What are you reading the week of January 4, 2020?
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I'm a third of the way through The Paranoid Style in American Politics. It's a disheartening look at how we got here. Hofstadter didn't live to see the present, but he would have said, "I told you so."
Aunt Dimity and the Heart of Gold by Nancy Atherton
(Aunt Dimity series/paranormal cozy/Christmas happenings & mystery in an English village)
Having a tough time getting a book to stick, but have read a few short stories.
* “from Notes on PiL’s Metal Box, 1980” from Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs
* Excerpt from Strikes Have Followed Me All My Life by Emma Mashinini from The Norton Book of Women's Lives edited by Phyllis Rose
* “Homer and Humbug, an Academic Discussion” from Laugh with Leacock by Stephen Leacock
* “Charity/Caridad” from It's All In the Frijoles: 100 Famous Latinos Share Real-Life Stories, Time-Tested Dichos, Favorite Folktales, and Inspiring Words of Wisdom by Yolanda Nava – Finished!
* “The Race Track: Mud Runner” by Audax Minor from the December 2, 1967, issue of The New Yorker Magazine
As noted, this marked the completion of It's All in the Frijoles. Author/editor Yolanda Nava has put together an array of short oral histories from Latin American artists and community leaders, plus folk tales, poems and dichos (proverbs). These entries are arranged in chapters by the various graces, Respect, Loyalty, Charity, etc., all meant to illustrate the ways in which these qualities are an integral part Latin American culture as a whole. Some of the chapters work better and/or are more interesting than others. Among the most interesting entries are examples of pre-Columbian Mexican and South American folk tales. I wouldn't want to have to sit down and read this book straight through, but reading it a chapter at a time over a year or so as I did helped my enjoyment factor.
I've now begun The Rescue by Joseph Conrad. This is a continuation of my longstanding tradition of beginning each calendar year with a reading (or most cases, re-reading) of a Conrad novel. In this way, I'm going through all of his novels in chronological order.
Talk about first-hand living history!
The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak
(1700s/Varvara, a palace maid during Catherine the Great's rise/Canadian author)
If you enjoy the novel and want to know more about Catherine the Great, I suggest Massie's biography, Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman. She comes to life in this work because Massie focuses on the evolving person from youth to old age more than the political aspects of her reign. As a result, he creates a memorable portrait of a strong woman whose strength was constantly tested in all her relationships but who managed to be loved by the Russian people in spite of not being native-born to the country she adopted, ruled, and loved in return.
I enjoy the cultural info this type of tale relates.
Thanks for the tip on the NF book.
Grace Takes Off – Julie Hyzy
Book four in the Manor House Mystery series has Grace and her boss and benefactor, Bennett Marshfield, traveling to Italy to visit one of Bennett’s long-term friends, the fabulously wealthy Nico Pezati. They’re puzzled by an apparent forgery among Nico’s art collection but have no time to investigate as they’re flying home the next morning. But their troubles increase on the plane; by the time they land there are two bodies on board and Grace is convinced that Bennett is a target. But WHO is trying to kill him, and WHY?
I like this series but am getting tired of Grace’s inability to keep her nose out of things that don’t concern her. I perplexed that with all her “experience” solving cases that she can’t identify the culprit earlier. (I knew the villain the moment said person appeared on the page.) And more importantly, I’m tired of her very poor choices when it comes to the men in her life.
Frances (Grace’s irascible assistant) and Ronny Tooney (wannabe private investigator) both have roles to play, though I’d like to see them more involved. Ditto Scott and Bruce, Grace’s roommates. As for Hilary … I could do without her; she’s a ridiculous caricature of a money-grubbing airhead.
I read cozy mysteries because they are fast and enjoyable. They’re my reading snack food.
Little Beach Street Bakery – Jenny Colgan
Digital audiobook read by Veida Dehmlow.
From the book jacket: A quiet seaside resort. An abandoned shop. A small flat. This is what awaits Polly Waterford when she arrives at the Cornish coast, fleeing a ruined relationship. To keep her mind off her troubles, Polly throws herself into her favorite hobby: making bread. But her relaxing weekend diversion quickly develops into a passion. …Soon, Polly is working her magic with nuts and seeds, chocolate and sugar, and the local honey – courtesy of a handsome beekeeper.
This is a lovely chick-lit romance novel. Things don’t do smoothly for our heroine, but love will win in the end. It was a fast and enjoyable read full of colorful characters – from the cranky landlady, Mrs Manse, to the fishermen who befriend and help her, to that handsome beekeeper, and her flirtatious, over-the-top best friend, Kerensa. Oh, and Neil, the puffin is a star!
The setting is the town of Mount Polbearne – a tidal island that is cut off from the mainland during high tide, when the causeway is underwater. This village and the surrounding landscape are practically a character in the book, Colgan’s writing is that atmospheric. I could smell the salty air, hear the roar of an angry sea during a storm, and feel the warmth of sun on my skin during a sunny spring day, full of the buzzing of bees.
The situations are somewhat over the top (the Star-Wars themed wedding is a hoot), and, as is expected in this genre, rely on some outlandish coincidences, but it’s all fun.
This is the first in a series of stories that follow Polly and her bakery. I read them in reverse order (because I didn’t’ realize they were a series at first). Best to read them in order as the relationships develop over the course of the series. I do have a bone to pick re the US paperback edition cover; Polly bakes BREAD, not cupcakes and sweets. At least the cover of the audio book gets it right.
Veida Dehmlov does a respectable job of voicing the audio, though her American accents are dreadful! Still, she sets a good pace. And I really did like the way she portrayed Polly.
The House Next Door – Anne Rivers Siddons
This work of Southern gothic / horror fiction is a little slow to start but once it gets going it's riveting!
Colquitt and Walter Kennedy live in a lovely home in a friendly Atlanta suburb. They and their neighbors visit one another regularly, enjoy cocktails after work, play tennis on weekends, and attend parties at various homes. The Kennedys are pleased to live next door to a vacant lot whose narrowness and ravined terrain have always ensured it stays vacant, an oasis of natural beauty in their neighborhood. Until a young couple hires a hot-shot architect who designs a spectacular house that seems to just grow out of the land. The house is still under construction when odd things start to happen. Not just odd, but downright malevolent and horrific.
I stayed up way too late a couple of nights "waiting for that other shoe to drop." It left me on edge and vaguely anxious; spooked by noises in the night (or in the daytime). Reminds me of the hoopla around book:The Amityville Horror|325534 - a book I read when it first came out in the late '70s. A perfect Halloween read!
Around the World In 80 Days – Jules Verne
Digital audiobook performed by Frederick Davidson
One of the books in Verne’s series of “Extraordinary Voyages” begins when Phileas Fogg accepts a wager at his gentleman’s club. He’s certain that he will be able to circumnavigate the world in eighty days. Taking a significant amount of cash and his trusty servant Passepartout, and chased by Detective Fix who is certain Fogg is a bank robber, they set out on a grand adventure.
I’d seen more than one movie adaptation but had never read the book until now. What a delight! (Although, of course, there are some racial stereotypes that grate on the modern reader’s sensibilities.)
I marveled at how cool and collected – almost uninterested – Fogg remained throughout. He is never upset or even particularly inconvenienced. He moves with the certainty that he is correct in assuming that he can achieve this great task. Passepartout on the other hand is in a dither frequently, and he is a wonderful foil for Fogg … and for Detective Fix.
One quibble re cover art. SO many covers (as well as the movies) show the iconic hot-air balloon … which is NEVER used in the book!
Frederick Davidson does a marvelous job narrating the audiobook. He sets a good pace and I loved the way he interpreted the characters. I was happy also to have a text copy available, which included a handful of full-color illustrations, as well as a small drawing of the mode of travel for each of the chapters.
Private Justice (Newpointe 911, Book 1) by Terri Blackstock
This is not Conrad at his height or at his most skillful. But I still found it to be very good storytelling, and since I love Conrad's voice, I enjoyed this novel very much indeed. And, happily, at the points where I thought Conrad might be about to fall into cliches of plot, he twists himself out of those traps deftly.
* “from All My Friends are Hermits” from Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs
* Excerpt from Memories of a Catholic Childhood by Mary McCarthy from The Norton Book of Women's Lives edited by Phyllis Rose
* “’We Have with Us To-Night’” from Laugh with Leacock by Stephen Leacock
* “Weekend Confrontation with the Soc. Rels.” a short story by Barbara Vroom from the December 2, 1967, issue of The New Yorker Magazine
Today I'm starting Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, so I shouldn't be the only reader in America who hasn't read this book, yet. My wife read it and was very moved, so I'm looking forward to this very much.
TBH, as a non-native speaker, 19th century English is really hard to understand. I see familiar vocabularies which i learnt from studying for the GRE and have forgotten the day after I took the test, LOL.
But the stories, the poems and the way he describe every scene and object in his stories is absolute phenomenon.
Welcome to Library Thing! I'm speculating from your name that you're a native Chinese-speaker. Modern Chinese authors' works have been a special interest of mine for the last two years. Of course, I can only read them in translation.
Do you include contemporary Chinese novels in your library? If you've read some in Chinese, I'd be interested to hear what you think of the English translations of the books in the event you have compared any.
For Christmas, I got Can Xue's novel, Frontier, which I haven't started yet; I'm busy reading the early 20th C. memoir by Princess Der Ling, Two Years in the Forbidden City in which she remembers the daily life of Dowager Queen Cixi's Manchu court. Wish I knew and could supply you with the titles in Chinese.
Look forward to hearing more about what you're reading. Poe is a universal favorite in high school English lit courses because his poems are so rhythmic and his subjects eerie and bizarre. His short fiction is also "Gothic."