75 @ 52

Discussão75 Books Challenge for 2009

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75 @ 52

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Set 28, 2009, 7:41 pm

My last challenge - to halve my TBR pile - was a complete failure. I started the year with 62 books in the pile and finished with 59. So with any luck I'll have finished the whole pile by 2030.

In the meantime I'm starting a new challenge today as it's my birthday. 75 books should be eminently doable since I reached 99 books in my challenge before last, and let's face it you can't really enjoy a book if you're racing through it in order to meet your target.

Currently reading The Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar.

Set 28, 2009, 7:49 pm

Well, happy birthday! Glad you're joining us. And don't worry about that TBR pile - mine's well over 200 including the library books I want to read. 8^)

Set 28, 2009, 8:50 pm

#1: Robertgreaves,

Happy Birthday!

Which translation of The Gallic Wars are you reading?

Set 29, 2009, 2:02 am

Thanks for dropping by, Dr. Neutron and booksontrial. I'm reading the Penguin Classics translation by S. A. Handford, as revised by Jane Gardner.

Out 1, 2009, 5:18 pm

Welcome to the group! I am pretty sure we are not going to be very helpful with the TBR pile problem, though (thus speaks Stasia, owner of Planet TBR, lol)

Out 2, 2009, 1:10 am

Hello Robert;
While I have been away from here one of the things I have been missing the most is your little reviews. i really enjoy them as they say just enough to help me decide whether or not I want to read said book. And I enjoy the pulling and pushing you do to/with your TBR pile!~! hee hee. You are so "all of us"!~!
luv ya guy,

Out 2, 2009, 8:56 am

Thanks for dropping by alottacre.

Missed you, belva. I hope Chrissy's still on the mend.

Out 3, 2009, 8:40 am

For those out there reading Dracula:

http://www.ablogabouthistory.com/2009/10/02/archaeologists-discover-the-real-cou.... Click on the picture for a more detailed report.

Out 3, 2009, 9:33 am

Very interesting article!

Out 3, 2009, 8:57 pm

I have the same translation of the Gallic wars - different cover though. I must dig into it, because we're off to the land of the Helvetii and it's 25 years since I read some of it at school.

59 books in the TBR pile sounds pretty readable to me!

Out 3, 2009, 11:39 pm

Belated birthday greetings! Good luck with the new challenge -- sounds more do-able than halving a TBR pile. (Mine keeps growing, and growing . . .)

Out 6, 2009, 9:30 am

Thanks for dropping by tymfos and cmt.

I got a couple of books for my birthday so as I start book No. 2 for this challenge the TBR pile is at 60.

I am starting Doris Lessing's Shikasta. I put it in the TBR pile to re-read when she won the Nobel Prize.

Out 11, 2009, 7:46 am

Book No. 3 is Pliny's Complete Letters, which I am reading for an online chat next week. This brings the TBR pile down to 59.

My review of Shikasta:
The history of the world from a prehistoric Eden when people lived for thousands of years in harmony with the universe through the time when the harmony was broken until its restoration after World War III.

The full title is "CANOPUS IN ARGOS: ARCHIVES RE: COLONISED PLANET 5 SHIKASTA Personal, Historical, Psychological Documents Relating to Visit by JOHOR (George Sherban) EMISSARY (Grade 9) 87th of the Period of the Last Days". The format of the book is a series of reports from various Canopean emissaries to Rohanda, a planet which was renamed Shikasta (the Distorted) when it drifted out of cosmic alignment with the good Canopean empire, a situation which Shammat in the evil empire of Puttiora turned to its advantage. Shikasta is of course Earth. The book also includes extracts from diaries and journals kept by Shikastans and reports of Shikastan administrators to their governments.

I remember reading this book when it first came out (1979) and then again about ten years later, and being impressed by its range and scope. Now it does seem rather dated in the concerns of its pessimism. The main topics are an anti-colonial backlash, with the rest of the world ganging up on Europe and taking revenge on Europeans for their sins against the rest of the world, and pollution of a non-specific sort (poisoning of air, earth, and water). Terrorism is mentioned, but it is a terrorism motivated by anarchistic politics rather than religion.

The result is that the mythic scope of the book is diminished so that the background story seems more of an excuse for Lessing to attempt to batter the reader into submission to her political ideas.

Out 11, 2009, 8:06 am

#13: I have never read that one, so I will give it a try despite your reservations. Thanks for the recommendation.

Out 12, 2009, 7:40 pm

Book No. 4 is Doris Lessing's The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four, and Five, not from the TBR pile. For those times when I can't concentrate on Pliny.

Out 22, 2009, 9:21 am

I've finished books 3 and 4. I'm about to start book No. 5 Adrian Goldsworthy's Caesar. This brings the TBR pile down to 58. I'm reading this for The Roman History Reading Group's November chats.

My review of The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four, and Five:

Zone Three is a prosperous, peaceful, egalitarian matriarchy, while Zone Four is a poor, militaristic, hierarchical patriarchy. The Providers order the queen of Zone Three to go down to Zone Four and marry their king. Both characters have a lot of adjusting to go through.

Doris Lessing's sympathies obviously lie with Zone Three (though since the book is narrated by Chroniclers of Zone Three, perhaps that is the source of the bias), but both Zones suffer when there is no mingling between the two (or between them and Zones Two and Five) as their different ways of life are taken to extremes.

Out 23, 2009, 4:12 pm

I am looking forward to your thoughts on the Goldsworthy book. I have not read any of his books yet.

Out 23, 2009, 9:35 pm

I tend not to write reviews of the books I read for the online chats, as the chat sometimes changes my mind about the book. But I might make an exception this time.

Nov 2, 2009, 10:03 am

Starting No. 6, Philip Yancey's Prayer, Does It Make Any Difference. However, Aksara had a big sale and I was a bad boy so the TBR pile is back up to 61.

Nov 12, 2009, 7:42 am

Finished No. 6, and started No. 7: PG Wodehouse's Leave It To Psmith.

My review of Philip Yancey's Prayer, Does It Make Any Difference?:

Somewhat rambling discussion of Yancey's ideas on prayer, our attitudes to it and whether prayers get answered. As usual, Yancey has a keen eye for anecdotes, though some of them and some of the ideas have been recycled from others of his works.

I bought a book at a charity fair, so the TBR pile is still at 61.

Nov 13, 2009, 10:34 am

Finished No. 5, Adrian Goldsworthy's biography of Caesar: The Life of a Colossus.

My review:
This book takes us through the life, and it is a life rather than a history of the times. The author deliberately downplays incidents where Caesar was not directly involved, however interesting they may be for other reasons.

Goldsworthy carefully explains what we know and what we don't know, and also commendably tries to avoid reading later history back into the early stages of Caesar's life and career. Goldsworthy's earlier books have been on military history and it shows. My eyes tend to glaze over at descriptions of battles and campaigns, but nevertheless this book kept me reading and is well worth reading for anyone who is at all interested in Julius Caesar.

Editado: Nov 14, 2009, 12:16 am

#21: Thanks for the review. I will look for the book. I have never read anything by Goldsworthy.

Nov 14, 2009, 9:13 am

Finished No. 7, PG Wodehouse's Leave It To Psmith.

Starting No. 8, Steven Pinker's How The Mind Works, which brings the TBR pile down to 60.

My review of "Leave It To Psmith"

And the race is on to steal Lady Constance Keeble's diamond necklace. From the best possible motives, of course.

This was my first encounter with Psmith, and he deserves to be much better known as one of Wodehouse's greatest creations. Note, the Empress of Blandings does not appear in this book.

Nov 14, 2009, 2:09 pm

Another thank you for the review of Goldsworthy's Caesar biog. I've eyed it several times at Borders, but have held off till now!

Nov 27, 2009, 4:54 am

I've finished Steven Pinker's How The Mind Works and am now starting No. 9, Mary Renault's Fire From Heaven, which brings the TBR pile down to 59.

I lent my copy of The Alexander Trilogy to someone many years ago and never got it back, so grabbed "Fire From Heaven" when I saw it in a local bookshop.

My review of "How The Mind Works":

Steven Pinker explores how our minds might be composed of competing and cooperating modules that evolved for different goals in the overall purpose of keeping us alive and breeding.

I found the early chapters rather heavy going but the later chapters were more interesting, full of interesting and unexpected insights into what motivates homo sapiens and what the implications are -- and aren't.

Pinker also has the humility to admit there is a point beyond which his theories and maybe any scientific theories cannot go.

Nov 27, 2009, 1:04 pm

I bought The Language Instinct by Pinker recently - you've just prompted me to pull it off the shelf and have a look inside!

Nov 28, 2009, 9:09 am

I much preferred The Language Instinct. Since I already knew something about the subject matter it wasn't so much of a slog.

Dez 1, 2009, 7:20 pm

I've finished Mary Renault's Fire From Heaven and am now reading No. 10 Philip Yancey's What's So Amazing About Grace?, which brings the TBR pile down to 58.

My review of "Fire From Heaven":

The first of Mary Renault's novels about Alexander the Great, it takes us through his early life up to the assassination of his father, Philip of Macedon.

Basically, Mary Renault's works are the standard by which all other fiction set in the ancient world should be judged, and she is in top form in this novel. Somebody, I forget who, once said that the first sentence is one of the best openings ever: "The child was wakened by the knotting of the snake's coils about his waist."

As we watch the spectacular clashes between Alexander's parents, his interaction with soldiers, courtiers, and diplomats, his education, the famous story of the horse Bucephalus, and Alexander's developing relationship with Hephaistion, we can see that these are not 20th century people dressed up in ancient costumes, these are people from a very different society.

Real life probably wasn't quite the way Mary Renault portrays it. So much the worse for real life. Six stars out of five.

Dez 2, 2009, 2:27 am

Nice review, Robert! If the book was not already in the BlackHole, I would add it again.

Looking forward to your review of What's So Amazing About Grace, a book I have had sitting next to my couch for about a year now.

Dez 4, 2009, 9:54 pm

Finished What's So Amazing About Grace? and starting No. 11, P. D. James's Death in Holy Orders. This is a re-read, a book which found its way home after I lent it to someone.

Review of "What's So Amazing About Grace?" to follow as I have to get ready to go to the doctor's for the results of my not quite annual check up. And it's just started raining. Typical.

Dez 5, 2009, 1:50 am

Well, I hope the doctor's visit went OK, that the rain let up, and that you have a chance to do your review soon :)

Dez 5, 2009, 3:48 am

She says I have to lose weight and get more exercise. I don't think she meant turning pages, more's the pity.

My review of What's So Amazing About Grace?:

A wonderful reflection on what grace is, how it seems to be lacking in some churches, and how it appears in the most unexpected places.

Yancey provides lots of great anecdotes on the way to illustrate his points; some of them moved me to tears. He has a wonderful vision of what the church could and should be, and the realism to know what it all too often is.

Dez 5, 2009, 3:52 am

Does book lifting count as exercise? I can see why turning pages might not count, but surely lifting a heavy tome should count for something.

I will have to get to What's So Amazing About Grace? soon. It sounds very good!

Dez 6, 2009, 6:13 pm

Finished Death in Holy Orders and starting No. 12 Dyfri Williams's The Warren Cup.

The TBI pile doesn't go down because I bought something in the Kinokuniya sale.

My review of "Death in Holy Orders":

An influential father does not accept that his son's death was accidental and pulls strings to have Adam Dalgleish assigned to the case. After Dalgleish arrives at the small seminary on the Suffolk coast where the young man was studying, a visiting Archdeacon's body is found in the chapel.

A good, fun, quick read.

Dez 7, 2009, 1:30 am

Robert, I share your pain with the size of the TBR pile. I have promised my husband to make a dent in mine next year, however, and so will not be buying any books at all in 2010, which might very well do me in.

Dez 7, 2009, 7:26 am

Started and finished Melvin Burgess's billy elliot. That makes No. 13 and brings the TBR pile down to 56.

My review:
The book of the film, competently done. The use of 'f***' got on my nerves after a while. Either spell it out or don't use it all.

Dez 7, 2009, 8:05 am

Finished The Warren Cup. Starting No. 14, Fred Vargas's The Three Evangelists.

My review of "The Warren Cup":

Brief discussion of British Museum's silver Roman cup decorated with gay sex scenes.

Description of the cup, it's modern history, a short biography of its first modern owner (who also commissioned Rodin's "The Kiss"), and a few remarks about ancient tableware and ancient attitudes to sexuality. Unsatisfying because it was too short and so the summing up seemed to have come out of nowhere.

Dez 7, 2009, 8:17 am

Seems like I can safely miss reading The Warren Cup. I hope the next book you pull off the stack is better!

Dez 7, 2009, 8:24 am

>32 Robertgreaves:: I keep hearing such good things about that book. I bought another of his books, Reaching for the Invisible God, not too long ago, so maybe I should read that one first . . . .

Dez 7, 2009, 6:47 pm

Of the two, carlym, I preferred What's So Amazing About Grace?. I had a definite sense in Reaching for the Invisible God of material being re-cycled.

Dez 10, 2009, 6:33 am

Finished The Three Evangelists. Starting No. 15, Walking Through Bible Places by Daud Soesilo, which brings the TBR pile down to 55.

My review of "The Three Evangelists":

An opera singer living in Paris finds a tree has appeared in her garden overnight. Her husband takes no interest, so she confides in her new neighbours, three historians (Mathias, Marc, and Lucien - hence the title) and one of them's uncle, a former policeman. Not long after, she disappears.

It took me a while to get into this book as I found the style a bit irritating at first, but I'm glad I persevered. There is a rich vein of humour in how the historians' personality quirks reflect their periods of interest, and the plot starts off rather slowly but then develops lots of twists and turns. Apparently it's the first in a series and the author has another series on the go as well. I'll definitely keep an eye out for her other books.

Favourite sentence: 'I'm not in the nude, I've got sandals on,' Mathias said calmly.

Dez 10, 2009, 6:53 am

#41: With a favourite sentence like that, I am going to have to give the book a try!

Dez 10, 2009, 8:37 am

Finished Walking Through Bible Places. Starting No. 16, Mrs. Gaskell's Cranford/Cousin Phillis, bringing the TBR pile down to 54.

My review of Walking Through Bible Places:

Short travelogue/guide book with lots of pretty pictures of places in the Holy Land.

Dez 13, 2009, 9:41 am

Finished Cranford/Cousin Phillis. Starting No. 17, Dave Pelzer's My Story, which is an omnibus of his three books, A Child Called It, The Lost Boy, and A Man Named Dave. This brings the TBR pile down to 53.

My review of "Cranford/Cousin Phillis":

Cranford gets under your skin by starting off as observations of a fading gentility in a country town. Although at first nothing much happens the characters become people we care about so that when something does happen to disrupt the way of life of one character the other characters' response is very touching and the very predictable happy ending is very welcome.

Unfortunately Cousin Phillis didn't really work in quite the same way. Country girl falls for railway engineer, who goes on assignment to Canada where he meets and marries somebody else, whereupon country girl falls dangerously ill. Shrug.

Dez 13, 2009, 7:27 pm

I read Cranford last year and enjoyed it, but had never heard of Cousin Phillis. It does not sound like I am missing much.

Dez 15, 2009, 10:33 am

Finished My Story. Starting No. 18, Gore Vidal's Creation. I have read it before, so it won't need a lot of concentration but will probably keep me going through the long plane flight home on Thursday. It brings the TBR pile down to 52.

My review of "My Story":

Omnibus edition of 3 volumes of autobiography of survivor of horrific physical abuse from his mother. The first volume tells the story of the abuse he suffered up until the time he was rescued when he was 12. The second volume tells the story of his troubled adolescence going through various foster homes. The third volume tells of his story as an adult in the US Air Force, his failed first marriage, and his attempts to re-connect with his family.

Reading the first volume I felt that any comment from me would be an impertinence, but reading the other two volumes I started to have misgivings about how much of what I was reading was true and how much was manipulation or titillation. I'm fairly convinced the author had a terrible childhood but whether it was as bad as he says, I just don't know.

Editado: Dez 15, 2009, 10:35 am

> 45 You're not.

Dez 15, 2009, 1:52 pm

Hi, Robert!
I finally found you and got all caught up on your reading. You are really doing great with it. I have completely fallen apart with my reading between football and company coming.

Good luck with the diet and exercise. My doctor said the same thing. My dog is also dieting and doing pretty well, except that last night she found a way into the kibbles and decided that her dinner serving was not enough. She believes in self-help.

Hope you have a wonderful holiday season. I am leaving to go get my girls in Texas tomorrow and I can't wait to see them!!!

Dez 15, 2009, 8:01 pm

Thanks for dropping by, BJ. I have been following your thread, but really can't say much about American football.

Dez 19, 2009, 12:35 pm

I've finished Creation. I'm back in England and am now starting Caroline Lawrence's Roman Mysteries Series, which I got cheap at £1 each on a special offer. They're actually children's books so the idea is to read them quickly and then pass them on to my niece.

My review of "Creation":

Cyrus Spitama is half-Greek half-Persian nobleman, who is the Great King's ambassador to Athens in the 5th century BC. He dictates his memoirs to his great-nephew Democritus in response to a reading of Herodotus's Histories.

Cyrus Spitama's grandfather was the prophet Zoroaster, and as he had previously undertaken diplomatic missions to India and the country to the East of the East, Cathay, he was able to meet everybody who was anybody in those days: Mahavira (the founder of Jainism), the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Confucius, Darius, and Xerxes. Pericles and the young Socrates get small parts. Cyrus's great-nephew who he is dictating his memoirs to was the inventor of atomic theory.

There's lots of palace intrigue and adventure as Cyrus tries to carry out his missions and just plain survive in a world where he doesn't really fit in any category, and intellectual and religious discussion as he pursues his main interest, the nature of creation, where did the world come from and why and how. All very enjoyable.

Dez 19, 2009, 5:00 pm

#50: Creation looks very good! Thanks for the recommendation, Robert.

Dez 20, 2009, 5:29 am

Finished my No. 19, which is Caroline Lawrence's The Thieves of Ostia, the first in her The Roman Mysteries series. My review:

Fun mystery story for kids, set in 1st century Ostia, the port of Rome. Flavia Gemina, her neighbour Jonathan and his father, her slave girl Nubia, and a beggar boy whose tongue has been torn out solve the mystery of who is killing and beheading dogs and why.

I'm not sure the author deals with slavery altogether successfully: Flavia bought Nubia because she felt sorry for her and intends to free her, Jonathan's family doesn't have slaves because they have decided it's wrong. However, this is the first in a series so it may get more realistic later on.

Having said that, I would still recommend it. I'm going to pass it on to my niece who is the age it's actually meant for and see what her reaction is.

Now starting the second in the series: The Secrets of Vesuvius (No. 20)

Dez 20, 2009, 9:28 am

I have tentatively put Creation on my wish list from your review. Thanks (I think!).

Dez 21, 2009, 4:30 am

On to the third in Caroline Lawrence's Roman Mysteries series The Pirates of Pompeii, which is my No. 21.

My review of The Secrets of Vesuvius:

An exciting adventure taking place on the Bay of Naples at the time of the eruption of Vesuvius.

One of the main characters and his family are Christians and the use of religion struck me as a bit heavy-handed in this instalment.

Editado: Dez 22, 2009, 5:21 am

The fourth in the series (my No. 22) is The Assassins of Rome.

My review of The Pirates of Pompeii:

In the aftermath of the eruption of Vesuvius, refugee children are disappearing,kidnapped by slavers. Flavia Gemina and her friends investigate until they fall into the clutches of the slavers themselves.

Darker than the previous instalments. My favourite so far.

Editado: Dez 22, 2009, 7:32 am

Whoops, duplicate message for some reason.

Dez 22, 2009, 7:31 am

The fifth in the series (my No. 23) is The Dolphins of Laurentum.

My review of The Assassins of Rome:

There is a plot to assassinate the Emperor, and the lead assassin is Jonathan's uncle, who thinks Jonathan's mother may still be alive after all.

A ripping yarn in which we learn a lot about Jonathan and his family's back story.

Dez 23, 2009, 8:57 am

You are really zooming along. I seem to be in a reading slump these days. Hope that January will bring me out of it.

I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas season.

Dez 23, 2009, 11:01 am

These are children's books for those aged 8 - 12 so they are very quick reads. I'm passing them on to my 8 1/2 year old niece to read, though I think I'm going to have to check with her mother as to whether she's ready for some of the books.

The next one is The Twelve Tasks of Flavia Gemina, the sixth in the series and my No. 24 in this challenge.

My review of The Dolphins of Laurentum:

Flavia's father returns home ill after being shipwrecked. To make matters worse, someone is trying to bankrupt him. Flavia, her friends, and her father are invited to stay at the Younger Pliny's villa in Laurentum, where they take the opportunity to do some treasure hunting. We learn a lot about Lupus's back story.

A good, exciting, story which explores themes of repentence and forgiveness.

Dez 23, 2009, 2:06 pm

I've seen all these in our library and have been eyeing them, but our 5 year old's too little. Thanks for the reviews - they look good!

Dez 24, 2009, 3:18 am

Starting the seventh Roman Mystery, The Enemies of Jupiter, my No. 25.

My review of The Twelve Tasks of Flavia Gemina:

Flavia Gemina's father becomes more critical of her behaviour and also announces that he plans to marry again. Is his intended going to be a wicked stepmother? Is she just after his (non-existent) money? Flavia and her friends investigate.

This is back to the jolly jape tradition of the first book rather than the dark themes of some of the intervening books. Good fun, with the 12 labours of Hercules cleverly interwoven.

Dez 24, 2009, 4:41 am

I have finished No. 26, Mary Beard's It's A Don's Life.

A collection of articles from Mary Beard's blog. One of my comments was included so I got a freebie. Just right for dipping into while waiting.

Dez 25, 2009, 4:18 am

Starting the eighth Roman Mystery, The Gladiators from Capua, No. 27 in my challenge.

My review of The Enemies of Jupiter:

Jonathan has a plan to bring his parents back together again. The emperor Titus calls for help from Dr. Mordecai when an epidemic hits Rome. Jonathan has some moral choices to make, and then things start to go horribly wrong.

Dez 28, 2009, 10:05 am

While I didn't have access to the internet I read some more of the Roman Mystery series: The Gladiators from Capua (my no. 28) and The Colossus of Rhodes (my no. 29) and started The Fugitive from Corinth (my no. 31). I also read my no. 30, Jane's Fame by Claire Harman.


The Gladiators from Capua:
Picking up from the cliffhanger at the end of the previous book, Flavia, Nubia, and Lupus go to Rome to look for Jonathan and see the games and shows for the opening of the Colosseum.

After a moving Bahloo moment in the first scroll, we get plenty of thrills as Flavia and Nubia end up participating in the games, and Nubia gets to meet her long lost brother.

The Colossus of Rhodes:
Despite the death of the slave trader Venalicius in The Dolphins of Laurentum, children are still disappearing. Flavia and her friends travel to Greece to investigate.

Another exciting instalment, whose serious theme has contemporary resonances as made explicit in the author's afterword.

Jane's Fame:
Fun read tracing reactions to Jane Austen's work from her lifetime down to the early 21st century.

Dez 28, 2009, 5:18 pm

Robert, I hope you will be joining us for the 2010 challenge! The group is up and running.

Dez 29, 2009, 1:58 am

What challenge? Where?

My No. 32 is the eleventh installment in the Roman Mysteries, The Sirens of Surrentum.

My review of The Fugitive from Corinth:
Marcus Flavius Geminus, Flavia's father, is the victim of a murderous attack, thanks to which he loses his memory. Flavia's tutor, Aristo, is found standing over her father's body with a bloody dagger in his hand. An exciting chase across Greece ensues, from Corinth to Delphi to Athens.

Dez 29, 2009, 2:08 am

The new group is here: http://www.librarything.com/groups/75booksin2010 although people are still posting to this group since 2009 is not over yet.

I hope to see you in the 2010 group!

Dez 29, 2009, 2:23 am

Oh, I see. Thanks for the heads up. Since my challenge year has been running from birthday to birthday, I'll have to have a think about this.

Dez 29, 2009, 2:30 am


Editado: Dez 30, 2009, 5:06 am

No. 33 is the twelfth Roman Mystery The Charioteer of Delphi.

My review of The Sirens of Surrentum:

Who is poisoning the wife of the object of Flavia's crush, Pollius Felix? Flavia investigates and suffers some crushing disillusionments.

A bit more raunchy than the previous installments. I'm not sure how suitable this adventure is for the lower end of the recommended age-range of 8-12.

Jan 1, 2010, 7:02 am

No. 35 is Rosemary Sutcliff's The Eagle of the Ninth, the Roman History Reading Group's group read for an online chat on 6 January. I won't be able to make the chat because of time differences but all are welcome.

No. 36 is back in the Roman Mysteries series, Trimalchio's Feast, which contains short stories intwerwoven between various of the main novels in the series. I've caught up chronologically but there are some stories which come between the later books and I am leaving those for when I get to those points.

Jan 1, 2010, 7:07 am

Happy New Year, Robert!

Jan 3, 2010, 5:51 am

Same to you, alcott.

No. 37 is the thirteenth Roman Mystery, The Slave-Girl from Jerusalem.

My review of The Charioteer of Delphi:

When a huge reward is offered for finding a champion chariot-race horse, Flavia and friends decide to investigate. They find the horse very quickly, but was it too easy?

This book has modern resonances in that Scopas, the charioteer of the title, is autistic and bullied by the other stable lads.

Jan 3, 2010, 3:46 pm

No. 38 is the 14th Roman Mystery, The Beggar of Volubilis.

My review of The Slave Girl from Jerusalem:

A wealthy Roman dies a few days after freeing the slave-girl of the title. His heir claims that slave-girl was not in fact freed. Flavia and friends investigate. And then the bodies start piling up in this gripping courtroom drama.

Jan 4, 2010, 3:12 pm

My No. 39 is the 15th Roman Mystery, The Scribes from Alexandria

My review of The Beggar of Volubilis:

Flavia and her friends accept a secret mission from the Emperor which involves them going to Roman Africa. Flavia's and Jonathan's family are mourning the death of Jonathan's sister Miriam in childbirth. Her husband, Flavia's Uncle Gaius, is believed to have committed suicide, but someone who may have been him was seen also heading for Africa.

A gripping adventure with some sensitive portrayals of how different people cope with the death of a loved one in different ways.

Jan 6, 2010, 4:51 am

No. 40 was The Prophet from Ephesus, and I am now reading No. 41, the last in the Roman Mysteries series: The Man from Pomegranate Street.

My review of The Scribes from Alexandria:

On their way home from Africa, Flavia and friends are caught in a storm and shipwrecked on the Egyptian coast. Nubia is washed ashore separately and believing the others to be dead she heads home to the land of Nubia to search for her family. Believing her to have been abducted by a scribe from the Great Library of Alexandria, the others set out in pursuit.

A thrilling adventure with lots of puzzles to solve.

My review of "The Prophet from Ephesus":

Flavia and friends go to Asia to find Flavia's father, who is attempting to track down the criminal mastermind behind the kidnapping of children. There is one problem: Flavia and friends are wanted by the authorities for plotting against the Emperor.

Themes of repentence and forgiveness loom large as the children meet John, the beloved disciple.

Editado: Jan 6, 2010, 4:58 pm

Finished The Man from Pomegranate Street, the last of the Roman Mysteries. Starting my no. 42, Ruth Downie's Ruso and the Demented Doctor.

My review of "The Man from Pomegranate Street":

Jonathan is on a mission to warn the emperor Titus that his brother Domitian is trying to kill him and clear his and his friends' names. Flavia, Nubia, and Lupus leave Ephesus to follow him, only to find that Titus is already dead. But what caused his death and how was Jonathan involved?

A fitting end to the series with various loose ends all neatly tied up.

Jan 7, 2010, 3:59 pm

I have been reading your reviews of the Roman Mysteries and the books look pretty good. I am going to look for them. Thanks, Robert.

I will look forward to your review of the Downie book as well. It looks like one I might enjoy too.

Jan 8, 2010, 1:31 pm

I think that the Roman mysteries look good, too. I also have Eagle of the Ninth on my tbr and can't wait to see what you think of that one.

I am coming out of football and holiday hibernation and hope to get some books read soon. :)

Still cold there? Still cold here but beautiful sunny weather. How nice to see the sun again.

Jan 9, 2010, 1:22 am

I'm back in the tropics now, BJ. My three weeks at home this year reminded me of why I moved here in the first place!

Review of Eagle of the Ninth:

Invalided out of the Roman army, Marcus Flavius Aquila decides to solve the mystery of what happened to his father's legion, which disappeared in Northern Britain twenty years before, and to recover the legion's eagle, which is rumoured to be still kept in a native temple.

Wonderful YA book that I last read getting on for 40 years ago. It is firmly rooted in place, with beautiful descriptions of the countryside, and finishes with an exciting chase. The book's central premise, the disappearance of the Ninth Legion, has been overturned by later archaeological discoveries, but that hardly matters.

Jan 9, 2010, 1:22 am

I'm back in the tropics now, BJ. My three weeks at home this year reminded me of why I moved here in the first place!

Review of Eagle of the Ninth:

Invalided out of the Roman army, Marcus Flavius Aquila decides to solve the mystery of what happened to his father's legion, which disappeared in Northern Britain twenty years before, and to recover the legion's eagle, which is rumoured to be still kept in a native temple.

Wonderful YA book that I last read getting on for 40 years ago. It is firmly rooted in place, with beautiful descriptions of the countryside, and finishes with an exciting chase. The book's central premise, the disappearance of the Ninth Legion, has been overturned by later archaeological discoveries, but that hardly matters.

Jan 9, 2010, 2:12 am

Loved the review! Now I really want to read this one, too. Tonight is my girls' last night. Tomorrow they are off to college. So we watched Gladiator on dvd. Reading all of your reviews kind of put that movie in the back of my head. The Battle of Carthage alone is worth the price of admission. Led by the Spaniard with the Australian accent. :)

Jan 9, 2010, 3:20 am

Actually, I think that works. Roman Latin v. provincial Latin = English English v. antipodean English.

I've finished entering all the new books after the Christmas splurge, and I've now got 73 in the TBR pile.

Jan 9, 2010, 8:17 am

Finished Ruso and the Demented Doctor, and am now starting Tacitus's Histories, which is my No. 43, and brings the TBR pile down to 72.

My review of "Ruso and the Demented Doctor":

For fear of sparking further native unrest, the Roman military authorities are covering up the fact that a soldier's body found in a back street had been decapitated. The military would like a native Briton who had a noisy row with the deceased shortly before the murder to be the culprit, but to complicate matters a military doctor has confessed to the murder. Ruso is asked to investigate and make sure that the most convenient culprit is found to be the murderer.

Hard to follow, probably impossible to follow if you haven't read the first one in the series, Ruso and the Disappearing Dancing Girls.

Editado: Jan 11, 2010, 2:18 pm

Hey, Robert!
Now that I am on this difficult diet, my new love is coffee (which is actually not allowed on the diet, but then nothing is), and I joined this limited edition coffee club. Well, today I received the first shipment and it is from Indonesia!! The coffee is Toraja. Ever heard of it? All of this cold weather plays into my desire for coffee, too. Sounds like it goes great with dessert, but I am not supposed to have dessert, so I hope it tastes great all by itself.

Jan 15, 2010, 6:42 am

Yes, Toraja coffee comes from Tanah Toraja (Land of the Toraja) on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. I haven't been to Tanah Toraja myself, but it's quite a popular tourist destination. There is a chain of Toraja coffee shops in Jakarta, and yes it does go very well with cakes.

Jan 26, 2010, 8:26 am

My No. 44, bringing the TBR pile down to 71 is Allan Massie's Nero's Heirs.

Jan 27, 2010, 12:51 am

#87: Did you like Nero's Heirs? It looks like one I would enjoy.

Jan 29, 2010, 11:33 pm

Starting No. 45, Silas Marner by George Eliot (touchstoned as Mary Anne Evans). It's not in the TBR pile and I'm reading it as an ebook before listening to the IOT podcast discussing it.

My review of Nero's Heirs:

The narrator in this novel is Aemilius Scaurus, an aristocratic Roman who was a schoolmate of Domitian, and the lover (at different times in his life) of Titus and Domatilla, and who was later exiled by Domitian but decided not to return to Rome after Domitian's death, having made a life for himself in his place of exile on the Black Sea. He was also a friend of Tacitus, and with a great deal of prodding from Tacitus he writes a series of letters to give him his account of events in Rome in 68 and 69 AD. Disturbed by his memories of that terrible time he intersperses the letters with reflections that he decides not to send Tacitus.

Massie conveys well the sense that the book is describing somebody's memories of events rather than the events themselves. There is a certain amount of enjoyment in the fact that the narrator doesn't seem to like Tacitus very much. Scaurus views Tacitus as rather pompous, with a better grasp of what makes for good literary description than of real life, but also unwittingly supplies Tacitus with some of his most memorable quotes.

On the other hand he supplies rather later famous people, such as Napoleon, with some of their best lines as well, which rather spoils the illusion, otherwise very well maintained, that this really is one of Tacitus's sources.

Jan 31, 2010, 10:46 pm

#89: Thanks for the additional info on Nero's Heirs, Robert!

Fev 1, 2010, 7:32 am

Editado: Fev 16, 2010, 8:14 am

Starting No. 47, Ewen Donald Cameron's Strange Victory. Our vicar was distributing this for us to read over Lent, so here goes.

Fev 16, 2010, 9:41 am

I still don't have a particular book picked out for Lent yet. Our Church has a small book cart, but the sales all happen while I teach Sunday School, so I never get to see it. I am going to go see if I can check it out today.

Today, I am drinking that Toraja coffee from Indonesia. It really is good coffee. I have 4 small boxes of coffee beans. (Well, the first box is almost gone.) I am getting totally spoiled.

Today in Tulsa, Oklahoma the sun is shining. That has been a rare phenomenon this winter. And we are going to hit the 50s (F) tomorrow and Thursday! Yea! Tulsa has gotten over 17 inches of snow this year, which doesn't sound like much compared to other places, but that is tons for us. The snow has been nice, with no power outages at our house, but I am ready for Spring!!

Hope all is going well with you. Happy Mardi Gras!

Fev 16, 2010, 11:52 pm

Thanks, BJ. I went out with the American lawyer at work yesterday (Shrove Tuesday, aka Pancake Day) at lunch time, partly because it was his birthday on Monday and partly to satisfy my nostalgic craving for pancakes. We went to a pancake restaurant but of course it was American pancakes (English pancakes are more like crepes, and traditionally eaten with lemon juice and a sprinkling of sugar). Still, I don't think we'd have got anything closer, so they were OK.

Fev 17, 2010, 9:00 am

I did not know that Shrove Tuesday was AKA Pancake Day. I love pancakes. And I love crepes, too. To celebrate Mardi Gras, I had a Coke and ice cream. No King Cake. I have never made one of those, but one of these days I will give it a try. Cooking is not what I do best.

So do you cook the things you miss from Britain? In Oklahoma, the food is mostly the same as in Texas, but the Tex-Mex food here is for the most part disappointing. So I make my own when I miss it. And then I eat lots of it when I go to Texas. But Texas is a lot closer to me than Britain is to you!

Have the earthquakes stopped there? There have been small earthquakes here in the US in parts where I never really thought they would be. And, of course, there was that terrible one in Haiti.

Still haven't got my book for Lent yet. I have prayer time at Church today, so I am going to look for something later this morning. Have a great day!

Fev 17, 2010, 9:19 pm

I have to admit the English food I miss most isn't really suitable for this climate. It's the stick to your ribs for insulation food I miss.

A friend lent me Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies as suitable Lenten reading. So that's No. 48.

Editado: Fev 19, 2010, 7:49 pm

Finished No. 48. Starting No. 49 Philip Matyszak's Ancient Rome on Five Denarii A Day, one of The Roman History Group's chat books for March.

My review of Traveling Mercies:

A series of reflections from Anne Lamott about her life and faith. It doesn't say that this book is a collection of her magazine articles, but it certainly reads that way.

A mixed bag. The first and longest was the most interesting because it was more of a narrative than a snapshot. Of the others some were moving, but despite her style of writing rather than because of it. She stretches for outlandish metaphors and similes in an effort to produce "fine writing" rather a natural style. It's a pity, because when she concentrates on what she's saying rather than how she's saying it she's much more worth reading.

Fev 20, 2010, 11:10 am

I once had an English teacher who told the class that we needed to make sure we had a certain number of metaphors and similes per page. Occasionally I come across an author who must have the same theory; it sounds like Lamott is one of those.

Fev 21, 2010, 9:31 am

It wouldn't surprise me, carly ;-)

Fev 24, 2010, 8:20 pm

Bringing the TBR pile down to 68 is Eugene H. Peterson's Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, which is my No. 50. Our previous vicar gave me this for my birthday a couple of years ago, but it's only just made it up near the top of the TBR pile.

Fev 26, 2010, 10:16 am

Starting No. 51, Brian McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy, which brings the TBR pile down to 67.

My review of Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places:

In three main sections Peterson discusses Christ in Creation, History, and Community. Each section is divided into Exploration, Kerygma, Threat, Texts, and Cultivating the Fear-of-the-Lord.

It sounds heavy, and in many ways it is. I must admit I don't see why the subtitle calls the book a "conversation", these are definitely lectures rather than conversations.

However, it is worth persevering for some great insights based on Peterson's work as a pastor, with an emphasis on how God through Christ was and through the Holy Spirit is involved in the nitty-gritty of real people's lives rather than with some super-spiritual elect and that without genuine loving relationships everything else fails.

Fev 26, 2010, 10:24 am

Yeah, that is what it is all about, isn't it? Hoping for better weather in March. We are going to Texas to see the girls for about a week. I bought a book for Lent by Bishop Sheen, but I haven't even started it yet. I need to take it with me on the trip.

Mar 2, 2010, 7:31 pm

Starting No. 52 Bart D. Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus, bringing the TBR pile down to 66.

My review of A Generous Orthodoxy:

An eloquent plea for Christians to move beyond what divides them and take the best from each tradition while discarding the past misdeeds of each tradition.

The author's fondness for the prefix 'post-' can be a bit trying after a while.

Mar 2, 2010, 8:16 pm

I found this because I'm reading It's a Don's Life at the moment but was interested to see your reviews of the Roman mysteries too. Did you buy yours from The Book People?

I've joined in the 2010 challenge group.

Mar 3, 2010, 8:34 am

Yes, that's right.

Do you read Mary Beard's blog regularly or have you just got the book?

Mar 3, 2010, 7:58 pm

I review books for a website and thought this sounded interesting, but someone else nabbed it - I read his review and still thought I'd like to read it. Then I heard her on Desert Island Discs recently and that reminded me to put in a library reservation. I haven't read the blog before but intend to start to now, and to have a browe through the old entries.

Mar 3, 2010, 9:11 pm

I'm interested to hear your thoughts on the Ehrman book. I've seen mixed reviews. A while ago, I tried to read something that was similar in concept--a John Shelby Spong book, I think--and thought it was not very well done.

Mar 5, 2010, 9:06 am

My review of Misquoting Jesus:

An introduction on textual criticism of the New Testament for the non scholar.

The title is a bit sensationalised and doesn't really reflect the contents. The book discusses the process by which the text of the New Testament came down to us through copies of copies of copies of copies etc. when everything had to be written by hand, and the kinds of mistakes that happened in that process. Interesting to see some of the details of how changes in the text occurred and how difficult it can be to be sure what the original text actually said sometimes, but surely the general idea is hardly news to anyone who thinks about the process or has looked at some of the footnotes in their Bible.

Mar 6, 2010, 2:41 am

Starting No. 53, bringing the TBR pile down to 65 Stephen Hawking's The Universe in a Nutshell.

Mar 6, 2010, 3:05 am

#108: The title sounds very sensationalized to me. I think I will give that one a pass. Nice review, Robert.

Mar 9, 2010, 6:12 pm

Hi, Robert!
You've read lots since I have been out of town. I have never read anything by Hawking but I have been wanting to. I look forward to seeing what you think of it.

While I was gone there were earthquakes in both Chile and Turkey, and I am just wondering what is going on with all the earthquakes?

Hope all is going well with you.

Mar 12, 2010, 8:35 am

My review of The Universe in a Nutshell:

The first chapter is about the theory of relativity, which governs the world on a large scale, and the second chapter is about quantum mechanics, which governs the world on a very small scale. These two chapters are meant to serve as an introduction after which the other chapters (dealing with such topics as multiple histories, black holes, what would have to be true for time travel to be possible, the future of our civilization, and whether we live on a brane) can be read in any order.

I managed to get through all 200 pages, though it was a struggle. Some parts I think I sort of understood, others not at all. The pictures sometimes clarified things, sometimes didn't.

Alfonso the Wise, King of Aragon in the Middle Ages didn't get a mention but he has my sympathies. When studying the intricacies of the Ptolemaic system he is reputed to have said, "If I had been present at the creation I might have been tempted to suggest to the Almighty that simplicity was desirable."

I did gather that Hawking believes that the important thing is whether the mathematical expression of a theory accounts for observed facts and makes verifiable predictions, without worrying about what reality corresponds to the maths, which we can visualise in different ways according to what suits our purpose at the time. So perhaps it doesn't matter if I understand it or not.

Mar 12, 2010, 10:12 am

Interesting review. Math is so much more complex than when I was in school. I really do need to read one of his books.

Mar 15, 2010, 10:25 am

Reading No. 54 Barbara Pym's Jane and Prudence. A friend has just discovered Barbara Pym, and I was going to lend him this one, but thought I'd just read a couple of pages before I did. Next thing I knew I was half way through it.

Mar 15, 2010, 11:33 am

I just started A Few Green Leaves last night! I'm close to the end of her novels--I'm sure I'll re-read them, but I wish there were more.

Mar 16, 2010, 12:04 am

I know, so do I. I hope whoever it was at her publishers who decided to cut her off has been chastised in some way and is suitably chastened.

My review of Jane and Prudence.

Jane is a clergyman's wife who has found that life isn't quite what she was expecting and tends to say what's on her mind without really thinking about who she's talking to. Her younger friend Prudence falls in and out of love, and currently has a crush on her boss, but there is an eligible bachelor in the village Jane and her husband have just moved to.

As with Jane Austen's novels, a brief summary of the plot really doesn't give you any idea of the richness of the characters and their everyday lives. It has laugh out loud moments that I'd forgotten about and some that I will never forget like the visit from Canon and Mrs. Pritchard.

"She had been feeling that things were pretty desperate if one found oneself talking about and almost quoting Matthew Arnold to comparative strangers, though anything was better than having to pretend you had winter and summer curtains when you had just curtains."

Mar 16, 2010, 2:47 am

I had to add that one to my wishlist based on the quote alone.

Editado: Mar 18, 2010, 9:53 am

I've read No. 55, Barbara Pym's Some Tame Gazelle.

My review:

Two middle-aged unmarried sisters living in a small village each receive a proposal of marriage from unsuitable men and decide not to accept, and life goes back to normal.

Barbara Pym wrote this in the 1930s while she was at university, trying to imagine her and her friends' lives 30 years on. She revised it for publication as her first published novel in 1950. It has all the classic Pym themes and humour but is not as well grounded in time, place, and social setting as her other work. It's certainly worth reading once but it doesn't bear frequent re-reading in the way her other work does.

"When the day came for Agatha to go away, Belinda and Harriet watched her departure out of Belinda's bedroom window. From here there was an excellent view of the vicarage drive and gate. Belinda had brought some brass with her to clean and in the intervals when she stopped her vigorous rubbing to look out of the window, was careful to display the duster in her hand. Harriet stared out quite unashamedly, with nothing in her hand to excuse her presence there. She even had a pair of binoculars, which she was now trying to focus."

Mar 18, 2010, 11:15 am

Another super quote!

I was surprised you found my Bible thread the other day. I have been just editing the posts on it for a long time to track my reading. The thread fell dormant. Finally I just could not find it even though I had starred it. After a couple of searches finally turned it up, I decided that I needed to bump it just so I could find it again. I want to hang onto it until I get the whole thing read. Maybe it will happen. :)

Mar 18, 2010, 2:03 pm

#118: Some Tame Gazelle was the first Pym book I ever read and I have been hooked ever since. I read a couple a year, stretching them out, since I know that there are no more going to be written.

Mar 18, 2010, 8:23 pm

BJ I posted something on your Bible thread once before, so when you revived it, it automatically moved up to the top of the list of threads under my 'talk' tab.

alcottacre Re-reading is the only answer.

Mar 20, 2010, 8:24 am

Barbara Pym's Excellent Women was No. 56.

Mildred Lathbury's new neighbours in the flat downstairs are an anthropologist married to an Admiral's Flag Lieutenant. Unfortunately, the marriage seems to be somewhat shaky, while the vicar is enamoured of a widow who has also just moved into the parish.

Classic Pym.

"I met her for the first time by the dustbins, later that afternoon. The dustbins were in the basement and everybody in the house shared them. There were offices on the ground floor and above them the two flats, not properly self-contained and without every convenience. 'I have to share a bathroom,' I had so often murmured, almost with shame, as if I personally had been found unworthy of a bathroom of my own."

Mar 21, 2010, 9:28 am

Reading my No. 57, Philip Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew. This didn't have a chance to hit the TBR pile. Somebody left me alone in a bookshop with a credit card. I showed remarkable self-restraint and only bought one.

Mar 21, 2010, 11:11 am

That is restraint. I am trying to develop that kind of restraint, but it usually means not driving anywhere near a store. But there is always amazon, and I am waiting for an order now!

Mar 23, 2010, 9:51 am

On to No. 58 Barbara Pym's A Few Green Leaves.

My review of The Jesus I Never Knew:

Yancey tries to read the gospels through fresh eyes using knowledge of the historical background to see Jesus as he appeared to his contemporaries, and is surprised by the results.

Mar 23, 2010, 11:08 am

I'm curious to hear your thoughts on A Few Green Leaves. I liked it, but I thought it wasn't up to the same standards of her others.

Mar 26, 2010, 8:38 am

My review of A Few Green Leaves:

Emma Howick is an anthropologist staying in her mother's country cottage to write up her notes. She sees an old flame on TV and on impulse writes to him. He visits her and moves into a deserted cottage in the woods for the summer.

This was Barbara Pym's last book, written in the last year of her life before she died of cancer. The Pym hallmark of bringing us up to date on characters from other books is there with news of some deaths. We've got the stock Pym characters, anthropologists, the clergy (but no curates), and excellent women. And yet. It's a pleasant enough read, but nothing that makes you want to read bits out loud to anyone who will sit still long enough to listen.

Mar 26, 2010, 8:49 am

#127: Sounds like that one is not up to Pym's normal standards, like Carly suggests. I have not read it yet although I plan to, but I think I will leave it for a while and read others of hers in the mean time.

Abr 9, 2010, 6:42 am

No. 59 is Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, who doesn't seem to have a touchstone.

Had a bit of a disaster on the TBR front. On my way home from work each day I cut through a small mall which mainly provides cafes and restaurants for the surrounding blocks of flats. They have stalls in the middle for small businesses to rent to sell things. Somebody set up a stall selling off remaindered books, and of course I bought three. So the TBR pile is back up to 67.

Abr 9, 2010, 12:13 pm

Hi, Robert!
I saw on the news the other day that there was another earthquake there. Have there always been so many? Seems like there are earthquakes everywhere these days, but I always hear about more in Indonesia.

I think you are doing well with your TBR. I mean, who can resist remaindered books practically set up right in front of you? Meditations is also on my TBR. I never seem to read as many as I think I will. And your reviews are so good, too.

So what did you buy?

Abr 10, 2010, 11:11 am

Indonesia has always had lots of earthquakes, but they get more attention these days because of the Boxing Day Tsunami and media being desperate for news to fill the 24/7 demand.

I got the Everyman editions of Much Ado About Nothing, The Winter's Tale, and Everyman Poetry Geoffrey Chaucer: Love and Chivalry (three stories from the Canterbury Tales), at Rp. 5,000 each (about 35p in the UK or 55 cents in the US).

Abr 10, 2010, 12:19 pm

You got a bargain! You will have to find yourself by that book stand many, many more times.

Abr 11, 2010, 8:32 pm

BJ No. 130

A friend of mine posted a link on FB to this story from the NY Times about earthquake frequency.

Abr 12, 2010, 1:12 am

That was really interesting. I heard something similar about tornadoes. How now with all the storm chasers and all the people with cell phones that can photograph them, it seems like there are more. And it really does sometimes! (Not this year here, yet at least.) I think also, just knowing that you are there, I really notice all the ones in Indonesia. I guess that you must have really good buildings since they happen so often. I think that California has some pretty good building codes where earthquakes are concerned, too.

Abr 12, 2010, 3:00 am

I do sometimes wonder about people I only know online. If anything happened to them, would I ever get to hear about it or would they just disappear with no explanation?

I'm presently concerned about an online friend in Connecticut who I think is in her late 70s or possibly even her early 80s. She hasn't put in her usual appearances over the last few days. She may have just forgotten, had something better to do, or come down with a minor ailment and taken to her bed. On the other hand it could be something much more serious and I might never know.

Abr 12, 2010, 3:03 am

#135: If anything happened to them, would I ever get to hear about it or would they just disappear with no explanation?

I have often wondered the same thing. I hope you hear from your online friend soon.

Abr 12, 2010, 8:38 am

I hope you hear soon, too. I knew someone online who was very ill. When he passed on, his wife let the online community know. I also hope that you hear from your online friend soon.

Abr 13, 2010, 8:34 pm

Thank you both. I had an email from her this morning -- her diverticulosis had flared up, leaving her rather debilitated, but she is on the mend now.

Editado: Abr 14, 2010, 8:09 am

I am so glad! (I mean, that you heard from here and that she is on the mend.)

Abr 15, 2010, 11:21 am

Finished No. 47, Strange Victory, yesterday (only a week late) and started No. 60, Marcus Aurelius: A Biography by Anthony Richard Birley today. A friend who was visiting the United States brought this back for me, so it hasn't had time to hit the TBR pile.

Editado: Abr 16, 2010, 8:26 am

Just heard that Kinokuniya is going to close one of its branches down. CLOSING DOWN SALE. The TBR pile will probably become a mountain and bankruptcy will loom.

Abr 16, 2010, 9:34 am

But just think how much you will be helping all those creditors. :)

There is a big Spring Sale here that I am trying, trying, trying to resist. Have you read The Silver Branch? I have my eye on that one.

Abr 16, 2010, 10:55 am

Yes, about 40 years ago. My memory of it is a trifle vague now.

Abr 17, 2010, 5:31 am

I will be interested in seeing what you think of the Birley book, Robert.

I am glad that you heard from your online friend.

Abr 22, 2010, 8:43 am

My review of Marcus Aurelius: A Biography:

The life of Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher-emperor and the last of the five good Roman emperors.

We start off with a historical survey of the Roman empire up to the birth of Marcus Aurelius, and then a chapter on his family and early life. Chapters 3-5 tell us about his time as an acknowledged future emperor and then chapters 6-9 discuss his reign, while chapter 10 tells us about his Meditations, and chapter 11 discusses his posthumous reputation. There are appendices on the sources, his family, the was, and the church during his reign.

The second chapter was very difficult to follow, even flicking backwards and forwards to look at the family trees in the appendix. Basically everyone was related to everyone else, but exactly how they were related kept changing because of marriages and adoptions. To make matters worse, they kept changing their names as well. All very confusing.

Apart from that, it was an interesting look at Marcus Aurelius's life, even if a lot of it had to be 'could have' , 'must have', 'probably did' and so on because of the scanty nature of the sources.

Abr 23, 2010, 3:35 am

#145: I am going to have to try that one despite the 'could have', 'must have', and 'probably did' problems, which I guess are only to be expected. Thanks for the review, Robert.

Abr 23, 2010, 8:18 am

Finished No. 46, Bernard H. M. Vlekke's Nusantara: Sejarah Indonesia.

Starting No. 61 Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight. This wasn't in the TBR pile but quite a few of hers are, so I thought I'd refresh my memory of the earlier stories first.

My review of "Nusantara":

I didn't realise when I bought it but this is actually an Indonesian translation of the 1961 edition of an English-language book. After a geographical introduction, the book takes us from the prehistoric period down to the Japanese invasion in 1942. It is rather Javacentric, but given the nature of the sources, that is perhaps unavoidable.

Abr 26, 2010, 9:47 am

Finished No. 61 Dragonflight, and starting my No. 62, the second in the series Dragonquest. I got some cheap classics at the Kinokuniya Plaza Indonesia closing down sale, so the TBR pile is up to 74. Eeek.

My review of "Dragonflight" (actually from the last time I read it, 3 years ago, but I see no reason to change my mind since then:

The fact that it was a short story which evolved into a novel which evolved into a series does show in inconsistencies between novels in the series and in the somewhat episodic nature of this, the first one. It's still a great read, though. Lessa is a wonderful character, and who wouldn't want to be a dragon rider of Pern?

Abr 26, 2010, 12:46 pm

Looks like LT is doing the same thing to your tbr as to everyone else's tbr.

My girls both love Anne McCaffrey. I need to try to read some. These books seem to be the most well-liked of hers. I have been trying to read more scifi/fantasy, since they both love it so. I tend to like them, even though they are not the first books that I usually choose from the shelf.

Abr 29, 2010, 2:56 am

I've finished Dragonquest and will be starting my No. 63, Dragonsong, the third in the series (Anne McCaffrey still doesn't have a touchstone) this evening.

My review of "Dragonquest":
Anne McCaffrey certainly puts us through the emotional wringers with this page-turner. Poor Brekke.

Abr 30, 2010, 8:53 pm

On to the next one in the series Dragonsinger, my No. 64.

My review of Dragonsong:

The events of Dragonquest are part of the background in this story of an ordinary girl who turns out not to be so ordinary after all as she has a wonderful talent for music.

Lovely story. One can't help cheering Menolly on, though I do wonder if her parents were really as nasty as they're painted from her point of view.

Maio 1, 2010, 2:46 pm

I've always thought Menolly's parents were too busy and mired in tradition to really see her as an individual. Anyway Dragonsong is one of my all time favorite comfort reads.

Maio 4, 2010, 1:41 am

My No. 65 is Dragondrums.

My review of Dragonsinger:

Menolly arrives at the Harper Hall where her music is appreciated, only to find that doesn't solve all her problems. A lovely continuation of her story. Interesting to see the events of previous books from a different perspective.

Maio 5, 2010, 12:17 am

I have been trying lots of different kinds of coffee these days, and the Toraja coffee is some of the best ever. You are having a great year of reading!

Maio 5, 2010, 10:31 am

It's just as well I decided to re-read the Pern books, as I'm having a brutal week at work this week, and my brain simply could not cope with anything more strenuous.

Maio 5, 2010, 12:42 pm

I hope that next week is better. :)

Maio 5, 2010, 8:41 pm

Since I've got Monday to Thursday off it's bound to be ;-)

Finished Dragondrums and starting The White Dragon, No. 66. A friend who gets sent review copies of books passed three on, so the TBR pile goes up to 77.

My review of "Dragondrums":

The adventures of Piemur, the boy singer we met in Dragonsinger, whose life takes a different turn now that his voice has broken.

Five stars for the story, which was well up to the usual standard for Anne McCaffrey's Pern novels, but I don't like the cover. Piemur doesn't look at all like the way I imagined him and what is that thing, a fire lizard? Also, the book has been shockingly badly edited with lots of misprints.

Maio 7, 2010, 6:17 am

I really need to re-read the Dragonriders of Pern series. It has been years. Thanks for the reminder!

Editado: Maio 9, 2010, 10:41 am

Finished The White Dragon, and starting my No. 67, On Dragonwings, which is an omnibus edition containing Dragonsdawn, Dragonseye, and Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern.

My review of "The White Dragon"

The events in this story overlap with Dragondrums and tell events from the viewpoint of Jaxom, Lord Holder of Ruatha and rider of the White Dragon, Ruth, as he comes to terms with his ambiguous position.

Maio 11, 2010, 10:10 am

Finished Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern from On Dragonwings. Starting my No. 68 Nerilka's Story.

My review of "Moreta":

The saga of Moreta's ride is often mentioned in the earlier books, and here is the full story.

I spent most of the book thinking "I'm not really interested in these people the way I am in the people in the stories about the 9th Pass" and yet I did get a bit teary-eyed at the climax even though I knew what was going to happen.

Maio 12, 2010, 2:27 am

Finished Nerilka's Story and am going back to On Dragonwings to read Dragonsdawn.

My review of "Nerilka's Story":

This basically covers the same ground as Moreta but told from the point of view of one of the minor characters in that story.

It's the first one in the series with a first-person narrator, and I found it a bit clumsy at first. Whether that was McCaffrey having problems with the form or whether it was deliberate to show that Nerilka was unused to writing her own story rather than keeping the Hold's Records up-to-date I'm not sure.

Be that as it may it fleshes out the series a bit more, with a picture of what life is like in a Pernese Hold, which is interesting in itself without the tragic background.

Maio 12, 2010, 9:02 am

Are all of the books by Anne McCaffrey? I have never read her books, but my daughter says I should. She loves them.

Maio 14, 2010, 11:17 am

Yes, they're all by Anne McCaffrey so far. There are also some that she co-wrote with her son, and then he took over the series, but I haven't got any of those.

Having finished Dragonsdawn in On Dragonwings, I'm now starting my No. 69 The Renegades of Pern. The TBR pile has gone up to 78 as a friend who is moving to Dubai gave me one of her books, Night by Elie Wiesel.

My review of "Dragonsdawn":

How it all began. The build-up to First Fall is tremendous. It's impossible to read it without mentally shrieking 'Get under cover NOW'.

Maio 14, 2010, 2:24 pm

I have heard that Night is quite good. Have you ever been to Papua New Guinea? Is it very far away from you?

Maio 14, 2010, 9:34 pm

Indonesia has a common border with PNG, but I haven't been there. I think the border is about 2,500 miles from Jakarta.

Maio 15, 2010, 11:21 am

Wow, that is a long way! I did not realize just how big Indonesia is. I know that when my husband worked for Texaco, lots of employees were transferred there for a few years. They all loved it.

Maio 17, 2010, 7:02 pm

Well of course considerable stretches of that 2,500 miles are sea.

Finished The Renegades of Pern and starting my No. 70 All the Weyrs of Pern.

My review of "The Renegades of Pern"

A bit episodic. No major character focussed on all through, but covers some of the events of earlier books from other points of view and eventually moves the story on a bit.

Maio 21, 2010, 8:00 am

Finished All the Weyrs of Pern and starting my No. 71 The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall.

My review of "All the Weyrs of Pern":

Anne McCaffrey is back on form with this entry in the Pern series. We're back at the 9th Pass, continuing the story. Not everybody is happy with the changes to Pernese life brought about by the latest discoveries even if it does mean Thread is going to be banished forever. Traumatic ending.

Maio 21, 2010, 8:22 am

You're going to hit 75 way before your year is up!

Maio 24, 2010, 2:04 am

Yes, I've got till 28 September, so I reckon I'm in with a good chance.

Now starting No. 72, A Gift of Dragons. Despite my earlier rants I've managed to find via an FB ad an ebook retailer willing to sell me the book despite the fact that I live in Indonesia.

My review of The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall:

The first three stories (The PERN Survey, The Dolphins' Bell, and The Ford of Red Hanrahan) are really only for hardcore Pern fans. Some interesting info about characters we've already met, but they don't really stand as stories.

The fourth one (The Second Weyr)works much better as a story, with all the elements we've come to expect: dragons, Thread, high adventure and a bit of romance.

The last one is a a good stand alone story explaining why rescue never came -- it did, but couldn't find anyone. Kimmer has become too villainous, he's just a stock figure, but that doesn't detract too much from a story with a good plot.

Maio 25, 2010, 9:45 am

Finished A Gift of Dragons, and starting No. 73, The Dolphins of Pern, which was in the TBR pile, which thus comes down to 76.

My review of "A Gift of Dragons":

Four charming short stories about Pern. One overlaps with "Renegades of Pern", while the others are more or less free-standing. Two are Impression stories, and one just tells us a bit more about the social structure on Pern. All of them are really quite delightful.

Maio 26, 2010, 12:38 am

Hi, Robert!
You have read quite a few books while I have been out of town. I had no idea that there were this many books in the Pern series. My girls have several, but I don't think that they have them all.

I was lucky when I went to Half Price Books in Austin. They had one copy of A Canticle for Leibowitz. This never happens to me. Usually when I want a specific title, I cannot find it there. I always find plenty of other books, though!

Maio 27, 2010, 9:05 am

I've finished The Dolphins of Pern and am now going back to On Dragonwings to read Dragonseye.

My review of "The Dolphins of Pern":

This book advances the story of the Ninth Pass with the re-establishment of the relationship between humans and dolphins on Pern.

I thought this one was rather uneven. Too much time was spent on the machinations of Toric so that the end of the story when Readis leaves home to achieve his dream of becoming Pern's first dolphineer was rather rushed. Also it wasn't really clear why his mother was so dead set against his involvement with dolphins.

Maio 28, 2010, 9:28 am

Finished Dragonseye and am now starting my No. 74, The Masterharper of Pern, which brings the TBR pile down to 75.

My review of "Dragonseye":

The end of the first Interval and beginning of second Pass. Wonderful the way Chalkin evolves from a joke scrooge to an inhuman monster right before our eyes.

Jun 2, 2010, 10:24 am

Finished The Masterharper of Pern and am now starting The Skies of Pern, which is TA-DAAA my No. 75. I am reading this as an ebook, which means my TBR pile is also still at 75. "The Skies of Pern" was the last Pern book solely authored by Anne McCaffrey, she either co-authored the others with her son Todd, or he wrote them by himself. Either way, I've heard they're not so good so I'm going to make this my last Pern book.

My review of "The Masterharper of Pern":

The story of Master Robinton's life up to the beginning of "Dragonflight". It's about half as long again as even the longest of the other books and it does feel rather over-extended at times. The author does say in the acknowledgements that she wrote the book to answer questions she'd been asked about events leading up the other books, and although it was nice to get the answers, some judicious pruning would have been better.

Jun 2, 2010, 8:28 pm

Congrats on reaching 75! And I bet you finish it tomorrow with the speed with which you have been reading.

Jun 2, 2010, 9:47 pm


Editado: Jun 6, 2010, 9:51 am

Thank you both.

My review of The Skies of Pern:

The story of the 9th Pass is taken up from where we left it back in The Dolphins of Pern. Again it was rather longer than the earlier books, and there was a definite sense of the author having run out of momentum, but being required to keep churning the books out because the series is so popular.

Now that I've finished the 75, I've started a new thread. Do drop by.