Tad's Books in 2009, Part 5

Discussão75 Books Challenge for 2009

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Tad's Books in 2009, Part 5

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Editado: Out 11, 2009, 7:56 am

Time to break up the thread again.

Part 1 can be found here.

Part 2 can be found here.

Part 3 can be found here.

Part 4 can be found here.

Ratings refer to my experience reading the book in regard to its type, not to any judgment about literary merit.

= I can't believe anyone liked this.
to = Disliked, ranging from "didn't finish" to "may have skimmed some"
to = Neutral, ranging from "just fair" to "passed an afternoon"
to = Recommended, ranging from "mildly" to "strongly"
to = Favorites, new and old

Editado: Set 4, 2009, 1:15 pm

: The Black Flame by Stanley G. Weinbaum

Science Fiction
223 pages

Bottom Line: One of the greats of Golden Age science fiction, imo.

If you read any Golden Age science fiction and judge it against the books in that genre today, you're probably going to end up assigning it a pretty low score. It wasn't an era of subtle psychological studies, nuanced political maneuverings or even a whole lot of regard for the laws of physics as we know them. It was the era of atom blasters, rocket ships and aliens whose primary characteristic was that they might look strange even in a cantina in Mos Eisley. However, read with the right frame of mind...understanding of the world of the 1940s, a bit of indulgence, and a desire simply to have fun...they can be wonderful.

I believe Stanley Weinbaum would have been one of the absolute giants of that era if he hadn't died 18 months after publishing his first story. That story, "A Martian Odyssey", is still considered one of the classics and is one of the most popular in that book I so-often recommend as an introduction to science fiction short stories, The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One.

The Black Flame is one of his three novels published posthumously and, I think, his best. Using the now-familiar backdrop of a post-Apocalyptic Earth that has not fully recovered from a plague that wiped out most of humanity, it tells the story of a group of individuals who are now immortal and rule the planet. It's one of the few from that era that focused on the characters' motivations rather than the ultimate ray gun or the monstrous alien from Planet Xipitax. Instead, the book concentrates on the title character, a woman who was idealistic and fought for the salvation of humanity in her youth, but has become world-weary and tyrannical as the centuries pass.

I picked it up because someone told me that there was an edition published a number of years ago that restored a large portion of the book that had been edited out of the original. I wanted to refresh my memory. Now, I'm not so sure I want to read the "restored" version...what if the edits made the story better?

If you've never tried Golden Age science fiction, my first recommendation is usually E. E. "Doc" Smith, but I think Weinbaum would not be far behind. You just need the right frame of mind.

Set 4, 2009, 1:20 pm

starred this thread as I would not want to miss out on hearing about your great reads.

Set 4, 2009, 1:33 pm

>3 Whisper1:: LOL, some are good, some not so good...but, it's always nice to have you around, Linda.

Set 4, 2009, 3:08 pm

I love the sound of that book, its definitely going onto the wishlist.

Set 4, 2009, 5:35 pm

Waving hello - thanks for the review of The Portable Dorothy Parker on your last thread. I've always wondered about this book, but I've never read any Parker. Now it is at the top of my list!

Set 4, 2009, 6:25 pm

I am starring you again as well as looking for the Weinbaum book!

Set 4, 2009, 6:31 pm

Found you, starred you, and am looking for my book of Dorothy Parker stories to put on the bed stand. I'm going to look for The Black Flame also. I want to see what i missed by starting so late reading science fiction. :-)

Set 4, 2009, 7:39 pm

Thanks to Tad and everyone who shared thoughts and poetry of D. Parker. Never read any of her work, but I'm going to fix that deficiency ASAP.

Set 5, 2009, 5:55 pm

Got you starred!

Editado: Set 24, 2009, 2:12 pm

: Terra Incognita by Sara Wheeler

Travel, Antarctic
341 pages

Bottom Line: Recommended but not rhapsodized, despite some reviews I had read. A little too sentimental, some occasional mean spirit, but gives a good picture of life in Antarctica today.

My Review: This is a book that has sat on my shelf for a number of years, awaiting that moment when I was in the mood for an Exploration Memoir. I had a certain degree of high expectation about the book based upon initial reviews that talked about a "rare" and "extraordinary" book. After finishing the book, I can't quibble with "rare"—how many authors have travel books about Antarctica, after all? I do, however, disagree with the "extraordinary" part.

Ms. Wheeler does some things quite well. The book is full of stories about Amundsen, Scott, Shackleton, Wilson and a host of other figures from the early days of polar exploration. These stories are timed beautifully and go into just enough depth that they bring those early days to life. Rather than being a distraction from her adventures, they serve as a backdrop that provides color and contrast to the present.

She does an equally good job of giving you a picture of what life is like now, filling the book with tiny little details that turn abstract facts into vivid images—calling -50°C "cold" is true, but abstract; saying that -10°C "had come to seem tropical" is only slightly more real; saying that they threw a cup of boiling water in the air and it hit the ground as ice makes it all very clear.

The book is also full of a fair amount of humor at life in this extreme environment, ranging from the simply amusing (hang your clothes by a quick lick on the collar and then pressing them against the ice-covered walls of the cabin) through the faintly appalling ("solids only" outhouses that can electrocute you if you deposit liquids).

There is no central theme or defining journey in this book. Her adventures were mostly spur-of-the-moment, taking advantage of opportunities to visit this station or that as they presented themselves. Rather than feeling diffuse, I think this worked well. It gave the book a real feeling of "I want to see everything!" as she moved from helping unload cargo to apprenticing at one scientific site or another.

Yet, the book fails to reach "extraordinary."

She is, at times, mean-spirited. The inhabitants of the Antarctic stations are mostly male and, of course, any largely-single-sex environment is going to provide amusement or annoyance to members of the opposite gender...depending upon how much they are affected by it. However, her tone was not one of amusement or even irritation; it was one of unending condescension and superciliousness. Her British hosts (she was a guest at several national camps during her time in Antarctica) come in for particular slighting. This appears to have been triggered by the fact that she wasn't made much of on her arrival (though it's not explicit, my reading of the events is that she arrived during the changeover period when those who had been isolated for nine months by the winter finally got to see their friends again) and wasn't immediately made an intimate in a group of individuals who had spent months and years isolated together.

I also found the story a little too mawkish. There are those books where the author articulates a spiritual journey and I find them fascinating. However, I'm not so fond of those books where the author substitutes a vague sentimentality instead of finding words to describe something meaningful. A paragraph ending in "The dignity of the landscape infused our minds like a symphony; I heard another music in those days." is fine...a pretty, poetic picture. However, when these types of paragraphs occur every few pages throughout a 341 page book, when "the landscape spoke to me so directly that I no longer seemed to be made of ice" is succeeded by "It's as though God has given me a gift, once in my life, to step off the planet for two months and listen to a different music," it becomes tiresome. By the end, I found that my mind would skim these paragraphs rather than savor them.

It's not a perfect book. However, Ms. Wheeler writes well and does make the continent come alive. There are so few contemporary books about travels in the Antarctic, and even fewer written from a woman's perspective, that I would recommend this one.

Set 6, 2009, 12:57 pm

I haven't read the book but I think that her problems with British men would be twofold.

a) A lot of Americans find British people in general a lot more reserved on first meeting them and

b) British men tend to be more reserved than British women and in the type of situation described would be likely to feel slightly uncomfortable and so retreat further behind the 'stiff upper lip' exterior.

That said, I don't think that is an excuse for slighting people, but instead may suggest a certain self-involved side to the writer? Rather than looking at the intimate 'band of brothers' type relationships that would build up in such a bleak and hostile terrain.

Editado: Set 6, 2009, 2:04 pm

>12 lunacat:: lot of Americans find British people in general a lot more reserved

She's English. She just seems to have a fair bit of scorn for British men.

Perhaps she's also just a bit preoccupied with herself.

Set 6, 2009, 2:08 pm


In that case she's just a bitch.

Set 6, 2009, 2:25 pm

>14 lunacat:: LOL.

I just went over to Amazon to peek at what other books she's written. The reviews aren't encouraging. Though some people criticized and some people raved, the overwhelming impression given in reviews is that she doesn't really get deep into what things mean or move in her. Even those who liked her books tend to talk about her language rather than the content of the books.

Antarctica is outside my experience, so I'm glad I read this one. But, since I have my own travel experiences in Chile, I don't feel the burning need to pick up Travels in a Thin Country. And, since I'm not hugely interested in what fractional knowledge exists about Denys Finch Hatton, Too Close to the Sun doesn't beckon.

I think I hit just the right point with her and I'll move on to someone else. I've had The Road to Oxiana on my shelf for a while if I get the bug for another travel book.

Set 6, 2009, 3:23 pm

Very informative review, Tad. I think this might be an interesting book to read--I've not read any books about Antarctica yet--but I'll get it from the library. Doesn't sound like one I need to own. :-) I know what you mean about a writer coming across as being more "self absorbed" rather than "deep." (I'm reading between your lines--that may not be what you actually meant!) I reading one that is striking me that way right now. It does tend to lower my estimation of the book even though I will have no trouble finishing it. Good thing! It's mandatory since it's a ER book.

Set 6, 2009, 3:42 pm

Got you starred! *Waves*

Set 6, 2009, 3:53 pm

Another book on Antarctica to add to the TBR - that makes two today (kiwidoc just reviewed one too)! I have a slight obsession with Antactica, so this one is a must for me. Thanks for the review.

Set 6, 2009, 4:46 pm

>18 Cait86: you have a slight obsession with Antarctica?? who knew? It's always been my dream to go there one day too :)

Set 6, 2009, 5:08 pm

#19 - Oh yes, I love the idea of a continent without any actual inhabitants, and penguins are my favourite animal - you should see my bedroom, it has basically two themes: penguins and books.

There is this really amazing program called Students on Ice, which takes high school students from North America to Antarctica every year. You go on a reasearch boat, attend lectures, and see a lot of the continent. I wanted to go as a student, but could never afford it. Luckily for me, they also take teachers along as chaperones. Hopefully one day I can do that.

Set 6, 2009, 5:22 pm

In New Zealand we have an Artists to Antarctica programme and some of our writers get to go as well. Margaret Mahy wrote a great children's adventure set in the Antarctic after her time there The riddle of the frozen phantom.

Editado: Set 6, 2009, 6:14 pm

Cool, thanks Kerry, I will check it out.

ETA: The thing that started my interest in Antarctica was, of course, a book. When I was about 12 I read Troubling a Star by Madeleine L'Engle (of A Wrinkle in Time fame), which is part of her Vicky Austen series, and set mostly in Antarctica.

Set 6, 2009, 7:52 pm

>21 avatiakh:: In New Zealand we have an Artists to Antarctica programme

It was very interesting to read Wheeler's accounts of how much more Antarctica is in the consciousness of New Zealand than in, say, America. She points out that most Americans see it as a far-off place to which few ever go, whereas it's relatively local to those from NZ and almost everyone knows someone who has been or, at least, knows someone who knows someone. It's one of the few countries that still claim sovereign territory there.

Set 6, 2009, 8:04 pm

>18 Cait86: to 20: I'd like to visit Antarctica someday. However, differently than other places. With most destinations, my preference would be to go and stay a while, not live aboard a cruise ship or in a hotel. However, I think I'd simply like to be the pure tourist for down there—an exciting place to see but I'm not sure I want to live on a diet of pure freeze-dried and canned goods nor have to be concerned (literally) about frostbite when going to the bathroom.

Editado: Set 6, 2009, 8:57 pm

I read Wheeler's biography of Apsley Cherry-Garrard , Cherry, for a non-fiction book group a few years ago, and remember quite enjoying it but somehow now loving it.

Interesting what you say about Antarctica in the NZ consciousness... It's high on my husband's list of things he must do one day; my 5 year old's first little school project was to find out about transport down there, and one of the kids' dads is a research scientist who goes there regularly. And I have vivid memories of the Mt Erebus disaster in 1979 (so vivid that the idea of flying down there really freaks me out!) So yep, now that you mention it, it does seem relatively local!

Eidted to give the name of the book...

Set 6, 2009, 9:52 pm

Congratulations on your hot review listed on today's home page! Kudos to you my friend!

Set 7, 2009, 5:39 am


Editado: Set 7, 2009, 9:41 am

: Even Money by Dick and Felix Francis

350 pages

Bottom Line: Bleh!!

My Review: The days of Reflex, Odds Against, Hot Money and other books from Dick Francis' prime appear to be gone and, given the last book and this one, the addition of son Felix to the writing team doesn't seem to have helped at all.

Cardboard characters—ranging from the trite (the police inspector who hates bookies because his father gambled too much) to the absurd (the bookie's assistant who has the skills to hack casually into the local ISP's servers via his laptop).

Nothing inventive about the plot—other than it hinges upon idiotic technical assumptions (for one, the "secret" frequency of horse RFID tags...oh wait...it's 134.2 kHz).

And I do have problems when authors try to hinge major plot elements on computers but don't bother to learn about them. "Give it a virus that causes it to chase round and round making useless calculations of prime numbers. That uses up all its RAM..." Umm, no, it wouldn't; calculating primes uses processor time but a trivial amount of memory. If you want to use up all a computer's RAM, your program would simply tell the computer to cough it up...

Set 7, 2009, 12:51 pm

Seems like you cannot even attempt to write a so-so review. Even though you did not love the book, Terra Incognita, we loved your review. Congratulations on another Hot One!~!

Editado: Set 7, 2009, 1:02 pm

Thanks, Belva. I have that feature turned off on my home page and didn't notice.

Set 7, 2009, 2:27 pm

Esta mensagem foi removida pelo seu autor.

Editado: Set 7, 2009, 2:42 pm

Well, it depends upon what you mean by "like that".

If it includes limits to around the 17th century, then you might try Rafael Sabatini's books, things like Scaramouche or Captain Blood.

If you're willing to come forward in time, you could try the Bernard Cornwell's Richard Sharpe series, starting with Sharpe's Tiger.

If you don't mind a little romance in your swashbuckle, you could try the various "Ruritanian" novels: Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda, George Barr McCutcheon's Graustark or Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Mad King.

If you're willing to go backward in time, you might try things like Lawrence Schoonover's The Burnished Blade, Robert Louis Stevenson's The Black Arrow, Paul Creswick's Robin Hood or Walter Scott's Ivanhoe.

ETA: Hmmm, I was going to add a couple additional suggestions based upon some other definitions of how "like that" might apply to Dumas and Pérez-Reverte...but I see you've deleted your post. I guess they're not needed. :-D

Set 8, 2009, 6:18 pm

I'm going to add Terra Incognita to my TBR list. The shortcomings do sound like they could be a bit annoying, but as you said, how many books of modern Antarctic travel are there? Thanks for the wonderfully informative review!

Set 9, 2009, 8:30 pm

#15: If you ever get to The Road to Oxiana, I will be interested in your review. I have had that one on Planet TBR forever.

Editado: Set 11, 2009, 3:17 pm

: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

288 pages

Bottom Line: I enjoyed this a lot, though I almost don't want to believe the life some children lead.

Toward the end of the book, someone turns to the author and says, "You West Virginia girls are one tough breed." I have to agree wholeheartedly. The subtitle of this book could easily be Endangering the Welfare of a Minor for Dummies.

Jeannette Walls' memoir is about growing up in abject poverty in an extremely dysfunctional family. Probably the most notable thing about it is the total lack of whining. Through a childhood with the town drunk for a father, one of the most selfish and foolhardy mothers on the planet, constant emotional abuse (and sometimes physical), starvation and injury, she avoids self pity and simply tells her story with a clear determination that she wasn't going to fall into any of the traps life laid out for her. Though she never sugar-coats the events, the story is filled with the occasional flash of humor and a constant spirit of finding the adventure in whatever circumstances were dealt to her without ever seeming Pollyanna-ish.

I'm a bit late to the table on this book, my natural aversion to over-hyped bestsellers kept it on the shelf through the period of mania, but I'm very glad I read it. Recommended.

Set 11, 2009, 4:05 pm

I really liked the book too. Glad to hear you did. It made me realize that as screwed up as my family is, I am glad it is not as screwed up as hers. It is strange when you are from a truly dysfunctional family. I never realized my family life was a total disaster and other people did not live like I did until I was well into my 20s. I guess I just thought that my family was a little screwy but so is everyone elses family. Nope. Not true. My family was really screwed up and everyone else's was just a little screwed up.

I read a review of the book somewhere on LT where the reader thought that the writer likely took liberties with the story, because her family life could not possibly that animated and destructive. And they did not believe that a child could possibly remember the stories so accurately. Well I am here to say that you can remember them fairly accurately. All the bad stuff is tragic to a child. My mom always complains that I only remember the bad things that happened while I was growing up. Well I generally only remember the bad stuff because they had the strongest impression on me. So I can see where Walls would remember all those bad things happening very thoroughly. Though I will admit that as a child I did exaggerate some of the things that happened in my mind, and I remember them in that exaggerated view. Regardless of what really happened or how many times something happened, it is equally devestating to a child.

One occurrence that really struck me was when she was an adult and hiding from her parents and trying to avoid them. Though I never actually did that. I wanted to. I wanted to be a runaway. Luckily my family has settled down a lot and I do not have to worry about the swinging emotions of love and hate anymore. I hope that I never have to go through that again. And I hope that Jeanette Walls never has to deal with it again either.

Set 11, 2009, 5:43 pm

Hey Tad,

As always, a nice review. My wife read this one and recommended it to me but I haven't picked it up yet.

Set 12, 2009, 12:43 am

Great review of The Glass Castle. I read the book a couple of years ago and found it so incredibly sad that I actually had to take a break at the halfway point and pick it up a couple of weeks later. I agree that it is incredible that she was able to relate the story so objectively (no whining) and to forgive her parents. Perhaps it is that forgiveness that will enable her to move on and not make the same mistakes her parents did. In some ways this book reminded me of Angela's Ashes in the matter of fact objectiveness in describing a childhood that we wish no child would ever have to experience.

Set 12, 2009, 9:53 pm

I also liked The Glass Castle when my book group read it last year. I wouldn't say that she took liberties with the story--I know it's possible to remember a lot, especially when it's awful. But we read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn a few months later, and one of the stories in Walls' book was identical to an incident in that book. Walls had also mentioned that A Tree Grows in Brookly was one of her favorite books. We found that odd.

Editado: Set 13, 2009, 10:29 am

: A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins

Travel, Memoir
291 pages

Bottom Line: Wonderful subject but the overly-florid prose bothered me.

At age 22, disillusioned with the suburban America of 1973, Peter Jenkins set off to hike across the United States. This book covers the first two years of that journey—from Alfred, New York, down along the Appalachians, to New Orleans.

It's a pleasant-enough book but I was expecting something of the caliber of his Looking for Alaska. This wasn't. Much of the writing in this earlier work is insipid and/or maudlin. I guess the 25 years between the two books served to hone his skills.

I don't really recommend this unless you're an inveterate travel-book junkie and I won't be making any special effort to read the sequel that chronicles the rest of his journey.

Editado: Set 24, 2009, 2:13 pm

: Six Not So Easy Pieces : Einstein's Relativity, Symmetry, and Space-Time by Richard P. Feynman

184 pages

Bottom Line: Recommended—but a very qualified recommendation.

First of all, despite the title, viewing this as a sequel to Feynman's Six Easy Pieces may lead to a bit of disappointment. While both books are drawn from his monumental Lectures on Physics, they have a different target audience in mind. The first book aimed more at the lay reader, carefully choosing sections from the larger work that avoided mathematics and did not posit any prior understanding of physics.

This book, while still intending to educate the newcomer, is farther down the track, assuming elementary algebra, calculus and physics. In this case, elementary means elementary college level, not typical high school classes.

Do you have to have this to get through the chapters? No. However, without it, much of the content will be meaningless...in the sense that you'll just have to assume he's not talking baloney. You'd probably be better off finding an overview article on these topics somewhere on the Web and reading it. This material is from actual undergraduate lectures given by Feynman and the approach is correspondingly rigorous.

Feynman has a marvelous gift for making the esoteric understandable and entertaining. It's hard to imagine anyone could do a better job of giving an introduction to relativity. Nonetheless, these are "not so easy" compared to the first book.

Set 13, 2009, 12:50 pm

Very nicely done review. If the book didn't sound so much like my own childhood, I would be tempted to read it and still may one day.
Thank you.

I totally agree with what you have shared. I am just finding out in my late 50s and early 60s that what I lived through is not the norm. I only knew that I was raising my family differently.
But people would say the same things you quoted about a memoir I were to write about my growing up years. And of the 7 of us children; 4 of us have gone incognito for years at a time. And it wasn't the ones who were treated the worst. I think we were still afraid to do anything so brave.
Life..........................it happens, whether you want it to or not.
happy reading

Set 13, 2009, 1:22 pm

Saw this test on womansheart's profile page. Of course I had to take it.

Set 13, 2009, 1:35 pm

>43 TadAD:- Tad-

I told you. I told you.

Now. Where did I put that pedesxxx-thingy?

*Bows and scrapes, while laughing and pointing to test results*


Set 13, 2009, 3:49 pm

Don't mock him so. We will need him when the apocalypse comes and the lights go out. We'll all be bunkered in with a bunch of literature and TadAd will save the day!!

Set 13, 2009, 6:59 pm

With his lightsaber! LOL

Set 13, 2009, 7:18 pm

>46 Cait86:: Sorry, Cait. My answer to that one was "No, never owned one."

Perhaps that's why my Sci-Fi/Comic score is a bit lower than I would have expected?

Set 15, 2009, 2:41 pm

Ummm.... I own a lightsabre.... maybe that's why I got 88% on the SF/Comic score.

Editado: Set 18, 2009, 5:38 pm

: The Moor by Laurie R. King

Mystery, Mary Russell #4
386 pages

Bottom Line: This was my second-favorite in the series so far, after the The Beekeeper's Apprentice.

A fun return to Dartmoor, with all the creepiness of the first visit, including a visit to Baskerville Hall (sans Hound). Still echoes of Dorothy Sayers in this series to my ear...perhaps it's just the highly intelligent woman, wife of highly intelligent man, investigating crime in post-World War I England thing. :-)

Set 18, 2009, 5:44 pm

People are reading too many good books and I'm getting depressed. Between work (with commute, it's running about 14 hours a day right now) and all the kids' activities, I barely get to read more than 10 minutes at a time. My back hurts and I've got no more ice tea brewed.

Pirate Speak is the only amusing thing so far today.

There, I've whined now and can go back to doing something productive.

Set 18, 2009, 5:53 pm

Dr. Carolyn's prescription for Tad

Take the afternoon off!

That's what I'm doing. :-) I plan to settle in my reading chair and get as much of the Bujold read as I can, so I can be ready for Wood Wife when it arrives next week.

Off to read, mateys

Set 18, 2009, 8:51 pm

The greatest part of Pirate Speak is the one word that can describe it all:


Set 18, 2009, 9:25 pm

So sorry you are working 14 hour days and that your back hurts...ouch...
By all means, take care of yourself and get some rest.

Hugs to you

Set 18, 2009, 11:17 pm

Shouldn't I be a goddess?

Set 18, 2009, 11:33 pm

Yes, and you are!

Set 19, 2009, 1:06 am

We bow down to you Oh Goddess of Nerdness!~!

Set 19, 2009, 1:11 am

Good luck Tad. I hate days like that.
I am having a day of it. In fact the 3rd one running. But it is just that time of year with the kids bringing everything home from school and sharing the bugs with us. Last week it was my husband. This week---my turn. Nothing big; just the achy, headache, queasy tummy, dizziness; can't read more that 10 pages without the room spinning.
Now, I have whined enough and will move on and let you get all better.
big hug (& no bugs),

Set 20, 2009, 7:45 am

Esta mensagem foi removida pelo seu autor.

Set 20, 2009, 8:17 pm

: Dracula by Bram Stoker

352 pages

Bottom Line: Kudos for being one of the progenitors of a genre; kudos for wonderful, creepy atmosphere; jeers for absolutely stupid good guys—a bit slow occasionally, but worth the read.

In a way, you know what's going to happen; this story has been part of our culture for too many years (and too many movies) not to know. On the other hand, that didn't spoil it.

I'd divide this book into three parts. The first part (until Lucy's story is done) and the last part (once the active chase for Dracula starts) I found delightfully creepy and suspenseful. It was easy to see how this spawned over a century of horror stories. It was also fun to see the antecedents of all the little details of our current vampire mania—Eric gets Sookie to drink his blood so he can track her and hear her thoughts?...ahem, been there, read that.

The middle portion of the book was a tiny bit of a slog. It was light in the adventure department and rather high in both the protagonists-must-be-stupid and the people-must-pontificate departments. Oh well, it was another era and another standard of what is enjoyable in a story.

I recommend giving it a try; the very lack of modern "polish" lets this book conjure up a nice sense of darkness and terror.

Set 20, 2009, 9:42 pm

Nice review; I don't think I've ever read this, so I'm adding it to my wish list. Maybe I can get to it next month, for the October Reading Globally monthly read.

Set 21, 2009, 12:12 am

Good review, I read Dracula earlier in the year and while I really enjoyed reading this from a classic POV, I got a little annoyed with how Mina went from strong and capable to weak and overlooked.

Set 21, 2009, 10:00 am

>61 avatiakh:: I agree with your comment on Mina, Kerry. I don't want to give away spoilers, but it was particularly annoying given how central she should have been to the last third.

Set 21, 2009, 10:07 am

Hi There
Are you feeling better?

Set 21, 2009, 11:06 am

Great review of Dracula. I gave it a higher rating when I read it a couple of years ago because I thought I was going to hate it and was delightfully surprised how much I enjoyed it. In fact I raved about it so much, my son who had wanted me to read it gave me the annotated version for Christmas lat year and I plan to read it again as soon as I can fit it in (only 2 more books in the 999 challenge!).

I agree with you about Mina. I think male Victorian writers had a thing about "helpless women"--they found them appealing. Much more pathos over Lucy than if it had been Mina.

(I always thought Walter in The Woman in White fell for the wrong girl, too! Marian was worth a dozen Lauras IMO.)

If you read any more Poe let me know what you think of Ligeia. Have you read The Fall of the House of Usher? I did a group read of the Poe short stories last year and those were two that were new to me that I enjoyed. I think The Black Cat was another new one I liked--at least I remember I remember the title. :-) I enjoyed the read because it had been many years since I had read Poe and there were several new ones for me which kept me interested.

My copy of Wood Wife should come before the weekend--so I hope they don't take too much time on Poe. :-D

Editado: Set 21, 2009, 8:44 pm

Another commuting audio book...

: Sharpe's Havoc: Richard Sharpe and the Campaign in Northern Portugal, Spring 1809 by Bernard Cornwell

Historical Fiction, Richard Sharpe #7
320 pages in hardcover

Bottom Line: This was my favorite of the series so far—plenty of action and I enjoyed all the supporting cast. Not much else to say about the series...you've either become interested or not at this point.

Set 21, 2009, 9:20 pm

>64 MusicMom41:: Carolyn,

Yes, I have. I'm not sure the volume my parents gave me when I was a kid corresponds to any modern volume, but it has The Tell-Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, The Black Cat, The Mask of the Red Death, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Purloined Letter and The Pit and the Pendulum.

Set 23, 2009, 6:11 pm

catching up... again. I really enjoyed your line something like "whether it's my type of book or not I'll read the next one" about your summer read. Made me want to find it and quick! Glad to have read some great stuff on these threads of yours, but sorry to have missed out on so much of the discussion! Maybe for this last quarter things will go better for me on that -- hope so.

Editado: Set 24, 2009, 2:30 pm

: Women of Algiers in their Apartment by Assia Djebar

Short Stories, Algeria, Feminism
211 pages

Bottom Line: Feminist stories of Algerian women, exposing the voices suppressed by their culture. Incredibly dense and opaque prose at times that requires a lot of concentration but, even when not fully understood, summons images like a tone poem.

My Review: Assia Djebar's book is a set of short stories and an essay about the women of Algeria and their existence in a society that wants to keep them apart from the world, subservient to the male. It isn't the romantic formula of Western literature about the harem; these are stories of oppression, both at the hands of individual men and from two paternalistic societies: French colonial and fundamentalist Islam. More precisely, they are stories about the loss of voice and public identity, about disappearing into a private enclave whose keys are held by men. I've re-read her Overture to the book several times, an introduction in which she discusses her choice to write in French, rather than the Arabic imposed upon her country and her sex. After each story, going back and reading it, the words become more clear:
Arabic sounds...but always in feminine tones, uttered from lips beneath a mask...An excoriated language, from never having appeared in the sunlight, from having sometimes been intoned, declaimed, howled, dramatized, but always mouth and eyes in the dark...Words of the veiled body, language that in turn has taken the veil for so long a time.
I found the chronology of the stories interesting; they move backward. They start with the 1970s in the days of post-colonial Algeria as the country moves toward an Islamic society. They pass through the arc at whose zenith women stood relatively equal with men as guerilla fighters, able to pass the French soldiers with a flirt while carrying their bombs and guns. They end with the stories of the colonial days. In comparing the last, with their seraglios, to the first, where the female freedom fighters are deliberately forgotten, their selves dumped into insane asylums under the care of male doctors, you get a real sense that nothing really changed—only the outward form is different.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this book for me, given the feminist core, is the situation of men. Of course, many are simply the oppressors in these stories; she makes clear her position that the world would be a better place without them. Yet, the few men who are not the victimizers come across, themselves, as victims...and victims that are, in some ways, even more desperate: lost, alone and isolated. For, despite the subjugation of the women, both past and present, Djebar shows them bound together in a society of their own. When they are hurt or in need, it is always another woman who reaches out to ease their pain or help them understand. Shared suffering, forced seclusion and exclusion have crafted a hidden society, the world of the "apartment" or harem, which has bonds that aren't seen in the outside world.

There's a whole second level to this book, an allegory of Algeria as a woman, her true and diverse voice suppressed, first under the paternalism of a colonial power, later under the paternalism of Islam and Arabic. The language of this book is so dense and opaque that I need several readings to explore everything. I've read the first story three times and have come away with something new each time.

Highly recommended.

ETA, a couple things I looked up on the Web for context while reading the book: Algeria had been conquered by the Moors during their days of building empire. It was invaded by the French under a flimsy pretext in 1830 and kept as a colony until the late 1950s when, after a brutal guerilla war, it was granted independence. Since that time, there has been a lot of internal tension between pro-Islamic and pro-Nationalist factions, including a decade-long civil war in the 90s.

Assia Djebar was born under French colonial rule and started her education at French schools...in fact, she was the first Algerian woman accepted at École Normale Supérieure in Paris, but was expelled when the revolution started. After independence, she became a well-known author and filmmaker, often criticized for her refusal to become an Arabic-language author. She's taught at several colleges, has won several prizes and is sometimes mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Set 24, 2009, 2:22 pm

Another fantastic review! I have been reading memoirs of Islamic women for the last couple of years, discovering their oppression and how they try to escape it or cope with it. Women of Algiers in their Apartment sounds like this would be another good source to explore this issue, even though it is fiction. I have always said "sometime there is more 'truth' in fiction than in nonfiction." I hope I can hunt this one down.

Set 24, 2009, 7:54 pm

Wow. Good writing Tad. I knew quite a few Algerians in Paris. Mostly Berbers. Absolutely lovely people.

Set 25, 2009, 9:39 pm

Great review, Tad, of a book worth looking for. Thanks for both the review and recommendation!

Set 26, 2009, 8:07 am

Thank you for your terrific review. There are enough hooks in your review to open a bait shop at some beautiful lake resort area. (Choose your state, if you live in the USA. If you are in another part of the world ... you know where the best fishing is enjoyed).

I think this one will have to purchased. Re-reading a story for depth is awesome and worthwhile, Tad.

Many thanks. Inspiring review.


Editado: Set 29, 2009, 5:36 pm

For the Halloween group read...

: The Wood Wife by Terri Windling

Urban Fantasy, American Folklore
318 pages

Bottom Line: A wonderful book, a must-read if you like American Southwest folklore combined with urban fantasy.

My Review: I had remembered really enjoying this book from when I read it about 12 years ago. I had forgotten how much I liked it, enough that I'm nudging it into my Favorites list for this particular genre.

Windling takes the same basic American folklore stock as Charles de Lint and others have used and, like them, crafts it into a contemporary story where our world touches those myths. Coyote, Crow and other spirits walk just on the edge of our perception, seen only by a few. As is often true in folk tales, Windling populates her story with artists, their creative side drawing them closer to that other world and fragments from the works of Neruda, Borges and Rilke are woven into the tale, along with a bit of Windling's own poetry (which I rather enjoyed) as well as references to Kahlo, Miller and Nin.

There's a narrow path for stories that attempt contemporary fantasy. On one side lie stories where, despite the setting, there's no sense that it's really our world—Harry Dresden may claim to live in Chicago but...no...not really. To the other side lie those stories so rooted in reality that any magical elements seem intentionally to distort the tale. Neither is a bad thing; there are many enjoyable books written in both areas. However, because it's more rare, I enjoy a book that is unquestionably of this world and, yet, still has that sense of fey. This one does—there's never a moment of doubt that Davis Cooper was part of the hip scene in the 30s, or that Anna Naverra was an integral part of the Surrealist movement, or even that Maggie Black is a poet who has mislaid her muse in the commercial world of publishing. Yet, when Crow steps into view on the mountain, all I felt was, "Of course."

Part of it is the wonderful sense of locale that Windling creates. She lives in Arizona much of the year and her story evokes the beauty of the southwest, particularly the Rincon Mountains, rendering it seductive even to the non-native. By preference, I'm a creature of the American northeast, cool, well-forested, and abundantly watered. Yet, I couldn't help but be seduced by her words and want to go and experience the austere landscapes she portrayed.

The story she told and the setting would have been enough for me to enjoy this book, but I also appreciated in her distinctive vision of the spirits. If you imagine a continuum—someone like Jane Lindskold on the left with her mythical figures all too human, squabbling like the immature Gods of Olympus, through Charles de Lint in the center with his spirits otherworldly and remote but still capable of emotions we recognize, then Windling's creations sit over on the right. They are un-human in their concerns and motivations, neither good nor evil but amoral in the strictest sense. It felt chilling and right.

Is there anything I would change? Yes. I think some of the characters were underexposed, Tomás in particular. I would have liked her to stretch the ending a tiny bit, to turn the penultimate 25 pages into 50 and let us spend a little more time with the resolution. Yet, these are minor cavils and shouldn't detract from what I think is one of the better urban fantasy novels out there, one that really captures that fey sense.

I really wish she'd stop painting, stop editing, stop writing children's books, stop whatever else she's doing now and give us another novel such as this one.

Set 29, 2009, 5:29 pm

And a brace of mysteries set in Africa...

: The Leopard's Prey by Suzanne Arruda

Mystery, Jade del Cameron #4
384 pages

Bottom Line: Another pleasant installment in this mystery series set in Kenya of the 1920s. I enjoy them though they're just lightweight reading. This episode does begin to touch upon the treatment of the natives by colonizing powers. I wonder if the books are going to take on a social consciousness aspect?

Set 29, 2009, 5:30 pm

: The Camel of Destruction by Michael Pearce

Mystery, Mamur Zapt #7
196 pages

Bottom Line: The best so far in this colorful and humorous series of mysteries set in Cairo of 1910.

My Review: The mystery plots in Michael Pearce's series are about average. What I find most enjoyable about these books is the wonderful setting and colorful characters with which he's peopled it...Cairo of 1910: the corrupt and bankrupt Ottoman government of the Khedive of Egypt and Sudan; the British Advisors and soldiers who occupy the country in fact, if not on paper; the Nationalist population drawing from the ranks of the city folk and fellahin. Pearce was raised in Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and these books have a wonderfully authentic air to them, full of the sights and sounds of the city.

In this volume, Captain Owen—British occupier of the post of Mamur Zapt, Head of Cairo's Secret Police...i.e., charged by Britain to keep political matters from getting out of control—has to figure out how the suicide of a minor civil servant, some unknown person cheating citizens out of their inheritances and something going on at the Agricultural Bank all fit together. All told with the dry humor I've come to expect from Pearce.

Set 29, 2009, 5:30 pm

: The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason

464 pages of which I read the first 70 and the last 30

Bottom Line: The first reason I started this was that it was I had an unexpected wait for my daughter and it was 25¢ at the outdoor rack of the library. The second reason is that it's set at my alma mater and I'm a sucker for the nostalgia thing. The third reason was...honestly?...there is no third reason to choose this. Boring, inane, inconsistent and a bit affected.

Set 29, 2009, 6:15 pm

>76 TadAD: Wow Tad -- I couldn't put it down and you couldn't wait to give it up. LOL I really enjoyed it, and TROF was one of my favorite books I read that year.

Set 29, 2009, 6:27 pm

>77 suslyn:: Hehe. If we all agreed, it would be boring. Maybe I just caught it at a bad time. The characters seemed too stereotypical for me to bond with them and I didn't engage with the narrative format. I'm not a Dan Brown fan but at least his stuff is fast-paced. This didn't get me that way. Still, a lot of people liked this book, so maybe just me and I'm not going to argue with you.

Though you do have to explain to me how Corelli is a "minor" Italian composer. ;-D

Set 29, 2009, 6:42 pm

LOL No can do. :) I didn't even know there was hype about the book when I read it. Like you I found it cheap somewhere ...

Set 30, 2009, 10:18 am

#73 Tad, you make me so glad I decided to buy and read The Wood Wife! I had to make some choices about the Halloween reads, and apparently I made a good choice about this one. On another thread, someone said it was better read at one stretch rather than a little at a time, so it's on the list for the weekend. Thanks for the review!

Set 30, 2009, 8:21 pm

> 76 I have checked The Rule of Four out of the library two separate times and returned it without starting it. Maybe I was getting some kind of subconscious vibe not to bother!

Out 1, 2009, 8:24 am

: Bavarian Cooking by Olli Leeb


Acquaintances from southern Germany have a little party in late September for Viehscheid...the festival of the "Cows Coming Home." I like to cook and this year I wanted to make something authentic so a friend who lives outside Munich obligingly sent this along. Tellerfleisch...a beef stew with chives, horseradish, dill pickle, tomato and carrot was great! I see a lot of recipes in here I want to experiment with (I'm a "hmm, I wonder if I change it in this way how it will taste?" type of cook).

Printed with that "backwards" European spine...but, hey, you can't have everything! :-D

Out 1, 2009, 1:11 pm

Thank goodness I can skim over the mysteries and thrillers as they're not my kind of thing. Otherwise your thread would be even more dangerous!

Out 1, 2009, 1:15 pm

LOL, lunacat.

I do seem to be reading a bunch of them this summer, don't I. Part of it is that it's been a bad summer for time and stress and I've needed things I can read in 15-20 minute increments. The other is that I'm not finding much that appeals to me in other "light reading" genres.

But, it's hardly dangerous. The Surgeon General hasn't made a single comment about it, yet.

Out 2, 2009, 2:38 am

>144 alcottacre: looks like a good one to add!

Out 2, 2009, 9:14 am

> Post #68 and Post # 73 -

Hi, there Mr. Reader Man.

I just today, Friday, the second of October, am able to slow down enough to take the time to get caught up with your thread. yeah!

I bought Women of Algiers in their Apartment online and am looking forward to the UPS truck delivering it to my front door, soon. Your review above in this thread intrigued me and I believe I will love it and re-read it, or at least some of it, also.

I picked up on the possibilities offered by the suggestion of The Wood Wife over in the Halloween/Horror Reading thread. While I cannot participate this year in the read, I think the idea and the books selected sound great. I will set aside some special reading time for Wood Wife, so that I can immerse myself in the mystery and the myths. Thanks for your review which has nudged me to get going on it myself. It sounds excellent.

I read an ARC Saints In Limbo recently which would have fit right in with the spooky Halloween stuff on the other thread. It is not horror, just a touch of super-natural. I reviewed it, finally, on the main page of the book, if you are interested. It is sort of a "Walton's Mountain" with eerie chills and a few scary touches. River Jordan is an excellent writer and this book was the first of hers that I have read and reviewed.

Main Book page link: http://www.librarything.com/work/8005222


Editado: Out 3, 2009, 8:16 am

Commuting book...

: Sharpe's Eagle: Richard Sharpe and the Talavara Campaign, July 1809 by Bernard Cornwell

Historical Adventure, Richard Sharpe #8
270 pages

Lots of action, not so much plot or character depth as the chronologically earlier books in the series (this was either the first or second volume that he wrote). Still, I'm completely invested in this character by this point, so I enjoyed it.

It does have one of the most priceless scenes: the unimpressive Spanish troops panic when they see French dragoons firing at snakes off in the distance. Though it's three times the maximum range of a musket, the entire Spanish force starts firing.
The fire and lead poured into the empty field...For a second Sharpe thought the Spanish were cheering their own victory over the innocent grass but suddenly he realized the shouts were not of triumph, but alarm. They had been scared witless by their own volley, by the thunder 10,000 muskets and now they ran for safety. Thousands streamed into the olive trees throwing away muskets, trampling the fires in their panic, screaming for help, heads up, arms pumping, running from their own noise."

Out 3, 2009, 8:19 pm

That Bavarian cooking book looks good! My only German recipe book is by Hannelore Kohl, wife of Helmut, and the photos are really funny. I haven't tried anything out of it...

I've been buying the Richard Sharpe series when I see them in secondhand bookfairs, based on your rec and someone else's (maybe Joycepa I think), but haven't launched into them yet. I have 3 so far. (I guess I'm waiting to find the first one but the library has it, so I should give it a go!)

Out 3, 2009, 8:58 pm

Congratulations on reading 145 books thus far! My, but that is impressive!

Out 4, 2009, 11:55 am

>88 cushlareads:: Try them, Cushla. I think reading them in chronological order is working well, so give your library a bump in their circulation figures! :-)

>89 Whisper1:: Thanks, Linda. However, it really pales compared to what some people are doing (Laurie and Stasia come to mind).

Out 4, 2009, 11:55 am

: Death's Head: Day of the Damned by David Gunn

Military Science Fiction
346 pages

This series is a guilty little pleasure of mine and this isn't even a very good episode. Move along, nothing to see here.

Out 4, 2009, 11:56 am

This was going to be part of the "Books About the Piano" category of 999...

: A Romance on Three Legs by Katie Hafner

Non-fiction, Piano
232 pages

Bottom Line: An interesting and enjoyable look at one of the more colorful musical greats, Glenn Gould, the Steinway Piano Company, the almost-blind piano tuner, Verne Edquist, and how they all came together in Gould's search for an instrument that let him fully express his artistic vision.

This book is portrait of three individuals. The first is, of course, Glenn Gould: the highest paid concert pianist of his day who, nonetheless, abandoned the "jungle" of the concert stage and worked only in recording studios; a hypochondriac and sometimes bizarre figure who often refused to accept reality. The second is Verne Edquist: virtually blind, educated by the state in a trade school for the blind, who became one of the most gifted piano technicians in North America and, eventually, the person who made Gould's piano sound the way he envisioned it. The third is Steinway CD 318: a piano deemed past its useful life as a concert piano, dented scratched and relegated to be sold second hand, which became his perfect instrument.

Hafner tells the story of Gould's half-career search for a piano that would allow him to play the music as he heard it in his head, the decades of perfecting its sound and creating an enormous catalog of recorded music upon it and, finally, the bittersweet loss of the instrument. Along the way, we are offered a look behind the curtain at the Steinway Company, particularly its Artists Program—an endorsement program similar in scope to Nike's dominance of sports figures today—as well as a glimpses of other major figures on the musical scene,

I enjoyed the book and read it in a single sitting. However, I can't help but compare it to the work by Perri Knize that I read earlier this year, Grand Obsession. They are similar in theme (the search for an ideal piano) but this book is drier, more intellectual. While I have a preference for that in Bach, I don't in biography and think that...if you must read only one...you should choose Knize's.


Out 4, 2009, 12:13 pm

This one sounds like one I would absolutely love! I'm going on a hunt for it. Very nice review--"drier, more intellectual" could refer to the pianist as well as the book. :-) But he could play his Bach beautifully!

Somehow I missed your review of Grand Obsession so I'm going back to look for that one, too. Or I read it when my brain was "fuzzy" and now I don't remember it! :-)

Out 4, 2009, 1:28 pm

>93 MusicMom41:: I was thinking of you! :-)

Out 4, 2009, 10:35 pm

I think I will stick with Grand Obsession, Tad. Thanks for the comparison.

Out 8, 2009, 5:16 pm

I'm a bit behind with your thread, trying to catch up now and your reviews are wonderful as always! Oh, and it looks like I picked the wrong book to skip for the Halloween read (Wood Wife) :(

Out 9, 2009, 2:40 pm

>96 girlunderglass:: Thanks for stopping by, Eliza.

Well, The Wood Wife does seem to have been well received in the group.

Out 9, 2009, 10:00 pm

: The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

342 pages

Bottom Line: I enjoyed the slow, leisurely building of a tale; I didn't enjoy the precipitous ending where everything is wrapped up by the narrator rather than the characters.

Another atmospheric read for the Halloween Group Read but this one evoked some mixed feelings. I was expecting the slow, deliberate pace of 19th century fiction, and certainly got it. It required a willingness to be patient with the unhurried exposition of characters and the frequent pauses for admonitory reflection, plus an acceptance of the fact that there aren't going to be any electrifying moments. I wasn't in any hurry and was able to relax and enjoy the trip.

What I didn't enjoy was the ending. After 290 pages of this slow trip, we get a sudden and very pat ending for our characters in about 50 pages. Yet, even at that, very little of the story's completion came as part of the plot through the offices of the characters. Instead, the narrator interjects himself for half of it to give us an "oh, by the way" explanation, clarifying what has happened. I was rather disappointed by all this.

In the end, I'm glad I read it, enjoyed it, and would mildly recommend it. If you don't look for modern pacing or excitement, it can be quite pleasant...like floating along on a slow-moving stream with a nice view.

Out 9, 2009, 10:09 pm

Great review, Tad. And you articulated the dissatisfaction I felt with the ending. I wasn't sure why I found it too "pat" but I knew it felt hurried. I didn't think about the fact that the narrator took over the "telling" rather than letting the characters continue with the story. Maybe Hawthorne had a deadline! :-) I think, overall, I liked it a little better than you did, though. Maybe because it's been quite a while since I've read this kind of book and I enjoyed just reading slowly!

Out 10, 2009, 7:00 am

The only Hawthorne I've read is a short story (novella?) called The Minister's Black Veil and I really enjoyed it - you might want to give it a try as it's very short and I'm pretty sure you can find it online for free.

Out 10, 2009, 6:15 pm

: Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden

Fiction, Giller Prize
359 pages

Bottom Line: An absolute pleasure to read. Boyden is firmly in my Favorite Author list now.

I half-wondered if Boyden's second novel would engage me as his first, Three Day Road, did or whether it would turn out to be a case of a wistful "Oh well!" for another author lacking staying power. It was the former; I didn't want to put the book down.

Like his first novel, this is told by alternating narrators. The first is Will Bird, a well-known Cree bush pilot, who lies, comatose, in the hospital while his thoughts spin out the tale of how he got there. The second is his niece, Annie Bird, who has returned to Moosonee to sit with her uncle because her friend, a nurse, has told her that talking with a patient may help to rouse him. While sitting there, she tells him the story of her search for her missing sister, who went south to Montreal and New York to be a model. Eventually, you start to see the two threads merge naturally into a single story that's exciting and tense.

This book has the same clean writing style that I admired so much in both his first novel and his collection of short stories, Born With a Tooth. It's fluid, quick and compelling, and takes you right into the First Nation communities around Moosonee, or out into the frozen bush on the borders of Hudson Bay. He has also crafted another set of vivid and complex characters that engaged me from the opening pages.

Though this book won Canada's top prize for fiction, I still rank his first novel ahead of it. Will's story line is gripping and forceful—there wasn't a chance I was going to set the book down while in the midst his chapters. Some of Annie's tale, however, is a bit more prosaic. Though the portions of her story set at home drew me right in, when she recounts her sojourn in the drug-fueled lifestyle of the glitterati, there's a bit of dullness to the story...almost as if the superficiality of that life had colored the writing. I wanted those parts of the book over so I could get back to the North. I also found a faint hint of blockbuster in the ending as, after a climactic scene, everything begins to wrap up tidily.

But...don't interpret this as damning—I was delighted with this story and have added Boyden to my Favorite Authors list.

By the way, if the characters' surname sounds familiar to those who have read Three Day Road, Will and Annie are Xavier Bird's son and granddaughter. Since he has stated he will always write about the First Nations, I'm hoping there will be more stories about the inhabitants of Moosonee and Moose Factory.

Out 10, 2009, 6:47 pm

This sounds like a wonderful story. But I think I should start with Three Day Road which is already on my Wishlist. You've given me the nudge to start hunting for a copy! Thumbs up for the review!

Out 10, 2009, 8:13 pm

> #149 - Tad -

Both this book and its author sound wonderful. I have added Three Day Road to my Next Up! category, which means that I will either buy it soon or at the very least reserve the title from the library.

This author sounds wonderful, Tad. Thanks for bringing him to my attention.


Out 11, 2009, 4:37 am

#101: I already have that one on Planet TBR (along with Three Day Road), so I do not have to add it again.

Out 12, 2009, 9:07 am

On your recommendation, I picked up a copy of Three Day Road. I'll have to find time to get to reading it soon.

Out 13, 2009, 2:07 pm

Aha - found you again!

Amused by your comments on Sharpe's Havoc - yep, I'm running out new things to say about them too now...

Lovely review of Through Black Spruce - I can see I'm going to have to search out Joseph Boyden.

...and (going way back now) I too would love to visit Antarctica one day, but I'm a little torn - it's the last true wilderness really and I can't help feeling it would be a shame if it became a more popular tourist destination, even if it does prevent me going. I've kept an eye on the British Antarctic Survey jobs page ever since I was 21 - unfortunately, my real career path doesn't exactly overlap! Ho hum.

(A very quick note to Cait86 too - completely with you on the penguin thing - one of the most wonderful travel experiences I've ever had was sitting on my own in the dark on the beach in Bicheno, Tasmania watching Fairy penguins come ashore. Amazing. Probably the best YHA location ever!)

Out 13, 2009, 2:09 pm

You could go to the Moon or Mars. They're more wildernessy (I know thats not a word) than Antarctica.

Editado: Out 17, 2009, 10:16 am

: An Autumn War by Daniel Abraham

368 pages

Bottom Line: Part III of the quartology—loved it. I also love that Abraham is able to define a clear story arc instead of producing an endless stream of books that wander toward some vague ending.

I really enjoyed this book, the third volume in Abraham's The Long Price Quartet. On one hand, I'm happy that the series is defined as a quartology; the current trend of dragging fantasy series on interminably is not enjoyable. On the other hand, I really like his writing and each volume is better than the last.

This one is does not suffer from the common "middle book" problem of being merely connective tissue between an interesting beginning and an exciting ending. The plot gets twisty and readers are forced to think about who are really the bad guys and who the good. The characterizations continue to be well done and there's plenty of action and excitement with an ending that leaves you anxious for the fourth volume (have no fear...it's already published).

One of the things I particularly like about this series is how the fantasy elements take a back seat to the stories about people.

Definitely recommended.

Out 17, 2009, 10:15 am

Well, that makes 150, which was the upper limit for my target for this year. I was shooting for 125-150 and spending a little less time with my nose in a book than I did last year. Oh well, I failed since it's not my last book of the year.

Editado: Out 17, 2009, 11:21 am

I picked this up based upon Prop2gether's and Avaland's comments last year...

: Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell, translated by Stephen Murray

288 pages in hardcover

I really enjoyed this first book in the Kurt Wallender series—a very real detective dealing with an intriguing murder. Wallender came across as completely human—nabbed for drunk driving, struggling with a separation from his wife, unsure how to deal with his daughter. I also liked the social commentary as Wallender contemplated the changes happening in Swedish society.

Editado: Out 17, 2009, 11:45 am

For the Halloween Group Read...

: The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells

185 pages

I found this a rather compelling novella-length story. If you suspend judgments about 19th century biological theories, it's an exciting adventure story with a lot more atmosphere than I expected. There is also a great deal of social commentary. I can't help but wonder how the Victorian readers reacted to the body shots on the effects of a class system, the unflattering parodies of religion, and the warnings about equating pure scientific advances with true progress. The issues he touched upon are, perhaps, even more pertinent today than they were then.

I think this would make a fascinating Book Club read—quick, yet raising questions ranging from colonialism to cloning.

My favorite Wells' work so far.

Editado: Out 17, 2009, 11:53 am

Hmm...if I'd written my review before you it would have been freakishly similar. MusiscMom, who just finished the book also seems to have enjoyed it, so I think that's a consensus there. We must remember to thank BDB for including it in the Halloween reads!

Oh, I should also add that the first of the Long Price Quartet has gone onto my wishlist!

Out 17, 2009, 12:46 pm

Three good reviews of three good books--thank heaven I've already one of them! :-)

I agree with Eliza that we should thank BDB for prodding us into reading it. At least I should because I might otherwise never have read it--I bought it especially for the Halloween Read. And I agree that of the 4 Wells books I've read so far this is the best--although I enjoyed all of them.

Going off to Fantastic Fiction to find out the title of the first book in the Abraham Quartet and to add the Mankell book to my wishlist.

Out 17, 2009, 4:57 pm

I'm adding The Island of Dr. Moreau to my wish list. Thanks, Tad!

Out 18, 2009, 8:22 am

I am adding the Abraham books to Planet TBR. Why couldn't he just stick to a trilogy, though? Doesn't he know that his quartology adds another book to the Planet?

Out 18, 2009, 8:33 am

With so many our our group who have recently read and recommended The Island of Dr. Moreau, I simply have to add it to the tbr pile.

Thanks for your great reviews! Your thread is a great (but dangerous one.)

Out 22, 2009, 5:41 pm

>110 TadAD: I read Faceless Killers over the summer (and the next two books in the series thereafter), but have to admit I'd probably knock a half-star off compared to your rating: the way the ending seemed to come completely out of left-field really irritated me.

I'm going to stick with Wallender for a bit though, as I felt with The White Lioness that he was really beginning to hit his stride. Annoyingly, I've got several volumes all out of sequence so am going to have to fill the gaps with the library...

Out 22, 2009, 8:49 pm

I've been eyeing the Abraham books at the library for a while now, but never heard anyone say anything about him. Now I'll have to start checking them out!

Out 25, 2009, 12:31 am

The Joseph Boyden books look wonderful. He is a new author for me, and I look forward to reading him. Thanks for your always helpful reviews.

Out 27, 2009, 9:52 pm

>117 FlossieT:: I won't say he's my favorite but I did enjoy. I'm glad to hear you think they get better.

Editado: Out 27, 2009, 10:06 pm

A Halloween Group read...

: Ghost by Alan Lightman

Semi-supernatural Fiction
244 pages

Bottom Line: Maybe 2½ stars if I was in a good mood...but I'm tired. I never got interested in any of the characters; they came across as flat and insipid. The hoopla surrounding "I saw something I can't explain" didn't ring true—it was just too much of a reaction for a relatively minor, and common, event. I finished the story but it was absolutely unmemorable for me and I'm glad it was a library book.

Editado: Out 27, 2009, 10:04 pm

: Callisto by Torsten Krol

Humorous political satire
464 pages

Bottom Line: Very funny...very pointed humor...very much enjoyed.

Torsten Krol (a nom de plume for a midwestern author who does not want to reveal his name) was extremely depressed about his recent divorce and decided to:
...rectify my lamentable situation by pouring scorn on a target worthy of my ire. No, not my ex-wife—George Bush and his attempt to carve himself a slice of history at the expense of ...just about everyone!"

Right about now, you should be examining your political leanings to decide if this book is for you, because he ain't kidding about the pouring scorn part.

Krol's story introduces us to Odell Deefus, a big, dumb hick who decides to enlist in the Army to fight against the "mad dog Islamites." On the way to the recruiting station, his car breaks down and he finds himself accidentally mixed up in a murder and not-so-accidentally involved with drug smuggling. These would be bad enough (if the police knew about them) but he is also mistaken for a terrorist by Homeland Security, deported to someplace suspiciously like Guantanamo where the expected things happen, and completely unable to contact the object of his major infatuation, Condaleezza Rice, to explain things. The whole thing becomes a giant, satirical look at a bureaucracy that distorts reality to conform to its beliefs.

Wickedly pointed humor that's wickedly funny. I loved it.

Editado: Out 28, 2009, 4:16 pm

: Jamilia by Chingiz Aïmatov, translated by James Riordan

Fiction, Kyrgyzstan
96 pages

Bottom Line: Avaland recommended this one—I do, too.

Living in Kyrgyzstan during World War II, Seit is a teenage boy experiencing his first, unrequited crush on his sister-in-law, Jamilia. Jamilia is married to Sadyk, whose tepid letters from the war are sent to his parents and mention her only in passing in the postscripts. The two of them get thrown together with Daniyal, a soldier invalided back from the front, whose sullen demeanor slowly thaws to reveal a poet's soul. Aïmatov sews these elements together into a love story that feels like a folk tale handed down through the generations. Reading about the author, it seems the folklore tone is characteristic of his work as he aimed to recreate the oral tradition of his nomadic people. It gives this story a charming air that I loved.

Obviously, I recommend it.

Out 28, 2009, 4:45 am

These last two books sound really interesting.

Out 28, 2009, 5:42 am

#122/123: Adding both of those to the BlackHole. Thanks for the reviews and recommendations, Tad.

Out 29, 2009, 6:53 am

: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Memoir, Books About Books, Epistolary
97 pages

This small collection of correspondence between Ms. Hanff and a British bookseller has been recommended by so many on LT that I'll simply say that I found it wonderful and was sorry when it ended. It became an instant favorite.

Editado: Out 29, 2009, 8:26 am

After reading your post over on Stasia's thread, I wanted to stop by and see what you have been reading recently. I'm glad that I did.

I snagged both Callisto and Jamilia by Chingiz Aitmatov.

I could really enjoy some good satire about now, so Callisto should fit the bill nicely.

And, Jamilia ...if you heard good things about it from Lois and both of you liked it, that is plenty of reason for me to add it to my TBR cyber stack. Thank you!


Out 29, 2009, 1:45 pm

Oh! I picked up Callisto from the library a couple of months ago then returned it unread. I'll have to go back and get it again.

Out 29, 2009, 1:55 pm

#123 re Jamilia

Wonder of wonders--there actually is a copy of this book in Central California--just one--but I've got it on order. It is a different translator so I hope it is as good as yours was. Great review!

re 84 Charring Cross Road was one of my favorite books for years! Unfortunately I lent it out shortly before I moved across country so I no longer have a copy. You've just convinced me it's time to find another one for me to own--it should be in the library of every biblioholic! :-)

Out 31, 2009, 2:40 am

#126: I love the book which I discovered accidentally through viewing the film starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins. I am glad to see that the book has found another fan!

Out 31, 2009, 11:14 am

: The Price of Spring by Daniel Abraham

348 pages

Bottom Line: An enjoyable and nicely appropriate ending to one of the better fantasy series written in the last few decades.

In this fourth and final volume of The Long Price Quartet, the furor of the war between Galt and the cities of the Khaiem is long over and both sides are struggling to find a future after the unimaginable tragedy that ended it. Otah, Maati and the other major players are becoming old and the pace of the story adjusts to reflect this. Instead of a struggle of armies, the struggles are those of politics and visions for the future—strive to recapture the glories of the past or set aside old animosities and look to the future? This is not to imply that there is anything dull about this tale; if anything, the characters continue to get deeper and draw the reader more firmly into their world. It is simply more reflective in nature.

And the story ends. As I mentioned in my review of An Autumn War, I'm very happy that Abraham was able to define a complete story arc. I was left with a sense of completion...that I was told a story with a beginning, middle and end...that I don't get from the current trend in fantasy series of wandering ever-onward on some endless path.

Fantasy books aren't for everyone (though the fantasy aspects of this series are rather light) but, if you do enjoy the genre, I'm hard-put to think of another completed series by a current author that I found so satisfying.

Out 31, 2009, 11:46 am


I'm looking forward to reading this series at some point. Its good to know that I have a satisfying conclusion to look forward to. The most frustrated I remember being for a long time is embarking on the WoT series, enjoying the first few, struggling through the middle ones but thinking it would be worth it once it ended, only to discover he had died and there was no end.

I gave up there and then, and now I am so so cautious of starting series' before they are concluded. Sometimes I can't help myself though.

Out 31, 2009, 12:03 pm

>132 lunacat:: I can empathize with that completely.

I started WoT in 1992 on the plane flight of my honeymoon. As the years rolled along, I became ever less certain of it's being completed. Sure enough, he died and now...if we're lucky...we'll get someone else's interpretation of the ending. Like you, I stopped reading it. Maybe I'll pick it up once all is done or maybe not.

The same thing happened with George R. R. Martin's Song of Fire and Ice series. I read A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords in the last decade, then watched as promised books failed to appear, year after year. Even when he finally got one out, it was half of what was promised and a years late. The guy's 61 now...at one book every three years with a minimum of three more books to go, will he stay writing long enough to finish it? I've put this one on hold also.

I made a firm rule to not start any series that wasn't finished. Friends keep telling me I'll love Erickson's Malazan series. Supposedly, he has only the tenth and last volume to go. If he gets it out, then I'll start the series.

Unfortunately, the rule wasn't firm enough. I read Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind only to find...surprise, surprise...that the second book has been delayed indefinitely!


Out 31, 2009, 12:41 pm


We appear to be having the same problem with our series reading!! I started A Game of Thrones but felt myself getting caught up in it, investigated and discovered that it wasn't finished so put it down. Hopefully at some point it will be finished so I can read it. I won't hold my breath though.

My best friend's hubby has the Malazan series and I keep looking at them. I thought that maybe I could read the first one and see if I liked it. After all, they are so long that it would take me a while, right? But at some point I have to come to the end, and what if the tenth isn't out when I get there?

And.....I also read The Name of the Wind and I wish that I hadn't. It caught me hook, line and sinker and now I'm on tenterhooks like you and a lot of other people.

When will we learn?

I'll help your resolve if you help mine!

Out 31, 2009, 1:09 pm

I also (mostly) follow a rule of not reading series until they're finished, but at the same time, I think you're both being a bit too pessimistic about WoT. It's not a series that I'm personally following--I started it once and read the seven or so that were out at the time, but never got around to continuing it--but I have a lot of faith in Brandon Sanderson. I'm amazed at how quickly he can write, and not in a way that seems rushed. It's clear from his blog that he takes his WoT responsibilities very seriously, and I just see no reason to think that the series won't be completely promptly.

Of course it's not Robert Jordan himself, but Jordan did leave behind a lot of notes, so it's not like someone else is just completely making up an ending either.

Out 31, 2009, 1:27 pm

My library has the first three of The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham, so I've ordered the first to be sent to my branch. I'm looking forward to a good series!

I never got past the first WoT or the Terry Goodkind books, and I'm rather happy about that at this point. I bogged down in the first Martin, although if he finishes the series, I'll give them another try. Also bogged down in the middle of the first Malazan book by Erikson, but might also give those another try when the series is complete. Am saving Name of the Wind to be read when the other books are done!

Out 31, 2009, 3:08 pm

>134 lunacat:: lunacat - Deal!

>135 _Zoe_:: _Zoe_ - I like what Sanderson I've read but it's so often the case that one author finishing or continuing another's work fails to duplicate the writing style and you get a clear division in the work. That always bothers me. Promptly is relative...he's already delayed the finish once. Of course, he's in a hard situation, so I don't fault him very much.

However, WoT is now firmly in the "when it's done, I'll think about it" category. If it works out well, then I've had a pleasant surprise.

>136 ronincats:: Roni - I never got into Goodkind's work. Just as well, I guess.

Editado: Out 31, 2009, 5:07 pm

Tad--thanks for the "heads up" about The Name of the Wind! It's been on my "to buy" list all year and I almost bought it a couple of weeks ago. I will now wait until I get the "all clear" from "those who know" that it is safe to get it and give it shelf space! :-)

I never mind asking "stupid questions" because 1) I like to know stuff, and 2) someone has to do it. So--What is WoT? I'm assuming someone named Robert Jordon wrote it and didn't finish it. Since I've discovered Brian Sanderson today (I've put the first book of the Mistborn series on my wish lit and am considering Elantris as well) I might want to check out the WoT series if it is worth the effort.

There are so many fantasy author out there how do you ever keep them straight! :-D Thank heaven for the good guides on LT who help us uninitiated new fans of fantasy find our way through the maze!

edited for spelling

Out 31, 2009, 5:13 pm

WoT is The Wheel of Time series. The first is The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan.

It is currently at twelve books, all very long (over 700 pages each at least) but Jordan passed away after the eleventh book and without finishing the series. Brandon Sanderson is now finishing writing the books (in fact one final book split into 3 volumes) based on Jordan's notes.

They are absolute epics in the most traditional meaning, with extensive characters, history, sub plot etc brought into the world.

Not for the faint hearted, and its necessary to commit to time and mental energy in order to get through the series. I stopped reading them at about book 7 when I discovered Jordan had passed away and so the series wasn't finished, I wasn't prepared to put that much effort into a series without an ending.

I may well pick them up again when the series is completed, if I hear good things about Sanderson's finishing of it. But I certainly am not going to start reading them again now. Indeed, I can't because I got rid of the last 4 before finding out that Sanderson had stepped in to finish them!

Editado: Out 31, 2009, 5:30 pm

>138 MusicMom41:: What lunacat said. ;-D

Anyway, I Googled around a bit about Abraham and found out two things.

First, he collaborated with Martin on a novel, Hunter's Run. This is fine from the Abraham side of the equation...but Martin has no business doing this! He needs to get his butt in a chair and finish the Song of Fire and Ice cycle and stop jerking us around...see posts above.

Second, and more welcome, Abraham is starting a new series...apparently a 5-booker. What's interesting is the following from an interview with him, "there’s a clause in it [the contract] that docks a fair percentage of my advance if I don’t turn the books in on time." Way to go Orbit Books!!!!!

Out 31, 2009, 5:37 pm

Thanks, luna! I think I will wait to see if the series gets finished--and see if I like Brandon Sanderson's writing--before I invest in this series. With books that long I will have to own them--I tend to get stressed if I have a "deadline". I imagine if Sanderson does finish the series they will probably put out new editions of the originals, also. I do like "epics" with extensive detail and well rendered "worlds"! :-) However, at 15 books long, it will have to be a really spectacular world and a riveting story to hold one's interest!

Editado: Nov 1, 2009, 6:54 pm

: Piano Lessons: Music, Love and True Adventures by Noah Adams

248 pages

Bottom Line: Entertaining and well-written memoir of Noah Adams' first year as an adult piano student.

At age 52 Noah Adams, former host of NPR's All Things Considered, gave into his secret desire to learn to play the piano and went...pretty much on impulse...to Steinway and bought an upright. This book recounts his first year after the purchase.

There are a lot of things that make this book fun. It's full of little anecdotes from his years of interviewing performers. It has plenty of humorous moments, both at the piano and away from it. It's written with an engaging style that makes the pages fly, clearly communicating his love for piano music.

Perhaps most of all, this isn't some tale of overwhelming inspiration or secret genius that leaves you feeling terribly mortal in a world of giants—he's bad about practicing, he freezes up in recitals, he's overly ambitious ("there's this piece Horowitz plays that I'd like to learn this first year"), he can't decide on how he should learn (self-teaching course?, workshops?), he gets discouraged a lot when gratification is slow. In other words, he comes across as a completely real everyman.

I had a lot of fun with this one.

Nov 1, 2009, 6:30 pm

Piano Lessons: Music, Love and True Adventures sounds like it could be an enjoyable book for those, like me, who have been attempting to learn the piano for the past 25 years. On to wish list it goes.

Nov 2, 2009, 12:19 am

#142: I had a lot of fun with that book when I read it last year. Glad to see you enjoyed it as well.

Now if only I could get my hands on a piano! I love to play.

Editado: Nov 3, 2009, 8:48 am

My last book for this year's Halloween Group Read...

: Creepers by David Morrell, narrated by Patrick Lawlor

400 pages in a paperback edition

Bottom Line: This really wasn't to my taste at all.

I've read three or four of Morrell's books in the past and always found them fair...nothing I'd recommend to anyone other than a hard-core thriller fan, but they passed the time. Unfortunately, this one did not reach that level for me; I disliked it.

Up front, let me say that I apportion some of the blame for this on Patrick Lawlor. This was an audio book for my commute and my usual fare for this purpose is read by some of the really good readers out there: Patrick Tull, Nadia May, Frederick Davidson, etc. I found Mr. Lawlor's reading kept getting in the way of the story as my attention would be caught by him, rather than the tale. That's a cardinal no-no and I'll avoid his presentations in the future.

That said, even in print the story wouldn't really have appealed to me. First, the whole plot felt like it was constructed out of clichés. Without spoilers, think of "horror-type" thriller movies out there and you'll be able to put together a lot of the elements of this one—the scarred-by-the-past psychopath, the "don't leave the group!" moments, the "don't go in there!" scenes. Second, it felt rather contrived...you know, the violent lightning storm breaking out just when the characters need their cell phones type of thing? Third, Mr. Morrell needed to heed Chekhov's advice and tighten up the loose strands of the plot. There were too many plot elements introduced that went nowhere, such as the love quadrangle that was observed repeatedly in the beginning but ended up being irrelevant and largely forgotten by the end of the story.

However, the real cause of my reaction is mostly due to the constant use of two techniques I absolutely hate. First, everyone speaking in dangling sentences to create "tension":
We've got to..."
But, if we don't, he'll...
It was endless. It drove me crazy.

The second was the constant "As you know, Bob" moments of the first half of the book. Put in a darn prologue if you want to info-dump and stop making people sound like characters in CSI: Miami.

Nov 3, 2009, 9:07 am

The first David Morrell book I read was The Brotherhood of the Rose and I enjoyed that. I picked up The Fraternity of the Stone, and enjoyed that too. But then I read The League of Night and Fog and Scavenger and couldn't finish them because they so annoyed or bored me. I've got Creepers way down in my TBR pile and I suspect I'm just going to make a donation of it to the library without bothering to crack the spine.

Nov 3, 2009, 9:15 am

I think The Brotherhood of the Rose was probably the best of his that I've read.

As for Creepers, I think others in the Halloween read liked it better than I did; you could chck their comments. Morrell and I appear to not be on the same wavelength.

Nov 3, 2009, 9:18 am

I'd already filed separation papers to Mr Morrell, and I've moved on. I don't think a reconciliation is in our future. ;-)

Nov 3, 2009, 1:03 pm

I've harbored a secret desire to learn to play the piano for years now. I must read Piano Lessons: Music, Love and True Adventure. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

Editado: Nov 3, 2009, 1:11 pm

#145 sounds very frustrating - I'll be giving that one a miss!

I have very warped relationship with the WoT series. Like _Zoe_, I began it when there were quite a few already out (and the series was supposed to finish at book 10) - I read them pretty much back to back.

I swear there's some subliminal READ ME message in between the lines somewhere - I find Robert Jordan's writing style extremely irritating, all the books have been overlong and it's very frustrating that the series never seems to end - ...but I now have to know what happens - I just wish the bl***y thing would finally get to the end! ;) Gah!

Going to wait 'till the whole series is finished now though - it's been too long since I read the last one (so I'll probably have to read them ALL over again) and I just can't face another prolonged deadline!

Please excuse my rant ;)

Editado: Nov 3, 2009, 4:15 pm

>150 flissp:: bl***y

As an American, I've often wondered why a word that we find absolutely and completely inoffensive is considered not acceptable in polite company on the other side of the Atlantic.

Was it a euphemism that simply didn't make it across the ocean? I could understand that. The title of Mike Myers' movie "The Spy Who Shagged Me" offended/amused some over there while here it tended to evoke images of (depending upon your age) country dancing, tobacco, haircuts or wall-to-wall carpeting. But it didn't seem to be that kind of thing.

So, I consulted one of my favorite "explain it" sources for the answer. For other Americans who are somewhat mystified by this word, I refer you to here.

edit: typos

Nov 3, 2009, 4:21 pm

Thanks, Tad! Count me among the mystified Americans. Mystified no longer.

Nov 3, 2009, 5:13 pm

That is interesting. I had always been led to believe that it was a contraction of "by Our Lady", hence 'blasphemous', hence offensive.

It's definitely only a class C swearword, nonetheless - not one you'd like your kids to use too often, but also not one that is likely to cause your mother to faint ;-)

Nov 3, 2009, 5:57 pm

Tad--thanks for the link. I, too, always wondered where the offensive connotation came from. I read so many British books that every once in a while I let that word slip out when I'm angry--no one ever seems to be offended, just confused! :-D

Nov 3, 2009, 11:16 pm

I may well pick them up again when the series is completed, if I hear good things about Sanderson's finishing of it.

Out of curiosity, I was looking at the Amazon reviews today, and they're pretty impressive.

The average ratings for the previous two WoT books were 1.5 and 3. The average rating for the new one is 4.5. It's probably still too early for the complete picture, but I'm almost tempted to return to the series... almost.

Editado: Nov 4, 2009, 5:12 am

#151 fascinating!

Yep, I don't really class it as a particularly offensive swear word, I just don't like to swear in full text online as in case I do offend anyone...

#155 That sounds promising... I'm still going to wait until he's finished though!

Editado: Nov 8, 2009, 7:55 pm

: The Locust and the Bird by Hanan al-Shaykh, translated from Arabic by Roger Allen

302 pages

Bottom Line: The retro cover caught my eye at the checkout counter of the library; the blurb sounded interesting; in the end, however, the book failed to amaze me.

This is Ms. al-Shaykh's semi-biography of her mother, told after decades of a relationship marred by the mother's abandonment of her family in order to be with her lover.

On the positive side, it is a interesting work for its depiction of pre-1975 Lebanon, particularly the life of the abjectly poor, illiterate families living away from Beirut. We are exposed to the extended family systems that promise support but sometimes deliver betrayal as individuals climb over their relatives to escape poverty; the forced marriage, through trickery and actual coercion, of a girl at age 13; the patriarchal system that leaves divorced women nigh on desperate. For these aspects of the book, I would recommend it.

On the other side, Hanan al-Shaykh's mother, Kamila, failed to appeal, even marginally. It was easy to summon compassion for her, to understand the cries of, "don't judge her so, look at her life!" Yet, that was not enough. I found it impossible to feel any respect, much less liking, for the self-centered girl and, then, woman. For this particular type of story to have worked for me, I needed to feel at least some tiny modicum of fondness for the subject but all I could feel was distaste for a thoroughly unpleasant person whose goal in all things large and small seemed to be self-gratification regardless of the cost to those around her. The language the author used, somewhat simple and emotionless, also contributed to the lack of engagement.

I don't begrudge Ms. al-Shaykh taking the opportunity but the book felt a trifle self-indulgent, as if she was focused on making amends for her part in the failed relationship rather than crafting a tale for the reader. Since those exorcisms have little relevance for me, sitting outside of the personal relationships, I was left only with a rather dry story about someone I disliked.

I can only give this a minor recommendation for its glimpse of Lebanon before its Civil War tore the country apart.

Nov 8, 2009, 7:57 pm

Whew... thanks for the heads up, I am saved from adding yet another book to my tbr pile today.

Nov 9, 2009, 12:24 am

OK, skipping that one. I hope the next read for you is more enjoyable, Tad.

Nov 9, 2009, 7:26 am

>157 TadAD: - what a pity - I can see why you were attracted by the book - it does sound very interesting. For a very good read dealing with women's lives in that part of the world, I'd recommend Teta, Mother and Me - about the author, her mother and grandmother. Really fascinating and moving.

Nov 9, 2009, 12:26 pm

ditto #158 and 159

Nov 12, 2009, 8:08 pm

: The Railway Detective by Edward Marston

261 pages

Like other readers, I found the Holmesian similarities readily apparent. On the positive side, the characters are likable and the plot flows along smoothly, though not complexly. On the negative side, Inspector Colbeck's leaps of intuition are a bit unconvincing and I found the dialog slightly unnatural.

On the whole, a pleasant-enough mystery with which to while away a few hours—I'll probably read the next one in the series though there's no sense of urgency.

Nov 12, 2009, 8:35 pm

WOW! 161 books is a lot of reading thus far in 2009! Congratulations Tad!

Nov 12, 2009, 9:12 pm

I'm catching up!
#147: there is some speculation that Gould had Aspberger's syndrome, a form of autism, which would explain certain antisocial tendencies as well as his obsessiveness. I heard him talking about his piano in a CBC series about him and it was fascinating. This book has really piqued my interest.
#154: I love the name "Odell Deefus"...perfect!

I found out, when I was in London, that 84 Charing Cross Road no long exists...someone bought the building and merged two stores together, so #84 has gone. There is just a blank wall where it was (it was a very narrow place as it was). There is one of those blue plaques identifying it, however. It's one of my favourite books too.

Nov 13, 2009, 1:14 pm

>163 Whisper1:: Hi Linda. Thanks.

>164 tiffin:: That's a shame, Tui. Somehow, I liked the idea of it still standing there, a small oasis in the sea of Barnes & Noble.

Editado: Nov 13, 2009, 1:33 pm

A long-time friend, who shares my enjoyment of stories with a folk tale air about them, accepted a copy of Jamilia from me. The next weekend, he repaid it, stopping by with the following book, "I just got this, read it after dinner last night, and think you will like it very much."

: Translation is a Love Affair by Jacques Poulin, translated from the French by Sheila Fischman

144 half-sized pages

In part, this is a story about Monsieur Waterman, an older author, whose shyness and reclusive work habits have caused him to set aside his friends. Mostly, it is a story about Marine, a young woman, somewhat troubled by sorrows from her past, "who had always been a nomad, who did whatever came into my head, who had already taken the first plane for anywhere, who didn't become attached to anything or anyone..." Almost by chance, they enter a relationship as author and translator and then, gradually, as each other's intimate friend, until their peaceful life is disturbed by hints of a young girl in a trouble that brought echoes from Martine's past.

The resulting story had a simple beauty that I found captivating. I'm not able to read Poulin's original text, but Fischman's smooth rendering was full of a love for language, for selecting the exact word to capture a note. I found myself listening to the murmurings under the story and reflecting on the various meanings of "translation", especially moving from one state or place to another, as I watched each person's life shift and move.

Looking back, it does, indeed, resemble a folk tale, not only in length and its neat little parcel of an ending, but also in its imagery—the wise, old man whose abode is described as a tower or the young woman living in the woodland cottage surrounded by animals. It even has a witch...or so the very young children call her. And, like a folk tale, it exuded that sense of familiar and human that I enjoy.


Nov 13, 2009, 4:41 pm

Translation is a Love Affair sounds awesome! Onto the neverending wishlist it goes! :)

Nov 13, 2009, 5:24 pm

#162: *thump* {ordered}
*crackle* {the sound of a credit card sparking}

Nov 13, 2009, 7:59 pm

Sounds good, I'll have to put it on my wishlist. Will also look out for the Daniel Abraham series. Have you read Isobelle Carmody's Obernewtyn Chronicles or Alison Croggon's Pellinor books?

Nov 13, 2009, 9:04 pm

So far my library is batting a thousand--there is one copy of Jamilia in our system, but that one hasn't been translated into English. I found that out today when I went to pick it up--and it was translated into Punjabi! I would love to know how many people in the Central Valley of California read Punjabi.

Now, I just looked up Translation Is a Love Affair and there is one copy in our system. No point in ordering it, though--it's in French! :-(

And people wonder why I get frustrated with our library! (I do appreciate them most of the time, though.)

Jim just came home from his trip and I vented to him about the Punjabi book. He informed me that actually there are quite a number of Punjabi speaking people in this area. So all is forgiven--I do believe that a public library should endeavor to serve all of the "pubic."

Nov 13, 2009, 10:59 pm

Congratulations on your hot review listed on today's home page!

Nov 14, 2009, 3:18 am

#164/165: Helene Hanff, the author of 84 Charing Cross Road was given the original sign by one of her fans from the building when the bookstore was finally closed. She had it put up in her apartment.

Nov 14, 2009, 7:39 am

>169 avatiakh:: No, Kerry, I haven't read either of them. I'll see if the library has them.

>170 MusicMom41:: LOL! I'm coming to appreciate ours more and more. The town's library is rather small and, when the only way to find out what could be ordered was to drive to the county library and use the card catalog, I wasn't a big fan. Now that everything is online and I can just click on the things I want...well, it's saving me lots of money! :-)

>172 alcottacre:: That was certainly nice of that fan!

Nov 14, 2009, 7:42 am

#173: Yes, it was! Hanff talks about it in one of her later books. I just cannot remember exactly which one, but I think it might have been The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. Or maybe not.

Editado: Nov 14, 2009, 8:20 am

>174 alcottacre:: it might have been The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. Or maybe not.

That set me laughing. Not because of what you wrote but because it made me think about something else in the category of "it is, or it isn't."

I have a little informal BookSwap thing with three other LT members. Four times a year (the four birthdays), we send out three books we think the others will enjoy and get three back. Friday was one of the birthdays and I got one of my incoming Wednesday and one yesterday. Based upon the notes inside, clearly, I am schizophrenic.

"Tad, I thought you'd like this one (The Vintage Caper) because humor seems to be your thing."

"This (The German Mujahid) seems right up your alley. I found it really powerful though it is more serious and somber than I usually read, more like the stuff you prefer. It's even about the Middle East which you seem to be reading lately."

I PMed them back last night and we all had a good laugh. I guess I now officially favor humorously non-humorous books...or, perhaps, non-humorously humorous ones.

Nov 14, 2009, 9:26 am

#175: Well, I guess you are nothing if not idiosyncratic :)

Nov 14, 2009, 10:20 am

: The Vintage Caper by Peter Mayle

223 pages

A rather typical Mayle novel—which is to say, not as deeply humorous as his A Year in Provence series of memoirs, but still possessing the light touch that makes them easy reads.

This one was even frothier than his usual fare and I can only give it a "it passed the afternoon." If you read all of Mayle's stuff, go ahead. If you're looking to try one of his non-memoirs, I'd recommend something like the similar Anything Considered before this one.

Nov 15, 2009, 12:13 am

I hope your next read is better for you, Tad, although if it is the German Mujahid, I am not so sure it will be, lol.

Editado: Nov 15, 2009, 3:23 am

Hi, Tad -

Translation is a Love Affair had already been added to my TBR collection after reading Darryl's review of it, but, after reading yours, I went back and bumped it up to a collection I created called Next Up!

I hope to be able to track it down through our library system, but, will delay searching until later today. Our library on-line is not available between 1:00 AM and 4:30 AM daily. What are we to do when we can't sleep in the middle of the night? Guess I'll just go back to bed and read more of My Life in France, then I will have to get up and eat some cheese and crackers, 'cause I'll get hungry. tee hee. Oh, well.

Thanks for the great recommendations, Tad. As always.


Nov 15, 2009, 9:45 am


Just saw a post from you on another thread where you were upset over not receiving an ER book for the 'zillionth time.' this really surprised me. You are one of the more prolific readers and reviewers in our group. I get one at least every other month and you read and review more books than I do. You certainly thread post more than I do. I don't get it. Have you asked anyone here at LT about this?

Editado: Nov 15, 2009, 2:26 pm

Don't know what the algorithm looks like for ER, Mac, but I only get maybe 1 book per year, even in areas where I would think I would be a prime candidate! I agree Tad would be a great ER reviewer, but the ways of ER are very mysterious. All the books I HAVE gotten have been nonfiction.

I take it back. The very first book I got, the first month I requested a book, was a children's fantasy. Each January since, I've also received a book, but they have been nonfiction. Guess January is just my lucky month.

Nov 15, 2009, 4:26 pm

>180 blackdogbooks:: Hi Mac,

Yeah. I emailed Abby some time ago to see if I had inadvertently landed on some black list. She wrote back to say it's "all random." ROFL, I've compared acceptance patterns with enough people to know that, if there's one thing for sure, it's NOT random but, of course, I'm clueless about their actual algorithm.

My reviews have always gone in within 30 days and I request a fairly wide selection of stuff (not just target one, particular book), so there's not much more I can do. I've either pissed someone off or there's something about the composition of my library that their selection process doesn't like.

So, I request books then ignore it because nothing will happen and look to other sources for new books.

Nov 15, 2009, 4:32 pm

Oh, mighty book gods, shine upon Tad. Hope that works!

Nov 21, 2009, 11:05 am

Can't figure that out. Do you all request very many books per month? At first, I was requesting a lot of the books, just to see what happened. Sadly, a lot of the books I got were not the best quality. Of late, I have reduced the number i request, but I am still getting books, just better quality.

Nov 21, 2009, 11:27 am

If it's random, it's also a bit diabolically mad. I get books about bodily ailments that I dutifully read and review, never the scintillating one I really want. ;)

Nov 21, 2009, 4:19 pm

I'm in agreement with you over Peter Mayle's memoirs. They're humorous but of the frothy, hang out on the beach variety. I much prefer his non-memoir books too.

I loved your review of Translation is a Love Affair and need to go see if my library has a copy.

Nov 21, 2009, 5:32 pm

Now I have a name I can apply to the experience of NOT receiving an ER book, if I apply for one ... Tad's Curse. tee hee.

Haven't requested a book in a while, as a self imposed ban, until I review one that I got months ago. I haven't finished it ... I like it ... I forget all about it, because I have Giants such as Half Broke Horses and Wolf Hall beside my bed and they keep luring me away.

I must get that book finished and reviewed.

Hope your luck turns around Tad. The publishers and authors would be fortunate indeed to have you review something of theirs, doggone it! Silly algorithm.

All the best to you and yours and Happy Turkey Day (or whatever you gobble down at your house).

With love,


Nov 30, 2009, 11:59 pm

After all that, I have now received two ER books in two months, neither of which are at all typical of my library. The one I just got, Singing God's Work is a book by the director of the Harlem Gospel Choir that I requested because I thought a friend of mine would really enjoy it. And I just got a message that I got a November book as well, which was likewise requested because I thought another friend would get a kick out of it, another non-fiction called The Healing Power of Chocolate. So two more non-fiction books, neither of which are my usual type of book at all--what gives here? Ask for books that are the most different from your library?

Dez 1, 2009, 1:12 am

I think the lesson is just to ask for non-fiction. There probably just aren't that many people with books about gospel choirs or chocolate healing, compared to the number of people with general fiction. I've had better luck with non-fiction too, no matter how far from my library it may seem.

Editado: Dez 1, 2009, 6:15 am

Hey Tad, it's D-day. Did the ER book gods hear your plea? Hope so! I ,alas, did not. But that's o.k back to the TBR shelves for me.

Dez 1, 2009, 6:20 am

I haven't even bothered applying because they never have Greece in the list of countries they're willing to send to. So if you're not getting any books, maybe you can fins some solace in the fact that at least, based on your location, you could get them if only you were luckier.

XX - these are my crossed fingers for you!

Dez 1, 2009, 6:35 am

Eliza, you should probably continue to check it out - I've a suspicion that you're more likely to get a book when you request one (when Greece is actually on the list), because there's less competition for them. They also have a lot more e-books these days (if you read these), which obviously don't matter where you are.

I'm admit, I'm lucky in the UK, because we do get a lot of the books on the list (although there have definitely been books I've wanted to request but couldn't) and the numbers of people requesting the same books as me are much lower than in the US, so the chances are better.

Dez 1, 2009, 1:37 pm

190: No, of course I didn't. Why would you think I might? :-/

Dez 1, 2009, 7:01 pm

Now, Now, Tad - keep thinking positive thoughts - you don't want the powers that be to pick up on your angst. Just think, you'll soon be rolling in books from santa or what/whoever you believe in. May you receive mucho gift cards from your favorite book place.

Dez 2, 2009, 2:51 pm

Isn't it funny how we all think about Tad when the ER books came out? I did too. I got my "rejection letter" and immediately thought, "I wonder if Tad got a book?"

Dez 2, 2009, 5:51 pm

Hi Tad - I just found your new prolific thread (195 messages, phew!!) I cannot believe you would be on any black list wrt ARCs.

My nerd rating -

Obviously too old to be a nerd - not enough computer experience.

Dez 2, 2009, 5:54 pm

....and I also read the Poulin book recently and really enjoyed it. I cannot believe Poulin is not more well-known. Have you read any others of his?

Dez 9, 2009, 10:37 pm

I was a big ER loser for a while until I got my first one... then it was a once in awhile kind of thing but all of a sudden I won copies in Sept, Oct, and November... I have no idea what in my library sparked it. Maybe it was the splitting by countries and competing only against other Canadians. I'm rooting for you to get one this month!!

Dez 15, 2009, 9:20 am

This one's getting long...last part of thread for this year found here.

Jan 2, 2010, 12:36 pm