Vivienne's reading in 2019
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Rossland, one of the many ski resort towns around here. This one has a wonderful winter festival in January. I love how the mountains turn pink at sunset.
I can also be found at the Category Challenge here
Read in January:
1. Shatter the bones by Stuart MacBride 4★
2. Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie 4★
3. The Professor and the Madman: a tale of murder, insanity, and the making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester 4.5★
4. Becoming by Michelle Obama 5★
5. Queenpin by Megan Abbott 4★
6. Black Book by Ian Rankin 4★
7. The Healer by Antti Tuomainen 3.5★
8. Rounding the mark by Andrea Camilleri 4★
9. Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje 4★
10. Vivienne - Gently Where She Lay by Alan Hunter 3.5★
11. The Radium Girls: the dark story of America's shining women by Kate Moore 2.5★
12. Best of Women's Short Stories 2 narrated by Harriet Walter 4.5★
13. The Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller 4.5★
14. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink 4.5★
Read in February:
15. The Janissary tree by Jason Goodwin 3.5★
16. Mozart's brain and the fighter pilot by Richard M. Restak 4★
17. The Chessmen by Peter May 4.5★
18. Sidetracked by Henning Mankell 4★
19. Flower net by Lisa See 3★
20. The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie 3.5★
21. Thinking like a mountain by Robert Bateman 2★
22. I think I love you by Allison Pearson 3.5★
23. Paris for one and other stories by JoJo Moyes 3.5★
24. On writing by Stephen King 4★
25. Never hit a jellyfish with a spade: how to survive life's smaller challenges by Guy Browning 3.5★
26. A room full of bones by Elly Griffiths 4★
27. The cat who came in from the cold by J. Moussaieff Masson 3★
28. Winter Chill by Jon Cleary 4★
29. The Shrimp and the Anemone by L.P. Hartley 4.5★
30. Cold is the Grave by Peter Robinson 4.5★
31. Point Blanc: the Graphic Novel by Anthony Horowitz 4★
32. A Likely Story by Jenn McKinley 2.5★
33. Summer of '69 by Todd Strasser 4★
34. This was a Man by Jeffery Archer 4.5★
35. In Other Words: How I Fell in Love with Canada One Book at a Time by Anna Porter 4.5★
36. Best of Women's Short Stories 3 3★
37. The Secret Place by Tana French 4★
38. The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly 4★
39. Lost words: a spell book by Robert MacFarlane, illustrated by Jackie Morris 5★
40. Into the beautiful north by Luis A. Urrea 4.5★
41. Pretense by John Di Frances 2★
42. The boy in the striped pyjamas by John Boyne 4.5★
43. The Children's Homer: the adventures of Odysseus and the tale of Troy by Padraic Colum 4★
44. Blowing the bloody doors off and other lessons in life by Michael Caine 4★
45. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides 4.5★
Read in April:
46. The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout 2.5★
47. Homes: a refugee story by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah 4★
48. Ordeal by innocence by Agatha Christie 4★
49. Circe by Madeleine Miller 4.5★
50. Thirty-three teeth by Colin Cotterill 3.5★
51. The Lost Man by Jane Harper 4★
52. Some lie and some die by Ruth Rendell 3★
53. Milkman by Anna Burns 5★
54. The truth and lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr 1★
55. Something in the water by Catherine Steadman 4★
Read in May
56. The golden tresses of the dead by Alan Bradley 4★
57. High Plains Tango by Robert James Waller 3★
58. The sixth heaven by L.P. Hartley 4★
59. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster 3★
60. Great job, Mom! by Holman Wang 5★
61. What are you doing, Benny? by Cary Fagan and Kady Macdonald Denton 4★
62. Death of a Valentine by M.C. Beaton 3.5★
63. Hamlet by William Shakespeare 4★
64. Solo Hand by Bill Moody 3.5★
65. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen 4★
66. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters 3★
67. Death of an Effendi by Michael Pearce 3★
68. Aftermath by Peter Robinson 2★
>4 dchaikin: I was expecting to enjoy the novel but that just didn't happen. While I found the subject fascinating, and the book well-researched and comprehensive, I found Moore's writing repetitive, overwrought and with too many characters. I felt bad giving this book a low rating, when so many young women suffered greatly in providing the story, but just it didn't work for me.
Note: Before switching to the print version, I listened to the first part of the audio version but found Angela Brazil's reading absolutely unbearable.
>5 avaland: Thank you, it's good to be back. Isn't The Chess Men the third in the trilogy? I thought The Black House was the first. Have I got it backwards?
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Before beginning I did a little review of the Trojan Wars just as a reminder but really it was unncecessary, Miller's storytelling skills are outstanding. As expected it's an excellent tale, but Miller enhances the action, the tenderness, the love story, to new levels.
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
This novel is set in post-war Germany where a teenage boy forms a relationship with an older woman. He reads aloud to her and she comments on the books although he doesn't get to know much about her. Only much later as a law student he finds out more about her life before he knew her. In a well-reasoned manner, the story weighs degrees of guilt.
The author says: "Since the book came out, I have been facing the charge that in the character of Hanna Schmitz, the perpetrator becomes a heroine and gets an unacceptably human face. But if the perpetrators were all monsters, the world would be simple."
I saw the movie years ago and was delighted to find the book. With its beautifully lyrical writing it more than lived up to expectations.
Well that's disappointing.
(What is this book even about?)
The Mozart reference was about Mozart being able to play a piece of music after hearing it only once. There were only three copies of the music all held by the Vatican so it was not possible for him to have seen it. The power of memory! I'd like a bit of that.
The Chessmen by Peter May
I had a couple of issues with this book, the final volume of the Lewis Trilogy, but the quality of the overall story and writing won me over. A number of flashbacks were a bit confusing, and a detailed past for Fin that was never mentioned in the first two books suggested the author didn't plan well. That Fin chose to keep information to himself throughout the investigation was unreasonable and would have got him bumped off taking the secret to the grave in many other mystery novels. However, May's characters are excellent and he describes the Hebrides so well that it's almost like being there. For that he gets credit.
The ending doesn't suggest any additional volumes but doesn't exactly close the door on the idea, leaving me with hope that I'll read about Fin and Mairsaili at some later date.
The secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie
International political intrigue and murder, laced with a hint of romance, set mostly in Lord Caterham's country home of Chimneys. Written in 1925 before Christie reached her prime, this is still a very enjoyable golden age mystery.
Thinking like a mountain by Robert Bateman
The essays describing his youth were the best in the book. It is obvious that as he aged, he has become more preachy. On long-term conservation Bateman claims "politicians can't see beyond the next election" yet it's often the electorate who provide opposition to long-term plans. At first glance some of the essays appeared to relate pleasant stories about nature, which I would have enjoyed, but turned negative as the author contemplates how humans are destroying nature. He also claims our public transit system isn't working (as far as the environment is concerned), yet omits mentioning that many public transit systems are much less threatening to the environment than the internal combustion engine in cars. Living on an island as he does, I wonder just how often Bateman takes the bus or train. For such a small book he squeezed in a lot of pessimism and some ideas that could bear rethinking. Using his fame as a nature artist to lecture on the effects humans are having on the environment, turned this into a disappointing read.
I think I love you by Allison Pearson
The first half of the book is set in Wales in the 1970s where thirteen year old Petra and her friend Sharon are besotted with, obsessed by, David Cassidy. They have an encyclopedic knowledge of him based on their reading of The Essential David Cassidy Magazine unaware that the material is made up and spouted by a young wannabe journalist, Bill Finn. Pearson's young Cassidy fans are portrayed perfectly, down to their colour-coordinated nails. There are many humorous moments where we might recognize our young selves no matter who or what created the obsession. Pearson rendered the teenage girls and the 1974 stage perfectly, right down to the Mary Quant eyeshadow (that I remember well). The girls enter a contest, sure they will win a trip to California to meet the beloved Cassidy. Before the results are known, they sneak off to a concert where a girl is killed in the crush, which brings the worship crashing to a halt.
Twenty-four years later, Petra finds a letter from the magazine that her mother kept hidden informing her that she won the contest. This one-time, Cassidy fan, now music therapist, goes in search of the magazine to claim her prize. The resulting trip forms the second half of the story that examines how we change, how we stay the same, and accepting the results. A slow section around the middle allows the reader to take in Petra, Sharon, and Bill's current lives but the pace picks up again when they fly to California. I adored Sharon, honest and forthright to a fault.
Unfortunately I can't remember who recommended this book to me. I've had it for a few years because I've never had the slightest interest in David Cassidy nor have I seen him in any of his tv shows. I’ve no idea what he looks like or sounds like. Sorry I waited, it was more than the chick-lit that I expected. I really enjoyed Pearson's funny, bittersweet story. I'm sure Cassidy fans would enjoy it even more.
Paris for one and other stories by JoJo Moyes
Nell is a timid woman in her mid-twenties who hasn't travelled or made any big decisions in her life. After overhearing her boyfriend joke about her unadventurous ways, she surprises him with two tickets to Paris for a long weekend. During the journey, he sends her texts about being delayed and eventually the weasel stood her up. Nell is faced with the prospect of staying in the hotel room the entire time, or facing the formidable front desk clerk for advice. Bravely, she went out for dinner alone, and from there she progressed step by tiny step, never to look back. The main story was accompanied by ten short stories, all irresistible and with just a hint of romance.
Favourite quote: "I realized I couldn't marry a man without a bookshelf"
This was a very enjoyable read for We Need a Break challenge.
On writing: a memoir of the craft by Stephen King
A great book about King's writing experience since he was a child. It is mainly biographical but has some excellent advice on writing too. I really enjoyed this audiobook narrated by the author.
Favourite quote: "This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit."
Never hit a jellyfish with a spade: how to survive life's smaller challenges by Guy Browning
I couldn't resist a book with a title as weird as this one. It's a hilarious "how to" book although most of the advice, while right on the mark, is not meant to be taken literally. Even if "How to flatter" or "How to be romantic" is not on your need to know list, Browning's advice will entertain royally. If you appreciate British humour, or even if you don't, this will tickle. Every line was funny. Fortunately it was very short, too much would be akin to a sugar high.
Mine was an audiobook read magnificently by Simon Vance.
A room full of bones by Elly Griffiths
Not my favourite Ruth Galloway tale - not enough archaeology, too many relationship threads. However, the colourful characters, suggestions of spells and wizardry keep this series vibrant. Griffiths gets a pat on the back for keeping the issue alive in support of repatriating Aboriginal bones held in museums.
The cat who came in from the cold by J. Moussaieff Masson
A philosophical tale that will particularly appeal to cat lovers. Billi (the Indian name for "cat") is an Indian feral cat who has been observing a family of "two-foots" and is curious to know what it would be like to live with them. He spends months travelling and questioning other animals but none has anything good to report about the way they are treated by humans. Despite this, Billi is not put off. "I would like to associate with two-foots but I don't want to do anything for two-foots. I must be allowed to come and go as I please." In other words Billi is typical of the cats that share our lives.
I read this to fill a Bingo challenge for a fairy tale or fable.
Winter Chill by Jon Cleary
In this novel, Scobie Malone is investigating the death of the president of the American Bar Association who was in Sydney for a conference with a thousand other lawyers. When the person who found the body and one of Malone's team are also murdered, the job becomes much more challenging. It's an interesting look at an Australian police investigation with an American interest, all wrapped up with the appealing Scobie Malone.
It's no surprise that the Scobie Malone mysteries were penned by a giant of Australian books and movies. His first important work was The Sundowners (1951), made into an acclaimed movie in 1960 starring Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum.
Cold is the Grave by Peter Robinson
Full of surprises, this page-turner is one to keep the reader up late. It is a complex mystery without being convoluted, enough twists to keep the interest level without getting too bewildering or inconceivable. The outcome was a surprise but it fit completely without being forced. I've enjoyed all Robinson's Inpector Banks books, maybe this one more than the others. Enjoyed Annie Cabbot's presence in this one too, as well as all the references to music that had me checking my own collection.
I've noticed your name on FictFact, my name there is VeeJay, just so you'll know who I am.
My December Early Reviewer snag:
Summer of '69 by Todd Strasser
The sixties are spoken of so often that we think we know, or remember, what life was like. To many they represent the halcyon days of youth but for Lucas Baker and his friends they were not so idyllic or carefree but filled with uncertainty. With his long hair he is regarded as a hippie to be scorned or threatened by more traditional types, and handles things badly if he happens to be tripping on acid, which is often. Just out of high school, he applied to one college to be near his girlfriend but failed to secure a place there, too late to apply to another. That makes him draft material, and Vietnam looms.
Strasser captured the essence of 1969 when a new generation was beginning to evolve and wield their influence. He illustrated the difference between this new crop of kids and their parents, many of whom were WWII veterans, proud of what they accomplished in that war and since. This was a different kind of war, made obvious in the graphic letters from a friend in 'Nam. And when they returned - if they returned - veterans were not revered as the older generation had been in '45. Young men like Lucas were constantly thinking about being drafted and seeking alternatives such as an illegal move to Canada, self-harm, or any weird thing that would make the army turn them down. Lucas often considered cutting off a finger and stopped eating in an attempt to appear too scrawny to fight. His frequent drug use and long hair didn't endear him to anyone - except perhaps the reader. And his straight girlfriend Robin was one of those who were not impressed. When she is away at camp his letters to her are full of undying love and promises to cut his drug use, while hers are what amount to Dear Johns. All the while he is being seriously tempted by Tinsley, a proponent of free love. The culmination of the story was Lucas and Tinsley at Woodstock, related vividly through the author's first hand participation.
Strasser held my interest throughout and I enjoyed this return to 1969, although living in the UK gave me a different experience of life than what Lucas had. Our current teenagers, another generational shift, would probably enjoy this account of an iconic year even more.
This was a Man by Jeffery Archer
This is the 7th and final volume in the Clifton Chronicles - an exceptional culmination to an exceptional series. The story follows the Clifton family from early 20th century to the Thatcher era. Archer's personal life has given him the information necessary to write knowledgeably about politics, aristocracy, and high-powered business. Combined with his remarkable writing talent, the series is nothing less than addictive. It was a nice touch to have Harry Clifton writing his last novel that he titled Heads You Win, actually the title of Archer's latest novel. And I loved Lady Virginia's intricate unprincipled dealings.
It is recommended to read the series in order, the books are not standalones.
I haven’t read anything by Archer in years. And I remember enjoying what I read.
I'm sure your brothers have more to say about Woodstock than Strasser. I thought my daughter-in-law would like to read about it but really, it was a short passage and she has probably read much more about it in other places. What surprised me was the amount of drug use throughout the book, which was non-existent in my youth.
In Other Words: How I Fell in Love with Canada One Book at a Time by Anna Porter
Arriving in Canada in 1968, Anna Porter managed to secure a job with McClelland & Stewart, a publisher aiming to whip up interest in Canadian authors. In this chatty memoir she describes her experiences with writers like Leonard Cohen, Pierre Berton (Poo Bear), Margaret Laurence, Margaret Atwood and countless others. Porter was in at the beginning of many books, helping the authors personally with publicity and encouragement throughout the process. And she has much to say about the flamboyant Jack McClelland who said he published authors, not books. Eventually in 1980 Porter started Key Porter Books. This is a delightful warmhearted memoir celebrating her achievements and that of many memorable Canadian authors. The perfect opportunity to learn more about them.
Interesting! I started kindergarten in 1968, and I think in all my school (and home) reading the only Canadian book we covered was the Secret World of Og by Pierre Berton (my bff loved it but it whisked over my head like a shooting star). I didn't start actually reading Canadian books until probably in my 30s. I have a great background in British literarture, and too much US literature.
Remind me when you moved to Canada?
Best of Women's Short Stories 3
Ten excellent stories by Wilkie Collins, Edith Wharton, Louisa May Alcott, Sabine Baring-Gould, Marcel Proust, and Katherine Mansfield. However, not quite as good as volume 2. Outstanding narration by Juliet Stevenson, Harriet Walter, and others.
I was intrigued by Perilous Play by Louisa May Alcott, where a group of socialites get together to enjoy hashish bonbons. Rose (one of the characters said to be based on Alcott) tries the hashish because "I hoped it would make me soft and lovable, like other women. I'm tired of being a lonely statue." It ends with her love interest declaring, "Heaven bless hashish if its dreams end like this!" Her accurate description of the effects suggests Alcott a familiarity with the drug. Alcott scholar Madeline Stern states that at the time it was freely available at six cents a stick.
The Secret Place by Tana French
As much of a character study as a mystery, French can really get inside the heads of both detectives and schoolgirls. The silent interpersonal skirmishes between detectives Stephen Moran and Antoinette Conroy are as eloquent as the over-the-top rivalry among attention-seeking teen suspects. Although the investigation takes place at a girls boarding school in a single day, with some flashbacks, it's a doorstop of a book and could have done with some trimming. French has proved herself to be an excellent writer but parts of this book didn't win my heart: I didn't see the point in the supernatural elements and the "teenspeak" was just too prolific. Still, even with those criticisms this was another great novel from Tana French.
It was so disappointing (insulting?) to find male authors in Best of Women's Short Stories 3. If that had been the first volume, I'd never have continued. A dismal finale.
The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly
This was Cleverly's first novel and maybe that was the reason I determined who the perpetrator was (or who I wanted it to be) quite early. The reasoning was trickier but she pulled it off with the help of Scotland Yard detective Joe Sandilands. I love the era and setting of the British Raj and Cleverly did a great job of taking the reader to 1920s India.
I've read Cleverly's Laetitia Talbot mysteries, but this was my first Joe Sandilands and I intend to keep reading
Looks like this will be my book of the month:
Lost words: a spell book by Robert MacFarlane, illustrated by Jackie Morris
This oversize book is simply gorgeous. In a recent edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary, some words related to nature were dropped in favour of words like blog, attachment, broadband, and bullet-point.
To have words from the natural world lost to the language of children only to be replaced by those of a virtual world is a concern. MacFarlane has taken some of these lost words, spelled them out in poetry to be read aloud and conjured back into memory and the mind.
The illustrations by Jackie Morris are magnificent, a perfect match for MacFarlane's poetry. This is a book that will be appreciated by all ages and will be read over and over again.
As flake is to blizzard, as
Curve is to sphere, as knot is to net, as
One is to many, as coin is to money, as
bird is to flock, as
Rock is to mountain, as drop is to fountain, as
spring is to to river, as glint is to glitter, as
Near is to far, as wind is to weather, as
feather is to flight, as light is to star, as
kindness is to good, so acorn is to wood.
Into the beautiful north by Luis A. Urrea
A beautiful story of the search for seven "magnificent" men (like the movie) to protect a Mexican village where most of the men have gone to the U.S. leaving it at the mercy of criminals in the drug trade. Nayeli and her friends bravely set off for the U.S. to find and bring the seven back to Mexico. I thought this would be a sad tale but although there are moments of anguish and misery there is much lighthearted humour to lift the spirits. Recommended highly.
>79 VivienneR: that review got me thinking. Looking at my own kids (11 and 9), I think it's not just the internet that is reducing and changing their vocabulary (although for sure that definitely is), but also the quality of children's fiction nowadays. My younger daughter was suffering from headaches a couple of weeks ago so I offered to read to her during the hour before bedtime when she normally reads herself. She first handed me one of her Dork Diary books (which are all the rage for girls in that age group), and I got as far as finishing one paragraph before I put it down and told her it was such rubbish I wasn't going to read her any more and to hand me something else. It was full of (sorry American friends) American teen-talk like "she's totally not my BFF any more", and I was shocked at how dumbed down the writing was and yet the series is a best seller. I notice in our large bookshop in town that so many celebrities are also now on the bandwagon of writing children's fiction as well, and surprise surprise most of them aren't that good at it.
Anyway, we've started into Anne of Green Gables instead, and now you mention it in your review of Lost Words it was night and day between the descriptive words in that versus the complete lack of decent literary descriptions in the Dork Diaries nonsense, and also the likes of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. I would say that some of the language is quite advanced for that age group in Anne, but that's exactly how kids soak up new words and expand their vocabulary.
I mean, I grew up with Enid Blyton and Nancy Drew. There's no question that the middle grades fiction is better now! Have you discovered A Series of Unfortunate Events yet?
I agree to an extent with your point, but I remain disappointed with how many poorly written books are promoted for kids now because some premiership footballer wrote it, for instance. And I'd also take Enid Blyton any day over Dork Diaries! :) But it's different times now, and whether I like it or not my daughter loves all that eye-roll / BFF nonsense that she catches on Nickelodeon at my parents' house, so I get why kids like it.
I do agree that it's important to have books that encourage reading interest in reluctant readers, but my concern is that the likes of Captain Underpants may not encourage a movement on to more challenging reading. When my son was doing his entrance exam for grammar school last year and had to do English comprehension on the kind of children's literature I would have been more familiar with as a child, a lot of the language was just totally unknown to him as he'd not ever read anything like that before except for a few books they'd done in school - it was quite a shock to me. Now, at almost 12, despite being very capable academically, he'll still only finish something like a Wimpy kid book - anything else feels too much like hard work. Is it good that at least he's reading something, or is it encouraging lazy, easy reading?
Sorry Vivienne - hijacking your thread conversation!
>84 RidgewayGirl: sounds like a really good programme, Kay. And I completely agree on your 'worthy' books comment. I have to rein myself in on that every now and again and accept that my kids have to be able to choose what they want to read and stop being a Tiger mother.
I grew up on Enid Blyton and when my son was a seven-year-old I told him about the books I'd read. The next time we were in a bookshop he chose an Enid Blyton and was immediately hooked. He's been a reader ever since although nowadays only non-fiction. He's also a good writer and became a journalist. We spend a lot of time discussing books. Not so long ago he bought me a set of Blyton's books just so that I could revisit my childhood, and although it was a while before I opened them, I enjoyed them all over again. No, they are not perfect but the she used good English with no slang in an exciting story that was not "dumbed down".
I'm reminded of George Orwell's essay "Good Bad Books" where he gave examples of books that have no literary pretensions but remain readable (Uncle Tom's Cabin, Sherlock Holmes) that he anticipated would outlive authors such as Virginia Woolf. Maybe good bad books are a jumping-off spot for some readers although it's a shame that they get so much recognition (and bad bad books get even more).
>82 RidgewayGirl: Good for you to take the time to share your enthusiasm for reading by encouraging young readers.
>85 haydninvienna: Isn't it interesting to see how siblings develop so differently yet had the same influences.
>86 AlisonY: There is something in what you say in about some of being wired to become readers. Just keep up the good work with your youngsters, Alison.
The worthy books conversation is interesting. Again, YA was a lot different when my kid was a YA, mostly Harry Potter as I remember. He liked sf a lot, and those Jeff Shaara Civil War novels, and we'd read adult stuff with teen characters that wasn't too off the charts, like Empire of the Sun and This Boy's Life. There's so much more to choose from now.
>89 NanaCC: I'm impressed too, Colleen. I wish him success. A reading partner would be a good idea (hint, hint).
The boy in the striped pyjamas by John Boyne
The book and movie have been around for several years but this was my first experience of the story. Bruno, the camp commandant's son, finds a friend on the other side of the fence. I believe in 9-year-old Bruno's naiveté that is questioned by some, after all, the entire world was just as ignorant. This is a powerful, moving novel, unforgettable, right to the tragic end.
Included are words such as attachment, block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player and voice-mail.
I will watch out for MacFarlane's Landmarks.
Blowing the bloody doors off and other lessons in life by Michael Caine
Actors' biographies or memoirs don't usually interest me, but Caine's memoir is unpretentious, self-effacing and light-hearted throughout, a pleasure to read. There is no resting on laurels or blowing his horn, he recognizes exactly what he is, a cockney lad who was lucky enough to find his passion. Now in his 85th year, he looks back on his life and shares the lessons he learned. Wise and funny at the same time, his voice is evident on every page.
The title comes from a bit of acting advice for stage actors on a film set. On stage they need to be big and loud, but screen actors must be more restrained: "Don't blow up the whole car. You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off."
>96 VivienneR: - after reading Educated & Born a Crime and enjoying them so much, and also because my daughter gave me Becoming* for Christmas and everyone raves about it, I think I'm going to make 2019 the year of reading biographies again. I hadn't heard of this one and have put it on the list. Thanks!
*once again, LT can't touchstone a famous book. Weird.
Did you see the film The Trip where they keep speaking in Michael Caine accents? I love this clip:
LOL I just watched it again and he says "You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!"
Thank you for that clip, it's hilarious. I don't think I've seen that movie. Michael Caine actually explained the accent. Apparently most people speak from the diaphragm and produce a deeper sound, while Cockneys speak from higher up giving them a high-pitched sound. In the clip the guy on the left reproduces both perfectly. Great clip!
It was also interesting that for one movie set in the US, he had to tone down the Cockney accent so that he would be understood by Americans.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
I'm not going to review this psychological thriller because I've no idea where to start without spoiling some part of it. It's a real page-turner and uses a plot that I haven't come across before in all my years of reading mysteries. I love getting a nice surprise like that. 4.5 stars - maybe it should be a 5 but I'll keep that in hand for Michaelides next book, which I hope is soon.
A great end to March.
Homes: a refugee story by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah
Abu Bakr is an appealing boy whose family moved to Syria in 2010 when life became too dangerous for Sunnis in Shi'a dominated Iraq. When civil war erupts in Syria, his happy life shared with cousins and filled with the normal activities of a 10 year old is punctuated by gunfire, bombs and incessant danger. Somehow soccer, prayer, happy Friday night rituals mingle with the horrors of war to become part of life.
Eventually the family are delighted to be accepted as refugees by Canada and after a long journey arrive in Edmonton, Alberta. There are many difficulties to be faced in the new country too. He was introduced to a translation app to help communicate the briefest conversation. My heart went out to Abu Bakr and his family. The reader is happy that they found a safe haven, but we are reminded of the many who are still seeking refuge. When he told the story of his past to teacher Winnie Yeung, she offered to write it for him. His young voice comes through clearly in this captivating story about his family and his life.
Circe by Madeline Miller
Before reading this, my knowledge of the Greek myths consisted of bits and pieces that I had to fit together like a jigsaw in my mind. Miller has not only put them all the characters in context for me, but produced a narrative that flows beautifully. The story of Circe, daughter of Helios the sun god, has been retold in a way no one else has ever achieved. Like Miller's Song of Achilles, I can recommend this one heartily.
I loved The song of Achilles when I read it a few years back -- Miller made the whole Trojan war seem so fresh and new (as opposed to old news). My SO loved it, too, and she's not one for Ancient stuff. She recently acquired Circe, too, and suggested it could be a jointly owned book...
>112 NanaCC: I didn't know a family membership was available. What a great way to share books. My son only reads paper books and that's what we share. In most cases I've forgotten the original owner, but he always says it doesn't matter, they are our books.
Thirty-three teeth by Colin Cotterill
Having thirty three teeth, as Buddha had, indicates being born as a bridge to the spirit world. Turns out, Dr Siri also has the requisite number giving him mystic connections. This is a delightful story about the national coroner of Laos and his comrades. The mystery isn't up to much but that doesn't matter, the story is fun.
>118 NanaCC: Cotterill's books are so much fun. A frequent phrase was "Hot, isn't it?" "Damned hot!" Then I followed up with Jane Harper's even hotter climate. :) Of Harper's books I enjoyed The Dry and The Lost Man best.
Milkman by Anna Burns
There is so much to say about Milkman that it would be easy to write a thesis: a perfect candidate for courageous book clubs and reading groups.
The image Burns has created is chilling when every spoken word, every gesture, quirk or mannerism can be interpreted as being on the "wrong" side. And when an innocent reputation can be sabotaged simply by having an uninvited companion from the "other side" tag along on walks. The previously insignificant woman is now regarded as a threat, with gossip and rumour enlarging the infamy. The potential retribution is frightening, all the more so because it is threatened, imagined. Burns describes a way of life that is real, as it has been for many in communities and countries held in sway or influenced by terrorist groups.
Milkman is not an easy read. It is "middle sister's" stream of consciousness account consisting of long unbroken passages, long sentences and long paragraphs. It also contains local idiom, not exactly dialect, but turns of phrase common in Northern Ireland. There are many occasions when middle sister's soliloquy induces a smile. While certainly not funny, her recovery after poisoning by tablet girl is one of those times. However challenging this innovative book is, the reward is clearly evident after reading the first few pages.
One of the interesting aspects of Burns' novel is that none of the characters are named. It was clever to give the villain the soubriquet of "milkman", a person who is often seen as an anonymous perpetrator, always around and seemingly harmless. It may be limited to Northern Ireland humour, but the child who doesn't resemble the rest of the family is jokingly attributed to the milkman.
Congratulations to Anna Burns for her well-deserved win of the Man Booker Prize with this clever, perceptive, intelligent book.
Something in the water by Catherine Steadman
Erin and Mark are enjoying a scuba diving expedition while on a luxurious honeymoon in Bora Bora when they find a bag full of money and diamonds. The decisions they make soon become complicated. They both acted remarkably foolhardy but Erin's actions especially made me want to shake some sense into her. Athough it could have been a tighter story, it was filled with suspense, a real page turner.
>80 VivienneR: I really liked the sound of Into the Beautiful North and made a note of it ages ago but never got to it, so I'm glad to hear you liked it. Time to push it up the list I think.
>108 VivienneR: I just read Circe myself and loved it. I wish it didn't take so long between Miller's books, but then I guess it's worth waiting for quality.
>122 VivienneR: Milkman really sounds interesting from all I've seen about it recently, though I can't decide whether it sounds like something I'd like or not. I'm getting tempted though.
I hope Miller continues with the topic. I loved Circe and The Song of Achilles. Can't decide if I liked one more than the other, or even which one that would be.
Milkman will be one of those books that have readers polarized - either loving it or hating it, with few in betweens. I knew that I was one of the former after the first few pages. I hope you give it a try.
I expected that it would be difficult for Burns to write a book set in West Belfast without including a lot of typical Norin' Iron slang, and from your review it sounds like that's the case. Mind you, Lucy Caldwell I think also includes quite a lot of NI sayings but many Club Readers have enjoyed her work, so perhaps it's more the stream of consciousness style that makes it a little hard work.
I'll have to get to it soon to find out for myself!
LOL. I've tried that trick with books for my book club that were popular or esteemed in Canada and had a tough time hunting down a copy. My success depends on how stubborn I am. Of course, once you buy a new copy, full price, then the used bookshops have zillions of copies. Or you could go to Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon
Oh my - that Powell's Books site. That is actually a proper book city, isn't it? But expensive, or is that just with the FX conversion? Shipping aside, Milkman would be the equivalent of GBP £12, whereas it can be bought on Amazon for just under £6.
Sorry Vivienne - hijacking your thread...
>130 AlisonY: Wow, that is quite a $$ difference. I was going to add that I meant for you to take a trip there, but then a someone dropped by so I just hit "send." Ordering it from Powells would be cheaper than a trip to the western US, but if you're ever in the neighbourhood, Powells is worth 3-4 hours. It's a 6 hour drive for me, so I've only been once. They had every obscure used book on my list though, so that was exciting.
>131 Nickelini: Feel free to to hijack! My Australian friend is visiting so reading has come to a complete standstill. I'll be back in a week or so to catch up on everyone's threads.
High Plains Tango by Robert James Waller
This is the third in the Bridges of Madison County series. I haven't read the first two so cannot comment on how this one compares. Waller's writing has a dreamy, flowery quality, and like the overly romantic story, it is not to everyone's taste. Carlisle McMillan, the son of of Robert Kincaid (Bridges of Madison County) is a drifter who settles down in a small town and perfectly restores an abandoned house. Carlisle's idealistic life contrasts sharply with the land speculators and developers who plan to ruin his peaceful life.
It's difficult to form an opinion of the story. The characters are either real rotters or they are unbelievably good, or beautiful, or talented, or intelligent. However, this novel has allowed Waller to bang his drum against development and destruction of nature.
In the struggle for domination, one bystander said of the standoff "It was a first-class tango."
Great job, Mom! by Holman Wang 5★
Not only is this a beautiful picture book featuring Mom, two children and pets, but the reader will learn the names of some jobs taken care of by Mom: carpenter, general, scientist and more. The unique illustrations are the best feature.
The part I liked best is Behind the Scenes at the end of the book that might inspire young artists. Wang shows how he makes the models, sets the scene and then photographs the results for the book's illustrations. Some are photographed with a short focal length against a real life background in his home or outdoors. The mountains on the cover are those seen from Vancouver. Five stars!
What are you doing, Benny? by Cary Fagan and Kady Macdonald Denton 4★
Benny and his little brother are two beautifully illustrated young foxes. Benny is always doing something interesting but will not let his young sibling join in - until the end of the book. I would like to have seen more positive responses from Benny although this is often how it happens with real life siblings. The colourful detailed illustrations give the characters lots of expression and make up for the lack of encouraging message in the text.
The Sixth Heaven by L.P. Hartley
(Is it Hartley or Eustace who is keeping a seventh heaven in reserve?)
In this, the second part of the trilogy Eustace and Hilda, the story resumes with Eustace a languid undergraduate at Oxford and Hilda running a clinic for "crippled" children. They are invited to a weekend visit with the upper-crust Stavely family who awed Eustace, the impressionable child, on the beach of Anchorstone. Hartley conveys the delicate class distinctions that fill the weekend with anxiety. Eustace is willing to see it through if it means a liaison between Hilda and Dick Stavely who go for a distressingly prolonged plane trip. The simple yet subtle story is captivating.
Although a trilogy originally published separately between 1944 and 1947, the three volumes have been published as one book with the title Eustace and Hilda since 1958.
13 new books, eh? Will it be harder to limit yourself to only 13 or to select that many?
Thank you, Colleen. I usually forget mine but someone else mentioned their thingaversary just a couple of days ago and it jogged my memory. Like you, I don't have any trouble buying books, there is rarely a week goes by without new titles added to the shelves.
Solo Hand by Bill Moody
After enjoying one of Moody's mystery series last year I went back to the first in the series. This one takes place as world-class jazz pianist Evan Horne is recovering from an injury to his right hand leaving him unable to play but allowing him plenty of time to investigate a case of blackmail against his friend and fellow jazz musician. There is much name-dropping and casual references to familiar names in the jazz world. It's obvious Moody knows his stuff where the recording business is concerned when a royalties scam is uncovered. Evan Horne, aided by his flight attendant neighbour, Cindy, make a fine pair of investigators.
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
I just longed to get to the end of this one. Two thirds into the book I wanted to abandon it but I felt I had too much time invested in it so kept on going. What a slog!
Set in 1922 the story begins with a mother and daughter in straitened circumstances being forced to open their home to lodgers. The background of genteel poverty opens up many opportunities, after all, it's been a topic for many writers in the history of English literature, but Waters can't pull it off. The characters, are poorly developed, the writing is repetitive and overwrought, there is just too much going on and even then it's boring, especially the graphic sex element. The bloody parts were bloodier than the seriously grisly crime novel I'm reading. Far too long, it could have been cut by half and would have been improved.
What I didn't like about this book would fill pages. However, Juliet Stevenson's flawless narration raised my rating far above what it would have been if I'd read the print version.
I try not to do that, but I TOTALLY do that! I tend to give a bit more leeway to writers who have won high accolades (reader or critic). And some authors write books that are very different from their other books, so I try to give them a bigger chance . . . so many books to read though, I certainly don't need to keep trying, do I! (I'm looking at you, JM Coetzee)
Death of an Effendi by Michael Pearce
A confusing tale that would have been clearer if I was more familiar with the history and politics of 20th century Egypt. However, this political mystery set in 1909 shows that not much has changed in politics when the governments of other countries are involved.
The Go Between by L.P. Hartley
Marcelo in the real world by Francisco X. Stork
The dancing floor by John Buchan
from the FOL booksale:
Catch a falling clown by Stuart Kaminsky
The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English
Fallout by Sadie Jones
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
The Way Through the Woods by Colin Dexter
The Daughters of Cain by Colin Dexter
Harbour Street by Ann Cleeves
From A to X by John Berger
The Rose Rent by Ellis Peters
A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders
Half a Life by V.S. Naipaul
Miguel Street by V.S. Naipaul
Saint Thomas Aquinas by G.K. Chesterton
Aftermath by Peter Robinson
Had I known that this novel was inspired by an infamous Canadian crime from the 1990s I would not have read it. It annoys me when authors create stories (and make money) from recent real life crimes where individuals are still suffering. Robinson even mentions that horrific crime on more than one occasion. For this reason I find it difficult to rate this book rationally, and even more irrationally, to think kindly of Banks.
Cheap shot, Robinson.