Lisa's literary musings--labfs39 in 2011, pt. 4

KeskusteluClub Read 2011

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Lisa's literary musings--labfs39 in 2011, pt. 4

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 28, 2011, 1:39 pm

Welcome to the continuing saga of my reading adventures! For previous discussions see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Currently reading:

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 27, 2011, 12:27 pm

Huffing and Puffing to the Finish Line

113. Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill by Dimitri Verhulst*
112. Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker
111. The Ghost Road by Pat Barker
110. Habibi by Craig Thompson
109. Hand Me Down World by Lloyd Jones
108. Kolyma Tales by Varlam Shalamov*

107. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones*
106. Blankets: An Illustrated Novel by Craig Thompson
105. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey* (reread)
104. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt (audiobook)
103. Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith
102. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly* (audiobook)

101. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett* (repeat reading, audiobook this time)
100. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey*
99. Everything Flows by Vasily Grossman*
98. We Are on Our Own: A Memoir by Miriam Katin*
97. Every Man in This Village is a Liar: An Education in War by Megan K. Stack
96. Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson
95. The Elephant's Journey by José Saramago*
94. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
93. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
92. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

*An asterisk means I would recommend this book above the others.

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 28, 2011, 8:13 pm

Around the Bend

86. The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal*
87. Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden
88. How to Fit a Car Seat on a Camel by Sarah Franklin
89. Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott
90. The Eye in the Door by Pat Barker*
91. Castles Burning: A Child's Life in War by Magda Denes*

77. The Homecoming Party by Carmine Abate*
78. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid*
79. Boston Jane: Wilderness Days by Jennifer L. Holm*
80. Regeneration by Pat Barker*
81. The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad*
82. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque*
83. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
84. Boston Jane: The Claim by Jennifer L. Holm
85. The Good German by Joseph Kanon*

60. The Liberated Bride by A.B. Yehoshua
61. The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah*
62. Rascal by Sterling North* (audiobook)
63. Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson
64. The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson
65. From the Land of the Moon by Milena Agus*
66. The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West*
67. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes*
68. Cooking with Fernet Branca by James Hamilton-Paterson
69. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
70. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie* (National Book Award)
71. The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick*
72. Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns
73. Boston Jane : an adventure by Jennifer L. Holm*
74. The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall* (audiobook)
75. The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna
76. My Berlin Child by Anne Wiazemsky

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 28, 2011, 8:14 pm

Hitting my stride

51. Gulag: A History by Anne Appplebaum* (Pulitzer Prize)
52. Partitions by Amit Majmudar*
53. Brodeck by Philippe Claudel*
54. The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker
55. Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard (Booker Prize shortlist)
56. An Imperfect Lens by Anne Roiphe
57. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
58. The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari*
59. The Pathseeker by Imre Kertesz (Nobel Prize winning author)

43. Strawberry Fields by Marina Lewycka*
44. The Sound and the Fury by Willaim Faulkner*
45. Radioactive: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss
46. The Age of Orphans by Laleh Khadivi
47. The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard*
48. Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life, and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt by David McCullough*
49. Tsar: The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra by Peter Kurth*
50. Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

34. Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury
35. White Masks by Elias Khoury
36. The Elected Member by Bernice Rubens (Booker Prize)
37. The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi*
38. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
39. Your Republic is Calling You by Young-ha Kim
40. The Dream Life of Sukhanov by Olga Grushin*
41. April in Paris by Michael Wallner
42. My Forbidden Face: Growing up under the Taliban: A Young Woman's Story by Latifa

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 28, 2011, 8:16 pm

Off the Starter's Block

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak*
2. The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore* (longlisted for Orange Prize)
3. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
4. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
5. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand*
6. The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger
7. City of Veils by Zoe Ferraris
8. To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis* (Hugo Award winner)
9. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell* (Booker Prize shortlist)
10. Mariel of Redwall by Brian Jacques (audiobook)
11. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer* (longlisted for Orange Prize)
12. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis* (Hugo and Nebula winner)
13. Blackout by Connie Willis

14. The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer
15. The Unloved: From the Diary of Perla S. by Arnošt Lustig
16. All Clear by Connie Willis
17. The Waitress was New by Dominique Fabre*
18. A Bed of Red Flowers by Nelofer Pazira
19. Joseph: the Bellmaker by Brian Jacques (audiobook)
20. The Line by Olga Grushin*
21. Ali and Nino by Kurban Said
22. I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish*
23. Sisters of Sinai: How Two Lady Adventurers Discovered the Hidden Gospels by Janet Soskice*
24. Spring Tides by Jacques Poulin*

25. Doc: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell*
26. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson*
27. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese*
28. Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (Booker Prize)
29. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (Pulitzer Prize)
30. Scribbling Women: True Tales from Astonishing Lives by Marthe Jocelyn
31. Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster
32. Emergence: Labeled Autistic by Temple Grandin
33. A Stone in My Hand by Cathryn Clinton

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 27, 2021, 5:32 pm

This is a completely subjective list, classifying books by the author's ethnicity, not by the country in which they are currently living. I'm creating it in an attempt to ensure that I am reading globally and not only from the US, Britain, and Australia.

A Bed of Red Flowers by Nelofer Pazira
My Forbidden Face by Latifa

The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal

Ali and Nino by Kurban Said

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden
Spring Tides by Jacques Poulin

The Unloved: From the Diary of Perla S. by Arnošt Lustig

The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker
Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill by Dimitri Verhulst

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

The Waitress was New by Dominique Fabre
Brodeck by Philippe Claudel
My Berlin Child by Anne Wiazemsky

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

The Pathseeker by Imre Kertesz
Castles Burning by Magda Denes
We Are on Our Own by Miriam Katin

The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
The Age of Orphans by Laleh Khadivi

The Liberated Bride by A.B. Yehoshua

From the Land of the Moon by Milena Agus
The Homecoming Party by Carmine Abate

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

Your Republic is Calling You by Young-ha Kim

Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury
White Masks by Elias Khoury

The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah

New Zealand:
Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
Hand Me Down World by Lloyd Jones

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad

I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish

The Elephant's Journey by Jose Saramago

The Line by Olga Grushin
The Dream Life of Sukhanov by Olga Grushin
Everything Flows by Vasily Grossman

Sierra Leonean:
The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna

The Translator by Daoud Hari

Strawberry Fields by Marina Lewycka

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 29, 2011, 12:10 am

Current TIOLI Challenge

December: 3

November: 2

October: 7

September: 2

August: 4

July: 8

June: 3

May: 4

April: 3

March: 4

Feb: 5

Jan: 12

lokakuu 28, 2011, 10:17 pm

Hi Lisa- You are certainly ambitious! I'll give you that. Congrats on reaching a 100! Good review of The Snow Child. Sounds very good.

lokakuu 28, 2011, 10:28 pm

Thanks, Mark! And The Snow Child wowed me. Sort of like the debut novel, The Gendarme, by Mark Mustian. So good you can't believe it's their first, and so good you really hope the author has another one in her.

lokakuu 29, 2011, 4:16 am

You have definitely proved that you are reading globally

lokakuu 29, 2011, 11:40 am

Hi Barry, I do like reading about other places and cultures, although as Lois (avaland) pointed out on my last thread, I am light on China and South America.

marraskuu 1, 2011, 10:55 pm

Lisa bit late as I missed the link - but congratulations on reaching three figures - we're running neck-and-neck!

marraskuu 2, 2011, 10:24 pm

I lost track of you for a bit Lisa but I'm caught up now. As usual you're doing some great reading. I see I liked Every Man in this Village is a Liar better than you did. On the other hand you have me interested in a graphic novel, and that's no easy feat.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 3, 2011, 10:22 am

Thanks for stopping by, Paul and Bonnie. I've been lurking on your thread, Bonnie, and following all the wedding details. Beautiful!

Sorry to be so quiet on my own thread. My bronchitis is on week 7. I'm too pooped for much reading and writing these days. I am making my way through Van Gogh, a Life and am up to page 350 of 893 (excluding bibliography)--not that I'm counting! It's absolutely fascinating reading. The authors weave hundreds of quotes from his letters into their writing in a seamless way that doesn't interrupt the flow of the narrative. In addition a family tree, maps, and beautiful color plates as well as black and white drawings are scattered throughout, greatly enhancing my reading experience. Plus, the book jacket, cover, and end plates are well designed. Despite its heft, I enjoy holding the book.

I have been to the Van Gogh Museum, but have never read a biography, not even Stone's classic, Lust for Life. I wish I had because I have no basis for comparison. Based on my reading so far though, I think the book is well researched, well written, and destined to become the new benchmark on the topic. Part of the reason for the authoritative quality of the bio is that the VG museum just finished translating the entire body of Vincent's letters and made them available to the public online. It is the first new translation since the one by Theo's wife. The author notes the importance of two interpretations in trying to decipher what Vincent was saying, implying, and hiding in his letters.

So far I would wholeheartedly recommend this book.

Touchstone issue...

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 3, 2011, 3:37 pm

Great news from NYRB. They are reissuing Alice James: A Biography by Jean Strouse. The book won the Bancroft Prize when it came out, and Jean also wrote Morgan, American Financier later. She works at the NYPL and will be having an event there celebrating the re-release. She's a very nice person and a methodical user of archives. In fact, the Morgan Library opened up to her some records that had never been used before. Good for you, Jean!

To read more about the re-release go to NYRB.

marraskuu 3, 2011, 5:16 pm

It's actually out -- I saw it in a bookstore earlier this week but didn't pick it up because I was pretty sure I already own it although I've never read it. Turned out I was right, so I patted myself on the back, since I've been known to buy a second copy of a book I already own but haven't read, which I guess goes to show I'm consistent if forgetful. I meant to mention a while back that I was very impressed by the way you broke down your reads by country; I've read much less global literature this year than in the past, I'm ashamed to say.

marraskuu 4, 2011, 12:09 am

I've got an older copy as well that I never finished because of a trip that interfered. I should get back to it.

Well, here is the first in a long list of books that I am behind in reviewing. I can't believe I read this in late August! I didn't want to skip it though, because I thought it a good read that some of you might be interested in, if you haven't already read it.

marraskuu 4, 2011, 12:13 am

85. The Good German by Joseph Kanon

Jake Geismar is an American journalist who was stationed in Berlin before WWII and is returning now in post-war 1945 to cover the Potsdam Conference. And to try and find Lena, the married woman he left behind, but has never forgotten. The city is alien to him now: bombed out ruins inhabited by scared poverty-wracked people, mostly women and children, and the sense of despair on every corner. When Jake discovers a dead body at the conference, he begins an investigation that is inconvenient for both the Russians and the Americans. In the process he meets Bernie Teitel, an American Jew whose job is to uncover Nazi’s and collect enough evidence to convict them of war crimes; Gunther Behn, a retired Nazi policeman slowly drinking his way to an early grave over his wife’s death; and Renate Naumann, a former employee of Jake’s, now on trial for abetting the Nazis as a greifer, a Jew who turned in other Jews.

What makes this book more than a murder mystery, or a love story, or an espionage type of thriller, is that the German characters feel like real people making impossible choices. Lena’s sense of duty to her husband, despite knowing he was a Nazi; Bernie chasing former Nazi’s regardless of their personal situations, trying to find justice for the Jews; Gunther’s guilt for not being able to save his wife and testifying against a woman who may have had to make the hardest choices of all: Renate. The author is able to raise philosophical questions in the context of people’s lives. By doing so, he makes it harder to respond with stock answers and a black and white point of view. The American motives in the treatment of Nazi scientists alone are enough to trouble one’s conscience.

When I picked up this novel, I thought I was in for an easy read about a journalist, a love affair, and a mystery. Instead, I found myself wrestling with the ideas of justice, guilt, and reparations. This book has stuck with me, and I would recommend it to all those interested in the war and to book club groups. There is a lot to think about.

marraskuu 4, 2011, 7:42 am

The Good German sounds intriguing. I will check it out.

marraskuu 4, 2011, 7:49 am

I read The Good German several years ago after a friend gave it to me and I remember being disappointed in it, although it's possible I just wasn't in the mood for it given what was going on in my life at the time. Your review makes me think I should give it another look.

marraskuu 4, 2011, 12:26 pm

15,16: I'm the reverse: I read it, probably in the early to mid 1980s, but before I was in a financial position to own many books, so I don't have it.

marraskuu 4, 2011, 12:46 pm

#19. Thanks, Barry. It's not exactly high literature, but the questions raised made me think.

#20. I don't want to mislead you, Rebecca. It is a thriller type book, and frankly I found the main character, Jake, to be less than impressive. The German characters, however, I found to be better draw, and their situations to be conducive to philosophical questioning. Also I found the second half to be more interesting.

Perhaps I enjoyed the book more because my expectations were not high going in to it, and I was pleasantly surprised to find more substance than expected. I was also traveling in Germany at the time, which may have put me in a more receptive frame of mind. I have to be in the right mood to enjoy certain types of books, which is why I never plan ahead with my reading for the month.

marraskuu 4, 2011, 11:48 pm

Hi Lisa. I spent the last 15 minutes or so skimming through your prior thread. I'm definitely starring this thread now. I recently purchased The Elephant's Journey and your review made me excited to read it. And I see that you're interested in global reading. This is a relatively new concept for me, I'm somewhat embarrassed to say, but it's provided a wonderful boost to my reading life. Oh, and I'm adding The Good German to my TBR list.

marraskuu 5, 2011, 12:16 am

Welcome, Ellen. I was posting on your thread, while you were on mine! When I browsed through your list for the year, I noticed that many of the titles are ones that I too have read recently or are favorites of mine. I look forward to following your reviews.

marraskuu 5, 2011, 2:58 am

Hi, Lisa. I bet it's satisfying to categorize your books that way (by author's ethnicity). Does it give you a clear direction in terms of what you'd like to read in the near future, or is it just interesting info to you?

marraskuu 5, 2011, 8:11 am

The Good German sounds excellent! I'll have to add it to the WL. Hey, I just picked up We Are on Our Own: A Memoir from the library. I should be starting it soon.

marraskuu 5, 2011, 9:27 am

>258 from the last thread: Obviously I'm in catch-up mode—too much 7-days-a-week work lately.

The Snow Child sounds right up my alley. I'm not sure I'll wait until the Jan/Feb Belle (which, to address your comment, will be #15 I think) to read the full review. :-)

marraskuu 5, 2011, 9:31 am

Very nice review of The Good German, Lisa; I'll add it to my wish list.

marraskuu 5, 2011, 12:52 pm

Hi Lisa!
Starred your thread and put on my blue-filter glasses! When I get brave I will peruse your books read.
And I want to read your review of Elephant's Journey cuz I love Saramago's writing but strongly objected to Blindness.

marraskuu 5, 2011, 7:38 pm

#25 Hi Bonnie, long time no see. I was thinking about you today as I went crazy at Third Place Book's used book sale. Although I am trying to read more globally, especially when I read all the great reviews, but mainly I keep track just because it's fun. Lois (avaland) pointed out that I am lacking Chinese and South American authors, which I hadn't realized.

#26 I think you would like The Good German, Mark. And I'll look forward to your thoughts on We are on Our Own. It's short, so it doesn't take long to read. And guess what? I bought my first graphic novel since the Maus books back in school: The Complete Persepolis! I read it at your behest, and when I saw it at the used book sale today, I didn't hesitate. Thanks for encouraging me to roam outside my comfort zone.

#27 So tell all, Tad. Do you have a secret way to read early reviews? I absolutely loved the book. I've checked out a bunch of the Snow Maiden tales to read before I write my review. I may even reread the book. It was great.

#28 Hi Darryl. The Good German isn't perhaps what you normally read, but I hope you enjoy it.

#29 Now you've peaked my interest, Claudia! I'll have to go read your review of Blindness. The Elephant's Journey is very different from typical Saramago in that the topic is based on a historical event, and it is quite upbeat and funny (which I haven't found to be the case with the other Saramago's I've read). And usually there is a dog in every one of his books. Not so in Elephant.

marraskuu 5, 2011, 7:58 pm

Oh, my. Today was our local Indie's 40% off used books sale. Used books are already half price. I went a little crazy and bought 15 books; a lot for me. All but two were on my wishlist, so thank you to everyone who helped lighten my wallet today. :-)

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is a graphic novel that Mark got me to read a few months ago. It is the memoir of a young woman who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and as a teenager was sent abroad by her parents for her safety and freedom. Excellent.

Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker is a Bloomsbury Press book. It looks light and funny, very British. Spontaneous purchase.

Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 by Antony Beevor is a recommendation from Rebecca. It will be a nice counterpoint to the fictional book, The Siege by Helen Dunmore, which I read last year.

Red Sorghum by Mo Yan, translated by Howard Goldblatt. After reading The rape of Nanking : the forgotten holocaust of World War II by Iris Chang, I feel as though I need to better educate myself about this horrible chapter of Chinese (and Japanese) history. Fictional, Red Sorghum was enormously popular in China when it came out.

In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar is a book I've been looking for since reading reviews by Darryl and Steven. It was shortlisted for the Booker in 2006. Told from the perspective of a 9 year old boy in Libya, it is the story of his growing awareness of trouble both within his family and in the country.

marraskuu 5, 2011, 8:44 pm

Sky Burial: An Epic Love Story of Tibet by Xinran, translated by Julia Lovell and Esther Tyldesley, and recommended to me by Ardene. This novel is loosely based on an interview the author had with an elderly woman who crossed the Tibetan border into China. Part memoir, part fantasy, Sky Burial has raised some interesting questions on LT about the accuracy of some of the rites that are described in the book.

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh. Recommended by Bonnie (brenzi) and Darryl, this book has been on my list for a long time. I feel as though I will be the last person on LT to read this. Now that the second book in the trilogy has come out, I need to get a move on. The book, just in case their is someone out there who hasn't read it, is about an unlikely cast of Indians and Westerners at sea during the Opium Wars in China. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Nemesis by Philip Roth was recommended to me by Monica. It sounds unusual. It's set in New Jersey during 1944 and centers around a playground supervisor's responses to a polio epidemic. The book jacket describes the themes as "What kind of choices fatally shape a life? How does the individual withstand the onslaught of circumstance?"

Obasan by Joy Kogawa, on my list thanks to Bonnie. This novel is about the internment of the Japanese in Canada during WWII. Many Japanese from the Seattle area were sent to camps, and I've read some of the novels and memoirs that have resulted. I have never read about the Canadian Japanese experience.

Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels was recommended by Steven. The novel follows a young boy, who is saved during the Holocaust by a Greek scientist, and his subsequent life in Toronto.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 5, 2011, 9:38 pm

Kolyma Tales by Varlam Shalamov, translated by John Glad, was a spontaneous purchase. It's the memoirs of the author who spent 17 years in the Soviet Gulag. This edition includes Graphite.

A Fortunate Life by A.B. Facey is a title I snagged from Deborah's list of vacation pre-reading. Another memoir, this one is the story of an Australian man who faces countless tragedies in his life (loss of parents, working on the frontier at age 8, fighting at Gallipoli, etc.), and yet never loses the conviction that his life was fortunate. The book was published when he was 87.

The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert, and a Booker Prize finalist. This is her debut novel and was very well received. The book is comprised of three stories that depict the German psyche during and after WWII. The first story is about a young man who is kept out of the war by a physical disability and ends up photographing the fall of Berlin. The second story features a teenage girl who leads her siblings on a journey to find their grandmother when their parents are taken into Allied custody. And the last is set two generations after the war when a teacher tries to find out why the Russians imprisoned his grandfather.

Coventry by Canadian author Helen Humphreys is the story of Harriet Marsh and her efforts to help her fire watcher boyfriend find his mother, Mauve, who is hiding in a basement. I thought this would be an interesting counterpoint to Blackout and All Clear.

The Secret River by Kate Grenville was recommended by Cushla and was a 2006 Booker finalist. This novel follows the life of William Thornhill from the year 1806 when he, and therefore also his wife, are deported to Australia for stealing a load of wood. One of the themes is the tension between deportees who must carve out a life for themselves, but often at the expense of the original inhabitants of the land.

marraskuu 5, 2011, 10:49 pm

WOW! Just WOW! You are so lucky to have that store near you. In case you can't tell Lisa, I'm pretty jealous. I absolutely loved In the Country of Men, The Secret River and Fugitive Pieces. I don't think you'll be able to draw any parallels between The Siege and Stalingrad: the Fateful Siege because the Dunmore book takes place during the Siege of Leningrad. Or maybe you meant something else by "counterpoint." At any rate, the Stalingrad Siege should also be tremendously compelling. I have 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad, which I purchased right after I read The Siege that I need to push up the pile. Miss Hargreaves and Coventry have been languishing on my shelves far too long.

I'm sorry to hear that you're still battling bronchitis. Seven weeks is unbelievable. I hope you find relief from it soon. Oh and I picked up The Good German when you briefly recommended it earlier this year. This is such a dangerous thread...

marraskuu 5, 2011, 11:08 pm

On iPhone so will add more tomorrow but just wanted to say I have Stalingrad on the TBR and haven't read it yet, and that it's Life and Fate that includes the siege of Stalingrad

Great haul, and more later.

marraskuu 6, 2011, 1:14 am

Lisa, I wish I had made it up to Third Place today; you clearly had a great time! I went for a long run in the neighborhood, did laundry, grocery shopping, and did some yard work, so I didn't feel I could drive to the north part of the city.

Your book haul really does look great. I have read and very much enjoyed In the Country of Men and Sea of Poppies. I've also recently purchased The Secret River (and I'm thinking I paid more for it than you did!) and plan to read it for the November/December Monthly Author Read. And a work colleague said she'd loan me her copy of Persepolis so I can add it to my Graphic Novel reading.

Perhaps we can meet at TPB for a cup of tea and some book-buying another weekend this fall/winter.

marraskuu 6, 2011, 3:31 am

Hi Lisa, congratulations with reading 100 high-quality-books this year already. And what an interesting list of books you purchased. I saw the Persepolis-movie a few weeks ago and I was very much taken by it ( If the graphic novel is half as good as the movie (and usually books are better, so don't worry), I think you'll like this one. It's a very different way of telling a very serious story. Satrapi did an amazing job.
I'm looking forward to hear what you think about Nemesis. It seems our reading-tastes have diverged a bit (I'm not a huge war-and-conflict-fan), but I do enjoy your comments and reviews.

marraskuu 6, 2011, 7:52 am

Back to your haul, so many interesting books! I too recently bought Kolyma Tales inspired, as you may have been, by the references to it in Gulag. I've given up on recent Philip Roth, but may be tempted to get back in the water with Nemesis. Not a Ghosh fan, because I really didn't like The Hungry Tide (although I may be the only person on LT to feel this way!) and I had mixed feelings about the Mo Yan book I read, Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out because it wore me out. I really liked The Secret River. And I find several intriguing, including Obasan (I didn't even know there was internment in Canada as well as the US) and The Dark Room.

I'm curious. When you go book shopping, do you have a list of what people have recommended? I often find myself in a bookstore trying to remember the names of books I really want to look for and could use some advice about this!

marraskuu 6, 2011, 8:37 am

Hi Lisa- Amazing book haul! I'm not familiar with some of the titles but it looks impressive. I've had The Secret River in the stacks forever. Another shared read, perhaps?
Are you joining us for The Night Circus?

marraskuu 6, 2011, 1:11 pm

Thanks to everyone for pointing out my mistake in comparing my sieges. I was a bit giddy and tired last night. And you know how I am always trying to make connections between my readings. Whoops!

#34 Hi Bonnie, I am lucky to have Third Place Books nearby. It is part of a community space (the third space, after home and work) that also hosts a small food court and a stage where local schools and community groups perform, as well as some of the bookstore's larger author talks (Karl Marlantes, Bill Bryson, etc.) It's a big open airy space and downstairs is a public library branch (which is currently under reconstruction). It's a fantastic concept, and I'm fortunate to have it within half an hour of home, and on the way to my daughter's school, so I pass by frequently. Something is always going on: the toddler mom's group meeting in the play area, chess players at the large floor set, weekly French language discussions, Mah jong games, free wifi, knitter's book club in the meeting room, jazz on the stage, group gamers with their figurines--sometimes many at once!

#35 I share your difficulty in posting from my iPhone, Rebecca. But if I just read posts, I'm afraid I'll forget to go back. I looked for Life and Fate yesterday, but no luck. I would borrow it from the library, but I know it's one I'll want to keep. Btw, have you read the newish uncensored translation of The First Circle? It's called In the First Circle, and a friend said it was quite different and worth a read, even if you've read the old.

#36 Hi Ellen, I wish you had been able to attend too. But at least this way we didn't have to tussle over who got what. :-) You are for a treat with Persepolis. It really is a remarkable story and telling. Yes, let's do tea soon! Just PM me whenever you are going to be up North. I go by there a lot.

marraskuu 6, 2011, 1:38 pm

#37 Nice to see you, Monica. Oh, I don't know that we no longer share interests. I think it's more that we both tend to read in spurts of theme or genre: you just finished your mystery/thriller run, and Rebecca has me in the throes of a war stint. I'm sure we'll converge again soon. Btw, did you see that I am currently reading the new biography, Van Gogh: A Life? Much of it takes place in your neck of the woods. I'm current in Antwerp. I loved the first couple of hundred pages, but am seriously bogged down now. I'm on page 475, and he still hasn't discovered Impressionism, and the only work of note that he has produced is The Potato Eaters. The themes raised by the authors in the first part of the book are still being rehashed and reiterated until I want to shake them and say "I got it already!". I don't want to stop reading, though, because I know I won't get back to it. Yet the table beside my reading spot is groaning under the weight of all these other great books. And I still have 410 pages to go (excluding bibliography, etc.)!

#38 Of course you have Kolyma Tales, Rebecca! How could I have thought I got to it before you! :-p I've not read Philip Roth before, but someone (Mark?) recommended this one. I'm not giving up on Ghosh or Mo yet, because I know how uneven an author's reading can be; even with some of my all-time favorite authors, there is a dud or two. As for your question about reading lists, in honor of this special sale, I printed out my LT wishlist (after adjusting which columns I wanted displayed). It was five pages long! I had it organized by author's last name, which made it easy to walk along the fiction shelves and cherry pick. One thing I would do differently is separate fiction and nonfiction, because I had to mark the nonfiction as I went along and later go to the biography or history sections to get those. I could have done the same thing off my iPhone, but I find the print too small to make it easy when I am searching for so many books. Also, by printing it out, I was able to mark which ones they didn't have and which ones I got, which helped me keep things straight. The iPhone is helpful when I'm in a store and can't remember if I have a book, or the author's name, etc.

#39 Hi Mark. I think I'm going to skip The Night Circus. I know Ann of BOTNS raved about it, as have other critics, but I have so many other things I want to read ahead of that one. I'll look forward to your thoughts though! I am thinking about 1Q84 though. Even though I am still confused by The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, 1Q84 sounds intriguing, and has been getting amazing reviews. I think I might like it more as I won't be as shocked by his style. Darryl's thread has carried rumors that their might be a Murakami Author Read next year. Who knows? Maybe I'll become a fan!

marraskuu 6, 2011, 2:35 pm

Hi Lisa, I think it's very brave to tackle such a huge book and persevere, even though you'd like it to speed up a little. I hope the French part that lies ahead will be more entertaining. It reminded me that when in Arles, I had coffee on this little terrace on a charming market-square... picture-perfect... only to find out later that I'd actually been sitting on the "Terrasse du café le soir" . Only someone as goofy as me would not have noticed, but then I primarily visited Arles because of the Roman history and less for van Gogh.

marraskuu 7, 2011, 5:42 am

>30 labfs39:: I misspoke...I was quite tired when I wrote that. It's not that I won't wait to Jan/Feb to read your review. It's that I won't wait to Jan/Feb to read your review before reading the book.


marraskuu 7, 2011, 9:42 am

Just catching up on your reading, Lisa.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 8, 2011, 5:20 pm

I read this at the beginning of September, but didn't want to skip a review because the book was so good.

86. The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal, translated from the French by Frank Wynne

Billed as the first Arab novel to confront the Holocaust, The German Mujahid is a book that can be read in many different ways. Some reviewers have focused on Sansal's condemnation of the Algerian military, Islamic fundamentalists, and the corruption of life in modern Algeria. (The book has been banned there). Other reviewers on the oblique comparison of the ways in which the modern Islamic fundamentalists and the former Nazis wield power. What struck me most, however, was the question To what extent are we responsible for the crimes of our parents?

Rachel and Malrich Schiller brothers were born in Algeria to a German father and Algerian mother. In an effort to provide them with more opportunities, the parents send first one and then the other brother to France to live with their uncle. Growing up in one of the many tough Muslim ghettos in France, Rachel, the oldest, becomes the model immigrant, boldly striving for success in his new country. Seventeen-year-old Malrich, on the other hand, is struggling to create an identity for himself and is often in trouble with his uncle, his school, and the police. The book begins: Rachel died six months ago.

His brother's death leads Malrich on a voyage of discovery about his family, his brother, and himself. He begins reading Rachel's diary and learns that his brother's descent into madness and suicide began with the massacre of their parents in their backwater Algerian village by Islamic fundamentalists two years ago. Rachel was horrified by the event and returned to the bled to try and reconnect and find closure. Instead he finds that his father has been buried under another name and that he kept a box of memorabilia under his bed which contains Nazi memorabilia. What does this mean? Rachel is driven to get to the truth of his father's past, even if it means destroying his present. As Malrich reads about his brother's life, he also has to make decisions about his own. Should he let himself be persuaded by his brother's posthumous guilt? How should he live with the knowledge that his brother has given him?

Because of the setting and Islamic tie-ins, The German Mujahid is an unusual exploration of the post-Holocaust question of guilt and justice. Equally compelling is the story of these two brothers, linked by the diary. Never especially close growing up, the diary is a way for the brothers to communicate on a completely different level: Rachel revealed as vulnerable and confused, Malrich enabled to make decisions about his life. I found myself wanting to read as fast as I could to uncover the plot, and at the same time wanting to savor and ponder particular descriptions or philosophical questions. With the use of sticky notes and scraps of paper, I was able to do both, but it is definitely a book I see myself reading again. It was a perfect follow up to my reading The Good German, which deals with these questions from the German perspective. Instead of the immediate post-war period, however, is set a generation later, but continues to probe the essence of guilt, justice, and reparations.

ETA translator information.

marraskuu 7, 2011, 1:50 pm

Excellent review of The German Mujahid Lisa. That's another one on my to buy list. I am looking forward to your thoughts on Van Gogh: A life

marraskuu 8, 2011, 6:38 am

>45 labfs39:: I'm glad to hear you liked that one, Lisa. So far I haven't found any other copies of Sansal's stuff in English.

marraskuu 8, 2011, 5:18 pm

#42 Thanks, Monica, and thanks for the story and beautiful photo. I'm on page 566 now: he's finally discovered Impressionism and stepped off the train in Arles. It did get better again, and with the end in sight (only a couple hundred more pages), I'm feeling more optimistic. I also downloaded the audiobook The Sisters Brothers from my library last night and started listening in the car today (I spend at least 3 hrs a day in the car). It's very unusual, I'll give it that. Their relationship has parallels with the Van Gogh brothers. See there I go, making connections again!

#43 Sorry for the miscommunication, Tad. I was obliquely wondering where you were getting a copy of The Snow Child, since it's not out until February.

#44 *wave* to Lois

#46 From what little bit I know of your literary tastes, I see you enjoying The German Mujahid more than The Good German, Barry. I do hope you read Mujahid. It has very interesting reflections on Algeria, the nature of Islamic Fundamentalism, and the issue of guilt, the topic I chose to write about in my review. As for Van Gogh: A Life, it's a fascinating story, but I might have a comment or two to write about the writing. Overall recommend though.

#47 Hello again, I did enjoy it, and I should have mentioned that I got the recommendation from you and Deborah. Your review is excellent. I too looked for more of Sansal's books in translation, to no avail. Same with Dominique Fabre. That's one drawback to reading Archipelago and Europa Edition books (or not reading more languages): you get hooked and have no where to go. :-)

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 8, 2011, 8:22 pm

Excellent review of The German Mujahid, Lisa, especially in combination with your thoughts about The Good German. They sound like a great tandem read.

marraskuu 8, 2011, 8:25 pm

Have you read either, Ellen?

marraskuu 9, 2011, 2:34 pm

87. Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden

Xavier Bird is a haunted man. Sick in body and soul, he is coming home to Canada to die. He is returning from the WWI battlefields of Ypres and the Somme, and, although he enlisted with his best friend, Elijah, he is coming home alone. Xavier is met at the train station in Northern Ontario by his Auntie Niska, a Oji-Cree medicine woman who raised Elijah and him. Together they set off upriver on a three day journey home.

Trying to pull him back to the world, Niska begins talking, weaving the story of her life into a mesmerizing flow that washes over Xavier. She tells of being taken by Whites to be raised in a Christian school, the execution of her revered father, and her escape into the woods where she lived like a wild thing for many years. Mostly she relates her destiny in life, and how she came to accept it.

Xavier meanwhile is in a morphine-induced haze, reliving his boyhood with Elijah and the war and its effects on them. Early on, the two are chosen to be sharpshooters and are given point positions. Alone in no-man's land, they have to confront moral questions that the soldiers on the line don't have to face. For the first time in their lives, Xavier and Elijah choose different paths. The alternating stories of Niska and Xavier are deftly woven together to a satisfying connection.

This is the complex and unusual story that I expected of such a well-reviewed novel. What I hadn't been expecting was the amount of time spent on morphine addiction: it's allure, progress, and outcomes. While an integral thread in the story, I tired of its prominence, even dominance. Perhaps if I had been expecting it, I would have found it less annoying. So although there are parts of the book I think worth raving about, overall I am a little less enthused.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 9, 2011, 2:49 pm

88. How to Fit a Car Seat on a Camel edited by Sarah Franklin

I'm not an avaricious reader of short stories, but being a parent and seeing a title like this, I couldn't resist picking it up. An anthology of thirty-six short travelogues detailing life while traveling with children, it was by turns humorous and occasionally a bit appalling (depending on your parenting beliefs). Each author had a different perspective, family unit, and destination, and yet each story conveyed the same message: don't give up traveling, just expect things not to go as planned. One note: the book is probably better suited to being cherry-picked over time, rather than being read straight through, as I did.

marraskuu 9, 2011, 3:57 pm

>50 labfs39: I've not read either but I picked up a used copy of The Good German at the University Bookstore yesterday, so it's now on the precariously stacked pile by the bed..... :-)

marraskuu 9, 2011, 6:56 pm

Lisa- Great review of Three Day Road. I agree, it's not perfect but it still is a very good read. Hope you are enjoying The Sisters Brothers. I was crazy about it.

marraskuu 9, 2011, 7:07 pm

Well I picked up The Good German at your suggestion Lisa, and now I'll look for The German Mujahid to read in conjunction with it and yes, I remember both tad and Deborah recommending it. And the tower continues to teeter.

marraskuu 9, 2011, 8:05 pm

Sorry you found something in Three Day Road that was aggravating... I had no expectations when I started that one... and loved it. Like you said... a "complex and unusual story". Nice review!

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 11, 2011, 11:53 am

>51 labfs39:: I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree about Three Day Road. It was one of my favorite reads of 2009.

I'd certainly agree that the addiction element was very prominent but it didn't really disturb me. To a minor extent, I took it as a...I can't think of the exact word I want, a highlighting? Elijah's story. While the two men did choose different moral paths, there was a parallelism in that the war took away their inner stability and left them dependent upon something—Xavier the drugs and Elijah his addictions.

ETA: I think that, while I still enjoyed it quite a bit, Through Black Spruce was not quite as good as Three Day Road, so you can make a decision about whether to continue with what I think is intended to be a trilogy. There's also his collection of short stories, Born with a Tooth.

marraskuu 11, 2011, 10:43 am

Hi Lisa- I finished and enjoyed We Are on Our Own. Another strong World War II memoir. Thanks for the recommendation.

marraskuu 16, 2011, 12:38 am

#53 Ooh, I haven't visited the University Bookstore in ages. Lots of good finds? The Good German gets better as you go along, so if you aren't impressed by the beginning, I hope you keep reading.

#54 Hi Mark. You know me and my reading moods. Sometimes I end up not liking a book and wonder if I would have if I had read it at a different time and frame of mind. I am enjoying The Sisters Brothers. What a strange book! I was trying to tell my husband about it, but the book is so hard to describe. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to listen in a couple of days. My iPhone suddenly started playing it back in double time, and Eli's voice is ruined when it comes out too quickly. Between one listening session and another it just changed mid chapter. Very odd. Anyone have any suggestions?

#55 Sometimes reading similarly themed books stimulates me to make connections I may not have seen. Like Regeneration and All's Quiet on the Western Front. The Good German and The German Mujahid are different, but provided lots of mental fodder. I hope you find them as thought provoking, Bonnie.

#56 Hi Cee. Sometimes I feel like I must be the dolt who missed something when my thoughts about a book are so different than everyone else's. I may read it again at a later date and see if it strikes me differently.

#57 Thank goodness we don't all see eye to eye--I would start to worry about cloning. ;-) I agree that there was much about Three Day Road that was impressive, including the way the author structures the book. I became engaged with the characters, and may read the next book in the trilogy, just to follow the characters.

#58 I'm glad you enjoyed We Are on Our Own, Mark. I found it powerful in a way that expanded my appreciation for graphic novels. I've put Habibi on my wishlist. I saw a copy at the store, and it is beautifully designed.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 16, 2011, 12:42 am

Happy day! I finished Van Gogh: The Life, all 893 pages (not counting the bibliography and index). Or the 5000+ pages of notes that the authors were forced to put on a website and not in the book, simply because of size. The website is free and is at Review to come soon.

marraskuu 16, 2011, 11:18 am

Congrats on finishing that chunkster! Will be interested in your review :)

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 27, 2011, 11:31 pm

Note: the dust jacket is of an opaque material that mutes the brilliant color of the painting beneath. It's a beautifully designed book.

103. Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith

Vincent Van Gogh is one of the Western world's most well-known artists, and works such as Starry Night and The Bedroom are icons of the post-impressionist transition. Equally well-known are the stories about his life and personality, the infamous mutilation of his ear, and his close yet tumultuous relationship with his brother, Theo. Naifeh and Smith's new biography both explores in detail the development of Vincent's art and brings new light to the widely accepted version of Theo's life, which is largely based on Irving Stone's fictionalized biography and subsequent movie, Lust for Life.

Ten years in the making, Van Gogh: A Life is a masterpiece of meticulous research and detailed writing. The authors had unparalleled access to the archives of the Van Gogh Museum, as well as the Museum's new translation of Van Gogh's letters. The only previous English translation was by Vincent's sister-in-law, who of course had a certain agenda. In addition to authoritative research and documentation (over 5000 pages of notes available at, the authors bravely contradict some of the most widely held beliefs about Vincent's life and death. They do so in the full knowledge that there will be controversy, and document their reasoning so that others may follow their line of thought. While paying homage to the scholarship that has come before, they forge ahead into new territory.

The book is divided into three parts: The Early Years (1853-1880), The Dutch Years (1880-1886), and The French Years (1886-1890). I delved into the first part with eager enthusiasm and was not disappointed. Vincent's childhood was scarred by his relationships with his cold, class-conscious mother and his domineering pastor father. People found Vincent odd, unsocial, and erratic even in his youth. Unable to make friends, unsatisfied with any of the schools he attended, Vincent became increasingly cyclical in his emotions: thwarted at some task or project, he would become increasingly angry and arrogant until he failed and then fell into a fit of despair and depression. Then he would latch onto some new, grander project and frenetically try to persuade everyone to his new passion.

I found reading The Dutch Years to be more of a struggle. The pattern of Vincent's emotional life played over and over, even as he moved (or was evicted) from place to place and passion to passion. His relationship with his brother, Theo, had solidified into complete financial dependence and the same cycle of anger, guilt, and passion that dominated his emotional life. His art was stuck in a dark rut, and he continued to refuse to view Impressionist art or explore the ideas of his contemporary artists. For a couple of hundred pages, I despaired of finishing this 900 page tome.

Then I reached The French Years, and my reading picked up pace. Vincent finally moved to Paris to live with his brother, a financial imperative, and for the first time began interacting with the Impressionists and their successors. Key relationships were formed, broken, and reformed, and his art began to show the effects of exposure to new ideas and methods. Then he reached Arles and began to paint in his own impassioned way, expressing his emotions through the wild brush strokes and colors that would eventually make him famous. These last few years were extremely productive, even while he fought ill health and the escalation of his disease (now believed to have been temporal lobe epilepsy). His greatest dream of all, a brotherhood of artists living together at the Yellow House, resulted in a brief co-habitation with Paul Gauguin, and ended in tragedy. The last year of his life was spent in asylums and in and out of lucidity, yet he continued to paint. His work garnered some acclaim at the very end of his life, but he died denying that he was worthy of that praise.

There are many things to praise about this new biography: its detail and authority, the way the authors weave Vincent's own words from his letters into the text, the occasional eye-catching turn of phrase. One thing that I found particularly interesting was the focus on Vincent's expansive reading and how it informed his life and his work. At various times, the following authors played an especially important role in his thinking: George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, Guy de Maupassant, and Emile Zola; but he read widely and deeply on many subjects, especially religion and the history of art. He used the books he read as a source of solace, inspiration, support for his arguments, vindication, and self-definition. He even painted books into his art as a way to make a point or convey a message.

Overall, I think Van Gogh: The Life is an important contribution to art scholarship and well worth reading, despite its length and sometimes uneven delivery. It's a book that leaves you wanting to know even more, and I found myself browsing the web for more information on fellow artists, various movements, and especially more examples of Vincent's paintings. Of help to me in this last was a small book of Van Gogh's drawings and paintings entitled Van Gogh by Josephine Cutts and James Smith, published by MetroBooks. Arranged somewhat chronologically, it supplemented the plates included in the biography.

marraskuu 17, 2011, 3:48 am

Fabulous review of Van Gogh: The Life. I know what I want for Christmas now.

Is this the book that throws some doubt on the shooting that eventually killed him? I have read somewhere there is a theory that he could have been shot by someone else rather than shooting himself.

marraskuu 17, 2011, 7:59 am

Great review, Lisa. Not sure I want to tackle such a long book about Van Gogh, but your review makes it seem like a possibility I wouldn't have considered otherwise.

marraskuu 17, 2011, 10:18 am

#63 Thanks, Barry. I didn't realize until I scrolled it this morning how long my review was. Ah well, it was a long book. And to answer your question, yes, this is the book. I didn't want to give away something that might be considered a spoiler, but yes, this is the controversial ending which will cause a stir, I think. As another reviewer pointed out, it's been 70 years since the last serious biography of Vincent, and a lot of new records have come to light and been translated into English. I found their argument compelling, about this as well as other issues, such as the actual source of his delusional paranoia. Lucky you! You could actually do a Van Gogh trip, if you haven't already.

#64 Hi Rebecca, I've had a fascination with Van Gogh since visiting the VG Museum 25 years ago. I've never seen a biography that really appealed to me, however, until now. It is a clunker, but if you get the urge, I don't think you'll find a better biography of the artist.

marraskuu 17, 2011, 1:06 pm

Great review! This book would be much too long for me, I'm afraid. Unless there are a lot of pictures?
It does sound like he had tons of turmoil and heartache in his life. Artists seem to have such a tough time with the world... :(

marraskuu 17, 2011, 1:37 pm

89. Hospital Sketches: An Army Nurse's True Account of her Experiences during the Civil War by Louisa May Alcott

Thanks to Darryl for bringing this book to my attention.

Louisa May Alcott wrote many fictionalized books and stories about her life and family, the most famous of which is Little Women. An abolitionist and feminist, the adventurous Alcott eagerly joined other young women in offering to be a nurse for the Union Army during the Civil War. In late 1862, Alcott was sent to the Union Hospital in Georgetown, D.C. for a three month assignment. True to her nature, she wrote long, witty letters home to her family, in which she describes her duties as an untrained nurse, the soldiers she meets, and the nature of the treatment available to the wounded. Unfortunately, Alcott caught typhoid fever and became very ill. Despite her protests, she was taken home after only six weeks of service. Her letters were collected and published later that year, then republished with additions in 1869.

Since the letters were written to family and never intended to be published, Alcott received some initial criticism for her sometimes comic tone. She responded beautifully with this remark in 1869:

To those who have objected to a "tone of levity" in some portions of the sketches, I desire to say that the wish to make the best of every thing, and send home cheerful reports even from the saddest of scenes, an army hospital, probably produced the impression of levity upon those who have never know the sharp contrasts of the tragic and the comic in such a life.

This ability to see these "sharp contrasts of the tragic and the comic" during times of duress elevates the letters from simple documentation to a nuanced view of the precariousness of life and the spirit of defiance required to repeatedly face death. The letters also reflect a caring yet direct young woman, who despite her enlightened education, was a product of her times.

marraskuu 17, 2011, 10:09 pm

Oh I love VanGogh's work Lisa and your review makes it sound almost too good to resist. Thumb! But the length of it might stop me. I'm at the mid-way point of the massive Massie biography of Catherine the Great which is only around 600 pages but I'm wondering if it can keep my interest for another 300 pages (even though it's very good). So over 900 pages seems pretty daunting.

marraskuu 17, 2011, 10:23 pm

Lisa- Fantastic review of Van Gogh: The Life! Excellent job. I'm a bit intimidated by the length too but I have always been fascinated by this artist. So, maybe one day.
I heard that there was some new information about his death, that he might have been murdered? Was this from this source?

marraskuu 17, 2011, 11:49 pm

#68 Thanks Bonnie, I would highly recommend it sometime, but only after you've recovered from Catherine the Great and had some fun reads. Van Gogh: The Life is predominately dark and depressing. By the end, I was reliving my own sad times in empathy with his. It's a relief to be done. That said, it was an amazing book, and shed new light on some common myths about his life.

For instance, *POTENTIAL SPOILER* according to the authors, Vincent cut off part of his ear as a way to punish himself in reaction to Gauguin's decision to leave the Yellow House. (When in despair, he would sometimes go without food, shelter, or sleep, even whipping his own back, as a way to expiate his guilt and despair). Vincent then tried to find Gauguin to give him the piece of flesh as a way to prove his sincerity and desperation. When he couldn't find him, he went to Gaughin's favorite whore and told her to give it to him. No mailing of ears to mistresses in this version.

#69 It is a big, and heavy, book, but it is worth it if you are ever in the mood. As regards the new information about his death, *POTENTIAL SPOILER* the authors convinced me of their theory. Based on the original documents by the attending doctor, the angle was wrong for Vincent to have shot himself and the gun would have to have been held from a greater distance than Vincent could reach. In addition, the gun and Vincent's art gear was never recovered, despite extensive searches by the police. Where did it go? Although the authors can't definitively proof their theory, they provide ample explanation and documentation to make a very convincing argument. I don't want to give away everything here, but I can PM you if you want to know what they think happened.

marraskuu 18, 2011, 8:35 am

Lisa- Thanks for the fascinating info! I'll probably get to this book at some point.

marraskuu 19, 2011, 3:28 am

Hi Lisa, I'm happy to see you enjoyed Van Gogh's biography after all. I admire your perseverance. I don't think I like Van Gogh's paintings enough to read the 900 pages but your review is tempting! Alcott's Hospital Sketches look interesting too, although a bit too much out of my "interest-zone" to put it on my wish-list.
Looking forward to your next reads!

marraskuu 20, 2011, 5:37 pm

Thanks for the comments on the Alcott book; it's probably the one book of hers I have not read.

marraskuu 20, 2011, 6:36 pm

That's a great review of the Van Gogh biography, quite an achievement to read it too. I'm tempted to put it on my long term wishlist as I love the art of that era.
Going back to your book buying in #31-33: Some great titles in there, a few I've read and a few to take note of. The German Mujahid has been on my tbr list since Tad read it.

marraskuu 21, 2011, 7:59 pm

Thanks for the excellent review of the Van Gogh biography. Like others, you've tempted me. I don't read many biographies but this one sounds worthwhile. Still, I think I'll focus on the huge list of to-reads that I already have.

The University Book Store gets most of my book dollars (and that's no small contribution to our tax base on my part!). I really prefer shopping at Elliott Bay or Third Place, but I do like that the U Bookstore is independently owned. And the selection is excellent.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 22, 2011, 4:26 am

Lisa, through reviews and comments here on LT, the author's hypothesis about the cause of Van Gogh's death makes sense. What's more interesting to me, though, is using what is known currently about the brain and mental health issues to try to figure out what was causing Van Gogh's behavior across his whole life. Did the author go into that in as much detail?

Good haul from TPB's. I still have too many unread books so wasn't tempted by the sale this time. It is a super deal, though. Interested in what you're going to say about Obasan. There was a flatness to the narrator's voice that I thought went with how she dealt (or didn't) with her past experiences, and had the effect of making the details that she revealed as that much more devastating to me, the reader. I'm curious as to how you'll respond to it.

And tell me when you're going to read Sea of Poppies. I have it in my collection of unread books, so I'll try to read it at the same time.

Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. I was really interested in the details of morphine addiction in Three Day Road. Because war stories can only be written by survivors or wanna-be's, there's still too much glorification of war, in my opinion, and not enough about not only the harsh realities of war, but also its long-term consequences on both the mental and physical health of soldiers. I enjoyed this book, but the part that slightly annoyed me was the unrealistic representation (and glorification) of their skill as sharp-shooters. Still, I thought the author put together a good story and I was ready to follow the main character all the way home.

marraskuu 25, 2011, 12:23 am

#71 Make sure you have a book prop when you read Van Gogh: The Life, Mark. It's another chunkster. :-) On another note, I started Blankets and got bogged down after the second chapter. I'm going to give it one more go, because I know you and so many others loved it.

#72 Hi Monica! I don't know if I am more interested in Van Gogh's art or his life (although they are so entwined as to be inseparable). After visiting the Rijksmuseum, I was so touched by the letters on display that when I saw this knew biography, I decided to give it a go (over some other tempting choices: Reamde, 1Q84, Cain by Saramago).

#73 Thanks for stopping by, Lois. I have to give the credit for finding Hospital Sketches to Darryl. I have only read her novels. She is a very interesting person, and I wish I knew more about her. I visited her home when I was in my teens, along with Walden Pond etc., but was not thinking then about her feminism, intellect, and career.

#74 Hi Kerry. If you like the art of the period, you might like the Van Gogh book, but it does focus almost entirely on Vincent. Toulouse-Lautrec, Cezanne, and others are mentioned, but even Gauguin is not as fully fleshed out as I might have wished. Although at 900 pages, I am not surprised that they kept their comments about other artists brief! Similarly, the book includes very few plates or inserts of art other than Vincent's. I found myself going to the Internet to find examples of other artists' work of the time in order to remain sequentially placed.

I was intrigued by Tad's review of The German Mujahid too. It just took me a while to get the book. Well worth it.

#75 I just realized that I misread your post about the UB, Ellen. I thought you were saying you prefered UB over TPB because it was independently owned. I need to go correct the post I made on your thread. Sorry!

#76 Hi Bonnie. Surprisingly, the Van Gogh biographers did not explore his mental illness in modern terms very much. Mostly they dealt with his behavior and excerpts of letters to try and portray his moods and behaviors. In the first third of the book, I thought perhaps Vincent might have been on the Autism spectrum from the way they describe him, but they don't mention that possibility. Really, it's only once Vincent is in the asylum that they give the topic much shrift. Then they do talk about temporal lobe epilepsy and the abundant presence of epilepsy in his family. Not so much in terms of modern neural science, but as a social stigma that families tried hard to hide. What amazes me was the prevalence of syphilis in that time and place, and how no one seemed to think twice about marrying or continuing to visit prostitutes. I wonder when it became common knowledge that doing so spread the disease?

I learned of Obasan from you, I think. I'm looking forward to reading it. I visited MOHAI on Tuesday with my dad, and spent the most time in the WWII room reading, including reading about the Japanese internment. It's interesting that we sequestered Japanese families, yet allowed Nisei Japanese to fight in the military. Such a conflicted mindset...

I think I'm going to try and read Sea of Poppies in December at the same time as Mark and a couple of others (but not as a group read, so to speak). I'll drop you a line when I get started.

Good point about the sharpshooting in Three Day Road. I thought it was a stereotype of First Peoples skills and interests.

marraskuu 25, 2011, 12:31 am

Easy misunderstanding to have, Lisa. I think we're on the same page -- wanting to support the indies as much as possible. I can (and frequently do) walk to the UB from my office in less than 10 minutes so it's an easy place to indulge my book-buying impulse. TPB and EB require more planning, but when I'm in either neighborhood, I'm very happy to stop in and give them some of my love, too!

You posted on my thread about the weather. I like what I think of as typical PNW (or PSW for Deb and others in southern BC) drizzle. But this hard rain is for the birds. Actually, I don't think they care for it much either, although I saw some very happy Canada Geese and a lovely pair of Buffleheads on the pond today. They seemed just fine with the rain.

I read Sea of Poppies a couple months ago and really liked it. I'm kind of on the lookout to the next one in the sort-of series.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your dad's visit.

marraskuu 25, 2011, 12:48 am

I reread The Snow Child this week and was struck again by the descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness, the real and complex characters, and the compelling story. I'm trying to get my impressions into a review, but I'm finding it difficult. I want to do the book justice, but can't find the right words.

As background, I've been reading different children's versions of the Snegurotchka, or the Snow Maiden tale:

Koshka's Tales: Stories from Russia by James Mayhew

The Firebird and other Russian Fairy Tales edited and with an introduction by Jacqueline Onassis; illustrated in a traditional Russian style by Boris Zvorykin

First Snow, Magic Snow by John Cech with wonderful Jan Brett-like illustrations by Sharon McGinley-Nally

Favorite Fairy Tales Told in Russian retold by Virginia Haviland

Mysterious Tales of Japan by Rafe Martin and illustrated by Tatsuro Kiuchi

This website has also been interesting:

marraskuu 25, 2011, 12:52 am

#78 Thanks, Ellen. I wish I lived within a 10 minute walk of the UB. It does have a nice selection, and often good bargains. I drive past TPB at least twice a day, so that is my local haunt. I was sad when Elliot Bay changed.

As for birds, let's just say none of them are using my birdbath!

marraskuu 25, 2011, 3:43 pm

Snegurotchka was made into an opera by Rimsky-Korsakoff. Here is one of the snow maiden's arias recorded in 1947 by Valeria Barsova. There are some other interesting clips on YouTube too.

marraskuu 25, 2011, 4:23 pm

Hi Lisa. Happy day after turkey day. I'll be interested in your comments on Obasan when you get to it. Sorry to hear about your extra rainy weather. We've actually been having an exceptionally mild (except for a few snowflakes) November. I'm pretty much liking it.

marraskuu 26, 2011, 12:34 pm

Some Thanksgiving weekend steals:

Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa (loved Housekeeper and the Professor so trying some of her other, darker works)

Time's Arrow by Martin Amis (shortlisted for the Booker, written in reverse chronology, about a Nazi doctor)

Dawn by Elie Wiesel (second book in the Night trilogy)

marraskuu 27, 2011, 5:25 pm

I'm jealous of your re-read of The Snow Child. I've got it on my Wishpot list for the family to peruse but it will have to be a birthday instead of Christmas present given the February publication.

marraskuu 27, 2011, 6:09 pm

90. The Eye in the Door by Pat Barker

Regeneration, the first book in Barker's Regeneration Trilogy, was a tour de force, in which the treatment of WWI shell shocked soldiers is explored through the eyes of army psychologist, Dr. Rivers. Based on many actual people, events, and treatments, the book follows an episode in the life of poet Siegfried Sassoon and his treatment for pacifism by Rivers. In The Eye in the Door the story continues, but the focus shifts away from Sassoon, and lands squarely on Rivers and one of his patients, Billy Prior. Through Rivers' continuing crisis of conscience and Prior's deteriorating condition, this book explores the duality of personality and how it effects those who live in a hostile world, whether at home or at the front.

Billy Prior was a minor figure in Regeneration, but now he becomes a central character. Released from Craiglockhart Hospital due to his asthma, not a cure, Prior is struggling with his constant need for sex and fears of what would happen if he failed to keep his sadistic impulses in check. Despite his sessions with Dr. Rivers, Prior begins to dissociate between a soldier creating a relationship with a young woman and a sexual predator capable of the unthinkable. The result is a fugue state where hours, then days, are lost to Prior's conscious mind, and he fears what he might have done during the lost time. Especially once a childhood friend ends up in jail.

As Dr. Rivers struggles to help Prior and prevent his complete devolvement into a split personality, the doctor also wrestles with his own struggles with integration. Academically he thinks of the terms he and Dr. Head used during their nerve regeneration studies described in Regeneration: protopathic being the state of extreme pain that has an all or nothing quality and is difficult to locate precisely, and epicritic, or the ability to feel gradations and to precisely locate stimuli. The epicritic system provides the body with accurate information and the ability to control the more extreme reactions of the protopathic state.

Inevitably, as time went on, both words had acquired broader meanings so that 'epicritic' came to stand for everything rational, ordered, cerebral, objective, while 'protopathic' referred to the emotional, the sensual, the chaotic, the primitive. In this way the experiment both reflected Rivers's internal divisions and supplied him with a vocabulary in which to express them. He might almost have said with Henry Jekyll: It was on the moral side, and in my own person, that I learned to recognize the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was so radically both...

Eventually Dr. Rivers comes to the conclusion that Perhaps, contrary to what was usually supposed, duality was the stable state; the attempt at integration, dangerous.

As Dr. Rivers strives to help his patients and himself, the British homefront is in a social frenzy. Tiring of the war and eager to lash out, the country focuses on two targets: pacificists and homosexuals. The attack on pacificists leads to arrests and brutal means of forcing them to recant and support the war. The assault on homosexuals takes the form of the infamous "Black Book" with its list of 47,000 supposed homosexuals that were allegedly being blackmailed into helping the Germans, and the Pemberton Billing court case. The result of this social distrust was an Orwellian atmosphere where people feared that Big Brother was watching their private lives though "an eye in the door". The history of the attacks on these groups is both the background to the story and an enlargement upon it. The author is deft in bringing the large and the small together in a seamless manner.

Part historical commentary and part psychological and philosophical studies, The Eye in the Door leaves the reader with much to ponder. While it might not have the simple power of the author's first book in the trilogy, I was not disappointed with the second. I became caught up both in the characters and in the larger historical context. Although I dislike Billy Prior, his struggles highlight the more subtle internal conflicts faced by Dr. Rivers. And once again, I find that I have learned far more history from one of Pat Barker's historical novels than I thought likely. I am savoring the prospect of her last book in the trilogy, The Ghost Road, which one the Booker Prize in 1995.

marraskuu 27, 2011, 6:18 pm

Lisa, I'm glad you so enjoyed The Eye in the Door and kudos to you for your excellent review (thumbed). I read it a couple of months ago and, like you, I'm looking forward to reading the third in the trilogy. Perhaps we can coordinate and figure out a way to make it a shared read in one of the TIOLI challenges. I don't own it (yet), do you?

marraskuu 28, 2011, 3:55 am

lisa, excellent review of Eye in the door - thumbed, I read and enjoyed regeneration a few years ago and have the other two books in the trilogy sitting on my bookshelf. I must get to them next year. I might read Regeneration again as well.

marraskuu 28, 2011, 9:10 am

Excellent review. I enjoyed the trilogy all the more because each novel had its own focus rather than just being a continuation of the previous one.

marraskuu 28, 2011, 4:54 pm

Lisa, catching up late. Fascinated by the Van Gogh biography...some day...

marraskuu 28, 2011, 10:33 pm

I read this trilogy quite a long time ago Lisa and I can't say I remember a lot of it but I do know I liked Regeneration best.

marraskuu 29, 2011, 12:43 am

#82 *wave* to Bonnie

#84 hmm... it is a long time to wait, Tad...

#86 I do own a copy, Ellen. I mistakenly bought The Ghost Road before I realized it was the last in a trilogy! Yes, let's plan for a December read. I haven't looked at the Dec. TIOLI, but I'm sure we can fit it in somewhere. :-)

#87-88 Thanks, Barry and Steven. Although each book does have a separate focus, the evolution of Dr. Rivers seems to be an important thread in the first two books at least. I do think it might be worth rereading Regeneration, Barry, if you can't clearly picture Dr. Rivers in your mind.

#89 Thanks for stopping by, Dan. Yes, it's the type of book that needs the right mood and strength of arm.

#90 Hi Bonnie. Many people have enjoyed Regeneration best, which is why I wanted to explain in my review why I liked it as well. I would have given it an even higher rating, but I just don't like Billy Prior. Silly, huh?

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 29, 2011, 2:31 pm

99. Everything Flows by Vasily Grossman, translated by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler with Anna Aslanyan

My thanks to Rebecca for the recommendation, and as I have nothing to add to her wonderful, succinct review, I shall just enter a few of the thought-provoking passages that I had marked.

Taken from the play in chapter 7 on the nature of informers:

Defense Counsel: But do you know the vilest thing of all about stool pigeons and informers? Do you think it is the bad in them?

No! The most terrible thing is the good in them; the saddest thing is that they are full of merits and good qualities...

This is what is so terrifying; that there is so much good in them, so much good in their human essence.

Whom, then, should we judge? Human nature! Human nature is what engenders these heaps of lies, all this meanness, cowardice, and weakness. But then human nature also engenders what is good, pure, and kind. Informers and stool pigeons are full of virtue, they should all be released and sent home-but how vile they are! Vile for all their virtues, vile even with all their sins absolved... Who was it who made that cruel joke about the proud sound made by the word "Man"?

...But why is all this so painful? Why does our human obscenity make us feel such shame?

On one type of infighting amongst prisoners:

State terror was directed not against those who had committed crimes but against those who, according to the security organs, were somewhat more likely to commit crimes.

Quite distinct from these people were those who really had fought against the Soviet government: elderly Socialist Revolutionaries, Mensheviks, and anarchists; men who had fought for the independence of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and Ukraine; men who had fought under the command of Stepan Bandera.

The Soviet
zeks looked on these men as their enemies. At the same time they could not help admiring men who had been imprisoned for an actual reason.

On freedom:

On either side of the barbed wire freedom seemed immoral.

On the moral fate of collaborators who killed kulaks:

...I asked you how the Germans could send Jewish children to die in the gas chambers: How, I asked, could they live with themselves after that? Could there really be no judgment on them either from man or God? And you said, Only one judgment is passed on the executioner--from looking at his victim as other than human, he ceases to be human himself. He executes the human being inside his own self; his is his own executioner. But--no matter how hard the executioner tries to kill him--his victim remains a human being forever...

On the history of Russia evolving toward less freedom, not more:

The State became the master. The national element moved from the realm of form to the realm of content; it became what was most central and essential, turning the socialist element into a mere wrapping, a verbal husk, an empty shell. Thus was made manifest, with tragic clarity, a sacred law of life: Human freedom stands above everything. There is no end in the world for the sake of which it is permissible to sacrifice human freedom.

There were many other fascinating passages, but without the context, they are just sound bites (as, to a certain extent, are these). I hope, however, that they give you a taste of Grossman's philosophy, which is a partner to his vivid descriptions of gulag life, informers, collectivization, and the tragedy of the kulaks.

Edited to correct review attribution. Sorry Rebecca!

marraskuu 29, 2011, 4:42 am

some thought provoking extracts there Lisa, I have this book on my to buy list.

marraskuu 29, 2011, 8:43 am

Yes, thought provoking and very sad.

marraskuu 29, 2011, 10:09 am

Oh dear, another bullet. Everything Flows sounds (and looks) like a must-read.

marraskuu 29, 2011, 10:13 am

I haven't gotten to any of Grossman's other work yet, but I was an Early Reviewer of The Road (no touchstone for it), which is a collection of his shorter fiction and non-fiction from different stages of his life. His depiction of the Nazi death camp at Treblinka was unforgettable. It sounds like Everything Flows is just as frank but also more philosophical. It is now on my wishlist.

marraskuu 29, 2011, 1:02 pm

I could read everything Vassily Grossman writes, and think I have read almost everything available in English. I agree with Steven that "The Hell of Treblinka" is unforgettable, and Life and Fate is one of my all-time favorites.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 29, 2011, 2:03 pm

Lisa, if we want to do The Ghost Road by Pat Barker in December, we can fit it into Challenge #6. There is another book with the same name, by Tony Abbott. That one is apparently the fourth in "The Haunting of Derek Stone" series, which is apparently a children's series.
I'll have to acquire the book, but I'm game if you are.
eta: I put it on hold at the library.

marraskuu 29, 2011, 1:18 pm

#92: Great review, another that's on my tbr pile. It's rebeccanyc you have to thank for bringing this one to your notice!

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 30, 2011, 10:36 pm

Thanks to Barry, Dan, and Ellen for reading through my Everything Flows quotes.

Steven and Rebecca: I have been hoping for a copy of Life and Fate to cross my path, but I should just go get it. Currently I am reading Kolyma Tales by Shalamov.

Great, Ellen! Just let me know when your copy of The Ghost Road is in, and we'll give it a go.

Well, I'm clearly not on Darryl's bandwagon. I say a copy of 1Q84 for half price and didn't even hesitate. Despite my lingering confusion about The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, I'm looking forward to reading this one. I am going to wait and see if Murakami will be next year's author theme before starting it. It will be nice to have company and comments to help me along.

joulukuu 1, 2011, 12:59 pm

Am trying to catch up Lisa, and had 83 messages on here to read! I will come back and re-read some of your reviews again (the Van Gogh one especially) but had to jump up and down about the books you found at the sale. I read the Stalingrad book in 2004 when my son was a newborn and thought it was fantastic. It also put sleep deprivation and the challenges of new motherhood into perspective! And I really liked The Dark Room and can still remember quite a bit of detail from the stories 3 years later.

Great review of The German Mujahid - I really liked it too.

joulukuu 2, 2011, 2:07 pm

Thank you, Cushla, for visiting despite your recent arrival home and jet lag. I'm looking forward to Stalingrad and The Dark Room as well. Btw, did you ever read Kolyma Tales? I'm reading it now, and it makes our 29 degree F weather seem positively balmy. Staggering what the gulag prisoners had to survive. Or not.

joulukuu 3, 2011, 7:18 pm

Lisa, I picked up my copy of The Ghost Road from the library, but it's going to take me several days to complete The Stranger's Child. I'll give you a shout when I'm close to the transition point.

joulukuu 3, 2011, 9:34 pm

Sounds perfect. I want to finish Kolyma Tales, and I have several reviews to write.

joulukuu 3, 2011, 11:10 pm

Lisa I haven't read Kolyma Tales but now that you and Deborah have both read it and recommended it I will have to. I haven't read The Gulag Archipelago yet either - or anything about the gulags - but want to fix that soon.

#103 Ellen, I hope you're enjoying the Stranger's Child - I loved it!

joulukuu 3, 2011, 11:35 pm

I'm looking forward to your review of Ghost Road. I don't know how I'd feel about it now, but it's one of the few Booker's that I wasn't interested in finishing. I'm sure that was more about me than the author. Case in point, I'm reading The Tiger's Wife and find myself impatient and skipping over parts when the story flits back to the actual tale of The Tiger's Wife. Enjoying the rest of it though.

joulukuu 4, 2011, 8:06 am

Cushla, I haven't read The Gulag Archipelago yet either, although I have it on the TBR, but I highly recommend Gulag by Anne Applebaum, which combines information from secret Soviet archives with quotes from the prisoners themselves.

joulukuu 4, 2011, 11:15 am

Rebecca I remember that you loved that one - I used to pick it up and almost buy it when it was first out. I've just checked and it's available at the library so will definitely be going onto my 2012 list. Stalin's Russia might replace the Nazi Germany theme that seems to have ended up in my 2011 books!

joulukuu 4, 2011, 2:29 pm

Over the past several years, I've been reading about both Stalin's Russia and Nazi Germany (I call it my Horrors of the 20th Century mini-theme), but I seem to find the Russian material more compelling, perhaps because I knew more about Germany to begin with.

joulukuu 4, 2011, 4:58 pm

Hi Lisa, just catching up but wow, you've had some interesting reads lately.

joulukuu 4, 2011, 5:50 pm

Wow, what a great reading month in November! I've been hit by several book bullets. And congratulations on reading the Van Gogh biography.

joulukuu 4, 2011, 7:30 pm

101. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, audiobook performed by Anna Fields

Bel Canto is one of my favorite books, and I have read it at least twice. This time I listened to it as an audio download. I enjoyed the production more than I anticipated, but missed being able to stop and savor a line or bookmark it. That aside, I still think this a wonderful novel.

Roxanne Cosse is a brilliant American opera singer, known throughout the world for her unparalleled arias. An unnamed South American president arranges for Ms. Cosse to perform at a private birthday party for a Japanese businessman with whom the president wishes to seal a deal. Mr. Hosokawa is hardworking and conscientious, with a single interest outside of his work--opera, and he agrees to attend the embassy party, despite knowing that he has no interest in the proposed deal. At the last moment, the president is unable to come, and the vice-president, Reuben Iglesias, is left as the fussy and gracious host at the embassy, which is also his home. Suddenly at the very end of the performance, the lights go out, and eighteen terrorists break into the embassy through the air ducts, hoping to kidnap the president. But the president isn't there.

The plot, which is loosely based on the Lima Crisis of 1996, is engaging, but it is the characters and the relationships that form between them that are the heart of the book. The characters are wonderful, and my favorite is Mr. Hosokawa's translator, Gen Watanabe. Gen is a genius at languages and speaks all the ones represented by the hostages and hostage-takers, making him indispensable to everyone. Quiet, intelligent, and loyal to Mr. Hosokawa, Gen is the facilitator of negotiations and of the relationships developing between hostages, and between the hostages and their captors. The book is not a treatise on the Stockholm Syndrome or any other psychological study. Instead it is about a microcosm of people from different cultures and class, who are forced to interact in ways that would never have happened in the everyday world. The result is a beautifully written tale of fear, love, loss, and acceptance.

joulukuu 4, 2011, 7:58 pm

102. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly, performed by Natalie Ross, Newbery Honor Book (2010)

I listened to this audiobook with my daughter.

Calpurnia Tate is an eleven-year-old girl in love with the natural world and out of sync with the expectations of her traditional Southern mother. Calpurnia discovers that her grandfather, whom she barely knows, shares her love of science, and he begins to mentor her as she explores Mr. Darwin's scandalous book and makes her own increasingly insightful observations of the natural world. At the same time as she wants to spend more time with her grandfather and their experiments, her mother decides it is time for Calpurnia to begin learning to be a lady. As needlework, cooking, and piano recitals prepare Calpurnia for one path in life, she begins to dream of another. How far can a girl's dreams be carried in Texas at the turn of the century?

In the vein of The Penderwicks, this book is lively and features a brave, intelligent girl who makes a strong heroine and role model. Although the quotes from The Origin of the Species that begin each chapter may be difficult for a younger reader, the story itself is compelling simple and old-fashioned in its lack of modern tween angst. My only caution is that the passage where her grandfather recounts his time in the Civil War was a bit abruptly violent.

Highly recommended for young girls and their families.

joulukuu 4, 2011, 8:12 pm

Lisa - Bel Canto is one of my favorites as well. And I will keep Calpurnia Tate in mind. My daughter is seven. Too young?

joulukuu 4, 2011, 9:14 pm

113: I would've loved that book when I was a kid. Maybe I'd love it now too...

joulukuu 4, 2011, 9:32 pm

104. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt, performed by John Pruden

Despite being shortlisted for the Booker Prize this year, or perhaps because of it, I wasn't expecting to read this book. I loved Doc, an historical novel about John Holliday, but otherwise tend not to read in the western genre. When the book popped up at my library as a downloadable audiobook, however, I decided to give it a try.

The Sisters Brothers is a hard book to describe. On the surface it is the story of Charlie and Eli Sisters, hired guns for the powerful and mysterious man known as the Commodore. At the start of the book, Charlie has just received their next assignment: to locate and murder Herman Kermitt Warm. He has been told that Warm stole something valuable of the Commodores, and that the brothers need to retrieve the stolen property.

As the two set off towards California, the natures of the two brothers begin to take shape, and they are unusual and quirky characters. Eli narrates the story of their journey and confrontation with Warm in a reflective and educated voice. At first, I was skeptical of the authenticity of this tone, but as the characters developed it became another idiosyncrasy that helped define Eli. Although Charlie is older and the natural leader, their relationship begins to change as Eli starts to question the Commodore's intentions and the brothers' actions.

If the book had ended twenty pages sooner than it did, I would have declared The Sisters Brothers to be an entertaining read. Personally, however, I found the ending to be contrived and unlikely, even in the unreal world the author created. As a result, the book abruptly ceased to be interesting to me. Others have loved it, and I think it's one of those books you'll either love or dislike.

joulukuu 4, 2011, 10:29 pm

106. Blankets: An Illustrated Novel by Craig Thompson

Well-acclaimed by the press and readers, award-winning Blankets is the story of Craig Thompson, a young man who falls in love with a girl from his Bible camp. He recounts his childhood, first love, and struggles with his belief in God, sometimes chronologically and sometimes through flashbacks. The author grew up in a strict Christian family and suffered some abuse, along with his younger brother, whom he alternately torments and tries to protect.

New to graphic novels, I tend to choose memoirs because they are something familiar and enjoyable. Unfortunately, this author's story is not one that captivated me. I never felt a connection with the characters in the book and stopped reading after the first two chapters. After a few days, I picked it back up and finished all 582 pages. I did laugh on one page, but I just couldn't seem to care about the story enough to form an emotional attachment. There is an interesting discussion happening in some quarters about whether every person's life story (or in this case, first 20 odd years) warrants publication. Perhaps there is something in the art that I missed, but I just didn't find the story unique enough or the author's reflections wise enough to engage me. It's one of those times when I wonder what I'm missing.

joulukuu 5, 2011, 12:21 am

Blankets is on my wishlist because of the rave reviews. So, for me, it's very interesting to read your take. Not sure I will read it, but if I do I will keep your review in mind.

joulukuu 5, 2011, 5:47 am

Bel Canto has been on my wish list for several years; hopefully I'll get to it in the next year or two. I agree with you about the abrupt and improbable ending of The Sisters Brothers. I liked it, but only marginally so.

joulukuu 5, 2011, 12:27 pm

I really loved Bel Canto too, and I didn't expect to. I only read it because a friend gave it to me and urged me to read it; I was skeptical because of all the hype, so it was a delightful surprise when I enjoyed it. I also liked some of Patchett's earlier work, particularly The Patron Saint of Liars, but it isn't up to Bel Canto. I haven't been that intrigued by what she's written after that -- have you read any of her more recent novels?

joulukuu 5, 2011, 12:57 pm

I read State of Wonder last week, and was underwhelmed, but I tend to prefer non-fiction and you literary types might see it differently.

joulukuu 5, 2011, 3:25 pm

I enjoyed Bel Canto when I read it but it wasn't a favorite read of the year for me. I wonder, does the audio book have the arias and musical pieces in it? I think that would make the story come alive a lot more.

joulukuu 5, 2011, 4:02 pm

#105 Cushla, if I were to choose, I would read the books you mentioned in this order: Gulag: A History, Kolyma Tales, Gulag Archipelago. I think Gulag gives a great historical overview, and it's very well written. One of my favorite reads from last year. Kolyma Tales was written by a 17 year survivor of the camps, and is based on his experiences although not all the stories are told in the 1st person. It too is very well written. GA is a classic, but a polemic that needs some context, I think. Anyway, that's my two cents. Another good memoir of the camps is Into the Whirlwind by Yevgenia Ginzberg. It provides an insight into the women's camps. As an aside, Andrei Sakharov's Memoirs are a unique look at the scientific community and dissident movement under Stalin. What else would you suggest, Rebecca? I have Within the Whirlwind (the continuation) and the new uncensored First Circle on my TBR.

#106 Hi Bonnie. Ellen and I will be sure to share our thoughts after our shared read of Ghost Road. Some have said that GR only won the Booker because it was the judges last chance to honor the trilogy. We'll keep you posted!

#109 I too am a frequent reader of German and Russian horror stories: the Holocaust, Ukrainian famine, exile, and Gulags. Have you read Hitler and Stalin by Alan Bullock, Rebecca?

#110 Thanks, Leonie!

#111 Are you interested in Van Gogh, Ardene?

joulukuu 5, 2011, 4:23 pm

#114 Bel Canto's lyrical tone soothes me, despite the subject matter. And the characters are wonderful. How I wish I had Gen's talents with languages! Ah, to be able to read in the original language, sigh. As for Calpurnia Tate, my daughter is eight, Dan, if that helps. I was glad that it was a book we were listening to together so that we could talk about, and fast forward, through the field hospital scenes. I think it I were reading it aloud, I would have skipped those couple of pages. Other than that, it is a wonderful story.

#115 Hi qebo. I enjoyed the book quite a bit as an adult, but I wish it had been around when I was a kid. Calpurnia is such a great character for those who may have had trouble finding their niche as kids.

#118 I've felt like such a curmudgeon lately for not enjoying some well-regarded books as much as others have. I hope that you take my comments with a grain of salt, Dan. I would hate to dissuade someone from a book that she might end up loving. I have a hard time finding a balance between choosing the books I know I will enjoy and challenging myself with books outside my comfort zone.

#119 Thanks for dropping by, Darryl. I hope you do get to Bel Canto. I think you'll like it (again hesitant to predict others' reading responses). It's nice to hear that I'm not alone in my reaction to the ending of The Sisters Brothers.

#120 I guess sometimes books do live up to the hype, but I, too, am always leery. The only other Ann Patchett I've read is Run, which was good, but not a Bel Canto. I've have to keep an eye out for Patron Saint of Liars. Have you started Kolyma Tales yet, Rebecca? I don't know how it compares to Life and Fate, but I'm finding them very powerful and beautifully written. It's amazing what humans can survive and still be human. I can't imagine the process of reintegration. Have you read much about it?

#121 I have heard that about State of Wonder. Have you read The Lost City of Z, qebo? It's on my wishlist.

#122 That's a fantastic idea, Leonie. Unfortunately, the audiobook version of Bel Canto that I listened to did not include the music or arias. I wonder if there is a compilation available somewhere on the web? I know that there are for several of Murakami's books.

joulukuu 5, 2011, 7:16 pm

124: Yeah, this year I've read The River of Doubt, The Lost City of Z, and 1491, all of which I'd highly recommend, then read State of Wonder out of curiosity because of the Amazon setting.

I have a hard time finding a balance between choosing the books I know I will enjoy and challenging myself with books outside my comfort zone.

Me too, and then there's another category of books that I want to have read, but find difficult to actually read...

joulukuu 5, 2011, 8:19 pm

122, 123. I was going to recommend Hitler and Stalin and then I got to your next post. Although about the Nazis, not Stalin, I think The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is a masterpiece. More when not on iPhone.

joulukuu 5, 2011, 8:49 pm

Lisa- Once again, you are knocking out some interesting books. Great review of Bel Canto. I have this one waiting in the stacks. I can't wait to get to it. Sorry, that The Sisters Brothers & Blankets didn't work for you. As you know, I loved them both.
The Lost City of Z was excellent!

joulukuu 5, 2011, 11:53 pm

Hey Lisa. Just trying to catch up..... busy past few days for me. I have The Sisters Brothers on hold at the library and will be interested to see how it goes for me. I'm planning to read Bel Canto for Orange January. I tried it once a few years ago and didn't get into it, but various discussions here on LT have convinced me to give it another try.

I hope to finish The Stranger's Child this week and will pick up The Ghost Road next. So far, I'm enjoying this, my first, Alan Hollinghurst work.

joulukuu 8, 2011, 11:51 pm

I'm looking forward to your review of Kolyma Tales. I have Gulag on my TBR pile, and want to get to it soon. I read The Gulag Archipelago in the 70's, and would like to reread it during my year of rereads next year.

joulukuu 10, 2011, 2:09 am

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for the Gulag recommended reading order you gave to someone else... I haven't read anything about the gulags yet so that's useful to have.

Funnily enough Life and Fate was at a favourite bargain bookshop of mine on Friday and I bought it.

I got through about a third of Blankets earlier in the year then dragged it back to the library. I could have powered through it before the due date but it didn't seem important and I haven't really thought about it since - I really didn't connect with the story.

joulukuu 10, 2011, 12:32 pm

#125 Hi qebo. I too thought River of Doubt was great and have Lost City of Z on my TBR. I read your article on 1491, and it too sounds really good. The link you make with Anne Roosevelt is perfect in tying everything together. Have you read Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus by Samuel Eliot Morison? I read it years ago, and it made a lasting impression on me. Growing up we were still taught that Columbus was a hero (national holiday and all that). Turns out he was not such a great guy and was even sent back to England in chains once. Anyway, it might offer a picture of the other side of the coin to 1491.

#126 To my embarrassment, Rebecca, I have never read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I've been intimidated by it's size. I should read it though.

#127 Thanks for stopping by, Mark. I've been meaning to catch up on your thread, but I'm so far behind it's daunting. I've been wanting to hear what you think is going to happen with the USPS's new plan.

Sometimes we converge in our reading tastes, other times we drift. Vive la difference! I appreciate your encouragement in stretching my reading to include graphic novels and introducing me to BOTNS.

#128 That's some varied reading you have in the queue, Ellen! WWI, a western, and a novel that explores relationships. Btw, I found Bel Canto a bit hard to get into the first time I read it, but found that it picks up and is well worth the wait. I'll look forward to your comments on The Stranger's Child. I've been on the fence about that one.

#129 I hope to get my review of Kolyma Tales done this weekend, Deborah. It was amazing, both in content and writing, and I want to do the book justice in my review. Highly recommended.

#130 Hi,Lisa! People whose tastes are similar to mine have been raving about Life and Fate. It's a recent purchase for me too. Would you like to do a shared read in January?

Now for an update: I need to review Mr. Pip and Kolyma Tales, both of which I enjoyed. I'm currently reading Lloyd Jones' newest book, Hand Me Down World. It's an interesting construct. Short chapters from different characters, each reflecting on her encounters with a woman, Inez. Eventually we hear the story of her life from her perspective, but I haven't gotten there yet.

joulukuu 10, 2011, 4:51 pm

#131 The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is extremely readable, Lisa. Shirer was a journalist who worked in Berlin for much of the Nazi era, and he also did a tremendous amount of investigative work in Nazi and western archives (although he didn't have access to Soviet archives).

joulukuu 10, 2011, 5:23 pm

131: I have not, and it's now on my wishlist, and both LT and Amazon have suggested other books I might like to read, and alas they are right... Curse you. :-) I want to focus on American history in 2012.
132: I haven't read it either... Sigh.

joulukuu 11, 2011, 11:27 am

I ended up being disappointed by The Stranger's Child, but that's like a reflection of the kind of week I had. I'm glad to be done with it. Last night I started reading The Ghost Road. I don't know where you are in your month's reading, Lisa, but I hope we can share reactions to this third in the trilogy. I think Ilana is planning to read it this month, as well.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 12, 2011, 1:49 am

Just had to tell you I came home from the library today with The Concert Ticket by Olga Grushin, which seems to be The Line everywhere else in the world. It was on the newish books display, and all I could remember was that I'd heard of her on here and it was worth a go - but now that I see it's you and remember that you loved it I am even happier! Thanks again to both you and Rebecca for the list of Russian books. I didn't have time to go hunting today (had both the kids with me) but should get a chance soon.

#132 Rebecca, my husband finished The Rise and Fall of the The Reich yesterday and really enjoyed it. He heaved a huge sigh of relief when he got to the end. I want to read it soon (but it might have to wait till I've got through some Russia books.)

joulukuu 12, 2011, 1:21 pm

#132, 135 Sigh, okay, one more chunkster for the TBR heap. Thanks, Rebecca and Cushla.

#133 Well in that case, qebo, you might also try Mornings on Horseback, a McCullough biography about Teddy Roosevelt's youth that I read after the fabulous River of Doubt. Do you know that the author, Candice Miller, has another book out: Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President about James Garfield. Although I'm not usually a presidential biography reader, her writing was so good in RoD that I put it on my list. Other favs of American history include Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West and In the Heart of the Sea: The Tale of the Whaleship Essex. Oh and The great influenza : the epic story of the deadliest plague in history. I had no idea there were mass graves in Philadephia, and nurses being kidnapped off the streets by those afraid to go to the hospital. Hmm, my list tends to be rather eccentric in subject matter. No comprehensive history books. As for me, I have lots of McCullough books I want to read, Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower, and Geoffrey C. Ward's photo laden history books The Civil War and The West (I've only browsed so far). I'm sure as I follow your thread next year, I'll add to this list substantially!

#134 Ok, Ellen, I will start The Ghost Road later today.

#135 Yea! I'm so glad you picked up the Grushin, Cushla. I liked The Line (the title I prefer because it doesn't give away what they are waiting in line for and how people in Russia would queue in any line, just because something will be available) and Dream Life of Sukhanov very much. I think knowing some context of Soviet life is helpful in appreciating the novels, which may be less interesting otherwise. I'll look forward to your impressions.

joulukuu 12, 2011, 1:35 pm

136: Stoooooop! I have Philbrick's Mayflower, expect it to read it in early 2012, also The Island at the Center of the World about the Dutch in Manhattan. I don't have direct ancestry in either case, but close enough to be relevant to my genealogical interests. I heard a bit of Candice Millard's talk at the National Book Festival. drneutron of the 75ers was there too, has read the Garfield book, and recommends it. Someone in RL just mentioned The Great Influenza to me; she read it because a relative died in it. First though I have to wind up 2011, where I'm scrambling to reach 75, so nothing hefty and serious until I'm there.

joulukuu 12, 2011, 2:00 pm

I'm having a hard time keeping up with reviews these days. My time is limited, and I would much rather spend it reading! Finished Hand Me Down World by Lloyd Jones, which was engaging, but not as sweet as Mister Pip. I also zipped through the 663 page graphic novel, Habibi. I enjoyed it much more than Blankets, by the same author. The Arabic calligraphy and Islamic art patterns in Habibi are simply beautiful. More to come.

Plan to start The Ghost Road next, as a shared read with Ellen and maybe Ilana.

joulukuu 12, 2011, 4:43 pm

So far, I'm loving The Ghost Road, Lisa.

I almost bought Hand Me Down World a couple of weeks ago and somehow resisted (very unusual for me...). One does have to make choices with limited reading time available.

joulukuu 12, 2011, 5:32 pm

Hi Lisa, I'm glad to see your list of favorite NF as I read more NF this year than I have ever before now that I've figured out that I love narrative NF. I have some really good ones lined up including Cleopatra by Stacey Schiff, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, River of Doubt, (thanks to you:)The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal, Columbine, and Triangle: the Fire that Changed America, and The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan. Whew, that should keep me pretty busy.

joulukuu 15, 2011, 3:40 pm

Hi Lisa, I gave Hand Me Down World to my sister as a gift recently, she hasn't yet read Mr Pip so I hope she enjoys it, it sounded so interesting. I can understand about the reviews, I've been feeling the same way and prefer to read more than to write. End of year time issues I think, where did 2011 go, only a few weeks left.

joulukuu 16, 2011, 8:12 pm

I also have Mayflower in Mt TBR and want to read Third Reich and the memoirs of Albert Speer.

Speaking of tomes yes I would like to read Life and Fate with you Lisa. I realised I needed a serious reality check when I was moaning (to myself in my head) about having to wrap presents today and buy some yummy food for tomorrow (family Christmas BBQ tomorrow) as I wanted to read - seriously talk about 1st world problems.

joulukuu 20, 2011, 12:01 am

#139 Hi Ellen, did you start a thread to discuss The Ghost Road, or should I just unload here? I finished it yesterday.

#140 Actually, Bonnie the list in post 136 was limited to US NF. Many of my favorite favorites are not on the list because they are about Soviet Russia (Gulag: A History), North Korea (Nothing to Envy and very appropriate today), as well as others. I should try to make a list some time. Have you created such lists? Your 2012 NF line-up is impressive. I've been wanting to read Cleopatra in particular.

#141 I don't think there is any reason your sister would have needed to read Mister Pip first, Leonie. I don't think they are related in any way. *sigh* I would like to start 2012 will a clean slate, but I'm five reviews behind. I may have to write some quick summaries of a couple in order to get caught up by Jan. 1.

#142 It would be fun to do a shared read of Life and Fate, Lisa. I still don't own a copy, but hopefully my hubby will pick it off my wishlist for a holiday gift. Otherwise, I may need to treat myself (something I have a hard time doing). New Year's gifts to one's self are traditional, right? ;-) At the same time, I hear you about 1st world problems. How does one find the balance between giving to others and accepting that we do live in the developed world? Are self denial and guilt necessary in order to be a decent person?

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 20, 2011, 12:08 am

109. Hand Me Down World by Lloyd Jones

Lloyd Jones is best known for his novel, Mister Pip, which was shortlisted for the 2007 Booker Prize. This is the first book he's published since then, and it goes in completely new directions. Hand Me Down World is a social commentary on the fate of illegal immigrants who must struggle to adapt to a new world and a new identity.

The novel begins in a tourist hotel on the beaches of Tunisia. A young woman is describing her friendship with an unnamed colleague who falls in love with a German hotel guest and has a child with him. The narrator recounts that after only a few months, the father returns to Berlin and takes the baby with him. Her friend is devastated and leaves to try and find her son. As the nameless mother moves out of the first narrator's life, the narrative is passed on to the next person to encounter her, and so on, like links in a chain stretching from Tunisia to Berlin. Each of the narrators describes his or her impressions of the woman, as well as the help rendered to the woman on her quest. In each of these vignettes, we learn a little more about the woman whose name may or may not be Ines. Through other people's perspectives, the author creates a character layer by layer. Then, just as you are comfortable with the character you think you know, Ines finally speaks and tells her own story.

This style of narration works well for the story of an immigrant's journey. Being unable to speak the language makes the immigrant entirely dependent on those she encounters. Dependent on them for her safety, for food and money, for safe passage, and for whatever compassion she can find. Living in constant fear, the immigrant must learn whom to trust for what and when. It is an especially difficult life for a young woman on her own.

I am always leery when reading books by male authors writing in women's voices, especially when the protagonist is from a culture different from the author's own. How authentic can such a story be? I thought Lloyd Jones pulled it off well in Mister Pip and fairly well here as well. Hand Me Down World is a touching portrayal of society's fringes where immigrants, the homeless, and members of minority cultures have very little control over their lives or their voices. Everything is handed down to them, regardless of the fit.


joulukuu 20, 2011, 12:58 am

110. Habibi by Craig Thompson

Habibi is an ambitious undertaking, with the author attempting to portray many of the world's ills, from the treatment of women and Africans in the strictest (unnamed) Muslim country to environmental concerns such as water pollution and garbage dumps. In addition, the author attempts to depict similarities between stories in the Hebrew Bible/New Testament and the Quran. For instance, he compares the story of Abraham and the sacrifice of his son in parallel religious traditions in a visual and simple way. I found this thread of the story to be the most interesting.

The main characters of the story are Dodola, a young girl sold into marriage at a very young age, and who subsequently is forced into prostitution and sexual slavery. And the orphan toddler, Zam, whom she rescues from a slave auction and nurtures until he is twelve. The two are then separated for six years, and when they are reunited they form an unusual love relationship.

Habibi is a beautifully drawn graphic novel with extensive calligraphy and Islamic design elements. I decided to read the book simply from it's cover and a glance at a few pages. For this reason alone, I would recommend reading it. However, I found aspects of the story to be disturbing, especially the transition from a maternal relationship to a sexual one. In addition, I often felt adrift, as the novel takes place in an unnamed place in a time that seems to be both historic and modern. Unfettered with any ties to the real world, the novel seems to move in arbitrary ways that push the plot forward, but in ways that feel surreal. I think a push from the editor for narrative clarity and purpose would have been helpful. I also think that it is a beautifully designed book that could attract readers who wouldn't typically read a graphic novel.

Qualified recommendation.

joulukuu 20, 2011, 1:30 am

We recently went to see a stage performance of the musical Annie Get Your Gun with my daughter. We were all interested in knowing the story of the real Annie Oakley, and so I checked this book out of the library:

Bull's Eye: A Photobiography of Annie Oakley by Sue Macy

There are many gaps in the historical record regarding the woman known as Annie Oakley. Even her real last name is uncertain. Sue Macy manages to weave together the facts with bits from the writings of Annie and her husband, Frank Butler. Carefully noting what is hearsay and avoiding sentimentality, the author depicts both Annie's incredible skill and subsequent career and her role as a strong advocate for woman (though not necessarily women's rights) and a generous donor to children from impoverished families such as her own had been. The photographs are marvelous and a wonderful way to pull children into the story.

joulukuu 20, 2011, 8:32 am

Lisa - I was selfishly hoping you would review Mister Pip, which is hidden somewhere in my TBR. It does sound like you liked it a lot more than Hand me Down World. (??)

joulukuu 20, 2011, 8:37 am

Thanks for the interesting reviews, Lisa!

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 20, 2011, 11:14 am

Hi Lisa. I didn't start a thread for The Ghost Road --- I'd love to hear/read what you thought. I'll certainly chime in (and I think I made some comments on my thread, but I have to admit I can get a bit overwhelmed with all the threads I'm trying to follow!).

eta: Here is what I wrote -- I think I forgot to do an actual review of this one!:
I know there is some controversy over whether The Ghost Road is the best of the novels in Pat Barker's Regeneration Trilogy (it's the one that won the Booker). Much of its emotional power comes from the accumulated knowledge we gain of Rivers and Prior -- and the accumulated devastation of the war -- through the trilogy. In my opinion, this novel alone is good. As a finale for the trilogy, it's great.

joulukuu 20, 2011, 11:28 am

Excellent review of Hand Me Down World Lisa.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 20, 2011, 11:47 am

I loved your review of Hand Me Down World, Lisa; I might buy it next week.

joulukuu 20, 2011, 12:14 pm

Excellent review of Hand Me Down World - I went and gave you a thumb. :-)

joulukuu 20, 2011, 1:56 pm

#151. What happened to your book buying ban??????

joulukuu 20, 2011, 4:24 pm

The rules clearly state that the Book Buying Ban is suspended on Boxing Day, also known as Book Buying Binge Day, which will be held in NYC once again this year. Several of the 75ers will meet for a fortifying lunch (Scarpina on University Place near NYU's campus at noon, if anyone is interested in joining us), which will be followed by a full frontal assault on The Strand (a.k.a. Strand Bookstore), along with thousands of New Yorkers and NYC wannabes. Bring your book bags and elbow pads.

joulukuu 20, 2011, 7:19 pm

>143 labfs39: I read Nothing to Envy just about a year ago and thought about all I learned about that country when the news broke about Kim Jong Il.

Excellent reviews Lisa. I smiled reading about you and your daughter reading about Annie Oakley because it reminded me about a time when my daughter was around seven and chose to do a report on ...Annie Oakley. In addition to researching her I think we had to come up with a costume for a re-enactment. Very pleasant memories.

joulukuu 20, 2011, 9:08 pm

Hi Lisa- I'm so glad you liked Habibi. Great review. I just picked it up from the library a few days ago and hope to start it over the weekend.
Also, a good review of Hand Me Down World. Sounds interesting.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 20, 2011, 11:39 pm

Lisa, I see you're reading Sea of Poppies -- probably one of my most memorable reads in 2011. I hope you enjoy it. I'm still interested to hear what you thought of The Ghost Road. I'm thinking you thought less of it than I did.

joulukuu 21, 2011, 12:10 am

#147 You are right, Dan. I did skip reviewing Mister Pip as well as Kolyma Tales and The Ghost Road. I've been trying to catch up, so I decided to do the easier reviews first. The others I want to spend more time on.

I don't know that I liked Mister Pip more than Hand Me Down World, it's just that they are two very different books. Mister Pip was heartwarming and charming, despite the darker undertones that slowly take over the narrator's world. Despite war's intrusion, however, the book is a testament to hope. Hand Me Down World, on the other hand, is bleak. Life is hard and stays hard. The few rays of goodwill that the narrators describe are illusions. The book ends with a reconciliation of sorts, but one that will bring equal shares of joy and pain. I guess I would describe it as more gritty. I'm glad I read both of them.

#148 Thank you, Rebecca!

#149 Hi, Ellen. I did read those comments on your thread. I'm afraid I didn't have the same reaction as you. I found The Ghost Road to be the least interesting because it lacked the philosophical and psychological threads of the previous books. It did wrap up loose ends. I'll try to get my thoughts together and write a proper review. This is such a hard month for me to get any thinking done...

#150-152 Thank you, Barry, Darryl, and Ellen!

#153 Hmm, if you wait til January 1st are you safe?

joulukuu 21, 2011, 12:22 am

#154 Ah, I knew there had to be some explanation! Boxing Day, that's it!

#155 Nothing to Envy has been on my mind too, Bonnie. I read about people crying in the streets, and it makes a modicum of sense given what I learned in the book. So little is known about the son, I don't know whether things will get better or worse for the North Koreans.

How serendipitous about your daughter and mine! Katie is eight. :-) I'm glad they chose/are choosing to read about strong women.

#156 Well, Mark, my reactions were mixed, but I'm glad I read Habibi. Some of the artwork is incredible. Arabic poetry filling the outline of a woman, ink turning into tears or rain. And the references at the end of the book show that Thompson did try to learn about the meaning of the Arabic, not just copy the calligraphy.

#157 I started Sea of Poppies on audio, which I'm not sure was the best choice of medium for this book. I find myself jumping back to listen to a passage again to catch it all, and I wish I could bookmark the pages. I own the book, so I turn to it whenever I want to think about a passage more thoroughly. Perhaps I should ditch the audio completely. It's a fantastic book so far. I can't wait to get back to it.

joulukuu 21, 2011, 12:29 am

I'm a Friend of our local library, and I was the host for the Dickens' Carolers on Saturday. It was a fun performance, though I did purchase far too many refreshments. I made a display of his books with a sign noting that 2012 is the 200th anniversary of Dickens birth, something the librarian didn't know. Hmm. I would like to try and read a couple Dickens' next year. Are any of you doing something similar? I'm not up for a book a month, but the anniversary is a good excuse to read one I haven't read before and maybe reread Bleak House. It used to be a favorite, but honestly I don't remember much about it know.

joulukuu 21, 2011, 8:24 am

#160 - I may have overbooked by 2012, but I'm interested. I haven't read Dickens.

re 158 (these threads can get very confusing :) ) good luck with your reviews and interesting thoughts on Lloyd Jones's books.

joulukuu 21, 2011, 8:30 am

I'll be reading Great Expectations in February with the 12 in 12 Category Challenge group as well as The Mystery of Edwin Drood with my non-LT reading group. The scheduling was at my suggestion in both cases, as there doesn't seem to be much awareness of the anniversary. I'm currently reading Nicholas Nickleby. I'd like to read Hard Times as well.

Of the half-dozen or so Dickens novels I've read so far, Bleak House is my favorite.

joulukuu 21, 2011, 8:32 am

#155, 159 I thought about Nothing to Envy too, and especially when I read somewhere "everyone has pictures of Kim Jong Il in their homes" as though that meant they liked him, not that they were required to have them and that their cleanliness and prominence were routinely inspected!

joulukuu 21, 2011, 8:40 am

155,159,163: Seems this was good year to read Nothing to Envy.
145: Habibi appeals to me because of the art, but your review adds to my previous reservations.

joulukuu 21, 2011, 8:40 am

Lisa #160, I also didn't realise it was Dickens' 200th birthday next year. I will try and fit Bleak House into my schedule for next year.

joulukuu 21, 2011, 5:39 pm

#161 I've been horrible the last few months about reviewing in a timely and chronological order, Dan. But I figure it's best to get some ideas down, even if it isn't my best.

#162 We have a similar plan, Steven. I have Nicholas Nickleby and Hard Times on my shelves. I think those are the two I'm going to try and read in 2012.

#163 What do you think is going to happen in North Korea, Rebecca? Any predictions? I haven't had time to read more than the headlines lately.

#164 It is beautiful art, qebo. You might borrow Habibi from the library and just browse the art, skipping the narrative. FYI, there are some pages related to the narrative that are quite sexually and violently graphic. At least IMHO. I don't what the norm is for graphic novels.

#165 Hi, Barry. We'll have to have an online party for old Dickens in Feb. Maybe everyone can submit their favorite quotes or a photo of their edition of Bleak House. :-)

joulukuu 21, 2011, 9:53 pm

I'm going to be reading Bleak House as well as a couple of others Lisa and maybe follow up with the Tomalin biography.

joulukuu 22, 2011, 7:14 am

#166, I don't have a clue what's going to happen in North Korea, and I'm not sure that anyone else does either. Eventually, it's going to fall apart, but whether that's sooner or later, who knows?

joulukuu 23, 2011, 11:04 am

I think I'm going to try to fit Nothing to Envy into my early 2012 reading.

Lisa, I can't imagine reading Sea of Poppies in audio -- although it may get easier as you get further into the novel. I've put River of Smoke on hold at the library, hoping it comes available in time for the Group Read in April.

joulukuu 25, 2011, 6:45 am

Merry Christmas, Lisa!

joulukuu 25, 2011, 9:26 am

Happy Holidays!

joulukuu 25, 2011, 1:12 pm

Merry Christmas, Lisa!

joulukuu 25, 2011, 8:11 pm

Merry Christmas, Lisa! Hope you had a great day! I started Habibi. I like it so far!

joulukuu 28, 2011, 1:53 pm

Happy Holidays, everyone!

#167 Bonnie, Bleak House seems to be the Dickens to read currently. It was a favorite, but I'll need to reread to tell you why. :-p I'm looking forward to your review of the Tomalin biography. Several people have said they are going to be reading it.

#169 I think Nothing to Envy is an excellent book, Ellen, and now even more timely. I gave up on the Sea of Poppies audio (oops, almost wrote Sea of Poopies!) and am now reading the book. It's much easier for me to read in print. I'm going to start looking for River of Smoke too. I wonder how long the library line is...

#173 Oh, Mark, I am so far behind in your thread, that I get discouraged just thinking about it, and then I get more behind. I do read your hot reviews though. Hope you had some time off at the holidays and didn't have to work too much. Isn't the artwork in Habibi amazing?

joulukuu 28, 2011, 2:29 pm

oops, almost wrote Sea of Poopies! LOL!

I'm #110 in the queue for 35 copies. I have it suspended until the first of April because I think that's when the GR will occur. I love that the SPL will let one suspend a hold but keep moving up in the queue. It gives one a little more control over when the book arrives.

joulukuu 28, 2011, 2:45 pm

Received a few books in the last week:

Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill by Dimitri Verhulst, translated from the Dutch by David Colmer (finished Monday night)

Beautiful story of a widowed woman who chooses solitude after her husband's death, much to the bemusement of the villagers among whom she lives. Wonderful language that made me stop and reread lines just for the sound of them.

Dita Saxova by Arnošt Lustig, translated from the Czech by Jeanne Nemcová and/or author, rev. and expanded edition

Lustig is one of my favorite authors, and I've been looking for this book for a few years. Hubby went online and voilà! Dita Saxova is the story of an 18 year old concentration camp survivor, her struggles to make her way in post WWII Prague, and her efforts to deal with the trauma of her past.

Mister Blue, or The Old Grief in the original French, by Jacques Poulin (Canadian), translated from the French by Sheila Fischman

I fell in love with this author after reading Translation is a Love Affair. I have also read his Spring Tides. This novel is about a lonely author with writer's block who lives on an island with his cat, Mister Blue. Then one day they discover a copy of The Arabian Nights and things change.

Life and Fate, by Vasily Grossman, translated from the Russian by Robert Chandler

Need I saw more? Some of you have recommended it in the highest of terms. I liked Everything Flows and look forward to this, Grossman's magnus opus. NYRB writes "A book judged so dangerous in the Soviet Union that not only the manuscript but the ribbons on which it had been typed were confiscated by the state." The story is about a family during the battle of Stalingrad and their fates afterward as they are scattered from Germany to Siberia. Might read Stalingrad by Antony Beevor after as a followup.

joulukuu 28, 2011, 5:34 pm

Catching up here...

I yearn for a film version of Bel Canto.
Little Women is in line for 2012 (I'm embarrassed to say I don't think it's a reread) so I'm interested to learn of Alcott's Hospital Sketches.
Had one, now I have two by Jacques Poulin in my wishlist on your recommendation. (Mister Blue looks like a nice Archipelago edition.)
And interesting about Craig Thompson -- that Blankets has too little story (I agree) while Habibi is ambitious. You have hooked me on the artwork aspect.

joulukuu 28, 2011, 11:53 pm

113. Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill by Dimitri Verhulst

If the love of your life were to die while you were still young, how would you choose to live the remainder of your life?

Madame Verona, as she is known to the villagers, is not a native of the hamlet at the foot of the mountain. She and her husband have bought a remote house and surrounding woods because "'this is a house you could die in and it's a house you could be unhappy in. We'd be mad not to take it'". Deeply in love, the couple didn't realize how soon their off-hand remark would come to be.

When the abandoned were still lovers, they had sworn that they didn't want to live without each other, they had given each other power of attorney over the meaning of their existence and the disappearance of one would have cried out for the disappearance of the other. With the elderly that is often a natural process: if one drops dead, the other hurries to the grave without any extra effort on their part. But young adults are not yet capable of dying like swans; their hearts are able to bear grief...

For Madame Verona, who always has a stray dog at her heals, it is the dog's needs that keep her moving forward, step by step, "and so, before she knew it, Madame Verona had been drawn into living on for her allotted span."

The majority of the story is told from the perspective of members of the village. Vignettes of life in the little community are wonderfully pastoral and funny, and their interactions with and opinions of Madame Verona are simple and askew. The story moves between the villagers' perspective and Madame Verona's memories and present thoughts to create a pastiche that is charming but not cloying. Without melodrama, the author writes of love and grief and life in a way that encompasses the noble and the mundane.

Being from a small town myself, I couldn't help but chuckle at the oddities and tall tales of the villagers, and I loved the simple and sonorous language of the book. Often, I would read passages aloud and savor the sounds and images. In less than 150 pages, I was entertained and touched by the lives and loves of the characters. Warm and gentle, this novel was a wonderful holiday read.

joulukuu 29, 2011, 7:02 am

Enjoyed your review of Madam Verona Comes Down the Hill. Warm and gentle sounds good to me.

joulukuu 29, 2011, 4:58 pm

wow I typed out a message to you last night - wonder where it went?

Madame Verona and Dita Saxova are now on my wishlist (I also checked and they are both available at the library too!) Yay I'm glad you have a copy of Life and Fate... how do you feel about reading it from February? I've got a small pile of books as birthday and Christmas gifts and if I don't read them right away people will be hurt - plus there is the possibility I won't read them at all (thinking of Mr Pip circa birthday of '08)

joulukuu 30, 2011, 12:34 am

#175 Thanks, Ellen, I didn't realize their was going to be a group read of River of Smoke. I put a copy on hold at KCLS yesterday. I'm the 61st hold on 32 copies. I'm jealous about the postpone feature offered by SPL. It sounds ideal.

#177 Hi, MJ: A film version of Bel Canto could be really good, or really bad. I would like it if it were like the Age of Innocence movie with Daniel Day-Lewis. It was true to the book and even quoted chunks of dialogue, yet was still a good movie. I'm not sure I would want too many liberties taken with the text of Bel. Or for it to become just about romance. For me, the issue of loyalty, where between soldier and general, translator and boss, or between people who survive loss, is an important one. Hmm, maybe I'm just too picky to even suggest what it should be like! What do I know about film making?

I'll be interested to see what you make of Little Women as an adult reader. I was about 10 when I first read it, and I read it many times growing up, so my perspective is tinted with adolescent fervor. I'm not sure what I would think reading it for the first time now. Oh, and if you like Katherine Hepburn, you should see the old black and white version with Kate as Jo. After you read the book of course!

I have three books by Poulin now: Translation is a Love Affair, Spring Tides, and now Mister Blue. All three are Archipelago copies. I love the feel of their books. Nicely done.

I'm looking forward to seeing what you think of Habibi. I want to say I think you'll love it, but I don't want to jinx you!

#179 Thanks, Barry!

#180 Sorry, Lisa, I hate it when that happens. Thanks for rewriting your post. I have a similar problem with my reading choices right now: I have two ER books to review, plus a couple of gift books. Fortunately, Life and Fate is one of them. I could wait until February (I think!), if you want to do a shared read. Did you ever get around to reading Mr. Pip, or is still on the pile?

joulukuu 30, 2011, 1:42 am

I didn't realize that SPL and KCLS are not the same system, but I see that they are. And the only Archipelago book I've ever had is The Twin and I so agree; it's a pleasure to hold (haven't read it yet, though).

joulukuu 30, 2011, 10:44 am

Lovely review of Madame Verona. And I like this phrase from the excerpt, "not yet capable of dying like swans"

joulukuu 30, 2011, 5:34 pm

I love those quotes from Madame Veronica..., Lisa.

joulukuu 30, 2011, 5:51 pm

You're collecting Archipelago books, Lisa, and I'm collecting Europa books. It's all good. Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill sounds delightful so onto the teetering tower it goes:)

joulukuu 30, 2011, 7:59 pm

>lisa if you like Katherine Hepburn, you should see the old black and white version with Kate as Jo
gratefully noted!

joulukuu 30, 2011, 10:16 pm

#182 Hi Ellen, I didn't realize that SPL and KCLS are not the same system And never the twain shall meet. I've never figured out why Seattle isn't part of King County's system, but there you have it. Did you know that SPL was one of the first public libraries to being using LT and importing tags?

#183 Thanks, Dan. His writing can be dramatic, in a tongue in cheek way. The hint of wicked wit leavens what could otherwise be overly sentimental. For instance, the use of the phrase if one drops dead changes the mood of the rather dramatic sentence coming before. Then he hits us with the phrase you noted (not yet capable of dying like swans), which made me stop and savor for a moment. And all of this is in one paragraph.

#184 Merci, Bonnie no. 1

#185 Hello, Bonnie no. 2 Actually I like Europa Editions too. It just depends on which I find first. :-)

#187 I liked that version much more than the Winona Ryder version.

joulukuu 31, 2011, 12:12 am

Lisa, not only did I not realize that, I'm not entirely sure what it means! *sheepish smirk*

I'm a huge fan of SPL (and coincidentally, I used to live in Corvallis, OR, and SPL "stole" our head librarian from us -- I think she later went to work for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation after setting up a number of new programs, changes, and new buildings in the Seattle system). Loved her work in Corvallis, love the system she established in Seattle. Still, we are in King County, so what's that about? (rhetorical question).

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 4, 2022, 6:01 pm

112. Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker, published in 1940.

From a distantly remembered review and the book flap, I began reading Miss Hargreaves expecting a light British comedy. Instead, I discovered a rather dark exploration of the relationship between a creator and his creation, how that relationship can change, and how fiercely a creator might protect his work. What begins as a rather funny "what if" story turns dark, as the main characters' lives are destroyed.

Norman Huntley is a quiet, rather immature, twenty something, who lives at home and works as the organist in the town's cathedral. When not practicing his music, Norman can often be found in his father's bookshop. Cornelius is a wonderful musician, an addled eccentric, and a teller of wild stories about his past. His is also a believer in the power of creation.

'Always be careful, my boy, what you make up. Life's more full of things made up on the Spur of the Moment than most people realize. Beware of the Spur of the Moment. It may turn and rend you.'

But Norman doesn't heed his father's warning and continues to make up stories and people.

At this point I think Henry comes in. Henry Beddow is my oldest friend; at school together, and so on. He's my age, but he's much more of a lad than I am... The real link between Henry and me is that we both have a pretty fanciful imagination.

While on vacation in Ireland, the two young men wander into a dark and dismal church in order to escape a sudden downpour. The sexton takes them on a tour of the small place, and in a pet of boredom, Norman begins talking about his dear friend, Constance Hargreaves, and Henry is quick to play along. Between them, they embellish on their tale until they have fleshed out a complete description of an elderly lady with odd habits and intellectual pursuits. On a lark, Norman even writes a letter to Miss Hargreaves and posts it to a real hotel where they imagine her to be. Shock and dismay great the two when they return home and Norman finds waiting a telegram from Miss Hargreaves announcing her imminent arrival for a visit.

At first, Norman is proud of his creation and of his own ability to create.

My gosh! I thought - how grand God must have felt when He'd said 'let there be light' - and it worked. After all that darkness, how He must have revelled in His new creation, making things because He'd made light and now had got nothing to look at in the new light.

But creation also implies a certain responsibility. Once let loose upon the world, one's ideas are no longer easy to control or modify. If the ideas become twisted, how does one retrieve them from the world?

I enjoyed the novel's story line, which is reminiscent of Frankenstein, and the occasional point of philosophical questioning. At times, however, I became bored with the predictable plot and Norman's endless vacillation. My final impression is of a clever premise not as well executed as it might have been.

My review

joulukuu 31, 2011, 9:24 pm

Happy New Year LIsa!

tammikuu 1, 2012, 2:09 am

#188 I agree, Ellen, Deborah Jacobs made some interesting changes. I met her a couple of times at the foundation, but never got to know her. I think she's still there.

#190 Same to you, Leonie!

tammikuu 1, 2012, 2:15 am

With only 50 minutes left in 2011, I must admit defeat. I had wanted to finish the three reviews I have outstanding and begin the new year afresh. Not going to happen. *sigh* There's always next year.

Now on to celebrate a wonderful year of reading. Thanks to you, I've read more books, been introduced to more new authors, and learned a lot from our discussions. I'm looking forward to more of the same. Bring it on!

Reading Review for 2011

113 books read ( 1 book more than last year)

67.3% fiction (76)
16.8% nonfiction (19)
11.5% children's/YA books (13)
4.4% graphic novels (5)
(Of these 6 were on audio)

55% female authors (62)
45% male authors (51)

34.5% by non American/ British authors (39 books from 25 countries):
Afghani: 2
Algerian: 1
Azerbaijani: 1
Canadian: 1
Czech: 1
Dutch: 2
Ethiopian: 1
French: 4
German: 1
Hungarian: 3
Iranian: 3
Israeli: 1
Italian: 2
Japanese: 1
Korean: 1
Lebanese: 2
Mauritanian: 1
New Zealand: 2
Pakistani: 2
Palestinian: 1
Portuguese: 1
Russian: 3
Sierra Leonean: 1
Sudanese: 1
Ukrainian: 1

Authors with multiple works read:
Brian Jacques: 2
Connie Willis: 4
Craig Thompson: 2 (graphic novels)
Elias Khoury: 2
Eva Ibbotson: 2
Jennifer L. Holm: 3 (trilogy)
J.K. Rowling: 3 (series)
Lloyd Jones: 2
Olga Grushin: 2
Pat Barker: 3 (trilogy)

98 different authors
73 new-to-me authors
10 rereads

tammikuu 1, 2012, 7:59 am

192: With only 50 minutes left in 2011, I must admit defeat. I had wanted to finish the three reviews I have outstanding and begin the new year afresh. Not going to happen. *sigh* There's always next year.

Sighing in sympathy. I left 2011 with two reviews undone.

tammikuu 1, 2012, 9:54 am

Happy New Year, Lisa! I love the top 10 list! There is several there I need to add to my WL. It's great to see Matterhorn at the top. It was my favorite read of '10.

tammikuu 1, 2012, 12:05 pm

#194 Don't you hate that?!

#195 Thanks, Mark, you too. Did you see that I have added a graphic novel category to my end-of-the-year summary?

I wanted to try the new thread starter, but I can't find it. So I'm just going to post a regular old link. Hope to see you on my 2012 Club Read thread.

tammikuu 1, 2012, 12:31 pm

113 books that's impressive Lisa. I will see you at club read 2012

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 8, 2012, 11:23 pm

#191 - not that it matters, but I believe Deb Jacobs left SPL to work for a large international philanthropical foundation run by a local husband-wife team who are, um, somewhat well-known......

I love your top-list for 2011, Lisa. I've only read one in there (Regeneration, also one of my top reads of the year), but there are several on my must-get-to list.....

edited to correct a typo

tammikuu 8, 2012, 11:41 pm

She did, and I met her a few times when I worked there. She seemed nice, but I never really got to know her.

And just so you know, my new thread is here. Hope to see you there!