Katiekrug's Somenumberorother in 12!

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Katiekrug's Somenumberorother in 12!

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Redigerat: jan 1, 2012, 4:23pm

Welcome to my "12 in 12" challenge thread. The last time I came close to reading 144 books in a year was when I was single, devoted to my job, unconcerned about not having a life outside of work, and had a round-trip commute of 1.5 to 2 hours on public transportation every day, during which I could read, read, and read some more. Life has since become more complicated, so my goal will be at least 6 books in each category.

I expect to read more than 72 books in 2012 but I like to have a lot of flexibility. My categories will help with this, as they are not very restrictive and allow for plenty of spontaneous reading. Overflow and bonus reads will be duly noted.

I like the category challenge because it feeds into my love of lists and organization; I don’t find that it particularly influences my reading – just makes it more fun!

I also participate in the 75 Books Challenge - my thread is HERE.

So let's dive in, shall we?

Redigerat: okt 28, 2012, 7:33pm

Sequels and series - first, last and anything in between.

1. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
2. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
3. When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson
4. Don't Look Back by Karin Fossum
5. The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley
6. Murphy's Law by Rhys Bowen
7. Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan
8. Glory in Death by J.D. Robb
9. Leave the Grave Green by Deborah Crombie
10. The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths
11. A Room Full of Bones by Elly Griffiths

Redigerat: dec 23, 2012, 9:30pm

Re-reads of books I don’t remember much about except that I liked them.

1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
2. Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan
3. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
4. Animal Farm by George Orwell
5. Midsummer Magic by Catherine Coulter

Redigerat: nov 10, 2012, 11:05am

My own definition of speculative fiction, including fantasy, science fiction, dystopian, horror, etc.

1. The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen
2. The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook
3. Blood Red Road by Moira Young
4. Naked in Death by J.D. Robb
5. Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
6. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
7. The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

Redigerat: dec 28, 2012, 11:09pm

Novellas and short story collections

1. The Body by Stephen King
2. A Compendium of Skirts by Phyllis Moore
3. The Artist of Disappearance by Anita Desai
4. Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
5. Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins
6. A Regency Holiday by Various Authors

Redigerat: okt 28, 2012, 7:37pm

New-to-me authors

1. Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard
2. Palladian by Elizabeth Taylor
3. You Can't Stop Me by Max Allan Collins
4. The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths
5. The Admiral's Bride by Suzanne Brockmann
6. Alys, Always by Harriet Lane
7. The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst
8. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
9. The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

Redigerat: okt 28, 2012, 7:37pm

Foreign settings

1. The Honored Dead: A Story of Friendship, Murder and the Search for Truth in the Arab World by Joseph Braude (Casablanca, Morocco)
2. Blacklands by Belinda Bauer (Exmoor, UK)
3. Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon (10th c. Eurasia)
4. Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger (19th c. Egypt)
5. Dante's Girl by Courtney Cole (fictional Mediterranean island)
6. 1222 by Anne Holt (Norway)

Redigerat: dec 13, 2012, 11:32pm

19th and 20th century literature

1. The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck
2. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
3. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
4. Persuasion by Jane Austen
5. Daisy Miller by Henry James

Redigerat: dec 8, 2012, 12:10am

Books I bought, full of excitement and expectation, but still haven’t read.

1. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
2. Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson
3. The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor
4. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
5. Little Face by Sophie Hannah

Redigerat: okt 12, 2012, 3:51pm

Literary and historical mysteries.

1. Amagansett by Mark Mills
2. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
3. The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye
4. Bent Road by Lori Roy
5. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
6. A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley
7. The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths
8. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

Redigerat: dec 28, 2012, 11:12pm

Primarily Booker and Orange nominees, but maybe some Nobel laureates, Pulitzer winners, etc.

1. Property by Valerie Martin
2. The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck
3. Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
5. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
6. Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

Redigerat: dec 28, 2012, 5:12pm

I own large chunks of certain authors’ (Ian McEwan, Penelope Lively, Mary Wesley, Anne Tyler...) oeuvres, but have only read one or two.

1. Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman
2. Payment in Blood by Elizabeth George
3. The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman
4. An Imaginative Experience by Mary Wesley
5. In the Walled City by Stewart O'Nan

Redigerat: dec 4, 2012, 7:38pm

Books set during, or just before or after, a major conflict.

1. Lost in Shangri-la by Mitchell Zuckoff
2. The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck
3. Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
4. The Deception of the Emerald Ring by Lauren Willig
5. World War z by Max Brooks
6. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
7. City of Women by David R. Gillham

Redigerat: dec 28, 2012, 11:13pm

Because They Don't Fit Anywhere Else

1. A View of the Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor
2. Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family by Condoleezza Rice
3. A Wreath of Roses by Elizabeth Taylor
4. Bonk by Mary Roach
5. Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe
6. The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
7. Fire on the Horizon: The Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster by Tom Shroder
8. 703: How I Lost More Than a Quarter Ton and Gained a Life by Nancy Makin
9. Eternity by Jude Deveraux

dec 25, 2011, 6:58pm

>1 katiekrug: *LOVE* the picture!

>10 katiekrug: Curious to see what "literary and historical mysteries" you select.

dec 25, 2011, 8:58pm

I can't wait to see what you add to the war category. Somehow I always end up reading novels set around major conflicts, so I must enjoy them!

dec 26, 2011, 5:47am

Love the picture for playing catch up

dec 26, 2011, 10:32am

Hi Katie - Great to see your thread is up and ready to go! Love the pics and the categories!

dec 26, 2011, 4:37pm

Thanks, all! Here's to another great year!!

dec 26, 2011, 10:35pm

That is a pretty cool picture at the top!

(Bruce's evil twin :-))

dec 27, 2011, 5:23pm

Good luck with your challenge! I hope you find some good reads for next year.

dec 27, 2011, 6:20pm

Thanks, DS and mamzel!

jan 1, 2012, 12:49am

Happy New Year, Katie. I've placed my star.

jan 1, 2012, 4:21pm

Glad to have you, Judy!

jan 1, 2012, 4:40pm

Found your thread! Got you starred and interested to see what you read this year.

jan 1, 2012, 4:54pm

Excellent pictures and interesting categories! Good luck with the TBRs - those are my own main emphasis this year.

jan 1, 2012, 7:25pm

Thanks japaul22 and Eva!

jan 5, 2012, 9:39am

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Category: NEXT! (Sequels and Series)

In my review of the first book in this trilogy, I said that even if the second book was only half as good, it would still keep my attention. And I was right. Catching Fire is the middle entry of The Hunger Games series and while not quite as good as the first, it is still a compelling read and one I stayed up late to finish. I liked the glimpses into other districts that we are given, as well as hints of the coming rebellion. Katniss is a very believable teenage character – she is tortured and angsty on one hand and defiant and self-assured on the other; she is capable of great brutality but falls apart at the thought of her little sister; she is dismissive of her “weak” mother and yearns for her at the same time. All of this internal turmoil (which doesn’t even touch on her conflicting feelings over two boys) is raging at the same time she finds herself once again in the Arena fighting other tributes from other districts. The ending was a little too neat, though I expect it will be explained more fully in the final book, which I can’t wait to get to!

Rating: 4.2 / 4 ½ stars
Acquired: 19 August 2011
Format: Kindle

jan 5, 2012, 12:09pm

I read The Hunger Games, not realizing it was the start of a trilogy, which put me off it. I keep hearing good stuff about the rest of the series, though, so I should probably get over my huff. :)

jan 5, 2012, 1:26pm

Eva - I admire your restraint. Even if I hadn't known it was a trilogy, once I found out, I would have HAD to read the next one. They read so quickly, anyway....

jan 5, 2012, 1:37pm

I would have, but I read it before part two had been published. :)

jan 5, 2012, 1:45pm

I loved the first two books of this series, but Mockingjay I found to be pretty disappointing. I liked finding out what happens, but it felt much less creative to me and kind of fell into that teen-angst love triangle thing that felt a bit formulaic. I'll be curious to see what you think of the last one. I do think that most people love it, so don't let my feelings put you off! And, to be honest, I devoured the last book even with liking it less!

jan 5, 2012, 2:10pm

Eva - Oh, duh! I should have thought of that...

japaul - I've heard that about Mockingjay. I am not going to start it right away and one reason is so that CF will stand on its own in my mind and not be "tainted" if I don't like Mockingjay. I'll probably get to it next month...

jan 5, 2012, 2:17pm

-Eva-, I've read the Hunger Games Trilogy, and it's fantastic, and a very quick read! I read all three in about 2 weeks. I agree that the last one, Mockingjay, is not quite as good as the first two. Sort of like the author just had to get it wrapped up, so hurried through it, or ran out of ideas or something. Still good, and puts an end to the story, so good to read anyway. I recommend this trilogy to my young adult customers, and tell their parents they might enjoy it as well. So far no complaints! :)

jan 5, 2012, 2:37pm

I'll probably do a reread of the first to catch up and then mow through the other two. When's our next long weekend? :)

jan 5, 2012, 3:13pm

You have a very well-organized thread! I'll be keeping an eye on it over the year. Good luck!

jan 5, 2012, 3:33pm

Love your setup. I'll be following it to see how you fill it.

jan 5, 2012, 3:37pm

Welcome, Rachel and SassyLassy! Glad to have you aboard :)

jan 5, 2012, 9:34pm

Good review of Catching Fire Katie. Another series I haven't read yet but think I can safely wait a little longer before I become the only person that hasn't read it (Thanks Eva!!!) ;-)

jan 5, 2012, 10:15pm

Thanks, Lori!

jan 5, 2012, 10:54pm

Great categories!
I loved Hunger Games--could not put it down. The rest of the trilogy isn't as strong, IMHO. Hunger Games really stands on its own, so if you didn't have a teen-age daughter nagging you to read and discuss the whole series, you wouldn't have to.
Have you read or heard any interviews with Suzanne Collins? She is very interesting.

jan 6, 2012, 1:28pm

Thanks for your thoughts, Banjo. I have not seen any interviews with Suzanne Collins but will look for some.

jan 10, 2012, 11:04am

Property by Valerie Martin
Category: It’s an Honor Just To Be Nominated (Award Winners and Nominees)

I’ve been trying to write this review for a while now and it refuses to come together. So here is a quote that I think best encapsulates this story of enslavement (both literal and figurative) and the twisted relationship between men and women and slaves and masters in 1820s Louisiana:

He wishes I might die of cholera, and fears that she may instead. I wish he might be killed while shooting rebellious negroes. She wishes us both dead.” (page 63)

What Martin does most brilliantly is to depict the internalization of brutality and to create an anti-heroine and narrator so selfish and self-absorbed that she fails to comprehend the hypocrisy in which she lives. An uncomfortable read and a worthy Orange Prize winner by an author I look forward to reading more of.

Rating: 4.15 / 4 stars
Acquired: December 2010
Format: Paperback; 189 pages

jan 15, 2012, 4:44pm

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Category: NEXT! (Sequels and Series)

In a word: underwhelming. I am a little surprised by all the hoopla surrounding this book. The pacing was incredibly uneven and none of the characters particularly likeable or compelling. Both Blomkvist and Salander seemed flat to me; perhaps they are developed more fully in the next books, but I won’t be continuing with the trilogy anytime soon. A serviceable mystery but no great shakes.

Rating: 3.12 / 3 stars
Acquired: March 2011
Format: Paperback; 640 pages

jan 15, 2012, 5:49pm

I'm sorry you didn't like this book. I loved the strength and intelligence of Lizbeth.

jan 15, 2012, 6:00pm

I didn't NOT like it, I just didn't see anything all that extraordinary in it. Lisbeth was smart and strong but so are a lot of central characters in today's crime fiction... I don't know; maybe I'm just grumpy today :)

jan 15, 2012, 7:38pm

I think this book was damaged by all the hype. It was a good book considering that it was the author's first. And I thought the description of the social justice system fascinating. But I don't understand why it was so popular--except that many people love a nice strong female protagonist.

jan 15, 2012, 7:51pm

Good point(s), Rachel!

jan 19, 2012, 9:52pm

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard
Category: Nice to Meet You (new-to-me authors)

Narrative non-fiction at its best. Millard weaves together the stories of three men – President James Garfield, his would-be assassin Charles Guiteau, and the inventor Alexander Graham Bell – whose lives intertwined in 1881 when Garfield was shot and lay near death for more than two months. This is a fascinating story, about which I knew nothing. Millard has done her research, and the book is chock full of wonderful details that bring the story and personalities to life. I admit to developing a small crush on President Garfield and to tearing up at his death. Really well done and highly recommended!

Rating: 4.65 / 4.5 stars
Acquired: Public Library
Format: Audio; 9 hours 47 minutes

jan 19, 2012, 10:01pm

Oh good! Destiny of the Republic is on my must-read-this-year list. I also highly recommend River of Doubt by Millard. It's about Teddy Roosevelt's adventure on the Amazon.

jan 20, 2012, 12:22am

Destiny of the Republic is one I want to read soon. I'm glad to see you enjoyed it on audio -- I think I have access to a library download of the audio book.

jan 20, 2012, 1:52pm

>50 japaul22: - I have River of Doubt on my WL now. I heart TR!

>51 tymfos: - Terri, It's great on audio, though I bet there were photos in the book. I may have to swing by B&N to check...

jan 21, 2012, 11:49am

@ 49 -- I'd never have picked up Destiny of the Republic on my own, but after seeing that it caused you to have a crush on President Garfield, I'm quite intrigued! :)

jan 21, 2012, 3:21pm

Christina, I hope you enjoy it!

jan 27, 2012, 5:55pm

Amagansett by Mark Mills
Category: Smarter Than Your Average Criminal

This mystery set on the Eastern tip of Long Isalnd in the years after World War II started off very well for me – Mills built a wonderful sense of place and character, and his descriptions of the landscapes and the ocean were lovely. But it was almost as if about halfway through, he remembered he was writing a mystery and decided to cram in a bunch of plot twists, action, and one-dimensional characters. The motivation behind the murder at the heart of the story is flimsy at best, and the secondary “mystery” in the book is there solely to advance the plot and is given no real depth. This is not a terrible book, but with so many better options out there, it is a waste of time.

(Note: I think this was published in the UK as The Whaleboat House.)

Rating: 2.73 / 2.5 stars
Acquired: December 2007
Format: Paperback; 388 pages

jan 30, 2012, 7:30am

Sorry to hear that Amagansett was a disappointment. It had sounded a bit promising to me, but now maybe I won't bother.

jan 30, 2012, 8:58am

I read Amagansett a few years back and was also disappointed. I think it would probably be about a 2.5 on my rating scale. I should see if I have that in my "read but not owned collection" and add and rate it if it's not there.

feb 3, 2012, 9:10am

The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen
Category: Huh? (Speculative Fiction)

”Believe instead that I was tricked, that I was a dupe, that I was just another misguided idealist, that I had enough love in my heart that I dared to imagine a better world, something closer to perfect.” (page 403-404)

Zed works for the Department of Historical Integrity in the future, where he is tasked with going back in time to ensure that the events leading to the Perfect Present are not disrupted. But there are others – historical agitators or “hags” – also in the Perfect Present who go back in time to try to disrupt history. Zed’s job, essentially, is to make sure the Holocaust ravages European Jewry, or that two cities in Japan are destroyed by atomic bombs, or that a group of men are able to successfully crash airplanes into buildings. But it’s all for a good cause, since these events had to happen before the world could come to the Perfect Present.

Zed is on a fairly routine assignment in Washington, DC when things start to go wrong. What his assignment has to do with a young corporate lawyer, a diplomat’s servant, and an ex-spy and how these four storylines cross and tangle is at the heart of the novel. It’s part speculative fiction, part spy thriller, part philosophical rumination on the role of the individual in history; the first half of the book was very good, but I felt it lost something as the various narrative lines began to come together. It may just have been that I wasn’t able to read it in large enough chunks, but I kept losing the thread of the story and forgetting how certain things were connected. Mullen is obviously very talented, though, and based on the strength of his writing and good reviews of his other books, I look forward to reading more by him.

Rating: 3.85 / 4 stars
Acquired: 28 September 2011
Format: Hardcover; 435 pages


The Honored Dead: A Story of Friendship, Murder, and the Search for Truth in the Arab World by Jospeh Braude
Category: Armchair Traveler (Foreign Locations)

Part memoir and part true crime narrative, this was an interesting look into modern day Morocco and life in a North African Arab country. The author helps a Moroccan man investigate the true story behind the murder of his friend. Along the way, we meet police officers, government officials, doctors, middle class citizens and denizens of Casablanca’s teeming shantytowns – all of whom experience life and society in different ways. While I found Braude as a “character” to be rather annoying at times, his insight into Arab culture (from his unique perspective as the son of an Iraqi Jew) was really interesting. He also provided a lot of good context, including brief histories of the Berbers, the relationship between Moroccan Jews and the government, and the uneasy alliances that countries in the region make among themselves and with Western nations.

Rating: 3.8 / 3.75 stars
Acquired: Public Library
Format: Audio; 11 hours 10 minutes

feb 3, 2012, 9:11am

Terri and Lori - The story in Amagansett had a lot of potential.... it's always disappointing when an author can't being it together successfully.

feb 3, 2012, 12:57pm

Thank you for the review of Property! I will be reading the book as part of another reading challenge, so I enjoyed your take on it. :)

feb 18, 2012, 11:17am

The Body by Stephen King
Category: Bigger Isn't Always Better (Novellas and Short Stories)

The basis for the excellent film Stand By Me, this novella is a funny, disturbing, and very sad look at the loss of childhood innocence. I think Stephen King is often under-rated as a writer; here, he evokes a very specific sense of time and place and develops four distinct and unique characters, all of whom ring true to the reality of adolescent boys. Very good.

Rating: 4.25 / 4 stars
Acquired: Public Library
Format: Audio; 5 hours 46 minutes


When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson
Category: Next! (Sequels and Series)

Jackson Brodie just breaks my heart. This was an absorbing read, and Atkinson once again manages to keep all her balls in the air until just the right moment to show the connections and resolve (most of) the questions. And Reggie was a fascinating character with just the right amount of naiveté mixed with cynicism for a 15 year old. I’m sorry to have only one book left to read in this series.

Rating: 4.35 / 4.5 stars
Acquired: 2 December 2010
Format: Paperback; 383 pages


The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook
Category: Huh? (Speculative Fiction)

Despite the awful cover, this was a fun steampunk read with a dash of adventure crossed with some romance. And zombies. A good airplane read but not sure I will pick up the sequel.

Rating: 3.0 / 3 stars
Acquired: Public Library
Format: Kindle; 384 pages

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Category: Next! (Sequels and Series)

A satisfying, though not perfect, conclusion to a great dystopian trilogy. Can’t wait for the movie to come out!

Rating: 3.70 / 3.5 stars
Acquired: 19 August 2011
Format: Kindle; 390 pages

feb 18, 2012, 1:44pm

RE The Iron Duke - Yah, the cover is pretty cheezy...... almost steered me away from it when I read the book last year.

feb 18, 2012, 2:19pm

LOL Lori - I almost didn't post it!

feb 24, 2012, 10:39am

The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck
Category: Golden Oldies

Undeservedly, this is one of Steinbeck’s lesser known works. His descriptive writing and evocative style are on display here, and how he manages to draw out the hidden natures of all these distinct characters is terrific. There are no fully sympathetic characters here, but we are drawn into their interior lives and are witness to their truer, baser natures. Steinbeck is not judgmental, just exploratory, as if examining a particularly fascinating specimen.

Rating: 3.87 / 4 stars
Acquired: 28 January 2012
Format: Paperback; 210 pages

feb 29, 2012, 8:23pm

Palladian by Elizabeth Taylor
Category: Nice to Meet You (new-to-me authors)

No, not that Elizabeth Taylor. This E.T. is one of those prolific female British authors of the first half of the 20th century whose books always appeal to me but whom I rarely actually read. So my thanks to the Virago Modern Classics group here on LT who are celebrating Taylor’s 100th birthday by reading her novels in publication order – one per month. Anyway, this was an interesting take (satire? parody?) on the Gothic-influenced works of the Bronte sisters, DuMaurier, etc. I liked it but felt very distant from it the whole time. The strongest character in the novel is the old country manor house, and Taylor gives it its own personality, imbuing it with the moldy, claustrophobic atmosphere one would expect. I found the actual plot rather predictable, including the twist towards the end and the explanation of one character’s behavior. But I’m glad I read this and look forward to exploring more of Taylor’s work.

Rating: 3.42 / 3.5 stars
Acquired: Christmas 2011
Format: Paperback; 188 pages

feb 29, 2012, 8:43pm

A Compendium of Skirts by Phyllis Moore
Category: Bigger Isn't Always Better (short stories and novellas)

The best part of this book is the cover. And there are some funny lines – “Compared to me, Martha Stewart is a ten-dollar crack whore passed out on a cold kitchen floor strewn with dirty, if cleverly crocheted, syringes” – but I really found most of this collection of short stories to be a bit too too. Too cute, too quirky, too self-consciously aware of itself. Trying too hard to be endearingly idiosyncratic and just being annoying. I forgot – there is another good thing about it, though. It’s short and I only wasted a 2.5 hour plane ride reading it.

Rating: 2.10 / 2 stars
Acquired: 10 February 2012
Format: Paperback; 177 pages

feb 29, 2012, 8:54pm

Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff
Category: War (and Maybe Some Peace)

A good non-fiction account of the crash of a military plane in the mountains of New Guinea in May 1945 and the experience of the three survivors before, during, and after their rescue. It’s a compelling story and Zuckoff has obviously done his research. My only issue with it, and the reason it lost half a star, is that I felt like he included a lot of “filler” information that did little more than slow the narrative down. Still, recommended, especially for those who like true life adventure stories.

Rating: 3.61 / 3.5 stars
Acquired: Public Library
Format: Audio; 8 hours 32 minutes

mar 3, 2012, 6:18pm

You Can’t Stop Me by Max Allan Collins
Category: Nice to Meet You (New-to-me Authors)

There are few things in life worse than a mystery with an interesting premise that is sunk by bad pacing, terrible writing, and one dimensional characters.

Rating: 2.05 / 2 stars
Acquired: 28 May 2011
Format: Kindle; 320 pages (per Amazon)

mar 3, 2012, 7:08pm

Ouch... hope your next read is a huge improvement over your last one!

mar 3, 2012, 10:01pm

Thanks, Lori! Me too :)

mar 6, 2012, 8:22am

There are few things in life worse than a mystery with an interesting premise that is sunk by bad pacing, terrible writing, and one dimensional characters.

Agreed! I'll make a note to avoid that one. Hope the next one is better.

mar 6, 2012, 4:08pm

Thanks, Terri!

mar 9, 2012, 4:22pm

The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck
Category: It's an Honor Just To Be Nominated (Nominees and Prize Winners)

I struggled a bit with this book, especially in Part I, but grew to really like it despite some serious flaws. Steinbeck’s message, which is non-too-subtle, about moral compromise and selfishness and the means justifying the end, resonates as much today as it apparently did when this book was published in the early 1960s. Ethan Hawley struggles throughout the book between his perception of himself and the realities of his life. He is deeply flawed, yet I felt a great depth of sympathy for him. While Steinbeck occasionally bludgeons his reader over the head with his message, his characteristic clean and lovely prose is quite evident, and the novel is worth reading for the last page and a half alone. It is quite different from much of his other work and, I think, requires a lot more of the reader. In the end, though, I felt the effort was more than rewarded.

Rating: 4.11 / 4 stars
Acquired: 1 June 2011
Format: Paperback; 272 pages

mar 9, 2012, 4:29pm

Don’t Look Back by Karin Fossum
Category: NEXT! (Sequels and Series)

This is the second in the Inspector Sejer series, but the first to be translated from the original Norwegian into English. While not groundbreaking in any way, it was a well-written, decently plotted mystery. I understand that the series gets stronger with each entry, and I look forward to the further development of Sejer.

Rating: 3.15 / 3 stars
Acquired: 5 May 2011
Format: Paperback; 293 pages

mar 18, 2012, 12:44am

A View of the Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor
Category: Bonus (Because They Don't Fit Anywhere Else)

A lovely novel depicting the lives of the inhabitants of a down-at-the-heels seaside resort in Britain just after World War II. Everything’s a bit shabby here, wrinkled and threadbare and going soft at the edges. But Taylor’s detailing of the everyday, of the misunderstandings, missed opportunities, and missing pieces of the puzzle, is razor sharp and illuminative. The writing is clear and beautiful:

”Seen from afar, the lighthouse merely struck deft blows at the darkness, but to anyone standing under the shelter of its white-washed walls a deeper sense of mystery was invoked: the light remained longer, it seemed, and spread wider, indicating greater ranges of darkness and deeper wonders hidden in that darkness.” (page 277)

A View of the Harbour is a finely observed novel of shifting and differing perspectives, a treat for anyone less concerned about plot and more interested in character and internal tension.

Rating: 4.05 / 4 stars
Acquired: March 2012
Format: Paperback; 304 pages


Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family by Condoleezza Rice
Category: Bonus (Because They Don't Fit Anywhere Else)

Love her or hate her, one can’t deny that Condoleezza Rice has led a fascinating and supremely accomplished life, from growing up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama to competitive figure skating in Denver, Colorado to being named the youngest Provost in Stanford University’s history. And that doesn’t even touch on her three tours of duty in Washington, DC, first as an intern at the Pentagon, then as a NSC staffer under the first President Bush, and finally as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under the younger Bush.

The majority of this memoir is dedicated to her childhood and adolescence and her relationship with her unerringly supportive parents. Rice’s story is full of interesting connections and coincidences – one of the four little girls killed in the bombing of a Birmingham church was a playmate; her parents lived at one point next to the parents of current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and they shared a seder meal with them; her interest in the Soviet Union and international politics was first sparked by Professor Joseph Korbel , the father of President Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. All of which made for an interesting read, but I found the most fascinating parts to be her childhood memories of growing up in segregated Birmingham and her family’s and friends’ responses to inequality and racism. It is a unique perspective on an aspect of American history whose repercussions are still felt.

Rice rarely touches on anything overtly political, though her brief discussion of her father’s politics and her own relationship with the Republican Party were both interesting. This book will not appeal to hard core detractors of Dr. Rice; anyone who admires her, is curious about her, or feels only indifference will find something of value in this book.

Rating: 4.41 / 4.5 stars
Acquired: Borrowed – Dallas Public Library
Format: Audio; 8 hours 56 minutes

mar 23, 2012, 6:51pm

Great reviews, Katie!

Sounds like you've had some really good books lately!

mar 27, 2012, 6:38pm

Thanks, Terri! A few less successful books below.....

mar 27, 2012, 6:40pm

The Artist of Disappearance by Anita Desai
Category: Bigger Isn't Always Better (short stories and novellas)

Beautifully written, quiet and contemplative, these three stories should have been winners for me. But they left me cold. I read each one in between other books, and honestly can remember very little about the first story – it left no impression on me whatsoever. The second was better - an exploration of a woman’s sense of disconnection from the world and how she tries to anchor her existence – all overlaid with interesting cultural and social questions related to modern India. The last story was very good but I don’t think it will end up leaving much of an impression on me. Desai just seemed to create a purposeful distance between her work and her reader; this may work for some but I prefer to feel a stronger connection to what I read.

Rating: 2.93 / 3 stars
Acquired: LT Early Reviewers – November 2011
Format: Paperback ARC; 152 pages

1222 by Anne Holt
Category: Nice to Meet You (new-to-me authors)

I expected more from this homage to the classic “locked room” mysteries. It was fine but not outstanding, and the resolution felt flat to me. Also, the ambiguity of the ending related to the secondary “mystery” seemed contrived and out of place. Plus, it’s pretty dated now….

Hanne, the wheelchair-bound former police officer, is an interesting character, but her coldness and resistance to any sort of human connection, wore thin. I believe this is the eighth in a series, so perhaps knowing more of her back story would have helped? All in all, not a terrible book, but I’m glad I borrowed it from the library and didn’t shell out any cash for it.

Rating: 3.39 / 3.5 stars
Acquired: Public Library
Format: Hardcover; 309 pages

Blood Red Road by Moira Young
Category: Huh? (speculative fiction)

A well-paced, interesting dystopian novel about a girl seeking her abducted twin brother. It’s really a coming of age story and a story about learning to know and accept oneself. My biggest problem with it was that I found the protagonist, Saba, to be whiny and annoying. Also, there was something slightly off-putting about her obsessive love for her brother and the possessiveness with which she regarded him. The secondary characters were great, and there was enough good stuff here to cause me to look forward to the sequel.

Rating: 3.61 / 3.5 stars
Acquired: Public Library
Format: Hardcover; 457 pages

mar 28, 2012, 1:58am

Well darn..... here is hoping your next read is an improvement!

mar 28, 2012, 12:30pm

My fingers are crossed, Lori :)

mar 30, 2012, 7:05am

Artist of Disappearance sounds like the whole thing disappears from memory very quickly!

mar 30, 2012, 9:52am

LOL, Terri!

apr 1, 2012, 9:56am

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
Category: Smarter Than Your Average Criminal (literary and historical mysteries)

I started this early in March but just could not get into it. I found the precocious 11 year old heroine a bit too precious for my taste, and it seemed like Bradley just kept piling on the quirkiness. SO not in the mood for that…. Fast forward about three weeks, and I picked it up again - and was rather enchanted! It just goes to show one’s enjoyment of books can be heavily dependent on mood.

There are tons of reviews and synopses of this one, so I won’t rehash all that. I will say that Flavia can often be irritating and illogical, but she has a delightful voice. I know some people didn’t like her relationship with her sisters, but it made for some very funny dialogue. While the mystery and resolution were pretty outlandish, Bradley built a fascinating world in 1950 England and peopled it with some very endearing characters, so in the end, the puzzle almost seemed secondary. I plan to continue with the series (as my mood dictates!) and think I will try the second book on audio. I can imagine the right narrator would make an audio version a perfect treat.

Rating: 3.23 / 3 stars
Acquired: Library
Format: Hardcover; 368 pages

apr 1, 2012, 10:09am

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Category: Return Engagements (re-reads)

I first read this when I was about 10 years old, I think. I had the complete boxed set (with the covers like the one above) which my father gave me for Christmas. I am pretty sure I at least read the first three in the Narnia series, but this is the only one I have any memory of. Listening to the audio, the first half or so was very familiar – a little girl discovers a hidden world entered through the back of an old wardrobe and can’t convince her siblings that she is telling the truth; the devious brother who discovers the same world but denies it, and then all four siblings finally traveling there together. After that, I remembered very little other than that there was a lion named Aslan. All of which is to stay it was really delightful to rediscover this book, especially as narrated by Michael York. Some of the Christian symbolism is heavy-handed in parts, but I can say for sure that it all went right over my head as a child, and I only paid attention to it now because of the notes Donna (Donna828) has shared from her C.S. Lewis class. I am not sure if I will read/listen through the entire series any time soon, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I returned to this particular story sometime in the future.

Rating: 3.89 / 4 stars
Acquired: Library download
Format: Audio; 4 hours 21 minutes

apr 2, 2012, 6:52pm

->83 katiekrug:
I agree, you do have to be in the mood for Flavia - and preferably be aware in advance of her personality - and then it works very well. With the first book, I was mainly impressed with how well Bradley depicted England without actually ever having been!

apr 2, 2012, 9:34pm

That's interesting, Eva. I didn't know Bradley had never visited England!

apr 2, 2012, 10:05pm

I read something somewhere where he wrote about being giddy about getting to go to the UK to accept an award for Sweetness and to see how well he had done with his descriptions. Very sweet.

apr 6, 2012, 11:49am

Blacklands by Belinda Bauer
Category: Armchair Traveler (foreign settings)

“Chocolate bars were for children, and today he would become so much more than that. He might not know how sex or relationships worked, but by nightfall he hoped his family would be a whole thing, instead of this cracked, crumbling half-thing that left him nervous and sad.” (page 175)

One of my very favorite things to read is an excellently written and thoughtful (but well-paced!) crime novel. This is why I love Susan Hill’s Simon Serailler series and the latter part of Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series or Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad books. I want a strong plot but almost more than that, I want strong characters who develop and reveal themselves over time, and those development and revelation add suspense in their own right. All of which is to say, I really, really, really liked Blacklands. To begin with, it is beautifully written. There are passages that evoke such intense emotion, or sense of place, or depth of character, they could be found in any “high brow” literary fiction. Couple that with a strong plot involving a young boy, his quest to heal his family from a long ago tragedy, and a creepy correspondence with a serial killer sitting in jail, and you have the making for a taut, suspenseful novel that explores the fragmentation of a family, childhood, friendship, loss and what it means to grow up. I cannot wait to read more of Bauer’s work.

Rating: 4.38 / 4.5 stars
Acquired: Library
Format: Hardcover; 219 pages

apr 21, 2012, 7:30pm

Naked in Death by J.D. Robb
Category: HUH? (Speculative Fiction)

A fun and sexy mystery romp through New York in 2058. It’s standard romantic suspense fare but the futuristic setting made for a nice change and the chemistry between Eve and Roarke was well-done and believable. I’ll read more in this very looooong series.

Rating: 3.05 / 3 stars
Acquired: Library
Format: Kindle; 314 pages

A Wreath of Roses by Elizabeth Taylor
Category: Bonus (Because They Don't Fit Anywhere Else)

”Life’s not simplicity,” she said slowly. “Not loving-kindness either. It’s darkness, and the terrible things we do to one another, and to ourselves.” (page 138)

Beautifully written and darkly atmospheric, A Wreath of Roses is a creepy but deceptively simple tale of desperation, loneliness, and disappointment. The prose is rich but restrained and the claustrophobic atmosphere of a hot English summer only reinforces the sense of impending danger.

Rating: 4.35 / 4.5 stars
Acquired: March 2012
Format: Paperback; 205 pages

The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck
Category: War (And Maybe Some Peace)

Originally written as a propaganda piece during World War II, this short work tells the story of resistance among the citizens of an occupied town in an un-named country. What I found most interesting was how Steinbeck portrayed the enemy not as stereotyped cartoons of evil but as having essential human concerns and emotions. To me, this humanizing made the terrible reality of the story he was telling all the more effective.

Rating: 4.20 / 4 stars
Acquired: March 2012
Format: Paperback; 111 pages

apr 21, 2012, 7:34pm

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach
Category: Bonus (Because They Don't Fit Anywhere Else)

Not as good as her Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Bonk is still funny and interesting and displays Roach’s characteristic dry wit. This is approachable, readable, and entertaining science writing about a topic often giggled over but not always understood.

Rating: 3.15 / 3 stars
Acquired: March 2012
Format: Audio; 9 hours 28 minutes

Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon
Category: Armchair Traveler (Foreign Settings)

”Where would you go if you could leave?”

Amram thought it over and felt a seam open onto a void whose terrible content was the possibility that there was nowhere new for him to wander, no corner where he had not sought the shadow of his home and family.” (page 149-150)

Gentlemen of the Road is, at times, funny, sad, wise and ridiculous. It’s an adventure tale in the old-fashioned sense, set in the 10th century in the Caucusus region of Eurasia, and follows two itinerant Jewish hucksters who are drafted into service to help restore a young prince’s inheritance. The various characters they encounter and problems they overcome make for an enjoyable read, though one tinged with some melancholy.

Rating: 3.65 / 3.5 stars
Acquired: June 2011
Format: Paperback; 193 pages

apr 21, 2012, 9:05pm

Wow - that's a lot of great reviews! I'm particularly interested in Blacklands and the Elizabeth Taylor book. I've not read any of Taylor's works and all of the reviews I've read of her books lead me to believe I'd really like them.

apr 21, 2012, 9:39pm

Jen, Do give Taylor a try. I haven't read a bad one yet! And I hope you like Blacklands as much as I did when you get to it!

apr 23, 2012, 2:09pm

I've been looking at Blacklands since it has gotten so many good reviews, but I'm a bit wary of the pedophilia-angle - there's nothing graphic, I hope?

apr 24, 2012, 10:29am

Eva - No, nothing terribly graphic. You know it's there and the guy is totally creepy but there is nothing explicit.

Redigerat: apr 24, 2012, 12:28pm

Thanks! I've been tempted to pick it up, but none of the reviews actually said how graphic it gets. :)

apr 24, 2012, 2:51pm

Hmm. I really don't htink of it as graphic but I guess people could have different interpretations/reactions...?

apr 24, 2012, 2:56pm

If you didn't react, then it should be fine. :)

apr 28, 2012, 3:16pm

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
Category: Huh? (Speculative Fiction)

In this second entry in the Leviathan trilogy, we find our young heroes Alek and Dylan in Istanbul, where the Germans are trying to lure the Ottoman Empire into the war. The Leviathan air ship is there, as is a new fabricated sea creature, the Behemoth. There are close calls, a band of revolutionaries, metal eating mussels, talking lorises, and all manner of other fascinating and imaginative inventions. Westerfeld has built a wonderful world, setting it in a discernible region and time period but making it all his own. I listened to Leviathan last year on audio, and it was excellent. This time around, I read the book and enjoyed looking at the wonderful illustrations; you really can’t go wrong with either format. Good fun!

Rating: 4.12 / 4 stars
Acquired: Public Library
Format: Paperback; 480 pages

apr 28, 2012, 10:33pm

Katie, Behemoth is great fun! Westerfeld did, IMO, create a good trilogy and one I will probably re-read years from now.... .the adventure part really sucked me in!

apr 29, 2012, 4:10am

I still need to start on that series (I have the first two books on the tbr shelves) so glad it continues to be enjoyable for you.

apr 29, 2012, 9:08am

Lori - I am planning to buy all three when I find them at my favorite secondhand bookstore.

Wolfy - It's a great series. Enjoy!

maj 4, 2012, 4:51pm

I said I wasn't going to buy any books in May until. . . until someone put the word "Istanbul" in a review! Whew, glad that didn't take very long! Both Westerfeld books have been purchased!

(Bruce's evil twin :-))

maj 5, 2012, 9:50am

DS - hope you like them!

maj 5, 2012, 9:51am

Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe
Category: Bonus

A very readable (listen-able?) memoir by that rare breed – the intelligent, self-aware and self-deprecating celebrity. Part coming of age story, part cautionary tale, and part insider gossip, Lowe writes about his childhood, his big break, his experience on movies from The Outsiders to Wayne’s World and how he kind of got screwed over by the producers of The West Wing. He shares his recovery from alcoholism, how he almost destroyed his relationship with his eventual wife, and how fickle the winds in Hollywood can be – one minute he’s the hottest thing out there and the next he can’t get a meeting. It’s standard celebrity memoir fare – certainly not ground-breaking in any way. But there was enough of interest, and it is written well enough, to hold one’s attention. I listened to it on audio, read by Lowe, and he did a very good job as narrator. (Bonus: He does an unexpectedly hilarious Cary Grant impression.)

Rating: 3.72 / 3.5 stars
Acquired: Public Library
Format: Audio; 9 hours 11 minutes

Redigerat: maj 12, 2012, 4:08pm

Title: The Gods of Gotham
Author: Lyndsay Faye
12 in 12 Category: Smarter Than Your Average Criminal (Literary and Historical Mysteries)
Take It or Leave It Category: #4 - Read a Book with a Title Word Derived from a 75ers Username
Date Finished: 12 May 2012
Rating: 4.24 / 4 stars
Acquired: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Format: Paperback; 408 pages

Comments: This debut novel, a historical mystery set in New York City in 1845, is rich in period detail and language. Often brutal in its telling, whether describing the sights and smells of the streets of lower Manhattan or the violence done to women and children, this story is a fascinating fictionalized account of the early days of the New York City police. We learn about the urban politics of the day, the discrimination against the newly arriving Irish immigrants, the hostility against Catholics, the terrible living conditions of so many of the city’s inhabitants, medical practices of the day, brothels, nativist gangs, charitable works, corruption…. all of which is wrapped up in a pretty good mystery surrounding the deaths of children. The book was almost a 4.5 star read for me, but at times, I felt like Faye was trying to stick in a little too much of her research, and it became a tad clunky in parts. Still, an excellent read but not one for the faint of heart!

To Quote: “I like July, the way its particular blue had spread over the world when I’d worked on a ferryboat to Staten Island at age twelve, for instance, head back and mouth full of fresh salt breeze. But 1845 was a bad summer. The air was yeasty and wet as a bread oven by eleven in the morning, and you could taste the smell of it at the back of your throat.” (page 8)

“’People like you and me don’t have time to dwell over such things, things that hurt or dirtied us,’ I told her, tightening my grip. ‘We just keep walking. Nothing is ever clean in New York.’” (page 295)

maj 12, 2012, 5:46pm

Title: The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag
Author: Alan Bradley
12 in 12 Category: Next! (Sequels and Series)
Take It or Leave It Category: #13 – Read a Book with a Word Related to Gardening in the Title
Date Finished: 12 May 2012
Rating: 3.74 / 3.5 stars
Acquired: Dallas Public Library
Format: Audio; 9 hours 50 minutes

Comments: To really enjoy this series, one needs to be comfortable suspending one’s sense of disbelief for large parts of the story. I can do this – to a point – and enjoyed this second entry in the Flavia de Luce mystery series, even as my credulity was strained. Flavia is beyond precocious, and her family is beyond odd, and the secondary characters and the village are beyond idiosyncratic. For some readers, this will all be too much over the top, but I find it excellent escapist fare. It would be easy to dismiss this series as being on the lighter end of the mystery spectrum, but the undercurrents of sadness and lost innocence and bittersweet melancholy add much unexpected depth. This time round, I listened to the audio version which was narrated by Jayne Entwistle and was an utter treat.

To Quote: “Death was no more than a simple masquerade. And so, moreover, was life. And both of them were artfully arranged by something or other… We were puppets, all of us, set in action upon the stage by God, or Fate, or Chemistry – call it what you will – where we would be pulled on like gloves upon the hands and manipulated.”

maj 14, 2012, 1:02pm

We have The Gods of Gotham at the library. I'll try to squeeze it in later this year.

maj 14, 2012, 2:23pm

I don't know how to research this, but it crossed my mind that people who didn't like the Flavia series might be the ones who also didn't like The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I think I appreciated it more because I am a big fan of the precocious Flavia.

maj 14, 2012, 7:09pm

I liked both, Mamzel. I suppose that would be one vote supporting your theory.

maj 14, 2012, 8:29pm

I hope you like it, Lori.

Mamzel - I haven't read TEotH, yet, so I can't participate in the study :) You may be on to something, though, as I think the narrative voices of very precocious children are tricky to pull off successfully.

maj 15, 2012, 7:19am

>105 katiekrug: Glad to hear The Gods of Gotham is worth reading. I picked up an ARC at a book sale and have it awaiting my attention.

Great reviews in general!

maj 15, 2012, 12:55pm

>106 katiekrug: - Nice to see another Dallas Public Library user!

>108 mamzel: - I'm not sure if this will help your research, but I wasn't a huge fan of the first Flavia book. The character was entertaining but the book overall didn't work for me. Overall I enjoyed The Elegance of the Hedgehog, but only once the Japanese gentleman moved into the building.

maj 15, 2012, 8:13pm

Enjoy, Marge!

Ooh, a fellow Dallas-ite :)

maj 16, 2012, 10:53am

Yes, I was catching up on your posts and that caught my eye. That and the part about Grimaldi's and Half Price Books. All quite near my neighborhood. :)

maj 16, 2012, 12:45pm

Gods of Gotham sounds interesting. Does it have Theodore Roosevelt as a character?

maj 16, 2012, 2:09pm

Little Taiko - you remind me that my hubs and I have not had our regular Friday night date in a while!

Banjo - no TR. The setting is a bit too early (1845). I believe Roosevelt was involved in cleaning up the police force as opposed to establishing it.

maj 16, 2012, 6:59pm

I keep on running into Gods of Gotham reviews - all good. I might need to cave and check that one out.

maj 17, 2012, 10:18am

Do it, Lori, do it!


maj 29, 2012, 4:24pm

Title: The Crossing Places
Author: Elly Griffiths
12 in 12 Category: Nice To Meet You (New-To-Me Authors)
Take It or Leave It Category: #14 - Read a book that fills the requirements of a previous TIOLI challenge that you tried, but failed, to complete
Date Finished: 20 May 2012
Rating: 4.35 / 4.5 stars
Acquired: Dallas Public Library
Format: Audio; 8 hours 26 minutes

Comments: In a word – wonderful. This first in a series of mysteries featuring the archaeologist Ruth Galloway is well-paced, beautifully written, and full of historical, cultural and literary references, all of which serves to bring us a fully-formed portrait of the lonely and desolate salt marshes of coastal England and of a complex and interesting character in Ruth. The sense of place is palpable, almost a character in its own right, and the chemistry between Ruth and the lead police investigator is realistic and well-wrought. The narrator of the audio – Jane McDowell – has a wonderful voice, perfect for the material, and I am glad to see she narrates the rest of the series as well. Highly recommended, either on audio or in print!

Title: Goliath
Author: Scott Westerfeld
12 in 12 Category: War (And Maybe Some Peace)
Take It or Leave It Category: n/a
Date Finished: 18 May 2012
Rating: 4.09 / 4 stars
Acquired: Plano Public Library
Format: Hardcover; 542 pages

Comments: A satisfying and consistent conclusion to an excellent YA trilogy. Goliath follows Alek and Deryn aboard the airship Leviathan to Siberia, Tokyo and New York as they try to solve the mystery of a new passenger and put an end to the war. Westerfeld’s richly imagined alternate world is fascinating, and I’m only sorry there will be no more adventures to follow.

Title: World War Z
Author: Max Brooks
12 in 12 Category: Huh? (Speculative Fiction)
Take It or Leave It Category: #18 – Read a Book with a Title Word That Forms Another Word When Reversed
Date Finished: 14 May 2012
Rating: 3.17 / 3 stars
Acquired: Purchased December 2010
Format: Paperback; 342 pages

Comments: I think this book may have suffered in my estimation because I read Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson first. While Brooks’ book was published a few years before, the similarity in concept and structure made it feel a little stale and hackneyed. While there were some interesting moments, overall it was a bit of a slog for me. In fairness, I am probably not the intended audience; my husband was certainly a fan!

maj 30, 2012, 9:49am

I have looked at but not read World War Z. Not sure I will ever get around to it so I was glad to see your comments on the book.

maj 30, 2012, 10:35am

The Crossing Places sounds interesting - love hearing about mystery series that I'm not familiar with.

maj 30, 2012, 12:14pm

Lori, WWZ can probably be safely passed over... Too many other good books out there!

Stacy - I am restraining myself from gobbling up the next three in the series - it's that good!

maj 30, 2012, 12:15pm

Title: Bent Road
Author: Lori Roy
12 in 12 Category: Smarter Than Your Average Criminal (Literary and Historical Mysteries)
Take It or Leave It Category: n/a
Date Finished: 28 May 2012
Rating: 3.24 / 3 stars
Acquired: Dallas Public Library
Format: Kindle; 355 pages

Comments: Twenty years ago, Arthur Scott left his tiny hometown in Kansas after the death of his sister. He made a life for himself in Detroit, got married, and had three children. Now he’s back with his wife Celia, who struggles to adapt to life on the farm, his older daughter Elaine who quickly finds her place in this new community and falls in love, his son Daniel who wants desperately to “be a man”, and his younger daughter Evie, who develops an unhealthy obsession for the dead aunt for whom she is named. Family secrets, the bleak prairie landscape, a missing little girl, and an abusive husband come together in a slow boil, slowly ratcheting up the tension and sense of foreboding. This is a well-written debut but too ponderous in parts, and occasionally repetitive. I will definitely read more by Lori Roy even if this one didn’t quite thrill me.

To Quote:
“In Detroit, Celia knew how to care for her children. She shut off the news when they came down to breakfast, locked the front gate, walked them to school. But here in Kansas, she doesn’t know what to lock. Now her fears walk through her very own kitchen, stand on her back steps, sneak up on her at church. In Kansas, she doesn’t know how to care for her children.” (page 171)

Title: Blackbird House
Author: Alice Hoffman
12 in 12 Category: Playing Catch-Up (with Favorite Authors)
Take It or Leave It Category: #5 - Read a book with the word Black or White as part of the Title or the author's name
Date Finished: 22 May 2012
Rating: 4.2 / 4 stars
Acquired: February 2006
Format: Paperback; 224 pages

Comments: I love Alice Hoffman, though her lyrical writing style and use of magical realism don’t work for everyone. I wouldn’t want a steady diet of it, but in the right mood, I can savor it and appreciate the lushness and beauty of the worlds she creates. In Blackbird House, she gives us 12 vignettes spanning from the 18th century to present day; the thread connecting them is a piece of land on Cape Cod, a magical farm that is home over time to widows, witches, children, animals, lovers, and families. It is a home, a place of refuge, growth, confusion, contentment, and confusion. Beautifully imagined, Hoffman’s Cape Cod is recognizable to those who know the area well but also firmly rooted in some other world. It’s a delightful collection with some stories stronger than others, but overall consistent and all recognizable as belonging together.

To Quote:
“I did most of my reading in the barn, where our horses were kept. I thought of books and hay together, a single sweet parcel. There was no line drawn between the soft snuffling of horses breathing and the glorious worlds I most likely would never see. I read Greek myths. I read about far-off places, Venice and Paris. I read about men who searched for things they could not find at home, and women who fell in love with the wrong person and waited for the arrival of their beloved for so long that a year was no different from a single day. The same thing was happening to me. Years were passing. I was already a woman, and I still wasn’t done reading. When my father and my sister went to sleep, I would sneak away from the house, taking a lantern. The horses didn’t startle when they heard me. They were used to me. Maybe they enjoyed the sound of turning pages; maybe it made the taste of hay rise in their mouths. When I stretched out with my book in the pool of yellow light, I could hear the hum of the bees in the hive perched on the crossbeam above me – a thousand wings flapping in unison – and I’d think, I’m alive. I’m alive.” (page 74-75)

maj 30, 2012, 5:37pm

Didn't you think that Goliath left it wide open for more adventures? I figured that we would be seeing stories post Leviathan, with mad disguises and interesting inventions.

(Bruce's evil twin :-))

maj 30, 2012, 5:44pm

I did think so, too. Maybe Westerfeld did it on purpose so he could have the option in the future should he want to return to the characters.

Redigerat: jun 1, 2012, 4:16pm

Good to hear that The Crossing Places has a good narrator - a poor reader can just murder a book. From the reviews, I can tell I should have requested The Gods of Gotham on LTER - it sounds great!

jun 1, 2012, 3:48pm

Definitely a good read, Eva!

jun 6, 2012, 2:51pm

I enjoyed the audio of The Crossing Places, too!

jun 9, 2012, 6:52pm

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
Completed 30 May 2012
2 stars

This book was deeply disturbing - it's a first person narrative by a 15 year old girl who has been held against her will for five years by a psychopathic pedophile. There is a lot of violence and abuse and unrelenting horror. It was also often repetitive, and the reader of the audio version was not very good. I only stayed with it until the end because it was so short.

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
Completed 2 June 2012
3.5 stars

Light as fluff, this novel of two very different women and what brings them together, was a fine diversion following my last two grim reads. Allen brings in some elements of magical realism to this story set in the mountains of North Carolina and tells a gentle tale of finding and accepting one's true self. Sweet without being saccharine.

"Happiness is a risk. If you're not a little scared, then you're not doing it right." (page 238)

jun 9, 2012, 6:54pm

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Completed 7 June 2012
4 stars

An ordinary coming of age story set in extraordinary circumstances, this debut novel is beautifully written and true to the perspective of it's 11-year old narrator, Julia. All of the uncertainty, resentment and angst of adolescence are captured while the details of a worldwide catastrophe throw the banality of everyday life into stark relief.

"Sometimes it seemed that our memories were failing us... The sound of Sylvia's piano completely vanished from my head. Similarly went the sensation of sunshine on my face, the taste of strawberries, the squish of a grape in my mouth. It got harder and harder to recall those ancient mornings when the sun rose like clockwork, the slowly lifting layers of fog, the lovely light, the start of day." (page 259)

Fire on the Horizon: The Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster by John Konrad and Tom Shroder
Completed 9 June 2012
3.5 stars

Often forgotten in the drama of environmental catastrophe and corporate finger-pointing that followed the blowout of the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 is the fact that 11 men died that night. Less concerned with investigating causes or assigning blame, this book tells the story of the Deepwater Horizon rig and the stories of some of the men and women who worked on it. While occasionally getting bogged down in tangential details, overall it is a fascinating and accessible account of an industry that depends on both cutting edge technology and brute manual labor for its success.

jun 10, 2012, 4:16pm

I've been meaning to try one of Sarah Addison Allen's books and it seems from what I hear that The Peach Keeper is representative - I'm worried it will be a bit too sweet, but I'll brace myself, I suppose. :)

jun 11, 2012, 8:40pm

Eva, I didn't think they were too sweet. Yes, sweet, but as I said, not saccharine :)

jun 14, 2012, 11:58am

The Admiral's Bride by Suzanne Brockmann
Completed 13 June 2012
2 stars

How did I consume so much of this schlock back in the day?

jun 14, 2012, 2:26pm

Isn't it funny how much tastes change? I look back at some things I used to read and cringe.

jun 14, 2012, 9:48pm

I love how reading tastes change as we *cough, cough* age..... just like eating habits. There are some many things I am stunned I used to eat AND think it was good!

Redigerat: jun 14, 2012, 9:56pm

LT - yeah, I know that cringing feeling :)

Lori - great analogy! It's so true!

ETA: But what am I reading now? A historical romance.... luckily, this one is not too bad and is perfect fluff for my brain dead status.

jun 16, 2012, 11:10pm

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
Completed 16 June 2012
3.5 stars

A reminder of why I used to read so much in this genre.... genuinely witty and touching, with a strong but not shrill heroine and a flawed but worth-reforming hero. No nutritional value whatsoever but good fun!

jun 19, 2012, 7:33pm

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
Completed 18 June 2012
4.5 stars

"He very often wept in church. Living up the Moyea with plenty of small chores to distract him, he forgot he was a sad man. When the hymns began, he remembered." (page 106)

A spare, taut novella with prose as sharp and clear as a winter night. Johnson tells a folkloric tale not of the heroes of the American West but of the Everyman who experiences and survives the harsh reality of life on the edge of civilization. It's both an elegy and a celebration and a book I will be adding to my permanent collection.

"Frost had built on the dead grass, and it skirled beneath his feet. If not for this sound, he'd have thought himself struck deaf, owing to the magnitude of the surrounding silence. All the night's noises had stopped. The whole valley seemed to reflect his shock." (page 100-101)

"Beyond, he saw the Canadian Rockies still sunlit, snow-peaked, a hundred miles away, as if the earth were in the midst of its creation, the mountains taking their substance out of the clouds. He'd never seen so grand a prospect. The forests that filled his life were so thickly populous and so tall that generally they blocked him from seeing how far away the world was, but right now it seemed clear there were mountains enough for everybody to get his own." (page 112)

jun 20, 2012, 12:17am

You got me, Katie! Train Dreams is going on my list.

jun 20, 2012, 9:07am

One of my favourite authors and a book I hadn't seen. Thanks Katie, for your great recommendation!

jun 20, 2012, 10:33am

Judy and SassyLassy - Hope you both like it as much as I did!

Redigerat: jun 26, 2012, 9:03pm

703: How I Lost More Than a Quarter Ton and Gained a Life by Nancy Makin
Completed 25 June 2012
2 stars

Despite its title, this memoir tells the reader little about how Makin lost more than 500 pounds, much less how she gained it in the first place. I can understand not wanting to sensationalize her story, but the reader might be forgiven for expecting some answers to the how and the why and the what. As it is, Makin tells of a rather turbulent childhood, fraught relationship with her parents, teen motherhood and marriage, and all of a sudden she weighs 700 pounds. She pays lip service to her personal responsibility for the damage she does to herself (including being a 3-pack a day smoker at one point) but she seems more inclined to blame other people and bad circumstances for the worst of it.

Other problems I had with this (audio)book:

- According to Makin, most of the doctors and other "experts" (you can see her rolling her eyes) she came into contact with were all stupid and unhelpful
- Throughout the portion about her childhood, her mother is made out to be an evil witch and her father the understanding and loving parent, but later on she and her mother are basically chummy with a normal mother/daughter relationship and her father is no where to be found. I hate holes in stories like that.
- The reader of the audio had a really annoying, breathy voice.
- The reader also mispronounced words a lot - my favorite was "mis-shapen" pronounced "mis-happen."
- Makin talks about how she deflected her pain with humor but all the examples of her humor were awful and there is nothing worse than listening to more than 8 hours of the story of a person who thinks she's funny, when she's just not.

And what I found most hypocritical and obnoxious:
Makin traveled to Chicago to appear on Oprah as part of a show about successful weight loss. She is riding in a limo with other guests while they discuss their food plans and exercise regimens. Because, I'm sorry, don't we all know that eating healthy and exercising is really the key to healthy, sustained weight loss? Well, Makin takes these people to task in her book about how they will probably fall off the wagon because they are so worried about what they eat and how they exercise, whereas she knows the real secret is accepting oneself and being content. How she knows these people haven't discovered the same secret is beyond me, but the judgmental and critical tone she uses -she who has been the victim of judgement and criticism her whole life! - was just beyond the pale. Infuriating.

So, yeah, not recommended.

jun 26, 2012, 9:13pm

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Completed 26 June 2012
4 stars

A total trip! There are lots of good reviews of this one, both here on LT and out in the wider world. Laura (lindsacl) of the 75ers has a great one, so I'll just sum up the heart of this story of a troubled marriage and a disappearance with this quote:

"Because isn't that the point of every relationship: to be known by someone else, to be understood? He gets me. She gets me. Isn't that the simple magic phrase?" (page 29).

I would have rated the book 4.5 stars but it lost something for me at the end, though I don't quite know what...

jun 27, 2012, 10:43am

Totall agree with you on Gone Girl. So tempted to give 4.5 stars but something about the ending bugged me. Maybe that was the author's point? Other than that - I loved it!

jun 27, 2012, 1:56pm

Thanks, LT! Have you read either of Flynn's other novels? I own both but haven't read either one...

jun 27, 2012, 4:12pm

I tried to read Sharp Objects and really disliked it - enough that I gave it one star and couldn't finish it. The characters were just so unlikeable. That was enough to put me off of her books so I didn't read Dark Places. If it wasn't for a friend strongly recommending Gone Girl, I probably wouldn't have tried it. However, now I might have to try Dark Places and see if maybe I've missed something.

jun 27, 2012, 5:22pm

Interesting.... I may not be moving them up the TBR pile any time soon!

jul 3, 2012, 4:44pm

703 sounds awful. Thanks for the warning! But Gone Girl is already on my list to check out of the library . . . eventually. . . maybe sooner now.

jul 3, 2012, 5:27pm

I really want to read Gone Girl. And apparently, so do 130 other people at my library. Waiting my turn in line...

jul 8, 2012, 9:27pm

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
Completed 7 July 2012
4.5 stars

My husband rarely nags me about anything (in contrast to my near constant nagging of him about this or that ;-) ) but he really, really, REALLY wanted me to read this book. If it had been a mite shorter, I would have caved sooner, but given its 800+ pages, I was reluctant to take it on. I needn't have worried, as this epic reads so quickly and is so well-paced that it just sucks you in and carries you away.

I know, I know, you don't read fantasy. You shudder at the very idea of genre fiction. Seriously? Get over yourself and pick it up. It reads like very well done historical fiction. Someone smarter than me could pick out the parallels to medieval history, as well as the War of the Roses (Suz, where are you?). Yes, there are references to fantastical things, but, at least in this volume, they are almost incidental to the story. Central to the story are betrayal, honor, intrigue, double-crosses, valor, murder, sex, chain mail, and battle axes. The multiple and alternating points of view move the story along well and provide a full and complex portrait of a fascinating world.

I am now a fan and will try to ignore my smug husband's "told you so" smirk :)

jul 9, 2012, 8:59am

I've finally caved and requested A Game of Thrones from my library. Every media type, print, audio, etc. has a waiting list! I'm #8 on the print waiting list.

jul 9, 2012, 1:24pm

I found the chapters each featuring different characters really moved me along. I would tell myself that I would put the book down at the end of this chapter, but wait...the next chapter is about Arya...etc.

I read the first three in quick succession last year and had to take a break from the violence and malevolence. Maybe it's time to pick up the next one. (Have a bunch of books to work on first, however.)

jul 9, 2012, 5:15pm

A Game of Thrones is absolutely on the to-read list, but, like you, that 800+ page committment is taking a while to get comfortable with. :) I'll get there, eventually.

jul 9, 2012, 7:59pm

>151 hailelib: - I hope you like it, whenever it arrives!

>152 mamzel: - very true about the alternating chapters. I think without that, it would have dragged in parts.

>153 -Eva-: - Eva, it truly does read very quickly!

jul 9, 2012, 10:38pm

Second Eva comment -I also have A Game of Thrones on my to-read list with book one sitting waiting for my on my TBR bookcase. I understand that the book is rather a quick read, even with the high page count!

Redigerat: jul 13, 2012, 10:08am

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Completed 11 July 2012
4.5 stars

An unexpected delight! Thanks to very deft narration, this story really came alive for me and had me chuckling frequently. Tom is an orphan who lives with his Aunt Polly and is constantly getting into scrapes, as any self-respecting little boy does. His interactions with Huck Finn are especially hilarious as the boys debate such things as the likely places to find buried treasure and the best way to cure warts. There is an edge of darkness in the book which changed it from a simple tale of an impish boy into a real and evocative coming of age story.

I don't think I would have liked it as much had I not picked it up on audio - it's the kind of story that screams for a read-aloud.

Redigerat: jul 13, 2012, 10:09am

Alys, Always by Harriet Lane
Completed 12 July 2012
4.5 stars

"I briefly heard her voice and knew it, knew almost everything about her that mattered. The ease and comfort and significance of her life." (page 190)

I almost gave this book 5 stars because I found it so compelling, but I removed half a star out of some sense of spite for the main character, not wanting to give her the satisfaction of starring in a 5-star read. I know that makes no sense, but you might understand my thinking a little better if you read this book.

Frances Thorpe is an average 30-something single woman in London, working in a low-level position in a failing newspaper. Through a strange twist of fate, her life becomes entwined with that of the Kyte family, whose patriarch is a famous author. She slowly insinuates herself into the life of the family. The tone of the book is tense and slightly creepy and the pay-off to the reader is almost anti-climactic at first. I closed it thinking, "Is that all? That's not so bad." But as I thought about it and went back and re-read some passages, I saw the manipulative genius of Frances. And the lingering feelings of unease I had were hard to pin down. Frances is not an evil character in the traditional sense; she really doesn't do anything terribly wrong. She's loathsome and sad and brilliant and awful, and you feel for her. But at the end of the day, one wonders whether the fragile construct of a life she has built for herself can survive given that it is not really her own...

jul 13, 2012, 10:10pm

Ooooh.... I have had my eye on Alys, Always so very excited to see your positive review for it!

jul 21, 2012, 7:47pm

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley
Completed 21 July 2012
3.5 stars

I don't think I could get through these books if it were not for the fantastic Jane Entwhistle narrating the audios. She perfectly captures the many moods - cranky, insulted, excited, sad, etc. - of an 11 year old girl. This third entry in the Flavia de Luce series confirms my belief that the mystery is intended to be secondary (in fact, the resolution happens so quickly and perfectly that I think I missed it in the last 10 minutes or so of the audio; I'm not actually sure whodunnit!). I'm certainly not reading these for the mysteries; what Bradley does so well and what keeps me reading is the evocation of post-war England and the coming of age of a young girl with a mother she never knew and a largely absent father and two tormenting sisters. Flavia's discovery of the dark places of the world and her growing understanding of human frailties and complexities is what is worth reading here. There is one more in the series to go. I hope Mr. Bradley is intending to write more - as long as Ms. Entwhistle is intending to keep reading 'em!

jul 31, 2012, 8:25pm

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
Completed 27 July 2012
4 stars

"The conscientious detective is obliged to examine the question of motive in a new light, to place it within the matrix of our present unusual circumstance. The end of the world changes everything, from a law-enforcement perspective." (page 115)

The Last Policeman is a crime novel, a police procedural following a young detective in Concord, New Hampshire, working his first suspicious death. It's dark and humorous and well-paced and has a special twist of its own. In six months, a giant asteroid is going to slam into Earth and will cause global devastation. So what's the point of solving crimes? Everyone is going to die anyway....

Ben H. Winters has taken this unique premise and built a strong novel with intriguing characters around it. I loved the macabre humor sprinkled throughout, from the quote above to this one:

"In the lobby of the main branch of the Concord Public Library is a neat display of classics, the greatest hits of the Western canon arranged in a tidy pyramid...No one has felt it necessary to provide a title for the display, although the theme is clearly things to read before you die."(page 265)

In addition to the murder, Detective Palace is troubled by other disturbing things from his conspiracy-theorist sister to his disappearing brother-in-law to the implications of a disintegrating society. There is plenty enough here for a sequel to this first book in a proposed trilogy.

Other bits I liked:

"He's weeping, his face dissolving in his hands. It's exhausting. People hiding behind the asteroid, like it's an excuse for poor conduct, for miserable and desperate and selfish behavior, everybody ducking in its comet-tail like children in mommy's skirts." (page 253)

"There's a bank of spherical lights over the main doors, and all were lit the last time I was here, and now two are out, and that's just it. The world is decaying bit by bit, every piece degrading at its own erratic rate, everything trembling and crumbling in advance, the terror of the coming devastation a devastation of its own, and each minor degradation has its consequences." (page 268)

jul 31, 2012, 10:01pm

The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst
Completed 31 July 2012
3 stars

Perfectly serviceable contemporary romance which I picked up for free for my Kindle. Sometimes I like to relive the days of reading nothing but crap.

aug 2, 2012, 1:44pm

Hi Katie, The Last Policeman sounds very interesting and is being added to my never-ending wishlist.

aug 4, 2012, 6:39pm

2nd good review for last policeman I've seen recently, it remains on the WL

aug 5, 2012, 6:07pm

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Completed 2 August 2012
3 stars

Miranda is growing up in New York City in the 70s, the only child of a working single mother. There is tension with her mom, with her best friend, the typical drama and angst of growing up. And then she begins to receive anonymous notes from someone who seems to know a lot about her. Who is sending her the notes? Are they related to the strange homeless man on the corner? The reason her best friend no longer wants to hang out with her? Her mother's appearance on "The $20,000 Pyramid"?

My reading of this YA novel might have suffered from my unfamiliarity with Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time which features heavily in the story. The writing wasn't terrible and the story was interesting enough but it just didn't all hang together well for me. Also, the reader of the audio was terrible - I almost gave up on it a couple of times but persevered because it was short. I may have liked it better had I read it in print and not gone the audio route.

aug 5, 2012, 6:07pm

Thanks, Judy and psutto!

Redigerat: aug 9, 2012, 6:36pm

Murphy's Law by Rhys Bowen
Completed 9 August 2012
3.5 stars

A pleasant historical mystery set in turn-of-the-century New York. Molly Murphy flees Ireland, takes passage to America posing as another woman, and gets involved in a murder investigation. This is not ground-breaking fiction but the characters and setting are engaging, and I am a sucker for Irish immigrant stories.

This is the first in a series. Of course. Because I don't have enough to read and keep up with.

aug 9, 2012, 7:04pm

Breezing through. Saw the words 'pleasant historical mystery' and 'first in a series' and muttered a silent curse...... Thanks for the book bullet Katie! ;-)

aug 9, 2012, 7:09pm

At your service, Lori ;-)

aug 10, 2012, 9:44pm

Hi Katie, I read Murphy's Law a year or so ago and had much the same reaction, I have been meaning to continue on with the series, but haven't squeezed in another book yet, so it remains one of the many, many series I need to follow up on.

aug 11, 2012, 8:48am

Hi Judy - I have the second in the series on my shelves. Maybe I'll get to it during September S&S!

aug 11, 2012, 6:29pm

"Because I don't have enough to read and keep up with."

Well, when did that ever stop any of us? :P

aug 15, 2012, 8:18pm

Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan
Completed 15 August 2012
4 stars

I read this novella last year and liked it very much. It certainly stands up to a re-visit, though this time I listened to the audio book read by Jonathan Davis, which was quite good. It's beautifully sad and heart-breaking but so real and true, from the emotion and themes of the book to the minor details that O'Nan gets spot-on. A quick read with high return.

aug 21, 2012, 7:28pm

This book has been in my stack of books to read for quite a while. Glad to hear it's worthwhile. Hopefully I'll get to it someday. Granted that's what I say about most of the books in that stack!

aug 22, 2012, 8:58pm

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Completed 22 August 2012
4.5 stars

This book is probably familiar already to anyone who would want to read it. Briefly, it is the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner whose plane crashes in the Pacific Ocean during World War II, and who is eventually captured by the Japanese and endures two years as a prisoner of war. It's a horrifying and inspiring story, and very well-written. There are many glowing reviews out there to entice you to read it. I definitely recommend it.

As an aside, in reading some of the more critical reviews, I really don't find that the predominant criticisms (that it's too pro-American and/or too anti-Japanese and that it's some kind of Christian propaganda) hold up to much careful consideration. What these reviewers seem to miss is that Hillenbrand was not writing a history of the war or of POWs or of war atrocities; she was telling one man's story, as he experienced it. She never pretends to be doing anything other than that.

aug 22, 2012, 10:15pm

I loved this book! Such an amazing story. It's incredible what someone can suffer through and the creative ways to cope.

aug 22, 2012, 11:02pm

It really was amazing. I kept finding myself just shaking my head in wonder...

aug 25, 2012, 4:21pm

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
Completed 25 August 2012
3 stars

I read all but 30 pages of this debut novel in two sittings which would normally mean it was a definite winner for me. In this case, though, The Lifeboat was a good, solid read but not a lot more. It is the story of Grace Winter, a rather conniving young woman who finds herself adrift on the Atlantic in a lifeboat with 40 other people after their ocean liner sinks in 1914. The novel deals with the unreliability of memory, the lengths people will go to survive, and questions of morality, mortality, and the shades of grey between right and wrong.

The writing was occasionally overwrought:

"I enter that blue-vaulted chamber of memory rather the way one would enter a church: reverently, with awe in my soul. The church is filled with light, too - not the usual gaudy sort filtered through lurid images of Christ on the cross, but sea light, murky and green and as cold as Satan's heart." (page 204-205)

I found the questions that remain unanswered at the end to be annoying rather than an understandable result of the whole unreliable narrative. It just seemed as if Rogan was too lazy to circle back and end things in a more satisfying way. Don't get me wrong, I don't need everything tied up neatly with a bow, but I like loose ends to serve a purpose and to be well-done, which was not the case here. Still, Rogan managed a compelling narrative, well-paced, and interesting enough to keep me turning the pages.

Redigerat: aug 31, 2012, 9:44pm

Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins
Completed 28 August 2012
3.5 stars

I first picked this up at the start of the month, read the first two or three stories, and then set it aside. The first stories left me cold; they were kind of odd and off-putting and left me with the sense that Watkins was showing off all that she had learned in various writers workshops. Bleh.

But the book was an ER and I knew I needed to give it another chance before fully abandoning it. I don't know if I was just in the right head space for the book or if the first few stories were the weakest, but I ended up liking this book. I didn't love it. I still found some of the structural elements annoying. But the writing is breath-taking in places - very spare and bleak but beautiful and evocative at the same time. Watkins is certainly talented, and I will hold onto this book to revisit it in the future - especially those first couple of stories!

"He will talk and she will listen. It will be as though she's finally found someone else willing to see the worst in the world. Someone who can't help but see it. For the first time in her life, she will feel understood. When he finishes one story she'll ask for another, then another, wanting to stack them like bricks, build walls of sorrow around the two of them, seal them up together. An uncontrollable feeling - like falling - will be growing in her: They could build a love this way." from "Rondine Al Nido" (page 44)

aug 31, 2012, 9:58pm

The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger
Completed 30 August 2012
3 stars

I hate when a book starts out very promisingly but ends up not delivering. The first half or so of this book captured me - I love Egypt, been fascinated by it since I was a child, and count my trip there as one of the top 3 of my life - and Pullinger really brought the setting and the era (1860s or so) to life. This is the story of Sally Naldrett, lady's maid to Lucie Duff-Gordon, a celebrated writer, intellectual, and hostess of the time. The two travel to Egypt from England to try to alleviate Lady Duff-Gordon's tuberculosis. Not a lot happens at first, and then Sally falls in love with an Arab man also serving in the household, becomes pregnant, and is ostracized by her employer. At this point, the story just falls off a cliff. So much becomes ridiculous and unbelievable and to add insult to injury, Pullinger seems to lose control of the story and falls victim to over-writing and over-explaining. My biggest pet peeve is when Sally, who narrates the story, fills in plot points by relating conversations that she was not a part of but that were reported back to her or which she can imagine and is sure happened because she just knows the players so well. Ack. Awful. I'm giving it 3 stars because I liked the start of it so much and found it fascinating. Otherwise, it would have been 2.5.

Redigerat: sep 8, 2012, 7:55pm

Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan
Completed 8 September 2012
3.5 stars

Last year, I wrote the following about The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan: "The beginning was a bit slow, but it quickly picked up and turned into a manic ride through a contemporary world in which werewolves and vampires exist and are not quite the romantic heroes Stephanie Meyer would have us believe. TLW is beautifully written with lush, voluptuous language even when describing the down and dirty doings of our beastly protagonist. Very enjoyable but not for the faint of heart."

I'll just say "ditto" for Talulla Rising and note that I rated it 1/4 star lower because I found Talulla slightly less compelling than Jake as a protagonist, and the whole tortured motherhood thing grew a little tiresome (says the woman with no children!).

sep 8, 2012, 8:36pm

I have The Last Werewolf on the wishlist, but I'm feeling a little saturated and need to wait until everyone starts reading about things other than vampires and werewolves. :) Good to know that if I enjoy the first one, the second one should be attempted as well!

sep 8, 2012, 9:01pm

The third of the trilogy is due out next year though I still haven't read this one yet.

sep 8, 2012, 9:24pm

Eva - I'm not usually into the werewolves/vampires thing but somehow these books work for me. Maybe because they are intelligent and well-written!

Wolfy - I'm really interested to see how he closes out the trilogy... there was a hint or two at the end of this one but nothing was very obvious.

sep 9, 2012, 5:21am

I think that was my main problem with the 1st book (if problem is the right word) is that I loved Jake's character so much switching pov's is hard

sep 10, 2012, 4:03am

Oddly I much preferred the first half of TLW to the second, and as you've mentioned Tallula is less interesting as a protagonist. I won't rush out to buy it but will probably get round to reading it at some point...

sep 16, 2012, 8:32pm

Claire - That's a really good point. Jake was incredibly compelling.

psutto - I agree, but there was enough there to make me want to read the continuation.

Redigerat: sep 16, 2012, 8:34pm

Glory in Death by J.D. Robb
Completed 14 September 2012
3 stars

The second in a series. Solidly entertaining with no lasting value. The epitome of a 3-star read for me.

sep 23, 2012, 4:33pm

The Deception of the Emerald Ring by Lauren Willig
Completed 18 September 2012
3.5 stars

This is my favorite entry in the Pink Carnation series so far, though the actual spy plot was pretty lame. What made the story was the heroine, Letty Alsworthy, a realistically drawn character with the perfect balance of pluck and self-doubt. The humor in this story, like the others, is broad and not very clever, but amusing nonetheless. My own quibble is that the parts of the story taking place in the present day add little and serve only to distract from the primary narrative.

sep 23, 2012, 4:40pm

Leave the Grave Green by Deborah Crombie
Completed 23 September 2012
3 stars

This was a decent entry in the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series. I found some of the secondary characters under-developed and the plotting was awkward in places, but I liked the further development of the relationship between Kincaid and James. Look forward to reading more.

okt 12, 2012, 6:14pm

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths
Completed 27 September 2012
3.5 stars

The second entry in the Ruth Galloway series, this novel was nowhere near as good as the first. At times, the plot felt very forced with all sorts of convenient coincidences occurring and moving the story forward. What I loved about the first in this series was the gorgeous writing and complex mixture of religion, history, spirituality, and archaeology that Griffiths explored. The Janus Stone is well-written but didn't have the organic quality I was expecting. Still, a good story and I adore DCI Harry Nelson.

okt 12, 2012, 6:31pm

Payment in Blood by Elizabeth George
Completed 30 September 2012
3.5 stars

A playwright is murdered during a weekend spent with the director, producer, actors and various hangers-on of her newest play. Multiple motives exist for the crime with a complex web of relationships among the characters - cousins, wives, daughters, husbands, lovers, friends, spies...

The first thing I jotted down after finishing this second in a series was, "Okay but perhaps more complicated than it needed to be." I don't know if it was the busyness of life at the time and other distractions, but I had a hard time keeping some of the characters straight. They are all introduced quite close together - I don't usually have a problem with this but in this instance, I struggled a bit. I did enjoy the first half or so of the book set in a remote country house in Scotland where all the suspects and police are kept in close quarters. Once the action returned to London, the story lost something for me. I will continue with the series, however.

okt 12, 2012, 6:43pm

The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths
Completed 8 October 2012
4 stars

Six WWII-era bodies are found on a remote beach. Called in to investigate are Dr. Ruth Galloway and DCI Harry Nelson. Their relationship is complicated and the most interesting part of the book for me - the preface brought tears to my eyes (granted, I've been rather teary lately!). The mystery is fine; the secondary characters continue to be well-developed; my one quibble is with the secondary story line of Ruth's old friend visiting - they had worked together years before uncovering mass graves in Bosnia and there are a few flashbacks to that. It was distracting and unnecessary.

Onto the next (and last - at least until early 2013)!

okt 12, 2012, 6:48pm

I am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley
Completed 12 October 2012
3 stars

This is the weakest in the series so far. The story line and characters are not well developed; the entire thing feels a bit rushed. The value here is in getting more insight into the de Luce family and Flavia's relationships with her sisters and fathers. There were parts that brought a lump to my throat - the particular cruelty of sisters to one another, the fierce loyalty of family, and the confusing web of familial mysteries. I look forward to seeing how all this develops!

And I am finally caught up on a series....

okt 12, 2012, 10:34pm

I agree with you that Half Sick of Shadows is the weakest in the series so far. I am hoping that was just some kind of tight timeline push by the publisher and that the next one will be more in line with the earlier books in the series!

okt 13, 2012, 9:10am

Lori, it's funny you should say that. I got the sense while reading it that Bradley and/or his publishers just wanted a holiday tale out there. It felt so much more forced than the others...

okt 13, 2012, 10:28pm

I've been considering The Lifeboat. Thanks for your review!

okt 14, 2012, 10:50am

So, Victoria, did I convince you to pick it up or give it a pass?

okt 14, 2012, 11:15am

You nudged me in its direction. I'll probably pick it up next year.

okt 14, 2012, 1:37pm

I hope you like it! It's an interesting book.

okt 15, 2012, 12:07pm

The next book in the Flavia series is on the Early Reviewers list this month. Got my fingers crossed.

okt 15, 2012, 5:07pm

->194 lkernagh: & 195
Agreeing - it seemed very much like "let's put one out for the holidays!" Fingers Xed that the next one is back to "normal." :)

okt 15, 2012, 8:25pm

Hi Mamzel - I saw the next one in the ER batch but didn't request it. These are perfect library books for me :)

Hi Eva - fingers definitely crossed on improvement for the next entry!

okt 26, 2012, 10:27pm

A Room Full of Bones by Elly Griffiths
Completed 15 October 2012
3.5 stars

Another decent entry in the Ruth Galloway series, this latest novel features old bones (of course), race horses, and drugs. There was much less Ruth/Harry interaction and so it suffered in my estimation, as the dynamic between those two is what has kept me reading. None of the last three books has lived up to the first one, but they are good enough to continue on with... And the next one will be out in February 2013, I think.

Redigerat: okt 26, 2012, 10:28pm

Dante's Girl by Courtney Cole
Completed 23 October 2012
2 stars

Thank God this was a freebie for my Kindle! It's YA romance of the worst sort - a dithering female, an impossibly perfect male, misused words (more on that below), unbelievable story, and even more unbelievable story twists...

The worst things about this book (in no particular order):
1. By my count, three uses of the phrase "ornery grin," as in: "He looks over at me and grins an ornery grin." But the author obviously thinks ornery means something other than what it actually does.

2. It requires some pretty significant suspensions of disbelief, as sweet Kansas farm girl Reece falls in love with rich, handsome Dante, son of the Prime Minister of a fictional island nation in the Mediterranean.

3. Repetitive writing that continually reiterated (by telling, not showing) that Reece felt out of Dante’s league; that she was just a “simple girl from Kansas”; that he was a “beautiful boy”. Repetition is made so much worse when what is being repeated is a hackneyed cliché.

4. The story mostly takes place on a fictional island near Greece, where the natives are named things like Russell, Gavin, Mia and Nate? Huh?

5. Minor details are wrong, such as Reece’s passport being stamped as she boards her flight. What?

I could go on but I won’t. Admittedly, I am not the target audience for this kind of book but there is so much better written stuff out there for teenage girls. This one was so bad it was almost comical.

Redigerat: okt 26, 2012, 10:29pm

Eternity by Jude Deveraux
Completed 24 September 2012
3 stars

A guilty pleasure... When I was in high school and my reading alternated between 19th century classics and trashy romance, Jude Deveraux was one of my favorite authors of the latter. I picked this up for $1 or so on my Kindle and whiled away a pleasant day reading it. It's kind of a reverse fairy tale, with the hero suffering from an evil family and difficult circumstances before being rescued by a beautiful and rich heroine. Cute.

nov 3, 2012, 4:47pm

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Completed 2 November 2012
4 stars

I first read "Huck Finn" the summer between 5th and 6th grades and enjoyed it as a fun adventure story but, as an 11 year old, a lot of it went over my head. And in the intervening years, I forgot a lot of the details. It was a delight to rediscover this book through the excellent narration of Tom Parker.

Like Tom Sawyer, which I read for the first time earlier this year, "Huck Finn" is full of humor and humanity. Even at his most annoying or stubborn, I rooted for Huck, a uniquely American character made up of equal parts brashness, optimism and absurdity. And it's a uniquely American story in which we see the best and worst of a country which simultaneously promised a better future to many but a life of slavery to many more.

nov 4, 2012, 5:41am

I think I am going to have to track a copy down one of these days, Huckleberry Finn is so iconic.

nov 4, 2012, 8:30am

I'm embarrassed to admit I've never read any Mark Twain except for some short stories. Maybe next year!

nov 4, 2012, 1:37pm

I have read Tom Sayer but do not remember reading Huckleberry Finn. Great review Katie, and it entices me to want to read/revisit Twain's novels.

nov 4, 2012, 8:51pm

Hello Claire, japaul (Jen, I think?!?!), and Lori! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

I want to read more of Twain's work. The library has a collection of his short stories on audio which I think might be fun. The narrators had a lot to do with my enjoyment of both Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn so I'll have to see what the narration for the stories is like.

nov 10, 2012, 10:24am

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
Completed 3 November 2012
4 stars

This second volume in Martin's epic series was slightly less compelling to me than the first. Maybe it just suffered a bit from comparison, but the first couple hundred pages (it's over 900!) did not seem to be advancing the story much. It should be noted, though, that a "slightly less compelling" Martin is still a damn good read and the story definitely picked up. I look forward to reading the next one.

nov 10, 2012, 10:38am

The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman
Completed 5 November 2012
3.5 stars

I didn't know Alice Hoffman wrote YA novels until I picked this one up at a used bookstore. It's an interesting myth-like story of a young girl in a warrior tribe on the steppes of the Caucasus who feels out of place and misunderstood. It's written in deceptively simple language that has a beautiful, almost poetic, rhythm to it. Not my favorite Hoffman but a good alternative for teen girls not interested in sparkly vampires!

"Our people say the shadow is one of our souls, and my mother's shadow disappeared on the day she was violated. It shattered into black shards, then rose up like smoke. All that was left was the iron inside her; only the hardest part remained." (page 7)

nov 10, 2012, 10:58am

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Completed 9 November 2012
5 stars

I first read Heart of Darkness in AP English my senior year of high school. I read it again for a British Lit class in college. Both times I absolutely loved it, not in the same way I loved Pride and Prejudice or Jane Eyre, but I came away from HoD both times just blown away by Conrad's writing and ability to evoke and sustain a sense of menace and brutality through the whole book.

There is not a single wasted sentence - not a single wasted word - in this tale of greed and evil and violence. There is so much to quote and to ponder and to discuss - the best kind of book. And the scenes of Kurtz's death and Marlow's visit to Kurtz's Intended are two of the most powerful passages I've ever come across in literature. So good, so disturbing, so worth reading again and again.

"And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect." (page 60)

Redigerat: nov 10, 2012, 3:13pm

>211 katiekrug: I think the 3rd Martin book was my favorite, but I agree that even "less compelling" is still great. If you're watching, or intend to watch, the HBO series, you should be aware that the end of the 2nd season goes into the beginning of the 3rd book (the 2nd season also diverges slightly from the books).

nov 11, 2012, 10:38am

Hi Ivy! I've heard the third is considered by some to be the best. I'm planning to tackle it next year. We have the first season of the HBO series on DVD but haven't watched it yet, and the second season hasn't come out on DVD yet (at least according to Amazon). I will remember your caution when we finally start watching...

nov 11, 2012, 10:38am

Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson
Completed 10 November 2012
4 stars

In 1900, a massive hurricane (it would be a Category 4 in today's parlance) struck Galveston, Texas with little warning. In just about one day, much of the island was leveled and approximately 6,000 people were dead (some put the count as high as 8,000-12,000). Larson tells this story mostly through the story of Isaac Cline, the head of the Weather Bureau in Galveston, and his experience before, during and after the storm. Larson also includes fascinating details about hurricane phenomena, the history of weather forecasting in the United States, and the competition between American and Cuban forecasters which prevented Galveston from receiving much warning of the approaching storm.

This is a fascinating, infuriating and heart-breaking story. I do wish that there had been more than just the 2 maps included; some photos would have helped tell the story, so I found my own (courtesy of Wikipedia):

nov 11, 2012, 5:20pm

I too have overwhelmingly positive memories of reading Heart of Darkness at Uni - it's just such a great, great work of art.

nov 12, 2012, 1:58pm

That one house looks like it may have been built for a movie based on a Dr. Seuss book! My goodness!

nov 13, 2012, 10:47am

Hi Eva and mamzel - Nice to see you both!

nov 18, 2012, 4:22pm

The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor
Completed 16 November 2012
5 stars

“…how a stoicism had developed in her as a child when those same years failed her, how faith had still been kept, love shattered.” (page 165)

First, there is the writing – at times spare and at other times quite dense, but never needlessly so. Without a story or plot or dialogue, it would be a pleasure to read William Trevor’s words. But then there is the story: of family and love and pain and grief and forgiveness and redemption and finding peace with one’s life.

I don’t want to summarize the plot because too much will be given away; suffice it to say this story unfolds over many decades and at its center is Lahardane, an old Irish house on the cliffs above the sea. Departures from Lahardane, lives lived fully there, and homecomings provide the bones of the story. Trevor creates such a distinct sense of place and sense of belonging there among his characters that when they venture away, it seems almost an unmooring.

I read much of this book with a lump in my throat and a burning behind my eyes. Trevor writes of loss and dislocation so beautifully and evokes so perfectly that ache that tells us we once had something good and true which now is lost. I loved this book and relished every moment spent reading it, despite the heartache.

”Her tranquility is their astonishment. For that they come, to be amazed again that such peace is there: all they have heard, and still hear now, does not record it. Calamity shaped a life when, long ago, chance was so cruel. Calamity shapes the story that is told, and is the reason for its being: is what they know, besides, the gentle fruit of such misfortune’s harvest?

…They did not witness for themselves, but others did, the journey made to bring redemption; they only wonder why it was made, so faithfully and for so long. Why was the past belittled? Where did mercy come from when there should have been none left?

…She should have died a child; she knows that but has never said it to the nuns, has never included in the story of herself the days that felt like years when she lay among the fallen stones. It would have lowered their spirits, although it lifts her own because instead of nothing there is what there is.” (page 224-227)

nov 18, 2012, 4:35pm

Persuasion by Jane Austen
Completed 18 November 2012
5 stars

Perhaps my favorite Austen novel, this time I listened to it on audio, read by the talented Greta Scaachi who does a wonderful job. I like Anne, adore Captain Wentworth, and love to hate all of Anne's family. It's not a perfect work, usually attributed to the fact that Austen died before she could revise it, but to me the actions and emotions of the characters seem much more real than in other works. The ending is a bit rushed and some loose ends are not tied up very well, but still.... that letter... worth the price of admission as far as I'm concerned!

nov 18, 2012, 10:48pm

I haven't read any of Trevor's works before but your review of The Story of Lucy Gault is a great enticer for me to check it out!

nov 19, 2012, 8:00am

your review of heart of darkness So good, so disturbing, so worth reading again and again.

my review from my 10/10 This was so boring I really can't be bothered to review it. Overall - tedious beyond belief

did we read the same book?!?

nov 19, 2012, 9:42am

>221 katiekrug: - Agreed - that letter was perfection!

nov 19, 2012, 12:27pm

Oooh, Lori, I hope you like it!

psutto - a perfect example of "different strokes for different folks!" I love LT for that very reason.

Stacy - I've always loved it and the narrator of the audio I was listening to read it just beautifully... ...

nov 23, 2012, 11:57am

Animal Farm by George Orwell
Completed 23 November 2012
5 stars

I first read this last year and loved it. This time I listened to it, read by the wonderful Ralph Cosham, and liked it just as much. If you have not yet discovered this 20th century classic, I highly recommend it. It's good entertainment and if you feel like digging deeper, a thoughtful commentary on totalitarianism.

nov 25, 2012, 1:19pm

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Completed 24 November 2012
3.5 stars

Anyone who has read Gone Girl knows that Gillian Flynn has a rather, um, twisted mind. Apparently, this is not a newly developed characteristic of the author, as evidenced in Sharp Objects, her debut novel from 2006. The book, about a newspaper reporter returning to her hometown in rural Missouri to cover the murders of two little girls, started off a little slow for me; it took a good 50 pages or so for me to get swept up in the story. It was also occasionally overwritten (not surprisingly for a debut) with an abundance of creative-writing-class similes and metaphors, some of which were just awkward. But what a story. It was dark and creepy and grotesque and deeply disturbing. The protagonist is not very likeable; in fact, no one in this story is very likeable except for one character who is "off stage" for most of the story. If you like your stories bitter and full of screwed up characters, I can recommend this one.

nov 26, 2012, 1:20pm

I just read Gone Girl last week and saw she had written another book. I don't know if I'll look for this book. While I appreciated her writing and the story, I found the story very disturbing.

nov 27, 2012, 9:52pm

Fantastic review of The Story of Lucy Gault. I think I'll look for that one.

dec 4, 2012, 8:03pm

Thanks for stopping by, mamzel and Terri!

dec 4, 2012, 8:13pm

City of Women by David R. Gillham
Completed 2 December 2012
3.5 stars

This debut novel takes a little while to get going and set the scene, but once it does, it is a well done, smart, thriller set in Berlin during World War II. It is the story of Sigrid, who becomes involved in the hiding and protection of Jews. It is also the story of a city during wartime, one populated mostly by women, wounded soldiers, and the Gestapo. Berlin is the most vivid character here; Gillham almost seems to write with an eye toward seeing his book on the big screen. It is very cinematic in parts, which was distracting at times, but did not ruin the book for me. I can't quite articulate why this book worked - I didn't really like most of the characters, the plot was almost unrelentingly bleak, and the writing was rarely better than mediocre. But somehow it all hung together for me and I flew through the second half of it.

dec 8, 2012, 9:57am

Little Face by Sophie Hannah
Completed 7 December 2012
3 stars

"I am still trying to understand myself. It is going to be difficult, to produce a coherent narrative out of all this. All I know is that for a while there was a baby called Little Face. She had a perfectly round head, blue eyes, milk spots on her nose. Nobody was sure who she belonged to." (page 310)

A first-time mother returns home to find a strange baby in her daughter's crib. The father swears it's their baby. The police are called. Chaos ensues. Is Alice suffering from postpartum depression? Is David deliberately trying to make her crazy a la "Gaslight"? And what's with the creepy mother-in-law?

This was a solid mystery, the first in a series following the police detectives working the case. Hannah does a good job of slowly revealing more details so that what you thought was true is called into question and then morphs into a different truth. It reminded me a bit, in that way, of Gone Girl. That said, there were some problems with the book - suddenly uncharacteristic behavior is not really explained, Alice is a very strong and then very weak character depending on what the plot calls for, and I found that inconsistency very distracting. And the ending was a bit of a let-down.

I was originally going to rate this 3.5 stars (4 but for the not strong ending) but the more I think about it, the more flaws I see. So 3 stars it is. HOWEVER, the book is very well written overall and the premise really interesting, so I will look forward to reading other books in the series.

dec 8, 2012, 12:23pm

Little Face does sound interesting, Katie and probably would have been a great book if the inconsistencies had been dealt with by the author/publisher. Still adding it to my possibilities list. Hope you have an enjoyable weekend!

dec 9, 2012, 11:36am

Thanks, Lori! I believe it was a debut novel, and I tend to be pretty forgiving of problems with debuts if the writing is strong and the premise interesting.

Redigerat: dec 13, 2012, 11:30pm

Daisy Miller by Henry James
Completed 10 December 2012
3 stars

A novella about a brash American girl in Europe in the 19th century, this was my first work by Henry James. Daisy is an energetic and outspoken young woman, but is she terribly naive or completely conscious of her own scandalous behavior? In the end, it doesn't really matter, SPOILER given her tragic endEND SPOILER. I think this work would have resonated more at the time of its publication than it does now. It was too short to fully explore the conflicts between old and new, tradition and innovation, Europe and America, etc., and so it just kind of was what it was.

dec 13, 2012, 11:44pm

An Imaginative Experience by Mary Wesley
Completed 13 December 2012
4 stars

A strange, sweet little novel about a young woman dealing with a terrible history and a recent tragedy and her inadvertent effect on an introspective man whose wife has just left him. This is a book full of well-sketched characters, wry humor, and unexpected wisdom. Wesley may not be a profound novelist but her exploration of the everyday and commonplace is spot on and surprisingly moving. Where some authors create the equivalent of minutely-detailed oil paintings, I tend to think of Mary Wesley as a watercolor artist who brings forth the outline of reality in a few simple strokes.

dec 14, 2012, 4:43pm

An Imaginative Experience sounds interesting! I'll have to see if I can track down a copy.

dec 28, 2012, 5:38pm

In the Walled City: Stories by Stewart O'Nan
Completed 28 December 2012
4 stars

Stewart O'Nan is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. He writes masterfully about everyday people and everyday lives, capturing just the right details to bring his stories to life realistically. He is a prolific writer and this was his first - and, so far, only - collection of short stories.

These twelve stories are gritty and raw, detailing the experience of loss - loss of a job, of a wife, of a child, of a dream, of a place in the world. They are sad and often heart-breaking and like any story collection, some are better than others. The collection got better the farther I got into it. Some standouts:

"The 3rd of July" about a man mourning the loss of his son in Vietnam.

"Calling" about the collapse of family farms and the lengths a man might go to to maintain his pride.

"Finding Amy" about the effect of a missing child on a group of adults (O'Nan's novel Snow Angels seems to have been based, in part, on this story).

"Mr. Wu Thinks" about the immigrant experience and the "American Dream."

"Econoline" about a retired factory worker coming to grips with mortality.

All in all, a very strong collection, and one that makes me even more eager to get to more of O'Nan's books.