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This is my sixth year on CR and I just love being part of this group of eclectic readers. So, thanks for having me. I have never been this late to the game as this year, though.
I'm a teacher of English and mathematics at a German high school and I'm in my thirties. I tend to read more fiction than non-fiction, but I generally enjoy both. My reading is all over the board and I'm interested in a wide range of topics. You'll probably find me reading classics as well as popular fiction. I finish every book that I start and I will be reviewing everything I've read here.
Each year I set some reading goals for myself and my challenge for this year will be quite simple:
1. Read a book with more than 1,000 pages. This is something I do every year and there have been so many amazing recommendations for which book that could be last year that I intend to read (at least) one of the books on that list.
2. Read at least 7,500 pages. In past years this goal read "read 25 books", but as I tend to read lots of bigger tomes I'm going for a change this year.
Reducing the TBR pile: This year's challenge (to be updated)
Finished in 2019
#1: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen ()
#2: Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King ()
#3: Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff ()
#4: The Innocent by David Baldacci ()
#5: The Hit by David Baldacci ()
#6: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher ()
#7: Bag of Bones by Stephen King ()
#8: Origin by Dan Brown ()
#9: The Target by David Baldacci ()
#10: Augustus by John Williams ()
#11: Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension by Matt Parker ()
#12: California by Edan Lepucki ()
#13: The Guilty by David Baldacci ()
#14: End Game by David Baldacci ()
#15: East of Eden by John Steinbeck ()
#16: The Rooster Bar by John Grisham ()
#17: Camino Island by John Grisham ()
#18: A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin ()
#19: The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King ()
#20: The Fallen by David Baldacci ()
Books read: 20
Pages read: 12,414
Books read: 17
Pages read: 9,373
Books read: 18
Pages read: 6,403
Books read: 28
Pages read: 10,426
Books read: 20
Pages read: 8,280
Books read: 27
Pages read: 7,164
Books read: 26
Pages read: 11,618
Books with 1000+ pages
- A Suitable Boy, suggested by Liz, seconded by avaland and dukedom
- The Tale of Genji, suggested by Liz
- Bleak House, suggested by Liz
- Kristin Lavransdatter, suggested by Liz
- The Count of Monte Christo, suggested by Liz
- Les Misérables, suggested by Liz
- Against the Day, suggested by Bas
- Infinite Jest, suggested by Bas
- War and Peace, suggested by Bas
- The complete Poems, D H Lawrence, suggested by Bas
- Cairo Trilogy, suggested by avaland
- The Raj Quartet, suggested by avaland
- Against the Day, suggested by dukedom
- Jerusalem, suggested by chlorine
- It, inspired by bridgey's review
- A Dance to the Music of Time, suggested by dukedom
Btw, you have Against the Day listed twice.
Also, I am adding a recommendation for Pilgrimage by Dorothy Richardson. Somewhere on LT there is a year-long read of it and I found the first volume challenging and wonderful. Bonus in Pointed Roofs the narrator leaves England to work as a teacher in a finishing school in Hanover, Germany.
2013 = 11,000+ pages
2016 = 10,000+
2018 = 9000+
2015 = 8000+
2014 = 7000+
2017 = 6000+
2019 tba … we shall see where it falls in your running tally! It makes me curious to see how life events and circumstances can alter reading habits, by limiting or maximizing opportunity and intent. This is only my second year to observe and track my book and page counts, so I have no 'history' as you do. =) Fun puzzle!
Also, I hope to undertake my first Roth novel this year. Do you have any favourites (he's listed as one of your four favourite authors) or is there a way to ease into his work? I find him intimidating, but would like to read something after noticing that American Pastoral (2016) was made into a film by Ewan McGregor with Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning. I have not seen it, but hope to after reading it. I'm just unsure if this is the best place to start. With Faulkner, I went out of my way to not read the books in an order that most fans suggested. I chose a collection of ten works, to read three annually, alphabetically. More than that, as with Hardy, is too much for me. Sometimes due diligence with research is helpful, and sometimes it becomes an obstacle. Best to ask someone who sees the author's worth. =)
Finally got here, OW. Nice to see your thread show up. I hadn’t realized how much you prefer longer books, but the numbers show it. Wishing you good reading and curious what you’ll make of Freedom. (I have an unread copy).
As for the Roth. I remember that I started with The Human Stain and for me it is still his best novel. You might want to start with it, if you're planning on reading at least one Roth. I also liked American Pastoral but not quite as much as The Human Stain. I'll be looking forward to hearing your thoughts on either of the two, or on yet another Roth for that matter.
I'll post a review on Freedom as soon as I have finished it. So far, I'm about 400 pages in and I have to say that I do like it.
#1: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Jonathan Franzen's Freedom follows the lives of middle-class couple Patricia and Walter Berglund, their children and close relatives and friends. Set in the American mid-west at the beginning of the twenty-first century the reader learns about Patricia's and Walter's marriage and their marital problems. The novel illustrates the ups and downs of love and family life in a frighteningly realistic fashion and provides very detailed observations about the characters and their motives. The power dynamic in Patty's and Walter's relationship shifts several times. After they first meet, Patty is everything for Walter while she is more interested in Walter's friend Richard. Although they marry eventually, they never seem overly happy in their relationship. Whenever Walter's friend steps back into their lives Patty is reminded of her feelings for Richard. Growing further apart, Walter loses interest in Patricia and after many events that affect their relationship they finally separate. In the end, Patty becomes active in trying to reconcile with Walter.
The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage.I liked the novel most for its observations on relationships and the concept of personal freedom. While the dynamics in relationships are often hard to understand from the outside they are also not always completely comprehensible from the inside. Relationships can be complicated and messy and at the same time they can be the best thing that ever happened to you and the glue that holds your life together. Working out the perfect amount of personal freedom while in a relationship can be very difficult, sometimes even impossible, but it might just be the right amount of personal freedom that makes a relationship work. In that respect, Franzen's novel can provide you with a deeper insight about your own thoughts on personal freedom and your idea of what you want in a good relationship.
All in all, Freedom was a very good book that I enjoyed a lot. 4 stars.
I loved Freedom too. Franzen seems to be hit or miss for a lot of people, but mostly he's a hit for me (although I abandoned Purity early on, from memory.
>16 AlisonY: No worries there. I seem to have lost my thread as well, unfortunately. A look at the calender confirmed that it is already April. Time is really running fast this year and I have a feeling that I've never been this busy. Freedom was my first and only Franzen so far, but I will leave Purity off my list for now. ;)
#2: Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of five stories by Stephen King. There is "1922", the story of a Nebraska farmer who murders his wife and is henceforth haunted by her. Then there is "Big Driver", the story of a female author who is raped and left to die in a ditch. However, she survives and hunts down the perpetrator. In the third story, "Fair Extension", a man who is terminally ill with cancer meets a mysterious man who offers him a "fair extension" of his life-span and cures him of his illness from one day to the next. This, however, comes at a price. "A Good Marriage" relates the story of a wife who literally stumbles upon the horrific past of her otherwise loving husband after many years of happy marriage. Finally, there is "Under the Weather", which is a story about a man who does not want to accept his wife's death and pretends she is still alive. What all those stories have in common is that they explore characters faced with sudden revelations or life-changing moments and how they deal with the situations they suddenly find themselves in.
In this volume of stories, Stephen King explores the darker side of his characters, which he does superbly. Known for his talent at creating credible and life-like characters in his novels, King manages to do the same in the much shorter span of a story. I would not consider all of these stories short stories as some of them clock in at over a hundred pages, but the character development is just outstanding. I really enjoyed reading this collection of stories a lot. 4.5 stars.
#3: Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff
There is probably no President of the United States who has managed to divide the people as far as Donald Trump has. When it started with his bid to the presidency he was not taken seriously by most people, probably especially by the media. And then it happened: Donald Trump won the election and was to be the 45th President of the United States. This is where Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury starts to portray and analyze Donald Trump's first nine months in office. While all of the issues regarded in the book have gotten a lot of media attention and there is not much new to be gained on that part, it is the degree of insight that sets Michael Wolff's book apart from media coverage of the Trump presidency. The book investigates Trump's relationships to the people around him with an especial focus on Stephen Bannon, his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner. It also takes a look at the role of the media in shaping public opinion both in the run-up to the election as well as during the presidency. Almost everything Trump does and tweets is dissected by the media and treated as some sort of new climax. To my mind, this behavior has to be reconsidered because it makes people lose track of what is happening (as there are so many things being reported in quick succession) and what is actually important and true (as the sheer amount of information and misinformation becomes ever harder to handle). Yes, many of Trump's actions and statements are outrageous, but should we always give him a stage for that? I sometimes wonder whether the manner in which he does certain things (mainly quite unpresidential) is more important than the issues at hand. Having an educated discussion about the issues and outlining where the people disagree with what the president says and does instead of constantly criticizing him for how he does it and putting that in the spotlight might not sell as well, but it might actually lead somewhere.
I really liked reading this book as I felt it gave me a deeper understanding - if you might actually call it that, as many things Trump did and said (still does and says) are hardly understandable to me - of the inner workings in the Trump White House. It was interesting to read about who did what for what exact purpose and about how decisions were influenced and finally made by the President. In order to give that insight, Michael Wolff relies on insider information from the White House. Quite understandably many of his sources remain unnamed as they are still part of the administration or staff in the White House. However, this is also my minor point of criticism about the book. You have to take what Michael Wolff says at face value without really being able to fact-check his statements. That is why this is, for me, a 4-star read. Note that reading Fire and Fury might become harder to follow without a certain degree of background knowledge since Wolff drops many names and refers to many organizations and institutions. A fair amount of background knowledge is thus quite advisable, I would say.
#4: The Innocent by David Baldacci
The first installment in David Baldacci's Will Robie series is called The Innocent and it is a definite page-turner. Will Robie, a hitman employed by the US government to take out villains in a rather unbureaucratic fashion, is very good at his job. So far, he has completed every assignment that was given to him. But that changes when he denies to kill a mother with her two children present only to see them killed from a distance by a sniper while he is in the room. Not knowing what to make of that situation, Robie sets out to flee the scene, but not before rescuing the baby that has not been killed by the sniper. On his flight he takes a bus from Washington, D. C., to New York where he sees another hitman trying to kill a fourteen-year-old girl. Saving the girl in the last minute, Robie has to flee the scene yet again, his second flight on the same night. He takes the girl with him and as soon as they step off the bus, the bus explodes in a big ball of fire. The girl, Julie, is also fleeing a murder scene as she has just witnessed both her parents being killed.
While this novel might not be read for the prose or to find a deeper meaning, it is definitely entertaining. So much so that it only took me a very short time to read through the more than 500 pages. I would definitely recommend this novel to lovers of tense thrillers and fast-paced action. A light but nonetheless highly enjoyable read. 5 stars.
#5: The Hit by David Baldacci
The Hit is the second novel in the Will Robie series. Protagonist Will Robie is a hitman employed by the United States government to get rid of enemies of the state. Of course there are other professional killers just like Will Robie tasked with similar missions. One of those agents, Jessica Reel, seems to have gone rogue when she does not complete her assignment but kills her handler instead. Soon after, she murders another CIA employee and Will Robie is tasked with tracking her down and bringing her in - dead or alive. Robie, who does not like this assignment, starts investigating and trying to find a lead ony Reel's motive. What he discovers, however, makes him question whether Reel really killed the wrong people.
Quite often, I tend to like the second novel in a series less than the first one. While I still like the characters in this novel and find it highly entertaining, I take issue with the plot to a certain degree. Sometimes it just did not feel natural or the events that took place seemed to fit too conveniently and were just there to drive the plot along and keep up tension. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading The Hit a lot, 4 stars.
#7: Bag of Bones by Stephen King
What is a bag of bones? In Stephen King's eponymous novel there is more than one answer. A character in a novel can be merely a bag of bones, a flat character, that is. It can also be taken quite literally, that is bones put in a bag and buried in the ground. The protagonist in this novel is not just a bag of bones. Mike Noonan is a writer who suffers from writer's block after his wife's sudden and unexpected death. As he decides for a change of place and relocates to his secluded vacation house in an unicorporated town simply called 'the TR', something is not right. There are dreams about the house, there are whispers in the house, fridge magnets move around on their own to create short messages. Mike Noonan wants to find out more about the goings-on on the TR and comes ever closer to uncovering a past that many in the town would rather keep buried. Right on his first day, Noonan meets Mattie Devore, a young widow in her twenties who has a three-year-old daughter. After their paths cross, Mike Noonan takes an interest in their lives. Soon, a connection between Mattie's father-in-law and the town's dubious past surfaces.
While Stephen King managed to entertain me with yet another good novel in which the characters are not simply bags of bones, I could not really connect to the story fully. The relation between Mike Noonan and Mattie Devore is what kept me reading, but I found myself less and less interested in the background story of the TR at a certain point. I cannot quite put my finger on what it was that bugged me, but it might have been the too-much-work-induced break of some weeks in my reading process that probably made me lose the connection to the novel. I never really found my way back in fully. It was not that I could not remember certain details or parts that might have been important, it is rather that I somehow did not feel the plot. All in all, Bag of Bones is a fairly good and enjoyable read, but for me it lacked that extra something. 3.5 stars.
I am glad to announce that there is just the list that you are looking for. Just go to Wikipedia here. You can sort the list by page count and by a few other categories. ;)
The Shining (on the '1001 books to read before you die' list)
The Stand (as one of my big-fat-book options)
Misery (to read it before seeing Kathy Bates in her Oscar-winning role) … OSCAR teehee!
Dolores Claiborne (again, just to read it before seeing Kathy Bates in the film)
Then, if my constitution survives that, Dead Zone (to see the Walken film) and a Werewolf one (forget the name) and another recommended on this site last year.
I wanted to challenge myself to read things this year that might have daunted me in the past, like Crime & Punishment and Bleak House, not just horror. I saw an interview online of Neil Gaiman with Margaret Atwood, and he seemed like a lovely gentleman. I admit to avoiding both his works and King's since neither seem to need my support/dollars for success in their chosen field. I do love an underdog. Yet, they seem to be calling my name after colliding with LibraryThing…
I am intrigued by Aesop's Fables, having reread it earlier this year. Last year I waded through all of Grimm's Fairy Tales, which led to Atwood's Stone Mattress: 9 Wicked Tales, and also Good Bones (where she rewrites a few, like Little Red Hen). Now an ebook called Once Upon A Curse: 17 Dark Faerie Tales has my attention. All of this gothic reading and a bit of sci-fi and speculative fiction (contained in Atwood's The Blind Assassin, from last year's list) has piqued my progression toward outright horror. I've never been able to handle the visuals and might be better prepared after reading the book, to know more-or-less what to expect, although many films vary considerably from their source novels, for cinematic purposes.
I admit to being a lightweight when it comes to scares, but I want that sense of achievement in overcoming old notions of BOO! =D I was raised on Poe but that is a different sort of unsettled off-balance storytelling.
Your reading sounds interesting and seems to be a good mixture of light reads as well as Literature with a capital L.
Poe is a good starting point when it comes to reading darker fiction, but as you say, it's not of the BOO! and sudden scare variety. I love Poe!
#8: Origin by Dan Brown
Dan Brown's Origin puts two central questions of the human condition at its heart: Where do we come from? Where are we going? That is, what is the origin of life on earth and what happens after death? It is an answer to exactly those questions that scientist Edmond Kirsch wants to reveal to an audience at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and viewers around the globe who can tune in via live stream. Kirsch invites protagonist Robert Langdon, his former professor, to his presentation. As one can imagine, not everyone shares Kirsch' knack for science and the age-old debate of religion and creationism vs. science and evolution plays into how the novel unfolds. When it finally comes to his moment of glory, Edmond Kirsch is assassinated and Robert Langdon flees the scene with Ambra Vidal, director of the Guggenheim and fiancée of the prince of Spain. Guided by an AI that Edmond Kirsch has developed the pair have to overcome many obstacles and evade many enemies who want to stop them from completing their intended task: publishing Edmond Kirsch's presentation for all the world to see.
While the novel certainly provides some interesting insights into different approaches to the question of origin and destiny and the cast of characters is chosen in a way that makes readers want to continue reading to find out about the different motivations of the different parties involved, I found some of the twists and turns in the plot quite easy to guess, which subtracted from the reading experience. As a reader of the whole Robert Langdon series I was also disappointed to find fewer riddles and codes that the protagonist has to crack. Origin, while an enjoyable read, fails to grip over its whole length of 500+ pages. 3.5 stars for an overall good novel.
#9: The Target by David Baldacci
The Target is the third novel in David Baldacci's Will Robie series. While it is not actually necessary to have read the first two books in the series, it is certainly a benefit and improves the reading experience to have done so. Protagonists Will Robie and Jessica Reel, two highly trained killers in the employ of the CIA, are tasked to do the impossible. The Director of Central Intelligence and the US President have targeted the leader of North Korea and entrust only Robie and Reel with the hit. Due to their past, where both agents did not follow a direct order, they feel somewhat forced to do this mission. Before they are deployed to North Korea, they have to undergo physical training and a psych evaluation at The Burner Box, a clandestine training facility. While there, the mission changes and the American plot is discovered by the North Koreans. What unfolds is an exciting thriller that has Robie and Reel re-evaluate their careers and their plans for their personal future.
What I especially like about this novel are the characters. Being the third novel in the series, readers will already have background information on both protagonists, which strengthens the connection to the story. As for the plot, it seems that there are three plot strands in the novel that, while being connected, are resolved separately. This makes the novel seem much shorter than it actually is at its 500+ pages. I found the novel to be a page-turner that kept me reading. Definitely a recommendation for anyone who loves thrilling and fast-paced fiction, and especially for those who have already read the first two novels in the series. 4.5 stars.
#10: Augustus by John Williams
John Williams' historical novel Augustus starts with the murder of Julius Caesar and then goes on to outline Octavian's way to power in Rome. The novel illustrates important events in Octavian's life in a multitude of perspectives. Williams notes that while writing a historical novel and aiming at a certain degree of accuracy the truths in his work are 'truths of fiction'. As my knowledge about the Roman Empire and the time of Augustus Caesar is very limited I cannot make out to what degree this work is fiction and how much truth is actually beneath that cloak of fiction. What I can say is that I liked Williams' writing style and sometimes caught myself thinking I was reading a non-fictional book. I especially liked the exploration of Augustus' dealing with his daughter Julia, whom he put in exile. The interplay of Julia's descriptions and Augustus' ruminations at the end of his life as presented in the epilogue were enthralling so that I wished that there were more of this.
Choosing the form of an epistolary novel makes the book much more interesting to read as we are able to choose among a multitude of perspectives of the same event to make out what really happened. Further, having different parties voice their opinion in letters helps to show certain motives in the struggle for power in Rome. This is what I liked a lot about the novel. However, it did not really grip me. I am not really sure why this is, but I think that the subject matter, while interesting, was somewhat removed from what I usually read. Hence, I would describe the novel as a fine read and the the 3.5 stars I assigned can be attributed to my personal tastes rather than to Williams' writing.
#11: Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension by Matt Parker
Being good at math often goes along with being regarded in that certain way by others. Sometimes it might be admiration, more likely people wonder how anyone can be good at math and why anyone would even like it. As a high school math teacher I face this problem on a daily basis, namely when students refuse to do math because 'they will not understand it anyway' and 'will not need it in their lives'. While I can usually encourage my students to do math and solve problems, I am certainly glad that Matt Parker wrote Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension as he is able to paint a very realistic picture of where we use math in our daily lives, where we do not need it and why we (or at least some people) do it just for fun.
The topics touched in the book range from numbers and their make-up, to different systems of counting, to data analysis, to properties of geometrical shapes in several dimensions. Admittedly, thinking about more dimensions than the three we move around in does seem somewhat weird and futile. Yet, it can provide scientific revelations that would otherwise not be possible. What I liked a lot about Matt Parker's book is that you basically do not need any prior understanding of mathematics (although it certainly helps at some points) and that he manages to explain everything in a very understandable way, illustrating everything with examples and making little jokes every once in a while. As a reader you are often asked to try certain things, like cutting out shapes, arranging numbers in a certain order and more of the like. This hands-on approach to math certainly facilitates the understanding of complex problems and makes you see that mathematics can even be fun.
I can recommend this book to anyone (even people with an aversion to math), but if you are interested in mathematics and what you can do with it, this book will be a perfect fit for you. 5 stars.
#12: California by Edan Lepucki
Imagine Los Angeles in the 2050s. No, actually imagine Los Angeles gone in the 2050s. At least the Los Angeles that you know. This is what Edan Lepucki's debut novel California does. It portrays an apocalyptic future where people started to organize in communities in order to be safe and have a place to live. The crux, however, is that there are only a few communities in California and they have capped their population at only a couple of thousand people. So there are many Californians trying to get by on their own. Nothing is like before, though. Electricity, food, hot water, money, everything is more or less gone. Protagonists Frida and Cal (which is short for California) escape the ruins of Los Angeles to live in the wilderness. The couple just barely get by as they are visited by a trader on a more or less regular basis. After learning that Frida is pregnant, they decide to explore their surroundings in order to find other people or a hint of civilization. Soon they are found and taken to a settlement, called the Land. While they are hesitant at first, they come to terms with living in the settlement only to realize that not everything is as it seems and there might be dangers they had not expected.
The realism of the world Edan Lepucki describes is at times stunning. Seeing what happened to the world, seeing how characters develop and make decisions might be an extrapolation of what is happening today, but it all does not seem too far away. In that sense, Lepucki's dystopia works greatly. The interplay between the different societies, the (ulterior) motives of their leaders, the meaning of women and men, of children, of family, everything is affected by the apocalyptic turn Los Angeles has taken. Overall, the novel is quite a fast-paced read once you get past the first third of the novel, which I found to be somewhat slow. I was also slightly disappointed by the ending as ... well, you will have to read it yourself, no spoilers here. 4 stars for an enjoyable read and a well-written debut novel.
Here is what I'm planning to read next. Which does not mean that I will not read something entirely different. ;)
This is what’s put the book in the running for Great American Novel: It’s so full of detail and pop culture and contemporary insight that it should hold riches for a lot of readers. A large swath of the population will come away feeling that yes, their lives do have a narrative arc, and it’s all right here.... The concept of freedom is woven into the narrative with regularity, but it could just as well have been called Entitlement and been the same book.
And The Corrections had a similar feeling for me. Franzen loves writing about how people screw up what they're given, and I think how people react to the book depends a lot on how much they enjoy witnessing the same.
(My other takeaway being damn, I miss having the time to write reviews the way I used to.)
#13: The Guilty by David Baldacci
Will Robie is an assassin in the employ of the United States government. Whenever a situation cannot be solved diplomatically and the United States does not want to be connected to an international case that usually involves the murder of a foreign agent or head of state, he is sent in to finish the job by eliminating the target. This time, however, it is not his job that puts him in danger of being killed, it is his old home. While he has not talked to his father since he left home after graduation, he returns to see him in his hometown of Cantrell, Mississippi, as his father is arrested for murder. The relationship between father and son is very tense and cold and Will Robie is also not really welcome in the town he once called home. Believing in his father's innocence he starts investigating and wants to clear his father's name despite them having their differences. Doing so, he also wants to track down the love he left behind so many years ago and tackle some unresolved issues. Things get out of hand very soon, though.
The fourth novel in David Baldacci's Will Robie series is as enjoyable as the ones before. Packed with tension and centered around a very well-crafted character, it is a page-turner from start to finish. 4.5 stars.
#14: End Game by David Baldacci
The fifth novel in Baldacci's Will Robie series takes government-employed assassins Will Robie and Jessica Reel on a different mission. They have to find their handler, Blue Man, who has gone missing in Colorado, a place he once called home. Both Reel and Robie have just returned from missions in Iraq and London, respectively, that put a strain on their bodies and minds. Plus, their relationship is more than tense as they have not talked to each other since their last mission. Doing detective work might not be their original field of work, but they give their all in order to rescue Blue Man.
While I really enjoyed reading End Game I found it to be slower-paced than the other novels in the series. What kept me going was following the characters and their development and finding out what really happened in the middle of nowhere in Colorado and who was behind Blue Man's disappearance. A somewhat generous 4 stars.
Faulkner's Light in August (Southern Gothic) suits sultry summer days. After The Woman in White and C&P and Bleak House, I crave short/light/frothy! Next up, Green Shadows White Whale by Ray Bradbury, about his antics in Ireland composing the screenplay for John Huston's Moby Dick. Your recent reads are all unknown to me. =(
Enjoy Scotland! After loving Scott's epic poem The Lady of the Lake last year, tackling his novels made sense. I liked The Monastery, own the Rob Roy dvd and pushed through an audiobook, but Ivanhoe was lukewarm at best (it seemed like Scott's The Merchant of Venice). Also, as with Robbie Burns poetry, I must pay close attention to that language/dialect. No slacking off with Scott! John Buchan's Scottish 'detour' in The Thirty-nine Steps was also immensely intriguing. Buchan ended his days in Canada, so I'll pursue more of his earlier writing at some point. Walter Scott's Waverley/Antiquary need tbr first.
Happy travels. I gave up a passport 20yrs ago so literature is my escape. Not a cottage person at all but roadtrips/daytrips with/without my kids in tow were always a hoot. Nature trails, Great Lakes, etc. Love birding.
And congratulations on reaching your 7500 pages-read-in-2019 goal already!
Faulkner's Light in August is something that I also wanted to read some time. I have, however, read none of the Scottish authors, no Scott, no Burns. It's a shame, actually. The country is simply amazing, though. Especially the Isle of Arran and the Isle of Skye are beautiful. I really wish my vacation were not over. Do you have any holidays planned?
#15: East of Eden by John Steinbeck
A child may ask, "What is the world's story about?" And a grown man or woman may wonder, "What way will the world go? How does it end and, while we're at it, what's the story about?" (p. 413)In John Steinbeck's own words "there is only one book to a man". For him, this book is East of Eden. Set in the Salinas Valley in California, it follows the lives of a very intriguing set of characters and centers on the life of Adam Trask. The book starts out with Adam's childhood and explores the relationships to his father, Cyrus, and his brother, Charles. Cyrus Trask has served as a soldier in the American Civil War, but was injured early on so that he did not see much action. Yet, he always talks about the war and about important battles as if he had been part of them. Soon, his thoughts of what should have been done better reach Washington, D.C., and he becomes a high-ranking military adviser. As a father he treats his sons unequally and it seems to Adam that his brother Charles is the favored one. Cyrus, however, admits to Adam that he is actually his favorite son and that he wants him to explore a military career. Although Adam is not really excited by the idea, he enlists as a soldier, which takes him across the country. After his stint in the military he wanders around and is even arrested for vagrancy. In an effort to turn his life around, Adam returns to the family farm that has been managed by his brother. The brothers do not see much of their father and have many disputes about the farm and their different ways of life. Eventually, a former prostitute, Cathy, comes to the farm, heavily bruised and drenched in blood and Adam instantly takes a liking to her. Against his brother's advice, they marry and move out to California to live on their own farm. Right from the start, Cathy is portrayed as very evil character who only abuses Adam and his warm-heartedness. When she is pregnant, she attempts to abort the pregnancy, which does not work out, though. As soon as the kids are born, Cathy leaves them and her husband, shooting Adam in the shoulder on her way out. This is when Adam really struggles getting to grips with his life. The novel then turns to an exploration of the lives of Adam's sons, Caleb and Aron. There are striking similarities between the stories of Aron and Caleb and Adam and Charles, especially in that they are vying for their respective fathers' attention. A plot summary, while hardly possible in just a few words, would not be complete without the mention of Samuel Hamilton and his family and Lee, a Chinese-American, as their lives and destinies are intertwined. Samuel Hamilton also owns a farm in the Salinas Valley. There is no water on his land, though, which is why he works as a smith and an adviser to other farmers. Quite often, he does this not for money but rather for the company of other people. He is a very (self-)educated man who even helps with the births in the area. Helping Cathy with the birth of her children, Samuel, a kind and good-natured man to his very bone, sees something dark in Cathy that he cannot quite put a finger on. Lee, who helps Adam on the farm and does household chores, plays an important part in the upbringing of Adam's sons Aron and Caleb.
One cannot read the novel without taking a closer look at the obvious parallels to the biblical story of Cain and Abel. Both, Adam and Charles as well as Aron and Caleb, relive that story in their exploration of their own identities and what it means to love and be loved. It is exactly this detailed depiction of the characters' lives and struggles and the fates of the Trask and the Hamilton families that makes this novel an outstanding read. In juxtaposing good and evil in his set of characters, Steinbeck tells a story that left me thinking about it long after each reading session. I almost despised Cathy, I loved Samuel and Lee from the very start and I came to love Adam. The way Steinbeck explores the characters' motives, their inner feelings and their actions, which are often the results of inner struggles and not always in accordance with their motives, is masterful. It almost goes without saying that Steinbeck's outstanding prose and vivid descriptions contribute to the overall quality of the novel: "Very gently he eased himself in on his side and turned slowly and laced his fingers behind his head and stared at the myriads of tiny colored dots that make up darkness." (p. 380)
For me, East of Eden is a five-star read if there ever was one. Will you like it? Timshel. - thou mayest.
Have you read much else by Steinbeck?
I thought you might be interested in Augustus with this year's topic of your thread. Wasn't it you who was reading up on the Romans?
#16: The Rooster Bar by John Grisham
The three students Mark, Todd and Zola are in their last semester of law school and buried in debt from student loans. The prospects on the job market in Washington, D.C., where they have actually been lured by their law school, are anything but good. Well-paying jobs are rare and usually not given to students from their particular law school as it does not have the best credentials. The three suddenly realize that the lives ahead of them are not looking too good and they need a way out. The catalyst for them quitting law school and starting to practice law without a license is their friend's suicide. After a bit of a rough start they soon learn their trade hands-on, all the while being afraid of being caught. When they suddenly seem to strike it big with a client, the inevitable happens and it is up to them to find a way out of their miserable situation.
Grisham's novel is a light read that nevertheless portrays a likely scenario and plays with how things might turn out for law students who face a large debt and no possible job prospects to ever pay off that debt. The novel is relatively fast-paced and quite enjoyable to read while being quite predictable at times. On the whole, a 3.5 star beach read.
#17: Camino Island by John Grisham
Camino Island is a fictional place in Florida and the setting of John Grisham's novel of the same title. Bruce Cable owns a very profitable indie book shop on the island and his main customers seem to be tourists. Behind the scenes he deals with rare first editions, though, and this is where he derives his main income from. When the original manuscripts of five F. Scott Fitzgerald novels are stolen from the university library at Princeton both the insurers of the library and the FBI try to track down the manuscripts as well as the thieves. The insurance company obviously has an interest in getting the manuscripts back as they would have to pay 25 million dollars otherwise. That is why they do their own investigations and hire the young novelist Mercer Mann, who has lived on Camino Island with her grandmother in her childhood. They convince her to go undercover and spy on Bruce Cable as she already has the perfect back story: she is a young writer struggling to write her second book and has recently been let go from her teaching job at a university. Plus, the insurance company supplies her with everything she needs, a lot of money and they offer to pay off Mercer's student debt. While reluctant at first, the money eventually seals the deal and Mercer Mann returns to Camino Island and meets Bruce Cable. From there, the hunt for the manuscripts unfolds.
While Grisham's Camino Island is nothing special, it succeeds to entertain for the whole time it takes to read this short novel. The characters of Bruce Cable and Mercer Mann are quite likable and I found myself rooting for both, although they are very different from one another. I found the ending of the novel to be somewhat disappointing. Overall, 3.5 stars for a fairly good read.
#18: A Feast For Crows by George R. R. Martin
A Feast For Crows is the fourth novel in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series and continues the story from the points of view of a limited set of characters in the series, among them Cersei and Jaime Lannister, Arya and Sansa Stark and Samwell Tarly. This is why the plot is focused on what happens in King's Landing. Initially the novel would have been twice as long, but Martin decided to make two novels out of one and instead of dividing them up chronologically he chose to separate them by where the action takes place. That is why the fifth novel focuses on other characters and other locations and does not continue the action of the fourth novel.
As I like this series mainly because I can follow the lives of some of the characters, mainly Tyrion, Jon Snow, Jaime Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen, I found this novel a bit slow at times. This is, however, just personal taste and does not say anything about the quality of the novel, which is still the same compared to the ones before. Overall, I enjoyed reading the novel, but I will probably enjoy the next one more because the action is focused on other characters. 3.5 stars.
My 119 in 2019 surpassed my 117 in in 2018, so 120 in 2020 sounds about right. As you know, that tally includes; full length and short fiction, short stories, children/YA books, poetry, non-fiction. Some 600+ page books like War & Peace will be carried into Jan/Feb/Mar. I've hit my limit and crunched the numbers so no more to alter. Hope you have a beautiful Christmas season.
Favourite Reads? It has to be Crime & Punishment because I did not expect to like it at all, and It was terrific! For a laugh, the audiobook read by John Cleese of The Screwtape Letters by C.S.Lewis took A+. You?
As to my favorite read this year that's a fairly easy answer. Steinbeck's East of Eden. Not only did I love it while reading, it also stayed with me for quite a while and it was an experience I would not want to miss.
I guess one of my new year's resolutions should be to be more active on LT and in Club Read again.
A Happy Christmas to you (and all the others around here, obviously)!
#19: The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King
Stephen King's The Eyes of the Dragon is not your typical King novel, neither as regards the writing style nor as regards the setting. An omniscient narrator unfolds a tale that took place in the fictional kingdom of Delain long ago. Featuring an old castle and a prison tower, princes and magicians as well as simple townsfolk the setting can probably best be described as medieval. King Roland is not getting any younger and he has two sons, Peter and his younger brother Thomas. The throne is clearly supposed to be handed over to Peter when time comes and Peter seems to be both well-liked and able to fill the post. Flagg, king Roland's close advisor and the magician in the kingdom, however, is dead-set on avoiding this and having Thomas crowned as king. For Flagg and his goal of destroying the kingdom Thomas is the better choice as he seems to be more gullible and follow his instructions without question. Through his constant scheming and the help of a magic poison, Flagg manages to kill king Roland, blame Peter for it and have him imprisoned for regicide. Will Peter and the kingdom ever see the truth come out? Read for yourself.
With this novel King shows that he can do medieval fantasy as well as he does his usual tales of horror. While the novel is an entertaining read I found the omniscient narrator too patronizing and the plot somewhat shallow at times. Other than that I liked The Eyes of the Dragon quite a bit. Certainly not one of King's strongest works, but a fairly good read. 3.5 stars.
#20: The Fallen by David Baldacci
In the fourth novel in Baldacci's series, FBI agent Amos Decker and his partner Alex Jamison visit the latter's sister in Pennsylvania. One night, Amos Decker is out on the porch when he sees that something is wrong in the neighbors' house. Taking a closer look he discovers two dead bodies. As he is not able to just let the local police solve the case he offers his help and both he and Alex are soon right in the middle of the investigation. As it turns out, those two murders are just two in a series of several murders that have happened in Baronville, PA, lately. Decker slowly uncovers troubling information about the town and what is happening there.
The Fallen is another page-turner in the Amos Decker series. It was a bit slow to start, but gradually picked up the pace and managed to delight. If you are looking for an entertaining read and enjoy crime fiction, this novel is certainly one of your better options. While it is not necessary to have read the previous novels in the series, I would still recommend it. 4 stars.
Stephen Fry made me cry. Beware =(
I am thrilled that you loved East of Eden. Top 3 of all time for me. I have exhausted Steinbeck (loved The Grapes of Wrath but EofE is better), omitting odd ones like crossing the USA in a vehicle named after Don Quixote's horse with his faithful pooch! Maybe someday. I own the b/w film The Grapes of Wrath (1940) dvd with Henry Fonda and John Carradine, etc. and watch it often. The gas station attendants observing "they don't even realize how poor they are" breaks my heart each and every time. I was glad to have absorbed TGOW before something like In Dubious Battle to better understand the union uprising, from both sides. Faulkner has become my annual summer picnic project. There is one Steinbeck unknown entity on my list for 2020.
If you want to follow me over to the 2020 group, this is the link: OscarWilde87's reading log 2020
Here's to a happy new year of reading!
Books by Steinbeck that I own; East of Eden, The Grapes of Wrath, The Red Pony, The Pearl, Cannery Row, Tortilla Flat, Zapata, In Dubious Battle, and in our town library I managed to find Burning Bright, The Short Reign of Pippin the IV, which is a short satire. I have also seen Janet Wright (a Canadian treasure) play Ma Joad at the Stratford (Shakspeare) Festival in Ontario previous to her 2016 death. Springsteen also sang The Ballad of Tom Joad with guitarist Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), if you require some mood music when summer rolls around! Youtube might have the video footage. One ignored work is The Winter of Our Discontent, but it's my second favourite by JS. Its setting is the northeastern USA. Any writer who got regular death threats and persevered has my perpetual respect.
Unsure if you knew that one female character in the second phase of East of Eden is based on John's own mother, and that the Hamilton clan loosely incorporates her vast family ties! She has something to do with a pillow... Edith? Ethel? Olive! Teacher, stalwart steady humble gal.
I'm a nerd for facts such as the one about the Hamilton clan. I've also been to the Steinbeck house shortly after I read Cannery Row. When I had that California vacation coming up, I just had to go to Steinbeck's house, which is still well kept by the Steinbeck Society (? I forgot...). Had a nice little chat with the ladies who worked in the little shop in the basement. They really did have stories to tell.
Looking forward to getting the link to your thread so that I can put a star there and follow your reading!