How The Tag Mirror Helped Me Discover Myself

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How The Tag Mirror Helped Me Discover Myself

1JoeB1934
Editado: Out 19, 2022, 6:49 pm

I Just finished a retrospective analysis of my library of books read during the last 50+ years.

My main tool for this analysis was the Tag Mirror Facility of LibraryThing. I used the Tag Mirror because it provided a point-of-view about my books by members who are far more aware of details about these books. I have never been a reader that assigned genres, or ratings to my books, but I certainly have opinions about which books/authors I preferred. Using the mirror facility offered insight into how others evaluate these books.

I learned an incredible amount about my reading preferences that were in existence without my realizing why. I started life as a "mystery" reader and according to the mirror results I still am largely so. What is true, however is that the details about what kind of mystery reader I am is far more diverse and, as I always knew "mystery" is NOT synonymous with crime. I have enjoyed books in every major genre and most of them had an element of mystery.

I now realize that the leading phrase for my reading is "literary fiction' and "literary mystery" books. These are often, but not always simultaneous designations. In fact, my 2022 reading is mostly literary fiction.

In addition to these generalities, I have been astounded by the number of what might be called sub-genres that combine to make any book more memorable to me. All of my tags are genre-like, and never bookkeeping tags. My books, on average are described by 8 tags per book.

To illustrate how these tags compare to the standard LT genres consider the following snapshot of books by 197 authors that are described as literary fiction, or literary mystery authors.



I selected this subset of all my books because they represent about half of the 1400 books read and they isolate the importance of all those "minor' genres. Compare any of the genre numbers from LibraryThing with these mirror results and invariably the mirror has many more in that designation. The genres not in the LT group are very important to understanding what books I have been reading.

Just look at Romance, where LT has 9 such books and the mirror tells me that romance was part of 89, or about half of these books. A genre I didn't even know about, Magical Realism, is a component of 20% of these books. Many of these minor genres are essential ingredients in what would be considered more important, such as Science Fiction.

You can study all of my books by going to JoeB1934. If you do so, please perform a sort on the Number of Tags field in descending order. You will find my most highly rated books at the top of that display. Note the diversity of genres in the list.

I should mention that the numbers displayed in the display are quite easy to develop. What isn't very easy is to create tags for every book identified to be a member of any specific mirror statement. The only way I could attach the tags to every appropriate book as exists in my library was provided by two Excel workbooks that scanned every combination of book and tag. Those tag results were then attached to each book through the LT import process.

2JoeB1934
Out 18, 2022, 6:29 pm

I neglected to mention that I have a different library with the ID JFBCORE that has one book for each of 666 authors in my complete library. I have always been author focused on my book reading, and that library has some additional interesting insights.

Without any doubt my most favorite author is Kate Atkinson and in terms of genres she is almost impossible to give a cental designation to. Every book she has written is from truly a different genre mix, including her most recent book 'Shrines of Gaiety'

3JoeB1934
Editado: Mar 30, 10:38 am





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4JoeB1934
Editado: Mar 30, 5:19 pm


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5JoeB1934
Editado: Mar 30, 5:57 pm




       The Women               The Heart's Invisible Furies       Nickolas Rising               The Hunter              The World That We Knew

                   My Scottish Heritage

6JoeB1934
Abr 2, 9:07 am


I neglected to mention that I have a different library with the ID JFBCORE that has one book for each of 666 authors in my complete library. I have always been author focused on my book reading, and that library has some additional interesting insights.

Without any doubt my most favorite author is Kate Atkinson and in terms of genres she is almost impossible to give a cental designation to. Every book she has written is from truly a different genre mix, including her most recent book 'Shrines of Gaiety'

10JoeB1934
Editado: Abr 3, 5:54 pm

The Hidden World of Gnomes           The Women
Flight of the Wild Swan                       Freddie the Flyer
The Little Liar                        The Boy Who Cried Bear
The Memory of Lavender and Sage                      James
The Art of Mystery                        The Lantern's Dance
Half-Life of a Stolen Sister                       Heavy
Brotherless Night             Blood Betrayal
Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly           Fourth Wing
The Painter's Daughters            Mississippi Blood
Chenneville              Endurance
Disobedient              World Departed
Dark Ride              An Immense World
State of Emergency             Still See You Everywhere
How to Say Babylon             The Game of Kings
The Nightingale             Niccolò Rising
The Labyrinth of the Spirits            The Final Curtain
The Last Devil to Die             The House of Doors
The Fourth Enemy             The Bird Hotel
Beartown              Past Lying
The Hunter              The Power of the Dog
In the Morning I'll Be Gone            Symphony of Secrets
Cathedral              Something Rotten
O Caledonia              Dolly and the Doctor Bird
Rain Dogs

11JoeB1934
Editado: Abr 3, 5:14 pm

The Hidden World of Gnomes
Flight of the Wild Swan
The Little Liar
The Memory of Lavender and Sage
The Art of Mystery
Half-Life of a Stolen Sister
The Women: A Novel
Freddie the Flyer
The Boy Who Cried Bear
James: A Novel
The Lantern's Dance
Heavy: An American Memoir
Brotherless Night
Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly
The Painter's Daughters: A Novel
Chenneville: A Novel of Murder, Loss, and Vengeance
Disobedient: A Novel
Dark Ride: A Thriller
Blood Betrayal
Fourth Wing (The Empyrean, 1)
Mississippi Blood: The Natchez Burning Trilogy
Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage
World Departed: The Cascadia Series, Book 1
An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us
State of Emergency
How to Say Babylon
The Nightingale: A Novel
The Labyrinth of the Spirits: A Novel (Cemetery of Forgotten Books)
The Last Devil to Die: A Thursday Murder Club Mystery
The Fourth Enemy: A Daniel Pitt Novel
Still See You Everywhere (A Frankie Elkin Novel, 3)
The Game of Kings: Book One in the Legendary Lymond Chronicles
Niccolò Rising: The First Book of The House of Niccolò
The Final Curtain: A Mystery (The Kyoichiro Kaga Series, 4)
The House of Doors
The Bird Hotel: A Novel
Beartown: A Novel
The Hunter: A Novel
In the Morning I'll Be Gone: A Detective Sean Duffy Novel
Cathedral
O Caledonia: A Novel
Rain Dogs: A Detective Sean Duffy Novel (Sean Duffy Series, 5)
Past Lying: A Karen Pirie Novel (Karen Pirie Novels, 7)
The Power of the Dog : A Novel
Symphony of Secrets: A novel
Something Rotten (Thursday Next Novels)
Dolly and the Doctor Bird

12JoeB1934
Abr 3, 5:37 pm

The Hidden World of Gnomes 28 57 An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us
Flight of the Wild Swan 25 60 State of Emergency
The Little Liar: A Novel 26 59 How to Say Babylon
The Memory of Lavender and Sage 33 52 The Nightingale: A Novel
The Art of Mystery: The Search for Questions 46 39 The Labyrinth of the Spirits: A Novel (Cemetery of Forgotten Books)
Half-Life of a Stolen Sister 30 55 The Last Devil to Die: A Thursday Murder Club Mystery
The Women: A Novel 20 65 The Fourth Enemy: A Daniel Pitt Novel
Freddie the Flyer 19 66 Still See You Everywhere (A Frankie Elkin Novel, 3)
The Boy Who Cried Bear: A Haven's Rock Novel (Haven's Rock, 2) 64 21 The Game of Kings: Book One in the Legendary Lymond Chronicles
James: A Novel 16 69 Niccolò Rising: The First Book of The House of Niccolò
The Lantern's Dance: A Novel of Suspense Featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes 85 0 The Final Curtain: A Mystery (The Kyoichiro Kaga Series, 4)
Heavy: An American Memoir 27 58 The House of Doors
Brotherless Night 19 66 The Bird Hotel: A Novel
Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly: A Detective Sean Duffy Novel 82 3 Beartown: A Novel
The Painter's Daughters: A Novel 34 51 The Hunter: A Novel
Chenneville: A Novel of Murder, Loss, and Vengeance 53 32 In the Morning I'll Be Gone: A Detective Sean Duffy Novel
Disobedient: A Novel 22 63 Cathedral
Dark Ride: A Thriller 23 62 O Caledonia: A Novel
Blood Betrayal 16 69 Rain Dogs: A Detective Sean Duffy Novel (Sean Duffy Series, 5)
Fourth Wing (The Empyrean, 1) 31 54 Past Lying: A Karen Pirie Novel (Karen Pirie Novels, 7)
Mississippi Blood: The Natchez Burning Trilogy (Penn Cage, 6) 63 22 The Power of the Dog : A Novel
Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage 43 42 Symphony of Secrets: A novel
World Departed: The Cascadia Series, Book 1 45 40 Something Rotten (Thursday Next Novels)
Dolly and the Doctor Bird

13JoeB1934
Editado: Abr 3, 5:51 pm

The Hidden World of Gnomes
Flight of the Wild Swan
The Little Liar: A Novel
The Memory of Lavender and Sage
The Art of Mystery: The Search for Questions
Half-Life of a Stolen Sister
The Women: A Novel
Freddie the Flyer
The Boy Who Cried Bear: A Haven's Rock Novel (Haven's Rock, 2)
James: A Novel
The Lantern's Dance: A Novel of Suspense Featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes
Heavy: An American Memoir
Brotherless Night
Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly: A Detective Sean Duffy Novel
The Painter's Daughters: A Novel
Chenneville: A Novel of Murder, Loss, and Vengeance
Disobedient: A Novel
Dark Ride: A Thriller
Blood Betrayal
Fourth Wing (The Empyrean, 1)
Mississippi Blood: The Natchez Burning Trilogy (Penn Cage, 6)
Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage
World Departed: The Cascadia Series, Book 1
An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us
State of Emergency
How to Say Babylon
The Nightingale: A Novel
The Labyrinth of the Spirits: A Novel (Cemetery of Forgotten Books)
The Last Devil to Die: A Thursday Murder Club Mystery
The Fourth Enemy: A Daniel Pitt Novel
Still See You Everywhere (A Frankie Elkin Novel, 3)
The Game of Kings: Book One in the Legendary Lymond Chronicles
Niccolò Rising: The First Book of The House of Niccolò
The Final Curtain: A Mystery (The Kyoichiro Kaga Series, 4)
The House of Doors
The Bird Hotel: A Novel
Beartown: A Novel
The Hunter: A Novel
In the Morning I'll Be Gone: A Detective Sean Duffy Novel
Cathedral
O Caledonia: A Novel
Rain Dogs: A Detective Sean Duffy Novel (Sean Duffy Series, 5)
Past Lying: A Karen Pirie Novel (Karen Pirie Novels, 7)
The Power of the Dog : A Novel
Symphony of Secrets: A novel
Something Rotten (Thursday Next Novels)
Dolly and the Doctor Bird

15JoeB1934
Abr 6, 6:57 pm

16JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:01 pm



Key Tags: Literary Fiction, Mystery, Race with an Average Rating 4.34 for 1843 ratings on GR


From AI:

Those We Thought We Knew by David Joy is categorized as a literary mystery. It’s a novel that delves into the dark underbelly of a small North Carolina community, unraveling the deep and unspoken secrets that stretch back for generations. The story follows Toya Gardner, a young Black artist, as she returns to her ancestral home to complete her graduate thesis and encounters a still-standing Confederate monument, setting her sights on something bigger. Meanwhile, the discovery of a high-ranking member of the Klan and a notebook filled with local names threatens to turn the mountain on end. The book is described as an urgent unraveling of community evils and asks poignant questions about identity and belief when faced with monstrous truths

I finished the book today and I still have the same feelings I obtained upon starting the book. Now I have to talk about my reactions to the book. I don't know what award will be given to this book in 2024, but it certainly deserves 5-stars.

It is true that there is a mystery contained in this book, but don't be confused by the crimes in the story. The crimes are there because they provide the author a mechanism for delving into the mysteries within this people and the community.

The title actually tells us how to identify the mystery, which is discovering true details about 'Those We Thought We Knew'. the best description of the mystery comes from the AI statement above:

"The book is described as an urgent unraveling of community evils and asks poignant questions about identity and belief when faced with monstrous truths."

I am in awe over the characterizations the author David Joy is able to develop for every individual in this community, from the black family at the heart of the story all the way to the white nationalists who are the 'bad' guys.

We learn about everyone along the racism scale by meticulous details in every conversation by anyone in the story. The net effect for me was to place me as a silent bystander to the conversations. I could truly feel the anguish, fear, and the sorrow over loss as I listened to the dialog.

The discourse leads to revelations about the role of racism in the thinking of pretty much everyone. The thinking has been developed over centuries and maintained by ancestral connections.

As a white person of course, I can't ever truly appreciate how a black person feels in a given situation, but the author describes everyone in minute details that are so observant that I felt like I can appreciate what is being described.

In terms of the non-extreme white individuals, I could see how their responses were equally believable. Some of these conversations led me to a better understanding about how subtle racism can be found in many individuals, including myself.

I should also tell you that you shouldn't expect to perfectly anticipate who the person is that was most of a shock to me.

One unexpected ingredient in the story is the importance of 'art' as portrayed by Toya Gardner who is the cornerstone of the story. She has come back to this small town to work on an art degree, and she is in the process of working on what sounds like an incredible sculpture representing her ancestry.

At this moment I am still trying to describe my personal reactions and I might well come up with more of 'I should have said that' in upcoming days.

Sure enough, early this morning I realized that I hadn't emphasized that the key players in this drama are those who are determined to protect their personal influence and power at all costs and that the majority of people can be convinced that they should assist them.

17JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:05 pm

My most recent read isn't technically a literary mystery, but it is an excellent mystery book from Sweden.


This is about an 89-year-old woman who is intent upon living her life the way she wants to do it. In order to achieve her plans, she doesn't let an occasional murder get in the way. Technically she is a serial-killer, I suppose, but each one arises when someone crosses her by being a 'bad' person who is interrupting her plans, or causing harm to a friend. A societal vigilante of sorts.

She is very creative about accomplishing each murder in a way that the suspicion of her is diverted by her adroit use of her age and sex. Ultimately, she avoids ever being caught and at the end of the book she is living where she wants to be and helping out others who have been short-changed in some way by life.

This is not a thriller, or a classical mystery where you wonder who did-it. Instead, it is a study of the mental processes and thinking of someone simply trying to do what they perceive to be in the best interest of herself and others.

It is a solid 4-star for me. And she is my age!

18JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:08 pm



The publisher blurb:
Muriel Spark

6,190 ratings869 reviews
A circle of elderly people in 1950's London are regularly phoned by a stranger who says only 'Remember, you must die,' before hanging up.
Dame Lettie Colston is the first of her circle to receive these anonymous calls, and she does not wish to be reminded. Nor do her friends and family - though they are constantly looking out for signs of decline in others and change their wills on a weekly basis.

As the caller's activities become more widespread, soon a witch-hunt is in full cry, exposing past and present duplicities, self-deception, and blackmail. Nobody is above suspicion. Only a few, blessed with a sense of humour and the gift of faith, can guess at the caller's identity.

Genres: Fiction Classics Mystery Novels British Literature Literary-Fiction Literature


This is a stressless read and it kept my attention to the end. I enjoyed it immensely and a solid 4-stars.
.

19JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:12 pm



My most recent read, which I found very interesting up to, and including the last page. The publisher's blurb is as follow:

"The lives of three strangers interconnect in unforeseen ways and with unexpected consequences in acclaimed author Dan Chaon's gripping, brilliantly written new novel.

Longing to get on with his life, Miles Cheshire nevertheless can't stop searching for his troubled twin brother, Hayden, who has been missing for ten years. Hayden has covered his tracks skillfully, moving stealthily from place to place, managing along the way to hold down various jobs and seem, to the people he meets, entirely normal. But some version of the truth is always concealed.

A few days after graduating from high school, Lucy Lattimore sneaks away from the small town of Pompey, Ohio, with her charismatic former history teacher. They arrive in Nebraska, in the middle of nowhere, at a long-deserted motel next to a dried-up reservoir, to figure out the next move on their path to a new life. But soon Lucy begins to feel quietly uneasy.

My whole life is a lie, thinks Ryan Schuyler, who has recently learned some shocking news. In response, he walks off the Northwestern University campus, hops on a bus, and breaks loose from his existence, which suddenly seems abstract and tenuous. Presumed dead, Ryan decides to remake himself through unconventional and precarious means.

Await Your Reply is a literary masterwork with the momentum of a thriller, an unforgettable novel in which pasts are invented and reinvented and the future is both seductively uncharted and perilously unmoored."


This is commonly identified as a book about identity theft, which I consider when a person specifically becomes identified as another person. That is not what I found this book to be about. It is about three individuals who redefine themselves because of internal and external forces. These redefinitions cause them to "forget" who they were to such a degree that they can't even 'remember' who they were previously.

These three individuals become connected by a fourth individual, the twin brother Hayden, who actually does lead a life of deliberate identity theft. As one reviewer noted you can think of Hayden as "Tom Ripley alive and unburdened in the modern world"

To summarize better than I can do is the following statement from Scott Rhee on Goodreads:

"Of course, even the end leaves more questions than it answers, but Chaon isn't setting out to answer all the questions. Human behavior and motivations are too messy and complicated to figure out. Sometimes, we all do and say things for reasons that are unclear even to ourselves. In the end, a police report or a detective's findings may figure out the who, what, and how, but the why is oftentimes forever a mystery."

This statement is exactly why I prefer to have a book contain a bit of a mystery.

20JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:13 pm

Now back to book reading!

The first book I want to discuss, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, was about 50% complete on Oct 14, 2023, when I fell and broke my hip. Now 3 months later I am quite mobile and restarting normal daytime activities, with only a small broken hip hitch to my walking. So back to finish the book.



The publisher's description is this:

"In a vase in a closet, a couple of years after his father died in 9/11, nine-year-old Oskar discovers a key...

The key belonged to his father, he's sure of that. But which of New York's 162 million locks does it open?

So begins a quest that takes Oskar - inventor, letter-writer and amateur detective - across New York's five boroughs and into the jumbled lives of friends, relatives, and complete strangers. he gets heavy boots, he gives himself little bruises and he inches ever nearer to the heart of a family mystery that stretches back fifty years. But will it take him any closer to, or further from, his lost father?"


A more informative description comes from Kirkus Reviews as follows:

"The search for the lock that fits a mysterious key dovetails with related and parallel quests in this (literally) beautifully designed second novel from the gifted young author (Everything Is Illuminated, 2002). The searcher is nine-year-old Oskar Schell, an inventive prodigy who (albeit modeled on the protagonist of Grass's The Tin Drum) employs his considerable intellect with refreshing originality in the aftermath of his father Thomas's death following the bombing of the World Trade Center. That key, unidentified except for the word "black" on the envelope containing it, impels Oskar to seek out every New Yorker bearing the surname Black, involving him with a reclusive centenarian former war correspondent, and eventually the nameless elderly recluse who rents a room in his paternal grandma's nearby apartment. Meanwhile, unmailed letters from a likewise unidentified "Thomas" reveal their author's loneliness and guilt, while stretching backward to wartime Germany and a horrific precursor of the 9/11 atrocity: the firebombing of Dresden. In a riveting narrative animated both by Oskar's ingenuous assumption of adult responsibility and understanding (interestingly, he's "playing Yorick" in a school production of Hamlet) and the letter-writer's meaningful silences, Foer sprinkles his tricky text with interpolated illustrations that render both the objects of Oskar's many interests and the memories of a survivor who has forsworn speech, determined to avoid the pain of loving too deeply. The story climaxes as Oskar discovers what the key fits, and also the meaning of his life (all our lives, actually), in a long-awaited letter from astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. Much more is revealed as this brilliant fiction works thrilling variations on, and consolations for, its plangent message: that "in the end, everyone loses everyone." Yes, but look what Foer has found. "

I found parts of the dialogue to be somewhat challenging, but the link to other historical experiences to be very meaningful. My long time gap in reading the book complicated my understanding, but it should be noted that on GR 71% of readers gave it a 4, or 5 star rating.

21JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:15 pm

The publisher's description of the book is:

The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien

20,135 ratings2,299 reviews

The Third Policeman is Flann O'Brien's brilliantly dark comic novel about the nature of time, death, and existence. Told by a narrator who has committed a botched robbery and brutal murder, the novel follows him and his adventures in a two-dimensional police station where, through the theories of the scientist/philosopher de Selby, he is introduced to "Atomic Theory" and its relation to bicycles, the existence of eternity (which turns out to be just down the road), and de Selby's view that the earth is not round but "sausage-shaped." With the help of his newly found soul named "Joe," he grapples with the riddles and contradictions that three eccentric policeman present to him.
The last of O'Brien's novels to be published, The Third Policeman joins O'Brien's other fiction (At Swim-Two-Birds, The Poor Mouth, The Hard Life, The Best of Myles, The Dalkey Archive) to ensure his place, along with James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, as one of Ireland's great comic geniuses.


My go to for a descriptive more detailed is from my friend bnielsen review

"England, ca 1940
An excellent introduction to de Selby and his philosophy. Or something.
Our nameless protagonist, NN, along with his somewhat dubious comrade John Divney, kills an old man, Mathers, in order to get his moneybox. Before the killing, NN probably has a name, but subsequently he has no memory of it. NN buries the body and in the meantime Divney hides the money. He says. NN and Divney don't trust each other, so for a long time NN makes sure to be close to Divney so he can't run away with the money. Or use them on the girl Pegeen Meers. But one day, Divney thinks it's safe to retrieve the money, and he tells NN that the money is hidden in Mathers' home under a loose floorboard. They follow there and NN enters the house. He finds the floorboard, but gets a shock when he touches the money box. He discovers that Mathers is sitting in a chair looking at him, and he can no longer feel the box. He leads a long conversation with Mathers, helped by his soul Joe, whom he discovers at the beginning of the conversation. Mathers tells how at birth you get a small transparent dress in a color that matches the color of the wind on the day. Every year you get a new dress in a slightly darker color and when it is close to turning completely black, you die. The policemen are Chief Constable Pluck, MacCruiskeen and Fox. And they seem to have everything under control, so NN thinks of asking them where the box can be found. But it's getting late, so he goes upstairs to Mathers' house and sleeps first.
Next he heads to the police station and on the way meets another man, Martin Finnucane, who turns out to be a robber, armed with a large dagger and intent on killing NN. However, it turns out that they both have wooden legs, and the robber immediately befriends NN and promises to crack open the belly of anyone who threatens NN. At the police station, as expected, he meets Detective Pluck, Officer MacCruiskeen, and a man, Michael Gilhaney. The third policeman, Fox, is extremely rarely seen. The conversation is constantly turned by Pluck to bicycles, high saddles, wooden rims and pedal buckles. Pluck is unique at locating stolen bikes, which is because he steals them himself and hides them around. Pluck also says that the atomic theory is at work here in the parish.
When they get back to the police station, there is a deputy commissioner O'Corky and NN realizes that the officers have already found him guilty and are looking forward to "stretching" him, i.e. hanging him from a scaffold. However, he can't be fixed in the meantime, because Pluck uses the cell to store his bike. According to atomic theory, you will mix atoms between hammer and steel rod if you hit the rod hard and repeatedly with the hammer. Similarly, a bicycle and a cyclist will be mixed with time. Everything is made by Omnium and the chief constable has also found an elevator that goes to eternity. It's a bit of a pinch. NN sends a message to his one-legged friend and a small group of seven one-legged people come to free him. However, the officers have been notified of the herd of Fox, so NN is taken up to the scaffold to enjoy the view. He apparently flees and takes Pluck's bike with him. He meets Officer Fox, who turns out to have Mathers' face, yet is kind to him. Fox tells NN that the box contains over a hundred grams of omnium, and NN begins to imagine a life of hustle and bustle. He takes the bike and is soon at Courahan's house. Inside the tavern, he meets Pointéen Meers, as John DivnEy is dating, but she's gotten much older. So is Divney, and he panics to see NN and collapses.
His view is that Mathers' house blew up 16 years ago, killing NN. Incredulous but confused, NN walks away from the house. Long after, he reaches a house, a police station. Here he is decorated by John Divney and they are greeted by a police officer: Is it a bicycle?


His final statement says a lot

Insane story. Related to Groundhog Day, Ubik and Sjak No. 3, because reality is not to be trusted. Very entertaining Irish word game. Maybe hell is other people and that it all repeats itself?
Bnielsen • Nov 23, 2021


Personally, the surreal dimensions were fine by me. The thought that eternity is just around the corner is actually true from my perspective as when I die my molecules continue in the universe as before.

The value to me for the book was the language as it pertained to the Irish. Creation of new words and and the totally enthralling flow of descriptive words was so enjoyable and fun. Some reviewers didn't think there were many laughs in the book and that overall, the theme was dark. I certainly didn't see it that way.

22JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:16 pm



The Final Solution by Michael Chabon

This is the first Michael Chabon book I have read, and I feel bad about taking this long to discover his work.

Major Tags: Sherlock Holmes, Holocaust, WWII, Literature, Mystery, Literary-Fiction, Historical-Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Historical-Fiction, Literary-Mystery, Crime-Fiction

I am so lacking in knowledge about Chabon that it wasn't until reading this book that I found out that he incorporates the Sherlockian basis for this book. The key character in the story is an "old, retired detective" who keeps bees. The detective uses Sherlock like thinking to arrive at the essence of the 'mystery'.
What is less obvious is the inferred references through symbolisms WWII and the Holocaust. The book title actually provides the first clue to a majoe direction for the book.

I was most struck by Chabon's use of language. This book is very short, but his use of language communicates so well to tell the story in a manner that leaves me in awe.

23JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:17 pm


The Return of Martin Guerre by Natalie Zemon Davis

I have been wanting to 'read' this book for a while now and yesterday/evening I listened to it completely. I wasn't surprised at my interest in the story of a clever peasant Arnaud du Tilh, who had almost persuaded the judges that he was in truth, Martin Guerre when, on a summer’s day in 1560, a man swaggered into the court on a wooden leg, denounced Arnaud, and reestablished his claim to the identity, property, and wife of Martin Guerre.

What was astounding to me was the historical scholarship of Natalie Zemon Davis and the quality of narration by Sarah Mould-Christensen, who spoke so authentically in details of 16th century happenings. These details about peasant life, local property practices and evolving legal approaches all came from scholarship research and not speculation.

Insight into the legal practices and analysis that led judges in their seemingly honest effort to determine the truth of Arnaud du Tilh's claims was especially revealing. A major factor in the process was that du Tilh possessed a prodigious memory and native intuition that could astound the judges and fool locals. The wife of Martin Guerre accepted his fraud and lived with him for 3 years.

Even though du Tilh was executed in some ways he was a 'hero' in the eyes of some some 16th century scholarship because of his talents.

24JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:18 pm

On labfs39 there is an interesting discussion about female authors that are not being recognized. This caused me to retrieve from my earlier library two such authors that have written books that I still remember to this day. They are non-fiction books involving study of early humans.



I have taken from Goodreads the essence of these two books. My main takeaway from both is that the authors focused on the people and tried to tell us how these early humans were so much like us.




Time Song: Searching for Doggerland

Julia Blackburn
3.84
427 ratings94 reviews
SHORTLISTED FOR THE WAINWRIGHT PRIZE AND THE HESSELL-TILTMAN PRIZE

A journey told through stories and songs into Doggerland, the ancient region that once joined the east coast of England to Holland

Time Song tells of the creation, the existence and the loss of a country now called Doggerland , a huge and fertile area that once connected the entire east coast of England with mainland Europe, until it was finally submerged by rising sea levels around 5000 BC.

Julia Blackburn mixes fragments from her own life with a series of eighteen 'songs' and all sorts of stories about the places and the people she meets in her quest to get closer to an understanding of this vanished land. She sees the footprints of early humans fossilised in the soft mud of an estuary alongside the scattered pockmarks made by rain falling eight thousand years ago. She visits a cave where the remnants of a Neanderthal meal have turned to stone. In Denmark she sits beside Tollund Man who, despite having lain in a peat bog since the start of the Bronze Age, seems to be about to wake from a dream...

'This book is a wonder' Adam Nicolson, Spectator

'A clairvoyant and poetic conversation with the past' Antony Gormley





Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art

Rebecca Wragg Sykes
4.02
2,859 ratings513 reviews
Since their discovery more than 160 years ago, Neanderthals have metamorphosed from the losers of the human family tree to A-list hominins.

In Kindred, Rebecca Wragg Sykes uses her experience at the cutting-edge of Palaeolithic research to share our new understanding of Neanderthals, shoving aside clichés of rag-clad brutes in an icy wasteland. She reveals them to be curious, clever connoisseurs of their world, technologically inventive and ecologically adaptable. Above all, they were successful survivors for more than 300,000 years, during times of massive climatic upheaval.

At a time when our species has never faced greater threats, we’re obsessed with what makes us special. But, much of what defines us was also in Neanderthals, and their DNA is still inside us. Planning, co-operation, altruism, craftsmanship, aesthetic sense, imagination... perhaps even a desire for transcendence beyond mortality.

It is only by understanding them, that we can truly understand ourselves.

25JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:19 pm



The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Before I discuss this outstanding book, I need to talk about how I arrived at this book this year. About 3 years ago as I was converging on my love of literary mysteries, I began to find this book on several rankings of the best literary mysteries.

So, naturally I obtained a copy and began to read it, only to be disappointed with my experience. I ignored the idea of reading it until this time. Why is it now a most memorable book for me?

The answer is: I have changed as a reader. Back then I had progressed from reading British police procedurals to broader literary mysteries, but not much into science fiction, fantasy and horror books. Over the last few years I have ‘graduated’ to include almost every sub-genre possible, even to include magical realism. Even with these new interests I still have to temper how far I want to go into some of these newer books.

When I created my approach for 2024 this book continued to top my lists so I have now finished it and am in awe of the works by Jasper Fforde.

I have always been author-centric because, while I can see how most plots can be developed, I have zero comprehension about how any author can create the dialog for several hundred pages of discourse on events, people and the physical environment.

Fforde with this book has blown up my misconception that a plot is all that easy to develop.

As jim53 stated “It's a real genre-blender in that it has elements of mystery, fantasy/science fiction, and satire”.

Even these terms do not show the real depth of the innovation by Fforde. For example, I found discussion of portals into physical manuscripts that involved people entering the world described in the manuscript/book and interacting with the characters in the book.

I don’t know how to expand these descriptions, but I found a somewhat hilarious description, but quite accurate of events in the following GR review:

✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)
2,407 reviews7,645 followers
Follow
October 4, 2021
➽ And the moral of this rerereread is: one of the most creatively original worlds ever created + delicious literary references galore + being meringued (don't ask) + most heavenly Brit humor/wit/sarcasm combo + bookworms farting apostrophes and ampersands, and belching out capitalisations (I told you not to ask) + a super extra cool, clever as fish kick ass heroine who's a war veteran and dares to be over 35 (the nerve!) + Shakespearean shenanigans + pet dodos + unnotified SpaceTime Flexations + one of the mostest awesomest villainous villains ever (and accompanying odious yet art-loving fiendish compatriots) + Jane Eyre and Rochester and St John Rivers, oh my! + I could be here all day listing all the somewhat very scrumptiously scrumptious details that make this book so bloody shrimping scrumptious but I'll settle for a celebratory dance instead.


What in the world is she talking about? Here is the blurb:

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

3.89
132,153 ratings11,412 reviews

Great Britain circa 1985: time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. Baconians are trying to convince the world that Francis Bacon really wrote Shakespeare, there are riots between the Surrealists and Impressionists, and thousands of men are named John Milton, an homage to the real Milton and a very confusing situation for the police. Amidst all this, Acheron Hades, Third Most Wanted Man In the World, steals the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit and kills a minor character, who then disappears from every volume of the novel ever printed! But that's just a prelude . . .

Hades' real target is the beloved Jane Eyre, and it's not long before he plucks her from the pages of Bronte's novel. Enter Thursday Next. She's the Special Operative's renowned literary detective, and she drives a Porsche. With the help of her uncle Mycroft's Prose Portal, Thursday enters the novel to rescue Jane Eyre from this heinous act of literary homicide. It's tricky business, all these interlopers running about Thornfield, and deceptions run rampant as their paths cross with Jane, Rochester, and Miss Fairfax. Can Thursday save Jane Eyre and Bronte's masterpiece? And what of the Crimean War? Will it ever end? And what about those annoying black holes that pop up now and again, sucking things into time-space voids . . .

Suspenseful and outlandish, absorbing and fun, The Eyre Affair is a caper unlike any other and an introduction to the imagination of a most distinctive writer and his singular fictional universe.

This is truly a plot that I can’t ever imagine anyone creating, but it is truly genre-bending.

26JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:20 pm


Suite Francaise by Irène Némirovsky

There are many reviews of this book so I will talk about my personal reaction to the book. I want to start with an essential statement made in the blurb for the book:

”Suite Française is a singularly piercing evocation—at once subtle and severe, deeply compassionate, and fiercely ironic—of life and death in occupied France, and a brilliant, profoundly moving work of art.”

I would expand on that statement by adding that it is truly a literary masterpiece. I have spoken recently about how the ability of an author to detail events and actions in the most incredibly minute specificity continues to place me in awe. This book provides that to a maximum.

I couldn’t see that there was a single sentence that failed to bring emotion and value to the portrayal.

It is useful for you to know that I am not, and never have been a history buff. This book provides historical details that I imagine are very important to historians. I can't address those historical facts.

I can address that the most important ingredient for me in any book is the depth of portrayal of individuals within the context of the story. This book takes a singular event, the invasion of France by the German army and focuses on the detailed impact on French individuals from all segments of society.

I found the variety of individuals so precisely detailed that I could almost visualize their personalities. Class structures certainly became very defined for me.

Despite these specific individual details, they remained anonymous to me. As a historical revelation it was educational to me in the first story ‘Storm’ but I attached more specifically to the people in part two ‘Dolce’.

Some reviewers attach a higher rating to ‘Storm’, but to me I could identify more emotionally to those in ‘Dolce’. This was especially true for the star-crossed non-lovers involving Lucille and Bruno, the German soldier.

I’m not sure exactly why, but the scenario where Bruno plays a piano composition for Lucille really stuck with me. Music plays with emotions in a powerful way and it did so in this scenario. The resultant conversation between the two brought up important thinking about war, peace and the consequences for everyone during non-war intervals.

Their relationship is never resolved during the book so you will be left with a lot of uncertainly at the conclusion. Isn't that the way life is?

We will never know if the author Irène Némirovsky planned to resolve some issues in later volumes. The tragedy is her death along with millions of others terminated the five book plan for this sequence.

Maybe reading some of her other books would provide more insight into what she planned, but this one as it stands is a masterpiece.

27JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:22 pm


The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

My recent reading has tended more toward Literary, rather than Mystery, so I decide to read this book, which ranks very high on the ranking of Literary Mysteries.

For those unfamiliar with this book here is a minimal setup:

"The remarkable, acclaimed series of interconnected detective novels – from the author of 4 3 2 1: A Novel

The New York Review of Books has called Paul Auster’s work “one of the most distinctive niches in contemporary literature.” Moving at the breathless pace of a thriller, this uniquely stylized triology of detective novels begins with City of Glass, in which Quinn, a mystery writer, receives an ominous phone call in the middle of the night. He’s drawn into the streets of New York, onto an elusive case that’s more puzzling and more deeply-layered than anything he might have written himself. In Ghosts, Blue, a mentee of Brown, is hired by White to spy on Black from a window on Orange Street. Once Blue starts stalking Black, he finds his subject on a similar mission, as well. In The Locked Room, Fanshawe has disappeared, leaving behind his wife and baby and nothing but a cache of novels, plays, and poems."


I have mentioned before that Literary Mysteries are, to a great degree not genre specific. This means that when I start a new book I have to decide if I appreciate what the author is trying to achieve. This is how I approached part one of the trilogy, City of Glass.

As I read into the City of Glass, I became disappointed with the whole setup. The best thing I can say is that it was very 'challenging'.

I decided to go to a number of extensive reviews on GR. You know the kind that produces an abstract of the whole book, with commentary. I found the usual range of highly enthusiastic readers. There are 4352 reviews there and I found enough insight for myself to realize that this book would continue to be challenging for me.

I have mentioned before that I am always looking for the likelihood of an emotional attachment for me with any of the characters in the book. This book promised none of that for me and no revelatory insight into the nature of humankind.

So, I DNF and went searching for a book more worthwhile with my time.

28JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:24 pm

I 'finished reading' If On a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino and I will now try to describe my reaction to the book.

(If you happen upon this post while I am writing it, please bear with me as I am finding it difficult to convey my sense of the book)



Before I produce my thoughts, I need to apologize to those of you, like Jim53 who actually have read completely and can explain this postmodern book.

First, as is my wont, I produce part of the publisher's blurb on this book.

"The real Calvino intersperses 10 different pastiches—stories of menace, spies, mystery, premonition—with explorations of how and why we choose to read, make meanings, and get our bearings or fail to. Meanwhile the Reader and Ludmilla try to reach, and read, each other. If on a Winter's Night is dazzling, vertiginous, and deeply romantic. "What makes lovemaking and reading resemble each other most is that within both of them times and spaces open, different from measurable time and space."

In essence, as I demonstrated by my>31 JoeB1934:: this book was written for readers, like you and me, via two readers in the story called at various times 'Reader' and 'Other Reader' as well as real name for the Other Reader as Ludmilla.

The 10 different pastiches mentioned is a key to the book as the two readers are always involved in reading a series of 10 different books, none of which are complete, but their search leads to the next unfinished book.

A reviewer on Goodreads has an ironic way of describing the presence of these books.

"Kinga
481 reviews
2,346 followers

Follow
March 4, 2012
I say this is what happened:
Italo Calvino was suffering from a writer's block. He would start a novel, get it to its first curve and abandon it before the resolution. A few months later he would start another with a similar result. Finally, his publishers got impatient because it had been years since the last novel and they said:
'Italo, get your shit together! We need a new book. Now!'
Italo panicked and did the only thing he could think of. He glued all his failed attempts together and delivered it to the publisher
'Here it is. My new novel'.
'Er.. Italo, but those are just beginning of some 10 different books...'
'Yeah. I know. Don't you get it? It's postmodernism!!'
'Ok...'
'You know, I am playing with the concept of the author. It is basically all about the reader now. The author has become obsolete. It is the reader that creates the work and the author is not even necessary!'
'Ah.. I see... Do we still need to pay you then?'
'Yah. Will mail you the invoice.'

I have read most of the reviews on here and I agree with all of them, with the bad ones and the good ones all the same. If you think this is contradictive and not possible, think again. And one word for you: deconstructionism.
There is no doubt that Calvino is (was) one hell of a writer and he plays with his poor readers like a cat plays with a mouse. This book was an absolute trip and really gets you dizzy. It might or might not be a coincidence that a day after finishing it I caught some weird bug that made me throw up for two days straight.
/

Within each of the books there are countless characters and interactions among them that I simply couldn't cope with beyond the overall direction of the two readers who formed a romantic connection which culminated at the end of the book.

Calvino clearly was writing to readers like us with a lot to say. The first chapter has about 8 pages where he provides an interesting discourse on all the steps we go through on choosing a book to read. For example, near the end Calvino says:

"You turn the book over in your hands, you scan the sentences on the back of the jacket, generic phrases that don’t say a great deal. So much the better, there is no message that indiscreetly outshouts the message that the book itself must communicate directly, that you must extract from the book, however much or little it may be. Of course, this circling of the book, too, this reading around it before reading inside it, is a part of the pleasure in a new book, but like all preliminary pleasures, it has its optimal duration if you want it to serve as a thrust toward the more substantial pleasure of the consummation of the act, namely the reading of the book.

Calvino, Italo. If On A Winter's Night A Traveler (pp. 8-9). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.


One conclusion I came to after this book is that I will approach with caution any postmodernism book. I haven't been aware of this issue in my prior reading, or in the books on my Wishlist. I used Tag Mirror to determine that I have about 50 books in my library which have this attribute. In the near future I plan to investigate what my reaction was to those books that I have read.

29JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:26 pm


Somebody's Fool by Richard Russo

I chose this book because I rated it as being a literary mystery genre. It is truly an excellent literary book, but not a mystery.

GR Details: 5,400 ratings 675 reviews Rating 4.28

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls returns to North Bath, in upstate New York, and to the characters that captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of readers in his beloved best sellers Nobody's Fool} and Everybody's Fool.

The story revolves around a small group of characters that Russo had created in several earlier books. These characters are more fully drawn-out in this volume with excellent descriptive, emotional and psychological dimensions. My problem was that I never connected up with the characters even though they purportedly lived in a small town like I did.

The further I got into the book the more I became bored with the story. Some of this probably because the main characters were all adults in the 25-55 years of age and they were all involved in what I call 'shenanigans' because of my age.

I did come away with one thought that will stick with me.

The principal character is a middle-aged professor trying to teach college age kids compositional skills. In one class he asked the students this question.

"What is the difference between knowing about something and knowing something?

The answer was illuminated by a black student with two small children trying to cope with life and all her complexities. Individuals, like me can know something about the difficulties being a struggling black person, but that person is the only one who knows what it is like for herself.

The professor then went on to describe two of his own children, one in London on a Fulbright scholarship and one feeling that they are hopelessly a failure.

He told the students that the difference was not in their intelligence, but in their own expectations, which were shaped in childhood.

In spite of learning something about life I will put this book in my DNF group since I am not pleased to have read it.

30JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:27 pm

While continuing to refine my list of candidate books to read in 2024 I have continued to read books that I have had on hold for weeks. This is one of the ones that I am reading.


Weyward by Emilia Hart
Since many of you might not have been aware of this book, which I found to be excellent, I am bringing in the GR blurb.

115,012 ratings 14,474 reviews 4.10 Rating
Goodreads Choice AwardWinner for Best Historical Fiction (2023), Winner for Best Debut Novel (2023)

I am a Weyward, and wild inside.

2019: Under cover of darkness, Kate flees London for ramshackle Weyward Cottage, inherited from a great aunt she barely remembers. With its tumbling ivy and overgrown garden, the cottage is worlds away from the abusive partner who tormented Kate. But she begins to suspect that her great aunt had a secret. One that lurks in the bones of the cottage, hidden ever since the witch-hunts of the 17th century.

1619: Altha is awaiting trial for the murder of a local farmer who was stampeded to death by his herd. As a girl, Altha’s mother taught her their magic, a kind not rooted in spell casting but in a deep knowledge of the natural world. But unusual women have always been deemed dangerous, and as the evidence for witchcraft is set out against Altha, she knows it will take all of her powers to maintain her freedom.

1942: As World War II rages, Violet is trapped in her family's grand, crumbling estate. Straitjacketed by societal convention, she longs for the robust education her brother receives––and for her mother, long deceased, who was rumored to have gone mad before her death. The only traces Violet has of her are a locket bearing the initial W and the word weyward scratched into the baseboard of her bedroom.

Weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries, Emilia Hart's Weyward is an enthralling novel of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world.

Genres: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Magical Realism, Historical, Witches, Audiobook, Adult, Magic, Paranormal


This book is multi-generational, which some readers are avoiding, but I found the integration of multi-centuries in this case worth the effort. The way the author moves with the three women over the time I found to be difficult to keep track of but necessary to link the women.

The key descriptive provided by the blurb that drew me to the book, was:

Weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries, Emilia Hart's Weyward is an enthralling novel of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world.

The resilience of the women was what you would wish for, as the men in the stories are the usual abusive, domineering, representatives of the male dominated culture. This resilience didn't come without a price however.

I haven't read many stories about witches, especially ones that have the POV of the so-called witches. I came away with the utmost sympathy for their actual attributes and an understanding that these women were endowed with 'special' capabilities in healing techniques.

What was a surprise were the paranormal and magical relationships to the natural world. These relationships, mostly with birds and insects, were fundamental to the women achieving their survivor. I won't say how this happened, read the book.

I need to add that this maternal bloodline that goes from 1619 to 2019 never brings in any fathers. Maybe this is a precursor for the time when science has made fathers unnecessary to procreation.

31JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:28 pm

Just to add to the discussion of female vs male future development I decided to see what AI has to say about motherhood. This what came out:

The motherhood of the first humans holds immense significance in our evolutionary history. Let’s explore why:

(1) Evolutionary Milestone: The emergence of Homo sapiens (modern humans) from their early hominid predecessors occurred between 200,000 and 300,000 years ago. During this transition, the role of mothers became pivotal. They nurtured and cared for their offspring, ensuring their survival and passing on genetic traits.

(2) Language and Social Bonds: Around 50,000 years ago, Homo sapiens developed the capacity for language. Mothers played a crucial role in transmitting knowledge, culture, and social norms to their children. Language allowed for complex communication, cooperation, and the formation of social bonds within communities .

(3) Mitochondrial Eve: Genetic studies reveal that all living humans share a common maternal ancestor known as “Mitochondrial Eve.” She lived approximately 200,000 years ago and is the source of our mitochondrial DNA. This lineage traces back through generations of mothers, highlighting their essential role in human ancestry.

(4) Child Rearing and Adaptation: Early human mothers faced challenges such as food scarcity, environmental changes, and competition. Their ability to care for offspring, adapt to new environments, and pass down survival skills was critical. Mothers who successfully raised healthy children contributed to the survival and evolution of our species .

(5) Social Learning and Culture: Mothers played a central role in teaching practical skills, cultural practices, and social norms. They passed down knowledge about hunting, gathering, tool-making, and rituals. This social learning shaped early human societies and allowed for collective adaptation

(6) Brain Development: The demands of motherhood likely influenced the evolution of our large brain size. Caring for infants with extended dependency periods required cognitive abilities like empathy, problem-solving, and emotional bonding. These traits contributed to our species’ survival and success

In summary, the motherhood of early humans was pivotal for survival, knowledge transmission, and the development of social bonds. It laid the foundation for our species’ remarkable journey across continents and shaped the course of human history 12


To top it off the X chromosome has 3 times the genes of the Y chromosome.

I read current research into the ever-expanding story of the various lineages of pre-homo sapiens and item (3) above has always interested me a lot. In many ways that conclusion is why I continue to hope for an evolutionary development which could temper the male domination in many cultures.

I myself have traits coming from my Scottish mother and my Slovenian father, and both of them contributed to who I am. I can't imagine losing any of the traits, but I could be 'better' with some of them.

32JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:29 pm



The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov


There are an incredible number of reviews of this book that I do not intend to amplify. One of the best is by dchaikin at http://www.librarything.com/topic/138560#3445496

Just to take a slightly different approach I used the Bing AI app Copilot to see what they say about the book. That was to ask if this book qualifies as a literary mystery. The response was this statement:

The Master and Margarita is a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov that can be considered a literary mystery. It is a novel that combines elements of political satire, dark comedy, magical realism, Christian theology, and philosophy into a unique whole. It is a novel that wrestles with profound and eternal problems of good and evil, and that blasts open “official truths” with the force of a carnival out of control.

The novel juxtaposes two planes of action—one set in Moscow in the 1930s and the other in Jerusalem at the time of Christ. The three central characters of the contemporary plot are the Devil, disguised as one Professor Woland; the “Master,” a repressed novelist; and Margarita, who, though married to a bureaucrat, loves the Master. The Master, a Christ symbol, burns his manuscript and goes willingly into a psychiatric ward when critics attack his work. Margarita sells her soul to the Devil and becomes a witch in order to obtain the Master’s release. A parallel plot presents the action of the Master’s destroyed novel, the condemnation of Yeshua (Jesus) in Jerusalem.

The novel uses elements of mystery, such as secrets, disappearances, and mysteries, to create a suspenseful and captivating narrative. The novel also raises questions about the meaning of freedom, resistance, and humanity in the face of oppression and violence. The novel is not a conventional mystery or thriller, but rather a literary work that challenges the reader to think critically and creatively.

The Master and Margarita is considered a 20th-century masterpiece and a classic of world literature. It has influenced many writers and artists, such as Salman Rushdie, the Rolling Stones, and Woody Allen. It is a novel that can be read and enjoyed on many levels, from the humorous and fantastical to the philosophical and allegorical.


Now, as to my reaction to reading this masterpiece.

I have read a few masterpieces in the past where I would use words like 'challenging', or 'difficult'. With this novel the words that come to mind are 'fun', and 'captivating'.

After reading the Forward by Boris Fishman and the Introduction by Richard Pevear in the eBook edition I was almost frightened to continue, for fear that I wouldn't understand the real authors intent. Fortunately for me I forged ahead to discover a captivating fantasy with memorable plot twists. Some of which were laugh out loud funny.

The chapter titled Flight was so fantastic as Margarita flew across, and beyond the city wreaking havoc and images that seemed drawn out of a sci-fi blockbuster.

Speaking of audio, the first introduction to this book came about when I stumbled across a 2-hour recording of a stage production of part of the book. I can't say for sure because I was so perplexed that I returned the book to the library and checked out the eBook I read. I have put the audio back on hold so I can now find out and have a hope of understanding the production.

I certainly never will understand what the author was saying about the Russian system, but the book was still one of the best books I have ever read. The details of conversations and scene setting by the author were so visually impressive that I could imagine being in the scenes.

33JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:30 pm

Somewhat of a paradox is that one of the best books I have read this year is not a mystery, but its literary content is very impressive to me. This book is not getting a lot of mentions in LT but on GR there is a lot with stats as follows Rating 4.15 and 5,493 ratings with 722 reviews.



The Museum of Failures is the title of a novel by Thrity Umrigar, a bestselling author of Indian origin.


I obtained the following synopsis by using AI:

"The Museum of Failures is the title of a novel by Thrity Umrigar, a bestselling author of Indian origin. The novel tells the story of Remy Wadia, a man who returns to Bombay from the United States to adopt a baby and to reconcile with his dying mother. He discovers an old photograph that reveals shocking family secrets and forces him to reevaluate his childhood and his parents’ choices. The novel is a story of forgiveness, healing, and empathy between a mother and son. The novel uses Bombay as a backdrop for the characters’ lives, but it does not imply that the city is a failure or a museum of failures. Rather, it explores the personal and historical failures that shape the characters and their relationships."

This is an excellent summary of the story, but it fails to capture a very important aspect for me.

The main character, who is a continuous presence in the story, is an immigrant from India to the U.S.

We learn through the story as it unfolds that he is in no-man's land where he is an outsider in the U.S. and India also. He went to the US with high hopes for what the US will be like. He marries an American and is very successful in business. The political upheaval in the US, along with racism is very disappointing to him.

When he returns to India after 3 years he has the same high school friends who he relates to, but he also registers that they have grown in their own directions. He is now somewhat of an outsider to them.

We, in essence, live in his brain throughout the story and this includes his emotions, regrets and thoughts as well as actions. The author Thrity Umrigar being of Indian origin has insight into this life as a member of two different cultures. The period in this book is mostly about life in India with its cultural issues.

Besides this immigrant/nonimmigrant dimension the final fact about the book is that is the individuals. The novel is a story of forgiveness, healing, and empathy between a mother and son.

I also need to mention that this book doesn't reflect on the class structure of India, or their strong religious differences. The religious factor comes into play as modern young people deal with realities today. The main character is from an obviously very wealthy family, but he has friends who are not as wealthy.

A very significant fact about him is his very high educational background and that he speaks English better than most Americans.

In retrospect I didn't emphasize how outstanding the writing is in this book, at least by my criteria. One event in Remy's life in America when he was a student at Ohio State majoring in creative writing, as a poet, comes to mind.

He went to a student party and at this party he met Kathy, who was to become his wife. Remy describes in detail the emotions, fears, uncertainty that occur when he first meets her. It was so detailed, as I said before the reader is living in his mind, that it was like I attended the party with him. It was so honest a portrayal that I lived the event.

Throughout the book the language is so effective that you don't need to speculate about what was happening, or why.

34JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:31 pm



The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov


When I earlier talked about my reaction to reading this book, I also mentioned that I had checked out an audio version of the book. I have now reclaimed a copy so I could determine if it made more sense to me having read a eBook.

This book is a 2-hour recording by the Chicago Theatre on the Air. The production has a very long list of actors playing the major roles in the book. Interestingly enough there is a female actor playing Yeshua, the presumed Jesus.

Having read the book I could now understand what the play was all about, and I could recognize plot sections from the book. The negative for me is that the conversations, which went as in print, were too fast for my brain to process them.

My conclusion is that it is mandatory for anyone to have read the book to have any gain from this production. What I would really like is being in the audience for a stage production, or even better an opera based on the book.

35JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:32 pm






I found the AI description of this book as follows:

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell can be considered a literary mystery. It is a novel that tells the story of three generations of women in a Scottish family, and the secrets and lies that bind them together. The novel revolves around the discovery of Euphemia “Esme” Lennox, who has been locked away in a psychiatric hospital for over 60 years, and her great-niece Iris Lockhart, who is contacted by the hospital to take care of her. Iris, who knows nothing about Esme, tries to find out the truth about her past and why she was abandoned by her family. The novel alternates between Esme’s childhood in colonial India and 1930s Edinburgh, and Iris’s present-day life as a shop owner and an affair partner.

                   My Scottish Heritage

This book had a significant impact on me because of my background, which I inherited from my mother, whose extended family left the green of Scotland to come to the desert of Wyoming looking for work in the early 1900's.

They were all working class from Stonehouse, a small village near Glasgow, instead of upper class from Edenborough. There were quite a number of Scottish immigrants living in our Rock Springs, Wyoming community and I learned a lot about the Scottish behavior from them. In many ways I could understand how some of the family dynamics in the book could occur.

In the 1970's we went to Stonehouse to visit relatives still living near there. Naturally we looked up and found the house my mother had lived in and went inside as the house was unoccupied. Making inquiries about the house we learned "the house was inherited by 2 sisters, and they couldn't agree what to do with the house, so it has remained unoccupied for a long time".

                   Now Back to the Book

I want to thank the members of what I call the 'literary' group of members who I follow for their thinking of me as a likely reader for this book. I am quite sure that they didn't think 'this is a literary mystery' and Joe would like it. They just know my reading preferences and which books would be of interest to me. It is also very interesting that almost every member that I follow has acquired this book.

From my perspective this book is a nearly flawless model of what I am looking for when I say I prefer to read literary mysteries.

My feelings about this book.

I was truly horrified by what society did to unwed mothers in Victorian times and well before that, I am sure.

High on my list of behavior that makes my blood boil I place abuse of children, treatment of females, and racism. This story has pretty much all of that. Parents, siblings, physicians, welfare institutions all conspire to torture and mistreat a young girl who doesn't even know how babies are made!

There isn't any graphic violence in the story but there is psychological mistreatment which is disguised as 'this is best for you'. The saddest part of the story are the countless numbers of events where if any person in authority had listened to pleas from Esme to listen to her and to explain what the problem was this could have been stopped.

The author does an excellent job of writing about Esme, and Iris who is a descendent of the family. Additionally, there are details about Iris and her own issues coping with not knowing anything about Esme, who's existence had been totally denied by everyone she knew. How she coped with piecing together the Esme story is very interesting.

It is very important to say that in the end I felt that a proper closing of the tragedy did occur.

A final note that ties this story to my Scottish heritage is part of my mother's story. She was born in 1907, just after the Victorian period. Her family migration to the US came when she was 15, accompanied by her mother with a new husband because the father had died.

A short time later her mother died in childbirth, leaving my mother without a parent and not friends of the new stepfather. My mother and the rest of the extended family of uncles and a younger sister set up a household where my mother was responsible for all chores involved with feeding and supporting those who were employed working in the coal mines.

Four years later my mother became pregnant by another young Scottish immigrant. All of the local Scottish community knew about this and somehow proposed that she marries the young man with the agreement that she could divorce him if she didn't love him. This is what she did, and I have a half-brother that she raised together with my father who married her a couple of years later. The community made sure that she had someone to babysit her baby while she worked. The main one was a French speaking woman.

Of course, as a child I didn't know any details other than my brother had a different last name and father. As I got into teenage years I learned some of this.

My Slovenian father, who gave me the love of archaeology, paleontology, geology and things analytical gave up his flying the plane he owned back in the early 1930's is a whole other story. Unfortunately, he didn't give me his tall, dark and handsome looks.

36JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:33 pm

This is also an outstanding book that, due to circumstances beyond my control, I have 'read' twice this year. The first time was just before I broke my hip and book reading was out for a while. In fact, I even 'forgot' I had read it and it came on to my latest list of books to read.

I put the book on hold and it came to me rather rapidly so I started to read it and on the opening pages I thought I had read the book before. I searched my reading records thinking it had been in 2023, only to find it in the August-September 2024 period.

Another sign of my memory failures, I guess. But, I remembered the plot rapidly and how much I loved the book.



As I am doing for every book I read I use AI to see what type of book it is.

“Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro is a novel that defies easy classification, as it intertwines elements of dystopia, science fiction, and coming-of-age storytelling. While it does contain mystery elements, particularly in the way the story gradually reveals the true nature of the characters’ existence, it is not a literary mystery in the traditional sense. The book is more accurately described as a work of speculative fiction that raises profound questions about humanity, identity, and ethics.

This is a very precise definition of what the book is about for me. The key statement is the one that says "the story gradually reveals the true nature of the characters’ existence."

The story is truly about individuals attending what seems to be a special school of some quality and distinction. I won't spoil the book if you haven't read it, but I can say that it was about 75% through the book that it finally got through to me what was happening to these 'students'.

All I want to say is that it involves, as AI put it " a work of speculative fiction that raises profound questions about humanity, identity, and ethics.

This book is truly memorable to me and it has made me ponder even more 'where is technology and human nature taking us?'

37JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:34 pm



Key Tags: Literary Fiction, Mystery, Race with an Average Rating 4.34 for 1843 ratings on GR


From AI:

Those We Thought We Knew by David Joy is categorized as a literary mystery. It’s a novel that delves into the dark underbelly of a small North Carolina community, unraveling the deep and unspoken secrets that stretch back for generations. The story follows Toya Gardner, a young Black artist, as she returns to her ancestral home to complete her graduate thesis and encounters a still-standing Confederate monument, setting her sights on something bigger. Meanwhile, the discovery of a high-ranking member of the Klan and a notebook filled with local names threatens to turn the mountain on end. The book is described as an urgent unraveling of community evils and asks poignant questions about identity and belief when faced with monstrous truths

I finished the book today and I still have the same feelings I obtained upon starting the book. Now I have to talk about my reactions to the book. I don't know what award will be given to this book in 2024, but it certainly deserves 5-stars.

It is true that there is a mystery contained in this book, but don't be confused by the crimes in the story. The crimes are there because they provide the author a mechanism for delving into the mysteries within this people and the community.

The title actually tells us how to identify the mystery, which is discovering true details about 'Those We Thought We Knew'. the best description of the mystery comes from the AI statement above:

"The book is described as an urgent unraveling of community evils and asks poignant questions about identity and belief when faced with monstrous truths."

I am in awe over the characterizations the author David Joy is able to develop for every individual in this community, from the black family at the heart of the story all the way to the white nationalists who are the 'bad' guys.

We learn about everyone along the racism scale by meticulous details in every conversation by anyone in the story. The net effect for me was to place me as a silent bystander to the conversations. I could truly feel the anguish, fear, and the sorrow over loss as I listened to the dialog.

The discourse leads to revelations about the role of racism in the thinking of pretty much everyone. The thinking has been developed over centuries and maintained by ancestral connections.

As a white person of course, I can't ever truly appreciate how a black person feels in a given situation, but the author describes everyone in minute details that are so observant that I felt like I can appreciate what is being described.

In terms of the non-extreme white individuals, I could see how their responses were equally believable. Some of these conversations led me to a better understanding about how subtle racism can be found in many individuals, including myself.

I should also tell you that you shouldn't expect to perfectly anticipate who the person is that was most of a shock to me.

One unexpected ingredient in the story is the importance of 'art' as portrayed by Toya Gardner who is the cornerstone of the story. She has come back to this small town to work on an art degree, and she is in the process of working on what sounds like an incredible sculpture representing her ancestry.

At this moment I am still trying to describe my personal reactions and I might well come up with more of 'I should have said that' in upcoming days.

Sure enough, early this morning I realized that I hadn't emphasized that the key players in this drama are those who are determined to protect their personal influence and power at all costs and that the majority of people can be convinced that they should assist them.

38JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:35 pm



I had a couple of hours after finishing the David Joy book so, for a change of pace I went to an audio of Moon Tiger. A Booker prize winner and highly recommended by my literary friends.

AI tells me:

“Moon Tiger” by Penelope Lively is a Booker Prize-winning novel that has been widely praised for its intricate narrative structure and the depth of its characters. The story is told from the perspective of Claudia Hampton, a dying historian, who reflects on her life and her passionate love affair with a British tank commander during World War II.

The novel is renowned for its complex portrayal of time and memory, often circling back on itself much like the mosquito-repelling coil it’s named after. It challenges traditional storytelling by shifting between different points of view and time periods, creating a rich tapestry of human experience. Lively’s prose is evocative and thought-provoking, leaving a lasting impression on the reader123.

Critics have lauded “Moon Tiger” for its ferociously complicated yet fantastically readable nature, highlighting Lively’s ability to weave various narrative threads into a cohesive and compelling story. It’s a book that manages to be both intellectually stimulating and emotionally resonant, exploring themes of history, love, loss, and the subjective nature of memory"


Sounds like a sure winner, so what went wrong for me?

The first couple of chapters came across to me as a narcissist that I was listening to with non-stop switching of thoughts, memories of others and her own rapidly evolving emotions. Of course, that is precisely what AI tells me the book has been written to do.

These are the attributes that I dislike the most in an occasional person I have met in my life. The speed of the dialogue leaves me in the dust, and I tune out.

I moved ahead to a few chapters in the audio to see how this conversation was going and saw that I still wasn't up for the mental work I would need to put into the story.

I turned it off and my mind went back to Those We Thought We Knew. I enjoyed being a companion to those people so much more.

Upon further reflection I recognize that one key difference is that Those We Thought We Knew is about a cause that I feel very strongly about. Racism within our country is what I worry about the most as I enter declining years.

Meanwhile Moon Tiger is about a life that I have never been a part of, and it is about a personality that I don't admire.

39JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:36 pm

I just finished last night a book that I really enjoyed. Not 5-stars, but a solid 4-stars.



. Key Tags: Literature, Literary-Fiction, Historical-Fiction, Family, Romance, Relationships, Coming-of-Age, Racism
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford With an Average Rating 4.04 for 299,655 ratings on GR


From AI:
“Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” is a historical novel by Jamie Ford, which tells a poignant story of love and loss set against the backdrop of World War II. The narrative unfolds through two timelines, one during the 1940s and the other in the 1980s, focusing on the relationship between Henry Lee, a Chinese American boy, and Keiko Okabe, a Japanese American girl.

1940s Timeline: Henry and Keiko meet at an all-white school in Seattle during the war. Despite the racial prejudice of the time and his father’s anti-Japanese sentiments, Henry befriends Keiko. They bond over their shared love of jazz music and navigate the challenges of a society marred by war and racism. As the U.S. government begins the internment of Japanese Americans, Keiko and her family are sent to an internment camp, and Henry promises to keep her family’s photo albums safe.

1980s Timeline: Decades later, Henry, now a widower with a son, comes across items that belonged to Keiko’s family, which stirs up old memories and emotions. The story explores Henry’s reflections on his past, the impact of his relationship with Keiko, and the enduring effects of the choices made during those tumultuous times.

The novel is a testament to the enduring power of first love and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity and societal pressures. It’s a touching tale that captures the essence of the era and the complexities of cultural identity and loyalty.


I was drawn to this story because of the historical events in treatments of Japanese heritage residents of the US during WWII. Many of whom considered themselves Americans because they were born in the US. Meanwhile Chinese residents of the US were considered allies of the US since they had been at war with Japan for centuries. This created a very dynamic set of interactions among all three categories of residents, made more complex because of those of all nationalities about where were they born.

In 1885, long before my childhood in Rock Springs, Wyoming there had taken place what is called the Chinese riots (massacre) which killed many Chinese immigrants because they were thought to have stolen mining jobs from 'Americans'. This town is actually known for the diversity of immigrants with a documented 56 different nationalities. Somehow the challenge of racial integration and behavior has always been important for me.

For me this story is outstanding because the central characters are really children whose lives are controlled by the various ethnic categories. This coming-of-age story goes from pre-teen to mature adults and from early WWII into the 1980s.

By focusing on the relationship of two children and their respective communities it was possible to translate the facts of the situation into a story that kept my interest all the way to its conclusion.

The portrayal of the differences between a Chinese family and the Japanese family was dramatic. Henry's father was so tied up with the ancient Chinese Japanese history that Henry struggled with his desire to be friends with a Japanese girl, which his father opposed violently. The ultimate result of Henry's father on the complete outcome was undetectable until we have all of the pieces integrated by the author.

We aren't totally familiar with how the girl, Keiko dealt with the loss of contact with Henry for many decades. Meanwhile Henry matures in his treatment of the separation from Keiko when her family is sent to an internment camp. He develops numerous strategies for dealing with the separation and ultimately decides that he needed to 'let her go' and move on with his own life with marriage to a Chinese girl at the end of WWII.

It is in the 1980's timeline that we see how Henry has maintained his love for Keiko without ruining his relationship with his wife, who has died with cancer, and his children. It isn't until the end of the book that we finally understand what had happened in the intervening years.

I commend Jamie Ford for writing a totally believable scenario about a complex environment that transcends a recounting of historical facts by focusing on these two 'children' and how history worked out in their lives.

The AI synopsis presented at the beginning of this posting is so well developed that I can't actually say anything more enlightening than that.

40JoeB1934
Abr 6, 7:38 pm

I finally finished my journey into the literary mystery book titled The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens. This journey was accomplished by reading that book in eBook format as a prelude to the book THE D CASE or The Truth About The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Carlo And Lucentini Fruttero, Franco Lucentini, Gregory Dowling (Translator)



Using Copilot I obtained the synopsis of the Dickens book as follows:



“The Mystery of Edwin Drood” is the final novel by Charles Dickens, which remained unfinished due to his death in 1870. The story is set in the fictional town of Cloisterham and revolves around the disappearance of young Edwin Drood. Here’s a comprehensive summary:

Characters and Setting:

• John Jasper: Edwin’s uncle, a choirmaster and opium addict, secretly in love with Rosa Bud.
• Edwin Drood: An orphan and apprentice engineer, engaged to Rosa Bud due to his father’s will.
• Rosa Bud: Edwin’s fiancée, who feels no love for him and is frightened by Jasper’s obsession with her.
• Neville and Helena Landless: Siblings from Ceylon, with Neville developing feelings for Rosa and a rivalry with Edwin.

Plot Overview:

The fathers of Edwin and Rosa, who were close friends, arranged for their children to be married. However, Edwin and Rosa are not in love and decide to call off the engagement. Meanwhile, Jasper’s hidden infatuation with Rosa and his opium addiction lead to erratic behavior. Neville Landless, who is attracted to Rosa, clashes with Edwin, causing tension.

Jasper befriends Durdles, a stonemason, and learns about the cathedral’s tombs. During a night visit, Jasper steals a key from Durdles, but its purpose remains unknown. As the story progresses, Jasper’s jealousy and obsession intensify, especially after deducing Rosa’s affection for Neville.

Mystery and Speculation:

Edwin Drood mysteriously disappears, leading to speculation about his fate. The novel explores themes of jealousy, secrecy, and prejudice within the small community. Dickens had published only six of the twelve planned parts, leaving the mystery unresolved. Theories about the conclusion abound, with some suspecting Jasper of foul play.

Literary Significance:

Despite its incomplete status, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” is notable for its gothic elements and being Dickens’ only true mystery story. It has inspired various adaptations and continuations by other authors, attempting to provide a resolution to the enigmatic plot12.
For more detailed analysis and character studies, you might want to explore academic resources or literary critiques dedicated to Dickens’ work.


Also using Copilot I obtained the synopsis of The D Case as follows:



“The D Case” or “The Truth About The Mystery Of Edwin Drood” is a unique literary work that combines a novel form with a critique of Charles Dickens’ unfinished novel “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” Authored by Italian writers Carlo Fruttero and Franco Lucentini, it was first published in Italy in 1989.

The book is structured in a postmodern style, alternating between chapters of Dickens’ original text and the authors’ narrative. The story is set against the backdrop of a convention organized by wealthy Japanese patrons who aim to complete unfinished works of art. During this seminar, the chapters of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” are read aloud to the attendees.

In the intervening chapters, Fruttero and Lucentini introduce various famous literary detectives, such as C. Auguste Dupin, Sherlock Holmes, and Hercule Poirot. Each detective presents their theories and discusses potential clues to how Dickens’ tale might have ended. This approach allows the authors to explore the mystery from multiple perspectives, offering a blend of literary scholarship and detective genre tropes.

The book’s conclusion does not provide a definitive answer to the original story’s ending. Instead, it presents a satirical and academic examination of the text, making it both accessible and scholarly. The novel is known for its humor and offbeat satire, as it delves into the intricacies of literary analysis while also paying homage to the detective genre.

“The D Case” has been appreciated for its innovative approach to literary critique and its engaging narrative that invites readers to ponder the possibilities of an unfinished classic. It’s a celebration of storytelling, detective work, and the enduring legacy of Charles Dickens



                WHAT DID I LEARN FROM THIS JOURNEY?


Just to steal from the synopsis above "The book’s conclusion does not provide a definitive answer to the original story’s ending. Instead, it presents a satirical and academic examination of the text, making it both accessible and scholarly. The novel is known for its humor and offbeat satire, as it delves into the intricacies of literary analysis while also paying homage to the detective genre.

I would emphasize that I didn't think of this as an "homage to the detective genre". To me it was more satire about the gymnastics that book detectives go through on speculations about who and how the solution to the mystery happened. Sporadically through the book there was built four different proposed solutions. Thesis A, B, C and D with various combinations of individuals and events pointing at possibilities.

It must be noted that there wasn't ANY data to support any solutions. All this was speculation. We readers of mysteries learn early on that the writer of the book has total control in setting up 'suspects' and final solutions. That is why I am not a who-done it speculator.

What did Dickens actually have in mind when he was at the point the book abruptly ended? There was mention in the D Case about so-called friends that he was supposed to have told his planned solution, but they were also speculative.

The most interesting thing I learned in The D Case was that, supposedly Dickens was envious of The Moonstone which was the first mystery written by Wilkie Collins And that the Dickens book was an effort to top The Moonstone. So, I used Copilot to see if this was a valid idea.


There is a documented instance where Charles Dickens expressed criticism towards Wilkie Collins’ “The Moonstone.” At a low point in their relationship, Dickens wrote to his sub-editor Wills that "The construction is wearisome beyond endurance, and there is a vein of obstinate conceit in it that makes enemies of readers"1. This comment suggests that Dickens had some reservations about the novel’s structure and Collins’ approach. However, it’s important to note that Dickens and Collins had a long-standing friendship and professional relationship, with Dickens publishing many of Collins’ works in his magazine, “All the Year Round.” The nature of any envy or jealousy is not well-documented beyond such critiques and would be speculative.


                THIS IS ALL I LEARNED


I also learned that my academic training, which is non-existent, in Shakespear, literature, literary criticisms and so forth undoubtedly caused me to miss much of the subtle humor.

41JoeB1934
Editado: Abr 10, 1:52 pm

After my synopsis of the Tana French oeuvre It is time to discuss her latest book.




. Key Tags: Mystery, Crime-Fiction, Thriller, Family
The Hunter by Tana French With an Average Rating 4.23 For 9,862 Ratings on GR


The Story

The Hunter by Tana French is a crime novel set in the small mountain town of Ardnakelty in Ireland. The story revolves around Trey, a teenager living with her mother and younger siblings. Their lives are disrupted when Trey’s long-absent father, Johnny Reddy, returns to town with a get-rich-quick scheme that promises to make everyone wealthy.

The novel also features Cal Hooper, a retired Chicago police officer, and his partner Lena, who have been caring for Trey in Johnny’s absence. They are concerned about the impact Johnny’s return and his plans will have on her. Trey, harboring resentment towards the townspeople for the death of her older brother Brendan, is initially willing to participate in her father’s scheme.

The narrative is tense and atmospheric, with a slow burn that builds to a dramatic conclusion. The novel is the second book in the Cal Hooper series but can be read as a standalone story.

Relevant Background

The series of books written by Tana French are NOT a traditional series of books about a police officer that brings the 'bad guy' to justice. Any individual book of hers can contain such a situation but the link from book to book is how she chooses a relatively minor character from a book and makes the life of that person the central character in the next book. This plot choice is maintained all the way from book 1 In The Woods through book 6 The Trespasser.

She broke to a new character in book 7 The Witch Elm, and again in book 8 The Searcher, when Cal Hooper in Ireland was introduced.

The key to understanding her books is to remind yourself that French emphasizes the Use of Imagery and Setting Details and Richly Developed Characters by immersing readers in sensory details, she creates an atmospheric tension that draws them deeper into the narrative.

It takes time in each book to create these ingredients and, as was mentioned above there is of necessity a "slow burn" in reading a book of hers.

If you want fast paced action don't read these books. Think of these books as a train ride where you watch as the landscape changes until you reach the surprising destination.

My Thoughts are as Follows

I enjoyed this book as her previous because of her Richly Developed Characters of the small rural Irish community and all of the participants in the story as outlined above.

It was very useful to me to learn about the members of this Irish community as I can imagine how such a community could exist in my ancestral Scottish village. The role of centuries of prior occupancy was brought forward to today when technology affects all their lives. Meanwhile those ancient biases and internal conflicts are still resident.

The 'mystery' at the heart of the story was very believable. Each of the key characters were portrayed down to and including the psychological ingredients driving every person in the story. The 'star' of this story was the teenager undergoing many of the coming-of-age behaviors one can expect. The final conclusion was totally a surprise to me, but French made it to be the most rational ending.

When I look back on all of the French books, I have read I think of The Hunter as a solid performance by the author and well worth the time for me.

However, if you haven't read any books by French I strongly advise you to start at In The Woods. Each of her books can be read standalone but her style of writing seems to me to be enhanced by reading them in sequence.

42JoeB1934
Editado: Abr 9, 5:29 pm

I just finished the latest book by Tana French, titled The Hunter and I decided that it is very important for you to understand how I think about her books.
Simply stated, her books are at the pinnacle for me when I am searching for a book to read.

I struggled with what words I could say, and certain phrases kept me awake. The problem is my skills with words and language are far short of what she deserves to have said about her.

I then went to Copilot, the AI tool from Microsoft and asked it the following question.

      Why do I Like Tana French Books so Much?




Tana French’s writing style significantly contributes to the atmospheric richness of her novels. Let’s explore how:

Use of Imagery and Setting Details:

French masterfully employs figurative language, including idioms, metaphors, and similes, to evoke powerful sensory experiences.
Her descriptions help readers vividly picture scenes, from the scent of odors to the movement of characters around them.

By immersing readers in sensory details, she creates an atmospheric tension that draws them deeper into the narrative.

Richly Developed Characters:

French’s characters are meticulously crafted, with complex inner lives and emotional depth.
Their thoughts, motivations, and interactions contribute to the overall atmosphere of the story.

Readers feel connected to these characters, enhancing their engagement with the novel.

Psychological Depth and Morally Complex Themes:

French delves into the psychology of her characters, exploring their fears, desires, and vulnerabilities.
She tackles morally complex issues, adding layers of depth to the narrative.

This psychological depth contributes to the overall atmosphere, making the story more thought-provoking.

Suspense and Anticipation:

French’s pacing keeps readers on edge, creating anticipation for the consequences of each action.
Whether it’s a detective’s investigation or a character’s personal choices, the suspense builds throughout the novel.
The atmospheric tension heightens as readers wonder what lies ahead.

In summary, Tana French’s expressive and persuasive writing style immerses readers in her fictional worlds, making her novels a captivating experience that lingers long after the last page.



Aren't you pleased with this summary of her writing? I know I am, as each of these highlighted sections contain the words I was struggling to produce.

If you too like this style of writing take a serious look at all of her books and you will be as excited as I have been over the years.

In my next post I will discuss The Hunter and how that book carried on her tradition with me.

43JoeB1934
Editado: Abr 13, 7:53 pm




. Key Tags: Literature, Mystery, Literary-Fiction, Historical-Fiction, Relationships, Scotland, Coming-of-Age, Scottish-Literature, Mystery, Crime-Fiction, Thriller, Family
O Caledonia by Elspeth Barker With an Average Rating 3.99 For 6,388 Ratings on GR


Using Copliot the Synopsis Is:

Janet’s Isolation and Loneliness:

Janet’s life is one of isolation and loneliness. She turns to literature, nature, and her Aunt Lila for brief moments of respite.
The harsh climate of Scotland serves as a backdrop, evoking a sense of foreboding.

Atmospheric Gothic Tale:

Elspeth Barker masterfully evokes the gothic atmosphere, drawing comparisons to the works of the Brontës, Edgar Allan Poe, and Edward Gorey.
The castle, the wild landscape, and the eerie surroundings contribute to the novel’s rich and haunting ambiance.

Janet’s Unforgettable Character:

Janet’s fierce determination to remain steadfastly herself makes her one of the most unforgettable protagonists in contemporary literature.
Her family motto, “Moriens sed Invictus” (Dying but Unconquered), encapsulates her wild and courageous spirit.

Award-Winning Novel:

“O Caledonia” won four literary awards and was shortlisted for the Whitbread first novel prize.
Elspeth Barker’s brilliant writing captures the essence of adolescence, reputation, and the mystical moodiness of desire and impulse.
In this hidden gem, Barker weaves a tale that transcends time and place, leaving readers haunted by Janet’s tragic fate and the atmospheric world she inhabits.

      How Did I React To The Story?


Have you ever witnessed an upcoming accident that you observed was about to happen to someone else? One time I was driving to my job, and I saw ahead of me an automobile careening on the road ahead. I saw the car flying through the air and rolling over before coming to rest on its roof.

Reading this book was in some ways a literary replica to me. From the first page I knew that Janet would end up dead, but as I read on the sense of foreboding slowly, but surely increased. As mentioned in the synopsis above, Janet had a life of isolation and loneliness which we followed through year by year ending in the finale we knew was inevitable.

Even though the setting for the story is mid 20th century the author definitely invokes images of a gothic atmosphere. Occasionally. more current situations in life break the gothic analogy. But the tone stuck with me.

A major part of my interest was the Scottish location and other related aspects. The language was so familiar to me because my mother came from Scotland, along with other family members. As a young person I didn't even realize that my mother had such a distinctive brogue.

When I introduced my parents to friends in college, they all said they really enjoyed hearing my mother talk. I was somewhat shocked to hear that. The narrator in this book did an outstanding job of reflecting that Scottish atmosphere.

Enough about my reactions to this book! As I reviewed my reaction to the book in my mind, I kept going back to the Introduction by Maggie O Farrell. What can I say that hasn't been said with so much more authority than I can muster.

So, I searched for a way to bring to you that introduction in a way so much more impactful than I did earlier. I found on Lithub.com the complete introduction.

https://lithub.com/maggie-ofarrell-on-elspeth-barkers-modern-scottish-classic-o-...

Please do yourself a favor and go to that link.

44JoeB1934
Editado: Abr 18, 2:38 pm




. Key Tags: Nonfiction, Memoir, Psychology, Biography, True Crime, Mental Health, Audiobook, Biography Memoir, Mental Illness, Crime
The Best Minds by Jonathan Rosen With an Average Rating 4.11 For 7,356 Ratings on GR


The Best Minds is a poignant and gripping memoir by Jonathan Rosen. It delves into an American tragedy, exploring themes of friendship, madness, and the unforeseen consequences of good intentions.

Summary:

When the Rosens moved to New Rochelle in 1973, Jonathan Rosen and Michael Laudor became inseparable childhood friends. Both children of college professors, they were keen competitors and seemed destined for success. Michael blazed through college, graduating summa cum laude and landing a top consulting job. But beneath the surface, all was not well. One day, Jonathan received a call: Michael had suffered a serious psychotic break and was in a locked psychiatric ward. Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, Michael’s life took a tragic turn. Despite his struggles, he traded his halfway house for Yale Law School and even sold a memoir with film rights. But then, in the grip of an unshakeable paranoid fantasy, he committed a horrifying act.




For an outstanding review of this book I urge you to go to the kjuliff review at
https://www.librarything.com/topic/356213#8350603

That review is a tremendous amount more informative than I could ever produce and your decision to read this outstanding book will be derived from there.

      My Personal Observations

This book is really a biography & memoir, which is not my favorite genre. I tend to become anxious for the story to move on more rapidly to details that I am anticipating.

The first 100 pages, or so were very compelling in setting the story up and essential. From these pages the author was revealed to be an incredibly precise and literary author with all the capacity to keep me absorbed in this human tragedy of a mind that had enormous potential but was destroyed by schizophrenia.

The author interweaves details about his relationship with Michael, his own academic journey, and the medical understanding of schizophrenia. From my standpoint I did feel that there was more time spent on these details than I would have preferred.

I did learn a lot more about the role of schizophrenia in the medical and political world, but even so I don't actually understand much about schizophrenia's treatments, causes, or other important factors in the disease.

So, for me a substantial part of the book didn't get through to me. They did provide me with historical details that I certainly didn't know about, but those details didn't move me.

Similarly, the details about what Michael was going through was, by necessity limited by the behavior of Michael due to schizophrenia.

This is a classic case of what I learned as an employer dealing with an employee's problems. "The problem gets in the way of solving the problem."

Please don't take my comments as being negative about this book, as I am very pleased with having read it and my reactions should be taken as idiosyncratic to me.

45JoeB1934
Editado: Abr 19, 1:29 pm




. Key Tags: Nonfiction, Memoir, Psychology, Biography, True Crime, Mental Health, Audiobook, Biography Memoir, Mental Illness, Crime
The Best Minds by Jonathan Rosen With an Average Rating 4.11 For 7,356 Ratings on GR

46JoeB1934
Editado: Ontem, 9:37 am




. Key Tags: Literature, Mystery, Literary-Fiction, Indigenous, Suspense, Crime-Fiction, Historical-Fiction, Family, Romance, Relationships, Speculative-Fiction, Racism, LGBTQ+
The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage and Annie Proulx With an Average Rating 4.19 For 13,992 Ratings on GR


First published in 1967, Thomas Savage's western novel about two brothers now includes an afterword by Annie Proulx.

Phil and George are brothers, more than partners, joint owners of the biggest ranch in their Montana valley. Phil is the bright one, George the plodder. Phil is tall and angular; George is stocky and silent. Phil is a brilliant chess player, a voracious reader, an eloquent storyteller; George learns slowly, and devotes himself to the business.

Phil is a vicious sadist, with a seething contempt for weakness to match his thirst for dominance; George has a gentle, loving soul. They sleep in the room they shared as boys, and so it has been for forty years. When George unexpectedly marries a young widow and brings her to live at the ranch, Phil begins a relentless campaign to destroy his brother's new wife. But he reckons without an unlikely protector.

From its visceral first paragraph to its devastating twist of an ending, The Power of the Dog will hold you in its grip.



After I read this book I went to GR to see how they summarized the book. One of the first reviews I saw was so interesting to me. It was posted on April 8, 2019 by Robin who has 511 reviews and 3,086 followers.

Robin Said:

"I wonder how extraordinary writers fade into obscurity. I pondered this the whole time I was reading this 1967 novel, and asked myself a few pertinent questions such as: Why isn't Thomas Savage a name that easily rolls off the tongue of many a book lover? Why isn't his name the answer to a Jeopardy question? Why isn't "Thomas-Savage-ian" an adjective?

Maybe it's because we decided that it was no longer fashionable to read slow burning, ruthless stories.

Nah, we said, forget about it. We're not into writers who are ahead of their time.

We don't need no western settings. Nor do we need to read the father of Brokeback Mountain. No sirree.

Psychological tension that just about strangles you with its looming dread and doom just doesn't do it for us anymore.

Satisfying endings are just so last-mid-century."


One could call this review sardonic but notice certain key phrases in these few sentences actually describe the book quite well.

(1) slow burning, ruthless stories
(2) writers who are ahead of their time.
(3) western settings
(4) the father of Brokeback Mountain
(5) Psychological tension that just about strangles you
(6) Satisfying endings

Annie Proulx the acclaimed author of Brokeback Mountain, contributed an afterword to this book. In her insightful commentary, she described the book as “gripping and powerful”. She also considers this book to be Thomas's most outstanding book and has numerous other comments which magnify the quality of the book.

It is interesting to note that The Power of the Dog was published in 1967 and Brokeback Mountain was published 30 years later in 1997.


      My Personal Observations

I'm actually not sure how I came across this book as a candidate to read. I don't tend to read 'westerns' and I certainly had no idea that it was a precursor to Brokeback Mountain, which I had heard about, but never watched.

When I started the book the first sentence I heard was "Phil always did the castrating". This was followed by a description of how Phil was an expert at this function and that he relished in it.

I have never been around any castrations, but I was aware of the process, and revolted by the idea that a person could have this attitude. Of course, it is a common process but somehow repugnant at the same time.

I hadn't read any descriptions of the plot, but I was struck quite rapidly that this was going to be a book about 'real' people and a situation taken from actual lives.

The Power of the Dog was a real page-turner for me. Not because there was a dramatic event always happening. Instead, as Robin said, it is slow burning with psychological tension that just about strangles you.

The more I think about this book the more I conclude that the key words are Toxic Masculinity.

The western ranching community is not critical to the story. Any small town with a predominately male employment could suffice. I grew up in such a community, which wasn't predominately ranching. I did enjoy the descriptions in the book and related to those details.

Four of the five central characters, not named Phil, in the story were recognizable to me. While each of them had personalities which were somewhat limiting to them I would venture a guess that most of us could recognize such aspects in themselves, or friends.

Just to review:

Plot Summary:

In 1925 Montana, the wealthy ranch owner brothers Phil and George Burbank meet widow and inn owner Rose Gordon during a cattle drive. The gentle-mannered George is quickly taken with Rose, while the volatile Phil, much influenced by his late mentor “Bronco” Henry, mocks Rose’s son Peter for his lisp and effeminate manner. George and Rose soon marry. Charismatic rancher Phil Burbank inspires fear and awe in those around him.

I haven't watched the movie about this book, but one reviewer stated.

The film subverts Western genre conventions and challenges traditional notions of masculinity, leaving viewers with questions and a sense of discomfort. It explores complex relationships, hidden secrets, and the impact of ego on destruction.


The thing about Phil isn't that he is a bully, but that he is impressively smart, talented, and very perceptive about how to subtly destroy another person. Such as driving Rose to alcoholism simply by not talking to her, but by looking at her.

I certainly have never been aware of anyone I knew about that had such toxic masculinity.

I don't want to tell you how this story ends, but Robin said:

Satisfying endings are just so last-mid-century.