm

Ironically, The End of the Affair is one of the few of Greene's novels that I haven't read!

Out 23, 2014, 10:18 am

Well, I certainly enjoyed it. Definitely not humorous, but I was captivated by the writing.

Editado: Out 23, 2014, 1:24 pm

Having read Our Man in Havana I definitely see how Tailor of Panama is an homage to it. They are practically the same story, except that le Carre went for worse consequences than Greene did.

I've read a bit of Greene but I haven't read The End of the Affair yet. My favorite so far is The Quiet American.

ETA: and now I have to find the film version. Thanks, eyejaybee!

Out 23, 2014, 3:58 pm

Any time ;)

Out 23, 2014, 4:19 pm

I've read The Quiet American, and while I have End of the Affair, I never quite seem to get round to starting it. hmmm, must do something about that.

Out 27, 2014, 12:27 pm

#80 The Third Man by Graham Greene (audiobook)

Which came first, the book or the movie? I enjoyed this, although I didn't love it. More spy shenanigans.

Out 27, 2014, 2:03 pm

I think in this case it was actually the film that came first. Orson Welles's line about Switzerland and the cuckoo clock was ad libbed on the set and Greene then incorporated it into his book.

Out 27, 2014, 2:32 pm

That was a great line.

The book felt a lot like a movie, so I'm not surprised that the movie came first.

Out 28, 2014, 9:02 am

#81 The Marble Faun by Nathanial Hawthorne

This one isn't read much anymore, and I'm pretty sure the reason why is because it is terrible. All of Hawthorne's other novels are terrible too, but this one is epic. It is about a group of four friends in Rome back in Hawthorne time. Two are girls - one is beautiful and pure (constant emphasis on her purity and goodness. She is not a real person) and the other is beautiful but has a mysterious past withs hint of evil and also Jewish-ness. Hawthorne was a giant religious bigot, it seems, and this book is full of it. Anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic... really the only acceptable way to be is New England Puritan. New England and its purity get brought up almost as much as Hilda's purity.

And then a big horrible thing happens, and there are a bunch of plot holes that don't get filled, and then apparently people complained so Hawthorne added an epilogue where he bitches because people can't figure the plot holes out for themselves.

His short stories are so, so good. I can't believe how bad his novels are. SO SO BAD. This gets one star.

Out 28, 2014, 9:15 am

Maybe if I'm feeling daring I'll try some of Hawthorne's short stories, but frankly The Blithedale Romance made me want to bury all his books in a hole in the ground.

Out 28, 2014, 10:42 am

This is funny, because generally we agree on authors but I actually really like both of the novels I've read by Hawthorne. Your hated The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables are both books I've really liked. I've never read any of his short stories that I remember - maybe I'd hate those!

Out 28, 2014, 12:30 pm

Oh Jennifer. How? How can you like The Scarlet Letter? After SIX LONG WEEKS of The Scarlet Letter and nothing but The Scarlet Letter junior year of high school, how are you not scarred?

His short stories are amazing. My favorite is "Rappaccini's Daughter" but "The Birthmark" and "Young Goodman Brown" are also fantastic. I won't listen to anything against the first of those; it is among my top 5 short stories of all time.

mabith I only have The Blithedale Romance left of Hawthorne's on the 1001 list, but I'm going to have to give it a good long break. I can't take anymore.

Out 28, 2014, 1:15 pm

>223 jfetting: I know - 6 weeks! But somehow I remember it fondly. (Ducking as you take a swing!)

I did look, though, and despite thinking I had, I have not reread this since I started keeping track of my reading in 2008. Maybe it's time to revisit it and see if my memory is skewed.

You know me, I'm not really one for short stories, but maybe I'll get to some of those some day.

Out 28, 2014, 1:56 pm

Don't worry! I won't hit you. DC is way too far away.

What was her name? Our English teacher that year? I can't remember it. I can remember Kobza and Nee and Moeller and I can't for the life of me remember her name.

If you aren't into short stories you will also not like these. They are practically the Platonic ideal of short story.

Out 28, 2014, 3:30 pm

Mrs. Stubinger! Right???

Out 28, 2014, 4:03 pm

Was it? I'm sure you're right, but that name isn't ringing a bell. I remember exactly what she looked like though.

Editado: Out 28, 2014, 4:07 pm

Nope, you are absolutely right. Because here she is! With Gwendolyn Brooks!

With a bunch of people who are not us. One wonders why one was not selected to meet Gwendolyn Brooks.

Out 28, 2014, 4:15 pm

WTH??!!! That was the year we were in her class! One certainly does wonder how one was not picked for that.

Those do not look like "the usual suspects" for that sort of thing from what I remember. I only vaguely remember most of those students.

Ok, down off my high horse.

Editado: Out 28, 2014, 4:42 pm

I agree with you that they were not the usual suspects for exciting English class trips, and I couldn't put any names to those people either. I feel like OBVIOUSLY we should have been chosen for any Gwendolyn Brooks-meeting adventures. We like totally had the best panel project. We were good at English class! WE SPEND TIME ON LITERATURE-ANALYSIS SOCIAL WEBSITES AS ADULTS WHO DO NOT WORK IN LITERATURE! We are the perfect people to meet the late Gwendolyn Brooks.


My only explanation is that it was some sort of thing for the non-Honors English class to do while we were busy teaching The Sound and the Fury. I'm still sulking about it though.

Out 28, 2014, 8:06 pm

I guess the two guys with ties are teachers too, but I don't recognize them or their names! I still can't believe that happened at our little school and I don't remember it and didn't get to do it. Although I probably didn't know who Gwendolyn Brooks was back then. I'm still kind of annoyed!

Nov 3, 2014, 8:39 am

#82 Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck

Extremely interesting and entertaining travelogue in which Steinbeck takes a road trip across America with his dog. I like this sort of thing, and Steinbeck's voice is fantastic.

Nov 19, 2014, 8:47 am

#83 The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy

(spoilers abound!)

I loved it, but probably differently than many (based on the reviews I've read calling Soames a villain). I get that Soames did a terrible thing to Irene. I get that Irene did not want to be married to Soames. But Irene is terrible. I think she is the worst character in the book. She marries a man she doesn't love, she decides after a week that banging him is intolerable (paraphrasing from Jolyen's letter to Young Jon) which probably did suck back then when she couldn't legally get out of it. But no one put a gun to her head. She didn't have to marry him. If you marry for money and not love, you know EXACTLY what you are getting into. It is a choice you made. AND THEN she proves herself to be as horrible a friend as she was a wife by having an affair with June's fiance. But everyone in the book is obsessed with her! Soames, his gross uncles, etc... but she doesn't do anything or think anything or act in any way like she might be an interesting character. But she is beautiful. So that whole driving force of the plot, the Soames vs Irene thing, didn't work for me. He was well rid of her, I think, and ended up having the delightful Fleur, whose happiness was ruined by that awful manipulative Irene...

I loved the writing and the setting and the way the book infuriated me.

Nov 19, 2014, 11:04 am

>233 jfetting: Agreed, but for different reasons. I hated Soames - just despicable to me - but I also didn't like Irene. The way Galsworthy wrote her character, she seemed like this empty, beautiful thing for all the other characters to react to instead of being her own person. But I loved the writing and the style of the book.

Nov 19, 2014, 9:00 pm

Despicable? I felt bad for him. His thinking that people were property was certainly misguided, but he did more than anyone to visit the aunts, keep everyones' fortunes intact, etc. He wanted his daughter to be happy. And also the way he is shunned for expressing his love of beauty. Not everyone can be an artist. Someone has to buy the paintings to keep the artists in business. How is his version of loving beauty so much more despicable (and I'm not attributing this idea to you, although you may share it. The other characters and even his author state it) than, say, Jolyon's? Or Irene's? Dabbling with watercolors and living off an inheritance isn't all that impressive either. Is it because for him it is always tied up with possession? Which one can do with a painting but can't do with a person. As he maybe eventually learned.

Just musings. It is a fantastic book.

In ways I feel a little bit horrified that I'm so easily able to blow off the whole raping-his-wife thing, since I am normally the first to be disgusted by such characters and loathe them. The only other case I can think of where I feel bad for the awful-rapist-main-character is Lolita, and I think that these books are similar in that the victim just is terrible and I hate them. Also, we only get the story from the rapist's point of view. In both cases, I catch myself thinking "Oh, the poor guy!" and then thinking "No, wait, he is a bad person. Stop feeling sorry for him!". But I can't.

Nov 19, 2014, 9:18 pm

Yes, it's the possession thing for me with Soames. He doesn't really love anything - just wants to own - people, art, his place in society. And the ultimate expression of that is raping Irene. But then he treats his next wife much the same way. I don't buy him visiting the aunts and managing the money as anything more than keeping up the family name and appearances. And purchasing the art work also struck me as more about possession than loving beauty. Maybe I just couldn't get that idea out of my head.

I certainly wasn't rooting for Irene either, and I think she and and Jolyon were very unfair to Jon about Fleur and really put themselves down on Soames' level in that case.

I also really hated reading Lolita because I kept feeling like Nabakov was trying to convince me that it's ok to be a pedophile and Lo deserved it. But it was all written from Humbert's point of view and of course he's going to give a version of Lolita's actions that justify his. The writing in that book was amazing, but I need to read something else by him so I can get past the subject matter.

Nov 19, 2014, 9:44 pm

Oh, everything I've read by Nabokov is great. And no pedophilia involved! But I completely totally disagree with the idea that he was trying to convince the reader that it is ok to be a pedophile. Humbert was trying to convince the reader of that, yes. NOT Nabokov. You can't transfer the character's feelings to the author! (and I know you know that but I have to defend Nabokov because he is one of my favorites and I am sad when people say mean things about him) There is a part towards the end that makes it abundantly clear that even HUMBERT realizes that his years-long molestation of Lo was disgusting and abhorrent and wrong, and that it ruined Lo's life. If I could find my copy I'd write it out but I can't. I recommend Pale Fire. It is hilarious.

Re: Soames and his paintings - that's interesting, because I got the feeling that he actually appreciated them. Loved owning them, certainly, but also loved them for their own sakes, especially the one that looked like Fleur, and not just the value (although he loved that too). And we have to agree to disagree re: his treatment of his aunts. If everything and everyone is a possession with varying degrees of value to him, his aunts were pretty low-value persons and he was STILL the only person to visit them, and go to his last uncle's funeral. He didn't go around announcing he did it, he just did. I'm not saying he loved them, but he treated them well, even their servants. I'm also wondering if I go back and read it again, if he mellows a bit in his old age and I'm thinking more of late-stage Soames rather than early stage. It took me awhile to finish the book.

He didn't rape his second wife. He treated her like a possession too, true, but she knew what she was getting into and how to manage Soames and beat him at their bizarre game. I'm glad she started up with what's-his-name.

I would almost argue that Jolyon and Irene put themselves LOWER than Soames with the nonsense they pulled with that letter to Jon. Who writes that sort of thing to a kid about their parent, really? "Oh, hey, your mom totally cheated on her first husband with your older sister's fiance, and ruined your sister's chance for happiness, but its like totally ok and understandable because she knowingly married your Uncle Soames without loving him and then really didn't like having sex with him, so really it is Uncle Soames's fault, and don't think less of your mom even though she is a completely horrible person because she loves beauty, yo." Gross. Jolyon is gross. And then he ups and dies! I mean honestly.

Nov 20, 2014, 6:33 am

OK, you're right about Nabokov - damn him for being such a convincing writer! I will definitely read Pale Fire in 2015.

Re Soames: I think I just couldn't get past the whole raping Irene and justifying it because she was his possession. And then going after her once they've parted and she's made her own life because she's "still his". It must have colored my whole reading of the character. And I know he didn't rape his second wife and she used him as well, but he still treated her as a possession - at least at first. She was just more hardened and smarter and didn't care so it didn't affect her like it affected Irene. (did I use the right "affect", I always get that one wrong)

I still think it's interesting that we both loved the book but had such different views of the characters - especially when we normally agree on these things. I'd say that's a good book!

Are you going to watch the miniseries? I watched it on netflix after reading the book and I thought it was pretty good. In fact, I could definitely be mixing the two together because I know there were some significant differences, but now I'm having a hard time remembering which was which. I also read and watched these right after I had Isaac while I was on maternity leave, so I was in a bit of a haze!

I have several "real life" friends who read quite a bit, but no one who will argue with me about books. This is fun!

Nov 21, 2014, 12:34 pm

My real life reader friends won't argue with me either. This has been a fun debate! It is interesting that we both love the book and have completely different ideas about it since, as you say, that rarely happens with us. Definitely the mark of a good book!

So, I've watched the first episode of the miniseries, which is VERY different than the book since it actually shows the early events in the lives of Soames, Jolyon, Irene, etc and doesn't just refer to them as in the past. I'll admit that this may have colored my opinion of the characters. Damian Lewis is by no means unattractive IMO. So I'm more sympathetic to Soames. Of course, Rupert Graves is ALSO not bad looking, and Jolyon annoys me but Jolyon's behavior to Wife #1 in the miniseries is pretty awful, so I went into the book with preconceived notions. I'll be watching the rest soon, but it may have to wait till January because as it is, I have to read 17 books before the end of the year to reach 100. Eek!

#84 Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Another 5 star book (two in a row! Woohoo!). There's no real plot. The closest thing to a plot is that it is loosely "about" Marco Polo describing the cities he has visited to Kublai Khan. So it is mostly a description of cities. It is practically a poem, the writing is so beautiful and imaginative.

Nov 24, 2014, 10:48 am

#85 Lila by Marilynne Robinson

The third 5-star book in a row! This is the third book in what I'll call a trilogy, but probably isn't really one, set in the town of Gilead, Iowa. It tells the story of John Ames's second wife, Lila, and her childhood as a migrant worker and how she ended up in a place of safety. She never really trusts Ames, yet, and her point of view is very different than I had expected, given her characterization in Gilead.

The writing, of course, is phenomenal and Robinson really can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned. She is one of the very few authors whose new book I buy immediately. I sat down to read it at about 7 last night and finished at midnight, having had no intention of reading for more than an hour or two.

Nov 24, 2014, 11:27 am

I have this on my kindle. Looking forward to reading it soon!

Nov 25, 2014, 6:37 am

Some great reading! (But I'm never going to finish Lolita. I don't care if it's not Nabakov's beliefs, I'm not going to read an apologia for paedophilia. Ick.)

Dez 2, 2014, 1:18 pm

#86 The World Crisis vol. 3 Part 1 and 2 by Winston S. Churchill

I'm enjoying this behind-the-scenes look at WWI. This volume was mostly about the land war (and Jutland), and where he thought the Allies and the Central powers went wrong in the battles. I particularly like the letters between Churchill and the generals.

Dez 8, 2014, 9:47 am

#87 Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood

3.5 stars on this one. Little girls can be horrible to each other.

Dez 12, 2014, 12:00 pm

#88 The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell

That's it. I've finished the Wallander books. Unless he writes some more prequel stories, or stories from an earlier time, there will be no more coming, because it doesn't end well for Wallander, which makes me very sad. I will have to start reading his Linda Wallander books now, or go back to Faceless Killers and read them all over again. Taken as a whole, I loved this whole series.

Dez 12, 2014, 2:46 pm

HA! But a quick scan of the LT series feature tells me that there is another Wallander story called An Event in Autumn that I've not yet read!!!!

yay! I haven't been this sad to see a series end since Harry Potter.

Dez 15, 2014, 9:36 am

#89 Plainsong by Kent Haruf

His name has been in the news lately, since he passed away, and this is one of the books that a colleague recommended (and lent me!), so I needed to get to it. I'm really glad I did, because I loved it. 5 stars, read it in one sitting, couldn't put it down. He's brilliant at showing, not telling. The characters aren't ever described as feeling anything, but their emotions are so clear because of their actions. I loved the McPheron brothers - this seems to be a common response to the book - and the setting and the little boys. It was fantastic and I'm looking forward to reading more by him.

Dez 15, 2014, 9:50 am

>247 jfetting: Great! This is one of the books I picked up recently at a library sale.

Dez 22, 2014, 2:23 pm

#90 The Money Class by Suze Orman (audiobook, possibly a re-read)

Good for listening on a long car ride, but now I'm distressed because I'm not maxing out my ROTH IRA and this means I am doomed to eating dog food in my retirement. Fewer books! More deposits!

#91 The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (audiobook)

I was all impressed with Justin Cronin's imagination in writing The Passage until I read this. The Passage is basically Triffids with vampires and a magical girl.

I loved Triffids. Wyndham is my new favorite creepy science-fiction writer.

Dez 22, 2014, 3:20 pm

I remember loving John Wyndham's books when I was younger though I haven't thought about him for years. I think I shall re-read The Day of the Triffids over the Christmas holiday. Thanks for making me think about him again. :)

I do recall that there was a huge difference between the books he wrote before the Second World War, and those he published afterwards. His early books gave the impression of having been knocked out fairly quickly as part of the explosion of pulp science fiction during the thirties while his later works, such as 'Triffids', The Chrysalids and The Midwich Cuckoos (filmed as 'Village of the Damned', seemed far more substantial.

The early books ( such as Stowaway to Mars) were good fun, but not quite as gripping as the later stuff.

Dez 22, 2014, 3:22 pm

You are getting close to 100! Choose some short books for the next week.

Dez 23, 2014, 12:00 pm

Thanks for the picture! I am picking short ones or I'll never hit 100.

I loved Midwich Cuckoos too.

Dez 27, 2014, 8:34 pm

#92 The Worst Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

Hilarious short childrens book about these awful kids, the Herdmans (who lie and cheat and smoke cigars, even the girls!) and how they take over the Christmas pageant at church one year and how hilarity and profundity ensue. Still a favorite of mine after all these years. The made-for-TV movie was awesome too.

#93 The Birds' Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin

Tragic, cheesy, sweet Christmas book about a girl named Carol who has one of those inexplicable childhood Victorian era diseases and how she give Christmas dinner to the Ruggles family. Another long-time favorite and yearly read.

#94 A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Read on Christmas Eve day, and supplemented with the Fetting family traditional viewing of the Alistair Sim version with chocolate martinis after church on Christmas Eve. Also much loved.

#95 How We Got To Now by Steven Johnson (audiobook)

Light, entertaining history of glass, sewers, sound, etc and the inventions pertaining to them and how they changed the world. My favorite part was the end, where he talked about how the big breakthroughs come from science-y types who have lots of hobbies and interests, which is interesting to me b/c I am a scientist with lots of hobbies and interests, and this is NOT a trait that gets me much praise at work. My hobby should be science! ONLY SCIENCE. So maybe I should go work for Steven Johnson?

Dez 29, 2014, 10:18 am

#96 The English Assassin by Daniel Silva (audiobook)

Ok. From here on I am going to read these in order. This was the second one and it was highly entertaining. Great to listen to on a long car ride.

#97 The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

I appreciate what she did with the structure of the book - the chapters are all a little different. I hated the story and had a hard time getting through it. 1.5 stars.

Dez 29, 2014, 10:56 am

Almost there! :) I've read some good things about Daniel Silva--I may need to add him to my list. Good luck on the goal!

Dez 29, 2014, 11:14 am

That's disappointing about The Stone Diaries. I've been meaning to get to it since it's on my shelf and I have another friend who loves it. Interested to see on which side I'll fall!

Dez 30, 2014, 10:32 am

I remember liking The Stone Diaries when it first came out, but can't remember a thing about it. Have you read Larry's Party?

Dez 30, 2014, 11:44 am

Nope, it was my first Carol Shields novel. Is Larry's Party good? Part of my issue with Stone Diaries was that I didn't care for her writing style - very descriptive, which I usually don't mind, but I thought it was (for want of a better word) yucky. She'd write a whole flowery page about flowers or humans or whatever and I'd just instinctively go "ew". I think I'm in the minority on her, though, since all the reaction I've been getting has been "What?!? But it's so good!"

Dez 31, 2014, 10:52 am

#98 Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Another example of how I am out of sync with everyone else when it comes to books. Many, many, many people love this book and many, many, many people recommended it to me ("you'll love it! It's so funny!") and by the time I was halfway through the book I was actively angry at the people who recommended that I waste my time with this crap. It is not funny. It is trying way too hard to be funny to actually be funny. I don't care where Bernadette went. I want her to stay there, and take her annoying child, husband, and neighbors with her.

Dez 31, 2014, 11:26 am

Ha, I love that review, though I'm sorry you didn't enjoy the book. That's precisely why I hate taking recommendations for anything, but especially books. It's awful because I'm constantly trying to force everyone I know to read specific things and they often oblige.

Dez 31, 2014, 11:39 am

>259 jfetting: you are NOT alone in that view. I, too, had heard great things of it, none of which it actually managed to meet.

Dez 31, 2014, 1:20 pm

Ok, since there are only 11 hours left in the day and there is no way I am going to finish another book, here is my Year in Review Awards Show

Best Book of the Year: The Master and Margarita
Worst Book of the Year: The Cement Garden - lot of competition in this category!
Best Gaiman Work: American Gods
Best Wallander novel: Firewall
Worst Sex Scenes: The Swimming Pool Library
Best Sex Scenes: Outlander
Best Historical Fiction: A Place of Greater Safety
Best Sci-Fi: The Day of the Triffids
Best Mystery/Detective: Firewall
Most Infuriating Recommendation: Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Book that Made Me Give Up On Real Life Book Group:The Light Between Oceans (they also read Bernadette)
Best New-To-Me author: John Wyndham
Best New Novel From An Old Favorite: Lila by Marilynne Robinson
Book That Most Made Me Want To Start Doing Drugs: Travel is a Political Act by Rick Steves
Book That Least Made Me Want To Start Doing Drugs: The Goldfinch
Book Where Most People Disagree With Me: The Stone Diaries, apparently
Best Character: Satan from Master and Margarita
Worst Character: Matthew Clairmont from The Book of Time
Biggest Disappointment: The Book of Time
Delightful Surprise: The Martian
Miniseries I Am Most Looking Forward To: Mapp and Lucia

Dez 31, 2014, 1:23 pm

mabith I know what you mean - I'm always trying to get people to read my favorites and then end up questioning their taste if they don't like them
Helenliz - thank goodness! I thought I was alone in this.

Dez 31, 2014, 5:32 pm

I think maybe people who don't read as much are worse at giving recommendations? Or maybe it's that they're not very familiar with what you've been reading and what you think of it? Hard to say. I've never gotten any complaints from people, so I'm forging ahead being pushy with recs.

I love some of your best/worst categories! My internet book group seems gifted at choosing books most of us dislike. We're reading three or four books I suggested in 2015, so at least I know the other people have chosen bombs just in case mine are disliked.

Dez 31, 2014, 5:55 pm

There are people who deliberately seek out my recommendations, so I suppose I don't do too badly. The worst is when someone says "Pick a book for me to read! I trust you!" and I do, and they're all "Oh, Wallander is so depressing".

I think people who don't read as much are terrible at recommendations. I think that they are often stuck on NYT bestsellers, or book group books, or YA novels - nothing wrong with any of these things, but I don't exactly need someone telling me to read The Hunger Games, you know?

Dez 31, 2014, 7:31 pm

Happy New Year, Jennifer! Love your summary of your 2014 reading. Sorry you didn't like Bernadette, that's come up as a potential bookgroup read but we voted something else in (now I say: phew).

Jan 1, 2015, 11:13 am

Ha, yes, there's not too much sense in recommending bestsellers to an avid reader. We're likely already too aware of them. I may take my book evangelizing too far, as sometimes I'll log into my parents' library accounts and put books on hold for them.

Happy new year!

Jan 8, 2015, 7:41 am

I remember liking Larry's Party, but not loving it. She's one of those authors that was treated like a national treasure in Canada, but I've never been fully on the bandwagon.